Saturday, December 31, 2011

Merry Xmas, Happy New Year!

I hope everyone's having a great ol' holiday season! Here's the card I painted for my family. Christmas has come and gone but we're just gearing up for New Year's, which means... Mochi! Every year around this time my family and I make dozens of mochi that we eat fresh or freeze to be enjoyed later.

Mochi is a glutinous (sticky!) rice cake made of glutinous rice that is soaked overnight, cooked, and then pounded into a blob that is then formed into smaller blobs. Wikipedia has a very informative entry

In the olden days, wooden mallets were used to pound the cooked rice into submission. That is so olden days! We now have a magical machine with a magical name ("Mochitsukiki", aka Mochi-making gadget) that does the cooking and pounding for you!


Here's some very poor quality video I took with my iPhone to show the process. We strain the rice after soaking and dump it into this machine, where a single rotating widget in the middle mixes, mashes and pounds the rice until it is a uniform blob that spins and jumps around like its alive.

This clip shows the process a bit further along.

Dancing blog time! My sister and I found this to be the height of hilarity when we were kids. It's really kinda mesmerizing :P. 

How do you get a spinning molten blob of sticky rice out of a mochitsukiki? With a specially designed plastic bit with a hole at the bottom, that's how!

From there it's dumped onto a wooden block that's been liberally sprinkled with sweet rice flour to keep it from sticking. Then we form it into balls.

There are lots of ways to enjoy mochi. Easiest is to create a paste using some of sugar and soy sauce and dip and eat. They're also great in miso soup (any soup really -- today we had turkey soup with mochi in it! The turkey soup was made from xmas turkey bones) and with sweet red bean paste. 

Mochi has a simple taste, it's the texture that's the most fun. They are chewy and soft and stretchy. Zap one in the microwave and it'll inflate like a balloon, only to immediately flatten like the world's saddest souffle as soon as the power is cut. Mochi is fun!

My next post will probably be a showcase of the two t-shirts I designed as gifts this year. I coulda posted that first but I wanted to do something topical.

Happy 2012!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Beginnings and Endings: "Jack White" for a Circus Mind

My latest piece for "A Circus Mind" is complete! This one was for a poem called "Jack White". The poem mentions Meg and Jack jamming in an attic, so I came up with this idea that they'd be surrounded by imagery from their songs and albums. I thought it'd be fun to depict Jack as a devil figure, tempting Meg with the drumsticks. I put flames licking at his boots and gave him a Southern feel, a gambling-man look with a blood red guitar. Author-poet Ryan requested Jack have a pensive look. Hope I pulled it off! Here are some of the other images I created for the book.

Prints and more of this image available on my Society6 store!

I enjoyed stuffing this illustration full of White Stripes references. There's a poster with red and white blood cells on it (for their White Blood Cells album), an orchid (from their song "Blue Orchid"), the attic light was made to look like the one from the album cover for "Elephant", the painting resembles the artwork of their "De Stijl" album, the elephant statue is another reference to the album "Elephant", the legos from the music video for "Fell in Love with a Girl", buttons for "Hardest Button to Button", and the attic window, mint candies, and the ball on the elephant's trunk all refer to the band's famous red-and-white swirl graphic. I put the snake in to go along with the theme of temptation.

The White Stripes broke up this year. One of the first indications of this was a dead goldfish image that was posted on their official site. I put a dead goldfish (and the skull) in the illustration to acknowledge this -- in every beginning there is an ending and nothing lasts forever.

I'm a pretty big fan of the White Stripes. I love their minimalist, authentic approach to music. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE that they have such a strong visual identity. Red, white and black. The candy-swirly thing. It's like what I was saying about the Wizard of Oz, how Oz has certain colours strongly associated with it -- ruby slippers, yellow brick road, and emerald city. Colours really resonate with me.

When you scroll down and see the process work, you'll see how I just kept adding and adding stuff and refining the drawing. The initial sketch is pretty darn crude and somewhat embarrassing :P.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dark Side of the Rainbow

Two more weeks left to go on Ryan W. Cox's "A Circus Mind" Kickstarter project! Here's another illustration I did for the book for a poem entitled "Dark Side of the Rainbow". Prints (and more!) of this image available for sale on my Society6 shop page!

For the Society6 t-shirt I've altered the image a little -- faded away the bottom a bit so it melds into the tshirt colour and added the bottom to the lowest falling brick for added effect.

This is my second Wizard of Oz-inspired illustration. I did the first one for UPPERCASE Studio's Work/Life 2 book. I have a lot of love for Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy, so I couldn't resist illustrating Ryan's "Dark Side of the Rainbow" poem. I really wanted to capture an ominous, dream-like feeling while keeping the image looking kinda storybook. I think the red linework gives it a bit of extra kick!

Here's my initial sketch. Sometimes I like to use grey tones to get a better idea of how an illustration is going to look when it's done. This sketch was done with my tablet.

And here's the sketch I did by hand. This is an extra step I'll do occasionally when the digital sketch requires a bit more finesse before I head to final.
One of the reasons I love the Wizard of Oz so much is that there is such a strong sense of colour throughout that story. The yellow brick road, the ruby slippers, the emerald city... Even the four countries that comprise Oz (Gilliken, Munchkin, Winkie, Quadling) have colours associated with them. Love it!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Scentimental Journey

I've been waiting to show this job, it's now on newsstands in the December issue of Best Health magazine! The job was a full page and a half page for their feature article on perfumes -- the coolest part was that Best Health sent me the perfumes so I could actually illustrate the bottles from life. I love love love perfumes and cosmetics, so I was totally psyched. Dream job!

The job was to illustrate ten perfumes but twelve were actually sent (as can be seen by this horrible photo I took!). There were three Jacob Boutique fragrances that all had the same bottles and I was to use one. I love perfume bottles. They are glass sculptures, pieces of art that I can actually afford! Add to that the fact they contain wonderfully complex and unique fragrances and it doesn't get much better than this.

Here's the half page illustration. The art director wanted a scene of a woman getting lost in the perfume she is sampling, being transported back to a wonderful beach vacation with one spritz of a bottle.

I send out postcards and email promos and I enter illustration contests every year; I never expected to generate work from a blog entry! I had posted some make-up sketches on my blog in response to one of Christine from Temptalia's beauty questions and Christine (beauty blogger extraordinaire!) liked the sketches so much she asked to post them on her tumblr and twitter. Jaime over at BellaSugar saw the sketches via Temptalia and contacted me, asking if she could do a feature article of those sketches for BellaSugar. And that's where the Best Health art director found me! Long story short: Social networking works :P.

What's amazing to me is that I visit BellaSugar and Temptalia every day and I am so into what they do -- that made the fact they liked what I'd done about ten times cooler!

Those make-up sketches are looser and more delicate than my usual work, and it was this look that the art director wanted me to emulate. I use watercolour frequently but I haven't used it in my illustrations for many years. That made me a little nervous. I love watercolour but it is an unforgiving medium. One of my college painting profs passed on a saying that goes something like: "Watercolour is an enjoyable medium once you can get past your first three hundred paintings."

I whipped up this up for experimental purposes to see if I could actually pull off a more delicate, watercolour-y look while still having it look like the rest of my portfolio. After that, I felt a lot more confident that I'd be able to create something that would make both me and the art director happy!


The next part of the equation was the perfumes. Fragrantica is my go-to resource for fragrances. They have reviews, notes, and user comments on hundreds and hundreds of perfumes and they post articles about upcoming fragrances and even info about perfume ingredients. You can even do a search for fragrances by selecting specific notes and the site will automatically generate a list of fragrances that have those notes in them!

Here is a list of what I was sent:

Balenciaga L'Essence
Burberry Body
Calvin Klein Euphoria
Clean Skin
Clinique Aromatics Elixir Solid Parfum necklace
Jacob Tres Chic
Jacob Joie Vivre
Jacob Classic
Kenzo Flower Tag
Lancome Tresor Midnight Rose
Oscar de la Renta Live in Love
Prada Candy

I used Fragrantica to research these fragrances and I sketched three elements contained in each one. Here are the two sketches I submitted for the full-page of fragrances:

The art director requested a more streamlined version for the final so only a few perfume notes ended up making the cut. I'm quite fond of the illustrated notes but I can see that they make the page look fairly cluttered. More space was required to put in the captions!

One more fragrance resource for other perfume enthusiasts: Katie Puckrik puts up entertaining and informative perfume reviews on YouTube, I highly recommend them to any fellow "fumeheads" (as Katie calls us!).

I did a lot of experiments to decide what kind of line quality I wanted to use for the perfume bottles. From left to right: Tech pen, thin brush, thicker brush, nib. I ended up going with the thin brush.

I tried a variety of colour treatments, some of which are pictured here. You may notice that the Prada Candy bottle in the final illustration wasn't this one; I ended up drawing a it from a different angle, an angle I thought worked better for the composition. Here are some of the other bottle sketches -- you'll notice the same thing, sometimes I didn't use my first version!

Compare the pencil sketches and the inked drawings -- some of the bottles have most definitely gotten a little restless and turned themselves around :P.

This job was most definitely a "scentimental" journey. It was a lot of work but totally worth it. I'm proud of what I managed to accomplish, and how I created two portfolio pieces that are quite different from my other stuff but still somehow familiar. Many thanks to Stephanie at Best Health for seeing potential in those make-up sketches and for giving me the opportunity to work a little outside of my comfort zone. And I can't thank Christine from Temptalia and Jaime from BellaSugar enough for sharing my illustrations with their readers! I love what you ladies do. Keep up the good work!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sad Dippy Birds

Albuquerque, New Mexico is hot and dry. Consequently, water conservation is a hot topic down there. I did this for Alibi magazine for an article about how their underperforming surface water treatment plant (see the Colorado River and the actual treatment plant in the background) means they are pumping their aquifer for more water than planned.

So I naturally went with dippy birds. Conceptually it has to do with how dippy birds consume water at a regular pace and the water treatment plant can't keep up with that pace, much like how the water treatment plant in the news article can't produce enough water to provide for Albuquerque's rate of consumption. I also used dippy birds because they are adorable.


My other idea was using an hourglass image, where the water treatment plant is at the top and the water is very slowly dripping down into the bottom bulb. I liked it because hourglasses are usually filled with sand and the water treatment plant is filtering out that sand, but I didn't think it made an interesting visual and it didn't work well for the square dimensions for the job. The water drop that's falling has the water treatment plant logo in it! But the sketch just didn't do it for me :P.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Circus Mind: "David Bowie"

Who doesn't love a dash of Ziggy Stardust? I created this image for Ryan Cox's book "A Circus Mind". Ryan has created a Kickstarter Project for his book, click here and check out the fun stuff you can earn by donating!

I love the opportunity to play with a new way of working. I don't usually do a lot of decorative stuff or general weirdness. What better time to get a little weird than with a glam rock Bowie?

"A Circus Mind" is a collaboration between me, Zela Lobb, Dushan Milic, and Andy Potts. And author Ryan Cox, of course! One of the fun ideas we had to make the images work together was to use a fixed colour palette. The more of these illustrations I post, the more you'll notice that the same colours are being used in different ways. I'm such a big palette junkie that having that part of the job taken out of the equation frees me up from labouring over minute colour adjustments. It's liberating!


Monday, November 14, 2011

New image for sale on Society6

I haven't added any images to my Society6 store in ages, so it's about time! This was a cover I did three years ago for the Weekly Alibi and I've always been fond of it. It was for a feature article about fast food culture in America -- Considering how much Americans (and Canadians!) love fast food I figured having a mischievous cherub taking aim at the hearts of consumers with a ketchup-tipped arrow would be appropriate.

When I was in college the Harvey's value burger was a nice treat. At $1.70 (or was that $1.20?) it was considerably and suspiciously cheaper than the regular burgers. I don't think they serve it any more and I don't want to think too hard about why that might be. Cutting the beef with sawdust? Serving old patties? All I can say is that they were delicious and economical and never sickened me.

McDonald's fries are the classic choice, but I find myself gravitating towards the Swiss Chalet version. The bits of skin on the Swiss Chalet ones indicate to me that I'm eating real potatoes -- so wholesome! New York Fries serves Butter Chicken Poutine and it is terrifying. The large has 970 calories and 47g of fat.


Monday, November 7, 2011

SXSW for Alibi

Hello, Austin! The Weekly Alibi asked me to do an illustration for their article about South by Southwest. The author recounts what SXSW is like from a musician's point of view -- the road trip, the concerts, the meetings, the hanging out.

After having worked for the Weekly Alibi for years, I almost feel like I'm developing a particular style for their magazine. Kinda whimsical, bouncy, and fun. And a predominantly warm colour palette. Because New Mexico is probably warm a lot of the time. I wish my artistic decision was based on more than that, but there you go!

One more thing: the author of the article wrote that their Toyota van smelled bad. Those are bad smell fumes. Not any other kind :P.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

New Macleans illustration on newsstands next week

My latest illustration for Macleans. Look for this one to come out next week, subscribers will already have it. Nothing beats having an illustration published and mailed to my door three days after I've emailed it to the art director!

I got this job the same day another job was due (one I'm really excited to share, that'll be an epic December post!). I was exhausted but I don't turn down work. Well, in about five years I've turned down two jobs and that's it. In fact, this other job came in during the same aforementioned epic project -- I can't say no!

The subject of the illustration had one of those iconic green turtle sandboxes, where he first showed his love of construction sites and building things. I knew I wanted to use the sandbox as the framing device. It's fun to do a non-rectangular frame to mix it up from time to time. I've noticed that I use water in a lot of my frames, so this time I wanted to include it in a different way. The subject lived on a lake and enjoyed fishing in the summers and hockey in the winters. Sometimes I depict things too literally, it's tough for me to make stuff even a little abstract. I think I managed to do it a little in this one. Baby steps!

Back to the tiredness. You know those times when you're so exhausted you have to shake yourself awake every five seconds, like you're a teen in a Freddy Krueger movie? That was me on this job. I'd been pulling sixteen hour days for eleven days straight and I was coming off of an all-nighter leading up to this. My definition of all-nighter = awake for twenty-four hours straight. I realize that some people define it merely as staying up all night and going to bed the next morning or afternoon. That's sad. Anyway, by the end of this job I'd been up for about thirty-four hours. I felt a little rough. I think you can tell by the following sketch (which was for my purposes only, I don't submit sketches in this state to art directors!):

And here's the sketch after I attacked it with my Wacom tablet:

Inking something with a brush becomes really challenging if you are nodding off every five seconds. The brush started diving into the paper of its own accord. Tryin' to screw with me! But I totally won. I beat that double-zero sable brush by technical knock-out. It was close, though...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Beer-o-ween! This is a group of spots I did for Alibi magazine's Hallowe'en issue, for their "Bewitching Brews" feature. A really fun, weird concept! I enjoy doing a series of spots, though I don't often get the chance (I did a series of twelve spots for Alibi before, but those were in black and white). It's a fun challenge to use the same colour palette in different ways and to include certain design elements to balance them out (lightning, bats, smoke, moon n' stars).


I love everything about Hallowe'en. I love the shapes and colours of all the different kinds of candy, roasted pumpkin seeds, the iconic look of classic monster movies (check out James Rolfe's Cinemassacre Monster Madness for some great reviews of horror movies new and old!), trick-or-treating, those hella heavy UNICEF boxes we wore around our necks to collect people's change... Later on I went to artsy college so the fun became creating awesome costumes using the paint, cardboard, glue, and duct tape that we already had on hand. One year I was Kabuki (from a comic by David Mack) and another year I went as Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill.

Here's the cover I did a few years back for the Weekly Alibi's Hallowe'en issue. I got to illustrate those fabulous classic movie monsters and I couldn't have been more pleased to do it!

When I was a kid my mom sewed our costumes so we always had sturdy, quality stuff. The piéce de resistance was a witch's hat. My mom bought some sort of thick, synthetic fibre string that she unravelled to make a long, tangly bird's nest of witchy hair that she sewed into the hat's brim. My classmates were always impressed!

Pictured below: Sleeping Beauty fairy godmother costume (modelled by my sister), witch costume (modelled by me, and sewn large enough to accomodate the inevitable winter jacket -- This is Canada, after all!)

Happy Hallowe'en!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Lucille" on Jazz and Draw

"Jazz and Draw" is a blog created by Philippe Debongnie. It's a great space where jazz and the images that were inspired by it can be enjoyed together. Phillippe has featured my illustration "B.B.'s Lucille" on his blog, and I couldn't be happier! If you love music and art, visit "Jazz and Draw" and tell M. Debongie I saw hi!

Friday, October 14, 2011

B.B.'s "Lucille".

I'm excited to report that I'm collaborating with author Ryan W. Cox and whiz-bang illustrators Zela Lobb, Dushan Milic, and Andy Potts on a project! It's called "A Circus Mind" and it's pretty darn cool. Ryan's written some poems inspired by great songs, musicians, and bands. One of which, "B.B.'s Lucille" I've had the privilege of illustrating.

Here's the story of B.B.'s Lucille, as told by B.B. himself. It's lovely stuff.

In the sketch I had ghostly images of two men fighting in the smoke, but I decided to simplify the image.

Ryan's book has many, many poems in it so it will be awhile before the project is done -- But it's shaping up to be quite a journey!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pop-o-matic Bubble: Shameless magazine cover

Who remembers "Trouble" the game with the Pop-o-Matic Bubble(tm?)? I created this cover for Shameless magazine, a grassroots Canadian publication for young women and trans youth who are active in arts, culture, and current events.

I used Trouble to illustrate the game of Canadian politics, where politicians are racing around in circles stomping on each other in order to grab seats and "win". Our girl here is a bit tired of the rigmarole and is getting set to burst the bubble.


Click to enlarge and see the silkscreen-y glory

And here's a close-up to show the handcrafted silkscreeniness of the piece. I hope some of the detail shows up on the cover!

This is a cover I did for Shameless a number of years ago. I was so pleased when the editor got in touch with me to do another cover for them! It's interesting to see how my work has changed over the years. I've started using a warmer colour palette and my technical skills with silkscreen printing have vastly improved. I think my drawing has gotten a bit better, too!

I am glad I got the chance to work for Shameless again and to revisit my first job with them. Seeing how I've evolved over the years is very motivating. I'm gonna keep on truckin'!