Archive for the ‘illustration’ Category

Monster Haiku

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012


So Wednesday was The Day! Art (mine) and poetry (Will’s) have come together to help raise money for some babies. Josh and I have been working very hard on this project.

In 2009, I started 52ills - a blog dedicated to creating one illustration a week for a year. It was tough finding time and inspiration to keep at it all year long, but I made it to 2010 with 52 new drawings and a lot more experience.

Now, with help from Will’s awesome poems, I’ve grown some of those little drawings into full fledged book spreads.  It’s 54 pages of adorable, ornery monsters. Some of the captions from the original 52ills posts remain — they are not haiku — but most of the poems found within Monster Haiku Vol. 1 are by Will.

We started taking pre-orders at 6am on Wednesday, and every time someone buys anything I do a little dance. Also, I can see everyone’s address, which honestly freaks me out. I promise to only use this info for shipping, and not so show up on anyone’s doorstep. Unless of course they have pie, in which case, y’know, all bets are off.

Josh and I set out to give a certain amount of money to March of Dimes at the beginning of the year. After some discussion, we decided we would reinvest that money into a project in the hopes of raising more than our personal finances could swing. As of 4pm on Wednesday, we had met and exceeded our original monetary donation goal. That alone made all the work that went into this project worth while.

But hey, aim big, right? Our next milestone is more ambitious, and we’ve got some fun things planned for the month of February to engage people and hopefully keep their minds (and wallets) open.

You can purchase Monster Haiku Vol. 1, along with posters, cards and original artwork at We’ll also be updating our Facebook on a daily basis with all sorts of goodies.

Dang and Double Dang

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

It’s been so long since I blogged, I forgot how to log in to this bad boy. So sad.

I haven’t even been busy. I’ve just been unmotivated.

You know what helps get those gears moving? Going to Hawaii. But it’s not the beach, it’s the atmosphere… and the beach. The beach is pretty cool, too. Also? MANGOS.


Here, have a coconut monster.

I’ve got a bit of my wind back for creative projects — which is good, considering I have an art show in April.  But for now, the Rachel Train is focusing on illustration and writing.

September 1st will be first blood on D3, the last book in the series. I know, I know, I’ve said it before. But I turn a significant number in May of 2011, and while age doesn’t bother me in the least, missing serious goals does — and once upon, I decreed that I would finish this series before I was 30. So: GAME ON.

And also, we are going here for my birthday, and if I’m not done with the story by then, the end will resolve with Voldemorte and some cute kid with Lennon glasses with Dobby riding piggy back on his shoulders all exploding in one epic magical kaboom.

I typed that bit with a British accent even; you can see the danger.


Despite a vacation, I have been feeling overwhelmed. Let’s shake it off. Let’s go get’em, tiger. Let’s be FEARLESS.

rawrnoldsager, signing off.

Rock the Streets

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

I have some pieces up for auction at Pittsburgh’s Rock the Streets on June 12th. Proceeds benefit Community Human Services, which is pretty rad, so you should totally go bid on some great art.

I was especially excited to put up my piece from 2007’s Creative Marathon at the now-defunct Creative Treehouse in Bellevue (tear). This baby took approximately 24 hours to create (although there was a nap in there somewhere).


 Title: Creative Treehouse
Medium: Acrylic on masonite + sleep-deprived, energy-drink fueled tears

It’s been hanging in my studio since then, but since my studio re-design it no longer has a place to hang. Instead of allowing it to sit around and collect dust (and water damage, like some of my other aging items, boo) it was time to pass it on. Hopefully, someone will enjoy it as much as I liked making it.  Here’s your chance to own a piece of Pittsburgh art history!

The upside-down bird is my favorite, although the @ slug is fun too. Goooo art!

1,000 Paintings; 10,000 Hours

Monday, March 29th, 2010


While at Bellevue’s wonderful Affogato this week, we were discussing what we did for a living and our various expertise levels in it. My girlfriend mentioned Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that 10,000 hours is a magic number: that it doesn’t necessarily take exceptional talent or passion to get good at something, but if you spend 10,000 hours doing anything you become an expert at it by default.

I’ve heard similar theories. In art school, we were told you’ve got 1,000 crap paintings in you, so you’d better get them out of the way. I’ve also found a similar sentiment about writing — there’s 1,000,000 terrible words you have to write before you’re good. Write them now so you can begin producing quality work.

I have, since college and by rough estimate:

  • Spent approximately 18,650 hours designing.
  • Spent approximately 1,000 hours making art/illustrations.
  • Spent approximately 2,000 hours writing, having written approximately 400,000 words.
  • Spent approximately 29,200 hours sleeping.

10,000 hours is apparently a lot of hours. The above are estimates, but I would have guessed I spent way more time making art and writing than I actually did.*

Outside of arbitrary numbers divisible by ten, these rules all have the same idea — practice makes perfect, which is something I can absolutely get behind.

What’s interesting is that my day job is design — the reason my hours are so high for designing is because I’m doing it for 40 - 50 hours a week, for almost nine years. Despite exceeding the magic mark for hours, I would not consider myself an expert. Good, yes… I feel confident that I can solve any visual problem you can throw me. But an “expert”? No, there are people doing bigger and better than I in the land of design. I love it, but if it wasn’t my day job, I doubt I’d get near 10,000.

I haven’t read Gladwell’s book, this isn’t a review. This is simply an observation about a theory presented second-hand. I will say seeing the time I’ve spent doing some of the things I’m passionate about makes me re-evaluate them. Ultimately, as long as I love doing it I will continue to design and write and illustrate.

But I also wonder how much time I’ve spent with family and friends, or on the road to see those friends or family, or waiting for bus or food. Time I’ve spent cooking or working out or online. I don’t want or need to quantify these.

There are 10,000 hours in 417 days. I say a well-rounded life is one spent filling those hours with passions — both professional and personal — even if you never get ground-breakingly awesome at any them.

Let’s have a beer soon.

My my, look at what a philosophical turn this took.

*Not that any number of hours incorporating a comma is something to shake a stick at. And dang, I’ve got mad skills at sleeping. Go ahead, quiz me.

People that are way more awesome than me

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010


Pardon me while I continue to bask in the success of my 2009 illustration project.

Here’s a VH1 Behind the Music-esque share: the original incarnation of 52ills was actually 365ills until common sense kicked in. I knew there would be days where sitting down to draw just wasn’t going to happen, not when I work full-time AND do some freelance AND try and work on my current novel. Also, @joshsager laughed like a madman when I mentioned it. So supportive, that guy.

Anyway, a weekly project won out.

Here are some people that did (or are doing) what I couldn’t.

These folks (and the brave souls I didn’t dig deep enough to find) deserve applause, admiration and very probably… a drink.

Reference vs. Theft

Monday, March 8th, 2010


I got started on a personal illustration project on Sunday morning. Said illustration includes a mountie hat.

The problem: I don’t actually know what a mountie hat looks like.

I mean, I had a good idea off the top of my head — brown with a flat wide brim, some kind of strip around the bottom of a lumpy bowl. However, to keep things accurate, I went and found some reference.

Josh brought up the question of whether this was stealing someone else’s work or not.

It’s a good question. Here’s my take on it, and I’d love to hear other ideas on the subject.

To me, using visual reference — especially from the bottomless pit that is the internet — is a fact-finding mission only. In the case of this mountie hat, I used the above link to see what the hats generally look like: to see what kind of brown they are, how proportionally wide the brim is, what kind of trim they have, and what kind of shape the upper bowl is.

I did not copy any of these hats. I did not copy parts of these hats and assemble them into a whole hat. In the end, I wound up with a hat that looks like a mountie hat, based on the information I garnered from those other hats.

I would never straight out copy someone else’s work, whatever the medium. But what about general info — size, color, where a buckle appears, etc. — is that stepping over the line? What do you think?

Just Say No

Sunday, February 21st, 2010


Learning to say “no” to people is tough, and can make you feel like a jerk in the moment; but it is oh-so-necessary, in both business and your personal life. If you say “yes” to every project or favor that comes your way, you can set yourself — and anyone you’re working with — on a path toward potential disappointment.

I’ve gotten much better at saying “no” in my personal life. Professionally, I’ve been trying to focus more on the creative projects I want to work on. That means I need to withdraw from tasks that don’t fit into my time table or wheelhouse… which is easier said than done. Walking away is especially challenging when you are short on change and could simply use a few extra bucks. And when a project falls into your lap… why not take advantage of it? Seems quick and easy, right?

Lessons I learned from my most recent project:

  • It is never quick and easy. Never ever.
  • The client inquiring about your services needs to understand what you provide. For me, I need to point them to my portfolio and make sure that they know what my artistic style is — I don’t do soft charcoals or life-like sketches. On the flipside, maybe ask for some examples of what they like. This helps make sure everybody’s on the same page, and can save time and energy later.
  • Be aware of the subject matter. This project was for a religious blog and in this particular case meant detail work. My style tends to be rather simplistic and cutesy — robed Jesus is neither of these, and it was not a natural fit.
  • Custom work will always take longer than you think it will. Illustrations will take four times longer than the client thinks they will. I need to charge appropriately for the time involved, even when it scares someone away. My time is worth more money than what I’m usually charging, and I could use that time to do something more personally fulfilling (which could in turn lead to a better paying, more Rachel-appropriate project down the road).

The gentleman I worked with on this project was an absolute pleasure to correspond with, and I believe all parties were pleased in the end. Unfortunately, I now have a final product that will not go into my portfolio, because it is not a style I’d like to do again in the future. Now I know I need to better probe potential clients for what they’re looking for, make sure it fits into what I do, and be brave enough to say “no thanks” if we aren’t both going to benefit from working together.

SPX 2009 Awesomeness

Friday, October 2nd, 2009


100% Road Trip Success.

After finding out Friday night that our roadmates were unable to make the trip with us, Josh and I piled in the car and made the drive after work. Getting out of town was exciting, what with the G20 wrapping up and traffic at a stand-still while the World’s Important People left Pittsburgh.

It was nice to wake up in Baltimore, especially when your wake up call is a jolly little adorable cockapoo. We had a nice relaxing morning, preaching the gospel of the One-Eyed Egg and getting our game faces on for the day’s main event.

SPX was in full swing when we got there around 1 pm. An SPX is a sight to behold. There’s about a bajillion people inside a giant hotel ballroom, and everything is awesome. Even the not-so-awesome stuff? Still awesome.

In a move that pretty much sums up our personalities, Josh disappeared to make 10 purchases right off the bat, while Justin and I made an initial sweep to get the lay of the land, then jumped back in to buy stuff. I did get to chat briefly with both John Allison and Scott C and I played a little with the knight. Scott C was kind enough to drive home my regret of not having business cards, because he politely asked for one. I tried to beam my information directly into his head, but I regret it probably did not make much of an impression. Alas.


Josh got about fifty pounds worth of goodies, and while I am Miss Frugal, the (Arnold)Sager household brought home some gems. I have Scott C’s Double Fine Action Comics Volume 1 and a print of his Tree Spirit.

John Alison’s Ghost is awesome. Of course it’s awesome.

Dustin Harbin’s Nutted is a mini comic that names a variety of ways to get hit in the nuts and it is about 100% delightful. I keep reading it over and over.  It is always funny when dudes get hit in the nuts. I am sorry… and also happy I do not have the referenced equipment.

I am slowly invading Josh’s pile, and Julia Wentz’s 2nd Volume of The Fart Party is damn good. I was glad to see she had a second volume, since Josh’s purchase of the first volume was our surprise favorite last year.


Josh and I have plans to get a table next year, so we’ll get a whole different perspective. Justin also broke down his first SPX experience — check it out! Vendors take note!


Also, if you find yourself in Baltimore for any reason, eat at Miss Shirley’s. So super tasty!

The Internet: The Bottomless Pit

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Once upon a time, Josh made a cute little computer ninja illustration and put it on his blog. Last year, a college student contacted him to see if it would be okay to use the little ninja on some shirts they were printing for the school. He said yes, and they sent him a shirt.

By chance, Josh saw a new student wearing a shirt that also featured this same ninja, albeit altered to be holding a baseball glove and from an area high school. Nobody asked that time. How many people have used that little drawing without his permission?

At least it was for a simple T-shirt design — chances are no one made any money off of it.

I am familiar with the feeling of seeing your work used for a purpose you did not intend it for. It’s a “Hey, waittaminute!”, with a flush of anger accompanied by a sour, sick sensation in your stomach. It is not a nice feeling.

It makes me think hard about, one of my ongoing illustration projects. I’m basically putting artwork out there for anyone to steal. Please do not mistake me: I’m not under any delusions of grandeur here. There are not a lot of uses out there for an illustration of a fish on a leash or zombie pigeons. But it is a concern. I put a little signature on each of these images, but I’m not going to obnoxiously watermark them. I keep the quality at a level where one could print it out and hang it in a cubicle or locker if they wished, but would need to contact me if they wanted a print of any quality. I think that’s fair.

It doesn’t do much to soothe the mind, but there you go. Support your local artists… because someone out there could be ripping them off.

Recent Drawrings

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Here’s some backgrounds I did for a great site called iTwixie,
a great social networking hangout for tween girls.