Tag Archives: mixed media

Revisits: Main Theme

I did some illustrations for an event at Fictive Dream, an online fiction magazine specializing in short stories. It’s called “Revisits”. In it, the magazine revisits “the best of the back catalog”, as editor Laura Black says. Every two weeks April through August 2019, a different theme was explored. Look here to see the line-up of stories from the event and to read them.

I wrote a series of posts explaining the art creation process for this event. Look here for the first post, Love, which also offers an overview of the parameters of the art aspects of this project; for the other themes, search under the term Revisits in this blog.

In addition to the illustrations for each theme covered in the Revisits event, I did an artwork intended for the main page of the Revisits 2019 page at Fictive Dream, the place where readers could go to access the collection of stories in one place. It’s a title page illustration, as I think of it, for a “book” of collected short stories.

As such it needed to fit in with the illustrations done for each individual theme: landscape, sky, tree(s). For this picture the choices were wide open – there was no theme to illustrate.

I did the work on this image at the beginning of the project. Looking back, waiting until the end might have been better, but I was not sure how quickly I’d get the theme illustrations done and I was afraid the event would begin, I had not done all the illustrations, and yet we needed the Main Theme illustration to be in place at the event page.

You may remember that Fictive Dream editor Laura Black and I were feeling our way with the illustrations for a little while in the beginning until we got a few produced and began to know what we wanted. This Main Theme illustration was part of that “feeling our way” process.

Originally my thought was to include an array of colors in the landscape to portray the variety of themes and stories in the collection. I came up with this collage:

Image 21 blog

Laura liked it but it was not what she was looking for. As an artist, it can be hard to hear this kind of news; even though it’s not a criticism of the work, it means I’ve missed the mark. But in commission work, missing the mark is not failure – it’s a way to better understand where the mark actually is and to try again.

When I was auditioning styles for the project, as the very first step, I submitted quite a few images to Laura as we worked out the picture, the text, the text placement and style, etc. I made some wildly different pictures to gauge her interest:

I am sure you can see the one that caught her attention. I had created it from magazine papers unified with a layer of paint, text digitally applied. Anyway, when we got to the Main Theme image she reminded me of this one and how she had liked it.

I created a new version in the same colors but using painted sketch papers so as to fit in with the other theme illustrations. The text is slightly larger to fill in the space better (since there is no theme word, using the same size type made the word Revisits look a little scared and lost!)

Image 22 final 92 Calibri blog

This picture fit the bill. I liked the look of it and more importantly, Laura felt it was a good long-term representative for the overall Revisits event as people visit it now or in the future.


This post wraps up the Revisits illustration event on my blog. Once again I’d like to thank Laura Black for her faith in my work and her unfailing support of it. She is a true pleasure to work for. And thank you to everyone for following me on this journey.

Now I’d urge you take a look at the stories:  here at Fictive Dream: Revisits.

Revisits: War

I did some illustrations for an event at Fictive Dream, an online fiction magazine specializing in short stories. It’s called “Revisits”. In it, the magazine revisits “the best of the back catalog”, as editor Laura Black says. Every two weeks through August, a different theme will be explored.

Look here for the first post, Love, which also offers an overview of the parameters of the art aspects of this project.

Today, August 21, the theme is War. Here’s the image:

Image 13 blog

The theme of War is more concrete than some of the earlier ones. We all have many images of war stored in our heads from exposure to the news, stories told to us by friends or relatives, war in fiction or movies, or from our own personal experiences.

Fictive Dream Editor Laura Black said in her notes on this project:

For the colour I have in mind khaki (perhaps the shade you used in Image 11 for February), and numerous splintery trees with damage from bombing or shooting.

The artwork to which she refers (Image 11) is this one that illustrated a story in Flash Fiction February 2019:

I also recalled an image I made for an earlier event at Fictive Dream, September Slam 2018 – the story concerned events of World War I. For various reasons the story ultimately was not included and the illustration did not appear, but I remembered the khaki-yellow color I used in it:

Fictive Dream Ypres full size 8-18 #1 adjusted text flattened small

So I used the greenish color for the landscape with a dull ocher for the sky, both colors associated with army uniforms. I also deliberately made the colors less vibrant than some of the other illustrations, though I kept the intensity.

When it came to the trees, Laura’s image of  trees splintered by bombs coincided with my own (and my husband’s too; when I mentioned this theme to him he immediately described trees blown up and lying on the ground in pieces). It was important the the trees portrayed the suffering, damage, and destruction of war. I created trees that are barely standing, with branches scattered around and who may or may not survive, trees irrevocably changed, trees whose years of growth were destroyed in an instant.

When I showed the image to Laura, it fit her vision, and so the illustration of War was done.

Image 13 blog

Thanks for reading! And take a look at the stories:  here at Fictive Dream.

Revisits: Sex

I did some illustrations for an event at Fictive Dream, an online fiction magazine specializing in short stories. It’s called “Revisits”. In it, the magazine revisits “the best of the back catalog”, as editor Laura Black says. Every two weeks through August, a different theme will be explored.

Look here for the first post, Love, which also offers an overview of the parameters of the art aspects of this project.

Today, August 7, the theme is Sex. Here’s the image:

Image 9 blog

Fictive Dream Editor Laura Black and I both felt that Sex needed a strong intense color, allied to Love, but not to be mistaken for it – and the trees should be similarly related. And there there is the connection to Friendship to consider (have I just stated something very obvious about the real-life equivalents? Oh dear). Laura said to me in her notes on this theme:

Here I envisage the deeper reds to differentiate the theme from Love; two trees close together with branches intertwined but not necessarily with the potential for growth that there is in Friendship. Perhaps I ought to mention that in one story the sex is nothing more than a transaction and the woman is without emotion.

From these comments and from my own earlier statements, you can see that when the illustration topic is a large abstract idea, it is very easy lose focus. Borders between emotions merge and without something concrete to fall back on it’s hard to figure out how to take the first step.

This is where the use of the tree form made a difference in this project. Let me step back and show a small sampling of the huge variety of tree images I have done over the years:

In each one the personality of the tree is the subject of the picture – each tree portrays and evokes different feelings or emotions. Each tree is an individual.

For the theme of Sex, I used strong reds with brown, purple, and orange tones inthe landscape, to indicate vitality. I gave the trees curvy shapes to emphasize their organic natures. The trees brush branches but are not entangled – I wanted it to be more as if they were interested in attracting the other’s attention. Flirting a little?

I added a pale sky with some violet overtones to bring out the red colors. When I showed the image to Laura, she liked it. And so the illustration was done!

Image 9 blog

Thanks for reading! And take a look at the stories:  here at Fictive Dream.

Revisits: Missing

I did some illustrations for an event at Fictive Dream, an online fiction magazine specializing in short stories. It’s called “Revisits”. In it, the magazine revisits “the best of the back catalog”, as editor Laura Black says. Every two weeks through August, a different theme will be explored.

Look here for the first post, Love, which also offers an overview of the parameters of the art aspects of this project.

Today, July 24, the theme is Missing. Here’s the image:

Image 12 blog

As soon as I heard that this theme, Missing, would be part of Revisits, I knew how I would portray it using the tree theme and landscape design that Fictive Dream editor Laura Black and I had settled upon.

With this vision in mind, I read over Laura’s notes for the theme:

These stories are linked by sadness and/or despair so I’m thinking in terms of cool blues. For the tree, perhaps a single tree suggesting the loneliness of the person left behind.

I enthusiastically agreed with the color scheme. Blue conveyed the idea of a lack, a deficit, something that has been taken away – it’s a cold feeling, missing, a negative state, I felt.

But I strongly felt that a single tree might not convey enough of the theme. To me, one tree conveys the state of being left alone, being without; but how that state came about was not clear, I thought. I needed to show that things had once been fuller and were now lessened.

I set up a row of trees in a blue field under a gray sky, leaving a space where one tree should be but is not. I hoped that the gap would convey that once things had been complete but now they were not. I wanted the remaining trees to look drawn in, sad, and as if they were quite aware that one of them was missing from the line.

The idea behind my thinking was this – in any pattern, your eye looks for variation, and interprets it in light of the surrounding visual information. I’ve made lots of artwork with overt patterning that exploits this idea, such as these two collages below – but in the Missing artwork, the method was more subtle.

When I showed Laura the image, she liked it, and so – Missing was ready to be included.

Image 12 blog

 

Thanks for reading! And take a look at the stories:  here at Fictive Dream.

Revisits: Friendship

I did some illustrations for an event at Fictive Dream, an online fiction magazine specializing in short stories. It’s called “Revisits”. In it, the magazine revisits “the best of the back catalog”, as editor Laura Black says. Every two weeks through August, a different theme will be explored.

Look here for the first post, Love, which also offers an overview of the parameters of the art aspects of this project.

Today, July 10, the theme is Friendship. Here’s the image:

By this point, Fictive Dream editor Laura Black and I were hitting our stride with this project, I think. We had established parameters, tested them with earlier images, and we now had a visual vocabulary that was working for us. Laura gave me some notes expressing her vision for the Friendship artwork:

For the colour I have in mind a warm yellow. For the trees one option is as they appear in the Abuse Image 3 ie. two trees in a cooperative position. Alternatively, healthy trees intertwining and growing because there’s potential for the friendship to become stronger… I ought to say that for all the stories in this theme, the friendship is expressed in negative contexts eg. the friendship a man shows towards an addict who will never recover.

I had also envisioned a scene including yellow – to me the color is perfect, warm and enveloping without overpowering. And in the language of flowers, a bouquet of yellow roses is a traditional gift to show friendship. I’ve made a lot of art including yellow flowers:

 

So the color yellow and friendship seemed perfect together in this image.

I gave some thought to the fact that the selected stories portrayed friendship in an “anti” sense – should that make a difference to my work? I reminded myself that my role was to portray friendship as an overall concept and not to try to reflect the nuances of specific stories, especially since I did not read any of them before doing the artwork, by design.

When I portrayed the trees, I wanted to take Laura’s mention of the ambiguity of friendship into account, though. The trees are close and they intertwine, but they are not leaning into each other – they maintain an upright distance, even though it’s small. There is room for the friendship to evolve.

I did only this one artwork, and I was happy with the result. I showed it to Laura and she agree. Friendship was ready for the Revisits lineup.

Thanks for reading! And take a look at the stories:  here at Fictive Dream.

Revisits: Magic Realism

I did some illustrations for an event at Fictive Dream, an online fiction magazine specializing in short stories. It’s called “Revisits”. In it, the magazine revisits “the best of the back catalog”, as editor Laura Black says. Every two weeks through August, a different theme will be explored.

Look here for the first post, Love, which also offers an overview of the parameters of the art aspects of this project.

Today, June 26, the theme is Magic Realism. Here’s the image:

Image 8 blog

As an English major in college, I was familiar with the genre, which combines the real with the fantastic and the everyday with the surreal in order to weave a story rooted in reality but diverging from it, all to unsettle and redefine the idea of what is standard normality, or what it is not. The literary movement is thought of as originating with Latin American authors, but writers all over the world write in this genre.

If this had been a standalone project, I would have chosen hot pink for the ground, but that color was used in Love and it fit better there. Fictive Dream editor Laura Black offered a great idea in her notes for this theme:

These stories tend towards chaos in one way or another, and two of them refer to fiery skies and deep reds. For this category the colour could be a deep red or a colour that’s not often used, perhaps off white/turquoise. Magic realism stories are often luxurious in their use of language and maybe this could be reflected in the tree?

The mention of fiery skies set me in motion. I chose a deep brilliant orange color scheme for the ground – it stayed in the color family both Laura and I envisioned, but it didn’t infringe on other themes. I used a yellowy sky to continue the feeling of warmth in this piece, as if the ground heat was radiating into the air.

For the trees, I knew right away what I would endeavor to create, even before I read Laura’s notes. I saw elaborate, highly-patterned trees that were clearly trees but did not follow everyday tree growth forms. I’m very fond of spiral patterns in particular and I use them often in my artwork:

Clay-cylinder-people-medium-group-2-10-18-back01

 

 

In this picture, I set out one tree in the orange landscape and gave it spiraling branches with other shapes mixed in. I felt one tree was plenty – I wanted it to stand out and make a big statement.

I made only this one image, and Laura liked it. So, here you have Magic Realism.

Image 8 blog

Thanks for reading! And take a look at the stories:  here at Fictive Dream.

Revisits: Rivalry

I did some illustrations for an event at Fictive Dream, an online fiction magazine specializing in short stories. It’s called “Revisits”. In it, the magazine revisits “the best of the back catalog”, as editor Laura Black says. Every two weeks through August, a different theme will be explored.

Look here for the first post, Love, which also offers an overview of the parameters of the art aspects of this project.

Today, June 12, the theme is Rivalry. Here’s the image:

Image 11 blog

By now Fictive Dream Editor Laura Black and I had settled into a good process for working through these pieces. One thing that really helped me – she gave me a short paragraph or two about the remaining themes, describing her vision of the trees and the colors she associated with them. I found this immensely helpful. I think in images or impressions and then translate my thoughts into words, especially when I’m dealing with art topics. I’m not that articulate about something I’ve seen or heard until I have a little time to absorb it.

Laura’s notes allowed me to take her words and translate them into images before I started to work. I could compare them to what my own ideas had been. In many  cases we had a similar vision for the piece; other times, not so much, but in those cases I could make choices with informed knowledge. Very helpful to me, those notes, and I appreciated that Laura articulated the intangible to me!

Here’s what she said about Rivalry:

For the colour I’m thinking along the lines of an emerald/deep green. In all three stories the rivalry is reciprocated (two adult sisters, two children, two young women). For the trees maybe two solid trees that do not touch each other?

I had been thinking this intense subject needed an intense color for the ground. If it had been a standalone project, I would have chosen deep red. But, I had that color in mind for another theme and felt it fit better there. As I thought about it, Laura’s suggestion of green was a wonderful choice – I think of jealousy as being green, its traditional color, and I think of rivalry as incorporating a strong dose of jealousy.

As for her description of the trees, I had been thinking along the same lines. Rivalry is usually an ongoing process; it takes place over time. I wanted to include trees that had been at odds for a long time – so the trees would be old and thick in the trunk. I also felt the trees would be a bit battered and misshapen by the long-term conflict of rivalry, but still very alive and anticipating many more years.

As for the sky, I wanted it to feel oppressive, weighty (remembering that it also had to be a light enough color to set off the theme title). A lavender-blue seemed right for the scene.

I was happy with my first try, and I sent it off to Laura – she felt the same way. So, here you see Rivalry.

Image 11 blog

 

Thanks for reading! And take a look at the stories:  here at Fictive Dream.

Revisits: Grief

I did some illustrations for an event at Fictive Dream, an online fiction magazine specializing in short stories. It’s called “Revisits”. In it, the magazine revisits “the best of the back catalog”, as editor Laura Black says. Every two weeks through August, a different theme will be explored.

Look here for the first post, Love, which also offers an overview of the parameters of the art aspects of this project.

Today, May 22, the theme is Grief. Here’s the image:

Image 7 blog

In earlier projects for Fictive Dream, as you know, I made a couple of images for each story. I followed that trend with the earlier Love and Abuse and Growing Up. At this point in the process, though, I was feeling more confident of the direction of my work in general, as far as interpreting themes, and for this theme, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do. I figured I’d give it a try, show it to Fictive Dream editor Laura Black, and see what she thought. If it didn’t work, our discussion would give me direction and I’d just take things from there.

I took my inspiration from several things. First, as far as the color scheme, I wanted to reflect the emotion in grays, browns, and dark blues – a sere, devastated kind of landscape with an overcast sky.

The shape of the tree needed to reflect the emotion as well – I felt downward reaching branches would give the right feeling. When people grieve, shoulders slump, the head is down, they draw into themselves and the feeling, and that’s what I wanted the tree to portray.

I had two visual sources I worked from. One was the recurrent motif of the willow tree, with its downward flowing branches, found in mourning samplers from the 1800’s (look here for an example). I have had an interest in needlework throughout my life and have learned a little about the symbolism and history of mourning embroidery.

The other source was a photo I took some years back. It’s a tree standing in front of a local elementary school. I found the branch patterns dramatic. I entered it in a camera club competition and it won a prize, so I kept the image and was able to refer to it.

Schoolyard Tree small

With these pictures in mind, I created the representation of the tree. When I showed it to Laura, she liked it, and so, the image for Grief was done!

Thanks for reading! And take a look at the stories:  here at Fictive Dream.

Revisits: Growing Up

I did some illustrations for an event at Fictive Dream, an online fiction magazine specializing in short stories. It’s called “Revisits”. In it, the magazine revisits “the best of the back catalog”, as editor Laura Black says. Every two weeks through August, a different theme will be explored.

Look here for the first post, Love, which also offers an overview of the parameters of the art aspects of this project.

Today, May 8, the theme is Growing Up. Here’s the image:

Image 6a blog

In earlier projects for Fictive Dream, as you know, I made a couple of images for each story. I followed that trend with the earlier Love and Abuse and I did the same with Growing Up.

These images represent more steps on the journey in creating a look that would be coherent through the project. As I mention in the previous post, for Abuse, we had developed some specifics. The tree motif was established as was the general layout of the images – sky, ground, tree, and text all had a specific place in the compositions.

For Growing Up, I wanted to give a sense of freshness and newness to fit the theme, and I also thought a group of smallish trees would be nice – a reminder of seedlings just starting out.

I created two images:

As you can see, we were still trying out the idea of trees in colors other than black. In discussing these entries, we decided that from now on, all trees should be black, for unity. Additionally, Laura thought the colors were a little brighter than she wanted.

This time I amended the pieces with most of my work in the real world, not the digital one. I collaged over the colorful trees and added black trees. I also toned down the whole composition (each piece) with a wash of white paint. Then I desaturated each piece digitally, just a little. I’m not fond of the effect of this last step, in most cases. It tends to gray things out, and anyway, as you know, my preference will always be for bright clear colors.

But – remember, in this project I am working to meet the wants and expectations of someone else. It was my job to make amendments to my work to suit editor Laura Black’s specifications. Commission work requires a focus on what the customer wants.

Let me back up and give you a little personal history to explain where I am coming from. When I first started doing art, I made fabric wall hangings, and a good proportion of my business was house portraits on commission. Here are a few samples:

By the time I was doing collage, I had decided I didn’t want to do commissions. I did not enjoy the stress and worry of meeting the (oftentimes unexpressed) expectations of customers. The moment when the commissioned work is shown to the customer: it’s scary for the artist!

So I made only a few commissioned images in collage; people often asked, but I turned them down.

Now, I have many examples I could show you, especially in collage, of images very faithful to the scenes that inspired them. For a long time, I took many photos as I traveled around and then represented them in collage, and I enjoyed it. The difference being, I only had to please myself – if the image didn’t come out exactly right, well, if I wasn’t bothered, then no one would be.

Commission work is not like that. Take the house portraits: naturally, the owners wanted the picture to look like the house, and while I did my best, there was always the risk of a mismatch in what I created and what the commissioner thought they might get. (Hint: always get an upfront nonrefundable deposit.)

In this project, however, Laura and I had a shared history from our other projects together, and I have always found her easy to work for from the very beginning in September Slam – she has a definite vision and is clear in her instructions, but she is also willing to listen to my ideas and respectful of my input.

With this in place, we worked together to make the best look possible for the Revisits series; though at times I was not sure if I was going in the right direction, I never doubted we would get there, and that both she and I would be happy with the results.  Hers was not an easy job at all, I think. Thank you, Laura, for everything!

All right, back to Growing Up. Here’s where we ended up.

Now all Laura needed to do was choose one of the images. And as you know from the beginning of the post, she decided on the one with the aqua ground. I like both of these images; they remind me of spring, a time when young things make their appearances and start to grow. I do admit to being partial to that aqua color, though…it makes for a happy growing-up impression, I think.

Thanks for reading! And take a look at the stories:  here at Fictive Dream.