Digital Illustration - How I learned digital art

Digital Illustration - How I learned digital art

Jocelyn Suzanne profile

My Introduction to Digital Art

I got my first Mac and Fractal Designs Painter program around 1992. It was an early digital art program that came in a paint can! I had a MacIICI, one of the first color Macs. That computer along with the paint can filled with floppy discs changed my life.
image of artwork and old computer art program box

I was gifted a used Wacom pen and tablet from a friend of my mom's. I was skeptical at first but I was told digital art would be the 'way of the future'. So I gave it a try. I was always drawing with pen and ink anyway and I found so much satisfaction taking my art into the digital realm to achieve the smooth lines, bright colors and crisp images.

I loved drawing but never considered working as an artist. I took some design classes in high school and summer classes at Art Center School of Design in the 80's. I studied anthropology in college but by my early 20s I knew enough about design and computer graphics to get a job creating ads on the swing shift at a daily newspaper.

Learning Adobe

I moved to the Bay Area and got a contract illustrating for a video game company using a program called DPaint. I drew rasterized art filled with rotating gradients. ( I soon landed a full time job screen printing. I learned the art of 4 color process printing and was introduced to Adobe products. It was 1996. I became adept using Illustrator and Photoshop to design artwork for a fast-paced screen printing shop in downtown San Jose. The Adobe building was just up the road. The area was booming.old artwork for Oakland A's Spring Training

We were printing shirts for every up and coming Silicon Valley company in town and for every big bay area event that was happening. We worked with licensed images like Hang Ten and Peanuts, sports teams, production companies and everything in between. I redrafted old artwork that existed only on worn out film, I created brand new artwork, I learned fast production art skills and even used the dark room now and then. On off hours I'd work on my own designs and print shirts late at night to sell at concerts. Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop became a daily part of my life and still are today, over 25 years later.

Jocelyn in 1996 with pen and ink drawing

Production Art - Print + Web

After a few years screen-printing I took a leap and went to work at an ad agency. I had no design degree but I had tangible skills. I adjusted working on fabric prints to glossy ads and high-end printed brochures for high end clients. The senior designer's enthusiasm to teach me new methods and tricks in Photoshop or Illustrator was priceless. I was even sent to Adobe courses to learn advanced photo retouching skills. I was responsible for pre-flighting and press checks, I even managed the agency printers. Eventually the business owner retired and I had to move on.

Around 2000 I was handed Macromedia Fireworks and Dreamweaver by an art director and asked to "figure out how to make websites and banner ads for the internet". I was intrigued. Sure, why not! I was excited to learn new programs that would make it easier for designers to work on websites.This technology has come such a long way since then. It was an exciting time to begin to transition from print to web and back and forth seamlessly but it was not easy.

I spent the next few years focusing on freelance projects so I could be home with my child during the day and I started my business, Bella Blue Designs. I spent late nights working on my Mac to learn how to make an online shopping cart for a Santa Cruz business with over 600 products. I taught myself whatever I needed to get a job done. And I illustrated whenever I could find free time using my Wacom pen and Adobe Illustrator, creating artwork for friends and for local bay area bands.

Eventually I went back to work and became the Marketing Manager for a small real estate company, combining all my skills into a sweet job, and after some time I came full circle and ended up back designing at a daily newspaper. My hands were tired.

The Incredible iMac

After my daughter went away to college, my husband and I relocated to rural Lake County, CA. I took various jobs at a busy hot springs retreat center and became the Publications Manager. The century old hot springs was a work of incredible beauty and I was able to recover my hands from so much overuse as a production artist, in a setting that allowed me to continue designing in a peaceful and creative environment.

Then in September, 2015 a forest fire ripped over Cobb mountain burning our house and neighborhood, into the valley, burning the retreat center, on to the town and beyond. Everything we owned was gone.

Except on that day we had driven to take my iMac to the Apple store about an hour away for a repair. During this afternoon errand the Valley Fire burned down our home. In some bit of luck, much of my 20 years of digital art was saved on the computer.

And now...illustrating in the beautiful Pacific Northwest

In the six years since the fire, I have continued to work as a contractor for Bay Area businesses, primarily for Harbin Hot Springs during their rebuilding process. For a few years we stayed in Middletown CA, and now I work from our rainy home in Washington State.

Moving to our lovely home in Washington has brought me renewed inspiration to create my own illustrations. For the first time in my life, I am focusing on selling my artwork and designs. I opened my online retail shop Bella Blue Earth in 2019 offering greeting cards and art prints. Since then I've added a variety of products, books, clothes and home goods. Thank you so much for shopping at Bella Blue Earth.

~ Jocelyn

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