Lisa Falzon

Artist, Writer, Visual storyteller

A Splash of Birthday Colour

As my birthday creeps around the corner, I HAVE to share with you these birthday cards I created for Blue Mountain greetings last year. I love these guys, they make unabashedly bright and uplifting e-cards and they have a very specific look, which makes for a great and juicy challenge. 

These ones were made for  e-cards where browsers can choose the relevant milestone birthday number from a menu before sending it to their intended. So the backgrounds were fixed, you could choose between two - and then the central post card with the milestone age switches out.

 This is one of the ornate 'stages' you could pick, for your more sugar-and-spice child ;)

 This is one of the ornate 'stages' you could pick, for your more sugar-and-spice child ;)

.. And for your more space-and-pyrotechnic child, here's another option!

.. And for your more space-and-pyrotechnic child, here's another option!

Have to say, I drew heavily on my 80's childhood for these ... :) I don't often get to go 'over the top' with a client's project but I could with this one!

See? This postcard bit slips into the main image above - I made 12 of these, one for each year up to a teen, in two styles - sugarey, and adventurey. :)

See? This postcard bit slips into the main image above - I made 12 of these, one for each year up to a teen, in two styles - sugarey, and adventurey. :)

I had to create a total of almost 30 birthday postcards - by the end didn't think I could draw another balloon or streamer and staring for weeks at neon-brights felt like they'd done me some eye damage... but I LOVED this project.

This one for example goes into the space-scene birthday stage. The postcards look real cute as they switch up!

This one for example goes into the space-scene birthday stage. The postcards look real cute as they switch up!

Do you remember those big bold birthday cards we could get as kids in the 80's? Usually with a pin-button attached. I tried to channel some of that energy.. what a treat for it to be my turn to make them for modern lil kids getting e-cards :D

Wanna see some other e-cards I did artwork for? It's unseasonal, but have a look at this 2014 New Year's Eve card I did artwork for that's still live on the site. Their animation team.did a fantastic job on it.

Transitioning from Artist to Illustrator: Playing with the Dames with the Big Guns

 

How lovely to be an illustrator, is what a lot of people not in the field exclaim happily once they learn this is what you do. It's a very romanticised line of work. Entirely uninvolved folk will often tell artist friends, especially ones with more figurative styles '..You should be an illustrator!'

And of course, it's an awesome job if the challenge of it drives you. 

But it's definitely not for every artist.

Not every draw-er out there can make the transition to illustrator, because where artists span the gamut of personality types, it actually takes a very specific type of person to be able to do illustrate professionally.

Fact is to be an illustrator, you have to be a bit of a nihilist, and very unsentimental about what you do.

Change of scenery for La La Land, changing 'Swallows And Swans' to a more serene Alpine image for their upcoming card range

Change of scenery for La La Land, changing 'Swallows And Swans' to a more serene Alpine image for their upcoming card range

You have to be 100% un-precious about your work, happy to scrap stuff you have worked on for several hours , undo-changes, and at times basically start from scratch. 

While as an artist you are working for yourself, as an illustrator you are working for someone - and not vaguely so either,  the results have to work for your publisher. And the more important the publisher usually the more stringent their demands will be.

This deserves mentioning because so many artists are extremely precious about their finished work. They come from a 'personal work' background, and balk at being asked to change things in their first forays into publishing.

The sentimental idea of an artist treating their artworks as their 'babies' is also very pervasive in our culture, so that the illustrators who are suitably nihilistic about their work and change things up to fit briefs constantly actually keep it under very tight wraps, for fear of seeming mercenary.

NEWSFLASH: The best illustrators are also mercenary. You need to be ruthless about making things work for a client, rather than for you. If that sounds unromantic then this job will never fulfill you.

Losing it's grim edge - subtle changes requested by Merlin Publishers for one of their recent book covers switched the mood from macabre to mystery. Also losing the edges on the spine, a request made by their in-house graphic design team, made it safer for print. Sometimes a Publishing house will be worrying about a bigger picture than the illustrator is acustomed to grappling with - like basic issues that wouldn't physically work in print, such as lining up spine shadows in art with actual physical book spines.

Losing it's grim edge - subtle changes requested by Merlin Publishers for one of their recent book covers switched the mood from macabre to mystery. Also losing the edges on the spine, a request made by their in-house graphic design team, made it safer for print. Sometimes a Publishing house will be worrying about a bigger picture than the illustrator is acustomed to grappling with - like basic issues that wouldn't physically work in print, such as lining up spine shadows in art with actual physical book spines.

It's a problem-solving job. You are creating a visual solution for your client. And roughly half the time, you will not get it right the first time. 

Publishers across the field are really exacting. A slight bit of change that might mean nothing to an artist, puts an image 'off-brand' to a company. There's very specific requirements. Here I was thinking - surely a ball is a ball, and used soccer balls in my composition? But in order to appeal to a bigger spectrum of 9 year olds to whom this card is aimed, I was asked to switch up the balls to include a wider net of sports.

Publishers across the field are really exacting. A slight bit of change that might mean nothing to an artist, puts an image 'off-brand' to a company. There's very specific requirements. Here I was thinking - surely a ball is a ball, and used soccer balls in my composition? But in order to appeal to a bigger spectrum of 9 year olds to whom this card is aimed, I was asked to switch up the balls to include a wider net of sports.

You're playing with the dames with the big guns. They have brand-guidelines, agendas, demographics, print-requirements, that are quite aside from your own aesthetic needs.

Your job is to juggle all of this and solve all their needs with a single (or several) visual solution while giving it your own aesthetic flair. Sometimes it will take a couple of goes to hit all their target requirements and it's no blemish on your skill.

Briefed with creating a companion piece to my 'Star Bear', I set about creating a similar-type drawing. The piece went through a number of colour scheme ransformations as I worked with La La Land Publisher's Art direction team to come up with an image that was colour-scheme compliant with La La Land's art style of cards.

Briefed with creating a companion piece to my 'Star Bear', I set about creating a similar-type drawing. The piece went through a number of colour scheme ransformations as I worked with La La Land Publisher's Art direction team to come up with an image that was colour-scheme compliant with La La Land's art style of cards.

This is not to say you won't get frustrated, or have an angry strop about it when you get that 'We like it but um...' email.


This is the great thing about email relationships.. they don't have to see your little strop! I don't envy illustrators who wok in offices with the rest of their team (and not only because I am incurable introvert ;))

It took so many re-works of this deceivingly simple image (it was to be embedded in a larger context frame work on an e-card, with postcards like this one and others that switch-out on click) to bring it up to the level of bling and pizazz the publishers fancied.

It took so many re-works of this deceivingly simple image (it was to be embedded in a larger context frame work on an e-card, with postcards like this one and others that switch-out on click) to bring it up to the level of bling and pizazz the publishers fancied.


If faced with a long email from a publisher listing things you need to fix with a painting you consider your masterpiece.. take a deep breath, step away for a little, make some tea.

Then get right back on that horse and get re-working. This is the true nature of being an illustrator.

No one every discusses it, and it needs to be said, because this is where a lot of beginners get depressed.

This mermaid image was created entirely to publishers specification, they needed a square-format mermaid scene, but turned out to be the wrong mood. The re-do was pretty much an entire re-do ( but the resulting artwork as a night scene and with a romantic overlay was far more on-brand  for publishers La La Land.

This mermaid image was created entirely to publishers specification, they needed a square-format mermaid scene, but turned out to be the wrong mood. The re-do was pretty much an entire re-do ( but the resulting artwork as a night scene and with a romantic overlay was far more on-brand  for publishers La La Land.

So many complain of it being hard to find illustration work - you definitely need to pimp yourself out to publishers over waiting for them to find you, and sure there are more illustrators than work... But how many of these illustrators complaining are giving mediocre service?

Understand your job and give stellar service and you will get publishers re-hiring you when they next need a job done. You'll stand out.