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Whoop whoop. Sleepy Hollow prints are available in my Etsy shop now, just in time for fall. If you’re like me, you like it to feel like autumn year round, so headless horsemen and pumpkins are always in season.
I debated whether to print this on satin luster or fine art paper, and in the end tried both. The shop prints are on satin luster, and it’s amazing to me what a difference it makes. The subtle gradients of the sky, hills and trees in the background just look so beautiful on this paper, whereas the watercolor paper texture of the fine art paper dulled the purples a lot by comparison. Honestly, the colors are luminous on this print. And, as Wild Hearts, 1923 is also printed on satin luster at the same size, they make nice companion prints.
I was just catching up on my RSS feed and reading Design Work Life‘s Design Ranch 2013 coverage (and wishing I was there, like everyone else not in attendance) and was so interested to hear about Anna Bond’s color story workshop. You can read the post for details and photos here, but the gist is this:
Anna works with a palette of only 24 colors. Twenty-four! Despite how cohesive the Rifle product line is, I never would have guessed her palette was so small. In her workshop, participants had to create a palette of only 16 colors, and then choosing from amongst those 16, create three palettes of three colors each, making sure each contained a balance of lights and darks, vibrancy and subtly, and warm and cool colors.
I love working in a limited color palette, but I always create my palettes on a project-by-project, illustration-by-illustration basis. There’s no official Nicole J. Wroblewski color story (though most artists’ have their favorites, consciously or not. I’m always drawn toward pink, for example, though I try to steer myself away from it), but now I’m tempted to make one. Or to try anyway. It sounds tricky, but fun. A color puzzle.
For more of Anna Bond’s creative industry smarts, check out this interview with The Everygirl.
I’ve been playing around with new portfolio and web hosting options, looking for something that will make updating less time consuming. In the meantime, updates to shecanliftahorse.com have hit the breaks, which means I haven’t shared much of the custom portraiture work I’ve been doing –which is actually the bulk of the work I do. So without further ado, here’s summa dat:
This portrait was drawn as a gift for a girl named Madeline on the occasion of her 10th birthday. Madeline I actually know (she’s my sister’s niece) so it was easier than usual to think of fun scenarios to draw and personal details to add (I’m told the first thing she noticed when she saw the print were the tiny panda bear earrings, which makes me so happy.) She loves animals and drawing and dark, creepy things. The shift in the color schemes from bubble gum pink to bold red and black is just another example of my tendency to draw in shades of pink regardless of the subject. She may be the ten year old girl, but that’s truly a reflection of me.
Here’s the completed 10″x10″ print, followed by my sketches.
Thanks to parents Sarah and Gabe for such a fun commission. I hope it’s something Maddy enjoys for years to come, potentially feels mortified by for only a brief period as a teenager, then finally comes to enjoy again. :)
I think I change my blog’s theme almost as frequently as I update with a post… which is my way of saying, I have a new layout. The old one was great for posting larger images, but the margins were never justified and it was starting to make me hate looking at my own blog. So here we go! Clean lines! I’m sure I’m kidding myself when I suggest a new look will make me a better, more regular blogger (like when you justify buying new clothes or notebooks or organizational supplies or even cleaning products that you don’t actually need to get a task done, wanting to believe that owning the right stuff will make accomplishing something easier)… but here I am, bloggin’ atcha. IT’S WORKING ALREADY.
More realistically, the thing that keeps from blogging is that I just don’t know what my internet voice is anymore. The days of carefree teenage LiveJournaling are well behind me, I haven’t mastered the art of the hilarious 140 character Tweet, most social media is more about hitting “like” than actually saying anything, and I worry that I’m a big mean jerk burning potential bridges whenever I post a negative book review on Good Reads. I just don’t feel comfortable. Am I supposed to only say something when I can say it happily or confidently? I want to be professional and attract peers and future clients, but I also want to talk about my art crushes, my art insecurities, kid lit and the latest episode of Bunheads.
So I’m going to tell you about this print I made and see how that feels. Behind-the-scenes process posts or confessionals are what I most appreciate from the blogs I follow, anyway.
So I recently added a new print to my shop. It’s called Wild Hearts, 1923 and it’s a bit larger (9×12 on 11×14 paper) and a bit shinier than the rest of my prints, and I’m really happy with it. The subject — Sonora Webster of high diving horse fame, introduced to me and many an 80’s child in the form of the Disney biopic Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken — is such a source of happy nostalgia and inspiration for me that I can’t help but be really pleased with it.
At the very end of every month I (and usually mid-month as well), I take a break (usually at Java Hutt in downtown Ferndale, and usually a skim caramel latte) to check my progress against both my short annual list of bullet-pointed resolutions and a lengthier list of monthly to-do tasks and project ideas, and write a new one for the coming month. After I finish either patting myself on the back for all of my good work or, alternately, silently berating myself for a distinct lack of check marks on the pages before me, I get to brainstorming new ideas and making real quick, real crappy sketches. This is some of my best sketching, I think. For whatever reason, it’s when I feel most unfettered by self-awareness. I can draw real crap without worrying.
Here’s the crap that lead to the Wild Hearts final art, as Instagrammed:
And here’s what it looked like while in progress:
I struggled a bit to figure out how to present the image in a worthwhile way without adding a lot of other sideshow type details that would detract from my intended focus: the connection between Sonora and the little girl watching her. When I started looking at vintage circus posters for inspiration, the design came together.
One of the most important, maybe the most important thing I’ve learned over the course of my young freelancing career is this: I can only make things the way I make them. I’ve spent too much energy wishing I could be this artist or that, and feeling frustrated when my hands don’t make exactly what my head first pictured. Realizing that I can be inspired by something, but I can’t be that thing was a really positive, freeing thing. It means that I can embrace the (hopefully) unique way my brain is going to tackle a particular idea, and do my best take on it. In this case, it meant that I wasn’t going to make an authentic 1920’s Atlantic City travel poster, but I was going to make something that called one to mind in my own clean imagery and simple palette. Taking that approach let me take on a framing device and text art, design elements I normally write off as “not my forte”, and come up with something that both pleased me and looked like me.
Now how ’bout that Bunheads season finale, huh?
Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one of my all-time favorite stories. On some basic level, it’s one most American’s know; it’s the story of a headless horseman who chases some doofus-looking guy named Ichabod through the woods. It’s legend has become our own and it’s a staple of the fall nostalgia routine and any decent Halloween movie marathon.
Most of us are probably familiar with the various film adaptations — most notably Disney’s Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad, a 1949 animated musical narrated and sung by Bing Crosby, and the 1999 Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movie — and personally, I enjoy each of them. I love how Disney nails Ichabod’s strange proportions and beak-like nose, and I welcome Burton’s gore, witches, and dreamy, withered sets. Still, the story itself is what I love best, though it’s much quieter and much less about heaving jack-o-lanterns than the films would have you think, as I discovered reading it for myself the first time, standing behind the counter at Books of Wonder on a particularly slow fall afternoon. The text is full of descriptions of people and New England, of Ichabod’s strange visage and massive appetite (“He was a huge feeder, and, though lank, had the dilating powers of an anaconda”; one of my favorite lines), and the quiet, “drowsy, dreamy” Dutch community with it’s atmosphere of whispered rumors. It’s just a little bit about a crazy Hessian riding around with his own decapitated head on the pommel of his saddle, and even less about tossing said head like a mother elfin’ shot-put. The edge-of-your seat rustle of excitement as Ichabod and his scrawny horse Gunpowder navigate the woods at night, startled into the worst kinds of thoughts by the snapping of branches and screech of an owl, is short and comes at the very end. But you need that calm before the storm to really enjoy the chase when it happens, I think. Besides, Irving’s language and observations are so enjoyable; so funny and perfect in their concise understanding of fear and love and idleness, I hardly care what happens at all, really. And so I pick it up at least once a year, every year, around Halloween-time and love it all over again.
A beautiful edition of the book is a must. I’m a big fan of my Arthur Rackham illustrated hardcover Books of Wonder edition with glossy full color plates and tons of black and white drawings throughout. The Rackham illustrations are beautiful in an spooky fairytale way, though not a literal depiction of events for the most part. Instead the art matches the story’s mood, with witches and devilish imps are sketched into the landscape and trees that come alive in monstrous, contorted ways and seem to follow beak-nosed Ichabod about town. They give a definite sense of foreboding… …but why am I talking about Arthur Rackham before sharing my own illustration? That’s not an act I wanna try and follow, and my own interpretation was, in fact, quite literal.
All of this is to say that I love fall, and I love New York and the Hudson River Valley, and Washington Irving, and pumpkins and Halloween, and book covers, and especially this story, so, so much. So I thought I’d have my go at illustrating a poster or hypothetical cover. I sketched and made notes while reading to try to clear my mind of movie images and focus strictly on Irving’s own descriptions, and I based my bridge on this photo of the purported one from the story. And… well, here it is…
Another convulsive kick in the ribs, and old Gunpowder sprang upon the bridge; he thundered over the resounding planks; he gained the opposite side; and now Ichabod cast a look behind to see if his pursuer should vanish, according to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone. Just then he saw the goblin rising in this stirrups and in the very act of hurling his head at him.
I was so pleased when, after months of sporadicly checking her site for updates, a blog post popped up in my RSS feed last week letting me know the new Jen Corace website was live at long last.
Jen Corace’s work is so obviously something I would like. She draws girls in cute dresses and sinister situations. She draws antique-y houses with explosive floral wallpapers. She draws nature in all of intricacies. Her scenes are quirky, even dangerous, yet her solitary figures quietly take it, even seem to relish it at times, making the situations dreamlike; they’re lovely as they are threatening or strange. Many artists are playing make believe when they draw (I know I frequently am) but it feels particularly true in Corace’s work; these are scenes I can see suburban girls dreaming up (Cecilia Lisbon eat your heart out). Her typical bob-headed brunette with vacant brown eyes reminds me of a paper doll moving from scene-to-scene
Corace lets nature due a lot of her storytelling. We see the sublime in her waves and sea monsters, beauty and camouflage in her florals, whimsy and oddity in her room full of jackolopes. It’s also just prime subject matter for her style of line work, as seen in the repeated forms of water, flowers and other plants. No wonder her bibliography includes the words “entomology” and “Charles Darwin”.
Also worth checking out: The Little Series (available in hardcover and board book box set) written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jen Corace. While the palette of her children’s illustrations is far more sun-shiney, her signature line work and attention to detail (even her animals are well dressed) remains. Plus the stories are just cu-ute. I recommend Little Pea in particular.
All images copyright Jen Corace. Pictured above: “You, Me”, “Creature”, “Closing In”, “Hidden”, “Playing Joan of Arc”, & “Sitting, Thinking, Staring”