Monday, March 28, 2011

Sketchbook Sunday - The Creative Process, Step 1

I thought I'd lift the veil a little on how my creative process works. In the past I've run into people who are baffled that I can't just dash off a finished illustration in the same time it takes to watch American Idol. I wish. Instead what I - and most other artists - endure is the generation process known as sketching. That's the part where you try to get the image out of your head and onto the paper. Usually it involves drawing the same thing over and over again, sometimes making little changes, sometimes starting again from a whole new angle. If this sounds tedious it's because it is. I often compare sketching to cleaning a house: You work all day and at the end you feel satisfied to see how much work you've done and the finished product. But you are also bone-tired and brain dead. Unlike painting - which, for me is rejuvenating - sketching out an idea tends to be very draining. But it is where the REAL creation takes place. Like a pregnancy's first trimester, all the organs are formed and start working, the rest is just filling in the blanks and gaining weight. Here's an example of my sketch process as I worked out an idea for some licensing. This is a series of images merging nature, shows and hats. Sketching for work takes up a significant amount of my time and paper, this was 6 pages from my sketchbook:

So 6 pages and a couple of nights work, I got one pretty good sketch and some more ideas to play with....

It's Dear John in the #8 Warplane, coming into the far turn
This week I had to also take up the editorial pen again. Seriously, now we're bombing Libya? With what money again? Since the Treasury is so close to writing rubber checks, here's my idea for how we could pay for War in the Middle East Part Infinity. Sponsorship anyone?

Skinny PigAnd in the same vein, Jim Dear and I paid bills AND figured out taxes this past week. Now that's a series of romantic evenings. Afterwards this is the image that sprang to mind:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sketchbook Sunday - is there an app for that?

Over waffles and child shenanigans Saturday morning, Jim Dear showed me a story in the paper about the Borders Books on West End closing. Unlike Davis Kidd, which was always there, I remember clearly the birth of the West End Borders. Jim Dear and I had just gotten married and felt lucky to be renting a house in the artsy enclave of Hillsboro Village. We jealously guarded our ability to walk to everything and waited anxiously for the opening of Borders.... how wonderful to have a bookstore we could stroll to on a Friday evening! Over the years we spent Friday nights at Borders and Sunday afternoons at Davis Kidd.

The word on the street is that Borders took too late to the online retail environment. And it's true, as part of their brand, Borders believed in the in-store experience - they were the first to have a cafe, the first to offer wireless internet. But even the hippest coffee and the tastiest muffins could not compete with the double punch of ebooks and people preferring to shop from their La-Z-boys.

Sigh.... technology

I'm not a crusader against technology in publishing. I AM a book lover and therefor don't see an ebook reader in my near future, but I do think that e-readers fill a niche in the market place for people who can muster the energy only to thumb "next page." These individuals, unable to summon the strength to crack a paperback let alone balance a 200 page novel beside their smart phones and remote controls, are truly sympathetic creatures. Aside from the obvious deterioration of upper body strength I would be concerned about how this technology, which is galloping closer to the under 5 set, impacts a person's ability to understand the natural world. Wonder why? Consider this: when an 18 month old sees mom's hand grab a page, move it through the air and then allow it to fall slowly into another place he sees a physics lesson in motion. When a 5 year old drops a paperback and board book on his sisters head and hears the different thunks they make, he learns another. So what? He can learn the same lesson from his toys, right? True, unless his toys are replaced.... one by one.... with electronic gadgets and apps. A recent acquaintance, whose youthful parents were raised on a steady diet of TV and video games, and who are making sure to bring only the best binary code to their child, visited our neighborhood and remarked on the rocks in our back field.
"Wow! where did those come from?"
"Well," was the reply, "they were dug up when the neighborhood was built."
"Cool! so you could just dig one out and roll it down there?"


The rocks in question are 800 pound boulders that can't be moved unless you had a crane to do it. Now commentary of this nature could be understandable coming from a three year old. But this person is older than that, and certainly old enough to have experienced an actual rock. However just like Borders' "customers" this person has eschewed the "in-world experience" for a virtual life.... and at the same time has forfeited the knowledge that a boulder the size of a VW is not something you casually rearrange in the landscaping. This is the same mentality as that of people who build enormous million dollar houses in the wilderness and then get annoyed when bears and wild fires show up without a casserole. When we are clumsy with it, technology steals more of the natural world from us. My concern is that, as the generations pass, Baby Sprout is going to be on a date with some bozo who thinks that he can pull the car just a little too close to the edge of Make-out Lookout and not put the emergency break on. If the car starts rockin' and the wheels start rolling and the car starts sliding.... I don't think there's an app to stop that.

So after doing the above sketch - and the commentary along with it - my protective instincts are on high. So I'll share this one: For several years, since following a toddler Fry around the playground, I have thought of how mamas and babies in the animal kingdom are an awful dang lot like us. The majority of my hands-on animal experience is with that of the equine persuasion. Many summers I would watch mares follow their offspring galavanting around the pasture with an exasperated tilt to their ears. One minute baby is settled down in the grass and mom can graze, the next second he's off to climb on the big kid monkey bars.... er I mean... well you know what I mean. Anyway I like drawing horses and don't get to draw them near enough, here's mom and baby in a mid-afternoon pose:

Finally a couple of work related sketches. I've been working for a client doing some illos in the style of the 1930's WPA travel posters. While I can't post them yet, I'm very happy with how they turned out and have actually thought about doing some more just for the heck of it. What I love about the WPA style is it totally ignores the details except where highlight and shadow matter. It's terrificly freeing since I can get bogged down in details on my other work. So here's a sketch a I did for St. Louis:

And last but not least, in the ongoing portfolio makeover, we have a small superhero, who has climbed to the tallest building ever and is ready to mount an attack on All The Evil In the World with his sidekick, Teddy, and Super-duper Special Power Jet Rocket Airplane:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Illustration Friday/Sketchbook Sunday - Stir

This week I am multi-tasking and combining my Sketchbook Sunday and Illustration Friday post. Illustration Friday's topic this week is stir. I was inspired by one of Baby Sprouts books, Foodie Baby, for this sketch. The whole idea of the book is to answer the question "what do foodie babies do?" So in the book they do things like "say cheese" and "browse in farmer's markets." I decided to add my own "what foodie babies do" (as I've explained in earlier posts that Baby Sprout definitely is a foodie baby) with this illo and caption:
Foodie babies help stir.

On Tuesday this past week, my illustrator's group met to do some life figure drawings. We hired the 12 year old granddaughter of one member as our model. She was beautiful, like drawing a baby racehorse, all long arms and long toes and big eyes. Here's a few of my favorites:

Finally I had to do this illo from Small Fry's spring concert. His class sang Going to the Zoo and they all had these crazy animal masks on their heads. Actually they weren't really animal masks... they were really insect masks. He was a spider. His teacher explained, slightly apologetically, that that's all they had a Target. "No biggie," I said, "there's spiders at the zoo." Fry stood next to his ... ahem.... friend, Anna which, I have to say, definitely seemed to contribute to his improved ability to focus and belt out the song. Almost like he was trying to impress someone...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

To be filed under: Things I didn't think I'd hear this soon

Today Small Fry casually mentioned that a little girl in his class, Anna, was sick. "oh," I said, "thats too bad. I hope she's better soon."

"Me too" said the Fry, "because she's my girlfriend."

(sound of jaw hitting floor)

Me: "cough cough -oh? really?" (internal monlogue: WHAAAT!!!! How does he even know about such things, he's FIVE!)

I then proceeded to ask some *random* questions about what it's like to have a girlfriend. Apparently they "just decided it" and they "don't do anything but they looove each other"


Well Anna is a very nice little girl. Small Fry had a marathon play date at her house this past weekend and didn't want to leave. When he finally got home I joked to Jim Dear that maybe she was his kindergarten crush. Darn that mom's intuition. Now all of a sudden the extra valentine from little Julia and the Halloween goodies from Annie are taking on a whole new significance.

And I cant forget that the weekend before playing with Anna, he'd been asking to go Eowynn's house. And Ella's.

Oh my goodness. Could my small, sweet, space loving, smart aleck-y little boy be a.... a.... a ladies man?

Stay tuned....

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sketchbook Sunday - Rain, baseball and slacking

So in every good diet there must always fall a week in which you just don't stick to the plan. This week the muse was just not in... I'd liken it to climbing on the elliptical machine and rationalizing to yourself that you can get off after 10 minutes because you parked so far away from the door. At any rate my sketch nights seemed to be taken up with plans for my new website, some design related projects, and working on a new story idea. Actually all creative, but nothing really exciting to look at on the blog. However I did get these two gems:

Another in the series for my portfolio facelift:We had quite a bit of rain this week and I watched the children and parents hurrying to and fro at school. Little girls, with their colorful rainwear seemed like a good subject. Imagine this with a bright orange umbrella and a pink and green polka-dot slicker.

Do-se-do and stretch to a double
The Fry started up baseball this week. Tuesday was evaluation day. The purpose of evaluation day is to figure what each kids' skill level is and divide them up accordingly so each team has kids who understand that you don't yell "hey he's throwing the ball at me!" and each team has kids who, uh... don't. They sorted the players by age and ran them through a series of drills meant to determine this.

At this point I am really, truly impressed with the coaches at Crieve Hall baseball that they could discern any skill at all. Little boys ran here and there, climbed the fence, played sword fights with the bats and threw dirt at each other. It was really like watching someone teach cats to square dance.