Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Letter Girl

I've been working on some poster projects lately, for various organizations (more on this to come!). During the sketching phase for one of these groups, I had a foggy idea to do illustrated letters, like the kind you'd see on the first page of a children's book. The idea remained stuck in my head, however... I didn't have any luck at all trying to sketch it out.

Several weeks later, the idea popped up again. It was one of those lightning rod moments (makes me think of Roger Von Oech's book, A Whack on the Side of the Head). I was in the middle of teaching a class, and suddenly, out of the clear blue, I saw this illustrated letter in my head, clear as a bell. I don't get inspired like that very often, but I'm always grateful when it happens! Initially, anyway.

Remember Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the version that was released in 1977? In that movie, Richard Dryfuss' character has a close encounter, and subsequently becomes obsessed with creating conical shapes. He carves them out of shaving cream, mashed potatoes, any malleable 'medium' he comes in contact with. That's how it feels, I think, in the hours/days/weeks after inspiration hits. It's an obsession, sort of an internal directive given from above, and until a girl is able to realize that vision, to get the inspiration out of her system, it can be quite overwhelming (understatement). It's sort of maniacal, but in a good way. Mostly.

So anyway, I got the inspiration, and thankfully had time to do something about it. Voila! My Capital L Girl came to be.

A few days later, my wonderful agent Anna sent out a group e-mail to tell us all that Nate Williams had posted a link to AGM's Pumpkin Carving Contest on She included a link, which I followed... only to stumble upon Nate's new site:

Two seconds later Anna sent another e-mail, explaining that she had sent the wrong link. But I thought, Wow, that mistake was meant just for me! Ten minutes later, my illustrated letter was posted on the letterplayground site, and I sat back in my studio chair, deeply satisfied. Directive: complete!

Girl Pumpkin, Home from the Salon

During a bout of insomnia the other night, I made a second jack-o-lantern for Anna Goodson's pumpkin carving competition. Got the inspiration from a display of mums outside a shop here in Savannah. I bought the mums and a melon to be on the safe side, in case my first idea (see below) wouldn't work out. The melon is a beautiful bright, clear yellow—a canary melon—but for some reason looks rather 'road-cone' orange in this particular shot. Go figure. The melon was much easier to carve than a pumpkin (easier to eat, too!), which was a nice surprise.

To participate, carve something up and post the photos on flickr or facebook:

October 16th is the deadline!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Run, Gourdy, Run!

Just finished my pumpkin for this year's contest at AGM. Actually, mine is a very small gourd. No pumpkins here in Savannah yet.

For the first time this year, anyone can participate. You should give it a go... it's fun! It's free! Just carve up any big fruit or vegetable. Last year's winning entry was a watermelon.

The deadline is October 16th, so, get busy!

Mail Me Art

I painted this cardboard box for Darren Di Lieto's Mail Me Art project. In this view, you see the back of the box (left) containing most of the art, which wraps around the spine and onto the front (right). The addresses are cropped off.

Anyone can submit to Mail Me Art:

My inspiration for this image was Dejeuner sur l'Herbe, a painting by Edouard Manet. I have a clear memory of the painting from a set of fine art books that my mom bought for me decades ago. Schnucks, the grocery store near my childhood home, ran a promotion during which, every week, you could buy another book from the collection. I loved all of them, but my clearest memories are of Sargant (Madame X), van Gogh (Starry Night), and Manet.

So at first, I decided to simply use Manet's work as a springboard, just for fun. While researching the piece I read that apparently it caused quite a stir when Manet originally exhibited it in 1865 in a Parisian gallery. I hadn't thought about it before, but I guess it is quite odd, arranging a scene of three people (four, if you count the girl in the water), one of whom is completely nude. Some art historians theorize Manet's motive was to pull focus from his rival Monet, by exhibiting such a scandalous scene. I'm sure that was probably part of it. But, I'll bet it started innocently enough: like most artists, he appreciated the nude female form, and just didn't want to muck it up with clothing. Maybe he didn't feel like painting all of that drapey fabric. For whatever reason, there she sits, naked as a jaybird, with two fully clothed gentlemen, and they all seem absolutely and completely comfortable with the arrangement. I never wondered about it before; just thought it was a beautiful painting.

Reading about the scandal, I thought, 'Perfect! Manet was pushing the envelope!' Get it? Mail Me Art... Pushing the Envelope? I know, conceptually it's thin at best, corny at worst. But in it's thin, corny way, it made me happy. To make the whole thing even more deeply perfect, I had used my collection of envelope interiors to make the collage. This, before concocting the 'Pushing the Envelope' theme. Suddenly the whole project seemed to have been divinely inspired; it was all coming together so well. Bliss!

Until... my husband popped in. Fred liked what I'd done well enough, but frankly thought the scene was weird. I explained the whole thing about Manet, showed him the original art and went into great detail about my genius concept, all to no avail. "It's bizarre for a naked chick to be sitting in the park with two guys," said he. Which gave me doubts. I started to wonder what the ladies at the posts office would say, and the customs officials, and Darren, the world at large, etc. I'm a Sunday school teacher, for Pete's sake! What was I thinking? In the end, I was happy to paint some clothes on her; gave me a chance to use my machining stamps with white gouache, which was fun. I like to use them whenever I can (which doesn't happen much at all in my professional illustration work). Crisis averted.

I love your art, Eduoard Manet, and I admire your pluck. As for me, modesty prevails.

well that ends well. Hopefully my box has arrived safely in London; I haven't heard yet.

By the way, the ladies at my post office LOVED it. Ah, sweet relief.