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Friday, October 26, 2012

Post Mortem

This tri-fold design had lots of program info inside; the front of the card is, obviously, on the right.

Over the summer I worked on a little gratis project for a local non-profit, designing an invitation to a fundraiser. Overall, the job was problematic. It would be unprofessional to dish, but let me just say I found it to be a less-than-splendid partnership.

Still, three valuable things came out of the experience. First, I learned -- or relearned -- the value of detailed, up-front communication. There's honor and ease in spelling out anything that involves investments of time.

Second, I learned that "pro bono" can, weirdly, empower people to treat you less well than if they're paying you. This is probably an unconscious thing on their part, but it argues for either charging for one's time or for, as my friend Ann recommended, creating an invoice with actual dollar amounts on it (so they know what you're worth), then writing "comped" at the bottom.

Third, I still kinda like the original design, seen above, for the invitation.

Late in the game, it became clear that the group couldn't do four-color. That changed not just the pizzazz of the image but also the effectiveness of the texturing that made the original design worth doing, IMHO.

Today I got a look at the invitation in the version that came back from the printer. It was ... distressing. Major ink tranfer as the pieces came off the press. (You can read ghost letters on top of the actual text.) And the images lost much in the shift from four-color to two-color. In a way, seeing the printed version was a perfect ending to a perfectly miserable experience.

If I sound like I'm blaming it all on the other folks involved, I say au contraire. The project was mine to manage from the start.

By the way, it should go without saying that I've obscured the name of the organization and its members, but just in case you were wondering about the awkward empty blocks of nothing, that's where some type went.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gourds and Ghouls and Making Time

Click on the images to make 'em bigger, of course. The better to find the typo in the text, my pretty ...

The wonderful leather sketchbook from the Ann Arbor Art Fair is filling up fast, mostly with Red Ridinghood iterations but also the random little sketch. Even when I haven't been able to make time for true urban sketching, I've sneaked in little drawings. Sometimes these are the ones that end up mattering when you page back through old sketchbooks.

And, as I learned in art school, you can do fun stuff by pulling disparate images from sketchbooks. Making sketchbooks thus a bit more wonderful - but only if one uses them, of course.

Using the sketchbook in more than one way becomes important because — well, I've finally succumbed to the reality that there isn't time in this life to do everything. So we do what we can, and use the best of it in creative ways.

Speaking of fun, since we're almost at Halloween, I thought I'd reprise another little thing I did a couple of years ago during this season. I might be the only one who liked it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

...And from Sketchbook to Illustration

If you read yesterday's post (and you still can, of course), you'll see I've been playing around a lot with Red. I decided to go this way with the beginning of the story. But of course there will be more Red to come.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sketching in Red

The past two weeks have been bustling with new full-time work, but I've been setting aside mornings to do some thinking on children's illustration. Forthwith: A series of sketches that I regard as "old-school red," which is sort of coming out of this page here from a while back.

First, I was playing with ideas for a first scene from the Red Ridinghood story. So here are some thumbnails, along with a page in which I was dithering over her look. If you click on the page, you can get a closeup of those little thumbnails on the left, but be prepared: They're ugly!

Next came a page on which I gave myself a choice between two looks. The left side was sort of cutesy-poignant. The right side hewed to the original portrait. I liked it better. Incidentally, see where the cat's face bumps right up to the line of the table leg? That's what we here in illustration call a "tangent," and this type of tangent is an E-R-R-O-R. Tangents can be used in a purposeful way. This one was an accident, and it's bad because it causes a weird little hiccup for the viewer when he or she is looking at the illustration.

Having decided on the more individualized, portraitlike Red, I just played with drawing her in different ways. I still need to work on studies in which she shows more instantly recognizable expressions. I find that while I'm drawing here, she seems determined to have a quiet strength and to be a bit reserved. In some ways, she reminds me of The Lonely Doll, and I think I want to make some of that go away. But I'm starting to see how she comes to life.

And finally — in terms of this blog post, not in terms of this little mini-project — I put her in a scene. It could be turned into a finished illustration, or I could decide on something different.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Very, very short story contest, anyone?

It started with an idea of drawing a certain kind of oldish guy. Then suddenly the vixen appeared. And the rest is some sort of weird Freudian history.

This is one of those sketches that make me want to invoke The Dream Clause ("Don't blame me for casting you as a ________ elft who _________ in the shower in my dream. It was my subconscious! I'm not responsible!")

Though that only goes so far when the weirdness is committed during waking hours while you have a pen in your hand.

Anyway, let's make something of this, shall we? A caption contest. Or, if you're so moved, a very short story. I will award a prize to anyone whose entry, here or on FB, tickles my fancy.

Here's a link to the first such contest I did on this site. Winsome, creative writing from all my talented friends.

By the way, you should ignore the sentence of text on the left side. It's just my note to myself, since this was drawn in my sketchbook.

So write your own notes instead. What's the woman doing there? Why is the old guy so wary of her? What's up with the bartender? Who designed the woman's dress? Is there someone influencing any of this off-camera? Who might be telling the story? Ready, set, GO!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Drawing from the Outside In

Urban sketchers learn — quickly or eventually — that drawing from observation goes better if the artist works big to small. Place the general shapes of the buildings (or construction equipment) before you start work on the window trim. Figure out relative proportions before drawing in the little pebbles on the road. (Do you even need the pebbles?)

It's funny that we should have to learn the big-to-small lesson at all, but I think this is because as children we liked drawing detail. Of course, as children we were less hard on ourselves if our drawing didn't replicate the object.

But it does make things easier. And unlike many lessons, the drawing big-to-small lesson goes down just as easily if someone simply TELLS you to do it this way as if you learn it by accident.

So look: If you're interested in observational sketching, and you're hoping to more or less replicate what you see, start by placing the biggest shapes, then gradually go small. (Incidentally, working from the outside in has metaphoric value as well, but you can just sit and think on that one yourselves. All I'm saying is that there are usually life lessons in art lessons.)

Of course, if you don't care about replicating nature, but simply want to put down an impressionist rendering of what's before you, I say: Yes. Do it.