Monday, December 29, 2008

illustration as a handmade gift

Here is an illustration I created as a result of my committment to give handmade gifts this year...

concept: New York City
materials: pen, pencil, paint, prismacolor marker, newsprint, cardboard, and photo matte
dimensions: 27"x19"

The photo was printed on newsprint and mounted to cardboard. The letters were done by hand using pigment liner and prismacolor marker; the letters received three applications of ink. The "ity" was cut from cardboard and white paint was applied to some of its edges.

Here are some close-up images:

© 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"ink snacks"...a zine preview

I decided to post more preview images since the first zine will be listed for purchase in January 2009, roughly two weeks away (I'll post in my blog and on Twitter on the day of official listing).

Although the materials are inexpensive, it takes a while to make one zine. In order to establish a reasonable number of issues per year and zines per issue, I am going to make as many as I can over the next two weeks, then evaluate the production based on number of zines produced and the overall time it took to make all the zines. At that point, I will etablish an official production for ink snacks. Although I reserve the right to make any changes to the price prior to listing them in my Etsy shop, the tentative price per zine will be $3.50 U.S.

Zine name: "ink snacks"
Concept: bite-sized creativity
Content: prose, poetry, and small format artwork...along with a few surprises in each issue
Dimensions: 4"x4", unfolding to 14"x17"

zine cover

opening of zine (bound with linen binding thread)

close-up of cover typography

ink snacks (tm) cover design © 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

reduced price for my photography prints

Thought process

I realized that although there is a lot of work and creativity that goes into each photograph and print, at the end of the day it's still an inked piece of paper that does not require the same types of development that film-based prints had. There are no chemicals, no physical darkroom, no lengthy process; in contrast, the digital photography development process is quite simple once you develop a solid process for uploading, batching, color correcting for print, etc. Also, I don't sell my prints with a frame and/or matte (since I want to leave those decisions in the hands of the buyer) so there are no additional expenses on my end.

New pricing structure:

8" x 10" (individual print, limited edition of 150) - $35.00 U.S.
8" x 8" (individual print, limited edition of 150) - $32.00 U.S.
5" x 5" (individual print, limited edition of 150) - $27.00 U.S.

Prices for a series, for different dimensions, or for smaller editions will be based upon these specifications.

My intentions

The goal has always been "determine a price that is fair to both the artist and the buyer", which is harder than you may realize, so my decision comes from that objective. Having said that, this decision is not based on market trends or other general retail fluctuations; these prices are permanent and will not change again.

Prints and purchases

Each photography print is part of a limited edition and is printed on Epson Photo Paper; each purchase includes a signed print with it's number in the edition along with a certificate of authenticity.
To make a purchase, or view information about each photograph, visit my Etsy shop at Please review the shop policies prior to each purchase.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

thoughts on materials - "Staedtler pigment liner"

primary use: drawing, general line work
overall opinion: Good

advantages: great for final drawings, shading in small areas, multiple point sizes (0.1 mm, 0.3 mm, 0.5 mm, 0.7mm) allow for great contrast in line weight within one drawing, nice control of application, waterproof, archival.
disadvantages: points can be ruined if drawing on paper that has a rough surface (such as certain types of handmade paper), ink will bleed on certain types of papers, not practical for rough sketching due to quality of ink.

misellaneous: this is my favorite medium for drawing; I love the control and smooth application. My favorite aspect of these pens is when the tips start to wear down; you have to use a little more pressure, which allows for even more control and a finer line weight with the 0.1 mm tip.

For more information on Staedtler products, visit their website at

thoughts on materials:

...prismacolor markers
...carving block
...coming soon (sketch pencils, espresso)

Monday, December 01, 2008

zine, issue#1...sneak preview

So here's a little sneak preview (although quite vague)...

What I'm showing here are the letters used to create part of the title for each issue's cover. I drew the letters on a linoleum block, cut out the type, then used small nails as handles when dipping the letters in paint and stamping them onto the cover of each issue. The beauty of this is that I get a slightly different result each time, along with some other great features that properly serve the zine's concept.

I'll post more images prior to the release date (check Twitter and abstractLatte for those updates).

thoughts on materials - "prismacolor markers"

primary use: color application
overall opinion: Good

advantages: great for two toned color, uniform application in small areas, great for bleeding if that's what you're going for, application can be easily controlled with practice, has two sizes of points (fine and broad)
disadvantages: excessive bleeding can become a problem if you're not careful, not good for coloring large areas, colors don't mix well, slight odor depending on how close you are to the end of the marker

miscellaneous comments: This is currently my favorite medium for color. The manner in which their ink soaks into paper is perfect for getting two toned color application without using watercolor or other diluted media; I find that the manner in which it bleeds combined with its opacity (at least with the medium to lighter tones) can allow for some interesting color applications.

What I will advise is that you practice applying the color to different types of drawings prior to using it on a finished piece of work. Depending on the type of paper you use, the color will most likely bleed outside its area of application and sometimes very easily (especially on newsprint); this can be an advantage if that's what you're going for but if not, you may need to adjust the application accordingly.

thoughts on materials:

...Staedtler pigment liner
...carving block
...coming soon (sketch pencils, espresso)

"thoughts on materials"

This section focuses on various types of art materials (both traditional and non-traditional) and their unique characteristics.

Some specific information will include a medium's reaction to different types of paper, good and not-so-good times to use them, advantages and disadvantages to their use, etc. Some materials are my favorites while others I try to avoid; regardless, I'll cover all the ones I've used and will venture into new territory to cover new materials when possible. While I have a number of materials at my disposal, I don't always use them regularly so new listings may not be added to this article on a predictable basis. As for traditional versus alternative materials...I have no preference; each element used in art is important and its origins, although possibly non-art based, are not as important as how well it may serve a particular project.

Art is a great experience, it thrives on new ideas and experimentation. My hope with this section is that it motivates you to try something new or to look at a familiar material in a new and interesting way. Any updates in this category will be provided through Twitter...

thoughts on materials:

...Staedtler pigment liner
...prismacolor markers
...carving block
...coming soon (sketch pencils, espresso)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

the first zine is almost ready for release

...but I don't want to give away too much so here's a bit of an update to hold you over.

First, for those that are unfamiliar with these amazing booklets, a zine is an inexpensive booklet that is self-produced and distributed. The content, materials used, overall design, and who you distribute it to are completely up to the author. Although zines are simple and generally made of inexpensive materials, they can certainly be as simple or elaborate as you'd like.

As for my zines, I've spent the last couple of months fine tuning the concept and creating the content...enough content to get me through the first two zines anyway...which will be prose, poetry, and some custom artwork, along with a few surprises per edition that I won't reveal yet. I've also worked through the materials and constructed a few dummy copies to get the production process finalized.

I'm still working on the composition for the inside of the zine as well as some smaller production issues for the content; overall, it's looking as if the first issue will be ready in January 2009. Although my zines will be inexpensive to produce, they will be a little time consuming to make so I will limit production to 25 per issue with a different issue coming out every two months. Each zine will cost $3.00 U.S. and will be sold through my Etsy shop ( These details will be subject to change within the first six months as I work through any problems that arise as the first batch goes out. I will post announcements on Twitter ( and in abstractLatte prior to each issue's official release date.

For now, there are no images to show because I don't want to give away too much but shortly before release of the first issue, I will post a sneak preview. Until then, I'll keep you updated!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

informal excercise for fun and creative discovery

Among other types of content within my journal are creative excercises. Below are two examples that I keep up with on a regular basis (both pages are work-in-progress).

a page of scribbles...
one scribble every day or every couple of days, adding color
at random moments

quotation marks...
I add different styles of quotation marks, again adding color
at random moments

© 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"A digital dilemma"

I think it's interesting to think about the catch-22 that is digital fine art photography.

Everyone has access to cameras and photo production, which means the people who couldn't afford to be professional photographers in the film era can certainly have their shot during the digital era. That's a good thing. Unfortunately, the mass reproduction aspects of digital photography means pricing the work becomes a delicate matter since a lot of people can take their own shots, print them from a docking station, or upload them to a digital opposed to purchasing one print from one digital file that someone else made.

Where does this leave professional fine art photography?

In my opinion, selling limited editions is one possible approach that could ensure digital fine art photography maintains its value in terms of price and production, to both the artist and consumer/collector.

What do limited editions accomplish in a digital environment? They provide an added value; they tell someone that only a certain amount of people will own that particular print. Limited editions also allow the work to be priced in a fair manner. Why should a photograph, that is printed for anyone who wants a copy, be sold for $100? Oh, it shouldn't. But wait...what was that?...sell it for $12? Why? It took hours to shoot and edit, it required skill and creative instincts to produce. Paintings and other one-of-a-kind artwork sell for a lot more because there is only one copy, one attempt, and after that one piece is gone, it's gone forever. It's about respect for both the photographer and the consumer/collector.

Am I saying that people shouldn't take their own pictures, or that fine art photography is dead? No. What I'm saying is that in order to prevent this discipline from falling through the cracks of our digital world, we need to change the manner in which we approach the medium. Digital doesn't have to mean unlimited, quick, or not valuable; it's only another means to the same end that film reached in its day. True art.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

abstractLatte is on Etsy!

It's been a long time in the making but I finally got the shop together! I'm in the process of listing pieces so check back regularly for new work...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

caffeinated Twitter

As an added feature to the blog, I'd like to give my readers a heads-up about future articles, topics, blog features, etc without posting a blog article and using up editorial real estate. To accomplish this, I've set up a twitter site for abstractLatte.

News, new artwork, or even if I'll be away from the blog on vacation. It all belongs here, and feel free to comment as well.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Good Grape

The subject is fun, the writing is witty and at times hilarious. And if you look closely, you'll see cartoons.

You don't have to be a dedicated wine connoisseur to enjoy this blog. As Good Grape put it:

"Pragmatically idealistic, Good Grape is a wine blog and web site for wine enthusiasts, poets, artists, romantics, lovers, liberals and rock stars. Connoisseurs, collectors and the wine elite might be more comfortable elsewhere."

Both educational and entertaining, this blog is a vintage that will keep on giving...Good Grape


Maybe you're looking for that one element that will pull the whole project together, or maybe your project is missing something, that element of "je ne sais quoi". This resource, brought to you by The Design Bureau of Amerika, may be what you're looking for.

From the website (in regards to their Photoshop brushes)...

"The key to successfully using a Bureau brush set is not using the brush 'as is'. These brushes really start to shine when variables are applied to them. Try changing the size and mode of the brushes as well as using them with the burn,dodge and erase tools. What kind of result you get from these brush sets is solely dependant on how hard you are willing to make them workfor you."

I have used their brushes without disappointment (the distress on the abstractLatte logo is one example) and can vouch for the integrity of the studio's creative approach; these resources are backed by years of experience and limitless talent. Brushes, fonts, desktop wallpapers...there's a lot of creativity here so dive in, download, and help expand the creative horizon!

The Bureau Loves You -

Saturday, November 01, 2008

my journal

I don't remember how I discovered journals. When I finally decided to invest both money and time into one, it started out as a source for inspiration. I would cut out images and whole articles, gluing them onto the pages and adding my own notes. My journal process moved to drawings, then writing, and now it's a combination of everything.

For some reason, I never finished a journal. What happened is I started using it and realized after a month or even a few months that the book wasn't accomodating my needs. My journals have included the following:

a purchased leather journal - about 6"x9", with a leather tie that wrapped around the journal a few times to keep it closed...{concern}...too big and became too heavy as more collaged elements/pages developed

handmade/retail hybrid, version 1 - front/back cover and spine of a watercolor sketchbook, with thread-bound signatures of newsprint...{concern}...I did a poor job of binding and the signatures were too heavy for the paper, it was also too uncomfortable to use

handmade/retail hybrid, version 2 - front/back cover and spine of a watercolor sketchbook with a handmade accordion pocket inside with various types of paper...{concern} was annoying to pull out and return individual pieces of paper, cut out articles, etc using the accordion pocket

moleskine - 3"x5", too small...didn't last long

handmade - handmade paper cut into two pieces for the front and back cover, contained different types of paper, bound with binding screws...{concern}...too fragile

Well, I've finally found one that I consistently enjoy! It is, in a lot of ways, the best parts of my previous journals. I think what I like best about this one is its flexibility and simple binding.

current journal - relaxed leather for the front/back cover and spine, bound by a strip of leather tied off at both ends, contains different types of paper

details: when I purchased it, I took out most of the paper it contained and began my quest for custom paper. I cut pages out of newsprint, charcoal paper, packing paper, and white drawing paper (as well as used some of the paper it came with); I cut the sheets in a sloppy manner on purpose, inspired by the deckled edges of my old watercolor sketchbook.

Once i punched holes in all the pages, I re-bound the journal. Now I had a custom journal with a variety of papers. And once I fill this journal, I can re-bind it with new papers and re-use the leather cover/spine as many times as I want.

Here are a few shots of some of my favorite pages...


first page

random writing

random drawings

For those of you that don't use journals, I recommend you start. You don't have to be an artist, designer, writer, etc to use a journal. If you enjoy traveling, going to antique stores, or enjoy keeping track of various activities, a journal can be a fun and personal way to accomplish that; it's also interactive so more than one person could use the same journal.

Although there are a number of places to purchase a journal, it all depends on what you want. Here are some helpful links to get you started:

My Handbound Books

Barnes and Noble



Cavallini & Co.

journal content © 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Found objects as art and fiction

[edit: 02-05-09] My former web space with JPG Magazine has been deleted in order to create new space under the name "abstractLatte"; I published the article in my blog so that it can still be read...

I wrote an article for JPG Magazine's website community concerning creative inspiration and how to attain it when faced with a creative block. Although the article focuses on photography, you could apply it to any situation with a few adjustments to the overall process. link to article:

Buy Handmade

Maybe you've received a handmade gift from someone at some point in time, or maybe you've given someone a gift that we crafted with our own hands. At the very least, you've walked past a storefront window and seen handmade items for sale. In a world that seems to be dominated by cookie-cutter commercial goods, handmade items are a fresh way to appreciate your friends, family, and life in general on a more personal level. As an artist, I can definitely identify with a handmade approach towards life.

Well, today I found this website and decided to make my pledge (although at the time of this screenshot, my pledge hasn't shown up yet!)...

At the very least, check out the site and keep it in the back of your mind this holiday season!


For those of you that aren't already aware, Etsy is one of the best things about the internet. Their focus on the personal and the handmade is a fresh approach in a world dominated by consumer, cookie-cutter products.

In their own words:

"Etsy is an online marketplace for buying & selling all things handmade.

Our mission is to enable people to make a living making things, and to
reconnect makers with buyers.

Our vision is to build a new economy and present a better choice:

Buy, Sell, and Live Handmade."

I strongly encourage you to check out their site, even if only to browse. Etsy is a site that truly keeps on giving...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

from the butterfly exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC

something to consider

A trio of butterflies, almost reckless in their fun, flap bold, brittle and beautiful in a game of 'let's duck and weave through the visitors, silently bumping them with a puff of air'.

They chose life over looks.

© 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

It was a really interesting exhibit. In a relatively small room/corridor, sealed to keep in the humidity and the flapping exhibits, the butterflies were everywhere and nowhere. No sounds to indicate movement, just a flutter in your peripheral vision or a flash of color next to a leaf. And you had to watch every step you made, there was no way of knowing where (or when) a butterfly would decide to sit.

To see one in public is amazing; to see many of them in one space is profound.

url -

Saturday, October 18, 2008

a NICE endeavor

So I'm browsing some blogs of interest and I came across the Operation NICE website. What a great idea! The endeavor to make this world a better place is taking a new approach on a larger scale and it's meeting this challenge with great success!

Check out the site at and see how you can contribute!

found objects - "bottle cap and dice"

I occasionally like to direct my camera towards the ground to see what I can find. It's interesting to see what objects are just lying around, waiting to be discovered; what's one person's litter is another's art.

The best part about this kind of subject, aside from the discovery, is the challenge of creating a composition without disturbing the object(s). Shooting candid allows the story to be honest so it's important to me to leave things where I found them.

equipment: dslr, 18-55mm lens with polarizing filter

© 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"I'm asking for the extra espresso shot because there's a lot to do and I just woke up."

Several months ago, I realized I didn't know what I was trying to accomplish as an artist.

Over the past several months, picking up a pen to draw or planning a few hours to shoot a hundred photos seemed like old habits that were on their way out. My writing continued. And I was reading...a lot; my home library became more interesting to me than my sketchbook and that's a hard thing to accept as a visual artist.

As I said, I'd increased my reading. Publications like "The New Yorker" and the "A Series of Unfortunate Events" series by Lemony Snicket fascinated me and I started to realize I wanted my work to have more function, more utility. Although I didn't mind creating fine art, I wanted there to be an aspect of my work that provided an experience. I revisited my journal writing, the stuff I'd scribbled and scratched out over the last several months that pertained to my future in the arts. And this is when things started to click into place. Among my scribblings were comments on Kramer Books and Afterwords Cafe (a really cool local bookstore/cafe in Washington DC) and notes on various sketchbooks of very talented illustrators, along with references to art journals. That's when it hit me. I needed to make a change.

So I've decided that I'm taking my work and blog in a fresh direction...handmade books and art, and more of a bookstore/cafe approach to my blog. I guess it's not so much a new direction as a reallocation of my skills and creative focus.

Some sample work:

A table of contents page from a small writing zine

A sample spread

I'll post more images as projects near completion but look for writing and drawing previews as well!

above images and content © 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

a pregnant pause in slow motion

the last cigarette of the pack,
thoroughly enjoyed,
smoked to the filter;
the last drag, intense and almost intolerable,

pulled with dedication;


maybe comfortably discarded during a brief pause,
a hairline opening between lips and words
as the only cue?

the filter drops.

...hits the ground,
for a moment,

{ if the smoker knelt and placed it with care};

maybe next time it will be out a window.

© 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

"2008 minus 1799 equals..."

Mount Vernon hedge perfume, a favorite greeting but how long will the shrubs keep their voices? Old brick and fun house mirror glass, all of it weathered, but mature. I guess the bushes will be fine.

Its collective ass has been kicked by inherited or purchased neglect and its birthdays are well into triple digits but it’s still giving “meet-n-greets”. I’ve decided there’s no sense in worrying.

But, the “Sons of the...” and the “Daughters of the...”, even everyone in between, don’t realize death is inevitable. A wrinkled chair is no match for people putting their fingers on things they shouldn’t put their fingers on. A brittle portrait doesn’t stand a chance when camera flashes are allowed to cripple. A bio-print is more like a bio hazard to paint that’s 220 years young. Prosthetic parts and cloned pieces will help the mansion blow out the last few candles before the icing melts...“restoration”, if you don’t mind. But is that truly being a part of the “Friends of the American Revolution”?

I’d rather see Monticello stagger with a cane than run with bionics.

© 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"On Trees...different location"

where manmade ends and the trees begin,
overlapping green,
no obvious connection to the course brown
that protrudes from
ground and trunk;

staring reveals infinite nature and its accessories,
a safe haven,
a mature security blanket,
i'm not embarrassed to be wrapped up in this
because green is good;

we're cousins, organic, of the earth...


we kill them,
without hesitation,
while they help us live by donating oxygen
to our cause;

in this moment they're protecting me,
from traffic,
from buildings,
free therapy because i had the sense
to open my eyes and listen.

© 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 13, 2008

so...'s been a while!

Long story short, there are two things that have made me take a break from my normal routine: one, preparation for a job search due to an eventual lay-off, and two, devotion to some personal projects that I'm very interested in.

As for the job search, I needed to work on my graphic design portfolio/website, which is not an easy task. It took me a while to figure out how I wanted to present myself and my work, and I think I've come up with something that is fair to both. Through this process, I realized I didn't need a site for anything other than a new graphic design job. My personal projects received just enough attention to make me realize I don't have enough completed work to display; showing what I had, and talking about what I want to have in the future, wasn't going to work for me.

So, it's one site that frankly, after the last two weeks of organizing projects and slicing website images, is going to stay where it's at for the next year! I'll add projects, and may rearrange a few pages/projects, but for the most part this site is here to stay until I get a new job and get enough personal projects completed.

Now that things have calmed down a bit, I'll be posting more on my blog and sharing more information on some of my new work.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

quick update

I've been very busy lately and unfortunately, haven't had the time to post anything substantial. Just letting everyone know the blog's still active!

I'll post more this weekend.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

creative thoughts in typed form

Since the beginnings of my blog, I've slowly developed an interest in writing. It started as a need to craft better workhorse copy but is now a strong focus on the creative aspects of written and typed words. Sketching, communication, creativity, documentation, they're all reasons for my writing.

Recently, I became a member of the editred online writing community. It's proven to be a good place to share writing, access writing resources, and interact with other word artists. Although I'm working on an art/writing project offline, I've uploaded a sample of my work here...

I'll upload more work as its produced. I'm very excited to merge writing, art, and graphic design in a way that allows the words to take a more unique form while still doing justice to the content; I'll post more on that soon.

book review and author spotlight

Normally I post my review of a book and call it a day but in this case, I wanted to comment on both the book and its author.

[the book, above-left, copyright © 2003 Mark Haddon, book design by Maria Carella]

As an artist, I'm drawn to things that are visually interesting. Book design is one factor that I take into account when browsing through a bookstore; more often than not it's led to a great read. This book is no exception. It grabs you before you read the first page, the description on the back of the book is enough to send you scrambling for the check-out counter. Check out reviews and information here...

[the author, above-right]

I found it interesting that Mark Haddon not only writes but creates art; I found his notebooks to be inspirational...

Monday, April 21, 2008

part sketchbook, part journal

{first things first}...the art journal that I was so excited about, the one with the accordion pockets...that idea didn't work out the way I thought it would. I couldn't deal with the fact that in order to draw or write, I had to remove the pages from the book which I felt took away from the experience of using the journal. And don't even get me started on how annoying it was to look through individual pages in a small folder. Anyway, I will post more on that another day but my reason for including the back story was to lead into my new, "working out better than I imagined" art journal which looks quite a bit different than the one previously posted...

{the original purpose of this post}

subject: coffee cup

subject: faces and pencils

subject: inspirational quotes and random drawing

© 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 14, 2008

random sketchbook stuff

Here are some random sketchbook pages that I've been working on recently; there are more but these are the most interesting.

comments, and chalk drawings from chalk board at Caribou Coffee

random objects

some thoughts on R.E.M.

random objects

writing on a glass coaster, clocks, and construction

"Caribou Coffee" and the R.E.M. name/logo/song titles belong to their respective owners, and include any applicable copyrights and trademarks.

all other work © 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

black and white polaroids

This photograph is the first formal polaroid in my portfolio.

Although I love regular polaroids, and have been shooting them for quite a while, I wanted some of them to be a bit larger than the standard 3" x 3" image area. Not knowing what would result from scanning an already imperfect image, I scanned this shot at high resolution, enlarged it to 5"x5" (image area, not white border), slightly cropped the subject, and converted it to black and white.

The result was an incredibly rewarding process. Not only was I able to successfully convert a polaroid to a larger photograph, the black and white conversion really showcased the imperfections without degrading the original image.

"...will I ever enlarge a polaroid beyond 5" x 5" ?"

I'd like to try for 8" x 8" but I don't think it would be smart to try for anything larger than that; I'm not even convinced 8" x 8" will be successful. But in all honesty, I don't know if it would be a good idea to even try. I mean one of the great qualities of a polaroid is the small, almost pocket size dimensions. Although I didn't go too much larger with my print, I don't think taking it farther would be could really take away from the origins of the photograph.

subject: building and power lines
location: Occoquan, VA

After letting the photo sit for a few days, I realized I wasn't happy with the cropping so I re-edited the photograph and uploaded the new crop. It's still 5" x 5" but with a little less of the brick building and secondary building.

© 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

the beauty of a manmade rainforest

These plants and window were actually very easy to overlook...

{...the entire exhibit is essentially a manmade rainforest within a giant room; there were not only trees, water and plant life but several birds either seated on branches or flying around. The point is, with all the squawking/rustling/humidity, you could easily miss something as generic as a window.}

subject: plants, flowers, and window
location: National Zoo (Washington DC)

© 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

restrained, caged, and otherwise hidden

When I saw this decoration locked up in a "cage" (in reality, it was under a deck/walkway in front of a commercial building), I couldn't believe it. As a photographer that shoots candids, I was glad that I found this before the season ended.

subject: Christmas decorations
location: Occoquan, VA

© 2007 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 24, 2008

coincidental polaroid...

So I shot this polaroid of a low clearance sign. What I thought was interesting was the fact that it was attached to the edge of the roof of a small building that resembled a residential structure. Within a couple of days after taking the photograph I encountered a few things that related to height...

"...I found out I'm actually 5' 11 3/4" tall, not 6' 3/4" as I'd previously thought, I read a header in YahooNews that referenced the world's tallest man, &...(ok, there was a third tidbit of experience that I can't remember so I'll post it when I remember it)

This is not by any means a profound post. I just thought it was interesting how a few instances by themselves were insignificant but when combined, created an interesting connection.

© 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008 old friend...

Ever since I began to experiment with polaroids and illustration, I've found myself drawing less and less. I couldn't figure it out since I'd spent the last year completely immersed in the discipline of drawing, committed to developing deliberately mature/seasoned fine art and illustration. But something just clicked a couple of weeks ago that has tormented me creatively ever since and I just figured out what it was. The handful of polaroids, shot a little over a month ago, revived my passion for photography in a way I didn't expect...

..."I don't know what it is about photography; I just relate to it in a way that is different than my views and approaches towards other mediums & disciplines...

For those of you that don't know, I used to be a fine art photographer. I've always shot digital and worked primarily with an 8"x10" format; here is a post I published a while ago that shows some of my work currently on display in a Washington DC eyeglass boutique. So, photography is definitely an old friend."

© 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

an interesting discovery

This was a pretty cool find...

This is one of those places that gives you a renewed hope that the world isn't entirely cookie-cutter commercial. I don't know what the inside offered but I do know that seeing places like this makes me feel better about the world.

{nothing is ever truly "new"; anything produced is always influenced, to some extent, by what came before it.}

...this store, for some reason, made me think of this perspective.

I'll have to return and check out the inside. Who knows, maybe they'll sell Starbuck's coffee, trendy clothes, and have an internet cafe.

© 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

the beauty of the polaroid

You might be asking yourself "why should an illustrator care about a camera?"

That's a good question, I asked myself the same thing when I picked up my polaroid camera the other day and spent $12 on film for 20 shots. I've known for a while that I wanted to use photography in my illustration work but I hadn't fine tuned the approach to the point where I felt comfortable putting some work out into the world. As a former fine art photographer I knew that I didn't want my shots to have too much realism and I certainly didn't want the perfection of a digital camera. On a recent trip to pick up coffee at my favorite coffee shop, I drove out to Old Town Leesburg (in Virginia) and figured I'd snap a few instant pics while I was out there...just to see what happens. I left the town with about 8 shots, about half of which had nice compositions and the best lighting/contrast that could be expected. For those of you that have ever shot with a polaroid instant camera, you know how difficult it is to crop in camera and obtain reasonable lighting conditions! But that's why I chose a polaroid camera instead of a digital camera; the slightly out of focus image, the slightly desaturated subject, the expected and unexpected imperfections.

In addition to my Leesburg shots, I took some shots around my apartment and then got to work on fine tuning my illustration approach using photography. Of course, I ruined half of the photos and left a few teetering on the fence between perfect and "headed for the trash" but there were a few that made it to final artwork status.

Having said that, here are two pieces that I consider to be finished...

subject/concept: "what's missing?..."
materials: pen and prismacolor marker on polaroid film

subject/concept: "it's still winter"
materials: pen and prismacolor marker on polaroid film

I have about six others that I'm still working on so I'll post those when they're complete.

© 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

creative process and influence

In a design forum that I occasionally visit, a topic was posted inviting people to weigh in on their creative process and what has influenced their work/approach. Here is my reply...


They teach students in art/design school about the process and how important it is to start with keywords and sketch before moving to the computer. And I agree that those things need to be taught and emphasized throughout an art and design program. However, when you leave school, you realize that things aren't always black and white; there isn't always time for 100% attention to the rigidity of the design process, sometimes being random and having spontenaity is a good thing, etc.

What I've come to realize is that ultimately, it comes down to three things with me...have a reason for everything you do, know the rules before you break them, and always keep the principles of design in mind. Everything else is worked out on a project by project basis. Perhaps my experience in several different visual arts disciplines has forced me to embrace a less rigid process, more open to instinct and spontenaity. If that means skipping thumbnails and jumping right in, or taking a keyword(s) and looking through some half-completed drawings in my journal for a key part to an illustration project, so be it. Bottom line, a free and dynamic process is what works for me.


More along the lines of inspiration but that's still a tough one, there are so many. To name a few...

James Jean (travel sketchbooks)
The Design Bureau of Amerika
Danny Gregory
Honest (the design studio)
SFG Blank Book Project
life (in general)

My goal is to be unique. There is nothing truly "new" in this world, everything is essentially influenced by something before it. But being unique is more rewarding than being new (in my opinion) because to take two pre-existing elements, add your own vision, and combine them to create something entirely different is very difficult but it can create powerful work...I'll take that anyday. A lot of times, if I pass something that catches my attention while reading through a magazine or while walking through an old town, I don't go back and take another look. I let that little piece of curiousity and vague recollection simmer and develop into something that's my own.

I guess this whole post comes down to individuality and it's value to first and foremost ourselves as artists/designers. If we don't know ourselves as artists/designers/etc then how can we successfully create work for clients, or in general?

Friday, February 08, 2008

small drawings on pre-treated paper

Almost a year ago, I covered a 9x12 piece of canvas textured paper with gouache. This treatment was to be the background for an illustration that never saw pen to paper. I stumbled upon that piece of paper last night and decided to cut it up into various pieces based on the lines and forms created by the paint. Then they were tucked away into my journal for future, random use.

Well, I couldn't resist the bold orange and red peeking out from the top of my journal so I committed myself to drawing simple contour/gesture drawings based on the patterns in the background. Here's what I came up with...

concept: "leadership"
materials: pen and gouache on canvas textured paper
dimensions: 6" x 2.75"

concept: "the way it used to be"
materials: pen and gouache on canvas textured paper
dimensions: 6.75" x 3"

concept: random flowers
materials: pen and gouache on canvas textured paper
dimensions: 6" x 1.50"

concept: flower and grass
materials: pen and gouache on canvas textured paper
dimensions: 6" x 3"

© 2008 joe blend. All rights reserved.