Monday, May 20th

Lisa Charlton, Design Challenge Winner, March 2023

Please list any awards or contests you’ve won outside of GCU.

I’ve had a few yays including Best in Show Booth and a Pet Industry Best New Product featuring my artworks on gift decor but my biggest win (and this will sound cheesy) is winning the hearts of pet lovers who view my paintings.

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

  1. Stay PAWSitive Canine Painting One of my most popular cards. Over 1500 sold. Created from a painting of one of our past dogs named Takoda, meaning, Friend. His name and heart lives on with every send of this card.

Bless This Nest Eastern Bluebird All Occasion One of the first cards I created for Greeting Card Universe. 

My 3rd favorite card is going to be the next card I create for my store! I hope it will be a favorite of card shoppers too. Thanks for looking. 

What was your inspiration for the make-over changes to your winning card? Please walk us through the process of how this card went from before to after.

This month’s design challenge had card artists examining their stores for a card with 0 sales and editing that card with new image and/or text but to keep the category and intended recipient the same. I had recently completed a painting of 20 dogs for the 20th anniversary of a Rescue I do annual art gift ornaments for. A painting of 20 dogs is so much more suited for a PAWty invitation card than my original card art of just one breed specific dog. Ta Da! Let’s PAWty!

Your cards feature a lot of animals. Tell us where your love of animals started and the big question, how many pets do you have?

We have two pet family members, Abby, our cat and Willie, our dog, but many chunks of our hearts have previously been taken by past animal fosters and family. The love of animals has no pinpoint. 

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

Yes, blessed to be influenced by art appreciators and encouragement as a young child.

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

 Namely, self-taught but with credit to an Italian realistic artist named Mario Aromi. He spoke few English words but through the language of art, he taught me to draw and paint realistically. Credit also to a now dear friend who taught folk art. After years of not painting, I attended her folk art class. Voila, she ignited my creative and I was soon booking art and craft shows to sell my work.

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

By hand, then scanned for reproduction on greeting cards and art gift decor. I am better with a brush stroke than a keystroke.

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

I was a full-time ‘starving’ but happy to be an artist for many years. I currently flog merchandise in a thrift store 4 days a week and dabble with art for online sales. Hoping to be more of a dabbler in days to come.

What GCU artist(s) do you admire?

Hard to narrow down, from 3000+! Two artists instantly come to mind, Corrie Kuiper and Doreen Erhardt, not just for their inspirational card creations but for the hours of time they dedicate to serving the GCU community with tips, help and challenges.

You have been with Greeting Card Universe since 2007. What advice do you have for an artist considering joining GCU’s community?

Join in Design Challenges, educate yourself with Greeting Card Universe’s wiki resources before you upload your first card. Learn from the fantastic reviewers. Don’t be discouraged. GCU’s reviewers set a high bar with good reason. Clear the bar. You’ll smile when you do.

What would we be surprised to learn about you?

Hmmm, nothing up my sleeve that would surprise. I live, I love, I learn, I laugh … thanks for spending time with me on Mindy’s blog. Cheers, Lisa Charlton, Cards from the heART.

Thursday, October 19th

Alda Monteschio Design Challenge Winner, August 2023

Alda Monteschio Design Challenge Winner, August 2023

Please list any awards or contests you’ve won outside of GCU.
I work for a Christian Gift company and was asked to write a Mother’s Day poem to accompany a piece of jewelry in the product line. It was the first poem I wrote for them and the product ended up winning an industry award at one of the trade shows. This poem was the first of many of what has become a whole product line for the company. I also designed a Mother’s Day card for a Hallmark contest and won. The card was sold for a season by Hallmark.

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

Forever Loved Thinking of You Blank card
Besides the poem, I love the look of the flowers against the watercolor background.

Hip Hip Hooray Hip Replacement Success card
I was inspired to design this card for my friend’s husband who recently had a hip replacement. He said it was “a keeper” so that makes it even more special to me.

As You Begin Your New Life Wedding Congratulations card
This is another card that was inspired by and designed for a couple I know who managed to find one another again later in life. I love the soft feel of the artwork, too.

Please list any of your professional social media sites.
I have an Instagram account that I sometimes post my cards and other creations on. You can also find me on Pinterest with some pins for Heart Tugs Greeting Cards.

What were your inspirations for your winning card? Please walk us through the process of how this card went from idea to greeting card.
I am a first-generation Italian American and called my grandparents on both sides Nonna and Nonno. Both my grandmothers lived for 100-plus years and neither spoke English! When I saw the subject of the design challenge there was no question that I would use either Nonna or Nonno in my design. Because of my heritage, the thoughts that ran through my mind were DNA … Italian … which led me to find artwork that I could use to convey these messages. Of course, with Italy shaped like a boot and my love for rhyme, it didn’t take much more to make it all come together once I found the fingerprint. I was pleased with the way it turned out, but never expected it to win. Very grateful for the honor.

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

I was never really artistic as a child, but I did write some poetry. I always wanted to take art in school, however,my parents encouraged me to take college courses instead so I never got the opportunity. I did try things like calligraphy as an adult and did a pencil sketch once, but later in life as my job commissioned me to write poetry, I took some graphic design classes. Coupling the writing with the graphic design eventually led to greeting card design.

Do you have formal training or are you self-taught?
The writing is self-taught, but I did take courses in Adobe Illustrator and PhotoShop.

Is your work done by hand and then scanned or do you work entirely on the computer?
I do all or most of my work in Adobe Illustrator. I use Photoshop on occasion.

Have you ever/do you currently have a job other than as an artist?
I work for a gift company in product development. I help design jewelry and its packaging which usually contains a gift card with poetry or other sentiments.

What GCU artist(s) do you admire?
I don’t even know where to begin as there is so much talent on GCU! I feel a kindred spirit with Sue Nollmeyer at Sunshine Studio and love the scope and variety that Sandra Rose Designs offers. And of course, Corrie Kuipers cards are wonderful! It’s always fun to see how creative each artist can be.

Tell us how your Italian heritage inspires your work.
As I said earlier, I am first generation Italian-American. My Dad was born there and after years of him encouraging me to take a trip, I went to visit. Of course, Italy is known for its amazing art, so my love and appreciation for beautiful art and design probably stems from that.

What would we be surprised to learn about you?
I am actually very SHY! I think this is the main reason I wrote poetry as a child. It was a form of self-expression.

Monday, April 10th

Design Challenge Winner, November 2022, New Year – Stephanie Laird


You have a lot of wine-related designs. Tell us about your love of wine.
Yes, I do have a LOT of wine designs! It’s because of where I live. For the past 30+ years, I have lived in wine country CA.   It is beautiful and covered in vineyards, tasting rooms, and wineries.  It seems everything revolves around wine!  I wasn’t much of a “wine-er” to begin with, but when in Rome … Plus, there are always photo-ops driving through the beautiful vine-covered hills. One of my horse cards on Greeting Card Universe is also a wine label for a wonderful Grenache, Petite Syrah blend called Untamed at Shadow Run Vineyards.
Which of your card designs do you predict will be your best seller this year (2022 holidays) and why?

Now that is such a great question and I wish I had a good answer! Sometimes what I think is brilliant, really isn’t, and cards that I think are just okay sometimes really sell! So, I guess wine cards sell pretty good because you can attach humor with them.  But it probably is a little bit of a niche market because not everyone drinks, or drinks wine. Horses always seem popular, just because they are such beautiful creatures!  But this year, I think the dolphins and Santa will be the best because I believe everyone thinks dolphins are kind of special. P

We also see many horses, dogs, and cats in your designs.  Are any of the featured animals your own pets?
Yes, they all are, and they are all tired of the camera! My horses, I torture early in the morning, to get the sunrise behind them. To get them to pose, I have to place their hay in certain spots on a hill to get the silhouette. It is usually dark and very cold when we start this process but sometimes yields some nice photos. Not always though, as horses aren’t always known for cooperating.  My beautiful dogs, some that have passed on, have all been my loving subjects. And it is really neat to have my ones that have passed, live on in the pictures on the cards. Cats, too, although I have only one cat right now. He was saved from a wildfire in 2020. My friend was working the fire and brought him by.  His name is Smokey, because of the fire, and he is, well, kind of feral and a jerk but he did pose for a Halloween card! Kind of fitting for his wicked little personality!

Ok, now for the fast five, fun questions …  
What is your hidden talent?
Okay, I know this may sound weird, but I can find any public bathroom, anywhere.  I just can. 
If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?
Invisibility, which, unfortunately, speaks to my level of sociability. 
What’s the strangest family tradition in your family?
I am not sure if it is strange, but we would hand down ID’s. I had 3 sisters, and as soon as one of us hit 21 they would get a new id and give the old id to the younger one, and so on, so we could get into drinking establishments. We looked similar enough to pull it off. This was back when it wasn’t as strict as today.  Probably not too wholesome and it may explain my abundance of wine cards

What’s your most embarrassing moment from your teen years?
Getting my tongue stuck in a bottle.  Don’t ask. 
What was your first paid job?  What did you love or hate about it?
Cleaning horse corrals. I started when I was 7. Traded for horse board.  There wasn’t a lot to like about it, but it did let me have a horse!

Sunday, April 9th

M.M. Anderson, Design Challenge Winner, February 2023

Mothers Day Grandmother Azalea Pink and Magenta Flowers Custom card

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

This ostrich art birthday card is a favorite because the bird portrait is quite whimsical and I feel the design came together well with my text. I also appreciate that it can be customized for any recipient.

This daisy encouragement card appeals to me because it has such a cheerful look and message but it may also be customized to suit the needs of the buyer.

This blank note card with winter berries is a favorite because it features seasonal artwork that I particularly love and also for the design’s versatility. The inside may be customized for Christmas or for any wintertime event.

Please list any of your professional social media sites.

mmandersonart on Instagram

MMAnderson Art on Pinterest

MMAndersonArt on Facebook

MMAnderson Art on Twitter

MMAnderson on Mastodon

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 generally create the artwork first. I was inspired to do the azaleas in soft pastel after photographing the early blossoms in my own garden this spring. I always find the vivid magenta color of these shrubs striking when they appear after the drab winter season. These spring flowers with their delicate appearance and pretty pink hues, I felt, would lend themselves well to a Mother’s Day design.

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

As a child, I did enjoy drawing but I did not become serious about art until I attended college and found myself trying to decide on a path that would make the most of my talents. My work has always been inspired by a love of nature and a desire to capture something of the way in which I see the world.

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

I have a BA in art from the University of Lynchburg in Virginia.

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

I do most of my artwork by hand in soft pastel and then scan it for use at my various websites. Occasionally, I also do some graphic artwork on the computer but my heart is really with the traditional media. After I have the image saved on my computer I then tweak it in Lightroom to get the colors, contrast, etc. as close as possible to the original and clean up any scanner lint. I design my greeting cards in Adobe Illustrator utilizing my artwork image and choosing fonts and colors that I feel will work well with it. Finally, I export the card designs as jpeg files for upload.

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

Originally, I had intended to teach art, but that never became a reality. Before I decided to try a full-time art career around a decade ago, I used to do data entry in an accounting office.

What GCU artist(s) do you admire?

I admire all of the GCU artists because I know how much dedication it takes to create beautiful, unique designs that will meet the review standards.

Looking at your storefront, which is your favorite subject matter: flora or fauna?

It would be difficult for me to choose between flora and fauna as a favorite subject. I love working with both. I feel that alternating between the two keeps the work interesting for me. White flowers are a favorite subject of mine as well as birds of various kinds.

What would we be surprised to learn about you?

Folks might be surprised to learn that, even though I currently live in a small town not far inland from the coast in South Carolina, I was born and raised in Central Virginia within sight of the Blue Ridge Mountains and I miss them. I’ve never come to appreciate the flat coastal plains, wetlands and beaches, as beautiful as they may be and where I have lived for nearly three decades, as much as the hills and valleys of the Blue Ridge.

Friday, January 27th

Trudy Wilkerson, Trudy’s Impressions, Design Challenge Winner, September 2022

Christmas Tree Typography Presents Star Streams around Decorated Tree card

Please list the URLs of your 3 favorite cards in your storefront and why they are your favorites.
Sunflowers have always been a favorite flower of mine due to the message they seem to suggest, which in my opinion, is happiness, brightness, and hope.  Although, I have designed many sunflower cards, this particular one I really love because of its down-home country feeling it seems to scream.
Country Sunflowers, Birthday, mom, Brown Texture, Tied Knot card 

I love designing with bold colors, thus I have created what I titled, KALEIDOSCOPE COLLECTION, whereas I have designed images in bright colors in abstract forms.  One of my first cards in this unique collection. My favorite is: Hi, Hello, Colorful and Happy Frog in Kaleidoscope Collection card 

My third choice would probably have to be a religious Christmas greeting honoring Christ’s birth. 
Christmas – Religious – Baby Jesus/Manger – Greatest Gift card 

Please list any of your professional social media sites.  
Basically, I don’t indulge too much in social media, however, I do enjoy visiting Facebook to see what my peers are up to and keep in touch with family and friends.

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 GCU announces the new monthly challenge, it often gets my designer juices flowing and I am eager to challenge myself to come up with something new and fun for it.  The thought process for this typography holiday card was simply to focus on my favorite upcoming holiday, Christmas, and then I began thinking of all the words that immediately popped up in my mind that best described that holiday.  Then I incorporated all those words into the form of a Christmas tree, and then it all fell into place quite easily.

What sparked your interest in art? Did you start as a young child?  
I have always loved art since childhood.  After my mother passed back in 2000, I thought to myself, life is short, so I focused on learning photography, and that became a real passion of mine.  From there I was introduced to stock sites and of course GCU.  At first, I just started with photographs of flowers over and over again, but soon discovered there were millions out there of gorgeous flowers. That’s when it dawned on me to start learning via digital designs and quickly discovered how much I absolutely loved it.  Over the years, I self-taught myself how to design digitally through the use of tutorials and more on the internet and slowly started adding programs that I could use along with photoshop, and the rest is history.

Do you have formal training or are you self-taught? 
I started with photography taking a year course through the New York Institute of Photography and then later I self-taught myself techniques in designing through many, many online tutorials.

Is your work done by hand and then scanned or do you work entirely on the computer? 
First, I so admire those who are natural artists and draw by hand, simply amaze me with their talents.  However, I 100% design everything on my computer through either or both Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Photoshop.   I usually go back and forth between both programs. 

Have you ever/do you currently have a job other than as an artist?  
Yes, I previously was a Realtor for 27 years.  I loved helping people find their dream homes.  Once I started dabbling in photography and then on to designing, I found that it relaxed me and gave me great peace of mind by shutting out the stresses of the world.

What GCU artist(s) do you admire?
There are so many inspiring artists out there, too many to mention that I like.  However, like many of us, Corrie Kuipers and Doreen in our Community Blog, have both inspired and educated us with their ideas and suggestions to improve ourselves.  I appreciate their hard work and steadfastness.

What would we be surprised to learn about you?
On a very personal note, I’d like to share something about myself that I discovered I had within me, but never knew just how strong I really was. Two years ago, I discovered I had cancer, and sadly a very aggressive
cancer which I was told, that even after chemo, women don’t survive more than two years.  At first, fear gripped me to the core.  I wanted to see my grandchildren have children and families.  Then with God’s almighty grace and with the support of my family and friends, I took on the belief that I would be one of the 9% that could survive this.  Thereafter, everything I looked at in life became less important but at the same time, I wanted to strive to be a better person, more caring, more loving, and appreciate every moment that God allows me to have here on this beautiful earth.  These past few weeks, I did have a scare it may have come back, however, after undergoing cat scans, and many other tests, my doctor advised me that at
this point I am in remission and cancer free.  Now that dreaded two-year mark is only two months away.
The reason I am sharing this personal information is to encourage anyone that is struggling with something in their life, to not
give up, and to fight tooth and nail for what they need to conquer, and with God’s grace, you can pull through it.

Friday, May 28th

Getting to Know … Sharon Dominick

Smiling Woman Holding Funny Greeting Card


Sharon Dominick, a GCU artist since March 2018, has a creative and unique approach to photography. Her images, coupled with her sharp sense of humor,  make for imaginative greeting cards.


Sharon Dominick Photography Greeting Cards


How long have you been involved with photography?

I have always loved taking photos and had a number of point-and-shoot film cameras since I was a child.


How long have you been selling your photographs online?

Since December of 2002 when I stumbled across a website called during a Google search about how to sell photos.


What sparked your interest in photography?

Although I’ve always loved taking pictures, having my first baby is what really sparked me to learn how to take it more seriously.  I wanted to have great memories of those precious early years.  Nineteen years later, I still have my camera in my kids’ faces as often as they will let me, lol!


How do you control the animals you photograph? Do you have any funny stories to share?

Shooting animals is always an interesting task!  With my cats, I always have a bag of treats and a palm leaf or a stick toy nearby for entertainment.  As for shooting animals in general, the only way to get a few good images is to shot fast and shoot a lot!


What are your favorite subjects to photograph, animals or people?

I really enjoy the challenge of shooting animals.  People are fun too and way more cooperative, but there is a different kind of satisfaction of discovering that you got an adorable shot even though it felt like the session was mostly a failure.


We need to know more about your top models Pringy and Lucky.  Can you share their stories with us? 

Lucky came to live with us in January of 2014 after we made a stop at the Beaver County Humane Society here in PA for my daughter to drop off some donations that she collected for the shelter.  We already had one cat, Mittens, and really were not in the market for another.  But we decided to “just look” anyway.  He had only been there a week and he was so vocal that we could not ignore him.  We visited with him in a separate room and fell in love, so we adopted him.  Mittens was not happy about it and still isn’t to this day!


Pringy (which is short for Pringles) was born to a feral cat on our deck in April 2015.  I discovered some strays in my backyard, so I started putting food out for them.  When winter came, I put a Rubbermaid shelter in my deck so they could survive the winter. In the spring, one surprised us with kittens in her shelter!  My daughter used to sit on the deck and snack on Pringles chip and one of the kittens took a liking to her and would snack on her chip crumbs.  Hence, how she got her name.  We knew we had to do something or the cat population in our backyard would explode, so we captured the mother and two of her kittens and thought we were going to get new homes for all of them.  Of course, my daughter was in love with Pringy so we kept her.  The mother and other kitten are doing great in their fur-ever homes as well.


We understand some of the photos are of you.  How do you pull this off?

In the beginning, when the technology was not as good, it was a little tougher to model for my own pictures.  I would use a stuffed animal to focus on, hit the timer on the camera, run around and toss the animal and stand in its place.  Now, my camera has an app and I can control everything while in front of the camera making it so much easier.  It is challenging, but I enjoy it.  Especially the silly characters that I create.


Your more recent submissions deviate from your first collection of fish-eye people photos.  Intentional change of style or an evolution?

In 2019, I made the decision to stop renting commercial studio space as I was not utilizing it enough to justify the cost.  I had it set up to throw my camera on a tripod and shoot away at any given moment.  The fisheye shoot is a complex one requiring lots of space and lights.  It’s a little harder to pull off at home so I don’t do it as much.  That, plus Greeting Card Universe has inspired me to try drawing and illustrating again, something I always enjoyed doing for fun.


Are you formally trained in photography or self-taught?

Mostly self-taught, with a couple of non-credit classes that helped get me started.


What’s your equipment set up like?

Since I’m working all from home now, I keep a strobe with a softbox in my office so it’s ready to go at any given moment.  I have a stand and lots of colored backdrops that I drag to my living room for a shoot.


What editing software do you use?

I subscribe to all of Adobe’s programs.  I mostly use Photoshop, Fresco, Illustrator and Premiere.


How much time do you typically spend on post-processing?

It all depends on the project.


Tell us a little bit about your prop collection?  Is it small enough to store in a closet or do you need a storage shed?  Is it organized or in chaos?

Lol, this is a great question!  When I had the studio space, I would buy props at the drop of a hat knowing I had the space for them.  I kept them in several Rubbermaid tubs, somewhat organized.  I also had a couple of clothing racks full of costumes.  I did not realize how much I actually had until I had to have a sale and get rid of it all.  Now I have a couple of boxes of miscellaneous items.  I shop at Goodwill often with my son to help him find stuff for his eBay store, but I often find cool things to bring home for myself.  So, one of the boxes is starting to overflow.  Might be time for a new box!

Is there anyone who has influenced your interest in photography and your style?

My fellow iStockers artists from the early days of the site were such an influence and inspiration on my style and desire to improve my photography.

We’ve seen your work shared on book covers, magazine articles and more. How are you alerted when your image is used in a project?

Unfortunately, the buyers are not required to share how they use my images, so I often go on a wild Google goose-chase to find them.  The coolest way to find them is organically.  I love when I’m watching my favorite shows and they just pop up on the screen, or spot one while browsing a magazine.


How do you come up with your creative ideas?

They come in different ways, whether it’s inspiration from current events or just grabbing my camera and just seeing what I come up with.  Sometimes I will get an idea for a card design that almost feels like it was “downloaded” into my head!


Offering images on stock sites and creating greeting cards are two very different things. What advice do you have for stock content submitters who want to leverage their images on greeting cards?

It’s a tough balance because they are two totally different animals.  To be honest, I currently have been creating about 75% of my shoots based on ideas for card designs since discovering Greeting Card Universe.  I really enjoy creating humorous images and while they were extremely popular as stock images a decade ago, they are not as much anymore. So, I was extremely grateful to find Greeting Card Universe as a new outlet for some of my goofiness!  My advice is to focus on one type of creating at a time and see how your content can fit into the other format.


Besides GCU, where else can your work be seen?

All my photographs and video clips are available exclusively though iStock and Getty Images.  I have stores on Zazzle, Card Isle, Society6, Fine Art America and a few others I am currently testing the waters of.  But GCU is by far my favorite for cards!


Please list the URLS of your social media sites:



Instagram: sharon_dominick_photography

Twitter: sdominick


Tuesday, October 6th

Design Challenge Winner, August 2020, Holiday Season – Mindy Pierce,

Design Challenge Winner, August 2020, Holiday Season – Mindy Pierce


Happy Holidays Christmas Tree Snowman Squirrel Bunny Red Green

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.

Several years ago we lived in a house that had trees really close to it. There were tons of squirrels and they would jump back and forth from the trees to the roof like little spastic acrobats. It was our first house so everything seemed magical and I was mesmerized  by the show they were putting on. It wasn’t long until one of them chewed a hole through our wood roof and built a nest in our bonus room attic. That brought an entirely new meaning to the term “going nuts”.  I never quite looked at them the same way after that. It turns out squirrels have to chew things to keep there teeth clean and sharp. Who Knew? I would have bought them dental accessories if they would have left our roof alone. With that revelation I mused about what a squirrel could accomplish if you could channel all that destructive behavior. I still think they are cute despite our previous clash. As illustrators often do, I started thinking about them doing human activities. Since I much prefer to sit on my butt during the holidays I imagined squirrels decorating my Christmas tree. I never allow enough time for it and usually don’t get to it until the last minute. I was also thinking that if squirrels did decorate trees they would probably use found objects. I am pretty sure Target does not cater to squirrels(not sure about amazon) so I’m thinking acorns would be the ticket for the decorations. I put the tree in a woodland setting so that no wood roof would be harmed in the process. Then I added a snowman and a bunny just to keep an eye on the twitchy energetic squirrels. That bunny of course is close to my heart since he is sitting on his butt.

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?

A good snowman is in the eye of the beholder. I think as long as you are able to impart emotion into him/her/them any snowman can get your message across. One thing I will say is when I really started trying to develop my own style for a snowman I drew on my personal experience of how I built them as a kid. You know…traditional carrot for the nose, rocks for the eyes and mouth, and sticks for arms. In my very first snowman collection I painted all of them with rocks for their mouths. I proudly showed them to an art director and he told me they looked like they had rotten teeth. Now I needed those dental accessories for my snowmen.

They say Christmas in July and in this case August.  Aside from the Design Challenge prompt, how did you get inspired and in the “merry” mood?  

I usually start thinking about Christmas in July because I like to make Christmas gifts. I need a lot of extra time because they never turn out to be the greatest most thoughtful gift ever and I have to allow enough time to go shopping for the real gift once I get over the disappointment of my failed attempt. Usually by august I am rummaging through my research(Christmas related imagery) that I have collected over the years. Then I pull out all my old thumbnails that haven’t germinated yet. The “squirrels going nuts” idea  has literally been a scribble in my files since my kids were in grade school. You never know when inspiration will make an existing thumbnail a complete idea. I try to jot down ideas on paper no matter how stupid they seem whenever they strike. Some times they make it to my files but other times they are notes on napkins or an envelope and get misplaced all over the house. I find them in my kitchen cabinets, on top of the washing machine and even in my sock drawer. I think a lot of my ideas have to percolate for a long time in order for me to bring them to life.

Which card is your favorite of your Christmas cards and why?

At this moment I think my Santa in a hippie bus is my favorite( Product Id: 1549658). I like it because it was an accidental joint effort with my daughter and I can be sentimental about these things. I wanted to give Santa a new mode of transportation since drawing a sleigh can be a real drag. When I thought of a van I realized I could use poinsettias instead of those 60’s flower power painted ones. I generally do the art first because I can never think of what to say and I love ridiculous whimsy in general. Needless to say coming up with a sentiment stumped me. I printed out the image in my studio and took it upstairs to consult family at the dinner table. I showed it to my mother and daughter and they both laughed out loud that Santa was doing a peace sign in a hippie bus. Then my daughter blurted out “Let your holiday hippie loose!” It was the most painless instantaneous completion of an idea I have ever been gifted with.

Tell the truth, will you send holiday cards this year and if so will you send one of your own cards or send a design by a different artist? 

There is probably a 75% chance that I will send cards this year. I always intend to but sometimes I just run out of time. Preparing for the holidays requires organization and planning and I find that I am getting more deficient in that skill set every year. I usually send my own cards since family and friends like to see what I have been doing but sometimes I find one out there that is so perfect that I have to have it. Then I have to spend the entire next year confessing that I didn’t create it when I run into someone and they compliment me on it. I think this year I will have to make an extra effort. I plan on sending a photo card this year because travel will not be an option. Making communication as personal as possible for all my extrovert friends and family will be a priority. It won’t be as good as being there but maybe it’s the next best thing.

Ok, now for the fast five, fun questions …

Describe your first car and what you loved or hated most about it.

The first car I ever had was an American Motors Gremlin. It was a dirty gold color and the humiliation of my young adult life. It had a very cartoonish lopped off back end to it and there was just really no way to look cool while cruising around in it. If I could I would have thrown it in a microwave and blew it up. It did turn out to be reliable and hardly ever needed repairs. You really can’t argue with always getting where you need to go.

Which is your favorite, puppies or kittens?

Kittens are cute but I am absolutely a puppy junky.

What is your greatest irrational fear?

Ticks or maybe a mutant tick spider.

Pick up pennies or walk past them?

I pick them up. I need to bend over for exercise.

List something that is on your bucket list.

I am mortified that I have turned into my parents. I want to buy a camper and visit all the national parks.

Thursday, September 21st

Finding your Artistic Voice – Olivia K. Kneibler

See Olivia and Company’s greeting cards on Greeting Card Universe

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

My fascination with my mother’s career is what sparked my interest in art, she was a beautiful portrait artist who worked mostly in oils.  When I was a small child I could always tell when she was painting from afar, I could smell the linseed oil and the paint.  As soon as I sensed that familiar smell I would stop whatever I was doing and make the fast dash to her because I loved to watch her paint.  I truly was fascinated how one small stroke could change the entire feeling of the whole painting, it was like magic.  When she wasn’t painting like the masters many of her paintings were filled with whimsy; for example her tiny large eyed angels had wings that where several times larger than the angel and at times the wings would completely fill the page.  My whimsy is totally different but that is where I found my love for art and whimsy.  So yes, I started creating art as a young child, long before I started school.  One of my earlier fond memories of creating art was when I was trying to make profiles of women (I’d say I must have been around 3 or 4 years old).  I thought I was doing a fine job until I stood back to have a look only to realize that my profile had two eyes instead of just one; needless to say I was baffled!  I persevered and finally discovered how to create one eyed profiles, but I must say it was so much fun and a bit magical to create the two eyed versions.

What inspires you/how did your style of art evolve?

It is somewhat difficult to say what inspires me because there are so many things that do; a beautiful flower, a magical dragonfly, children playing, the elderly man sitting on a bench, thunderstorms, cats, silly thoughts, funny sayings, I guess I’d have to say life inspires me.  The mystery of nature, complexity of the living, life’s curiosities, and the general question, “Now how exactly did that happen or how was that discovered?”.  I have a card about how cow milk was discovered and I think I laughed until tears rolled down my cheeks, I just had to share it so I made it into a card!  As far as how my style of art has evolved that is a wee bit more complex.  When I started on my journey I had my mother as my role model and I was most interested in the serious side of art so that is where I started.  I loved fine art of all kinds, mostly traditional though. I spent quite a few years excited by pointillism; I was inspired by Georges Seurat and his history/evolution.  One of the awesome parts of pointillism was that it is science in art, it combines my two loves (yes I actually love science too) by using retinal color mixing.  However, as the years passed there were some trials and tribulations that we all tend to experience from time to time and because of that I came to enjoy and appreciate the more light hearted styles.  I love to smile, be light hearted and of course laugh until I cry so I decided the best way to accomplish that was by trying to create it in my artwork.

What exactly are “dangles” and would you consider “dangles” your signature style?

I suppose I would if I picked a signature style, because for me personally “dangles” aren’t just something hanging around, they are so much more than that.  Dangles aren’t bound by the laws of physics like we are which is why I love them, plus they are just so much fun to create!  Dangles can go anywhere they so desire; up, down, at an angle, or swirl around – they don’t follow our laws.  Long before dangles had a name I was creating them (this goes back to my mother’s whimsical paintings).  It is because of these two reasons I would say probably yes, dangles is my signature style however I’m somewhat hesitant to commit because there so many styles and media that I love as well.

How are Dangles the same or different than Zentangles?

I think the easiest way to explain this is to envision them in a vin diagram, you can have either one style work just fine by itself or use them together.  Both Dangles and Zentangles share quite a few qualities, such as; patterns, lines, and whimsy.  Dangles need dangles whereas Zentangles do not.  Many Zentangle designs include dangles but it is not at all necessary.  I feel that both are a wonderful form of expression, light hearted and fun.  One thing I like about both styles is that you don’t have to be an artist to create something wonderful, anyone and everyone can enjoy this creative process.

What do you think about “doodling with a purpose”?

I really enjoy it, extremely fun.

Can you recall getting in trouble or scolded for doodling?

Only in school.

Do you think it’s important for an artist to have a signature style?

Yes and no.  Yes, because if you find a style that your customers really enjoy it won’t take long for people to recognize your work by your style even if they don’t know your name, especially if it is rather unique.  If you are trying to make a living from your artwork this is really something to consider.  Also no, because how are you supposed to learn and grow as an artist if you only do one style?  For me, sometimes I find it enjoyable to switch between styles because it helps to keep the creativity flowing.

What advice would you give artists who are struggling to find their artistic voice or signature style?

Keep working at it, never give up if you love it; try different styles, media, background music, surroundings, and so on.  The reason for this is because you might realize that something as simple as switching the television for lovely background music might just be the catalyst to finding your artistic style.  You never know when you are going to feel that little spark and sense of excitement so keep experimenting until it happens.  Once you experience this sensation you’ve probably discovered something wonderful – for you.  Take that part and incorporate it into your style, keep doing this until you feel you have discovered the style that is completely and uniquely you.

We understand that you just published a book, The Art of Drawing Dangles.  Tell us about the making of this book.

It was a very busy, busy time for me but filled with excitement.  Race Point Publishing contacted me and asked me to write an instruction book on how to create dangles with an emphasis on the alphabet.  I loved the idea because I was already creating dangled words so I happily agreed.  I was thrilled with the idea of taking the dangle style and teaching others how to create it too.  With dangles as I previously mentioned you don’t have to be an artist, anyone can dangle and that is how I approached the book.  I broke every letter of the alphabet down into easy to follow steps. The back sections of the book have a variety of dangles images – crescent moons, mandalas, dreamcatchers, a cherry blossom tree to name a few.  A dangle directory is included as inspiration.  I loved being able to do so many creative images all filled with dangles, it was great fun!

You feature many cute animals & critters in your designs. What animal is your favorite to draw and why?

Totally silly cats!  Cats have so many moods, attitudes, and physical abilities.  They are so animated in real life that it just seems almost seamless (as well as tons of fun) to transition them onto the page.  A few examples are below – from the so sad cat gripping the screen door to King Kitty himself.

Please share your top 3 favorite cards in your GCU storefront.

This is a hard thing to do because I have favorites in each style and theme.  But, if I had to select only 3 they would probably be the silly/funny ones.  The reason I would pick the silly cards is because I love to laugh and there are some that make me giggle every time I see them.

Well, I guess I’m breaking the rules a bit but I would also like to include a card that is sentimental instead of humorous.  I truly enjoy creating this style of art as it is reminiscent of some wonderful times in my childhood.  Simple and vintage but filled with emotion.

Please share 3 artists in GCU’s community that you admire.

That would be almost impossible because there are many wonderful and unique artists at GCU; I’m certain I couldn’t limit it to just three, maybe 300 or so.  So many artists styles are vastly different and it would seriously be a huge challenge to try and narrow it down that far, I’m sorry.

Please list any of your professional social media sites.

I’m getting ready to start a blog, hopefully I’ll have it up within the next few weeks.

Art with Olivia A Kneibler on Facebook

Olivia and Company Shop

Follow me on Instagram



Wednesday, March 1st

Julia Bryant – January Design Challenge Winner

BallettElephant with Music Notes and Tutu for Dance Teacher Birthday by Greeting Card Universe artist Julia Bryant

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

Being ex-military, I wanted a card that would be encouraging to someone about to begin the most exciting and scary part of their life.


I just love this card. I love the retro look and colors.

My first card to win something and I love the message.

What were your inspirations for both of your winning cards? Please walk us through the process of how these cards went from ideas to greeting cards.

I wanted the dance teacher birthday card to be whimsical. I imagined a little girl or boy wanting to give a special birthday card to their dance teacher. Elephants are my favorite animal and ballet is my favorite dance, so I think the natural progression would be a dancing elephant that was simple and cute.

For the Dream Big Little One card, I had the same idea of keeping it whimsical and cute. I imagined being young again and getting a card that I would be able to relate to. I wanted it to be positive and reinforce her creativity and imagination. Show her that her dreams are very possible and she can do or be anything she imagined.

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

I did study art in middle school and high school, but I actually didn’t participate in art for the longest time. Right out of high school, I joined the military and then after I ended up in an IT career, which is furthest from an artistic life. I started doing greeting cards using public domain and shared images from around the internet. But after reading an entry by Corrie on GGU Community Blog about Adobe Illustrator, I took the initiative and learned the product and started refocusing on what I learned in school so many years ago.

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

I don’t know if middle school and high school art classes are considered formal training, but it definitely gave me the basics I needed to create designs.

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

I create all my designs using Adobe products, Illustrator and Photoshop.

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

I work in IT and have been doing that for over 20 years.

What GCU artist(s) do you admire?

Sue Nollmeyer/ SueShine Studios. Sue is so motivational and a cheerleader for me since I first started in GCU. She never fails to send a note or leave positive feedback in my store or Facebook for any of my achievements. She also is one of the most talented artists I’ve seen and her designs are inspirational. I appreciate all that she’s done for me.

Looking at your storefront, your font choices are wonderfully fitting for each design.  Can you share how you choose a font?

Choosing a font is one of the most difficult processes in designing a card. You can have a lovely card and if you choose the wrong font, you can really setback the design. Usually, I will open the image in Photoshop and get an idea of the type of font will fit the design. I open my font viewer program that previews fonts by category and then choose several that fit. I will then try each one in the design until I find one that gives the ‘wow’ factor. Placing the font should also provide balance and be pleasing to the eye.

What would we be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a very technical person and engineer. But, I think being literal sometimes helps with the creative process.









Monday, July 4th

Fourth of July


Fireworks, roasted marshmallows, family get-togethers … no holiday is more all-American than the Fourth of July.


A commemoration of our adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Independence Day is celebrated in big towns and small towns all across America with parades, barbeques,  red, white, and blue decorations, political speeches, and a patriotic feeling shared by all.


The Declaration of Independence is the document that spells out the thirteen American colonies’ freedom from British rule. Voted on by Congress on July 2 and ratified on July 4, this important document contains, in its second sentence, what is widely regarded as the most meaningful statement on human rights:


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.


The Fourth of July allows Americans the opportunity to be grateful for our freedom and recognize the richness of our history — all in the company of good friends and family.

While most of us are content with the traditional Fourth of July menu of hot dogs, hamburgers, and potato salad, there are those who enjoy participating in hot dog eating contests. The most famous hot dog eating contest is sponsored by Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog on Coney Island, New York. Held since 1916, the contest pits 20 contestants against each other in a race to see how many hot dogs they can each eat in 12 minutes. The record holder is Joey Chestnut with 69 hot dogs in 2013.


Kid-Safe Activities for Fourth of July


  • Neighborhood or family bike parade — Kids can decorate their bikes with red, white, and blue streamers, pinwheels, construction paper, or balloons and then have a short parade up and down the block.
  • Declaration of Independence in kids-friendly words Help children understand the significance of this important document.
  • Water balloon dodge ball — Using red, white, and blue balloons (of course!) filled with water, divide the children into two equal groups.  The children throw balloons at each other and each child who gets hit is out of the game. A nice game to play to cool down!
  • Instead of the egg in the Easter Egg game, substitute an ice cube. First child to reach the finish line with the ice cube on the spoon is the winner.
  • The tried and true watermelon seed spitting contest! Permission to spit — What child doesn’t think this game is the coolest?


The Fourth of July allows Americans the opportunity to be grateful for our freedom and recognize the richness of our history — all in the company of good friends and family.

General Fourth of July cards

Fourth of July Across the Miles

First Fourth of July



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