We love our annual Graphic Design Challenges because we receive such unique and diverse entries from talented emerging graphic designers from all over the nation! On our last Graphic Design Challenge, we decided to give designers a bit more direction. We not only provided them the phrase we wanted the contestants to include in their design,”Dream Big, Start Small”, but also let them know what product their design could potentially be placed on if they were to win, a babysuit™!
When Anne Lehman’s charming entry rolled in, we knew immediately that she would be one of our semi-finalists. The colors, images, technique, and overall appeal of her Mouse and Moon design was something we felt walked straight out of a children’s storybook. The judging panel believed that Anne’s vision was the strongest and that she, without a doubt, committed to the inspirational theme. Meet our latest Graphic Design Challenge winner, Anne Lehman. See how she came up with the concept of her Mouse and Moon design, what she did when she heard the great news that she won, and what her one secret vice is as a graphic designer.
What’s an Uncommon fact about you and your hometown?
I am from the town of Reading, Massachusetts, which is about 15 miles from Boston, home of our country’s first public park and subway system. An uncommon fact about me—I am left-handed and have red hair—this combination of traits is in less than 1% of the population.
How did you come up with the concept of your design for our Graphic Design Challenge?
When I read “Dream Big, Start Small,” I pictured a mouse immediately with a small piece of cheese. The concept of the moon came to me when I started to sketch the mouse and cheese. Since the deadline was just three days away, I tried not to over think my design and turned my first sketch into my final piece that I submitted. I am learning that sometimes your first ideas are the best ones!
Tell us about your journey into becoming a graphic designer.
My journey started when I was a small child—making art and creating things is all I’ve ever wanted to do—ever since the first time I held a crayon. My professional journey started about 15 years ago. My first job after college was a customer service rep at a printing company that specialized in invitations and stationery. I had a degree in fine arts, but was struggling to apply my art skills to the real world. Seeing how the designs were created and being around the printing process motivated me to go back to school and learn the technical side of graphic design. I needed to make things and create!
I loved learning how to take my fine art skills and apply them to the computer to create logo designs and layouts. For years I worked as a professional graphic designer in the corporate environment. During this time, I discovered that I needed an additional creative outlet, so I would work on my own pieces and often create handmade artwork for family and friends. I found my true passion is creating artwork by hand and the creative freedom and imagination that goes into it. This lead to opening my Etsy shop, Sunny Spot Studio, in 2010. Since then I’ve been making steps towards my dream of having my own freelance business full time where I can create and sell my art, illustrations, and graphic design creations.
How did you celebrate when you learned you were our Baby Suit Graphic Design winner?
I was so excited when I heard that I won! I called my fiance, Matt, immediately to share the good news. He is my biggest champion and encouraged me to enter the contest so it really felt like we were in it together. We had a nice dinner to celebrate and then I think I spent the rest of the night on the phone with my greatest support system—my parents, sister, and a couple of close friends.
What different techniques do you use when creating your designs?
I am always evolving my process, but I don’t think I could live without my pencils, black pen, paints, and watercolors. I always start with traditional materials and have never been able to just jump right in and design on the computer. I will usually scan my artwork and then do some touch up and add typography with design software. I received the most amazing gift recently—a Cintiq Wacom tablet, which allows you to draw and paint right on the screen—this is changing my technique and opening new doors for me. I am now experimenting more with adding color and texture in Illustrator and Photoshop, after I scan my pen and ink drawings.
Are there any major projects, collaborations, or ideas you’re working on now that you want to talk about?
I always have many ideas in the pipeline for new pieces to offer in my Etsy shop. I plan to add more wedding related items, including invitation artwork soon. I am currently enrolled in an e-course: Make Art That Sells: Assignment Bootcamp from Lilla Rogers, who is one of the world’s top illustration agents and a wonderful teacher. The course runs over six months, with monthly themed assignments geared toward different markets in the industry. It has been an extraordinary opportunity for me to learn and grow my portfolio with her expertise, and also to connect with talented artists all over the world. Our current assignment is to create nautical themed wall art.
What was the toughest lesson you learned while being an artist?
I learned that it takes self-confidence to be an artist. You have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Art is very personal and it can be intimidating to put your work out to the public. Not everyone will admire your work, but if you can stay true to your self and who you are as an artist, it will help you to grow in your career and find your style.
Where do you picture yourself 5 years from now?
In 5 years, I picture myself as an independent artist/designer and business owner, supporting myself full time. I hope to be making lots of art pieces and working on creative projects in the freedom of my studio. These projects would include children’s book illustration, pet art and portraits, nursery art, personalized prints, and designing and illustrating pieces for art licensing. I plan to be very busy!
Are there any particular graphic designers or bloggers you look up to when it comes to your area of design?
Recently I have discovered the art and career of Kelly Rae Roberts. I enjoy following her on social media and on her blog, where she shares so much about her artwork and life. Her journey to becoming a successful artist and entrepreneur is an inspiration to me.
Where do you go or what do you do when your inspiration is completely lost?
If I have the time, a nice drive to my favorite nearby town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire helps to clear my mind. I love to walk around the quaint historic town, visit the art galleries and shops, and to spend some time by the waterfront. Otherwise, a quick yoga class or a bit of time browsing Pinterest always helps me to recharge.
Do you have any secret vices that causes procrastination?
I wouldn’t call it a vice, but I can be my toughest critic, which can sometimes cause me to over think my work and stall my finished product. When I am selling an art print or piece, I want it to be the best it can be for my customer. When I realize I am over thinking or reworking my project, I try to step away to separate myself from it. Then I can come back later with a fresh mind to complete the work.
What quote keeps you motivated? What does that quote mean to you?
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau
I keep this quote hanging up in my studio to remind me that I am now on the right path with my art and design career. I’ve learned that if you pay attention to your intuition and follow your dreams, your life will change and you will become much happier. For me, I wasn’t creating enough during my professional career, which left me feeling somewhat unfulfilled. When I started to make more of my own art and take steps towards having my own design studio, doors opened up and positive things started to happen for me. And now a few years later, I am about to leave the security of a day job, finally having the courage to branch out on my own and work towards supporting myself solely through my art and design.
What advice can you offer anyone who is submitting their work into our next Graphic Design Challenge?
Don’t be afraid of submitting your work, just go for it. It is a great opportunity to gain exposure and share your work with the public and a team of professionals. You will be amazed at the support that will come your way.
We’re pleased to announce that the Dream Big, Start Small Babysuit with Anne’s design is now available for purchase from UncommonGoods!