Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Major Changes

 After many months of deliberation and many hours of thought on the treadmill, I have decided to shift my focus almost exclusively to my illustration.

(The weird thing is when you have two things you love very much - it doesn't make sense that one should take from the other, but it does.)

So without further ado, I introduce to you my new shop, exclusively for illustration and prints (and hopefully other fun things down the road).

 (click above for link to shop)

Please join me in celebrating this new direction :)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Black Friday & Small Business Saturday

Starting at 12:01am on Black Friday, enter code
to take 20% off all pieces in my shop

I've been adding new pieces to my shop in time for the holidays! For larger orders, please convo me!

Sale continues into Small Business Saturday
and ends at 11:59pm Saturday night!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Life as a Zombie

Oh, hello. I apologize for my absence here -- life has taken off and been insanely busy for me (which is super awesome) I'm currently in the thick of finals week, and have started watching The Walking Dead (filmed in my city of Atlanta), and am feeling quite like a zombie myself.

Over the past few weeks, I have:

1. Cut off a part of my thumb that will never grow back (more amusing than gorey, don't worry).
2. Met real life zombies.
3. Found a secret bar from the 1920's with my girlfriends.
4. Became a Georgia voter for the first time, and spent election night with good friends.
5. Carved a pumpkin with a giant mustache.
6. Can now finally show a glimpse at my illustration full spread in Oblique Magazine!
7. Had two of my Artist Books in Atlanta's Open Studio Night.
8. Found out one of my Artist Books is on a promotional postcard for SCAD.
9. Made Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cake 3 times for various events and parties (perfected the recipe).
10. Started sculpting new holiday items for my Etsy Shop.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The 12 Dancing Princesses: Process

Wanted to show a little bit of my process of creating my scratchboard illustration of the classic German tale of the 12 Dancing Princesses.

Story goes that these Princesses (who, in my adult years I recognize to be not as nice as I once thought) dance all night until they wear holes in their shoes, and no one can figure out where they go. So their father, the King, decides that if any man can figure out the mystery, he can marry one of his daughters. But if he should fail, the King would behead him (makes total sense). A bunch of dudes get their heads chopped off, because the Princesses drug the poor saps while they escape through their secret trapdoor. Meanwhile, an old humble soldier comes through the forest around the castle and meets an old hag who tells him not to drink the wine that the Princesses have poisoned, and pulls out an invisibility cloak that she just happens to have, you know, just in case. The soldier accepts, goes to the castle, dumps out the wine, pretends to snore, and then follows the Princesses through their trapdoor. He creeps after them as they pass through 3 groves of trees with silver, gold, and diamond-encrusted leaves, and then finally gets into a boat that sails them across a sea to a castle, where the Princesses dance with 12 Brad-Pitt-like Princes until dawn. When he returns, he brings a goblet from the castle and a branch from each of the trees as evidence and presents them to the King. And wham bam, he marries the oldest daughter.

If you'd like the more poetic version, I'd suggest reading the original story.

Here's some of my process:

For those who don't know, this method uses white claybord covered with india ink, and then utilizes scratching into the surface and adding marks with ink.

1. I worked on some comps in graphite, blocking out my main blacks, whites, and values.
2. From there I transferred my comp to the claybord and worked with the final sketch to finesse some of the marks and details.
3. Blacked in the blacks with india ink!
4. A shot of my humble little studio set up, and some mini claybords I was practicing mark making on (since I've never really used scratchboard before).
5. A close-up of some of the marks I had laid in, using a G-nib pen and ink, and then scratched away carefully to created the value.
6. Working in the final details! The black instrument is the G-nib pen, and the red instrument is the scratching tool ;)

The Final Work, 
with hand-drawn type/title, and text added using Photoshop.

"Then down they all went, and at the bottom they found themselves in a most delightful grove of trees; and the leaves were all of silver, and glittered and sparkled beautifully. The soldier wished to take away some token of the place, so he broke off a little branch.

Then they came to another grove of trees, where all the leaves were of gold; and afterwards to a third, where the leaves were all glittering diamonds. And the soldier broke a branch from each."

And yes, those are severed heads hiding in the folds of her skirt ;) 
Thanks for reading!

(If you're interested in seeing more process work, follow me on instagram at mirilittlebird)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Interview Footage From My Recent Show in ATL

Sweet little number from my RAW show,  an interview where I talk a bit about my art. Forgive my usual silly awkwardness :)
Thought this would be fun to share! Next up on the blog, some process shots from my first scratchboard illustration, based on the dark fairytale of the 12 Dancing Princesses.

But first, my weekend is starting with a 24-hour drawing competition over at SCAD - all of us crazy art kids will be chillin in our studio, eating together, watching movies, scribbling madly, watercolours everywhere, paint all over the place, probably doing something ridiculous, making art for a great cause: the Humane Society's Annual Pet Parade! I'll be sure to share whatever crazy thing I come up with :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Today was a really inspiring day, and really reminded me why I got into art in the first place. I spend a lot of time thinking about our shared emotions and experiences as people, because often it is what I want to address and explore in my work. Our pain, our feelings of rejection or acceptance, of inspiration or depression, are all things we have all encountered at one point in time. Sometimes our unacknowledged "togetherness" shocks me; that no matter who we are or our situation, we all feel the same drives, desires, anguish, happiness, longing. It is a comforting and strange thought, and one that I want to explore more in my work.

Today I attended a lecture and demo with the incredible James Gurney,

whose blog I have followed for years now. It was stunning to see his process in-depth, all the research he does, models he creates... and his devotion to his sketchbook was so inspiring. In the moments after his demo when he was just talking to a few of us, we got onto a discussion of learning how to draw well, and developing effective communication of our artistic expression. It's not solely about just expressing something; it's about renewing day in and day out a desire to build on yourself and your skills. This is why I love what I do: there is always more to learn, more beautiful, meaningful things to create. I want my work to affect people. I want people to feel something when they look at my work and to identify with me; I want to inspire as I have been constantly inspired.

I also just discovered this awesome song, 
which is a perfect end to the day.

{ photo from my [mostly]daily sketch posted to my instagram, mirilittlebird }

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Self Portrait: Process Work

Over a span of 3 weeks, I slowly created this self portrait in the downtime I had. I knew I wanted to create a process post on my blog, so I made sure I remembered to stop and take pictures in the midst of my scribbling and frantic watercolouring.

This was a very personal work for me. When I'm allowed to have creative freedom, I almost always reach for darker imagery... it just feels natural for me. I still have a lot of unfilled goals in my personal life.

This work is created based on two quotes: 
"Hell is empty and all the devils are here." 
-- William Shakespeare
"I've learned love is like a brick, you can build a house or sink a dead body."
-- Lady Gaga

I started with a sketch, using a variety of references for myself and the birds. Before I laid down any watercolours (aka "the scary part"), I did a few digital colour tests to figure out what direction and palette I wanted to work in.

I had settled on the fourth colour test, and broke out the watercolours, laying down light washes, building up tones. I worked over the pencil lines of the sketch, giving general light and dark tones to build up the form.

After I had laid in my watercolours, I went back over the original sketch and rendered the features: hair, eyes, feathers, etc. This took quite some time - especially that hair! After most of the pencil work had been done, I went back in and hit a couple spots with more watercolour, but not much.

Finally, I scanned and pulled this into Photoshop and hit it with some Levels, but I did very minimal editing. I did also scan in subtle watercolour textures and overlaid them on the orange "bricks", which I felt gave the work a little more depth.

And the finished piece: (larger version)

{ all art in this post © erin mcmanness 2012 - please credit if shared }

"I think the most important thing for a young person starting out is that they should only try to make work that they’re interested in, and that is true and honest to who they are. If you look at the careers of anyone that’s made it or become successful, they’ve all started out making work that they believed in, that they were interested in. And they did it obsessively and compulsively, and so people started noticing. So instead of, say, catering to a certain audience or pleasing someone else they should just do work that they feel like is the most interesting to them, at the time. Even though it might not be accepted or noticed in the beginning, they should just keep doing it until it becomes undeniable."
-- from a great interview with one of my favourites, James Jean 

 Thank you for reading!
Hope this was interesting :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fish Exodus

A piece done at about 2am, one of those times where you can't sleep with an idea lodged in your brain. I hesitate to share some of my more personal pieces on here and say much about them, at the risk of sounding overly corny, cheesy, or unprofessional. But the truth is, making work is the way I cope with every single thing I encounter in my life - the good and the bad. And sometimes I think these pieces are the most honest thing I can put into the world; when I am too afraid to own my own words, I can at least own the lines.

This piece is about giving oneself permission to move on, to allow fears about loss to pass through you, and to consider a higher truth.

Been really trying to focus back on watercolour and graphite recently. I forgot how much I missed getting my hands dirty. Digital painting is wonderful, but there is a trade-off. I will be posting process work of a personal piece I've been working on for 3 weeks soon, and I am making plans to create an illustration based on Radical Face's "Welcome Home". 

If you have never heard this, plug your earphones in, lay your head back, and close your eyes. 
It's hauntingly poetic.

All of my sketches/process works are on my instagram - follow me at mirilittlebird --
Art in this post © Erin McManness 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Sound of Silence

Tonight I hopped a plane, sketched for 2 hours up in the sky, and landed in damp, muggy Baltimore. One of my favourite parts about coming home is walking my sweet little dog down the dark, wet  streets of my neighborhood. We're out in the country, so everything smells green and the air hangs on you. Most people don't like that kind of weather; but it's my favourite. It's nice to walk in silence, and look up through the trees, see the stars, and feel incredibly small.

Hello, darkness, my old friend; I've come to talk with you again.
Because a vision softly creeping, left its seeds while I was sleeping.
And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains,
within the sound of silence.

Composite photos © erin mcmanness + found text

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

RAW Artists Presents: Radiate

Last Thursday night I had the opportunity to show alongside a very talented friend and colleague at RAWAtlanta's Radiate show. This show was comprised of over 20 local artists, musicians, fashion designers, filmmakers, and makeup artists, all in one space together. It was a ton of fun!

The venue was incredible - with exposed brick walls, industrial lighting, an indoor-balcony and outdoor bar, it was very charming and gave off just the right vibe for the show. I met a lot of incredible people and artists, and clinked my can of Red Stripe beer with many new and familiar faces. Most of the night was super crowded and busy, and my business cards flew right off my table! A huge thank you to all of my friends who came to support my work, and those who were there in spirit and supported in other ways!

Here are some photos of the night from my instagram :) Enjoy! 

It was a great night!
Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

My Illustration as a T-shirt!

Hey ya'll, a quick post for the beginning of this week. I've been taking on quite a few new illustration projects lately (and baking a LOT!), and it's quite an exciting ride :) This past Thursday, I showed at Radiate in Atlanta - it was a great time! I have quite a few photos that I'll be sharing in tomorrow's blogpost - stay tuned :)

For now, I want to ask for some love and support: I was very happy to find out that one of my designs has made it to the voting stages over at Threadless.com! It is in the running to become a printed t-shirt that will be sold on the site, but it needs votes to get printed.

Would you take a few moments to spread some art love for me and vote? 

(The highest score is a 5 - to vote, simply click the number alongside my illustration)

I would appreciate your support so much! If you like my design, I would be honoured if you'd share it with your friends -- tomorrow is the last day to vote!

* Coming up on the blog, 
I will have step-by-step progress shots of several paintings, event photos of "Radiate", and hopefully soon I will be able to talk about some exciting opportunities I have as an illustrator (though for now I have to be a super-secret-agent-art-ninja and keep my mouth closed - tougher than it sounds!)

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


True to form, I couldn't sleep with an idea in my head. So I jumped out of bed at 2:30am and did a speedpainting, listening to this on repeat, as loud as my headphones would go.

One of the most frustrating, heartbreaking things in life is watching someone we love dearly go through something we are powerless to change or fix.

On Loneliness. On Rage.
Art © Erin McManness 2012 // Speedpainting - 45 mins.
Larger Version: [ Here ]

This weekend I finally saw the Dark Knight Rises. Besides falling completely in love with the soundtrack, the theme of the movie hit home for me for so many reasons. (I know this is where you're all wondering if I will reveal my spandex-and-armour-wearing alter ego, but sadly no)

The theme of the movie was overcoming obstacles, being beaten down and rising stronger. I generally don't get sentimental about movies, and in truth I will tear up at action movies with a great soundtrack quite a bit more than any sappy chick-flick. Batman had me pretending not to well-up in front of my movie-going friend on multiple occasions. I know it seems silly to get all emotional about a superhero movie, but it was inspiring to me for so many reasons. As Bruce Wayne scaled the walls of the pit, and all the prisoners below chanted, "Deshi Basara" (which means "Rise")... it's that moment when somewhere inside your chest you feel visceral recognition, empathy, and a sense of determination, like when a firework explodes and you feel the deep thud in every bone of your ribcage.

Sometimes loneliness can make you forget that we are all connected, that we have all felt the same happiness and the same pain. This painting was my attempt to explain myself where I knew words would fail me.

Friday, August 24, 2012

In The Studio

This week has been incredibly busy, and incredibly productive :) I find I am so much more satisfied with my life when I am on constant deadlines.

We're going into my final week of Summer Quarter here at SCAD, and I also have the awesome opportunity to show alongside my very talented friend and colleague Diego Penuela at RAWAtlanta's "Radiate" show this Thursday night! If you are local to Atlanta, give me your name and I will get you on the guest list ;) I will be there looking snazzy, ready to greet you with a cocktail!

I've also been blessed with a new freelance opportunity that I find I am enjoying so much! It's more on the technical side of illustration, but I am having so much fun, and learning a LOT.

1 // A sneak peek at one of my final pieces for my Publications class -- more to come!
2 // Technical illustration for my client -- breaking out the trusty coloured pencils!
3 // Shimmery ivory roses for several bridal orders that went out this week.
4 // Some fun with perspective for a client, and a super sweet lady with a little dog named Bandit.

(for more, follow me on Instagram at Mirilittlebird -- I follow back!)

And a great quote that I found recently and have been thinking quite a lot about: 

"Worry, regret, and anxiety are all mental illusions that distract you from this truth: 
You're okay right now."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Some Thoughts on Purpose & Creativity

As a freelance illustrator, I am always looking for sources of inspiration and motivation. For me, creating art goes far beyond the desire for a paycheck; rather, it instills a sense of purpose for me, and a reason to get up in the morning. After starting to pursue art as my career, I vowed to myself never to work another job that was considered "the daily grind". I no longer believe that we are supposed to work at something that doesn't fulfill us for decades, where the only change from day to day is what we pack in our lunchbox.

So I was absolutely thrilled as I tuned in to Marie Forleo's weekly video, where she interviews the author of The Charge, Brendon Buchard. Because I rarely post things like this, I want you to trust me. The interview is about 30 minutes long, but it's fantastic. So fantastic that I literally went out to get the book after watching the interview (B&N didn't have it, thank you Amazon!). If you can't commit to the full interview, at least start watching at 7:30. Either way, pour yourself a nice cup of coffee or tea, and take some time to consider a new perspective, especially if you're a creative who is thinking about/working on their own business.

In the interview, Buchard talks about the power of using your mind to grow your brain's activity, your purpose, and how to engage with the world to increase fulfillment in your creative endeavours.

"This is an external reality. Maybe I can't fully control it, but what is it that I could find in my life, or create - more importantly - what can I generate in my life that would make me feel alive, despite all of this?"

"How consistent are you in truly expressing who you are and your desires to the world? The more you do that, the more you feel engaged with the world, and the more the world engages with you."

"Right now in this economy, creative expression IS currency."

"The powerplant doesn't have energy, it generates energy -- You do not have happiness, you generate happiness. You don't have confidence, you generate confidence."

Later, as I was working on some sketches for my Publications class, I watched Hugo, which is by far one of the most charming, lovely films I've seen. It's one of my favourites. As I was watching, something Hugo said stuck out as being a perfect fit for this post:

"I'd imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured, if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn't be an extra part; I had to be here for some reason." - Hugo Cabret

Just some thoughts. 
I hope this was as inspiring for you as it was for me! 
Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Self Portraits

As you can obviously tell from my previous few blogposts, the past couple of weeks have been a time of definite introspection for me. I think it's good to occasionally step back and re-assess how we're spending our time, if those things are helping or hindering in terms of reaching our creative goals, and if our relationships are uplifting and inspiring. A lot of that takes a good, honest looking-inward.

A lot of my sketchbook is pretty personal stuff, and I feel like everytime I draw something "just to draw", it ends up being sort of a self-portrait of how I'm feeling, what I'm going through in my life (good or bad), and a recollection of my emotions. I really, really believe in self portraits. A lot of people will plunk down the vain card and just write it off as "myspace photos", but I think self portraits are an incredibly important way to document the different phases of our lives. It will be something we absolutely value when we are older.

I don't know about you other artists out there, but when I look at an old painting I've done, I can still remember what movie I was watching, what music I was listening to, and every emotion and reason for painting it.

Untitled, Self Portrait - Composite photos and drawings
© Erin McManness 2012

Do you take/draw/create self portraits?
Link me up! I wanna see it!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Landscape Painting

Tonight was a quiet evening for me, so I did what I find I do best: popped on a movie and broke out my tablet. Sometimes I can be extremely good at alone time, and burrow into my "work-cave". Call it my coping-mechanism. Some people eat cookies, I paint.

As I was enjoying the familiar faces of The Fellowship of the Ring and laying down brushstrokes in Photoshop, it dawned on me that when I paint, I do not feel alone. It is familiar and dependable; it is something I can continue to grow infinitely without fear of it ever leaving.

Cliffside Temple - Landscape Study
Photoshop CS5 - 4 hours
Larger Version: Here 
Art © Erin McManness 2012

As I go through some changes in my personal life, I have decided to bury myself in my work for quite some time and focus on that. My inner Hermoine Granger is doing back-flips; and the woman inside of me is setting her teeth and pushing forward.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sketchbook + Blogging

Tonight I spent my Saturday night with some of my lovely classmates, working away on our assignments at school, huddled in the glow of Photoshop, and trying to stay warm from the killer AC system that runs like it's on a rampage to freeze every living thing in the building.

The perfect opportunity for scanning some sketches I've been meaning to share! 

* I had spoken before about the direction I wanted my blog to go in, 
and whether or not to monetize. A lot of that had to do with my absence for the past week or so. I love blogging, and I love connecting with everyone on here (you guys make it so much fun!) - but I have been letting my blogging priority become bigger than my illustration priorities. I wanted to take some time off to spend time in my sketchbook and examine my goals as an illustrator.

* I am not planning to stop blogging, 
I love it too much and it's become a part of me that I am very fond of. I still want to post tutorials and inspirational stuff and all that jazz, but I need to focus more on creating a balance of how much time I spend doing this. What I want to share with you is self-created; I don't want to repost pinterest images just because they're pretty and attract followers. I want to motivate myself to keep creating and keep pushing myself in a direction of exploration, and my blog is a fantastic way to stay accountable.

Because I'm about to go into full-on Hermoine Granger mode!

{ All sketches © Erin McManness 2012 - please link back if you repin/repost! }

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Taking a Mini-Vacation

Just a little heads-up that I might be taking a few days to sort some things out in my personal life and won't be posting. 

We'll be back up and running again soon.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Otakon Report

This past weekend, I flew into my hometown of Baltimore for some good, nerdy fun at Otakon. For those who don't know, Otakon is an anime convention held yearly at our huge convention center in the Inner Harbour, where tons of silly people gather to share their love of Otaku-culture by dressing up in crazy anime outfits, having ninja battles in the lobby, drinking way too much coffee, spouting off random japanese words, and hugging pretty much every other person in the building.

Or, if you're me, Otakon is the best 3 days of people-watching on the planet earth and an opportunity to not only promote my art, but make bank and talk to some pretty interesting people.

I have been doing conventions for three years in a row now, and I can say that, as crazy as they are, they are mad fun. After working and prepping for 4 months in advance of the show, my goal this year was to make enough to cover my fall tuition at SCAD... and as I handed a print of my Black Swan to a very sweet young lady, I got the chance to hug her and thank her for the sale that hit the mark.

Highlights included:

1. My crazy booth that took me 3 hours to set up! Had my own little art cave.
2. Tons of prepwork and charm-army!
3. Hot pink mustaches that brought on exclamations of "MUSTACHE!" and excited, pointy fingers.
4. Rows and rows of bows.
5. My special VIP Artist Alley ribbon that earned me the question of, "So, you're working at the freak convention?" from a very (not-so) pleasant gentleman while getting my morning coffee.
6. Oreo Brownie bar bestowed upon me by a nerd who was "astounded by my beauty", which caught me very off-guard. My booth neighbor and I decided that it was most likely not poisoned. (Given that I am writing this post, nothing too disastrous occurred.)
7. Test-driving mustache rings before the con.
8. Print inventory and taking stock!
9. Charm bracelets that sold super well!
10. Illuminated monograms that brought lots of oo's and ah's.
11. Coffee that should've been the best coffee of my entire life, considering I waited 45 minutes in line for it, got yelled at by an exasperated barista for it, and dodged an epic sailor moon battle to obtain it.
12. More mustache rings that drew people to my table like kids to cupcakes.

Highlights not pictured: 
1. Seeing familiar friendly faces and chatting with friends; particularly my friend Rob who I haven't seen in a long time, and my friend Mckenzie's husband Greg, who was so sweet and brought me a beer that he home-brewed himself!

2. Making friends with my booth-mates, swapping art, and planning drinking games based on how many times I said, "How ya'll doin?" and "They're all adjustable and nickel-free" in a single day.

3. Chatting up about the back-stories of some of my prints, and watching people get really excited about the works. Particularly my favourite story behind Dia De Los Muertos, where I had one of the worst nightmares of my life after watching Pan's Labyrinth for the first time, shooting straight up in bed, and grabbing for my sketchbook to draw thousands of fingers crawling up my neck. Followed swiftly by being referred to as the "awesome creepy Pan's Labyrinth girl" when they brought their friends over. And being referred to as the "fish girl" or the "jellyfish lady" because of all the sea creatures in my paintings.

4. Funny jokes about the fruit-basket and how all of us in our section of the alley should dress up in giant banana costumes and dance. (Awkwaaaaaard!)

5. Surviving 8 blocks of Baltimore city at midnight to get back to my car.

6. My most wonderful mom, who was the cutest mom in the whole world and packed me awesome lunches.

And finally... the best highlight of all: 

Putting my tuition payment through, knowing that I reached my goal, had a blast doing it, and would be paying a little less loan money back to the powers-that-be.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I am a Painter.

I have tried to write this blogpost at least 5 times, and I could never really say what I wanted to say.

So I'm going to sum it up.

I have been stretching myself too thin, trying to do everything. I can't be a graphic designer, and a photographer, and a jewelry maker, and an illustrator, and a blogger. I've just been realizing that I simply can't. If I stretch myself to all these areas, though they all hold a special place in my heart, I will never be able to focus on what I really want to be doing.

I have been turning the idea of monetizing my blog over and over again in my head. But I don't want to end up as a slave to gathering arbitrary followers by reposting unoriginal content. I don't want to post just to post. I want this blog to be a genuine experience, and for once, a place on the internet where I don't have to care about the numbers.

I love to paint and illustrate. That's what I want to do with my life. This is not an end to my blog, but rather a reconsidering of the direction it is going in.

In the spirit of the love of painting, I have created a work based on my favourite character from A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin; Daenerys Targaryen, The Unburnt, The Mother of Dragons.

Of all the characters in Martin's series, Daenerys is by far the character with whom I identify the most. I can't say that I am like her; but rather, that she serves as a symbol of strength and determination for me.

As corny as it sounds, the story and the characters have seen me through a fair share of trials in the last few years of my life. Dany, above the others, always reminds me to be honourable, and to do what is right in spite of all the reasons not to. She is a character that gives selflessly, always seeks after wisdom; who is loyal to her people and her friends, and who continuously plants one foot in front of the other and keeps going, no matter how desperate the situation.

She's also a badass.

So I wanted to give her her due and paint something for a character that has taught me quite a bit about the kind of person I strive to be.

As always, thank you for reading.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I don't know what to write, have a picture instead.

{ photo & hand-drawn type by me; quote from YAWN - as far as I know }

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Paintings & Mustaches; Sketches & Coffee

Just some things I've been working on... 

1 // Watercolour, pigment pen, and special gold paint turn my little illustrated monograms into illuminated manuscripts.
2 // Having fun just doodling, something I usually don't get to do a lot of!
3 // A close-up of my bulletin board, full of postcards from my time living in Italy, good quotes, knick-knacks, and cheeky sentimental things.
4 // Morning sketchbook session and coffee; in my opinion the best way to start the day.
5 // Couldn't sleep one night, so I did a value-study painting from a photograph; took about 2 hours and the soundtrack from Black Swan blasting in my headphones.
6 // A close-up of one of my favourite illuminated monograms; the design is inspired by gold crown molding in Versailles.
7 // Little leather bracelets I'm working on.
8 // My sidekick and I stayed up one night trying our hands at linocuts and decided that mustaches were hands-down the best idea to start up our carving experience.

* And a little graphic I made with an instagram photo 
& one of my favourite quotes.

The anonymous quote I actually found in a fashion archive catalog, while I was doing research for my fashion illustration class. I accidentally copied more page in the book than I intended to, and when I got home and was putting together my moodboard, I realized I copied the text (the whole thing is pictured in #3 above); I felt like it was intended for me.

* What are you working on?
I am an avid "collector" of quotes - I scrawl them everywhere - in my sketchbook, on my planner; do you do this? Or do you have any words you live by?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pictures & Words

One of my absolute favourite lines,
from one of my absolute favourite songs,
by one of my absolute favourite bands.

{ photo and type by me; lyrics dave matthews band }

At the end of the day, it is really fun and relaxing for me to make these silly little graphics. One small way this illustrator can dip her little pinky toe into the ocean of graphic design. My professor Mike at SCAD has really had an influence on developing my love of quirky, hand-drawn and hand-written elements, and it's definitely something I've been incorporating into my work more and more. 

Tonight I got a chance to paint for about 5 hours on end for a freelance project, and it was glorious. Despite a headache, I grabbed my mug of green tea and plugged my headphones in and jammed out to Dave. After an unusually stressful day, it was just what the doctor ordered. 

And I am feeling extremely grateful and lucky
to have some great people in my life.

What are you feeling grateful for today?
On my list: friends who make me laugh, covered parking (we had a huge storm tonight!), tacos, the wonders of youtube, great professors, hair bows, and being in good health.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Disney Nostalgia

In my summer class at SCAD, we were given a fun and nostalgic assignment: design a T-shirt for Threadless' Disney Villains competition! I spent a few days sketching and pouring over the old movies, remembering the days when I used to sit in front of my grandmother's TV, belting out every word to all the songs in Cinderella and scribbling away happily in my sketchbook.

Among my favourites was the story of Sleeping Beauty - I love the scene where the silly witches completely fail at baking the cake and the dress for Aurora's 16th birthday. And when I was little, my dad used to sing "Once Upon A Dream" to me when I would go to bed.

I mean, is this still not completely charming?
They just don't make movies like this anymore.

So for my Disney Villain, I wanted to tackle the dark and dangerously beautiful Maleficent. She frightened me a little as a child (maybe more than I care to admit), but rewatching the movie was really inspiring. I wanted to show a bit of my process here, to give an idea of how I generally work. I really enjoy seeing the thumbnails and sketches of other artists!

I started with a rough idea of the deadly briars twisting around her face and refined it in another thumbnail. I tend to scribble notes in the margins of all my sketches, hehe...

From there, I collected a few references (though the face is more realistic, I still wanted her to have similar facial characteristics as the movie version), and made my sketch. 

I took special care with the briar vines, making sure they had a good amount of variation and depth. Her horns I wasn't entirely sold on, but I knew I could clean them up using my magical Photoshop wizardry skills. [Harry Potter theme song]

I scanned the finished sketch in, and started working in Photoshop to lay in colours and paint her face. 
And here is the finished result!

* Now for the fun part...

I submitted my design to Threadless, and was super excited when they emailed me back saying that my design was pleasing to their "discerning panel of snobby judges" (that's verbatim, by the way... haha!), and that it was now in the running to be printed as an actual T-shirt! (And did I mention there's a little prize of $5,000 for winning?)

To be considered for the prize, my design must get some good votes on it. If you, my dear blog readers, would be so kind as to help me out and vote, I would be very grateful. 
Not only would this be a huge opportunity for me, but it would also directly help me pay for part of my Illustration MFA.

* To vote, please go here:
(click the numbers next to the image to vote - 5 is best!)
(It may ask you to login; but you can sign-in through Facebook. No silly creating an account!)

It would mean so much to me to have your support. A 5 is the best score you can get, and more 5's will help me get printed! If you'd share this post and link your friends, I would be so thrilled :)

Who was your favourite Disney Villain?
(or who scared you the most? haha... it was the Queen in Snow White that did me in...)

So Damn Lucky

Friday afternoon was spent in the murky Atlanta heat with my adventurous sidekick, with whom I share a love of photography (though I still have a lot to learn). It was a really nice change of pace from hunching over my worktable with all the work I've been trying to bust out lately - but let's face it,

We can't just be robots, right?

"This is also [a song] about how not to forget about counting your blessings."

Sometimes I feel so damn lucky to have found what I love to do in this life, and that I have the ability, resources, and support to pursue it wholeheartedly and with conviction. But with that spirit I feel compelled to move beyond just effort, to examine not only the "how" of creating something, but (perhaps even more importantly) the "why" as well. 

 I've had several really great conversations about this, but at the end of the day, the reason why we create needs to be so much more than just the paycheck. The wonderful thing about being creative is that you can get at things that no can text spell out, and you can communicate meaning and emotion where no words will suffice. I really believe that it is a gift, and not everyone can possess it.

Perhaps even more profound is our ability to bring things into this world that can change it for the better. As my lovely momma put it one day, "So you knew what you wanted it to look like, and then just made it, and now it's here in my hand. That's incredible."

"Could I have been anyone other than me?
And I, I look up at the sky
And my mouth is open wide."

What are your thoughts, lovely birds?

Friday, July 6, 2012


Something my professor said during class really struck me today, and I wanted to share it with you:

"When the fire is hot,
go as fast as you can, for as long as you can."

{ source }

For anyone who may need a little extra push, some words of encouragement to power through to the end of the week, or just some simple, well-put insight.

Happy Friday, lovely birds --
new apartment shots and a DIY coming soon!

This weekend, I'll be chasing around my sidekick in the park with our cameras and eating french fries; which honestly sounds like a superb plan to me. What are you doing to enjoy the weather?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Celebrating Amurrica with Burritos & Coffee, of course.

To celebrate, I watched Harry Potter, ate burritos, drank beer, and had a very nice quiet evening with someone who is quite dear to me.

And now, I am drinking my 4th of July coffee, brainstorming wedding jewelry ideas, and am about to pump out some homework for my summer class at SCAD - we're drawing Disney Villains ;)

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!
Did anyone else celebrate with non-american food? 
Or am I the only rebel?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Summer To-Do List

It's July 1st, 108 degrees in Atlanta, and I am late to the Summer To-Do List party.

I just moved into my new apartment (which is gorrrrgeous - pictures when I'm set up), am starting a very cool summer class at SCAD, and generally just trying to get along as best I can in this crazy life.

I think about the urgency of time quite a bit, and if you've read my recent blog post about my darling kitty, you'll know that now it's on my mind more than ever. Buddha says, "The trouble is, you think you have time." Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with all the things I feel like I should be doing. There's quite a list going. At the top of the list is creating stability, fulfillment, and meaning in my career.

One of the things I love about our education at SCAD is its focus on real-world marketability; our professor has been introducing my summer class to the idea of being more than just illustrators, but taking our skillset to the next level to animate. It seems pretty daunting to someone like me - my animation skills go about as far as those little stick figure flipbooks I'd make in the corners of my binders in middle school. Our prof showed us an amazing video that just got my own mental energy rolling on the idea, and single-handedly inspired my Summer To-Do List.

Check this bad boy out; 
put together by a very cool team of illustrators and animator friends:

Good Books - Metamorphosis from Buck on Vimeo.

And, of course, my Summer To-Do List:

We all have only one life to live, and it should mean more than just the paycheck at the end of the day.

What does your Summer To-Do List look like?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Saying Goodbye

My darling girl left me today most unexpectedly. 

I am not sure how much I want to go into here, but it felt right to write about her. I have a candle in my apartment burning for her. 

Kitty came into my family as a surprise birthday present to my sister. She was so small she could sit in one hand, and had huge ears that stuck out like Yoda. She liked to play with my toes under the covers of my bed.

At that point, we weren't ready for a cat, and my mom advised us not to name her because we were going to find her a good home and shouldn't get too attached. Surprise, surprise: someone got too attached (me). Kitty came to us at only 6 weeks old, and I did a lot of research on how to take care of her. When the time came for my mom to take her to her new home, she returned later... with Kitty. She had seen the note I had written the night before with instructions on feeding and how to care for her, looked at me and said, "I just couldn't do it."

So Kitty became mine. I spent some years living in other cities and at college, but always came home to her. And finally, she moved in with me at the start of this year, and somewhere in the back of my mind I named our time together, "Erin and Kitty's Atlanta Adventure".

But today my darling girl left me after 8 years. I didn't realize she was having a stroke as I cradled her in her beloved blankie and rushed to the vet's.

Kitty loved tuna, belly-rubs, and curling up on top of my feet. She is dearly, dearly missed. I kept her collar and put it up next to her candle.

This last picture I took on Instagram - my baby and I, holding feet.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I Am Secretly a Magical Elf

In the break before my summer class starts, I have secretly been transforming into a Work-shop Elf version of myself, in preparation for this year's convention. Huddled at my darling little wooden worktable with my clay, fuzzy cat curled up at my feet, I have been churning out charms, rings, and lots of fun jewelry-things using my magical elf skills (aka, too many cups of coffee).

I thought you might enjoy a sneak-peek :)

1 // Ruffle Rings - now available in my shop!
2 // Little pie charms for candy charm bracelets - in strawberry and blueberry!
3 // Bow ring army! Also available in my shop!
4 // A new wedding piece I'm working on, pale rose petals with amethyst center.
5 // Candy charm army - making tons of these for bracelets!
6 // And sushi for sushi rings!

Are you doing any summer shows?
Or making weekend crafts?
If you'd like to see more, follow me on Instagram @ Mirilittlebird :)

{ All images (c) erin mcmanness 2012 - if you repost or repin, please link back! }
{ Please inspire originality and respect my designs by refraining from making "copycats" - thank you! }
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