Monday, October 21st

Betsy Bush — Design Challenge Winner — Sept 2019

Betsy Bush, Design Challenge Winner, September 2019

What was your inspiration for your winning card? Please walk us through the process of how this card went from an idea to a greeting card.

I had the email from GCU Forum Wanted Cards in my mailbox regarding wanting Adopt a Shelter Pet Day designs, and as I was scouring my design resources for anything about hands I came across the little family holding hands with a dog and I thought I would address the challenge as well as the Wanted Cards request. Fortunately in the same bundle of graphics there was a cat I could incorporate into the design.

Did this occasion/category resonate with you in supporting animal shelters?  Are you/were you a pet owner?

Most definitely! We have a local woman who quit her job and used all of her built up retirement to create an animal rescue. I once donated many of my cards in a basket for raffles for one of her fundraisers. I also have done a few little designs for her to use on Facebook to encourage people to adopt from her rescue. A couple of  years ago she was featured on the Harry Connick Jr. show. She works so hard as do all of her volunteers to make a difference in animals’ lives. I just wish I could do so much more to help.

To answer the second question, Yes, I have had many cats and dogs over the years, all of which have come from a shelter, or in most of the cats’ cases, from being dropped off at our house as we live in a very wooded area and people do this thing all the time. It makes me so upset, but at least we have been able to care for most of them and found the others a good home.

One of the rewards to being a Design Challenge winner is being able to use the winning design, should the artist choose, in a new series and using Fast Track review for all cards in the new series.  Will you leverage this design for more cards and if yes, what other occasions / categories?

I haven’t given thought to a series with this design.

Holiday card sales are already in full swing.  Do you have new holiday card design(s) that you think / hope will be popular sellers this year?  If so, please share a link.

Yes, I would really like to see this design be popular this holiday season. I am almost done uploading the entire series.

Ok, now for the fast five, fun questions …

1-What one accomplishment are you most proud of?My graphic design work. Never in a million years did I imagine I would stumble upon something that would bring me so much joy and an amazing sense of accomplishment!

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Greeting Card Universe for being the driving force behind my accomplishments. If not for the support of Mindy,Team GCU and the Community members, the entire experience of my design work just would not be the same at all.

2-What’s the most unusual item in your desk / work space?

A black and white drawing of Frank Zappa incorporated into an antique vanity mirror that hangs right over my monitor.

3-What is your greatest irrational fear?

I am very afraid of the dark.

4-Who was your childhood actor/actress crush?

Davy Jones and David Cassidy. One day I found out that my mother went to high school with David Cassidy’s mother. That was a cool bragging point!

5-What was your first paid job?  What did you love or hate about it?

Working in a little clothes factory with a lot of older local women in the little Pennsylvania Dutch community I moved to during my last 2 years of high school. It was a huge culture shock for me to move from the suburbs of New Jersey to this little place, and oh boy could those old ladies gossip! I found it very amusing, especially because you could tell they were whispering a lot about my friends and I because we were so young and we provided a lot of material for their cackling!

Wednesday, September 25th

Teri Francis — Design Challenge Winner


Teri Francis of Squirrel Hugger, Design Challenge Winner, August 2019

Please list any awards or contests you’ve won outside of GCU.
I don’t usually enter contests. Only did this one because I was curious to learn how to do the Stock Cards on GCU. It was really a fun experience, and I look forward to doing more in the future.

Please list the URLs of your 3 favorite cards in your storefront and why they are your favorites.
All of my favorite cards came about as a result of some personal connection to the intended recipient. I try to keep that in mind when creating cards. What would the person receiving this card need or want to hear? What would mean the most to me if I were the recipient of this card? Those are the 2 questions that I strive to answer in every greeting card I create. Here are my favorites, in no particular order:


What Have You Been Up To?
Still have the framed photo that inspired this one on my desk. One of our kitties got into the yarn basket and had a ball. We snapped a photo before untangling her. This was originally a pen-and-ink drawing that I later filled in when I scanned it into Photoshop. Not my best work, but certainly my personal favorite.


Oh Nuts – Belated Birthday Card
Just happened to snap this photo at the right time to catch the squirrel’s expression. I also needed a belated-birthday card at the time. The two just seemed to mesh together in a fun way. BTW–the squirrel in this photo is Buttercup, the same squirrel that is used for my Squirrel Hugger logo. He and his brother were orphans that my mom hand raised and released to the backyard. Anything with Buttercup on it automatically falls into my favorites.


Happy Mother’s Day Mom
I got these roses at the supermarket checkout to practice different lighting techniques with a new camera that I had just bought. I set them up in all sorts of different ways, with and without wine glasses, natural lighting, strobe lighting. My mom was there, watching all this go on for hours, assisting when necessary, and ultimately opening the bottle of wine and telling me to take a break after shooting about 400 photos. I have such wonderful memories of that day — and the results are seen in dozens of my cards. This one, after much trial-and-error processing in Photoshop, became one of my favorites, and more importantly it was a card that my mom kept and treasured until the end of her life.

Please list any of your professional social media sites.
I don’t do the “typical” social media marketing that most others use. My early experiences with on-line marketing resulted in too many DMCA letters, legal fees, and headaches, so I reverted to old-fashioned B-2-B marketing through emails and newsletter updates to my client list, which includes event planners, hotel/hospitality industry contacts, etc. That’s worked out much better for me. As a result of those bad experiences, I now work under several different names, so that if one or two IP stalkers get hold of my work, they cannot rummage my entire collection of work. I do keep a website (DeluxeBridalWeddingInvitations) that is very difficult to find unless you are on my “by invite only” list, and I’m pleased to say that in 7 years that I’ve maintained that site, there has not been one theft or copy-cat problem. I also do some Pinterest Pins prior to major holidays.

Luxury Ink Invitations

What was your inspiration for your winning card? Please walk us through the process of how these cards went from ideas to greeting cards.
I was working on “coffee” themed holiday card ideas for a local coffee shop owner prior to the Design Challenge. This was my first time trying out the Stock Card creation process, so the first search I did was “coffee Christmas” and I was surprised by how many wonderful images came up in the results. I was drawn to the photo of a coffee cup with the snowflake cream, surrounded by coffee beans. First, it’s a great eye-catching image, but most importantly it was winter-holiday themed but without any kind of religious or sectarian references — important for business owners who send holiday greeting cards to customers and clients of all faiths. As a coffee-lover myself, java equals joy — so the first thing that came to mind for the cover text was “Peace, Love & Java”. The inside verse was just what every coffee-hound loves to hear, “… filled to the brim …”, along with traditional holiday wishes.

What sparked your interest in art? Did you start as a young child?
Yes, I’ve been drawing and painting from the time I could hold anything that made marks on the walls, lol. Love for animals of all kind has been a passion throughout my life, so it’s no surprise that horses, cats, dogs, squirrels and bunnies were my first subjects. When I was in school, I learned to do calligraphy as well as pen-and-ink drawings. Even though all my professional work is done on the computer these days, I still love to pick up a pen with a firm nib and just draw for fun and relaxation. I took up photography as hobby several years ago, again mostly wildlife
and nature shots, but I found a great challenge and fondness for taking photos at sporting, dancing, and auto racing events — basically anything that moves fast. I’ve shot many events that I had no prior interest or knowledge of, but I’ve found that looking through the lens of a camera opens up the “creative eye” in your mind to see things you would otherwise miss. And that is something I don’t get from simply drawing or painting. I heartily recommend it to anyone who has a desire to pursue a career in creative arts. Just pick up a camera (even a cheap one) and go for a walk on a familiar path — once you start shooting, you’ll see things you never knew were there.

Do you have formal training or are you self-taught?
I had some fabulous art teachers in both middle and high school that inspired and encouraged me to continue with art as a major influence in my future. But I was working, and I liked making money, and didn’t really see art being a viable career for me. I took business, writing, and marketing classes in college, which came in handy for paying the bills. Then, in my early 40s, life took some unexpected turns, and I found myself being drawn back to art as form of relaxation and coping. I began to learn how to “draw” in Adobe Illustrator (15 years later and I’m still in the learning phase), and around the same time started selling some of my artwork and photos through microstock companies such as BigStock and Shutterstock. A customer let me know she had purchased several of my drawings (Irish-themed) to be used on greeting cards … and it was from that one chance interaction with a customer that led me to look for on-line greeting card suppliers, and I luckily found GCU!

In general, is your work done by hand and then scanned or do you work entirely on the computer?
All of my professional work since 2004 has been done on computer, although I still enjoy doing artwork by hand for my own pleasure. In the early 2000s, I did scan some of my earlier artwork and polished it up in Adobe Photoshop — there are a few of them on GCU and at the microstocks. But I find that the time and detailed “clean-up” work involved with scanning and processing hand-drawn artwork is more burdensome than if I just create the same or something similar from scratch on the computer. There are some artists I admire at GCU whose brilliant brush work and fine art skills would make it worth their time to do such refinements. But my art is not that elegant, so it’s really a matter of weighing my time investment.

Have you ever/do you currently have a job other than as an artist?
I’m an old galoot, so I’ve had many jobs over the years in addition to my on-line ventures. Early in my career I was mostly involved with marketing in the hotel/restaurant/hospitality field. When health and family issues turned my world upside down, I worked part-time for a group of psychologists. That was interesting! I worked for them for 21 years while I was developing my art and learning to sell my work through the internet. There couldn’t have been a better team of cheerleaders to have on your side. I retired from the psych practice to take care of my mom, whose physical and mental decline required full-time care.

What GCU artist(s) do you admire?
So many! These are just a few whose work always stands out.
Diana Ting Delosh: Awesome artwork, adorable little animals, very sweet cards.
Maria Dryfhout: Loved Maria’s photography (especially of her beloved animals) since my early days in microstocks. She makes beautiful cards.
Sandra Rose Designs: Very professional designs, polished layouts and typography.
Tom Rent: Tom can find a picture, a funny quote, and a reason to celebrate any occasion with a smile. Love his humor.
Norma Comes: Norma has a great eye for color and balance. Loved her work for a long time.
Doreen Erhardt: Doreen is just a fabulous card-maker. She understands both the artistic and marketability perspective. And she is a wonderful, generous person who is always willing to help.
Teri Nelson Kuster: Teri’s work is relatively new to me, but her cards stand out, and I’m very impressed with her ability to fashion just the right typography for the design and the occasion.

Squirrel Hugger? Ok, you must tell us where that comes from.
As I mentioned before, animals of all kind have been a great influence in my life. My parents were “pet” people, my mother particularly could make a pet out of almost any creature alive. She would have squirrels, bunnies, chipmunks, and even birds scratching at the backdoor every morning for a handout. And if they were hurt, inside they came to be patched up, fed, and comforted until they healed and could be released. Remember, this was in the 1950s-1960s, and there weren’t many wildlife refuge places around in those days. So, as my mom’s health declined, I sort of took over feeding and care of the furry and feathered crew outside. When I took up photography, I began with the squirrels, birds,and bunnies in the backyard — they’re beautiful, they move quickly and unexpectedly, and they’re just darn cute. I posted some of my photos on Flickr, and I was shocked by the interest from all over the world in our little critters, particularly the antics of the squirrels. I soon picked up the nickname “Squirrel Hugger” from those photos. It became my handle on Flickr, and over a period of years, some of our most adventurous squirrels, namely Ratface, Buttercup, and Rambo, have made their way into news articles, advertising, and even television background settings (and some GCU cards too!). So, when I came to GCU and was asked to pick a name for my store, it seemed like a perfect way to pay homage to the adorable fluff-balls that helped me start my on-line business ventures. I’ve often joked, if I had known then that it might be successful, I’d probably have chosen a different name. But all these years later, I’m so pleased and proud to still be known as “Squirrel Hugger” both personally and professionally.
BTW — While I certainly appreciate and encourage everyone to care about injured and orphaned wildlife, there are so many wonderful wildlife rehab places in every community these days. I’m a strong advocate for helping wildlife best by getting it into the care of professionals who are skilled and equipped to treat and rehab them back to their natural environment.

What would we be surprised to learn about you?
Most people are surprised when they learn that in addition to my obvious interests, my guilty pleasures are Star-Trek, hot-rod cars and the rock band Queen. Captain Kirk and Freddie Mercury reside side by side in posters over the computer in my office. When I’m working, the songs most likely playing in the background are “Don’t Stop Me Now” and “Under Pressure.” : )

Thursday, August 15th

Shoaff Ballanger Studios, Design Challenge Winner, June 2019

Shoaff Ballanger Studios, Design Challenge Winner,  June 2019
Shoaff Ballanger Studios is a collaborative wife-husband team consisting of Susan Shoaff-Ballanger and Jay Ballanger.


Please list any awards or contests you’ve won outside of GCU.
Both of us have had our pojagi fiber art (Korean patchwork) accepted and exhibited internationally in South Korea at the Pojagis From American Friends, Cheongju International Craft Biennale, Cheongju, Korea. Susan has also been the Art Educator of the Year for the State of Missouri.

Please list the URLs of your 3 favorite cards in your storefront and why they are your favorites.


We love the details in the various items and the cat in Susan’s illustration. There are so many textures and colors in this vibrant but melancholy scene. The card was originally drawn for Susan’s mother when she was away at college, as was the Cat a Day Keeps the Doctor Away card.
We chose this one because of the pojagi Korean patchwork (original stitched piece by Susan) and how we could incorporate it into the Korean 100th day Baek-il theme.
We love the Catholic saints theme and have a varied selection in our storefront. This one was chosen because of the vibrant color scheme and abstracted shapes.

Please list any of your professional social media sites.

What was your inspiration for your winning card? Please walk us through the process of how this card went from an idea to a greeting card.
The steampunk theme was fun for us as we thought about how to include some kind of animatronic animal or mechanical creature into the card design. We scoured numerous photographs and illustrations in the GCU Stock Card Creation page looking for mechanical animals. The chameleon was so interesting and perfect for the challenge. We also love puns so “chameleon” and “a million” worked perfectly.

What sparked your interest in art? Did you start as a young child?
Both of us had an interest in art as young children. Jay was creating bulletin boards in his house at the age of ten, with a monthly / seasonal theme. Susan took as many art and craft classes as a child, as her mother would allow. Both of us were adventurous, curious, and creative children.

Do you have formal training or are you self-taught?
Both of us are formally trained and since we have been married have attended numerous art and history classes/workshops together at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Shakerag, the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and Cambridge University in England.

Have you ever/do you currently have a job other than as an artist?
Jay is currently an elementary art teacher and has also worked as a speech-language pathologist at the elementary school level and as a clinical communication disorders supervisor in the university setting.  Susan has now retired from a forty-year teaching career as an elementary art teacher/supervisor and as a university professor of art, art education, fibers, and design.

What GCU artist(s) do you admire?
We have to give a shout-out to Gail Pepin and Sue Nollmeyer for their nice reviews and comments on our cards. We should call them the GCU Cheerleaders! We also love the work of Paris Bottman  and have enjoyed and purchased her work for many years.

What is it like working with your spouse?  Advantages? Disadvantages?
Working together for us is a great experience. We have been collaborating for over forty years on our fiber art works. We get to bounce ideas off of each other and it is always good to have a second pair of eyes. Jay will search the GCU Forum for new card requests and discuss it with Susan to get some ideas of what the finished card might look like. We have learned not to take the criticisms to heart and to trust each other’s opinions.  Max, our standard poodle, and Betty our miniature poodle are not much help in the critique area.

What would we be surprised to learn about each of you?
Susan wants to live in an RV and escape northern winters and Jay grew up on a farm and knows how to build fence and load disagreeable livestock onto trucks.
Tuesday, June 18th

Sharon Dominick, Design Challenge Winner, May 2019

Sharon Dominick Photography, Design Challenge Winner, May 2019



Please list the URLs of your 3 favorite cards in your storefront and why they are your favorites.

I love these three designs as they give a little taste of my favorite style of cards that enjoy creating. A tad funny, a bit quirky and sometimes cute and furry.






Please list any of your professional social media sites.

What was your inspiration for your winning card? Please walk us through the process of how this card went from idea to greeting card.
I have over 11,000 photos that I have created over the years for my stock collections that I sell exclusively though Getty Images/iStock. I will sit in front of my computer and just scroll though these images until something sparks for me. My fisheye characters are some of my favorite topics in my photography collection and I love bringing that humor over to my cards. After glancing at a list of common oxymorons, my crazy geek in the orange dress seemed like a natural fit for “clearly confused” and “pretty ugly”! Don’t worry, the model isn’t offended! She’s just me in a wig and glasses, lol!

What sparked your interest in photography? Did you start as a young child?
I remember having a camera as young as six years old. I always loved taking pictures, but I never saw it as a possible career. Fast forward to the future when I had my first child, my baby girl who is now 17, I decided to get a nice Canon SLR camera to take pictures of her. That’s when it all really began.

Do you have formal training or are you self-taught?
A little of both. When I first discovered my interest in photography, I took two non-credit classes though my local community college. This was around the time that the transition from film to digital was happening. It was a bit of a struggle for me at first as I still was shooting film. Once I purchased my first digital camera is when things really started to click for me. There is nothing like seeing instant results to understand what mistakes you are making!

Have you ever/do you currently have a job other than as a photographer?
Before I discovered this career path, I worked for two different companies in their offices as a buyer in the purchasing departments. One was a metals distributing company and the other was an office supply products company. All through the years of doing those jobs, I always felt that I wasn’t in the right place. I had this inner desire to be creative and there really wasn’t any room for creativity in the type of work that I was doing. Today, shooting stock photography, stock video footage and making greeting cards is my full-time job. And I’m much happier!

What GCU artist(s) do you admire?
My biggest inspiration at Greeting Cards Universe is by far Sandra Rose Designs. Not only is she an amazing designer with a knack for finding niches in the industry, she’s the reason for me discovering Greeting Card Universe! We met by chance though Linkedin. She noticed that I also did creative work for a living and live in Pittsburgh, PA and suggested that we get together. As it turns out, we only live about a mile away from each other! We get together on occasion to talk shop or to take a creative class.

Other artists that always catch my eye are Ron Magnes (whose profile says he’s from Pittsburgh too!) Laughing Hippo Studio cards always crack me up! Betty Matsumoto-Schuch’s creations of Bud & Tony the cats are so adorable. I love the humor of Ron Kanfi & Chuck Ingwersen’s creations! Corrie Kuipers illustration style & designs always stand out to me. I could go on and on! There is so much talent at Greeting Card Universe!

Honest answer. Easier models, people or pets?
Whew, that’s a tough one! They each have their own challenges. I think I’m going to go with models because of these options, they are the ones who actually love to be in front of the camera. But honestly, I do enjoy the challenge of pet photography. It’s very rewarding when you get good results!

Looking at your storefront, up close and personal photography dominates your designs. Can you share your thoughts on how you match a photo to an occasion?
My process varies from day to day when it comes to creating greeting cards. Sometimes I will plan a shoot based around an idea and other times I will have an idea and will sift though my thousands of images to find the right fit. Most of the time, I will have no occasions or photos in mind and I will just sift though my images and wait for something to inspire me.

Monday, May 27th

Design Challenge Winner, April 2019, Graduation Season – Cathie Richardson of Country Garden Cards

Design Challenge Winner, April 2019, Graduation Season – Cathie Richardson of Country Garden Cards
Please list any awards or contests you’ve won outside of GCU.
Other than a few fair ribbons, this is my first contest win!


Please list the URLs of your 3 favorite cards in your storefront and why they are your
For all three of these cards I liked how the colors turned out. I had a great time illustrating, learning about the state birds, and why they were chosen for the US. Every summer we have a lizard that discovers our back yard and decides to stay. I kind of get attached to him like a pet.

Please list any of your professional social media sites.

What were your inspirations for your winning card? Please walk us through the process of how this card went from idea to greeting card.
Last year we hiked a lot near Donner Summit in California and this is a view from the tunnel up there. While we were up there I saw two people that looked like they were getting ready to climb the rocks. I admire people who do that and I admire people that pursue and achieve advanced education.

What sparked your interest in art? Did you start as a young child?
I didn’t start having a serious interest in art until my son was born and I was planning to stay home with him. I found a Lee Ames how to draw art book at a library sale and loved it.

Do you have formal training or are you self-taught?
I have an Associate of Arts degree, but am mostly self-taught. It’s really nice to be able to find classes online to learn a new skill at any time.

Is your work done by hand and then scanned or do you work entirely on the computer?
I hand draw my work, paint it, and then scan it. I like to be able to use my work in a lot of different ways.

Have you ever/do you currently have a job other than as an artist?
Yes, I work part-time at a museum helping with organizing and data entry of their photograph collection.

What GCU artist(s) do you admire?
There are so many great artists on GCU. I love to look at the recently sold and see new cards I haven’t noticed before. I really appreciate the humorous cards of Ron Magnes and comics of Bruce Bolinger. The very cute illustrations of Gerda Steiner, Makiko Kimura, and Olivia Kneibler.

Looking at your storefront, you are a garden lover.  Tell the truth, do you have a green thumb?
Yes, spring is my favorite season and the garden nursery one of my favorite places to shop.

Monday, April 8th

Lisa Crisafi – Design Challenge Winner, January 2019

 Design Challenge Winner, January 2019, Living Coral – Lisa Crisafi of Nest to Nest Greetings 


Thank you for choosing my design for the January 2019 contest. I love these challenges as they encourage me to try something new and to think outside of my box. I would encourage any GCU artist reading this interview to enter the contests.


What was your inspiration for your winning card? Please walk us through the process of how this card went from an idea to a greeting card. 
The first thing that came to mind when I read that the contest revolved around Living Coral, the Pantone Color of the year, were the little terracotta pots I have in my home and classroom. I love a good pun, so I started writing down the names of some of my favorite plants to see if I could make it “punny”.  I settled on succulents and the verse “Life doesn’t succ when you have good friends.”


Your winning card really uses Living Coral aptly in a southwestern pallet.  Did you decide first on your design and then the color combination or color combination and then the design?
I didn’t have a southwestern theme in mind when I started creating this card, but adding cacti to the design, combined with the theme revolving around this particular color definitely gave it a desert vibe. I chose a cactus plant for this verse as they grow in clumps that I thought would represent a community of friends.


We love a good pun!  Which of your cards is your favorite pun and why?
This Valentine’s Day card of mine, Love You with Every Fiber of My Bean, is my all time favorite pun card. I won a Hallmark card contest based on this pun. I had to change it up a bit to use the verse in my GCU storefront, and I think it’s time to create a better image for the cover.
Is there a pun card by another GCU artist that you really enjoy?  If so, which card?
I really enjoy Ron Magnes’ Deer Pun card. When you can use two puns in one sentence and the verse still flows, you have a great talent!


Valentine’s Day is shortly behind us.  Tell the truth, did you give out Valentines cards and if so did you send one of your own cards or send a design by a different artist?
To be honest, I am the WORST at sending out cards. I can sit for hours at my computer creating card designs, but I am always late sending them out. I usually send out cards from  different artists. I guess I’m a little self conscious about sending my designs to people I know. I wonder if any other GCU artists feel the same?


Ok, now for the fast five, fun questions …
  • If you had to be allergic to something, what would it be?
Chocolate is my huge addiction. If I couldn’t eat it anymore I might be able to accomplish my weight loss goal. lol
  • If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?
I love birds so I would choose flight as my superpower.
  • What is one thing you miss about being a kid?
Nothing. I haven’t given up my childhood. Yes, have responsibilities, but I choose not to lose the joy and wonder of the little things in life.
  • What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Friendly’s Chocolate Almond Chip. (Good thing I’m not allergic!)
  • What is your favorite scent /smell?
Carnations. They are underrated and smell so much nicer than roses.


Wednesday, April 3rd

Stacia Gorge of Good Things by Gorge, Design Challenge Winner, October 2018

Stacia Gorge of Good Things by Gorge, Design Challenge Winner, October 2018



Please list any awards or contests you’ve won outside of GCU.
Ages ago, prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom, community volunteer, & GCU card designer, I worked in the corporate communications field as a writer and editor. I served on teams that received awards from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA).


Additionally, I’ve had poetry published in two Indiana-based publications: (1) Carmel Creations: An Anthology by Carmel Creative Writers (2018 edition), and (2) Tipton Poetry Journal’s “Christmas at the Creek” Special Issue (2012).  Ironically, my preferred poetry style is usually not suitable for greeting cards due to my poems’ length, serious contemplative nature, or other factors. It’s really not a problem for me, though, because I feel lucky to have different outlets for my various creative moods!


Please list the URLs of your 3 favorite cards in your storefront and why they are your favorites.
  1. Congratulations on Your New Home – Quaint Vintage House with Flowers – This is one of my most popular cards & I’m so pleased that customers are attracted to its nostalgic warmth!
  1. Electricians Don’t Really Retire, Humor, Retirement PARTY Invitation – I love experimenting with typography & was pleased with the outcome of this unique creation. It’s also nice that the party invitation has continued to sell well over the years.
  1. With Deepest Sympathy for Your Loss, Dogwood, Vintage, Blue and White card – I love vintage-style cards. For me, they evoke extra heartfelt emotions. I send this card whenever a friend or relative is grieving.
Please list any of your professional social media sites.
Any time GCU customers would like see some of my latest creations, they are invited to view and/or follow me on Pinterest.


What sparked your interest in art? Did you start as a young child?
My mother is a keen admirer of art, so much so that she eventually became the president of the board of my hometown’s art museum. Due to her interest, the world of art was often discussed in our home as I was growing up. Additionally, my maternal grandmother adored both music and art and excelled at both. If my grandmother were alive today, she’d be delighted and amazed to see how easy it is for art consumers to find artists around the world via the internet.


Is your work done by hand and then scanned or do you work entirely on the computer?
I currently do all of my work on the computer, but I plan to try some work by hand in the future.


What would we be surprised to learn about you?
I think people would be surprised to know that one of my two majors in college was Philosophy. I was the only one in a class of thousands to have declared that major as an incoming freshman (usually students select it later in their studies). I guess I hear a different drummer!


What GCU artist(s) do you admire?
There are too many talented artists to list! However, I especially love the cartoon humorists, the watercolorists, the photographers, and the verse-writing specialists. I also admire those artists who take time to help the newbie designers via the forum and/or who write informative articles to help artists be successful at GCU. They make it a real pleasure to be part of GCU’s creative environment.


Tuesday, October 23rd

Ness Nordberg, Design Challenge Winner, September 2018

Ness Nordberg, Design Challenge Winner, September 2018
Please list any of your professional social media sites.

What was your inspiration for your winning card? Please walk us through the process of how this card went from ideas to greeting cards.

I wanted to create a card for mothers to honour my own mother and to all the mother’s out there who make Christmas so special for us by tireless cooking, cleaning, organising presents etc.  For this card, I started with the typography and then worked on the illustration for the wreath.  I wanted a simple and modern card that would could be sent to all mothers. 


What sparked your interest in art? Did you start as a young child?

I love art as it allows me to express myself creatively.  I started when I was young with drawing horses and using graphite.  I stopped for a while to focus on my studies and career but picked it up again 5 years ago.    


Do you have formal training or are you self-taught?

I am self-taught.


Is your work done by hand and then scanned or do you work entirely on the computer?

I do a bit of both.  I love to experiment with different techniques and materials.  Sometimes I work with gouache/watercolor and then scan my work, other times I use Procreate and iPad/Adobe Photoshop/Adobe Illustrator to create my work.


Have you ever/do you currently have a job other than as an artist?

I currently work in IT Finance full time and am an artist on the side.  One day, I would love to be a full time artist.


What GCU artist(s) do you admire?

Carol Kearns – I love her whimsical and sweet illustrations especially the Christmas ones!


Ron Magnes –  I love how his cards are very original and modern


Mindy Pierce – I love diversity of her cards and her combination of typography and illustrations

Looking at your storefront, typography seems to be a vital element in your designs.  Can you share your thoughts on the importance of typography in your designs?

The balance of illustrations and typography is very important to me especially when creating cards.  To me, sending a card to someone is very personal.  I have learnt to create my own typography to compliment my card designs because I want to provide something extra special and personal to the person receiving the card.

What would we be surprised to learn about you?

My other passion is plants! I have an Instagram account @theoaksprout that documents my indoor plant growing passion.

Monday, September 24th

Tammy Moody — August 2018 Design Challenge Winner

Tammy Moody, Design Challenge Winner, August 2018
What was your inspiration for your winning card? Please walk us through the process of how this card went from an idea to a greeting card.
Honestly, I wasn’t going to enter the contest until Corrie shared a link to the Nuts and Bolts post with various red, white, and blue color schemes. When I saw the colors on her blog post, I really liked the rustic color schemes. They reminded me of Americana or folk themed art. Since July is really the month to be designing for Christmas, I decided to shoot two cans off the fence with one shot. I just love snowmen and thought it would be fun to try to do a caroling snowman and put him in Americana themed clothing. I knew I wanted to do Christmas trees in the background, and since the theme was red, white, and blue, I thought I could top the trees with red white and blue stars. I had a hard time thinking of the perfect connection between my Christmas theme and the red white and blue theme or stars theme, so I went to You Tube and started listening to Christmas carols while I was designing the card to see if I could find connections because my little snowman was singing caroling. It was a good idea! When O Holy Night began to play and I heard the second line, “The stars were brightly shining,” I knew I had found a perfect connection for my card design. Listening to Christmas carols when I design Christmas cards out of season is not out of the ordinary for me though because it is about the only way I can get into the ‘Christmas spirit’ when it is 95 degrees outside. I know my husband and kids think I am nuts when they walk in and hear me playing Christmas music in the middle of July, but, hey, it works for me. 
You offer many different cards featuring snowmen in your GCU storefront.  What are the key makings of a good snowman and what is your favorite part about making them?
I love snowmen! When I was a kid, I used to love making snowmen outside. I grew up in northwest Ohio, so when you see snow for six months out of the year, you learn to enjoy it and be creative. Really, when designing a snowman, most of mine are pretty similar in that they usually have three sections with carrots for a nose and they usually wear a hat, coat, and mittens, or a scarf and I give them stick arms. I go for more of a traditional, or old fashioned snowman because that is what I grew up seeing. One time I did do a smiling snowman card and put some of my Dad’s and my own facial features on it just to see what he would look like and it turned out kind of cool, so I made him into a card and it is available in my first GCU store under the title Jolly Smiling Snowman.
One of the rewards to being a Design Challenge winner is being able to use the winning design, should the artist choose, in a new series and using Fast Track review for all cards in the new series.  Will you leverage this design for more cards and if yes, what other occasions / categories?
I like having the American theme Christmas cards available for people to send to loved ones who may be in the service or far away from home and who would appreciate having a little piece of home with them during the holiday season. That is really what I had in mind when I designed this card. Also I like offering designs for people who just like to send a patriotic themed Christmas cards for the holidays, so I may add a custom front design that people can personalize to send to friends and family. Also, I would adjust it for custom design requests.
We know you start early in the year, Christmas in July, creating winter holiday cards.  After Christmas, what is the next major holiday that you will start design cards for?
After Christmas, I usually end up designing for Valentine’s Day or Easter. Sometimes I will consider designing a New Year’s card, but more than likely it will be Valentine’s Day.
Ok, now for the fast five, fun questions …  
What’s your dream occupation– the one job you’d love to have if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
I always wanted to make greeting cards, so I am getting to enjoy that at GCU.
What one accomplishment are you most proud of?
Aside from my kids, I think I was most proud of being invited to the Grand National Rodeo Championship Art show in California in 2008. It was by invitation only and only 500 artists worldwide were invited to show there. So I was honored to be a part of it and be able to show my horse and southwest themed paintings.
Which is your favorite, puppies or kittens?
They are both adorable and entertaining, but kittens are much less maintenance. lol
List something that is on your bucket list.
I’d like to visit Ireland.
If your clothes had to be one color forever, what color would you pick?
Navy blue.
Monday, August 6th

Tammy Moody — Design Challenge Winner, June 2018

Tammy Moody, Design Challenge Winner, June 2018
What was your inspiration for your winning card? Please walk us through the process of how this card went from an idea to a greeting card.
When I was growing up, the phrase, ” I’m singing your praises” was often heard whenever people wanted to thank you for something you did. When I saw this month’s design challenge theme, that phrase instantly popped into my mind. I had never done one of the stock card challenges, so I thought I would give it a try. I looked for animals playing instruments and found this wonderful bull strumming his little guitar and I thought it would be perfect for the sentiment. We have lots of beef and dairy farmers in Missouri and I wanted something that might speak to cattle ranchers in general because they make up such a large demographic here in America and I wanted something that might speak to them and I wanted the design to be a little comical as well because most of the farmers and ranchers I know have a really great sense of humor. So that is how this design came to be.
The Design Challenge was Music Themed Thank You.  Are you musical or play any instruments?
No, I’m not very musical. but I like to sing from time to time when I am by myself.
This was a Stock Card Creation (BigStock) only challenge.  Any tips on finding the perfect stock image?
I think it helps to have a general idea about the message you’d like to deliver and who your target audience will be and when searching for images just be open-minded because you may run across something unexpected that might be exactly what you didn’t know you were looking for.
There are many rewards for the Design Challenge Winner.  Which is your favorite and why?
My favorite part of the Design Challenge is just creating something with a theme and seeing what all the artists do with that same theme. I am constantly amazed at how many different things people create with the same theme. If you win that is just icing on the cake really. I like it when the design is featured on Facebook or gets a spotlight on GCU as Design of the Day because it helps spotlight an artist or a particular design.
Mid-year is a good time to start design cards for the Winter holidays.  What are your plans?
Actually, I already have a jump-start on designing for the holiday season. Christmas in July is sort of a great rule-of-thumb for artists who want to get holiday designs submitted. I used the July Design Challenge of Red White and Blue to take an opportunity to design a Christmas card. I like to do a few Patriotic Christmas cards for customers to send to friends or loved ones who might be far away or in the Armed Services and appreciate something from home. I go to Youtube and play Christmas carols to help get myself in the Christmas spirit, so I get a few strange looks from my husband or kids because I play Christmas carols during the hottest month of the year. lol
Ok, now for the fast five, fun questions …
  1. If you had to be allergic to something, what would it be? 
    I’d be allergic to sweets, so I wouldn’t gain weight. lol
  1. What makes a good friend?
    A good friend sticks by your side no matter what. They listen when you need someone to talk to, they pick you up when you are feeling down. And they tell you the truth even when it isn’t what you want to hear. They are someone you can count on and laugh with. They care about you and let you be yourself. They also let you be there for them.
  1. Would you rather be a giant rodent or a tiny elephant?
    I would be a tiny elephant because I think baby elephants are adorable as can be.
  1. Are you sunrise or sunset? Explain why. 
    Sunrise because I think each new day is a brand new beginning with new opportunities to do something new, different or better than before.
  1. If you woke up as a flower one day, what flower would you be?
    I would be a daisy because they are the happiest flower. 
Note: Other interviews of Tam Moody here and here.


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