Digital Whatnot

Hello everyone out in interwebs land! I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend!

I'm back today with an update of the digital work that I've been working on lately.

Three weeks ago, we abandoned Photoshop and moved onto Adobe Illustrator, playing around with drawing digitally, and now I have a couple of projects to show you. All of our recent assignments were and are pretty open. The first and second were the same: do two Illustrator drawings of two different objects - one man-made, one organic, and both smaller than a bread box. Because I knew next to nothing about Illustrator, I tried two different ways of drawing, the first just drawing with the mouse and the second using heaps of gradients to create volumes.

Ta da!

Not so still life #1: Fish in a Bottle!

Not so still life #2: Ladybug and Teacup

And now for something a bit different. For class this Tuesday, our homework assignment was similarly open: an 8x8 image, but not just objects this time... a full composition with the theme, New York.

I actually had too many ideas for this project. I love my city! I thought about all of my favorite corners of New York - Orchard Street and the Lower East Side; so much Brooklyn; the Upper West with the Hungarian Pastry Shop, Saint John the Divine, and the white peacock and the amazing, creepy sculpture in the sculpture garden; Lincoln Center; Bryant Park in the winter; Central Park in the fall; the market at Union Square; even the absurdity that is Times Square... the list goes on and on. I may eventually take all of my ideas for this project and render them (probably in ink or paint rather than digitally), but ultimately I went with my first idea. I had recently taken a long walk downtown on the Lower East Side and wandered past the Slipper Room. New York has been home to burlesque performers and performances since the mid-19th century, and it was burlesque - not vaudeville - that allowed amateur performers to break into show business. When most of these performers reached the vaudeville stage, they were already pros. I shan't get too cerebral... Regardless, the Slipper Room is an exciting space and burlesque an interesting and amazing kind of performance, so I decided to go with my initial idea for the project.

NY Burlesque

The Great Book Seminar Saga Part VI: What Now?

The Great Book Seminar Saga
Part VI: What Now? which Lisa grosses everyone out before Thanksgiving...

Happy nearly Thanksgiving everyone! Best wishes for gatherings of family and friends and pumpkin pie!

Week eleven brought with it a couple of new paintings, a whole bunch of new sketches, and a wicked looking crawfish, and yet, no concrete work for week thirteen. (Wait, Lisa, didn't you skip week twelve? No, my mathematically-minded readers. Alas, alack, no Thursday Viktor class this week due to the tofurkey holiday.)

But no work? How can that be? you ask. How can you bring in four new sketches and not have any work to do for two weeks?

I shall explain, but first, the new finished work:
Final render of the porch scene. Double page spread.

Text-less double spread. The riverbank.

I have a little bit of tweaking to do on the riverbank scene. I may darken things up a bit. But for now, I'm happy with how it's working.

And now on to the sketches... I brought four new sketches to class:

The comments on the sketches were on target. The first is a bit too out-West-home-on-the-range for Bulgaria. The second, maybe too quiet. The scale in the third makes the crawfish look the same size as the boy... (Yegads! Crawfishzilla!) And the fourth? Not Viktor's cup of tea. Viktor suggested I look back in the story for my next sketches.

"How about the dugout scene?"

"You mean the one with the revolutionaries and the dead goat?"

Perfect picture book material, no?

Don't get me wrong... from my posts, you may get the impression that I don't like Viktor. Not true. I have been frustrated in this class, but the frustration is mostly self-directed. It has been a long haul figuring out new ways of working and trying to fit the project to my style and aesthetic. That being said, my work has evolved considerably since September, and Viktor has been a great help. He has an excellent eye, and his critiques are almost always fairly dead-on. However, there are moments when Viktor's aesthetic and my own don't necessarily overlap so well.

As to the sketches, I had hoped that I would have a few approved sketches to paint from during these two weeks, but instead, I had to take them back to the drawing board... Admittedly, I was a little frustrated leaving class last Thursday, so I put all of this class work aside. Sometimes it is just best to walk away... because when I finally returned to the sketches, I may have come up with a couple of new compositions that work even better than these originals!

But I shall leave you in suspense... you'll have to be patient. New sketches (and perhaps even a few finishes) next week!

I will, however, leave you with two presents.

The first... Prsenting Viktor (center), in yet another black t-shirt:


And thus ends Part VI and both week 11 and 12. Will Lisa draw more gigantic-creepy-crawly-roaches-of-the-river? Will she ink a sketch that (GASP!) hasn't been approved? And does Viktor own a t-shirt that isn't black? What will Part VII bring?

Find out! Next week!

Three Panel Project

Marshall's class has been all kinds of awesome. We've really been examining the art of storytelling from all different angles. After the puppy project, we worked on a combined oral-visual project. Each student was required to stand up in front of the class and tell a story (a true one) and make an image that would illustrate the story. I told my class the story of the Great Manhattan Couch Adventure of '08... and true to my very first Nonsense post, this is one of those not-so-great pieces that I promised.

When I first finished the illustration, I was fairly pleased with the image and characters. The crit for this was really rough, and looking at it after two and a half months of school... in short... oy! Of the not-so-great sort... So moving on...

After the oral-visual storytelling project, Marshall challenged us to tell a simple story in three panels with no text, no words, and no explanations.

I wracked my brains for an idea, trying to think of stories from my life, stories friends have told me, historical events, anything really... I sat with the assignment for a few days before even putting pencil to paper to do sketches. Finally after a bit of a bad-feeling-blue sort of day, I finally came up with this:

I know, rather sad...

I wasn't entirely satisfied with the idea, nor with the art itself. At this point (week 6 or 7) I was trying out different ways of working and rendering final pieces and attempting to mix ink lines and paint. Again, not totally satisfied with the art, so I kept working. (Making more work for myself, as you will see over and over again, has become a bit of a recurring theme...)

After I finished that first set of three panels, I sat down at my drawing table to think and found a small unfinished doodle that I had been meaning to finish. Rather than give myself a headache, I sat down to play with the doodle and do some work solely for myself. When I had finished painting over my doodle, I realized that I had a character who was begging for a story.

So I gave her one:


Thus far, you've heard a bit about three of my six classes and my most recent classwork... tonight I thought I'd switch gears and post one of the early pre-blog projects.

My 12 hour Marathon Wednesdays begin with a two hours course with Marshall Arisman, the director of my program. I believe the class is just listed as "Critique class" on our schedules, but it could equally be summarized simply as "Storytelling". Throughout the semester we have been exploring the relationship between images and stories.

We started the semester with a visual project on frame of reference and narrative. The assignment was to make a dog (2-dimensional) out of cardboard or foam core and then take the dog out and photograph it (Amelie style... if you haven't seen the movie, stop reading, go to the video-store or iTunes or your netflix cue and rent/download/order IMMEDIATELY... but alas I digress...) Because I seem to enjoy making loads of extra work for myself, I made not one but multiple dogs, puppies, in fact...

and then we went out for a walk...

There were pit stops along the way.

And I had a few errands to run...


but we also made time for fun.

And made a new friend in the process.

Actually we made a bunch of new friends...

...and last but certainly not least...

The Great Book Seminar Saga Part V: Process

The Great Book Seminar Saga
Part V: Process which Lisa divulges secrets...

And we're back.

Week ten was super productive, and I brought three new paintings and sketches for four new spreads to Viktor's class. It was amazing to see everyone's progress this week. Though everyone had a ton of beautiful things on the wall, it was a admittedly a harsh crit this week for all of us. I have quite a bit of tweaking to do on nearly everything I brought in. That being said, I do feel pretty good about the work.

AND I may have even received ... gasp! ... a compliment from Viktor on one of the paintings.


I still have a bunch of tweaking to do on painting number two, so I'm going to wait to post it. In the meantime, I thought I'd post the in-process work for the third painting.

The lighting is slightly wonky because they're photos rather than scans. Regardless, it gives you an idea of how I've been putting these images together.

This is the sketch I brought to class two weeks ago, and the major comment was simplify, simplify, simplify. Why clutter up the background and foreground? So I took everyone's advice, scanned it into photoshop, erased all of the superfluous pencil lines, shrank Grandpa and the boy down, stretched the tree, and printed my pencil sketch super lightly onto a piece of watercolor paper.

Once I had my sketch printed, I hauled out my brown ink and dip-pen, and inked the sketch. When the line-work was done, I set it aside to dry so as not to smudge any of the nice clean outlines.

Step two is laying in a brown wash using the same ink as the lines. I started with the tree because it is the largest shape in the image and was probably going to remain just an ink wash with no other color laid over it.

This is the painting all inked. When I was done with the wash and once the wash was dry, I went back in with my pen in a couple of places to darken the shadows and reinforce some of the lines. And you guessed it, another round of waiting for the whole thing to dry.

Once the ink wash was completely dry, I began dropping in spots of color in places. A little green in the leaves, the grass, and grandpa's sweater. Blue on the boy's jeans and a little ocher and raw umber on his shirt. And finally a little of the reddish umber color to warm up some of the browns

Ta da! All done!

And thus ends Part V and week 10. What will Part VI bring? What insanity ensues during week 11? Will there be more art to show? Will Viktor wear another black t-shirt to class? The suspense is killing me...

Short and Sweet

Apologies for the mammoth type posts of late. I know they've gotten rather out of hand, but I have all of this catching up to do!

Regardless, I thought I'd keep it short and sweet tonight. In my last post, I mentioned that I put some of Carl's experimenting to work and used a wax-board for a project for my digital class. The assignment was wiiiiide open: a 6x6 image with the theme of transport. Period.

This is what I came up with:

This was actually a two part project. On our second round with the image, we learned some basic photoshop animation!


The Awesome that is Carl

Halloo dear readers out there in blog-land!

I have been meaning to leave you some sketch-blog love but between school and work and ::GASP:: actually having fun, I haven't had a moment to sit down and update you all on the art school hijinks and hilarity. Because it has been hilarious... in fact, I'm glad I didn't find any time because my post this evening is all the better for today's fantasticness. (Though it is going to be a long one...)

Tonight I'm going to switch things up a bit and tell you about Carl, the professor for my Materials' class.

Art school thus far has been a crazy, mind-blowing, shifting life-gears sort of experience, but Carl's class is pretty much the reason I decided to come to SVA. For all you non-art-school type folks out there, the entire goal of a materials' class is to step outside a narrow way of thinking and to try experimenting with EVERYTHING - mixing the various ways and materials in which you already work with all kinds of new things and perhaps even trying to use the things you're familiar with in completely different ways.

The course started out with a monkey, er baboon to be precise. Carl gave each of us a tiny yellow eraser in the shape of a baboon and told us to draw it - draw it from all angles, top view, front view, looking down at it, looking up at it; draw it in different settings; draw it with different materials... just play with it. The idea was to take an entirely mundane object and find something exciting in it. For a few of our classes, Carl papered the entire room with brown paper and having told us to bring EVERY type of art supply in our arsenal let us play for three hours just drawing/painting/stamping/inking/sketching/etching baboons.

Action shots!

Carl would be the paint-covered, chuck-wearing, beard-y dude with his back to all of you.

And finally, my baboon.

But back to Carl... Carl reminds me a lot of Lee, my sculpture professor/adviser/mentor/guru-in-all-things-cool-and-absurd-and-random at Smith. (A quick note about Lee - he was and has been a major influence in my young and adult life. At one point in his life, he was in school for a PhD in physics - if memory serves me - and he ditched his program to go to art school for sculpture. Naaah, that doesn't sound at all familiar... anywho, whenever I visit Lee up at Smith, he never ceases to amaze me. He pulls out everything that he's been working on during the past year or three, give or take a few months. To give you an idea, the last time I visited, I saw a bunch of wooden burls, was shown drawers brimming with mutant 3 and 4 chambered black walnuts and the tools used to cut them into cross sections, and learned out to break open the back of Master lock and figure out the combination. I know... A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! But alas, I digress...) Carl reminds me of Lee in that bearded-constantly-covered-in-paint/charcoal/plaster/clay-exuberantly-excited-about-what-he-does-let-me-show-you-EVERYTHING-I've-ever-worked-with sort of way.

In a nutshell: discombobulated enthusiastic art awesome.

But finally let's get to today...

Carl just assigned us our final project. We're making - building and illustrating - a four panel folding screen. The basis for the project is Vivaldi's Four Seasons, and each panel is supposed to represent one of the four seasons in both a non-objective and a figurative way. The top half of each panel is supposed to be the non-objective representation, as in colors and textures - more of a mood than anything else - while the bottom panel should feature a figurative representation of the season, an object or something - plants, food, toys animals, anything really. My ideas thus far are nebulous at best, if not entirely unformed, so I decided to use class time to experiment with some color and texture for the non-objective bits.

This semester, one of the materials we experimented with in class was scratchboard/home-made wax boards (colored crayon under black wax), which I really enjoyed working with. (I even did a project for my digital class using wax board... post and image to come at a future date.)

Wax-board still life.

I think one of the things I like most about it is this idea of pulling light out of a dark background. Most methods of drawing/painting are additive, but this is entirely different. This in a sense is more like carving or etching. You carve the light portions of the piece out of the dark. We actually had a similar assignment for another class but using dark water color. We covered a white board with dark brown watercolor, let it dry, and then - using just a brush with some water on it - worked into the dark paint to remove the pigment from the background.

Sepia watercolor.

Anywho, I figured I might as well experiment with some wax board for Carl's Vivaldi project, so I prepped a board for winter (blues and purples) and one for autumn (reds, oranges, golds, browns) and got to work. I scratched some snowflakes into the winter panel, got bored, and moved on to autumn.

I wish I had the stages that this thing went through, but you'll just have to put your little imaginations to work...

I started by scraping up big patches of color from the wax, and when I was done... meh. But just at that moment, Carl waltzed over, took one look at my board, and asked me if I was finished. I shrugged and replied, "Not really. It's not done, but I'm not sure what I want to do with it."

"I don't want to touch it, but..." Carl began.

"If you want to, I don't mind. I don't have any ideas really," I interrupted.

It was as though I'd given a five year old the key to Willie Wonka's chocolate factory. He ran away only to return with a sponge entirely saturated with red, ochre, and gold acrylic paint.

"You know this could ruin it."

I shrugged. "What fun is leaving it alone? It was just an experiment."

"Well then let's experiment!"

Carl started by dabbing the paint all over my already-carved wax. After letting the paint dry for a bit, he ran away again and came back with some steel wool for me to play with. I scratched into the pain with the steel wool, beat it up, and when I was done torturing it, Carl took over. He covered the whole thing with black wax again and then with an x-acto knife started carving back into it. Oh, not to mention he did something with a round stencil, dabbing blue and white acrylic onto the board... just wait for it. Then I carved into it further, threw down some more colored wax crayons and some more black wax crayon, and finally finger painted on it with the leftover white and black acrylic... and... TA DA...

From autumn texture to Lunar Landscape.

Carl in a nutshell... there really are no words to adequately describe...

The Great Book Seminar Saga Part IV: Week Nine

The Great Book Seminar Saga
Part IV: Week Nine

... in which Lisa may have done something halfway decent and Viktor is okay with ugly students...

So week nine.

Pat and Gant were entirely right when they suggested I work in pen. This week I traded in my lovely little micron, however, for a shmancy dip pen and swapped my black ink for a fantastic nut brown. I wanted to see if it might give my line work a bit more warmth and character.

And then I dove right in.

I picked out a couple of the sketches and compositions that I'd already rendered four or five times and attempted to render them this way. I decided not to do too much shading with the ink lines themselves, but dropped in a brown wash of the same ink, painting in deeper values for the shadows. (Alas alack, I don't have in-process images for these particular pieces, but the next Book Seminar Saga post will have the whole deal - from sketches to the final render...)

Wonder of wonders, I was actually vaguely - dare I say - happy wiht the way the line and wash looked. And because I was being all experimenty, I didn't stop there, but began dropping in some simple spots of color right over the washes. Ooooh... aaahhh... line AND color! Exciting things!

As I hinted in the last part of the saga, I was somewhat pleased with the results. Amazingly enough it all seemed to work together, so I rendered a couple of my other small spot illustrations and subsequently settle don this of a way of working for this particular project.

For serious style WOAH!

So presenting, week nine:

This was the first image I rendered this way. Lots of line, brown wash, light color. It's not quite done yet. I still want to go in and add some blue to the water.Don't worry, I promise I'll show you aaaaaall the pretty pictures when they're finished. ;)
Another you may recognize. I'm not totally convinced by this one.
I may render it again... or play with the sketch further. And last but most definitely not least... I actually think this is the strongest image thus far.
The lines work and the spot of red and blue sit well in the image. Probably the only one that is actually "done" thus far.

So week nine. I arrived at class with these three and a fourth image painted as well as two reworked sketches (that I intend to paint this week) and two new sketches for the project. As you well know, each week, I've come to class with something pretty different. At our crit this past Thursday, Viktor turned to my work with a, "So what do we have this week?" Viktor has been somewhat, hmm, not exasperated exactly, but perhaps less than enthused by my inability to settle on a way of working. This having-a-way-of-working business is a very big deal... as I said, for serious style woah.

Anywho, I got some good feedback on the images and have quite a bit of work ahead of me for week ten, and according to Viktor, pleeeenty of time to do it in. Before we left on Thursday, Viktor looked around the room and said, "You all are looking lovely. Clearly, you're all getting your beauty sleep. So now this is week nine, and we have six weeks left in the semester. You do the math. Figure out how many images you have and how many you need to make. You have six weeks. Figure it out. What I recommend is sleeping less, get less beauty sleep. I can deal with an ugly class if you bring me more work. Six weeks with no sleep, you can do. Two months, and you start to get sick, but six weeks? It's doable. Sleep less, work more. See you next week."

Thank you Viktor.

Well look at that, you're all caught up on my book project. Now that we're all updated with the seminar saga, I will post some of the other things I've been up to, but of course keeping you abreast of all Viktor drama with periodic updates. So my dear readers, stay tuned, who knows what Part V, our next installment, will bring?

The Great Book Seminar Saga Part III: Final Renders

The Great Book Seminar Saga Part III:
Final Renders which art school leads to nervous break downs and sketches of a mouse in a cowboy hat...

So admittedly, Viktor was completely right. My first sketches were extremely literal, pulling images directly from the story. I really tried to push my character and images further, making images that complement the text rather than simply mirroring it.
I came up with a couple of new sketches that I was super happy with.
Grandpa and grandson go for a walk.

But lets talk about the final renderings for a sec...

So I came to art school to learn, to further develop my eye and hand and truth be told to figure out HOW I work. Most of my cohort came in with a good sense of their preferred materials and methods of working. I'm not 100% convinced by anything that I've used and how I've been using it up to this point. In a nutshell, I've been trying to figure out what my style is.

Woo art school induced breakdowns!

I've spent hours just sitting at my drawing table playing with my paints and pens and even more time just staring at a blank sheet of paper asking myself, "How do I work? What's my style?"

This was my second attempt at coloring. I was actually so frustrated with the first, I tossed it. The first one was a really heavy use of gouache that just got gloppy and thick and completely overworked. This one, I printed my original sketch out on bristol paper and then used my gouache almost like watercolor, trying to just drop in some light washes.

In this revision, I scanned the painted version into the computer, and printed it on bristol. The bristol paper sucks up the computer ink, so it's impossible to get accurate color. That being said, I actually liked the duller color, so I stuck with the printout and then experimented with working some line over my washes with pen.

The experimenting was good, but it has also been a super duper hard thing to do... constantly trying new things, questioning, second guessing, questioning all over again, and then trying something else. Don't get me wrong, SVA is incredible, and I love what I'm doing, but this is the hardest thing that I have ever done.

Anywho, back to the finals... so these first attempts looked okay, but I wasn't satisfied. They were just okay. They lacked the sort of spontaneity and life in my sketchbook and journals drawings. I have spent the last few weeks trying to capture that same sort of line quality. You'd think it'd happen naturally, but for whatever reason, I have some weird mental block about this project. I started trying to figure out why. I thought that maybe it was the subject matter... again, Viktor's something-for-everyone story wasn't exactly my cup of tea. But the story I'm telling is a sweet one. Perhaps it was lack of identification with the protagonist... not much experience with small Bulgarian boys growing up in the mid 80s.

So I tried a bunch of other stuff... the first grandpa and boy sketch (see part I) underwent another two or three revisions:
This is the third or fourth sketch.
And then I realized that the sketch was looking busy. The strongest part of the image was the moment between the grandfather and grandson, so I pulled out the background in yet another sketch and then tried inking it just in pen, thinking maybe I'd do a black and white book. (Had a great conversation with a couple of my classmates - thanks Gant and Pat! - and was encouraged to go back to pen work. They were right. The lines were working much better.)

I kept working with pen and tried coloring in photoshop:

I did a character reference page for my protagonist trying again to imagine who he is and give him more life and character. When he gets older, he actually leaves Bulgaria to go to college in the states, so I added a cowboy hat just as one additional character detail.

And then I had an idea... the main character's nickname is sinko, which means "little mouse"... I thought, if I can't make this feel like me, what about a story about a little mouse? So I tried changing my characters into mice. Hence the mouse in the cowboy hat.
Viktor reeeeeeally didn't like this idea...

But it was after this particular critique - week eight - that I had a lightbulb moment. I've been working for Viktor... trying to please him rather than myself. That realization was actually incredibly freeing, and today I think I may have drawn something that is actually decent... or at the very least that I like.

End Part III

But stay tuned, stay tuned dear readers for what comes next:

The Great Book Seminar Saga Part IV!

... in which Lisa may have done something halfway decent and Viktor is okay with ugly students...