Thursday, July 20, 2017

Birthdays and Art Go Together Like Cake and Ice Cream on Illustration Friday

     Yay! It's Friday, Illustration Friday, and it is also my Birthday Today.

So, Happy Birthday to me. 

Before I talk about this weeks topic, ICE CREAM, a real quick aside:

Illustration by Mary GrandPre

     As a funny coincidence, I just finished listening to a section of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows where Harry is celebrating his birthday.  I sometimes like to listen to the HP audio books as I work on projects. This project was an HP listening party project. On a coincidental note, Harry Potter also shares a Birthday in July with me. I've always enjoyed that detail when it is mentioned in the books as Harry Potter and I both turn 37 this month. Yes, Harry Potter would be 37 this year, if he were a real person (this fact is certainly worth a Google... I recommend it. Though most HP fans are already aware of this fact.)  Also, it is rather humorous that Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who played Harry in the films (for those who didn't know that) also has a birthday in July. So it's kind of funny that I would be listening to Harry blow out his candles in the book as I illustrate birthday candles for a project that will be completed and posted on my birthday... Funny.

     Anyway, As some of you may have known, I have been rather ill for around 2 months now. For those of you that do not, I will give you the short-short version.

     3 week severe sinus infection --> 2 weeks severe sinus inflammation that caused dizziness and migraines --> staph infection from a spider bite --> massive tummy problems from the side-effects of 2 months being antibiotics... Fun, huh?

     So, needless to say, I have had little time to devote to anything but getting better. So I was ecstatic to be working on a new art project this week... To be honest the feel of pencil on paper was a welcoming feeling I have been both missing and craving. The absence of Art in my Life was severely felt along with nausea.

     I originally had a more elaborate piece in mind for the Ice Cream Topic. However, this cute little idea came to me yesterday and I just couldn't say no to it.  I thought it was an adorable idea and, to be honest, I needed something that was low impact to get back into making art again after so long.  It's always like riding a bike, but sometimes you have to do a little TLC on the bike before hopping back on it.  Working on this illustration this week was just that pleasure. It oiled up all the squeaks and now I'm ready to work on more projects in the following weeks to come. My original idea will be the first one that I work on. It involves a little more work in the collage department and I also would like to write a new short story to go along with it.  I didn't want to overwhelm or rush myself on the first day back, so to speak, so I decided to do something light fun and enjoyable... no pressure.

     And thus, I sat down last night and sketched out a birthday cake and an ice cream cone celebrating a birthday together. There isn't too much to go into about this piece.  I wanted to play with details but be loose with it and have fun.  I did have an earlier thumbnail idea where the cake was blowing out a candle but, in the end, I liked the two holding hands and dancing together.

     As Forest Gump would say,"We go together like peas and carrots."  Cake and Ice Cream have always been the tradition for most American Birthdays. I can certainly remember trying to figure out how to eat the two together before the ice cream melts away. Cake and Ice Cream bring back fond memories for most and always are a guaranteed way to put smiles on the faces of all around.

     I kinda wanted my illustration this week to be a Birthday Card for all the July Birthday peeps out there, or really a birthday card to everyone this year (Hence the 17 number candles). So you should definitely have a slice of cake this weekend to celebrate. Who doesn't love some Birthday Cake? Honestly, Birthday Cake is really my most favorite dessert ever.

     So yes, Happy Birthday to me. Happy Birthday to all my fellow Cancers and to the few Leos that hang out in July with us. Happy Birthday to you all (whenever it is) from me to you. Cheers! 

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Things Are Getting RED HOT on Flash-Back Illustration Friday!

Yay! It's Friday! Illustration Friday... well... Flash Back Illustration Friday

      This week's topic was HOT and, for some reason, my mind traveled back in time to my days in the Illustration Department at SCAD. 

      I was taking a watercolor class, which I loved, and learning alot about a medium that I was aware of, but never really used before that time.  This was also before I really had an idea about any kind of style or aesthetic that I wanted to claim as my own.  I really was just experimenting with each and every project.  I would approach each one differently, therefore yielding a collection of college work that didn't look as if it were created by the same artist, if I could really call myself that... maybe more fledgling artist.  I really didn't have firm feet on the ground, then, nor was I confident about what I had crated to that point or what I was creating then.  Regardless of whether I felt like I identified with any certain titles, I do look back on those years, fondly.  I enjoyed the work and I enjoyed learning about the medium.

      Watercolor is a medium that can be both friend and foe, both easy and difficult.  I guess it's ability to work well with others tends to ebb and flow, much like water itself does.  When I work with the medium today, I like to imagine there is some deity in the charge of deciding whether the water color will flow well onto the page or not.  I imagine her having the personality and qualities of the astrological sign, Cancer. It's a nice daydream to dream, but most of the time I think I'm just projecting my own Cancerean qualities to her so as to think she might garner me more favor because we are more alike than unalike.  In either case, sometimes she garners favor, sometimes she doesn't.  So the painting will either go well or you just might find yourself pulling out a new sheet of watercolor paper to start over with. lol.

      To be quite honest, watercolor is actually more predictable than unpredictable.  There are rules and techniques to using the medium, obviously, but also there is just somethings you need to keep in mind when working in the medium.  Things like weather/humidity, paper weight (absorbency), quality of the paint itself (is it vibrant? is it mute) etc.  You also have to be very very patient with watercolor.  You work in layers, and you have to allow each layer to dry (most of the time depending on the technique or visual effect you are wanting) and depending on the complexity of the image, you could be weeks of painting layers.  This is not really a medium for instant gratification.  There are some things out there that do allow this medium to be more ready to use and in some cases, using watercolor pencils or watercolor brush pens could create a very nice "watercolor" effect in a short amount of time.  But again, it depends on what you are wanting to do with the medium that determines your coarse of action in using it.

      For this particular project, I remember that I was just really practicing one of the techniques that we recently learned.  I no longer have my syllabus, so I couldn't quite tell you exactly what technique it was.  Its difficult to say looking at this piece and its even more difficult to try an remember exactly what it was.  I do, however, remember the reason for my choice in subject.  One of the prominent Illustration Annuals was holding one of their prestigious illustration competitions and our assignment was to illustrate an image based on the topic "RED HOT."  Even my 20 year old self knew at that time, that I was in no way far enough developed in my craft to think I'd have any sort of chance at placing in that competition. I don't recall even entering my piece (it wasn't required that we enter, just that we create something that we could enter.)  

      I also remember that I was all about creating conceptual imagery, not necessarily controversial, but conceptual and very modern.  I love modern art (even to this very day) and studying Art History after the year 1950 changed my world then. I was kinda sorta obsessed with modern art and allowing certain principles to leak over into my illustration concepts.  Aside from Artists that produced work from 1960-1990, I also adored the poster work of  Toulouse Lautrec and Edward Penfield (influenced by Lautrec). I'm still a very big Lautrec fan today.  So I decided that I would create an image that I could turn into a poster, and since I didn't really have an illustration style of my own then, I usually emulated whatever imagery I happened to be really "into" at the time.  I was like an artistic chameleon trying to figure out where I needed to be.  Visually, I really was all over the place.  It wasn't until I was literally in my last class in the the department, that I realized how much of a hodge-podge artistic mess I really was.  But that experience is a story for another time.  Lets go back to the Pepper Lady, shall we.

      I remember quite clearly that I wanted to draw a connection between food/spice, temperature and sensuality/sexuality.  To me, the idea of Red Hot anything all had fuzzy lines. There really was no barrier between how the human body might experience and process eating a spicy pepper or lying in the summer sun or sensual pleasure that comes form a lover or from one's self.  Our daily mind tells us that these things are different. In a way, yes, they are different.  However, they are also very similar, because our brain, our thoughts, our reactions and our reflexes are just electrical impulses. When it comes right down to it, Our brain sees all of these RED HOT representations as electrical impulses; "Burns" on the Brain. It's exactly like the "Blanket Truth" in I Heart Huckabees: Everything is the same, even if it is different.  Though in the film, it was discussing the existential theory that since everything is made up of matter, everything is connected because all molecules touch each other on a molecular level. So we all are touching each other in some way, even if we stand on separate sides of the globe... ANYWAY (Great Movie! But lets get back to it shall we?)

      At that time, I was really into collage work and the influence of it could be seen in most every project I did. I was really into Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg big time. I also was falling in love with the Color Field Painters that I discovered around that time.  I just loved the idea of tactility and color as a means to evoke and provoke.  I must say that those 2 elements are 2 main ingredients in my work today in both style/aesthetic and technique.  You can see this sort of fascination in my execution of the Smoke piece that I shared last Summer.  It was a physical manifestation of what I was working out in my mind, what I was learning and what I was discovering.

       It would be years before these seeds would blossom into what I eventually settled into as an artist. So I decided that I would select my imagery to represent the human experience of Hot and I would figure out a way to modify the watercolor technique we learned in class to create a "watercolor collage" work... whatever one of those looks like. lol.  I don't remember much about the technique, as I said before. I do remember that it lended itself well to my mission of creating a "collage" work out of water color.  Now since I would not be pasting layers that I create separately together then working on top of that afterwards (which was one of my methods of working at the time), I would have to plan out the image in a series of layers.  I would have to plan which layers get drawn when and where and in what color because you can't "go back" with a water color painting... only forwards.  I remember being quite laborious about planning this piece.  I did several "test Patches" to practice how I would create the effect I wanted to create. Trouble is, since I have never seen anyone attempt to create collage out of watercolor, there really was no frame of reference to help out.  

      The final image that was used in the poster is actually one of my test patches that I did before the final illustration.  The final piece did not turn out well at all. I remember not only was I very disappointed with it, my professor was also.  I remember she liked the idea of a "collage" work created in watercolor, but ultimately my attempt flopped.  We both think I went too "dark" with the color, both in selection and in heavy paint application.  The final work just didn't have the airy "breath" and life that the test patches had.  So...  I just moved on to the next project, didn't enter my painting, and locked it away along with the test patches. I never again attempted to create a collage out of watercolor after that time.  I think I was too depressed about not being able to deliver something that seemed so intriguing and interesting in my mind.  The outcome just didn't live up to the concept's potential promise at all. So I buried it, decided maybe collages weren't meant to be made with watercolor, and moved on.  

      Years later, as I was putting together my (then) new artist website, I gave RED HOT another chance.  I was putting together a gallery of selected Posters I had created up to that point. For some reason, I pulled out one of the test patches and decided to make a concept poster with it.  I thought it would be something Fun to do with it since, at the time, that group of illustrations weren't doing anything else. I always liked the way the test patch for that piece looked. I thought it had a striking visual modern appeal to it and hat it would be a great poster for a Broadway Play titled Red Hot. So I created the poster you see above.  It wasn't a very long or involved project, to be honest. Just scanning in the test patch then adding text, playing with font styles that I thought would represent this imaginary play.  One of the most fun things about the project was allowing my mind to day dream about what the play would be about.  Is it about the life and times of a group of prostitutes on one Hot Spanish Summer?  Is it about A chef that finds herself in the middle of a murder conspiracy/sex scandal that involves one of her spicy dishes, her husband and alot of poison?  Or is it a mock-umentary about a competition pepper eater who can only orgasm by eating alot of Hot Peppers?  

      What do you imagine that this play could be about?  It's a curious question that perhaps you can ponder over the rest of the day.  Feel free to share your revelations on the subject. I'd be interested to know. lol.   In any case, that is the Red Hot story behind the Red Hot poster.  I encourage you all to do something Spicy, Red and Hot this weekend... Whatever that would be... 

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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Let a Smile Be Your UMBRELLA on Illustration Friday

"Why a mime?" asked three people.

     I really didn't have a definitive answer to give any of these 3 people. So here goes... My Answer:

     Have you ever had cravings for a particular kind of food?  You know, the kind of cravings where you'd saw your arm off and lop in on the counter, if it was necessary, to procure some of whatever it is that you're craving? Well drawing is alot like that... well not exactly like that. You wouldn't saw your arm off... because you'd need it to draw with... maybe a leg... Or maybe you'd just draw an arm or a leg that was sawed off... hmmm... there's an idea.  I digress. 

     My point is that sometimes you just get a real "craving" to draw something in particular.  Something really fun that maybe you haven't drawn before and you just can't stop thinking about it until you grab a pencil or pen or whatever you draw with, some paper and just sit down and draw; draw until your arm falls off...

     Well, I exaggerate some. However, draw-cravings are real, even if no one thinks about them in that way. And I don't mean in an I just got an epiphany from my artistic Muse kinda none-sense... just a plain and simple want for drawing something in particular.  For me, this week, I ended up wanting to draw a mime.  Even though the topic was UMBRELLA, I just had it set in my mind that the next time I have pencil and paper in my hands, it would be used for the greater good of drawing Mimes, however great or good that does them. lol.

     To be honest, at first, I thought that UMBRELLA would be a great opportunity to redo a piece that was super rushed to put together. It was an IF Friday project, for "Rain" as the topic.  I was just so very disappointed in the out come of that whole illustration. I imagined more with it and it just didn't come out in any satisfactory way.  So I thought maybe this week's topic would give me a second go at re-doing that one... but honestly I really was not feeling it, so I put the pencil down almost as soon as I picked it up... you just can't force yourself to draw something that isn't going to work out... sometimes. Sometimes you have to, but that is another story to tell for another day and about another project.

     Later that same day I started to have the draw-cravings for something... You know... like when you know you CRAVE something really good, but you just have no idea what that REALLY GOOD something may be... until you just do. lol. (vague and ambiguous, I know it may seem... but I promise #TheStruggleIsReal)  So I was on a smoke break, having french fry cravings from the actual oil that perfumed the outside air when IT HIT ME. The draw-craving made itself known and I knew right at that moment, stomach growling and belly-aching over wanting french fries that it knew we couldn't have. I MUST Draw a Mime, and Mime, a Thousand Mimes.

     Once you know what you crave, as well as with food, you want it immediately and also in its most minimum and maximum form simultaneously. Logically it doesn't make any sense, sounds strange to describe it in words, but emotions are notoriously illogical so it's OK for it to feel both small and massive at the same time.  So I thought about what I wanted to do with my Mime and an UMBRELLA, since the Umbrella was really the Genesis of this whole thing. If I'm completely honest with myself, I probably picked up the mime on my subconscious radio that waves in and out of my life and mind. There probably is something to be said about the things your subconscious mind notices throughout the day that your conscious mind does not even pay the slightest bit of attention to.  There probably could have been a Mime on a TV commercial playing as I walked through the waiting room at a doctors office. OR I might just dream about silent clowns out of courtesy to anyone that might be sleeping nearby... Dreams on MUTE... now there's another neat idea for an illustration.  ANYWAY, my point is that maybe a Mime has popped up here an there around me lately but has just escaped my notice. Honestly he should just have shouted at me and we could have arrived at this illustration much sooner. That would, however, make him a clown and not a mime... Perhaps he could have punched me...


     So I started thinking of what my mime would be doing in this illustration. I then thought that this could be another creative writing project (which it still may be) but I didn't want to draw a child mime. No. I wanted to draw a full-sized one. So the idea of writing an entire short story about this character began seeming to me like not only a bad idea but the wrong one.  It seemed like the wrong way to express what this character was doing for me.  So I thought of the cool idea of writing my own nursery rhyme (which I will do soon for this) but not in the short amount of time (a week) that you have to complete an Illustration Friday challenge.  I decided that if I was going to write a nursery rhyme for a mime, then I would want it write it in a fair amount of time. ;0)

     SO I will save the Nursery rhyme for a future creative endeavor. I seriously want to go back and reread all of the nursery rhymes from my youth and take a closer look. Analyze and dissect them to see what really makes them tick... tock. The mouse ran up the clock... or was the mouse dissected... or was he exhilarated or exhausted... that's quite a run, really. (I really would love some Fries right now. God I love potatoes!)  I would want to do that before attempting to write my own as I would want to fully understand and emulate those timeless classics. The entire point of this Nursery Rhyme diatribe is that through the process of contemplating a possible nursery rhyme "plot," my mime suddenly had not only a name but also what he would be illustrated doing.  Maurice the Mime would be flying through the air, quite by accident, as it was gong to be a very blustery day.  I wanted him to be holding on to his umbrella, Maurice's now chosen method for travel, and blowing into it so as to stay afloat when the air was less full.  He would travel around the world this way.  Not really the plan he had in mind for his day when it began.

     I liked this idea for the simple reason that it was a good analogy for life. It's unexpected, you rarely end up anywhere near the place that you thought you would and you are going to have unexpected bumps, stops and detours along the way.  I loved the idea of expressing this sentiment with my little mime in the simplicity of a nursery rhyme.  So that will be on my creative agenda to complete very soon... and of course, I'll share it with you all once it is complete. I love how clever fiction can be. No matter how fantastic the story or characters seem to be, there is always that nugget of true reality hidden somewhere underneath, like a pea under fifty mattresses waiting for a princess to be bothered by it.  It may write quickly or it might be an arduous task. It's difficult to gauge and estimate from this side of the endeavor.  I will say this about it, though: The shorter or more simplified the text for poetry or prose is, the more difficult it is to get to write it.  It's like distilling, You start off with alot of stuff then you have to cook it down and cook it down and cook it down to where every word matters and is 100 percent relevant and necessary. It's challenging, but it's fun  and healthy to challenge yourself. And perhaps that, also, could be analogous to lives led.... I'm not certain. I'll have to "stew" on that one. lol.

     In terms of the process for this illustration, there isn't much to say that I haven't said previously in previous posts. My method is the same: Sketching, Drawing, inking, scanning, digitally tweaking, digipaint or digicollage... etc. This character was fun to create, though. I did have alot of fun in the sketching part of the project (the part where you get to play around with the visual decisions of something before it really begins to become concrete. Sometimes that's fun. Other times it's tedious.) This project, that part of it was fun. I enjoyed playing with the proportions of his facial features (since he is a mime... he should be somewhat exaggerated.)  I also enjoyed stretching his body out as if he were a wad of chewing gum.  Even the next day (You know... THE NEXT DAY... That morning after you've stayed up late to complete an artistic endeavor, went to bed thinking it could be the best or the worst thing you've ever done but you are too close to it to really distinguish between those two extremes, SO... you go back The Next Day to look at it again to decide after rest whether you were touched by a Divine sense of inspiration or if you exhausted yourself making garbage...) It's a scary moment. It truly is sometimes.

     So... The Next Day, I looked at it the next day and still just LOVE it. I really do.  It's fun just to make art for the simplicity of satisfying that Draw-Craving you get from time to time, if you get it.

     Just one more thing before I go: One of the 3 people that asked me why I chose a mime this week, B, mentioned something to me after I showed him the finished illustration; something that was an interesting interpretation that I hadn't intended originally with this piece. He said that he liked it, of course, but the part of it he liked the most was that the mime was blowing into the umbrella, creating his own destiny.  After, B, said that, I said,"Yes. Of course. That is exactly what I had intended." lol
But, truth be known, I had not. I wished I had. I think I am going to "borrow" that interpretation because I like that alot when paired with the illustration. It's an interpretation that truly is a "breath" of fresh air.

     Lastly, to all of you out there, if you find yourself craving something whether it's a food or a drawing or a TV show or a book or exercise or some other activity... Remember, there's good health in a little moderate indulgence from time to time. It's OK to say yes to it on the occasion. You'll live longer and happier; your destiny is what you make of it. 

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

I've Always Got Your Bag on Illustration Friday

     Yay! It's Friday, Illustration Friday, and Love is in the air... Well, actually the smell of coffee is in the air as I type this.  It's the end to a long week for myself, and many.  It's also the end of the Valentine's Holiday as it was earlier this week.  I was inspired by this week's topic, TEA, to create something that was holiday related, but also something that reflected my true thoughts on what Love really is.

     I can't help but get a little sick in my stomach over the over-commercialized elements of this holiday: Bunches of flowers, chocolate, expensive dinners, hideous over-sized stuffed animals, cards that attempt to squeeze the strongest and most powerful of human emotions into a few quaint sentences, etc.  I don't  necessarily hate these sort of things, but I can't help but see through what they really are. They are a surface, a superficial band-aide of sorts and I don't think that they can convey enough meaning to communicate the emotion they exist to represent.  It's essentially just the Halloween of Love.  I try to do something unconventional and fun. For example, this year, B and I did a Hot Glass work shop. We both made Glass Hearts out of molten hot glass.  It was a very cool experience.  We also had a nice dinner with, M, B's daughter.  So, I do participate in the frivolity of the Holiday also.  I'm not above it.  It's just not what my mind gravitates towards during this time of year.

     As Valentine's Day approaches each year, I find myself watching all of my favorite Romantic films and the one's that resonate with me the most are the films that portray Love in a realistic less superficial or surface way.
Don't get me wrong, I still watch the fluffy, romanticized, over the top stuff also.  Some of my favorites in that category include Only You, The Proposal, Moonstruck, Amelie and Who's That Girl.  These movies are nice and fun to watch, but they are ultimately unrealistic, because human relationships don't work that way, not really.  I'm glad they don't.
They over-simplify a range of emotional depth to a shallow kiddie-pool.   Years and years and years ago, these films might have portrayed something more real to me.  I used to believe that there really was maybe one or two people out there you could connect with, or maybe I was just in love with the idea of that.  Predestination and Soul Mates are very attractive concepts with a heavy gravity.  I can see why many people get pulled in by it, including myself.  However, as I get older, I realize that you could form a connection with many people; not just anybody, but there is more than just one other possible pea that could fit the same pod.  The difference is the what and the how you make of the choices you encounter.

     The films that I really connect with are the ones that follow more along the lines of what I have come to know that Love really is. I find myself thinking about that around this holiday also.  in my humble opinion, I believe that Love is just work, alot of work and effort.  It makes more sense this way.  After all, anything that is worth anything takes alot of handwork to achieve.  I think you appreciate the things your strive for more so than the things that come easy, it's just human nature.  The best example in a film that I could give is in When Harry Met Sally.  It's the most romantic film ever made, in my opinion.  The reason I say this is that the 2 protagonists are also each other's antagonist and they have a connection but it takes effort and work on their part to make it work. Even all the intermissions between the scenes of the film, you get to hear the stories of real couples and how they came together and stayed together.  It's the journey that makes the difference for them and its the core of what means something more than just the surface trivialities that are celebrated by the Valentine's Holiday.

     I know that I can personally relate to the characters in When Harry Met Sally, because I see that in my own relationship with B.  We have had our struggles and troubled times, but we also have some amazing times and it's the balance of those moments in our lives that create the "real stuff" that we call love and that gets portrayed in films and edited down to a few sentences on Valentine's Day Cards.

     So it was important for me to extend that sentiment into this week's illustration.  True love is not your soul mate, it's your running mate; the one who is going to stick by and the one you will stick by through all of it. Some one who has your bag (back) and you have theirs.  It's a choice you make and an effort you are happy to labor for.  When those old wrinkly couples, real couples, in WHMS talk about being together and going through all their ups and downs and they are sitting side by side on that couch and telling their story to the camera, it touches me more than any romanticized perpetuation of Falling in Love could ever do.  I admit that I tear up when I watch those interviews.  I can't help it. I'm truly touched.

     To sum things up this week, in the wake of the Valentine's Day festivities,  I find myself thinking more about the Finish Line than the Starting Line.  I want to be one of those two old people sitting on that couch, finishing each other's sentences, remembering details my other forgot or they remembering details that I forgot because those things happened so so long ago for the two of us.  Just two wrinkled old men, telling our story. That's what I think about on Valentine's Day, being old, very old and still sitting next to the same person that I have shared a lifetime of memories with.

     SO, however, you spent the holiday this week, take some time this weekend to love those around you,  whether it's a significant other, your family, your children or even your pets. Show them that you have their bag (back.) The Beatles say it best when they say,"All you need is love."

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