#205 Nick Bantock: Writer and Artist of Griffin & Sabine Books

Nick Bantock is a writer and artist who resides in Victoria, British Columbia. His Griffin & Sabine books uniquely contained collage art in the form of postcards and letters that you could unfold and read. He has also written illustrated novels, such as The Forgetting Room, as well as books on creativity, like Urgent 2nd Class and The Trickster’s Hat. He uses old papers, maps, and photos, and combines them with rubber stamps, handwriting, and artwork. His newest project is a deck of 40 Archetype cards called The Archeo, plus a 200-page companion book.

Listen here or download from iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, CastBox, or Stitcher.

Nick Bantock artist

Nick Bantock

Nick Bantock Archeo box
The Archeo by Nick Bantock
Nick Bantock archetype cards
Archetype Cards from The Acheo
Kangaroo with Red Hat
Artwork by Nick Bantock
Art by Nick Bantock
from the book Dubious Documents
Art by Nick Bantock
Lizardfish -- Faux mail with postage is often depicted in Nick's books.
Minaloushe by Nick Bantock
You may remember Minaloushe, who was Griffin's cat in Griffin & Sabine

Nick’s website is nickbantock.com.

He can also be found on Facebook.

And also on Instagram @nick_bantock_art

Nick has an Etsy shop called BANTOCKart where he sells many pieces of original art.

Here are some great takeaways from our conversation:

  1. Nick has published books over three decades, and he’s seen a lot of changes in the publishing industry. Despite those changes, I feel like the most important thing is that you find an editor who you click with and who understands your vision. When he first proposed Griffin & Sabine, it was a unique type of book, but he found an editor who got what he was trying to do.
  2. Think beyond art on paper for what you’d like to offer in your art business. Perhaps you could write and illustrate a book. Or perhaps you’d like to create a set of cards with your artwork, or you’d like to create your own rubber stamps. Make things that interest you and don’t be afraid to try something new.
  3. When Nick describes his art, whether in his books or on a Facebook post, he tells the story he’s trying to convey, rather than the techniques and materials he used for the artwork. He thinks of the techniques as just the techniques, and they don’t tell the story of the art. Tell your story through the art, and if the whole story you want to tell isn’t there, then you need to add something more to the art.
  4. Working on his collages, Nick says he’ll move from chaos to order to chaos to order. That sounds like a good way to think about things, especially when you’re doing mixed media art, and incorporating lots of materials and supplies. I think the trick is to trust that allowing chaos to happen won’t prevent you from making good art.
  5. I found this fascinating. In the Griffin & Sabine series, Nick is writing letters by seven different characters. Each character has his own way of writing, and his own pen. Also, his own sitting position when writing. If you’re making art and you’d like it to be from a different perspective, or perhaps it’s a new collection, try different tools and a different setup in your studio to make that new art. You may find that it helps you to create a new look for your art.
  6. Think about the writing that you are doing for your art business. When Nick first proposed his Griffin & Sabine book, he proposed to do the artwork, but he wrote up a few things to give some ideas of what a different writer could do for it. His editor said he would be great as the writer too. You may find that you write a lot, maybe for Instagram posts, or website descriptions of your art, and you just may want to write a book that goes with your art as well.

#204 Virginia Kraljevic: Pen and Ink Artist

Artist Virginia Kraljevic lives in New York City with her family. She’s a pen and ink artist and designer who creates intricate artwork that has appeared on an array of surfaces from clothing, wall decor, giftware, and books to fabric. Virginia has also created artwork for Ikea and many other clients. She tells us how she began licensing her artwork and providing custom art for businesses. At the end of our conversation, after Virginia and I say our goodbyes, Virginia turns the table and asks a me a question. So make sure you stick around after our first goodbye to hear a little extra chitchat from the two of us and about how amazing we think artists are. Usually I cut our extra talk out, but I thought you’d enjoy it today.

Listen here or download from iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, CastBox, or Stitcher.

Artist Virginia Kraljevic

Virginia Kraljevic

Virginia Kraljevic pen and ink art
Virginia Kraljevic pen and ink art
Virginia Kraljevic pen and ink art
Virginia Kraljevic pen and ink art
Virginia Kraljevic pen and ink art
Virginia Kraljevic pen and ink art
Virginia Kraljevic pen and ink art

Virginia’s website is virginiakraljevic.com

She is also on Instagram.

Here are some great takeaways from our conversation:

  1. When you’re making your art, you may occasionally think that you’ve made a mistake. Virginia likes to think of those as opportunities to work with it and make something better.
  2. Virginia talked about upgrading your tools. Better tools will help make your artwork more professional and will give you more confidence.
  3. When you’re first starting out with your business, start small, but start doing something. Put your art in small art events, and that will lead to larger events. Join local artist groups or etsy selling groups and you’ll start learning more about the art business.
  4. If you’re looking to license your art and have it seen by many companies, one way to get into that is to get a booth at a trade show. Virginia did the Surtex show in New York.
  5. When you do trade shows, don’t expect to get deals during the show. A lot of them will come weeks or even a year after when the client has a project where your art would fit. The trade show should be all about cultivating relationships for long-term deals.
  6. Virginia had some words of encouragement for Mom artists out there: She said that there’s always time to do your art, even if you have to use the time before the kids wake up in the morning.
  7. Some of her art is used for licensing, and in that case, she retains the rights to the artwork. Other jobs might be custom work that is unique to a client. She also says the licensing contracts are fairly straight forward, so she doesn’t feel it’s necessary to deal with a licensing agent.
  8. Virginia makes her own prints because she’s found that it’s cheaper to invest in your own printer than it is to use an outside printer. She uses an Epson Stylus Photo R3000.
  9. If you are offering prints, it’s a good idea to offer them in a size that will fit a standard frame so that your customer won’t have to cut the print.
Virginia Kraljevic pen and ink art

#203 Margaux Jones: MJ Cullinane Digital Collage and Tarot Decks

Artist Margaux Jones creates tarot card and oracle decks under the name MJ Cullinane. Using digital collage to create her cards, she adds as many as 100 layers to her artwork. She also creates the stories behind the cards and the companion books for the decks. This includes a lot of research and a lot of writing before she even starts the artwork. Her first deck was a Crow Tarot Deck, and her latest is an oracle deck called Roar that provides guidance from 54 women in history. 

Listen here or download from iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, CastBox, or Stitcher.

Artist Margaux Jones MJ Cullinane

Margaux Jones

Crow Tarot
Urban Crow oracle deck
MJ Cullinane Tarot deck
MJ Cullinane Roar Oracle Deck

The name of Margaux’s website is mjcullinane.com.

Her tarot card and oracle decks can be found on the Home page of her website. You can also shop for them at crowtarotshop.com.

Margaux is on Instagram @crowtarotmjcullinane

And on Facebook at Crow Tarot/MJ Cullinane.

Margaux also has a Youtube channel where you can see her cards and learn more about them.

Here are some great takeaways from our conversation:

  1. Margaux has done ad on Facebook and Instagram to promote her tarot decks, and it’s been very successful for her. If you have something specific you are selling or launching, like her decks or even a new online class, you may want to utilize social media ads so more people can see what you make.
  2. Early in Margaux’s art career, she designed windows for a fashionable department store. That taught her to work very quickly because they had tight deadlines when putting up a new display. She learned that she can’t spend hours trying to fix something, she just needs to make a change and then move on. This has enabled her to make her decks very quickly.
  3. Listen to what your mind is telling you. Margaux tells a story about how she was so worried about finding something that did better financially for her than selling jewelry, so she sent a bolt of energy out to the universe. She went to her space where she likes to think about things, and that’s when it came to her to make a crow tarot deck. Don’t deny yourself when something comes to you like that, even if it sounds like a crazy idea. Every idea will have some basis in your background and you just may have found the idea that is perfect for you.
  4. To create her first tarot deck, Margaux funded it by using the crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo. In Episode 201 two weeks ago I talked with lettering artist Doris Wai who funded a gallery show by using Kickstarter. There are many crowdsourcing platforms you can use. Look into their pros and cons and talk to others who have used them to find the one that is right for you and your creative project.
  5. If you are creating something that is based on something else, and you want to use the same name, then make sure you are staying true to the original. I’m thinking of this in terms of the tarot decks that Margaux makes. If she wanted to make a 100-card deck, for example, she should not call it a tarot deck because tarot decks contain 78 cards. She also stays true to the different groups in the deck. Of course whatever we create, we can have artistic license. But we don’t want to mislead people by taking the name of something if what we are creating is vastly different. As Margaux says when you’re making a tarot deck, there are restrictions in what needs to be included, but there is so much room for interpretation.
  6. I asked Margaux if the artwork or the story of a card comes first for her. She said that the story comes first. She thinks about what energy she wants to come from a card and then she thinks of the elements of the artwork that she can use to depict that. I feel like that is opposite of what many artists do: they think of the art first, and attach a story to it later. If that’s how it sometimes works for you, why not try to make art the opposite way? It may give you more insight into your art, and it may spark a new design or motif for you.
  7. Margaux talked about the color palette she uses for a project. For example, if she’s doing an oracle deck with 50 cards, they all might have the same color border or background, and similar colors with their elements. You can use this idea if you’re making an art series or collection. You want something to unify them so that the viewer will know they go together. Choosing a color palette throughout the project is a good way to unify many pieces.
  8. She told me about different ways she has published and sold her decks. For her first few decks, she licensed them over to a company and they do all the selling. Now she publishes them independently, and the sales come off her website, but that company does the order fulfilment. Think of all these things when you compare companies and decide just how much control you want over what you have created.
#202 Kara Valentino Ffield: Nature-Inspired Artwork
Kara Valentino Ffield

#202 Kara Valentino Ffield: Nature-Inspired Artwork

Kara Valentino Ffield is a mixed media artist from Pensacola, Florida. She lives near woods and also the beach, and she’s inspired by the nature that is all around her. In her art, she uses watercolors, gouache, and pencils to create a scene and story about the animals, trees, and flowers that she sees. Recently she’s been adding embroidery right on the watercolor paper art. She also tells us how she works in collections and releases them out to her followers.

Listen here or download from iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, CastBox, or Stitcher.

Artist Kara Valentino Ffield

Kara Valentino Ffield

Bear illustration by Kara Valentino Ffield
Bear illustration with embroidery
Donkey painting
Pine tree illustration
Kara Ffield illustration
Rabbit with embroidery
Evergreen illustration
Cedar Tree illustration
Rabbit embroidery illustration

The name of Kara’s website is karavalentinoffield.com

She is also on Instagram: @karavalentinoffield

and on Pinterest

Here are some great takeaways from our conversation:

  1. Try different materials on different substrates to make your art more interesting. Kara adds embroidery onto her paper illustrations to add to the story of the artwork.
  2. Keep your tools sharp! That was the advice when I was in cooking school, and it’s true for art as well. With the detailed drawings that Kara does, it’s very important that her pencils are sharp so she can get the tiniest accurate lines.
  3. Look for contrast in colors and light and dark in your art. Kara is able to give a misty overcast look to the scenes by using pencils, and then she brightens them up with the colored embroidery floss.
  4. Working in a collection will help you to tell a unified story in your art. It’s like doing a body of work where one builds on the next. This will build up interest as you are unveiling each piece in your collection.
  5. When you create your next collection, it doesn’t have to be the same materials or the same subject matter. The link is that it is made by the same maker and will have a similar style.
  6. To build more interest in her work, Kara has a release date for her collection once it is completed. It’s good to give yourself a deadline of when you are putting out your next collection.
  7. It’s very important to think about how you are going to display your art. Plan with the displaying in mind. Will it be framed? Will it have a mat? What shape should the artwork be? Think beyond the rectangle to ovals and other shapes for more interest.
  8. Once Kara has finished a collection, she will do a launch of that collection. It first becomes available to her Collector’s Club, which is her email list. That way she is rewarding her followers by letting them have access to purchasing her collection before everyone else. Your email list is something you should constantly be developing and you should give them extra content and preference for purchasing.

#201 Doris Wai: Lettering Art on Unconventional Surfaces

Doris Wai is a lettering artist and illustrator in Toronto. Her business is called Love Lettering, and she specializes in lettering on non-paper surfaces. She creates lettering for weddings and events, as well as for businesses. She also letters on unconventional surfaces, like mirrors, chalkboards, and windows. We also talk about her gallery show called Bottled Feelings and her plan for a new show that will reflect our Covid-era time.

Listen here or download from iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, CastBox, or Stitcher.

Doris Wai

Doris Wai

Hand lettering
Hand lettering
Hand lettering for weddings
Hand lettering
Hand lettering
Doris Wai at her Bottled Feelings exhibit
Doris at her Bottled Feelings exhibit
Hand lettered bottled
Hand lettered bottles
Extraordinary Hand Lettering
Extraordinary Hand Lettering by Doris Wai

The name of her website is lovelettering.ca

Doris is on Instagram: @lovelettering_doriswai

And on Youtube: The Lettering Lifestyle

Her book Extraordinary Hand Lettering is on Amazon.

Here are some great takeaways from our conversation:

  1. Your art is a great place where you can incorporate your heritage and culture. Others may not be able to tell your family’s culture by your name or your looks, but you can show their culture in your art.
  2. Offer things in your business that you think are missing from the market. That will give you a niche with a demand that only you can fulfill. That could be specific tools that you use or unique materials.
  3. Doris uses a variety of props and objects for her lettering, especially for weddings. She’s found that rental places can provide these things. Look around for rental shops, searching under weddings or events or film props. This is a less expensive way than buying everything outright. You can also connect the rental company with your client so they can rent from them then give them to you to jazz up with your art. This also saves you from having to develop an inventory of items.
  4. For Doris, the appeal of working for herself was that she would have control over what she does and she would always own what she does. It’s always a concern when you work for someone else that they could take that away from you at any time.
  5. When you network with the people who can see your vision and your potential, you will each elevate the other’s company.
  6. If you want to do a gallery show, try making your own opportunity. Doris had an idea to do a gallery show of her lettering, so she held a kickstarter. She raised enough money to put on a show that was free to attendees.
  7. Doris has figured out a way to incorporate other people into her gallery shows. For her Bottled Feelings show, she invited people to give her their bottled feelings as well as the story behind those feelings. She wrote the stories down and incorporated them into her gallery show through a printed booklet as well as a QR code. For her next code, she is thinking of having the stories recited so people can listen to them.
  8. It’s a good idea to give yourself a variety of sources of income. Doris did in person classes, but when covid hit, she still had other kinds of projects she could do. She sells products with her lettering, as well as tools for lettering.
Hand lettering on mirror
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