Greetings Holiday Enthusiasts! If you’re looking to inject more Holiday Fun Time into your greeting card routine, have we got a fun activity for you:
- Go to your local thrift, drugstore, Hallmark, whatever, and buy up as many blank non-holiday related cards as you need. Frankly, the less the card appeals to you, the more fun you’ll have with this activity.
- Transform these cards into your own custom greetings by doodling in holiday elements inspired by / or in spite of the cards’ original content.
- Bask in the numerous benefits you’ve experienced from engaging in this activity which may include but are not limited to any or all of the following: family bonding, hysterical fits of laughter, using your brain, flexing your creativity, the accidental hilarity of your crappy drawing skills, the palpable joy your eyeballs experience from not staring at a screen for a couple of hours, knowing you’re all grown up and you just spent two hours coloring, feeling like a kid again (see previous benefit), being fully engrossed in an activity, knowing you did right by your loved ones by creating personal greetings designed by you to delight them and/or push their buttons.
This year we walked to our local Papyrus store and picked up a collection of blank cards featuring Hugo Guinness prints, published by Chronicle Books. Each card is different and features simple linocut objects and dogs. Experience has taught us that the most mundane content makes for the best results in this activity so we knew we were in business with these babies. Here you can see the back of the box which features small reproductions of each card:
We used colored pencils, black marker, and sparkly pens to make these designs our own. We made some sweet and some mildly vulgar to suit the personalities of the intended recipients. This is our second year doing this and I think it’s going to stick around for the foreseeable future. It’s a great project for Thanksgiving weekend when the family is together and you want a non-physical activity to keep you busy while you digest between meals. Give it a try—it might become a tradition in your family too!
Here’s what we came up with this year:
CACTUS + UNBURDENED
Long ago on a vast and dry land there lived a cactus whose spines never stopped growing. It was a proud and fearsome sight, but as they grew they became ever heavier until one day the cactus could bear the weight no longer and cried for help. Nearby, a large rodent was having problems of her own; word had spread that her kind was delicious and she found herself seeking shelter from a hungry cat beneath the protective spines of the inconsolable cactus. As the rodent caught her breath, she began to hear the cactus’ pitiful cries. Sensing the potential for a mutually beneficial arrangement, the vulnerable rodent spoke up: “I have an idea!” she squeaked. She set about using her powerful teeth to give the cactus a haircut and wove the severed spines into her own fur as she went. Finally unburdened, the cactus stood tall and atop its crown perched a large spiky rodent who would never be anybody’s dinner.
It’s been a long time since I shared a new post. I’ve been engaged in other creative pursuits, but all the while I missed this exercise and the creativity it sparked for me. So, here I am again, but this time I’ll be throwing together simpler illustrations and some traditional media like this one (watercolor). I may also start including other art-related posts as I complete projects and exercises each week. With this illustration I was looking to be playful and bright. We’ve got some wonky shadows going on—note to self: get your light source straight. Generally done without reference photos as I want to get more comfortable sketching from my imagination. I’m especially happy with the cat.
A longtime friend and follower of this blog commissioned this digital painting recently. Being my first digital commission and a direct result of blogging about my adventure with learning digital art media, it seems right to share it here. It was great fun to make!
I am now attempting to pick up Illustrator and finding it incredibly frustrating. I had more initial familiarity with Photoshop when I began this journey, but even so, I’m finding the learning curve in Illustrator to be incredibly steep. I’m at the point in Photoshop now where I’m not sure what else to deliberately learn about the software because I’m able to accomplish everything I set out to do. I have a feeling that any new tools I learn there will be stumbled upon through my continued practice and use.
Illustrator seems a different beast entirely in that there appears to be a definite right way and wrong way to approach building art in it. Tutorials are hard to follow on youtube because (from what I’ve seen) they tend to explore how to use individual tools out of any useful context, NOT how to approach the problem of making art imagery. For example, what I’m seeing is “How to use the pen tool” when what I want to see is “Planning for Art-making in Illustrator; A step by step guide to building a finished image” or something like that. Granted, some videos get pretty close, but it is so time consuming and frustrating ferreting out the gems from the gravel. I watched ten videos before I heard anyone mention that I should build my images from the contour inward. My assessment is that this will take much more time to get familiar with than Photoshop…
JAZZ + MOUNTAIN
The land of the giants was barren and dry, but they had no cause to care so long as the farms of men could slake their hunger with sheep and cows carried off in the night.
One evening, as old farmer Hamhock stood at his front door whistling musically for his dog, he caught sight of a giant running away in the moonlight with his fingers in his ears and a pained look on his face. When he repeated the experiment night after night, it became clear that giants cannot abide music, and so farmer Hamhock called for a meeting with his neighbors and they began to plot.
Early the next morning, the farmers led the way across their borders and into the land of giants with the local junior high school jazz band in tow. The students kept their instruments muffled as they approached the sleeping giants, creeping slowly and carefully across the rocks.
When old Hamhock gave the signal, the students broke into a truly abrasive jazz rendition of “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” that instantly blasted the giants out of their peaceful slumber and into what could be perceived as an interpretive dance of agony. Within seconds, the giants were frozen into a striking tableau of stone that more than one student hoped to take credit for in art class Monday morning.
SECRET + LEMON
Penny clucked with satisfaction at the cleverness of her plan. She had just started laying and was fit to be tied when day after day the stupid farmer took her precious eggs for himself.
“Not this time!” She thought, as she carefully tucked her new egg into a secret hiding place she had made in the straw. Yesterday, she spied lemon trees in the neighbor’s orchard and had already stashed away several fruits. Now she rolled one of the plump lemons into her nest and sat upon it, cackling triumphantly to alert the farmer to come collect his prize. Penny expected he would stupidly mistake the daily lemons for eggs and be satisfied, and she would be free to brood upon her secret clutch.
Sadly, Penny had not considered all the possible angles of her plan for she soon found herself in a carnival sideshow billed as “The Lemon Chicken” in a town that only grew limes.
I was hoping to have this posted before midnight, but what was to be my last post for 2013 is now my first post for 2014. Happy New Year! I haven’t posted since Late november (long Thanksgiving visit home and lots of other work happenings), so I didn’t try much new with this one – I just wanted to get back in the saddle. It’s nice to have my focus back. I really did love making that straw. No, really, I did. Looking forward to more learning in the new year. Cheers. =)
CHOCOLATE + DYSTOPIAN
11.10.2013: Tate Modern, London — A crowd of 200 looks on as Juniper Skye and partner Huxley Luck expressively smash and rip chunks of city-themed detritus into tiny bits with various tools of destruction ranging from hands to hacksaws during their performance piece entitled Dystopian Chocolate. As they destroy, Skye and Luck vocalize pulses of emotion — sobbing, laughing, screaming, and whimpering alternatively with each destructive gesture. When satisfied with the rubble they have created, the artists begin an interpretive dance, flitting and twirling back and forth as they sort the debris into piles. Finally, with grace and flourish, Skye and Luck pour cut-glass pitchers full of smooth, luxurious molten organic chocolate over each pile they have created, mixing with their hands and feet.
Part two of this symbolic social commentary on the complexity of city life will be unveiled at Sotheby’s next week as the chocolate coated piles are melted down and manufactured as foil wrapped chocolate bars typically marketed to our trendy liberal upper-middle class. Branded as Dystopian Chocolate, available varieties will include “Urban Decay” (weather worn, life battered concrete and asphalt blended with bitter unsweetened dark chocolate) and “Gentrification” (sparkling shards of glass mingled with sweet white chocolate). These beautiful bars with their market-appropriate descriptions are of course inedible, and rightly so as they represent aspects and ugly truths of urban living that, according to Skye and Luck, are “hard to swallow”.
Pulled an all-nighter for the first time since college to knock this one out. I’m heading across the country for a head start on Thanksgiving vacation and will be without Photoshop, so I wanted to get one more post completed before my flight (for which I’ll be departing for the airport in about 6 hours). I shall sleep on the plane. Getting some practice in with the human figure and continuing to do my sketches/inking directly on the wacom without scanning drawings. This is still taking much too long. Went through numerous iterations of the chocolate coated rubble trying to get them to stop looking like steaming piles of something else altogether. This iteration is much more successful than the previous, believe it or not. I could say more but I’m dying to get some shut eye before I leave. Goodnight/Good Morning.
CHEF + JUSTICE
The restaurant manager bit nervously at his fingernails while glancing back and forth between his newspaper and the door. The Chef Justice League had made headlines once again, terrorizing restaurants throughout the city for ethics violations such as reusing a fork that had fallen on the floor or pairing Merlot with scallops. Sweat broke out on the manager’s worried brow as he continued to read the story — he knew these culinary vigilantes would soon pay him a visit, but when?
Just then, the restaurant doors burst open and four angry chefs wielding threatening kitchen utensils grabbed the manager by his collar and thrust a fish into his face.
“You’re selling lies for dinner!” barked the angriest looking chef. “This isn’t Red Snapper; it’s Hungarian Skunk Fish! You’re a monster!!”
The Chef Justice League tossed the manager into a sack filled with all the impostor fish they had confiscated and disappeared into the night, leaving more than one diner looking skeptically at their dinner plate, and issuing a chorus of “check, please” from the rest.
Notes: Oh my stars, this took forever. Not this picture specifically, but in getting to this one. I started with an overly complex scene featuring five chefs, the manager, and full tables of diners. Part of being an artist is knowing when something just isn’t working and willingly scrapping dozens of hours of work rather than “beating a dead horse”, so to speak. While you can’t get those hours back, you learn important lessons like “simplify”; “Simple” is always better. Once I finally got my drawing and composition set for this one, the rest fell into place pretty quickly. I wanted to continue trying to integrate found textures and I’m pleased with the result for the most part. It’s amazing how many generous people offer their textures for use free of charge. I used a bokeh photo from “regularjane” on deviantART. Very helpful. Notice I haven’t gone back to the pen tool since the first time… that should be in my future soon, but I keep putting it off. Ah well, see you next week. =)