Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Luck Be A Lady This Halloween: A Tribute to a LEGEND.


     I have some shame to admit. It is October 27th and I have JUST TODAY put up Halloween Decorations…. I know….  I should feel so embarrassed admitting that.  Oddly enough the plastic bins that store the Halloween decorations have been sitting idly by in the living room and on the back porch… but as I had said before: idly by.  So this past Saturday, I thought I would finally take the initiative as the Autumn Bonfire was finally lit under my Proverbial Keester.  I took all of the Halloween decorations out the box and set them ALL in my way, as if making them difficult to live around would mean they would be put up in a faster manner than the previous strategy (which was to let them sit in boxes till October came and went.)  It made the wait only 24 hours longer till the house was FINALLY decorated.


     I'm not very certain how many of you out there do this very same thing. You say to yourself, there are these things I need to do, but I never do them, so I will take something physical that represents this task and put it in my way, therefore forcing me to see it and accomplish the task and there is now this physical barrier standing in my normally cleared path.
Don't be ashamed if your in this boat with me, because you probably already had your Halloween decorations up and running much sooner than today. SO at least in that respect, your ahead of me. lol.  However, more often than not this particular strategy is not very efficacious. I tend to just maneuver around the obstacles and go about my life. So then the barriers begin to, quite literally, build up around you, much like the way a hoarder's home might. Not that I am in anyway making fun of them (poor people.)



     In any case, this time at least, the strategy worked and the decorations are up around the house. Booray!  My favorite addition to the Halloween decor, was a "flying ghost." The spooky specter glides back and forth on a suspended wire that you attach to 2 points inside your home or outside. It lights ups and makes a spooky sound as it's spinning and moving around.  Once it reaches the end of the line, it turns and goes back the other way… It's so much fun. The best part is that it was only 3 bucks. Thank you Walgreens after Halloween 85% OFF Sale (which is the 95% bulk of where all of our Halloween decor comes from) BooYa!

     Moving Along….

     So as many of you already know, every October, for some Freudian reason, I try to celebrate Halloween at full Octane Capacity. I want to eat barrels and barrels of candy corn, watch scary movies until my eyes pop out of my head, and I'll kinda go overboard with a DIY Halloween Costume.  Then I try to find a couple of Really fun activities to go wear the costume at.  This is my somewhat replacement for a Trick-Or-Treat-less Childhood.

     This year's costume is really no different.

     Around August I tend to really start thinking about who I want to be.  I honestly had no idea what I was going to do.  As I am planning on moving to NYC next Summer, I honestly considered not making a new costume this year at all, but just wearing one I had made a few years ago, that was never entered into a competition and only worn for a single hour to a party (Max, Where the Wild Things Are.)  SO I really was on the fence about a new costume this year until, August 11th.

     Like something very unreal, the whole world receives a huge shock to their system. Acclaimed and beloved Actor, Robin Williams, commits suicide in his home.  I really couldn't believe it.  I have been a Robin Williams fan since I saw Mrs. Doubtfire as a young teenager.  That was the first film I had seen of his, oddly enough.  Since then I made my best effort to see anything he is in.  Some of my most favorite films star Mr. Williams.  I've seen every animated film he did voice acting for and I've even seen his stand-up work. He was a VERY AMAZINGLY TALENTED Man.  I always thought that he could play ANY role.  He was known for his comedy but he was also such an Excellent Dramatic Actor as well.  I was very saddened by his passing and lament that the world will not get to see any more of his talent.  It is very hard to say goodbye to him.  What's strange about it it is that so very few people in the world actually knew the man personally, but the rest of us all felt like old friends.  It was like saying goodbye to a friend you will never see or hear from again… very sad.  I don't think the world will ever be the same in his absence. 

 Artist is Tyler Boyco

     At this point, in August, I still haven't decided what I was going to do for Halloween.  It wasn't until very very late September that I was even TOYing with the idea of making a Robin Williams Character Tribute Costume.  Since there were SO very Many REALLY great Characters to choose from, this really confused the process even more.  Though however long or hard I thought about it and however many different roles I thought about him playing that I could turn into a costume for this year, I kept coming back to one character that has stuck in my mind and been on my thoughts ever since that 11th day this past August: Mrs. Doubtfire.


     I couldn't stop thinking about making her my Halloween costume this year… I just couldn't.  On the flip side of this, I kept saying to myself,"That's crazy! How in the world would I pull this off?!?! It's just the Nuttiest Idea, Ever!"  SO I would put the idea out of my mind thinking that it wasn't really going to be possible to do because, seriously, I am NOT a special effects makeup guy so would have NO IDEA how to do the make up.  Then, special effects makeup aside, where am I going to get the clothes for her signature look.  SO… I toiled longer on deciding a costume and was still erring on the side of not doing one at all, or a new one at least.

     It wasn't until the first weekend in October that B and I had traveled up the road some to Perry, so we could go to the Haunted Barn (which is SUPER fun by the way!)  On a side note, it was probably the most fun haunted house that I had ever been to. I've been to many and they are usually SO SUPER cheesy and boring,
with people who scream at your face and bang on poorly painted plywood that is supposed to resemble some sort of spooking setting for that room's particular scene (which personally takes me out of it and kills the fun.)  Even though the Haunted Barn is a Scene based attraction, the way they do it there really did "get me," so to speak. I really did jump and get spooked and kinda freaked out a little when I went through it with some good friends.


     Anyway…. I had decided to go into a thrift shop earlier that day while we were in town, just to see what I could find.  I made a very snapshot decision that if I could find some of the clothes for the costume, then I would go as Mrs. Doubtfire.  As as you might have guessed, considering I am gong as her this year, I did find just that.  I found that lovely floral sweater that just SCREAMED Mrs. Doubtfire.  I also found a grey wool skirt that, when worn at the top of my hips, was the perfect length.  I knew that I could dye it blue and it would be the perfect shade and texture for the part.  I knew that I would be presented with a lot of challenges with this costume and I welcomed the idea of them ( I would later be cursing and swearing at myself.) At that moment of finding those 2 items, I felt like it was the most perfect choice and most "fitting" way I could pay homage to one of my most favorite actors and tribute to his most regrettable passing. I thought to myself,"I have NO IDEA how I'm going to pull this off, but this is the year to do it if I am going to do this."


     Speaking of fitting, true-Funny story, when I was at that particular thrift shop, I was trying on the skirt and sweater and a couple of blouses in the fitting room. I had forgotten to lock the door and this woman had walked in on me trying on the skirt with an obviously too tight blouse. She uttered some indiscernible noise and had left more quickly than she had arrived.  when I was checking out at the cash register with my skirt and very granny floral sweater, who should get in line behind me, but that very same woman.  She gave me a VERY STRANGE look as she glanced down at the women's clothes and then back up to me.  It was at this time that I felt the need to explain what I was doing.  Her response after I had explained the tribute to Robin Williams and that I normally despise a drag costume for men, etc. was,"You're Bold."   I'm certain she probably did not mean this as a compliment as her facial expression did not really change, even after the explanation.  I took it as a compliment though.  I'd really like to think that "BOLD" could be an adjective accosted with some of my nicer defining qualities.  Besides, it was October.  I really was flabbergasted as to why she didn't come to the,"Oh it's October…. Halloween time… must be for a costume."  But NO, really this woman jumped to the weird transvestite conclusion before Halloween Costume EVER entered her mind.  This trend continued over the course of me shopping for Mrs. Doubtfire clothes.  I can't even count how many strange looks I received from strangers on 2 hands and 2 feet.  I even, after explaining the Halloween thing to another woman in the skirt aisle of the same thrift shop, had the same reaction.  She moved immediately down to the opposite end of the skirt aisle.   I eventually just tuned it all out and stopped trying to explain myself.  I just must look like the weird type. Oh well.


     Now, I normally despise the "drag" solution for guys at Halloween.  This is ONLY because when it's done, it's usually done very lazy very last minute and very badly.  I just absolutely detest a lazy costume.  It's not creative, it's not clever and it's not thoughtful or thought provoking.  You might as well not have dressed up at all.  I know that's a rather harsh criticism, but I just can't help it.  You either really do it or just don't do it at all.  I know it's a bit harsh a criticism but I just feel deep down that if you don't care then don't care, but if you do care, show it and most of the time, the guys going in a sloppy dress with sloppy makeup just falls into this category for me.
 See, I feel that if you're going to do drag for Halloween, go ALL the WAY and Over the TOP, because drag queens are very vibrant and energetic performers.  I think Vegas if I was going to attempt drag.  But I usually don't want to do drag.  There was one year that at the last minute some friends of mine did put me a drag getup together so I could walk around the neighborhood with them and their kid to go trick or treating.  I remember enjoying the evening with my friends, but felt like I was SO THROWN together that I should have just not attempted it to begin with.  However, in the context of what I was going for this year, I had to make an exception to my No-Drag-For-Halloween Rule.  

      So after making the decision, I began thinking about solutions to some of the challenges that this costume would present.  Every year I try to select a costume based on the new challenge that putting it together will bring.  It's part of the thrill and the excitement for me.  I feel that I have accomplished a tricky puzzle by the time Halloween rolls around and I am wearing my successfully completed puzzle. It really puts me in a good mood and I seem to have a lot more fun at the Halloween festivities.  The Mrs. Doubtfire costume presented several challenges over the course of it's creation.  If I'm being completely honest, I'm not quite sure I would have chosen that character. I might have chosen Leslie Zevo from TOYS or maybe John Keating from Dead Poets Society or even Alan Parrish from Jumanji instead, had I known. That's all part of the fun of it though.  They wouldn't call it a challenge if it were easy, huh. 

     This was my very first adventure into wigs. In previous years, I just used my natural hair whether it be long or short and that factored into the costume choice.  When I was Gene Wilder Brand Willy Wonka, I had very long hair and my hair was naturally curly so I didn't' need a wig or any special hair dressings.  But lets face it, look at this mug (pic of me), I do not quite have the hair of Mrs. Doubtfire.

So I ordered, for the first time in my life ever, my first wig.  I did a bit of research and found that through forums and product reviews that Lacey Costume Wigs of New York had a "Mrs. Doubtfire/Old Woman" Wig that worked best for this costume.  Since this was a professional wig company that produces wigs for stage productions, The wig was pretty much the most costly item of the entire costume.  Most women are already Endowed with such knowledge, but I was not… First Wig Rookie here.


     There were 2 types of this style wig, there was an all white version which was usually used with colonial costumes and the grey one, which is normally recommended for a Mrs. Doubtfire costume.  I ordered the grey, however, I received the all white.  As you might have already guessed, by the time the wig actually arrived, there was NO TIME to send it back to get there grey wig to replace it in time for the Halloween Party. So I had a Tim Gunn (Project Runway) "Make it work" moment with this costume.  I decided that Mrs. Doubtfire could sport the all white wig and Rock It!…  But not before I sported it first, right? Because, hey, First Wig is a Hallmark in Any Man's Life,right? LOL (pic of me in wig)  There was one more thing, since the wig was sent in a small bag, it was a little deformed in shape and some of the curls and bun began to come loose in the back. Thank God that Wendy and Mane Street Salon (where I get my hair cut) was available the day of the party to style my wig for me… 

     Now I know what you're thinking,"The whole point of a DIY Costume is to actually DIY, right?"  Well, I may be a man of several talents, but even I can admit when I am out of my league, and women's hairstyles is currently out of my league of talents.  Also there were SO many other challenges for me to DIY Attack/Figure Out that I figured I could cheat on this one thing.


     The next challenge I had to figure out was how to do prosthetic makeup enough to pass as Mrs. Doubtfire.  I didn't want to just paint my regular face up, because, you know what? That's boring.  Anyone can do drag for Halloween.  I had to figure out how to make the prosthetics as they were key in identifying this particular movie character.  I then came up with a crazy idea that I really wasn't certain would work.  I had just finished watching some of the behind the scenes of how they did Robin Williams Makeup for the movie.  I knew if this didn't work, then everything else, all the other details I planed wouldn't mean anything because everyone would just think I was doing Old Lady Drag for Halloween and…  Ewe, how boring, right?


     My plan was to find a general old woman/man rubber Halloween mask from a department store and as luck would have it I did find an old man mask at the local Walmart.  I then removed the fake hair and eye brows off the mask.  I remember in the video how the makeup prosthetics were divided into pieces in key areas.
This allowed for Robin's eyes to show through and for him to make a full range of emotions for the character.  I figured out a way to cut up my rubber mask into similar key areas so that certain areas of my real face would still show through without it looking too much like a rubber mask,  I then stood inform of the bathroom mirror with my shards of old man face and began to mold them around my face and trimming out the extra bits. This would make it so that the mask would be as taunt and as trim to my real face as possible.  I had purchased some Spirit Gum (and Remover) to use to glue all the pieces to my face the day of the party.  I knew I only got one shot at it as I was guessing this costume was going to be a Production to put on and take off.  My assumption at the time was that I could bridge the creepy spotty looking rubber mask skin tone to my real skin tone with the aid of women's makeup, which in reality kind of was a disaster, but I'll get to that later.


     I next had to find the other parts to my wardrobe.  I had the sweater and the skirt, which I died Blue. The other stuff, well… I just assumed back when I was at that thrift shop all excited about the decision to be Mrs. Doubtfire, that I would most certainly be able to thrift ALL my costume components for this costume.  Of course, why not? There's Mrs Doubtfire costume elements at every thrift shop, right? 

The answer is,"Absolutely Not. Not Here. Not There. Not Anywhere."  I can't even begin to tell you how difficult it was to find a blouse or how many more strange looks I got  looking for one.  In the end I had to give up on the idea that it could be thrifted and I had to begin searching for one that would work, that would fit and that was also ON SALE;
which is a Tall Tall Order, let me tell you.  I will say this, I am very good at finding Almost Impossible Things.  I can kind of pride myself on that.  In any case, I finally found a very kind and humorous Sales Woman to aid me in finding the right blouse for me (words I thought I would never hear myself utter.)  We found one On Sale, I purchased it and gave the Sales Woman a lovely review on the stores website.  I knew I wasn't you average customer that day, but she took care of me.  Thank you much, Kind Sales Woman.  you came to my aid in an hour of desperation and you didn't give me a funny look when I told you what i was up to.  I then "slinked" over to another store afterwards and bought a very very cheap bras that appeared as if it would fit me… appeared being the operative word here.  More on that later.




     I still had more elements to find for this costume. Like I said previously, Mrs. Doubtfire was kinda the gift that kept on giving this Halloween, but not in a good way.  Women have SO Many accessories to each and every outfit that guys really don't think about.  I think I have a new found understanding as to why women take a long time to shop for an outfit. It's because of the Gazillion things you have to get and put together with it to make it all work… No one it takes eons int he bathroom for you all to get ready.  j/k ;0)  But women do have to think about A LOT more things than men do when it comes to getting ready. 

     As far as the other accessories go, I was able to find stockings and clip on diamond earrings at the Halloween section of Party City. I also needed to find a circular old lady broach.  I had found a circular pirate's earring there also that I later used to fashion into the broach i wore.


     I then, after putting it off for long enough, had to go get some women's makeup to blend the mask pieces to my face and make Mrs. Doubtfire as pretty as I myself, in my very limited make-up capabilities, could make her.  I kind of had a little adventure on my way to the store.  The good officers of Americus all seemed to be congregating near the edge of the store I was headed to.  There were so many flashing blue lights that I just slowed down. i wasn't quite sure what I was driving into.  I had noticed a wet area in the road where it looked like a vehicle might have been scraped off of the road and a all of the police cars were on either side of the cleared road.  So I was thinking, logically, I had just pulled up on a freshly cleaned accident scene.  A police officer started walking out in front of my car in the middle of the road and, to me, he appeared to be waving me through the scene.  He was waving his hand that was holding a flashlight in a circular motion as if to say,"keep coming through, hurry up, nothing to see here. Just keep it moving."  So I just begin to just keep driving before the officer then begins to freak out and motions for me to stop…. So I stop and roll down the window with a VERY Confused look on my face.  He then asked to see my license.  It wasn't until this point that I realized that I had almost drove through a road block without stopping, which not only looks super suspicious but would have gotten me a major ticket or worse.


     Thankfully, they waved me through.  So I continue on my odyssey, as it were, to find and purchase some ladies makeup.  If you thought trying to figure out women's clothing was confusing, just wait till you try to figure out women's makeup.  I was absolutely lost in the beauty aisle.  I was just standing there looking at the shelves full of god knows what in god knows how many colors.  I thought I was going to be so good at this after watching a little YouTube tutorial on how an older woman would put makeup on. I even had a little list of different types of makeup that I thought I needed to get. But I was SO NOT prepared for the real deal.  I was a rat in a maze.  Luckily I had my chopped off rubber mask ear handy to compare skin tones.  I can't even imagine what people might have been thinking seeing me hold that ear in a bag and hold it up to all the pretty colors with my mouth hanging 5 feet to the floor and bewildered out of my mind as to what to choose and what to do next.  I did my best to select my makeup and I went through the self check out to buy it ( I know… a bit cowardly, but I was so exhausted. I couldn't stand to have to explain myself to another individual that evening.)

     Just a quick thing about the shoes.  I said the hell with trying to get some women's shoes and wear them. Firstly, I couldn't find any that would fit my huge clod-hoppers that also looked like shoes that she wore in the movie (because I looked).  Secondly, i had a pair of black dress shoes that look like pilgrim shoes and kind of have some low-heel action going on in them, I suppose. I call them my Sunday School Shoes and I thought they would do just fine.  Thirdly, i had enough venturing into unfamiliar territory. lol.


      One of the last details I needed to finish was to complete the broach.  The pirate's eating was a great shape but the center was empty. I needed to find something that would go in the center. I had considered using aluminum foil and some sequins and glitter, but B actually told me that he thought he might have something I could use from his stash of his mother's old costume jewelry.  B's mom was an avid collector of many things. Costume jewelry was "One of her favorites." B shared.  We could this absolutely beautiful pendant charm that actually was meant to go on a necklace, but I thought with the right finagling I could use a safety pin to pull the pirate earring and the necklace charm together to make the broach. 

     This costume, though largely paying homage to Robin Williams, paid a small bit of tribute to B's mother as well.  She was such a vibrant and lively woman who was always up for a new adventure.  I only got to know her for a few short years before she passed.  I lament that I did not get to know her longer than that. She was such a very cool woman and I know she would have loved the idea of this costume. She also would have thought the idea of using her necklace pendant as Mrs. Doubtfire's broach would have been a cool creative idea. I know she would have enjoyed being part of that.  I thought about her as I was wearing it that night and was proud that I could have paid her a small tribute as well.  I know she was laughing about how silly I looked from wherever she may be now.


THE DAY OF THE HALLOWEEN PARTY:




     The day of seemed like a frantic mixture of activities.  I had to rise and shine pretty early. Earlier than I normally do on a weekend, but I had a very important appointment with Wendy, my stylist.  She was doing me a solid and fit me into her schedule. I was very grateful because I'm certain a wig styling is usually kind of low on a priority rung for stylists.  She did tell me that on the contrary, many clients go in just to have their wigs styled.  It was kind of humorous because normally I am sitting in the hair-chair (I'm fairly certain there is a name for them, but it is a word I do not know, alas).  That particular morning I was sitting across the way while Wendy sat in the hair-chair with a Styrofoam head of white wig hair and styled Mrs. Doubtfire's hair for me.  Again let me reiterate how important it is to know your limitations and know when you just got to let the professionals handle it for you.  Wendy did such a fantastic job on the wig. Thank you so much, Wendy!  Euphagenia says,"You're a GEM, Darling."  We had also had a discussion about nails vs. no nails.  I had failed to observe that in the film, Robin Williams is never wearing nail polish.  This is probably because he must change back and forth form Daniel Hilliard to Mrs. Doubtfire at a moments notice and nail polish would give a man away. So we decided… No Nails.


     If you are local, stop into the Mane Street Salon and say hey to Wendy.  She's AMAZING and will make you look AWESOME!


     I must confess after my wig styling appointment, I kind of chilled a bit and did nothing except sip coffee and watch some mindless television. HOORAY for Breaks!  After my break, I did begin to actually unpack all of our Halloween decorations and put them strategically in our way.


     I then began to put on the cut rubber mask pieces.  It was again, trial and error, but it seemed to be working out pretty well, considering I had NEVER done ANYTHING remotely like it before.
The first problem I did run into, however, was that the chin piece kept falling off.  Part of it had to adhere to my face, the other part to the mid section pieces  of the mask.
Well, the mask did not want to adhere to itself so it would continually peel and then the piece would become flappy and then finally fall off completely.  So I made a decision to just keep it off.  I'll share with you the make-up process Robin Williams went through for the film.  Mine was now where near the sophisticated level seen in the video, but I have to say, I didn't do too shabby a job,even if I'm saying it so, myself.





     After EVERYTHING had dried and I as certain the pieces were secure. Mind you, this is hours form when I had put them on… hours.  I began to apply the women's makeup.  This is where I ran into a real fiasco. The foundation I had selected was not creamy and paste like, as I had imagined it to be. It was really liquidy and runny and therefore didn't provide the blending I was anticipating it would.  But I couldn't give up, SO I just had to keep on trucking and just Cake it on as best I could and just Roll With It!  Since I didn't know anything about make-up, I also ended up picking things that were all a similar shade.  Nothing showed any contrast when I applied powder and eyeshadow, it looked as if I hadn't applied anything at all… I was a logistical nightmare.  The only thing that showed any variation of color, was the lipstick. So I just took a makeup applicator and rubbed it on the lipstick and began to use it to tone different areas of my face and give it a little more diminution. I was SO afraid of it being all one flat color… ruining the effect of the costume.  I also had to use the lipstick as rouge because I forgot to get any.  All in all it wasn't as bad as I thought it was.  Though B kept on insisting that my ammeter makeup made me look more like a zombie Mrs. Doubtfire.  It was then time for me to get dressed.

     I didn't really need a fat suit as I kind of came by it naturally at the moment. I then put on the bra which didn't really fit well, and stuffed the boobies with some headline news (a bad joke I kept using for most of the night… thanks alcohol.)  Then I put on the stockings which didn't fit because I couldn't even get them over my butt. I had no idea who in the world would realistically fit into them except maybe a Barbie Doll.
The blouse which ended up being kind really tight and snug.  The only thing that really did seem to fit well was the skirt. and my shoes. I then put on my clip on DIAMOND Earrings, and the broach. Then I had B help me with putting on the wig. Lastly, I put on my glassless glasses. They were some sunglasses that I popped the lenses out of. They were very large and looked like old lady glasses and did the trick. 



     Hit the lights and cue Uncle Frank and Aunt Jack to start Dancing… With a lot of luck and hard work and help from some very good friends, I was transformed into Mrs. Doubtfire.  B and I took some photos to document this year's costumes and we hit the town on our way to a very fun Halloween Bash.  Wendy was there as Connie Conehead. She looked SO COOL. I LOVED her costume. We even took a picture together.
  
Connie Conehead (Wendy) & Mrs. Doubtfire (Me)



     Well this pretty much sums it up.  I hope you enjoyed the journey and the final result.  These costumes end up being one of my creative and fun projects in October and I enjoy sharing them with You All out there. 
I hope it was a "Fitting" Tribute to One of my favorite actors of all time.  It certainly was enough to win me the Costume Competition at the Halloween Bash. First Place! Whoot! Whoot!  I would like to conclude by sharing an illustration by artist, Joe Petruccio.  I love the quote from the film, Hook.  I admit, it gives me misty eyes when I read it.  It's a wonderful tribute to Mr. Williams.  He will be very missed.  RIP Mr. Williams.


     Mr. Petruccio is a very talented artist and I really enjoy his work. You can link to his website if you click on his name. 

I Hope You All have a Very Safe and Very Fun and Very Happy Halloween!



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


P.S. A good friend did say to me that in one of the photos I seemed to resemble Henry Kissinger. I looked up what he looked like and I have to say, it's kinda funny because, as Mrs. Doubtfire, I kinda do. LOL!

 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

WATCH OUT! It's Looking like TROUBLE this Illustration Friday!

     Yay! It's Illustration Friday and I must confess I'm rather sleepy after finishing this one.  This means I will try to be a bit more short and sweet.  That is kinda exactly the opposite of my concept of this week's challenge.  The topic is TROUBLE and I will tell you it had been a troubling week, from an artistic standpoint.  I began the week with such wonderful plans of what I was going to accomplish. I'm certain many of you can relate to this scenario.  Needless to say you can guess how this plays out… You run into more Trouble than you bargained for in getting this very ambitious list of things done.  I obviously didn't get EVERYTHING on the list done, but I did accomplish something, which is good; not great, but good.

     I had originally planned a completely different illustration for today. I was going to get two stones for one bird (I don't like that phrase the other way it goes because I don't like hurting animals.)  Anyway, the first illustration I planned was also to be the work I was planning to sell prints of at the Tour de Farms.  Artists are supposed to sell bicycle related art at that event.  I didn't really have any bike related art, so I had planned this illustration for that event. I also wanted it to work for Illustration Friday.  Trouble was that this first illustration had A LOT of elements and when I began working on it, I realized there were a lot of compositional problems and just plain sticks in my spokes….

     SO, I had to "Change Speeds" and table that illustration for something that could be accomplished realistically within the time frame.

     Oh yeah, I didn't mention that I had also expected to work on a separate illustration for my portfolio project. Trouble with that was I really didn't realistically have any time to work on it.  I got very frustrated with the fact that I had been spending most of my work time on Reference Research for art that I wasn't going to be able to complete by Friday. A LOT of going back to the Drawing Board, quite literally, over and over again.

     Oh yeah, I also forgot to mention, I was working on getting a Halloween Costume together before Saturday night (since I was planning on attending a Halloween Party.)

     Needless to say I ran into Trouble this week. Its funny but I rarely experience the Illustration Friday Topic so literally during the week I'm working on that particular topic.  So as I was working on my Halloween costume, after giving up on the idea that I would still participate in Illustration Friday's challenge this week.  I decided that I really didn't want to work on a bike related illustration this week for IF Friday.  It's October and the month is almost out and I usually like to illustrate something Halloween related. That is exactly what I decided to do.  My concept was kind of a twist on some work I used to do for the city of Juliette, Ga.


     For those of you who do not know, Juliette, Georgia is the physical location where the film Fried Green Tomatoes was filmed.   It's quite a quaint and charming small town that still looks like it did on the silver screen.
Every year around Halloween there is a Big Green Tomato Festival there in the downtown area.  I used to illustrate and design the posters for this annual event.  Since it was primarily a children's festival and it happened right around Halloween, the poster always featured happy children dressed in Halloween costumes.

http://lewiswportersketchblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/homestyle-fried-green-posters.html

     I wanted to twist that same concept a bit to fit this new illustration for this week's IF topic.  I was thinking about what it is like from the perspective of all the wonderfully generous people out there that patiently wait on their front porches to give away candy to all the Trick-or-Treaters that come by their home on Halloween night.  I thought of this small group of rugged and mischievous children that might be on the cusp of the age that you should stop going trick or treating and let the younger kids have at it.
I wanted this particular group of costumed kids to NOT be HAPPY and to NOT be spreading Seasonal Cheer, but causing trouble for any would be candy givers.  I wanted them to seem a bit intimidating by the way they posture themselves. I also wanted their choice of costume to play a part in their intimidation: a ghost, a witch, a gangster and a shark.  I wanted them to really put the TRICK in Trick-or-Treating.  As if a refusal might end in something rather unpleasant.

     I enjoyed creating this motley and mischievous band of kids.  It kind of ended up being pulled together at the 11th Hour (Pun Intended), but I think they turned out OK.  I had originally had more elaborate plans for the background. I wanted to really show that they could be on someone's unsuspecting front porch. Alas, I just really did not have the time for it.  Oh, well. lol…

     This pretty much sums up this week's post about this week's IF Illustration submission.  I hope all of you out there are enjoying getting your costumes together and have some fun Halloween plans.  I'm looking forward to the Holiday festivities myself.  Ill be posting another blog very soon about this year's costume, so keep an eye out for that.



Happy Halloween, Everyone! :0)

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



 






Saturday, October 11, 2014

Great Design Takes the Cake, and Is Usually Very Tasty or in Good Taste.


     You know, the "Fat Boy" inside of me will tell you,"There's NOTHING better in this world than Great Cake." And I would have to agree with him, because it's definitely true.  Great Cake is truly Divine.  I find it so difficult to put into words the sensation and flavor journey that a good piece of cake can take us.


     I would never say it's orgasmic because I don't like to compare food to sex or think of it in a sexual nature. Though it is true that both Sex and Food are part of the pleasures of being alive and there are Scientific studies on how certain foods, like Dark Chocolate for example, release the same chemicals in our brains (therefore equating Sex chemically to certain Food), I refute the idea and am repulsed by the idea of getting "jiggy" with my food. [Insert some humorous reference to the film American Pie here.... Or exclude it] ;0)

     I will say that REALLY GOOD Food has the power to transport us if not stop time altogether. I'm certain if you really think about it, there was something you have eaten in your past that, from the very moment it touched your tongue, your brain stopped thinking of anything else. All you could think about was how amazing this flavor was and how you have never experienced anything like it before. You're surrounded by this thought completely and everything else in the outside world has stopped and/or ceased to exist really. You instantly transcend all time and all space. What may be seconds to others surrounding you can be minutes to you. In one single moment you have forgotten Language in it's entirety and the ability to speak. All you can even utter is one solitary single-syllable sound: "Mmmmmmmmmmm." 

     You just want to Savor this moment this flavor, this sensation, and never come back from it and REALLY GOOD Food has that power over humanity.


     This can also be said for REALLY GREAT Design or REALLY GREAT Art (in general.) It also has the power to transcend our minds and spirits.  The Inner Fat Boy says,"Really Great Cake," but what it really boils down to is Every Great Sensation in this world has the power to entice, entrap, hypnotize and change us from the inside out.

     Now, don't get me wrong. I don't fancy myself to have an over inflated ego and in no way do I feel that I create REALLY GREAT Art, like the sort that changes this World we live in.  Those are the Artists that make it into the history books. Statistics say that only a very small percentage of all living artists, today, will achieve that in their lifetime.
And the majority of us are Really OK with that because our goal is not to be famous (especially posthumously... Eeek!) but a need to express ourselves through our chosen medium. Now, I do feel I create REALLY GOOD Art that I base in solid conceptual ideas. I'm usually very pleased and excited with the outcome of my projects.

     ...Which brings me to the whole reason I'm bringing all this up... Cake!

     Last year I created a company logo and brand for a Cupcake Bakery in Macon, Georgia called Let Them Eat Cupcakes.  I was contacted by the owner of the Cupcakery (as they call it in the 'biz'.)   She had seen some previous work I had done for another client and asked me to design something for her company.  Aside from feeling flattered (as I always am by the way) it always is cool to know what other work got you the next gig. Most of the time you never know what brings clients your way, but every now and again, you get to find out... And that's a really interesting fun feeling that I can't quite find words to describe.


     Anyway, after speaking with my new client, I learned more about the Cupcakery and how she wanted it to be represented out in the world.  The Business name is an obvious reference to the supposed "slight" by then Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, to the poor and hungry peoples of France.  It was said that when confronted with the plight of her people she indifferently made the aloof comment,"Let Them Eat Cake."  Historians mostly agree that she had never spoken those words.  They were published by the Revolutionaries to insight hatred and fan the flames of hatred toward the monarchy, eventually causing their downfall with the Revolution itself.... As we all know.



     I had a lot of fun developing the initial concepts for this brand.  Some ideas played with the visuals of the infamous monarch and also symbols of the monarchy, in general.  I also had fun "playing the other side," so to speak, and creating ideas that were from the point of view of the French Revolutionaries.  My client and I also discussed the idea of a beheaded cupcake as the branding image, which was a really fun and darkly playful idea that I loved.  Of all the concepts, my client resonated with the idea of playing with Silhouette and creating a very strong associative icon.  I think it turned out quite well and I'm excited to share a bit of the story behind it with you in this post.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Antoinette

     After the initial decision of the direction we were going to go with this logo was made, I began sketching ideas of how to blend visually Cupcakes and Monarchy; Pastries and Politics. As per usual, I start researching my two main ingredients, my two core subjects that will eventually come together in unison: Queen Marie Antoinette and Cupcakes.  Marie Antoinette was Queen of France from 1774 to 1792.  I won't give you all a history lesson in her life, but those years are key to how I handled some of the visual design decisions for this logo. If you do want to learn more about the Queen, and I would encourage you to as her life was very fascinating, just click on her photo Above and it will link to the Wikipedia Article about her.  She was living through the time of the French Rococo Art period. Though it's height was peaked in the 1730s in Paris, it still was very influential and in-style in the Versailles Palace at the time of Antoinette's reign.  So I made a conscious effort to include a nod to that artistic time period within the parameters of this business identity.

     Ultimately the goal is to create an intriguing visual brand for the business. So that is obviously my primary goal, as her designer.  However, the illustrator in me is saying that it is going to be visually important to include artistic details from this art period as the business name and the monarch it references are so very specific to a particular location and period of time in History.

     My research also included a search to see if the branding concept we were going to use had been used by any other bakery.  I did discover that there were a few cupcakeries that shared the same name and only one of the used the image of Antoinette.
It was only a bust and the head was generic as well as the costuming (no research on the period I assumed. Also I am wondering if bits of it were not found on stock-art sites.)  The focus for that company's branding seemed to be the hair being made to simulate or, in fact, is transformed into a cupcake.  Luckily my specific concept ideas had not been used by any other bakery.

     After my initial research into that period, I began to study busts and paintings of Marie Antoinette and really figure out what her defining physical characteristics were.  Looking at the assorted works created by different artists, you can see certain similarities that appear in each one of their works.
 She has a very prominent but slender nose that dips deep down her face. her head is ovular and almost elongated in nature.  She has a long forehead which was always made more prominent with her hairstyles.  very poignant and demur lips that always were drawn or sculpted in a puckered fashion.  She Also had very WIDE eyes, they almost looked like they were larger than life. perhaps a little bigger proportionately than normal.  Noticing a person's features in this way is very important if you want to caricature that particular person, and I did want to do that.  I caricatured the infamous Marie over and over again till I began to come up with something that I could use to transform into a graphic.
At the end of the day, this is a logo and even illustrated branding icons have to be simplified to their core concept, allowing only the most important and absolutely necessary details to be included. Otherwise you would just be creating a digital painting on top of a business name, not a logo and not a company brand.  This proves quite challenging considering she was in the time of the Rococo Art Period, which was known for it's exquisite ornate decoration and beautiful detail. I'll discuss the Rococo and it's influence in this design a bit later.  My client also wanted me to create a sketched version of the this logo concept with a visual influence of famed animator and director Tim Burton.
As an Illustrator and Designer, I often caution clients from copying a distinct style associated with any Artist that is still living and certainly so famous, as they tend to not be associated with the client's business.  Also, you can certainly run into legal trouble from copying the work of other artists, famous or not.  So I will always discourage this route.  I did create a version of this concept to satisfy my client, however, my objective was to emulate Burton's style without outright copying him.  The core of ANY branding is ALWAYS about the business and I didn't want to make this design about Tim Burton. I still wanted it to be about the Cupcakes and Antoinette, but with a little splash of Burton "sprinkled in."  I would also like to say that even if I wanted to outright copy his work, it would be difficult. There is only one Tim Burton on this planet and he is the ONLY person who can draw like himself.  However, I have shared my emulation of him in the context of this logo brand.




     I am very glad that in the end, my client chose to go the visual direction of what I had been developing for the brand icon.  Next step was to take the sketch and begin developing it into the actual graphic itself. 




     It took some time and I kind of broke it down into stages.  I needed to make sure that Antoinette's profile would not only read correctly as her, but also would only use just the necessary amount of detail to accomplish her likeness.  The original sketch was too far away to see enough detail so I had sketched a "detail" of the head so I could focus on the details much easier. I did intentionally draw her face to be in full profile.
This not only practically makes it easier to read that she is eating, but it hearkens back to the regal power that is associated, visually, with a face seen in full profile.  The best example of this can be seen in Egyptian Art and hieroglyphs.  I also wanted her neck to appear almost abnormally long.
Antoinette's neck was always portrayed this way but also I thought back to the sculptured bust of Queen Nefertiti.  Even though the sculpture is 360 degrees in the round, it is usually photo graphed in full profile. Perhaps you might ask your self "why?"  It is because the profile has always been used as an instrument to visually represent and evoke power.


     Moving along to her hair.  This particular element is where my concept differs from the above mentioned bakery's logo.  Antoinette was known for her elaborate hair styles and cutting edge fashion(for that time.)  Her style was almost infamous and her hairstyles tended to go more vertical than horizontal and you might find it not at all odd to see a bird cage woven into her hair with live birds wisping about inside it.
In my research of her style, I found her hair to seem like something out of the movie The Big Tease. She was lavish and creative in her day and it is unfortunately that such decadence eventually became her downfall... Anyway, my point was that the above mentioned bakery used the reference to her extreme hairstyle to portray a cupcake actually being sculpted into her hair.  However, in my logo the hair is meant to be coupled with the icing on the cupcake itself.  I wanted them both to blend together where you couldn't tell if her hair was meant to match the icing or the icing was meant to match the hair style.
I also made certain to use the same wisps and curls I had created from her hair in the graphic of the icing as well.  I also achieved this effect by using the same hair decorations in Antoinette's Hair Style as the "Fondant" decorations on top of the cupcake she is eating. The flower was chosen because that particular flower is my client's favorite, she had told me. So I added it into the logo.  It was just as important to blend the personality of my client and well as that of the iconic Queen she was using for her bakery.


     The next section I developed was the collar, neckline, bust and corset.  It was really challenging trying to keep the detail to only the necessary minimum.  Since the dresses of this time period, particularly the dresses of the royal family and others at court, were SO LAVISH and RICH with DETAIL, you might imagine where I'd be ripping my hair out trying to figure out what details get to stay and which ones have to go.  I came up with this visual tool of using only overlapping circles that seemed to create this sort of bubble effect as well as thin/thick stripes.  Anything that needed a texture got the bubbles and anything that implied a contour of the body got the stripes.  This solution seemed to get me through that particular challenge of this project.


     I then worked on the rest of the dress. My goal was to make it as symmetrical as possible. This would make the silhouette more appealing. As most things to the human eye, things that are round and symmetrical are the most appealing. There are studies on this that you can actually look up.  It's rather fascinating.  One more thing about her dress, I wanted it to resemble an upside down cupcake wrapper as well as a dress.  This was yet another way I can visually blend the pastries and the politics which was my concept in it's most basic form: to blend but not to transform. to emulate but not to simulate. 




     The last area of the icon I worked on was the cupcake.  If you will notice the wrapper of the cupcake that she is holding also looks a bit like a fan that she could be holding. Women of the court during this time in history would often be seen fanning themselves, as there was no air conditioning.  Adding this detail added more of a connection to the original time period that my clients bakery refers to.  It also looks like the bottom of her dress as well.  You're probably thinking in your mind that no one pays that much attention to every single little detail in a logo, but I assure you, the Mad Very Mad people who create good design think about everything to the smallest detail. We think about how can this detail say something about the business and adhere to the core of my visual concept for it.... everything.  You may want to entertain that thought as you are out in the world this next week.  Imagine what the details in the graphic logos you see mean and/or why they are put there.  As I was saying earlier, there is no room for superfluous details in tight concise design work.  So every detail that is there has a purpose... Food for thought (pun intended.)



     So after that journey was complete, I had an Antoinette of my very own... well for my client anyway. She was all dressed up and ready to eat.  However, there was no time to pop a cork from a champagne bottle as my work was only HALF WAY DONE.  I still had to think, plan and layout the placement of the the typography for the logo as well as bridge the gap, so to speak, between the illustrated icon part of the logo and the typographical element of it.



     I went back to my research on the typography that would have existed and or be used at the time of the reign of Antoinette.  It's very important that if you are going to reference a time period, that you are very thorough in the research of that time and that every element you used has it's basis in the period research... just sayin'.

I had done a bit more research into the French Rococo time period.  This was really the time where type became standardized.  Between the developments of Fourier and Didot, this was accomplished.  The two main types that became of these innovations were named after the two men who invented them.

Both types were Serif Fonts. Many of our modern day serifs are based on these two fonts (i.e. Garamond, Times, Caslon, Baskerville, etc.)  You can also still purchase the the Fournier and Didot fonts.  They have since been digitized and made available to the public; Very nice fonts if I may say so. 









    Also at this time there  was the use of decorative illustrated letters, called illuminations.  Illuminations were not invented/created in this time period, but they were very popular.  Nature based flourishment adorned the type in most books of the time period.  The rococo was a time of lavish ornamental decorations, from furniture, to architecture, to painting, as many of you may already know.  I thought it would be best to reference both popular style of type from that time by letting the first letter of each of the words from the bakery's name be in a font inspired by the illuminated letters and let the rest of each word be in either the Fournier or Didot fonts (or at least a font inspired by them).  SO in the final, I got to use both.  You could say I kinda got to have my CAKE and EAT it to.




     Simultaneously, I was working on what might be the color version of the icon.  My client was originally very specific to the use of Black, White and Pink, since these were the colors of her packaging she would be using at the bakery.
I created a few versions based on this color scheme, and we did decide on a final version of the logo using this color scheme.  However, I'm kinda a bit of a megalomaniac and perfectionist and sometimes can't leave well enough alone when it comes to my work.  If I see that there might be an area or idea to improve upon what I have done, then I push to pursue it to see if it will indeed improve what I have already done.  I went back to the research, yet again.  I researched the color schemes used in the period wall paper, furniture upholstery, tapestries and of course the famous paintings from the French Rococo Artists.  The painting that came instantly to mind was Jean-Honore Fragonard's The Swing which I know so many will recognize.


     Picasso once said,"Good artists copy, but great artist's steal."  I have to confess, I OH SO STOLE the color scheme Fragonard used in this beautiful painting for my own use on this project. Ultimately it was the color scheme that was chosen above all the others. 


     The final challenge in putting this logo together was marring the illustrated icon element to the typographical elements of this branding.  To make a long story short this is usually achieved by some sort of visual framing. Since the illustrated icon in this brand was already Ornate and Beautiful, I just wanted to keep the framing to a bare minimum so that it could shine.  One of the specific instructions my client gave me was NOT to use the very ornate filigree-like design elements that one would associate with the French Rococo Style.  This presented a challenge, yet ultimately, the solution.  I had talked her into a Very MINIMAL use of that sort of stylized design element.  I would use very few of them to create a frame connecting the main branding elements I had made. It, bridged the gap, or if you prefer contextually punny, it put the icing on the cake.  The latter pun would probably make more sense here as I "decorated" that victory cake with the same "fondant" topping used in the illustrated icon. I had placed the same flower in the bottom of the frame I had made.




     As a designer, with a logo that has an illustrated icon in it, I also like to give the client an option to separate the icon from the type. I create an accompanying type logo that can be used, as well as a small tile version to be used as a thumbnail for most Social Networking Applications. This creates a brand for the client, not just a single logo.  I like to make sure each one of my clients has everything they need to get their business out in the public visually and in the most appealing way possible.

     So this pretty much wraps this post up about the logo I created. I hope you enjoyed sitting in my kitchen while I whipped it up and learning more about what all goes into the creation of a logo; All the scrutinized details and such.  I'm kind of pooped making sure I covered all the little details to tell you about it.



     I think I'm going to enjoy a nice cupcake (the inner Fat Boy is calling to me) and a cup of coffee with myself and kick back and watch Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette (which is an AMAZING film if you've never seen it.)  I hope you all enjoy the rest of your week and a very nice weekend

Until next time, friends,  Let Them All Eat Cake and...
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, keep making art. 
Cheers,
LEWIS