Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Some Further Sketches from the Trip, and a Plug for the Illustration Academy

Sorry for the delay on these! These represent a more visual re-portage approach that I took on the trip (props to Doug Dowd). I bought a new moleskin and colored markers for this and was real excited to experiment. Here are some highlights-
they still have mammoths in Spain, no foolin'

It was a great trip, and I'll try to post some more of the bounty from it later. 

I'd like to take a minute here to give a shout out to Francis Vallejo, an incredibly gracious host and a classy guy. Check out his stuff, it rocks! Francis was kind enough to host me on my visit to the Illustration Academy for Lecture Week. And what week it was! For anyone interested in becoming a better image maker, I can only point you toward this program and say that it changed my life. I attended the whole session last year and had to come back this year- a good call which has me primed and ready to jump into the rest of the summer. I cannot stress how great it was. I got to listen to my heroes, meet up with old friends, and make new friends at the same time. Amazing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Find a Problem- Solve a Problem!

One of the challenging aspects of illustration is finding ways to develop your skills on your down time. As a student I often found myself frustrated. I had a lot of fun ideas of what I wanted to draw, but felt confined to a specific assignment. Eventually, I found joy in solving the problems given to me, and actually found comfort and success working with perimeters and and guidelines that forced me to use critical thinking. As a graduate, I often find a lack of this critical aspect. My ability to draw an illustration improves, but the critical thinking involved in connecting the illustration falls to the wayside. THIS IS A PROBLEM. As an editorial illustrator, my ability to come up with a strong idea is just as important as my ability to craft it. To tackle both problems, my amazing teacher John Hendrix suggested the following: "go to the New York Times Opinion page. There are always two opinions, one illustrated, one not. The one not illustrated is all yours!" And so, with that in mind, I jetted over to the NYT online and found an article to illustrate. 

The article I chose for this illustration was a critique on the overabundance of coin designs in the U.S. The author took issue with the fact that the U.S. mint has been on something of a design spat lately, coming out with various designs for the dollar coin, the famous fifty-state quarter series, and the various redesigns of presidential portraits on our coins. He claimed this had the effect of confusing our national identity. A national identity crisis over coins? Sounded like a fun challenge.

I brainstormed and sketched out several ideas for this- the vast majority were flops (though i was rather fond of the idea of Washington brawling with Adams on the side of a one-dollar coin) but soon enough I remembered that there was one character that screamed National Identity:
From there I had to think of a way to connect that with confusion and coins. Well, stores provide variety, right? And a graphic image like those on a coin would probably be seen hanging on strings just like paintings or posters. Add a touch of my beloved surrealist tendencies and my idea was complete.

From there I produced a number of thumbnails, trying to get down an idea for the composition I wanted to use. This is actually one of my favorite steps in the process, as it is brimming with creative possibilities.

Following this I took photo reference to work off of for my sketch.

After taking quite a few photos I took out parts to draw from and produced a finished sketch. I put this sketch in photoshop to make a quick color study. I do it this way because it gives me alot more time to experiment before I move into the final stage.

For this illustration I decided to go for a traditional approach and experiment with watercolors. My reference in hand, I sat in my studio and started painting. 

After some good ol' fashioned pigment pushing (followed by refining pixel pushing as a last step in Photoshop)I came up with this final image:
Viola! One good exercise with a quick turnaround that allows me to practice all the major components I need to develop to feed my self and put a roof over my head. This, combined with traditional figure drawing, reading alot of news and history, and sketch-booking is  a great way of keeping up your skills. DO IT! 
As for me, I think I owe John a coffee for this advice...

image of Uncle Sam produced by James Montgomery Flagg

Monday, June 15, 2009

Time Abroad- Good Thing I Had my Moleskins

Hi there!
I just got back from a post-graduation trip to Europe- and it was amazing. You can't find some of the great examples of sculpture and painting over here that they have to offer, especially in Paris and Rome. I've fallen in love with the work of Rubens again, as well as Goya and Daumier. I was also fascinated by some the sculpture I saw, which I plan to study from for awhile. ALSO I visited the armory at the Spanish Palace (AMAZING).

I brought two moleskins with me for the trip, the standard size, with a red cover, and a pocket size for quick drawings and experiments. It was great having the resource with me close by for when inspiration hit.
Drawing is something that is definitely therapeutic for me. I'm happy to be pursuing something I can work on at any time. Doug Chayka made a great post on the Illustration Academy blog on sketchbooks. CHECK IT OUT!
Also, check these out
I will make some more posts on these later, and some onsite drawings, but for now some work produced on the plane ride over and in the pocket moleskin. 

They were showing "The Day the Earth Stood Still" on the way over. Keanu Reeves was boring me to tears so I had to stay awake somehow.