I came across an art show “call for entry” about an upcoming show looking for a range of commentary about guns. There are a lot of potential themes here: power, protection, sport, identity. The one that stuck with me was the use of a gun to amplify expression – specifically to sharpen and escalate an emotion.
The first part is in charcoal: a pointed finger, a direct expression that can still contain a great deal of context and shades of gray. By a subtle change of gesture – invoking a pointed gun – it both heightens the tension and throws a conflict into a stark contrast where fewer options exist. The use of ink also casts it in the light of something that has frozen in its state, a rendering that might be in a newspaper or book.
I came up with the gestures first and took a few reference photos. To get the best contrast, I moved around until I got the light source to the front and top of the pointed finger. I had the idea that the “gun” gesture hand should be more stark in appearance than the other. To figure out how this would look, I made a Photoshop mockup. While doing this I decided to try out different mat colors, and it occurred to me that I could make a custom mat shape too. I started with the standard mat rectangle and added angled edges to show the progression of the escalation.
Creating the charcoal hand was pretty straightforward. Charcoal is (relatively) forgiving: you can build up the shadows, and then pull back in the highlights and lighten areas with an eraser afterward. Ink: not so much. My first attempt was a bit messy, and I realized my reference photo for the gun gesture was a little bigger than the other. I decided to use the first reference photo for all of the hand except the thumb. This helped unify the two tremendously. I also changed my approach to the ink and used a brush pen so I could get more line variety. It took a lot of concentration to work this way, but more care in the linework paid off. Of course…when I cut the mat I realized I’d drawn the ink hand too close to the edge of the paper. To fix this, I cut out the hand and mounted it on a new piece of paper. Ta da!
Here’s a new abstract work I created for the “Over the Top” show currently at Works/San Jose.
While considering the theme for the show, one of the first ideas that came to mind was radio waves and their dependence on a clear line of sight for transmission (I was a college DJ in San Luis Obispo, an area surrounded by hills). As I explored this further, I realized the electromagnetic spectrum itself was filled with potential imagery. While the majority of it affects us, much of it is not directly visible…and a lot is obscured by the atmosphere. I created the whole painting, layer by layer, with vivid colors and imagery before bringing in the “atmosphere” across everything outside of the visible spectrum (the rainbow). Some details are still visible while others gradually disappeared in the process.
I based it on this graphic from NASA and quite a bit of reading about each of the layers to get ideas for what to paint. Here are the layers of the spectrum you may be able to glean, laid out in logarithmic scale of their waves from the bottom to the top:
This painting changed dramatically along the way. Though it ended up the way I imagined, it was difficult to choose to continue since getting there meant fundamentally changing its look and losing interim details. In hindsighter, I wish I had created the lower layers with stronger contrast so they’d still be visible after the atmosphere was added. The final version did end up pretty close to my Photoshop mockup, though, so it got where it needed to be. The prog-rock-fueled red-and-black style will have to wait for another project.
Just finished this commission for a painting of Tobey, the furry friend of Alan’s co-worker Melinda. Last month, Alan was transporting an earlier painting, The Big Yawn, to its new owner at his work. Melinda spotted it and asked about a commission for her nursery.
We started by reviewing a few dozen photos, and she narrowed it down to six for me to look through in more detail. I picked three and did quick Photoshop mockups on different canvas shapes. One in particular had great lighting and detail, so I adjusted the angle and gave it a close crop to better match the intense staring-at-something-behind-you look cats often have.
The color layering (including the awful blue stage every painting goes through) worked to particularly good effect in the eyes. The fuzzy blurring of the white areas also helped soften the rest to make the details stand out more. Usually on these, especially on the paintings of people, I’ll just paint the edges black if I’m planning on adding a frame. I opted to paint around the edges on this one – so every layer I painted that you see here I also painted on each of the four edges (where applicable). It’s good practice in working out what looks right from different sides to ensure that changes in viewing angles won’t make the perspective look odd.
Enjoy your painting, Melinda!
This month’s Two Buck Tuesday at Kaleid Gallery in SJ featured an opportunity for figure drawing amongst the regular mix of demonstrations, musicians, and artsy happenings. Since I missed the last two, I was glad to get a chance to go to this one. This evening had a first-time model, Katherine, whom the organizer had spotted at a steampunk convention and invited to model.
I wasn’t in a charcoal mood, so for this evening I used a few new Neuland markers and a basic drawing pad (Strathmore Drawing Medium, 14″x17″). The markers are great! I mostly used the fineOne Outliner (refillable!) and the feel of the nib and quality of the ink made me draw more deliberately with it. I’m very happy with the results and will probably use this from here on out. The highlights on the staff sketch are from the fineOne Brush tip with ink #803, a nice green/brown color that happened to match her fabric. I haven’t sketched much other than foliage with that one, but now that I see it’s a pretty good pairing with the black, I’ll use it with it again.
Here’s the full set of vinyl toys & musician portraits I made for the Hues/Muse artist takeover at Chromatic Coffee last month. A few sold, so for the ones that didn’t I’m looking into either potential retail spots in SJ or online (possibly Etsy?) to hang a shingle & sell the rest. If you see any you’re interested in or if you’d like something in a similar style, let me know!
Here’s a preview of two projects-in-progress that will be for sale! In May I’m joining artist Celeste Young for an artist takeover of Chromatic Coffee. The theme of our show is Hues/Muse, a collection of works organized by the moods of eleven different colors. I’m working on ’em all now and will post both sets once they’re ready.
I’ve been in the mood to do more illustration, so the first set of goods are portraits of musicians. It includes the only suitable choice for purple: Prince.
The second set of goods are a bunch of custom vinyl figures. I’m painting/decorating them in different styles of arts/crafts. The green choice is this Topiary creature. Maybe I should name them!
The opening reception is Thursday May 7th from 6-9pm, and they’ll be shown for the month of May. More details to come on Chromatic Coffee‘s Facebook page!
Next batch of the sketches in the Undefined Variables sketchbook I carry around. Enjoy!
I did some quick graphic design work for Hello Good Pie in prep for their annual “Kiss for Pie” event this Valentine’s Day.
Our friend Cordelia started this delightful event based on an event we encountered in college. We all went to Cal Poly SLO which used to have an ice cream shop on campus called Julian’s. Every Valentine’s Day they’d give away free ice cream to couples that would kiss. Cordelia is carrying forward this tradition in Norway by giving away little pies to couples.
Picking up the assets & copy created by Jørgen, I picked a few fonts to perk up the copy. The body font is Arvo which is a serif font by Anton Koovit (via Google Fonts). The fancy font is Amatic which is a handdrawn font by Vernon Adams (via Font Squirrel). Amatic reminded me of a romantic comedy font. The text colors are sampled from the logo.
For the versions with one large photo, I wanted a more decorative edge between the photo and text area. I tried an edge that looked like scrollwork but it ended up not looking right. Instead, I picked a simpler “rick rack”-style edge that evokes handmade valentines.
Last but not least: I was looking for a way to simplify the grid of photos. I ended up using two different approaches here: either interspersing the “Kiss for Pie” text, or alternating the appearance with a simpler black-and-white style. Enjoy!
Since starting the Statement series I’ve been on the lookout for interesting variations on white fabrics. It occurred to me that there are a few occupations that include uniforms or articles of clothing that fit the bill. My friend Will, who currently pursuing an MD/PhD, has the accoutrement of the practice and kindly posed for me.
This was a fun shoot because it touched upon some of the style I use for user interviews for my experience design projects. I asked him to imagine he was conducting a patient interview and tell me about how it happens. It was interesting to see how he stayed attentive while taking notes (and the occasional teasing about me taking photos). The notes he was jotting down related to a patient interview he’d conducted in a class earlier that week.
When painting this one I tinkered with the order of what to paint when and am pretty happy with the results. I end up using a dry brush type of technique on both skin and the white fabric to eliminate hard edges. Knowing this, I worked on the skin and shirt first (after the initial tones) so I could allow myself a little overspray that I could tighten up when refining the background.
Working on the skin early is also a good way to reduce that antsy low point that comes during a half-finished painting. If the skin looks good, it’s okay to have the abstract/unfinished look to the clothing or the background. The core of the figure grounds the whole thing. I’ll probably play around with this more in the future when I’m ready to mix figurative work with other styles.
I particularly like the chiaroscuro effect in this one. The lighting adds an extra gravitas to an interaction that already feels serious. This painting feels familiar and friendly to me because I know who it is but I imagine it’ll feel very different for anyone else viewing it.
This year, instead of spending my creative energies on a holiday card (doh) I focused on creating a “thank you” gift for Make It Legit. What started out as a theme for my blog became my business name when I decided to strike out on my own this last year. Though there are many people to thank for their kinds words and support, there were a handful of people (okay, maybe two handfuls) that were pivotal in making this a success. These are the people who alerted me to opportunities, stood by me as references, and/or were my key client contacts that made it happen. I wanted to thank them properly at the end of the year.
This was one of those ideas that popped into my head nearly fully formed. I think it may have been my subconscious harking back to the first assignment I had at my first post-college job: creating stamp graphics to use to indicate spec states (draft, final, etc.). I tracked down that file so you can bear witness to the folly of those unnecessary drop shadows…I will only say in my defense that the team liked and used them, and they looked pretty reasonable at the time.
I wanted to make some kind of physical good that would be interesting-looking and potentially useful. An old style wood-handled rubber stamp fit the bill. I got these made at Simon’s Stamps where I also bought simple stamp pads. Gotta make ’em usable right out of the package! I hadn’t ever thought of a brand color for Make It Legit since my logo is black and white, so I picked the “Grasshopper” ink because it was a cheery shade of green. It’s natural, it’s positive, it’s “go”. Why not?
The card is designed in Illustrator, and after a few fruitless attempt to make my printer work with cardstock I took it down to Kinkos instead. I mostly eyeballed the size to leave a reasonable amount of room for the LEGIT stamp. The mat cutter makes clean lines very easy, and a bone folder gave it the proper folded-card edge. The actual stamping was more challenging than I expected to uniformly land ’em centered and at a reasonably jaunty angle.
Originally I was going to send these in bubble-wrap envelopes, but I wasn’t happy with the different ways I found to bundle the stamp, pad, and card. At one point I had cut cardboard squares and pseudo-shrinkwrapped them. I took a stamp and pad out for one last attempt to find the right-sized box. With the actual pieces in hand, I realized they’d fit perfectly in CD/DVD mailers. Plus: the way they fold means there’s a lid to open for a nice reveal of what’s inside. Double plus: by sheer coincidence, the cards I’d made fit perfectly in the opening to be seen first before discovering the rest of the contents.
It was pretty involved but well worth it. I’m grateful for the people that made this happen, and am happy to already have a few folks on my 2015 list!
**bonus: I got motivated enough to write up some career-ish thoughts about this project and the motivation behind it on LinkedIn. Go check it out!