Thursday, 5 July 2012

Paper Collage - A Successful Foray

I have never been very good at collage, but it's something I've always wanted to get better at and yesterday I finally decided to really try and make something good with this technique.  I didn't have a set goal or design in mind, I just started cutting and pasting, planning to see where I wound up.  I stuck to a colour family of reds and browns because I've recently learned to keep it simple simple simple when you are first learning something.  (I know, what a mind-blowing revelation at twenty two!) 

So, with no clear end result in mind I somehow came up with this piece that I have tentatively entitled, "Thinking About the Middle East."  I've never given something I've made a title before, but somehow I decided this needed one and that that was it.  It feels like a big step.

I think I'm going to mat it on black paper when I next get paid and can get some: I took a picture against my black desk to give myself an idea.

I really, really like this, possibly better than any stand-alone piece I've made in a long, long time, maybe ever.  I want to make more using this method and get even better at it.  I just thought I'd share with you what, according to me, turned out to be a wild success.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

My First Comission

Well!  Here's something new.

About a month ago, I was contacted by a co-worker of my dad's who had seen some of my art hung up in dad's office and decided he wanted some for himself!  This was a huge, huge deal as doing paid commissions has been on my list of goals for quite some time, but I imagined I wouldn't get to that level for probably a couple of years so never gave it much long-term thought.

But, never one to turn down exciting challenges or money, I powered through.  I decided I would let this first commission be sort of a "test drive", so I could get a rough idea of how long it would take me to finish something big, and how to discuss things with clients, and just a general "would I be happy doing it exactly this way over and over and over again?"

So, after some emailing back and forth getting information and reference pictures and things, I finally was able to get down to brass-tacks and do the work a couple weeks ago.  What follows is a very VERY detailed description of my process for this piece, more for my memory benefit than anything else.  If you want to just look at the pictures that's alright!  But I know some people find it interesting to hear about other people's process so go for it if you want to.

I started with materials.  I used a heavyweight, medium-tooth paper in a slightly off-white colour, at 11" x 14".  (I am a bad Canadian for always measuring these types of things in imperial, but for some reason it works better for me.)

But yeah anyway, I couldn't just use printer paper or something for a piece somebody was paying me for, it had to be good quality and durable, so I looked through my paper stash and found a weight and type I was happy with.

I used a Lyra Art Design 2B pencil for inking: I like this brand a lot and 2B is a good weight for this sort of thing, at least for me: it's a soft enough lead that I can still see what I'm doing (unlike a 2H which leaves such a soft line you can barely see it if you don't press really hard) but it's still a firm enough lead that it doesn't smudge, doesn't leave an after-image and erases easily.

I used an ordinary white school eraser; I just like these the best and feel more comfortable with them than any of my fancier art erasers.

Ink was no challenge: it had to be something that wouldn't fade with long-term exposure to sun, went on easily and was a solid black colour.  I used the same pens I use for my cartooning: Faber-Castell PITT artist pens in medium and small felt tips, and also one in brush tip.  A lot of people don't like these: the general consensus among art markers seems to be that Microns are the way to go.  But I have tried Microns and they just don't work for me, so I am married to Faber-Castell for life.  They are full of waterproof, fade-proof India ink and they do what I need them to do perfectly.

So, that's my team.  Now It was time to get to drawing.

The client wanted something similar to a piece I had made for my dad, which showed a little boy walking around in front of a colourful European-ish city.  He requested that himself, his dog and his baby granddaughter be put in the picture just for funsies, so I went right ahead and roughed them in before starting on the buildings.  For me, things like this usually work better if there isn't very much planning.  So, I just sort of took my pencil and went at it, and didn't stop till the whole paper was filled.

Now at this point, I was a little nervous.  Like I said, there was very little planning involved: I just sort of made things up as I went and the result was this bombed-out building filled, dirty old poor neighbourhood, rife with ugly advertisements and cracked plaster.  I loved it, but I wasn't sure how it would go over with the client, who had basically requested a cutesy, lovey-dovey family portrait.  I had talked with him in the weeks past and I knew it would be no use emailing him the roughs and asking his opinion: he was adamant that I make it all up myself and surprise him.  Which was great actually, but you know.  I wasn't sure how far to carry that privilege, and I was a little worried that a torn-down building and billboard infested piece wasn't exactly what he had had in mind.

Still, in the end I decided (with the helpful counseling of Morgan and many other friends) to stay true to my own style and not change it.  I ploughed ahead, and as soon as ink touched paper I was in it for the long-haul.

(I still don't have a working scanner, so I had to take photographs of my progress.  Because I pencilled lightly to make for easy erasing, I couldn't get a very visible shot and had to crank up the saturation like crazy so you could even see anything.  But, it gives you an idea at least.)

Actually I think I like it best just like this, personally.  But I have always loved black and white line drawings. 

After this, I inked the lines.  Inking linework is my favourite, favourite part of any pen and ink work that I do, so I had a lot of fun.  By now I had been at my desk for about five hours and it would be another two before I finished the inks, as I don't do EVERYTHING in pencil first.  I like to leave a little bit, and some small details, to be worked out in the inks.  For most of my pencils and all of my inks, I listened to Paul Simon's "Graceland" album over and over and over again and that really helped keep it enjoyable.

When inking was done, my hand was so sore I couldn't go on, and also it was now about six in the morning.  Once i get into a working state it's hard to get myself out of it.  But I forced myself to bed, planning on colouring it the next day.  But I didn't end up getting to that for another week, because truth be told colouring is my LEAST favourite part of any given process.  I don't work with colour very often and I find it pretty tiresome and difficult when I do so I often let it slide.  I guess it's a good thing that I was forced to practice a bit!

The client (man I feel so uppity to keep calling him that but I can't exactly use his name now can I?)  requested it to be coloured with pencil crayons like the one I made for dad so that's what I did.  I'm really looking forward to finally getting my tablet so I can learn to do colours digitally, but that's beside the point.

I didn't want it to get too out of hand and busy, so I limited myself to a colour family with just a few base colours in it: browns, grays, light oranges and a pale yellow.  I threw in the odd green or red building just to break the monotony, but all in all I wanted it to look like an old neighborhood, where at one time whoever built everything wanted everything to coordinate.   When I was done all the base colours, I rubbed over them with a pencil eraser to make them blend smooth, which was a genius idea if I do say so myself.

So I started with the buildings, which turned out to be a bad idea.  I lit them as though the sun was right overhead at midday, but then decided that it was going to be late evening.  Yeah, good planning there.  So, I coloured the sky to be twilight and of course the two didn't match.  I spent a lot of time going back over all the buildings to make them darker, adding shadows and whatnot.  The real brainwave came when some of the red on a windowpane smudged onto the building.  In erasing it, trying to make it blend with the gray, the building took on kind of a rosy sheen, as though it was reflecting the sunset light from the sky.  So I smudged some red into a few other buildings.

When all was said and done, I went back over every single line with my inking pens twice more, just to make sure the lines were a good, solid black.  I scanned it and put it on Tumblr.

Annd....something was still wrong.  It was really bugging me, because I really didn't want to send it off and be paid for it if I was still feeling so unsure about it.  A nagging sense that I had failed somehow started to buzz around my head.  It was so cluttered and busy and the more I looked at it, the more I didn't like it all that much.  I was wondering if maybe I should just start from scratch?  Maybe I just shouldn't do commissions?

And then it went off like a lightbulb!  I have actually never had such a lightbulb moment before; I jumped up, instantly just knowing exactly what I had to do to fix it.

The windows in all the nearest buildings were still coloured very pale blue, but the sky was dark blue and red!  Windows reflect the sky!!!  I coulodn't believe I hadn't noticed it before!

I ran back and made all the glass match the sky, and BAM - picture is instantly improved, tenfold!  It was such a "click" moment, like "OH just study the real world and see how it makes things be, and then apply that to your art and it will be amazing!"

So yeah, now that the windows matched the sky I liked it enough that I felt comfortable re-posting it on Tumblr and emailing it to a handful of friends who are also artists.  I was still pretty nervous because that is just my natural state,  but so far the response to this has been overwhelmingly positive, one of my friends even wants me to print her a copy for her house, and the client likes it too and said it was "Just perfect, exactly what [he] wanted" so I am very very happy and don't feel bad about being paid for it like I was afraid I would.

This still isn't my favourite thing I've ever made but the learning experience was so, so wonderful.  And I can't believe I have accomplished one of my long-term goals and become a paid artist, so much sooner than I thought!  And wouldyoubelieveit, now a friend of my mom's and possibly somebody else my dad knows want me to do ones for them, too!  I can't believe it, it's like somebody just flipped a switch and I'm being given all these sexy jobs I always wanted.  Oh man.

This kind of thing is exactly what I started this blog for.  I haven't been very good with keeping at it but maybe from now on I will.
I still have so much to learn, but last night I wrote up a business plan that I am happy with and suddenly I have that much more confidence in my abilities.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Five Minute Portrait of Myself

This took barely any time at all - honestly, it's just a doodle.  I meant it for my other blog, my tumblr; because I like the idea of a hand-drawn profile picture (or whatever it's called on there) but have been using the same stupid pencil sketch all year.  I always planned to replace it when I had time so tonight I just did it, and I ended up being really, really happy with how it turned out.  I was feeling kind of gloomy as I drew this and I think that feeling shows up in this drawing.   It's difficult to describe but it's like the way I was feeling at that moment just came out of my pencil and onto the page.

Anyway that's all...a pretty productive night because I also did some work on some other things.

Hope you're having a nice day today!

Love, Emily.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Strawberry Salad

Let me introduce you to...The Strawberry Salad!  Or, "The only salad I'm going to make ever again for the rest of my life." 

   It all started with a simple mistake, as most great things do.  I had come home from working an eight hour shift on only two hours of sleep; I was starving to death but far, far too tired to do any cooking. 

My boyfriend wisely pointed out that we do not have the money to get fast food, and it would only make me feel worse in the long run anyway.  On nights like these, I make one of two dishes for us to eat: canned soup and sandwiches, or a great big salad eaten out of a shared bowl.  Tonight I chose the latter.

    Usually when I make a quick salad, it's not the kind of salad that has a recipe.  Lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, canned dressing; that's it.  It's fast, filling, foolproof.  But tonight it was not to be.

An agonized cry escaped me; we were out of tomatoes, the second most important ingredient.  I won't describe my long, tiring day at work, but I assure you it was hellish, and Morgan had had a long day too.  Neither of us was going out to get more tomatoes feeling the way we did, it was simply out of the question.

"Why not just use strawberries?"  my burgeoning-chef boyfriend asked as I blinked back frustrated tears.  It never would have occurred to me to do this on my own; maybe for a baby-spinach, hard-cooked egg and strawberry salad with bacon but certainly not for an ordinary garbage salad with Kraft dressing.  However, I was too miserable and too tired to care: I chunked up the strawberries and threw them in, prepared to choke down a disgusting meal and go sleep for seventeen hours. 

   Now, maybe everybody already knows this and I am just reporting stale news.  But guys, fresh strawberries in a garbage salad is the single most delicious thing I have ever tasted in my entire life.  They are better than the caribou steak I tried when my dad took me to dinner; they are better than candy.  They are incredible.  They pop up in your bites of lettuce and cucumber and cheese as little tasty bites of sweet and sour goodness, juicy and fresh, fruity and foreign.  And delicious.

The best part was, every dressing we had complimented them gorgeously.  When applying dressing, I was still expecting it to taste bad and was trying to decide which of the three kinds of dressing we had in the house would be the least awful.  I set aside a few bites on a plate and tried them with zesty italian, creamy ceasar and three-cheese ranch - and they were all fantastic. 

The italian vinaigrette really brought out the strawberries' tartness - it made them seem like little bites of sour-sweet sprinkled throughout the greens.

The ceasar made the whole salad seem like a dessert - everything became sweet and smooth and comforting, perfect for a really hot summer evening.

The three-cheese ranch turned the entire salad somehow meaty and filling, though, so that was the one I chose for this particular time.  It made it taste like there was bacon in the salad even though there wasn't, it made the greens and cheeses seem somehow bigger and more filling - and it made the strawberries POP!  as delicious fruity sweet bits in this heavy cheesy salad.  So lovely.

     So yes - I cannot recommend strawberries instead of (or as well as!)  tomatoes in your salads enough.   Tomorrow I'm going to make another with avocados and almonds and we'll see how that goes. 

   As an aside, this is the second time in two weeks that Morgan has followed an instinct in the kitchen that I never would have done on my own, and both times it has yielded absolutely amazing results.  I think he might secretly be a genius in the kitchen - I have to finish teaching him to cook so I can harness this goodness for myself! Haha!

I hope you all are having a great day, and that you get to eat something delicious today.  

Thanks for reading!

Love, Emily.

Monday, 9 April 2012

My Workspace


Today I am going to talk about where I do most of my arts and crafts...not that I expect anyone to care.  But sometimes taking a look at all the materials and things I own makes me feel so glad to have them, and springboards so many ideas for things I could be doing with them! 

So, this is my workspace:

     It's pretty small, as my apartment is pretty small.  My boyfriend and I have the couch right in the middle of the living room area, so as to divide the room into two rooms.  In front of the couch is the TV, coffee table, and shelf full of dvds and magazines.  That's our "livingroom."  Behind the couch, on either side of one of our big deep windows, we have our desks.  That's our "office."  Maybe it's dorky to pretend like we have office space, but those desks needed to go somewhere!

His space is on the left side of the window you see in the picture.  His desk is covered with his computer and untold wires and gadgets (I don't know what half of them are for!)  and that's where he does his writing, video editing and a lot of his musical work.   (Not to mention internetting!)  It's nice when we are right next to each other at our respective desks,   both working on something important to us.

But this post is about MY side SO:  for the one person out there (me) who cares, the right side of the window is my art space.

1) The window doesn't face the path of the sun, so it really doesn't bring in much natural light.  But, if I am working during the day the view of my pretty little street is just lovely.  I can't wait till the tree outside puts out its leaves!

2) My lamp, for when I am working at night.  (Which is almost always, since I work nights at my job and because I like to sleep during the day.)  It used to be my bedside lamp, but I found a new lamp in the street and it graduated to my art desk lamp.  It's really more suited to the bedside table, it's so elegant and pretty (and the bird silhouettes I added yesterday really make it cozy) but unfortunately the new lamp is just too big to go in the windowsill!  Oh well.  Someday I will have the money for a proper artist's lamp with fluorescent and incandescent bulbs and a swivel head, and I can use the pretty lamp elsewhere.

3) My bag of pretty miscellaneous fabrics, papers and stickers that I might end up using for something.  I save all my old calendars for their glossy paper and pretty pictures, old wrapping paper, gift bags, scrapbooking papers...anything pretty that I might find a use for.  As for fabrics, only "real" fabrics that I have bought or have had given to me go in here.  My scrap fabric from old t-shirts and things like that is in a bag in my linen closet.

4) My pretty mirror, right above my workspace.  It was given to me by my boyfriend's aunt and actually has a matching twin on the other side of my bookcase.  But I love that it's right above my desk because first and foremost when it comes to artsy things, I am a cartoonist, and it is nice to have a mirror right there if I need to research facial expressions.

5 - 9) Things I have made in the past that I am either very proud of or that inspire me to create.  They pretty up my whole space and remind me of things I have accomplished in the past.  In more detail they are:

     5 - a string of paper stars made from magazine paper
     6 - two watercolour sketches I made of "Christmas in Vancouver" which remind me why I am living here and what I want to do with my life
     7 - a sequined Star Trek combadge my friend Hannah made me, to remind me of her, that I am loved, and also that I should be as nerdy as possible
     8 - a pony-bead gecko I made with my friend Krystal, to remind me of her, of childhood, and also that making things with my hands is the most gratifying thing I know
     9 - two more paintings I have done in the past

10) My book shelf.  This holds almost all the books the two of us own, and it's nice to have them right there should I need to look something up.  (I don't allow myself to use the internet when I'm doing art unless I absolutely have to, because I get sucked into the facebook trap too easily.)

11) My desk!!!  I found this on the street last October, just sitting there covered with grass clippings and rain waiting to be adopted!  It's made of particle board and weighs about two pounds.  I seriously would have been able to carry it the four blocks home myself, but Morgan was with me and was nice enough to help.  Someday I would love to have an adjustable cartoonist's drafting table, but for now this is just fine.  I like that it has ugly black paint because I'm not afraid to get it dirty.

12) The aforementioned Krystal gave me this pretty box that used to contain all her incense; now I keep my cartooning markers, favourite pencil and scraps of paper with ideas and character designs on them in it.  And it smells so good!

13) My craft bin.  Any craft supplies I have go in here, seperate from the "art" supplies because I am a snob.  But it's also probably the most opened box that I have.

14) This drawer hold all my cartooning supplies not held in the incense box: my rulers, pencils, pens, erasers, markers, pencil sharpener, india ink, best brushes and notebooks full of ideas

15) This drawer holds all my miscellaneous art supplies: paints, paintbrushes, oil pastels, and small canvases.

16) This drawer holds printer paper, lined paper, a big box of pencil crayons (too big to fit in the cartooning drawer) wax crayons (too bulky for the craft bin) extra notebooks and sketchbooks, construction and other coloured papers.

17) I stuff things that have no other place or that I am in the middle of working on under my desk, because I am a bad housekeeper.

18) My chair.  It came with our apartment, and when we move I will have to leave it behind.  Again, I would love to have a fancy, rolling computer chair with back support and all that, but I have no complaints about this one.

And that's it!  That's where the magic happens if I don't decide I would rather do art on the couch or in bed or in the bathroom.  I'm sorry if I bored the few of you who read this to tears, but it was really good for me to go through all this stuff like this: it made me totally inspired for tomorrow night when I'll come home from work and create something more exciting to share!

Have a great day, and thanks for reading!  

~Love, Emily.
  Tonight I made a quick little craft project to prettify the little area in my apartment where I do my art.

This is my lamp:

It sits in the windowsill above my desk, very useful for Arting at night after the sun has gone down and no more beautiful sunlight comes in the window. 

Tonight, I was craving a crafty, simple cut-and-paste project that would also allow me to beautify my space and muck up my furniture. 


I traced some bird silhouettes from the internet, using my laptop screen as a lightbox because I take good care of my things.  I transferred these to some thick, dark paper I had lying around (it was actually an old calendar page - I save all my calendars for pretty scrap paper) and cut them out.

Then I glued them to the inside of the shade with tacky glue and voila

I liked the effect a lot, and since my lampshade is four-sided I made more for each side so I can turn them around when I get bored.  

      I left one side blank, because it was my last one and I couldn't decide whether or not to leave it blank, or add another bird.  I'm thinking I kind of want a blue jay - those have always been favourites of mine.  What do you think??

I thought about moving this lamp into my bedroom and putting my bedside lamp by my desk - the look is just so cozy and relaxing!  But I think it's going to stay where it is for now; it's yet another beautiful thing I have made to decorate my workspace.

      And that's it for now!  I hope you are all having a fantastic Easter weekend!  

Thanks for reading, 

    Love Emily.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

I drew a warm-up sketch of my friend Hannah tonight and I was really proud of the way I managed to get across the different light spots on her tights.  I love hatching and cross-hatching patterns and I am always trying to get them to look more realistic and get different effects with them, and I am proud of the way things turned out here.

Also my friend is a total babe.