End of school special

This was for an aborted typography project. Obama looks like he's swallowed a canary.

This is a sketch from last post, colored. It illustrates the idea of families being mostly cobbled together from dead body parts, string and tar.

This is another colored sketch, illustrating the idea that crows don't like to ride the bus, but Sniz from Nickelodeon's Kablam show is pretty much ok with it.

This is an idle sketch from illustration.

This man's fingers are melting due to his cigarette habit.


Sketches from Illustration

These are some pen sketches I did in Illustration and Illustration Style.

And this, which is for 3 Cups of Tea, a book that reads like an early 20th Century adventure novel. It's about a guy who goes climbing in Afghanistan and winds up wanting to build schools for the poor people living there. I don't think this came out too awesome, though the girl looks like a cross between a purple ninja and a Medieval Virgin Mary.


Transgender Day of Remembrance & EcoFest

I made this targeted at people who don't know about the holiday and who aren't really aware of any problem, so I kept it really simple. I didn't intend to make a dichotomy between being trans, and being gay or straight, and I hope it isn't read that way. Queer would have covered things nicely, but it is often taken as a slur and would have been confusing. I also know there are many shades of lavender between the binary of boy/girl, but how to put that across as quickly and easily as possible for people who don't? Nuanced yet simple? Very tricky.

This is for my college's annual environmental festival. This year's theme is to be food and a sustainable New York City. Those donuts were delicious, by the way.


The Jungle Book

This was for my children's book project. I wonder if I made Mowgli look more African than Indian, though giving him dreads made sense to me. I mean, I don't think a kid raised by wolves would have silky straight hair. It would get frizzy and lock up in spots even if he were Chinese.

Some depictions of Mowgli are quite pale. There's a lot of variety in skin color with native Indians, but a pale, European-looking Mowgli is weird to me. I mean, one of the cool things about Mowgli is that he's an Indian boy, not a English dude like Tarzan. He's not foreign to the village near his jungle. And there are lots of children's stories about English kids, not so many about Indian ones.

I originally used red to denote shading on Mowgli's body, but then I decided it was better to use a 6B pencil. Pressing harder on a regular pencil gets you darker, but with a colored pencil it just makes the color more saturated, which doesn't work well for shading. In fact, I went back over Mowgli and added yellow and pale brown (same as the tree) to his skin, after the intial round of red and 6B, to correct my problem with saturated shadows.

The second problem I had with Mowgli is that I inked him after coloring him, and it looked bad. I thickened his outline, then selectively thickened the lines within his body along more raised forms, like his cheeks. I still think his eyes need work.

I used black ink for Bagheera to distinguish his black fur from Mowgli's dark hair and pencil shadows. I think that was a good choice, because otherwise there would be too little contrast.

The two layers of jungle are cyan with green over it, and yellow with green over it. I didn't have access to much variety of green pencil, so I had to mix it on the paper.


Urban Animal Alphabet

I had to design an alphabet for my typography class. I had many ideas, such as a hair alphabet, and a face alphabet, but the professor liked my drawings of animals.

There are a lot of alphabets based on animals, but I tried to base mine not on exotic jungle beasts or zoo animals or farm animals or anything like that, but on the pets and pests we have in New York City. Originally, I used a human as my Z, but my professor insisted I keep my alphabet "consistent".

Sometimes it was tempting to get a bit uncommon, with bats or red-tailed hawks or owls, but I restrained myself. The least urban animals I included were a chipmunk for C and a pet ferret for N. I regret not saving a spot for a roach, but they're not very evocative of any particular letter shape. It was hard enough coming up with a different animal for each letter (though I did include 3 dogs).

The animals are, in order: Rat, pigeon, chipmunk, possum, hornet, dragonfly, squirrel, raccoon, millipede, grasshopper, mantis, mouse, spider, ferret, earthworm, moth, bulldog, house fly, cat, tern, centipede, chihuahua, ant, two-winged thingy, Asian long horned beetle, and spaniel.

Inking this was a bit tricky, because the figures are so small. I usually use a two-tipped marker to do everything, but this time I needed to switch to a micron for the finest details. I used the finer point of my marker for outlines and thickened my micron line for features within each figure's body that could use it, like mouths or tails. I was inspired by the original guy who did Spy Vs. Spy, who I heard created varying line widths using nothing more than an unvarying technical pen.

This is a Xerox of the original, which I have to mount on matte board tomorrow.


I hate Christmas

However, I've been assigned a Christmas card project in 2 separate classes. Joy to the world!

This was the third version I painted of this damn scene. I had to make the colors very saturated so it could copy well, but I don't think it made for a good picture.

This is for Quark. I'd like the photo's colors to be flattened down to black, white, and blue, but I've been having trouble getting it right.


More school stuff

This is a detail I scanned from my Brooklyn Book Fest Poster. I'd hve to digitally stitch the whole poster together because the scanning bed is too small.

My Typography prof wanted me to use this scribbly frog design for my latest project. The frog is a P that turns into an R when he sticks out his tongue and eats a bug.

This got completely screwed up when I accidentally got red paint on it, and tried to remove it.

This is the finished witch. I think I don't like the black marker strokes. Maybe next time, I can brush on the black with poster paint or ink.



This is an incompletely colored drawing I did of a witch. I'm thinking of doing some Halloween cards to sell at Everything Goes Book Cafe.

This is a copy of the inking job I did on my Illustration project. It's the same project I was discussing in my recent post on inking. It is currently fully colored, but the copy machine didn't do such a good job of preserving those colors, so I'll be taking a photo of it soon. Unfortunately, scanning it isn't an option yet.

This is quite ancient. Remember when I entered the major fair poster contest and placed second, and was going to take a photo of my fully colored poster? Well, I never got around to it until just now. But that OTHER poster I was just talking about, you know...that'll be TOTALLY different!

Here's a sketch for my next Illustration Style project: a poster for my college's EcoFestival. New York has an annual City of Water day that promotes green initiatives in the city. There are actually kayak launches all around NYC. A boathouse in Manhattan even provides free boats and training. I went to a session once or twice, but I just wound up arguing with my friend a lot and drinking too much afterward.

This is a...version...of my Computer Art ad. I say "version" because I actually did half the design on a copy machine, instead of using Quark. It's really frustrating to me that I only have 4 hours of class time to work with the program. Computer lab hours are going to increase soon, though, so I'll have my pick of time slots.

Here is a bad photo of my completed watch design project. Notice how the flash is artistically reflecting off the glass!

These are some sketches I did for my latest Typography project. We have to transform one letter into another, and tell a story with it. Here I am, transforming a Bookman typeface-inspired P into an R, by making the letters into a stylized frog. I used Bookman because I had a sheet handy showing all the letters and numbers in that typeface. It's the same one I used for my Brooklyn Book Fest poster, and some of the watch designs.


Where I've been for the past 2 weeks

Bacon in a Bottle logo design.

These two are for my Computer Art class. We're learning how to use QuarkXpress 8. I've never even used a Mac before, so it's pretty confusing, but I've done print work and know how to use other image manipulation programs, so it's not THAT bad. Right now, my main nemesis is Bezier curves, cuz I want to do some bacon fat white and yellow stripes under the logo text, like the Coca Cola logo.

These are for my Typography class. My professor wants "practical" yet "nontraditional" watch face designs, which drives me kind of crazy, because it seems like she likes my designs better when I just scribble a jumble of numbers together. She would probably disagree with this and say she prefers asymmetry and sophisticated compositions. I missed class one day because I was working the primary elections, so I'm out to sea on what she expects. I just started playing with the numbers for these two and crossed my fingers that she likes them.

Speaking of which, these are some subway studies from Primary Day. I wasn't interested in being very realistic. I just wanted to copy down as many little details as I could.

These three are from my first day of Illustration. We had to wander around campus and sketch interesting compositions. My professor didn't like my compositions very much and said she'd prefer more cropping and asymmetry. I actually think one of my faults is that I often don't include the whole figure in the frame, so I've been working against that to make my pictures clearer. But I agree the mongoose picture could benefit from tight cropping on the two opponents' faces. We actually DO have a stuffed mongoose and cobra on campus, right next to my old Art History classroom.

Right now we have to design a poster for the Brooklyn Book Festival. This is my sketch for it.

These are studies for my poster. The last one includes a sketch I did of Housing Works when I went to see Dr. Frank at his book release show for Andromeda Klein. MC Chris was there, too, and was awesome. There were also a bunch of other folks, including a pretty good band that played 2nd. I never caught their name but they rocked.

Finally, this is the latest version of my first Illustration Style project. We had to paste our images on to the article. My professor recommended I add gray to the background. She liked the grassy texture I used for the gray. I think I should have grayed in the foreground, too, but oh well. It's turned in.


Inking and line

I've been working on a poster for my Illustration class, for the Brooklyn Book Festival in 2010. I unfortunately don't have a scan to post, but I want to write a little about inking and line.

I don't really have a settled method for inking, but I do know that having everything look stiff in the final makes me crazy, so for this poster I tried to get all the real drawing done in the inking. I did a really rough sketch just so I would know where everything was, then went over the general shapes at a lightbox and used the original rough sketch for guidance.

In inking, I did the foreground characters first with a thin marker point. I wanted them to be attention getting, much moreso than the background. Tonight I went over the lines I already inked, selectively thickening them and adding detail, on the theory that it would make them stand out more and be more interesting to look at.

Then I went over the background, using a thin, unvarying line.

I originally thought it would be better in general to have a bright foreground over a greyish background...I think it comes from my days reading MAD, where very often the backgrounds were a gray ink wash. However, after poring over old cartoon stills and Frank, I think I'm much better off with dark foreground figures on light background. They pop out more. They don't even have to be black, though areas of black are really attention-grabbing, especially if they surround white areas like mouth or eyes or hands.


Illustration Style homework

Professor asked us to illustrate an article from the NY Times about the criminalization of poverty. Cities and counties are increasingly cracking down on the homeless and imposing tough fines that disproportionally burden the poor, partly to fill the coffers during these "tough economic times". What strikes me in particular about this issue is that the law is tying people down to being poor, creating obstacles to a better life and being sternly self-righteous about it to boot. The original article has a very stark illustration of a shopping cart with prison bars, but I consider my strength to be more in cartooning than in creating really designy, symbolic images.

The border around the cartoon is quite sloppy, and I worry that the greys on the poor vet blur together and make him hard to make out clearly. However, I'm happy how the policeman came out. The line work and the background especially owe something to my studies of Frank.


Preston Blair studies

Preston Blair was an animator at Disney and MGM. Among other things, he worked on Fantasia, doing parts of the Sorceror's Apprentice and the hippo ballet.

He also wrote a series of animation books. They're a how-to on drawing cartoon characters. Over the past few days I've been working on some exercises from his 1rst book, which was published long ago but is available online at the Animation Archives: Preston Blair's Animation First Edition.

I also did some tracings of panels from The Portable Frank to study how they work and absorb the ideas into my brain. My aim is to draw funny animal characters as skillfully as the cartoonists I admired growing up.

This line of study has been inspired by JohnK's Cartoon College.

The pages I've been studying:

Construction of the Head

More Construction of the Head


Some creepy Don Knotts guy.

Ghost World is a "graphic novel" by Daniel Clowes, which was made into a movie in 1999. One of the most striking things about the book is that all of the panels use a cyan wash for shading, as if the characters are perpetually sitting in front of a TV set in a darkened room. Or maybe you're the one in front of the TV, watching the characters...both the book and movie have a patient, voyeuristic tone.

The graphic novel has the guy above as a psychic who hangs out in a suburban cafe Enid Coleslaw, one of the main characters, frequents. She calls him "some creepy Don Knotts guy". In the movie, Steve Buscemi (who kind of looks like Don Knotts) is cast as Enid's middle aged buddy.


Various Stuffs, Mostly Bad

My last life drawing class ended in May. I'm actually not required to take any more drawing credits to get a degree in graphic design/illustration! Isn't that incredible? I understand that designers aren't draftsmen, but you'd think a basic art skill such as drawing....perhaps THE basic art skill...would be considered very important to design, even in this day and age.

All of my design projects have required lots of drawing. It isn't really fair to students who are weaker or less experienced in drawing that this is so. Nobody insists that they practice at home. Art classes don't have the drill-style homework science and math courses do, and, in fact, I've had teachers complain about me working on projects at home. There's this big disconnect between the reality of being an art student (requiring constant practice, study, and observation on your own hours to get the good grades), and how things go in class (4 hours a week of art in a class of 10 to 20 with techniques taught more by print outs than one-on-one instruction).

Don't get me wrong...I think having to please a professor and work within their limits has helped me push myself and get better. But the art instruction I've encountered seems to rely too heavily on the student being knowledgeable already. When you take math in the lower grades, you're made to do hundreds of calculation drills...and then, when you have to solve your first equation, you're prepared. Primary school teachers make you do spelling and grammar drills so that when you write something original, you don't look like a total doofus. It seems to me that teaching art should be no different. Before a teacher asks you to design or illustrate anything original, you should have had the practice under your belt. Homework: fill a sketchbook page with hands drawn in various positions, cubes in perspective from many different angles, gesture drawings of your family and friends...that sort of thing.

I don't have that sort of intensive practice, and I feel worse off for it. But I do doodle a lot and keep extensive notes. Also, this sketchblog helps to organize my progress chronologically: I can go through it and see how I've improved, what my mistakes have been, what works, and what doesn't.

Skill is a tool. If you are not skilled, it is hard to make something good. Even if you ARE skilled, it's hard, but at least you have the tools handy. Schools should give you the basic skills you need to be good, before asking you to be original and then grading you on your skills or lack thereof.

These are some doodles and sketches from the past 3 weeks, as I've ramped up my drawing in anticipation of the September school term.

These dinos were for another GameFAQs request topic. I tried to find some funny shapes for the bodies and heads. Dino anatomy is bizarre to us modern mammals.

Birds are just dinosaurs highly adapted to flight, and their anatomy fascinates me too. A Kentucky fried chicken doesn't look much like a bird anymore. Figuring out how your meat once articulated into a living, moving animal can be very puzzling if you're not familiar with how the animal is put together.

This page is from a minor league baseball game I attended. I tried to sketch without looking at the paper, but the players were just in constant motion, shifting around, swinging, looking around, etc. Most of my sketches were pretty bad.

This is a self portrait I did in my attic. The lighting was tricky for me. I don't know whether I should lighten or darken the face.

This was just some fucking around, trying to silently express a story...with a dumb goth thing on top.

An idea I had in my head, not composed at all.

I obviously am not well versed in drawing architecture.

My room mate is fun to draw because she's very pretty, and pretty goofy.

These were also for a request topic...trying to draw girls with guns without making the girls stereotypically sexy types. One kind of looks like Pippi. One kind of looks like Peewee from I.C.U., this Brooklyn band. One kind of looks like Doug Funnee...

A goofy animal drawing, trying out appealing shapes for an elephant. Teeth are funny.