Illustration Tools + Resources

Every so often I am asked what tools I use to do what I do. I have a pretty simple set up, as my process is pretty analog. I hope this is helpful. I’d love to hear about your tools!

Art pens/markers: Micron (all sizes!), Faber Castell (big fan of the PITT Artist Pen, soft brush)

For writing and doodling: Pilot V5, Muji .5mm gel pen, Sharpies, crayons

Paintin’ things: India ink (I’m not particular about the type of brushes), LUKAS Gouache

Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Book and S Pen (as far as tablet drawing goes, I am a BIG FAN. I prefer this over an Ipad, even though I’m an Apple gal at heart). When I’m drawing and editing on my computer, I always use my Wacom Intuos tablet. 

Computer/software: Apple 27″ iMac, Adobe Creative Cloud (once you go CC, you won’t go back). I primarily use Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as InDesign and Lightroom.

Digital Brushes: Kyle T. Webster (Kyle Brush) Megapack, Shauna Parmesan Mega Mash Chalk Brushes, Brushbox (for organizing downloaded Photoshop brushes)

Pre-Order Brit + Co Class!

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If you’d like to learn more about my process, look no further! I teamed up with Brit + Co to create the kind of online class I wish I had when I was first learning Illustrator. We walk through the process from start to finish, of illustrating and digitizing an art print.

Pre-order today!

More from Brit + Co…

At the end of this class, you’ll know how to:

  • Turn an inspired sketch into a digital illustration (and ultimately a custom design!)
  • Use Adobe Illustrator to trace, paint, and modify your design until it’s just right
  • Apply Becky’s shortcuts and techniques for working in Adobe Illustrator like a pro

This class is perfect for the doodling and sketching lovers out there. You can now turn your unique artwork into digital designs! After taking this class, you can share your fun illustrations on Instagram. Or even create custom cards, desktop wallpapers and more. The possibilities are endless! Just check out some of the illustrations that Becky has created below. A few are even available in her online shop Chipper Things!

The Process of Sharing the Process

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Before we begin, I want to provide a little context. I just completed my Adobe Creative Residency. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the program, it’s a new initiative from Adobe that provides designers, photographers, illustrators, etc. a full year to work solely on passion projects. Kelli Anderson and I were the first residents. My projects were (mainly) working on my second book, The Roommate Book (on sale June 28!) and launching my online store, Chipper Things, that features my illustrations on over 70 products.

Left: THE ROOMMATE BOOK | Right: Chipper Things notebook

Left: THE ROOMMATE BOOK | Right: Chipper Things notebook

 

Let’s dive in.

Much of what I learned during my Creative Residency can be summarized as this: a lot can happen in a year.

I learned (and relearned) the value of accountability, saying yes before feeling ready, sharing publicly and surrounding myself with people who are rooting for me.

A little accountability can go a really long way. The program is remote, therefore I live and work out of my studio in Austin, Texas. Team Adobe is stationed in San Francisco. I talk to Libby (Creative Community Liaison) every Wednesday (specifically at 1 PM CT / 11 AM PT). Throughout the week, we send emails, texts and Trello notes, but overall, this call is where we get down to business.

A spread from THE ROOMMATE BOOK

A spread from THE ROOMMATE BOOK

 

Libby (and the rest of the Adobe team) is always two steps ahead of me. They’re constantly scheming of ways to make the most of my time as a resident. Because of these weekly meetings, I have done things that I would have otherwise delayed or declined because I didn’t feel ready, think I had the time, etc. This is where the growth really happened. I got so used to saying yes to new things that I accidentally became tougher, faster and better along the way.

Let’s talk more about accidentally becoming brave.

One year ago, I was scurrying to meet with a local film crew (Arts+Labor) at their cool Austin office (it is cool by definition because it has a conference room that’s heavy on the windows.) Since we’re both based out of Austin, it made sense for me to meet at their office while we had a call with my new Adobe team in San Francisco.

It was in a building that shared an address with a few other offices. I was so close, but so far away, because I couldn’t find their suite number. I was already nervous enough as it was — they were filming a video all about Becky to show the world what Adobe was thinking by hiring me as one of their inaugural Creative Residents. Yet I couldn’t even find an address in plain sight.

That was one of those moments where, if you’re like me, you feel completely unqualified and freaked out that someone (or something, particularly an entity as big as Adobe) is investing time, energy and money in you. At the same time, in your heart of hearts you know that you did not trick them in the process, therefore things must be going as planned. It felt more like the leap from high school to college than the leap from 7th to 8th grade.

Chipper Things cards!

Chipper Things cards!

 

Thinking back to how nervous I was compared with how comfortable I am now makes me realize that I walked in as a freshman and I’m walking out as a graduate.

Like Adam Garcia says, “The pressure is good for you.”

We don’t (I don’t) always win with the first try, but if or when I do succeed, those little victories lead to bigger victories. It’s important to challenge ourselves so that when we win, we really win. My talk at Adobe MAX went better than expected, so, I accidentally became a little bit more brave and that made me a little less nervous for the next talk. And even less nervous for the talk after that. Before I knew it, I saw myself as someone who “give talks.”

And just like that, I became more confident without meaning to. It happened because I was pushed a little and then tiptoed even more out of my comfort zone. The accountability led to bigger things, beyond what I thought I was capable of in 365 days.

I said yes to figuring it out later and then I figured it out later.

A core part of my role as a Creative Resident is to share the process publicly. The goal is for this program to lift up and elevate the creative community as a whole. I didn’t have much trouble with this as I shared my 100 Day Project (#100daysofgettingstarted), where I displayed my daily illustrations. I also didn’t mind sharing the process for The Roommate Book. And I also didn’t mind showing folks 90% of the process of designing, building and launching Chipper Things. That last 10% was a lot harder to share.

Studio wall covered in test prints

Studio wall covered in test prints

 

Before I go on, I acknowledge that sharing the process of my Creative Residency project is a fair ask. It is the main part of the job description. It’s interesting and helpful for us (humans) to see a dream turn into a plan and then that plan turn into reality. Sharing is easy when you know you’re in the clear. It’s much harder when you’re not so sure.

And by not so sure, I mean, plagued with doubt. I’ve been talking this dang thing up for a year. “What if come launch day people are just…underwhelmed?”, I often thought to myself. We’re busy people. If something isn’t up to snuff, we don’t take the time to rationalize why. We make our judgments and move on with the day.

Photo testing and early days of brainstorming a name (Fun fact: I almost named my store Loop + Line, but nobody could understand what I was saying when I told them. I still have the URL, if you’re interested.

Photo testing and early days of brainstorming a name (Fun fact: I almost named my store Loop + Line, but nobody could understand what I was saying when I told them. I still have the URL, if you’re interested.)

 

I also had a “to-do” list that was longer than my “done” list just days before the launch. I knew it would work out but I was still very nervous (most likely seen on my Real World Confessional-esque Snapchats).

What ended up happening was the opposite of what I had feared.

  1. I finished Chipper Things on time, and I finished it well. Part of why I still had so much to do come launch week was because I was obviously behind schedule. Why was I behind schedule? I made a semi-last minute decision to swing for the fences a few months ago and added 50 more products than originally planned. This significantly pushed back the whole operation. Instead of starting out slow and steady, I decided to throw it all out there and figure out what sticks. I bootstrapped everything from photographing the products to building the site (thank you, Shopify) to sourcing materials. The notebooks weren’t actually in the hands of my fulfillment center until the day of launch.
  2. I was overwhelmed by the support I received from the moment the site went live. Friends, acquaintances and internet cheerleaders banded together to make sure the world knew about this project I’d been working on for the last year. I couldn’t believe (and still can’t believe) how enthusiastic people have been.
Chipper Things art prints (Flowchart and Young at Heart collections)

Chipper Things art prints (Flowchart and Young at Heart collections)

 

I learned an important lesson in all of this: By letting people in on my journey, they became vested in my success. Things become interesting when we know a thing or two about them. This is true for flags, astronomy, art and everything else. Knowledge leads to understanding. That’s why we all got lost in the deep web learning more disturbing facts about Robert Durst after we watched the Jinx.

This is connection.

I believe that when we get a teeny bit vulnerable with our goals/dreams/ideas, the rest of our community identifies because they see a bit of themselves in our story. They know we’re in a fragile place, so they rally to protect us (if we have a kind community). Plus, it’s a lot easier to root for a real person than a robot who just “woke up like this.”

Chipper Things products from the Gal Pals collection

Chipper Things products from the Gal Pals collection

 

Everyone’s situation is different. This is not a rule of thumb — this is an observed personal outcome. It just so happens to be something that I find useful and will keep working toward — sharing my work in a sustainable way and trusting that nobody is going to beat me up if some projects are better than others, I change my mind along the way or even fall flat on my face. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of discernment. Not everything needs to (or should be) shared, nor should we hastily announce our goals to the world. And I also think it’s okay (and best) to ask for help and feedback. When I launched this store, I was not shy about asking friends to help spread the word. We have to ask for what we want and help people help us.

At the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to create when we know that our comrades are rooting for us. It’s tough when we fear the wrath of not getting it right the first time. We make better stuff when we put ourselves in situations where we’re pushed further than we think we can go, and the nectar is that much sweeter when the backstory was illuminated along the way.

Not sure how to properly link to myself below. I’d like to provide places for people to reach me / my work, but I don’t want to overwhelm them with links.

Check out the Chipper Things store and read more about my process and the release of The Roommate Book over here.

Note: To read more about why it’s nice to show your work, read Austin Kleon’s appropriately titled book, Show Your Work!

 

 

 

Chipper Things is Live

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Origin Story

In 2010 I moved to Waco, Texas from Ames, Iowa. I landed a job at a cool design firm where I was paid to doodle, draw and distract my co-workers with ridiculous hypotheticals. I look back on these 2 1/2 years fondly. But I often forget how hard it was in the beginning. I didn’t have any friends when I moved. On one particular stroll through the aisles of Hobby Lobby, I saw a wood  burning pen and a few planks of wood. I decided to buy it. That night I burned a ship (inspired by an old stamp) onto  one of those planks of wood. Eventually I started burning more wood planks with quotes, pictures and letters. Then I had them laser cut and then I opened an Etsy shop.

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(This one was laser cut)

In searching for the perfect name, with equal parts jolly, spunky and punny, I came upon Chipper Things. My product was literally (and I mean literally the way it is meant to be said) chipper things.

Not long after that, the Chipper Things blog began as an outlet for me to share my drawings, writing, ideas and inspiration. I started I’d Rather Be Short on this platform (as well as a handful of other good and bad ideas). Meanwhile, my Etsy store morphed into a little print shop, where I sold my art on paper instead of walnut (and by art I mean, mostly this print in particular). Through this experience, as well as writing my first book, I learned that it is indeed possible to make a living off of my art.

Enter Chipper Things 2.0

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Between the wood burns and today, Launch Day (April 19, 2016), I’ve spent a lot of time freelancing. During this time, I had been dreaming of opening up a more robust online store with my work. I was slowly chipping (see what I did there?) away at this when I wasn’t working on client work. Then, a little over a year ago, Adobe came out of nowhere. I started my Creative Residency, which afforded me the opportunity to work on Chipper Things full time, without the responsibility of those client obligations. Throughout the last year I had the chance to make art, explore, play, learn from artists, entrepreneurs and professional tinkerers who inspire me to keep playing and keep creating.

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Today Chipper Things is an online store that sells paper and lifestyle goods. I have plans to expand to wholesale but I want to get this part right first. There are over 70 products and only two were carried in the original Etsy shop. The collections are: Gal Pals, Flowcharts, Young at Heart, Love and Kindness.

As the name implies, Chipper Things is as much about process as it is seeing the good in our world and ourselves. This business aims to embody exploration, connection and play. The logo, colors, art and products will always be evolving, as will I.

I think this is a good place to start.

I’d love to hear what you think. What do you like, don’t like or want to see more of? Shoot me an email at becky@chipperthings.com.

 

 

Go-to Karaoke Songs (evolving list)

I compiled a go-to list of Becky-approved karaoke songs.

1. Hands Down, Dashboard Confessional

2. Are You That Somebody, Aaliyah

3. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

4. Say My Name, Destiny’s Child (other close DC contenders: Independent Women and Emotions)

5. Happy Together, The Turtles

6. Lady Marmalade, Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mya, Lil’ Kim

7. Complicated, Avril Lavigne

8. My Heart Will Go On, Celine Dion

9. All or Nothing, O-Town

10. The Boy is Mine, Brandy and Monica

11. No Scrubs, TLC

12. I Can’t Help Myself, The Four Tops

13. Mr. Brightside, The Killers

14. Torn, Natalie Imbruglia

15. Lean on Me, Bill Withers

16. I’ll Never Break Your Heart, Backstreet Boys

17. Meet Virginia, Train

18. Miss Jackson, Outkast

19. Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond

20. My Girl, The Temptations

 

CHRISTMAS EDITION:

Breath of Heaven, Amy Grant

Adobe Creative Residency Application FAQ

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You may have noticed that Adobe has opened up applications for the 2016-2017 Creative Residency. I’ve been receiving a handful of inquiries about the application process and I’m happy to share my answers with you here. I can’t believe I’m in my last quarter! This year has flown by. Long story short: this residency has been even better than I imagined and I highly recommend you apply.

“Do you have any general tips on applying to the Creative Residency?”

I wish I had the magic answer, but the application is really about you. Enthusiasm is contagious. Be really excited about what you’re doing and don’t try to make it fit a certain formula that you imagine Adobe is seeking. They’re looking to expand the program (new mediums, objectives, processes, etc.), so don’t assume that because you haven’t seen it done a certain way means it can’t be done that way in the future. This is the second year of the program. Anything is possible.

“Do they pay you a yearly salary? Is the salary comparable to what I’d otherwise be making?” 

Yes, I think so. It was for me. As a resident, I have always felt like the entire Adobe team has been rooting for me. This includes how they have compensated me over the last year.

“Do they compensate you for the materials?”

When I was applying, it was explained to me that Adobe is investing in my creative journey, not my business. So in my case, no, they do not pay for my materials that I will end up selling. But they will pay for materials to help foster my creative growth (art supplies and travel!).

“How do I budget what the project will cost?”

This portion is to give them an idea of what they’ll be investing in with you. Sometimes it will be expected for you to pay for things with your salary and sometimes they’ll pay (it’s a case by case basis). But the rule of thumb is what I said before: if it aids in the creativity, they’re all about it. The project budget is really to help them understand if they can fiscally support you. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just do your best with the knowledge you have at this point about your endeavor.

“Do they provide free software?” 

Yes, Adobe has given me the Creative Cloud suite for the year as well as a MacBook Pro (that will be returned at the end of the year).

“How much do you travel?” 

Quite a bit, but that’s relative. You’re expected to be available for travel about 25% of the time. In my busier months I probably traveled twice a month, sometimes more. But often times it was initiated by me where I found an opportunity and went for it. They don’t make you go anywhere (though there are a few important events), but it is assumed that as a resident you’re willing and speak and travel when the opportunities arise. But no, they won’t make you skip your best friend’s wedding. Adobe covers all travel expenses.

“Could your partner or friend join in on the travel?”

Yes, sometimes Greg joined me. Often times I would be so busy with work that it didn’t make sense to make it a couples trip, but you could do it. It is nice having one of the flights plus the hotel paid. The event you’re traveling for is the priority so as long as you’re smart and doing what you came to do, they don’t care.

“How much of your work should be shown in the proposal?”

It really just depends on what is needed to give them a clear idea of your project. You can always link to your portfolio or a blog post that expands on the subject if there’s a lot more you want to show (or give them the opportunity to dive in more).

“Does Adobe own your work?”

No. Part of the nature of the residency is being really transparent about what you’re working on, so you’re already sharing a lot. They don’t want you creating in a dark corner. I think they always ask when they use my work, and it’s always credited to me. I’ve always felt that it was to bring me exposure and support me. My book and art I’m selling is not owned by Adobe, but they do get to use it (again, they’ve always credited me). I’m more than okay with this.

“Can I do freelance work while in the program?”

Mostly no, but maybe yes. The point of the program is to totally focus on your personal project(s). They aim to pay you well enough that you don’t need to consider taking on other work, but if a really great/special/exciting/once in a lifetime opportunity comes up, they’ll work with you. The right perspective would be to go into this assuming you will not be taking on client work for a year.

“How did you hear about / how were you accepted into the program?”

Adobe found my work online and reached out to me to talk further about the program. I was asked to provide a project proposal and we continued the conversation from there. The process was much like the application process today, except they reached out to me rather than me finding an open call for applications online.

Closing thoughts

Remember, these are real people who are doing this because they really do care about our creative community. They’re excited to see the applications and how they can work with you this year. They’re not looking to nitpick your proposal. They want to see eager folks who are already investing in themselves; they want to take that to the next level. It’s important that you share with the community as a resident (everything from social media to public speaking). If you can prove that you’re already doing “your thing” to the degree that you have the opportunity, great. You’re in good shape. It’s better not to know what I did or what other people are doing (as far as crafting the proposal) because yours is a blank canvas and that’s a good thing. Picasso wasn’t formally trained as a sculptor. He just went after it, and you can too.

Check out what it means to be a Creative Resident, and don’t miss the FAQ at the bottom of the page.

Good luck!

Chipper Things 2.0 is coming this Spring!

chipperthings2.0

Hi. Hello. Howdy.

Real excited to share some news I’ve been working on and thinking about 25/7.

As a part of my Creative Residency, I’m opening an online store with my new product line, Chipper Things. I called it ‘Chipper Things 2.0’ in the header of this post because that’s exactly what it is: the new and improved, all-in, LOLs to the walls, “There’s no turning back now” art and paper paraphernalia line that will be illustrated by yours truly.

I’ve had my Chipper Things Etsy shop for a little while now. Some of these products will be in the new store, but that’s nothing compared to the work happening behind the scenes. Follow @chipperthings on Instagram for more process shots and a glimpse into the tangents of my brain.

This is something I’ve been dreaming about for years so I’m very excited to share the process with you. Pretty soon I’ll share more about my timeline, strategy, how the name came about (and stayed) and why I decided to take my art in this direction. Sign up for my newsletter for the occasional picture viewing and pump up party as well.

How Much is Too Much Pizza? Flowchart

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Ever ask yourself, “How much is too much pizza?”

Me too.

If you come to West Elm (Austin) this Sunday from 12-4 you’ll be able to snag yourself this very helpful decision-making flowchart (as well as a number of other pieces that haven’t been released online yet).

See you there!

Art show at Companion

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My very first art show, All the Things, opened on December 1 at Companion. I displayed 31 pieces total, with a mix of prints and originals (and a variety of mediums like gouache, watercolor, risograph, screen printing, etc.) It was a very special night for me and I greatly appreciate all who came out to support this work I’ve done during my Creative Residency.

The show will be up through the end of the month. Check it out if you’re in Austin!

Photography by Chelsea Francis 

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Mama's Sauce Workshop: Holiday Drawliday

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My friend Val gave me the idea to put “Drawliday” in the name of the event. I don’t remember what I would have done without her input (actually I think I was going to do Say It Ain’t Snow), but I’m glad she stepped in.

Mama’s Sauce has a fantastic internship program and they take great pride in their end of the semester lecture / workshop series. It was an honor to follow in the footsteps of Dana Tanamachi and Will Bryant in teaching a workshop to this Winter Park, Florida crew. The purpose of my workshop was to spur a night of drawing and remind everybody that illustration is accessible to all. This year we had help from a cool folks to make it a really great event, including Adobe Creative CloudCreative Live, French Paper, and of course, Mama’s Sauce (and thank you for helping out, AIGA Orlando!).

Everybody is creative, and creativity is just connecting the dots. No dots to connect? Enter creative prompts.

I led attendees through a series of guided steps so they could illustrate their own posters out of just paper and Sharpies. The steps were as follows:

1. Pick a theme.

Wait for it…

No theme? Pick a number between 1-8.

DON’T READ AHEAD.

Have your number?

Okay.

Here’s a topic to riff of of for your theme: 1) food 2) imaginary creatures 3) nature 4) animals 5) region 6) person/people 7) holiday 8) something you don’t understand.

2. Next: see the image bank below…

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Now fill this whole thing out—with words or pictures. You will end up with 25 prompts to illustrate for your poster. Don’t overthink it. The idea is to have imagery to use that isn’t as obvious as “Christmas tree” with a Christmas theme. If your theme is, “The Midwest,” you’ll have 5 ideas/pictures under “see” that you see when you think of the Midwest (farms, Grant Wood, etc.). Under “taste,” do the same. You might write, “snowflakes,” “sweet corn” or even “cow manure”. You get the idea.

3. Pick your five favorites.

4. Draw the centerpiece of your poster using one thing from your top five. The centerpiece is the hierarchy of the poster.

5. Choose another image from your favorites in the image bank. Draw it twice on the poster and make it symmetrical or asymmetrical. This will compliment your centerpiece.

6. Do this again with a new image from your image bank. Now you’ll have 2 sets of 2 images. That’s 4 images, plus your centerpiece. Way 2 go.

7. Create a pattern out of the design elements from row 2, column “hear.” The point of this is not only to employ the power of repetition, but it also serves as a reminder that we can find inspiration in ANYTHING. Whatever is in this box has pattern potential. Even if you wrote, “farts” or “tree.” You could take it literally and draw simple leaves, or you could draw little tear drop shapes, or use the lines from the branches. It’s whatever you make of it.

8. Create border inspired by imagery/texture from “touch” column.

9. Mentally divide poster in half…then choose your own adventure with how you finish. Do you want to leave it blank and employ the negative space? Or do you want to make a pattern out of box 1 under “taste”? OR how about you draw something from the smell column? The world poster is your oyster.

10. Color it in! Or color in what you want, where you want it. Remember, contrast is king.

BONUS STEP: download the Adobe Capture app, then go to the Shape tab and take a picture with your phone to vectorize the image so it’s all ready for print. How cool! One of the attendees from the workshop will win a free run of screen printed or letter pressed prints of their design. I’m so looking forward to seeing this finished, printed piece.

Thanks again for having me, Orlando! You made me feel so warm (very literally) welcome and I hope to be back sooner than later.

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