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Creativity

October Drawing Challenges for Illustrators

Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 23, 2015

For illustrators, October means more than autumn leaves, Halloween, and the return of pumpkin-spice-everything. Two drawing challenges extended during the month inspire artists to up their technical skills, as well has have a great deal of fun. For the rest of us, the month means we get to scroll through feeds of often beautiful (and beautifully ghoulish) artwork.

Inktober logoInktober is the better-known challenge. It was initiated by illustrator Jake Parker as a way to motivate him to increase his inking skills. The challenge is simple: artists create ink-based work (pencil under-drawing is permitted), and post it to their social media accounts and blogs with the hashtag #inktober. Parker posts the best of the work on the Inktober Facebook, Tmblr, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts. The challenge encourages artists to post a new work daily, but many are only able to commit to every other day, or weekly posts. As Parker wrote, “INKtober is about growing and improving and forming positive habits, so the more you’re consistent the better.”

Drawolleen is a similar challenge with a different focus. Artist Brian Soria was inspired by Thing A Week, an exercise by musician Jonathon Coulter in which he posted weekly compositions to “keep his creative juices flowing.” Soria retooled the exercise to challenge himself to draw a monster every day during the month of October. He extended the challenge to the illustration community, with a calendar of daily themes such as “Day of the Dummy,” “Vampire Venesday,” and “Urban Legends.” Artists can contribute work in any medium, and post their images with #Drawlloween or #Drawlloween2015. Last year, Soria launched #fontober, a similar challenge for creepy hand-drawn lettering. Sadly the challenge didn’t get traction, and hasn’t issued this year.

Drawlloween logo

The Sketchbook Project: A Mobile Library Like No Other

Posted by Rebecca Blake on July 08, 2015

The Sketchbook Project logoWell into its world tour, The Sketchbook Project takes the concept of a mobile library into territory dear to the hearts of artists, illustrators, diarists, and obsessive doodlers. Their Mobile Library is housed in a vehicle that strongly resembles a foodtruck, but contains a selection of books submitted by artists around the world. Visitors can thumb through a collection curated from the Project’s Brooklyn library of 34,000 sketchbooks, contributed from creators in over 135 countries. Currently, the Mobile Library is in the middle of its world tour, traveling the west coast before heading up to Canada.

The Sketchbook Project’s home base is the Brooklyn Art Library, located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. The Library is a simple storefront lined with shelves upon shelves of sketchbooks, barcoded and searchable by details such as location of origin, media, and topic. Locals can acquire library cards and check out two sketchbooks at a time, or read at the library’s long tables. In addition to the Mobile Truck and Brooklyn Art Library, the Project has a Digital Library, where web users can browse view over 17,000 online sketchbooks.

The Sketchbook Project was founded by new SCAD graduates Shane Zucker and Steven Peterman in Atlanta, GA in 2006, and moved to Brooklyn in 2009. It was conceived as a way of combining hand-made traditions with new Web-based technologies. Illustrators wanting to participate in the Project can apply to submit sketchbooks through March 31st, 2016. The Project also organizes periodic collaborative challenges, such as their current Print Exchange. Participants create and submit 11 5x7 prints on the theme, “Greetings From A Distant Land” and receive back 10 prints, swapped by Project staff from other submissions.

The Sketchbook Project Mobile Library from Art House Co-op on Vimeo.

Exhaustion, Obsolescence, and Self-Worth

Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 24, 2014

In May, designer Jason Santa Maria published an article speculating on what course his career (and life) would take should he ever stop designing websites. Considering the impressive trajectory of his career, the article was notable. Santa Maria is a Senior Designer at Vox Media, founded of Typedia and A Book Apart, formerly worked as creative director of An Event Apart and Typekit, served as an AIGA/NY vice president, authored On Web Typography, and currently teaches at SVA’s Interactive Design program. What would make an individual with such extraordinary experience question his future in his chosen field?

In “What’s Next,” Santa Maria explains that he’s preparing for the possibility that someday he won’t be able to (or interested in) continuing his career in web design: “I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think that there will be a time when I don’t want to, or can’t — due to fatigue or professional obsolescence — work in this industry anymore.” He worries that his own fascination with bygone skills, such as handset typography, and his drive to explore deeply into topics will leave him off-guard as technology progresses. He concludes by speculating that “[f]lexibility in work habits and in thinking, rather than languages and programs, might be our most useful skills.”

However, in a follow-up article, “Correspondence with an Ex-Designer,” Santa Maria reveals a deeper disquiet that lead to his soul searching. A reader named Ruth responded to his earlier article by describing her journey from designer to sheep farmer, reassuring him that “(w)hat’s next — all depends on you, what motivates you and what makes you happy — there will always be new challenges, but that is what life is all about...” In his response, Santa Maria spoke of his “exhaustion [that] comes from the industry often taking more from us than it gives” and his growing sense of disconnect. Again, he found that Ruth’s reply was on target: “Keep working on it — it is important to you, in your own personal development — that development is important — not the expectations of anyone else. Self-worth is so important.”

With the daunting external factors facing creatives — marketplace pressures, client expectations, the unceasing need to up one’s skills — the exchange between Santa Maria and Ruth is particularly reassuring. It highlights the commonality of professional burn-out, and provides some insight into the personal strength individuals can draw from. Here’s to hoping that Santa Maria continues to find his inspiration, and in doing so, share his story.

Photograph of Jason Santa Maria used with permission.

© Jason Saint Maria

For the Font- and Dog-Obsessed

Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 22, 2014

© William Wegman

A fun diversion was published by William Wegman, the artist whose iconic portraits of his dogs Man Ray and Fay Ray brought the Weimaraner dog breed to new heights of popularity in the 1980s. In mid September, Wegman posted on Facebook a short video of his latest crew of Weimeraners patiently modeling letterforms. Up to four dogs stretch, nose to tail, and curl their lanky bodies to create the letterforms as Wegman recites the alphabet.

Wegman has a long history of featuring his dogs in videos. One of his first productions from 1975, Dog Duet, shows Man Ray and Fay Ray oddly staring about the studio space with great intensity. Only at the very end of the short film does Wegman reveal his trick: a tennis ball, moving about off camera, to the great interest of the dogs. An earlier film clip, Spelling Lesson (1973) has Wegman correcting Man Ray’s spelling. It’s an intriguing peek into the wonderful relationship between the artist and his muse.

 
 
Image © William Wegman

Chronicling the (Extra)Ordinary: Tiny PMS Match

Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 18, 2014

© Inka MathewThe Pantone Matching System has gone from being an invaluable tool for designers to a cultural meme. The Pantone company is capitalizing on the public appetite for designer-chic by producing color-swatch themed goods, from iPhone cases, to mugs, stationery, and pencil cases. The creative community has taken inspiration from the iconic swatches, producing their own variations based on superheroes, skin tones, beer, chocolate, and food – both using food to create swatches, and matching food to swatches.

One inspired take on the Pantone system is cataloged in Tiny PMS Match, a blog created by designer Inka Mathew. For the past year, Mathew has been color matching objects from her daily life to Pantone swatches. Since the objects need to fit within a Pantone swatch, they are tiny, nondescript items that ordinarily would be overlooked: seeds, buds, a Froot Loop, a worn toy fish. But as photographic subjects, framed by their swatches, they become imbued with beauty and mystery.

The blog archive also serves as a touching visual journal of everyday life. For example, her travels are chronicled in the swatches, as a French thimble, an English souvenir, and seashells make their appearance. Family life is revealed in a Barbie shoe, children’s vitamins, and a wedding ring. Even the changing seasons are reflected, as the buds of local flowers are replaced with blossoms, seed pods and autumn leaves. It’s a lovely meditation on the extraordinary beauty to be found in an ordinary life.

© Inka Mathew Tiny Pantone Match

Images © Inka Mathew. Used with permission.

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