12 Questions: Meet Audree Rowe (Glenview, USA)

In our 12 Questions blog series, we feature interviews with someone from the crowdspring community. For these interviews, we pick people who add value to our community – in the blog, in the forums, in the projects. Plainly – activities that make crowdSPRING a better community. Be professional, treat others with respect, help us build something very special, and we’ll take notice.

We’re very proud to feature Audree Rowe (crowdspring username: Artistree) today. Audree lives and works in Glenview, Illinois.

1. Please tell us about yourself.

Hi, I’m Audree Rowe. I’m an artist, a cartoonist, a mom, a lame cook, and a trophy wife. (As you can see from my picture.) I grew up in Evanston, Illinois – ETHS (Evanston Township High School) class of ’84. Are you doing the math? I’m 42. I have a degree in studio art from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and later earned my Master’s in Teaching here in Illinois.  Now I live in beautiful Glenview, IL – a suburb of Chicago- with my rockin’ husband, Anthony (a 5th grade teacher); my amazing daughter, Olivia (13 and yet- a pleasure to be with); and my wonderboy Davis (5 and adorable.)  Oh, and the dog, Lily Snitch Stinky Potter Rowe.  I was a sign artist for several years, an art teacher for a few years, a reading teacher for a couple of years, and have been working out of my home as an artist for the last 11 years while teaching during the summer (when my husband is off work) and raising the above mentioned awesome kids. I am also working on a children’s book (no, I don’t have a publisher – but I can dream.) My little guy is in school half-days, and I am hoping to get some part-time work when he starts full-time school in the fall of 2009. Rather than teaching, I would really like to create. With that goal in mind, I am using my time here at crowdSPRING to learn and grow as an artist and designer.

The art I create for clients is mostly portraits of kids, pets, and homes. I do not charge much – I want people to be able to afford it. I also have done some graphic design and public art projects.

2. How did you start out as a designer?

My first job out of college (in 1988) was for a sign and design studio. My boss designed the signs, and I made them. As I learned, I got to do the designing. We had about 10 fonts to choose from. Computers were still in their infancy.  It was amazing to see how design changed quickly over a short period of time. I watched as my boss forced herself to learn Illustrator and Quark. She did all of the designing on the computer, but she valued my opinion and taught me all about layout and design… so much more than all my classes in college.

The foundation I gained in that shop has helped me immensely with my art over the years. (Thanks, Kathy!)

3. You work as an editorial cartoonist. Please talk a little about the challenges of creating editorial cartoons.

The Glenview Journal is a newspaper that comes out every other week, and covers news and topics only about Glenview. My feature, Audree’s Glenview, appears on the opinion page of every issue.  I started making cartoons for the Journal in 2004. I love the opportunity to have my say about what’s going on in my hometown.

My biggest challenge at times is coming up with an idea. The paper is only about Glenview. My cartoons have to only be about Glenview… a village of about 45,000. After 4 years, I have done lots on the schools, the new library, the weather, the traffic, and local politics. Often they are just about my experiences in Glenview. When I really can’t come up with an idea, my husband or daughter will usually help me. If not them, I’ll ask anyone for a topic. As a thanks, I usually draw them into the toon. (I draw myself in there quite often…it is, after all, AUDREE’s Glenview.)

Working as a cartoonist for a town paper is fun, but not profitable.  But for me, at this point, it’s not about the money – it’s about the experience and the potential for where it may lead me in the future. Much like my work here at crowdSPRING.

4. Who/what are some of the biggest influences on your design work?

Everything, everyone, everywhere.  I draw inspiration from TV, the newspaper, billboards, bumper stickers, children’s books, art books, and the internet… among other things.

I am also a huge fan of Impressionism. I liked that the artists of the time realized it was okay to experiment with form and color.  They took risks, inspired each other, and changed the way the world looked at art.

5. What’s the very first thing you do when approaching a new design?

I research what the design is for and think. I think of what kind of visual queue would help me remember the company and have the feel they are asking for.  I sit down with a spiral notebook of blank paper and doodle ideas… or grab whatever paper is nearby.  If the idea looks good – I hit the computer.  I have filled almost 2 books since starting at crowdSPRING.

6. Which of your designs are your favorites and why?

The following long-winded explanation of my favorite design is sappy and corny and emotional – just like me. I have six best Friends. I have known most of them all my life. The newest one, only for 24 years. So if you are lucky enough to have dear friends in your life, and would like to share in my inspiration, read on.

Years ago, Mary Schmich a writer for the Chicago Tribune, wrote a column comparing friends with a big “F” to friends like a little “f”. A couple of examples:

A little “f” friend: knows almost nothing about your family. A big “F” friend: knows the medical history, dietary habits and marital troubles of everyone on your tree.

A little “f” friend: when visiting, they act like a guest.
A big “F” friend: when visiting, they open your  refrigerator, put their feet on the sofa, talk back to your spouse and reprimand your children.

My friends and I TOTALLY related to the Big “F” comparisons, so we immediately started referring to ourselves as “the Big F’s”. A couple of years ago, I designed a logo for the “F”s. Here is how I explained the logo to them:

Introducing the Big F Logo

Throughout history, groups have used logos to represent what they stand for.Whether it is a university, a company, or an artist formerly known as Prince…they all believed a picture can speak better than words. Hence – the Big F logo. Here is a breakdown of the logo:

The F – if you don’t get why that’s in it, you are no longer my friend.

The Circle – King Arthur chose a round table for himself and his knights because there is no place in a circle that is more important than another. They were all equals when they gathered at that table. It is also like a ring, a continuous shape with no beginning, middle, or end… symbolizing that it can continue for eternity.

The Rays – the rays extend outward from the circle, each on their own path.  They were each drawn by hand, imperfect and unique.  There are seven in the design, but I did not draw each one with a particular person in mind. My goal was to produce an image that balanced well… like us.

The Sun – the sun represents light, warmth, the hope of a new day, and a life-giving force… as does our friendship.

Another favorite of my designs is the work I did for WhatFitz Home Staging and Arranging.  I met the client through contacts at the Chamber of Commerce. The client wanted to incorporate puzzle pieces in her logo design because she is a big supporter of autism research and wants to help bring attention to the cause any way she can.  As some of you may know, autism foundation logos are usually made of puzzle pieces. When she and I had the logo just where we wanted it, I designed her stationery package, brochure, and even provided art for the website. It was my first time providing work for something on-line, and her web designer was very patient with me and taught me how to make a .png file from my art. As it turns out, it was very useful information, as anyone who creates for crowdSPRING knows. It was a great experience and a great outcome. You can check out her website at www.whatfitz.com.


7. How has technology affected your work?

I am a horrible speller. I am thankful every day for spell check. I create all of my cartoons with a Wacom drawing tablet. Thanks to crowdSPRING winnings, I just upgraded to an intous3 from this little thing I got 4 years ago. It’s sweet. I haven’t even tried all the pen tips.

I have a mac G5. I have always been a mac person. My first computer was the Mac Classic. I think I got it in 1990. I got my first Illustrator package for a huge discount because I was a teacher.  Once I started using it I was addicted.  I kept staring at the picture on the box and wondering if they actually used
Illustrator to create it, and if so – HOW?

I knew the best way for me to create my editorial cartoons would be on the computer. That way, if I wanted to make changes, even slight ones, I wouldn’t have to re-draw the whole picture. That would have gotten old very fast.

I enjoy painting, calligraphy, and drawing, but I absolutely LOVE creating on the computer. It’s like magic. It reminds me of when I taught photography and we would watch the image appear as we swished the paper around in the chemicals. I get that feeling every time I create something new on the computer. And I love that I can go back to it and make changes and create something brand new. Plus, I don’t need nearly as much storage space for my computer files compared to my paintings.

8. What are your favorite ways to find new clients?

I joined the Chamber of Commerce. They offer tons of opportunities to meet and talk with other businesses in the community. Everyone helps each other succeed, and it is a great way to do some networking.  That’s how I met the editor of the Journal and talked him into giving me a shot at creating an editorial cartoon feature for the paper. (They didn’t have one before me.)

Most of my clients, though, are people who have heard about me from word-of mouth or repeat customers. They keep having kids, grandkids, and getting new pets… so they come back.  It’s nice… but it’s not regular. Unfortunately, I am just not a salesperson. I am most comfortable when they seek me out, not the other way around.


9. Please talk a little about the client-designer relationship. Can you talk about an example or two to illustrate how you’ve managed this relationship in online projects? How this this relationship differ when you work for clients offline?

I have always had a policy with my portrait art – if they are unhappy with their work of art, they can return it for a full refund, and I would keep it to use as a sample. Fortunately, that has not happened. (I did get stiffed once, but such is life. I moved on.)  I think, in the long run, I’d rather not have someone who felt disappointed out there. Bad news travels faster than good.

I have only done a handful of projects with people on-line, so I can’t really speak about it with any authority. Most of my clients come meet with me at my kitchen table.

So here’s what I do with all clients  – I always get back to them as quickly as I can. I set up a schedule and I stick to it. I stay positive and remind them that the art is the fun part of life, so they should enjoy the process as well as the product. If I mess up, I confess, apologize, and do the next right thing.

10. What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of being a graphic designer?

The most challenging – if you want to make money at it, it is a VERY competitive field.

The most rewarding – seeing something you created out in the world being used.

11. What advice would you offer to someone considering graphics design as a career?

I would advise them the same way I would advise anyone considering any career… do what you love. If you can’t make a living at it right away – do it in your free time and talk to anyone who will listen about your passion.  At every job I’ve held, I have found a way to use my art skills. When I taught reading, I would make the fanciest flash cards. When I worked in a sporting goods store, I made the signs ROCK.  As a mom, I made custom place mats for the kids and laminated them. (I would create one side, they would design the other.) As my son says  – “Everyone can be an artist!” There is always a way to bring your passion into your life.

But I really can’t imagine anyone actually asking me for that kind of advice, so it was nice to try and sound wise and all-knowing. Thanks for that.

12. What do you do with your free time?

I love playing video games with my family (Nintendo). We also play cards. We go to the kids’ soccer games. I am a news junkie. I love TV.  I love gong to movies with my Anthony and talking about them afterwards. I love Harry Potter. I’m looking forward to my son being old enough that we can read the Harry Potter books  together –  from the start.  Whenever we can fit it in, I get together with any and all of the big F’s to play.

Oh, and I love to create. I should actually say I HAVE to create. For a while, it was ceramics. Then I tried making quilts. I also like to make gifts rather than buy them, so that takes some time.

But crowdSPRING has made me realize how much I truly enjoy creating through graphic design. This is a great community for me to be a part of at this time of my life when I’m ready to take a step toward something new. Thanks for inviting me to answer the 12 Questions.  And thanks to all of you here on crowdSPRING who have been helpful when I have asked for advice.  I admire the work everyone puts into this site to make it a success.

Thanks so much, Audree!