E. Michelle Peterson has submitted incredible designs to multiple CAN campaigns. She was born in Saugus, California but was raised in Willamette Valley in Oregon and currently lives in Florida. In this spotlight we learned that she loves to get her inspiration for her work from nature, but there's so much more! Dive right in and find out more about her.
Here she is at work on her cover for Call of the Wild for Recovering The Classics.
Describe how you became an artist.
I became an artist by continually doing art. Early in my life I didn’t think of myself as an artist even though I always sketched, sculpted, doodled and created things. In high school I loved to recreate album covers. I had a huge vinyl album collection and I pasted album covers and Rolling Stone Magazine covers all over my walls. I thought that “that” was what I would do when I got older. I used to ride my bicycle to the local Fred Meyers department store every “New Music Thursday” to buy new releases and then I’d rush home to play the albums. I marveled at the artwork that was on the covers. Yes… I thought I would make album covers for rock stars, but then CD’s happened and I thought “Damnit! Nobody needs large sweeping fabulous album covers for a 4-inch CD cover!”
I’ve been working in Adobe Creative Suite for work and for pleasure since it’s inception and in 2010 I went back to college and really began applying the skills I’ve learned and learning new skills. This is when I finally started to feel like an artist.
What’s your connection to the cause of the campaigns you've submitted to?
The first project I submitted for was Recovering the Classics. I have another artist friend who had been submitting designs with CAN and I was immediately inspired by the project. I read a lot of those classics as a kid and it was sort of like what I loved when I was in my teens. I was recreating book covers instead of album covers and I thought that was such a cool concept. My first design was “Through the Looking Glass” followed by my personal favorite “Call of the Wild”. I have also submitted to See America and Climate Victory. Each campaign is important to me because I feel strongly about the arts. I feel strongly about nature and our environment. I feel like the name says it all: Creative Action Network. I enjoy being a part of a network of people that are actively seeking creative ways to express the importance of designing a message about art, human beings and our connections to each other and our world. That’s everything to me.
Above: an early sketch of E. Michelle's See America design.
Below: the final version. Click on it to see purchasing options.
How do you come up with your ideas? What’s your process like?
I have a brainstorming session. Most of the time I listen to music and I plow through my photos and I surf the web for inspiration. I look for color palettes and I write words and ideas. I make a folder marked inspiration and I gob it full of anything that calls to me. Sometimes, like with my design for Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center (or when I’m cartooning) I go from a completely hand drawn sketch. Other times I may find an image that is available for reuse without restrictions and I may use that as a starting point to create line art in Illustrator. I may bounce back and forth from Illustrator to Photoshop. I’ll look for textures and techniques. I may make 10 different ideas and scrap them all or go back and combine two sets that had things in them that I liked. Usually at the end, I find myself questioning, “What needs to be removed? What doesn’t belong?” How can I simplify the design and the message? I don’t always use the same process. I like to keep options open and I like to be freeform.
What are you working on these days when you’re not designing for CAN?
Mainly, I focus on freelance projects. I also enjoy photography and I’m working on an idea for a kid’s book. I try to create a digital art piece of some sort every day. I’m happiest when I’m creating something!
What have you done with the money you’ve received from CAN?
Money is for things. You buy things. You pay for things. You invest in things. And I am extremely grateful to CAN for giving me an avenue by which to make money. But what I am most interested in is what I can do with the WORK. Creative Action Network has given me work to do and a message to offer. I love to work when the work is for love of something important. I think what we are doing with Creative Action Network is important. I’m thrilled to be involved and honored to be among so many other artists that I admire.
Our Green New Deal campaign premiered on March 14, 2019 in Washington D.C., at Bold V. Old, a daylong convening where speakers including Stacey Abrams, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris discussed bold ideas for our biggest problems, including the Green New Deal. On March 16 In Oakland, CA, Creative Action Network joined artists and activists at the Green New Deal Create-A-Thon, where youth artists from the Sunrise Movement and others worked on new designs for the collection. Youth activist Rio says that after seeing videos of Greta Thunberg leading student climate strikes in Europe, “me and my sister were empowered to make some sort of difference.” Rio and his sister Maddy recently rose to internet stardom when their student group confronted Senator Feinstein about the Green New Deal a few weeks ago. Maddy says she is now “trying to make my voice be more heard, go to marches, and more creative stuff, definitely!”