graphic designer

artist, illustrator, printmaker, California

Lili Arnold

You studied printmaking in college?

Yes. It was almost by accident. As a junior I transferred to UC Santa Cruz. I was originally trying to do pre-med...but once I started taking classes like calculus and physics I was like, "Oh my gosh. I can't wrap my mind around any of this. This is not good." So I started rethinking my future and what I was going to major in...

I think my art education at UCSC allowed me to appreciate printmaking and start to figure out what I liked and what my style might be. I was always really drawn to pattern and folk art. I feel like most college art programs are focused more on conceptual art. So not necessarily something that's aesthetically pleasing but more focus on the message behind it. And I get that, some of the best art in the world is inspired by tragedy or something very personal. [Conceptual art] can have so much meaning, but I found my style in more folk art type things...

[After college] I did graphic design for four or five years. I got to a point where I was feeling creatively stifled because all the work I was doing was for someone else. I never had any real creative say in the final product ... I just executed the project that was given to me. I was craving some type of creative fulfillment. So I started doing art in my free time. On the weekends and whenever I could squeeze in a little project. ...I would do a little watercolor or I would paint a flower pot, all kinds of random stuff. I came across my old block printing tools and I thought, "Oh, I remember doing this. This was really fun…"

My first block print as an adult was a little sperm whale. Once I started I couldn't stop. After the sperm whale I did a whole little ocean series. Then a friend who worked at a store downtown reached out to me. She had seen them and asked if I would be interested in doing a First Friday. The first Friday of every month in Santa Cruz, a bunch of shops and galleries will host new artists with a collection of work... It's a really fun community arts event. So I had a First Friday. And I felt a lot of love from people in our community. It encouraged me that much more, so I just kept on creating…

When you went from your full-time graphic design position to what you are doing now, what did that transition look like? Are you printmaking full-time?

I am printmaking about 70% of the time, the rest of my time is filled with order fulfillment, commissioned pieces/illustrations, designing bandanas/packaging/branding for my products, and the last element is art shows & pop-ups. The transition from graphic designer to what I’m doing now was pretty scary at first. I was used to a steady 9-5, so managing myself and my own creativity took some time to harness and organize.

[When I quit my 9-5,] I kept some freelance graphic design clients and just did my art and printmaking on the side. Slowly the balance shifted more toward the printmaking end of things, once business started to pick up. Now I pretty much avoid graphic design whenever I can unless it incorporates handmade illustration, painting, or printing of some kind…

I've been obsessed with botanical illustration and scientific illustration. I like Ernst Haeckel ... He did a lot of ocean scientific illustrations. I get a lot of inspiration from doing research and ordering old books that have botanical illustrations. Also just getting out in nature...

I got the idea to do a protea and I think that might have been the first flower other than cactus flowers that I had done. So that kind of got me thinking about other types of flowers and I think that probably is what lead me to actually do this print [of Dahlias]. Now I'm feeling even more inspired to do different types of flowers from all over the world really. There's just so much beauty in the leaves and the petals and the whole structure of the plants.

So your cacti will morph into more flowers?

I think so. That's kind of what I'm feeling right now. 'Cause I did a lot of cactus.

I did, I don't know, a dozen at least, maybe around two dozen cactus and I loved every single one of them. I feel like [in the creative process] there's a natural desire to evolve and change and progress. So I feel like I've explored cacti ... and that has lead me to this next body of work. I have so many ideas for different flowers I wanna do, this could go on for awhile. But who knows?

Being an artist of any kind, it's hard to plan. It's like you have to listen to whatever's driving you and whatever ideas might pop into your head. Kinda just have to roll with it.

I feel like too much planning starts to feel cycling. Running my Instagram page, for example. I do enjoy it, but then there are times where if I plan it out too much...or if I start to schedule too much or start to pressure myself to keep up when I don't necessarily feel like it... I've gotten to the point where I just want to do whatever feels right and not worry if [Instagram’s] algorithm is going to put me below someone. It's probably not very business savvy...

I feel like for me to keep doing what I'm doing I really need to fully enjoy it and embrace the creative aspect of it. That's the most rewarding part of it.

These are all the flower pieces that I cut out after I carve the whole block. I'll carve [a block] in one piece and then I use an x-acto knife to cut out the pieces so I can color everything separately. That was one thing I never learned in school, was printing with multiple colors. Traditionally you carve multiple blocks [one for each color] and then you register each block.

[Explaining what it means to ‘register’ in printmaking.] So you'll print one color first for all the pieces of paper that you're doing. Once that color is done, you have to register [or line up] the next block[s] and the paper perfectly to print the second color [third color, etc] on top of it. It's always intimidated me. It's really hard to do without a printing press because printing by hand, there's so much inconsistency. I also use deckle edged paper. So you can see it would be really hard to register this paper, each piece is slightly different and like what part of the deckle edge do you really choose to be the part to align?

Had you seen other printmakers do this method before? Or did you have a light bulb moment one day?

I hadn't seen anyone do this before. I kind of did it out of desperation. The first few were very ... there was a lack of expertise for sure. The way the pieces fit together didn't really work. It was definitely challenging. But I've started to design the compositions with this idea in mind, that, "Oh, I'm gonna have to cut these out. So how can I make this easy?"

I just try to problem solve as I go 'cause there's a lot of factors to worry about....

That's how I work. A lot of trial and error. And googling. I have made many mistakes carving in blocks before. I did some googling and there's this stuff called Bondo which is used for car repair. It’s car dent filler. I read online that a printmaker used that to patch up mistakes made on their blocks. I ended up trying that because I had made a poster for a band ... I had to print 150 posters and somewhere on the poster it said 2017 and the seven was backwards… So I ended up using Bondo and patching the seven and carving the opposite side of it. And it worked!

Now I know if I really mess up on something that there is a chance it can be salvaged. In the past I just would abandon and walk. Sometimes it's like 15 hours of carving and it's tragic!

Find Lili:

Lili Arnold Studios

Instagram
Make sure to check out the videos she posts of mixing inks, it’s incredibly satisfying ;)

artist, Craft, Columbus OH, Ohio, Service

Allison Chapman : Igloo Letterpress

Allison Chapman owns and runs Igloo Letterpress; a small letterpress, design, and book binding business.

How did you get your start in letterpress?

“My grandfather was a hobby printer. I learned by hanging around the studio with him. He was really interested in machinery and how things worked. The things I like about [running] Igloo are process and problem solving. That’s the creative part that I get energy from and get excited about. 

“We use three types of plates: plastic, wood and metal. It’s not all antique stuff. Most of the work we do now is emailed to us as a PDF. Then we make the plastic plates from those designs.“

"The green press was my grandfather's."

A plastic plate ready to print.

How do you do that?

“It is a light sensitive plastic. The area that is exposed to light becomes hard and the rest of it washes away with water. There are two things I like about the plastic plates. One, we can recycle them when we’re done. There’s less waste. We print a lot of wedding invitations and things that are single use. Two, it allows us to have a deeper impression, or bite as it’s called, into the paper. Our customers ask for that.”

I’ve had quite a few people ask me what the difference is between letterpress and computer printing.

“That’s funny, we always joke that letterpress is better press. When you look at a design, sometimes it’s hard to imagine what it’s going to be like when it’s printed. It’s so different looking a [screen] with light shining through it compared to ink on paper. We mix our ink colors by hand most of the time.”

Do you work much with antique plates?

“In our classes we do. I do in my designs too. I wasn’t trained as a graphic designer on a computer. So I learned by setting individual letters together. If I ran out of an ‘e’ I would have to choose a different font. If it was too big to fit on the paper I would have to start over. It’s hard for me to design on the computer. There are too many choices. I like the limitation of saying, “Oh, yes, this will fit on this paper. This type looks good with that image.” It’s a little bit easier to make decisions.”

When are you hoping to move into your new space?

“We did a Kickstarter to fund our classroom area in our new space. So right now we’re in the process of printing all of that stuff and getting it shipped. We will have our grand opening party this fall.”

Were you surprised/impressed by the response to your Kickstarter?

“Yes. All of those things. It’s a humbling experience to go through a Kickstarter. We did ours for 30 days. We wanted to give time for information to travel… We had around 350 donors. It started out with our friends and family. Then the [local community]. In our first day I think we hit 20%. It was amazing to feel that people were investing in our success.”

Many of the cards Igloo Letterpress prints and sells are collaborations with local artists.

The Snow House is the gift shop for Igloo Letterpress. They also carry goods from local artists.

How has Igloo grown over the years from a hobby to a full time business with employees?

“Our family moved here from Minnesota in 2008. At the time I was pregnant. Igloo in Minnesota was me, in the house. I had a job at the time where I taught letterpress printing [in a different shop]. I didn’t know anybody [in Columbus]. It was my way of building something for myself here and meeting people that cared about the same things I did.

“[The first Igloo Letterpress studio in Columbus was in an artist warehouse outside of town]. I had 300 square feet and shoehorned everything in…When I was out there nobody would go meet me [at my studio]…I got tired of meeting people in coffee shops. I looked [everywhere in Columbus] trying to find the right spot for Igloo… We live in Worthington. So I chose to look for a space around here. I really appreciate the Worthington Farmers Market. I thought the people going to the farmers market might have an interest in the handcrafted stuff I’m making. It was the natural way for me to grow my business, but it’s not a traditional way to do it. I worked while my daughter was in kindergarten and my son was in preschool, 9 A.M. to 2 P.M. Then I would pick my kids up and it was family time. I would work again from 9 P.M. to 2 A.M. It let me grow slowly. I am thankful that it isn't just me anymore. Igloo's staff is so talented. We’re a big small business… [I’m comfortable with our size and work load.] I feel really good about the quality of our work and the quality of our customer interaction.”

 

artist, illustrator, Indiana

Penelope Dullaghan

This is Penelope Dullaghan. Penelope is an illustrator.

I read on your website you used to be an art director.

“Yes, I started off as an art director for an ad agency. I worked there for close to five years. I kept getting illustrator's promos across my desk and thought, 'Oh man, there are people actually working as illustrators! What am I doing hiring illustrators, when I could be the illustrator?'

So I started using my own illustrations for clients. [A fast food restaurant] was one of my agency clients at the time. I hired myself to do their kids' menu. That went well, and was fun, so I started moonlighting at night as an illustrator. After about a year, I felt ready to make the leap to full-time freelance, and my career as an illustrator took off from there!”

“I did an event this past winter at the Indianapolis Museum of Art benefitting their teen art program. I don’t generally do my art in front of other people. It’s intimidating. I prefer to be alone in solitude. At the museum event I was so nervous! Just walking in and seeing all those people watching the other artists [made me want to] turn right around and go home! But it ended up being really fun. I did three pieces that were auctioned off ­ and they sold right away! That was a good feeling.”

 
 

You have an agent. How did that come about?

“I’ve been with Scott Hull for over eight years. I approached him in the beginning and asked him to rep me. He said I needed to do more work. It sucked hearing that at the time, but it was the right thing to say. I appreciated the honest feedback. So I went to work. To get my portfolio up to speed and pad my portfolio, I started a website called Illustration Friday. The weekly assignments kept me accountable. From those self­-assignments and some client work here and there, [my portfolio grew.] I would keep Scott updated on what I was creating. About a year later he wrote me back and said, 'I think you’re ready!'

“I no longer run Illustration Friday, but it's still a great site to inspire personal work for newbie illustrators.”

Does he find you most of your work or do people contact him wanting you?

“I think most clients contact him directly. After you've been doing illustration for awhile, people see your stuff places and want to work with you, too. Sometimes clients contact me directly, but I send all new business through him. It’s much easier.­­ He handles all the paperwork, budgets and timelines. ­­Stuff I don't necessarily enjoy. I get to [focus on] the art.”

How did you get started in watercolor?

“Watercolor is a pretty recent medium for me. I used to do mostly acrylics and digital. Two years ago we moved to a house with a river right behind us, That inspired me to try watercolors. I walk down by the river almost every day. Then do paintings based on my observations. Watercolors are great because they're pretty immediate. I can record my thoughts and observations quickly. As soon as I return home. A lot of these paintings end up in my shop. For my illustration work with clients it’s more of a mix.­ Some watercolor, acrylic and digital too.”

I see you’ve been experimenting with Lino cuts.

“I have. I’ve been doing this pattern­-a-­day series on Instagram. It’s really fun. I do them Monday through Friday and take the weekends off. Lino cut is an easy way to do them quickly. I also work with watercolor and drawing. It’s all experimentation ­­ seeing what works and what doesn’t. I love that it’s been influencing my client work so much. I’m more playful in my illustration work because of the daily pattern making.”

Are you experimenting with any other new-for-you processes?

Yes. I’ve been playing with making stencils. I’m experimenting with different ways to make a mark, rather than just paint or pencil. It may be the beginning of something new... We’ll see. Even if it doesn't go anywhere 'productive'. I think it’s always fun to play and explore with art. It’s how I learn the best.

“It’s also really fun watching my six year old daughter do art. Witnessing her progress and watching her try different things. She’s been my number one source of inspiration. She’ll say, 'Look how I drew this cat,' and it’s the most bizarre, awesome thing! She's not judging or reining herself in at all. That's so inspiring!”

 

Indiana, artist, Craft

Aaron Scamihorn : Ronlewhorn Industries

Aaron Scamihorn is an art director by day, and silk screen printer/graphic designer/illustrator by night. AJ, his wife, works along-side him and is ‘quality control manager.' Together they are RONLEWHORN INDUSTRIES.

Do you print mostly your own designs? Do you screen print others’ designs?

“Almost 100% my own stuff. I have taken on a handful of contract print jobs. People who have something fun or interesting. I’m happy to help them out. Primarily it’s my own stuff…This is my passion project. I do the corporate-y stuff by day. I want to keep myself creatively re-energized. At this point it’s 50% gig posters and 50% art prints.”

What do you do AJ?

AJ: “I am an account coordinator at a design firm. I do that by day and helping him out takes up the rest of my time. I’m learning a lot about the [screen printing and design] process. There are plans in the works to get my own table this year.”

Do you usually do pretty well at craft shows?

“We do. It takes proper strategy. We’ve learned over the years. For instance we need to have new stuff [that is different] from the previous year. Indianapolis isn’t a huge market, those kinds of [craft shows] are often a pretty similar demographic. If you’ve done a couple craft shows in town then they’ve probably seen what you have at least once.”

AJ: “You also need to have a good mix of sizes. Wall space comes at a premium for most people.”

“Some years all I’ve had are giant posters, I don’t do so well. When I have more art prints and smaller stuff [giving] people options, everything sells better. The bigger stuff sells well when they have the option of the smaller stuff. They look at the smaller stuff [but then decide to buy] the larger print!

“We’ve been prepping a lot of stuff for a show coming up. The Indieana Handicraft Exchange.”  (June 13th, 12-8pm, Indianapolis)

How did you get started screen printing?

“I grew up playing in bands. I really love music and [wanted to stay connected to] music…Growing up, my parents were potters and my dad was an art teacher. Everything we did growing up was very hands on. [I work in] a cubicle and the digital design world. The one thing that was missing from the process for me was creating something with my hands.

I started doing a lot of show flyers, and [I was] looking at a lot of gig posters. I began to have this desire to figure out [how to screen print.] With the help of YouTube and some buddies who had a t-shirt printing business…I began trying to figure it out. There was a lot of trial and error.

 

“The first band that was coming to town that [hired] me [to design and screen print their gig posters] was Mayor Hawthorne. After the show, we got to chat about it, and he said, 'I’ve had a lot of gig posters done for me man, but this, this is the shit!' That solidified it for me. I want to do this! From there I got the one for Cake. Now I’ve done seven for them. Having those in the portfolio gets a lot of other bands to work with me.”

When you are working on a new design, do you hand draw or design it on the computer?

“It depends. This design [that I’m printing now] was 100% digital. I’m working on a piece right now for Gallery 1988 out in LA. They do pop culture shows. [The show coming up] is a tribute to Tom Hanks. (June 13-20, Los Angeles) My piece is [inspired by] the film The ‘Burbs. It was all hand done. I used a light box, photo references, tracing paper… And then scan it into the computer for layout. I do a lot of my typography by hand. The DropKick Murphy’s gig poster was all digital, but I did the type by hand. 

“Early on, [an older artist] was giving me advice about the industry and whatnot, his first advice was, 'Robots and pretty girls are what sells. Do as many robots and pretty girls as you can...' He also gave me advice about type layout and, 'You can have the best illustration in the world, but with bad type it’s still a throw away. A crappy illustration with great type can be an awesome poster.' I put a lot of time and effort into making sure that [my type] is solid.”

That’s interesting how language is a larger draw than pictures.

“It’s crazy how some people do these illustrations and they’re so basic but they have these really cool types surrounding them. [It’s frustrating because] I put so much time into my illustration AND my type. You never know what people are going to be drawn to, but when it looks really bad, people can tell.”