Homewood artist Sue Ellen Brown began her art career at the early age of 5 with a Crayola drawing of her cat, Taffy.
Today, Brown has years of art experience under her belt, as she previously worked for Hallmark and most recently designed a puzzle for the popular puzzle retailer Ravensburger.
Growing up in Houston, Brown explored her imagination through art classes in high school and studied oil painting on Saturdays with a local artist.
Little did she know, she would later make a career with her artistry at its center.
After graduating from the University of North Texas with a degree in advertising design, Brown moved to Dallas, where she spent nearly six years working for the well-known greeting card company Hallmark.
“There were about six of us in the Hallmark studio, and we worked on every product Hallmark produced,” Brown said. “I made a little bit of everything, from greeting cards and gift wrap to ornaments and miniature boxes. We weren’t limited by departments.”
Additionally, Brown has illustrated children’s books for several publishers and has created promotional materials for commercial clients such as McDonald’s, Denny’s and Pepsi.
Brown incorporates several art styles into her work, which she joked is both a blessing and a curse.
“I have to find what I’m working on fun or a challenge,” Brown said. “I love fantasy, but that’s a wide range. If it’s whimsical and fun, I’ll take it on.”
Puzzle Carried by Homewood Toy
Brown’s puzzle, now sold at Homewood Toy & Hobby, features 1,000 colorful pieces that when assembled reveal a fantasy-themed alphabet, containing letters made of fire-breathing dragons.
Brown was presented the opportunity through Suzan Lind Art Licensing & Design, which represents her.
“Ravensburger was great to work with,” Brown said. “I got to work with them through Suzan, with both of their designers. It was kind of a team project. They would offer suggestions, and they were good suggestions.”
Brown describes the process of creating the puzzle as a new experience.
“I definitely had a learning curve in understanding what makes a good puzzle and the idea that every single piece needs to be interesting,” Brown said.
After spending time with Ravensburger’s design team, Brown tweaked a few aspects of her original design, one of those aspects being color.
“They were concerned that in one color, it may be a little boring for their market,” Brown said. “So I thought, ‘Let’s see if I can turn each letter into colors.’ and I did. They really liked it. It was my idea, and they amplified it.”
Production and distribution of Brown’s puzzles fell victim to the pandemic supply chain issue.
Ravensburger, one of the largest puzzle companies in the world, creates puzzles on specialty boards. The company wasn’t able to access the materials needed for its puzzles during the worst of the pandemic.
“They sold out of everything in the initial lockdown,” Brown said. “Everyone was stuck at home, so everyone bought puzzles.”
After waiting for what felt like an eternity, Brown was excited to finally get her hands on the physical product she spent so much time designing.
Brown was surprised to see her product being sold in a toy shop so close to her home in Homewood.
“Homewood Toy was already a licensed retailer of Ravensburger,” Brown said. “It was a surprise to them and to me that they were carrying the puzzle and that I had made the puzzle. It’s great to be able to tell people to go to Homewood Toy.”