Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Next Three Spreads From Book Seven

Here are the next few images from sketchbook number seven. It seems there's a robot theme developing. More to follow in the coming days.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

100 Sketches of Hanuman

A few weeks ago, I wrote about receiving my first commission to design a tattoo. The client, my good friend Richard, wanted me to create custom art of the Hindu deity Hanuman holding up an icon of the heart chakra. A short while ago, I began the first of many preparatory sketches for the project.

Though they share common elements, no two representations of Hanuman in Hindu art are exactly the same. For this project, neither Richard nor I wanted a simple replica of anything that already exists. So I've started the long process of examining, internalizing, and evaluating the existing images, bringing parts together I like, and coming to my own version through drawing.

What looks like a fairly straightforward assignment becomes far more complicated when you consider the details. What pose should Hanuman take? What expression should he have on his face? What is the right balance between simian and man? Should his face be skinny or wide? Eyes large or small?

Beyond the questions about Hanuman the character, there are even more about the art itself: how stylized versus realistic should the representation be? What character should the line work have? Should they be heavy and minimal, or the opposite? Should I use brushwork for the lines, or should I use something harder so the lines are a uniform width? How much detail should I include? The options go on and on.

It's strange, but I feel some additional responsibilities with this piece. While I always want to do a good job for a client, I want my representation of Hanuman to be true to his story (just part of being respectful of the religious tradition the story is from). It will be technically challenging as well. Tattoo flash art is based in good line work, and this this piece needs to have far more polish than I'm used to putting on things. Considering also that this piece will grace someone's back for the remainder of his life, the pressure is on to make it perfect.

When I designed logos I gave myself the goal of doing 100 sketches for every finished piece I presented to the client. With this job I'll be lucky to get off that easily. Ah, well: four or five down, ninety five or so to go.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Impressionism is Cool Again. Who Knew?

Beginning while I studied art in undergraduate school, I felt a disconnect between visceral, emotionally-charged world of art practice and the hyper-intellectual world of art history. My good friend Joe, a talented painter in Cleveland, Ohio, said it best in his assessment of art historian Kenneth Clark: "that guy could make a blowjob sound boring." While the eminent Sir Kenneth was probably the victim of some undeserved youthful swagger, Joe had a point. Too much of art history writing takes great material and ruins it with a boring story.

Not so for The Judgement of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism by Ross King (2006). Despite the book's a long subtitle, normally the hallmark of a stodgy door-stopper, King's writing charms and engages as it evokes the French art world of the mid-nineteenth century. The mid 1800s in Paris were, for European art at least, a seminal period of change between the old academic order and the new modern world. It was a time that gave birth to innumerable "isms" as the rigid canons of art were replaced by more personal and expressive forms.

King tells the story of this great transition through the careers of two very opposite contemporaries: Edouard Manet and Ernest Messonier. Messonier, who has ironically slided into near obscurity, was considered in his age one of the world's greatest artists. The ultimate artistic company man, Messonier played by the French academy's rules so well that he amassed plaudits and an impressive fortune. Manet, whose work now adorns the great Temple of Impressionism, the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, was largely reviled in his time. His work was considered a base corruption of the high artistic spirit and standards of the academy.

Through Messonier and Manet, King weaves together the stories of those who made up the traditionalist art establishment and those who sought to change it. His thorough research helps us understand not only the personalities, positions, and actions of the major players, but also the effect of the times. Yet even as King sets events in a historical context, his personal approach keeps the story from declining into dry scholarship.

Before I'd read this book, I had always seen the early Impressionist era through the prism of my own time. I took note of the unique qualities of Manet's work - the heavier brushwork, flat lighting, and break with academic subject matter - but the difference between his work and what had come before seemed like nuance. Having now seen those times from the perspective of the traditionalist Messonier and the revolutionary Manet, I understand more the enormous risks the new painters took. They followed their own ideas in spite of the ridicule of the established art world and their subsequent inability to sell work. Without knowing that history would eventually vindicate them, the early Impressionists showed impressive courage in forging ahead with their artistic vision.

I don't know how well The Judgement of Paris would survive a direct comparison to oral sex, but it's certainly worth a few bucks and your time.

Available on amazon.com here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Pen of Deliciousness

I admit it. I have a nearly fetishistic love of office supplies.

I imagine everyone who walks through the aisles of a well-equipped office supply store falls prey to the same delusion that I do: with the the help of this collapsible file folder and that three ring binder, I will finally be truly on top of it all. I'll be much more inclined to use these fabulous new organizing tools, I think, because they are so attractive. The new levels of productivity I'll reach will easily make it worth the cost.

Every time it's the same. I dream, I buy the office supplies, and somehow my life remains a paean to disorder.

I'm even more susceptible when it comes to pens, mechanical pencils, brushes, and anything that makes a mark. I just know, somehow, that with this new instrument I'll be able to reach some greater height in my drawing. It just feels so right in the hand. The weight is perfect. The amount of resistance the tip offers on the paper is perfect. It makes exactly the type of line I want.

I know I've lost many of you, but those who get it understand. Finding a new pen is a big moment.

My current favorite is the Sakura Pigma Graphic 1.0mm with brown ink. I bought it on a whim last time I was in Art Lite here in Atlanta. I first fell in love with the Sakura 1.0 when I was working on beer names and label sketches for a friend (see above). The best part is that it pairs so well with Moleskine sketchbooks, a long-time favorite.

I may never reach the great heights of perfect productivity or the level of drawing ability I want, but I do know that the right tool is sheer joy to use. It may not improve the piece I'm working on, but it makes the experience of doing it a hell of a lot more fun. Now isn't that worth a couple of bucks?

Pen photo courtesy of createforless.com

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Haiku Interlude: The Mike Brady Effect

The seed found purchase
Adios Masserati
The Swiffer-vac roars…

*note: this one's a few years old - no new news.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

David Carson Would Be Proud

A nice piece of found typography on Tilly Mill and I-85 in Atlanta.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Forgetting to Call You Back Now on the Sketchblog

Though some of you may have seen these images when I posted them to Facebook, I've now included every spread in my latest complete sketchbook, Forgetting to Call You Back, as well as the story of how the book came to be. The art is located here on a permanent sub-page of the Sketchbob Sketchblog. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Haiku Interlude: Twitterized

New media thoughts
Shorter and shorter until
No content at all

Friday, June 4, 2010

This is Not a Book

"This object does not exist without you," reads the back of Keri Smith's This is Not a Book. "You will determine the content and the final product. All will be shaped by your imagination. You must go out into the world in order to bring it to life and complete the assignments."

It's a 221-page workbook to help readers engage their creativity, stretch the limits of their imagination, and play.

The book is written entirely in Smith's own hand and is illustrated with her drawings and photos. Each artfully composed spread contains an exercise which enjoins the reader to transform the book into something else: an action sculpture, an imaginary place, a celebration, or a random adventure. Each exercise challenges our preconceived notions and forces us to see the object and concept of a book from a different perspective.

The sheer number of exercises in This is Not a Book is a testament to the author's own creativity. As I read through exercise after exercise, I wondered how Smith did not simply run out of new ways in which to look at the object and concept of a book. And therein is the book's genius: showing how external limitations push us to new levels of creative endurance and inventiveness.

In This is Not a Book, Smith challenges us to go further and dig deeper, but above all to keep alive the spirit of creative play. It's a wonderful source of creative inspiration.

Available on Amazon here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Haiku Interlude: ADHD

Dropping Dopamine
Like a purple-assed baboon
Has hijacked my mind

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

First Look at Book Seven

I'm in the process of redesigning my main sketchbook site, sketchbob.com. The new site will include a better gallery, more content, and an updated look. Until the new site is finished, I'll be posting more recent work here.

Below is a first look at some content from Book Seven. Enjoy.