Friday, March 16, 2018

Studio Tour

It's "March Meet the Maker" (evidentially) and so I thought it would be fun to give you a tour of my studio and tell you about a few things that make my workspace fun and inspiring.

I use my second bedroom as my home studio. It overlooks Lake Union in Seattle, WA. Sounds include seaplanes flying over, boat horns blowing when the Fremont bridge is being raised, and rain against my window because it rains a lot here.

Some artists prefer going to an actual studio to work because they are more productive. I like the idea of doing that, but I'm a bit of a hermit and enjoy waking up and immediately going to work rather than having to commute somewhere. Who knows, maybe I'll change my mind in the future? However, I do miss having studio mates.

I get beautiful natural light in my studio and apartment because we have skylights and north facing windows. When photographing my artwork, I prefer it to be overcast because the lighting in my studio is soft and perfectly white.

My desk is usually covered with a week or two worth of art projects. Because it's my own art space, I let the chaos build up until one day I decide to tidy up. But realistically it's hard for me to keep it perfectly clean.

My only studio mate is my cat, Willow. She's a 5-year-old black and white domestic cat. Sometimes she'll come and keep me company by sitting next to me on my bench while I work, or if she's bored and wants attention she will walk all over my artwork. I learned to never leave water unattended:p.

I have a Mason and Hamlin upright grand piano that we hauled all the from Utah (and we currently live on the third floor with no elevator so that tells you how much I love it). It was a treasure that Andrew and I hunted for together and I just couldn't leave it home. It's a lot of fun to have it in my studio because when I need a break from my art I go and dink around on the keys. Andrew also plays the piano and sometimes we play duets together. Right now Andrew is learning Debussy's Images 2 and I'm learning and trying to memorize Rachmaninov Prelude Op. 23 No. 4 in D Major.

I've started to collect pencil sharpeners. The one on the left is a model T car from the 1950's but is terrible at sharpening my pencils. The one on the right is a ship sharpener that Andrew found for me while we were in Salem and it sharpens very well.

For the last few years, I've used my piano bench as my desk chair, but I decided I needed something with back support and found this comfy velvet blush chair. I'm not much of a pink person but it was such a fun color that I couldn't resist.

 I can't paint my walls in my apartment so I scattered gold dots all over my studio to make it more whimsical, (but I really have my eye set on whale wallpaper). Since I'm a children's book illustrator it's ok for my studio to look like a kids room right? Also, isn't this sailboat kite fun? Andrew and I sail on Lake Union during the summer so I thought this was a great find for my studio.

What do I usually wear to work? Since my studio floats above a hallway below there's no insulation and so during the winter, my studio gets so cold! Sometimes in the morning, the temperature says 48 degrees (yikes), so I usually wear yoga pants and sweatshirts. 
When I'm working with paint, I throw on paint clothes and this fabulous apron that I've had since I was 9 years old. My older brother made it for me (he was quite the sewer in his 7th grade home ec class). The head is a little small but as you can tell it's been well loved. I like the bright fuschia 90's fabric he used from my mom's pile of leftover fabric.

Anyways....I hope you enjoyed the tour of my studio.

xo, Tessa

Monday, February 5, 2018

Happiness Stop-Motion

I've been looking forward to writing this post since March of last year. Work got a little busy, but I found a little break in my schedule so I could finally share a unique and fun collaboration I got to work on.

If you follow me on Instagram you know that I create stop-motion animations out of paper from time to time. They are a blast to create, but lots of time and love goes into each of those clips. 

I learned this unique skill from my friend, Holly Richins. She taught me how to create stop-motion animations and I'm so grateful she did!

Last year in March, Holly asked if I could help her with a special project. Her sweet Aunt Debbie was (and still is, unfortunately) battling cancer. Debbie wanted to make something special dedicated to her children and grandchildren that illustrated her perspective on the key to happiness, and what she had been learning throughout her life and especially during her incredibly difficult trial.

So Holly and I took Debbie's own tale of the parable of the currant bush (by Hugh B Brown) and made it come to life through stop-motion.

Here's a small behind the scenes preview:

*   *   *   *   *

Designing the set was so delightful.  I wanted to make the images bright, beautiful, and a little whimsical.  I left a white border around the images which made them feel more like set pieces for a stage, and it made it easier to cut out which was a plus. 

Everything was painted using watercolor or gouache and I used colored pencils to give added texture.

I gave the gardener hinges so he could bend, move, and prune.

Stop motion set.

Creative Mess.

The set up where we placed the phone to keep it steady so we could take the photos.

Once the set was assembled it was time to film. This process is much easier and faster if you have two people helping: one person to move the objects (which takes a steady hand) and one person to take the photos (which also takes a steady hand).

* * * * * * 

The message of the video is inspiring to anyone going through a tough time in his or her life. We don't always see the big picture, especially when life is hard, but God does.

When we realize that there is meaning and purpose behind ALL of the difficult things that happen in our life, then it helps the tough moments seem a little bit easier to bear. We are able to grow from the trial and become a stronger us.

I don't know Debbie personally, but I am so happy that I got to illustrate her beautiful story. She is a strong woman filled with faith and light. Creating this project reminded me that art has the power to bring two strangers together and make them feel like old friends. 

***I hope you enjoy!***

Happiness from Holly Richins Productions on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Landscape Painting: The Best for Last

Hello friends! This summer has been a busy one- between vacations, camping, and church activities I'm a bit exhausted. But fall is here and things have slowed down a little bit.

My book came out on Tuesday, September 27th and it's been wonderful to hear everyone's warm and thoughtful comments about my book. People, even strangers, reaching out to say congratulations means a lot. I'm truly touched.

I remember as I created the illustrations I became nervous at the thought of people seeing it (crazy right?). I've never had a mass produced product of my art before and it was intimidating to think anyone could own it, view it, critique and review it.

But the thought of sharing something that is dear to me and that I created with a purpose to bring other's joy puts my anxiety to rest.

If you haven't purchased my book you can find it here.

If you have purchased my book (thank you!!!!) the best thing you can do to help me is to leave an honest review on and to share the book with your friends and loved ones. The more  reviews the more likely my book will be noticed. I would be ever so grateful if you did!

(me jumping for joy because you purchased my book ;)

Moving on.....

You can call me an introvert when it comes to sharing my art. I'm not one to throw something in your face, but I do like sharing things I've been working on because it gives me a chance to connect with people and allows friends and viewers a glimpse into my studio.

The project below is one that I've especially enjoyed working on. It's for a friend of a friend. As most of you know I'm mostly a children's illustrator but even artists have hobbies of their own and mine is landscape painting.

This commision was for a very special woman and mom who has experienced a few hardships in her life over the last year.  She used running as a way to get away from her daily stresses and would instagram the places she ran to. The photo below is the last run she went on.

She purposely saved this place for last. Not only was it her last run, but also her final phase in her difficult trial.

When I first saw the photo I didn't see anything special in it, but after a few months of studying it, painting it, and learning about her story, it too has become a special place to me. Although I do not know the recipient of this painting, I can understand why this spot is special to her--peaceful, calm and with a bright path leading onward it becomes a place of hope.

Isn't it incredible how art can connect complete strangers together? Behind every painting and every photo there's a story. Artists have the important job of interpreting it so others see what they see, and so others can feel connected, and, dare I say, changed.

Below is a step by step process in creating the painting out of gouache:

A color study before I start the final--very important.

                                                 Using dry brush strokes to create water

entitled "The Best for Last"

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Kirkus Book Review

Hi all! I wanted to give an update about my latest art adventures. First, as many of you know, I opened my Etsy shop! It's been a long time coming. Many have asked where they can purchase my art and so I decided once my book was finished to create a place where people could do so. My Etsy shop is made up of original children's art and a few pretty watercolor illustrations.  It's nice to create knowing my artwork has the opportunity to bring beauty and joy to someone's home. My creations have a sense of purpose. You can check it out here.

 Also, my book came in the mail! When I found out a few weeks ago it would be shipped to me I was both nervous and excited. What would it look like printed?

Andrew and I went to grab dessert late one night and on our way back we decided to check the mail. And there it was. I started freaking out and felt butterflies in my stomach. Andrew immediately started recording me on his phone. We walked up to our apartment and I slowly opened the box and there it was--my very first illustrated children's book! It was such a surreal feeling flipping through the pages and seeing all the illustrations bound together in a book form.

(looking at my book for the first time)

The book is beautiful. As I've shown it to friends and family I've noticed most of them brushing their hands over the pages because of the three dimensional texture. I enjoy seeing people interact with it. Many of them wish it could be a pop up book (that would be awesome). It won't be published till Sep. 26, 2016 but you can pre order it on Amazon. And if you would like to see a little preview of it check it out on my website

Now for my third bit of exciting news....

"Monday is Wash Day" received a Kirkus starred review! Don't know what a Kirkus starred review is? Don't worry I had to look it up too ;).

Kirkus is an American book review magazine. It's not as well known to the public as it is to librarians, publishers, and bookstores. Each year they receive 8,000-10,000 books to review and only 10% receive a "starred review". That's why it's so exciting! The words used in the review to describe the story and illustrations are beautiful and thoughtful. I feel deeply humbled and grateful. You can read the review here. 

Now my book has a little star 

 hello star:) 

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Gran Hotel

Now that my book is all done I have been working on small commissions for friends, preparing to open my etsy shop on June 10 (hooray!), preparing marketing material (the not so fun part of my job), re-discovering my love of watercolor, and entering competitions on "minted". The last few months have been enjoyable because I have found opportunities to create things I love that are different. One of which is a commision I did for a friend's birthday. She is obsessed with the Spanish period drama "Gran Hotel". Haven't seen it? Well if you don't mind subtitles (unless you speak Spanish), love drama, romance, murder mystery, and fabulous Spanish flowy hair then you should check it out on Netflix. 

Rachel's husband and I came up with this idea to to make a Julio and Alicia scene (main characters in the show) but instead, have them as the main characters and include their little dog Scruffy.

In the show, the main characters are always seen sharing a romantic moment by the sea side (sorry spoiler!)--so that's where I set the scene.

I decided to use paper as my medium of choice mostly because I wanted an excuse to use doilies to create her dress. I do feel like this is a different style for me. I call it my "disney princess style". 

I hope the scene didn't come across cheesy, but romantic and cute. Paul and Rachel are some of my dearest friends so I wanted to make the scene represent their relationship.

Here's the process:

(p.s. she loved it)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Monday is Wash Day Preview

Hello friends. It has been a long time since I have updated the blog, but for a good reason. Over the past year I have been working hard on completing my first children's book entitled "Monday is Wash Day" written by MaryAnn Sundby and published by Ripple Grove Press. It's about two little girls and their little brother helping their mother do the laundry in the 1940's. This past week I finally finished it! The feeling of completing a large project is priceless. I feel proud of the work I accomplished and am excited to share this beautiful book with you. But since it won't be released till September 27, 2016 (mark your calendars!) I thought I would give you a  preview of what it's like for me to create a children's book from start to finish.

                                                       (cover of "Monday is Wash Day")

When I tell people I'm working on illustrating a children's book the number one question asked is  "how did you get that job"? Good question. I sent out postcards of my art and contact information to publishers and art directors around the country. Ripple Grove Press received my postcard. My publisher, Rob, called me and talked about this wonderful story that he and his wife would like me to illustrate. I was beyond thrilled and very surprised! Of course this was my very first illustrated book and so I didn't know what to expect. But Rob and Amanda have been so patient and helped me every step of the way.

Before I began sketching I studied the time period and researched: clothing, wallpaper, popular color palettes, houses, old wringer washing machines (which look like mini spaceships to me), kitchens etc. Once thoroughly researched I began sketches by first dividing up the story and then created small thumbnail sketches to understand what each spread would look like. After my rough drafts were approved I moved onto final sketches.

I work best when I have models to pose and draw from. After searching around I was able to find the PERFECT family for my book. The Richins have two beautiful daughters named Lucy and Mia and a little boy with the most adorable curly hair named Hank. The family you see in my book is based off of a real family. This makes the book even more real and special. I have grown to love and admire this beautiful family who have been through so much. 

I created all the illustrations by painting, cutting, folding, and sculpting paper to look like clothing. I chose to use paper as my medium because it compliments the story perfectly. The visual three dimensional texture of the folded paper makes the clothing look real--as if you can reach out and touch it. It makes the story come to life and allows you to feel apart of the story. 

I hunted for small clothespins but found that none were small 
enough for what I needed, so I made my own using matches. 

Once the final sketch is created, I trace the sketch onto bristol paper using a light table and then I paint the clothing, objects, and characters using gouache (opaque watercolor). Next I cut out the individual pieces using an exacto knife and glue them all together. It's like putting a puzzle together--pieces can easily get lost. Sometimes I may cut too much and will need to start all over again. The process is time consuming, but the final product is worth it. 

Below is an example of the process:

I work from home which can be nice since I can work in sweats and t-shirts (the best!) However it can also be a bit lonely. Fortunately I have a studio cat named Willow to keep me company. Unfortunately she tends to lay all over my art. In the past she's tipped over my water container onto art projects and sketches. I learned never to leave water unaccompanied.

Adding a box on my desk seemed to help.

Willow even ended up in the book. 


Andrew, Willow, and I putting in the late hours 

And after a year of hard work I'm all done! And that's my cat...

Illustrating this children's book was a delight. Yes, there were times I wanted to throw in the towel and never create art again (that's how I felt at 3am at one point), but the best things in life are worth the hard work. Now that I'm finished I look forward to new projects and hopefully illustrating more books in the future.  I'm grateful for all the love and support from friends and family.