The "Draw Me" Schools

I’ve been looking forward to receiving my new issue of Uppercase Magazine (Issue 30) since seeing publisher Janine Vangool’s call for submissions related to Creative Legacy and Heritage. I'd been saving this story for a while and had hoped to have this post completed to submit for publication but alas, today turned out to be the day to write this. 

Last summer my mom found these books while clearing out my Grandma’s house. Like many people who grew up poor and during the Great Depression, my Grandma Martha was definitely a saver. She kept so much useless AND great stuff for future need or to be able to help someone else. Sadly, she didn't get to disperse of her good deeds as much as she may have wanted before dying but I feel like these books are a gift from the grave.

As a graduate of art school with a degree in Commercial Art and lover of old ephemera, my mom knew I’d like these textbooks. We both thought they were unusual but not that strange in the giant mix of things my grandma would keep.

Then one day while my mom and I were discussing the finer details of the the lesson books over the phone, I discovered THE LETTER. OMG. I quickly scanned it and then read aloud the revelation that these books had belonged to my Grandfather, Bernabe Lucero (1917–1999.) My mom had not seen the letter tucked inside one of the books before sending them to me in California.

This School of Art letter is a masterpiece of antique business language and encouragement. The closing is my favorite part: “But we, too, shall want to share a little of your joy because we are going to do our very best to help you get the results you want– results that will make your life a little richer– a little less difficult and far more pleasant! Don’t slacken! Don’t stop! Just keep right on moving ahead!” What genuine support and recognition of a challenging time for this budding artist, and maybe even the world, at that time when it was really tough to make a steady income.

In 1936 my grandfather was 19 years old and living in the very poor, tiny town of Chamisal, New Mexico (pop. 300 in the year 2000) when he received this letter from the Art Instructor. Wait? My maternal grandfather had wanted to be an artist? And a commercial artist at that? It took me a moment to fully absorb this information. I had always known him as the master carpenter of Taos county. So many people over the years had told me of his skill and fortitude in homebuilding and I’d seen many of the cabinets and other pieces of humble and functional furniture he had built for himself and others.

Most likely, my grandfather found his way to this particular type of art school by a tiny magazine ad that was still popular in my childhood: "Draw Me."  Audrey Watters of Hack Education blog wrote this insightful article about this early model of distance learning and it's thought-provoking, modern-day counterparts. From her article:  "By 1926 there were over three hundred such schools in the United States, with an annual income of over $70 million (one and a half times the income of all colleges and universities combined), with fifty new schools being started each year. In 1924 these commercial enterprises, which catered primarily to people who sought qualifications for job advancement in business and industry, boasted of an enrollment four times that of all colleges, universities, and professional schools combined." And sadly: "He cites a 1926 survey that found that just 2.6% of students completed the correspondence courses they enrolled in. Sound familiar?"

Correspondence schools offered home study for someone who loved to draw that may have been from a rural and/or disadvantaged life. I learned that back-in-the-day such a course would have cost between $75–$100, whereas attending an art school offering a similar education would have cost around $400. The instructors were working commercial artists hired to review and offer critique for the correspondence students and act as a mentor for an education that had no set timeframe. Can you imagine the delight in receiving a letter from your correspondence teacher and the relationships that developed from this unique education?

Steven Heller wrote this excellent article about these Schools in 2008 for The Design Observer.

The lessons in these books are well-written, demonstrate perfect examples of creating illustrations and lettering for the limited reproduction techniques of the day and provide useful instruction for ways to develop an artist’s skill by observation and repetition. Unfortunately, they also describe an ignorance and racial prejudice of the time. I cringe that people of color received the assignment to draw a “character of a negro minstrel.” There are a lot of stereotypes in drawing politicians and hobos but also the encouragement that women could be a part of this industry! 

I’m so thankful to my mom and grandma who saved these artifacts. I have many talented and artistic cousins in a variety of disciplines who may also appreciate this history of our grandfather whom we barely knew. A legacy of creativity was born at 19 and dreams may have been dashed by the impending war, a stint in the Navy at 21 and then becoming a young father at 24 but whatever the case, it’s truly amazing to enjoy this new connection to a past I had not known. 

Here, I wish I had a piece of my grandfather’s art from a course assignment to share, but instead I present this chair he built that I treasure.

PS1: I grew up in a very creative family and will share next about my parents and their art practices.

PS2: Please sign up here to receive my monthly newsletter with alerts to new blogposts, newly completed illustration work and other offerings. Thank you!

On Style(s)

Nicky Ovitt

Nicky Ovitt

Having worked as a designer with a focus on illustration in different industries for a long time, I can look back at an evolution in my style. My interests in lettering, collage using vintage children's books and ink pen / watercolor digitally composed are some of the media I’ve explored, developed, and marketed as a freelance illustrator and licensing artist.

In addition to my commissions in these specific styles, add my almost 15 years of experience in illustration and design for private label. Brands like Speedo hire me to develop a range of concepts and styles to appeal to a broad demographic. These type of assignments for Speedo wholesale or retailers like Target help to keep me up-to-date with trends, pop culture and provide an opportunity to learn new tools and ways to draw. Tips on drawing Manga style? Google to the rescue! Private label work has finely-honed my skills for being an illustrative chameleon... and it's really fun!

Nicky Ovitt for Speedo

Nicky Ovitt for Speedo

HOWEVER, in the art licensing world I tend to gravitate to, and admire accomplished designers and illustrators like Elizabeth Olwen, Katie Daisy, and Jennifer Orkin Lewis (August Wren) who concentrate on ONE STYLE. These prolific artists are produce A LOT of art, sticking with their one thing and refining that beautiful look.

Elizabeth Olwen

Elizabeth Olwen

Katie Daisy

Katie Daisy

Jennifer Orkin Lewis

Jennifer Orkin Lewis

I see these artist's portfolios and think; "Ah, the simplicity, the instantly recognizable and consistent look!" I ALSO think: "What am I doing wrong?" My work ethic, my customer satisfaction record and integrity are all top-notch. But still, (like so many of us) I will compare. With a variety of styles on my website, I've been concerned that my work samples appear too assorted for potential buyers to grasp my intent. I've worried that my "brand" is neither strong nor entirely clear.

Kyle T. Webster

Kyle T. Webster

In January, illustrator and Photoshop brush creator Kyle T. Webster published this awesome article on Medium that I'm going to re-read every few months— if you read nothing else today, read it. Here, he explains the benefits of promoting more than one style. The article has really encouraged me to consider my diverse approaches as an asset. And for me, it's also a necessity in paying my bills while building my art for licensing business. These other looks are an ADD, not a TAKE AWAY. Kyle was also interviewed on illustrator Andy J. Pizza's Creative Pep Talk podcast where they continue to touch on this subject. Kyle says: “If I can offer 5 different things to 5 different clients, why wouldn't I?" 

Salli Swindell

Salli Swindell

Another artist well known for, and currently celebrating multiple styles is Sally Swindell of Studio SSS / They Draw and Cook. She's doing a great project right now called #the100waysofpineapples that perfectly demonstrates her skill in creating extremely varied looks, such an excellent example of what you can do with a simple subject. Salli says: "When I taught How to Build a Freelance Illustration Business I tried so hard to describe “style” as bigger than your art technique." 

Amy Schimler-Safford

Amy Schimler-Safford

 Amy Schimler-Safford is a licensing artist / illustrator with an established and sophisticated collage and paint style. When I recently asked about her other work, still-life florals in oil, she explained that doing this other style has helped her illustration work so much and that "I am happier stealing time to be creative for me."  Yes— I GET that! 

Melinda Beck

Melinda Beck

Lastly, I somehow came across Melinda Beck's site and I instantly wanted to re-order my entire portfolio by STYLE (which I basically just did) And let's not even talk about her 900+ pieces of STOCK ART! There MUST be 2 of her. :) 

Obviously there is no one-size-fits-all. Each of us is finding our way with what works at the time. I like to sketch while watching TV, I have a busy mind with tons of ideas and different ways to execute them. I follow what I'm interested in, and what clients will pay for. Sometimes I'm presented the bonus of discovering something new that may blossom into a new approach or product. Versatility is my theme right now. And when consciously nurtured my curiosity is a personal strength and resource to my clients.

 


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New Website!

It's ON! 

Welcome to my new and UPDATED website! I will spare you the details on how long overdue this is and the almost paralyzing state of overwhelm that contributed to the situation. My lesson learned is not to wait. Finish a personal project before moving on to another flurry of ideas. I really related to this talk where brilliant lettering artist Jessica Hische describes that for her, if a passion project can't the done in a weekend, it probably won't get done. I now also commit to posting a completed client project within a week of it being done or released. And third, thanks to my new accountability partner Andy Rado, "done is better than perfect" (!!!) So even though my long (somewhat unreasonable) dream list of things to add to this launch is not complete, I will continue to add in the next few weeks since I'm finally past that 90% point. Peeks of client work, new art and lettering, plus a few products currently in development will be announced on my Instagram. Although I have not yet been able to add regular newsletters to my repertoire if that's more your thing, sign up on the sidebar to the right.

Last month I was pleased to be included in Roxy Marj's January #artworkadaygiveaway on Instagram. That was fun and I'll be doing another this month with a love/valentine theme. Follow me to find out when.

Lastly, my love for donkeys has not waned. I'm dying to get this Jack and Jenny collection made into fabric. For today's launch celebration I'm offering this donkey coloring book page to you! Click here to download pdf file.

Thank you for viewing, following and supporting my work! Please contact me with any comments, site glitches or work inquiries! 



= September Calendar =

NickyOvitt_2015SeptemberCalendar_PunkLyricHardcore crush alert! Formed in 1976 in Hermosa Beach, CA, Black Flag came through Albuquerque constantly during my youth. They toured often with the Minutemen and this amazing archive of tour dates gives you an idea of how much ground they covered. I'll never forget a show near 5 Points fronted by Henry Rollins— all hell was breaking loose and it was totally scaaary— just like we wanted. Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler, was one of the few women in a popular punk band at the time and I remember being amazed by her unruffled presence onstage and wondering what it must be like to be on the road with those guys for months on end. This 1984 video gives you a little taste of the energy— Black Flag did not disappoint.

From Wikipunkia: "...Black Flag voiced an anti-authoritarian and non-conformist message, in songs punctuated with descriptions of social isolation, neurosis, poverty, and paranoia."

Rise Above lyrics can be found here. Official band site here. Below, mohawk emoticon!

=;-)

I’ve chosen some favorite short phrases of punk song lyrics to flourishly illustrate these expressions that were of such importance to me and my generation. I’m calling the series #PunkLyric and offering them as free desktop calendar downloads each month. [see full explanation here]

Click image to download for your desktop and please enjoy… and, go discover some new/old music!

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Note: These cannot be used elsewhere or commercially. The artwork is mine and the lyrics are ownership of the original songwriters and bands. Artist and writer Emily McDowell explains the intellectual property copyright limitations for us really well right here.

= August Calendar =

NickyOvitt_2015AugustCalendar_PunkLyric This month brings one of the instantly recognizable cries from the beginning of punk. "Hey ho, let's go!"  was for me like the American version of the later British call, "Oi Oi Oi!"

Formed in 1974, the Ramones are often called the godfathers of the genre. Over 22 years the band toured almost non-stop and included 8 different members, all giving themselves the last name Ramone.

For a long time the New York based band made most of their money on their iconic tee shirts designed by Arturo Vega. The president of the United States seal was the basis for the logo, inspired by a trip to Washington D.C.  Customizations include replacing the olive branch with an apple tree branch that symbolizes that the Ramones were as American as apple pie, and because Johnny was a baseball fanatic the eagle is clutching a baseball bat instead of the presidential seal arrows. The scroll in the eagle's beak that used to read "Look out below" was changed to "Hey ho let's go" from their first single, Blitzkrieg Bop. The band names replaced the words "Seal of the President of the United States" that encircled the eagle. Video of Blitzkrieg Bop here. Lyrics here.

Unlike many of the bands I've featured so far, all the original members of the Ramones have now died, but they were all present when inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

Ramones_logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve chosen some favorite short phrases of punk song lyrics to flourishly illustrate these expressions that were of such importance to me and my generation. I’m calling the series #PunkLyric and offering them as free desktop calendar downloads each month. [see full explanation here]

Click image to download for your desktop and please enjoy… and, go discover some new/old music!

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Note: These cannot be used elsewhere or commercially. The artwork is mine and the lyrics are ownership of the original songwriters and bands. Artist and writer Emily McDowell explains the intellectual property copyright limitations for us really well right here.

= July Calendar =

NickyOvitt_2015JulyCalendar_PunkLyricA bit late but still relevant, especially for me. Doing some things this month that scare and excite me. From a band with one of the most iconic logos of the time, this lyric is from the 1980 song, Holiday in Cambodia. Full lyrics can be found here. Although the Dead Kennedys were not on my frequently played list at the time, when you heard this music the OMINOUS was palpable. Singer Jello Biafra and the band have a long history of questioning authority and stirring the stew. Lots of good info on their Wiki(punkia) page here.

I’ve chosen some favorite short phrases of punk song lyrics to flourishly illustrate these expressions that were of such importance to me and my generation. I’m calling the series #PunkLyric and offering them as free desktop calendar downloads each month. [see full explanation here]

Click image to download for your desktop and please enjoy… and, go discover some new/old music!

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Note: These cannot be used elsewhere or commercially. The artwork is mine and the lyrics are ownership of the original songwriters and bands. Artist and writer Emily McDowell explains the intellectual property copyright limitations for us really well right here.

= June Calendar =

NickyOvitt_2015JuneCalendar_PunkLyricX continues to be one of my all time favorite bands. I could fill a couple blog posts about them and what they have meant to me over time. Formed in 1977, X was the epitome of all I lusted after in LA punk and lifestyle. Though many great West Coast bands would come through New Mexico on their way East, it was X that I longed for and had punker daydreams of— an over-eyelined, slip-and-boot-kicking, night-tearing, cemetery-haunting, teenager wishing and scheming; "if ONLY I lived in LA." Their music was the soundtrack to my life for MANY years, especially during dark times and really great times. Like so many of their fans, I feel like their music was made for me, songs that describe my soul. A video of this song played just last year and full lyrics here plus song as heard on their first album, Los Angeles. Like many women of my generation I was unabashedly obsessed with Exene Cervenka. Her her writing, her activism, her jewelry! More links to check out: X in The Decline of Western Civilization. X played and was interviewed by Dick Clark on American Bandstand, 1982, in 1983, and again in 1985. I think they were Dick's darlings, watch how playful he was with them!

As what have to be one of the hardest working bands still out there, X still tours extensively (with all original members) and I've been lucky to see them still totally rock out in other cities and twice here in Petaluma the Blasters. Here is the  X band website, check out their haunting new sound. Thank you X, for so very many years of great music!

I’ve chosen some favorite short phrases of punk song lyrics to flourishly illustrate these expressions that were of such importance to me and my generation. I’m calling the series #PunkLyric and offering them as free desktop calendar downloads each month. [see full explanation here]

Click image to download for your desktop and please enjoy… and, go discover some new/old music!

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Note: These cannot be used elsewhere or commercially. The artwork is mine and the lyrics are ownership of the original songwriters and bands. Artist and writer Emily McDowell explains the intellectual property copyright limitations for us really well right here.

#SocialSketch 2

Petaluma SocialSketch-May SQ Back by popular demand, the May edition of #SocialSketch! My good friend and talented word smith, Andy Rado created this month's flyer.

Thanks so much to the support of Courtney, Mike and Aqus Cafe, Petaluma's 1st ever #SocialSketch was a huge hit! Below are photos from a great April night of sketching and collaboration. More on the movement here.

If you're near Petaluma on May 18, please come out and sketch with us!

PetalumaSocialSketchApril

= May Calendar =

NickyOvitt_2015MayCalendar_PunkLyric Career Opportunities— an absolute classic, and of continued relevance. Full lyrics here. Because we love The Clash so much, a video medley from 1977 live in Munich— the year they released their debut studio album, The Clash. The line "I won't open letter bombs for you" is a reference to a former job of Clash guitarist Mick Jones, opening letters for a British government department to make sure they weren't rigged with mailbombs.

I’ve chosen some favorite short phrases of punk song lyrics to flourishly illustrate these expressions that were of such importance to me and my generation. I’m calling the series #PunkLyric and offering them as free desktop calendar downloads each month. [see full explanation here]

Click image to download for your desktop and please enjoy… and, go discover some new/old music!

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Note: These cannot be used elsewhere or commercially. The artwork is mine and the lyrics are ownership of the original songwriters and bands. Artist and writer Emily McDowell explains the intellectual property copyright limitations for us really well right here.

Artist Spotlight, Speedo Catalog

It's fun to see this artist spotlight in the 2015 Speedo Footwear catalog. These kid's flip flops utilize artwork from the two swim caps I illustated that were inspired by the Creature from the Black Lagoon. NickyOvitt_ArtistSpotlight_SpeedoCatalog2015

= April Calendar =

NickyOvitt_2015AprilCalendar_PunkLyric.jpg There is no separation of church and state as long as money buys political power. Full lyrics and listen here.

In honor of tax season I've chosen this lyric from Los Angeles punk band, Bad Religion. They first formed in 1979 and many of their anthems relate to social responsibility.

30 years later Bad Religion is one of the best selling punk bands of all time— over 5 million albums sold, with a fantastic fan website listing music and goods for sale as well as tour dates and a legacy timeline. Good for you, Bad Religion! Everybody go on the site and get your holiday album now!

I’ve chosen some favorite short phrases of punk song lyrics to flourishly illustrate these expressions that were of such importance to me and my generation. I’m calling the series #PunkLyric and offering them as free desktop calendar downloads each month. [see full explanation here]

Click image to download for your desktop and please enjoy… and, go discover some new/old music!

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Note: These cannot be used elsewhere or commercially. The artwork is mine and the lyrics are ownership of the original songwriters and bands. Artist and writer Emily McDowell explains the intellectual property copyright limitations for us really well right here.

#SocialSketch #Petaluma !

Petaluma Social Sketch_April 20_bg I've been a fan of Courtney Cerruti since finding her all over Instagram. She's a Bay Area artist, a set designer/stylist/artist coach/social media maven at Creative Bug, and the author of 3 books at Quarry Press. Basically, this chick makes things happen. Right now she's got a show of her signature "Single Ladies" at Rare Device in San Francisco and is curating and accepting work for a show of matchbook art called Strike Away which will be shown at Paxton Gate Curiosities.

A while back I contacted her about establishing a #SocialSketch chapter in our very creative community of Petaluma. Along with her artist friend, Michael McConnell, Courtney began #SocialSketch as a way of connecting with friends while sharing a drink and a drawing. Collaboration and community are the hallmarks of this movement. The drawings are small and artists are encouraged to sketch on each other's work and share the results. #SocialSketch is a fabulous gathering idea — especially if you're used to working alone, or mostly on client ideas, or have trouble arranging a time to see friends, like me. Besides the original San Francisco/Oakland group, Petaluma Social Sketch is the first other California chapter!

Rumor has it Courtney and hopefully Mike will also be at this first event, so come check out the first ever Petaluma #SocialSketch. Deets on the poster above. Spread the word and big thanks to John Crowley and Aqus Cafe for being our enthusiastic host! Come early and have dinner. Sketching starts at 6:30.

 

= March Calendar =

NickyOvitt_2015MarchCalendar_PunkLyricThis month, it's two of my favorites in one. The 1979 Gang of Four song Natural's Not In It, was used beautifully in the 2006 movie Marie Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola. A trailer featuring the song is here. Full song lyrics are found here. I’ve chosen some favorite short phrases of punk song lyrics to flourishly illustrate these expressions that were of such importance to me and my generation. I’m calling the series #PunkLyric and offering them as free desktop calendar downloads each month. [see full explanation here]

Click image to download for your desktop and please enjoy… and, go discover some new/old music!

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Note: These cannot be used elsewhere or commercially. The artwork is mine and the lyrics are ownership of the original songwriters and bands. Artist and writer Emily McDowell explains the intellectual property copyright limitations for us really well right here.

"Who are you wearing?"

Sunday night like so many people around the world we sat down to watch the Oscar Awards. This year our family had not seen many of the nominated films and Ramona's favorite actress Jennifer Lawrence was missing but none-the-less we enjoyed the tongue-tied hosts welcoming the stars and hearing details about their fashion choices. But it must be said that I really missed Joan and Melissa Rivers. Joan watching from above, no doubt. Here are some dresses inspired by gowns we saw on the red carpet. The second dress from the left on Ramona's page is an EMOJI dress. Trend savvy, that one. The croquis are from a book purchased in 2012 at the Gaultier show in San Francisco. Here is a post from that time with more fashion designs by us.

NickyOvitt_2015Oscars_Ramona NickyOvitt_2015Oscars_Nicky

= February Calendar =

NickyOvitt_2015FebCalendar_PunkLyric A little punk rock love song for this month of love. We've all been there, right? ...Right?

February's phrase is from the The Stooges' classic, I Wanna Be Your Dog. This video is from their 2010 UK concert and powerhouse Iggy is 63 years old, YEAH! Note Minuteman co-founder Mike Watt on bass and the jazzy twist this version of the song takes. Full lyrics here, and some interesting tidbits about this 1969 classic from Wikipedia here.

I’ve chosen some favorite short phrases of punk song lyrics to flourishly illustrate these expressions that were of such importance to me and my generation. I'm calling the series #PunkLyric and offering them as free desktop calendar downloads each month. [see full explanation here]

Click image to download for your desktop and please enjoy... and, go discover some new/old music!

....................................................................................................................

Note: These cannot be used elsewhere or commercially. The artwork is mine and the lyrics are ownership of the original songwriters and bands. Artist and writer Emily McDowell explains the intellectual property copyright limitations for us really well right here.

= January Calendar =

Happy New Year, friends! NickyOvitt_2015JanCalendar_PunkLyric

As I enjoy my review of 2014 client work and events a personal project that was on the back burner all this past year comes to mind as something that's ready to see the light of day.

The idea for this lettering work began in late 2013 when again I got to see my all-time favorite band, X play a show here in Petaluma. As hoped, that show was raw, intense, and the anything-is-possible feeling from my youth was re-ignited. In the late 70s and early 80s early punk and hardcore bands like The Clash, X, Gang of Four, Black Flag, T.S.O.L. and The Minutemen were writing songs to inspire, to call attention to social injustice, and to affect change. The poetry of a good punk song represents a DIY culture that proposed we could make a difference if we acted on our beliefs.

I’ve chosen some favorite short phrases of punk song lyrics to flourishly illustrate these expressions that were of such importance to me and my generation. I'm calling the series #PunkLyric Words to live by and I'm offering them as free desktop calendar downloads each month. This month's phrase is from the Sex Pistols' classic, God Save the Queen.

Click image to download and please enjoy... and, go discover some new/old music!

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Note: These cannot be used elsewhere or commercially. The artwork is mine and the lyrics are ownership of the original songwriters and bands. Artist and writer Emily McDowell explains the intellectual property copyright limitations for us really well right here.