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.

Friday, February 01, 2008

my new art journal

Journals have fascinated me for quite a while, it was only until recently that I made a serious effort to keep one on me at all times. So, before I talk about my current journal, here's a little background info...

My wife bought me an artist journal with handmade paper about 6 months ago. I filled it up with various drawings and illustrations, then carefully cut out most of the pages as final artwork. After realizing I didn't want to have the book sitting around, its remaining pages full of subject studies that will never see the inside of a frame and matte, I decided to cut out the remaining "useless" work and re-bind the book. It had sentimental value and it marked a key stage in my career so I was determined to continue using it.

Well, I'm not a book artist so my first two attempts at re-binding the book were horrible. The vision was there, the craft was not! Not only did the unstable result have a fraction of the pages I would normally need, it was uncomfortable to use. The only good thing about it was the accordion pocket I made and secured to the inside back cover, filled with various types of paper. And that's when my "a-ha!" moment occurred.

Since I really liked the dimensions of the original book (roughly 9" x 6"), which made it comfortable for me to keep in a bag or in my car, I decided to only fill it with accordion pockets. This way, I could fill one pocket with different kinds of paper for drawing and writing, and fill the other pocket with "found stuff" like cut out photos, labels, etc. Gone were the feelings of uncertainty when handling my journal; now, I could get the most use and fun out of the journal! Anyway, here are some photos:

The cover in all its glory. It has a nice handmade/textured feel to it...

The journal opened, with paper slid out of the back pocket. The papers I have in there now are newsprint, Strathmore drawing paper, regular notebook paper, paper with the texture of packing paper, and some smooth paper from an older journal...

A different angle of the pockets with some found items and experiments. I can't wait to start drawing on the front of the outside pocket...

This is the first page from the original journal, cut out and adhered to the inside cover. It started as a "table of contents", then became a montage of words and thoughts to include my favorite definition of illustration from the book "FINGERPRINT, The art of using handmade elements in graphic design" by Chen Design Associates...

"The visual communication of an idea or an object is executed, at least in part, by someone with exemplary powers of observation - and the ability to translate those observations into meaningful hand-articulated forms."

I think what I love most about this new journal is that when I use all the paper I just refill the pockets, keeping select older pages for future reference.