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.
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. =)
MOON + JELLYFISH
Out in the middle of a wide dark sea, a little jellyfish was all alone. It waited such a long time to find its kin, but nary another jelly did it meet. The sea offered companions of tuna, dolphin, and herring, but none of these would do. Then one night, the little jellyfish looked up and saw the biggest, most glorious jelly of them all shimmering just above the waves. Its bell was so great and bright that its tentacles could not be seen. The little jelly loved it at once and called it Frederic, never knowing it was giving its tiny heart to the moon.
Notes: It has been a while – I’ve been distracted by some other artistic pursuits. With this image, I wanted to really focus on the technical representation of looking through water at the moon. It was a fun challenge. I started with a reference for the jellyfish and then gave in to whimsy. Feeling more comfortable all the time.
QUEEN + CHICKEN
The queen’s evident insanity was the talk of the kingdom. Shortly after the death of her husband, the beauteous queen became fixated on one of the chickens in her royal barnyard, proclaiming to her court that the chicken was none other than the recently deceased king reincarnated as a laying hen. She commissioned a special crown to serve as a nest for her beloved chicken and wore both crown and bird upon her head at all times, insisting the chicken-king must be consulted and included in all royal matters.
Fearing that the neighboring kingdom would catch wind of their queen’s peculiar new habit, nobles and peasants alike adopted the practice of wearing small barnyard animals as living hats, hoping the act would be attributed to fashion rather than madness. By the time word had spread of “the kingdom of animal hats”, its residents were enjoying the advantage of a fierce reputation derived from the hyperbole of storytellers. It was certain that no one would be foolish enough to think of plundering or enslaving a kingdom whose residents were capable of making weasels and rattlesnakes pretend to be hats.
Notes: Began with a scanned sketch for this one and left segments of the line drawing in the finished work. Also experimented with the shape tool and overlaying patterns for the background. While the tools are becoming more intuitive, I’m still having trouble getting a smooth workflow established – something that will (I hope) enable me to move more quickly. For the story, Ryan and I have a particular fondness for chickens and hats, so they will likely be a theme with these entries. I actually think I may flesh this concept out as a full story as the illustration potential for the hats is kind of exciting. Stay tuned…