Tag Archives: creative process

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending October 19

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art Day. Today!

Sunday, October 14 – I took my pale canvas boards, 5″ x 7″, and spread them out on my table.

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I plan to use these as background for some TV-time art, art I do while sitting on my sofa and watching television at night. I want to paint backgrounds and then draw on them with pen. Like this one from a couple of weeks ago:

When the Aliens Came 5 x 7 9-1801

The purpose of today’s activity was to put an initial coat of paint on the canvas boards. I bought very cheap ones from Blick, 25 for about $10 – but I think the quality is fine, but the gesso is slippery and paint can be kind of see-through. I’ll let these dry and then work on a more polished background look before I set to with my pens.

 

It’s a big mess right now but it will come out all right in the end, I promise you.

Monday, October 15
– My priority art project right now is that I want to finish the illustrations for my upcoming Minuscule story book – I am doing a pen and ink sketch for each little story.

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I did some more work toward this goal today.

 

I usually make more than one drawing (I enjoy the Chinese brush/India ink combination; I like making these drawings; the upshot being I always seem to want to make just one more pass and see if I can get a better result…things are going to move slowly, I think!). The upside is, there are lots of leftovers I can use for other projects down the line.

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Tuesday, October 16 – Another day of working on Minuscule illustrations.

 

My work table is a mess. I am using only one small section right now and the rest is serving as a landing place for future projects and other debris. I will clean it up when I finish the current project and then I’ll be able to see what I want to do next – until then – well, let’s just burrow in.

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Wednesday, October 17 – In the morning I put more paint on the 5″ x 7″ canvas boards:

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Here is a closer look:

 

Now I have a little dilemma. Some of these little paintings look nice to me just as they are, or with some augmentation.

 

Oh dear. I wanted to make nondescript yet appealing backgrounds so that I could draw on them. The drawings are intended to have nothing much to do with what the painted image looks like, if you know what I mean – I don’t want to see a person in my abstract image and then fill it out with pen, I want to see – nothing but a nice background – and draw birds or planets or slices of pizza on it. Does this make sense?

Even crazier because most of the time I am looking for the paint to tell me in which direction to go. I solved today’s issue by dividing the canvas boards into two groups (“looks like something” and “does not look like something”). So I’ll have some drawing-worthy backgrounds and I’ll think about the others for a while.

In the afternoon I did a couple more Minuscule illustrations. Oh dear, I made two for each story, and I like them both – but I’ll have to choose. later.

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Today certainly is not a decision-making day!

Friday, October 19 – More Minuscule illustrations. I’m making good progress. I think I have about 12 more to do and the book will be finished. I can see that my skills have grown over this project and I’m finding it easier to achieve my hopes for each picture with a little more facility than when I started things up.

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OK, that’s it for this week! Thank you for coming along with me.

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Secret Project: The Backstage Story – Part Two

You’ve seen the published stories and their illustrations in the September Slam at Fictive Dream, an online magazine focusing on the short story.  Now, in a series of posts, I travel through the project from my perspective as an artist, covering the creative process, physical and mental – from the tools I used to the way I approached the various stories.

For other posts in this series, search under the term “September Slam”.

Now it was time to get down to some actual work. But wait – once I got started – some other questions had to be resolved, questions that arose with the first stories I received and worked on. In this post I’m going talk about several things (and I warn you, it’s a lot of talking and not a lot of pictures, but I promise you’ll understand a lot more about the illustration process for the September Slam when you are finished, yes, I do!)

  • how to decide what to draw
  • aspect ratios 
  • the role and application of the digital fix-it process

Part I – What to Draw?

The first two stories Fictive Dream Editor Laura Black sent to me were It Seems Impossible It Could Ever Begin and Dear Damian. In our preparatory discussions Laura suggested that she would mark up the stories with the passages she felt were visually appealing and important to the story. I asked her to make an amendment – send me both unmarked and marked copies, I said. I wanted to read each story and have a clear idea of what images stood out to me before looking at it from her standpoint.

Laura said one of her prime considerations for the Slam artwork was “for the project to have an identity and for the Slam stories to be differentiated from the standard stories” featured in Fictive Dream.

In this way I was able to understand what Laura saw in the stories as well as being able to form my own ideas. This project obviously required me to be sensitive to what she wanted from the art, something I never think about when making my own pieces just for myself. In comparing our selections, we almost always chose the same passages as being illustration-worthy. It was very good for me to have confirmation of her thinking – I could set to work with confidence.

On my own, I decided to make more than one illustration for each story. I work best when I have not got everything riding on that one egg in the basket – I know this from past commission work. Laura could then select an image that would fit the story and fit the overall Slam look. I felt much more confidence working this way – the possibility of disappointment or rejection is lower with more options offered!

Here is what Laura said about Choosing the right image for each particular story:

“I didn’t have any knowledge of how you would work and as the project progressed I became increasingly grateful that you offered multiple options per story. That said, the choice wasn’t always easy for me. So often I could have gone either way, but this was the fun part without doubt. ..But when it comes to how I made the choices, for each story I pretty much followed this procedure: I uploaded all your options and I’d try each image on the story. One day I’d try one image, the next I’d try another. I’d re-read the text with the images in mind. Eventually, I’d make my choice. Sometimes I’d change my mind and start again. Primarily, I was trying to choose the image that best encapsulated the theme of a piece.”

Part II – Aspect Ratios 

All right. I looked over the two stories and I decided upon the content of my illustrations. (I will describe the specifics of particular stories/illustrations in a later post – for now I’m sticking with the general issues). As said in the first post, I was working with 1200 wide px x 750 px tall, and I had determined, using the aspect ratio (width to height, 1.6: 1) to go with drawings 12″ x 7.5″.

I got to work and produced these images:

If you compare them with the published images:

You notice the text is in a different place.

Laura said another of her aims for the artwork was “for the text, ‘September Slam 2018’ to be incorporated into the illustrations as part of the identity.”

What we hadn’t thought of was that while the main illustration had certain measurements, the thumbnail image that appeared on Fictive Dream’s main page was proportioned differently. Laura got in touch with WordPress, and the dimensions were set and could not be altered – 800 x 400, or an aspect ratio of 2:1. Any image in the thumbnail would be cropped if it did not meet the standard. So when I sent the illustrations to Laura, she found that the text was cut off in the thumbnails.

I did some calculations. To make things work for both main image and thumbnail, the width of the picture was fine, but the height was not. All the important information in the illustration needed to be in the middle section – nothing at the top or bottom edges. After doing some math, I calculated that the middle 5.5 inches was the “safe zone”.

All right. Complicating factors were:

  • in the meantime I’d received and worked on several other illustrations
  • I’d put the text outside the safe zone and worse, I’d lettered it right on the image.

Part III – I Fixed It! So There, Aspect Ratios!

At first I was afraid I might have to redraw quite a few images, and that filled me with trepidation – usually, my first attempt is my best attempt. Freshness is lost in copying over something I’ve already done. So I thought hard.

I use PhotoShop Elements 15 for all of my image processing and I am very familiar with it. I decided I could manage the changes digitally. I took the original  images and copied plain areas of color to layer over the text. Luckily I was able to find compatible sections and blend them in by adjusting color and opacity.

I had composed the images with the text being an element in the composition, so moving it made the images off-balance to me, but no one else would think so, I felt. I copied the text and an area around it, and added it as a layer to the image. In this way I was able to move it around until I found a good spot for it. I kept two copies of the final image – one with the layers still active (just in case) and the flattened one to send to Laura. It worked!

Fictive Dream It Seems Impossible It Could Ever Begin 8-18 #1 adjusted flattened yellow text small

Image used

 

Fictive Dream It Seems Impossible It Could Ever Begin 8-18 small #1

Original

Fictive Dream It Seems Impossible It Could Ever Begin 8-18 #1 adjusted flattened text small

Another version – not used

I learned several things by taking this tangential path:

  • when making art to fit more than one viewing aspect – arrange the elements so that the important parts show and work well in all cases.
  • do not write the text directly on the image – in fact, leave yourself options for any items not part of the main image
  • don’t give up – you will find a way to make things work!

After the Slam, Laura sent me some comments which included this:

The Slam has a clear identity and the intricate pen and ink style is just right. I think the text is incorporated superbly. It catches the eye but never dominates the image, which I like.

I really appreciated that she said this – I very much wanted to do a good job and putting in the time and effort to get the text situation visible and visually appealing made me feel I had done good work for her and for her authors. Which is the whole point!

Next time – I’ll begin talking about and showing you the creation process for all the illustrations – reference materials, computer techniques, my own thoughts about the images I created. Thanks for reading!

Secret Project: The Backstage Story – Part One

You’ve seen the published stories and their illustrations in the September Slam at Fictive Dream, an online magazine focusing on the short story.  Now, in a series of posts, I travel through the project from my perspective as an artist, covering the creative process, physical and mental – from the tools I used to the way I approached the various stories.

Back in early part of summer 2018, Laura Black, editor of Fictive Dream, contacted me about providing the illustrations for an upcoming event at her online magazine. I had followed Fictive Dream for some time and one of my artworks had accompanied a story in January 2017.

The competition was prompt-based; all stories were to include this quote from writer, novelist, and publisher Nicholas Royle:

“I met him in a faded restaurant in a small, rainy town on the main line between Brussels and Paris. There were mirrors on the walls all around the room.”

After some discussions through email, here were the parameters we agreed on:

  • Each picture to include the text September Slam 2018, handwritten

  • 7-10 illustrations needed, depending on the final number of stories

  •  Drawings done in pen/ink on a color wash background

  • The images to be in a landscape orientation, sized at 1200 x 745 px.

All right. Sounds good. First step – to think about how big I wanted to make the actual drawings. Since my eyesight is not great for tiny details, I opted to make the physical images 12″ x 7.5″. But understand – I could have chosen any size, as long as it would fit the ratio of 1.6: 1, and I could get a scanned image from it large enough to work well on the computer.

I painted some backgrounds, using acrylics, on heavy paper meant for mixed media work. Over the course of the project, sometimes I used a pre-painted paper and other times I made ones especially for the scene.

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I got a lot of new pens – Zebra Eco gel pens. Note: these pens do not give a waterproof result, but I love the flow of the ink and the ease of drawing with them. Since the physical images were not important and in fact would not ever be displayed, longevity did not matter. I went for the pen I liked to use the most. It had the advantage of being somewhat correctable – I could wipe out mistakes if I acted quickly, due to the plasticky surface of the acrylic-covered paper. Once the image was done, I could spray the picture with a matte varnish to seal it and preserve it from smudges.

In the final decision process, I offered Laura the choice between all pen vs. pen/collage – both on a background of color wash. I sent her these two images, based on the quote, for the final choice:

She opted to go for the pen-only choice, and she used both images on social media to promote the competition.

I also made one other non-story-specific image, in case I had some sort of disaster and an illustration was needed on short notice. This drawing was based on a photo I had taken in Allentown, PA.

Fictive Dream Rainy City 7-18 small

At this point I was settled in my mind on several important things – the size of the drawings, the materials to be used, and the general look of the project as a whole. Next – start to work on illustrations for an actual story.

Art Diary 2018 – Week Ending October 5

Art Diary. A weekly wrap-up of art activities. For earlier posts, search under the category Art Diary.

Art every day and all week.

Saturday, September 29 – This afternoon we took a trip to the Ceramic Shop in Norristown, PA. I needed some underglazes. This store is always a treasure trove. I worked my way past the shelves of glazes:

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…stopping to look some over, for future projects, before I came to the Velvet underglaze display and chose my items.

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After that I wandered around the store a little. As always, I am fascinated by the huge array of tools that can be used in clay work.

Here is a sample board showing various clay bodies sold here. Different clays fire in different temperature ranges and are additionally of different consistencies – some very smooth, some gritty. It all depends on your purpose as to what clay you chose to work with. Additionally, each clay can be fired within a range of temperatures – the different samples show the same clay fired at various levels. As you can see, this display is very useful in choosing clay.

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Here you see a selection of kiln shelves. Since each firing requires the shelves to be configured to fit the clay work being fired, there are a lot of choices.

Here is a display of pyrometric cones. You may remember me as describing a clay item as being fired at “Cone 06” or that kind of thing. Before computerized controls, each firing required the use of a pyrometric cone, created to be specific to a firing temperature, which was designed to bend or slump when the correct temperature was reached (you needed to view the cone through the peephole in the kiln wall).

These cones are still used today, even in computerized firings, for a variety of reasons – to make sure a certain item gets to the correct temperature, as kilns can have hot or cold spots; or to check that the kiln’s controls are accurate, for instance. I don’t use them, as my work is not that temperature-specific and my kiln has computerized controls – but obviously lots of people do. There is a large display of them here.

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Sunday, September 30 – My husband and I went to a play this afternoon at Allen’s Lane Art Center. You may remember other productions we’ve seen here – it’s a small theater and the seating is cafe style. This show was lightly attended, being a Sunday matinee, and we got a place right up on the edge of the stage.

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I got out my trusty sketchbook:

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but I didn’t have much time for drawing the audience as I usually do here, because I was downstairs for some time chatting with my friend Lisa, who runs the box office. Just saying. Anyway, here are a few quick things:

Monday, October 1 – I fired up the kiln. It may look like it’s just sitting and doing nothing, but that number on the front means it’s 1200+ degrees F inside. And that’s not the whole story – it will go up to about 1830 degrees…

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Let me back up a little. I forgot about these. Remember when I went through that box of little scraps last week? I pulled out some that I wanted to color. I’ve spent some of the last few evenings doing just that with my markers. I’ll figure out what happens next soon.

Back to today. I felt like slapping a little paint on a surface. I got out one of the 18″ x 24″ 1/8″ thick masonite boards I recently bought, as well as two of the 11″ x 14″. They have already been gessoed in black. I started working away. We’ll see what happens. I remind myself that the large board cost $3.50. I have nothing to lose.

Tuesday, October 2 – I opened the kiln.

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I was happy to see everything sitting in its place, nothing blown up, nothing fallen over. There is a variety of objects and tiles in this load. Tiles -(commercially made terracotta base):

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Sgraffito tiles – made from terracotta that I rolled out myself. I realized after I’d done them that they are only 1/4″ thick, and these days I like 3/8″ – but I was using up already-rolled clay, that’s why. Anyway, all good.

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Various figurines:

and remember this vessel? It came through the firing well – no seams opened up. I think I will do a little work on sanding some rough areas, and I’ll clean up the rim with a better black coat around it. Then I need to decide – will I glaze just the inside or the whole thing? Because for it to be functional the interior (at a minimum) must be glazed or it will not hold water.

Then there was this little stray tile…

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After congratulating myself and the clay items for completing a safe trip through the firing, I decided to go upstairs and work on that painting thing I’ve got going on. Today, I decided, would be ink day. I pretty much stuck to adding only India and acrylic inks to the picture, though I did put some more paint on, too.

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Where is this thing going?

Thursday, October 4 – First, a few more of those ink drawings turned colorful.

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I worked on the large painting. It continues to progress. Then I brought it upstairs to sit in front of me and let itself rest for a while.

I worked a little on the small painting, too. Really, all I did was to decide to turn it the other way around and to outline the person in ink, but…it’s still something…

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Friday, October 5 – I brought the recently fired clay into the laundry room/face painting venue to start the coloring process.

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Using Jet Black Velvet underglaze, I did my usual routine: paint the faces and other relief details in black and then wash off, leaving the color in the crevices.

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I got the whole gang done and set them on my work table. Next step: giving them a black coating all over their bodies to form the base for the bright colors I plan for them.

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I may do that this afternoon. Or I might work on that painting. Or I might sit on the sofa, watch TV, and finish up odds and ends of art tasks and paperwork. I don’t know. So I’ve decided to cut off this week’s Diary entry here. I’ll post this afternoon’s work (if I do any, as there is always option #4: I might just lie on the sofa and read) tomorrow. Happy end of the week!

OK, that’s it for this week! Thank you for coming along with me.

Paint Brochure Embellishment: Biography Time

You’ve seen these paint brochure artworks before, so I’ll say no more, other than to tell you that this one was done in July, 2018.

Oh, wait, I guess I need to explain a little bit what I was thinking. I decided that each paint name was that of a person; I added their titles and gave them each an occupation. Now it will make sense to you, I hope.

Take a look. Here is the whole thing:

And here is the left side:

and the right side.

Secret Project Revealed: Day 7

Background: You’ve read about the secret project in my Art Diary…now, here’s what it’s all about.

I have provided illustrations for a short story competition, September Slam 2018, at Fictive Dream, an online literary magazine specializing in short stories. The Slam is featuring seven stories this week, September 24-30, one a day, and I did the illustration for each one.

This story is the last one for the September Slam 2018. Thank you to Fictive Dream Editor Laura Black for giving me this opportunity, and thank you to everyone who’s been following along. I am grateful.

I’ll be writing posts to describe the illustration process in a week or two – keep your eye out for them. But for now…let’s read.

Today’s story is Farewell to Europe, by Adam Kotlarczyk.

Here is the illustration. Look it over and then go and read the story!

Fictive Dream Farewell to Europe image 1 layers and text flattened 9-18 small

Secret Project Revealed: Day 6

Background: You’ve read about the secret project in my Art Diary…now, here’s what it’s all about.

I have provided illustrations for a short story competition, September Slam 2018, at Fictive Dream, an online literary magazine specializing in short stories. The Slam is featuring seven stories this week, September 24-30, one a day, and I did the illustration for each one.

And…I’ll be writing some posts on my experiences in illustrating these stories later on. Keep an eye out for them.

 

Today’s story is Chemical Cosh, by Cath Bore.

Here is the illustration. Look it over and then go and read the story! What do you think?

Fictive Dream Chemical Cosh image 1 9-18 flattened small