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Notes It’s 4 AM. I can’t sleep. I’m franticly searching in the dark for something to take notes on. This happens more often than I can seem to keep track of. It also got me thinking about ritualistic behavior–which brought me to this issue’s theme. Everyone’s process is different, but we share so many similarities when it comes to creating. Whether it’s drawing something everyday or listening to your favorite playlist for inspiration–we all have rituals. Things we do to keep us going. Things we do to stay in a creative mind set. In this issue, we explore this theme and the connections to our own routines. This quarter, our featured interview is with the lovely Margot Harrington of Margot has found a way to share her inspiration and explore various project types, all with the demands of running a small business. As PeculiarBliss Magazine enters its third year, we hope to continue having thought-provoking conversations and pose engaging themes. We are truly pleased to have your continued support. Vaughn Fender, Editor/Publisher @vaughnfender


Peculiarbliss Issue Nine is a stream of doodles and images, featuring creative, original works from sketchbooks and other mediums in one location, with the hope to inspire continued creative thinking. PeculiarBliss Magazine is the quarterly continuation of this effort. This issues theme: “Ritual” Cover Image: Margot Harrington

“ I have a gluttonous appetite for culture.� Page 17

Photo by Julia Stotz



“Spirit Don’t Panic” - Tadas Vainoras

Evita Weed - “RITUAL”



“RITUAL” - Daksheeta Pattni

Matt Hunsberger - “RITUAL”


Six Steps to Successfully Partnering With an Illustrator by Hannah Fichandler

I can’t draw. Well, that’s not entirely true. At least not the way I once could and certainly not the way an illustrator can. Developing a style, a methodology, a great idea and bringing it to fruition takes a lot of passion and talent. And patience. That’s why I’m happy to partner with someone from this group of gifted folks whenever I can. I’ve been fortunate to work with wide range of illustrators, not just in style or personality, but also locale. The UK has been a hotbed of talent for my needs, but I’ve worked with folks as far away as Japan and as close as, well, across the office (see Vaughn Fender). The digital age and FedEx have made it easy to go global for a great piece of custom art. I’ve also been fortunate to have 99% of these collaborations work out really well. I gather from colleagues and friends in the design industry that I have an impressive track record. (Watch, now I’ve probably jinxed myself). So, that got me pondering: What is it about my process of commissioning an illustration that is so successful and enjoyable? I’ve distilled it down to the following six steps:

1. Reading and re-reading Seems like a no brainer, but the first thing I do, is read. Close the door, shut off iChat, e-mail, iTunes and read. I really try to understand the subject matter of the story/article/brochure. Sometimes it’s a piece of cake, other times it requires serious dissection. 2. Research Now that I understand what’s to be illustrated, I start the research. What kind of style am I looking for to best articulate this piece? What sort of mood or tone? Is there a particular technique that has this story written all over it? Out come the file folders full of tear sheets (Yes, illustrators still mail self promotional materials. If I like their style, they go in the file. Not so much, in the recycle bin.). I cull through those, then head for the Internet. I have a collection of illustrators’ reps sites bookmarked, as well as an ever-evolving list of links to individual artists’ site. I search for that perfect group of potential partners high and low. Not only am I looking for style and technique, but does this artist seem to be conceptually strong as well? I always want someone who can bring strong ideas to the table. The client and I may or may not have some preconceived notions of what the illustration could be, but there’s a great possibility that this new set of eyes could see the piece in a totally different, amazing way we haven’t, and I want and welcome that. Originally written for


When I find one that fits the bill, I grab a cross-section of samples of their work, check out where they are from and went to school (more out of curiosity than anything else), and their contact info. I will use these samples to present to my client. I usually present five to nine different illustrators to my client. This may seem excessive, but it’s not. I’ve picked a group of people that, based on their samples, I’d be happy to collaborate with. Then, I have the client pick their favorite— their “AHA! that’s it!” illustrator from the group, as well as their second and third choice. From time to time, illustrator #1 may not be interested in the subject matter or willing to work within your budget and illustrator #2 may be swamped with work and is not taking anything else on within your time constraints. So having strong options is important. Note: This step can take a long time, but I feel this research is critical. Really finding that perfect group of potential partners is key, as is articulating to your client what you like about this group and what you are looking for in their work as it relates to your client’s project. 3. Honesty This is a two-part step. It falls into two places in the process. First, when I contact the illustrator, and later when they send along their sketches. I usually make initial contact with an illustrator by email. I feel more articulate this way given I have got a lot to say and I like the “paper” trail (plus calls to Japan get pricey). In this email, I’m as clear as I possibly can be about the client, the subject matter, the scope of the project, the timing and the budget. Whenever I can, I include the exact budget number right then and there. If you don’t want to do a full page illustration for $600, that’s fine by me, because rarely is there wiggle room so I’d rather you know right away. I’ve found the more upfront you are, the less time and energy wasted by all parties involved. And, at least in my experience, the more willing the artist is to take it on.

Illustrators shown: left to right and top to bottom: Mark McGinnis, Daniel Krall, Kate Hindley, Edward McGowan and Susy Waters Pilgrim. Commissioned work for Sarah Lawrence Magazine and Mount Sinai’s Science & Medicine.


Second part of honesty comes at the feedback stage. Picture it: The sketches arrive in my inbox. There’s a little knot of excitement in my throat, pulse quickens, open > file. Perfect! Brilliant! OMG awesome idea I’d never thought of! Ew, that doesn’t work. WTF is that supposed to be? Hmm. OK, some really great ideas, some not so hot, but plenty worth sharing with the client. At this point, I reply to the illustrator simply “got them, some good stuff here, will share with client ASAP and get back to you.” All of which is true and it keeps the illustrator from wondering if you like any of them. I’ve been fortunate to never receive an email full of duds. I’m sure this happens (again, perhaps jinxing myself). The client and I review the sketches together in detail. I’m honest about which I like and why and which should be nixed right away. I ask the same of the client. Most times we find that “AHA!” concept. That’s not to say there aren’t often adjustments to be made. And those adjustments, I concisely and honestly relay back to the illustrator. No wishy-washy, “well, we like it but, it’s just not quite there. Something has to change, but I’m not sure what.” It’s: “Let’s go with idea #1, but the woman’s nose is too big. She can’t be wearing pink and the dinosaur should be biting her shoulder not her forearm. More emphasis please on the skyscraper than the dinosaur.” The illustrator appreciates the concise, direct feedback and this makes the round of revisions far less painful for all involved and gets us to final artwork a whole lot quicker. 4. Background information Once the parameters of the project (read: schedule, budget, scope) are agreed to, I put together as much background information as I can for the illustrator. I want them to have as much insight into the subject matter of the piece as possible as well as some understanding of the client. Generally I provide a quick overview of the client: who they are, what they do; any specific thoughts they have on the piece or the subject of the illustration, likes or dislikes they have, colors that can or can’t be used (NO PINK is a popular one in the circles in which I travel). I provide links to their website, as well as the examples of the illustrator’s work I’ve shared with the client so they know the pieces


from their portfolio that resonated with the client. I send external links that I’ve found useful in understanding the subject matter of the piece. In the case of clients that commission illustrations often, I send PDFs of previously produced pieces so the illustrator can see the project as a whole, finished piece and get a feel for where their illustration will be appearing. And, I send any ideas I may have for the illustration. 5. Sketches, sketches, sketches Seems pretty self explanatory, but I always emphasize my desire for a lot of ideas. In pencil. Or pen. Or crayon. However the illustrator wants to work is fine with me. I have noticed a trend where some illustrators are jumping to the computer and delivering more final looking art sooner and sending fewer sketches. I try to respect their process and any time constraints related to my project, but it’s important that I see the exploration and thought process. If I send any ideas I have for the illustration, I hope to see those (if the illustrator agrees it’s a good idea), but I also want to see their ideas as well (See Research). A variety of good sketches result in the best concept chosen, the idea well flushed out, and minimal rounds of revisions, which makes everyone happy! 6. Appreciation at and after approval When that final artwork arrives, I’m giddy. I’m excited to see it and to dive into laying out the piece it belongs to. I immediately share it with the client for final approval asking for a reply as soon as possible. As soon as I hear they love it, I let the illustrator know just how pleased both the client and I are. This goes a long way. A collective sigh of relief is taken knowing the illustration was well received and well done, plus who doesn’t want a pat on the back for their hard work! As soon as I’m done with the layout, I send the illustrator a PDF so they can see how their work and our idea has come to full fruition. Often, I get a response quickly from the illustrator about how excited they are to see it in place. Finally, I make sure copies of the printed piece find their way to the illustrator in a timely fashion. Illustrators appreciate the look, touch and smell of freshly printed materials as much as designers. END

Follow Hannah on Twitter @247Main

Pablo Manuel M. R. - “al Dios de la Rutina”



“Smoker” - Anne Rutherford

Abe Honest - “Ritual”



“Hybrid” - Ashley Niro

Carl Reed - “Ritual”



“Ritual” - Leah Durant


Photo by Julia Stotz


Designer, illustrator, writer, teacher—thing maker. There’s not much that Margot doesn’t do. The first thing you notice about her is her genuine joy for creating, and of course–an obsession with ampersands. Her work is meticulous, clever and very hands on, yet somehow she manages to keep her blog––updated frequently. Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up going full time freelance? I have very humble Midwestern roots, from a family of educators and creative types. Few members of our clan have subscribed to an entirely corporate lifestyle, so I suppose it was inevitable that I found myself in a similar way. I even briefly entertained ideas of becoming a teacher myself, but after my first year at University of Wisconsin-Madison, I switched to Fine Art/Graphic Design because I was really excited about the challenge of adopting a craft. At the time design seemed more sensible than just focusing on art, like I could actually make a living, and I was scared of society’s view of artists as weirdos. After graduation, I packed two suitcases and my net worth of $500 and showed up in Chicago, all starry-eyed with dreams of big city grown-up Life. And I proceeded to work my ass off–through a couple of 9-5 jobs, both as an in-house designer and at agency style places. By the time I got laid off in 2008, The Post Family was picking up speed and that was basically my main inspiration to start my own business. I thought if those knuckle-heads (I say that kindly and with the greatest respect, those dudes really are solid gold) could do something different, why couldn’t I?


How have opportunities been since going freelance? There is always work if you know how to look for it. I think people who are looking to start their own businesses often have trouble imagining how they’ll stay busy. There are periods of slowness, sure, but I do not look for work anymore because it finds me. The opportunities for growth, learning, and improvement are everywhere, so much so that I can become overwhelmed with it all. Like there is almost too much choice and saying no to things is hard, really hard. It’s crazy, intense, thrilling, and equally as terrifying. When/Why did you start (blogging) Pitch Design Union? I quietly started blogging shortly after my lay-off. I’d been a huge, huge blog nerd practically since blogs were invented, and I knew I wanted to have a voice in the community. I also knew it would be a great way to support and promote my business, even if it didn’t bring home direct income from sidebar ads and what not. What is the hardest thing about maintaining your site while juggling your work and travel? I should be posting more. I should have a more defined editorial structure with topics Monday to Friday. I could take more advantage of using Facebook to grow my traffic. Blogging and building a

“ If I write it, I understand it and can translate it back graphically.�

Photo by Julia Stotz


social media presence is essentially a full-time gig, if you want to do it right, but spending that much time on it absolutely affects my bottom line and how many billable hours I can work into a day. It is a constant, never-ending friction between it all, not to mention I also contribute to a handful of other blogs (Outpost, Studio Sweet Studio, Bitbloggers). I’ve given up on trying to find the perfect balance. It doesn’t exist, not with blogging or client work, and certainly not in life. All I know is that some days I knock that shit out of the park, and some days are a total complete mess. I just try to keep my head up and keep going. What would you define as one of your favorite rituals? Anytime I’m feeling stressed, overwhelmed, unorganized, inspired, motivated, ready, I just pick up a skinny Sharpie and start writing and doodling. I’m making and re-making to-do lists all day long. My desk is covered with scribbles and papers—anything important in my brain has to come out through my hands somehow. If I write it, I understand it and can translate it back graphically. In fact, my design for the cover was inspired by the motion of scribbling out tasks when they’ve been completed. It’s such a tiny thing it’s almost unreasonable how happy it makes me, yet it’s full of color and vigor and gives me a huge sense of accomplishment. Can you describe your work process? Coffee, a little Internet, a little email. Look at the problem for a little while, get stumped and return to stare at the Internet. Try to free associate. Think about other things that aren’t work if I can, because that will often spark ideas. Handwringing. Pacing. Refreshing of the twitters. Make another to-do list. More email. More caffeine, tea this time. Sometimes if I’m still stumped I switch environments: my desk at home, my co-working space, or a coffee shop. Literally a change of scenery to jog my brain. I also often I get a second wind around 11pm and will regularly staying up half the night working, which always seems like a great idea at the time, but a bad idea the following morning. 20

How would you describe your aesthetic? Woof. This is a tough one. I’m so close to my work, sometimes uncomfortably so, that I have a hard time putting it into any kind of outside context. Like —it is what it is to me. I will say that I try to cram as much research and aesthetic ANYTHING into my brain because it widens the influence on whatever is going to come back out of me. I would research, read, look, write, hear, watch things all day if I could. I have a gluttonous appetite for culture. You have an obsession with ampersands–when did you notice this? When I first started to learn about typography I would always make a point of looking closely at the ampersands to help me differentiate the nuances of any given font. Soon I was just sketching them all the time; it just became the first thing I would think to draw when I picked up a marker. And then I started sneaking them into my designs, my projects, my writing, even my avatar. It’s now synonymous with my personal brand. What is the most beautiful ampersand you’ve come across? I suppose I like wood type ampersands the best. They are simple, handmade, beautiful as object as well as type. I also like how they are backwards.

“ And, the Typeface� Illustration, collage, screenprinting A self-initiated collaborative ode to the ampersand. With help later from Uppercase Gallery & Typeforce.


“ Vignette” Collage, found objects, photography, paint



Your ampersand project was a massive undertaking. Share the process behind this project? This is one of those things that just arrived in my brain as a perfectly formed idea—like why isn’t there a font of ampersands in the world? I already had a personal attachment to the character anyway, so it seemed like a collaboration was the next natural conclusion. Especially since I hadn’t really done much in the way of interacting with any other creatives since starting my business. So I emailed 25 awesome people and asked for their submissions. What I didn’t exactly plan for was an exit strategy and soon the project grew and evolved far further than I expected. Somewhere well into the process, I realized when you are working with submissions they can take completely mind-blowingly awesome directions and sometimes you have to be willing to adjust your plans to accommodate them. In fact, several of the submitted ampersand weren’t well suited for use in the typeface at all. But I couldn’t just sit on the beautiful work people had crafted from me, some of it intensely detailed. They were far too amazing and we were too far along for me to just scrap it. I seized up a little bit when this struck me. I didn’t have a plan B and I couldn’t think of a way to resolve the issue. In the end, six months of simmering yielded two installations. One was curated by Janine Vangool of Uppercase Gallery in Calgary and the other was a massive installation/object collage for Typeforce 1 (a big annual design show here in Chi-town). After that, I declared victory on the project and moved onto other work. How did the installations for Vignette and Re: Classified manifest? Post 27 is Chicago’s best furniture and interior design stores—at least in my opinion. We’ve been collaborating on and off for three years now on mostly practical projects to help build the store’s brand, but occasionally more unusual events and parties come along. I have great creative freedom there. I’m able to explore design and art-making off the computer through objects, interiors, and fashion. Vignette was a collaborative design “spectacle” where certain parts of the store were cordoned off 24

and build out as really intricate landscapes, almost like stage sets. There was a speakeasy theme to the event and I riffed on that to a huge degree, trying to draw connections between bygone times with modern flavor. Both Vignette and Re-Classified show my love of clipboards as well. They’re such a timeless symbol of efficiency and authority to me and they have aged well in our digital age. However, with Re-Classified, the aim was to package vintage office supplies with the clipboards and sell them as little productivity and inspiration kits. The thinking here was was that even if you can’t have a perfect office or be perfectly organized, you can have a small piece of perfection with the kit itself. Where do you turn to for inspiration? Well, the short answer is everywhere. The more I can milk from every moment, the better my work becomes, but I’m sure most creative people would say that though. But recently, I’m paying a lot of attention to sub-cultures—all kinds. Each is so unique and I love to watch how they develop and manifest, especially aesthetically. Street art, hip hop, bike culture, craft, slow food, blogging, politics, even cultures that I don’t personally connect with are interesting to me. Who are the most influential creatives who inspire you? Oh man. I could go on at length here. Every single person I’ve met in real life by way of the internet has proven to be fantastically inspiring. Chicago’s also got some major deep talent that influences me on many levels. The design & screen-printing community here is incredibly close. We have each other’s backs until forever. It truly feels like family in some ways. Can you tell us about some of your favorite collaborations/collaborators? Kate Bingaman-Burt runs a really swell speaker series for her students at Portland State University. I’m jealous of those kids, they’re getting really top-notch talent. Locally, The Post Family, Quite Strong, my studio mates at Rational Park, the Show ‘N Tell Show, 37signals. There’s also Public School in Austin and Studio Sweet Studio in Minneapolis/Brooklyn.


must have Art & Design Books in Margot’s Library

Art/Work, Everything You Need to Know (and do) as You Pursue Your Art Career

Installation Art Ginko Press

Heather Darcy Bhandari and Jonathan Melber

Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein It’s every bit as good as when you were a kid. His was one of the first illustration styles I remember noticing and it’s eternally burned in my brain.

Rework Jason Fried

The Business of Design: Balancing Creativity & Profitability Keith Granet 25

“ Nothing is F*cked Here Dude” Screenprint, collage Printervention, a poster show modeled after the Work’s Progress Association (WPA).


“ Proximity Magazine� Contributing designer


“ The Yellow Book” Bookbinding, collage Self-initiated project


“ The Rules, by Sister Corita Kent� Transfer paper, pencil Site-specific installation for Support at the Chicago Artists Coalition. Curated by Quite Strong.



Photo by Julia Stotz

Visit Margot’s website for more info: See more pieces from her portfolio here:

Can you tell us a bit about “The Things We Make” book project? So, main themes in my work we’ve established so far: ampersands, clipboards and books. My love for books, in any form, incarnation, or style goes way back to childhood for me—far longer than my love for ampersands. Yet, I’ve so far rejected the natural instinct to just write one like a normal person, and instead, I seem to want to collage in or on them, alter their pages and form, and generally challenge their “bookishness” in any way I can think of. I also decided that there wasn’t going to be anyone who would ever ask for the book I had in mind, so I just made it for myself. And that became The Things We Make, which is over 200 hundred pages, all hand-bound with a screenprinted cover and plenty of fun goodies tucked inside. It’s partly a manifesto to the process, especially art processes that are epically time-consuming (I put about 40 hours into assembly alone, for just one book). But it’s also part sketchbook, part zine and is an experience to flip through. Are there any interests you have yet to pursue? I want to develop my illustration skills more. I want to figure out what sort of pictures I like to take and then teach myself to make them. I want to do more work-related traveling. I want to bake bread with predicable results. I should also eventually bone up and do that half marathon I’ve been putting off.

What is your ideal workspace? Any quiet place with great light and a blazingly fast Internet connection. I require very little aside from the basics. I could work on organizing my office a little better, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with my set-up now. Or, as soon as I get myself a new computer, then I’ll be happy. What’s your current favorite art piece on your wall? That’s like asking me to pick my favorite child! Can’t do it. Chad and I just did a tour of our apartment on Design Sponge and our collection is pretty bonkers. Any advice for soon to be creative grads? If you feel awkward and a bit uncomfortable, you’re doing it right. And make a huge, conscious effort to work with and for people you actually enjoy being aroun; people who you’d want to have over to your house for dinner. What’s next? I’m speaking at two conferences this spring: Moxie Con in Chicago and Weapons of Mass Creation in Cleveland. Both will be big firsts for me! Otherwise, I’m happy to just keep going, just keep making. I’ve got supportive family and friends; that’s enough for now. I know it’s so lame to say that, but I don’t care, clichés are true sometimes. END



“Winter Lynx” (© Digital Artist Magazine) - Sandra Dieckmann

“Ritual” - Avril Kelly



“Sacrifice” - Conrad Crespin

“Ritual Bonding” - Samantha Dolan



“ritual” - Sojung Kim

“Commuters” - Ruth M. Mitchener



“Ritual” - Natasha Waddon

“Ritual” - Sarah Palisi



“Ritual” - Lewis Currie

“Bookcase no.4 (Epstein)” - Jonathan Kelhm



“nihil ausus, nihil acquisitus� - Laura Redburn

“RITUAL” - Janet Kershaw








1. Black Up - Shabazz Palaces 2. Vows - Kimbra 3. Habits &

Compiled by Alice Grandoit of HomeBaseNYC It’s an honor to share my world of music with you again. Here are a few albums that you may (or may not) have missed in this section’s absence. A few items on this list are from 2011, but are definitely worth another spin. My annual spring music ritual is to compile a mixtape for festival season, championing soon to be superstars. Consider this my pseudo SXSW mixtape turned playlist.


Contradictions - School Boy Q 4. Bright Lights EP - Gary Clark Jr. 5. It’s Not the Same - Liam Bailey 6. Awe Natural - Thee Satisfaction










7. Lost & Found - Lianne La Havas 8. Brooklyn Knight - Sene 9. Alabama Shakes 10. Look Around the Corner - Quantic & Alice Russell 11. Black Radio - Robert Glasper 12. SBTRKT 13. 93 Million Miles - Africa Hitech 14. Section.80 - Kendrick Lamar



“living the spiritual dreams” - James Moore

“RITUAL” - M.J. Lindo



“Tea and scones” - Kitty Reagan

“RITUAL” - Gabs Romagna


ISSUE 9 Editor / Designer Vaughn Fender @vaughnfender

Writer / Editor Hannah Fichandler @247main

Writer / Educator Shannon Duggan @sduggs

Follow us on twitter @PeculiarBliss Check out the FEED



Margot Harrington

Leah Durant

Laura Redburn

Julia Stotz

Sandra Dieckmann

Janet Kershaw

Tadas Vainoras

Avril Kelly

James Moore

Evita Weed

Conrad Crespin

Daksheeta Pattni

Samantha Dolan

Matt Hunsberger

Sojung Kim

Pablo Manuel M. R.

Ruth M. Mitchener

Anne Rutherford

Natasha Waddon

Abe Honest​photos/abehonest

Sarah Palisi

Ashley Niro

Lewis Currie

Carl Reed

Jonathan Kelhm

M.J. Lindo Kitty Reagan Gabs Romagna Muxxi

Illustrators Featured on Page 9 Mark McGinnis - Daniel Krall - Kate Hindley - Edward McGowan - Susy Waters Pilgrim -

ISSUE 9 - Q1 - 2012

“RITUAL” - Muxxi


Photo by Julia Stotz

We are now accepting submissions for the theme:

“HUMOR” Submission Deadline 06.22.12

Content: We are open to all mediums—doodles, photography, digital, paintings, collages, etc. All work should be sent by email. Please submit work to with the title of the current theme. Guidelines: 1. Dimensions: 10 x 10 Inches 2. Please create your work high res and provide a copy @ 100 dpi. 3. Provide your contact info with all submissions. 4. Only send work you want to have considered for publication.



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