Exercise 1: Tools and Materials
The purpose of this exercise was to select other artist’s work and analyze their techniques by dissecting and recreating them in one of my own images. Given the task, I decided to take the opportunity to learn more about the digital medium, since it is an area I still struggle in, though I would like to be good at it. Here, I have selected multiple artists according to three different categories I was able to put them in. Painterly, for art which looks like it was supposed to imitate brushwork, Line-based for art which used outlining over tone, and Pop Art for very contemporary, editorial sort of artwork.
I chose to replicate two different styles: the Painterly style and the Pop Art style. From the painterly section, my favorite artist was Celia Lowenthal, and from the Pop Art section, my favorite was Martin Malacek. The artwork I decided to redo was the Seamstress poster from the last Assignment.
I started with Celia Lowenthal’s art. Her art first attracted my eye because of the wealth of movement, bright color, and sheer busyness. The beautiful thing; however, is the fact that despite those things, her art is very balanced and pleasing to the eye. That’s not even mentioning the patterns and textures she implements in her worlds! A very interesting thing was that I hadn’t noticed until I analized more closely that her artwork is, in fact, more line- based than I had first noticed. It is interesting how the wealth of color and well-executed value gives a much more painterly look to a piece, despite the fact that there is a lot of line involved. The way she depicts light is a factor as well. There is a focus on light in most of her art, which again makes it look very painterly.
Celia Lowenthal’s style is very artistic, vibrant and detailed in textures and lines. Her images are texturally rich. Busy, but not directionless. Most of her compositions gain dynamism because of her placing the characters laterally and cropping them out of frame. Her use of red gives vitality, her pale yellow and white bring light and the teals provide neutral tones. The characters are simple, but not too proportionally improbable. As far as I can tell, she works like this: She first plans her sketches traditionally, then photocopies them and uploads into Photoshop, where she creates a very thin black outline. She colors everything in with flat shapes and gradients, adds some subtle textures, including shading. Lastly, she adds details, hatching and contrasting line art.
This has definitely been a learning experience. The problem with digital art is that I know the basic principles theoretically, but practically, I am very used to painting traditionally, therefore I have made some stupid mistakes which I hope to never repeat. The most confounding things about Lowanthal’s art were her shapes and her colors. Or perhaps how she kept clear shapes and colors despite the extreme busyness of some of her art. Her dynamism is something that I did not manage to mimic. Even her more statically constructed drawings have a certain movement about them gained from her use of light and dynamic shapes. My drawing did not exactly translate in that way, though I do think I managed to capture light decently enough.
I had a simple plan derived from the way Ms. Lowenthal’s art looks: First make some line art, then paint in flat shapes, then draw in textures.
It all started out well enough. I imported my old drawing into Photoshop and drew thin line art over it (changing composition a little bit as I went). Then, things went a little bit lopsided because I decided that painting in the line-art with the paintbrush would be easier than using the lasso tool. Wrong. I am indeed unused to the lasso tool, but with the paintbrush everything ended up looking much less clean, not to mention the fact that I did not keep it at a single color per area, but decided to “make things more interesting” (interesting is one word for it) by using multiple shades per area (a habit acquired when painting traditionally). Again this looked fine at that moment, but did not later. The more I added, the busier it looked. And not in the way her art is busy, mine just looked much too messy. Another problem that arose from my technique was the fact that, since when I paint I tend to work the entire canvas I did the same thing here. This resulted in having a lot of pointless layers, which I ended up merging together ( except for the line art layer) because it was all very confusing and I was working on all the surface at once anyway. Again, I thought this would be fine, until I realized that once I started drawing in some of those textures, it was impossible to make the color underneath look more clean (of course, I only noticed the messiness after it was too late to fix). This is utterly hilarious, considering digital art is exactly the place where I should not be having these sort of problems. But here we are.
Another thing I struggled with was the brightness of her colors. I am not used to so much color or keeping it in harmony. Which is why I selected her art, which is extremely bright, yet very harmonious. I’m afraid my approach to color harmony is still rather pale and safe, because most subtle colors will go together. Trouble is, a drawing can end up very flat that way. I learned a lot from trying to mimic her colors (without color picking them from her art, of course.)
I was of course wiser when I started the second drawing. Though not much wiser. This time I did the coloring by the book. It was the line art which I messed up.
In contrast with Lowenthal’s art, which is very busy, Malacek’s is very simple. And I wanted to absorb some of that more minimal approach. Martin Malacek’s process of coloring must be a little less involved than hers. His compositions are simple and punchy, with a comic Pop art sort of style. He uses blocky shapes, thick lines when lines are used, sometimes he even adds Ben Day dots for shading. Malacek most likely starts by lining the art in Photoshop, then uses the lasso tool to color in flat shapes, lastly, he adds shading and the occasional small details or highlights.
I thickened the line art from the previous drawing by simply duplicating the layer multiple times, until the lines were as thick as I liked them, though my technique was more questionable than clever. This was an all right technique when I used it sparsely, but here it just made the lines look wobblily. Not enough for it to look terrible, but enough that it’s not clean. Once again, lesson learned.
Though this time id did use the lasso tool to select different areas and color them in flat colors. I strayed from my previous color palette and went in a more editorial direction rather than Lowenthal’s rather exotic color range. Then, I got adventurous with a dot brush, which I needed to modify, and applied some Ben Day dots as shading, highlighting and ambiance.
The thing I learned from both drawings (and which I’m also trying to fix in my traditional art) is that I need to work cleaner and simpler. Despite my analysis of Lowenthal’s steps, my process in my own artwork was a bit too haphazard, which resulted in a drawing that could have looked a little cleaner. The same can be said for the Malacek drawing, where my line art, which is very important in this piece, could use a cleaner aesthetic.
Exercise 2: Audiences
In this exercise we had to go to a museum and create three different posters for three different age groups. I live in a small town, so we don’t have any famous museums, but that does not mean one can’t find hidden gems here.
Before starting my project, I looked up different sorts of posters for different sorts of age groups. The difference between the posters aimed towards an adult audinence and a child audience is obvious. The adults have serious posters with large letters and photos of the subject of interest, and the children’s posters are bright and colorful, oftentimes advertising activities. The more difficult part is telling which posters are meant for the teens. As far as I can tell, the posters for teenagers tend to push the limit of the conventional in some form or another. Like with a picture of a half-skinned elephant, or of a face without features. Also, they tend to be a little more minimalistic and attention-grabbing than the so-called adult posters, some would have nothing but an odd fun fact in bold letters and almost nothing else, except for the name of the museum somewhere in the corner.
The Aurul Pustei/ Pusztak Aranya (Gold of the Steppes) exhibition is an effort of small Hungarian and Romanian museums to make knowledge of the Treasure of Nagyszentmiklos and of the Avars easily accessible to the Romanian and Hungarian public. The real treasure is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Austria, though Romanian and Hungarian historians are working on its repatriation.
Nagyszentmiklos, or Sannicolau Mare in Romanian, is the town where one of the most valuable early medieval treasures of Europe was found. The treasure has 23 parts and 10 kg of 12-22 karat gold. However, its value is not only in the gold, but in the historical and archeological significance of the artistry displayed on it. The exact origin of the artisans is difficult to pinpoint, but the metal work shows influences from Persia (in execution), India (in the story of a bird carrying away a man depicted on one of the pitchers), Byzantium (mixture of Christian and Pagan elements), and other unknown influences.
Given the multicultural influences of this treasure, its origins are difficult to pinpoint, but according to the most recent research historians have attributed it to the Avars of the current Banat region due to the inscribed writings on the treasure. The inscriptions are written in an unknown language in Greek characters and have not yet been definitively translated (though there are plenty of theories). However, the similar inscriptions have been found on bones buried in Avar graveyards show a sure origin of the text. Other, smaller inscriptions with Turkic similarities are another sign pointing towards the Avar theory, since the Avars were a nomadic people of Byzantine origin, who eventually settled in the region of Banat and Hungary around the beginning of the Middle ages and ended up being blended in with the locals by the end.
Along with this amazing treasure, the museum also introduces the Avar’s history, fighting style and way of life through several artifacts such as weapons, armor (human and horse), and decorations of bronze and iron made and used by the Avar people.
For the children, there are several interactive wooden and iron displays and puzzles, as well as reconstructions of Avar leather armor and clothes which they can try on!
The original poster (in Romanian)
A few elements of the treasure
After seeing the exhibition and taking some photos, I went home to brainstorm. The requirement in the book is that we center our poster around an object. I did do this, but I found it easier to start by choosing a theme for each age group. For the adults/general audience I went with the center of the exhibition: the treasure, and most likely the most important element of it, the pitcher. I also imagined it would say to the side: “One of the top ten treasures in the world.”
For the teenagers, I wanted to choose the oddest thing there (and did the museum deliver!), the small golden bowl with a the head and legs of a bull turned backwards. I thought that when paired with my key words: Artistry, Mystery, and Gold, it worked very well.
For the kids, I wanted to draw one of the activities and pair it with a question, and I chose the leather armor which they would be allowed to try on, and the simple question: “Who was the Avar warrior?” I think the warrior element would appeal to a lot of kids.
After clarifying my ideas, I created my line visuals, and chose to finalize the children’s poster, because this exhibition already had a fairly serious poster in its original and I wanted to depart from it. I uploaded into Photoshop, re-created the font, cleaned up the drawing and colored it in. My first drawing was the green one, because I needed a color which would help the red-brown stand out a bit, but then I decided that having more than one option would be a good idea, so there is a blue one as well.
Exercise 3: Areas of Illustration
Children’s book Cover
Here, we are asked to create three different colored line visuals of a animal children’s book cover for ages 7 to 11. I first looked up the types of books and covers for children of those ages, then I made a mood board for types of animal books for children. I found three broad categories to base my visuals on: traditional and subtle, made with photographs, and bold and colorful.
After planning, I started with working on the “photograph covers”. These were achieved in Photoshop with PNG images off of the Internet. I figured since this is a visual I will not go through the trouble of fining the perfect photograph and painstakingly cutting the animal out of its environment. I created two images, one cool toned and one warm toned, and I created what seems to be a very standard composition with a plethora of animals crowded on the image, surrounding the title.
In my next image, the bright and bold one, I wanted to depart from that standard, so after discarding a few options, I chose to only feature two animals: a zebra and a toucan. I studied both of their shapes and patterns, and then used the zebra’s stripes to create one of the words. The painting itself was acrylic on paper.
Last but not least, I created the more traditional-looking cover using softer tones with watercolors. Again I chose not to draw many animals surrounding the title, but only one. However, there are indeed more animals in the drawing, if one looks closely above the peacock’s head. Though they perhaps did not even need to be there, because the peacock itself is such a symbol of the exotic and the colorful, that it would have been enough by itself.
It is fascinating to see how book covers have evolved, and how much variety there can be in such a narrow field. Perhaps next time, instead of using only one specific composition from a certain style, I can try to mix them up a little more and see what happens.
Before starting on my menu card logo/illustration, I first looked up ideas for fish restaurant logos, then looked up the logos of the most sophisticated restaurants in the world. The contrast is interesting. While the fish restaurant logos range from the traditional (I like the banner-like ones best) to the clever, the sophisticated restaurants all are very minimalistic. Since one of the primary characteristics of this restaurant is the fact that it’s sophisticated, I decided to run with that idea in mind.
This is a fish restaurant, so I decided to star with the obvious: fish. I drew one, then kept cutting down on the shape. Fish was too simple, so then I tried drawing crab and lobster. I ended up choosing the lobster as my final subject because it looked like the most quirky. I re-drew and analyzed the best way to minimize, until I got to a point where I was happy, then I decided to give my fictional restaurant a name. I was inspired by the names of those sophisticated restaurants, so I called it “Homar”. The fact is, most of those restaurants either have extremely obvious names (the name of the street it’s on) or completely bizarre names (Per se), so I chose a blend of both. “Homar” holds an interesting sound to someone who does not speak Romanian, but it really just means “Lobster”. Once I chose the name, I tried to create as minimalistic and as fitting a script as possible. When I was happy with my final product, which I drew on a A4 paper, I drew the 40mmx40mm image as well, using a very thin pen.
In conclusion to this exercise, I still find minimalism very difficult, but I think I am starting to get the hang of it. A staple of professionalism is the fact that one can show more with less.
I have to say, starting wit research is important, but even better is researching with more intentionality than I did. I literally took notes about ancient tattooing when I should have just researched modern lettering styles from the get-go. I don’t consider it a loss, I found out some very interesting things about tattoos, but I would have saved myself some time by just going straight to what I actually needed. Another lesson learned.
The next few pages are facts about the history of tattooing, but my mood board on Pinterest was probably more helpful than those.
From the first page, I decided that the word “Mum” needs to be in soft, round letters. Sharp letters are aggressive, and that is not the impression we want with this tattoo.
After that, I just started exploring shapes, sometimes changing the medium I worked with. Here, I used calligraphy pen.
I also used brushes for the thicker effects. On this particular page, I decided I wanted the script to look less calligraphic and more like a signature.
After different mediums and different tries, I saw that some of them had hearts at the end of the tail of the word, but I did not really want to do that, the thing closes to that were the EKG or soundwave symbols I had seen on other people. I liked this idea, especially because it reminded me of one of my old paintings, which my mother happens to like very much because of this aspect of creating a different symbol for the heart than the one used traditionally (which she finds a little tacky). I decided to incorporate this at the tail of my word as well.