On a personal note: WalkMS Chesapeake Challenge

Quick Sketch - Tink

Why is my cat giving me such a look? Probably because I’m not paying enough attention to her. And what could me more important than pampering the cat?


This year, I promised myself I was going to do something for myself and for others: I’m going to participate in the Walk MS Chesapeake Challenge. This event is 2-day, 30-mile walk that supports the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Money raised goes to support research, advocacy, and services for those affected by MS. I have a page set up there for donation sponsorships, and I’m hoping a few of you will help out.

Challenge Walk MS - Walk With Purpose

Why am I doing it? Aside from a need to get off my rear and and get some good exercise for a change, it’s to support a good cause. Our lives have been touched by MS. My husband’s mother suffered from very severe MS symptoms and was housebound for years. By the time I met her she was about to get out and about (with assistance) thanks to new breakthroughs in treatment made possible by ongoing research efforts like those at the MS Society. Sadly, she passed away before she ever became my mother-in-law; I have a friend today who benefits from even newer treatments who will hopefully never go through what she did.

Because this is such a large event, I need to do fundraising on a scale I haven’t tried before. For that I’ll need your support. And just in case the warm glow of making a tax-exempt donation to a very worthy cause isn’t enough, I’m sweetening the pot a bit.

  • For a $40 $30 donation in my name, I’ll draw a quick sketch of your favorite pet (similar to my cat above) from a photograph you provide, and e-mail you a digital file ready-to-print. This is a picture of one animal… all pets welcome! See below for some samples.
  • For a $60 $50 dollar donation, I’ll do the same as above, AND mail you the signed, original sketch. This is a small, 5×7-inch drawing, perfect for a standard snapshot picture frame.

How can you take advantage of this amazing offer? Just go over to my donation page at the MS Society website and make a donation in the appropriate amount. Be sure to include your name on the donor list so I can confirm your donation and put e-mail address in the “Personal Note” section — I need it to send you information on how to get your drawings!


Why only pets?

  • So I don’t go insane trying to draw everything!

What if I have more than one pet/there’s more than one pet in the photo?

  • Additional pets in the same picture require an additional $10 per pet. If you want two separate drawings, the second one would be an additional $30 $20 for digital only, $45 $35 for the original artwork.

What kind of sketches are we talking about here?

  • These will be black-and-white drawn with archival inks on bristol paper, and may include inkwash. Yours will be signed, but won’t have the extra text on it that you see here. They are sketches and studies, in addition to the sample above, there are some more samples below… and more on the way.

How do I get my sketch?

  • After your donation is received, I’ll send you an e-mail with the details, but in short you’ll need to send me your address and a good, clear photo of your pet, either by e-mail or by post, and I’ll take care of the rest.

When will I get my sketch?

  • No later then the end of the July, probably earlier. I need to spend as much time as I can before the walk getting into shape for it, so I may not start any of the drawings until afterwards.

What kind of photo should I send?

  • Your favorite photo of your pet! I prefer if you can send a picture that was taken with natural lighting rather than a flash, but I know that’s not always possible. I can’t draw details that I can’t see in the picture, so keep that in mind.

Can I use my drawing on my website/as my logo/in a book?

  • Donation incentive drawings are intended for personal use only. I can provide a release letter if your local photo printer requires one.  You can include it on your personal webpage but I ask that you include a link back to my website stephaniesmith.com. If you want to publish the image commercially — or you’d like to commission a custom illustration — please contact me and we’ll talk.

Is the MS Society site safe to use?

  • I’ve never had any problems with it. Be sure to print out your receipt for your tax records. If you don’t want to get recurring messages from them be sure to go in after your donation and check their directions for customizing your privacy settings. But DO be sure that I have your email address… if I don’t contact you within a few days of your donation write me a message

Where are those sample drawings you mentioned?

  • Right here!

Quick Sketch - Old Faithful


Quick Sketch - Tony

Any other questions? Drop me a line at contact@stephaniesmith.com… and thanks in advance for your support!

Autumn arrives… with a sale at Zazzle.com

Chinese Zodiac 2011: The Year of the Rabbit calendar
Chinese Zodiac 2011: The Year of the Rabbit by critterwings

Before today is over, it will officially be autumn. To celebrate, Zazzle is having a sale through midnight (PST) Thursday Sept 23: use the coupon code AUTUMNZAZZLE to get 50% off cards, 40% off invitations, 30% off calendars, and 10% off shirts! This is good on all of your purchases at Zazzle, whether they’re from Critterwings, another Zazzle seller, or your own custom items.

Chinese Zodiac 2011: The Year of the Rabbit calendar
Chinese Zodiac 2011: The Year of the Rabbit by critterwings

To celebrate the change of the seasons, I’ve added these two new calendars from my Chinese Zodiac art series, updated for 2011: the Year of the Rabbit. There are also a bunch of brand new mugs, and I’m adding updated pieces every week from this series and from others… get ready for your holiday shopping! If you prefer the vertical one-page style of calendar, I’ve also added these calendars to my RedBubble site — the RedBubble calendars look fantastic. And, as always, if there are any images from this blog, my portfolio, or from my RedBubble site that you’d really like to see for sale on a particular type of gift, let me know.

Thanksgiving wishes

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone out there (whether or not you live in the US where it’s being formally and nationalistically observed) has a moment this week to spend with their family and/or friends and reflect on all of the good things in their life. I have quite a long list myself, including my wonderful extended family, all of my dear friends (both online and offline) and my dear husband and the life we’ve been building together. I love that I have the freedom to pursue my art and maintain a comfortable life at the same time, and am grateful for all of the blessings, large and small, that have filled my life. I just finished making pies for tomorrow’s dinner with my husband watching goofy old movie serials on our little kitchen TV and you know what? It’s a pretty good way to end the day. Especially taking into account that the rest of the day was spent cleaning the whole house because we’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.

Chinese Zodiac Preview — The Ox and The Pig

I don’t have any more thematic artwork to post at the moment (we’ll see if I get a chance tomorrow, but it seems unlikely) but I thought that regular visitors to my blog would appreciate seeing a little work-in-progress. Yes, I have finished ALL of the ink drawings for my Chinese Zodiac series: The Ox, The Pig, The Dragon, and The Monkey. The Ox is actually a re-drawing of the Ox I did way back at the beginning this year, the first of the series (since this IS the year of the Ox) but I decided it just didn’t hold up to the rest of the drawings I did since then. Two of these are partially colored, and the only one that should take an exceptionally long time is The Dragon — I just can’t help throwing all the bells and whistles into a Dragon, after all. 🙂

Chinese Zodiac Preview — The Dragon and the Monkey

I don’t know about anyone else, but as much fun as I’ve had doing these (and they have been very fun) I will be happy when they’re done. I’m a bit eager to start in on the next project. I’ll be posting shiny new color versions of the whole series everywhere as soon as they’re done… with any luck in the next couple of weeks!

Have a great holiday, those that are having one!

Year-end wrap-up

Looking back on this year, it’s been a very busy one. Unlike some people out there, most of the chaos has been good. Crazy-making sometimes, but usually for good reasons. I have lots to be grateful for and despite the current state of things in the world I have a good deal of optimism for 2009.

As far as this blog goes, the thing I’m happiest about is that for the most part I’ve been able to keep a steady schedule, in part thanks to Illustration Friday. At the beginning of this year I committed to posting something every week based on the IF topic. I didn’t quite make that, but given my horrid track record for diary-keeping I’m amazed I did as well as I did.

Out of 52 weeks in the year:

  • I posted IF illustrations for 43 of them (only missed 9, although technically a couple didn’t make it to the blog in time to post on IF)
  • 39 of those were new, original drawings, three of which never got further than a rough sketch.
  • 14 were existing work I’d done for another purpose but were appropriate for that week’s topic (and one of those was significantly edited for IF)

I’m pretty happy with that. The hardest part was getting back into the habit when I missed a whole month over the summer due to my insane schedule.

I don’t know if I can make the same vow this year, since I may have more illustration projects coming in. However, I do promise to post something to this blog every week, and participate in IF when I can. I’m also going to start merchandising my existing art more, making better use of my redbubble account and my CafePress store, and making more art that is directly in line with that. Toward that end I’d like to redo my website (including this blog!) but that’s a secondary priority to making more art.

Is anyone else making an “art resolution” this year?


Last weekend I attended the Illustration Conference in NYC. The whole weekend was exhausting, but a total blast! I met so many fellow illustrators from all over — from those just starting out to those who’ve been in the business for years, and those who are transitioning out of (and into) illustration to/from related fields. There was a fair amount of business talk and shop talk, but there was so much creative energy and talent on display  it was practically crackling through the air. I had the chance to share portfolios with some amazingly talented artists.

I came back home re-energized and full of ideas! Being a compulsive note-taker I did more writing and looking than sketching at the conference, but there are a few scribbles scattered around my notes.

ICON Sketch

I didn’t have a chance to participate in the big SketchCrawl that preceeded the main conference, but I heard so much about it, it’s an idea I’m definitely going to have to explore. The man who spearheads it, Enrico Casarosa, really hit the nail on the head when he talked about carrying your sketchbook everywhere but never taking it out of your bag.

The conference itself took place in a hotel in Manhatten, but I was crashing at my brothers’ apartment in Brooklyn. I found that the fastest way to make the train show up was to settle in for a really detailed sketch of my surroundings. But I managed to snag a few informal sketches along the way.

Subway Sketch

 Of course, as is the case after every conference I’ve ever been to, I’ve come down with a nasty head cold. This one totally snuck up on me Tuesday afternoon, when I thought I was “safe,” so I’ve barely had a chance to go through everything I brought back with me, much less e-mailing all the wonderful people I met… but I will! But not right now… this is the most I’ve been upright since the cold hit me and it’s time to lie down…

Has it really been ten years…?

I have a full-time graphic design job which I love. The work is meaningful and creatively rewarding, my co-workers are great, and the company is good to us. Maybe that’s why I barely noticed the time passing. But it still came as shock to realize that I just passed my ten-year anniversary with the company.

My actual anniversary date was months ago. Technically, my anniversary as a salaried employee was in November, but I’d started working as a contractor for them way back in June 1997. So, why is it only hitting me now?

Last week, the head of my department handed me my anniversary gift. The company is generous in many ways, but cash awards are not one of them. So on service anniversaries we get a small catalog of gifts to pick from and we tell them which one we want. I picked mine out back in December, the lovely little necklace pictured below.

10-year service award

Necklace detail

(My husband voted for the portable smoker, but I knew it would have just joined the waffle iron and the sandwich maker and deep fryer sitting unused in the cabinet. They’d seemed like a good idea at the time too. So I picked something sparkly that was just for me.)

Even going through the catalog didn’t phase me particularly. But when our department head walked in on us during a meeting with the familiar gift bag (with a terribly impersonal memo from HR still stapled to it) it really struck me: wow. I’ve really been working here for more than ten years. That’s officially longer than I’ve done anything else, and I was in the same elementary school building until 8th grade. In a few years I will have been living in my adopted hometown longer than I was in the town I grew up in, depending on whether you count the college years. It doesn’t help that my manager, who was there when I received my gift and was hired about the same time I was is completely in shock that he’s been in one place for ten years too.

It really didn’t help matters that people kept thinking it was my fifteenth anniversary instead of my tenth, either.

I guess that’s just getting older. I still think of myself as “just out of college” but that’s getting further and further away. It’s just driven home by the newest addition to our dept who was, like me, hired almost right out of college. Only much more recently.

I know I’m not “old” but I never exactly was one of the hip, with-it kids to begin with. If anything, I like to think that my cool-factor has increased somewhat with the greater confidence I have now. I was the stereotypical scrubby nerd throughout my youth. Now I’m taking better care of myself both physically and emotionally. I actually have a pretty clear idea of what I want my future to be like… and I know what I need to do to make that happen.

It could be easy to take this milestone as representing the relentless passing of time and inevitability of aging, or even a certain amount of career stagnation. I’m trying to take this milestone of how far I’ve come: my skills have progressed substantially over the years, I have the respect of my co-workers, and I survived the layoffs a few years ago. I have a job that I truly enjoy, and at the same time I’m confident enough in my abilities to get more aggressive about pursuing the other things I really enjoy which it doesn’t provide, including my illustration work.

Oh, and I’ve gotten married, earned my MFA, and bought a house, while I’m counting milestones. Not a bad start, really.

And that young co-worker? She’s coming up on her fifth anniversary soon…