Tuesday, September 24, 2013

ALWAYS Look Fashionable When You're Struck By Lightening, Playing Croquet.

     At the last minute I decided I would participate in yet one more of Threadless's Fall Selection Challenges.  It was to design a pattern for either a Men's Button Down Dress/Casual Dress Shirt and a Women's Summer/Sun Dress.
 I really wasn't going to participate in this particular part of the design challenge as I am more an Illustrator than a Graphic Designer so my designs always have a more Illustrious quality to them.  In other words I end up complicating something more so than simplifying it at times and patterns are usually meant to be simple.  At least these were.

[SKULLYWAGS. Design by TenTimesKarma]

     I was just casually going through the submissions for that challenge when I saw this REALLY NEAT and COLORFUL Skull pattern.  I was So Hypnotized my it's beauty and simplicity that it inspired me to create a pattern myself and see if I could apply it to the Fall Selection.  Alas, I must confess I think the end results were not as inspired as the beginning concepts that guided them, but with less than a week to produce, display and submit them.... I didn't do too terribly bad.

     I ended up with two patterns. One I used for a Men's shirt, the other for a Women's dress.

     First is the Ole Ball and Mallet, obviously a nod to the old phrase,"Old Ball and Chain."  I pattern about relationships.  I think that people have a strange kindred spirit with the clothes they choose to purchase and wear.  The word "style" I don't feel quite describes it.  Why do we gravitate towards particular colors or icons?  Does it have to do with proximity to the ocean or the moon, as astrology would suggest most of our other behaviors.  Does it have to do with when we were born?  I wanted to explore this with a pattern as our relationships with objects and other people seem to more likely than not, create patterns.

     Again I started with the Inspiration Board Threadless posted for the challenge.  Croquette is one of the objects and activities featured in the image.  I looked through the other submissions to see if what I was going to do with the subject hadn't already been done.  I didn't want to waste time copying someone else' idea.

     At first, I wasn't sure how I should approach it visually, I did see that all of the other croquet related submissions were completely drawn in the computer and were very very simple, graphically, and were clean and mainstream (which is completely OK and great.  I'm not implying that they were bad submissions.  Actually they were amazing designs. I almost decided not to work with croquet at all, they were so good.)  My point is that NO ONE had taken the organic and more illustrative approach to a pattern design, like I was wanting to... which was GRRRREAT!

     I had very little planning and execution time so I decided to begin with just sketching the basic game equipment directly in ink.  I figured that since I wasn't needing mainstream-line-clean, flawed drawing and wonky lines and scratchy mistakes were completely more on the side of perfect for this particular concept.  I ended up going with the first thing I sketched out: One Ball and One Mallet.
Symbolically they represent a couple.  I then scanned in my ink drawing and sent it through a vectorizing program to convert my raster drawing into a vector one.  For my readers who are not so familiar with why I would go through this process, Most patterns for fabric or other products are usually created in a vector program like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw.  It's a format needed for the product design and textile industries.  That said, I now had my main elements to build a pattern with.

     Relationships with a lover or even with other people involve different degrees of proximity.  I literally used this concept to build my aesthetic.  I balanced a cluster of elements against a large singular element.  Croquet is played in several shades of how proximate the various game equipment is to one another... I thought the very same with Human Relationships.
I thought a Cross and diamond shape (referencing the argyle pattern) would be a nice way to cluster my "close proximity" element to my pattern.  It seemed to SCREAM Ivy League, Argyle does... at least in my own head.  So the mallets lain cross each other and the balls configured in a close diamond around the open space seemed like an obvious and good fit.  Then the singular shape would be just a larger Croquet ball.  Configuring this was the easy part.  The more difficult decision for this pattern was really color.

     I'll be absolutely honest, I HATED the choice of fabric color the dresses could be printed on. I'm not sure how much crack the Threadless Designer(s) who made that decision was(were) smoking, but as a good friend of mine would put it, plainly,"It Ain't A-Workin'."  So I really went through several color modifications and was truly waffley in the most accurate sense of the word.
As I didn't have much planning time for this last minute participation, I didn't really have a solid and conceptually sound color scheme prepared based on the color options Threadless had given... The design I wanted to do was more bold in color to represent human relationships, but I found the Fall Selection color palette a bit lackluster and fallen short of something useful.  So I made a lot of mistakes in this phase as you can see.  I even flip-flopped around on the size of the pattern and if I should create bands of larger versions of the basic repeating pattern adjacent to bands of smaller closely knit versions of the pattern.

     I'm still not really pleased with the overall results of this pattern, but went with it due to deadline restrictions... I then needed to create an attractive display for the pattern... I confess again, I was SO VERY tired when I put the first one together. I longed for completion of the project as
I wasn't really happy with the aesthetics of the final result of the effort and wanted to go ahead and put it behind me and work on something else.  I also had some up with a clever title for my pattern and a nice visual title to include in the display.  Catchy titles get people to stop and consider voting for your design on the site.  So I thought the Ole Ball and Mallet might get some people's attention.  It certainly alludes to what my pattern might be about, conceptually.

     I eventually created a better display for the patterns the following day after much needed rest and deliberation.  I had previously stayed up for about 2 days in a row, living on 2 hour naps sporadically littered throughout the day and ALOT of 5-Hour Energy Drinks.  What was I thinking!?!?!

     I had a brilliant Idea of how to "Model" my patterns.  I am a huge movie buff and thought it would be fun to use famous classic shots of famous classic stars from a few famous classic films.  I would leave everything in Black and White with the exception of my pattern as it would look on the garment.  I eventually had to delete the Movie Star images from the display. Apparently even if it's just a preliminary display just for voting, you can't use the copyrighted images.  I assumed since it was just for voting, it would be fine. It wasn't going to be published on their site if it was selected for printing, so I don't really see what harm it would have caused.  Anyway, you can see the Ole Ball and Mallet it's all it's Hollywood debut glory here, at my sketchblog.  As you can see, I also made changes to how I was going to flow the pattern on the fabric as well as changed the Display Title a bit, too.

     Relationships are tricky things, and I should have thought about that particular characteristic before making human relationships my inspiration and subject matter for the pattern as it CERTAINLY was very tricky to work with.

     The second pattern I put together was Lightening in a bottle, which was an idea pulled from my Idea Journal. It was from an entry over a year old and It was an idea I wanted to create, though I think I may revisit the idea again, in future, as I was also a bit disappointed with the outcome of this one.  The basis for the idea was, originally to create an iconic image of Lightening in a bottle balancing both positive and negative space.
I thought this idea was clever as electricity (lightening) involves the flow of both negative and positive currents.  A graphic representation of capturing inspiration itself and the fantasy of being able to possibly bottle it.  Here is the jotted doodle/note for myself for future development.
Often this is what my idea journal consists of: little vaguely readable thumbnail drawings attached to a large body of description telling my future self what to do to create it.  If you're not already carrying around an idea journal, artists, get one.  I like Moleskin, preferably for mine ;0)

     To be ABSOLUTELY honest with myself, this idea had nothing to do with clothing and the journal entry about it conveyed it's purpose was no more than just a graphic. I had entered no possible use for it in my journal entry.
As you can see, just like the lack of planning for Ball and Mallet, Lightening In A Bottle Also suffered several overhauls in color choice, lightening bolt shape, bottle shapes, display title changes, etc. You can see here a WIP of building the pattern, I wanted the bottles to tilt to bring a sense of movement and dynamic to the pattern.
I also toyed with changing a specific area of the pattern to create a larger lightening bolt pattern.  I ended up going with a variation of the first attempt.  I did find the color scheme to be harmonious, however, I'm still not certain that this icon of the lightening in a bottle was right for the project. 

     After I decided I could no longer work on the pattern, I put together a display also utilizing the same Hollywood Model idea and set my two pattern submissions up like a dyptic.  Unfortunately, these patterns did not create much enthusiasm in the competition.
In hindsight, I feel I was too close to the project to know if it was good work or not, even by my standards and I'm thinking the pattern were rushed and could definitely use work, though in their new incarnation, I'm not certain what I will use them in.  Who know, huh.

      In any case this concludes my most recent adventures into designing for Threadless.com and as par for the course have still not cracked into their clique of printed designers and illustrators. But, I will keep at it I'm sure, here and there submitting something to them to see how it goes.  I'm curious to see who actually was printed for this competition as very few people scored high in the voting area.

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

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Let Nature Be Your Guide. OR What's Your Spirit Animal Like?

 Yay! It's Illustration Friday!

     This week's Topic is TOTEM.  For those who don't already know, a totem is not necessarily the large wooden pole with animal and human faces carved into it and then painted with very bright and bold colors. A totem is an animal icon or symbol that represents a particular group of people or clan.  The totem pole as we usually think of when we hear the word totem, is actually the history or story of the group of people that it represents. Also Totems are not specifically exclusive to Native American tribes in the US or even the Native peoples in North Canada.  Its appearance in religions span the globe.  You can find them in China as well as even in Kenya and the Mountains of Tibet.

     As I am not specifically a group of myself, I decided to illustrate a personal totem that represented me.  Totem Animals represent specific characteristics, morals and values that can guide one's life by.  It takes years of focused meditation to have your Animal Spirit guide appear to you.  I only had this week so I "cheated" a little bit and took an online quiz that tells you your spirit guide. ;0)

     As it turns out, my Animal Spirit guide is the Spider.  It is ironic as I am very much arachnophobic.  The spider represents the creative and receptive, to summarize in a small nutshell.
I have included something I found online about it in more detail below.  You are in tune with the ebbs and flow of life and have tremendous patience for weaving my creative webs (my art.)  It very much reminds me of Charlotte's Web when Charlotte would weave messages about Wilbur the pig into her web each morning.

      I also thought about an animal that keeps popping up around me.  I wondered if this is how you find your true spirit animal... start "listening" and paying attention to what's around you and see what is trying to get your attention.  Sea Turtles have always been an "animal" (reptile actually) that has gained my attention.
I figure this may be my true Spirit Animal Totem.  I even have a Crush lapel pin on my Carry Satchel. The turtle represents peace. Peace with one's self and peace with the earth around us.  I have also included the Turtle below as well. 

      I took the two spirit animals and paired them together into a totem pole for this week's inspirational challenge.  I did have one other alternative solution to this challenge.  As many several African clans include totems in their faith, I wanted to illustrate a Spider dancing a traditional tribal dance (particularly either one that has to do with the communion of nature or one that is specific to the worship of the creative spirit.  There is an African Goddess of Creativity and Love, Oshun, And I wanted the spider to be wearing a tribal mask that depicted her visage.
I thumb-nailed a composition for this idea (left thumbnail sketch) but abandoned it for the stronger of the two ideas.  My totem pole, in a way, reminded me of the parable of the scorpion and the frog, which was about understanding your true nature.   It inspires me t write a similar but different parable of the spider and the turtle.  ;0)  Who knows I just might.

I used as much source material to keep my shapes, colors and patterns for my two spirit animals as true and traditional to the real deal. I do LOVE all the color that Native American Totem poles display. I share the Very Same LOVE of LOTS of Color. :0)

The spider is a remarkable figure of feminine energy and creativity in the spirit animal kingdom. Spiders are characterized by the skilled weaving of intricate webs and patience in awaiting their prey. By affinity with the spider spirit animal, you may have qualities of high receptivity and creativity. Having the spider as a power animal or totem helps you tune into life’s ebbs and flows and ingeniously weave every step of your destiny.

The turtle totem wisdom teaches us about walking our path in peace and sticking to it with determination and serenity. Slow moving on earth, yet also incredibly fast and agile in water, those who have the turtle as totem or spirit animal may be encouraged to take a break in their busy lives and look around or within themselves for more grounded, long-lasting solutions. Traditionally, the turtle is symbolic of the way of peace, whether it’s inviting us to cultivate peace of mind or a peaceful relationship with our environment.
***Both Totem Sourced from the following website:

     I did forget to snap screen shots along the way of my progress in illustrating this so none this week :0(  But there is always next week :0).

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

[Thumbnail Sketches]

[Final Sketch]
[WIP Inking the Sketch]

Monday, September 16, 2013

Saturday at the Park with the Meter Maids

     So I recently acquired a drawing book devoted to just drawing trees. I have enjoyed it thus far and decided this past Saturday that I would go out to the local park and sketch a few trees based on what I have learned and have been reading in the book. 

     I'm kind of in this Back 2 the Basics mode where I want to explore my craft from an advanced perspective, breaking things down again as I used to do back in Art School.  This time, however, I'm going to go further than where we went in the classroom... An advanced approach to the most basic elements, tools and techniques of drawing and picture making (as my Illustration Professors would have called it.)  Classes were only so long so you only spent time with the material for so long before moving on to the next lesson.  I want to know what's just around the bend we stopped at with each area I'm choosing to go back and explore further. 
Advanced drawing techniques and drawing specific things, that I kind of glossed over out of laziness in my college years, is one of my new focuses... you know, when I'm not working on other stuff. ;0)   I've spent SO much time focused on developing an art style and marketing it, that I really have forgotten the joy of what the art brings to me.  I haven't drawn with a regular HB lead pencil in years upon years.  I used to LOVE drawing in nothing but graphite.  Also I look back at the way I drew then and the way I draw now, and I'm not talking about quality.  I'm talking about aesthetic and the way I used to handle it.  It's almost as if a completely different artist drew those old drawings from Art School... Very Strange to find myself digging through that Time Warp. lol.  This is part of my plan to try and go back and rediscover that in myself.  A sort of Art-Zen Journey that I hear calling softly out to me to follow.  In any case, I will be posting slivers and excerpts from my journey and blogging about things I have learned or re-learned. 

     It's kind of humorous because that is what this blog's original purpose was to be... a SketchBlog for my daily/weekly practice in draftsmanship exercise or a work in progress of a current project.  The Sketch Blog has leaned toward the latter but I feel it's time to post some of the former. 

     Many of my professors advised us students that we should be sketching everyday. And though I would be inclined to agree, I find myself feeling guilty that I do not always do so... Not out of laziness, but really out of Life itself.  I endeavor to fight and find time for this reason. 

     So this past Saturday, I decided to draw trees from the method I read about. I found it tedious, as drawing plant life always was.  So I tried to Keep Calm and Patiently Continue Drawing. ;0)  Which has been the mantra I play in my head... My Illustration Style has made me lazy as it shortcuts some of these practices out of my every day artist's life... This is my attempt to exorcise those long forgotten muscles. 

     I have scanned the sketch page I did. I was only out there for an hour and a half and half of the time was devoted to reading the drawing book and practice making the marks it suggested. I did of course spare showing you all those, because.... well, obviously, it would be unnecessary.  The trees are what you came for right? ;0) 

...and  a story about the Meter Maid. 

     She wasn't specifically a Meter Maid, though she really acted like one.  She was kinda surly and snarly and she seemed as though she had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed every day of her life.  She is a local police officer, I didn't ask her name.  But her attitude about Parking violations were like any other Savannah Meter Maid I had every encountered.  Apparently, I was parked the wrong way around the park, even though I could snap a photo a day for people who park the same direction I did that day, though I never see the Meter Maid ticketing them.  I didn't argue with the woman because it was quite apparent that I wouldn't be able to. She claimed she had been there for 20 minutes and I never acknowledged that the vehicle was mine. I did point out that my intention to come to the park was to enjoy the park and not watch my vehicle.  I did inquire why she didn't grab my attention about the car if she suspected I was the owner and asked me to move it. Especially if you sat and watched me not watching my vehicle parked in the worng direction for 20 (claimed) minutes.  But that was just the logical part of my own brain talking.  She gave me a dirty look and left... I think this officer missed her calling and as a Meter Maid.  At least as an officer she has found an outlet to take out her unhappiness and aggression on others.  I suppose that is the silver lining in traffic duty.  I did notice there was no fine written in the fine area, but she did fill out a date in which I should pay the fine by... Not really certain what that means.  Nor will I get into How people block the busy main streets on Sunday with their cars lined on the street as opposed to parked in the parking lots that are allotted the churches... But I never see any Meter Maid Officers with their little ticket pads there... EVER.  But anyway, that's the price of Art, and imaginary fine and a futile debate with a wannabe Meter Maid.  Se la vie.

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

If Otters Couldn't Already Swim, I'd Bet They'd Yacht

     This past Spring, Threadless.com opened up their coveted Selection collection to the public.  In other words, This collection of special apparel, that used to be exclusively designed by Threadless's own team of designers, was holding an open call for designs from the entire Threadless community.  This collection included button up shirts, summer/cocktail dresses, sweatshirts, baseball tees, badges and buttons.  I thought it would be an interesting project to take on.

     The inspiration for the Collection seemed to be vintage ivy league and or private/boarding school.  As you can see by the mood board they provided.
 They wanted designs that evoked the mood of a private New England College.  Something you might imagine right out of the John Knowles novel, A Separate Peace (one of my favorites). 

     This week's post focuses on the sports design portion of the Fall Selection Collection Challenge (FSCC).  Threadless wanted you to think of sports that would be played in an environment or the vintage time period the mood board evoked.  In my opinion I instantly thought of New England Ivy League Schools in the 1950s.  I looped Mona Lisa Smile and Dead Poets Society on my DVD player in the studio to put me in "the mood" for the project.  Personally, the sports I think of fr this criteria are croquet and golf (obvious as they are somewhat showcased in the mood board). Others were table tennis, tennis equestrian riding, old school American football with leather helmets and one other sport that when I researched the submissions of others I did not see... So of course it was the obvious pick for me to help my design stand out amongst the other several croquet and table tennis designs. One thing that says ivy league and evokes the kind of similar mood that the Threadless display did.... YACHTING!

     Yachting is SO Very Preppy and appropriate to what I wanted to do with the baseball tee.  I have experience in designing sports imagery and logos specifically in the screen printing industry.  So it seemed only natural that I should try to take on this challenge.
One thing, and I have mentioned this before, is that Threadless designs are either Super Artistic or Super Cleaver and Artistic.  Since this design wouldn't really be representing a specific school or college, I wanted the mascot I chose to be something not normally recognized or associated with any school because you want the design to be more universally marketable.  I also wanted it to be conceptually appropriate and of course, clever.

     So it had to be an animal that could be associated with water. A graceful animal as sailing is a graceful sport.....

     ...OTTERS! Perfect!  It's clever because conceptually it works, it's innocuously unassociated with other schools and it even rhymes and/or could be combined with the word Yachting. :0)

     I originally toyed around with a composition of a few different Preppy Otters on the deck of a sailboat with their sunglasses, sailing hats and pink polos with the color flipped up.
I wanted to illustrate that image because I just fell in love with the idea of it.  I still may eventually illustrate that original thought down the road.  I wanted it to look like a traditional sports mascot logo from a school.  Very clean, stylized and graphic.  I then thought of how this really wouldn't work for this particular challenge as that type of graphic style didn't really fit in with the Threadless Mood Board.

     So I had to scrap that composition to go for something that looked a bit more old and more vintage.  I thought that a hand inked aesthetic would look more along the lines of something from  the American 50s.  Also I thought that I should make a crest or shield centered sports logo instead of creating a scene for the mascot.  I then began incorporating the nautical iconography of rope, the wheel, anchors, sails and of course the compass.
As this is the most important tool in navigating your sailboat, I really wanted it to be the central symbol I build the rest of the design around.  I came up with the idea of actually turning the otter into a ship. An image one might associate with the mythologies of Greece or even the old folklore of Sailors about Sea Monsters and such.  I just thought it was a better idea aesthetically and was a better visual solution.  I did keep something from my original composition, the otter wearing the captains hat.  I drew the otter and sailboat, scanned that in, vectorized the drawing and cleaned it up in Corel Draw. Now that it's vector, I can marry it with other vector elements.

     I then incorporated a banner to place the title of the team and sport.  Also banners are an essential element in shield or crest designs for most shirts, at least in my experience.
To make it seem more vintage, I added a damage pattern to the design to make it look like the design has been flaking and worn.  I did try different color schemes till I found something I liked very much.
I was using my book of color schemes from different time periods to figure out what worked in the 50s color and what didn't... in the end.....  Earth tones and also blues of the ocean.  They harmonized well together as well as looked great on the color of shirt they were intended for.

     After the design was complete, I began to build the display presentation for the design. This will eventually be posted on the site for others to vote on it's appeal.  Apart from the baseball tees, I thought this would also make a great design for sweatshirts as this would be something you could wear on a boat trip.

     All and all I was quite pleased with the turnout for this idea.  I hope you enjoyed reading a bit about what went into it's creation.

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