Matt & Jen Engagement Shoot

 A while back, my good friend Matt got engaged to Jen and asked me to do some engagement photos for them.  Matt and I worked together for a couple years and went to school together before that, but with working multiple jobs, juggling clients, and everything else life throws at you, it took us well over a year to finally get together and complete this engagement shoot.  It's a good thing they're having a long engagement!

I know they both love black and white photography, and while I always try to get the best color photos I can, i found these two look pretty great in black and white!

It was rainy and cold, so we were pressed to find sheltered areas with plenty of light.  I also had an LED light for shooting video with.  My husband Rob was kind enough to tag along and help me with lighting throughout the morning.  Everyone was a great sport about the weather though.

The only problem I kept running into with them is that Matt was constantly acting goofy and Jen was constantly laughing really hard.  Personally, I think that's a great "problem" to have.  They are a great couple and I can't think of two people better suited to be husband and wife.

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2013 Generations of Steel Poster

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I hadn't done a Steel Band poster in a couple years, but when I was asked to do this one, I was excited to take it on.  The theme of this concert is dance music, which ranges from disco era, to dance tracks on the charts in 2013.

Because the music spans generations, and the performers span multiple generations, I wanted to create something that communicated the similarities and differences of these generations.  So...lately I've been REALLY into doing these "half-and-half" designs. I'm sure I'll find something else to interest me in a few months, but until then, I've got a few pieces that follow this theme...and I'm okay with that.

For this poster, I had an idea to create a face that is half 70's Disco Diva, and half 2013 Dance Diva.  I knew what I wanted to do, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to pull it off. When I sketched it out, I was pretty excited about the potential, but I was afraid it would turn out like a cartoon instead of a dimensional illustration. I decided, in an effort to avoid this, I'd just draw the whole thing in Photoshop, rather than go through my normal process of transferring pencil drawings into computer illustrations.

I took a quick photo of my initial sketch with my phone. I used the photo as a guide and utilized my Wacom Tablet to paint this portrait.

Recently I watched a bunch of make-up tutorials on youtube.  I was really just looking to learn one thing, but I got to surfing and came across all these men doing drag tutorials. I was in awe of their talent and skill. I picked up a few techniques that I was able to use when I was doing the facial contouring and highlights. You never know where you're going to pick up a useful trick!

 

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2013 National Hammer Dulcimer Championship

 A few weeks ago I went to Winfield Kansas to compete in the National Hammered Dulcimer Championships. This was my 4th time competing in the national championships, and while I've done well in regional contests, the national contest has been a challenge.

In the past 4 years, I've really developed an understanding of the effect that competing on the dulcimer has on me.  I am more than happy to share my personal ideas on competition strategy to anyone who might be interested.  I've competed 6 times, won three and bombed a few as well.  I think, for me, the experience of NOT doing well taught me more than the thrill of actually winning.

I'm not a one to repeat the same thing twice, so if you are interested in getting advice on what strategies worked and what didn't, I'm happy to share my own personal musings on the topic. Just hit me up on my contact page.


This year, I was torn on attending Walnut Valley Festival.  I had a big presentation in Chicago at 7 on September 19.  The National Hammered Dulcimer Competition is held in Kansas on September 21. This gave me one day to get there and get settled and one day to "enjoy" the festival....or compete.  I knew it would be one or the other, and I knew if I didn't compete, I'd wish I had.

Unlike any contest previously, I only committed to attending about 2 weeks in advance. I ran through some "contest worthy" material and recorded it onto my phone. When I listened back I thought, "This sounds pretty good.  I guess I'll go!"  I didn't want to go alone.  I'd brought my mom the year before and she was completely unimpressed with the whole thing.  I didn't want to do that to her again, but she's a trooper and agreed to accompany me on the road trip beginning at 9:00 Thursday night.

I was in downtown Chicago preparing for my class presentation when I made a pit-stop at the ladies room. The doubt was already taking over me.  I recall looking in the mirror and thinking, "You're not going to win...and that's ok.  It's just not in the cards. So what?".  I swung by my house afterwards and picked up my mom.  Then we started out on our trek.  It was pouring rain and I was getting really sleepy, so we stopped for the night in Iowa City and drove the rest of the way the next day.  Fortunately I was driving, so I wasn't really on the social media grid.  We stopped for lunch in Flint Hills and I made a grave mistake.  I looked at Facebook on my phone, at which point it became clear to me exactly who I was going to be competing against the next day.  Commence anxiety.

Anxiety is a problem for me on a daily basis, but performance anxiety (aka: stage fright) has been know to completely disable me in situations of high pressure.  As the day progressed, the feelings of doom intensified. I couldn't eat and I felt queazy. We got into Winfield and decided to check out the festival.  I immediately saw a few familiar faces and just became horrified with the prospect of competing the next day.  I think we were there about 15 minutes before I started feeling really terrible...so we left.

When we returned to our B&B, I decided to unpack my instrument and run through my tunes.  Here's where this moment differed from any competition I've ever been in. Sometimes I get to feeling confident when I'm away from my instrument. Then I get to my instrument and I can just feel things going wrong.  This time, I felt overwhelmed with doubt, but when I sat down and played, everything felt right again.  That's when I decided I was absolutely going to compete. I knew what I was up against, and I knew it was a long shot, but everything felt ok.

I didn't sleep much. I still felt doomed the next morning...but it wasn't unbearable.  The people at my Bed and Breakfast are some of the best people in the world and they were so supportive.  They've seen me through a couple rough weekends these past few years, so it felt like a big family.

I practiced on the porch of the barn for a while that morning, then very meticulously fine-tuned my dulcimer and put it in it's case.  Boy was I glad I did!  One thing I've learned is that it is nearly impossible to do a good job of tuning your instrument on the grounds at Walnut Valley Fest.

Once at the festival, mom and I watched the end of the Flatpicking championships and the winners speech put me at ease.  I signed up at the last minute, and didn't rush at all to get back into the contestants area.  I didn't want to see, hear, or chat with anyone back there.  They're all lovely people, but I didn't want to wig myself out. So, I just hung out on a bench and read a little book I picked up called "Keep Calm for Ladies".  Best. Book. Ever. At least it was for that day.

When the time came to draw numbers, I drew a 7, which was perfect. Not too early, not too late.  I had just enough time to get my instrument out, resist the temptation to tune it, chat with some friends I hadn't seen in a while, and finish my iced coffee.

In round 1 I played Red Wing and Mona Lisa.  I was happy with how I'd played and I didn't hear anyone else, but in my experience, those things don't matter.  Nothing is what it feels like when you are competing. The moment when they read the 5 finalists, I felt defeated...it was like deja-vu.  I'd been there before and I kept thinking, "It's going to happen again...and I'm going to have to be OK with that."   But it didn't happen.  I made it into the final round.

By this point, I was surprisingly cool with the whole thing.  I figured getting to the finalist round was something I'd only accomplished once before and I was feeling relieved that I'd get to play the tunes I'd prepared. There isn't a whole lot of time between rounds, so I quickly ran through them in the contestants area and then headed backstage.  My performance felt solid.  I was able to hear the other contestants in the second round.  It's tough to judge how other people sound when you are competing against them,but everyone sounded pretty impressive to me!

The judges didn't take long to reach their conclusions.  I always remember it taking longer.  They corralled the top 5 into the little room that I'd only been in once before. This is a small room where they let the contestants know the results before announcing to the audience.  They started by announcing the 2 finalists.  I was prepared to get a plaque.  But I didn't.  Suddenly I was regretting not putting more effort into my appearance that day.

I was in shock when they announced the 4th place finalists...and then they announced 3rd place.  I didn't hear my name.  I knew I'd placed at least 2nd. and that was tough to compute.  They skipped over announcing 2nd place and went straight to the winner.  Hearing the lady say my name was one of the weirdest sensations. It seems lame to say that now, but I remember having that weird blackened vision I only got as a kid when I'd hang upside down on a swing for too long.

I had nothing prepared to play.  I felt completely stupid.  I think when I got on the stage I said something along the lines of "I'm just glad I will never do this again."...and then I butchered a hymn in typical "Katie Moritz" fashion.

I felt guilty. As much as I wanted to win, my experiences in years past had made me feel unworthy in comparison to the other people I was competing against. I don't feel guilty anymore.  I don't know how I feel...I guess the most honest thing I can say is exactly what I said then.  I'm glad to be done competing.  

I met a lot of great friends through the process of competing, and I feel proud to have been in the competition circuit with some seriously tough competitors.  The experiences inspired me to learn so much about my instrument and about myself.  But I am glad to be past it.

I did the whole "Carp Camp" thing afterwards and that was lots of fun.  Facebook announced the winners before I had a chance to contact anyone, so my husband found out.  He then contacted Bill Robinson's daughter who contacted Bill. I had not even told Bill that I was going.  He's been my mentor since the beginning and I wanted to either surprise him with good news, or sweep the whole thing under the rug.  I was just going to wait till I went to his house Tuesday, but my phone started blowing up with notifications, so I knew I had to call him first.

I remember before I started competing nationally, I used to sit and troll the internet to see who the winners were that year.  Now it's posted to facebook within minutes!  I didn't get to tell anyone! LOL

When we got back the the B&B I was greeted with a message from the owners that we'd have a celebration the next morning.  That was really cool.  The people there are the biggest reason I keep returning to Kansas.

I've received my new dulcimer, which is an extended range Russell Cook Edition.  It's a beautiful instrument with a LOT of notes to get used to.  Right now it has that "newborn" dulcimer twangy-ness, but the Masterworks tone is still clear.  I'm sure it'll come around with some quality time.

   I was greeted on the balcony by this toad.

 I was greeted on the balcony by this toad.

 Great quotes for performance anxiety

   Tina Gugeler (2nd), Me, Nate Pultorak (3rd)

 Tina Gugeler (2nd), Me, Nate Pultorak (3rd)

   Me with Russell Cook and the instrument he built

 Me with Russell Cook and the instrument he built

   Carp Camp

 Carp Camp

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  The Bed and Breakfast family. Have I mentioned how awesome these people are?

The Bed and Breakfast family. Have I mentioned how awesome these people are?

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Project: Tales from the Kingdom Cover Art

Recently I completed the cover art for an amazing CD recorded by Stephen Humphries. The CD concept came from Taryn Humphries and is a collection of bedtime stories/lullabies.  It contains a few well known pieces, but most of the tracks are original compositions. The titles follow a very specific story-book theme with names like, "A Walk Around the Castle", "Song for a Princess", and "A Kingdom Asleep".

Stephen and Taryn provided me with some sketches of ideas for this cover art and I went to work brainstorming and listening to the rough cuts.  As I'd expect with Mr. Humphries, this CD contains some of the coolest hammered dulcimer music you'll ever hear. So, for me, the pressure was on to come up with something that would do it justice!  

I admit, I had this awesome idea that was based on the sketches I'd been given, but I just couldn't get it out of my head and into a tangible format. At some point I decided to take two routes.  I commissioned someone else to do a watercolor painting that specifically focused on the original sketches. Meanwhile, I took a different route and did something that fit my style better, while reflecting my interpretation of the music I'd been listening to. This allowed me to provide a (rather difficult) choice between two completely different concepts.

 

Once the cover art had been selected, I went to work finalizing the entire package.  For the disc face itself, I wanted to do something that would be bright in contrast to the dark digi-pack. A bit like a pearl in an oyster, I wanted the CD to stand out as a sort of "treasure" within.  For practicality, it also needed to be easy to sign autographs to.  Taryn requested a castle be somewhere prominent in the design and the disc face seemed like the perfect place.

Check out Stephen's music here! 

  

Project: The Entrance of Sound Re-design

Original Artwork (click to enlarge)

Joshua Messick released this album several years back and the original cover art was...chaotic, to say the least.  The music on this CD is very pure and meaningful. Josh has really mastered the art of not only playing the hammered dulcimer, but recording it (which is not easy!) The Entrance of Sound is, as he calls it, 100% natural sound.

When it came time to re-run more of these CD's, Josh came to me looking for something simpler in an eco-friendly, cardboard sleeve. He also wanted to utilize his new logo emblem, which was designed by the brilliant, Kyle Paxton.

The music on this CD is conceptual and Josh is quite new-age sounding. My goal was to mirror that in the design.  As the natural and authentic sound of the dulcimer transforms silence into a audio mirage of sympathetic vibrations, you see the dark, colorless waves become vibrant and full of life.

For this disc, I wanted to keep it minimal, and for that reason, I kept the disc-face the same as the cover of the cardboard sleeve.  Check out Josh's music here!

Project: 40th Dulcimer Funfest T-shirt

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Every July in Evart Michigan, the largest hammered dulcimer gathering in the world is held by the Original Dulcimer Players Club (ODPC).   I've been attending this festival for 7 years and finally I joined the club and submitted a t-shirt design for their 40th anniversary.  From what I could tell, it wound up being a fairly popular design for them!

It was neat to see what the printers did with the idea.  The majority of shirts were 2 colors.  But they printed some gold foil designs.  Those were really cool.  They also used the designs on canvas bags and hats, which had not been done before. 

My professional philosophy is that design is valuable. I don't do much for free anymore.  When I debate doing a free project, I have to weigh the work vs. the rewards and generally, recognition is the best reward you can get. 

I didn't get a whole lot of recognition for designing these T-shirts, but this was really a fun project and after attending the 41st festival, it was rewarding to see so many people STILL wearing my design.

 

 Original Submission containing 1, 2, and 3 color options.

Original Submission containing 1, 2, and 3 color options.

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Project: ICSW Promo Video

In February of 2013 I was given a grad-school assignment to executive produce a video for the Institute for Clinical Social work.  I was given a team of people to work with and then worked one on one with the marketing coordinator for ICSW for 10 weeks to create a 2.5 minute video promoting a new graduate program they are rolling out.

In any project, my goal is always to get an idea for who the client is and what it is they are selling.  It's always a perk when I feel like I can really relate to their mission and visualize what they want.  This video was a challenge in many ways because the client wanted something conceptual that would tell a story incorporating both a prospective student, as well as a patient, but they absolutely did not want "talking heads"...which is the typical go-to method for promoting an institute of higher education.

The role I played was all encompassing.  Along with managing all client interactions, I filmed quite a lot of video footage, scheduled all the shoots with the cast, client, and production team, handled the scriptwriting, did all of the audio-recording and sound editing, completed the majority of video editing, and managed a team of 8 others who also provided video footage, casting assistance, design, animations, and brainstorming input.

Client: Institute for Clinical Social Work

Promoting: Master's Degree in Clinical Counseling and Psychotherapy

Target Audience: College graduates between 25-40.  People who want to help people. Women looking for a graduate program that focuses on clinical interaction rather than assessment.

Client Direction: No talking heads.  No cartoons. Focus on concentrated target audience.  This isn't for everyone!

 

Thoughts on logo design

I found this recently and couldn't put it better myself...

 

MAKE THE LOGO SMALLER - By COLLIN ARNOLD

A phrase never heard but always dreamt of by creatives in the advertising business when receiving client feedback – “Make the logo smaller!” – will one day reign champion over the dreaded and all too familiar, “Make the logo bigger!” auto response.

However, it will take some client education and persistence on our part to make this happen.

The client’s thought process seems logical – to them – and is easy to understand:

They are paying big bucks for great advertising; they want their name to be all over the ad.

WHAT THE CLIENT NEEDS TO REALIZE, HOWEVER, IS THAT THERE ARE TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY – AND TWO MESSAGES IN EVERY ADVERTISEMENT: 

THE EXPLICIT AND IMPLICIT. 

The difference is beautifully summed up by Luke Sullivan in his book, the famous Hey Whipple, Squeeze This!:

“In every ad there are explicit and implicit messages, both equally important. The explicit message is what the headline and visuals are saying. But implicitly, the layout of the ad is sending many messages about the quality of the product, about the class, the demeanor, the personality of your client.”

IT DOES NOT GET ANY SIMPLER THAN THAT. 

ADS SEND IMPLICIT MESSAGES BASED ON THEIR LAYOUT AND DESIGN, WHICH SEND CUES TO CONSUMERS ABOUT A BRAND’S CLASS DEMEANOR AND PERSONALITY. 

What does a humongous brand logo say?

We’re cheap?

We have huge egos?

Our logo is more important than our main messaging?

There are only downsides to oversized logos, and unless creatives and designers in the advertising business weigh in on the argument – and, in fact, educate clients on the double-sided messaging that all advertisements contain – the status quo and the dreaded phrase, “Make the logo bigger!” will remain.

Forever haunting our waking logo dreams.


Read more at http://www.theawsc.com/2012/11/16/make-the-logo-smaller/#A7eEItA5cuK4uwky.99

 

Project: Recording Kaleidoscope

Looking for an opportunity to learn and grow? Record a CD.  Better yet, record a collaboration CD with a friend!

Lisa Ferguson and I took the plunge in March of 2012.  Being that neither of us are the type to go into anything lightly, nor are we quick decision makers, the mutual accountability really helped move this project along.

I live in northern Illinois and Lisa lives in Chattanooga, so distance also proved to be an issue for us.  In order to plan and rehearse, we met up in Louisville, KY several times during the winter.  These long weekends, cooped up a room at the Country Inn & Suites were exhausting, but they really prepared us for what was to come.

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In mid-March I drove to Chattanooga to spend a week recording at Lisa's home.  Steve Seifert was our sound engineer.  He essentially brought the recording studio to us. 

We recorded for 7 days, 12 hours a day.  Stephen Humphries played percussion on 5 tracks so we spent about 1 day total recording percussion.  

What a roller-coaster!  By the end of the week, we'd finished off several bottles of wine, a couple boxes of thin mints, an entire bag of pistachio nuts, and who knows how many pots of coffee.  There was a lot of laughter mixed in with the disagreements.  After a week, the three of us had bonded. Steve likened it to being at some sort of "weird" summer camp. He is a master of metaphors.

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Upon returning home and listening to rough cuts, we decided that a steel pan part in one of the tracks wasn't where we wanted it to be, so I called upon a local friend of mine, Mike Schwebke, to help out and record a new steel pan part for After Midnight. We recorded this in late April at a studio in Aurora, IL.

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In the end, the project was worth the sweat, tears, and thousands of miles on the road.  It was completed in June of 2012!  I'm so thankful for Lisa, Steve & Stephen Humphries for putting so much into this.  I'm also grateful for Dan Landrum for allowing us to borrow his recording equipment and Mike Schwebke for lending his steel pan talents on short notice!

Project: Senior Exhibit

I graduated from RMU in February of 2012.  During my final weeks as a student, preparation for my senior exhibit dominated my time.  I submitted 12 printed pieces total. The pieces represented illustration, photography, layout design, typography, and multi-media.  All were accepted and displayed at the State Street Gallery in Chicago, IL. The gallery purchased all of them, however I chose to keep a few of the pieces including the three large bird ladies.

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I was responsible for printing and framing all of my submissions. Printing and trimming was a fun thing to do.  I have annoyingly short arms, which made the framing process a little difficult.  Many of my pieces were 50" tall, so building the frames and getting the prints into them unscathed was...interesting.

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I wasn't able to attend the opening night of the exhibit because I was in Chattanooga recording a CD with Lisa Ferguson.  But I did finally make it out to see the gallery in April. Many of my pieces had prime placement.  Including a photograph I call "Duck Butt", which was amusingly placed above the water fountains.

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Seems legit.

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I've never made a meme before.  Something inspired me yesterday to make a series of graphic design themed memes ending in various rage faces. (Click here for an explaination of the term "rage face")  I never actually made them.  I got distracted looking at other graphic design-y memes and found these.  I thought these were amusing.

If you're a creative type, you probably know what an accurate depiction these info-graphics are.  The crying thing might be a bit of a stretch.  But I suppose it's whatever emotional response you are most prone to having. 

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The one on group projects is reflective of my grad school experiences thus far.  The only saving grace is by this point in our educational careers, we're all on the same page with this one.  

Project: Steel Band T-Shirt

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I've been a member of the Waubonsee Steel Band since early 2009.  If you want to have fun, improve your musicianship, and work on your upper-body strength, join a steel band.  I'm not kidding.

In 2012 the director of the band, Frank Check, asked me to design t-shirts that we could wear at the dozens of gigs we play each year.  The idea had been tossed around for years, so it was great to be able to finally get the ball rolling.  

I've done a few promotional posters for the steel band, so I had a lot of practice illustrating the instrument, but screen printing can be fairly limiting. I tried a new technique of illustrating the notes on the pans.  Then I incorporated some half-tone dots to give them more dimension. It seemed to work pretty well. I wanted to steer away from just having one steel pan (which seems to be pretty typical in steel pan themed designs) since most of the band members play 2 or more pans at a time.  

The main goal with this design was to portray the overall feel of the music we play.  For the most part, it's upbeat and fun.  The band has a good time playing, and audiences have a blast listening to the eclectic island sounds. I wanted to translate that into something visual without being cliche.  Also, because this is a community band, the group is very diverse. This meant I really needed to make sure that it looked like a t-shirt that people of any age or gender wouldn't mind wearing.

Once I got the design hashed out, I sent a bunch of color variations to Frank to pick from.  While it wasn't our first choice, we wound up choosing two color blue and white because that's what the screen printer was capable of.  I really think the blue worked out well though!

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2013 Origami Project

This year I purchased my very first day-by-day calendar. I've never really understood the purpose of this type of calendar but this year, for whatever reason, I gave in. Maybe it was the "half-off" price tag. Or maybe it was the subject matter: 365 Days of Origami. As if I needed something else to clutter up my desk...

Seems they start you out easy with mainly flimsy square and triangle shaped things. This is probably for the best.

I've downloaded an app for my phone that allows me to post blog entries on the go. I figured I would start with this. Hopefully I can get through the year and at least attempt all of them. You use each day's sheet to do a piece for the following day. This makes it hard to review what you've done. But it saves on paper.

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