Monday, October 4, 2010

What goes into an ad

Here's a little behind-the-scenes peek for the locals that I thought might be interesting to those of you living far away as well.

Each week I hand-draw the ads for the store and they run in the local newspapers. We have a great spot: always on the inside of the front page... our ad has been there for as long as I can remember, which means at least 15 years, but I suspect Alewives Fabrics may have had an ad in that very same spot for more like 35 years.

I feel like our ads are small but mighty: we may not have the biggest ad in the paper, but we are going to do the best we can with the space we have. Therefore, I try to have a different ad for every week (although I will confess to having "recycled" a few over the years), and this week is our town's annual "Pumpkinfest" which is a HUGE deal here, so I knew I wanted to do something "pumpkin-y."

The ads that run in the newspaper are only the size of a business card, and I could never draw something that teeny tiny, but the newspaper supplies me with a special notebook of paper and after I draw the ad, the illustration gets reduced down to size.

I start off with a concept (this is where being a creative person comes in handy). Usually there is something I have to mention, like a sale or a class or an event or the arrival of a new collection, but sometimes there is nothing pressing to advertise. I like those weeks best, because those are the times I can be really silly and go wild. In one of my more brilliant weeks I did a drawing of a cow-girl wearing patchwork chaps and holding a couple of irons, six-shooter style. The caption read: "Alewives: where the irons are hot and the fabrics are hotter." This week was not one of those weeks, though... I absolutely had to work pumpkins into the ad!

After I have developed my concept, I sketch the ad in the special notebook that the newspaper has given me.

This is exactly the same idea as writing the first draft of a story: I don't get too hung up on making things "perfect," but I try to map things out and I can always refine them later.

Once I have my sketch laid out and rearranged to my heart's content, I start "inking things in" with a pen.

This is where the ad really starts to take on a little personality and my particular style of drawing starts to come through. I have always been a pen-and-ink gal... probably that comes from high school when I used to doodle a lot with a pen on my notes.

Once everything is "inked" in, I go back with a pink pearl eraser and erase all of the pencil lines to see what kind of shape I am in.

When I see everything all "cleaned up," sometimes things jump out at me that look a little "bland," so I go back in and add some more details to those areas. Right now with this ad the pumpkins are looking a little flat so I will have to give them some attention and see what I can do.

I will put some cross-hatching into the pumpkins to give them dimension, I'll sharpen up the eyes a bit, and then I am pretty much done!

Here's what the finished ad looks like:

My lines aren't too straight around the edge, but I never let that bother me too much... these ads are handmade, after all!

Next I will go outside and draw something similar on our chalkboard and then my "ad campaign" is done for the week!

Here is the folder containing all of the previous year's ads:

Pretty soon we're gonna need a bigger boat.

That is 52 weeks worth of ads over 6 years, so roughly 300 hand-drawn ads.

When we started doing hand-drawn ads, our ad-man, Ernie, asked me if I would like him to return the drawings for the ads each week.

I had said no, but Mom intervened (such a Mom thing to do) and asked if he would return the ads after all.

I have to admit that I am glad she did this (you were right, Mom... I know you love to hear me say that!).

I enjoy looking through these ads and occasionally recycling one of them.

It's really fun to see how the ads have "evolved" over the years...

(Looks like our shop hours have evolved, too... now we are open 7 days a week!)

(This ad's a little "cheeky," don'tchya think? ; ) )

(One of my faves.)

Thanks for taking this stroll behind-the-scenes, looking at what goes into one of our ads with me... that was kinda fun!

See you again soon with more pumpkin-y goodness!




Jenny said...

wow, i love your ads Rhea! those are wonderful! and open 7 days a week? i would love my LQS to open 7 dyas a week! you rock

Jill Dater said...

This ads are wonderful! I remember at my first job working at a Resteraunt, there was a chalk board with the specials. As a bus girl, I would watch the waitress writing them on the board jealously. When I became a hostess, the best part of my shift was when I got the chalk bucket and little slip of paper with the specials. I always added my little touch to the list. I was in high school and I can still remember that joy!

Anonymous said...

I loved that behind the scenes tour. I have always admired your ads and meant to ask one day if you were drawing them ( although I knew it had to be you, you talented miss thang!)

Karen L R said...


does anyone else see a BOOK in the making here?

Tina @ Squirrel Acorns said...

Oh goodness! Super-awesome ads! I can't believe you hand draw them all. That is so awesome. Did I mention that you are awesome?

Gretchen said...

Love the ads!!! They are so amazing and creative. Thanks for sharing with those of us not lucky enough to live near your store:)

Andrea said...

Those are fabulous! I'm almost tempted to subscribe to the Snooze just to see your ad every week!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing!!! You are multi-talented for sure!!! What a great thing your mom did making sure to have the originals returned. Have a great day and enjoy the pumkinfest

Anonymous said...

Loved reading about your ads. I can't wait to visit your shop.

Anonymous said...

I still remember the cowgirl ad that I adored! If you ever come across that one, I'd love a copy. She's my favorite so far!
-Bettie K.-

Anonymous said...

This is a super story about what goes on behind the scenes---- so fun to read!