I loved my class with the incredible Este MacLeod and decided to take another one. I’m so inspired by the new techniques she introduced me to. This time, it was acrylic inks with the dip pen. I love the line that it makes and the bright colors.
In this exercise, I took my lower case letters and turned them into imaginary flowers. I tried to push myself to use new shapes.
As an illustrator, I know that I should choose one style and be consistent with it so people can easily associate my work with me. But not all styles fit all functions.
I was recently asked to design a set of posters for San Francisco Strong (#sfstrong-posters) to illustrate the ways we can protect and support ourselves and others during our current pandemic. The small posters would go in people’s windows so I needed to have the work be bold, graphic and easily read from the street.
My sketch style has evolved over the years to what you see on the rest of my site, but back in my Kaua’i days, my work looked very different.
In my first major entrepreneurial venture, Red Ginger, I designed and sold T-shirts, which I printed in my garage. At the time, my technique was to cut the drawing and lettering through a thin layer of laquer film that was stuck to acetate. After peeling off the positive areas, I adhered the laquer (with a nasty chemical) to the screen, removed the acetate and then squeegeed the ink through to the fabric. I had to use an x-acto knife as my primary tool (not quite as bad as using your finger as a stylus, but you get the idea).
Additionally, I employed a homemade system of two screens on hinges so I could make two color designs. It was a crude system that could not handle tight registration.
Due to these technical limitations, my style developed to include white lines between large color blocks.
Fast forward to today (you knew I’d get here at some point). I instinctively conceived of the #SFStrong.posters in this graphic style.
So that’s why they’re so different from my sketches. But actually, I think that most, if not all illustrators have many styles but they choose to put only one forward for the reason I mention above.
Do they wish they could mix it up more? Do they do that? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
While working a project of posters for Covid prevention in San Francisco (soon to be posted here), I went down a cockamamie rabbit hole. I thought that I’d use different shoes for the 6 foot recommended distancing but that didn’t work in my design at all. Instead, I reworked (and renamed) them. Gossamer comes from my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon of all time Hair Raising Hare.
I went to Lassen last Summer with my friends Liz and Jenna (sisters) and about 80 Oregonians, as part of a group called the Chemeketans. I was leery of vacationing with such a large number of people but Liz assured me that it was a great way to go. At a very reasonable price, with communal participation in setting up and breaking down camp, kitchen, meal and shower tents, the group provided the food, drink and facilities for an easy camping experience.
A cook and some helpers are paid and the rest of the jobs are done by campers. I was required to sign up for a few tasks during the week—I requested dish washing.
Liz was right—it was a luxury to wake up to a hot meal and return from a long day of hiking to find dinner all ready and waiting! Yowzah!
Lassen is the least visited of the US National Parks. It’s an active volcano with “steaming fumaroles,” bubbling mud and sulfur pools. Hot stuff! As you can see from my paintings, in many areas, there are gorgeous creeks, lakes and meadows. I was struck by the beauty of the place.
Mount Lassen is 10,457 feet and in late July we had to pick our way over snow-covered trails at one of the trailheads. Luckily, we were an alert group of hikers and found markers on the trees. Trail crews were at work, a ways down, for the first time that season. We passed three pristine lakes and gorgeous wildflowers as we reached lower levels.
The elevation was tough for us lowlanders. So we continued down the mountain and hitchhiked back to our car. We had no problem getting a ride—nobody was worried about picking up middle aged women with backpacks!
I’d heard, through friends, that monarch butterflies were numerous at Lassen peak at that time of year and I really wanted to see them. We got lucky at another lake where tortoiseshell butterflies virtually covered the path. They differ from monarchs in that the underside of their wings is a dull brown and yellow but the tops are bright orange with black, much like the monarchs.
At the end of each day, all the Chemeketans would bring their folding chairs into a circle (around what would have been a fire if it weren’t Summer in California) and talk about the day’s hikes.
Mitch said to me, “My left eye is cloudy—as if my glasses are dirty but I’m not wearing glasses.”
We were boarding a flight to San Juan, P.R., our destination alternative to a Hurricane soaked Big Island. Thus began a four-month ophthalmic odyssey involving around a dozen eye and retina appointments, two nasty procedures, two surgeries and the terror of temporary blindness. It’s been a tough year for my sweetie.
We got to know most of the doctors at the UCSF Ophthalmology department. With nothing to do but worry, I kept myself busy during the appointments by sketching.
Recovering from retina surgery is an ordeal. The patient has to keep his face down/parallel to the floor 90% of the time for four days. We rented a massage chair thing and apparatus for sleeping as well.
The planets were aligned against us, as two weeks following the left eye surgery, the right eye retina tore as well. What are the odds? This took us…
The ordeal—two torn retinas at the same time: blind man’s bluff for 4 months. The sketches are all from eye #2. And it doesn’t include the appointments in Puerto Rico.
Thanks to the incredible Ophthalmology staff at UCSF for restoring Mitch’s sight! Now for a new prescription…
Here are some more pieces that I created during April of Covid time—May 2020. I was obsessed with watercolor stamping with cut potato pieces and carrots which I was taught in the #explorecolour class. So much fun!
I posted other pieces that were either assignments from the course here or inspired by them here. Thank you, Este Macleod!
I’ve been captivated by a neighbor’s garden where king protea are blooming. Whenever I pass by, I am drawn to the flowers like a bee to honey and I just gape at them. This has brought me to paint them, of course. Here’s the series I completed.
Most of these were created with potato and carrots to stamp shapes in watercolor, with brush embellishments. I got really into the stamping technique.
When I can’t go out, I go in. And usually, that means making art.
I discovered the fabulous Esté MacLeod on Instagram and she quickly became my favorite artist on the platform. She starts with letters or numbers and turns them into beautiful paintings. When I saw that she was offering a free course on playing with shape and color, I was all over it.
The first part was to draw numbers 1 – 9 and turn those digits into leaves, real or imagined.
When I tried to think of ways to do this, I got stuck. But when I just let my pen move and got my head out of it, I ended up with some interesting patterns and shapes.
The next step was to put them into more plant-like formations and paint them with watercolor. She encouraged the class to use a dip pen with the watercolor applied by using a brush as well as brush painting. I’d never used this method before and was delighted by the effect.
The next step was to employ potato, carrot, toilet paper roll and other items found in the house, to create flower shapes and then embellish them. Once again, I had trouble because at first they all turned out looking the same and I kept thinking about how I could do it. But when I tried not to think and just moved my hand to draw and paint lines, curves and shapes, the results surprised and delighted me.