Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Sanford Children's Hospital

Yay, it's finally done! Well, here's the first one anyway! This is one of the four pieces that I was commissioned to do for the Sanford Children's Hospital in Sioux Falls, SD. It is a "hidden picture" illustration and will provide a distraction for children in the exam rooms, also known as "high stress areas". The piece itself is only about 12x20 but it will be blown up into a wall covering... it will be very exciting to see how that turns out!

I had done a much simpler "I Spy" illustration a few years back, but nothing compared to this. I don't know in my career up to this point I have ever done anything with such intricate detail throughout. I also had a challenge here of deciding what to hide, how many things, etc... and how would the children know what to look for if there was no key to look off of? I also wanted whatever they had to find to make sense. I love to tell stories through my illustrations, and this is a story of two bears who have come across a treasure chest and are trying to figure out how to open it. So, the logical thing to hide was keys. I put one in each corner of the border so that the children know that is what they need to find. In the illustration there are ten hidden keys. I was worried that I might not have made this challenging enough, but now that I've had four different grown-ups find them with somewhat difficulty, I think I'll be okay!

Monday, September 8, 2008

New Parent Advice

I recently received my first freelance job in Atlanta, and although it is small, I am super excited about it and I think maybe it will lead to other things here. I was hired to design a custom baby shower invitation for a woman who is throwing her friend (the mother to be) a shower that is built around a circus animal theme, which will also be the theme for the nursery. I was also asked to come up with a few other ideas for things that I might be able to do for the shower. After a phone call to my sister, who has more experience with these things (I have never had a baby nor have I ever been to a baby shower) she told me about something she did at hers. They were index size cards that were passed out during the shower, and each person was to write a little piece of advice for the new mother... they were called "parent advice cards".

I thought it was an awesome idea, and I looked online to see some examples of what was already out there. Awful stuff... really generic and plain. Of course I thought I could do better! I really have to thank my sister on this one, when I was trying to decide what to draw on them she said "Why don't you draw a picture of a mom who looks really stressed out with hair sticking up, etc". I definitely liked that idea better than all the examples I saw of a silly baby face. I decided that I wanted to keep with the theme and colors of the other things I'll be designing, so I made the stressed out parent into an elephant, with a screaming elephant baby... the new parent is on the telephone, probably begging for help from someone who has a little more experience and knows exactly what to do! I might not be a mom, but I have worked with children for enough years to know that I have done that myself more than once!

Noah's Card

Today is my only nephew Noah's second birthday. I was there to watch him being born, and last year I happened to be visiting home on his first birthday. I miss the little guy, and I don't have a lot of money for an elaborate gift, but I do know one thing that he likes... cars. He's obsessed, actually, from what my sister tells me. He likes the "Cars" movie, she says it is the only thing he will watch. And he's starting to talk a little on the phone to me now. Our conversation usually starts with me saying hi, and then he'll say hi, and then I will ask him if he watched "Cars" today or if he's having fun playing with his cars. Then he'll say "Cars? ... Cars??". It is usually around this time that he drops the phone and the conversation ends... I think he goes off to find his cars (like I reminded him) but never comes back to the phone.

I got a reference book that shows pictures of different cars over the last 100 years and so I was up pretty late last night practicing my car drawing skills. I especially liked the old corvettes... I have never seen the movie "Cars" but I think that some of them in the film are similar. So here is Noah flying down the road in his flashy little corvette, with his worried baby sister Jade in the backseat (I would be worried too if a two year old was behind the wheel!)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Sketchbook...

More from the sketchbook... after my fashion drawing from studying medieval attire, I had the itch to get out and do some actual drawing from life. There is nothing like studying the real thing! I had inspiration and motivation again from the Sioux Falls submission, one of their "kingdoms" in the hospital that they needed art for was an underwater land, which would of course mean that if I got the job to do some pieces for them, I would need to draw... fish! And there is NO better place in Atlanta to view underwater life than at the Georgia Aquarium (I believe it is the largest one in the United States right now). The place is absolutely incredible... so I packed up my sketchbook and pencils and erasers and headed down.

Being a little shy about people watching me while I work, I was a little hesitant as first to jump in... there are lots of tourists at the aquarium, especially during summer months. However, I managed to find little nooks and (fake) rocks to sit on and get to work. Once I got started I was too interested in studying the shapes and movements of the fish to really worry about if someone was looking over my shoulder. My favorite had to be the sea dragons... they were amazing and beautiful! Every once in a while they would light up, too, like a firefly. I will do more with them should I get hired to do any art for the hospital, with their theme being medieval kingdoms, a sea "dragon" would fit perfectly! I also was surprised at how much I enjoyed sketching all of the non-moving things... the different shapes of all the coral and rock formations were all fascinatinating to me.

Although getting into the aquarium is not a cheap visit, I could not have gotten the same results from looking at fish in a book... it was definitely worth it to me to study these magnificent creatures up close!


For these sketches, my inspiration was a project that I was submitting to Sioux Falls, where the theme of a children's hospital there is castles and kingdoms... Robin Hood type stuff. I thought it would be fun to study the dress from that period, so I went to Borders and got myself a book with small black and white ink pen, realistic looking illustrations of fashions from the era. I was particularly drawn to all the different kinds of hats. The shapes, the sizes... all very interesting to draw! I drew inspiration from studying the book and designed some of my own hats, keeping with the same shapes and styles from that time period. Believe it or not, some of these I really did not elaborate on too much... it's hard to believe that people actually wore those big, uncomfortable things on their heads all day long!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Midnight Symphony

This is one of my illustration ideas that got stuck in my big file folder of sketches for a long time. I took my inspiration from old Disney "Silly Symphony" cartoons... I love them, the creativity and artistry in them is amazing. A lot of those old cartoons, like one called "Flowers and Trees" (which was the first color cartoon ever, if you want a little trivia!) takes inanimate objects and gives them life and personality. I'd done a sketch previous to this with trees and flowers playing more "rock and roll" type instruments in a daytime setting, and I have enjoyed Sioux City's "Saturday in the Park" concert that takes place every summer and thought about approaching them with my drawing to see if it could be used somehow. I never did, but a year later it was their committee that approached me, asking if I could possibly do some kind of large mural for the event. I already had my idea! That ended up being a five foot by eight foot painting on canvas and I was so satisfied with the results that I began to imagine the same concept, only at night. Instead of an Elvis type tree jamming out, I decided to make the characters in this new scene a little more classical... big boufant hairstyles and white wigs, that sort of thing. A little more elegant.

I listened to a LOT of Strauss and Tchaikovsky during the two weeks I spent working on this piece... something that has always worked to get me into the "mood" of the illustration is to listen to the right kind of music. While listening to compostions like "Tales from the Vienna Woods" I colored my trees playing their instruments and pictured elegant ladies and gentleman waltzing nearby. I really believe that having that music on helped me to achieve the "mood" of the piece.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Showing at San Francisco Coffee

Yay! My first "showing" in Atlanta after being here almost a year... it went up last week at the San Francisco Coffee Shop in the Virginia Highlands. It's a great coffee house in a great area of town, a high-traffic place, so hopefully I will do well. I have about 35 pieces up now and will have about seven to eight more in the next few weeks (the cost of extra frames/mats for this starving artist is holding me back!) I am hoping to sell a few pieces but even if I don't, the exposure is wonderful. If you're in the Atlanta area and would like to check it out, it runs the whole month of April, and it's located at 1192 N. Highland Ave.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Come to Mama

The story on this one is fairly simple... a few years ago when looking for a book or a poem to illustrate, I remembered a song that I liked as a child called "The Teddy Bear's Picnic". I decided that it would make an excellent children's book (and I still do, whenever I get the time to develop it more) so I filled up several pages of my sketchbook with teddy bear studies. When looking back over them last weekend, this one popped out at me... I decided that it was sweet enough to deserve an illustration by itself! Wanting to keep with the "worn out old teddy" look, I wanted to keep away from all bright colors. I colored the background in marker with different shades of light browns and then used subtle color with pencils over the top... and this is the result!

The Tinman and the Butterflies

It's no big surprise where I got my inspiration for this one... my favorite stories are the ones written by L. Frank Baum about the Land of Oz. There were fourteen books in all, and I checked them out one by one from the library as soon as I was old enough to read on my own. I loved the characters so much and I greatly admired the illustrator of the books, Jon R. Neill. I spent hours studying his drawings and trying to draw just like him in my notebooks and on half finished homework assignments.
I've had the idea several times as an adult to do "my take" on the classic story and characters in an illustration, but I just couldn't get it right. Jon R. Neill did it so perfectly already... that made it more of a challenge for me, to use my own style instead of copying his drawing like I did as a child. So instead of trying to draw all four characters in a scene from the story (the Lion always gives me trouble!) I decided to take one, the Tinman, and make him the star of this drawing. This isn't a scene from anywhere in the book, but I always remembered the part of the book where Frank Baum wrote that the Tinman would walk so carefully down the yellow brick road and would cry at stepping on even the tiniest of creatures. Even without a heart he was kind to every living thing, and I guess that struck a chord in me. I also loved adding the poppies- I don't know if it's because they played a part in this story or because they're just beautiful, but they have always been one of my favorite flowers (so I always enjoy putting them in my art!) Lastly, this was just one more piece that allowed me to play around with color. Green has always been my favorite color (guess why!) and so it was fun to combine the yellow greens and blue greens and emeralds in this piece. It turned out better than I had planned in my head... and it gave me a little more inspiration to do an illustration with all of them in it!