December 3, 2013 § 2 Comments
November 22, 2013 § 2 Comments
My oh my, the holiday season is fast approaching! I’m super excited because this year will be the first time in 5 years that I will spend Thanksgiving at home with my family in Kansas. I’ve had two Thanksgivings in Seoul, one while visiting my cousin in Italy, and last year I was at a home stay high up in the Andes in Peru. I have a lot in my life to be thankful for, especially my friends and family around the world, and the opportunities I’ve had and will have to travel.
November 13, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Choosing colors is one of my favorite aspects of creating art, and over time I’ve amassed a bounty of resources to enable this obsession. My favorite are my color collage sketchbooks (seen above). Sometimes I leave pages unfinished for weeks or months before finding the right color combination to complete the collages. Having these is like having a secret stash of mood boards at the ready! I also love to go through my old photos on flickr for good color palettes, as well as browse Pinterest for inspiration. I always take in a lot of color inspiration for each project, but in the end, I can usually find one or two images that really hit the mark, color wise. From there I work out a basic palette and adjust as I go. Below are a few of my favorite color palettes, side by side with patterns I made with them:
Of course, there’s lots of other great resources on the web, which I use regularly. ColourLovers, Kuler, and Color Collective are a few of my favorites. I also love flipping trough the inspiration books in the paint section of my local hardware store, leafing through my Pantone book, and checking out art books from the library for further inspiration. There’s no end to the color love here!
November 6, 2013 § Leave a Comment
As a designer, I’m naturally interested in following the trends that come and go in fashion, home decor and other arenas of product design and popular culture. This subject comes up often on designers’ blogs and pinterest boards – what are the colors for next spring? What holiday motif will all the big retailers be shopping for? As I immerse myself more and more into the world of fashion, trends, and Pantone colors of the year I get more and more interested in the trends behind the trends – the actual reasons why so many of us seem to gravitate toward the same colors, patterns, and images at a certain time. It might be possible that sometimes a trend is simply a popular thing and people like it because it’s popular, but I do believe that sometimes trends in design arise from forces in society, politics, the economy and world events.
One trend that’s close to my heart right now both visually and socially is the embrace of global patterns and designs. This includes so-called ‘tribal’ patterns, ikat, paisley, Japanese washi tape, and Russian needlepoint, and Mexican day of the dead and papel picado. I think it’s so interesting how all of these trends all seem to be popular all at once, and seem to be taking over all levels of retail and product categories:
Trend Tablet refers to this trend to draw inspiration from all places and movements in history as “Nomadism.” I’m no trend forcaster, but I consider myself a bit of a nomad and I wanted to write a bit about my insights into this trend. As it turns out, I’m also being inspired by all places and moments in history at once! (yikes. hard to know what to make first!)
I really believe that an increased interest in global/tribal designs stems from increasing global travel, both by Americans to other places and by global citizens to America. Here in America, it gets easier and easier to find global cuisines, music, dance, sports, and festivals all the time. This gives consumers a chance to have their interest be piqued by new, exciting colors and patters. Conversely, it is easier to travel abroad than it’s ever been, and there’s more and more reasons to travel abroad. As I myself experienced, many people struggling in a weak economy find they can get more lucrative jobs abroad.
In addition, I think this trend reflects the fact that many young people (Millennials, I suppose) are placing a higher value on experiences over physical possessions. There’s a lot of griping about how Millennials (of which I am one) are taking too long to buy houses and cars and establish settled lives. I feel very strongly that this has to do with many of us wanting to invest in experiences first, travel the world, and gain perspectives on other ways of life. Okay, and escape for a bit. And see a whole lot of beautiful things.
In short, I think the desire to travel around the world is very similar to the desire to surround yourself with designs from around the world – it’s a desire to continually gain perspective, seek new experiences, and appreciate diversity.
Do you have any global or tribal trends you’re in love with? Does that have anything to do with your travel or cultural experiences? I’d love to hear about it!
October 30, 2013 § 1 Comment
Well well! It looks like it’s time for one of my trademark belated blog posts. Back in early August, I moved to a new house with Smashotron Scott. Definitely one of the best things about this new arrangement is that now, for the first time EVER, I have a dedicated studio space that I don’t also sleep in! That’s right, I can close the door on my drawing table and computer and not feel like they are looking at me in the night. Won’t you join me for a tour?
This is my area – My faithful drawing desk, which has been with me since I started art school at KU in 2005, and my *new* computer desk, which Scott built for me. It’s modeled after Donald Judd’s prototype desk which we saw in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this summer. I love it! It has tons of shelf space for old sketchbooks, binders of moodboards, my Pantone swatchbook, and a flat file for large format papers. It’s also custom-built to my height, so I can stand and work for hours without becoming the hunchback.
Between the two of us, the studio has 5 desks: 2 computer desks, 2 drawing tables, and the all-important cutting mat/light table/put crap here and forget about it for a while table. Here, you see it in it’s ideal, ready to cut paper or transfer drawings form, but normally it’s piled over with tools, sewing projects, books, and tea cups. This view features a guest appearance by Lazer Bunny, a Smashotron original plywood sculpture.
Getting a new work space also gave me an organizational boost. Now I can finally have the giant bulletin board I’ve been craving, a place to hang up a calendar, and a few random things for general inspiration. I’ve never been much of a decorator but now that I actually have some blank space to work with I’m starting to see the appeal. One nice thing about our studio space (and house in general) is that it all came together with things we already have, recycled, repurposed and things that were free or very cheap. I’m looking forward to spending long hours in the studio all winter long!
October 7, 2013 § Leave a Comment
This post is a bit late, but my cover trading card design for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was selected for Lawrence Public Library’s Banned Book Trading Card series! The full set is available for purchase here.
October 3, 2013 § Leave a Comment
For a while now I’ve been wanting to do a post where I lay out my idea development process for illustrations, particularly the maps. Now that I’ve made a few illustrated maps, I’m becoming more self-aware about the considerations I need to weigh at different stages in the process and that’s helping me make slightly better decisions slightly faster (what a relief!).
So naturally, things always start out at the tiny idea phase. The common ancestor of all illustrations is the scribble. Scribbles begin to appear on receipts, ticket stubs, memo pads and other available writing surfaces near me and eventually migrate into my sketchbook, where they multiply and compete for valuable page space. I tend to revisit the same ideas several times in a sketchbook, and by a process of natural selection the strongest ones rise to the top. These are the scribbles that, for various reasons, have the most potential in being developed into full-on finished pieces.
I then take that idea through an in-depth sketch process, which usually involves at least three “rounds,” getting gradually more finalized each time. For my USA Road Trip map, I went through roughly four sketch rounds:
As the sketching happens, I shift from focusing on content in the beginning (what’s my concept? what does each part do to strengthen the concept?) to focusing on compostion (space, scale, balance, and designing the look of each element). In this case, I started with a pretty general idea – “USA map” and sketched whatever I wanted until I felt it was pretty clear that what I really wanted to make was a USA Road trip map. The thing about the maps is that there’s just too much stuff – landmarks, cultural highlights, food, modes of transit, animals, and so on – that I find it’s useful to clarify a more specific concept for the map, rather than just plopping random images down on the appropriate places. For this map in particular, I wanted to avoid feeling too constrained by geographical correctness, and I definitely didn’t want to be fussing over state borders or trying to find a symbol for each state. I wanted to have a nice flow of negative space, a balance of larger and smaller scale elements and a variety of elements that would look great at small scale. I also wanted to tell the story of a road trip and all the little moments someone might experience traveling around the USA by car. Going through a thorough sketch process helped me get clear on these goals, which provided me with a framework for all my decision making.
The tough part comes when I have too many ideas – or an idea that doesn’t really fit into the bigger picture. Refining means letting stuff go, stuff that I’m really excited about but will have to save for another time. In the case of the map, I had a lot more ideas for little icons that would have been cool but I just didn’t have the space on the map for them. Or sometimes, they seemed repetitive when placed into the larger composition – that’s how the Rocky Mountains got booted – too many natural landmarks concentrated in the west on the map.
Also, it’s helpful to remember what the final use is going to be, and what scale it’s going to be see at. I created this map as a promotion piece that I’m going to print on jumbo sized postcards – 8.5 x 5.5 inches. Not a lot of space. I tried to do as much of the sketching at that scale so that I have a real idea of how its going to look as a product.
Then, finally I can start my favorite part(s): color and paint!
I almost always paint in pieces, since that makes it easy to make color, scale and position adjustments in Photoshop later. There’s almost always a few last minute changes, due to my evolving idea or the needs of my clients. For this map I made a last-minute decision to change the position and style of the title lettering:
And then, there’s always the final touches that make it seem final. Now, this scribble has become a higher life form!