Meet the Musician – Mike Murray

 

mike murray american greetings Meet the Musician   Mike Murray

Just as music can enhance a movie, a party or a spin class, it can also do the same for a greeting card. Meet Mike Murray, one of American Greetings’ very talented audio producers, and read what he has to say about his love for music and how it has become his vocation:

When did you first realize your interest in music?

My earliest interest in music was memorable because it moved right past ‘enjoying’ into a state of total obsession, which is really what defines a person who chooses a career in this field, right? I was just 4 years old, adorned in over-sized headphones, listening to The Gambler by Kenny Rogers on my parent’s hi-fi over and over again.  In the unlikely form of a ballad about gambling, the music bug had bit! I remember, even at that age, being completely mesmerized by the textures, tones, layers, and overall depth of the track – and of course, the lovely and infectious melodies. That same feeling has lasted throughout my life, and in many respects, grown considerably.

What is your position at American Greetings and what is your background as a musician?

My position here at American Greetings is Senior Audio Producer, which basically means I help take care of any needs relating to sound or music. After I received my first guitar–(thanks Mom and Dad!),  I took lessons in classical guitar and eventually went on to graduate from the McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, MN.  During that time I became very interested in the process of not only writing music, but recording and producing it as well.  This was quite possibly the most valuable part of my education, as it enabled me to bring ideas to life in the studio.

05202013 mike murray american greetings a chirpy birthday Meet the Musician   Mike Murray

Could you tell us more about the process of integrating music into a card and its importance?

One of my favorite mediums for music is the role it plays in Motion Pictures and Television. It can truly make or break a movie or show and some of my favorite compositions are ones featured in film. I like to think of our ecards as mini-movies, and I constantly strive to write or produce music that enhances the card and compliments it!

05202013 mike murray american greetings delicious wishes Meet the Musician   Mike Murray

What is it that inspires you when creating a piece of music for a greeting card?

Musical inspiration seems to come from everywhere like going to see the Cleveland Orchestra perform or seeing the latest blockbuster movie and hearing a great score. But it can also be as simple as waiting in line at the grocery store and hearing a song over the loud speakers that you like, and boom, an idea pops into your head that was inspired by what you just heard.

What’s your favorite piece/ecard ever created and why?

There was a piece we did for a Valentine’s Card called ‘My One and Only’ which was a real standout for me musically. We don’t often get to write original pop songs, but this afforded us that chance, and with the help of the editorial staff we were able to craft a song you could easily hear on the radio. The format allowed us to produce one version that was ‘ecard length’, and another, full-length version, which our customers could download upon receiving the card. We worked with a lot of great musicians during the production, and it has always stood out as a highlight for me.

05202013 mike murray american greetings my one and only love song2 Meet the Musician   Mike Murray

 What famous musicians have influenced you?

Wow, that’s a tough one. Umm…all of them? I guess it depends on the genre, but deep down my first true love is pop music, classic rock and soul to be specific, so I will always be influenced by the greats: The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and the list could go on and on! I am also a huge classical fan; enjoying Chopin, Debussy, and Gershwin, to name a few.

What inspires you to create your music and how do you stay motivated?

As I said earlier, music is a huge part of my daily life, so whether it’s listening to a friend’s band play, turning on the radio, or watching a show, it’s always there to remind me of the great music being created every hour of every day. I want in on the creativity! The more I hear, the more I want to make my own mark, and create something I can be truly proud of.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I never ever want to stop growing as an artist. So, regardless of what I’m actually doing or where I’m living, although on a beach would be nice, I just hope I’m continuing to learn and enhance my musical toolkit.

What advice would you give to a musician just starting out?

I was at a music conference last year, and one of the speakers on a panel said: “a successful musician creates something new everyday”. I thought that was great advice and would definitely pass on that sentiment. In other words, don’t get complacent, always strive to create, and practice, practice, practice!!

What do you do for fun?

I play in a cover band on the weekends mostly for fun, although we do record some originals, which keeps the project fresh. I also play hockey a couple nights a week and I enjoy reading, cooking, running, and going to the movies as often as possible!

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Meet the Artist – Pam Trautman

 

pam photo cropped Meet the Artist   Pam Trautman

If you asked someone here to describe the work of Pam Trautman, they probably would use words like imaginative, dreamlike, surreal and magical. Pam is an accomplished artist at American Greetings whose work in photo illustration and manipulation as well as animation often exceeds expectations. Here’s what she has to say… 

When did you first realize you are an artist?

I suppose I knew this when I was in elementary school. I always looked forward to doing anything creative in class, whether we were cutting up construction paper to make posters or decorating shoe boxes for Valentine’s Day. I started taking art classes in 7th grade and that is when I realized I liked to draw and paint.

What is your position at American Greetings and what is your background as an artist?

My position is Senior Creative Developer.  After receiving a BFA from art school with an illustration/graphic design degree, I got a job doing “paste up” and simple brochure designs as an in-house freelancer. A year later I was hired full time by the same company to do illustration and computer cell animation. I eventually gravitated to design and building web sites using “Flash” software, which led me to my current position with American Greetings.

birthday1 Meet the Artist   Pam Trautman

Could you tell us some more about your work?

I concept, design and animate digital greetings for both the American Greetings and Blue Mountain brands. Collaborating with writers, artists and musicians is my favorite part of creating an ecard. When I team up with another artist, I typically create the art for the setting or scene while the other artist animates a main character. I enjoy working in Photoshop and Painter to do photo illustration and manipulation along with Flash and After Effects to animate the art. It is fun to experiment with the combination of art and movement. The outcome is always something surprising and rewarding. The card shown below is a great example of how well our collaboration process works at American Greetings.

mothersday Meet the Artist   Pam Trautman

What is it that inspires you when creating a particular design or graphic piece?

 I am inspired when I can apply a new animation technique that I have always wanted to do or when I look at a beautiful piece of art that I find in a book or on an artist’s blog.  I am also inspired during brainstorm sessions when someone presents cool ideas quickly and “off the top of their head”.

What’s your favorite piece/ecard ever created and why?

My favorite ecard is one I just finished for the upcoming Easter holiday called “Everlasting Light”. Because this greeting  needed to incorporate religious iconography, my challenge was how to create a card that still had universal appeal. I feel I achieved the desired effect with a  more subtle representation of a cross using the simplicity of  nature–we’ll see how the card performs in a few weeks.

3338703 everlastinglight Meet the Artist   Pam Trautman

What famous artists or graphic designers have influenced you?

I am influenced by the creativity in movies such as, “Avatar”, “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “Alice and Wonderland” and “Toy Story“. In addition, I’m inspired by the great Leonardo Da Vinci as an inventor, writer and musician as well as current artist, John Bloom, for his use of color and light in creating a storybook setting. I frequently look at current artist’s blogs and Pinterest, too. In the Halloween card shown below, I tried to emulate a storybook feeling with the magical use of light.

halloween31 Meet the Artist   Pam Trautman

What inspires you to create your designs and how do you stay motivated?

Most digital greetings that I work on require research of some kind, whether it is to develop a concept, art style or create movement in the piece. When I start gathering information, I look at books, watch movies or browse the internet. I am inspired by what I see and want to try new things especially when I think something is really cool. This ecard was a true collaborative effort, whereby I created the imaginary art style and then worked with another artist to incorporate realism through animation.

easter Meet the Artist   Pam Trautman

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In a place where I can remain creative and inspired.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Never, never, never, never, ever give up!

What do you do for fun?

I love to run. Right now I am training with a running group in the Cleveland Metro Parks and I will be running my first half marathon in April. I enjoy watching movies, eating dinner out, relaxing at an outdoor swimming pool and taking my favorite big dog “Skye” for walks.

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Meet the Artist – Martha Ericson

01232013 martha Meet the Artist   Martha Ericson

Did you know that today is National Handwriting Day? It’s a day to celebrate the purity and power of putting pen to paper which is why we decided to feature one of our very talented handlettering artists.  Martha Ericson is truly inspired by the pure craft of lettering and what can be creatively achieved by hand. Here’s what she has to say:

When did you first realize you are an artist?

I was nearly thirty years old.  Everything I had done up to then boiled down to the realization that I was an artist who wanted to combine words and images. I remember the wonder I felt at being hired at a studio in Washington, D.C., and thinking,  “Wow, I really CAN do this.”

What is your position at American Greetings and what is your background as an artist?

My position is Senior Lettering Designer in the Graphics Studio. I’ve been here for 12 years, but I have been a lettering artist for close to 30 years!

Could you tell us some more about your work?

I have always loved beautiful letterforms as well as words, poetry and music. For me, these things provide a clear framework to life. I have a degree in Comparative Literature, and I did a lot of training to learn classical forms of lettering, as well as graphic art and typography.  I’ve also been a letterpress printer.  So I guess you could say my work  is a creative blending of all these disciplines. I also feel I’m just starting to get back to my own work after taking time to raise my two kids.

What is it that inspires you when creating a particular design or graphic piece?

For me, it usually starts with the words.   But I do love a good line, and I could keep myself working the rest of my life exploring the relationship between black and white.

What’s your favorite design ever created and why?

I have two pieces that I really like. One is a chalk lettering design done for a thank you card and the other is a continuous line drawing of a dog, I named Bella. Both pieces utilized more traditional tools, but also presented a fun challenge in “hand work”.

01232013 kindness Meet the Artist   Martha Ericson

Are there any famous artists or graphic designers who have influenced you?

First, I would have to say Japanese artist, Kiyoshi Saito–I have one of his woodblock prints that depicts a mountain village in the snow.  It is all in shades of black, white and grey and is a beautiful balance of shapes and contrasts.  Also, Ben Shahn, early Saul Steinberg, many childrens’ book illustrators of the 20th century, medieval and renaissance calligraphers, printers, illuminators and woodblock artists, plus calligraphers from the 2oth century like Sheila and Julian Waters, Carl Rohrs, Herman Zapf…I could go on and on.

What inspires you to create your designs and how do you stay motivated?

Craft is what inspires me. I’m definitely more interested in the amazing things people do by hand than in what is possible by computer, though there are some pretty amazing artists working exclusively in the digital world. At work, I’m motivated by new challenges. There’s always something: a new style, the chance to design a new typeface, learning new techniques on the computer, etc. As for my personal work, the issue is trying to get my mind to settle and not be overwhelmed by everything flying by my mind’s eye.

01232013 bella Meet the Artist   Martha Ericson

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I haven’t stopped to really think about that yet. I probably would like to do more relief prints, which are carvings from wood or linoleum that are inked and transferred to paper, as well as a children’s book and more new fonts…

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Take care of your eyesight and your health.  Keep the wonder and enjoy the privilege of being able to get lost in the act of creating things. Don’t be afraid and be open to everything.

What do you do for fun?

I read, dance, garden, cook, ride my bike, run.  Sleep.  icon smile Meet the Artist   Martha Ericson

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Meet the Writer – Jeff Sheasley

jeffsheasley photo Meet the Writer   Jeff Sheasley

At American Greetings, creating successful cards requires seamless collaboration between the artist and the writer.  In fact, it has been said that art attracts and verse sells which is why we decided to feature one of our celebrated writers this time around.  Meet Jeff Sheasley:

When did you first realize you loved to write?

I can’t actually remember a time when I didn’t like to write.  When I was a kid, I loved to create silly rhymes to make my friends and family laugh. I’d challenge them to give me a topic — any topic! — and I’d come up with some sort of crazy poem, and we’d all giggle.  Then I’d move on to the next one.  None of this was ever written down; and I’m thinking that’s probably a good thing.  Anyway, I seemed to have a gift for rhyme and meter, most likely because my parents read a lot of poetry to me and my siblings as we were growing up.

What is your present position at American Greetings and what is your background as a writer?

After getting my degree in magazine journalism, I spent 5 years editing a couple of agricultural trade publications, where I wrote about everything from fertilizers and pesticides to begonias and greenhouses.  I was lucky enough to join American Greetings in 1985, and (after two or more decades as an editor and a conventional writer) I’m presently a senior writer on the Editorial Studios Humor and Kids writing staff.  I love being on the funnier side of the business, especially the challenge of creating humor cards and rediscovering the joy of making people laugh.

bells1 Meet the Writer   Jeff Sheasley

What is it that inspires you as a writer?

GOOD WRITING inspires me!  Reading an exceptionally well-turned phrase from one of my favorite writers — including AG colleagues!—makes me want to sit down, grab a pencil, and start scribbling away.

Does the Christmas holiday offer you additional inspiration as a writer?

My favorite holiday card ideas have come from spending time with my Christmas-loving wife (appropriately named Carol), our daughter, Alicia, and our two sons, Jeffrey and Blaine.  Cards directly inspired by things someone in my family says or does have been in every Christmas line for the past quarter century

Do you have a favorite Christmas card that you created and why?

Probably my favorite Christmas card is a religious piece that I wrote for Carol several years ago, when I was on the conventional writing staff.  This piece of copy will always have a special place in my heart, because it pretty much sums up the feelings I’ve had for her through our 37 years of marriage.  It goes:

jeff card Meet the Writer   Jeff Sheasley

What famous writers have influenced you?

I’d probably have to give that place of honor to some of the poets Dad and Mom used to read to me.  I heard story poems like “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Longfellow and “The Admiral’s Ghost” by Alfred Noyes from a very early age, and I’m sure this helped me develop a sense of poetics.  More recently, I’ve been influenced by writers like the great Ohio Valley poet, James Wright.  I love how he was able to start with good, everyday Ohio talk and shape it into unforgettable images and emotions.  Quite a few of the serious poems I write in my spare time have been inspired by Wright’s work.

What inspires you to create the words and how do you stay motivated?

Basically, I try to find inspiration anywhere I can.  I’ve found card ideas in everything from YouTube videos to magazine ads to bits of conversation I might overhear at the food court.  At this time of year, I have to admit I turn into a Christmas nerd.  When there’s a Christmas program at my church or when “Rudolph” or “Frosty” or “Miracle on 34th Street” are on TV, I’m there!

angel Meet the Writer   Jeff Sheasley

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself on a beach somewhere warm–possibly Christmas Island?!

What advice would you give to a writer just starting out?

I firmly believe that the more words you take in, the better writer you’ll be!  So my advice is READ GOOD WORDS!  Books, magazines, newspapers, and especially greeting cards–as many as you can and as often as you can!  Your reading should also include quite a bit of rhyming verse, because a good sense of rhyme and meter comes in very handy in greeting card land!

What do you do for fun?

I like collecting old books and various other collectibles — especially (as a US Navy veteran) anything with “USN” on it.  I also enjoy writing and memorizing poems.  However, it probably comes as no surprise that I like reading best!

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Meet the Artist – Drew King

11122012 drewphoto Meet the Artist   Drew King

American Greetings introduces Drew King — Drew’s considerable talent as an artist has been recognized here as well as in galleries and museums throughout the country.  Here’s what he has to say…

When did you first realize you are an artist?

I’m still trying to convince myself that I am an artist.

11122012 drew 2 Meet the Artist   Drew King

What is your position at American Greetings and what is your background as an artist?

My position at American Greetings is Senior Creative Developer and I’ve been here for 11 years already.  I studied painting and drawing at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia . I also did graduate study in film animation at the California Institute of the Arts. My student film won a Student Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Over the years I have developed a body of work which includes paper cut-outs, cut paper sculpture, print making, and oil painting. My subject matter has been largely figurative.  Recently I have focused on larger scale, abstract oil paintings.  You can find some examples of my work at www.artbydrewking.com.

11122012 drew 3 Meet the Artist   Drew King

What is it that inspires you when creating a particular design or graphic piece?

Staying focused on what works with a particular concept inspires me.  I may start out by throwing anything that looks cool out there, but the end result needs to be tight.  Everything needs to work together.  I’m always reminding myself…”keep it simple”.

What’s your favorite piece/ecard ever created and why?

My favorite card that I created is called The Spirit of Christmas.  It has a lot of depth to it and has a cut paper look. I created all the imagery in the computer while being aware that I wanted a hand-crafted feel to the results.

11122012 drew 1 Meet the Artist   Drew King

What famous artists or graphic designers have influenced you?

Saul Steinberg has always been at the top of my list of most inspiring artists.  His work has a universal appeal.  The graphic nature and the ideas behind his work are witty and humorous.  On an extreme opposite approach to art is my favorite painter Anselm Kieffer.  His work is emotive, drawing on works of expressionism.  There is something a little haunting about his work.

What inspires you to create your designs and how do you stay motivated?

I am inspired by new ideas I see happening in art.  I’m always looking at animation on the internet.  Some of the new capabilities being developed for “After Effects” and how artists utilize them is always evolving.  I try to do something that’s at least a little different than what I have seen before.

11122012 drew 4 Meet the Artist   Drew King

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Tired.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

I think the important thing about developing as an artist is to find something good in what you do. Even if it’s just a small element about your work, there’s always something to build on.

 What do you do for fun?

I love to travel and to see new places.   Even if it’s just a small town not too far away. I like to go biking especially now when the leaves are turning.

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Meet the Artist – Aaron Brudvig

10152012 aaronbrudvig photo Meet the Artist   Aaron Brudvig

Meet Aaron Brudvig — one of American Greetings’  bright art talents.  He’s all about the art of animation and keeping it fun!  Here’s what he has to say…

When did you first realize you are an artist? 

When I was in third grade and I couldn’t stop drawing Garfield.  I drew Garfield on everything.

What is your position at American Greetings and what is your background as an artist?

My position is a Senior Creative Developer.  I design and animate digital greetings.  Early in my career I was a fine artist and did drawings and paintings for gallery shows.  I started doing more commercial work which led me to the opportunity of working in a traditional animation studio.  I learned the traditional techniques of animation and started to apply them to digital animation.  I freelanced as a digital animator for 7 years which led me to American Greetings where I’ve been for the past 4 and a half years.

10152012 aaronbrudvig zombie characters Meet the Artist   Aaron Brudvig

Could you tell us some more about your work?

I really enjoy character animation.  I find it to be the most challenging.  Creating a character and making it come to life is really satisfying.  I tend to create animations with a humorous tone.

What is it that inspires you when creating a particular design or graphic piece? 

I love looking at what other artists are creating.  There are so many amazing styles that artists come up with.  The possibility of being able to inspire someone else with something I have created really makes it all worthwhile.

With Halloween approaching, what has been your favorite Halloween assignment and what inspires you about this holiday?

I really enjoyed working on the “Sweet Escape” digital greeting.  I collaborated with Kathi Fay who created all the mini sculptures for the characters.  We took photos of those sculptures and I brought them to life by animating them.  The end result has a really unique look.  Halloween is the best holiday for characters.  You can pick any character and be that character for a day.  That’s awesome!

10152012 aaronbrudvig sweetescape1 Meet the Artist   Aaron Brudvig

What famous artists or graphic designers have influenced you? 

Jamie Hewlett — his Gorillaz characters have so much style.  I also enjoy the work by  animator/director Genndy Tartakovsky, namely his animated series, Samuri Jack.

What inspires you to create your designs and how do you stay motivated? 

Design and animation is such an ongoing education process.  You think you know how something works and then you find that you could also do it differently.  Every animation I work on I learn something new.  That is what really keeps me going.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 

Animating, animating, animating!

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out? 

Don’t pigeon hole yourself into one art style.  Learn to be as many different types of artists within yourself as you can.  This opens up a broader range of projects you can work on, which equals more art fun!

10152012 aaronbrudvig monsters1 Meet the Artist   Aaron Brudvig

What do you do for fun?

I’m a big kid so I have toys.  I currently love building and driving hobby grade RC cars.  Taking my cars out to different locations to drive them is a great way to get away from the computer.

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Meet the Artist – Alex McClelland

ag blog alex photo 08272012 Meet the Artist   Alex McClelland

It’s all about energy and a fresh perspective when you meet Alex McClelland, one of our newest graphic designers at American Greetings.  Here’s what he has to say:

When did you first realize you are an artist?

I took illustration and intro design classes in high school and loved it. In college, I really started to get excited about design when we got into more fun and conceptual work.

What is your position at American Greetings and what is your background as an artist?

I am a graphic designer on the marketing production team for American Greetings Interactive. I create emails and landing pages for American Greetings, BlueMountain.com, and Cardstore.com. I’ve been given some other fun projects too, such as designing online products and designing for this very blog!

Could you tell us some more about your work?

My work is always evolving. Sometimes I’ll look back and wonder, “What was I thinking?” I think it’s important to always like what you create, but it’s also inevitable to have your taste and style change from time to time. I’m still learning and one thing I always appreciate and go back to is simple, iconic design. I really enjoy making little characters and graphics out of simple geometric shapes, and I have a recent fascination with color experimentation and hand lettering. Feel free to check out my website to see some of the things that I’ve been working on! www.alexmcclelland.com

What is it that inspires you when creating a particular design or graphic piece?

I love looking into the latest design trends through blogs, websites, books, magazines, etc. I love to see new approaches to design and working to see how I can take those ideas and make them my own.

What’s your favorite piece/ecard ever created and why?

Some of my favorite designs are logos that I have created. It’s a different way of designing. With posters and books, and even greetings cards, there’s a bigger canvas to convey your message. With a logo, you have one opportunity to sum it all up.

ag blog artist logos 08272012 Meet the Artist   Alex McClelland

What famous artists or graphic designers have influenced you?

I love to look at Craig Frazier’s work, and I actually created a biography project about him. He is known for very simple, yet conceptual illustrations and animations. Lately I’ve really gotten some inspiration from “Us and Them” studio, a design agency in Brooklyn. They have a website full of colorful, typographic, iconic, graphical eye candy.

What inspires you to create your designs and how do you stay motivated?

I love variety and I love to be busy. I think I do my best work when I know there is a tight deadline or if I’m juggling several projects at once. I get this sense of urgency that fires me up. When I get stuck, I go for a walk or workout…really anything to take my mind off it. Usually my ideas develop when I’m not trying so hard.

ag blog artist samples 08272012 Meet the Artist   Alex McClelland

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I would love to have an idea of where I’ll be in 10 years. I am still learning so much about what I like and don’t like doing as a designer…I know that I love designing posters, logos, cards, etc. I’d like to learn some web design and coding within the next few years to make myself more versatile. I am also interested in packaging design/ 3D design.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Experiment with what you love and learn how to take criticism. Don’t take anything involving your own work too personally. As a sensitive person it’s hard to follow my own advice sometimes, but I find that most times when people criticize it’s because they see more potential. Take advice but make sure in the end it is still your design and not someone else’s manipulation.

What do you do for fun?

I love to play tennis, go fishing, read- mostly fiction, the more imagination the better. I like to play cards and board games and just love to just hang out with close friends and go on adventures.

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Meet the Artist – Kathi Fay

kathi fay Meet the Artist   Kathi Fay

It’s time to meet another amazingly talented artist that we are lucky enough to work with every day. Today, we’re chatting with Kathi Fay, a designer/animator for American Greetings.

When did you first realize you are an artist?

I should have realized when I was in elementary school while I was spending all my time creating comic strips and embellished name tags, but I didn’t realize that it was an actual option for me until well into adulthood.

What is your position at American Greetings and what is your background as an artist?

I’m a designer/animator for AmericanGreetings.com creating digital content. My first degree is in mathematics and statistics and after spending several years as an escrow officer I decided to go back to school and get my studio arts degree. As soon as I finished school I got a freelance job at American Greetings that was supposed to last for three weeks; it’s been nine years now.

Could you tell us some more about your work?

I create digital cards. I take a concept and make it pretty and make it move. I work in all sorts of media including sewing, resin, sculpting, and photography but mostly my work is digital. I work on quite a range of stuff from brainstorming, storyboarding, illustrating, hand lettering, a little coding, photo manipulation and animating.

What is it that inspires you when creating a particular design or graphic piece?

Everything inspires me, but the desire to make each piece something I can be proud of and people will like is what really drives me. I create a lot in my free time as well, and the joy of gifting something handmade really makes me happy.

What’s your favorite piece/ecard ever created and why?

My favorite eCard created would have to be the Christmas stop-motion card from a few years ago. I created and sewed all the characters and trees and clouds for the entire card from patterns that I made myself. It’s a lot of fun to see a stuffed character you made come to life and walk across the screen.

plush Meet the Artist   Kathi Fay

What famous artists or graphic designers have influenced you?

I follow a lot of artist blogs, so on a daily level it’s those people who influence me to keep striving. Other big influences for me have been Paul Rand, Mary Blair, and Tim Burton.

What inspires you to create your designs and how do you stay motivated?

My daughter is such a little cheerleader for me. She helps me ideate and gives me suggestions on what she thinks would make something better. She tells me how great I am and loves every single thing I create. She keeps me motivated and inspires me to keep creating.

atomicalexheadpieceshoulders Meet the Artist   Kathi Fay

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Well, I assume within the next 10 years Tim Burton will have called me to work on one of his major stop-motion pieces! And clearly I will become his go-to character developer from then on.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Have confidence in your work and stand up for it. Make what you like and the work will follow.

What do you do for fun?

Too much! Spend time with my husband and daughter, sew, draw, craft, origami, fabric design, create, archery, eat, paint my nails, read, bead, knit, crochet, screen print, make soap, party plan and relax in the sun. I could keep going, my brain does not stop thinking of new things to fill my time. Oh, and I blog – http://boogiebeans.blogspot.com/ –  go check out my randomness.

origami5balls Meet the Artist   Kathi Fay

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Let’s Celebrate Our Pets!

pet day1 Lets Celebrate Our Pets!

Earlier this summer, American Greetings celebrated  “take your dog to work day.” It’s always an interesting and fun day!

“Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.” –Collete

This popular pet quote says it all! Pets are such an important part of our lives, and for some very good reasons.

Did you know that having a pet makes you healthier and happier? For example, petting your cat can lower your blood pressure, and taking your dog for a run or brisk walk is a great way to get exercise. Dog parks are not only fun for canines, but they’re a terrific place for humans to meet new people, too. And, while fish don’t have four feet, they are very soothing to watch, especially after a stressful day.

pets Lets Celebrate Our Pets!

Let your favorite animal companion know how much they mean by throwing a pet party to celebrate their birthday or adoption day. Dogs will especially love the chance to socialize, but be sure to invite their owners also, to keep things from getting too “ruff.” Serve homemade pet treats to your furry friends, and have each pet make a paw print keepsake to take home— something your human friends will really treasure. While cats and other creatures may not be as sociable, you can still have a private party with all the same fixings and just as much fun.

Another great way to celebrate our pets and spread those paws-itive vibes is by sending all your pet-loving friends an animal ecard from our new Pets Collection. Say Happy Birthday, Thank You, In Sympathy and more. You’re sure to get some tails wagging!

If you don’t have a pet of your own, you can still find the purr-fect pastime. Consider volunteering at an animal shelter, playing with critters at a pet store, or feeding the squirrels and birds in your own backyard. You’ll get a taste of the benefits of pet ownership, and make some deserving animals very happy, too!

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Meet the Artist – Denise Ackerman

 

denise Meet the Artist   Denise Ackerman

Today, we’re getting to know Denise Ackerman a little bit better. Denise is a Photo Designer for the Creative Photo Studio at American Greetings. In addition to being an artist, Denise is a wife and mother, and proud member of the Chardon, OH community.

When did you first realize you are an artist?
I have been fascinated with the arts my entire life. Painting, drawing, photography… I always knew I would be an artist. Everyone around me knew I would be successful with a creative career and encouraged me to do so.

What is your position at American Greetings and what is your background as an artist?
I’m part of the Creative Photo Studio and work as a Photo Designer. I studied graphic design and photography at Bowling Green State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1995. Since then, I have worked in many places from a tiny design studio in Portland, Oregon to much larger organizations like the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball team. I was lucky enough to start out as a designer at American Greetings last summer. It was my first full-time position after starting a family six years ago. During those six years I freelanced as a designer and photographer, plus took care of three small kids…not an easy feat!

Could you tell us some more about your work?
I am a photoshop artist. I do a lot of compositing, combining several photos, adding or deleting backgrounds and painting. I play with different filters, add sparkle and bokeh. I can make the ordinary extraordinary. I also do some photography for the blog, which is really fun.

What inspires you to create your designs and how do you stay motivated?
My kids are a constant source of inspiration. They’re at an age where they’re figuring out what they are good at, what they like to do – that’s so cool to see. It sounds cliché but they see the beauty in everything, and they’re a nice reminder that I need to slow down and appreciate the little things.

I also find inspiration in my community. Earlier this year there was a tragic school shooting at Chardon High School that affected everyone who lives there. The worst of one brought out the best in others. Our little town handled the tragedy with dignity and class right from the very start. And I couldn’t believe how strong the students were under the worst of circumstances. They had to grow-up quickly; no one should have to go through what they experienced, and that is hugely inspirational for me. I attended an open house at the school a few months ago, and as soon as I walked through the doors I saw thousands of cards, letters, drawings and banners. Notes of hope and encouragement literally covered every inch of the school. It was inspiring and it gave me chills. It allowed me to see that something as simple as a card or drawing really has an impact on the well-being of someone, and you can turn tragedy into something beautiful.

chardon1 Meet the Artist   Denise Ackerman

chardon2 Meet the Artist   Denise Ackerman

Denise took these photos at an open house that Chardon High School held a few months ago. The halls were lined with hand-made cards from students with inspiring and encouraging words.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I honestly see myself here; this is a great place for a creative person to work. I love my job. A place like this is hard to find.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
My only advice is to do what you love.

What do you do for fun?
I love to hang out with my family. I think we may try camping in a tent this summer, wish me luck!

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Meet the Artist – Jaden DeVogel

artist feature jaden Meet the Artist   Jaden DeVogel

It’s time for another one-on-one with an American Greetings artist! Today we get to know Creative Developer, Jaden DeVogel a little bit better. Plus, with Father’s Day right around the corner, and  because Jaden is a first-time dad-to-be, we also asked him a few questions about what he’s most excited about with his bundle of joy on the way. Enjoy!

When did you first realize you are an artist?  It took me until high school to realize that I had some sort of ability and actually accept it. My parents always told me I was good at drawing, but I never believed them since I assumed they were heavily biased.

What is your position at American Greetings and what is your background as an artist? My position is Creative Developer, which entails coming up with new web page designs and improving existing layouts. My first “real job” was in the legal field recreating accidents, patent infringement and medical malpractice cases. From there, I went on to work for the City of Grand Rapids as a designer working on billboards, pamphlets, logos, newsletters, presentations and even dabbling in photography.  Prior to that I attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh for 3d Computer Animation and had an inspiring and fantastic design teacher in high school named Ken Finney, also an accomplished wildlife artist.

jaden work2 Meet the Artist   Jaden DeVogel

Could you tell us some more about your work? I really enjoy simplicity in things. Over embellishment, lots of frills and little details is not my thing. To me, the more that’s added into a piece, the less time that piece is going to live. IE- fads and trends come and go- fads like certain patterns, flourishes and treatments. True excellence in art and design is timeless to me- look at the masters in any given art or design field- take a piece from 50 years ago, or even 400 years ago and it still is relevant, inspiring and amazing today. The argument that it’s difficult to be timeless while appealing to today’s consumers holds absolutely zero water for me.

What is it that inspires you when creating a particular design or graphic piece? I try to be inspired by good examples of logically organized information – nature being a great place to start. Looking at a tree for instance, you see the pleasing, logical, organic arrangement visible to your eye. At a cellular level, what’s responsible for that grand layout is actually geometrically organized compounds with a very non organic arrangement to their construction. Of course, there is also inspiration in the day-to-day items we pass by and take for granted like architecture and common iconography provide a tremendous amount of food for thought.

What’s your favorite piece/ecard ever created and why? I really enjoy logo development. For me, some of my favorite pieces are logos I have created for others. I love the simplicity of a good logo, and the responsibility a logo carries. At a glance, it has to tell you a wealth of information about the person or entity behind it. It needs to look good at all sorts of sizes and scales, work in conjunction with type, other colors and so on.

jaden work1 Meet the Artist   Jaden DeVogel

What artists or graphic designers have influenced you? My parents. My father’s ink drawings, and my mother’s pastels are to me, incredible. My wife is also an incredibly talented illustrator and designer. Every day she has something to inspire me. Paul Rand, Edward Tufte, Piete Mondrian (and all the De Stijl artists / designers), William Blake, Albrecht Durer, and too many others to mention…

What do you do for fun? Riding motorcycles, volunteering, fishing, hiking, archery, photography, repairing / restoring cars, studying philosophy and religion, cooking.

Ok, we know you are a first-time dad-to-be. What are you most looking forward to about being a dad?

Having the chance to be a part of something greater and more important than anything else in life. The creation of another person, and all the possibilities, hopes and dreams that go along with that. The opportunity to see someone surpass everything I have done or thought, create a new world for themselves with their own values and ideals. The chance to see the smile only a child can give, a smile with nothing hidden around the edges and a face that is 100% innocent. I can’t wait to see that smile and that face, and I’ll make it last as long as I can.

Even though you’re not quite a dad yet, do you have any plans for celebrating Father’s Day this year?  I don’t want to jinx anything, so I will most likely just treat it like any other day. Once that kid is here, they can make me all the macaroni / paper craft presents they want though!

What is your best piece of advice for other dads-to-be?  When speaking to your wife or significant other during this time- the old adage “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” is wise to adhere to. I’m the last person you want to take advice from beyond that.

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Meet the Artist – Michelle Berki

 

We’re excited to announce that we’re starting a new monthly series on the blog as a chance for you to get to know some of our artists a little better. We are so lucky to work with such talented and creative minds, and we think it’s time for you to meet them! We’re kicking things off with designer Michelle Berki. Michelle is a super-talented designer who is responsible for all the artwork you see on our blog every week. We hope you enjoy her Q&A!

michelle Meet the Artist   Michelle Berki

When did you first realize you are an artist?

I’ve wanted to be an artist as far back as I can remember, and I’m pretty sure I thought of myself as one for a long time. However, I think I first started to believe that I could make a living creating and designing after my first few graphic design classes in college. I had found something that was challenging and rewarding at the same time, and I knew that this is what I wanted to do in life.

What is your position at American Greetings and what is your background as an artist?

I am a designer for the digital greetings department at American Greetings where I help create content for americangreetings.com. I also have a lot of fun putting together all of the images for this blog – Inspired!

michelle ecard Meet the Artist   Michelle Berki

Could you tell us some more about your work?

You can actually take a look at my portfolio at http://www.michelleberki.com, and see some of it for yourself. I believe that design can bring people and ideas together, help us focus on what’s really important, and create positive change.

What is it that inspires you when creating a particular design or graphic piece?

The problem or project itself usually drives my inspiration. Designers are out to solve problems, so once it is defined I try to sketch out some initial ideas, do a little research (if necessary), and see what’s already out there.

What’s your favorite piece you ever created and why?

My pride and joy is the “Discuss Great Literature” project that I started in my Studio II class in college. My objective was to create a set of contemporary classics that would ideally be sold in bookstores and marketed toward book discussion groups. I believe that reading is important and the ideas found in books like Catch-22, A Clockwork Orange, Catcher in the Rye, and The Metamorphosis should be heard and talked about. It was such an amazing challenge to create images for the covers that became visual metaphors for the themes present in each book, but it was also extremely satisfying when the finished product came together. I hope to continue this project and develop more components such as an app or website to help it become a reality.

michelle work2 Meet the Artist   Michelle Berki

What famous artists or graphic designers have influenced you?

I think that everything I’ve ever seen and every experience I’ve had has influenced me as a designer, but there are definitely people that I look up to in the art and design world. I am really interested in book jacket design, so naturally Chip Kidd and Peter Mendelsund come to mind as two of my design heroes.

What inspires you to create your designs and how do you stay motivated?

I think it’s important to be aware of trends and successful design that’s out there because this can be a great source of inspiration. It’s also really important to take walks and give yourself time away from the task at hand because even though it’s clichéd, I usually get my best ideas in the shower or right before bed! I think another big motivating factor is the opportunity to improve and solve a design problem in a new way that maybe no one has thought of before.

michelle work Meet the Artist   Michelle Berki

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I would love to be working on book covers and interiors for a well-known publisher such as Random House, Penguin, or Chronicle Books. However, I think I would be happy at any studio that creates great, purpose-driven design and isn’t afraid of big ideas.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

I think I would tell them that it’s not always easy for creatives in the beginning. There’s not just one path that leads to your dream job, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right away. It is important to be persistent. Don’t give up. Apply for everything and take advantage of every opportunity because all of these life experiences will only make you better.

What do you do for fun?

Other than eating and sleeping, I think I have the most fun when I’m creating and/or hanging out with good friends.

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