Monday, May 31, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

This week brought a good old friend and a couple fun new projects. The one and only Abigail Glaum Lathbury, fashion dynamo from my days at The School Of The Art Institute, blew into town from Chicago. I got the scoop on her new line for the summer, and it all looks super sharp, so keep an eye out on her website. I believe that this picture below is from her current spring line.

Meanwhile, I've been working on a crest for a Portland family. Like the earlier project, this one is wedding related, so that influenced the color scheme. We referenced some earlier crests, I got out the ink and brush, and this is what it all boiled down to. I enjoyed the combination of natural elements rendered with a graphic treatment.

Again, in good old black-n'-white.

Right on the heels of that project came another little, unusual project. The images below will be 4" x 4" vinyl stickers for an LGBTQ friendly organization. Because these are smallish stickers, they presented a good opportunity to have some fun with colors I don't often use.

They wanted some geeky non-gendered critters, which was actually a little tricky. Gender-role indicators kept slinking their way back into my beginning sketches. Anyway, I think I managed to give them some character without specific gender. More fun stuff is on the way...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Brushing Up

That last post (novel) was a little wordy, so time for some simple pictures. Here are some sketches I did in Portland. I might go back to them with some ink washes or watercolor one of these days. Surprisingly, using left over Red Rose tea is really nice for quick-n-dirty flesh tones on a sketch. I figured that one out by accident...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Stumptown - An Illustrated Romance

Gather round young and old because its blogging time. This being the inaugural post, but lacking anything as celebratory as a cake or champagne fountain, tonight's tale will be about a happy couple's champagne-worthy event: a wedding (invitation.)

Zak-n'-Cait wanted some good looking wedding invitations for their big day, which is where I entered the picture. I knew this project would be fun, but it also took some real doing.

The invitation was a three part deal, with the main folded card on the outside and a postcard and business card within. They envisioned a sort of Portland country-rustic style with a couple of play-on-words.

These were some rough sketches for the business card image. They are a good example of unique challenge of this project. To capture a couple's sense of humor/whimsy, romance, and style when you don't know them all that well was tricky, but obviously important. The little details of the couples posture or expressions make a big difference toward the feeling of the card, so this took quite a few sketches before things looked right. Zak-n'-Cait provided some reference images and we had a lot of back and forth discussion about the newest iterations of each image. Before long we finalized the designs. Time for the best part: to make the final art.

Now these were the final art elements, but not the finals that went to the press. The actual composition and line work were all locked, but the colors of each element changed radically. To build the images, I used a number of brush-n-ink drawings, each done separately and re-combined in Photoshop. This technique has a couple of advantages. Drawing the elements separately is a lot faster and easier, especially for trying color variants and creating final color separations.

However, the Clever Reader might wonder “If this Nick guy is really in the final stage with a piece of art, then why is he still trying out whole new color schemes?” And that Clever Reader brings up a good point. There are a couple of reasons, and I’ll do my damnedest to clarify them while avoiding too much phrenology, pseudo-science, or High Art pretension (the stuff of bad artist-statements.)

Often, artists seem to fit into either the drawing or painting camp. Conceptualizing with lines, contours, and tones, I live comfortably in the drawing camp. For reasons totally mysterious to me, color is a lower priority when I am conceptualizing the content of an image. However, that’s far from saying that color is an afterthought. But for me, images like these are organized with lines and values rather than colors. I’m not sure how other artists approach their work, but I’m constantly amazed by the wizardry some folks pull off with sharp colors.

The other, much better reason for a flexible color pallet is the printing process. Printing on toned chip board for this invitation was a challenge because it’s much darker than paper, dulling the transparent inks. These inks have the advantage of combining to make new colors, somewhat broadening the palette, but again, they’re dulled by the dark paper they are printed on. Lighter colors, like yellow, can suffer. While the dullness certainly gives an old-tyme accent to the images, it can confuse the viewer because elements don’t “pop” as well as they otherwise would.

Lastly, the colors emitted from an illuminated computer screen can be radically different than printed colors. Every monitor is calibrated a little differently, so my screen’s red might be maroon to you. And despite looking good on the screen, areas of very light ink might hardly show up in printing, while denser layers might become much darker than intended. Potentially tricky stuff…

Luckily, the good folks at Pinball Publishing were super helpful. I tried some variations on the best and worst case printing scenario. After that, Zak-n-Cait and I talked and made some changes to better exploit the inks and to make a more consistent, cohesive group of images.

I’m always interested to see how some images come right together, while other work has quite a back story by the end. Pencil, ink, pixels, printing: quite a history behind a few images.