Thursday, May 5, 2016

It Sounds like SMOKE on Illustration Friday!

It's FLASH BACK Illustration Friday! Yay!

     DISCLAIMER FIRST: Just so you all know this piece is not recent... It is very  very old. lol

     Once again, I wasn't going to participate originally in Illustration Friday this week.  However I saw that this week's word was SMOKE and it made me instantly remember this illustration.

     I created it many many moons ago when I was in my first year of the Illustration Program at SCAD.  This was well before I chose a focus in illustration or even knew what focus to even consider.  I figured  eventually a niche would reveal itself; one that I fit into pretty well.  That niche was Children's media  illustration, but that came much much later after I illustrated the piece I want to discuss today.  It was the first project for my Editorial Illustration class.  The assignment was to illustrate a sound.  I don't  think any sounds were particularly assigned to us. If I recall correctly we got to choose our own.  I chose  the Smoker's Wheeze, though in hindsight I think that I should have illustrated that "froggy" voice that  smokers acquire  after years and years and years of smoking. I think that would have been more fun, but  oh well... I didn't think of that one at the time.

     I think I chose the wheeze because at the time I was a smoker and, ironically, just this past year, I picked  it back up again after I had been quit for 6 years... I know. It's bad, such a bad habit to have.  I do feel bad about it sometimes and then others I really really don't feel bad about it. lol.  I will quit again soon, but only when I'm ready. Cold Turkey is the only way to really quit, but you have to be truly ready to.

Anyway... I digress.

     SO... I chose the smoker's wheeze out of some morbid fascination with the subtle almost silent sound that you hear when a heavy smoker breathes.  I think I secretly was hoping to, in some way, ward off the eventuality of me being a wheezer, like some sort of magical spell or perhaps a talisman of protection from this horrid eventuality... Unfortunately for the wheezers, everyone notices how badly you are breathing.  I would feel embarrassed, if it were me wheezing, because it was my bad choices that led to it.  Fortunately, I do not wheeze. I have been diligent to do cardio daily to try to keep my lungs as healthy as possible, even when I have them navigating like boats through a thick fog.

     Even though the sound is audible, it's not entirely too loud. It's almost quiet, I would say.  You'd really only hear a smoker's wheeze if you were in a quiet room with someone who has one.  I thought it would be interesting, conceptually to turn the volume up, so to speak, in my visual.  To be a bit ironic and over the top.  I imagined how I would personally feel if I was wheezing around others.  I would feel like the sound would be so loud that it might be deafening.  I compared the sound to a set of bagpipes.  I chose this because... well, firstly, bagpipes are just awesome and I've always thought they were very cool and had an interesting sound to them.  I have a very positive association with bagpipes, as I would venture to guess that most  others do also.  I wondered how people would react to them if they were visually compared/associated with cigarette smoking.  How would they feel about bagpipes then?

     I admit, my execution on the image is not the best in the world and in my defense, it is student work.  I was going through an experimental period artistically at that time.  I didn't really know what medium I preferred more so than others.  I will say, at the time, I had been creating portraits and figure work with conte crayons [fancy chalks for you non-artists out there ;0) ] on colored or hand dyed drawing papers.  I really wasn't into drawing anything in it's local color [the color something actually is.]  I was really enjoying playing with outrageous color combinations and preferred bright and vibrantly saturated colors for everything.  At the time, it was mostly in my figure work.  I was drawing a lot of celebrities (because photo reference was easy to come by and other students would rarely pose for you to draw them.)  I also was drawing a few self portraits as I remember.  The figure you see in this illustration was taken from a magazine photo of Leonardo DiCaprio.  One of my favorite actors, then as well as now.

     This illustration in particular began my interest and long journey into collage and mixed media work.  A journey, I might add, that I am still on. The piece was created using collaged colored drawing papers, photocopy print transfers, colored pencil, oil pastel and printed clear transparencies.  Some of you may remember this old archaic office supply material.  lol  My decision to use Lucky Strike Brand is that their logo is circular and represents the cyclical habit of smoking that leads to the cyclical nature of the sound of the smoker's wheeze.

     It evokes a sickness and definitely amplifies the idea of that particular sound.  It certainly will make you think about it in a new way, should you hear it in future.  I have always liked this piece.  I keep it around because, even though it's not the best work I've done, there's just something interesting and intriguing to me when I look at it... and not just because it was I who created it. lol.  I hope, in some way, it intrigues you all today.  I don't have any work in progress pictures for this piece as it is from a time when I didn't think about taking them.  I just did my work, turned it in to my professors, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. lol  ;0)

     In any case, I hope you all take something from it with you to enjoy the rest of your Friday and weekend
with.  Thank you all for joining me on this little time machine back into my artistic past.

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

Friday, April 29, 2016

Walking In Through the Out Door on Illustration Friday

"I'm no different to anyone. Yes, I have fame and wealth and talent, but I certainly don't consider myself any better than anyone who has no fame, wealth or talent. People fascinate me. They're amazing! Life fascinates me! And I'm no more fascinated by my own life than by anyone else's."

     Prince was an amazing artist and that's understating it. I think the whole world stopped the day we all heard that he passed.  He certainly was a man that not only marched to his own drum but invented the sort of drum he would want to march to.  He never was concerned about convention, nor parameters.  He became a creative force to be reckoned with and left an indelible impression on this world he left behind him.  He has inspired me as an artist as he has inspired and touched millions with his music, his words and his personal style.

     I wasn't, originally, planning on participating in Illustration Friday this week. However, when I saw that had posted "PRINCE" as the word for the week, I just HAD to create an illustration in tribute… I just HAD to!

     I've been listening to Prince's music since I can remember.  Of course, when I was that young, it was my brother who listened to him and I just got to eavesdrop with my ear.  At that age I didn't know who he was, really, but I learned more about him as I got older.  Some of my favorite songs are the work of Prince and I can't help but feel grateful that he shared his wonderful talent with me and the rest of the world.  

     Another fond Prince Memory I have is when I was in college.  There used to be this AWESOME Record Shop in downtown Savannah called RPM.  Myself as well as the rest of the college crowd bought all of their music there.  I learned about Indie Rock there and was introduced to so many new music artists every time I visited.  They also sold the most amazing large format posters that were the envy of every college dorm student if you bought one. Anyway, I digress…

     I was in RPM one afternoon and was looking through their Cd's when my ears "perked-up" over what they were playing over their stereo system that day.  This was well before the invention of Smart Phones and the SHAZAM Phone App (the app that "listens" and then tells you what song is playing.)  SO since I was not a time-traveler form the future with those tech resources, I had to do what Every Single human being had to do back then…. Ask the Record Shop Clerk,"Hey! What record are you playing?"  

     As it turns out, they were playing a record by a band called DUMP (terrible name but great band.)  Dump is really more of a one-man-band-side project of James McNew (You all probably know him more as the bassist for Yo La Tengo.)  Dump had just released a cover record that consisted of nothing but PRINCE covers called That Skinny Motherfucker with a High Voice ( Lyric from Prince's song Bob George).  To date it is one of my personal Top 5 favorite albums.  And even though all the songs were lo-fi 4-track home recordings, the strength of the original material made them shine.  I can't even tell you how many times I listened to that record. At least 1,000 times that first year I owned it.  I already had a personal connection to the original songs when Prince released them, so it endeared me more to them to hear them reinvented in a new way.  And even though Prince was not a big fan of having his work covered, I feel that maybe he might have secretly enjoyed McNew's creativity.  After all, Prince was a man who embraced creativity and executed his muse in ways we have never before seen.

     So this week I paid tribute to The Purple One, on of my favorite music artists of all times, Prince.  The inspiration for my illustration is obvious. My favorite Prince song is, as you may have guessed, Raspberry Beret.  A song about a woman that the singer falls in love with as soon as he sees her, not really for her beauty but for her tenacious and confident individuality.  She walks 'In' through the 'out' door.  She doesn't follow convention. She is herself and she wears her raspberry beret as a badge of her free spirit.  I just love that sentiment that a raspberry beret conjures within me if I see one.  I actually used to own a raspberry beret for that very reason. I would wear it, not as a badge but as a reminder for what it represented to me: Creative Freedom, Confidently Independent.  

   SO I thought it would be a lot of fun to celebrate those fond memories by "going literal" with this piece and illustrating The Purple One as a raspberry wearing a beret.

     I spent an evening researching photos of Prince and caricaturing some of my favorite photos with some of his classic facial expressions.  I wanted people to look at this illustration and say to themselves,"that look is SO 'Prince'!"  I then decided on a pose or body gesture that I felt would work for this piece.  I knew I wanted his arms, legs and hair to be the leafy part of the raspberry.  I also wanted them to be sort of short and stumpy, exaggerating the caricature.  Prince had an amazing fashion style all his own. I wanted to reference it but I didn't want to dress my Prince-berry in a costume.  I wanted the fashion to be limited and focus on the beret.  So I settled for purple boots: subtle, sexy but not over powering his beret.  I also deviated form the color of the beret somewhat out of necessity and somewhat out of concept.  Since there would already be so much red in the body of the Prince-berry, I didn't want the beret to just blend in. So in order to make it stand out I made it Purple and I made it Plaid.  Prince has been often referred to as "The Purple One" so I wanted to use purple for the hat his boots and his face makeup.  

     The process for this illustration is as I have done for many of these int he past. I sketch, I ink then I scan my inked image in to create a digital collage with the finished color.  

      That's pretty much the extent of what I can say for this illustration.  I hope you all enjoy him and are inspired to break out your Prince albums and re-discover your love of The Purple One.  I wish EVERYONE a Great rest of their Friday and leave you with a bit of music to kick off your weekend. One song is the classic favorite that inspired this week's illustration. The second is my favorite track of Dumps Prince cover record.  ENJOY! :0)

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

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I WOOD Like To Sing the Praises of SPRING on Illustration Friday


     It's Illustration Friday and I'm excited about the end of a productive week of making Art.  In reference to a previous post, one of my goals this year was just to create more art for myself; not only art that I am commissioned to do, but art that I wanted to make... for just me.  I also have some goals I set for learning new technologies that I had previously had some Techno-fear of learning.

     Most recently I am working on a longer project, the Ben Franklin FatMan, to force myself to learn how to use my Pen Tablet. I previously had been afraid to use it, embarrassingly so, because I felt it would take
such a learning curve to get used to it as opposed to the mouse I have been using for years and years to
do digital work with.

      In addition to those goals, I will be opening a shop on Etsy to sell Giclee Fine Art Prints of my work as well as a series of greeting cards.  The prints will be available first as I am still working on the illustrations and copy for the greeting cards. So those will show up in due course and I'll definitely send out some buzz when they are.  However, in the mean time, things are going well, artistically, and it gets me very excited.

     I am working on a few new Blog Posts that will be posting soon. They do require a bit more writing and
time as the projects they cover are of long form projects with multiple facets and many details. So stay
tuned for those.

     Today, I WOOD like to Sing the Praises of my little Log-Man and his exuberant bouquet of lovely and
colorful Spring Flowers.  I have been wanting to create a piece that was Spring themed for several weeks
and was waiting for a IF-Friday Topic that WOOD allow me to do so.  This week's One Word Topic was,
as you might have already guessed,"WOOD."  Since my mind has been on the lookout for new ideas for
Greeting Cards, This little guy popped into my head the very moment I read the topic.  I knew exactly what
I wanted to sketch and what the card copy would say.  I saw a chopped log with a cute smiling face
offering a bouquet of flowers and he was sketched-up in less than an hour or so.

      These illustrations go pretty much the same as they always do: Sketch, Ink, Scan and Collage.  I had a lot of fun playing with the layering and detail of the bark texture on him as well as selecting and placing the
punchy "Spring-y" colors of his bouquet of flowers.  I'm not entirely certain who they are for. They could be
for all of you, I suppose.  But I wasn't entirely clear on his story.  Could be for Log friend of his, perhaps.  In any case he is happy and very excited about this lovely weather and bright colors that are surrounding
most of us all this time of year.  He puts a smile on my face and entices me to go outside and enjoy the
color, the warmth and the nice breeze of Springtime.

     In enjoyed playing with his "Hat" and his "Sleeves" and "Pants."  I thought it would be fun to let the knobs
and or stubbed branches be the departure for them. I also wanted his face to resemble an area where the
log's bark might have either fallen off naturally or had been knocked off from when he was chopped. I'm
particularly fond of making his one and only leaf that remained be the "feather" in his cap.  I wanted his hat
to be quite similar to that of Peter Pan's.  I kind of wanted him to be of that same forever youthful spirit, as
Spring is the Season of rebirth and new life.  I think he's definitely a glass half full kind of log and I wanted
to communicate that in a fun way.

     All in all this little guy was a fun project to work on this week and I'm excited to add him to the group of
illustrations that I will feature on the greeting cards.  I know there wasn't really much to discuss about this illustration, as there really wasn't too much symbolic meaning behind it's purpose or details.  I just wanted to do something fun; a lark, if you will.  I hope he puts a smile on all of your faces and inspires you all to go out and "play" some this weekend.

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

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Over the Moon: Bright Wishes for the New Year

Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed,
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon

     We all know this 16th century rhyme and I always think about it when I am faced with an insurmountable task or if I am feeling particularly overwhelmed.  I just imagine being that cow that jumps over the moon. One that makes what may seem impossible, possible… or at least plausible. lol

     I began this piece on New Years Day in an attempt to be superstitious.  There is a belief that nags at all of us in the depths of our minds around New Years that whatever we are doing on New Years Day is what we will be doing a lot more of in the coming year.  I'm only mildly superstitious.  I don't believe in New Year's resolutions as, like Ben Gibbard would say in the Death Cab song, The New Year", 

This is the new year and I have no resolutions for self assigned penance for problems with easy solutions"  I think if you want to loose weight for the new year, you just go ahead and start doing what you would need to do to begin loosing weight.  Begin a more disciplined diet and begin exercising daily for at least 30 minutes. That's how you loose weight. Most all of us know the formula to make that happen and you don't have to "weight" until January 1st of any year to do so. This is just one of the more cliche and ironically most popular resolutions people make around this time of year.  If you want things to happen in your life, you think about how you can do it, make a plan and JUST BEGIN.  “Well begun is half done.,” say’s Mary Poppins, and I would certainly agree.

Beginning to do something is 75% of the task.  I guess I would say I believe more so in Life Resolutions than New Years resolutions. There are no shortcuts. Anything that is worth anything is achieved through hard work, discipline and perseverance.

     I get it, though.  Everyone thinks of the year ahead and thinks about all the possibilities of it.  It represents a Fresh Start; a New Beginning if you've needed one.  Maybe your last year was not a good year for some of you out there, maybe it was amazing.  My point is that New Years Day represents that New Beginning in all of us that we all secretly crave sometimes; that desired change that lies deep within our hearts.


     For me New Years is mores about a wish we can make from our hearts for that change we desire deep within.  And for me, I like the idea of wishes and dreams because that is something you can set goals and work towards.  I know it's really just a matter of the choice of words, but I really don't like resolutions per say as they are usually something that can be achieved at any time as long as you put your mind and your heart into it.  

Wishes and dreams are about imagining what can be possible in your life this year and to me that is much more exciting and visceral than making a promise to commit to something that I already know I am capable of.  Also if you only promise to do something, human nature will, more often than not, allow you to talk yourself out of your commitment to yourself.  However a wish and a dream can ignite passion for what you want to see happen in your life. SO I choose to make a New Years Wish instead of a resolution.

     2015 was such a sad year for me. Even though it was peppered with some good times and new friends that I've made, it was mostly a salt-lick… Blah! Lol.  It wasn't All Bad, but I know moving forward in my life, when I look back on that past year, I will always remember how sad/tragic it was and how sorrowful and depressed I was that year.  It was a down year.

     …However, I made a promise to myself that 2016 would be a year where I will be happy again.  I would take control of my life, where I can, and steer my boat into much sunnier waters and hope that there are fewer storms to weather through.  I didn't create very much last year (obviously attributed mostly to that severe depression.)   Everyone I know and love noticed a change in me as I'm not someone who can really hide emotions.  I'm certain most of you out there that are not in my close circle of “peeps”, noticed that my blog writing went sparse and quiet. 

     The wish I made for myself for 2016 was to be happy, whatever that may entail.  If something is not making me happy, I let it go.  I am learning to let a lot more go, and accepting that I can't control everything and thus far, even though we are 3 months in, I am happy so far.  I also made a wish and promise to myself to draw more and to write more on my blog as I have neglected it so much last year.  I am also going to start selling my art locally and online.  

This is currently in the works and doesn't really happen overnight, so I am working on it and accepting that there is progress and being happy in the fact that progress, however small, is moving forward and not standing still.  I have to accept that I have to be happy with what I can accomplish within the small time frame of each day.  I get really upset and discouraged on days that I can not work on art as there are many days like this.  I just have to be happy with and grateful for the time I do get to.  I was told by so many of my professors in college that I should be drawing at least 1 hour a day.  That is excellent advice and, yes, you will accomplish a great deal if you do that.  However, I have learned that it is not usually a reality to be able to do so;  Not for most artists.  We all work (and thankfully, I have a creative job, where I get to put my creative mind to work.) Not many artists have such a luxury. Most artists work a full time job that has nothing to do with art or creativity at all.  I have been in that position a few times in life and I know, first hand, how draining and hard that makes it to create art when you don't get to be creative on a regular basis.  SO, in that instance, I feel very lucky and grateful that I work in graphic design and get to be creative on a daily basis.

Now… Let’s talk about this art piece. Lol

     The week I worked on this piece, Illustration Friday’s topic was “Moon.”  I had previously illustrated a personification of the moon in my Summer Time diptych, so I wanted to do something new and different for that week’s creative challenge.  That is when I thought of the 16th century nursery rhyme and set out on a artistic adventure to illustrate that cow that jumps over the moon.

     I love drawing animals and, to date, I can’t remember drawing very many cows.  I had recently worked on a graphic for a local dairy farm at my full time gig, so I had learned some more about cows that I previously had not known.  There are a few different types of cows and it would seem that dairy cows are by far the most illustrated and represented in the art world.  I really like the shape, color and fur patterns of the Holstein cow.  I also thought that their orangey-brown color would contrast nicely across my blueish-purpley night-time space-scape.  I wanted this illustration to focus mainly on just the cow and her experience of jumping over the moon.  I wanted to illustrate how that accomplishment would make her feel and emote in others when they looked at it the feeling of accomplishing those goals we work so hard to achieve.  I wanted to capture that amazing feeling we get when we cross that finish line of achievement after such a long road that came before it.  Also focusing on a single character or element in these weekly illustrations serves the practical purpose of being able to complete them in that time frame. Lol
So you can see in her smile how my cow feels as she crosses the threshold of making that incredible leap.  I intentionally closed her eyes.  This represents not only the very literal facial expression many of us make after achieving, but also this represents the inward reflection we have after achieving our desired goal.  It’s a great feeling and I feel like this cow is speaking tomes to us with that smile of hers. That smile says,”YYYYEEEESSSSSS!!!!!!!” without saying anything at all.  We all know that feeling very well and it’s almost an addiction of that rush that drives us on to the next step in our life journey.

     I also was set on making this a “Winter” scene.  I didn’t get to illustrate anything “Christmasy” so I decided that a Winter’s theme would be the next best thing to draw.  I’m not exactly certain why I enjoy drawing animals in winter clothes, but I LOOOOVVVVEEE to do it.  Winter hats and scarves are just a joy to draw and design that I would draw them all day if I could. Lol

     Since I decided it was practical to focus only on the cow and the moon in this piece, I thought it would be clever to incorporate the rest of the “characters” from the nursery rhyme as “fashionable” graphics in the pattern of my cow’s scarf and winter hat.  One thing that I’ve noticed, working in screen printing this past year, is the interesting trend and application of Native American, Indian and South American patterns in Fashion design.  They appear to have just shown up everywhere and seemingly out of the blue.  The clients at work have just gone crazy over them and still continually ask from them in custom designs we do.  I’ve adopted this trend here and there in my illustration work and I have been enjoying creating and designing Native American and South American Influenced designs in my illustrations where I can.  They are very beautiful and colorful (which appeals to me a great deal.)  I like the organic nature of drawing these intricate patterns by hand.  Some may find it tedious, but I always feel like it’s my “Zen” time.  I just “Zone out” like a space cadet, lost in the intricacies of pattern making. ;0)

      So if you look in the design of the scarf, you will find a graphic representation of our dish that runs away with the spoon.  I liked the idea of making a “cross-bone” image with the spoons and integrating that with the hypnotic circles of the dish.  It’s the main feature of the scarf design and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. It was very fun to draw. 

     Next, you will find that fiddle playing feline in one of the main bands of the winter hat.  He/She is represented graphically as a repetition of a simple graphic cat-head. 

     The final element of this illustration is, of course, the Moon.  She is surprised to witness such a thing as a cow that can jump not only as high as she hangs in the sky, but over her head completely.  I admit that I spent some time creating the “dreamy” nature of this Moon as I wanted it to look completely different from any previous Moon I had illustrated before.  I never illustrated one that seemed like it was somewhere in the twilight of being awake and asleep.  I feel this way about our Moon sometimes.  It represents to me the “in-between.”  It literally hangs itself between the dusk and dawn of each day.  It always seems to have a very mysterious haze about it.  It’s this very quality that intrigues me about the Moon and as a Cancer (zodiac), I think I am predisposed to be drawn to it as the Moon is Cancer’s guiding “planet” in the universe of Astrology.  So I like the Moon and she likes me and I like to draw her sometimes. However, this time, I think I really caught that element of “in-between” with her. 

     This pretty much sums up what I wanted to talk about with this illustration.  I hope that this hopeful-humble dairy cow, who dreamt of jumping over the Moon and did very well achieved doing just that, inspires you all to work hard at those Dreams and Wishes you all made this past January.  I wish you all wonderful luck in the Moons you choose to jump this year.  It’s only April and the year is still full of many possibilities for you and me.  So I leave you all with a couple of tunes about Wishes and Dreams. May they inspire you todays to work towards achieving your tomorrows.   

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

P.S. Here is a link to more about this well known Nursery Rhyme. I PROMISE you will learn a lot that you didn't know about this little ditty... ENJOY! :0) 

 Illustration by Randolph Caldecott