Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hydrocolloid Pantheon

I love drawing food. The shapes and colours appeal to me very strongly and I don't really know why. My personal pieces tend to include food, whether it's the mad tea party in Alice in Wonderland or an info graphic  / tribute to umami, the fifth taste.

I was thinking of doing a series based on the other four tastes (still might!). But while I was doing my research I started getting really interested in hydrocolloids -- aka gelatin, agar, pectin, gum arabic, etc. Such a versatile substance, and derived from so many sources! Gelatin is made from bones, horns, hooves, and skin. Agar is extracted from seaweed. Pectin is from fruits. Gum arabic is from the acacia tree. Starches count as hydrocolloids too, which means that just about any starchy plant (corn, potato, wheat...) can create the stuff. There's even a kind of gelatin called isinglass which is derived from the dried swim bladders of fish! Basically, you can create this jiggly-wiggly substance from just about anything.

And humans have been using hydrocolloids for ages. The ancient Egyptians used wheat starch as glue, the Romans used it in creams and to thicken sauces, cooks in the Middle Ages knew how to create a meat-based jelly as a foodstuff, and aspic has been used for ages to preserve meat.

Hydrocolloids are used in all types of foods, confectionery, glue, as a substrate for cell cultures,  as wound dressings, in photography... The list goes on and on. And so I've arrived at my next personal series. The first of which is Gelatin.

Two of the oldest sources of gelatin are hartshorn (deer antlers) and isinglass (the fish swim bladders). So my first deity in the Hydrocolloid Pantheon is a pagan god of sorts, with a Regency period flavour. There is such a contrast in  the primal, visceral origins of gelatin (yes, you can use guts to make gelatin too!) and delicate, pretty creations such as trifles and marshmallow peeps that I wanted the Gelatin God to be both animalistic and rather proper. And nothing's more proper than Jane Austen dishing up a heapin' helpin' of aspic!

During the Industrial Revolution (the Regency period happened somewhere in there) gelatin was a by-product of the mass production of animals that factories were now able to accomplish. It didn't take long before enterprising souls went to work marketing this jiggly waste product to consumers to make some extra cash! Here's an interesting article about aspic. From the Guardian. Naturally :P.

Also, I think I went with Regency because when I think of a prim satyr-type figure I think of Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and James McAvoy played Tumnus and he also starred in a Jane Austen movie called "Becoming Jane".

He's holding a beer because isinglass is still used in the production of wine and beer. I'm planning on drawing a little nymph/fairy/pixie called Isinglass somewhere in this illustration. Not to mention mountains of gumdrops, jelly beans, and other delicious things :).

-- Julia
Portfolio site

Monday, September 17, 2012

Closet Case for Rhode Island Monthly

Here's an illustration I did for the Rhode Island Monthly, which features stylist Jill Marinelli's advice on some essential pieces that should be in every woman's wardrobe. I had a lot of fun working with the paper doll idea -- When I was young I LOVED paper dolls. Still do! The copy in this layout is just filler, if you want to read the actual article Jill has posted it on her site.

I couldn't resist making the clothing match up perfectly with the body of the figure. Here are a some of the looks that can be created from the pieces I illustrated:


Here are the other sketches I submitted:

This sketch showcases a week's worth of outfits that could be created with the wardrobe essentials. 

Here's a rough portrait of the stylist. I drew her climbing up a rope made of knotted clothing to help her client!

This sketch takes the wardrobe basics mentioned in the story and displays them on a clothesline.

This sketch has a lady shipwrecked in her chaotic walk-in closet, signalling for help. 

And this one plays with the idea of an actual "closet case", where the stylist is helping her client photograph and catalogue her clothing, much like a detective would do to solve a mystery. I made the body copy of the article look like part of a case file!

-- Julia

Friday, September 14, 2012

Two more EGA portraits and some adjustments

Click image to enlarge

Did up two more Colonel's Bequest-style portraits today! Also added more shading to the ones I already had. The shading helps define the shapes a bit more. Still not 100% set on any of these -- Work in progress :). 

The first three characters are pretty standard, but the next two sort of hint at the setting of my game. I want to do a "cozy" type murder mystery and set it in a lodge in the Canadian woods! That's why one of the rooms I created has a rustic look:

Click image to enlarge

I have a notebook where I've been jotting down story ideas and character stuff. I have a vague idea of how I want it all to play out. It's just a matter of setting the time aside to do it!

Here's the other old school game stuff I've done. 

-- Julia

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Weekly Alibi's 2012 Haiku Contest

It's that time again! September means Alibi's Haiku contest has come around, and happily I was asked to provide art for the occasion. Last year I did a cover for the contest, this time it was an interior page. This year presented a particularly interesting challenge, as most of the page was taken up by the winning haiku poems. 

I decided to go with a couple of arrangements of spot illustrations along the top and bottom of the page, each spot inspired by the eclectic nature of the poems. There were entries about Mars, singing cicadas, polka-dot underwear, baked beans, homeless Muppets, and Mitt Romney. Plenty to draw from (pun?)!

I'm not much of a poetry person, but haiku is one of the forms I can really get behind. 5-7-5 syllable structure. You work within that restriction, and presto! You've got yourself a haiku. 

Sketch with the page layout:

Haikus aren't that hard.
Five syllables, seven, five.
Do that and you're set!

-- Julia

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Handmade fabric Christmas ornaments on sale now!

Sewn and beaded fabric Christmas ornamentsSewn and beaded fabric Christmas ornaments
Double-sided Christmas ornaments -- one side a variety of green fabrics, and one side matching red fabric!

My mom and I have opened an Etsy store! We're selling Christmas ornaments that we designed and sewed together. I'm very excited because this is something we've wanted to do for a while. The ornaments are being sold in sets of three: a dove, a tree, and a bell. Each ornament has a fun detail like beaded eyes for the dove, beaded "ornaments" on the tree, and an actual bell on the bell!

As long as I can remember, my family's Christmas tree has been decked out with dozens of this type of ornament, all made by my mom. Doves, trees, bells, stockings, candy canes, little crocheted ice skates and snowflakes, and more. The ornaments are practically family heirlooms now. 

When my sister got married and moved into her new house, my mom and I worked together to make her a set of her own. Which got me thinking -- maybe other people would like them, too!

So I designed some templates in Adobe Illustrator and we got to work creating prototypes. I came up with the idea of doing two different sides to the same ornament, so folks could choose to have a matching red set hung on the tree or a variety of patterns on green fabric. The bell shape went through a few iterations before we settled on that shape. I finally learned a bit of sewing :P. 

I even did a little portrait of my mom and a bit of illustration for the store banner!


There aren't a lot of sets on sale. My mom might be retired, but she is very busy with quilting, ping pong, and birdwatching. These sets were created in a the lull of late summer when the birding isn't that great, ping pong hasn't started up yet, and between quilt meetings. She's also getting pretty heavily into Breaking Bad. I bought her the first season on DVD and she is always laughing at it and shaking her said, saying "More troubles, more troubles...". Hopefully when she gets around to the episode in which my art appeared she'll be impressed! Probably not though, eh? Moms are like that :).

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Latest Macleans illo on newsstands

At least, it should be by now! I checked my local Chapters yesterday and they still had the previous week's issue out. 

The subject of the illustration was a mighty colourful character. Ljubisav "Gilbert" Lazich was born in the former Yugoslavia and immigrated to Hamilton where he opened a clothing store called Gilbert's Big and Tall (est. 1954). He was a tailor and he stood an impressive 6'11" -- He was the perfect man for the job!

The store just so happened to be across the street from a tv studio where such wrestling superstars as Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant perfomed. They loved the clothes and the impeccable fit Lazich would create for them, not to mention Lazich's wife's steak and cabbage rolls!

Lazich's wife Stella worked by his side for decades. He wooed her with a bottle of plum brandy back in the old country.

Two of his endearing quirks were to blow cigar smoke under the doors of his kids' bedrooms to wake them up for school, and to offer their friends dollars to do chores around the store. 

I incorporated all of those things into the frame as well as putting three pins into the pincushion to symbolize his three children.

Here's the spot illustration for Macleans' iPad app!

-- Julia