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!