Thursday, October 13, 2016

An ICEy Tale on Illustration Friday

     Yay! It's Friday, Illustration Friday, and I am basking in the weather as it gets cooler.  It always gets me excited to break out my jackets, pullovers, scarves and  colorful knitted winter caps in preparation to brace for the cooler weather.  As this week's topic is ICE, I find it rather appropriately timed.  However, before we get into any of that, FIRST, as promised: a story...

Ugalik Beats the Great Whale
~Lewis W. Porter~

     Far far north in the world, on cold winter nights, as people gather around the campfires, there is told a tale, among the descendants of the northern Yupik tribe; a tale of a young boy who once lived long long ago; a boy who could run faster than anyone has ever ran.  He ran faster than the fastest man living today has ever ran.  He ran faster than any living creature that has ever lived on this earth... and even faster than a giant whale could swim fast; a giant whale that almost ate the entire world long long ago.  They call this young boy Ugalik, the Arctic Rabbit; the young boy who saved the world by beating the Great Whale.

This is his story...

     It was said that Ugalik was born on one of the harshest winters the world has ever known.
The great ancestors of the Yupik tribe wandered long across the harsh frozen lands of the north that winter until they found solace and shelter in a small valley among two tall mountains at the tip of the world where the shore meets the icy waters of the northern oceans.  

     Uglalik was known among his tribe as the boy that was born running from the womb; the boy who learned to run before he learned to walk.  He ran everywhere he was allowed.  He would run to gather wood for the fires.  He would run to gather water. He would run to help carry the fish daily back from the shores.  He was fast.  He was so fast sometimes he would be back before his mother or anyone else in the tribe knew he had left.  Ugalik would run everywhere. He even ran as he sleep... 

     ...and he was fast, very fast...  He had to be.  Otherwise, "The Great Whale would get me." He'd say to his mother when she asked why he ran at night. "The Great Whale would get me and eat me. So I  have to run fast, you see.  I have to beat the Great Whale."  

     His mother would caution him when he'd tell her of his dreams.  "The Great Whale will not eat you, Ugalik.  Sedna, the goddess of the deep, is our protector and provider.  She gives us all fish to eat and bartered safe passage across the waters each day so we can fish.  She protects us from the great storm waters of the ocean."   She told him to be silent, so as not to anger Sedna. 

     Ugalik would be silent, though, deep in his heart of hearts and down far below in the icy oceans of his dreams, he knew that the Great Whale was just waiting... biding her time; waiting for her vengeance upon the world that trapped her deep below in her icy prison.  

     ...and he was right. One winter, that day came.  The day that Sedna came to eat the world and gobble it up and up and up.  All winter long, the snows had fallen colder, the winds had howled louder and the waters rose. All winter the fish had been fewer and fewer, the fires seemed less warmer and less warmer and the waters rose and they rose and rose...

     ...until they came.  The ocean waters rose in a great wave like a tall wall of moving ice almost as high as the two mountains and it began to head right for the village.  Ugalik awoke to the sounds of the tribe's screams. The shouts lifted him from his small bed and when his feet touched the ground, they were running and running and running so fast.  He pulled the tribe one by one from the valley to the safety of the mountain side.  It all happened so fast. The icy wall-wave crashed down into the valley as Ugalik pulled the the last villager to safety upon the mountain rocks... and that is when he saw her.

     A giant bulge almost the width of the size of the whole valley emerged form the running waters. The bulge grew out of the waters, higher and higher and higher and then it opened its large mouth and swallowed the village whole in one humongous gulp.  It was the Great Whale, herself.  It was Sedna, the goddess of the deep, come to avenge herself upon the world and cover it whole in icy waters.

     The villages stood in silence that Great Whale turned toward the mountain and roared the most terrible roar. It chilled them all the their very bones and that is when Sedna began to come for them.  She would eat them all up.  Ugalik knew what he must do. He finally knew what all his terrible dreams at night meant.  He understood his destiny as the monsters roar fell upon the wet rock of the mountainside.

     Ugalik ran out to where the rocks met the water and he stood still facing down the enormous monster headed his way.  He drew up all the strength within him, all his silent prayers, all his narrow dreamscapes and channeled them out through his mouth in the mightiest war cry that the gods and the goddesses of hid tribe could muster.  He called out into the flooded valley.  He voice filled the vast space until it shook the mountain tops from where he stood.  Then the avalanche came.  

     The snow and the icy rocks began to tumble forth and crash into the frozen and flowing waters that filled the valley.  they rained down upon the mighty dragon-fish and Sedna began to sink beneath it.  Each roar she gave echoed in the valley only to speed the ice and rock that rained upon her, slowing her charge until she finally sank silent to the retreat of the deep.  when the tribe began to rejoice in this victory, Ugalik turned to silence them fr he knew this was not the end of the battle. It was only the beginning.

     There, in the frozen silence, there came a rumble.  The ground beneath their feet began to shake and all of a sudden the Great Whale burst from the confines of her icy burial with a ferocious roar more terrible than the first. 

     ...and then Ugalik ran.  He leaped from the rocky side of the mountain and onto the broken icy rocks that floated in the wake of the Great Monsters return from the deep.  He ran fast, then faster, then faster.  He leaped so fast from rock to rock as he ran towards the Great Whale to fight. To finish what he started... and she was ready.  She had him in her sights and she began to swim fast, then faster then faster toward him.  They moved like quick storms preparing to crash in a grand cataclysm of war and weather; weather-war.  

     Sedna, the Great Whale, began to open her mouth.  She roared with such Divine pleasure, ready to swallow this insignificant little man-boy.  She would swallow him whole, then his family, then the world.  It would all be hers, hers, hers!!!!  Just when she thought the victory would inevitably be hers, Ugalik leaped into the air faster than wind and threw his spear.  The spear soared through the icy air and struck her, hurt her, pierced her through her eye.  She cried in agony as her mouth crashed down closed.  The water burst red from her lips.

     ...and Ugalik ran.  He ran fast, then faster, then faster, leaping from icy island to icy island. Sedna gave chase to him even more veraciously than before.  She swam fast, then faster, then faster, chasing him.  

     The tribe members watched, mouths open, frozen still and tense as Ugalik's and Sedna's colored flashes of speed swept through the valley and towards the sliver between the two twin mountains; the narrow mouth that once was the valley and led out to the northern ocean.

     Ugalik ran and ran and ran so fast until he leaped out of the waters and onto the rocky edge of one of the twin-mountains.  He then ran again, faster and faster, his breath beginning to shallow, the great shadow of Sedna right behind him.  He knew he was beginning to weaken, but he prayed again for more strength, more courage and it came, the dreams came flooding through him as they did before... and he ran and ran until he was at the very top of the twin mountain. Then he stopped and turned and stood to face the Great Monster Goddess of the Deep.

     It was this moment, that the Great Enormous Whale burst forth from her icy water prison and flew into the air.  She roared a monstrous roar more fierce than ever before as she soared into the frozen air toward the boy on the mountain top. It began to blend with another roar more fierce than her own; a roar, a cry, a war cry so load that it seemed impossible to come from something so small.  Ugalik called once more into the vast and open space between him and the monster.  He called upon the strength of all the gods and goddesses of his tribe...

     ...and that is when the mountains began to move.  the mountains that were once two were becoming one and as they moved together, the Great Whale began to fall between them.  He speed became slower, and slower and slower.  She than began to cry out in pain louder and louder and louder.  Ugalik cried louder and louder and louder and the mountains moved closer and closer and closer together.

     ....and then, there was silence.  The once Great and Mighty Whale was now quiet and still, wedged stuck between the tips of the twin mountains.  As Ugalik stood with face to face with the titanic monster of his dreams, he heard only one sound; the sound of the winds and the iced themselves across the Great Whale.  The deep regal blue of the skin turned a frosty white as the wind and the ice began to enclose around her.  The last thing that Ugalik saw before the ice and snow took Sedna forever was a massive dark blue orb that blinked.  Sedna shed exactly one last tear from her only remaining eye.  It froze upon her cheek and the ice took her.  The waters began to recede.

     The snow calmed and the wind softened.  The valley returned and so did the fish.  The tribe was saved and Sedna was trapped forever; never to harm Ugalik, never to harm the tribe, never to eat the world.

     Now it has been said by many of the Yupik today, that sometimes out on the icy waters, fishing from their kayaks, they can hear a strange sound, like a war-cry faint in the distance, being carried from the winds of the north.  Winds that are softly whispering the name of their great young hero; whispering into their ears the name of Ugalik, The Arctic Rabbit of the North.

The End.

Now, we talk some art...

     As this week's topic was ICE, I thought it would be a grand opportunity to continue my mini-challenge of illustrating children from all over the globe.  I decided it would be fun to illustrate an young Inuit boy.  Now as a fan of cool/cold weather, I have a fascination with the tribes of people that live in the frozen wilderness of the North.  I'm captivated by who they are and how they survive and how they came to adapt to such cold areas of the Earth.

     I decided not to adapt their culture's visual art aesthetic as I did not want to become too abstract with creating a character from their culture.  I decided to really let that imprint show in the story itself, but I'll get to the writing in just a bit.  

     One of the things I find remarkable beautiful about the Inuit culture, is their wardrobe.  I love the intricacies and tailored designs that they create with animal fur.  Now don't get me wrong, as a vegetarian, I would never buy a fur coat for myself, but, then again, I don't live in the one of the harshest and coldest environments of this planet and would , therefore, not need a fur coat.  The Inuit, however, find a balance with their environment and the animals they hunt, they use 100% of those animals; for food and for protection against the cold temperatures.  They aren't poachers by any means.  Anyway, the designs that they are able to create with such difficult material to work with, are amazing and works of art in their own right.  I wanted to include this element in the creation of Ugalik.  

     I found an image, while I was researching through photographic reference, that really worked well with the concept of the story I wrote.  I loved the diagonal and flowing lines that were created in this woman's coat and thought that they represented the fast movement of Ugalik's running quite well, so I adapted the coat pattern to his own.  It's always challenging to translate some textures into two dimensions and fur is a texture that is difficult to create at times.  I was able to accomplish this through use of the way I inked the contours of the fur in his coat and boots and also by a variety of colored layers and digitally "painted" brushstrokes when I collaged that part of the illustration.  

     The other part I really enjoyed creating was the tones of his skin.  I used several layers to make it the right hue and, personally, I feel like it's an attractive color.  I even added part of Ugalik's conceptual meaning of his name to how I drew him.  I worked to combine the facial structure of a rabbit into his face.  The process for the rest of this illustration, was the same as the others I create in this style: Sketch, Ink, Scan the drawing and the create a digital collage for the final color.  I honestly have more to discuss about the story, than the illustration itself.  The varied tribes of the Inuit culture in the State of Alaska and the Territories of northern Canada have a very very rich history of oral tradition.  I love traditional oral story telling and am captivated by the  mythology and legends of all the different cultures around this planet.  I knew that once I made the  decision that the subject of my ICE illustration would be of an Inuit child, I wanted the short story that accompanied him to be a legend of my own design inspired by the stories of that culture that I was researching.  

     As you only have a week to complete a project for IF Friday, the research and conceptual development  for both the story and illustration are, understandably, quite brief.  However, I was able to "run" through alot of material and read several stories that were recorded down for posterity from that area of the world.  I allowed what I was reading to shape what I eventually came up with for this week.

     Out of all the research I did, there were three key elements that shaped Ugalik's Legend.  The first was, obviously, his name.  I knew that I wanted a name that was accurate to that culture and I wanted the  meaning of the name to obviously play a part in the story.  I went through an entire alphabet of Inuit names and came across one that I couldn't get out of my mind once I read it, I just kept coming back to it it because the name's meaning kept speaking to me. Ugalik, Male name meaning Arctic Rabbit or Hare.  I just fell in love with the idea of an Arctic Rabbit.  And almost immediately I began to summon ideas of what sort of story would be about or revolve around an Arctic Rabbit... What exactly would an Arctic Rabbit be? What sort of role would that character play in the story?

     The second element that came into to play was the selection of Ugalik's tribe.  As many already know, Inuit  is just a general term used to describe a group of  tribes of Native American (North American) peoples that live in the frozen lands far North on this continent.  (The Eskimo being the other term to describe the other family of tribes.)  There are many many tribes, but there was one in particular that I was "drawn" to: the Yupik tribe.  The Yupik are actually more related to the Eskimo group than the Inuit, but I selected them as I liked what I has read about them.  They originally came from Russia and the lands far East.  I liked the nomadic quality about them and liked the concept of a traveling village.  The name Yupik also means "Real Person" and I liked that about the name. So it was then decided that Ugalik would be of the ancestors of the Yupik as they traveled across the frozen lands before the tribe finally settled where they live today in most of the areas of Alaska and some areas of the nearby Canadian Territories. (You can read more about the Yupik by clicking on the image above.)

     The final key element that shaped this story was when I read about the Inuit goddess, Sedna (Pronounced Sanna.)  She is the goddess of the oceans deep and controls the animals that live there.  In some tribes she is refereed to as the goddess of the Underworld, a role very similar to that of the Greek god, Hades.  She is a very temperamental goddess and the Inuit peoples have a very odd symbiotic yet antagonistic relationship with her.  She is mostly known as a very vengeful goddess.  She is usually never kind as her origins are quite traumatic and tragic.  Though she brings death to the fishermen of the tribes, by either destroying them with the harsh waves or storms of the ocean or by having them eaten by the titans of the deep,  The tribes also pray to her for food.  Their survival is also dependent upon her generosity as she also controls the population of animals that can be hunted.  It is quite an odd relationship, but the Inuit tribes seem to make it work.  

     A quick, but relevant aside, I had been listening to Stephen King's IT on audio book.  I was thinking in my head the similarities between Sedna and IT.  IT was also a god of sorts that was the eater of worlds and children.  In one version of Sedna's origin, she is a giant born to the main god and goddess (similar to Zeus and Hera) but her hunger is insatiable. She must eat and eat and eat. So she attempts to eat her  parents before she is banished to the depths of the ocean, trapped forever.  I liked the idea of a massive Titan with insatiable hunger.  I wanted to make this a key part of the story I was writing.  In another version of her story, Sedna is a beautiful daughter of a great hunter. She is betrothed to a god, but when she goes back on her end of the deal, the god becomes angry and punishes the tribe.  To appease the angry god, her father takes her out into the ocean and throws her into the water to sacrifice her. When she grabs hold of the side of her father's kayak, he grabs his ax and chops off her fingers. She sinks to the deep where she is trapped awaiting the day for her vengeance upon the world.  (You can read more about her by clicking on the link above.  

     Another part of IT that inspired me was a section of the story where the main character "Beats the Devil" and escapes from the IT Creature on his very fast bicycle that he calls "Silver."  This gave me a concept with which I structured the story around.  I would create an epic battle between the Arctic Hare and The Vengeful Goddess of the deep.  I wanted Ugalik to "Outrun" the goddess and "Beat" her in order to save his tribe and the world.  Since Sedna's physical form varies from myth to myth and from tribe to tribe, I decided to make her form a Great Whale. This is a nod to two works of classical literature. The first being the most obvious, Moby Dick, and the second maybe more personal than obvious, Monstro from Pinocchio.  

This pretty much sums up what I wanted to share about this week's Illustration and short story, I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have enjoyed creating it.  Might I suggest taking a sliver of your weekend and reading an Inuit legend on your own.  They are very fascinating.   

Until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, 
keep making art.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Leaving the NEST on Illustration Friday

     Yay! It's Friday!... Illustration Friday, and everyone's energy is high and hopeful for the delights of the weekend.  This week's topic was NEST and once I read it the word for the week, I thought of this illustration almost immediately.  I love it when the ideas come quickly... It makes me excited and burning with passion to work on them. lol

     I had previously mentioned, I have decided for this next year to take half of the Illustration Friday Topic Words and create my own personal Mini-Challenge.  The challenge is to illustrate just children form all over the world and celebrate the diversity of us all, but also to do a little creative writing about each one just to brush up on those rusty-dusty writing story writing skills. (p.s. I have been working on developing the story for a Picture Book I plan to work on in 2017 and Self-Publish by the end of that year.... Ah my ambitious Pre-New-Year's Resolutions. lol)

...But before I get get into the who's, the what's, and the why's of the art, this week, as promised:
a story first...

Eiko Sato and the 3 Cranes
-Lewis W. Porter-

     Little Eiko Sato was a young girl like any other in her small rural village in Japan.  She worked hard at her studies in school and to understand and follow the lessons her family taught her.  She also loved to play in the small woods at the foot of the mountains where she lived and she did so as much as she could.

     She always thought how beautiful the leaves on the trees were as they danced in the gentle breeze outside her window every morning.  It was like music to her. Sometimes she would join the leaves in their dance. Eiko would whirl and twirl around her room many mornings before it was time to help her mother begin the chores of that day.

     One special morning she woke, not to the familiar sound of the dancing leaves, but to a new one she had never heard.  It was a chirping and very shrill chirping.  Little Eiko was quite curious about the sound.  Since it was quite early, too early yet for daily chores, she decided that she would go outside and investigate the curious noise that had disrupted what would have been a morning like an other.

     Eiko slid open her bedroom door slowly and tiptoed across the house as quietly as she could.  She didn't want to wake her family.  She knew she was probably not allowed to leave the house if no one else without telling her mother, but she was so very curious about this chirping; she just had to know what it was.  As she quietly slipped outside, she made her way across to the woods.  As she approached the trees, the chirping became louder and louder.

     She was not afraid.  Eiko was a brave girl.  She wove in and out through some of the trees following the chirping.  They seemed to dance around her as if they were happy she had returned to play with them.  She approached a tree, not far from the edge of the wood, that seemed to be where the chirping was coming from.  She was a bit confused as she had never heard of a chirping tree, at least she had never encountered one in the woods before.  Surely a tree could not be making this sound.  She inspected it closer.  As she made her way around the tree, she discovered what was chirping so loudly.

     It was a baby crane.  It was in the shambled remains of it's nest that must had fallen from the tree above and the shell of the egg it must have just hatched from.  The poor thing was not alone.  There were  2 more eggs in the broken nest.

     Eiko quickly looked around for the baby crane's mother or father.  Surely they would be close by, but she couldn't see a sign of them anywhere.  She leaned down to calm the baby crane.  She petted them on the head until the chirping stopped.  The began to coo softly, happy that Eiko was there.

     "Don't worry little bird." she said to it. "You are not alone. You don't have to be afraid any more."

      Eiko waited a little longer for the crane's parents to come, but they did not come.  She was beginning to worry, but then she had an idea.  If no one was able to help these baby cranes, then she would.  She knew it was her job to help them if she could... But how?  How could she help them?

      How? How? How?

     Then Eiko jumped!  She knew exactly what she could do!

     She ran back to her house and quietly slipped back inside.  She wasn't gone long before she was back with some hair clips and pins.  She told herself that if the cranes needed a nest to live in, then she would make one for them... out of her own hair.  She decided it was up to her to help raise them until they were big enough to fly off on their own. And that is exactly what she did.

      Little Eiko stayed in her bed for a few days after.  She told both of her parents that it was her job to help those that could not help themselves.  She had to stay in bed with the covers over he head until the the other two had hatched. She slept sitting upright every night, so that they would not fall once more from their nest. Her mother was glad that it didn't take but a week for the eggs to hatch.  Now, Eiko had 3 baby birds in her hair-nest, but they were all still too young to go out on their own... So Eiko decided that they would come with her, every where she went.  They went to school. They came home. They enjoyed the village when it was time to do the food shopping.  To her parents dismay, they even joined her for supper every night.

     Her parents were both concerned for her.  They were not happy about the three birds, but knew that it was very important to Eiko to raise them.

     It began to seem that the entire village had come to love these three birds.  They began feeding the birds and calling to them every morning as Eiko would walk to school.  The word began to spread to neighboring villages, as many would come to Eikos village just to catch a glimpse of them and the young girl that made a nest for them in her hair.

     A few seasons passed, and the 3 cranes began to spread their wings and fly from Eiko's head to the close by trees or the rooftops to close-by buildings and then back to their nest as Eiko would go on her daily walk through the village.  She was so excited to see that the three cranes were doing so well.  It made her happy, but this also made her sad.  She knew it was soon time to say goodbye to her three friends.

     One morning, not long after the cranes began to fly on their own,  Eiko woke up and noticed that her head felt much lighter.  She reached up into her hair-nest and felt... nothing. She felt nothing!  Eiko began to panic and she looked all around for the three cranes.  She looked under her bed.  She checked under the covers.  She even looked in her closet.  She could not find them....

     Eiko then heard chirping, faint chirping.  She turned and saw outside her bedroom window, the three cranes perched in the tree outside.  She woke both her parents and they all went outside to see them.  The three cranes all looked down and chirped three happy chirps at the family below before they spread their wings and each flew off of the branches and up into the sky toward the mountains.

     Both Eiko's parents leaned down and gave Eiko a hug.  They each reminded her, in their own way that it was just time for her baby birds to go out and live on their own.  Eiko shed three small tears, one for each of the baby cranes she had raised and set free.  She was sad that they had to go, but happy that it was she who helped them, when they had no one else.

     That night, Eiko brushed the nest out of her hair.  As she did, she pulled out of her hair exactly three crane feathers.  She smiled, hugged them ,and placed them under her pillow as she lied down for the first time in many many nights to dream once more.

     Little Eiko never forgot those three baby cranes.  Even as the years went to on, and Little Eiko became not so little anymore, she still held on to those three crane feathers.  She grew up, married a very kind man and had three little babies of her own.  She tells them all the story of the three baby cranes that grew up in a nest of hair on top of her head and she tells them that they should always help others, especially when they can not help themselves.  Eiko then would go to sleep and tuck three very old crane feathers underneath her pillow before sleep.

     As is every night, when Eiko closes her eyes to dream, she can often hear the fain soft chirping of three cranes in the tree outside her window.

The End.

...and now, we talk about the art.

     The image in my head was of a young girl with a nest of birds in her hair, but I'm not quite sure why I chose Japan as the setting and nationality of this week's character.  Sometimes you just decide things as an artist, and not even know exactly why you choose them.  Among the regular reference research I did for the the young Japanese girl, the crane and the kimono, I also sought out a variety of Japanese paper paintings.
I studied them and just fell in love with the light and faint quality of the color work and strong elegant line.  I loved how it was "stained" on to the surface and really wanted to bring that element into my illustration.  I worked several layers into the skin tone sort of melted the layers together to give it a pale, stained and almost watercolor, look to the piece.  I juxtaposed this technique with the other visual element i wanted to include in the illustration as well: Origami printed papers.  I was excited about the idea of including this thousands of years old tradition into my piece as well.

     This sort of visually paralleled one of the themes that I wrote about in the story; traditions and life-lessons being passed down from generation to generation.  Origami seems that way to me, when I think about it.  You find yourself with a perfectly uniform start in life then by the events and lessons you are bent and folded this way and that, often not knowing what, where or why you are going that way.  The form seems chaotic and without a logical shape... and then you find that you are a beautiful crane of elegant form with many many colors and patterns.  So, it was very important for me to include the ancient tradition of origami in my piece.  You see the printed paper in her kimono (a traditional garment of Japan.)  You may notice, if you look closely, that the design on the printed origami paper is that of cranes taking flight. ;0)

     As there are many birds that are native to Japan that I could have chosen from, I was "drawn" to the crane.  The crane is one of the creatures that are sacred to the culture and also one of mystery.  I liked adding this conceptual element to the piece as well as it rounded off including 3 cultural traditions into the illustration and the story is about three birds nested in Eiko's hair.  I like to think that they represent all the creative thoughts and dreams that make a person what they are... at least that's what I imagine when I thought about these particularly beautiful birds.  As an after thought, I liked their long elegant necks which added a nice touch to the work.  I enjoy the curve of the bird's neck as it "crane's" down to look at Eiko and the curve of her arm as she reaches to pet the bird.  Conceptually representing your connection to the before mentioned meaning behind what the birds and the eggs represent to me: dreams and creative thought.

     A few words behind the short story:  I wanted to write a short parable that captured the essence of some of Japan's cultural and family values.  Though there are many, I have listed the values I used to write Eiko's tale below:

-Showing compassion to those in need.
-Working hard for success.
-Being generous with what you have.
-Not hurting others and also standing up for those who can't stand up for themselves.

     There is also meaning in Eiko's name that contributes to the theme of her story.  Her surname, Sato, means "to aid."  Also, it just happens to be the most common surname in Japan.  That fact did not weigh in at all in the context of the writing process.  I just thought it was an interesting fact.  Her given name, Eiko, means prosperous child.  Even though, Eiko does prosper always in her endeavors because of all her hard work and effort, I honestly chose the name because of the song Iko Iko, which I adore.  I was looking through a list of Baby Names for Japanese girls and "Eiko" showed up. I immediately began singing the song in my head and knew that THIS was definitely the right name for her.  Though, it is of Native American origin and popularized in New Orleans as a parade song.  The song is actually about the clash of two tribes and I thought this quite appropriate to the story I wanted to tell.  It is the clash of two tribes, Eiko's and The Cranes.

     Another theme that I wanted to include in the story, since the topic for this week was Nest, was the Empty Nest.  I decided the story was not only about helping others in need but also about what family really is.  To me, family isn't just about blood. Sometimes family are strangers that come into your life for periods of time and then they go, but it's that connection, that bond that you make with them that makes them family.  I really liked the idea of these birds enter Eiko's life as a mere cry for help, but they leave her life as parts of her. She is forever changed by this experience and to me that is what is very human and universal about her story.  The story is also about how we leave nests, constantly, throughout all our lives and move onward to whatever comes next in life or even death.

     The feathers that she passes on to her children later on also have meaning in this story.  They represent these parts of us that connect and change us that we give to the generations to follow.  I originally had more in the story with the imagery of the feathers: molting of the feathers the grown of them etc.  I edited most of it out because the story needed to be a short one so only tidbits of the feathers imagery is left in... just the most important ones.  lol.

     Well, I hope you all enjoyed Eiko's story and the story behind the story and the illustration.  I wish all a very happy rest of your Friday's and hope your weekends find you among strange new people to make new connections with.  I leave you all with the fun song that influenced Eiko's name and that I sang to myself through much of the creative process of this week's project: Iko Iko.  Enjoy.

Until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, 
keep making art.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Little RAIN on Illustration Friday

     Yeah! It's Illustration Friday and I fell pretty good with what I kinda sorta "threw" together.

     I had decided, not long ago, that I needed to practise drawing diversity amongst the children I was illustrating.  This was originally a separate project for me to work on, but I never really seemed to be able to get around to doing it. I would also always get bogged down in the details of what else would be in the image with them and so move on to other things thinking I would revisit this challenge later.

     Well... Later has finally come lol.

     I had a thought a week or so ago about using IF Friday projects to do this.  I'm not certain as to why I didn't think of it a few years ago. It seems like a simple and logical jump that my mind never made.  So anyway this is my first week in the coarse of that study.  I have decided to challenge myself for a whole year and weekly illustrate a new child based on IF Friday's topic.  In my own mind I am excited about this brilliant new and fun challenge.  I'm also thinking of adding a very short story that describes who they are to brush up some of my story writing skills which are quite dusty at the moment as I haven't written in some time.

     This week's topic was RAIN and I instantly thought of this image in my mind.  I wanted a young girl in her colorful rain slicker with her dog under a cute umbrella.  The rest just fell into place with some image reference research (as always) and a fun evening of sketching.

     In any case, there isn't much more to say about her.  She was just a fun kick-start to my new bi-weekly challenge.  Stay tuned for more fun illustrations and perhaps some short stories. I hope you all enjoy the rest of your Friday and weekend.

Until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, 
keep making art.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Stairs Aren't Just Stairs, If You Are Looking Properly.

      So something I had done a while ago, I wanted to share.
I feel that environment and community are the most important factors in creating art.
Everything that encompasses; you, affects you as an artist; where you live, the people you meet, the passers by that drive beside you on the road, the food you eat, the music you listen to, the films you view, etc.

      One of the things that always fascinated me when I study the great artists of the past was their selection of subject matter when creating still life pieces or landscapes.  They always expressed the environment around them.  It makes me curious about what their daily lives consisted of, because their choice of subject matter was always based on something that was close by and a part of their every day life.  It certainly can fill a "playlist" of YouTube-Daydream-Videos in your head of what their lives must have been like.  I imagine that sometimes and I like to think that I'm not alone in that curious and, perhaps, somewhat odd pastime.

      Sometimes I just like to go out in the space around me and capture that.  One of the fun things I was required to do as an art student was to sketch my environment around me in watercolors. So, I try to do that as much as I possible.  It "grounds" me as an artist and as a human being; being aware of everything around me whether living or non-living.  Everything has a voice and can speak to you.  All you have to do is just listen, grab your pens, pencils or paintbrushes and just document your own individual small world around you.  Of course, this means that what you perceive and experience is completely subjective in the sense that this is what you personally feel or see right next to you.  This can be one in several definitions of what makes us all artists. We are the filters of our own environments... but I stray (as usual) from what my point of what most of my posts are about... the art.

     This post is about a piece or sketch, really, of the iron stairwell that is located right outside of the apartment I live in.  It's a VERY narrow alleyway and the stairs take up the entirety of it.  Their "practical" purpose is to serve as a fire escape for the building, but they have been so much more to so many since their inception into this world.  This stairwell, in particular, has quite a sentimental meaning to me.  It is the one singular space where everyone that live here meets; whether we are all coming or going, smoking, escaping, having a friendly conversation with others far away over the phone, talking to each other about the events that occur in our lives or what is going on outside where we all live.  I have made many friends on these stairs.  They have a very fond space in my heart.  I will always think of them fondly not matter what space or time I live in for as long as I continue to exist. I think we all have very special places in this world that we think of in this manner...  So I sketched this one.

     I wanted to make sort of an ode to thisspace in the universe that has brought me and so many others so much joy, solace and sanctuary.  I wanted to honor this space in some way... So I drew/painted it.

     Also, not really as an aside, I used to write poetry.  When I was in college, I took a poetry class taught by one of the most interesting individuals I have ever had the pleasure and privilege of meeting and learning from.  Her name was Dr. Furlong.  Even though, admitting shamefully, I have made a few disparaging jokes at her expense (mostly just post-teenage/early-twenties angst at work), She is a brilliant poet and taught me everything I know about what it means to write genuine "good" poetry (the kind I don't mind sharing with the rest of the world.)  Dr. Furlong will always be iconic inside my mind in how her visage manifests inside my memory.  She was a trim and lean woman; pale skin with long dark hair.  I could never discern whether it was jet black or if it was a dark brown, as it would perform a seemingly metamorphosis between the two as the light would dance across it.  She would wear a "uniform" of sorts.  She would never wear the same clothes at any given time that I ever saw her, but it would always be an ensemble of darkly-opaque sunglasses, a sweater dress, form fitting leggings (with the foot stirrups) and flat pumps.  Each day they would change in shade or pattern but the ensemble would always be concretely consistent.

     I can remember, vividly, her sitting in her desk chair in the top of the room, while we students surrounded her in a circle of desks.  She would coolly relax her arms upon the arms of the chair, as if they were kin hugging each other; sisters from another mother, and she would sigh with such Shakespearean drama and effect...  Then before she drew another breath, she would exclaim in such virile veracity,"It has to be DEEEEEEEEEEP!"  She was, of course, refering to the peotry we were assigned to write for her.  Dr. Furlong was not a woman that is, in the slightest, interested in wasting a single second of her life reading any sum of words that might be considered remotely trite.  She was only interested in the most genuine feelings and emotions that we were capable of placing in the written word.  She was truly a Beatnik Poet from the American 1950's time-traveled forward to teach the lucky few that had the opportunity to learn from her.  She taught me everything I know about poetry... well her and Mr. Keeting from the film Dead Poets Society.  One thing that stands out above all others was her emphasis on the importance of clarification and well developed... scratch that: very very very very well developed imagery.  She could always, also, be heard reciting,"Develop the IMAGE! Deeeeevvvveeelllloooooppp the IMAGE!" lol ;0)   ...and that's exactly what I did from then onward.

     I am, in retrospect, most grateful to her for instilling in me the notion that I should only share when I felt moved to do so.  I have been writing poetry exactly that way ever since...

     So...  Suffice to say, I don't write poetry very much unless I am inspired to do so.

     I bring all of this about to explain that I wrote a poem about these stairs.  They do strike a chord so deep inside me that I felt compelled and inspired to write about an experience I had upon them one wonderfully inspired evening.

     I remember, vividly, that I was up very late as I was infused with such creative energy as I worked on my Wolf in Sheep's Clothing illustration.  I was having a smoke outside on "the stairs," as I sometimes do when I'm working on my art projects.  I had head phones on and all of the sudden a piece of music began to play...  I'm uncertain as to why it was calling to me, but it did.  As I listened to the song I began to dance, and as the song began to wan, I set my music player to loop that particular song...  and as my cigarette began to wan, I looped that also, smoking cigarette after cigarette mulling over a notion that had come to me.  I had an "experience" on those stairs and as my mind and eyes became one, I finally "saw" the stairs, maybe for the first time, for what they truly meant to me;  what that space truly meant to me... and so I danced there; right there on those very stairs.  As I danced, alone, in the wee hours of the morning, whilst words, beautiful words, came to me.  I don't know where they came from nor did I care where they came from, but they did come; a phrase, a longing, an urge, something BURSTING to get out of my mind and on to paper...

     SO I rushed inside and wrote this single phrase:
"With every drag, my exhales hang heavy in the thick and humid air."

     ... and from there, the rest came to me just like it did when I was in my poetry class in college.  I just didn't know where or why this "flow" had come to me or where it was going, but sometimes you just have to tell yourself that you are going to go along for the ride; you are going to go on this journey and just see where it takes you.

I remember that that evening was one of the most creative and fruitful evenings I had had in a desert of a most un-creative year.  I am thankful that the universe, or whatever is out there, that sends the creative messages, thoughts and ideas to all of the artists in the world.  I'm thankful for that night, and I will always remember it fondly.

     I leave you all with the fruits of that evenings creative labors; an ode to one of the spaces in my world that I truly appreciate.  This poem is titled:


As I stand here on on this third-floor grated iron platform, like a solitary king,
in this narrow lidless red brick-lined cave,
I gaze out into the slivered view of streetlights, zooming flashes of colored speed
that race down the thin lined lanes below me.
My eyes move upward, scraping the clustered and cloistered compacted semi-tall pale pink buildings across the way,
and onward and upward to see the glistening bright sparkling white eyes of the Midnight Blue sky.

With every drag, my exhales hang heavy in the thick and humid air.
I'm still, yet also simultaneously moving fluidly to the music only I can hear.
My body becomes one with the melodic beeps, blurs and bleats of this happy tune.
Having my own little Twelve Hour Party for the small minute duration of a song
and pure-white wrapped fag-of-fire alight with the similar spark inside me.
In this slow glacier-ic moment, I undulate to the music of this night
until it is near the time to join all the stars far above me,
in that vast and vivid universe when I leave this cave,
this narrow red brick-lined sliver of exposed privacy,
from this happy body on this momentarily regal stairwell
to dream...   to dream...   to dream

     I do hope that you all take some time this weekend to find someplace in your own personal universes that speak to you, and deliberate there, and take some form of creative action (whatever you deem necessary) to express what this space means to you.

     I tell you what: Let's take an image, an illustration, a photograph of this very special place and put it out in the digital universe with #MyUniverse.  What fun!

     In the meantime, I will leave you with the curious tune I was listening and dancing to by myself that special evening.

Until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, 
keep making art.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Conjuring Inspiration from the FatMan OR Summoning a Spark from "The First American"

Subtitle: An Ode and Homage to 
the Great Benjamin Franklin, A Patriotic Legend.

"Dost thou love life?  
Then do not squander time; 
for that's the stuff life is made of." 
-Benjamin Franklin

     When I started this piece, I did not intend for the end of it's journey to fall upon our annual celebration of American Independence...  It just sort of worked out in a really nice way that this happened.  As the 4th of July nears, all Americans, across this vast expanse of land, unify together in gratitude to celebrate what it means to truly be an American.

Benjamin Franklin
Portrait by Michael J. Deas

     "Benjamin Franklin earned the title of 'The First American' for his early and indefatigable campaigning for colonial unity, initially as an author and spokesman in London for several colonies. As the first United States Ambassador to France, he exemplified the emerging American nation. Franklin was a foundation in defining the American ethos as a marriage of the practical values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. In the words of historian Henry Steele Commager, 'In a Franklin could be merged the virtues of Puritanism without its defects, the illumination of the Enlightenment without its heat.' To Walter Isaacson, this makes Franklin 'the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become.'"     -Wikipedia

I'm now going to make a very odd statement (for those who don't know me, personally):
     As I'm always conflicted about my views and beliefs of the human afterlife (a sign of a true Agnostic),  I can never really know for certain about the existence or credibility of the concept of reincarnation.  To be honest, sometimes I believe it and sometimes I don't.  Faith is always a struggle for Agnostics who feel that, deep down, there is certainly something greater than ourselves and our humble brief existence on Earth.  However, our minds and hearts feel that the Greater Power is something that Man can neither define or understand, by organized religion or otherwise.  My personal thoughts about belief in deities, whether modern or ancient, is that they are constructs by Man to understand what, in my opinion, will never be understood.  So, naturally, reincarnation falls under this category, in my mind, for struggle of faith and belief systems.  I do often make religious jokes, though, not to mock those who have faith, because in all honesty, to have faith is to be blessed and I admire and am slightly envious of those who don't struggle with it as I do.  I make religious humor as a device of levity for a very heavy subject of conversation.  I admit that sometimes it is self serving, but at other times it helps lighten an otherwise brooding atmosphere in a gathering.  In any case, I make this particular joke often (I actually said it again today).

     I sometimes say to others that,"In a Past Life, I must have died in a barren desert or wasteland, because I am ALWAYS Thirsty and HATE Hot Weather."  lol.

     So why bring this up? What relevance does this have to this particular illustration?

     A few months ago, I was having trouble "Jump-Starting" my creative flow.  I didn't really know what I was going to work on, artistically, as I had decided not to move to NYC this year and stay here, in Southwest Georgia.  This meant that I needed to modify my artistic goals this year and I was uncertain about what I wanted to truly accomplish within 2016.  I made the decision that I would work towards creating and producing work to go in an online shop, like Etsy, and begin to sell work as an artist and illustrator.  It was a change of gears to my previous pursuit of trying to get my foot in the door in Children's media.  I decided that while I was putting together the necessary things that I would need to create an online store, like creating inventory and other products, etc., I was going to stop work on Portfolio Specified Art and JUST CREATE ART THAT I WANT TO MAKE.  This decision is all well and good, however, it created a new block in my mind that I wasn't certain how to overcome.  Sure,  I had Many Many Ideas in my Idea Journal that I could work on, but I just wasn't feeling any resonance from them at that time...

     I was in a Creative Desert; Dying of Artistic Thirst 
and the Over-Bearing Beating Heat of the Lack of Creativity...

     So, I did what I always do in times of Creative Need... I "Pray" (so to speak) to my personal Creative Muse: The FatMan.  For some reason I am able to Conjure Creativity through the process of creating another visage or "incarnation" of this Mysterious Character that appeared into my life many many moons ago.  I looked at my list of FatMan illustration Ideas in my Idea Journal and chose one that seemed fitting for this particular task. I chose to illustrate my personal favorite of all of the American Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin.

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin
by Joseph-Siffred Duplessis 

     A few or several words about Mr. Franklin:

     Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A renowned polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, Freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions.  He facilitated many civic organizations, including Philadelphia's fire department and a university.
If you click on his portrait above, you will be linked to his Wikipedia Article where you can read more about his life and fascinating accolade of accomplishments.

A quick aside about Wikipedia (which I and many others around the world use):
     I just was informed today about the trouble Wikipedia is currently facing.  They are endanger of being taken over by the advertising and marketing world due to need for continued independent funding.  As we all know, if they are unable to continue operating independently, they will have to succumb to the perils of knowledge and censorship control that is associate and unfortunately tethered to the funding of Marketing and Advertising Agencies, Corporations and other financial institutions. In short, knowledge will no longer be free and open source to the World, it will be edited, controlled and eventually monetized.  With the horrors that are taking place in our current American Education Systems, here in the States, it is important that we keep our open sources for information like public libraries, the Internet and certainly Wikipedia out of the hands of those that would corrupt it for personal agenda or monetary profitability. You can help keep Wikipedia Independent and Open Source by donating as little as just $3.  I mention this, as Benjamin Franklin was an outspoken advocate for the power and open accessibility of knowledge and information to the public.  His altruistic efforts have been the foundation for several public universities, public libraries and Newspapers that advocated the Freedom of Speech in the Colonial Time Period.  I can't help but feel that this can't be just a mere coincidence that I illustrate the visage of a man who worked so fervently for the accessibility of information and Wikipedia's need for funding to keep their organization Open Source.  It's almost providence... or maybe actual providence. If you wish to help to donate to Wikipedia's worthy cause, you may do so by clicking on their logo above and you will be directed to their donation page.  I strongly implore you all to consider supporting their cause.  I'd like to think that Ben Franklin would have done so, if he were around today. ;0)

"As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously."
-Benjamin Franklin

...and now, back to our regularly scheduled program...

     Of all of Ben Franklin's accomplishments and endeavors that I could have included in my illustration, I chose the famous Kite Experiment.  Though Benjamin Franklin is not the inventor of Electricity, nor is he the inventor of the battery, the instrument that was invented to harness the power of electrical current (called Electrical Fluid back then), his kite experiment was set forth to prove that not only was lightening a form of electrical current, but that the 2 proposed types of electrical current at that time were one and the same.  Ben Franklin discovered and defined the differences between Positive and Negative electrical currents.  He also devised a way to ground buildings form the dangers of fires that were cause by lightening storms with the lightening rod and also it's alternative use for eventually harvesting that electrical current for use.  In my own mind, I paralleled the experiment in hopes of harvesting a creative jolt of lightening of my own by illustrating this famous moment in history.  My hopes were that through the process of creating the illustration, I would "Jump-Start" my creative mind again.  I'm happy to say that this has thus far been a successful experiment and adventure.

     The other main reason for choosing Ben Franklin as the FatMan's new incarnation was to pay homage to a great Scientist and Inventor by using this illustration as a means to practise with a new creative tool that I had in possession for several years but was ultimately afraid of using, for some reason that is even unknown to myself:  The Wacom Tablet.  I received the tablet as a Christmas gift 3 years previous, but have yet to use it as I was very "green" in the hand eye coordination of it's use and knew that there would be a very long learning curve to eventually integrate it as a common tool in my illustration work.

     I am very well aware of this contradiction: a digital artist afraid of using and integrating modern technology into his technologically based artistic medium.  However, techno-fear hits home to us all in different ways.  In my selection of Benjamin Franklin and his kite experiment as my subject, I was hoping to conjure the courage along side creativity with this project.  I decided that I would use this project as a means to learn and integrate the Wacom Tablet technology to illustrate the visage of one of most brilliant and well known Inventors in American History.  I can't think of a better fitting project to learn tablet technology on.  Again, it seemed like providence that this was THE PROJECT I needed to be working on next, so I began.  After my adventure and challenge was set before me, I must admit, I enjoyed a private smile and inward giggle with myself.  I had the thought that Ben Franklin would have approved. ;0)

     I began my project by delving into research, not only about Ben Franklin, but also about the time period that this famous experiment took place.  I needed to know things like the clothing that he would have worn at the time,  what the homes and countryside looked like during Colonial Times, what sort of key did he actually use as the conduit for the experiment, what did kites look like during that time, etc.;  all the details you have to think about when illustrating a specific time period and historical figure.

     First, I needed to kind-of-caricature and meld the image of Ben Franklin into the iconographic and almost Egyptian-like profile of the FatMan.  Since these illustrations are always somewhat-symmetrical, I worked out the details of where things like the kite and key and house were going to be.  I already knew I wanted the kite directly above his head, but it was challenging trying to figure out the wave of the kite ribbon and how the kite string was going to "thread" it's way through the composition.  I distinctly remember I wanted the illustration to seem more open, to give the illusion that the FatFranklin was in the middle of an open field near his home.  I also wanted the open space so that I could focus on the Real Star of the illustration, The Lightening Storm.  I needed room for dark clouds and the lightening to fall, so I purposely set my horizon pretty low, as low as I possibly could.  This illustration is in a sense contrary to actual Historical record of the event.  If you click on the painting below you can read more about this particular moment in American History.

Lithograph of Franklin’s kite experiment
by Currier and Ives

     The actual experiment did not take place near the home that Ben Franklin resided in at that time.  He lived in the city and not in the country side.  Also he was standing under a shelter so as not to get wet, since water would conduct electric current and Mr. Franklin did not fancy being electrocuted.  Another safety precaution that he took is that he stood on a grounded surface (something that was similar to s rubber mat.)  He also placed the key inside a glass jar, creating his own makeshift Leyden Jar, which is a device that stores static electricity between two electrodes that are placed on both the inside and outside of a glass jar.   The home depicted in the illustration is not real.
It is a Hybrid construction that was imagined from Ben Franklin's childhood home (which is in Massachusetts not in Pennsylvania, where he lived when he conducted this experiment), and 2 other Colonial Period Buildings.  I "fudged" on the house because I thought my imagined home of Ben Franklin was more appropriate for this illustration and I "fudged" a bit on how he conducted the experiment, primarily all for visual interest and dramatic effect.  To be honest, this event is rarely ever accurately depicted for the same exact reasons that I chose not to accurately depict it.  Also, my purpose was to inspire and challenge myself, so I took my Creative License out and used it. lol.

     After I got my finalized sketch down the way I wanted it, I inked the illustration then began to create Color Compositional Sketches (often called Color Comps).  Color Comps are just a form of sketch that allow an artist or illustrator to play with different color combinations and color schemes until they find something that works to their satisfaction.  I always thought of this stage in the illustration process as Coloring in Homemade Coloring Books, but for illustrators.
As an aside, I find it intriguing that Coloring Books for Adults had become a huge trend for the book industry.  I think it's really cool. It's good therapy ad I know many close friends that do this to relax.  I did have one moment of indecision when I was creating a color composition for the illustration.  I was being rather indecisive on the color for FatFranklin's clothing.  I had researched and gathered a few different painted portraits of Ben Franklin and there were really two that inspired what I drew for him.  In one portrait, he wears predominately Red and in the other, predominately Blue.
I really couldn't decide because I liked them both.  So, I turned to Social media to see what other people would choose.  Most everyone voted for Red and I was originally going to be swayed that way, but at the 11th Hour, I decided to go with Blue because I kept on coming back to that particular portrait of him...  Just something about it pulled me in with it's gravity and appeal.

     Now that Drawing, Design, Composition and Color were all in place, it was time to try something very new to me, using a Wacom Tablet.

Montgomery Hall
Savannah College of Art and Design
Savannah, Georgia

     A real quick aside:  Last year I went back to Savannah for the Sidewalk Arts Festival and toured some of my old stomping grounds and school buildings for fun.  I was in the Media Building (Film and Animation Building) and I discovered that the animation students were learning how to traditionally animate, but not on specially punched animation paper with animation pencils. They were drawing directly on their screens with stylus pencils and creating their Traditional 2-D Animations that way.
 I was SO IMPRESSED and at the same time felt very archaic and our of date.  This Old Dinosaur learned it the old fashioned way and I was having a difficult time imagining how I could animate the same way these current students were.  It was so much more tech savvy and tech advanced that I really was simultaneously excited and happy to see and experience something so new, but also so sad and embarrassed that I didn't know how to do what they were doing.  I felt light years behind them.  This is also one of the reasons I am making myself learn the new tools of the industries I studied.

     Looking back, now, after the illustration's completion, I am getting more used to using the tablet and have thought of some ways to integrate it's use into every digital art project I work on.  However, my techno-fear of it in the beginning was quite daunting.  I actually did a little bit of research on some tutorials for getting used to the had-eye coordination required for this specific tool.  You have to understand, when I was learning how to create digital art, this tool was not yet around or at least not open to the consumer market, yet.  So I learned how to do everything with just a mouse, a little gusto and a prayer.  The use of a mouse is SO embedded in my mind and in my muscle memory.  Things in the digital art world are just the opposite. EVERYONE learns on the tablets and the familiarize themselves with just drawing directly on their ipads or droid tablets.  It's so foreign to me because I still crave the pencil and physical paper for sketching.  It's even in modern pop culture.

     I have been binge-watching my way through SCREAM the TV Series (which is So Awesome, if you're a SCREAM Fan.) I'm on Season 2 and there is a "sketchy" character on the show that draws graphic novels on his tablet.  I know it's not the actor's work, but I plan on researching the artist who creates that character's drawings because the work is phenomenal.  I hope that the drawings are actually created on a pad with a stylus, because the integrity and quality of them look just like pen and ink work that you would see in comics or graphic novels.  It's really great stuff.  I would invite you all to check out the show, if anything, just to see that artist's work.

     Anyway the progress of getting used to using the stylus and the tablet were quite slow in the beginning and I still am learning.  I am able to do something things kind-a-sort-of quickly with it now but other things still take me time to get used to.  I also haven't fully embraced the entire functionality and potential of some of the buttons on the pad and on the stylus pen itself.  There are also other tips that come inside the pen's holder that can be used to create other effects.  So this really is a new adventurous frontier that I am pioneer-ing my way through.  I've gotten as far as programming 2 of the pad buttons and one of the pen's buttons that I have gotten used to regularly using.  They were created to be shortcuts but I haven't realized their full potential as of yet. lol.  This Old Man is still earning that New Trick. ;0)  I did use the table to create my most recent work that I completed right after the FatFranklin illustration.

     In my Vintage Postcard Homage, I utilized both the tablet and mouse together, since some of the work on the digital collages require more mouse work than tablet work.  I hopefully will eventually get the "hang" of it and use the tablet more than I do the mouse or just by itself completely.  Then I would feel completely like that Dinosaur that toured the Old Alma Matter. lol

     Another interesting challenge that I took on with this illustration was something that I previously had never really attempted to draw or illustrate, not in this way, at least.  I was going to need to illustrate a lightening storm.  One of the most difficult things for artists to draw, besides Horses and Hands, are the elements of and the forces of Nature.  It's difficult to capture the look and color of Rain or Lightening or Tornadoes or Hurricanes or even an Earthquake.  These forces of nature always present a unique challenge every time you sit down to draw or paint them, even if you have done so many times before. Each and every time is completely different.  It's like they say, no snow fake is the same in any painting, drawing or illustration... or something like that. lol.  I will say this is where I found the use of the tablet quite handy.  I was able to create a variety and thickness of line with the varying pressure capabilities that the Tablet provides.  This and also through a combination of opaque and transparent painted layers, I was able to create and effect that satisfied me and fit the aesthetic of the illustration.

     Night time scenes also always present a challenge to the artist because other normally programmed
sense of local colors and embedded training on how to light and shade objects.  Night time illustrations sort of turn that upside down as your normal sense of coloring tends to gravitate towards lighting and
coloring objects with daylight values and color.  You really have to be careful and pay attention when
working on scenes that take place at night.  I had to purposefully go over some of the image to
"dull-down" or "push back" my color values because they would be too bright or too intense.  They were disrupting the illusion of night time that I was trying to create.

      All and all, it was a fun and challenging project and I am very please with the end result.  I hope you all enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed working on it and sharing the experience with you.  I also hope that it "Conjures" something in you all as it has conjured some inspiration in this old artist.

     I am glad that it's completion happened near the 4th of July Celebrations as Benjamin Franklin is one of the vital Patriots that helped give this country it's Independence and I can't think of a more fitting time to share this illustration and it's experience with you all.  I actually just returned home form a Fourth of July Celebration and Fireworks display that happened locally in Plains, Georgia.  It was a lot of fun and the fireworks are always beautiful to watch, even if my camera can never really get a good snapshot of them.  There was just something about the energy of all those people gathered together in one space to celebrate something that we all treasure as Americans: Our Freedom.  It always makes me sentimental and somewhat emotional during this time of year.  There really are no words to express the feeling of standing in a vast space full of so many people, so very different from each other, yet for one moment in time, we all stand together, turn our heads upwards to watch the exploding reds, white and blues in the sky and we all are silent.  The only thing you hear is the explosion in the air.  In that very singular moment, we are in fact all unified as one, because we are all thinking about the same thing: How proud we are of our country, how wonderful it is to share this moment with our family and our friends and even strangers, how we are all sincerely proud to be Americans.

     So as you all enjoy whatever festivity or vacation or event or backyard BBQ or pool party.... Whatever it is, I hope that you all take a moment to remember where it all came from, how it all started, all of the people that came before us to make this nation possible and what it is today... To remember what it really means to be a True American, as Mr. Franklin would have called it.  Because remembering this is what this Holiday is truly about and it's what sets our nation apart. It's what makes us American.  Be safe out there this Holiday and (for all my American friends) Happy Fourth of July to you all.  To all my Non-American Friends, Happy Regular Day in July. ;0)

Until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, 
keep making art.