Win a spot in The Ultimate Portfolio Builder! (Comments Closed)

See the winner here.

Together with our friends at Make it in Design, we are offering a very special prize to ONE very lucky reader - one free place on the next The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design – The Ultimate Portfolio Builder course worth $895 (£579).

Places on this course are strictly limited and are highly sought after, but one person from this competition will be guaranteed a place! 

The Ultimate Portfolio Builder is an advanced seven-week online professional surface pattern design course, consisting of an intense five-week class followed by two weeks of design reviews. The classroom is accessible 24/7 so you can join from anywhere in the world, and fit the course into your busy life.

This powerful course will give you all the tools and advice you need to grow, refine and strengthen your professional design portfolio, make your designs more sellable and give you the fast-track to trade show success.

Brought to you in association with Printsource, one of the top surface and textile design shows in the world, this course will provide you with exclusive insight to help you secure the right buyers for your work, deal effectively with clients, get trade show ready and discover the secrets to landing your dream work. Plus one lucky person on the course will win a free booth at Printsource Aug 2016 and $1,000 to get you to New York! 

Course alumni have gone on to launch their own design studios, win national awards, be featured in design books, on leading blogs and more. Fancy a bit of this action too? Read on to find out how to enter.

The Ultimate Portfolio Builder includes:

  • Five weeks of exceptional in-depth teaching on subject matter (objects, characters, nature, geometrics, typography and abstract), colour and media, the power of recolouring, designing for occasions, genre and style, audience and market and so much more

  • A series of advanced design challenges to help you grow as a designer and build a strong, rounded portfolio

  • An array of LIVE briefs from real companies looking to sign the next big talent – is it you?

  • A series of video based technical masterclasses from guest designers on typography, characters, photography, mixed media collages and more, to hone your professional design skills

  • Invaluable individual work reviews from Rachael Taylor, Janine Burrows and Khristian A. Howell

  • Insight into the practicalities of managing a growing design studio

  • Trade show planning advice direct from Printsource New York

  • Opportunity to put questions to Rachael Taylor

  • 90 days’ free access to the top trend forecasting site WGSN


  • One lucky person on the course will win a free booth at Printsource New York, August 2016 and $1,000 towards the cost of travel to the show

  • An incredible four-part creative brief from Printsource to help you attract the clients you want and the kind of work you dream of

  • Bonus material on managing your finances, how to be your own career strategist and thinking outside the box

  • Access to a huge library of textures to give your work depth and distinction

  • Access to exclusively styled room set images ready-made for you to render your designs on

  • A selection of colour palettes intended to help you push your colour choices

  • And a whole lot more – this course really is jam-packed full of goodness!


The prize: ONE place on The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design – The Ultimate Portfolio Builder course starting September 21, 2015, delivered on-line.

How to enter: 

Check out the course website to find out more about it, then come back to this post and leave a comment with a link to your website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram so that we can contact you and write in no more than 50 words why this course would benefit you right now and how it could transform your design career.

Deadline: 5pm GMT on Friday September 18, 2015. Any comments left after this time will not be counted. 

Good luck!

Terms and Conditions: This competition is to win a place on The Ultimate Portfolio Builder course from Make it in Design starting September 21, 2015. One entry allowed per person. The winning place is not transferrable – either by date or to another individual and must not be sold on and no cash alternative will be offered in the event that the winner is unable to use the prize for any reason. By entering this competition you agree to your entry to be promoted on the Uppercase and Make it in Design website and their associated social networks. The winner will be jointly selected by Janine Vangool and Rachael Taylor and announced by Sunday September 20. The judges’ decision is final.

Issue 14 will be shipping soon

We're compiling the big mailing list for the next issue—get your new subscription or renewal in asap to ensure that you get the new issue as quickly as possible!

Issue #14 is about creative play: wordplay, concrete poetry, the typography of sport, plus a BIG feature about creative careers in children's books. 

In my house, the children's book "I Want My Hat Back" is a favourite. I love the simplicity of the layout and design and we all love the story about a bear searching for his stolen hat. Written and illustrated by Jon Klassen, I knew that Jon's combination of simplicity and sophistication was just the thing for our next cover. We are very fortunate that Jon created the playful cover of our summer issue.

Here's an animated preview of "I Want My Hat Back". Note the turtle!

UPPERCASE Issue #14 will be released in July. 

type tuesday: lettering on a bottle

Poster by Michael Spitz

Christopher Stott: new work of old stuff

"Deluxe Model 5" Oil on canvas 20" X 30""Rotary Phone, Off The Hook I" Oil on canvas 16" X 24""Clear Thinking" Oil on canvas 42" X 32""Back To Back" Oil on canvas 24" X 30"

We first featured Christopher Stott's oil paintings in issue #7, and you may have noticed his work in this Anthropologie campaign. Christopher has been hard at work on painting new works of some really nice-looking old stuff, available to view and purchase from the Elliott Fouts Gallery in Sacramento, California.

June 2 - July 5, 2012
4749 J Street Sacramento, CA 95819 

One more from Surtex: PRNT

Alanna Cavanagh met some new talent earlier this month at Surtex.

PRNT (which stands for PEOPLES' REPUBLIC OF NICE THINGS) is a brand-spanking-new studio founded by young designers Jenna Russelle and Halla Koudsi.

Young Designers Jenna Russelle and Halla Koudsi of PRNT studio at their SURTEX booth.

The two founders have backgrounds in the illustration and fashion worlds respectively and met while working in the apparel industry in Toronto. In January 2012 they formed PRNT and this past week they made their debut at SURTEX.

In addition to their own designs the studio carries patterns created by several different artists which results in an enormous variety of work available within one studio. Most of their patterns have a highly illustrative and often edgey vibe and would work wonderfully in the fashion, home + paper goods markets.

We wish Jenna and Halla the best of luck in their new venture!

Surtex: Magnet Reps

The Magnet Reps booth at Surtex

During the hustle and bustle of Surtex, Shelley Brown did a quick-fire Q and A with Chrystal Falcioni, the Founder/Director at Los Angeles-based Magnet Reps.

Shelley: How long have you been pursuing the art licensing business?
Chrystal: 8 years

Shelley: How have you found it to change from then to now?

Chrystal: The art is much better. It used to be very old fashioned. Not contemporary at all. More and more illustrators are trying it. Much more competition.

Shelley: What do you think are the most significant new opportunities that you see for your artists in the future?

Chrystal: Paperless applications. 

Shelley: What should artists do who want to make the shift from illustrating to surface design or licensing?

Eleanor Grosch

Chrystal: Get out there and understand that art is about collections. Decide if you want to be single image or patterns and research. Do lots of research.  

Shelley: What shows do you feel are essential to the art licensing business?

Chrystal: Surtex and The Licensing Show in Vegas. Also, if anyone is planning on exhibiting in a show, they should first attend at least one or two years in a row prior to exhibiting in it. 

Nate Williams, represented by Magnet Reps

Surtex: a learning experience

Image by Mark Hoffmann, represented by i2i Art Inc.

Shelley Brown reports from NYC:

There's lots to learn about surface design and the more you learn, the more you discover it's just the tip of the iceberg!

The past two days I've attended seven seminars at Surtex. Some of the info covered challenges the right brain big time, and the seminars are held in underground suites away from the hustle and bustle of the show. There's no eye candy here, just the nitty gritty stuff. It's important, though, for anyone thinking of pursuing the business of surface design. Each session was an hour and a half long and included lots of Q+A.  It's great to get real specific answers to your questions.

Day 1: 

  • The Basics of Art Licensing - Part I + II, and 
  • Understanding Legal Basics - Contracts and Copyrights

Day 2:

  • New Legal Strategies - Royalties, Terms and More
  • Strategies for Working with Manufacturers
  • Futurecast:  Business Trends in Art Licensing
  • Understanding and Enhancing Retailer / Manufacturer Relationships

Some of the educational highlights from the Surtex seminars: 

Licensing is a $192 billion dollar business worldwide.

The artist is the Licensor and the buyer of your art (usually a manufacturer or retailer) is the Licensee.

The business is changing but there are always opportunities for great art.

It's not absolutely necessary, but it's preferable to register your copyright on any art you have licensed (in case of any infringement). To save money, don't register everything you create until you license it. 

You need to be prolific because it's best to have lots of samples to promote yourself to potential Licensors.

If you're looking for an agent, make sure you choose someone you get along with. Good communication and transparency make for a good marriage (in life and in the artist/agent relationship!).

If at all possible, try to get your name on any products you license.

When you're selling your art to a manufacturer or retailer, get an advance and royalty as part of your license agreement, if possible.  

The average royalty is 5% - 7% for household products, and up to 10% for paper goods or wall decor. 

Words to avoid in a contract: assignment, all rights and work for hire.

It takes about 1-2 years to get to know and achieve some level of success in surface design, so don't get discouraged a few months in.

Before you do a deal with a licensee check their reputation. Do they send royalty statements on time and pay royalties owning according to their agreements?

Before you sign a licensing agreement, have a copyright lawyer who specializes in licensing review the contract.  

Beware of exclusivity and make sure it is only for a narrowly defined category.

Don't be afraid to conduct an audit (through your copyright attourney), if you have reason to believe your royalties are not being correctly reported. In most royalty agreements you should receive a statement quarterly. 

There is a great online tool for finding your images which may be in use without your permission. It's called TinEye. Go to and do a reverse image search on any of your images.

Familiarize yourself with a manufacturer or retailer's style or brand before you approach them with samples. Also find out in what format and how often they prefer you submit your art. 

Attend a show like Surtex. Take the seminars to learn as much as you can about the business.

Surtex: Frank Sturges Reps.

The Heads of StateAlanna Cavanagh reports from NYC:

Another booth that really stood out was for Frank Sturges Reps. Frank has been in the illustration representation business for over 15 years and represents a small group of incredible illustrators including  The Heads of State, Jessica Hische, and Katherine Streeter.

The booth made an impact with large panels of gorgeous illustration and saturated colour. Definitely a favourite of the day!

Jessica HischeKatherine Streeter

Surtex: Sorry You're Happy

Alanna Cavanagh reports from NYC:

First off it must said that being at the Javitts Centre can be an overwhelming experience. Your pass allows you admission not only into Surtex but into the National Stationery Show and ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) as well.  If attending all three shows you are literally exposed to thousands of images, exhibitors, attendees, press packages, "trend seminars", workshops, and business cards. By the end of Day 1 I had a strong desire to be put into a sensory deprivation tank with a big glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

I come from an illustration background and bring a bias to the Surtex show—I am most excited by the illustration booths.

One of the freshest presentations I've seen so far was from Sorry You're Happy. This art licensing and surface design studio is made up of husband and wife illustrators Kyle Reed and Jen Hsieh (You might be familiar with them from UPPERCASE's Work/Life book series). It was exciting to see that, in addition to their own work, they were exhibiting pieces from two established and talented Toronto-based illustrators Katy Dockrill and UPPERCASE contributor Aaron Leighton.

Kyle and Jen holding one of Jen's tea towels.All the work in the booth looked fresh and playful with the perfect amount of quirkiness thrown in. Jen and Kyle are particularly interested in licensing their art in the children's market and I think it would work beautifully there. I can easily imagine any of these designs dancing on a onesie or on children's bedding.

Booth panels by Aaron Leighton, Kyle Reed and Katy DockrillOne of Katy Dockrill's patterns in the sample book

Inspiration: Lucienne Day

Lucienne Day, circa 1952The work of Lucienne Day inspires a lot of contemporary interpretations, but it always worthwhile to know more than the surface of a designer's work. Day's work is part of Designing Women: Post-War British Textiles: a current exhibition at the British Textiles Museum. The book Robin and Lucienne Day: Pioneers in Modern Design by Lesley Jackson (Chronicle, 2001) is also worth adding to your library.

Around the web:

• Lucienne Day 1917-2010, remembrance in the Guardian

• Robin Day obituary

• An interview and home tour of Robin and Lucienne Day with Wallpaper magazine, December 2008.

• V&A Lucienne Day archives

Classic Textiles' reissue of some iconic designs



photo by Anne-Katrin Purkiss

Surtex: Day 1

Work by Tracy Walker, represented by i2i Art Inc. Tracy is also one of the artists in Work/Life 2: the UPPERCASE directory of illustration.

Shelley Brown reports from NYC:

After 25 fantastic years repping illustrators for everything from advertising to design and publishing, the economic crash in 2008 was a real catalyst for the already shifting business of 'traditional' illustration. There has been a growing trend towards illustrators producing art suitable for applications to surfaces on everything from greeting cards to household products. To this end, Surtex is a trade show offering artists an opportunity to introduce their work to a variety of manufacturers and retailers.

I attended the show back in 2006, but over half a decade later, I am noticing that the calibre of art is changing, as more and more illustrators are entering this market. Just imagine how exciting it is for an illusrator whose work is normally applied to a printed brochure or used in a campaign that has a shelf life of 4 weeks to suddenly see their work applied to a tea towel, a rug or a stationery package!


Today I attended three seminars:  Basics of Art Licensing, Parts I + II, and Understanding Legal Basics: Contracts and Copyrights.

If you are an illustrator or designer thinking of pursuing surface design, I would recommend that you visit Surtex, which takes place in New York city every May. The conference program includes sessions where industry pros help give you a foundation in licensing your art.

I'm happy to report that although about one third of the surface design industry may still sell the art outright for a modest flat fee (where the artist relinquishes their copyright), there is a growing appreciation for the value of the usage and the aritst's rights.

More to come after day two tomorrow!

Shelley Brown
Principal + Artist Agent

Surtex coverage!

When Alanna Cavanagh offered to be the UPPERCASE correspondent at Surtex of course we said yes! And even better, Alanna's rep from i2i Art Inc, Shelley Brown, will be sharing her experiences as well. The two have travelled to NYC from Toronto and will be sending in their daily recaps. Surtex is THE place to go to buy and sell licensing of art and design and I know that many of you aspire to be represented there some day.

To set the mood, here are some of Alanna's pattern designs:

National Stationery Show: Happy Cactus

The National Stationery Show is the ultimate destination for a lot of small papergoods companies. At the show, they'll be exposed to buyers, media and potential partners from across North America—contacts that could determine the future of their creative business enterprise. Happy Cactus Designs is a new company, less than a year old, and this is their first time at the big show. Proprietor Brannon Cullum has a good post on the Happy Cactus blog about her road to the NSS.

The name of a stationery company can go a long way in helping the success of a brand. The name should communicate the aesthetic style, appeal to its audience and denote quality. The Happy Cactus name suits the friendly illustrative style of their cards. Brannon explains the name:

So just where did the name for the design studio originate? While living in New York City, Brannon bought a tiny one-inch tall cactus to remind her of her Texas roots. With loving attention (and a lot of sunlight), the little cactus grew into a thriving plant…a very happy cactus indeed! Now in Texas, the happy cactus is enjoying the warm Texas sun. Just like the plant, Brannon’s goal for the studio is to take her tiny seed of an idea for a paper goods company and grow it into a line of products that bring color and happiness to everyone. 

Best wishes, Happy Cactus, and all the new companies debuting at the show!

Dispatch from London: Venice

Actually, Venice Shone is the lovely name of this lovely person I had the pleasure of meeting at the Ray Stitch Meet and Greet in London a few weeks ago. You may recall a previous post about her work here.

In the photo above, Venice holds up the pretty print of a dress drawing that she gave me. Thank you, Venice! I'm going to hang it in my basement sewing room for some colour and inspiration.

I love drawings and paintings of things. Venice does these so very well:

Excerpts from some children's books illustrated by Venice Shone and some curious candies.

Dispatch from London: Anne Smith

This morning I took the tube to Anne Smith's studio on the South side of the Thames. Anne did the perfect pigeon illustration on the cover of issue #12, so I couldn't come all this way and not meet her!

We had some tea and a nice chat about books, the realms of online and offline community, the creative drive and inspiration... so nice. Her studio had lots of books—I saw many that are common to my shelves at home. With nice light diffusing in from windows on two sides, it was a really fresh and inspiring studio.

See a few more images in the flickr set. Thanks, Anne!

The Secret Lives of Clouds

by The Krafty Fox

Call for submissions: What's in a Name?

What's in a name?

Illustrate, illuminate, design or otherwise render your first name in a way that expresses who you are. Submissions should be 6 inches wide at 300dpi and uploaded here. Please follow the directions and fill in the submission form at that link.

DEADLINE April 30.

Cover Artist: Eloise Renouf

Eloise Renouf at home in the United Kingdom.

Eloise Renouf is a talented pattern designer and illustrator whom we first got to know through her Etsy shop. Janine purchased a print and collage from Eloise some time ago and with issue #13's theme about how weather inspires creativity, Eloise was the perfect person to ask to create the cover art.

Eloise just received her copies (thanks to the quick magic of Fedex!) and writes: "Thank you so much for the lovely package of magazines which arrived here this morning! I'm absolutely thrilled with them and I think they look great. I hope you're pleased with the way they turned out - the foiling was a master stroke! It's such a beautiful magazine and everything about it is just lovely - it looks and feels really special. Have already enjoyed a quick flip but am going to settle down with a cuppa for a proper read. Happy days!"

There's a feature written by Vinciane De Pape about Eloise in this issue where you can read more about her process and inspiration.

A flower print available on Etsy.