Sketchbook Project 2013

An exciting package came in the mail today! A blank sketchbook so I can participate in the Sketchbook Project 2013. I've been wanting to do this for a couple of years and I dared my cousin (and possibly my roommate) to participate with me. The sketchbook is not very big but that is probably for the best. Enough to fill up random moments, but not too much to distract me from larger projects (of which i'm working on 3 right now!) 

I'm not completely sure how I want to fill this sketchbook. There will be hand lettering, because I can't NOT do that these days. Most likely there will be one or two cute characters....but I shouldn't use this for brainstorming active projects I'm working on. Maybe I will use this as a good excuse to get back to something I haven't done in a while: urban sketching. Some of my favorite sketches I remember are random portions of urban scenery: a light post and signage, an archway and sign for a restaurant, etc. I'm not doing much of that right now, but I miss it.

No matter what I do, this will give me a good reason to blog more frequently in the coming months. It's been nearly a month, with nary a word from me. I must fix that.

Fairy Being

I love having neices and nephews because they are a great source of inspiration! My recent inspiration is a bit of 5-year-old childhood wisdom. You can't beat that!

I hand lettered everything in one go:

But then my designer's instincts got the better of me, since I felt a couple of things were off. After tweaking it and adding some color, I liked the flow and emphasis of the rework much better:

I want to make this into a printed poster, and I'm seriously considering letterpress printing, because it's something I've always wanted to do. I need to find a local letterpress shop and find out if it is a realistic investment for me. Anyone interested in posters? If so, what one/two colors would you like to see the poster printed in?

Creating my Travel Topanga map

It was an interesting journey to get to the finished product for the map. Things did not always go as expected, but I adapted and I think that the end project was better because of it.

Step 1: Idea

When I read about the map contest through the regular email updates from Nate and Salli of They Draw and Cook/They Draw and Travel, I thought that this sounded like fun. Plus, while I've submitted recipes to their sites, I still had not done a map. I started with a couple of lists that I thought I would like to work on: cool locations for artists to visit, driving the back roads of LA and Ventura counties, some of my favorite places on Topanga Blvd.

The hubby and I thought that I would have the easiest time and the most fun with the Topanga one, since that is a road we know well and travel frequently. Plus, so many of the locations I liked had a ton of personality all their own.

Step 2: Initial concept and research

What I had in mind was a COMPLETELY different look then the end product. I initially wanted to do watercolor renderings of each of the locations and then combine them in some way with an inked aerial map that I had hand drawn using existing knowledge of the boulevard and looking at (not tracing) Google Maps to confirm cross streets and provide a smidgen of accuracy to the look of the main street and freeway locations.

Later that same day, I went out and painted my first location:

A couple of days later, I painted a second location:

I soon realized that I didn't have enough daylight after work and commuting to get all the paintings done on site. I tried photographing the locations on the weekend so I could paint at home, but that didn't pan out either. I needed an alternate plan.

Step 3: Plan B

My fallback plan was based on a birthday invite I worked on a few weeks earlier, where I hand created all the typography, then colored it digitally.

I pulled out a clean piece of Bristol board and cut it size for the map dimensions needed for a project. Then I used a red pencil to rough out a title and lay in a map at the bottom of the page. Over the course of the next week the map grew as I doodled out typographic signs for the locations I had marked on the map.

Some of the signs pull from elements of the existing logos and signage, others pull in elements of the buildings, and a few just pull in the overall feel I got from the place and are more loosely interpreted.

Step 4: Inking

I started inking in order of heirarchy, starting with the title and map. All the inking was done in a single color, with a Faber Castell Pitt artist pen in Dark Sepia. I used the S (superfine) thickness, except in areas where there are very thickly laid colors, such as the title.

Step 5: Digital

I scanned the inked drawing in two parts, merged them in Photoshop, then brought the entire map into Illustrator. I used three different live traces of the drawing, so I could pick and choose the best option for each element, particularly the very small lettering for the street names. After tweaking a few spacing, sizing, and kerning issues, I colored each element (title, map, shop name) in illustrator using a pre-existing color palette I had, but brought them all into the master Photoshop file separately in order to ensure that I could edit things on the fly if I changed things later (which I did.)

Behind all the illustrated elements, I added individual layers for the solid background color, the strokes of white, and all the secondary colors that appear in the piece, such as the purple frosting on the donut for Blinkie's. Shamefully, all of these were laid in with a very archaic device: the mouse! Yes, a mouse. And yes, the master file has LOTS of layers.

But I'm not done yet...

Step 6: Secret Photoshop MAGIC (...or how I got the cool colors in the title)

I decided to pull the whole piece together with an element of texture, which I always like. I originally was going to use a royalty free stock image to create the texture, but then I didn't want to have to worry about licensing issues since I was submitting this to a contest. So an hour before the entry is due I'm frantically scrambling to find a particular photograph, taken from the hills of Topanga, on a particular day, sometime in the last 5 or so years. Needless to say, no luck.

Then a friend saved the day when she saw one of my paper scraps where i test my watercolors when painting a project. After scanning, I duplicated, rotated, flipped, and cloned until that scrap filled the entire piece.

I applied this texture and a photo of the woods from one of our local hikes to the Photoshop file, tweaking layer styles (overlay, screen, lighten) and opacity for both of the texture elements until I was happy with the result. The darker and lighter brush strokes on the page gave the solid colors in the title added life and character that wasn't present in the original texture I had planned to use.



Illustration Friday: Stay (Prehistoric Surprise)

This little guy has gone to stay in friend's nursery. Their theme is, unsurprisingly, dinosaurs. He was supposed to be smiling at whoever was in the cave, but he ended up looking more surprised than happy. Our friends were very happy to receive him as a baby shower present.

This may be a loose interpretation of this week's theme, but it is a rare occurrence for me to post finished, full-colored art.

I originally planned to crop this much tighter, but when I was at the frame store, I ended up liking the look of the panoramic matte rather than the standard 8.5x11. Luckily, I gave myself plenty of bleed area to try out different framing options.

I feel I've sufficiently mastered the dark-medium-light variant of basic composition. Next composition must be different, so I can study all 6 basic variations of foreground-middle ground-background lighting arrangements.

Baby bug illustrations

With my eldest sister's first child on the way, I got a bit carried away creating original artwork to decorate the nursery. She was very obliging to pick a theme at which I excel: cute insects. I couldn't be happy with just one insect. I created 5! She was very excited to receive them, and they are already framed and hanging on her wall.

I think my favorite is the bee, but I really like them all.

Two of them are also doing double-duty as her baby shower invitations and thank-you cards.

In Progress

I have a couple of projects in progress at the moment. They are all in various stages from unstarted, to barely started, to under way, to nearly complete. And a new semester is about to start, which usually ramps up my drawing/posting activity on my blog.

  • I have lots of sketches of herbs and ingredients I need to start working on for my cousin's cookbook.
  • My coworker's daughter is very fond of my bug drawings/sketches and would love one to call her own. She reminds me of myself when I was young.
  • There are babies about to be born everywhere, and if I'm enthusiastic enough, I have up to 5 original art pieces I could create for friends and family. The two that are the most important: a close friend is expecting their first child and my eldest sister is expecting HER first child. Woohoo!
  • various and sundry other spur-of-the-moment stuff, including practicing more digital paintings with some of my old sketches. I've been wanting to create finished pieces on some of them for a while, and this will give me some practice before I actually take a digital painting class.

Avatar! (not the blue kind)

I am finally finished with a project I promised my husband many months ago. A new avatar for his online presence. The direction he gave me: a viking ninja robot. The robot got lost somewhere along the way, but I mostly got the viking ninja, in stereotyped fashion. He was pretty fun to work on, although the drawing got put on pause many times for other projects.

Like many of my pieces, I overworked the rendering and am still not completely satisfied with it, although there are parts I really love, like the folds at the waist and the belt. The rest is kind of stiff, although I felt I learned a bit more about skin tones in the process.

Hopefully the gesture drawing class will help me loosen up on my process/rendering.

Illustration Friday: Deja Vu

deja vu!

Yes, your eyes do not mislead you; there are two of him. This project is over four years in the making! We went to Japan with our friends in August 2006 and while we were there I collected all my ticket stubs, receipts, pamphlets...everything! They've been sitting in a paper bag for 4 years, being sporadically relocated throughout the house. Every time I saw them, I kept thinking, "I should do something with these..."

I knew when I saw this week's IF topic that the time had come, so I bought a canvas 2-pack and pulled out my matte medium and started tearing and pasting and sketching. I had no clue if this would work, or if my colored pencils would stay on top of the matte medium, but I had hope because my friend and great illustrator, Siri Weber Feeney, works with colored pencils on top of gesso. A number of hours later, I am at a point sufficient to post, although I am not finished yet. I ran out of matte medium just short of finishing the second collage, although there was enough done in the area I was planning on drawing over. I plan to add some loose sketches/doodles across remaining portions of the canvas, and maybe add a bit more color. I just wanted to get this posted with lots of time for feedback before a new IF topic was posted.

The two guys are not identical: the legs on the original sketch looked off, so I shifted them when I transfered the sketch the first time. It still looked off, so I ended up going back to the original placement for the second drawing. I guess some times, it all depends on the angle you are looking at it.

As far as the inspiration for the drawing? Simple: we saw him in Japan! It was one of my favorite photos that we took in Japan. I would like to say that I took it, but we had 2 cameras and 4 people, so I don't know for sure. I love the juxtaposition of the modern and traditional. If anyone happens to know this random guy photographed, please tell him a couple of Americans think he's really cool!

Holiday Stamp

In between work, art classes, holiday shopping, and testing for my 2nd degree red belt in Tae Kwondo, I've had little free time. What time I've had, has been occupied with a new type of art project for me: carving (of a sorts)!

We decided to personalize our holiday gifts this year with a hand made stamp. We wrapped all our gifts in stamped butcher-block paper and even made a few cards as well. I originally wanted to create an image-based illustration, but ran out of time and settled for typography that reads Happy Holidays both right-side up, and upside-down.

Christmas project

I'm currently working on a new art project unlike anything I've been working on in the past couple of years. It's for all our Christmas gifts, but I don't want to say what it is just yet because I know some of the recipients read this blog.

I will give one major hint. To help speed this project up, I had to buy a new toy: a Dremmel! Woohoo! I was very excited about this, since I've been wanting one for a while. If I had a Dremmel in October, I probably would have carved a pumpkin based on my Proverb sketch. Maybe I will next year.

My husband was vastly amused by the stereotypical gender role reversal: the female member of the family was more excited about the purchase of power tools than the male member.

Invisible work

I've been working hard on what I hope will be my first children's book. As such, I don't feel it is appropriate to show online until I get this published (hopefully!). Nor will I be mentioning anything about the story. What I do want to talk about is my approach and initial thoughts on the project.

First, this project is new and shiny, thus it is in the 'fun' stage. I have a lot of enthusiasm about the project currently and I hope to maintain a degree of enthusiasm through the end of the project. I think it helps that this project is MY project for the first time, and it is exactly what I want it to be.

The storyline I'm currently working on is one of a few concepts that have always been tagging along in the back of my mind throughout school and the past couple of years. I have sketches spattered throughout many of my sketchbooks that explore ideas and possible directions, some of them more concrete then others. I am happy to say that I feel my drawing skills have improved since those initial sketches because even though I slow down and slack off, I've never stopped.

One of the key approaches I'm taking in this book is to tackle my greatest fears and weakest points in drawing. The images will be full of hands and feet, complex expressions, and--the greatest horror of them all--perspective! I want this project to be a challenge that makes me push my skills as much as I can so I can say that the result of my first book was to make me a better artist. So far I've filled up 6 pages with preliminary concept sketches, and I have multiple folders of image references ready for my use. The more I draw, the more I'm eager to come back the next evening and draw instead of watching tv or reading books. I want to see how my own story unfolds.

There is only one negative to note currently with my project: I've gone to bed with so many ideas in my head that I've lost sleep. I even woke up in the middle of the night the other day and ended up drawing for an hour.

The paucity of posts

There is a reason for the shortage of posting artwork on my part. While I was in Florida visiting family, my grandfather gave me a draft of his memoirs to read. I read all 42 single-spaced pages in one sitting. I was so fascinated by his story and seeing him both excited and embarrassed by showing someone else his work. We talked a bit about the memoirs, and one of the things I mentioned was that I would be both happy and eager to design a book cover for his work. That is, after all, what I do for a living.

In the course of things, I also agreed to edit his memoirs, and so I have been hard at work on his project. It is VERY slow going, and it makes me have so much more respect for all the editors that I work with. They look at words every day, day after day. I couldn't do it; it's tiring. I'm going to start working on the first cover comps soon, so hopefully I'll post some of my graphic design work for once.

As much as I want to further my own art skills, I am very passionate about giving my surviving grandparents another reason to keep excited and interested in life. Luckily for them, they have a very large family that gives them many reasons.