Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 4, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Joy Laforme

Joy Laforme is an artist and illustrator with a Master of Arts from the Savannah College of Art & Design. She was born and raised in the Greater New York City Area and currently lives and works in New Jersey.

She’s been illustrating for books covers, puzzles, stationery, textiles, and galleries for over 10 years. She is influenced by Fauvism and American Folk Art, and incorporates these styles into her signature aesthetic. She works digitally and in mixed media. She has worked with many great brands, publishers and agencies like: Barnes and Noble, Stripes Publishing, American Greetings, Trader Joe’s, and more.


Here is Joy explaining her Christmas ornaments process:

My approach to painting my ornaments was a bit different than when I illustrate digitally. I was decided to create a set of ornaments that were inspired by pieces I’ve already created. The colors, detail, and composition are well loved by customers and clients, and I thought they would make lovely ornaments too.

Since I already had the pieces illustrated, there was no need to do any sketching or drafting here. I jumped right into priming and painting the ornaments with a base coat that most closely resembled the look of the original artworks.

Since it’s a bit tricky to paint something round and let it dry, this part took the longest. I gave each ornament 2-3 coats of base color to ensure they had good saturation and coverage before moving on.

I decided to paint the scene on one side of the ornament – I pulled inspiration from vintage painted ornaments passed down to me that have little circular images and windows on the front of the ornament – rather than the image wrapping around the entire ornament. Using acrylic paint, found an accenting color to paint the brushy textured scene background over the front of the ornament.

After all of the base coats and scene backgrounds were finally dry, I moved on to paint the buildings on each ornament. I used a tiny square tipped brush to paint each building individually. I also started painting any ground or roads in this step as well.

My next step is the same as it is when I illustrate digitally – I painted all of the windows. I do them individually by hand whether I am painting with acrylics or illustrating digitally. This process is so tedious but important as I feel the individual hand that goes into each window and star really gives it a little extra magic that I can’t quite explain. This takes me a long time and I use my tiniest flat tipped brush. Once the windows have dried, I go back using Caran D’Ache’s Neocolors to give some of the windows and stars a bit of a glow.

The tedious and hard part for me has passed at this point, and I’m adding in details like trees, flowers, taxis, people – and I’m just having fun and playing with color. I’m working with tiny acrylic brushes and fine tipped markers for this stage. I’m also adding snow in here if the ornament requires it.

Before sealing them – a bit of mod podge and some biodegradable glitter to give them that extra sparkle that I can’t always achieve digitally but am lucky to be able to add to the ornaments.

All that’s left now is I’ve sprayed the toppers gold, and sealed each of them with a high-quality semi-gloss sealant to keep everything in place and give it just a bit of shine!

Ready to hang on your tree.


How long have you been illustrating?

I’ve been illustrating professionally for about 7 years.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

I created a number of pieces for a textile studio that hired me to create fabric designs for department stores, furnishings, and general commercial use. But the first piece I created that really felt like “me” was an illustration for a puzzle and advent calendar – which I honestly cannot believe is still selling today.

What made kinds of classes did you take at Messiah College?

I attended Messiah College as a Computer Science major – I wanted to be a Web Designer and Developer. I had always been a creative person and wanted to use both my technical and creative sides to work on websites. I minored in Studio Art so I took everything from Graphic Design and Typography, to Figure Drawing and Still Life.


What do you learn when you take Interactive Design?

Since my focus at the time was Web Design, there was a heavy focus on programming courses like Javascript, HTML, and PHP. But on the creative side, the courses were geared toward learning how to create balanced websites and utilizing technical tools to create good design.

What type of work did you do right after you graduated?

After I graduated, I worked for a software company in Product Development.

When did you decide to attend the Savannah College School of Design?

Right after I graduated Messiah College. I graduated from my undergraduate degree right at the beginning of the recession, and decided that if I was going to go back to school, it was the perfect time to do so – and it was for me.

Could you tell us about the Virtual Classes you took at SCAD?

The virtual classes at SCAD are wonderful. SCAD was always ahead in terms of virtual learning and I was really fortunate to be able to attend from Harrisburg and Philadelphia where I was living at the time. I took all my classes virtually, and they ranged from programming courses to general graphic design and typography courses, to studio art.

Were you working as an illustrator while attending SCAD?

It was around the time that I was attending SCAD that I started to dabble in art. I started to realize I was enjoying more of the artist’s side of the process rather than the technical side – but I don’t think I was really fully admitting it to myself at that point. I considered myself a hobbyist and just a web designer with a creative bend.

Did SCAD help you get work after graduating?

There was a lot of assistance and guidance in job hunting – but I ended up finding a local job near my home.

How did your artwork end up on puzzles?

It was completely not my doing. I have always loved puzzles – but I don’t think I ever made the connection that I could be an artist who creates for puzzles until my first client contacted me, asking me to create for a puzzle. The process was really fun, and the puzzle sold really well – so the rest is history.

What illustration did you create your first puzzle?

Ironically, my first paid commission was my first puzzle.

How many puzzles have you done?

To date, I’ve done 20 puzzles and I’m currently working on number 21 and 22. Some have not been released yet – but will be over the next two years.

How long have you been creating greeting cards textile design, etc.?

Textile design was my first official job as an artist, but I kind of parted ways with textiles 6-7 years ago unintentionally to focus my attention on puzzles. Greeting cards have been a mainstay as much as puzzles have been for me, and I’ve been doing greeting cards since the start of my professional illustration career as well. I feel like they are a rite of passage for a lot of us!

Have you sold illustrations for wall paper or gift wrap?

I have not yet done wall paper or gift wrap.

When did you decide to do freelance illustration?

I was laid off of my first job due to a downsizing that was done across the company. During the time that I was out of work I really started leaning into my art practice – which kept me feeling at peace with not knowing what my future would look like. I did end up getting another web design job after that, but since my art practice had taken off, I was really falling in love with it and decided to leave after a short period of time at that company.

In 2018 you came out with a book titled, Folk Art Fusion: Americana: Learn to draw and paint charming American folk art with a colorful, modern twist. Was this the first book you had published?

Yes – this was my first published book. I had done a few book covers at that point but never illustrated for any interiors or authored a book myself.

I see you have a new book titled Pretty Simple Painting: A Modern Step-by-Step Painting Book for Beginners that just came out in November. Do you plan to do more “How to” books?

I will never say never to any project – my life has changed so much over the last 10 years. The philosophy I have with my work is that I like to let the art and the projects flow, and while I do have long term goals, I never close any doors.

Have you ever illustrated a cover for a novel?

I have! I’ve done 3 book covers – two for romantic comedies and one for a young adult novel.

I love the animated version of your ice skaters, skating in the snow. Did you take a class on how to animate an illustration?

I have not.

Do you teach any classes for “would be” illustrators?

I do not currently teach any classes.

Have you ever thought about illustrating a picture book?

I have definitely thought about it.

Do you have an artist rep or an agent? If so, who and how long have you been with them? If not would you like to find an agent to help you expand into the children’s market?

I don’t currently have an agent – the idea of being agented sounds great.

Is this the first year you created Christmas Ornaments?

Yes – this is my first year creating Christmas ornaments.

Do you do a calendar every year?

Starting a few years ago, I have! I started working with a calendar manufacturer and we’ve worked together now 2 or 3 years in a row and it’s been a lot of fun – people love the calendars we’ve created.

Do you take pictures before you start an illustration?

Yes – I source photos using my own photography, google maps, Pinterest – you name it. I have so many boards on Pinterest with loads of ideas.

How do you market yourself?

I have been using Pinterest as my main marketing tool for a long time. Most of my clients to this day have found my artwork on Pinterest. I pin regularly and often, re-pinning my own work and really just getting it out there. There’s always a risk of it being stolen in that method of sharing, but I figure I’m casting a really wide net this way. My visibility from Pinterest has outperformed Instagram as long as I’ve been illustrating, and even with my Instagram following growing, I’m still getting 4-5x as much visibility and traffic from Pinterest.

Have you done any illustrating for magazines?

I was really fortunate to get to work on two Flow Magazine covers (the German and French editions) and I’ve had my artwork featured in HGTV Magazine twice.

Has your style changed over the years?

Yes! In the beginning of my career I was really burdened by the idea that I wanted to find my unique style. I worked very actively for a year to do exercises and make loads of artwork to help me hone in on that. I think while I have certainly found my signature aesthetic, it continues to evolve. It has become a lot more colorful in the last year which I love and am really leaning into.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

No, I prefer to work with a publisher or agent.

What do you think is your biggest success?

It sounds cliché, but my biggest success is making my illustration career work for me – making an income, having great clients, getting to work creatively for myself.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I love I regularly use my tablet for digital illustration. I also use gouache, and caran d’ache neocolors which I love to tell people they are like grown up crayons! These three mediums are my favorite to work in.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

Yes, I use a Wacom Cintiq which I love.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

These days I am doing a lot of client administrative work so I try to spend at least 2 hours each day fully illustrating. It can be difficult with emails, calls, and book keeping, but I try to always make sure I at least do that.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would love to do a full, life sized interactive display with my illustrations. That is a dream!

What are you working on now?

Besides two puzzles, I’m working on an advent calendar, and some greeting cards.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

The best place to buy in my opinion is Blick – and if you have one near you, even better! You can see the colors and tools for yourself in person. They offer the best prices and often do price matching – art supplies can be so expensive so its great to have them so close to my home.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Don’t get too caught up in thinking you have to illustrate for a certain type of project or product just because everyone else is doing it. I spent a long time thinking I had to check certain boxes that just weren’t a good fit for my art. If you go to any store, and you see something with art on it – you can put your art on it too. The options are limitless.

Joy, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. Please let me know about your future successes so I can share them with everyone.

You can visit Joy using the following links:





Talk tomorrow,




  1. Beautiful work!!


  2. Wow, beautiful work! LOVE the ornaments! I chose the white house out in the snow with the crescent moon as the one I want to live in. 🙂 Best wishes!


  3. Truly beautiful work! The ornaments are exquisite. Thank you and all the best!


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