Doing my job

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February 7, 2005 // UPDATED 1:51 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Brian Voerding
Brian Voerding

Lynn Fellmann


"I wanted to make a living and draw every day," said North Loop resident Lynn Fellman.

And she has, for over 20 years, as a freelance professional illustrator.

Fellman, who works out of her 801 Washington Ave. N. loft, began her career using sketchpads and pencils. But when the first edition of Adobe Illustrator software came out in 1987, she jumped at the chance to enter the digital world. Fellman now illustrates almost solely on computer.

In 2003, Fellman created 80 characters and designed 190 short movies for CD-ROMs for high schoolers learning English as a second language. The project was released in September.

"It was the opportunity of a lifetime," she said.

In each movie, an animated character introduces a grammar concept such as punctuation and tense, walking the student through correct usages. Voice actors provided the characters' speech.

Fellman first sketched each character by hand. She admitted that drawing 80 distinctive characters was, at times, a difficult task.

Her employer "wanted every character to be attractive, nice-looking," she said. "Boy, did I want to draw some evil-looking people, but they wouldn't let me."

Whenever her ideas for faces ran dry, she said she explored Downtown coffee shops, bars and street corners with her sketchbook.

When she was happy with a sketch, she drew it on Illustrator and colored it. She then transferred the file to Macromedia Flash, a program that allows users to animate illustrations. There, she wrote codes for each part of the face that moved (the eyelids, mouth, ears and head). The codes synched the face movements with the accompanying recorded voice.

The movies are a kaleidoscopic array of caricatures resembling a "Guess Who" board game lineup, except character names such as Frank and Barbara have been exchanged for Verb Tense, Present Perfect and Comma.

Fellman said in a different situation, she would have loved to create hundreds of complex movements for each character, but here she was restrained by the product's educational nature.

"If [the characters] are too entertaining, people will forget what they're learning about," she said.

Fellman is now working on characters for the second grammar textbook, and she plans on completing the third and final character set in the next few years.

When she's not working on CD-ROM characters, she does commercial illustrations for organizations such as Best Buy and Park Nicollet Hospital.

Her loft is her work and her home, and because she loves her work, she said she doesn't worry about keeping the two lives separate.

"I like the idea of the integrated life. I'm always thinking about my work, visualizing [illustrations]."