Thursday, January 23, 2014

New Year. New BEGINNING or Fresh Breaths of Air on Illustration Friday.

     Yay! It, Once Again is Illustration Friday!  Ironically this week's topic is BEGINNING and Illustration Friday is always celebrated, obviously, on a Friday which is the end of the work week.  This week I wanted to create/extend an idea/piece that I had previously posted 2 weeks ago for the topic of TIME.  It's the January piece from my calendar portfolio.

     When I was thinking up ideas for BEGINNING for this week's project, I kept keep coming back to January and illustration the New Year's Baby again.  Not just any New Year's Baby, it would be the incarnation of the New Year's Baby from the January Illustration.

     I have been, in previous SketchBlog Posts, discussing my LARGE Long Term project this year of scrapping my current portfolio for one that works: in the sense of creating a body of work with a breadth of diversity; diversity, not only in medium, but in subject matter and also of subjects.
I embarrassingly admit that I committed the ultimate in Illustration portfolio travesties.  I had created an entire portfolio of smiling white children.  I wasn't showing the great diversity of the youth in America nor even in my own circle of friends.  The issue of not illustrating the diversity of race in my portfolio, I also didn't illustrate the diversity of human emotion, let alone little people emotions.  I was so unbelievably nose hair close to working on the calender pieces and then building my website then getting everything together to introduce my art to the Illustration/Publishing world that I never really stopped for a single second to look at it again and realize I had made some truly major mistakes. 

     I, honestly, have no one else to blame for this except myself my own stubborn nature. Like I said before.... QUITE embarrassing. 

     So why do I share this embarrassing story with you all? It is to acknowledge the true reason I am scrapping this portfolio and saying goodbye to that past and embracing the future of where my Illustration is going.  And this is the reason I felt strongly this week to take that Character, the New Years Baby, the embodiment of change and new life, and re-illustrate him again in a new light... a new Beginning.  He represents, symbolically my mission this year to build something new that I can be proud and not embarrassed to put out into the world and to bury (but in a good way) that artistic past endeavor. 

     I admit, it has been a Breath of FRESH Air ever since I made this difficult decision to go back to the beginning of what I started SO Long Ago and Start Anew.  There is also irony in the sense that what I have spent a few hours this week creating, this illustration, is exactly what I have decided to say goodbye to: a Little Smiling Singular White Baby.  I have considered keeping January in the mix of the NEW Portfolio, but still haven't decided for sure if it will get booted for a stronger piece or idea.  I thought it personally poetic to keep a reminder of my mistakes close to me so that I may never forget and, hopefully, not make a mistake like it again.

     I have resolved to Start Fresh from this NEW BEGINNING and Also enjoy the rest of my Friday and look forward to the Upcoming Weekend. WOOHOO! :0)   I wish the same for you all out there in the World. Good Luck to your NEW ENDEAVORS This New Year!

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

Thursday, January 16, 2014

In SEARCH of Illustration Friday and LIFE

     YAY! It's Illustration Friday, and like many I am, also, in SEARCH of a great weekend.
This week's topic is search.  When I saw the topic posted on IF Friday's site. This image immediately popped into my head.  It, of course, lacked all of the detail I developed into it later, but for the most part it was there.  I love illustrating aquatic and marine life illustration.  By marine life, I mean anything to do with the ocean, not just the animal life that lives in it.  I love 16th century galleons, pirates, sea-monsters, real-life sea animals, beaches sunsets over the ocean and I'm quite a sucker for a nice harbor.  I know this sounds rather like a personal add in the Love Columns. ;0)


     I pictured this boy with a very mechanized but rather large and complex telescope.  Searching for something, I am not quite sure what he would be looking for with that particular type of telescope at mid day.  Perhaps he is searching for Sea Monsters or even more obviously, an Adventure of any kind.  Speaking of which...

     I saw, possibly, the best film I have seen all year last night.  I watched the Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  It is a phenomenal and visually striking and emotionally beautiful film.  I was ABSOLUTELY enchanted.  Ben Stiller directs a masterpiece, in my opinion.  He takes some liberties with the original source material, but I think his interpretation is just WONDERFUL.  I could be bias as I am an avid Ben Stiller fan.  Anyway, the reason I mention this film is that the main Character, Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), is searching for something. 
 He craves adventure yet is so afraid to step outside of the safety of this box he has built for himself.  When he is essentially forced, out of necessity, to go on an unexpected journey, he is changed forever and is never the same.  One of the things I absolutely just loved about the film is that Stiller's character works as the negative asset director for LIFE Magazine. A magazine that displays and celebrates the essence of what it is to live on this small blue planet.  It's so brilliantly crafted. I love the irony that he is a spectator of LIFE. He is in search of something in his own.  He thinks it's adventure, but that isn't  the whole truth about it.

     I know that it's slightly off topic, but I found it odd and interestingly coincidental that I should be working on an illustration of a boy on the sea in search for something and just happen to go see Walter Mitty in the same week and the subject matter happens to coincide. Saying it's providence would be a bit melodramatic, I think. So I will say, it's a funny coincidence... good words.

     On the technical side of things, I have been on a journey of my own.  I have been working almost exclusively the past few months with Black and white media, working some rusty technical skills up to a new portfolio piece I am working on. Specifically, I am wanting to do this new piece in scratch board, but haven't worked with the medium in years.  So in addition to drawing this still life I have been drawing on for a fortnight, I have decided it might be nice to get some extra practice in, by rendering the final illustration for this week in scratch board.  You may also notice the metallic nature of the final illustration. This is due to a lack of finding small and inexpensive practice scratch board. I used to buy it from my college book/art supply store, but in living in rural SW Georgia, it is a supply that is hard to come by, even when looking online. :0(
I have had to make due with this crafty engraving pages. they aren't too bad, for batting practice.  The underneath surface is a metallic coated cardboard so it makes the piece EVER SO Sparkly and Shiny.  Aside from that, I think this is a very adorable and charming image, even if the final illustration didn't turn out as charming as the sketch did.  However, since I use Illustration Friday's Challenges sometimes as an opportunity to practice, this is to be expected.  I did a small bit of touch up work in Photoshop to try and fix some of the mistakes I made.  It is what it is. ;0)

     There is not much development or WIP pix to show, I have posted what was applicable.  I hope you enjoy the illustration as well as enjoying your Friday.  I hope you all find what you are SEARCHing for this Weekend.   I will eave you with the LIFE Magazine company moto... So Inspiring:

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer,to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”

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

Friday, January 10, 2014

Mysterious thing, TIME...

     Yay! It's ILLUSTRATION FRIDAY! I am sharing an older piece today. One I did years ago.  It is called January and was the flagship in my Illustration Portfolio.

      I decided to share it for this reason.  Time is this week's topic for Illustration Friday.  I have had plenty of time to reflect on what I gleaned from my time at the SCBWI conferences last year.  I was told by one of the guest Illustrator Speakers that this piece was the strongest in my portfolio of Not-So-Cute Children.  I decided last year to endeavor to create a brand new portfolio from scratch.  I hate that the Calendar Concept didn't really work out for promoting my work.  I'll be honest. It didn't have that much of a warm reception when I put it out in the professional world.

     Looking back, I can see where I could have changed things about it to make it better, but I have decided it is just best to bury those ashes and rebuild something new, current and relevant to the work I am making now.  That old portfolio is a bit out dated and needed help... SO many issues by the time it got put into the world, but oh well.  I'm moving on, like from the end of a bad relationship.

     I thought it was appropriate for it to be my submission to IF Friday's Time challenge this week for that very reason.  It is my illustrative past, it was apparently the best piece of the group and after much deliberation/kicking& screaming  I am starting over on a new portfolio with more diversity, more variety in medium and a good balance of black and white and color pieces...  which is what I should have had to begin with.  I just wish that way back in college, someone would have stopped me from making those mistakes and set me on this path to begin with.  I had originally planned to work on a body of work I was planning on showing this year, but have put that on hold to rebirth a new portfolio for self-promotion.

     I thought alot about a line of dialogue from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Dumbledore remarks," Mysterious thing, TIME. Powerful, and when meddled with, dangerous." reflectively.  This Dec13-Jan14 I have certainly been reflecting alot about my artistic direction and future.  Considering where I was as an artist back in 2005, when this portfolio was born, so to speak, I am in a much different place with what I am doing as an artist.  I am working on a sort of eulogy to the old portfolio.  Though I respect it as part of my artistic history and my journey to the present, I can see the merit in letting this body of work go and work on some new and fresh pieces that I think actually represent who I am as an artist, an illustrator and human.  When you reflect on the past, whether it is the past year or the past decade, TIME seems to fold in over itself.  My memory of my first day of college sits right beside with my memory of leaving College when you look back, if memory is a movie house where all your thoughts and dreams are projected onto a silver screen. A rather strange analogy, I know, but I think it makes sense in the context that any memory, no matter when it chronologically happened can seem to have happened anywhere on the timeline when you reflect back. It's only your own mind telling you exactly when it fell in the History of You.  I think what Dumbledore meant, in a way, is that TIME (in your mind) can be dangerously unraveled when meddled with. The time travel scenario in the story I think really only served as an highly entertaining analogy.

     For these reasons, I wanted to share January, again. Anyone who knows me personally has seen these calendar works multiple times.  Ironically they don't stand the test of time.  I am retiring them so soon after introducing them into the publishing world as promotional work.  I know my professors, so long ago, intended the idea of a calendar was a great way to build a new portfolio.  On paper, I can say that I agree that the idea/concept would work. I, however, think was working on the wrong sheets of paper.  I, unfortunately, admit that these works have ultimately failed me in their intended purpose.  I don't think they represented me very well.  I am working on changing that. 

     Part of moving forward is burying the past, in context, so you can grow.  From the ashes is born a new vision, Like Fawkes (Dumbledores lovely pet phoenix) though without all the fire.  These drawings will get buried in a trunk in my studio closet or perhaps a large folder, not to see the light of day again, I'm certain. 

     Speaking of burying, I actually DUG and DUG and DUG out all the development work for this particular illustration.  In the development process, this illustration made many different transformations.  I created SEVERAL thumbnail concepts for this piece. 

     As many of you know, the concept of this calendar/portfolio was to promote future vocations to young children.  I liked the idea that it would be both entertaining, charming yet educational and informative.  January was originally supposed to be a Weather Man or Weather Woman.  The gender of the character was eventually decided to be male because I had already many female characters set in other planned pieces for the body of work this illustration is from.  The other vocation planned for this work was that of a Clockmaker.  Even though this vocation is all but non-existent in this day and age, there are still a few out there.  Obviously, I chose the later of the two vocations because I didn't want every vocation to be SO MAINSTREAM.  I wanted to show that there are special trades and obscure jobs one could make a living at, if they showed the initiative, drive, interest and willingness to choose a more difficult career path.  one of the compositions that were planned for this one was really more strong than any of the others for this illustration... SO I naturally gravitated towards it.  In a way you can kind of see the evolution of the idea of the Boy (Father Time/New Years Baby) started out from a separate entity from the clock to being the clock birdie, to us being inside the clock with him awaiting the stroke that begins the new year with the light of the future wrapping around him.

     There wasn't much sketching or preparing for this work.  I kind of already outlined what I had in my minds eye in the thumbnail.  I just blew up the thumbnail and sketched out what I imagined.  The final sketch I inked was actually the first sketch made for this illustration. 

     This illustration was drawn in the Spring of 2005, my Senior year in the Illustration Department at SCAD and keep in mind it was created and developed along side 10 others (March was thumbed out and planed but never made it to fruition until years later.) 
The original color compositional sketch just didn't seem to gel with me.  The colors I chose were just not working together.  I put off working on it and worked on the others.  Eventually, after "running around the world" working on the other illustrations in this collection, I came back to rework the color on it.
 I decided that it was just too "warm" and that is what was the problem with it.  I changed my color scheme to include only cool purples, blues and cool greys (silver) considering I was illustrating metal workings inside a clock.  The second color compositional sketch worked Much Better.

     Though it will be a year and a half to two years before the final illustration is painted, digitally.  I will go into the reasons why in my eulogy to the calendar portfolio later this month (I dug out all the development work for these pieces so am planning something nice for them here on the Blog.)

     The final illustration is pretty close to the color comp here.  This work, in particular, was painted in one "all-nighter" and was the quickest piece to be completed out of all 12; another irony of time here. 

     This pretty much concludes my revised SketchBlog post.  Sorry I had to do it this way. IF Friday waits for No illustrator.  I barely got posted before they changed topic for the week.  Plus it is quite cumbersome to unearth sketches and development work for old illustrations as they could be ANYWHERE in my studio.  Try as I might, I am not always so organized with how I store drawings/sketches.  Thanks for reading folks. Stay tuned for more about the calendar very soon.

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

Design is ELEMENTARY, My Dear Watson OR Please Stop Talking To Me, I'm Busy Reading.

     Seasons Greetings One and All.  I trust at this point everyone is more or less ready for the Holidays.  I myself sit here drinking some fresh homemade egg-nog and feel quite relaxed. I still have a few last minute gifts to get and send; e-giftcards mostly, but mostly I am done Christmas Shopping. Now, having everything wrapped and ready is definitely another story altogether, and here I sit Blogging away, lol.

     I have been wanting to take the time to share some about a logo I design this past year.  It has been unveiled and I have also obtained permission to share it with you here on the SketchBlog.  I have been meaning to post this for weeks, but the Holidays have a tendency to fill your dance card.  In any case, I am glad to share it with you now.  You may think of it as a little Christmas Gift, though I mean that more so jokingly.  I am not at all so egotistically to mean that last sincerely ;0)

     This past year I was hired to design a logo for the 221B Con, a fan conference for all things Sherlock Holmes.  You don't have to be a member to attend the Con, but if you join there are obvious perks to being a Con Member when you attend.  For more information about the 221B Con please visit their website  There are different levels of membership, and the Diogenes Club is the highest and most premium membership of all of them.  I was hired to create the image to represent and promote this group.

     Like any project, I begin at the very beginning, research! research! research!  In the original Sir Aurthur Conan Doyle novels, the Diogenes Club is mentioned in several of the Holmes stories, the most notable being The Greek Interpreter.  It is the name of a Gentleman's Club that Sherlock Holmes and his brother, Mycroft, were known to patron.  A Gentleman's Club in Victorian England could be compared to the modern day Country Club or organizations like The Shriners or Moose Lodge. 
A place where learned civilized Englishmen could go and socialize.  The Diogenes Club, however, was different in this aspect because, in the novels, the men do not socialize with each other. The Club is usually as quiet as a library and quite as anti-social as a Gentleman's club could get. It was also alluded that secret meetings of a mysterious nature might be held in the back rooms of this Club and the it worked as a front for this purpose.  For more on the literary source, you should read the Sherlock Holmes novels simply because they are SO Absolutely Wonderful. ;0)

     Diogenes was also the name of a man who lived 412-323 B.C., more often referred to as Diogenes the Cynic.  He was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy.  I'm certain this grouchy old codger had some influence on Doyle when creating the idea of the Gentleman's Club in the Sherlock Holmes novels.  Perhaps it was The Cynic's personality that he wished to associate this particular Gentleman's Club with.  Since it has so little mention in the literary source, I am certain that this is the reason.  To allude to the types of gentlemen that might be members of such a club.  I had to understand the historical and literary sources before I could really come up with some solid concepts for this logo.

    Just for fun, I have the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes films playing in the background.  I absolutely love Robert Downey, Jr.'s portrayal of the Holmes character. It is certainly my favorite Holmes. Though, on the same token, I do feel that I have to mention that Cumberbatch's Holmes is the very best. 

     Anyway, I came up with several concepts for this logo.  Among my favorite Ideas were using Diogenes the Cynic's Dog as the symbol and icon of the club.  He was to be dressed as a Victorian English Gentleman and holding a book under his arm.  Another was to transform a small stack of books into English gentlemen and have each Man Book represent a different literary genre.  I also liked the idea of transforming two side-sitting top hats into the pages of an open book, which can eloquently be done graphically.  I admit this latter, I have put on my list to do in my own time as I truly LOVE the idea and concept behind this graphic.
 Also, I had come up with an idea of cross walking canes with a top hat in front of them.  I was going to make this look like an old wooden sign that would hang form various businesses in London, England during the time that the novels were set in. None of these ideas were the winner.  In all fairness, my clients selected a really nice and clean concept to represent the Con group.  In the end, I definitely think they chose the best concept option for this project.

     As you can see from the finished logo, that the image depicts an English Gentleman in profile view holding his hand over his mouth which was later changed to a gesture of touching his chin.  He also has a book tucked under his arm.  I will go through step by step, the process and meaning behind the visual decisions made for this project.

      With the concept chosen, I began researching my visual aid and reference for the project.  I knew early on that the Dress and attire of an English Gentleman would be a requirement for all of my concept options, so I already had plenty of visual aid for that. 
My clients were inspired by the Graphic version of the FatMan that I had completed earlier that same year.  They said they loved the look of that image and wanted me to create something similar but conceptually appropriate for them.  I began to draw caricatures of English Gentlemen using different images of random people and celebrities to base my drawings off of.  I created a geometric icon for this caricature. I knew I wanted him to be incomplete profile and I wanted the composition to be based on 3 shapes: the triangle, the circle and the zig-zag shape of a lightening bolt.  I lightening shape was really more to add visual interest to the design.  It brought a sense of visual movement to the logo.
 The circle was used to frame the graphic.  I chose the shape of the monocle to reinforce the idea that this was a gentleman's club.  It was a symbol to represent education level.  I changed the gesture of the man holding his mouth to just touching his chin as it was really awkward, visually, when it was put into practice. This change still evoked keeping the mouth shut.  It represented the quiet nature of the Club the logo was referencing, literately. In the end there were two sketches. One was more like a general purpose English Gentleman and the other was more to represent Mycroft specifically.  In the end, the more Triangular General Purpose Man worked best between the two. The client also, obviously, agreed, as that was the final choice.

     I began to build the graphic in my vector program. You can see below the development and progress of the graphic in these screen shots. 


     After the final graphic was completed, I began to put together options for the typography.  In my research, I gathered many type options from advertisements to packaging examples. 
Victorian type leaned more towards handmade/hand-done typography which seemed fancy yet simple in form.  Whereas, advertising design used very decorative and ornate design elements in combination with the hand type. 
I wanted to employ this same form to the logo, but without making it too busy or difficult to shrink and still be legible.  I had a few different options as you can see below.

     Moving on from type to color, the icon looked fine and dandy in black and white, but how could we work color into it.  Again I turned to the most wonderful resource book on color schemes and use through different time periods in history.  I can not recommend this book enough to every artist who works in a commercial art industry. It is such a great tool for helping choose period appropriate and accurate color for design and illustration.  Again, I went through several developments in color choice for this logo.

In the end, the client and I worked collaboratively on the final color choice for the graphic.

      After those decisions were made, the graphic complete, the rest is pretty much a cake walk.  It really was just a matter of putting all the separately combed over and scrutinized elements together to make the whole.  There was still just a bit more tweaking after the first time everything was all in one piece but ultimately it didn't change much because all those decisions were previously made in small steps.  Not be entirely Romantic in saying this, but it was kind of like how Holmes would solve his mysteries.  He would break down everything into the smallest detail, scrutinize and analyze it all separately and then piece it all back together into his final solution/conclusion.  I liked thinking in some way that this connected me to the characters.  I think I spent maybe a bit over 1 month working on this project with my clients and over the course of that time, much of it was spent with these beloved literary characters.  I dove into that world again head first and immersed myself into it.  I do this often with any subject matter related to a current project, as I believe that this strategy brings on the most honest and brilliant visual results and ideas.

     I was no stranger to the Doyle stories, as I had read them in my youth as well as listened to many of them over again on audio book (which I still have) when I worked on a character development project in college.
The concept and character treatment were to be used for a television concept/pitch for a studio to produce.  Many would not know that I earned a degree in Animation as well as Illustration.  In fact, Animation was my first true love and the initial reason for choosing my Alma Matter.  It was only later that I realized that Illustration and Graphic Design were a better fit for me artistically and personally.

Though, to be honest with myself (and all of you), it would be unfair not to mention that I daydream of going back into that industry, but as a character design or layout artist,  maybe even story board and story development.  Unfortunately, at the time, there was a fork in my path and I had to choose which to pursue and I chose illustration.  I may, in future, produce an independent animated short film; something small, something I could manage on my own.  It is an itch that begs scratching.   In any case, I won't go too much into the concept behind that pitch other than it involved time travel and evoked a similar feel as the Scooby Doo mystery cartoons. :0)

Back to the subject at hand...

     I always like to provide a type only option for my clients when I develop a logo, unless they specifically object or request I not do so. 
I feel that they coexist with each other, representing the same branding, but come in different forms and can function in a different manner.  Also, in today's world of business, you need an even smaller icon for use on Social Media, which is becoming a large part in the way that clients interact with their patron businesses.  It's actually a very cool and groovy thing. 
Something come true out of a Science Fiction novel.  So below you will see those other sister/brother designs that complete the branding system for the Diogenes Club.

     In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, I hope you have enjoyed some insight into the project and some of the reasons for the visual choices that were made.  In the meantime, check out the webpage for the 221B Con and register for the upcoming Con.  Who wouldn't cherish a weekend sharing your love for one of literature's greats and possibly the greatest and most clever detective of all time, even though he is fictional.  If you go, perhaps I will see you there, as I will be attending the Con this next year. 


     Real Quick, Thanks SO Much to my wonderful clients and friends Crystal Noll and Heather Holloway and the rest of the 221B Con for the WONDERFUL Christmas Gift of a lapel pin with this logo I designed on it. I LOVE it and have been wearing it ever since. :0)

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