Archive for the ‘abstract illustration’ Category

ask for help

Another Daily Art practice piece with a vintage photo as a focal point. The reason I went to a photo again is because I am (again) rearranging and sorting materials and tools in my studio. In my Daily practice I’ve gotten to the point where I simply reach in and pull out something to use.

When I was sorting through shelves of old journals and books I could alter, I ran across some Canson Manga kits. I don’t know if they are still available. They are a beginner set for artists trying the comic book style. There are paper stencils to prepare layouts and one stencil is a “thought bubble” or narrative block. I liked them back in the day to create easy quick grids. They were buried in the journal shelves and I was glad to run across them. This week’s art seems to be a “Hey friend, so glad to see you!” week.

The photo is an odd size and in the portrait orientation. I put it up in the left hand corner and liked the way it went 3/4’s onto the page. But the bottom right was just filler and there wasn’t a lot of room to do any text, which isn’t necessary but the picture warranted something. So I cut the bottom right off and decided to grid it out. Gridding it seemed to help the story. Frame 1, guy on ledge watching Frame 2, guy trying to climb to ledge. Frame 3, rest the eye, Frame 4, narration. I had a piece of brittle aged brown drawing paper laying on top of the work island so I used the Canson stencil to cut out the window frame. The frame breaks up a bunch of non-narrative space and helps the viewer grasp the story. At least I hope so.

In recovery we learn to ask for help, and also learn to be willing to receive it, the way it comes. The guy that’s climbing isn’t asking for help and the guy on the ledge isn’t offering any. Maybe in the next second something happened, but right now I’m looking at what IS preserved and it seemed a good time to remind myself to Ask for Help. I don’t need help right now, but one day when I’m looking back on my Daily practice papers I might and this will remind me.

The wash is walnut ink, the rubber stamp text is StazOn Saddle Brown. The handwriting is Sepia Pitt Pen. As I did yesterday, I doodled a bit outside the photo to extend lines. I added some flowers because they got cut off by the frame.

In the second frame running down the center you might be able to see a stitch line. A few years ago I got froggy and took a bunch of old photos out and stitched them together on the sewing machine. I used them to make fabric/paper hanging collages and some were left over when I got bored doing that. Old photos can be very fragile. They were often glued to scrapbooks and then get taken out and the force of removing them weakens the paper. As I was gelling this photo to the foundation paper, the bottom tore off. No big deal, just wanted to mention that they can get very delicate.

Talk to you tomorrow, I reckon.

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good dog

I’ve been eyeballing this vintage picture for a few weeks because it’s been on top of a stack of pictures that keeps falling over. Or the cats are knocking them over which is more likely. It was going into my Daily Art practice sooner or later so I made it sooner.

One thing you should know about me, and will most likely admire, is that I am a SUCKER for old photos. Any old photos. Half developed, half out of focus, any kind of half-assed, really. Good ones hardly interest me any more then mediocre or damn bad ones do. It’s perverse, but secretly you know you feel the same as me. I mean, have you ever seen one of those old black and white pictures where there is literally NOTHING but a horizon? Like, you know it’s happened to you, too. There was some kind of awesome cloud or an amazing bird formation and absolutely nothing shows on the shot. Back in the day, some old duffer sees 86 birds way up there, spelling the word Geritol or something (it is 1950, after all). He’s all excited and can barely get the manual focus right and snaps that award winner, thinking, “that’ll show ole’ Howard back home.” Then the roll gets developed and the disappointment settles in. Where are the Geritol birds? And his wife Milly screams, “Wilford, what were you THINKING??” And Wil wonders as well. Photography can be a cruel, cruel game.

There is hardly a homeless photo in Pinellas County. Well, there might be now but not in my heyday. Boxes, people. I have adopted countless ancestors, it’s a wonder that I don’t have a bunch of haints up in here. But I don’t, because the departed are happy to be wanted.

Actually, if I might wax philosophical here, and I might, because if a tree falls in the forest does it make a noise? It’s like that here on the blog almost always except for a few stalwart readers, long-time friends and relatives that trip over and think, what fresh hell today? Anyway, looking at unknown ancestors and doing your own ancestry history can bring up many emotional and intellectual issues. My sister sprang for Ancestry.com a couple years ago and we got into researching our family history like nobody’s business.  It was just interesting. I have a relative on my paternal grandmother’s side by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte. I am not kidding. What kind of parents name their kid Napoleon Bonaparte? Well, the kind that I am related to. It explains a lot.

As a photographer myself and as a curious person, I wonder what provoked them to shoot the picture. Or to shoot it the way they did. Like sometimes, when the husband puts the wife in front of the pink flowering dogwood. Which does he want to shoot? Is he a proud arborist or devoted husband? Can he be both? I suppose, but that isn’t as interesting. Everyone ASSUMES he is shooting the wife. After she dies, the grandbaby, dandling on PaPa’s knee, thumbing through the scrapbook. Kiddie, “Ooohh, pwitty!” Thought bubble over PaPa’s head, “Yes, it was a fine pink dogwood…” I mean, really.

Anyway, I can think and talk about this for a long time and I almost have today. I started with the picture. I set it on the paper foundation in the spot it is now. I almost never center anything on a page. I use the Rule of Thirds which I have discussed on this blog elsewhere. The dog is small in the photo, it was shot wonky and tilted. It is odd which is likely why I’ve been attached to it. All those different planes intersecting at obtuse angles. Hmm. One of my favorite art practices is to draw a continuation of something on a page. Like in this case, extending the photo out with drawing. Sometimes I do it with a pattern (like a floral), and extend it beyond the border. I like the “realism” plus the “handmarked imagined”. It’s a fun way to take something you didn’t do, and make it your own art. It’s more than just putting the picture on the page.

I used Neocolor watercolor crayons to draw out my added content. The bottom was empty, so I added a strip of old text. Then I took a piece of drywall tape and rubbed PanPastels over the surface. The tape is pretty deep so it tore up the foam applicator but it had been used and those things don’t last forever. I liked the scale of the squares so I continued the stenciling further than I planned at first.

It needed text and I wasn’t sure what to add. I considered a short quote about dogs but it didn’t interest me. There wasn’t a lot of room, either. I tried thinking about dog names from the 30’s but hell, I ain’t that old. Spike. Lad. Spot. Fido. If this dog was any of those, it was Lad but I can’t even. Lad. A Dog. Now you do know how old I am.

I decided not to name the dog. Nobody calls their dog by their name, anyway.  You know you don’t. Sometimes they are just Dog, or Puppy. Around here, the animals get called “Mr.” or “Missy” or “Oh No You Didn’t” or a word with “-ster” after it. Our dog is named Junebug, but we call her Bugster, June-ster, Junie Bloom, Junie, etc. My late cat, Raven, we called Ravy, Wavy Gravy, Ravy Gravy, Scamp, Crazy Cat, Termite and Shit Foot, but I’m not talking about that.

I put myself in the shooter’s place. If I was trying to leave the porch, or if I walked up to shoot the dog, I’d say “Stay!”. Then, if the dog stayed, which I assume this one did from the general lack of interest on his face, I’d say “Good Dog.”

If I’d had more time than an hour, I might have explored the situation from the dog’s side. I like how he’s looking off to the side, all casual. Mr. Hollywood. Get my good side. He might be saying to himself, “look at this dufus.” Maybe there was a squirrel over there that needed watching. If this was my dog, he’d have a cool name, but we’d just call him Bat Ears most of the time.

 

 

dendritic duo

No, not new Superheros to keep track of, rather, two separate dentritic monoprints taken from the same blots.

I talked about the dentritic monoprint process I started playing with last week after seeing a video on Youtube by Shannon Green. On Thursday I pulled two prints, one from each glass plate, so they are both first prints. On the second plate I used a paintbrush end and did a swirly line through the main paint blot. Other than that, the prints were very similar, as similar as two monoprints can be. There are always differences of some kind caused by the pressure put on the paper, a slight shift in the paper or the type of paper used.

I also want to mention before I forget that what reads lavender-ish on the monitor is actually hot neon pink. The orange is bright neon orange. The prints are actually more interesting IRL than they appear here. Sorry about that.

The bird image was completed on Thursday. An urge to do a somewhat representative drawing predominated my mind that day.  Remember I said I was very afraid and had to hug Bunny-kins at the thought of working on this? The blots on these pages weren’t connected in anyway to each other. One huge blot, one smaller purple blot, one odd shaped grey blot and two teeny grey ones. It unnerved me.

I saw a parrot in the big blot and once I got the eyeball in it was easier to place a beak and outline the body. The way the neck was stretched out reminded me of a bird looking out of a hole in a tree so I drew some loose vertical lines in a fine pen. The grey egg-shaped blot needed to be contained. The idea of a baby bird hatching seemed a good story but I didn’t trust myself to be able to draw a baby bird. Plus there was that teeny grey blot above to deal with. I decided the egg was a body, turned the teeny blot to a face, drew a skinny creature neck between the two blots and had the beginning of a friendly guy with no limits on how kooky it could get. I gave him five deely-bobbers and suddenly he needed energy lines as well. I had that other teeny grey blot under the bird and decided he could have multi-fingered flower hands and drew him long squiggly arms. I think he’s trying to give the bird a hug but I don’t want to impose that on him. Perhaps he is measuring the bird’s head for a hat. Which couldn’t be easy because of all those fingers, but look how Edward Scissorhands adapted.

That purple blot at the bottom was worrisome. I turned it into an eye and it developed rapidly into the Stink Eye. I figure, in this odd world there is no rule that an eye has to be in a normal place, so I made a creature with three wimpy legs holding a substantial body with a Cyclops eye. EEEWWW.

I tried to balance the colors I added (yellow, orange). Now, I will admit that I have a major Neon Jones. Nobody was happier than I was when Neon came back. However, I do not like black with neon; it gives me a headache. I prefer to pair neon with grey and white. I love grey as a neutral. Grey and navy are my blacks. Sometimes I need the darkness of black but it isn’t my huckleberry.

Friday I wanted abstract expressionism. The bird drawing wore me out and the swirl on the second print was making me nervous. It dominated that blot and it didn’t form anything that I could work with. I didn’t want to add any colors, either. I started by drawing loose outlines around the shapes of the smaller blots. Of course they were all hanging in space individually, so I drew some bubbles and lines to connect them and that worked. Then I went back in and drew lines around the color in all the blots (except the faded grey at the left side). All the black outlines started to unify the drawing.

Now I want to talk about pointillism. Pointillism is drawing with dots. If I am in the mood to do it, I cannot get enough. I find it relaxing when I’m in the mood. If I’m not, it works my one nerve. In the past I actually did canvases in pointillism. Sometimes the medications I was taking gave me different energy and tolerances for certain methods. Right now doing a work of that size in dots seems like a fresh hell. But I haven’t used pointillism in so long, it was tons of fun last week.

The bird image was simple. The white part got extra fine black pen dots. The colored parts got white Sharpie® Paint Pen dots. The dots were small and lots of space between them. But the abstract was a different story. I knew after years of practice that creating different-sized dots adds movement, as does space between dots and solid dots vs. outlined dots. So I mixed them all up in this piece. I wanted to move the eye INTO the page, so I started with big dots on the left side,corner and top, then went to medium dots, then down to fine dots as I went toward the center. I used dots to outline the big blot, rather than lines. That set it apart from the other blots. Around the big dots at the left, I filled in with small dots. I left the colored and white pieces unmarked.

I like my use of white space in this image. For my eye, it’s just the right amount of resting room. The blots in this image have various possibilities. Is the large blot a bird? A tropical fish? I have no idea. I have no narrative for this piece. It’s beauty for me is the balance of color, size, detail, movement, line vs. dot.

So, now you have more ways to make and work into your dentritic monoprints. Expression vs. abstraction. Pointillism. Neons with grey. Go for it.

story

Ok, this piece sure as Sam Hill doesn’t know what to be when it grows up.

It started Innocently Enough, as these things often do. I painted the paper with watercolor, dried it. Squiggled over the top with Sharpie™ fine line black pen. Then I stenciled (of course) with the alphabet set I’ve been bragging about for several months. The one that came from the  Dollar Tree. This set, as you can see, is not a “ransom note” style, but the letters fall into a few distinct styles. The simpler block style as you see in the “Stor” and the simpler, larger more cursive style as in the “Y”. Because I did not view the letters beforehand, the Y dips dangerously close to the bottom of the paper. After I penciled the letters in, I used my Stabilio® All Water Soluble pencils and wet it with my fingertips.

I cannot even describe to you what a hot mess this was. All those squiggles behind the letters were confusing; my eyeballs were jittering in their sockets. I thought about ways I know to make layers recede and pop forward. There were so many lines as compared to the amount of letters I decided that the lines needed to be subordinate. I embark upon a Doodling Journey. The important part of the process was not to doodle OVER the letters, but under and around them. This makes the letters appear to be the topmost layer. Developing some continuity in the pattern helped as well (following the thickness and “trail” of a pair of lines).

Early on I saw the “creature” represented by the spikes, a lizard/aardvark cross that I colored green and outlined a bit. It has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the piece except, perhaps, confuse it and lend a tad of narrative. Is it the story of the creature? Or did the creature haplessly wander into The Story and couldn’t escape? Probably, there was a lot of that going around.

In some ways the image is successful but ultimately unsatisfactory. While the squiggles did help unify the image, they are still too much of a distraction. So is the green creature. But I wanted to use my Stabilo® All pencils and that alphabet stencil package, and I felt like doodling so it was satisfactory in that respect and that is the purpose of making art, right?

dailywolfracesredweb

My Daily Art Initiative is detailed here. This post is to discuss the process of making the above pictured piece.

This image was made in one hour on a 5×7 sheet of damp Rives BFK printmaking paper. The background is Pelikan’s gouache paint. I used colors intuitively and when I was finished painting I held a small fan close to the paper to dry it. (Obviously the fan is completely enclosed in a heavy wire cage for safety).  It took longer to dry than I thought it would. Remember, I’m on a one hour clock.

If you’ve read previous posts you know I have been experimenting with walnut ink and ink crystals. I use a waxed paper sheet (like deli paper only more see through) underneath any inking projects; walnut ink stains everything. I keep the paper because, well, you know. Because it’s paper and it has walnut ink on it.

A cat, let’s say, Peter Pan, knocked one such walnut ink paper off my desktop. I can’t swear in a court of law that it was Peter Pan, but I have a strong feeling it was. In this case, and likely ONLY in this case, I should thank him for it, because as I was bending to pick the paper off the floor (in order to prevent a vaudeville-like slip resulting in a worker’s comp case AGAINST MYSELF) I distinctly saw a running wolf with it’s mouth open showing his teeth. It was the head and mouth that was the easiest for me to see…although the tail and back leg were also prominent. It was just the proper size for a 5×7. I copied it on my Brother All-In-One inkjet printer. I am going to pause here to discuss this printer.

After some discussion and research Bob and I decided to get the Brother Work Smart series model MFC-J885DW inkjet printer not too long ago. I have not had an inkjet printer for quite some time. Previously I had a Canon inkjet which printed very nicely when it would print. Which considering the print head failed after 10 hours of printing wasn’t very often. I was given the first one, and it printed nicely and so when the print head failed I figured it might have been used a lot before I was given it. Just a note: if your print head fails, it costs 2x as much to replace it as it does to get a new printer. So I bought a new Canon, and that print head failed as well, unfortunately after it couldn’t be returned. I gave up on inkjets after that. We all know why, but for the five of you out there that might not, I’ll go ahead and say why. It’s because that you can purchase an inkjet printer for $19.95 and it will print very nicely, and the print head might last longer than 10 hours, in which case you are grateful. But then the fun begins. Long about 10 copies in, the dinky starter cartridges of ink that came with the printer are all drained, then you have to replace them with full size cartridges, sometimes each color separately, but at LEAST two cartridges, one black and another tri-colored. Actually, it is better if the three colors ARE separate because at least then one doesn’t have to replace a tri-colored cartridge just because you got all into yellow for awhile and now there is no yellow left, just the other two colors that have to be tossed like the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Whether you have the tri-color refill or the individual refills hardly matters, because all of them are going to require a second mortgage to replace. You see, it’s the bait and switch deal. They pull you in with a cheap printer that’s head will fail right after the time you buy the refill inks.

So, we’ve struggled along with our most excellent laser all-in-one. Laser printing is most economical but, alas, just black and white copies. Actually, it is most economical but the toner cartridge, which will last well into the next Presidency, costs $80. Sigh.

It started to seem as if I wanted color copies. I considered scanning and sending to an office supply store; color copies have gotten less expensive than they used to be ($1). However, to do this I would have to scan each item. Meaning, if I had an inkjet all-in-one I could just photocopy which is more efficient. The Brother had great reviews and the ink tests and prices were decent. And it was a great decision because I seriously love this machine, for a bunch of reasons that I didn’t even anticipate. It is fast copying and printing. All good. It is wireless and it works. Very nice. It has a touchscreen that runs it. Wow. I don’t even need a computer on to use it. It saves right to a stick drive. I control everything it does on that touchscreen. And the scanning, oh the scanning. Perhaps it doesn’t have truly professional scanning options but who the hell cares? I can scan in about 15 seconds, with no computer. I. Can. Scan. In. 15. Seconds. And, because it’s Bluetooth wireless, I can go in the other room, use that computer, use Adobe and send it to the Brother.

In short, I am in Brother All-In-One Worksmart heaven. This could be the single, most revolutionary thing to hit my studio in a long time (besides me being in there). I am not kidding.

So back to the art. Blots on paper are odd. When you use the copy machine, sometimes the blots look different than IRL. Maybe it’s the difference in the paper texture, I don’t really know. I copied the blot but it didn’t clear up the image, it was almost the same. I did use the inkjet copy to trace the image of the wolf as I saw it and decided to use that tracing as my cut out. Remember, I’m on a one hour clock. If I wasn’t on the clock I might have taken the time to redraw on the original blot, but I didn’t have the time.

The wolf needed a context. With Little Red Riding Hood uppermost in my mind these days, he was placed in the woods. Just black paper strip trees. I found a tiny piece of red paper and I colored over it with a red Copic marker. I tried for some perspective by varying the depth of field of the trees. I finished with one minute to spare.

This piece could use more detail work. I might put some grass and stones under the wolf to get him further into the foreground. I would have to do something with where Red is. The watercolor background is not very suited to the woods, it is way too bright. Red actually looks like she’s standing on the edge of an orange cliff, not picking flowers for Grandma. One more step to the right and the least of Red’s  problems is that wolf. Yes, in it’s current state, all told, it is woefully inadequate. But it does have that urgency, not withstanding it’s flaws. And it got made, all by me, in one hour.

Ok, how did I get this image. Besides the inkjet and paper, I mean. A big part of the how is obviously the obsession and research into LRRH. Pursuing a search of LRRH in my local library’s catalog, I found a book called Picture This, Perception and Composition, by Molly Bang. I had no real grasp of what this book was about, but I requested it. Turns out, Ms. Bang had done some research of her own, into shapes and colors. I am talking extremely abstract shapes. Normally this wouldn’t interest me much, except that she used LRRH as an example of how to build a narrative illustration using ONLY simple shapes and minimal color.

Step by step, shape by shape and piece by piece she takes us through building an image. If the triangle leans in, it feels this way. If it’s smaller, it feels this way. What will make the wolf scarier? How can we put Red into more danger? She ends up using white teeth, mauve background, black trees and wolf shape. Red triangle for Red and red in the wolf’s eyes and a big lolling red tongue. OMG people. In a million years I would not have put this together, EVEN THOUGH, I’ve studied color and universal shape meanings for 30+ years. This is a book that demands re-visiting, re-reading and direct application over a period of time and many experiments.

BangLRRH

This photo copyright 1991 by Molly Bang, from the book “Picture This, Perception and Composition.

It is obvious that this author knows her subject. She has personal knowledge and has used the technique with students of all ages. The book is simple because she made it that way. The concepts are complex, her presentation is digestible. Look at what I did, after just exposure to her concepts. I simply do not believe I could have rendered this work before. I urge you to give yourself the gift of this book if you are interested in the emotional, psychological and perceptional aspects of shapes and colors.

Astonishingly, this book is available used on Amazon for .01 plus shipping. You know where I’m going.

Afterword: I receive no compensation from Brother, nor am I an affiliate for Amazon. Molly Bang is a prolific illustrator of children’s books. The illustration from the book Picture This is used as an example for education and review only.