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. 

Even Aliens Like To Dress Up... For ILLUSTRATION FRIDAY!

     Well, Folks. It's ALMOST Friday.  I am getting my IF posting done early because I am participating in Halloween Fun! HAPPY HALLOWEEN, By the Way! ;0)  This week's topic is CREATURE and I wanted to do something Halloween related, but since I have been so busy typing blog posts and going to festive Holiday Events, I didn't have too much time to devote to this week's IF Illustration Challenge. 

     I skipped last week to make my costume. :0(   But my costume is pretty great, if I do say so. :0)

     I knew I didn't have time to create a creature from scratch, so I dug into the sketch book and loose leaf doodle archives to see what I could DIG UP (Halloween Joke.)  I found a really cute alien dressed in a Zoro-like costume.  I thought this would be cute to take to a finished Illustration. I mean even Aliens Dress Up for Halloween, right?

     As you can see in the scan, the original sketch was done back in '05. Eight years he has been waiting, all dressed up and no-where to go.
So I decided to finish him this evening. Inked and collage-colored all in one night.  The background was added.  I originally wanted to create
a space scape inspired by the work of Maurice Noble.  For those of you who aren't familiar with who he is. Maurice Noble was a layout man for Warner Brothers Animation.
He was known for his graphically dynamic backgrounds, seen in many of the Looney Tunes films.  There has been a book released on his work and it is AMAZING!  I have been impressed and inspired by his work since I was in school taking Layout in the Animation Department.   I didn't really have time to plan a great Alien World with which this little guy is from, so I kind of mocked in a desert planet scene behind him.  Not what I would have rather had there, but works in a pinch.

     Well, that pretty much sums this one up, folks. I have other things to get done today. So I hope you all have fun today.

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

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Even FatMen Set Sail!

     So... I'm working on a NEW FatMan piece this month and I know many of you have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what that even means, but I am...
This post is not about the new piece.  I will be sharing that with the SketchBlog later this month. This post is about a previous FatMan incarnation...   ...   ...

     I've written a blog about the FatMan previously and what I think he represents to me as an artist, but I don't think I shared my ambitious idea of what I have been doing with him.  I had this impulse to create variations of the same character, as a series.  I'm thinking this would visually represent possible manifestations of my Muse and would allow me to explore more of why this character means something to me as a human being. 

     So I have decided to create 40 FatMen (or FatWomen) before I turn 40.  I started work on this project after I turned 30.  I was thinking to myself that really the next big milestone in a person's life is turning 40 and I daydreamed about what I would do to commemorate that hallmark.
My partner had previously turned 40 that year and he had created this really neat illustration of the number 40 and his name.  It was creative and made me wonder if I could do something creatively similar.  I then fantasized about this ABSOLUTELY INSANE idea of creating 40 illustration of the FatMan as different incarnations through time, space, literature and pop culture.  I thought that it would be really neat to create such a large body of work in the 10 year span I had to do so and then perhaps through a gallery show/birthday party to celebrate my 40th.  I would share with others all my various visions of The FatMan and what he could be.  I admit, this seems like such a silly fantasy.

     It did, however, got me to thinking seriously about the artwork body... 40 FatMen... How cool and fun it would be to work on an illustration series through time, selecting incarnations of my Muse as it came to me.  So right then I decided I would try to Go For It.  I figured, why not. Now whether the gallery show part of that fantasy actually comes to pass is another matter entirely.  I could definitely accomplish the body of work, though. So that is what I began to do three years ago. 

      I started out with a list of different ideas, brainstorming possible FatMan incarnations, not necessarily deciding what the 40 should be right then. I did want to have a jumping off point to begin the journey. I knew that the list of what incarnations would make it to the finish line would vary over the course of the 10 years I would be working on the project. 

An excerpt form my idea journal:
40 FATMEN for the 40TH

-Molly Brown from Titanic
-King of Hearts (Suicide King)
-Queen of Hearts or other face cards
-Drag Queen
-Female Version
-1920s Vintage Striped Swimsuit with Innertube (Sunbathers)
-Tacky Car or Door-toDoor Vaccuum Salesman.
-A Super Hero
(the following have been added on since then.)
-SOmething with a Facebook Theme
-Fairy Tale Theme (Red Riding Hood, Goldilocks, etc.)
-Robin Hood
-A Magician/Illustionist
-A Screen Printer
-Zues or Appollo or some Greek God
-A Merman with a trident

     I have mentioned before about my Secret Tree House in my head that I visit when I wish to escape the world and create something new.  I had promised to post a blog describing more in detail about that space, but this is not that post either.  The relevance of mentioning the tree house is that I can my visitation time there Hermit Time.  I turn my phone off, I talk to no one, I put on a favorite movie or audio book and loose myself for several hours.  I'm often found in my pajamas, but my mind is elsewhere.  SO one day during Hermit Time, I decided I would pull out the Idea Journal and begin work on a new project from it.  I saw my notes for my crazy 40 FatMen show-thing and decided I might as well start on one since there were so many to do. 

      I was a  little afraid at first because I wasn't quite sure how I was going to achieve creating a similar yet different FatMan incarnation without it looking like a completely different character.  This was quite a challenge, and a challenge I wasn't sure how to wrap my head around. This Hermit Time Day, however, I decided to just Go For It and see what comes of the effort.  I began by choosing an incarnation. I chose the Sailor.

      When I originally brainstormed and wrote down Sailor, I was thinking of an old fashion 1940s US Navy Man.  I always loved the look of the uniform and decided this would be a great opportunity to do something with that random interest in the aesthetics of that uniform.
For those who are unfamiliar with this particular period uniform, just think of the Cracker Jack Man.  He is an illustration of a Navy Man wearing the same type of uniform I am describing.  I also pulled out my original sketch of the FatMan from that day at the Flea Market as well as the other drawings used for the current version of him with his head in the clouds.

     I began analyzing my caricature and what elements made him him and which ones I could manipulate without changing him beyond recognition.  His very prominent nose, his visage in complete profile, his closed eyes, the wave-like shape of the line that creates his eyelashes, the hook end of his nostril, his petite yet masculine chin, his elongated (almost elf-like) ear, the front curl of his hair,
his small pouting lips that suggest the hint of a mischievous yet wise Mona Lisa Smile (I nod to the greats and to many of my favorites when I can.)  among the obvious characteristic of being fat are some of the MAIN Attributes specific to the FatMan image.  I did my research like always and began sketching a version of the FatMan in his new Sailor uniform. You can see the progression.

     I then decided I needed to figure out what would go behind him.  He would of course be set in the arched window frame, just as the previous incarnation, however, the background elements behind him will be specific to the theme and to this manifested incarnation of the Muse.  The main focus would be him, but there had to be elements that alluded to what type of inspiration this Muse created, if that makes sense.  I chose various animals and elements of nautical nature based on this principle.  I took great care crafting how each element would look and what purpose it served to the piece as a whole.  As you can see below, these are the first sketches of individual elements I wanted to incorporate.  I was at first thinking about having him "float" in front of this oceanic composition I was building behind him, however, when I decided to include the Light house, I decided to place my FatSailor on the docks of the harbor.  Perhaps the port of my creativity, Port Imagination (cheesy, I admit, but I've grown fond of the name.) 

     The element I like most in this piece: 3-way tie: The Ship in a bottle, the Octopus and the Mom tattoo on his arm.
The element I like least: The seagull.

      I just don't think the seagull turned out quite as I would have liked it too.  It's original sketch had more life and vibrancy than she did in the Final Illo, I think.  It's more than likely due to the fact that when you scale things down that you originally drew large, they don't always work out quite the way you would have liked.  Also, not every element can be the star. The FatMan is the main focus of these pieces and all other elements MUST play Second fiddle. Always.  The Octopus character, though intriguing in her own right, had to be down played.  I did bring her back in another illustration I did for Illustration Friday one week.  So she got to be a star later on.  What I regret most about this piece is having to cut the Whale... I LOVED the whale and I thought she was so wonderful.  That Martha's Vineyard prep-brand whale kind of reminds me of my whale I had drew for this piece, though Vineyard Vines brand wasn't around then, at least not here.  Anyway, I cut her out to have the ship in the bottle, which I LOVE more, I guess.  I didn't want to draw just a ship in the back ground.  I wanted to incorporate an element of fantasy that might clue in the viewer that this illustration is one of a day dream.  That the FatMan in the picture is not supposed to be real but "real-ish."  No to mention, I just have this affinity for the aesthetic of a ship in a bottle.  I have always been fascinated with them.  It truly is the Hobby I always wanted, but will probably not invest myself in. Only because I would choose other hobbies before it.


     After creating my elements, I began thumbnail sketching out possible compositions for the background behind my Fat Sailor.  I think I actually ended up taking two of those possible compositional options to finish and then choosing the second as my Final.  Since I was still unsure how my Illustration would go, I played it safe in the drawing process with a great tip I picked up from one of my professors.  They had told me to draw different individual elements of an illustration on separate sheets of tracing paper then shift them around on top of each other to find a composition you are satisfied with.
I employed this principle with this piece in particular.  I drew the arched frame that would become a standard with this series. I then taped down a sheet of tracing paper over the frame and began illustrating the new version of the FatMan into the Fat Sailor.  Luckily, I nailed it on the first go, because I had spent all that previous time studying the FatMan and his defining characteristics.  However, should it had gone wrong, I could just throw away that one sheet of tracing paper and be able to just redraw what wasn't working without having to start from the beginning with ALL of it.  Same way with the background composition and elements.  They were other layers of tracing paper on top of the Fat Sailor.  The "MOM" tattoo was kind of a last minute idea that came to me. It too had it's own layer.  Once I was happy with EVERYTHING, I placed a blank piece of tracing paper over all the other layers and retraced my Final Composition to ready it for inking.

      When I inked it the first time, Some of the smaller elements didn't work out so well, So I individually inked them separately then composited them into the other inked drawing, digitally.  After I had a Final Inked Illustration, I was ready for color.  I played with the color composition until I was happy with it then began the long arduous road of Digitally Painting behind my drawing.

     I kind of began keeping an impromptu SketchBlog on my Facebook for my friends and family to get "dailies" on the progress of the New FatMan piece.  I have added those progress shots below.  When I finished, I was so very pleased with the new incarnation of my Muse that I made him into one of my promo postcards that year to kind of celebrate the accomplishment of getting over that initial fear hurtle of setting this decade long project into motion.
 In the past 3 years, I have completed several other FatMen illustrations in the series and, as I mentioned previously, am currently finishing up a new one.  I'm not exactly "On Schedule" but am enjoying the journey and longevity of working on a large series over the course of my 30s.  The concept appeals to me and gives me an opportunity to visually explore the spaces where my ideas may come from. 

     I hope you enjoy the illustration and keep watch out for the new piece I'll be sharing with you all very soon.

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

Thursday, October 17, 2013

IF FRIDAY! The Hauntingly Headless Gentleman

     Yay! For Illustration Friday, or for Friday in general, really.   This week's topic is MOUSTACHE.  I wanted to participate, but I didn't really want to just draw something that doesn't have a mustache with a moustache, not anything that looks silly with a mustache... I'll be honest, I was really in the mood to do something with Halloween.  I wasn't really sure what the topic for the rest of this month would be so I decided I would go Halloween a little early.

     One of the most iconic specters from the Halloweens of my childhood was the Headless Horseman.  I wasn't allowed to go trick or treating as a child, but during the month of October, my parents did allow us kids to watch the Halloween specials of, then, popular animated TV shows.  I also can remember quite fondly of listening to a an audio recording on tape of a really fun ghost tale.  My older sister used to receive them in the mail as part of her therapy for her cerebral palsy.  Since she wasn't able to read for herself, we would either read for her or listen to one of these tapes.  October was a fun month, because they would send classic literary ghost stories, one of which was, of course, the Legend of Sleep Hallow.

     I grew up on Disney's classic animated version of the tale. It's really one of my personal favorites and I do watch it every October, even at my age.  The true definition of a Classic, transcending time, age, nationality and gender.  I think everyone has a soft spot for the Headless horseman.  I'm even very fond of Tim Burton's homage to the Classic tale.  I love his "nod" to Disney's version that he includes in his own version of the tale.
       Though, instead of a Headless Horseman with a MOUSTACHE, which would, of course, be fun and silly, I wanted to do something else. A modified version of the Headless Horseman.  If I was going to be silly with the icon, I should really BE SILLY with him.  I thought how funny it might be IF the Headless Horseman was really a horseman, but a distinguished and refined English Gentleman.  

Instead of taking off their heads, he's take off their coats and have guest over for tea and biscuits.  I based his dress off Victorian period clothing, even though the book was published just shy of the beginning of the Victorian Times in England.  I just took a bit of liberty with that. 

     In any case, I hope you enjoy the illustration and perhaps imagine a fun Halloween adventure of your own with the Headless Gentleman.  No WIPs this week. was rushed to finish since they toll the deadline for IF Fridays at Midnight now :0)
As always enjoy the rest of your Friday and...

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