Artist in Residence: Tom Martin

Over the previous month of October, we had our first ever Artist in Residence (AiR), Tom Martin – or more accurately, Artist in virtual Residence! This has been something new we had wanted to try out for a long time and we’re very glad that Tom was kind enough to come along for the ride.

The residency involved one of our members (Tom) fulfilling our illustration needs over the period of one month. You would have thought finding an illustrator would have been an easy task for us, but things aren’t always that simple. Our first problem was that any artwork produced would need to appeal to our members and also draw in a wide audience of art directors and commissioners, so we didn’t want to go for anything too niche or risquĂ©. Secondly, and most importantly, we needed to take into consideration that whoever we worked with would be a full-time freelance illustrator and we didn’t want them to be turning down commissions due to being too busy with working on pieces for us. You need to remember that part of our commitment to our members is that we’re constantly networking and finding them new opportunities and connections, so making sure that whoever was our AiR could handle the additional workload was essential.

When we asked Tom if he was interested in being our first AiR, we hadn’t quite ironed out all of the details, so there was some trial and error, but essentially we gave Tom directions and then allowed him to guide us. It was a misstep that we had Tom creating Halloween artwork for us in October that would be turned into physical items at some point, as lead time hadn’t been taken into consideration with all the excitement. There was no real need to worry about that though, as we’ll be getting the stickers and pins made up for April to show people at our next exhibition and we’ll have plenty in stock to give away as promo items to lucky clients when next October comes around. However with that in mind, from now on if an artist is working on something seasonal for us, we’ll get them to do it one or two months beforehand.

We really can’t wait to have the pins and stickers made and in our hands! The artwork looks great and we’re really pleased with the website background that Tom created for us, it’s brilliant! There were several other images that he created for us as well, two of them specifically for future posts on this very blog. You’ll have to keep an eye out for them.

We love Tom’s work and we hope you do to, he’s open for commissions and you can find more of his illustrations at

Love is in the air for Myrtle and Xaddrarth

We’d like to introduce our newest background, created for us by the very talented Emily Hare. We love Emily’s artwork and thought that one of her paintings could work really well with the site, so after discussing what was needed for of our backgrounds, we left it in Emily’s capable hands to come up with some ideas.

Here’s the first attempt and the work in process illustrations…

At this point Emily decided to go in a different direction, something a bit more cuddly. Although we did really like the previous image and were advising on direction, we gave full creative control over to Emily and we trusted her to complete the task at hand.

And here is the final piece…

We think Emily did a brilliant job and we love our new background! Please note: Emily may have already given the dragons names, but we’ve decided to call them Myrtle and Xaddrarth. 🙂

It’s behind you! Oh, no it isn’t!


Last week we put the final nail in the coffin of the White Label Portfolios version two and removed it from the site for new users. This is while we work on a new and improved version three. Hopefully the new version should be ready before the end of the year. While working on it we’ll also be updating and improving the functions of the hai portfolio pages; two birds, one stone. So keep an eye out for some exciting changes! A couple weeks ago we also introduced a new page on the site to show off some of the wonderful website backgrounds our illustrators have created for us over the years. They’re supposed to be seen and we shouldn’t be hiding them away for only our pleasure! Now you can check them all out, find out more information about them and see more work from the artists who created them. As we work on new backgrounds with new artists we’ll add them to the page.

It’s behind you… Oh, so it is.

Check out: [Redacted]

The website background image used at the top of this blog post is by the talented WB. Also if you didn’t know, the White Label Portfolios are our system for illustrators to have a personal portfolio website that pulls and automatically updates with the content from the hai portfolios without the hai branding.

Elise Martinson’s Winter Wonderland

A while ago when we asked Elise Martinson if she would create a new background for hai we were super excited when she said yes. Have you seen the work Elise did for the Perth Mint? It’s absolutely gorgeous.

The process when creating a background is pretty much the same each time and this one was no exception. We make sure the artists understand the dimensions and how the background would work with the site, but apart from that we give them free rein to come up with something unique that reflects their style and look. Another thing we also give them is no deadline; I never know if this is a good or a bad thing, but I guess it depends on the illustrator really.

Last October Elise got in contact to show us some very cool sketches. I personally love checking out the sketches and pencil work. We had talked about a Christmas background, but I think it was decided it should be less specific to any particular event.

This was one of the rejected ideas.

This one got rejected, but was still an interesting idea.

I think it was a little bit too “environmentalist”… (It was penguins chasing colourful pegs and other plastic junk that look like schools of fish). Above is a super rough draft. I realised it was quite a negative theme even though my intention was to render it so that you have to look twice to realise the plastic. – Elise Martinson

Pencil sketch with the site overlaid. Idea two.

Pencil sketch with the site overlaid. Idea two.

After seeing the lovely sketches above, we asked Elise to proceed as the direction was exactly what we were looking for… Heaps of snow-camouflaged animals!

The sketches were then followed in January 2014 with a coloured version of the sketch with the website overlaid to show how it would work.

Idea two in colour.

Idea two in colour.

A close up of the coloured sketch.

A close up of the coloured sketch.

From there Elise went ahead and started cleaning up the sketches. As you can see they look great!

This is the one we went with.  :)

This is the one we went with. 🙂

Close up one.

Close up one.

Close up two.

Close up two.

After the sketch was approved, it was time for Elise to do her thing and here is the progress in chronological order with incremental changes and adjustments.


First colour rendering.


Did you notice the detail added to the snow and the addition of some birds?


Big changes with lots of refinements. Some elements are gone and a couple have been added.

This is the final image and we absolutely love it!

This is the final image and we absolutely love it! You probably can’t see it in these images, but comparing this to the last one, there’s so much more detail.

Close up of the final.

Close up of the final.

Close up of the final.

Close up of the final.

Elise Martinson was a pleasure to work with. She was very quick to understand what we wanted and stayed in constant communication with updates and roughs. Then, when it came to the final image she was able to produce the exact files I needed for inserting into the site. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with Elise again in the future. You can check out Elise Martinson’s Winter Wonderland live on the site and see more of her work via her hai portfolio or personal website.

Return of the Pardo!


Although we would have loved to keep Tim Paul‘s Christmas background (with the falling snow) up all year round… We though it was about time we said goodbye to Christmas again and hello to a wonderful new year! So until our top secret new background arrives we’d like to welcome back Jose Pardo‘s amazing floating castles. You can find out more about Jose’s background and how it came to be by following the link.

Link: Jose Pardo’s floating castles for hire an illustrator.


Twit Twit Twoo…

As I’m sure you’ve probably noticed we’ve had a very nice autumn background up on the site for a while now. We’ve got a new one to go up in December, but the one up at the moment is by the brilliant WB. The images was created several months ago… And I would like to share with you one of the earlier sketches as it’s always nice to see those things. 🙂

As soon as we saw the Lemurs we were sold on the piece! We think WB did a wonderful job, what do you think?

Love and life in the summer with Amphitrite

Well… It’s been a very wet summer so far, so it seems appropriate that our current summer background on hai is a maritime scene. We’ve had it up on the site for almost a month now and the artwork is by the very talented Marc Scheff.

The above image shows the finished work, but you may or may not have noticed the artwork being used on the site is slightly different to accommodate the website’s layout and requirements, as is normally the case with most of our website backgrounds.

Marc started working on this background several months ago, although obviously it didn’t take him several months to produce. We stopped and started on it a few times as time allowed. Sometimes I waited for him and sometimes he was waiting for me, but we never rush our backgrounds and never enforce a deadline.

This is the first sketch Marc sent me, followed straight away by some very advanced mock ups. The reason some of the work was so advanced at this point is explained by Marc later on.*

At the time when he sent me the sketch and previews I didn’t know he had been fighting a creative block and had played with a number of other ideas before deciding on the one that stuck and finally became a hai background.

As you can see from his idea montage there was no shortage of interesting concepts. Creative block? Rubbish! To me a creative block is a blank page. I think Marc’s just a perfectionist, which isn’t a bad thing, especially when you’re as talented as him and produce beautiful work time and time again… He sent me the montage after the final background had been produced as I had requested some of the working drafts from him for this post.

Going back to original process, the next image Marc sent me resembled what would become the final image, but not the actual background.

After a couple discussions, a number of changes were made and I was sent this mockup. As you can see the artwork has become wider and shorter to accommodate a more standard screen size.

At this point the background was almost there and ready for Marc to produce the final image that would become the one we would actually use on the site.

For me this was a challenge because the assignment was so open-ended. “Summer.” Pretty broad. I hit creative block, and hard. I did a lot of sketches, showed some friends, but nothing was clicking. When I finally spoke to Rebecca Guay, a mentor of mine, she suggested just drawing what I felt like whether it fit or not. That’s when I drew the guys in the boat, and everything else seemed to follow. *I also took a big risk and waited to show the folks at HAI until I was pretty close to done painting, something I have not done and would not advise. However, I wanted to really work through all the corners of the creative exploration I was doing in this piece before getting feedback. I knew I might have to start over and I prepared myself for that. Luckily, Darren and Jane loved the image, and taking that extra time and not rushing this out helped me discover some new tools and a whole new style for my work. I am very happy with the image, the process, and the path my work has taken because of this assignment. I am glad to see it up on the site too!Marc Scheff

Once the final artwork had been produced, there were a couple small tweaks and a bit of image/file optimisation to do which Marc and I did with ease. You can see the finished background on hire an illustrator and the finished artwork on his personal website.

Marc was great to work with and very on the ball when it came to working with layouts and web based imagery. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with him again in the future.

Elf & Safety – the new hai background illustration

A few weeks ago leading up towards Christmas we asked the loverly Miriam Bos to create a winter background for the hire an illustrator website. We love the way it turned out and we hope you do too!

Here’s the finished article in all it’s glory.

Backtracking a bit, here is the original rough/sketch. Miriam was a joy to work with and very quick off the mark. From the word go, she knew exactly what we were after.

Miriam explained to us that the image had a story behind it and it was the story that was the basis for the concept. There was an elf who thought that the winter was so cold that the trees needed clothing to keep them warm! After receiving the rough I made a few small suggestions, like moving the squirrels onto the inner trees to give them a bit more screen time, but all in all I was happy for Miriam to proceed to produce the final image.

The final was then produced and we went back and forth a few times, knocking off a few pixels here and there, optimising the image for web, and arranging it to work with the layout of the website and logo. Once that was all done with a couple days to spare we got the new background up for Christmas!

With a great eye for colour, Miriam Bos was a pleasure to work with! Check out the new background on the hire an illustrator website. 🙂

Evolution of the new hai background image

I’m please to announce that we have a new background image on hire an illustrator, created by the talented Jose Pardo. The new background wasn’t just a simple case of asking an illustrator whether they had a piece of work that could just be reused as-is on the site… What we wanted was something original that reflected the illustrator’s style, without being too dominating on the page, and I’m really happy with what Jose produced and how it turned out. As the hai website is all about the illustrators and illustration I’m going to share with you how we got to the final piece.

Here is the first sketch that Jose sent me a few weeks ago.

Following the first sketch, Jose started to flesh it out and it was only a short period of time before he sent me this next image.

After I had reviewed the above piece, I let Jose know how well things were proceeding and that the image looked great. I then left it in his capable hands to complete the image with no set deadline for delivery as the deadline was at his discretion.

The next thing I heard from him was that he was tweaking a few things and working on a dragon! Later the same day he emailed me the following image.

Click on the image for a larger preview, so you can see a bit more detail.

Now this would have been a fantastic place to leave the image alone and call it finished, but there are some rules that neeed to be followed if an image is going to work as a background image on a website. I asked Jose to email me a layered version of the artwork and a few minutes later that’s what he sent me. I then got to work on ruining his creation. 🙂

I then emailed him back this image…

I had dropped a lot of the small details, the land and changed the background colour to white. Jose and I discussed what I’d done and he said that he much preferred a blue background as the clouds had been illustrated to work with that. From my point of view I was also happy to go with blue as that’s the colour we tend to normally use on the site. So Jose then refined the images a bit and sent me a white and a blue option…

I did like the white one, but it felt more right to go with the blue one still. So I then took the blue one and got to work on the arrangement of the elements to make it fit with the website framework. At this point I actually uploaded what I had to the site and sent Jose a link to it, so it could be seen as a live preview. I had squeezed the floating castles into the top section and put a cloud behind the main large one to try and balance the overall look. The red from behind the hai logo was also removed.

After I sent Jose this version, being the perfectionist he is, he then re-did the layout and sent me another copy which became the final version which can now be seen on the site in all its glory.

Click on the image for a large preview or go to our main site to see it in action.

Jose (MoonVisionStudio) Pardo was brilliant and so easy to work with… You can see more of his work at: or

A big thank you, Jose, for all your hard work!

Working in the background…

Since we redesigned the Hai! site in March 2010, the site’s background image has been adorned by Jeff Miracola‘s very cool, but creepy cute Monkey-Bears! Well, today that all changes! LouLou & Tummie have given us another amazing background to throw into the mix. We’re hoping to add more brilliant backgrounds to the collection in the future, so watch this space!

See it in action at