Workspace Update :: Lauren's (Honest) Studio Tour

Surprisingly, over the past year, four of the six Happy Happy Art Collective ladies have moved. Thus, we wanted to give you an update of what our studios look like now. Let's check in with Lauren, who moved to Mt. Juliet (right outside of Nashville) about a year ago.

Ah yes, studio tour! So let's get one thing straight. About an hour ago, I had a spare queen mattress/box spring set shoved in here, tons of sketches on the floor, and my trash can was overflowing. But most of you are probably familiar with that sort of thing, a studio in some state of "organized chaos". My studio doubles as storage and basically the we-don't-know-what-to-do-with-this-so-let's-stick-it-in-here-for-now room (note: "for now" usually turns into "forever"). I'm fine with this because in the past I usually had this much room to work with- a tiny table right by my bed in college or a drafting table squished in my barely 400 sq foot work/live space in Rhode Island. So the occasional spare mattress in a whole room that is my studio space is a piece of cake.

May I also add that my husband would usually be asked to take a picture of me in a cute outfit sitting here, but in reality I'm behind the camera wearing plaid pajama pants, a T-shirt, and my comfy oversized sweater cardigan because I'M KEEPING IT REAL, FOLKS.

I've done studio tours in the past, but this time I wanted to present a more realistic view of what my studio looks like, so I'm preserving some of the natural everyday messiness. I have two tables- a small one for my laptop and then a large $50 folding utility table for my scanner and painting space (seriously, the folding table is one of the best things I can recommend. You can get them at your local home improvement store, and usually they fold and have handles. They are super handy for art sales, garage sales, and family events if you need more seating or a buffet table. Insert thumbs up emoji). 

Also, you will notice the right side has a stack of miscellaneous papers, sketchbooks, and other things on/around it. This is normal.

 A stack of books lifts my computer to promote good posture!

A stack of books lifts my computer to promote good posture!

My Wacom tablet has actually revolutionized the way I paint. When you work digitally and become more comfortable taking risks (because you can undo anything you don't like), it means that you can discover a lot about the way you like to work in a shorter amount of time (at least for me it was). Now I find myself much more relaxed and less timid when I paint, because my digital playground has really allowed me to develop my confidence.

Two usual sights in my studio are small piles of doodles I keep (ideas for later) and little things I just can't part with, like this squishy Capybara character I bought in Japan years ago (I think he literally is named "Capybara San", or "Mr. Capybara". Of course). I can't give him up because he's JUST. TOO. CUTE.

This wonderful kiwi green dresser stores art books, knick knacks, and samples of my work. Here are a few!

I hope you enjoyed seeing my studio! Stay tuned for another Happy Happy Artist to take you behind-the-scenes.

one year later :: tammie bennett

Over the past few weeks, the ladies of Happy Happy Art Collective have been sharing a recap of their adventures over the last year since the group's inception. This has been so fun!

I am so, so happy I wrote that email to these ladies asking them to join in me in forming an art collective!  I've learned so much from them and it is invaluable to have a built-in support system.  I've enjoyed getting to know more about each of these ladies through their triumphs and tribulations.  

I loved meeting Emily, Jill, Lauren and Muffin at SURTEX.  I was sad not to get to meet Denise, but i'm determined to make that happen!

Speaking of SURTEX, i had a booth for the first time and learned SO much.  It was terrifying, thrilling, exhausting and rewarding.  I came away with a great licensing partnership with mpix and i've designed holiday, save the date, and graduation announcement cards for them.  I also made a few great connections which turned into licensing deals which i can't talk about quite yet.  

tammie bennett at SURTEX

I had fun with my #365tinythanks project.  Every single day in 2014 i drew a quick sketch of something tiny i was thankful for and posted it to instagram.  it was a great way to raise my awareness and appreciation for all i have in my life that i'm grateful for.

tammie bennett's #365tinythanks project

I submitted my work to several companies and got quite a few yeses. I can't wait to show you these projects.  the waiting is so hard!  I learned that sometimes all you have to do is ask.

i was chosen to be in the UPPERCASE surface pattern design guide.

tammie bennett's pussywillow pattern

i was happy to be featured on the print & pattern blog and in the new print & pattern geometric book.

tammie bennett in print & pattern geometric book

I received a phone call from a dream client asking me to design a product for them.  It was such a great moment.  I said yes, of course.  Can't wait to show you!

I won 3 awards in minted competitions: one art challenge, one fabric challenge and one journal challenge.  My work is now for sale on minted's site.  (I met some of the minted crew at SURTEX).  I went to a minted event in NYC where we made holiday moodboards and my fabric was one of the chosen fabrics.  That was a great moment!

tammie's floating feathers art print

i had so much fun working on the Happy Happy Art Collective alphabet project, even though i think i got behind on a letter or two.  

tammie bennett's O for octopus

It's been an amazing year and I can't wait to see what we do next!  (SPOILER ALERT :: emily, jill and i will be exhibiting at SURTEX in booth 532, so be sure to stop by!)

Thank you so much Denise, Emily, Jill, Lauren and Muffin for being a part of this happy happy journey!   You guys inspire me every day with your amazing work and friendship.



For the next few weeks, the ladies of Happy Happy Art Collective will be sharing a recap of their adventures over the last year since the group's inception. This is gonna be fun!

Next up, Denise Holmes! 

Since joining the Happy Happy Art Collective, I have had one of my busiest years illustrating and I don't think I could have done it without these 5 ladies at my side. I love having these ladies here not only as a group to create some fun work, but as a place to get advice and encouragement. Not only that, but I consider these ladies to be some great friends now!

This year was the year I became an official children's book illustrator. I dreamed of this opportunity for over 8 years and I felt like all my hard work finally paid off. I had 2 books published in 2014; If I Wrote A Book About You and We Love Nature. I turned in the final artwork for The Yoga Game by The Sea and The Giant Book of Creativity for Kids both to be published in February and March 2015. And I signed 2 more contracts by the end of the year. It has been amazingly busy!

If I Wrote A Book About You, written by Stephany Aulenback Simply Read Books May 2014

I sent out an inquiry email to my top agency and became part of the Tugeau 2 team a few weeks later. 

I got to meet Emily and Nicky Ovitt in person! 

Jack & Jill, my favorite personal piece created for the happy happy collective

I went on an epic vacation with my family to San Francisco and Portland and had to stop at Powell's bookstore where If I Wrote A Book About You was a staff pick! 

I discovered nib pens and now I love to draw that much more. 

By the end of the year I created over a dozen personal pieces with the Happy Happy Collective that I am proud to include in my portfolio. One might have even inspired a children's book!

Thalia's Tea Party! my favorite Letter from our alphabet series

2014 you were pretty darn good. Really looking forward to 2015! Thanks for catching up with me!




For the next few weeks, the ladies of Happy Happy Art Collective will be sharing a recap of their adventures over the last year since the group's inception. This is gonna be fun!

Next we have Lauren. (You may have noticed she is now Lauren Lowen! It sounds like a comic book name: Lois Lane. Peter Parker. Lauren Lowen)

Wow, has it only been a year? I feel like we have packed SO much into the last 12 months. For me, that meant leaving my full time job in January 2014, getting married this past September, and signing with an agent!

I've had a chance to work on some great projects, from kid's magazines to album art. I went to Surtex and was ecstatic to meet so many fellow artists and new clients. Since the show, I have licensed art with companies such as Hallmark, Demdaco, and Mpix. 

in the fall I was approached by the wonderful Jennifer Nelson about representation. I joined Jennifer Nelson Artists in early 2015 along with four other talented ladies: Victoria Johnson, Monika Forsberg, Bee Brown, and Jennifer Orkin Lewis (August Wren). In the short time I have joined forces with the agency, I've been blown away by the new opportunities coming my way and am extremely grateful Jennifer thought I was worth representing. Wish I could tell you about some of the exciting things we are working on, but you'll just have to wait (ugh, I hate waiting!). Below you can see a small screen grab of the website. Check it out here to meet everyone!

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 10.59.28 AM.png

Of course, let's not forget how fun it was to work on the Happy Happy Alphabet. Below are my personal favorites of the ones I did.

The adventure continues! I will be at Surtex this year not far from the Happy Happy booth, and I am giddy to say that my husband and I are moving outside of Nashville to our new house! We can't wait to get settled in and let the dog sniff all the 193,682 smells I'm sure she'll find upon arrival.

Hope your year is starting off HAPPY HAPPY!


For the next few weeks, the ladies of Happy Happy Art Collective will be sharing a recap of their adventures over the last year since the group's inception. This is gonna be fun!

First up, Emily.

Hey y'all! Emily here. Wow. Can you believe it has been a whole year since we started Happy Happy? I guess that's why they say "time flies when you're having fun", right? And what a fun year it has been.

The year started off on a good foot when Tammie asked me if I was interested in forming a collective. Yes, of course! What a great decision that was. Not only have we done some great things together, but we have learned from one another, we've supported each other and I can truly say I've made some amazing friends along the way. Here's one of my favorite Happy Happy projects from last year: 

Jack and Jill book cover

I got to work on some dream projects in 2014, including some illustrations for American Girl Magazine and Storey Publishing. I thank my lucky stars every day that I get to draw for a living!

American Girl Magazine - November/December 2014 issue

I started work on my first-ever illustrated book with one of my good friends and author. It has been a great learning experience, from character development to story boarding to putting together a proposal. Fingers crossed it gets picked up by a publisher!

A spread from my first book

I was featured in Brava Magazine as their Artist of the Month. I'm getting used to seeing my illustrations out in the wild, but my face? That's a new one! :-)

My feature in Brava Magazine

I had my first-ever speaking engagement at the MAKE! Conference. It was one of the scariest things I've ever done, but I survived and I am SO glad I did it. What a rewarding experience!

The postcard I handed out at the MAKE! Conference

Last fall I applied for a teaching position at a local college. I got through two rounds of pretty intense interviews, but unfortunately I didn't get the job. I'm really glad I went for it, though - it was a great experience, and once again, I'm learning that scaring myself once in a while is a good thing!

What's up for 2015? Well, the awesome work continues to roll in. I've been playing around with other media which is always fun. I've been obsessed with making colored pencil floral patterns on colored paper, so who knows what that will turn into. Maybe a collection? We'll see. All I know is that I love my job and as long as I do what I do, it's going to be a fantastic year!

Colored pencil floral pattern exploration

Interview With Amy Ng of Pikaland

"...with so many illustrators out there right now, there must be something else besides your skills that makes you stand out." - Amy Ng

The delightful Amy Ng

I can't tell you how excited we are to interview Amy Ng, the founder and amazing person behind the Illustration blog Pikaland. If you have never been to her delightful corner of the web, Pikaland covers a wide variety of topics from emerging Illustrators to business matters like finding clients. In addition to running Pikaland and her popular new e-course Work / Art / Play, Amy has been a guest lecturer at colleges and teaches in the classroom. She's obviously a very busy person, so we are thrilled that she could talk with us!

Hi, Amy! Pikaland just celebrated six years. How would you describe Pikaland today to someone who has never visited the website?

Oh wow, that's a great question! I'd tell them that Pikaland is a blog started by this girl (me!) who wanted to know more about illustration, and she rounded up all the people, work and things that inspired her to dig further into understanding more – not just about the field, but about story and meaning, commerce, and how it can all come together.

The blog itself has morphed over the years into something more though – it began as a scrapbook of sorts, and soon it became a place where I taught myself about illustration. And after 6 years, I've turned the tables bit by bit – instead of just merely soaking up all these great information out there, I began to share the personal insights that I've gleaned from many years of self-study to share with the community.

You were an editor at a magazine before creating Pikaland. Does that past experience enrich your understanding of illustration in any way?

It does! Prior to starting Pikaland, I used to work with my graphic designer on choosing illustrations and/or photos to go alongside the articles. Since her first language isn't English, it was a little more difficult for her to understand the subtle nuances behind some of our writer's works. That's where I stepped in – I essentially helped her distill the messages behind these articles and then walked her through on how to search and convey meaning via images, and what to look for. I didn't know it then, but I was essentially giving her art directions! While a lot of my advice was spot on, my publisher didn't like it because he wanted her to work on it on her own. So there was a lot of sneaking around happening back then!

Apart from editing, my time spent with my graphic designer was one of the highlights of my day, so that was a bit of an eureka moment for me.

I know from Pikaland and your e-course Work/Art/Play that you are a huge fan of unorthodox marketing and self-promotion. Can you give our readers an example of how illustrators can create their own opportunities in today’s world?

The landscape for marketing oneself as an artist and illustrator has changed a lot within these past 5 years, and it's an extremely exciting time for anyone who has something to say! One of the biggest message that I'm spreading with Work/Art/Play is the need to rid yourself of gatekeepers (especially when you're first starting out!). Gatekeepers are people who you think you'll need to get permission from to move ahead – art directors, clients, editors, etc. They aren't bad people! But when you place a lot of your hope on these gatekeepers, you've essentially given them control of your journey. So I want to tell these illustrators that you can carve your own journey while having fun – and they can do this by creating small projects that have nothing to do with making others happy but yourself. 

In the course of running the blog, I find that the most interesting emails I get are the ones from enthusiastic illustrators who are running their own small projects. Sometimes they don't know what they're doing, or where it will lead them, and they profess that they do it mostly for fun – but doing what you'd like to do is a great way to get in front of other people who might like what you do and what you have to say. It's a great chance to try out different things too, to see what fits. Being an illustrator is no longer about just holding a brush and waiting for people to push ideas for you to execute. It's time for you to execute your ideas!

People are constantly asking you for advice. Do you see one mistake illustrators make over and over again?

Yes! I think the biggest mistake that I'm seeing out there is that illustrators tend to forget that what they have is merely a skill. One may possess the best technical chops out there, but if there is no substance or a thought process behind it so that others may be able to relate to it, it's not going to make an impact. And with so many illustrators out there right now, there must be something else besides your skills that makes you stand out. So whether it's your story, or your humor, or just how your imagination grows wild (along with your hand), it's not enough to just be able to draw – there isn't an excuse not to infuse personality into your work.

You are currently working on a new project! Can you tell us more about it?

Oh my, this is a tough one! I have a Trello board to keep track of my ideas and right now there's a few projects that I'm exploring! One of them is a book – although the topic and title is still up in the air (I suffer from too many ideas, not enough time!) But I'm keen to revisit artist/illustrator collaborations on Pikaland again – I've taken a bit of a hiatus from it since I began teaching in 2012. I feel like things are starting to fall into place (teaching has its own learning curve too), so it's definitely an exciting time for me; the only problem is deciding on which outlet I'd like to focus my energy on next!

Thanks, Amy! We hope you all enjoyed an insightful look into Amy's thoughts and will check out Pikaland. Let us know in the comments if there is anything in particular Amy said that hit a note with you!

Workspace :: Emily's Studio

Here at Happy Happy, we love to get behind the scenes, see what makes artists tick. To kick things off, we thought it would be fun to explore the happy artists' workspaces - first up, Emily. Let's hear what she has to say about her lovely, sun-filled space!

Hello, and welcome to my studio! I am fortunate to have a whole room in our little 3-bedroom house for all my art making. It is an amazingly bright room, the only room upstairs to have windows on two walls. The morning sun, though so cheery, can get pretty overwhelming if I'm sitting at my drawing table, so I made some curtains out of vintage sheets to filter it a bit. I try to surround myself with as much color and inspiration as possible, and this corner is dedicated to some of my favorite artists. Unfortunately, I'm running out of space, and my pile of art-prints-to-be-framed is growing higher and higher!

I have three workspaces in my studio - a table for drawing, a taller workbench for cutting and working on my sewing projects, and a third computer space. Even though I have a whole room, it needs to be multi-functional, so there is a LOT packed in. In addition to my drawing, painting, sewing and computing, my 6-year old daughter Stella and our pets hang out here, so the drawing table often doubles as Stella's art space and the cat's sunning spot. As you can see, Stella likes to decorate, too! The other challenge is trying to teach her to differentiate between HER art supplies and MY art supplies. Of course, mine are WAY more fun! 

And here we have my computer desk. This little nook sits directly above our garage, and there is absolutely no insulation in the walls (we live in a 90-year old house), so this corner also happens to be the coldest corner of the house. My space heater reads between 50ºF - 53ºF most winter mornings which is miserable! You will usually find me bundled in five layers of clothing + a blanket + a hat and fingerless mittens those days. Tea is a must to keep my insides warm! 

This desk is also where my sewing happens. I just move the computer out of the way and move my sewing machine to the front. The windows are lined with Ball jars full of sewing tools and notions, and you can see my wonderful rainbow wall of new and vintage fabric. I love gazing at this shelf - it makes me so happy!

Thanks for stopping by for our first happy workspace tour. Check back next week for Lauren's!

Artist Interview :: Jill Howarth


Our final Happy Happy interview is with the wonderful Jill Howarth. Jill has an impressive slew of accomplishments behind her, including being a former Designer and Art Director at Hasbro Toys and creating countless illustrations for clients. Her colorful artwork and superb hand-lettering stands out! Jill was a Top 50 finalist in Lilla Rogers's Global Talent Search.

Name: Jill Howarth

Location: Westborough, MA



How would you describe yourself as an artist? 
I enjoy drawing for kids and hand lettering. Even though I call myself an illustrator, I still don't think of myself as one. Because my background and degree is in graphic design, I approach assignments more from a problem solving perspective than what I think of as an actual artist. This might have something to do with the fact that I don't use much in the way of traditional media... but I'd like to!


What are your influences?

Oh wow, so many! I'm kinda obsessed with mid-century children's book illustration and design, so that's a long list. Looking back, I guess I would say that the work of J. Otto Seibold (best known for Olive the Other Reindeer) really got me interested in vector art. I believe he was the first illustrator to do a children's book in all vector. His Mr. Lunch series is wonderful... so quirky, graphic, with great lettering and funny  stories to boot.

Are there any markets you are especially interested in? 
I'd really like to get into editorial and children's book illustration, alongside licensing prints and patterns for fabric, kid's wall art, children's product, you name it!


Are you self-taught, or did you have any formal training? 
I have a BA in graphic design from Penn State University. Big, big school but a super small design program.

What is your favorite thing about being an artist? 
Working at my pajamas! The downside is when my kids get off the bus and I'm in the shower, haha. The sad part is, they think nothing of it!

What is your biggest struggle with your artwork, and how do you deal with it? 
Comparing myself to others. There is so much talent out there, it's hard not to feel discouraged at times. I think that's a demon for many artists, but you really have to get past it and just keep on working and improving your skill set.

What advice do you have for people interested in making a career out of art and design? 
Keep at it! Try to define yourself while seeing what others are doing both now and in the past. I had never taken an e-course until last year, but they are a great resource for learning and meeting other artists.

What are your future goals? I'd love to do children's books and magazines as well as get some work licensed.

Tell us something special or unusual about yourself!
I was a totally over-the-top Yankee fan growing up. Never missed watching or listening to a single game, collected baseball cards, wore a plastic batting helmet (in the summer...), a yankees necklace, the works! A total dork, haha.

Artist Interview :: Lauren Minco


Today's Artist Interview is with Lauren Minco. You may notice her artwork explodes with color and a crazy cast of characters! In addition, Lauren's love for illustration is so strong that she started teaching the subject at various colleges in 2007. You can see her this year at Surtex, booth 252.

Name: Lauren Minco

Location: Nashville, TN



How would you describe yourself as an artist? 
I like to say I'm an Artist/ Illustrator. I create a lot of personal work for galleries and also collaborate with Art Directors on illustrations for magazines, book covers, and other projects like album art. Currently I freelance from home with my fiancé and our lab-mix close by.

miss penelope for HH.jpg

What are your influences?
At a young age I was very inspired by old Japanese wood block prints and various contemporary Japanese artists like Yoshitaka Amano. Comics, street art, and animation are definite influences, and at one time I even wanted to be a comic book artist! I also like a lot of organic, expressive artists such as Egon Schiele. In recent years vintage illustration and folk art have really taken a hold of me, and I try to combine all of these things to hopefully create something unique and interesting.

Are there any markets you are especially interested in?
My background is more editorial and publishing, but in recent years I have realized how appropriate my characters could be for products like bolt fabric, wall art, and children's items.

Are you self-taught, or did you have any formal training?
I earned my BFA in Illustration from The Rhode Island School of Design. Since then I have stayed sharp with various online courses and community classes offered through local art colleges.

What is your favorite thing about being an artist?
They always say you should make a living out of your passion, and art just happens to be my passion. It's great to create something that not just makes you happy, but makes everyone ELSE happy. It's a wonderful feeling to hear how others connect positively to something you have made. As a freelancer, there are the obvious benefits: working from home in comfy pajama pant attire, flexible schedule for family time and travel...and a dog that is my studio mate (if only I could train her to make me coffee!).

fox floral sample for HH small.jpg

What is your biggest struggle with your artwork, and how do you deal with it?I can get quickly overwhelmed when I start to see other artists out there in the world- I start to doubt myself! Luckily, my brother is an artist, too, so since I was a child I felt like I had the courage to not compare myself too much to others and remember that we all have our own unique strengths. 

What advice do you have for people interested in making a career out of art and design?
Focus on the art that you are the most passionate about making, and THEN try to identify what market(s) you should aim for. Too many times people have it backwards. One of the other things I tell my students is that it takes time. Time to learn your craft. Time to promote yourself and get people's attention. Be patient with yourself and your goals. Listen to your teachers or peers who have good advice (even if it makes you flinch). Have a thick skin. Surround yourself with other positive artists who you can vent to when times are tough and celebrate with when the good times roll!

What are your future goals?
I am working on new art and patterns to debut at Surtex 2014 (booth 252). I would love to license my work for things like home decor and the gift industry. I have noticed that my work makes people smile, so it feels like a natural fit.

Tell us something special or unusual about yourself!
I'm a big Star Trek fan!


Artist Interview : : Muffin Grayson


Time to meet Pauline Grayson, who we all know as Muffin! She is quite the busy bee, creating everything from calendars and cards to patterns and packaging. (pssst- check out her blog link below for eye candy and some of the cutest craft project downloads you'll ever see!). Read on to find out more about this prolific and super creative Happy Happy Artist.

Name: Pauline "Muffin" Grayson

Location: Provo, Utah


How would you describe yourself as an artist? 
My artwork is vibrant, joyful, and whimsical. Having two littles inspires my art to be playful and young at heart. I work at home as a freelance designer and get to enjoy creating art and watching my children grow!

What are your influences?
My daughter is one of my biggest influences. I love the way she draws and colors and her childlike imagination that makes everything seem possible. She makes me so happy, as does my family and I love creating art that conveys that. I have even used my daughters artwork to create a pattern that I had printed on fabric and made a dress for her. I think I might have to do that again!

I have been influenced by many artists and illustrators. But I absolutely adore the styles and colors of Amy Butler, Carolyn Gavin, Helen Dardik, and Suzy Ultman. 

Are there any markets you are especially interested in?
The children's market is my main target. I love making joyful art that would make people smile. Although, I would also love to see my art on cards, wrapping paper, gift bags, fabric and wall paper. Pretty much anything!

Are you self-taught, or did you have any formal training?
I attended school at Brigham Young University-Idaho (previously known as Ricks College). I graduated with a Bachelor's of Fine Arts with an emphasis in Graphic Design in December of 2006. After I graduated, I planned on doing layout design, because type is my passion, but quickly found myself illustrating and creating patterns for gift card tins, wrapping paper and gift bags.


What is your favorite thing about being an artist?
I get to do what I love every single day! It's so much fun to draw, paint, color and then see those creations come to life! Plus, I also get to stay at home and watch my two littles grow up! I get the best of both worlds!

What is your biggest struggle with your artwork, and how do you deal with it?
I used to struggle a lot with color! This is before Pinterest came along! But now that I've had lots of practice and there is so much inspiration all over the web, I find it easier to find a great color scheme. Plus tools in Illustrator like Adobe Kuler make it even easier to find great color schemes.

But today, I'd say my biggest struggle is time! Finding enough time to do everything that I want to do. It's hard to balance being a mom and a designer and illustrator. I sometimes feel I need to work, when I should be spending time with my children. Doesn't every mom feel that way!

What advice do you have for people interested in making a career out of art and design?
Take some business classes! I wish that the professors at school would have informed me that trying to manage your own business at home requires some business knowledge! Understand how to do that, and if you've got great art, you've got it made!

What are your future goals?
I plan on attending Surtex one of these days! It's my dream to have my patterns and illustrations produced on lots of things! Especially Children's Apparel. I can't wait to walk into Target or Gap one day and see my cute little illustrations all over the stores! Ha ha!

Tell us something special or unusual about yourself!
I'm 6 foot 1 inch and played basketball at Rick's College before it turned into a 4 year University. I grew up on a small Dairy Farm in Idaho! And I'm not afraid of manure! Ha ha! 

Check back tomorrow to meet another Happy Happy artist.

Artist Interview :: Denise Holmes


Next on our list of Artist Interviews is the charming Denise Holmes, the artist behind Niseemade. We here at Happy Happy Headquarters are big fans of her delicate and sweet illustrations (have you SEEN them? Who wouldn't be!). Denise was also in the top 50 out of Lilla Rogers's Global Talent Search, which is no surprise to us.


Name: Denise Holmes

Location: Chicago, IL


How would you describe yourself as an artist? Freelance Illustrator

What are your influences? Childhood. Shel Silverstein. Roald Dahl. Edward Gorey. Maurice Sendak. Maira Kalman. Jim Henson. Tomi Ungerer. And of course my daughter.

Are there any markets you are especially interested in? Children's Book Market and the Children's Apparel / Surface Design.

Are you self-taught, or did you have any formal training? I studied photography at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, but have no formal illustration training. If it weren't for the hours spent doodling at desk jobs - I would not be illustrating today! 


What is your favorite thing about being an artist? Getting to tell people that I am an illustrator! I pinch myself daily just to make sure that this is for real. I can't believe I get to do this for a living! I love drawing, I love being creative, I love sharing my work with the world and I love all the people I have met while doing this. I couldn't have asked for anything better.

What is your biggest struggle with your artwork, and how do you deal with it?
Loving my work one day and hating it the next. But, if I didn't feel this way, I don't think I would push myself to make better and better work. If I'm having a hate day then I turn everything off and get out of the studio.

What advice do you have for people interested in making a career out of art and design? Draw everyday. Be nice. Network. Make friends. Take interesting e-courses. And don't sell yourself short.

What are your future goals? To get the children's book my husband and I wrote published!

Tell us something special or unusual about yourself! I won a hula hoop contest when I was 5 years old. I can hula hoop for hours!

Check back tomorrow to meet another Happy Happy artist.

Artist Interview :: Emily Balsley


Are you ready to meet Emily Balsley? Not only does she have one of the coolest positions ever on her resume (she once was a designer in the bike industry), but she also was in the Top 5 of Lilla Rogers's Global Talent Search! Top cinco, people! We hope you enjoy her quirky and delightful artwork.


Name: Emily Balsley

Location: Madison, Wisconsin


How would you describe yourself as an artist? I am a freelance illustrator, designer and
all-around maker.

What are your influences? I love drawing from nature and my childhood memories. I am inspired by pattern, vintage fabrics, mid-century design and children's picture books. And I am always trying to incorporate my daughter's carefree attitude and happy spirit into my work!


Are there any markets you are especially interested in? I am interested in pursuing any kid-related market - kids' apparel, kids' editorial, kids' paper goods - with my ultimate goal illustrating kids' picture books. I love the idea of being able to read a book I illustrated to my daughter. And with my interest in sewing, I would love to design my own fabric line.

Are you self-taught, or did you have any formal training? I graduated from UW-Madison with a Fine Arts degree, emphasis in graphic design. Though I'm formally trained in design, I have been drawing my whole life and incorporated my illustrative style whenever possible. Now that I am focusing on illustration, I am constantly learning new skills and techniques, thanks to the never-ending e-course offerings out there.

What is your favorite thing about being an artist? Simply put, I love that if I want it, I can make it. If my daughter needs invitations for her birthday party, I can do that. If we're looking for a something to hang over our bed, I can do a painting. This way, I can surround myself with beautiful things that are guaranteed to make me happy!

What is your biggest struggle with your artwork, and how do you deal with it? I often fear I am drawing the same thing all the time. I really love drawing animals, sunshines and my daughter, and sometimes I think that is ALL I'm drawing! I find that mini assignments challenge me to think differently. I participate in a daily drawing challenge on Instagram, where we get a different prompt each day. This exercise has really helped me branch out to different subject matter - and I can honestly say - some of my favorite drawings have come from that challenge.

What advice do you have for people interested in making a career out of art and design? Find your tribe. One thing I've learned since I've been freelancing is I am not alone. There are others out there trying to make a living doing what they love, be it illustration, photography, quilting - they understand what you're going through! At first I feared that these relationships would be competitive, but I have discovered people want to share their knowledge - and there is a place in this crazy world for all of us!

What are your future goals? My goal is to have a self-sustaining business that generates enough income that allows me to create the things I love. Long term I would love for my business to be successful enough that I can take a long weekend or vacation without constantly stressing out. That IS possible, right? :-)

Tell us something special or unusual about yourself! I can juggle and eat an apple at the same time.


Check back tomorrow to meet Denise Holmes, another Happy Happy artist.

Artist Interview :: tammie bennett


Welcome to our first Happy Happy Artist Interview! We thought it was only fitting to first introduce you to Tammie Bennett, the founder of Happy Happy Art Collective. We wouldn't be here without her! Tammie's whimsical and fun patterns and illustrations will be debuting at Surtex this year at booth 651. Make sure to say hello!


Name: Tammie Bennett

Location: Middletown, NJ


How would you describe yourself as an artist? I am a surface designer and illustrator. I freelance and I am also looking to expand my list of licensees.

What are your influences? I am influenced by nature, my children's art, vintage children's dictionaries and candy colors.


Are there any markets you are especially interested in? I would love to see my work on bolt fabric and children's books especially, but there are SO many markets I would love to work in.

Are you self-taught, or did you have any formal training? I am self-taught other than a few excellent online classes I've taken in the last 2 years or so.

What is your favorite thing about being an artist? I love the challenge of getting the ideas in my head to come out successfully onto paper. It's also fun to be able to work from home. I love showing my kids what I did all day. They take such pleasure in seeing what I create, just as i love seeing what they create.

What is your biggest struggle with your artwork, and how do you deal with it? I have about ten ideas in my head for every one that i get out. There just isn't enough time in the day to create everything my brain thinks of. I get lots of ideas at night and I keep forgetting to keep a sketchbook nearby so I can record them. During the day I almost always have a sketchbook or journal nearby and I really try to get at least a rough idea of what's in my head.

I also really struggle with balancing my family life with my work life. I'm still working on dealing with that one. I try to compartmentalize and have work time be work time and family time be family time.

What advice do you have for people interested in making a career out of art and design? Work really hard. Work every day on your craft. Make connections to other artists and become part of the art community somehow. Be okay with making ugly work sometimes. Make art that makes you giddy. be patient.

What are your future goals? I want to have my art on all kinds of places like bolt fabric, books, stationery, home goods, wall art, album covers, murals, and more. Oh, and i'd like to pay off my law school debt with my art. I think that would be funny (and fun!)

Tell us something special or unusual about yourself! I used to be a competitive runner and was ranked in the top 25 runners in the country in high school.


Check back tomorrow to meet Emily Balsley, another Happy Happy artist.