The Postcard Post: Melissa Iwai

The Postcard Post welcomes author/illustrator Melissa Iwai. I came across Melissa’s work on Instagram where she often posts sketches of her comings and goings in town. (They make me miss New York even more!) Keep reading to find out, as I did, that there is so much more than sketches to admire.

Melissa Iwai received her BFA in Illustration from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Denis Markell (HUSH LITTLE MONSTER) and their son. She has illustrated many picture books, including TRUCK STOP, HUSH LITTLE MONSTER B IS FOR BULLDOZER, HUSH LITTLE MONSTER, and SOUP DAY, which she wrote and illustrated. All of her books may be viewed at:

pirates Melissa Iwai _Dana
Postcard front: “Where there is water, there will be pirates.”

How do you choose the image(s) for a postcard?

In the past, I just chose an image that I thought was my strongest out of other works I was doing at the time. But recently, my agency has been sending out mailers of smaller groups of artists with a theme. For example, the last one was a nautical theme so I created an image specifically for that purpose.

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 prefer text on the back only so that as much real estate as possible can be used for the image on the front.

Postcard Back:
Postcard Back: All the contact info and as a bonus, a proud little pirate!

Do you create illustrations specifically for your self-promotion pieces?

As I mentioned earlier, yes, this is what we started doing recently. I have used other images for inclusion in different illustration directories, however.

The final sketch for the postcard.
I love seeing the artist’s process. Here’s the final sketch for the postcard.

Some illustrators create a series of postcards and send them out over time. Do you create a series or stand-alone images?
I usually create a stand-alone image. In the past I have created a single post card from a series of images, but I only made one post card. There was interest from that one image, and I was later able to show the others that went with it.*

*Ah! That worked out well. Great idea!

How often do you send out postcards?

I only send some out for the holidays but my agency sends them out a couple times a year.

Who do you target with your mailings?

I mainly work in children’s books so I only target publishers.

How do you compile your mailing list? Any tips on keeping a list and sending out?
If I’m being completely honest, I am very bad in this area, and it definitely needs improvement! I do not have a huge mailing list, because I rely on my rep to do the mailings. When I send holiday mailers out, I only send to people I’ve worked with in the past. So I basically just have all their contact information in Google contacts. I’m sure there is a better method – perhaps creating a document of names and addresses that you can use to print out labels or something… But I’m not there yet!*
*Honestly is the best policy! Lots of illustrators are working to make mailings more efficient— it isn’t easy.

The altered sketch with values added.
Lucky us: more of the process! The altered sketch with values added.

Do you have any tips on the production process? 

I’m a bit of a Skill Share addict (* and have taken many classes. I’ve learned a lot of great digital tips, mainly for Illustrator, from some of the classes. 
Here are some tips:

• It’s possible to go into general preferences and set your keyboard increment to 1 pixel or .5 pixel  (This is very handy if you are doing something very precise and need to move something very accurately).

• Scan in lines that you’ve drawn with different implements (pencils of varying hardness, charcoal, etc.) and create your own brushes in Illustrator. I use the pen tool, and I always disliked the slick line quality. So I now use the pen tool with my custom brushes and it gives the edges a more organic feel.

•It’s possible to select all the objects you’ve made in Illustrator and release to layers so that each one is on its own layer. Then you can import the file to Photoshop as a layered PSD document. When you open it in Photoshop, each object is on a separate layer. (I used to waste a lot of time copying and pasting each object before I knew I could do this!)**

*I didn’t know about this site before!
**Such helpful tips! 🙂

Do you use any online services? What are your favorite places to get postcards printed?

I have used Vista Print and America’s Printers for postcards. Vista Print is cheaper, but the quality is slightly higher for America’s Printers.

Thanks so much for all the sharing your beautiful postcard, process, and excellent tips, Melissa!

I highly recommend that you click on the links below to see more of Melissa’s work.

Facebook: Melissa Iwai Artist Page
Twitter: @meliwai

If you’re joining us for the first time at The 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.

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