Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Month Ahead: June -- National Post Arts & Life

June is when things really start getting nice. Windows can be left open at night, but you're not sweating your skin off like in July and August. As someone who's only happy between sixteen and twenty-three Celsius, June is as good as it gets.

And yes, I realize there are balmy places that exist perpetually in the "nice zone" where I could live forever content, but I'm a Canadian, dang it, and it's my birthright to complain about the weather 99% of the time!

I submitted four sketches for this National Post job. I knew right off the bat that I wanted to do something pretty-pretty. That's just how June makes me feel. Pretty-pretty flower girliness. I wanted some Art Nouveau to happen. I've always listed Art Nouveau as an inspiration but I've never gone whole-hog for that look. I love curly, fairytale-impractical Art Nouveau furniture. That stuff can't be made in a factory! Pixies made those chairs!

The first sketch was inspired by John R. Neill's glorious Oz illustrations. Wood nymph-y, flowery (honeysuckle and rose are June's flowers), very much like the panel on a dressing screen. I badly want to own a dressing screen some day. So chic. Pearls are June's gemstone, so those are in there as well.

Here's another sketch for the job. This time I focused on the Roman goddess Juno, as June was named after her. She's associated with marriage (lots of weddings happen in June, hence the tiered wedding cake in this sketch) and is often pictured with a peacock, staff, and diadem (aka sort of tiara). June is also considered the month of Cancer the Crab, so I worked that astrological sign in there and because the illustration is for the "Arts & Life", I also stuck in a film reel and a book. Again, we've got roses, pearls, and strawberries, all linked to June. I was thinking very Alphonse Mucha for this one.

This is sketch #3. A simpler version of a Juno piece. Sometimes I like to provide an art director with sketches of different complexities so they have a choice to go one way or the other. I had an idea to do one with an ancient Roman pillar to take advantage of the skinny dimensions, but I kinda thought it was looking like the cover of the menu of an Italian restaurant. Juno is usually pictured holding a patera, which is an ancient Roman dish used for drinking. But when I tried to put one in her hand it always looked like she was panhandling.

And here's the winner! A lot of the same elements are repeated here: honeysuckle, rose, pearls, and strawberries. Another common bit across all the sketches was the depiction of the sun -- The day with the most daylight in the year is June 21st.

After art director approval, I enlarged the sketch and then traced it loosely on two pieces of sketchbook paper stuck together with clear packing tape. Why is Scotch tape so expensive? I figure I'm beating the system by buying clear packing tape and using that instead of overpriced Scotch. I re-drew the sketch super-tight, to prep for inking:

And here's the inked version!

And here's how it appeared in the newspaper:

I'm pleased with how the piece turned out. I love the tall, skinny composition. This is the first time I've done freehand type in an illustration and I think it went fairly well! Art Nouveau type seems to have that irregular, organic treatment look that suits me. And I think overall the piece does have an Art Nouveau feel. Not to mention how cool it was that it was published and available everywhere the day after I submitted it. Best of all, the printed size of the illustration was a monstrous 6.3x21.3". It's not often I get a chance to get published that big!

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