Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Florida Skies Preview (Hospital Art Installations, Pt. 1)

The theme for the project I'm currently working on is "Florida Skies" and it's really quite rad. It involves multiple stages, various facets and all kinds of interesting challenges.  In other words, its good work!  Thank you Shands Healthcare for being awesome to work for, even when I'm not on site anymore.

As *part* of the project, these little guys will be greeting you at the entrance to the new Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care unit.  The installation method is going to be unique to say the least.  I get to oversee it, kind of, from afar.  Let's just say I'm glad I won't have to be one of the guys hauling 4-ft long, irregular-shaped, 3/4" thick glass up to the 10th floor.

I'm so lucky to have met and worked with such awesome people back in Gainesville.  The director of the Arts in Medicine program, whose also has the separate job of making the hospital environment as visually warm, inviting and hope-inspiring a pace as possible, somehow saw fit not only to contract me as an Artist in Residence back in the fall of 2008, when I didn't know what the heck I was doing with my career, then to encourage me to explore all the various nooks and crannies of possibilities within that post, she's now brought me on board several times to help with environmental design aspect.  Who knew?  And yet I love it.

I know the work I'm doing for this project isn't conceptually deep.  I could write a thesis on the distinctions between High Art and art as approachable commodity, all the interesting levels in between, and the appropriateness of each in various settings.  But I have to assume it's somewhat obvious in this context.  The psychological aspect is the setting itself, where certain imagery that feels safe and comforting--and is universal, might actually improve the overall experience, even if only subconsciously and only slightly, of, say, a kid whose sibling is about to undergo open heart surgery that they can barely understand.

I love that the theme for this unit is birds and suns and clouds and things that fly.  It's tempting to say that I got that proverbial, elusive creative job where the sky, literally, is the limit.  As in, I'm limited to things that are in the sky.  But it's a good place to be (provided you're not afraid of heights...) After getting the layout of the unit and the locations where my images would be installed, I came up with some vague idea about a baby bird, looking out wistfully over the edge of the nest, at the adjacent wall where the adult birds are flying in graceful swooping arcs.  Is he dreaming of his own potential?  Is he the child in the hospital?  Is he the helpless parent or the determined caregiver? Is he the embodiment of hope itself?  That's about as deep as it will get, but in this particular context, I think that'll do.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Galveston is, Hanged?

After a minor delay, the work for the show entitled "Galveston Hangs" is now up on the outside of the historical First National Bank building on the Strand.  The murals are hanging in all of the street-level windows, going around the corner as well.  There was some pretty cool work there, and the hubby and I had fun at the reception shmoozing with the other artists and a few other random men and women about town.  All in all it was a good turnout, even with a light rainfall.  I was happy to have contributed, but, alas, I don't think I'll be donating anything this large again.

The truth is I would normally rail against this kind of solicitation of free work, and perhaps I should have in this case as well.  In this particular instance, the "exposure" seemed unusually good--it is along the main drag in the city--where all the art galleries and boutiques and such are located, and hence, hopefully, where people who buy art will notice it.  I must confess I was also trying to build a good working relationship with this organization because of what I hope we will be able do for each other's mutual interests in the near future.  Will they see it that way, I wonder?

Time will tell if this was a good investment or not, but in the end, I may only have bought myself the right to point down the road and say, "my work is up there." So, I will be pulling on my business owner's hat to the next folks who "just love" my work:  please get in line, and try to have your checkbook in hand.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Galveston Hangs" Preview

I snapped these photos of the work-in-progress a few days ago, so it's rather further-along now, but I don't want to give too much away before the official opening of the show next Saturday.  As you can see, I'm using a Reyna color palette.The task at hand is to create a mural depicting "what Galveston means to me."                                                                                                       Based on my having lived here for all of four months, (and in all honesty--still not totally sold...there was some really nasty black, tarry crudd washing up on the beach yesterday,) I decided to focus more broadly on what community means to me.  
My mural will depict ways I enjoy participating in my community, such as getting books from the library, biking, growing a garden, and buying food at the local farmer's market.  All these things have been important and satisfying to me in each place I've lived, from Wisconsin to Savannah to Florida, and now here.  If I have to give it a title, I might call it, "a place to grow."

To be honest, I'm still wishing for a nice shady bike path around here, or even a safe commute to downtown. The locals keep telling me Galveston is a GREAT place to bike--they just do it on the streets, in the blazing sun, around the ubiquitous both-sides-of-the-street-parking, I guess.  

I was invited by a fellow Galveston Hangs artist to go on a ride last week, but unfortunately I was too busy painting this mural!  As soon as it and the Shands project are done, I will try it out.  Until then, my painting, as it does so often, will portray my idealized world. 

(Cos my tomatoes were never that bountiful!)   

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Getting Intimate with a Sheet of Plywood

Ah, the process.

I'm commencing work on the 8x2 foot panel for the Galveston Arts Center.  By panel, of course, I mean rough plywood, which was donated by a local construction company for the exhibit, which was very cool and generous, but wow...

It ain't pretty, but it's what I have to work with. Thank goodness I own a power sander!

For those who missed the Facebook Post, it's going up on a window of a beautiful building on the Strand (the historic downtown district in Galveston) for about a month or so.  It's part of a large, sponsored outdoor art show curated by GAC to raise funds to complete the restoration of the building.

Hopefully I can finish with the spackle and primer tomorrow and get some solid sketches done in time for a weekend of fun!*

*By which I mean work.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Etsy Shop

My Etsy Shop is now open!  Wow, does that take a lot of time, between sizing and formatting the images to figuring out all the shipping costs...I will absolutely have to keep adding more items to make it worth my while.  

The artwork for sale includes a lot of stuff that doesn't feel appropriate on my illustration portfolio site--experimental techniques, painted objects, etc.  I'm waffling between keeping a separate Etsy account for my professional work only, but I don't know if it's worth the hassle of creating another shop and managing two different things that I can't be signed into at the same time. I guess I'll see how this goes for a while.

Oh, for those who don't know or just don't get it, the shop's name (Laurel Crayon) is an anagram of my name.  It's how I derived my logo, back in art school.  I still like it, so, it stays.

I did notice that someone favorited one of my items already, so that's cool!

If your item is small, like a keychain fob, it will come wrapped like this.  Thanks to one of my former Arts in Medicine volunteers for giving me the idea:)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Finishing (continued from last post)

Step 8: Re-draw the image full-size on cheap copy paper. (I tape sheets together if one isn't big enough.)  Sometimes I enlarge and trace my thumbnail, sometimes I use an intermediary sketch (like when the client needs to see the sketch, I do a prettier one for them).  Either way, any number of departures are made at this stage; this is where I really make use of my reference material if I need to. (Is that hair ornament the right one for the time period? Do people's elbows really bend that way? Is this linear perspective believable?) Erase and revise with abandon.

Ready to paint!
Step 9: Prepare the final surface.  When I work in watercolor or other semi-transparent media, I don't want any eraser marks on my final piece.  So this step is just where I lightly trace the finalized step 8 (without all its messy mistakes) onto my watercolor paper.  I have a 16x18" light box for this process, which helps a lot. Then, if it's large, I wet the paper and stretch it onto a piece of plywood or thick foam board and let it dry nice and tight to prevent warping.  Any pencil marks on the paper before this step will get sealed in, so they won't smudge.

Step 10: Painting! All the decision-making and hard work is done; now it's time to just relax and color.  For this set, I did a light wash of color over the whole paper first, which can help keep the colors harmonious, but isn't good if you want a true, transparent watercolor look.  

I paint backgrounds first and figures last; I have a tendency to go too light on the figures if I paint them against a white background. They probably taught me that in art school, but I had to do it wrong a bunch of times before it sank in.

I come back afterwards and do some clean up with ink, pencil, or more opaque paint and a tiny brush. I'll darken, highlight or define certain areas using my references as a guide if I have them.  (In this case I didn't use much direct reference--I only had a day to paint each of these, so the people and settings are basically made-up after glancing at some pictures.)  

As soon as it's dry I pull off any tape, staples, etc., sign it, photograph or scan it, file it, package or frame it and get it where it needs to go on time.  

Have a creative and productive work day!

Update: All four finished paintings have now been sold.  If you would like to commission similar ones, please let me know!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Beginning Stages

I don't know about you, but when I visit an artist's blog it's probably because I want to know about their process--how they go from idea to execution.  So disappointing when they just say, "I use gouache."  Step-by-step, please, including what kind of coffee you're drinking and how often you dip the brush in it by accident.  

Assuming most people don't want quite the level of detail I do, I'm going to try to make a succinct run-through of how I get started on a project like the one I'm working on now.  This is pretty much the same process for all my work when there is a clear job/projct/client.  Personal stuff tends to be more, well, spontaneous, but not always. 

So I'm currently doing a series of illustrations for a business downtown that is a board game cafe.  It's a cafe where you can play board games--any from a collection of 500+, so they say.  The grand opening is the day before the next Art Walk, so they want to make sure they have awesome art on their walls, and they will, because I'm making it.  (Some of it.)

So, Step 1:  Find a project.  Done.*

Step 2: Take a mental inventory of everything you know about the subject.  Think of the most obvious and boring ways to illustrate it in a picture. Think of all the things you could get wrong due to your lack of understanding of the subject. Imagine people making "phhhtt" noises at the picture you are not going to make.

Step 3: Now think about what you would like to do--never mind if it's perfectly appropriate within the parameters of the project for now.  pppp.  Lay awake thinking of interesting ways to compose pictures that involve your subject. Have a brilliant idea or two.  Go to sleep. 

Step 4: Research & Coffee!!!  Okay, so I have my idea now--something to do with board games throughout the world and in history.  It's an idea I can get excited about; there's variety, depth, culture, escapism...  Now I have to go learn something, or many things, that I didn't know before, like where did chess originate anyway, and is Chinese Checkers really Chinese? (My guess was no--I was right.)  Put my faith in Wikipedia and Google Image search, and follow any interesting leads.  Create folders on desktop to file interesting bits and useful reference material.

Step 5: Now that I'm bombarded with information and images, I go have another coffee, take a shower and then start to sketch--away from the material I just collected.  Now is the time for it to mingle with what's innately in my head.  This is how I make sure I start a picture that I actually want to finish, instead of just piecing existing images together and losing interest halfway through.  I make a few loose thumbnails arranging things in different ways, thinking a little bit about color and a lot about tone, gesture and composition and not too much about accuracy.  

Step 6: Come back the next day and think about accuracy.  Do more research. Revise thumbnails.  

*Step No-Later-Than-This: EARLY is the best time to lock down on a format if I haven't been given one by the client.  Work that's getting framed goes in frames. Just saw some nice 12x16" frames with mats go on sale? I just picked my format! This saves many tears later on.

Step 7: Think about color.  This is where I am now.  I often jot down a few notes about color next to my thumbnails.  I have my favorite color schemes, and I'm not ashamed of them.  Before painting, I will test them out on a scrap just to make sure.


...after thinking about color, I scan in my thumbnails and do a couple of really rough color comps in Photoshop. I turn the sketch into a transparent layer and then, on a new layer, I scribble in anything close to the right color, using the basic paintbrush tool.  Then I use "replace color" and select any area to automatically adjust that color everywhere it appears.  So, color, tweak, and repeat until it makes me feel happy.

Steps 8-Finish coming soon!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hands & Feet

I must have a hundred drawings of my own hands and feet.  Like the frighteningly vast inventory of self-portraits that every artist has stashed away, my visible appendages make up one of the largest sub-categories in my sketchbook themes, due to their always being available.  

Like most aspiring artists, I found them to be awkward and mysterious subjects well into high school--and you can tell by all the mitten-handed characters inexplicably standing in water or tall grass from back then.  (Well, no you can't, because I won't ever publish them online, although there's a guy running around somewhere in Georgia with one of my handless girls tattooed on his side...) 

Anyway, I got over it.  I actually kind of love them.  They're so expressive, lyrical, telling little stories like Hawaiian hula dancers, grounding the figure and giving it weight and life.  When you think about it, they might be the most familiar objects in our lives, so there's really no excuse not to get them right.
I guess I should try drawing other people's hands and feet more.  Baby and kid hands are especially troublesome when you're used to doing long narrow ones like mine.  I had a job a couple years ago doing a print ad that focused on a kid's hands, and they came out looking a bit stiff--totally copied from a photo.  (Try getting a kid to hold their hands still for 5 minutes!)

I was definitely life-guarding when I drew this.

But I'd imagine after doing them a bunch more times, I'd get the hang of it.  (See my soap box about how talent is phooey and everything comes down to practice--wait, I haven't written about that yet.  Well, now you have that to look forward to.)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sketching from Photos

I scanned a few sketches I did from photos of familiar subjects--kids I worked with for at least a year (and my cat), so I knew their personalities.  They illustrate how helpful it is to have some experience with your portrait subjects.  I tend not to notice the common drawing-from-a-photo issues (the tell-tale "stiffness" for instance)  if I actually know the person.                                                                                                                             So I definitely advocate getting to know someone a little before doing their portrait (or taking the artist out for coffee if you're having your portrait done.)  Snapping your own photos is not only helpful for finding the perfect composition and lighting that you're after, it's also a good excuse to spend some time interacting.                                                                                                   

I was commissioned to do a portrait of a pair of kids one time.  The mom wanted it to be a surprise for the dad, so she didn't want me to come over to meet the kiddos. She gave me 4 or 5 photos of each kid, including some taken outside in natural light (because I had specifically asked for that.)  The outdoor shots were taken on a blazingly sunny day, so there were harsh shadows across their faces. Of course, Mom's favorite shots were ones that were taken indoors with a flash.

I never met the kids in person--never watched them run around in the yard or heard them explain their favorite Pokemon character...  The portrait came out...OK.  The foliage was the best part. The client was happy, but I couldn't bring myself to show it to anyone else.  So, I'm never doing it that way again if I can help it.  Insist on face-to-face meetings--that's just good advice for anything, if you think about it.


All future portraits that I do on commission will be totally awesome!  There will just be some fine print in my order form under Expenses (if I don't know you): coffee, mini-golf outing, afternoon at the park...or something.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Illustration Friday 3/15/13

topic: Eyeglasses
All I want to say is houndstooth is a doozy of a pattern.  

The thumbnail sketch for this had been sitting sitting around in my sketchbook waiting for some reason to live for months.  Thank you, Illustration Friday.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Illustration Friday 2/15/13

topic: Wool

Again, no reference photos...if she is knitting incorrectly, we'll just have to say she is drunk.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Illustration Friday 1/25/13

topic: Wings

The thylacine, also sometimes called as the Tasmanian tiger, is my latest favorite recently extinct mammal.  The last of these dog-sized carnivorous marsupials (with freakishly wide-hinging jaws...seriously, watch this video) is believed to have perished in a Parisian zoo in the 1930s, after the rest were hunted into oblivion by sheep ranchers.  True story, kids.

I think it would be sweet to do a series of winged modern extinctions.  And yes, the passenger pigeon would have an extra set of wings. I'm actually getting a little bit too excited about that idea.  Because awesome.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Illustration Friday 1/18/13

Not my favorite one to date; it might be the catawampus ellipse.  I've been doing these Illustration Friday topics without any reference photos.  Not as a matter of principal or anything--just for speed.  So this is the best wishing well my memory can conjure up.

Oh, but I do love painting wood grain.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Illustration Friday 1/11/13

topic: Ocean

I'm definitely enjoying having some structure to my weekly sketching.  Even if I am consistently 3 weeks behind...

Will have to work on that.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Illustration Friday 1/4/13

This week's Illustration Friday topic had me "drawing" on some old memories.  It would seem that the word edge resonates more with my toes than with my eyes.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Single Vision visit

I had the unique opportunity (a while ago) to visit an educational wildlife facility in Melrose, FL.  The founder of the organization graciously took several hours show off and educate my journalist friend and I about his incredible animals, and he allowed me to sketch his big cats up close as they went about their business.  

Two Bengal tigers, a Siberian tiger and a lioness made it into the sketches, mostly during feeding time.  They were moving a little too quickly the rest of the time!   

The place has a website, replete with millions of adorable photos.