Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Brave New Book World

Here's a half-page illustration I did for Alternatives Journal, a Canadian environmental magazine. They're a new client for me, which is always a major rush! I hope to work for them again in the future.

The concept behind "A Brave New Book World" (by Nic Boshart) is that e-readers like Kindles, iPads, and Kobos will actually lead the publishing industry into a more ecologically and economically sustainable future.

Physical books have a large carbon footprint. It's not just the actual paper being used, it's the also the fuel being consumed when these books get shipped from printer to publisher to store, back to the publisher (if unsold), and then finally to a mill to be pulped.

Not only will digital delivery reduce the volume of books being shipped from place to place -- Boshart also writes about how new technologies such as Print On Demand will reduce a lot of the waste that results from overproduction, as well as allowing writers to self-publish their work.

I wanted to create an image that was optimistic and hopeful, with the sense of adventure that comes with exploring a new frontier. Because Alternatives Journal is a Canadian publication, I thought it would be fun to use Anne of Green Gables, our most famous literary heroine. As a character, Anne is resilient and cheery and she personifies the publishing industry for my purposes. Thematically I think it works too, because Anne is sent to Marilla and Matthew for a better life. She is being guided ashore by a shining Kindle -- Prince Edward Island is famous for its lighthouses!

Here are a couple of close-ups:

The sketch I sent to the art director:

A more detailed reworking of the sketch:

Some colour comps:

Hope you like it!

-- Julia

Monday, April 18, 2011

New Macleans illo on newsstands this week!

Here's my most recent illustration for Macleans magazine. Because I've worked for this client a number of times, I'm always concerned that my work for them will start to look all the same. So I try to push myself to come up with new ways to approach the same basic compositional problem: Create a frame for a photograph. The sides and top and bottom need to be pretty much symmetrical, with ample room in the centre.

I've mentioned this before, but I LOVE working within strict requirements. It's like writing a poem with a specific meter. It doesn't hinder my creativity, it inspires me!

The subject for this illustration is a boy who died at fifteen years of age. It's always tough to illustrate a child's obituary, because it really is a life cut short. Sometimes there isn't much to work with, particularly (as is often the case) if the child was ill for a long period of time. One of the challenges of doing these obituary illustrations is to make it about the lives of the subjects, not about their deaths. When the subject is a chronically ill child, so much of his life is informed by his health issues.

This particular boy was healthy and active. He loved dirt bikes (worked at a gas station and on a potato farm to buy his own!) and was a Leafs fan. He was born and raised on Prince Edward Island, so I worked the design of the flag into this image. His name has a Gaelic, German, or Danish origin -- all of those cultures have a tradition of illuminated manuscripts so I used that as a design element, which also works with the lion that's on PEI's flag. The roots of the potato plant echo the gas pump tubing, and because he enjoyed motorized vehicles I wanted to put in a suggestion of tire tracks.

My initial idea was just do to use the tire tracks as the over-arching decorative theme, but I found it kind of overwhelming and I wasn't sure if they still read as tire tracks. Here's the sketch:

This first sketch took me a loooong time to do! From coming up with the idea and getting a design that looked like an illuminated manuscript, I was up for hours. My boyfriend assured me they looked like tire tracks, but I wasn't sold. I felt like it was too busy, too dark, and actually reminded me of those robots in the Matrix -- Creepy! Not a good look.

By this time, I'd worked straight through the night and had to hop on the bus to get to my mall job. My shift was 9-3pm, and the illustration was due at 7:30pm. I was in a bit of a tight spot, and a little panicky. Thankfully, my wonderful manager let me go home early. Let me tell you, I needed every minute to get from the creepy-Matrix design to the finished piece!

This was the second time I had to deliver a Macleans illustration with my mall-job somewhat getting in the way. The other time was for a job I haven't blogged yet, but I will soon. It's been tremendously rewarding, proving to myself that I can work under very tight deadlines and get everything done, with style. I live for this feeling!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dorothy in the Poppy Field

Here's my Work/Life 2 image! I wanted it to look somewhat related to my Alice at the Tea Party illustration in subject manner and execution. My Alice piece has a very early springtime feel, I wanted this one to be more lazy hazy late summer.

Dorothy prints on canvas and more on my Society6 Printshop
Dorothy original silkscreen prints for sale on Etsy

My mom tells me that I should make sure to let people know these illustrations are silkscreen prints. She's a clever lady, so I'm going to do as she says!

Everything on my portfolio site (except for "Umami: The Fifth Taste" ) are silkscreen prints. That's hard to see when stuff is at low-res 72dpi, so I'm going to start posting images of extreme close-ups of my work so all the weird, rough, real, and natural details can be seen.

I once did a (for me) massive silkscreen print for a college assignment for wise and wacky illustrator/illo prof Rick Sealock. If you ever get a chance to have Rick as a teacher, grab it with both hands and wrestle it to the ground! I mean wrestle the chance, not Rick. The silkscreen print was about 20"x10". I don't often work that large because the amount of materials, time, difficulty, and potential for disasters increases exponentially as I increase the size of my prints. But I wanted to explore the possibility of working larger, and that's what school is for!

My point being, I had done this gigantic silkscreen print, dusted off my portfolio so I could drag it all the way to Oakville, and Rick pointed to an area of the illustration the size of a melba toast and announced that that was the bit he liked. I was just relieved that he liked any part of it, but it's true: Sometimes little corners of an illustration can be lovely and work on their own.

(Click the image to enlarge)

(Click the image to enlarge)

I love silkscreen printing. I love having a physical piece of art in my hands that doesn't just exist as Matrix-y strings of zeros and ones. It's worth the struggles, surprises, and little discoveries. Here's to wabi-sabi!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Work/Life 2 is here!

I'm excited to report that Work/Life 2 is finally being released on April 7th! It features the work of 100 professional illustrators from around the world. I was lucky enough to score a spot in it, one of the few illustrators to be included in both the first Work/Life and this new edition. UPPERCASE's Janine Vangool has done a gorgeous job. Check it out!

UPPERCASE has even done an iPhone app, which should be debuting shortly. As a devoted iPhone user, I'm totally psyched about it!

Next week I'll post the piece I did specially for the book -- If you find yourself in Calgary (UPPERCASE #204, 100 - 7th Ave SW Calgary AB Canada T2P0W4) April 7th you can see it even earlier than that! And of course, I'll be putting up original prints of the illustration for sale on my Etsy shop, and my Society6 store will have prints of all sizes available, too.