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Shane L. Johnson’s superpower is illustration

What does it feel like when a movie franchise that’s grossed $1.6B worldwide picks you to illustrate their latest tie-in book? It feels like you can fly.

“They asked that I submit sample art for Hiccup, Toothless and Astrid,” recalls Shane. “Character designs hadn’t been released yet, so I created samples using the characters as they appeared in the previous film, but rendered in a new line-art style developed by the studio.”

Shane proved he was world class, and that he could keep secrets. Specific plot points and new characters are often kept under wraps because of the very real danger of leaks. New characters can still be in development while the tie-in products are being produced.

Researching a project is nothing new to Shane, but this didn’t feel like work. “In addition to studying reference material from the studio, I watched the first two movies for background,” he explains. “Many key scenes in the books were also in the movies, so I had that available to me as well.”

Turns out, drawing dragons is as hard as riding them. “One of my biggest challenges was Toothless,” Shane confirms. “There was a lot of trial and error on my part to use just the right amount of black so the details of his body and face would be readable. The studio’s blueprints of Hiccup’s flying harness were also very precise.”

Every frame, every character, every detail is meticulously reviewed by the studio’s art department. Revisions are indicated by a sketch overlay of the submitted frames until Shane delivers the final art.

“This project was a deep dive into the Dragons series, of which I’m now a real fan,” reflects Shane. “It is always fun to work with characters beloved by so many – myself included.”

If you need your next project to take flight, check out the rest of Shane’s work here. You’ll start to believe that anything is possible.





From microbrew to mega beer
with Illustrator Filip Yip

What does it say when one of the most recognizable brands in the world trusts you with their identity? Once Budweiser decided to update their sacred eagle to reflect both their heritage and their modernity, there was only one illustrator on the list.

When Anheuser-Busch launched a rebranding campaign, their agency recruited Filip to create key assets for the modernized crest. For a brand worth a reported $27 billion, that is high praise, indeed.

“The design won several awards and became so popular that I continue to help create new assets for the brand, from flavored beers to flagship labels,” Filip relays proudly.

Filip is no stranger to mega beers having cut his teeth on Coors Light. His first assignment long ago was to transform their antiquated brand assets into digital-friendly art and iconography. As a fan, he also took special delight in creating a seasonal Coors Light label dedicated to soccer.

Filip’s international experience and print production expertise made him the perfect candidate when Brazilian beer, Brahma Chopp, took notice and said, ‘Mais um, por favor.’

“They wanted to update their goddess with a contemporary look,” reflects Filip. “So we found a solution that was more practical to reproduce and more relatable to a new generation of drinkers.”

Filip relishes the chance to engage his playful side as well. “Blue Moon wanted to portray their brand in a fun, relatable way with their Graffiti Collection,” smiles Filip. “So I traveled to New York and Paris to study street art that expressed an irreverent attitude with humor and energy.”

If you’re looking for an illustrator/designer who can make the leap from billion-dollar brands to the mean streets of Gotham, drink in the rest of Filip Yip’s work here. Your brand will find it very refreshing.





Photographer Michal Venera turns Hawaii into New Zealand before your eyes

Need to recreate a shot of friends on a beach in New Zealand? From an island thousands of miles away? In seven days? Over Christmas? With bad weather, a serious model shortage, and three major movie productions fighting for production resources? Say “Aloha” to Photographer Michal Venera.

“A New Zealand wine brand wanted to recreate a specific shot of friends on a beach for a holiday promotion,” recalls Michal. “But it was already the first week of December, which ruled out New Zealand because of weather.”

Michal and the client quickly settled on Hawaii as a substitute island. What they didn’t know is that three major motion pictures were already shooting on Oahu. Competing for basic resources – like models – turned into a real challenge.

And despite the location improvisation, weather was an issue. If Michal hadn’t gone straight from the plane to shoot landscapes and locations, the entire shoot might have been a bust. After that first day of celestial sunshine, Michal and his crew lost two days time battling rain and overcast conditions. Turns out, the main image ended up being a composite using a background from those first coverage photographs.

The lesson? “Always be shooting,” said Michal with a wry smile. “I’m a very structured photographer and try to control as many variables as possible, but you never know when the magic is going to happen.”

Case in point, the three major motion-picture productions put a strain on behind-the-lens talent as well. Not happy with the styling for the shoot, Michal jumped in his rental car and raced across the island to Honolulu before the shops closed. Sprinting from store to store, he and his producer put together their own wardrobe for all six models.

But overdelivering comes standard with Michal. Tasked with reproducing a single shot, he delivered imagery for an entire campaign that ran well into the new year.

So if your next project could use a little holiday magic, unwrap the rest of Photographer Michal Venera’s work here. Your wishes are about to come true.




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Illustrator Cindy Salans Rosenheim draws from life


How long does it take to become a fashion illustrator? Apparently, about 40 minutes. Provided, of course, that you spent 40 years becoming an accomplished artist. Illustrator Cindy Salans Rosenheim started her journey as a young child asking her artisan mother how to draw a bird.


“She was at work in her studio and I asked her how to draw a bird,” reminisces Cindy. “She pointed at the holly tree in the backyard and said, ‘Find a bird.’” Feeling slightly rejected, she discovered as she continued to hone her skills that this was, in fact, sage advice.

Ferragamo fashionista at live sketch event

“I have always drawn from life,” explains Cindy. In fact, her first ever assignment for a greeting card company had her running to a garden shop looking for the proverbial basket of violets. “I was the laughing stock of the floor,” Cindy chuckles, “but the approach has served me well.”


After decades as a successful commercial illustrator, Cindy now works frequently from photographs and other source material, but when the opportunity arises to get out there and document life in the flesh, she jumps at it. The Ferragamo gig provided such a lure.


On arriving at Salvatore Ferragamo’s flagship store in Silicon Valley, Cindy was placed at a glistening acrylic tulip Saarinen table, poised to whip out fashionista versions on special Ferragamo cards of their clientele. Five minutes and voila!


With half the store watching the magic, it was quite the challenge. Cindy trusted her instincts and fell into a zone. One exquisitely turned-out shopgirl asked breathlessly how long Cindy had been a fashion illustrator. She glanced nonchalantly at her watch and said, “I’d say about 40 minutes.”

If your next project would benefit from a consummate illustrator who personifies grace under pressure, sneak a peek at Illustrator Cindy Salans Rosenheim’s work here. But you’d better be quick about it!




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Photographers with purpose: Ashley Thompson and Ana Homonnay


What do you do when an entire neighborhood is on the Endangered List? The photographic team of Ana Homonnay and Ashley Thompson saw their beloved Mission District in San Francisco slipping away through the erosion of gentrification. They decided to memorialize their adopted home and its people before it was too late.


“Ana and I set out to explore the Mission and the ever-changing landscape of the people that make up what has long been a vibrant and colorful neighborhood,” Ashley reports. “Gentrification has cast a dark shadow on a neighborhood that is losing its core identity, piece by piece.”


“With this project we really wanted to document a time that is quickly disappearing, and show the amazing, beautiful, hard-working people that still live and and make a life in the Mission,” adds Ana. “Whether that’s preserving the rich Latino culture or recording the artists that make the Mission so unique.”


Ana and Ashley believe shooting portraits is an intimate business and a connection needs to be made before the cameras come out. “We always connect with someone as much as we can before we ask to take their portrait,” shares Ashley. “We want to know, and in some small way, tell their story,” adds Ana.


Shopkeepers, street vendors, artists, and bohemians, the Mission is still a place where “street” and “life” go together. And this duo is uniquely suited to capture the vibrancy of it all. Ana comes from a documentary background while Ashley is trained in fine art. They compliment each other nicely through two different aesthetics with a shared vision and goal.


So if your next project needs photography with power, purpose and a dual perspective, visit the rest of Photographers Ashley Thompson and Ana Homonnay ’s work here. You won’t soon forget it.




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Taste the summer with Photographer Christina Schmidhofer


Temptation – what is tastier than that? Photographer Christina Schmidhofer loves to explore the emotional impact of texture, color and suggestion. Her food photography is renown for its mouthwatering compositions.


“My understanding of food and organic matter comes very natural to me,” explains Christina.
“Not only do I come from a background of avid gardeners – including myself – I can relate to the summers working in my brother’s gourmet gelateria in my teenage years.”


“For this ice cream series, I wanted to conjure up the joyful whimsy of summer,” Christina says with a smile. “I combined the Pop Art style of flat, vivid colors with the organic consistency of the ice cream and the simple beauty of edible flowers to tease those sense memories.”


For this project, she teamed up with the food stylist, Elisabet der Nederlanden, and prop stylist, Jody Kennedy. The directions were to have images screaming “summer”, “hot”, “colorful” and “modern.” Then, Christina pushed the lighting to create lots of hard shadows and contrasted colors.


Of course, capturing the individual images was only the first step – the ingredients of her pièce de résistance. To bring it all together, Christina enlisted Traci Shiro to design the layouts. The result? Compositions capable of transporting viewers to the summers of their youth.


If your next project could use her joyful power of suggestion, have a lick – um – look at the rest of Photographer Christina Schmidhofer’s work here. Temptation awaits!





Adventure #thenbeer with Photographer Andrew Maguire for New Belgium Brewing Co.


What’s the best gig? The one you get hired for out-of-the-blue based solely on your past work. New Belgium Brewing, makers of Fat Tire Amber Ale, hired Andrew sight unseen for his outdoor chops, authenticity and incredible use of light.


“New Belgium Brewing approached me to create imagery to support the rebrand of Fat Tire as its own entity outside the New Belgium family,” explains Andrew. “Fat Tire would now be geared as the aprés adventure beer to support their tag line ‘#thenbeer.’”


The catch? Capture a summer lifestyle campaign in the Rocky Mountains…in March. A huge part of the assignment was to identify Fat Tire as a Colorado brand. Shooting in between snow flurries and rain squalls, Andrew relied on the campfire for more than a lighting effect.


What attracted New Belgium to Andrew’s work is his mastery of outdoor sports photography and use of natural light. Having decided to move away form the Old Bike illustrations, the client would be using imagery in a brand campaign for the first time, so the stakes were high.


Andrew has shot in every conceivable condition, but his approach never waivers. He believes in photographing people with a casual approach that communicates authenticity, not at all posed or recreated. “To me, that’s beautiful,” muses Andrew. “To me, that’s essential.”


The final rule? “Shoot your product with as much care and attention as you shoot your people.” Simple, but not easy. Still, you won’t hear complaints from Fat Tire – images like these will keep them rolling for another 15 years.


If your brand needs a fresh look that stays true to its heritage, check out more of Photographer Andrew Maguire’s work here. Beers are on him.





Illustrator Carolyn Vibbert is a natural


When your primary muse is Mother Nature, where you live can have a profound impact on your work. “I moved to New Hampshire very early on, but I lived more than half my life elsewhere, San Francisco, Seattle, Kansas City, Washington DC, and Richmond VA.,” recounts Carolyn, “I came back here 14 years ago because no other place really felt like home.”


Clients like New Hampshire Magazine and Amber Lotus give Carolyn a free rein to communicate their brand values through her unique interpretations of nature. “I love doing botanical work because it’s loose and natural,” Carolyn explains. “Curving vines and hills flow naturally with my drawing style.”


But Carolyn isn’t always lost in the woods or wandering in the garden. Food and cooking is another endless source of inspiration for her and her clients. “I’m not a cook, although I love drawing food. Again, it’s that curving natural line.”


Carolyn’s artistic approach is as varied as her topics and styles. “For half of my work, I do an inked drawing on a piece of masonite,” she explains, “the result is similar to a woodcut, but not quite.”

Eggplant b&w

So, how is she able to make her illustrations spring to life? Carolyn explains, “I scan the results into Photoshop and turn the drawing into a stencil of sorts that I can fill with color allowing me to play around with different backgrounds on layers.” The rest comes down to art and heart.

They say in nature, light creates the color. In art, color creates the light. If your next project could use a ray of light, shine your eyes on more of Illustrator Carolyn Vibbert’s work here.




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Photographer Steve Belkowitz focuses on the world he wants to see.


What develops when a world-class photographer marries the client’s business objectives with a personal mission to move the conversation? People are presented in an authentic way that still speaks the market language.


“Overall I'm trying to add images to the conversation to push along a progressive vision,” Steve reflects, “Whether they are Female, LBGTQ, AFAM, disabled, amputees…any group that has been faced with the challenge of being treated as ‘normal’.”


Clients such as Vanguard, Comcast, Foxwoods and Hartford seek Steve out to create authentic moments with real people. Images that resonate emotionally. Images that celebrate individuals based on their talents, not their bodies or gender.


“I am a big proponent of breaking down barriers and celebrating differences in people. When Foxwoods wanted to market in a new way, I was thrilled to be a part of it,” explains Steve. “They insisted on real couples, but we didn’t try to be overt or stereotypical. It was a regular casino shoot capturing people enjoying each other’s company.”


For The Hartford, Steve worked with Oksana Masters, a Russian adoptee who now competes in the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games, where she medaled in both. Her sports include cross-country skiing, nordic biathlon and rowing, but her real strengths may be her sense of purpose and determination.


What can an Army EOD Specialist who has lost his sight to a bomb detonation help us see? According to Steve, “Possibilities.” A year after the explosion, Brad Synder won gold swimming in the Paralympics. “To me, ordinary people overcoming extraordinary challenges – whether physical or societal – offer my clients a unique perspective, empathy, and a sense of universal connection.”

If you’re looking to increase mind share as well as market share, you can see more of Photographer Steve Belkowitz’s work here. Inspiration comes standard.





Director Jef Loeb on how to get more from every production

How does a consortium of energy companies change the way people think about their industries? Showcase a future made possible by their products. Combining live action with intensive VFX, this tentpole video anchors a huge number of digital, streaming, and point-of- sale assets. Each scene was shot to work as a stand-alone, platform-agnostic topical video, in lengths from :06 to :15 to :30. And stills, pulled from VFX output, became the visuals for display advertising, branded content, destination website, and more.

Too often, scenes pulled from an anthem video feel disconnected or incomplete. Not so with Space Playground and the other vignettes! “The intention was to create a big-screen cinematic experience,” describes Jef Loeb, “The combination of live action, specialized stunt rigging, and VFX allowed us to capture the gee-whiz cool factor as well as a nice emotional ending.”

Transforming plastic waste into sports cars? Almost as magical as what it took to tell the story. Intensive set design with practical rigging and puppetry was needed to create this realistic, but futuristic, vision of a car-making facility that’s 3D-printing cars using recycled ocean plastic.

These spots humanize the Bay Area housing crisis using a mix of real people and actors (dare you to tell the difference). Wide shots create a sense of isolation. Close-ups create a personal connection. Jef’s directed performances – using the device of “read” letters – make the spots memorable and highly emotional, while remaining genuine and authentic.

Why hire a director who is also an award-winning writer? The morning of the shoot, the client forwarded a news clip detailing a state legislator’s bill to address the housing crisis by letting community college students sleep in their cars overnight. The script and the spot were written on location and an actor previously cast for another part, shifted into this role.

Authenticity may be the hardest thing to reproduce, but critical for this public-service campaign. Pre-scripted dialogue with interview-prompted improv took advantage of our star’s wonderful back-stories in entirely authentic and “non-stagy” settings.

How do you transform a single shoot into a complete rebranding? Collaborate on set design and ping-pong between video and still shoots. Then, take a true “physician-as-hero” approach and combine live action, CG, and intensive motion graphics to tell the story in a way that breaks the cliche of shooting clinicians inside of sterile hospitals.

This highly art-directed piece was designed primarily as a theatrical trailer, but also to support digital advertising. So how do you shoot for the biggest and the smallest screens simultaneously? “We used 100% practical props including the giant zero,” Jef explains, “and captured each location the day before with a DLSR, so we had a variety of interesting looks that reinforced our message.”

If you’re interested in maxing out your next productions, check out more of Director Jef Loeb’s work here. Your next shoot may just turn into an entire campaign.