Strange, But Sweet: Illustrations by Esmé Shapiro

Esmé Shapiro

Esmé Shapiro is a Brooklyn-based illus­tra­tor who recently grad­u­ated from the Rhode Island School of Design.  Her col­or­ful works are a com­bi­na­tion of tight draw­ing and free-flowing pig­ment, with some strange char­ac­ters sprin­kled in her com­po­si­tions. A giraffe with four(?) eyes, a cat island, and plenty of naked buns are seen through­out. My favorite illus­tra­tions fea­ture her lush veg­e­ta­tion (which is like, all of them).

Esmé has an Etsy shop, and she recently started a mural busi­ness, too. Neat!

Esmé Shapiro Esmé Shapiro8 esme7 esme6 esme5 esme4 esme3esme9

10 Books for the Illustration Lover on Your Gift List

1. The Who the What and the When by Julia Roth­man, Jenny Volvovski and Matt Lamothethewho-book

It’s prob­a­bly time you started your hol­i­day shop­ping (I’m writ­ing this as a reminder to myself…), and if you have an illustration-lover on your list, I’ve put together a short list of sug­ges­tions. Some books were recently released while oth­ers have been out for some time. I’ve included infor­ma­tive draw­ings, inspir­ing tales, graphic nov­els, and even a children’s book! So, this short list runs the gamut.

Do you have an illustration(ish) book you’re pin­ing over? Or, one you love? Let me know on Twit­ter or Face­book!


2. Fifty Years of Illus­tra­tion by Lawrence Zee­gen and Car­o­line Roberts

3. Play­ing with Sketches by Whit­ney Sherman

4. Col­lage: Con­tem­po­rary Artists Hunt and Gather, Cut and Paste, Mash Up and Trans­form by Danielle Krysa (AKA The Jeal­ous Cura­tor)

5. 120 Ways to Annoy Your Mother (And Influ­ence Peo­ple) by Ana Benaroya

6. Nobrow Issue No. 9 (a dou­ble issue!)
Sadly, this is out of stock on their web­site, but you can prob­a­bly find it at your favorite inde­pen­dant book­store!

7. Draw­ing is Magic by John Hen­drix

8. This One Sum­mer by Mariko Tamaki and Jil­lian Tamaki (illus­tra­tor)

Cur­rently read­ing this one. Great so far!

9. Aste­r­ios Polyp by David Maz­zuc­chelli
This is an old-y, but a good-y. Absolutely one of my favorite (if not my favorite!) graphic nov­els; it’s a poignant, beautifully-drawn, and multi-facted story. Excuse me while I go and read it for the umpeenth time.

10. Ah-Ha to Zig-Zag: 31 Objects from Cooper Hewitt, Smith­son­ian Design Museum by Maira Kalman

Friday Roundup: 10 Illustrative Calendars to Buy

1. Mr. Pike: The Great Gen­tle­man Cal­en­dar
Mr. Pike

The last cou­ple of months of the year are all about count­downs; the time left until Black Friday/Cyber Mon­day, hol­i­days, and of, course the new year. Time is tick­ing for you to buy a 2015 cal­en­dar. But luck­ily, there are ton of awe­some ones out there! Here are 10 illus­tra­tive cal­en­dars for your desk, wall, or even your kitchen!

Mr. Pike

2. Paper Pusher
Paper Pusher

3. 1canoe2

4. Gin­giber: Cat Desk Cal­en­dar

5. red­cruiser: Beer/Food Cal­en­dar
beer-food beer-food2

6. Anthro­polo­gie: Vikki Chu
vikki vikki2

7. Press­bound: Let­ter­press Desk Cal­en­dar
pressbound1 pressbound2

8. Frankie Cal­en­dar
frankie frankie2

9. Akiko da Silva: Daruma Dolls Cal­en­dar

10. Laura Berger: Honor Your Jour­ney Cal­en­dar
laurageorge laurageorge2

Boyoun Kim’s Visually-Enticing Illustrations

Boyoun Kim

File the above illus­tra­tion under “things I want to eat.” I live across the street from a Dunkin Donuts, and it takes all my willpower not to buy a sour cream donut from there every morn­ing! Great job, Boy­oun Kim, for mak­ing these treats look so appealing.

In addi­tion to food, Boy­oun has cre­ated edi­to­r­ial images for a num­ber of esteemed clients like Planspon­sor mag­a­zine, The New Yorker, The Wash­ing­ton Post, and more. Although her work is first and fore­most meant for these pub­li­ca­tions, the illus­tra­tions stand alone as screen prints that you’d hang on your wall.

Boyoun Kim moveforward_800 EAT003_800 chickenland_800 Bkim_challenges_final_RGB_800 bicycle_800 Age_800

Illustrations by Marina Munn


Some­times, there’s an image — an aha moment of sorts — that makes me go, “yes, I will fea­ture this per­son on Brown Paper Bag.” The above pic­ture by illus­tra­tor Marina Munn was it for me. A cosmo cat! Wear­ing a space hel­met! How great.

Marina lives and works in Lon­don, and cre­ates slightly odd illus­tra­tions of fig­ures and plants. I’m always attracted to awe­some shape design, so I was imme­di­ately drawn to that, as well as the strange char­ac­ters that star in her compositions.


Everything Nice: Ben Javens & a Parkin Recipe

ben javens

I love bak­ing, and I espe­cially enjoy mak­ing things that I’ve never tasted before. So, I’m super excited to share Every­thing Nice, a Brown Paper Bag series that com­bines sweet treats and illus­trated prod­ucts (two of my favorite things!).

I’ve teamed up with Dave and Sally of To Dry For and Beast in Show for Every­thing Nice, and I’m high­light­ing some of the awe­some illus­tra­tors that they work with. The UK-based busi­nesses pro­duce things like tea tow­els, mugs, and cush­ions that are bright, col­or­ful, and will totally brighten your day.

For this project, I chose 3 illus­tra­tors whose work I admired, and then I asked them what their favorite baked good was. Through­out the course of Every­thing Nice, I’ll make their sweet treat and show you how to do it, too. Plus, you’ll see their work in action.

IMG_6297 The tea towel is by Lucie Sheri­dan, and the happy-looking mug is by Ben Javens.

I’m excited to share the first install­ment of this series. Ben Javens is an awe­some illus­tra­tor who cre­ates happy, bold images. He also enjoys parkins, a sponge cake from North­ern Eng­land that uses molasses, gin­ger, oat­meal, and more.


Now, I’ve never made (or eaten) a parkin, and being from the US, I had to do a lit­tle research on medium oat­meal and golden syrup. The recipe is below. I hap­pen to have a kitchen scale, so the it made the mea­sure­ments for it easy peasy. I’d highly rec­om­mend one (because I suck at conversions).



Prep time: 15 min­utes | Cook time: 1 hour
Source: BBC Good Food

  • 200g but­ter, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 200g golden syrup
  • 85g molasses
  • 85g light soft brown sugar
  • 100g medium oatmeal
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger

1. Pre­heat the oven to 160C/320F. Line a 9 inch-square bak­ing pan with parch­ment paper. Beat the egg and milk together with a fork.

2. Melt the syrup, molasses, sugar, and but­ter in a sauce pan until the sugar has dis­solved. Remove it from the heat.

3. Mix together the oat­meal, flour, and gin­ger, and stir the dry ingre­di­ents into the syrup mix­ture. Then, add in the egg and milk.

4. Pour the bat­ter into the pre­pared pan and bake it for 50 min­utes — 1 hour. Of course, this depends on your oven. Mine took right around 50, although I checked on it after 45 min­utes. The cake should feel firm and look a lit­tle crusty on top.

Once cool, wrap it in parch­ment paper and foil. The BBC rec­om­mends keep­ing it in wraps for 3–5 days before eat­ing because it’ll become softer and stick­ier the longer you leave it. Mine? I lasted a day.


Per­fect for some couch time and books!

ben javens

ben javens

Beast in Show makes Ben’s babushka mini cush­ion. They also pro­duce the Bernard book by Rob Jones.


The next install­ment of Every­thing Nice will be in a cou­ple of weeks! Stay tuned.

Kitiya Palaskas’ Craft-Based Pizza (+More) Designs

Kitiya Palaskas

Kitiya Palaskas is a craft-based designer who cre­ates play­ful, col­or­ful objects. Amy first intro­duced me to her work via Insta­gram. And, I was hooked! They are fun, felt and crepe paper-centric objects and pen­dants. I love how she takes these mate­ri­als beyond birth­day party dec­o­ra­tions and trans­forms them into delicious-looking designs that caught the eye of com­pa­nies like Etsy, West Elm, and many more.

Check out her blog for works in progress and to see what Kitiya finds inspirational.

Kitiya Palaskaskitias-kitias-2 kitias-3 kitias-14

kitias-6kitias-7kitias-5kitias-12 kitias-13


Happy Holidays! Festive Header Illustration by Hiné Mizushima

Hiné Mizushima

It’s the last new header illus­tra­tion of 2014! If you look at the top of the page, you’ll see part of this fes­tive arrange­ment by crafter Hiné Mizushima. The delight­ful image fea­tures small objects like pep­per­mints, a snow­man, and ever­green trees. This isn’t the first of Hiné’s col­lage pho­tographs that have caught my eye. Camp­ing, New Years, and sci­ence are just some of the other ones she’s made.

I talked to Hiné about her pic­ture in a short interview.

Loca­tion: Van­cou­ver, Canada
Web­sites:, and
What was your dream job when you were 7 years old? I wanted to be a girls’ Manga artist, really!
Your pro­fes­sion now: Needle-felter / Slow Crafter / Illus­tra­tor / Pup­pet Stop-Motion Ani­ma­tion Video Artist
hine2What’s your favorite thing to make? Octo­pus, squid, slug, etc…
How did you cre­ate your illus­tra­tion? Was it any dif­fer­ent than your reg­u­lar process? For minia­ture col­lages, there is usu­ally a theme, so I look for minia­ture items which fit the theme. I look in my minia­ture col­lec­tion boxes and at felt stuff that I have already made. Then if I needed them, I make more hand­made items from felt/fabric/paper/wood, and buy more plastic/wooden minia­ture items from online shops & local stores. At the same time, I choose the back­ground color. And then I com­pose all the items on the back­ground, and pho­to­graph it! It’s much sim­pler than my felt sculp­ture process.

Hiné Mizushima Where do you find all of these delight­fully small objects? Have you always been a col­lec­tor? I’m not a col­lec­tor, but I have always liked small vin­tage things. Ever since I started work­ing on stop-motion video jobs for They Might Be Giants, I have been con­sciously col­lect­ing small things which I might use in videos. I usu­ally find small objects at Japan­ese online shops, or on Etsy, or when I travel. So recently, when I started this kind of illus­tra­tion (minia­ture col­lages), I already had lots of small objects!
Do you have any excit­ing projects on the hori­zon?
Yes! One of them would be a com­mis­sioned adver­tis­ing project for a big non-profit orga­ni­za­tion in US. I have been mak­ing a minia­ture col­lage which I will pho­to­graph. They will use it for posters, web­sites, etc. The other com­mis­sioned project is for a cool mak­ers’ lab/cafe in Tokyo. For that one, I can make a ‘thing’ with some beau­ti­ful recy­cled dried flow­ers that they will pro­vide, and I can use their laser cut­ting machine & 3D printer for mak­ing any­thing I want (I send them my Illus­tra­tor data, they send me back the actual items). Then they will exhibit my fin­ished art­work at their lab. And I just got a new book cover design job yes­ter­day!

Thanks, Hiné!

Two Hungry (Knitted) Birds by Clare Sams


I have a pen­chant for faux ani­mals placed in the real world. So, I’m dig­gin’ these two knit­ted birds by Clare Sams - she made a seag­ull and a pigeon snack­ing on chicken and chips! I’m impressed by her abil­ity to cre­ate these tiny, believ­able forms that I wouldn’t mind cud­dling with.

Do you enjoy every­day, knit­ted objects as much as I do? Then check out this com­fort food by Jes­sica Dance!


Sara Goes West (for Thanksgiving)

It’s Thanks­giv­ing here in the US, and I’m faaarrr away from Bal­ti­more and soak­ing up the sun of south­ern Utah! I’m tak­ing this oppor­tu­nity to recharge and bake a pump­kin pie. I’ll see ya’ll on Monday!

In the mean­time, check out my roundup of illus­tra­tors to fol­low on Tum­blr and Insta­gram.

Col­lage Scrap Exchange par­tic­i­pants: I’m about halfway through send­ing my match emails! If you haven’t received yours yet, hang tight. You’ll get your partner’s infor­ma­tion by the end of next week. Thanks for your patience!