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Pin Pals April 30, 2019 20:33

From Jess: 

How is it already the end of April?! ...oh, wait: we're getting ready for SDCC 2019, continuing to work on the "Rescue Sirens" pitch, and Chris is up to his eyeballs in "Call of the Wild" post-production. Talk about making time fly!

Some of the items that I've been working on for SDCC (and online sales!) are new enamel pins. I've teamed up with amazing artist Kellee Riley (who's one of our wonderful guest artists) to create a number of enamel pins and fun accessories for every "Rescue Sirens" and mermaid fan.

Kellee will be debuting the first of the new "Rescue Sirens" pins at MegaCon -- pretty perfect, since MegaCon falls during Mer-May this year! (May 16th-19th, to be precise.) MegaCon takes place in Orlando, Florida, and I'll always consider it my "home con." I used to dress up as some of my favorite comics, film, and video game characters, and MegaCon was the very first convention at which I costumed! It's a fun show, and I hope many of you get to visit Kellee there at Artist Alley 16PR and pick up some of her gorgeous artwork and personal pins (she really does make some of the best mermaid pins in existence!) as well as the "Rescue Sirens" pins she'll have for sale.

For those of you who can't make it to The City Beautiful, don't worry: I'll be selling our "Rescue Sirens" pins online after MegaCon, and setting some aside to bring to SDCC, too.

I always have to have something to do to keep myself occupied. If I get frustrated or burnt out or just temporarily bored with one thing, or if I'm waiting on someone else's feedback or contribution before I can move forward, then I can shift gears and bounce onto another project. It's a great way to keep my brain fresh while still getting something done! (Of course, this sometimes leads to a myriad of partially-finished projects, but I usually finish them at some point.) That's what getting into enamel pin-making has been for me lately, and I can't thank Kellee enough for her advice, her help, and her friendship. I think you're really going to love these new pins!

And as for the accessories? Well... that would be telling.  =)  All will be revealed in Mer-May!

P.S. Don't forget to follow Kellee on Instagram! She's always posting gorgeous mermaid art and sharing her new pin designs.


Rescue Siren Maris by Chihiro Howe Takogawa March 31, 2019 17:00

From Jess: 

A couple of years ago, when Chris and I held a "Rescue Sirens" fan art contest with the prize of one of Chris's original inked drawings, Chihiro Howe drew an adorable picture of Kelby (she even included her glasses!!). Can you believe this is all done traditionally? Chihiro's mastery of markers is astonishing.


Rescue Siren Kelby, illustrated by Chihiro Howe


Earlier this year, when Chihiro offered commissions, I snapped one up and asked if she'd draw another of our Rescue Sirens. She chose Maris, and I remain blown away by her confident anatomy and pose as well as her perfect, delicate linework!




Isn't she simply gorgeous? I love how much personality Chihiro's illustrations have!

I even took a whack at coloring the line art, just for fun:


Rescue Siren Maris, illustrated by Chihiro Howe and colored by Jessica Steele-Sanders


To see more of Chihiro's wonderful work, you can follow @chihirohowe on Instagram as well as visit her Etsy shop.

The Fine Art of Saying "No." February 28, 2019 08:50

From Jess: 

A couple of years ago, my husband and "Rescue Sirens" co-author Chris wrote a great blog about crediting your creative partners entitled "Credit Where Credit Is Due (Or, don't fear telling people you didn't do something.)" Today, I'd like to address something else that comes up when collaborating on creative projects: the fine art of saying "no."

Through our work on "Rescue Sirens," Chris and I have been really fortunate to collaborate with a number of incredible artists like Genevieve Tsai, colorist Edgar Delgado, Teresa Martinez, Dylan Bonner, Kellee Riley, and Gabby Zapata (to name a few). They're polite, responsive, upfront, and talented individuals, which makes them a joy to work with.

We've also gotten burned a couple of times. I won't be naming names, and details have been slightly changed so no one feels as though they're getting called out. (For the record, there are no hard feelings. Chris and I understand that this is just part of doing business.)

Chris and I have a lot of amazing character artwork for "Rescue Sirens," but what we're lacking now is environmental concept art. We'd love to be able to show people the Diving Belle, and to explore more of the undersea mermaid community of Lophelia. To that end, we've tried hiring a couple of extremely skilled industry artists.

We paid the first person in full, and they sent us a few rough digital sketches of both settings. That was probably two years ago (I think?), and efforts to move the pieces forward to finish have been unsuccessful. They're simply too busy.

Late last year, realizing that the timing just wasn't going to work out any time soon with our first artist, we approached another person to create a single quick, stylized illustration of the Diving Belle's pool courtyard for us -- something simple and appealing that you might see as a background in an animated series. They initially seemed really enthusiastic, and they're so fast at what they do that Chris and I were high-fiving each other for finally scoring a cool "Rescue Sirens" background. We'd pay this new artist, they'd draw the Diving Belle, and we'd be done, right?

Well, that's what we thought, anyway. Instead, when it came time to talk contracts, this artist seemed really uncomfortable even telling us their rates, and then they gave us mixed signals about our deadline. Chris and I needed this background for a last-minute meeting we were having, and it was admittedly very short notice (although we're talking a matter of weeks, here, not days). We told them over and over and OVER again that if s/he didn't have time, that was perfectly fine; simply let us know, we'd look elsewhere, and we'd try working with them again in the future when our schedules aligned. They insisted that they wanted to create the illustration, but the final straw was when they took an entire week to sign and return our Independent Contractor Agreement/NDA. (Actually, they only returned it after I wrote to them and let them know that we'd found another artist to complete the project.)

All in all, we spent two weeks engaging with this artist and had nothing to show for it.

In contrast to those two experiences is Nicholas Kennedy. Recommended to us by Gabby Zapata, he's the artist who we ran to in a panic when it became obvious that our second artist wasn't going to get the illustration done. We approached Nick about drawing both the Diving Belle's pool and Lophelia's council chamber, and his response was perfect: he said that, due to another project he was starting, he didn't have enough extra time in the next two weeks to draw both layouts, but he'd be happy to draw one of them (and he let us know that he was particularly interested in the Belle). Nick then gave us his standard hourly rate and estimated how long a drawing like this might take so we'd have a good idea of the total cost. He couldn't have made it any easier for us! He delivered a gorgeous image of the Diving Belle's pool courtyard ahead of schedule, and he was extremely nice to talk to as well as receptive to the very few notes that we even had to offer.

Then, the meeting that Chris and I were preparing for was rescheduled for nearly six weeks later. ARGH. We wrote to Nick again, and he now had the spare time to draw Lophelia's council chamber. Yes! We hired him for a second piece that turned out every bit as beautiful as the first and was equally as fun and easy to work on together.

My final story is a short one. I emailed an artist that Chris and I were interested in hiring for "Rescue Sirens" work, and she let me know her rates and her availability right away. She said that she might have obligations this summer (the time period during which we were looking to retain her services) and that would prevent her from accepting our project, but she would contact us just as soon as she knew for sure (and she gave us an approximate time period). Until then, the answer was "no"/"not right now."

I love it when an artist tells me "no."

Don't get me wrong -- I'm definitely disappointed that I won't get to work with him or her (at least not at the moment), but declining a job tells me that this artist is responsible, professional, and doesn't overestimate what they can get done in a given time period. They value their own time and thus guard against burnout. That's... rarer than you might think.

I mean, I totally understand; no one likes to let people down, and saying "no" can be hard, especially when you admire and/or you're on friendly terms with the person who wants to hire you. You want to help them out, right? Maybe the project is something that's right up your alley, and you'd love to be a part of it. And, oh yeah, maybe you could really use the money.

But saying "yes" when you don't have the time isn't doing anyone any favors. You tie up the person or company hiring you and prevent them from engaging with an artist who does have the time to complete the project, and you're adding so much stress to your own life by trying to juggle too many things at once. You might have to rush and pull an all-nighter (or all-weekender) to finish, which isn't healthy for you and probably isn't your best work, either; you might not get the work done at all before your deadline rolls around, which is going to be WAY more disappointing to the people hiring you than a polite "no" would've been in the first place. It's just a bad situation all-around.

A moment of awkwardness declining a job beats the heck out of days, weeks, or months of anxiety resulting from agreeing to a job that you don't have time to do. Rip off that band-aid! It's better for everyone in the long run.

So, what do Chris and I like to hear back from artists when we ask them about doing "Rescue Sirens" work-for-hire? It's really simple:

1. First of all, whether the artist is even interested in/capable of doing the proposed piece(s). (It's no fun for anyone if we hire someone who hates mermaids or can't draw fish, after all!)
2. The artist's current availability.
2a. If they're not immediately available but they're still interested in the project, then some idea of when they feel reasonably certain that they'd have the time; our deadlines are often flexible, so we might be able to wait.
3. The artist's rates.
3a. If this is hourly rather than per-piece, a rough estimate of how long the proposed piece(s) might take to complete.
4. And, as a bonus, if they're unable to take on the project for whatever reason, we love hearing recommendations for other artists who might be available!

That last one is really awesome, and it ties neatly into the whole "responsible, professional artist" thing: when Chris is approached to do illustrations, he pretty much NEVER has the time (remember, his full-time job is directing films), but we're always happy to point people to artists like Genevieve or Dylan because we've worked with them and we know that they're good eggs. If you earn that sort of reputation, you'll get repeat business from people you've worked with before, and, like we do, they may also recommend you for other jobs that they think might make an ideal fit for your skill set.

Don't be afraid to say "no" or "not right now." If the people hiring you are professional, themselves, they'll understand, and they'll respect you more for it.

"Rescue Sirens" x Planet Love Life January 23, 2019 08:26

From Jess: 

Happy New Year! I hope your 2019 is off to a mer-velous start. Here at "Rescue Sirens" HQ, we're kicking off this year with a project that I'm really thrilled to announce: a collaboration with our friends Rob and Melody Webster over at Planet Love Life!

What's Planet Love Life all about?

From their website:

"Planet Love Life is making waves to save lives: Ghost nets are the silent killers of the Ocean. Fishing nets & ropes entangle & kill over 100,000 marine animals every year. We have created bracelets from salvaged fishing nets. Each bracelet represents one of the 300+ marine animal species that are affected by fishing gear lost at sea. Buy a bracelet - save a life!"

Both Chris and I have purchased multiple ghost net bracelets from Planet Love Life, to wear ourselves as well as to give as gifts to our fellow ocean lovers (we've even featured them in a past Mer-May giveaway), and now I'm proud to offer our own series of salvaged ghost net bracelets inspired by the lifeguard mermaids of "Rescue Sirens"!

Salvaged ghost net bracelets made by Planet Love Life, inspired by the lifeguard mermaids of "Rescue Sirens"

Crafted with care by Planet Love Life, the bracelets are available in six different colors and varying widths/textures to please the most discerning mermaid or merman:

1. "Rescue Sirens" Red & White (two thin ropes, single knot)
2. Nim Aqua Seafoam (single thick rope)
3. Kelby Coral Pink (single thick, wavy rope)
4. Echo Navy Blue (single thin rope, three knots)
5. Pippa Purple (single thick, wavy rope)
6. Maris Marigold (single thick, wavy rope)

Each bracelet is adjustable using a lobster clasp from about 6"-7.5" and includes a custom etched "Rescue Sirens" charm (photos forthcoming). While a ghost net's durability poses incredible risks to animal life out in the ocean, here on land it means that your bracelet is waterproof, and resistant to corrosion from both fresh and salt water. Talk about turning a negative into a positive!

Not only can you feel good about keeping these pieces of ghost net safely away from sea creatures, but your money is directly helping the plastic pollution problem, too -- 15% of net proceeds from the sale of these bracelets will be donated to Earth's Oceans Foundation, a California-based non-profit organization dedicated to repurposing plastic waste to reduce (and one day eliminate) the presence of plastic in the world's oceans and on its beaches.

I'm so stoked to finally be able to offer these! Even before I discovered Planet Love Life, I wanted to write a future "Rescue Sirens" children's book about the girls collecting beach trash and recycling it into cute jewelry, so this is really a dream come true. Rob and Melody are true kindred spirits, and we're lucky to know them.

Want your own "Rescue Sirens" bracelet? They're available now in our Etsy shop!

With the craziness of the holidays finally behind us, I have a bit of time right now to process and ship orders, so I've also listed our first run of "Rescue Sirens" enamel pins AND -- for the first time online -- all three variations of our double-sided acrylic charms. Yay!

Sea you later, 2018 -- shell-o, 2019! December 31, 2018 20:59

From Jess: 

What a year this was! I spent a quarter of 2018 accompanying my husband Chris to the set of his first live-action/CG hybrid film, Jack London’s “Call of the Wild”; I’ve also been doing development on “Rescue Sirens” behind the scenes for months. That’s a LOT of stuff that we’re not allowed to show you just yet, and keeping it to ourselves is SO HARD. ARGH!

I’m bursting with excitement to share more of what we’ve been doing in the months to come — I have a feeling that 2019 is going to be a fin-omenal year for our lifeguard mermaids! More artwork, more stories, more MERchandise, and maybe even a surprise or two.

In the meantime, it’s fun to look back on your favorite photos, videos, and illustrations from 2018, featuring our beloved friends and talented artists in this year's Top Nine on Instagram.




Thanks to all of you for another wonderful 365 days of joy and adventure, and have a safe and happy New Year!