When I saw on Facebook that illustrator Kelli Thrasher-Brooks had a new postcard ready, I knew she’d have to come share it with the Sub It Club.
Take it away, Kelli:
Colors, textures, lines, patterns and characters play a large role in Kelli’s passion for creating picture books. Ideas for new stories come from everywhere and she is often inspired by her children. When she has a strong character concept she draws them over and over loosely with a lot of layers and emotion until they come to life. She paints many textures with her children and scans them in to add depth to her illustrations in Photoshop. When she draws with ink and watercolor pencils, she uses just a small amount of saliva and a Q-tip to blend the colors perfectly since water often makes them muddy. It’s like every drawing has a personal piece of her life in it… literally!
Kelli attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia from 6:00-10:00 every night and worked for ad agencies full time during the week to pay her way through college. After graduation, she jumped right into advertising and has been in the field for over 16 years now.
Beginning in 2007, bedtime stories with her children enhanced her storytelling skills and appreciation for picture books all over again. Her children love to add on to the stories each night and color her custom coloring pages as well.
In 2009 she joined SCBWI and a new world opened her eyes. It was a home that she never realized that she was missing. It blended perfectly with her love of picture books, the desire to create stories and make a difference in lives.
How do you choose the image(s) for a postcard?
Most images in my portfolio are like little seeds of stories that I am working on. I test out images in different ways to see what gets a good reaction. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are helpful resources. The most recent image on my postcard has been popular for a while now and was even featured on Harold Underdown’s Facebook page on September 1, 2013.
Just the other day I handed over my credit card (which has this illustration on it) to a cashier at a store and she lit up! I get that reaction often, but this illustration really touched her and she asked if she could buy a print! Moments like that remind me why I love to draw.*
Do you prefer text on the front of the postcard with the image or do you prefer all text on the back of the postcard?
I used to cram in a lot of information when I was more insecure with my work. It has taken a few years to realize that the art and stories speak for themselves. Previous postcards used to have anywhere from 5-10 images crammed on the front and back, but now I use one strong image on the front with my name, and the back of the card has four favorites with important contact info. If they want to see more, they’ll visit the website.
Do you create illustrations specifically for your self-promotion pieces?
I love to create stories that make me happy. If I get a good reaction from an illustration I might use it, but your gut always lets you know. I’ve created illustrations and manuscripts that I wanted to love, but I knew they were not quite right. Art directors and editors want to see your best work, and if you are not sure… leave it out. Quality is more important than quantity.* You will accumulate better pieces over the years, so don’t rush it.
*Words to live by!
Some illustrators create a series of postcards and send them out over time. Do you create a series or stand-alone images?
I only create one card at a time. Postcards are often shared in the slush pile so you would think it would be nice to send a different card to each person, but I personally think that if they saw the same image in the pile a couple of times, it might get noticed more or show that more than one person likes the image.
How often do you send out postcards?
I have not sent out many postcards so far. I used to send a couple during the holidays to personal contacts, but I have been focusing more on creating a specific mailing list… quality not quantity. I have either met them, been influenced by them personally or have researched the contacts in my mailing list based on the books that they have worked on. I can also see my style working well in the mix of their current artists.
A good list is like a closet full of your favorite shoes… it just feels complete every time you open it up. There is always room for more though!*
*Ha! You can say that again!
Who do you target with your mailings?
I have been working on the list for a few years. Everyone’s list is going to be different based on your taste in books and comfort level. I tend to mail to art directors and editors. I have gotten to know a few people from Highlights after attending the Advanced Illustrator Workshops in 2012 and 2013, so I usually mail a postcard to them as well.
How do you compile your mailing list? Any tips on keeping a list and sending out?
Lists can be so overwhelming. Still trying to find a good formula… For now I use a spreadsheet that I created in free program called Open Office, which is just like Microsoft Word and Excel. I have a row across the top broken up into columns for: Publisher, Title, First, Last, Address, City, Zip, Phone, Email, Updated and Notes. Then down the left hand side of the page under “Publisher” I have sections separated by each publisher and imprint.
Do you have any tips on the production process?
I sometimes illustrate on paper, and then scan it in to color in Photoshop, and add in textures that I have painted. Drawing in Photoshop with the tablet is fun and I feel like I am a bit looser with my lines, so sometimes I just start an illustration there.
The graphic designer in me defaults to InDesign for all layout purposes though. It keeps the files smaller and you can move around text and photos more easily. As long as you send the printer a PDF with correct bleeds and dimensions you should be okay.
Do you use any online services? What are your favorite places to get postcards printed?
I love working with Overnight Prints. The quality has been great so far, and they are fairly quick. The cost is helpful too! I LOVE Moo‘s cardstock though, and the feel of their cards is always noticeable. If I’m going to an SCBWI conference I usually print a set from them as well.
Thanks so much for all the tips and beautiful artwork, Kelli!
If you’re joining us for the first time at the Monthly Postcard Post, you can catch up with a general article on postcard mailings for illustrators and previous featured illustrators in the archive (there’s a tab above too). See you next month.