Custom Portrait

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I was honored to create this photorealistic portrait of a baby girl recently. To protect the family’s privacy, I haven't included a full-frame photo. I’d love to do more of these! I can add info like name, date of birth, weight/length, city, and whatever else you request to the composition. To get started on a custom portrait for the little one in your life, I’ll need at least one good picture of him/her. This would make a wonderful keepsake for printing on announcements, hanging in a nursery or gallery wall, or gifting to grandparents. 8”x8”.

Inquire for pricing. Allow 4-6 weeks for custom artwork.

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Work in the Wild

Jami and I have been friends since we started working together back at Anabliss in 2006. Wow, that makes us sound OLD!

We’ve been lucky to get to work together on lots of fun projects over the last 13 years. She has also been an inspiration to me in living intentionally. One way she does this is to focus on a powerful phrase and let it help guide how she decides what to do on a daily basis. This spring, she asked me to paint her current mantra, “Do what you love,” so she can hang it near her work station and let it be a reminder that’s a little bit prettier than the standard monitor sticky note :)

I love how rainbow lettering engages your brain on multiple levels.

I love how rainbow lettering engages your brain on multiple levels.

Jami was kind enough to send me some pictures of the piece in its new sunshiny home! Please enjoy and let me know if you have a phrase like this that helps give direction to your life decisions. I’m taking suggestions for my own mantra :D

Floating frames make coordinating art with wall colors easy! Plus, no mat to worry about.

Floating frames make coordinating art with wall colors easy! Plus, no mat to worry about.

My Lent 2019 Project

Hello there! I just wanted to share a bit of what I’ve been working on this spring. As a Lutheran, I have a strong relationship with Easter and the Lenten season that precedes it. I’ve given up various things over the years to feel a connection throughout my daily life with the need we all have for forgiveness and reconciliation. This year, our pastor encouraged us to think about taking on a discipline instead of giving something up. I have been learning hand lettering and watercolor painting for the past 2 years or so, and decided to challenge myself with a painting that would take the 40 days of Lent to complete.

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I had a full sheet of Arches that I divided into 40 spots (they’re each about 18” wide by 5/8” tall!) and I’m painting one per day (except for Sundays, which—little known fact—are technically excluded from Lent).

So, what to paint each day? I knew I wanted to maintain a cohesive color palette, have connections from one day to another (but also have clear divisions between them so the nature of the project was clear), and convey the wonder at the natural world that inspires and reinforces my faith.

“How Great Thou Art” is one of my favorite hymns. It’s about observing God’s power in creation.

O lord my God, when I in awesome wonder

Consider all the worlds thy hands hath made

I see the stars; I hear the rolling thunder

Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my savior God to thee:

How great thou art; How great thou art!

And its tune is catchy. Seriously, I’ve had it stuck in my head for …well, since Ash Wednesday, at least. I’ve been writing it half a line at a time on the painting with a white pen on top of the watercolor layers. I decided the rhythm of blank to lettered spaces ahead of time and have plans for larger lettering to give the titular line some more kapow.

I’ve been posting updates about this project on my Instagram feed, but this is a great way to see the whole process in one place.

The Branding Process, Part 2: Styleboards

Welcome back, brand-curious folks! Today we will get into the exciting phase of styleboards, essential to an efficient logo design process. This step can also help inform a much larger brand look and feel than just the logo, so it's definitely worth the investment of your time. 

By the time we've arrived at this point, several decisions have been made by the client that have already begun to shape their brand. 

1. They've recognized the need for a branding exercise (new brand or rebrand). Yay! 

2. They've selected a designer based on the designer's previous portfolio of outstanding work. They may have made this decision based on exactly the type of project they're looking for OR based on a style or process they can see from the designer's portfolio.

3. They've gone through a rigorous competitive analysis process that has helped them see where the other entities in their space are pegged on several key metrics and answered some questions that help the designer understand what they want to convey about themselves. 

Now, it's time for the designer and the client to break through one last barrier: most likely, the client is not a designer! Shock and awe! Duh, this is why they're here. 

Styleboards provide a way for non-visual thinkers (clients) and visual thinkers (designers) to arrive at a common language for talking about visual things and the emotions they evoke. Due to the process above, we can assume that the client at this point trusts the designer they've chosen to provide a curated set of visuals for them to discuss together, and that's where the rubber meets the road. 

Conscious of the list of words we ended up with at the end of the competitive analysis, I start haunting some places on the web that I know house some great design: Pinterest, Behance, theDieLine, and the now-defunct For Print Only showcase (which, hallelujah, is still searchable). I collect things that may not seem terribly relevant—for one, they usually have one or fewer things in common with the project at hand. In the church example, I found some Christian iconography and stained glass windows and things like that—on topic, but not the same type of project. I also found some things that were branding, but not church. I don't really limit this process much, and the farther afield the source images can be, the better. Building styleboards of only other church logos would have been unhelpful and unoriginal. 

With a stockpile of at least 30-40 images saved on my desktop (or you could do this on Pinterest if you're like that), I start sorting them into folders based on the personality words. For Well of Hope, the first board is called Intelligent, Questioning, and Gospel-focused. The second is Caring, Outward-focused, and Accepting. The third is Growing, Modern, and Hopeful. You can see the three styleboards below. Note the different feeling each ends up with, based on color, use of line and photography, texture, typography, and more. 

I presented these boards to the client in a Skype screenshare to gage her reaction in realtime. I think this is super helpful over just sending them in an email. An in-person meeting would be even better! We were able to discuss what she liked and disliked about each of the boards. She could take these to her larger marketing team and make sure everybody who would have veto power later was able to start feeling like part of the process now. This early-stage buy-in is SO important. In fact, so important I'm going to say it again, for those of you who are skimming:

Get early-stage buy-in from everyone who might have veto power. 

In this case, the client was able to knock board #3 (Growing, Modern, and Hopeful) off the list in our meeting—it was too slick and polished. She loved aspects of both boards 1 and 2, though, and took those to her team to discuss. In a few days, I had my answer: we were proceeding with a combination of the two. They also threw an interesting kink into the process at this point—an art piece a congregant had made, a cross formed from reclaimed wood and tile materials, was added to board 2, which was all about the human touch and texture. 

With clear direction about what they liked and disliked about these boards, I was able to proceed into the logo phase with a more narrow field to explore than if we'd skipped this step. Everything I designed would fit within the parameters outlined here. Come back next week to see the first round! 

The Branding Process, Part 1: Competitive Analysis

Not everyone uses the same process to create a logo! If you've been frustrated in the past by not feeling involved in the process, feeling like your designer is just "throwing spaghetti at the wall", or not being sure that what you ended up with was "it", read on. 

My process begins with a competitive analysis. This allows us both to see who else is in your space and decide what to do about it. We'll learn all about the competitive analysis process I use in this post, and cover styleboards and later steps in future posts. 

Step One: Color Analysis

For a recent rebrand of a progressive Lutheran church in Castle Rock, Well of Hope, I plotted as many other churches in the area as I could find on this color wheel to give myself and the client an idea of what colors were overused. Blue has been a meaningful color for them since their name has a strong water connotation, so even though there's a lot of blue "taken up" on the color wheel, we knew that had to be part of the outcome. We just also learned that we'd need to have some unique elements elsewhere in the brand—but we didn't know what yet.

Plotting competitive logos on a color wheel reveals color spaces you can own. 

Plotting competitive logos on a color wheel reveals color spaces you can own. 

Step Two: Other Visual Factors

Next, we did similar analysis on a number of factors on which we could make the identity unique. I won't go thru all of that here, but suffice it to say, you definitely learn some interesting things in this process! One simple example is political campaign signs / logos—much has been written about this, but in broad strokes, establishment candidates tend to use all caps and dark colors. Grass-roots candidates swing more toward lower or sentence case, friendly fonts, and brighter colors. Case in point, Obama's 2008 or Bernie's 2015 logo vs Trump's in 2016. 

Knowing these connotations and seeing them play out across "traditional" and "youthful" church branding in Castle Rock, we were able to make an educated decision on which kind of type would be most appropriate for Well of Hope. 

When arranged this way, it's easy to see that most existing churches in Castle Rock use all caps or camel (sentence) case type in their logos. Room to "own" lower case! 

When arranged this way, it's easy to see that most existing churches in Castle Rock use all caps or camel (sentence) case type in their logos. Room to "own" lower case! 

Step Three: Why Does It Matter? 

With some of the visual decisions underway, we progressed to discussing the substance of the identity. Many years ago, I learned the "Who are you, what do you do, and why does it matter?" method of getting a client to talk about their brand in a way where creatives can connect with people without much experience in our field. This set of questions can bridge our minds and pave the way for a successful identity! Sometimes this can be drilled down in an in-person or Skype meeting, but other times, these are "homework" questions the client needs to take away and sit with for a few days. You want thoughtful answers, like I got here from Pastor Julie. 

There's going to be way more "meat" to these answers than you can manage to convey in a logo, but the exercise gives you wonderful context to work within. 

There's going to be way more "meat" to these answers than you can manage to convey in a logo, but the exercise gives you wonderful context to work within. 

Step Four: Descriptive Words

My next step is to ask the client to help distill this down into a group of personality words that we can start to build visuals around. We created a much longer list and then narrowed down the most important ones in a phone call. I also find it helpful to do words that define "who we are not" at this stage, as this helps guide the parameters of the brand much more than JUST "who we are".

To be clear, the LEFT column here is Well of Hope's list of "who we are" and the RIGHT column outlines "who we are not"!!! 

To be clear, the LEFT column here is Well of Hope's list of "who we are" and the RIGHT column outlines "who we are not"!!! 

With all of this homework done, we get to move on to the fun part! Check back in next week to see the second installment in this series, all about styleboards.