Friday, July 22, 2011

Recharging the Batteries

Grumpy Little Orange. :0)

Last week sometime, I woke up and decided to take a vacation.  Oh, I had thought about it, but sometimes thinking leads to all sorts of rationalizations like affordability, time, etc.  And planning.  There are some who plan every detail, and there are some who wing it, and I wung it.  Much against anyone's better judgement, I began driving about 7:30 at night, heading for Florida... a mere 15 hours or so away!

Normally an overnight drive would send shudders down my spine, being safety conscious and all, but honestly, a part of me really wanted to watch the sun rise.  No idea why, but seeing dawn break is something we should all do now and then, especially with the shore nearby, and fun times ahead.

Happily, the journey went safely, and thus began a week of alternating adventure and relaxation, with a focus on new experience.  I'm a huge advocate of doing new things to recharge the batteries and stimulate the brain, whether trying new foods or seeing a new place, or both.

Success!  My first evening in Florida I was enjoying the sunset over a beautiful lake, and about to walk out onto a pier when I spotted something in the shallows beside me... what looked like a toy alligator.  While marvelling at how life-like it was, said alligator started moving towards me!  Now I've seen gators before, but none in the wild, none a few feet from me, and none so close to pedestrians and puppies all enjoying the park. And this guy actually moved towards me with no fear in its eyes!

Alligator looks mean!

Next I visited Mt. Dora for the first time, a nice little place on a lake that looks like a town in the Caribean. I watched the Independence Day fireworks, and planned on going back, but unfortunately wasn't able to find the time.

Day 3 found me in Disney World, a place that always stimulates the creative juices! And although I've been there before, I was easily able to find new things to do. Usually I stay in the park resorts, and take advantage of the free bussing to and from the parks, which is beyond priceless. This time I decided to schlup it and actually drive in and park, which involves a lot of traffic, parking two miles away, and then fighting for space on the trams where we then took the ferry across the lake and then stood in a ticket line for tickets and then hiked to the entrance and by then was too tired to move!  Then again, it was a hot and humid day, but next time, a resort stay is definitely called for.

Nice edible design on my dessert plate at Tony's in the Magic Kingdom

I had a chance at a truly unique experience, which was seeing the final space shuttle launch live!   My choice of this week for Florida was influenced by the launch, although I wasn't sure if I wanted to attempt to go to the launch site itself.  First off, I knew it would be crowded, and second, there are sometimes delays in these launches.  Unfortunately, time moved quickly, and where I was located was a great place to see the shuttle take off in the distance... usually.  After a very hot and humid few days, the night before I was in Downtown Disney in a true deluge of rain.  The morning of the launch found it still drizzling, and of course cloudy, so although I should have seen the launch, I couldn't.  It was just too overcast!  Well, some things you just can't control.

On the way home, not wanting to face that dreaded drive, I stopped for the night in Hilton Head, South Carolina, another place I always wanted to visit, and pretty much the last shore stop on the way home.  This not only split my drive up, but I spent a wonderful evening and morning on the beach, in the ocean, and at a gorgeous hotel.  It was muggy there as well, but Hilton Head Island is definitely on the 'Must Return To' list.

Storm brewing over the beach at Hilton Head

So, am I rested and rejuvenated after my impromptu Holiday??  Hell no.  I'm exhausted, and my To-do list is twice as long as before!

But you know what?  I'd do it again in a minute.  You don't forget a trip like that, and yeah, I'm sure to get a lot more out of it, once I've rested and had time to look back.  Maybe even some ideas for cartoons??

No maybes about it. :0)

Time to think about the next trip.    JOHN :0)

Saturday, July 02, 2011

A True Honor

I am honored to do a magazine cover twice a year for the same company for several years now, and each cover somehow turns out better than I imagined.  This shouldn't be a surprise, since a) I work my butt off spending usually three weeks on each cover, not counting research, and b) I try to top myself each time.  This may sound simple, but honestly, until the cover is done, I have no idea if the end result will be what I hope for.

Then again, I don't stop until I'm truly happy with a piece, and pray that this point will come BEFORE the art has to go to the printers!

With a magazine cover, a painting, a cartoon... I usually work until I feel the piece is 'alive'.  I juggle all the elements using whatever instincts and knowledge I have developed over the years about design and color theory, until the art is dynamic.  To me, fine art is something that captures your attention, and makes you take a second look, and pulls you in although you don't necessarily know why.

Anyhow, my latest cover was a special piece... a tribute to the fastest passenger ship known to man, the SS United States.  The ship was launched in the 1950's and was featured on many a travel poster. So, having a love of those glamorous old travel posters myself, I set out to design my own.  Sadly, when deadlines loom, it is possible for any artist to panic, and this I did.  I rushed a design, hoping it would turn into something, but a very important lesson for any designer is this:  think before you start.  It's always best to have a clear design in mind, and to work out the kinks in thumbnail sketches before you begin your final work.
If I had been working with real paint, like I originally intended, instead of digitally, I would have been in a lot of trouble. Fortunately, I was able to take a deep breath, admit my mistake, and scrapped it all to start over.
Not the best thing to do with a deadline looming and a week or two of work under your belt!

Fortunately, I was working digitally, and was creating a two page spread. By taking all of those elements and putting them together on one page, I had a much more exciting design.  I then changed the angles and viewpoint to make it much more dynamic and exciting... a true tribute to such a fascinating ship!

More fortunately, my clients loved the final image, enough to make posters of the work to give as gifts to their clients. 

Having someone give your art as a gift to someone else, especially on this scale, is a true honor, and one that makes all the struggle to be an artist worthwhile.  Of course, these moments are few and far between, but the next one keeps us working away, and doing our best.  And that is what we should always aim for; our best.
Cheers,    JOHN :0)

Photos: Above, the line art view of the illustration as seen in Adobe Illustrator. I usually work from scanned sketches, to Adobe Illustrator, and then finish in Adobe Photoshop.
Second, the final artwork as shown on the printed posters. Note that I 'aged' the illustration to make it look like a poster that's been around for the last 50 years.