Today, I am an elf!
I’m about to leap into the Great 2014 Christmas Project. It’s moments away in fact. As soon as my computer finishes downloading super secret files to a super secret elfing location, I’ll launch, and I have that wonderful, excited (and also sinking) feeling that comes when you know it’s going to be a toboggan ride – and kick off anyway! It’s always like this when the Logan elves (me and my sis) let ideas run amuck. We giggle a lot.
I can’t tell you anything about what we’re doing yet, but if all goes well (or even a little does), there will be very neat show & tell here late in the month. Until then, I’ll post pix of past Christmas projects (I told you about a really good one two posts ago).
I have a lot of favorite times of year, but when the workshop is open and the elves are banging away, it is special –
Your Buddy Bill —————–
For your amusement: two CD cover designs done for compilation discs given to the Boss Elf last Christmas. Both combine elements of my real drawings, digital drawing and a lot of messing around in Photoshop. The blank areas on the left halves are where the lists of tunes were eventually added. I didn’t expect much when I started these, and was pleasantly surprised when finished. I particularly like the top one; that trumpet player is a hepcat, man!
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Hey all –
This morning, I realized I didn’t want to begin another day of careful rendering, or problem solving. I just wanted to sling ink, beat the crap out of a sheet and see if something interesting happened. So, I decided to attack a sacrificial drawing and either finish or scrap it by day’s end. An odd owl with some nice moves was my selected victim. He had stalled more than a year ago. Geez, that didn’t seem possible.
It was a good day.
And long one too. I’m pooped, and a meatloaf sandwich seems like the nicest thing that could possibly happen right now. So, here are THREE new owls, and then down the stairs I go!
Your Buddy Bill ——————-
This is the one I picked to die – but he didn’t! He’s still odd and awkward, yet he keeps you looking.
These two were done today from start to finish. They also play peekaboo with their trees, and are good examples of how my pictures are becoming increasingly textural.
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Reidun is my sweetie, and more fun to give gifts to than anyone, because she’s always amazed by it. Genuinely, as if it’s the single kindest thing anyone has ever done. Oh, and as if she has landed on Free Parking, won Lotto, is 9 years old again, gets vanilla chocolate chip ice cream and is sitting in a patch of sunshine so perfect it took the sun billions of years to get that good.
Now, my sis, Kay, is perfect for Reidun because she’s a weirdo, and and more elf than human. She’s scary creative. Each year, in October, I get my phone call from the West Coast Branch of The United Elves Manufacturers and Packers, Chapter 127-5-A. It sounds suspiciously like Kay announcing she has The Christmas Plan. I thought when we unionized, and got disclaimers and everything, that I might have some protection and say so, but nope, I always seem to sign on. It doesn’t even take much of a push. Well okay, last year I did nix her idea of making yarn winders out of Tinker Toys. But the 2011 Textile Design Project was beyond brilliant.
It’s easy to have any design printed on fabric, yards of it if you wish. Kay found the perfect outfit online, then drafted me to secretly gather and scan a great pile of Reidun’s kiddie drawings. We also had her niece translate favorite Norwegian childhood songs into English, so we would know what they’re about. Did you guess that Reidun is Norwegian?
With this goldmine of source material (yep, it’s a pun), the elves went to work. Kay combined her own illustrations, the song lyrics and Reidun’s drawings to make delightful fat quarters (a quilter’s term meaning quarter sections of fabric). My plan was to create new upholstry fabric for the futon couch our sweet little kittie cats had torn to shreds.
I should mention that the elves are setting up shop again in the next few days. Can’t say more, but stay tuned.
Your Buddy Bill ——————–
My 2011 Upholstery Fabric
I used Photoshop to color manipulate, digitally draw upon and collage Reidun’s drawings. This panel is designed to print on fabric 58″ wide, with a 36″ repeat. This means the right and left edges are aligned so they will match up when printed in series.
Here is what it looks like repeating. The pattern is set up so the lower half is the part of the couch you sit on, while the upper half is the back.
These are examples of how Reidun’s drawings looked before and after manipulation. The absolutely perfect drawing at lower left was used just as it is. I adore the picture of her dad. I believe he’s repairing a shoe. Andreas could fix anything, and was an incredible man.
If you’re gonna do couch fabric, you must provide for cushions. Here are some of the patterns, along with Reidun’s drawings again.
Kay Logan’s Fat Quarters
WOW! What more needs be said about such incredible visual treats?
There is a funny story about the first one. The song tells of a grasshopper that regardless of whether he should or not, falls in love with the poppies he can’t quite reach. Hilda (Reidun’s niece), who speaks almost perfect English, translated poppy as puppy, so to begin with, our lil’ hopper had a thing for the pooch. When Kay was informed of the error, she took it artfully in stride.
This drawing is unusual for me. The last time I drew a choo choo was waaaaaay back in the early 1980’s, when as a commercial illustrator, I did a picture for an article on railroad mergers. I had to knock that one out over night. This one took a whole lot longer, but was much more fun!
One cool fact before we look at the photos: steam locomotives are classified by their wheel configuration. This one is a 2-6-0: 2 front wheels, 6 driver wheels (the big ones), and none under the cab = 0.
Last note: please forgive the bendy distortion (you can really see it in the track). I work on thin paper, which gets quite wavy before a drawing is flattened again once it’s finished.
A Paterson 2-6-0 Locomotive #3, 18″ x 24″
Except for the first rivets (the rows are that crooked in real life) and the walkway going forward (seen on edge), this is how the drawing looked after I slapped down the basics at the tail end of a day spent on site. That was one heck of a good hour and change!
Added: lots more rivets, cab detail, pipes and the locomotive’s number (well, the part we can see).
Here comes the beginning of the front end detail, and hand railings so the engineers won’t fall off when they’re on the walkway.
More front end detail has been added, but the part I’d already done seemed too distracting, so I lightened it up a bit. Then I darkened the engine and added still more fittings. It’s starting to look like quite the sooty contraption now!
Here it is finished, with detail all over the place. Yet there’s actually a good deal less than you think you see. In fact, I’m pleased with how this drawing shifts character within itself. Some areas retain the spontaneous marks thrown down in the initial sketch, others are deliberately vague and yet hang right in there next to detail that has almost become mechanical rendering. I was REALLY tired of doing rivets by the end.
Bonus Drawing: A Paterson 2-6-0 Locomotive #2, 18″ x 24″
This is the strange drawing I spent most of that day working on before starting the one we just looked at. I’m not sure why I’m so taken with it. Maybe it’s the locomotive’s ghost-like quality, and the gritty atmosphere.
This is one of the two Long-earred owl drawings I wrote about last week. My thought moving forward, was to center the highly detailed area of the picture on the legs and feet, while really making an effort to keep the rest of the drawing far more suggestive. The problem I’ve landed myself in is that the camouflage patterning on these little guys is already a seemingly random confusion of speckles and bars. It’s incredibly effective. Underlying structure is utterly obscured. Trying to just slap down some indication of it all has led to gorgeous mark making. . . and a horrible gray mess! I sort of wish I’d left everything except the feet as it was, barely indicated, but that would have felt like a lazy way to find a finish. Now there is no choice except to keep going. It will require more daring. I hate having to be that way even before breakfast!
More to come,
Your Buddy Bill ——————-
The feet and legs are coming along. I think I will finish off the left foot and forgo as much highly rendered detail on the other one. Right now, I like the way this cropped image looks better than the full picture.
When I started counting how many half finished drawings are stacked up on my work tables and shelves this morning , I stopped pretty quickly. I was getting a little overwhelmed by how much remains to be done, and maybe even kind of upset that the same thing happens over and over. Almost always, I start a new image with a great burst of clarity, and just pound along. Sometimes (it’s kind of rare) I get clear to the finish. As pleased as I am, I’m also a little disoriented, because I’m not quite sure how it happened. This is NOT the way things normally go. Usually, somewhere in the middle (and when a picture is beginning to look really good), I reach the point where I either don’t know what should come next, or worse, I have a vague hunch but no clue how to get it done. I care too much; the idea that I might fail locks me up. I stop. I prop the picture up, sit back and look at it long enough to realize there is nothing in my head but static. The really weird thing is that if I start a new drawing, I go right back into overdrive and charge off again. This has become a too familiar rhythm.
Thus far, I’ve dealt with stalled drawings by setting them aside. We all know that if you let problems rest for awhile, you’ll see them differently, and maybe solve them. It often works, but now my studio has become an archeological dig. At the bottom of piles and in overlooked corners, I’m finding really good starts that should have been completed. It feels like neglect not to see them through, but my thinking and mark making have evolved; I want too keep rolling, but I’m dragging all this weight and keep adding more!
Lately, I’ve had a sense that some kind of turning point or a big leap is coming. When I fail these days, it’s often on a level that I would not so long ago have been thrilled just to reach. I am making progress. As I write this, it’s reminding me to hold that thought close. I’ve decided I’ll have to abandon some old work. Better yet, to just get it gone, I’ll tear it up for scrap paper. I’m also going to try to be less concerned about failing on something I put a lot of work into. My big picture should be made up of all the pictures I’ve completed (or maybe even just worked on) in a series, or a season, or a year. It ought to be a vista I can look out over and see a creative migration.
Reidun, the love of my life, says that I should stop worrying about what turns out great and what ends up finished but a touch disappointing. She says that if I don’t tell folks which is which, they probably won’t know, and that if I keep moving, good work will keep coming. Where being practical is concerned, she has good sense without fail.
Once there was a man and his son who were reindeer herders. After a particularly long day, the kid asked, “Dad, when will we get there?”
His father replied, “Son, we’re nomads. We’ll never get there.”
Put a brush in my hand and off I go!
Your Buddy Bill —————–
Here are a few drawings that perplex me. I’m determined to finish them:
Mt. Haynes Behind the Madison River #5, Yellowstone National Park
The question: How do I resolve the middle area, where the wall of new growth trees ends at the water’s edge. You’re probably trying to find what the heck I’m even talking about. The interplay of textures and exuberant brushwork in the bottom half of the picture is sooooo lovely and suggestive, yet at the same time so indistinct. I like that, don’t want to lose the essence, but don’t know how to bring the bottom into harmony with the top half, which has become more defined.
Mt. Haynes #6, Yellowstone National Park
This one is really an essay in wild, almost abstract mark making. Yet I see space and depth in it, with the mountain perhaps in winter time snow under moonlight? Yep, really! Now, How do I get it to the point where you might see it too?
The Paterson Power Plant, #1
How’s this for jumping from wildly expressionistic to seriously realistic? This is the first Paterson Project picture I began, late last winter. Oh my gosh is it tight, and threatening to torc down further. I wore myself out on it and only now am about ready to go new rounds. The windows will take as long as the rest of the drawing has so far; if I manage it, you’ll see what I mean!
PS: the blue and orange lines are tape masking areas out – not the longed for addition of color some of you keep hoping for!
Roadkilled, Long-earred Owl #4
It started as a sketch with no prep beforehand, and has since morphed into an all out essay in texture and pattern. Lots of problems too, starting with the fact that it’s very hard to undo rapid gestural drawing decisions done in ink! As it turns out, every mark in the barely indicated breast and head is in an utterly inconvenient location. As I try to figure out how do deal with that, I’m also wondering how I can perhaps keep the whole area far less highly resolved. As a friend has pointed out, if I dot every eye, this could end up looking like an Audubon Field Guide drawing.
Roadkilled, Long-Earred Owl #3
And this time, I feel I need to finish the super detailed feet/legs and really, really slide into a more suggestive, spare finish for the rest. I think.
Finally, here are two views of a Bear Swamp Creek pool in low water and autumn leaf clutter. Wonderful textures and brush work are happening in these, but both pictures are dizzyingly fragmented and disjointed. The real scene is like that too – the woods are at their most cluttered right now, yet if these are to function at all, I must pull them together some how. I think it means that I must figure out how to lie a little!