Elf Santa

Since Santa Claus is sometimes described as a “jolly old elf” I thought about depicting him in a more elf-like light. I was too lazy to find didn’t have a lot of sources for elves that weren’t inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s description, so I just tried to make this as generic as possible, though I did give him elongated earlobes for some reason.

Prelim sketches below!

Elf Santa sketches

Spider-Man sketchThis was my favorite sketch from Dare2Draw at the Art Directors Club last Thursday the 14th. I did a number of drawings that night, but because I haven’t done live drawing in years it took a while to get back into the swing of things.

That night also featured a long talk by special guest of honor Bill Sienkiewicz. I’d like to put some of his comments in a future post, because it’s just so great hearing people talk about working with traditional media.

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This is an ink sketch that happened to be in time for Inktober (well, with 31 days, it’s hard to miss). I don’t like his right arm but I’m pretty happy with the rest of it. There was no pencil undersketch for this, which I think is great practice to do every now and then. It really helps you think about form, proportion, and light.

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Two sketches I did while listening to “The Humbling River” by Puscifer off the album “C” is for (Insert Sophomoric Genitalia Reference Here). Awkward album title, but a good song. The two verses I listened to were these:

Angel, angel, what have I done?
I’ve faced the quakes, the wind, the fire
I’ve conquered country, crown, and throne
Why can’t I cross this river?

Pay no mind to the battles you’ve won
It’ll take a lot more than rage and muscle
Open your heart and hands, my son
Or you’ll never make it over the river

I like these two, since they’re kind of out of my comfort zone. I should probably do an Aitos piece for each.

Pickled, or: That Looks Better Now Than It Did Before

I like pickles. I don’t like all pickles—sweet gherkins throw me for a loop—but salty, vinegary pickles really set off a meal. Sushi wouldn’t be the same without pickled ginger. Taiwanese food is an excuse for pickled mustard greens. Middle Eastern restaurants have me hooked if they include pickled turnips with the meal. A savory sandwich accompanied by a dill cucumber spear—you get the idea. The thing is, though, that I’m not equally enamored with the fresh vegetables themselves. I like ginger, mustard greens, turnips, and cucumbers just fine, but if you gave me the choice, I’d probably go for the pickled product. Good vegetables are crisp and fresh, but good pickles have been aged to perfection.

Designs are, in a way, like crops. Designers plant a number of ideas, cultivate the best ones, and present the finished product to the client. Whether that product is any good is always a matter of opinion, but generally there are some ideas that age better than others. Some designers take this into account and try to design things that are future-proof: not in the sense that the work will be compatible with future technology, but in the sense that the aesthetics will be equally pleasing in the future as they are now.

There are other things, though, that just weren’t designed to last. When blank VHS tapes were sold, these packages wrapped many a one, and were likely promptly forgotten. Looking at them again, most of them are still pretty clunky, though a few stand out. This TDK design is one my family actually had in my house, and to me it’s one of the best of the bunch. Of course, when this design first came out, it wasn’t as yellowed as it is now (trust me, it wasn’t) so it’s difficult to make comments about the original design. Was it “brilliant” when it first came out? That’s hard to say; blank-VHS-package-design isn’t high-profile design work no matter how you slice it.

The top "Retro" is a black and white scan of the original. The bottom has been yellowed to simulate age and texture. Is the design better with texture? What does that say about the intended design?

When the original design (top) ages into a different one (below) how much of its appeal came from the design itself?

What definitely IS noticeable is the creation of new designs that not only mimic the design aesthetics of the past, but also factor in the element of aging. Probably the most famous advocate of this is the Instagram app, which, as you likely know, lets users apply a number of “vintage” effects to digital photos.In this fashion images can look like time-tested and more “professional,” but using the effects implies that the original shot either wasn’t good or wasn’t authentic.

Another example: illustrator/designer/artist Kevin Dart goes for a 1960′s feel when he uses an off-white background on his website. Don’t get me wrong, it looks fantastic. Is the off-white, though, an acknowledgement of paper that is now yellowing? Paper hasn’t always been available in as bright a white as we can get these days, so I wonder: if past designers could update their designs with today’s color palette, would they choose the brightest white? If they did, would that change our appreciation of the original design?

This, of course, is not an easy question to answer, especially considering the other variables (tastes of the public, popularity among designers, budgetary constraints, technological limits, among others) that color our opinions. If you ever get to watch TV show American Restoration you can see old & worn objects get restored to showroom conditions. I have to admit that I sometimes prefer the aged pre-restoration look, if only for the battle scars and muted colors.

What’s probably the worst part of evaluating past designs is that in most cases we’ll never actually know what the standards of the original pieces were. Without knowing exact, verifiable color standards, we can only assume the exact degree of whiteness in historical papers. Remember the controversy that arose when the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was restored? Historians and critics couldn’t agree whether Michelangelo worked in such bright colors, or if the restoration process had stripped away a crucial layer of paint shading. Some people preferred the pickled look of the pre-restoration mural, insisting that the fresh post-restoration look was inferior, even though it’s completely possible that the bright colors were what Michelangelo originally intended.

To wrap up, consider that famous American icon standing in New York Harbor. Though originally a dull copper color (that’s what you get for making things out of copper) the surface tarnished to a green color (because that’s what you get for making things out of copper!) that has endured in the American public for over a hundred years. Apparently, the green color, caused by prolonged exposure to seawater, was more popular than the original brown.

Saltwater pickled the Statue of Liberty! Or, at least, it looks better now than it did before.

Site reassignments

Hello, everyone! I’ve done a couple of reassignments to the naming of my sites.

My main portfolio site can now be found at www.glenisip.com. Here you’ll find my graphic design portfolio, and it’s largely a static site.

The illustration journal has “moved” to www.hundredconnector.com. That’s where this page is, if you haven’t noticed. It should be easier to remember than “hundredconnector.com/journal.” For everyone who’s following my RSS feed, let me know if it still works (it should.) I probably should have let people know about the change before actually making it, but live and learn.

I have been working on a third site, but it’s not quite ready to be released yet. Hopefully I’ll get everything down within the next couple of weeks, and I should be able to get something up for August, if not sooner.

Super Problems: The Next Generation

What do you do when you have a little time to think about a trifling thing that you want to complain about? Put it on the internet, of course!

i’m going to keep this critique light-hearted because I’m reviewing a logo for the anniversary of a comic book character. (Think about how high that ranks on people’s “things worth caring about” lists: A review of a logo for a comic book character‘s anniversary. It’d be lucky if it broke the Top 10,000.)

So anyway, Superman is 75 this year, and to commemorate the event DC unveiled a 75th Anniversary logo. That’s all well and good, but look at that thing. LOOK AT IT.

The first thing that came to my mind was “why did they overlap the 7 and the 5?” Presumably it’s to square nicely with the word “years” across the bottom, but that started a new question: why is the cape breaking the frame? My only guess is that it reads better as a cape that way than it does without it, but with Superman’s shoulder being aligned with the word “years” the cape looks like an extraneous design element. Text won’t sit in a nice box when set against that outline! Speaking of boxes, why is there a red box set directly against the blue figure when the colors are the same intensity? Not that I think that someone is going to run this logo in black & white for a letterhead or anything, but there’s no way that box would hold up in a one-color printing job.

What if someone wanted to print it in monochrome anyway, for, let’s say, a letterhead, as I mentioned before? Well, for starters, that outline is not going to reduce well, I can tell you. There are too many small lines that aren’t to scale with the broad, clear lines of the text and the logo. Look at those ripples in the shoulder, caused by the cape. Don’t forget about that hair, too! Superman has sure gotten some spiky hair recently. Maybe it goes better with that pose.

That pose, yes… Superman seems to be looking downward, in a vengeful, brooding manner. Some people seem to appreciate the change, but I personally don’t. From the start, Superman was a straight-laced do-gooder with a strong, almost smug sense of justice. Sure, this made him a bit flat as a character, but it’s also part of what makes him a “super” man; he has powers he could easily use to conquer the earth, but he chooses to uphold truth, justice, and general Midwestern U.S. ethics instead. And he’s smug about it. You know who’s vengeful and brooding? Batman. Not Superman. When Superman needs to mull things over, he doesn’t hunch over gargoyles during a midnight thunderstorm, surveying the city for evil and writing sonnets to himself. No, Superman flies thousands of miles to his private fortress (one he built himself, and didn’t inherit from his parents—unlike somebody else I could name) for a little R & R. He doesn’t even project his frustrations onto others! He‘s a SUPERMAN, darn it! That’s why the old Fleischer cartoons always showed him standing proudly, arms akimbo, smirking into the stars! Superman is better than you!

OK, so I went off track there. Still, I don’t have much love for the “75″ logo. It certainly does what it’s supposed to, but there is a lot of explaining that needs to be done, and a design is a lot like a joke: you shouldn’t have to explain it. If you’re feeling brave, you can check out the comments on Deadline’s coverage of the story, where more than a couple of people share my opinion on the logo.

Rensin

New piece! I’ve been busy with constructing websites for the last month or so, and I hope to be able to show off one of them in the near future.

This one was made using the new brush pen I bought a while ago. I decided not to ramp up the blacks digitally because I love the textures so much. Feels good cutting loose from the symmetrical stuff I’ve been doing. Detail below!

Rensin detail