Monday, February 23, 2009


I met with a surface art representative over the weekend, Diane B. They specialize in surface art, sweater knit downs, antique textiles and embroideries. Now being 'renewed' to licensing and surface art, I had forgotten how much I enjoy the learning. For so long I have been doing custom work and haven't had to spend hours at the library researching bugs, or plants or airplanes. But after meeting with Diane B, I got to hop on down to the library and pour over stacks of books. I have books on the history of space exploration, wood shop tools, bugs of South Africa, desserts, and heavy machinery. I spent last night looking through them then doodling fun images. I love scanning the pages, love exploring the library stacks for just the right book. This is the fun part. Pencil on paper scratches, before they are anything. Just ideas, loose thoughts that have made it from inspiration to something more concrete. But not finished yet. Sometimes I end up loving the sketch more than the finished piece. I am so excited I just want to go get more books on more subjects. 

Next, the sorting after the art is drawn.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I met with my favorite professor from college last week for a cup of coffee. My instructor, Elsa Warnick has supported herself through art for the last 40+ years. She was a fine artist for the first 10 or so, then migrated over to Illustration as she had a knack for the narrative. Her work is light and airy, delicate watercolors that let paint play on paper. They are not complicated, they are approachable and kind. For years Elsa had a busy phone, ringing with projects. Her mailing list was extensive and the Art Directors in publishing knew her well. However, with the advent of stock art, a cheap substitute for custom art, her phone started ringing less and the mailing list was met with fewer responses. As we discussed the state of the current economy Elsa was quick to admit she is a dinosaur. That her contemplative style of delicate paintings, drawings that tell the story in one stroke, is all but lost in these new times. 

I asked how she was getting by, and she told me little projects still came and went, but she lived mostly off of an IRA that was quickly diminishing. In listening to Elsa, and thinking about how she has managed to persist, it made me sad that her skill-set was going away. The same as the typesetters. I don't think she can reinvent herself now. She is an old dog that doesn't know how to begin learning new tricks, and is the first to admit it. She is an artist, she bleeds paint. Like almost everyone over 65, the computer is non-intuitive and elusive technology.

After I left our coffee, we both gave one last look over our shoulders at one another. I was met with mixed emotions, one of sadness for my friend, and one of gratitude that I embrace technology and try to utilize it in my art, hopeful that this will keep me from becoming a dinosaur someday.

Monday, February 9, 2009

stuck and unstuck

I have been working on some new art, as well as experimenting with different techniques. I don't love the almost finished product. I feel like I am at a stuck spot. In the past when I worked in Caran d'ache I would often get my pieces to a point where they looked terrible. Then I would keep pushing to the other side until they came to life. It was sort of like resuscitating a hapless victim. The piece would be laying there, sad and lifeless, then with stroke after stroke of color, it would start to lift from the page alive. I find that the digital pieces I am working on right now need some of that love. But how do I decide if it is the technique I don't like, or that the pieces just need more love?  Do I keep pushing until I either kill them altogether or do I see if they start to breathe? With all these years of painting and drawing, stuck and unstuck , this is what I have learned on how I move on when my illustrations seem stagnant:

1) Turn the piece upside down. For some wacky reason the change allows me to see the flaws more clearly, and the successes. Ok, so I will rotate my canvas.
2) Exercise. I choose to run, but whatever get's your heart pumping, and endorphins coursing should do the trick. I find that it really helps my mind get clear and I feel less bound by my normal constraints.
3) Step away from that illustration and start something else. Just taking a break and coming back to whatever I am stuck on often helps me return fresh.
4) Go crazy on it. Add colors I don't love, do some wacky line treatments, really shake it up. Now if I am working traditionally, this is a real commitment, but working digitally this isn't scary if you save the new piece as a new named file. 
5) Drink a glass of wine. Ok this works if I am working in the evening, and as long as you like wine. But sometimes just loosening up a bit is all it takes to let go of the vice like grip on stodginess. 

I think I will start with number 4 today. I am feeling brave and in my heart I think I just need to shake things up. If that doesn't work, I will run with a glass of wine.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Google alerts

Ok so who has time to just read every cool thing on the internet? I wish I did, but do not. Therefore I am in love with Google Alerts. First you have to make sure you have your Google page as an iGoogle, which essentially is personalizing  your Google home page. Which can be fun and time consuming if you get sucked into all the features and additions. I go fairly minimalist but have feeds to my favorite blogs, the weather, John Stewart quote, and news. I avoid the 'daily art' and anything that just sucks my load time. Now the Google Alert is simple really. You login to your Google account, then go to Personal Settings, Alerts. When you select Alerts you are taken to a simple interface where you type in the key words you want Google to scan for and send you updates. I get daily updates on things such as Manufacturers Licensing Art, Illustration, Karyn Servin (to see if I pop up anywhere unexpected) and a few other industry specific terms. Then once a day I get a handy email for each of my alerts with links. You can drill down in your Google Alert to only search for types of reference, be it video, blog, news, groups etc... I choose comprehensive to be more encompassing for my needs. This is a great way to find interesting articles, insight into what is happening elsewhere and expand your connections. As a busy Illustrator, I don't have time to read every blog, that's why I let Google help find content that is relevant. Of course I still love reading my favorite blogs and make sure to find time for them!