Tuesday, March 27, 2012


The trouble with being a habitual sketcher is that you end up with a billion little pieces of paper with doodles all over them. I'm trying to go through boxes of old paperwork and recycle things, and I came across these pages torn from a work notebook, oh, like, 4 jobs ago? I was working at a botanical garden, and a researcher gave a slideshow of his travels through Madagascar. My notebook pages are covered with quick gesture sketches of baobab trees, of delonix trees, of moringa trees. The crazy swollen trunks, the Dr. Seuss-like squiggles of their branches.
So here I am, recycling, shredding, recycling, shredding, and it all grinds to a halt when I come across weird little doodles like this. They aren't precious, but they kinda are at the same time. Totally throws me off my sorting-through-the-paperwork stride.

Of course, the upside of being a compulsive doodler is that you find these things in boxes every now and then. Heh. 

(For the record, that was a February 2005 lecture by Myron Kimnach.)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lines, lines, lines

I'm working on the Wildflower Festival poster, developing the delightfully complex layers of leaves and stalks and flowers that make up the lupine shrub. I'm at the stage where most of the line-work is done, but I need to look it over and tidy things up: cleaning up any wobbles, adjusting line weights, and making sure that things are overlapping correctly--none of the leaves that are in the back should be drawn on top of a stem or a flower that should be in the front, of course.

Which makes me remember a book that I enjoyed as a child: The Borrowers, by Mary Norton. I enjoyed the story as a child, but I also remember being startled by the illustrations. They are lovely line drawings by Beth and Joe Krush. The illustrators use what, to me, was a totally startling and even rebellious approach: they didn't fuss with planning out the foreground/background relationships too much, so that you can see the lines of stuff in the background right through the stuff in the foreground.

See how you can see the edge of the table right through the tiny man's legs? And you can see the edge of the bed right through the table? And you can see the lines of the bedsheet, as well as the chamber-pot, right through the cane?

Scandal! Or perhaps a clever way to hint that this is all in one's imagination? Or perhaps just a really fun, anti-uptight approach to line drawings? Hats off the to Krushes for being starting and delightful in a way that has stuck in my head since elementary school.

(More images from The Borrowers. Seriously, it's worth a pop by the library to revisit this one.)

All right, back to work for me.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Flock of Butterflies

Working on the poster art for the Wildflower Festival at Mount Pisgah Arboretum. Amused by the flock of butterflies on the screen, as reference photos.

I'm trying out the spring-loaded nib for my Wacom tablet for part of the line work. It started out feeling much more fluid to draw with, but as the night creeps on, the responsiveness of the nib seems to be amplifying my wriggly-handed exhaustion. To bed, then, with visions of butterflies dancing in my head.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Postcards from an Equinox Campout

The vernal equinox is always a nice time to have a little adventure. We biked out to a local state park, rented a cabin to keep the rain off our heads, and had a mini-campout for the equinox. Much of the fun was making food on the tiny portable stove...even simple meals become amazingly tasty when cooked outdoors.

I've been playing with simple postcards lately, very loosely based on the Japanese folk art of etegami, where quick drawings of everyday things are accompanied by a simple written phrase. My captions are perhaps not as witty or philosophical as they could be in this set, but I still think they capture some of the fun of camping out and cooking in the pouring rain. (Click on images below to enlarge.)

I stumbled upon the drawing tools for this little sketching niche quite by accident, actually. Was at a coffee shop digging through a bag of pens and paints and brushes that I had packed will-nilly for some other project, and thought I'd try the big old brush pen that had somehow ended up in the mix. (It must have been something I picked up from my grandma's collection, because I didn't recognize it, nor even knew if the ink would be black, or blue, or gray...) Much to my delight, poking at it with a water-brush revealed that the black ink was water-soluble, dissolving into some very pretty shades of gray when you paint over a line with just plain-old water. Of course, that means that stray raindrops also create creative shading...but that's part of the joy of a spontaneous sketch, isn't it? 

Hooray for more paper mail, and more excuses to doodle everyday stuff. (Note to self: make sure that the camping gear earns that label of "everyday stuff," it was good to be spending time outdoors!)

Read more about etegami:

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wooden Sculptures

Visited the Portland Art Museum recently, and was impressed by the carved wooden figurines by John Frame. Originally designed as stop-motion figurines for a film, they are astoundingly intricate objects independently of the film project.
The magic, for me, is in the details. The figures are fairly small--maybe a foot high?--but they have astonishingly detailed joints carved in the wooden hands. The facial expressions carved into the wood are also astonishing in their subtlety and power. I gawked, I really did.

But these beautiful and distinctly surreal figures are even more amazing when you catch a glimpse of how they are animated for Frame's film. Tiny glass eyeballs, like you would see in dolls or taxidermy projects, are already pretty fascinating when they are sewed into this character's overcoat. (I was torn when I saw this--I simultaneously really want to make myself a coat covered with glass eyes, and really don't want to, because it's just too creepy!)
But, in the film, not only do the long thin wooden dowels sticking out of this character's head give its own eyeballs the power to move...but the eyes sewn into the cloth of its coat will nonchalantly blink throughout the scene. Yes. It is the most beautiful, and also the most deeply unnerving, thing I've seen in a long time.
There's a snippet of the blinking eyeball coat here. All I can say is, wow. (And, isn't it interesting that both of my recent visits to PAM have left me obsessed with the sewing technique wherein you slash open the outer layer of a jacket so the lining can show through?)