Thursday, December 19, 2013

May The SPIRIT of Christmas Be In Your Hearts on Illustration Friday!

     It's ILLUSTRATION FRIDAY! Yay! Though, I have SO little time to write this up before I need to post this week, I wanted to briefly discuss where this image came from. 

     So this week's topic is obviously SPIRIT.  I wanted to do something Christmas"y" since this would be the last opportunity to do so for Illustration Friday.  SO it comes to no surprise that I would try to capture the Christmas Spirit on Paper.  I began to imagine what in the world the Christmas Spirit would look like, if you could see it.  In the end, I came up with the idea that it would look different for every single person.  It was unique and individual to us all, like snowflakes. 

     I was reminded of the patronus in the Harry Potter stories and how every patronus is unique and individual to each character and how each was like an animal spirit or guardian.  I wanted to incorporate a similar idea in my illustration.  I wanted to use an animal, particularly.
I chose the reindeer almost immediately. I admit, I have always wanted a good excuse to draw and use one, but not in the context with Santa and his sleigh.  I wanted to show what the Christmas Spirit of a Happy Child on the way to deliver a gift to a loved one would look like.  I imagine it to be a reindeer happily jaunting along with it's antlers decorated like a Christmas Tree.

The snowflake pattern was used to further the idea that everyone's Christmas Spirit is unique and particular just to them, like Snowflakes are each individual and unique.

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

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The FatKing: Another Unfortunate Suicide and Assassination Gone Wrong...

...Or Just Another Sad Case of Running Out of Carbon Paper.

     It's Halloween and I find myself caught up in the smells and sights of the Season.  I LOVE seeing everyone in their costumes and I like to walk or bike the neighborhood to see everyone's decorations. I really like to see jack-o-lanterns and holiday lights and front lawn graveyards... Always gets me in the spirit.  SO it seems that this is a VERY appropriate time to finish a NEW FatMan piece.

     This series as I explained in a previous post, These various incarnations of the FatMan are kinda like him trying on a New Costume every time. Different wardrobe, sometimes different hair, different symbolism.  I admit, It's always fun planning a New FatMan piece because I get to explore the history and origins of some people or characters. 

     This piece is obviously themed by the King of Hearts, otherwise known as the Suicide King.  I have always been intrigued by this particular face card and have always wondered about his origins.  However, like so many things in life, you think about it and make a mental note to research something... then you forget about it when your are sitting down with the Internet.  Of course, smart phone and tablets are making this unfortunate incident a thing of the past, as many now have instant access to the Internet and the world of information 24/7 no matter where you are... as long as you have 2 Bars on there, right? ;0)

     In any case, I began researching the origins of the Suicide King. Out of all the playing cards in the Playing Card Court, he is the most mysterious. There is an alternate theory that the King of Hearts was not committing suicide, but rather being assassinated, as many felt the arm holding the sword/dagger did not math the attire the King is wearing. This theory made me more interested to learn about what the face cards in our everyday playing deck are based on.  Why they look the way they do?  Why, out of the entire court, is the King of Hearts either committing suicide or being assassinated?  To my dismay, all my research led me too was a conclusion that the King of Hearts demise boils down to The Illustrator... In his English Artist's Studio... with a Pencil and a Bad Eye for tracing.... That is, if we were playing CLUE and the King of Hearts was Mr. Body.

     ...In short, the image of the King of Hearts derives from a case of bad copying.

 A very brief and summarized history of the origin of the American Playing Card Court:
     Our Face Card Court derives from copying the English card designs.  The English copied the French designs (the Rouen).  From what I understand, the copy was not a very good one and the result was "grotesquely exaggerated" versions of the original face card designs.
The face cards also were meant and called after famous historical kings and queens and depending on what area of France you were in, changed which king and queen were which. I have included a list below for those who are interested to see who is who.  The King of Hearts in the American Court was a derived representation of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian King and Almost Ruler of the World.

      I decided to take this FatMan illustration, base it off the current and recognizable American Card design but change certain aspects of the card design to make it recognizable as a FatMan piece. I Included elements and practices I implemented from past FatMan pieces and also incorporated the Historical King from whom the card design inspiration originates from.  I did this by changing certain patterns in the card design with elements and symbols representing that historical figure. 

      First thing was first, I began sketching how I was going to combine the FatMan visage with that of the King of Hearts.  I actually combined some of the facial features and design elements from the King of Diamonds as he is the ONLY King in the Playing Card Court (PCC) to be illustrated in profile.  One of the main aesthetic elements in my FatMan illustrations is that he/she is always drawn in direct profile.
 So i needed a card design reference that could accommodate that requirement.  I also decided early on which elements of the card I would change to represent the FatMan and also which elements I would change to represent Alexander the Great.  In the beginning, I had a hole in my research and was basing my visual research and elements on the Charlemagne.
This was because in the Paris FCC, the King of Hearts represented Charlemagne (see list below.)  After a good friend pointed out my mistake, I had to redo all of my visual research based on a different king altogether.  Which made me grouchy for a bit, but I did want to be as accurate with my conceptual and aesthetic vision as possible.  So I did the research twice to accommodate my error.

     SO many of you, I'm sure are familiar with the biography of Alexander the Great, so there really isn't a need for a history lesson. If you are not that familiar with his history, I have included a link below where you can access that information.  I'm going to take this time and go over which symbols in my illustration represent him and why.

     Looking at the KoH design, I was unable to discern any visual or symbolic reference to Alexander.  This made me feel free to really change anything I wanted without taking away something that already represented him.  Just a tid bit about  me, I like to make lists as I'm researching for a project. These lists can be anything, really, but more often then not, I kinda know what I am looking for when I'm digging in the books, so as I run across something that fits what I'm searching for, I jot it down. I also jot down any idea that may come to me, the more I learn about a subject.  This certainly affects the final outcome of any illustration I'm working on.  For the KoH, I was making a list of things that I could use as symbols or symbols that could be made into patterns that could be used in the Face Card Illustration or to replace one that is already there. Here are the elements, symbols and pattern that made the cut and why.


1.)  The head completely in profile.
2.)  The eyes are always closed.
3.)  His bangs have a small curl.
4.)  His lips are always small and suggest a hint of a mysterious smile.
5.)  He is framed by an arched checker-board frame.
6.)  He floats centered in the composition amongst a Background filled with elements and symbols pertaining to him/her.

ELEMENTS That Pertain to Alexander the Great:
1.) The Lightening bold pattern that adorns the FatKing's Coat is the symbol of Zues.  When Alexander the Great was born,
his mother had vision that lightening had struck her womb in her sleep. The dream suggested he was of divine conception.
Through out most of Alexander's Life after the death of his father, he did much to assert and spread the reputation that he was in fact the Son of Zues and therefore rightful ruler of all the world.  I thought that this symbol should be repeated in the illustration for this very reason.

2.)  The Knight chess peices on his belt.  The game of chess is often used to symbolize conquest or a fued between two entities.  I thought the pattern of the chess board a nice added pattern for this very reason.  Alexander the Great set out to Conquer the Entire World and then Rule it as the Son of God (Zeus.)
I chose the knight as it is the image of a horse.  Alexander the Great became very attached to his horse, Bucephalas, so much so that he re-named a conquered city after his horse.
The city was called Bucephala.  Also the way they are offset, they create a pair of horns, very similar to the shape of a Ram's Horns.  I purposely did this because after he conquered Egypt, he referred to himself as the Son of Zues-Ammon.  He is often depicted in Egyptian art as being adorned with Ram's Horns which were a symbol of Alexander's Divinity.

3.)  The background behind the up-facing FatKing is very faint but it is the map of Alexander's Kingdom.  It is an obvious choice to place in the composition since there is no better way to show the scope of his like then by actually showing how far he expanded Macedonia's territory.
The faint fade of it serves a dual purpose: To not upstage the subject and behave like background should and to also conceptually show distance of time.  Since there really isn't a space behind a Face Card, I thought making a faint pattern would work best.

4.)  The background behind the downward facing FatKing is a constellation map. Here again the fade is to represent distant space to juxtapose the upward background of distant time.  Alexander the Great used constellations to guide him on his journey.  He learned form his tutelage that this was the method all sailors used.  Alexander was quite fond of the sailor's he read about in Homer's epic poem the Iliad.  He was also said to have carried that copy he read as a child with him on his conquests.  He rode with it near his chest.  You may see the constellation Taurus there behind the FatKing. This is another reference to the Ram and the Ram's Horns.   

I saved my favorite symbol for last...

5.)  The top pattern around the FatKing's Crown is made of Mermaid Tails.  As I just said before, Alexander was so inspired and connected to Homer's epic work.  I thought it would be wonderful to reference this aspect of Alexander in someway in the illustration.
When I ran across this one  interesting tid bit, I figured out exactly what the last symbol needed to be.  It was an superstition among sailors that, when met with the rough waters of a really bad storm, that Mermaids would come to the surface to speak with the Captain of the ship.  They would ask,"Is Alexander Still the Ruler of the Great World?"  If the Sailor answered with,"Yes. Alexander is still the King of the land and in good health," then the Mermaids would steer the ship through the bad storm to safety.  If the Sailor answered with,"No." or,"Alexander the Great is dead,"  then the Mermaids would transform into a great Gorgon (Sea Monster) and drag the ship under the ocean killing all aboard it.  A Gorgon is also from Homer's work.  The most notable is Medusa.  This old Sailor's tale is also why Mermaids are carved into the helm of many ships.  A good luck charm, if you will to steer the ship safely on it's journey.  So the FatKing's Crown was adorned with a pattern of Mermaid tales.

[The Mermaid's Rock by Edward Matthew Hale]

     This pretty much sums up the how-to's and what-for's of this particular FatMan Illustration.  Hope you enjoyed the work that goes on behind it.  I find it enriching, personally, to understand the working's behind different works of art.  It really fascinates me. 

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



King of Spades= David

King of Hearts= Charles (possibly Charlemagne, or Charles VII, in which case Rachel (see below) would be the pseudonym of his mistress, Agn├Ęs Sorel)

King of Diamonds= Julius Caesar

King of Clubs= Alexander the Great

Queen of Spades= Pallas

Queen of Hearts= Judith

Queen of Diamonds= Rachel (either biblical, historical (see Charles above), or mythical as a corruption of the Celtic Ragnel, relating to Lancelot below)

Queen of Clubs= Argine (possibly an anagram of regina, which is Latin for queen, or perhaps Argea, wife of Polybus and mother of Argus)

Knave of Spades= Ogier the Dane/Holger Danske (a knight of Charlemagne)

Knave of Hearts= La Hire (comrade-in-arms to Joan of Arc, and member of Charles VII's court)

Knave of Diamonds= Hector

Knave of Clubs= Judas Maccabeus or Lancelot

[Beginning the Sketching Process.  Scaling & Measuring]

[Completed Pencil Sketch]

[Inked Illustration]

[FatKing WIP Screen Shot]

[FatKing WIP Screen Shot]

[FatKing WIP Screen Shot]

[FatKing WIP Screen Shot]

[FatKing WIP Screen Shot]

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sunday Sketching on the College Campus

     So for the past two weekends I went to the local College campus to continue my weekend sketch trips to sketch trees.  Georgia Southwestern is a College located here in Americus and has a very pretty campus that is open to the surrounding public to enjoy. 

photo by Bobby Ellis courtesy of The Image Company

     My partner and his daughter were both there, and we made it our Family Outing for the day. Micah brought her sketchbook and she borrowed some of my sketching pencils. I like to think in some way, I inspire her to sketch, but  mostly I think it's just something she comes to do on her own.  Her mother is also an artist, so I think it just may come naturally, to be very Darwin Acquired Characteristics about it. lol.  She also brought some books to read.  Bobby brought his Quad-Copter (see photo) to practice flying it over the flagship building of the College, for a shot he needed for a video he was doing for work.  So he was in the field next to us, Micah was on the picnic-less blanket drawing, I was also sitting and drawing the wonderfully twisted branches of the trees that were nearby.  Though, truth be known, I selected the spot because of the interesting trees that were there.

     I normally focus on either the foliage or bark using the drawing techniques from the book, but for whatever reason, I decided to draw the entire scope of what I saw around those particular trees.  I found the landscaping of that particular area quite aesthetically agreeable and soothing.

     I then decided to practice sketching trees from a distance and utilize those particular techniques I also read about.  I drew the field Bobby was flying his Quad-Copter in. There was a lovely set of Old Established Oaks and a flag pole. The drawing wasn't quite what I think I was supposed to do, considering it was a first attempt to draw in a way I'm not really used to drawing. I fell back into my old drawing habits as the day grew long.  And by my old drawing habits, I mean lazy drawing or draftsmanship where I'll cut corners instead of doing what you're supposed to do.  Pulling myself out of my lazy and/or bad drawing habits was the original purpose behind this Back-To Basics exercise project.  I think restructuring my skills through these weekly exercises is a good thing for me being so far removed from draftsmanship practices I haven't used since College.  Since then my focus had been solidifying style and marketing and working. I had made no time to just draw things the way they are for years, so I decided this year was the year I will make a conscience effort to employ these practices and make them part of my weekly, if not daily, life again.

     Also let me take this moment to thank Jennifer and Kevin for the AMAZINGLY AWESOME pencil bag they gave me for my Birthday. I Absolutely LOVE it and I'm certain it will make my sketch outings much more fun. Thank you both! :0)

     Last Sunday I went out to sketch at the Campus again. I wanted to draw the trees and bushes that surround the Campus Bell Tower.  I wanted to practice more on sketching/suggesting detail in things that are distant.  For the most part, I feel I am getting better with the proper drawing technique, however, this particular sketch through into sharp relief something that I will be working on in my Sketch Outings very soon and in abundance: Perspective.  The trees around the Bell Tower look fine but the Bell Tower itself is quite awful, I must admit. Perspective has always been one of the most challenging elements of drawing and Composition for me. Even back in College, it was something that required alot of practise to be decent at. I'm unsure as to why. I have concluded that it must have something to do with my vision problems.

    I had always been Near Sighted, but back in my freshman year at college, I had to have two very serious Eye Surgeries that resulted in being even more Near Sighted; Extremely so that, current day, I have exceeded the prescription that is made for contact lenses.  I would have to have custom contacts made, but they would be hard lenses and I am not really willing to wear hard lenses. I don't think I would ever get used to them. So, ultimately my vision will get progressively worse as a result of the type of surgeries I had. My vision will always be a bit off because of this.  SO I'm really not surprised that my ability to translate three dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface (perspective) is hindered by this.

     This doesn't mean, I have an excuse to be lazy, It just means that I really have to work even harder than most to be successful at creating proper believable and non-wonky perspective in my drawing and illustration work.  This is also another reason I am re-working through basic drawing exercises. I haven't done them since much, for lack of a better phrase, "Eye-Slippage." So perspective and architectural detail and accuracy will be my next series of exercises after trees and foliage.

      So Bell Tower aside, I felt this was a successful outcome for creating atmospheric perspective of trees using the book's technique.

     On another not entirely, I have taken this past week off from extracurricular drawing and illustrating activities, namely weekly sketching and Illustration Friday, to focus on a very festive Holiday activity. For those who are not close friends, I like to take time every year to creatively work on and put together a fun Halloween Costume.  In years past I have home made costumes for Eliot with an full size E.T. in a bike basket (last year's. and yes he lights up in his chest and finger.) I have also made a Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder), Charlie Chaplin and several others.  So be on the look out very soon for a SketchBlog post on this year's Costume fun.  Illustration Friday and Weekly Sketching will pick back up again next week.

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

Halloween is a "Slice of Fried Gold!"

     As I sit here this evening and drink my hot tea and eat my roasted pumpkin seeds, I breath in deep the scent of fire pits and fireplaces lit and burning.  I think to myself,"Yes. This is finally Autumn."  It's absolutely my favorite time of year. It has most all of my favorite Holidays contained within the Season.  It makes me want to drink Apple Cider and Roast Marshmallows and Eat Soup, Soup and More Soup Everyday for Every Meal for Now until the foreseeable Future. ;0) It's like a "Slice of Fried Gold."

     It's also tells me, It's Halloween time.  Halloween hasn't always been my favorite Holiday and it still isn't.  As I have blogged about previously, I was never allowed to go Trick or Treating.  I honestly feel my childhood was robbed of something vital.  So Halloween represented a Holiday all my friends could go have fun on, but I could not, well at least not go Trick or Treating. I will say this: My Halloweens growing up were not all Oliver Twist, even though I exaggerate some to paint that picture.  My parents did buy all my siblings and I candy at Halloween. Candy Corn was always my request and is still my favorite Halloween candy of all.  I also remember this REALLY AWESOME Halloween Carnival/Fall Festival that was held at the local Mall.  The entire Mall (all floors were filled with booths and games and people handing out candy.  My parents made the effort  to have us kids participating in some kind of fun Fall-ish related activities during Halloween, and I truly do appreciate that.  This Holiday has held some really fond memories for me.

     On of the BEST THINGS EVER that happened on Halloween was Halloween Specials on TV.  I of course will always love It's the Big Pumpkin, Charlie Brown., but my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE Halloween Cartoon was "Trick or Treat" Starring Donald Duck and his nephews, Huey, Dewy and Louie.  This is the cartoon where Hazel the Witch helps the nephews get their candy from the pranking Donald.  I would be willing to say it could very well be my favorite cartoon altogether.

     In my grown-up-ed-ness, I obviously am too big and old to go Trick or Treating and honestly, it wouldn't mean the same thing now as it might have, then.  So I compensate by Making my Halloween Costume at home and finding some fun activities to wear it to.

     Last year, I went as Eliot form E.T. and built an actual E.T. that sat on my bike and glowed, etc.  I figured, there was really no way I could top that costume, and I really didn't want to.  I'm not in the habit of competing with myself... It's unfair on both of us. ;0)

     So I just did what I do every year: Wait till August and see what just "comes" to me.  This year I was feeling either Pee Wee Herman or Shaun from Shaun of the Dead.  Most of the time, it comes down to what I am able to find, gather or build.  This year I was really unsuccessful in finding the grey suit for Pee Wee, even though I was able to find the platform loafers. I didn't quite have time to teach myself the Pee Wee dance to Tequila on top of all that....

     So this year's choice is Shaun form Shaun of the Dead. :0)  It's an AWESOME zombie flick and it's a Simon Peg comedy. How can you go wrong with Shaun, really?

     I was able to thrift some navy work pants that fit and a red neck tie. I found the white work shirt on clearance at Sears.  My thought was to use acrylic red paint, which I already had, to paint the blood stains on.  I thought it would be kinda fun and funny to "smear" the most quoted phrase from the film, "You've Got RED On You."  I painted it on to look like it had been written in zombie blood.

     I then used an old gift card that didn't have any money left on it and measured to get it's specific dimensions. I then found a name tag for a DIY Shaun of the Dead costume online that I could print.
I printed it out, cut it out and then adhered it to the sturdy gift card with some double sided tape.  To make sure I would be able to attach it to the rest of the costume, I glued some Lapel pin tacks and backings that I bought from the hobby store.

     Now the key to the whole costume.  The element that would make the character instantly recognizable: The Cricket Bat.  I had previously a few months ago, priced cricket bats online.  I needed to find one that didnt have stickers, etc on it or one that was really old, like the one Shaun had in the movie.  I will say this: Cricket Bats are hella-expensive sporting equipment to purchase.... and that's BEFORE you ship it to The States.
So I opted NOT to purchase a real one but find a way to make one myself with stuff I had.  I found a really Awesome homemade costume cricket bat online.  Basically you buy a cheap plank of wood form your local Lowes or Home Depot and draw out the handy-dandy dimensions our Online Friend posted then cut the shape out of the wood.
 I opted also to sand it down to shape it and make it smoother for handling.  I did have help with the bat.  My partner and his handy-dandy workshop came to my aid with this part of the costume.  I also just used some wood stain to satin it and make it look older than it was. Then tape up the bottom with some black tape and vio la! Almost-Instant Costume Cricket Bat.

     Since, collectively, I spent maybe $10 on my costume, I was think maybe I could splurge a little and dye my hair Red, just like Simon Peg's in the movie.  I wasn't sure if it would be affordable, but to be quite honest, Hair coloring isn't as expensive as I imagined.  My stylist, Wendy Henson, who normally cuts my hair, helped me get this last part of the costume together.  She did an amazing job with making me Ginger for Halloween.  So a Very Special Thanks goes out to Wendy Henson of Main Street Salon in Americus.

     Thanks Wendy! You ROCKED My Hair for Halloween this Year and You Just ROCK! :0)

     After that, just applying a bit of fake blood to my face completes the costume.  I did originally have a cool plan to make a "Before Shaun" and "After Shaun" because I thought it would be funny to walk in to a party or whatever it is in a clean white shirt with a red tie on and his blue jacket.  Then, half-way thourgh the even, I would go to the rest room and unbotton the clean white shirt, revealing the bloody shirt below, then kinda untuck the shirt, tie the tie around my head, quickly apply the fake blood and BAM, you're suddenly in the second half of the movie. lol

     Unfortunately, I couldn't find the Blue jacket, other wise it would have been perfect. I did , however find a clip on red tie, that would have made the change easy.  In any case, Im please with the end reselt. Another fun costume to add to the costume closet. 

     I Hope all of you are having fun with your Costumes this year.  If you are feeling so inclined, share a pic of this year's costume in the comments. I ALWAYS Love to see what other people did this year.


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