“Nothing is too pedestrian or too weird to experiment with,” says Susie Allen, the Eastman, Georgia, designer and illustrator who uses a variety of materials and a mashup approach to creating her playful, eclectic stationery and art.
A graphic designer for a small printing company by day and a freelance illustrator by night, Allen shares how watercolors, list-making, and even vegetables inspire her work.
“Newspaper Sailboat” is Susie Allen’s first-place winner on Minted. “I really love combining type and illustration, and I’m happy with the way this one integrated the two,” she says.
When did you begin painting and drawing?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, and I had a creative mom who supported me from the start. As a kid, I didn’t know what graphic design was, but I often gravitated toward projects that combined visual art and lettering. I made my own illustrated books and elaborate, crayon greeting cards for family members, with my own “logo” on the back with my initials, “LSA Greetings.”
Click through to learn more about Minted artist Susie Allen…
How did you end up doing what you’re doing now?
I went to college wanting to be a painter/illustrator, and chose to major in graphic design as a “way to pay the bills,” but I immediately fell in love with typography. I realized that I had always been interested in graphic design without really understanding what it was. I attended the University of Georgia Lamar Dodd School of Art, and the awesome professors there gave me a world-class background in typography, print design, and creative thought.
My senior thesis project ended up being featured in HOW Magazine’s 2007 International Design Annual and winning Best in Show at the American Advertising Federation 7th District Student ADDYs, which gave me a much-needed boost of confidence in the early part of my career.
What mediums do you most enjoy working with?
I work a lot with acrylic and watercolor. I like how quickly they dry, because often my paintings and sketches are just the beginning of a piece, and I scan them in to edit, re-color, and collage together in Photoshop and Illustrator. Whether an idea starts on the computer or on paper, I usually end up working back and forth and combining digital methods with traditional techniques or working with my hands.
“Watercolor Window” New Year photo card by Susie Allen
“I tend to throw a lot of texture and color into my work, but I also love thoughtful typography and whitespace, and this is the kind of design I would likely buy for myself,” she says.
How do you approach your art?
I am a huge list-maker and doodler, and most of my projects start as a very messy sketch or as part of a handwritten list of ideas. I have tons of little lists, and keep a lot of them for future reference. I really need to get into Evernote or a similar organizational tool, but I think I’ll always start with a pen and paper. There’s something about the tactile act of writing and drawing that helps me brainstorm better than typing or starting from scratch in a design program.
“Bok Choy” for West Elm by Susie Allen
QUICK-FIRE Q&A WITH SUSIE ALLEN
Describe your last month in a word: Busy!
Modern or vintage? Definitely modern, but with textural, comfy touches. I love clean lines and white, white, white walls, but I’m also very practical about having furniture that is soft/comfortable/functional.
Summer or winter? Fall! It’s definitely my favorite season. Summers in the South can be brutally hot and humid, and fall is the greatest, breezy reprieve. (Plus I love the chance to layer on sweaters and jackets and wear my favorite boots.)
Favorite comedy podcasts: I love podcasts! They help me survive my long commute, and I sometimes listen while I’m working as well. Comedy podcasts are my fave, and my current top shows are “Doug Loves Movies” (a game show), “You Made it Weird” with Pete Holmes (an interview/talk show), “The Smartest Man in the World” (a one-man rant), and “Put Your Hands Together” (live standup comedy.)
Colors calling your name right now: Cool lemony yellows, rich blacks and super-white whites, minty blues.
Favorite wardrobe colors: My work tends to be very colorful, but my wardrobe consists of lots of dark neutrals. I wear so much black, gray, and navy.
Favorite recent discovery: This is also a podcast. I tend to go for comedy or storytelling podcasts because they add some levity to my day (and keep my attention during a boring drive), but my new favorite is a business podcast for creative entrepreneurs called Being Boss. It’s like a fun conversation and gives me lots of inspiration, motivation, and business tips without feeling like work. When I discovered it, I binge-listened to all of their existing episodes (and still eagerly await the new ones each week.) They really gave me a much-needed kick in the pants to take better care of the business side of my art and design.
“Flora” bridal shower invitation by Susie Allen
Most memorable Minted experience: “Flora” is one of my few wedding offerings, and the way it ended up being sold on Minted is a great illustration of how much Minted really listens to their customers. This design was initially entered into a challenge, but didn’t get picked for the assortment. Afterward, I kept seeing it getting pinned on Pinterest boards (it really made my day when I accidentally spotted it on a pinboard of one of my favorite design bloggers, Bri Emery of designlovefest.) I also got multiple email requests for the design. I let Minted know that customers had contacted me wanting to buy the design, and they opted to purchase it for the Minted collection. It has since been featured on Minted’s Instagram and Facebook, and adapted into a wedding invitation that was featured on the Green Wedding Shoes blog.
Favorite fill-in-the-blank: Food and trying new restaurants and types of cuisine. My favorite way to be a tourist is through food. My favorite restaurant in Georgia is Dovetail in downtown Macon. They serve creative, upscale Southern food and their risotto is the best. My favorite restaurant experience ever was getting to try Chifa (Chinese-Peruvian fusion) in Lima, Peru.
Dream job: I would love to combine my love of food with my love of design. My dream job would involve branding for restaurants/food festivals, and packaging for food products.
“Thaddeus J. Bear” by Susie Allen
Personal insight: I don’t have kids, but I must be a big kid at heart because my personal style tends toward cute and kid-friendly, even when I don’t intend it to be. Believe it or not, when I made “Thaddeus J. Bear,” I wasn’t specifically thinking about making a nursery or children’s art print. I just thought it would be something that might hang in a quirky office. I’ve also noticed that when I shop for myself at Minted.com, I tend to pick out art prints, notebooks, etc. that are marketed as children’s products—like “Fun Games That Make You Laugh” by ERAY and this notebook by Jessica Yeo of Nocciola Design.
“Thaddeus J. Bear” remains one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. I had fun imagining the story behind his character, and he really represents me in a lot of ways—a creative little nerd who dreams of traveling the world and having adventures.
Published November 16, 2015