Category Archives: College Coursework & Projects

A New Year of New Projects

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My concept illustration of Mary Poppins from P. L. Travers’ description in the original story. [Chapter 2, “The Day Out”]

With  Snowmageddon raging outside of my window and the start of a new semester lingering overhead, I thought I better take advantage of the unexpected snow days to update my blog with my latest projects.

It has been an exciting couple of months without a doubt!  First and foremost, I spent an incredible weekend at the New England SCBWI conference in Springfield, MA last May!  I attended writing workshops with some amazing authors such as Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and Melanie Hope Greenberg, and enjoyed insights and inspiration from keynote speakers, Grace Lin and Sharon Creech.  Next, I learned valuable tips on creating an illustration portfolio from Sarah Brennan, Teri WeidnerNicole Tadgell and for a grand finale, a two day storyboarding workshop with one of my all time favorite illustrators, Ruth Sanderson!  (Insert happy dance here.)  By the time we returned home, my head was spinning and my notebook bulging with notes and an action plan, motivating me through the summer and my upcoming semester.

Last Fall, I had the opportunity to enroll in an Illustration class.  Our first project was a children’s book illustration based on a character of our choice.  With Peter Pan and Robin Hood tied as runners up, Mary Poppins lead the way in first place.  A few weeks later, we were given the assignment to design a product label in my Digital Imaging class, that we would eventually wrap around a jar in Photoshop and finally insert this new product image into a magazine ad.  I used a hybrid of this illustration along with other images I was able to find along the way, to create Poppins Preserves… “Just a spoonful of sugar in every practically perfect jar!”  Too much fun – I just couldn’t resist!

Fitzurka_Michelle_Assignment 6_Magazine Ad

The Pastel Portal

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Pastel ClassOnce again I am caught up in a whirlwind of projects and classes this semester, but I wanted to take a moment to share my latest work from my pastel class.  I am currently studying under Bonnie Roth, who is a fantastic artist and thought provoking instructor.  Take a browse thru her gallery if you have a few minutes: http://www.bonnierothanderson.com/portrait2.html.  She is broadening my perception of color every week, and I have been thoroughly enjoying the journey!

For this particular piece, we spent 3 sessions with our model, and I must say that I am really enjoying this medium.  I have always loved working in charcoal, so this seems to me a natural progression into the realm of pastels.  I am looking forward to re-working some of my picture book illustrations with some of these new concepts and techniques.  Thanks for stopping by my virtual studio! 😉

Alive & Kickin’

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What a great couple of months this has been!  I have been caught up in a rush of school activities for my kids, and my classes have picked up speed as well.  I finished out the rest of my Drawing class last semester, just in time to prepare for family and friends visiting over Christmas.  Then, my Winter and Spring session courses added to my already frenzied days!  Currently I am enrolled in three courses:  Writing for Children, Designing and Illustrating Children’s Books and Graphic Design!  And I am LOVIN’ it!  From the outset, it seems highly unlikely that I could ever keep up this pace.  Yet in the midst of each project, I find this new reserve of energy and passion that drives me to finish line.  This is definitely what I was born to do!

GrphDsgn.Proj 1.Graphic Novel Self Portrait

A self portrait appropriation based on the amazing original artwork of Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna (Marvel Comics, July 2010).

Last week, I put together the mock up of a Picture Book dummy which I am hoping to get critiqued by an editor at an upcoming conference in May.  I initially thought that I would have 3 months to work on this, however I learned during registration that a sample had to be postmarked within 3 days.  Needless to say, I was launched into high gear!  And just to keep things interesting, my first Graphic Design project due date was around the corner.  The assignment required that we submit an appropriation of a favorite character out of a graphic novel.  I chose the Black Widow character from Marvel Comics after recently watching Scarlett Johansson’s awesome portrayal of Natasha Romanoff in “Iron Man 2” and “The Avengers” – now THAT’s what I’m talking about ~ Excellent choreography in her fight scenes!  This style of illustration is not what I typically generate, and we were expected to re-invent ourselves as this character.  After multiple searches for an action packed illustration, I finally found the cover, “The Name of the Rose” (Issue #2) created by Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna for Marvel Comics.  By using their fantastic work as a template, I was able to explore this style with my own pen and ink self portrait and ultimately render the finished product through Adobe Illustrator – it was a ton of fun!  I added my own facial features and hair, and my holster carries paintbrushes and pencils, ready to produce extreme graphics at a moment’s notice.  Now I have something to hang in my studio to keep me motivated… Speaking of which, it’s time to get back to work!  Glad to be back in the blogosphere!

My Circle of Life…

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Michelle Fitzurka's Art

Charcoal and conte on drawing paper.

Phew!  I know it has been a while, but my days have been moving at the speed of life!!!…

A typical day… Wake up, shower, hair & makeup, coffee, organize kids, kiss husband, kids out the door & into the van, one more kiss… dreamy sigh… Love that man!  Feeling blessed… Oh! The kids! … “Mooo-om! [Yes, the 2-syllable, whiney version of my name]  I forgot my lunchbox!”  back in the house… Jump in the van, drop the kids at school, drive to college, sketch, get into “the zone”, erase, smudge… repeat, repeat… back in the car, run errands, check off ‘to do’ list, chores, eat a late lunch (sometimes), answer emails, back to school to pick up kids, sketch in the parking lot while I wait for dismissal, back home, help with homework, back to school to pick up an afterschooler… and/or drive to the next extracurricular, back home, make dinner while helping with more homework, husband comes home, happy dance with a welcome home kiss, family dinner… homework… kids’ showers, research, chores, prayers, bedtime hugs, …ahhhh… quiet….  decompression commences, collapse on the sofa, laugh with husband about the craziness of the day, brush teeth, go to sleep to get ready to start all over again tomorrow…

I know that is probably a snapshot of most of our lives, especially for a mom with young children… maybe a few substitutions of work, activities and so on… It’s all good, just not a lot of extra minutes for my ‘Shoulda done’ list…  So in the meantime, while I am choosing to focus on what I am able to accomplish in this season of my life, with a prayer for God to infuse me with energy and sustenance, here is a recent drawing I completed for homework just before getting into the onslaught of landscapes… which are so much more involved than I thought they were going to be!  Especially for someone who can get absorbed in the details!… But that’s a blog for another time!

I would love to find out about your circle of life!  Please share!!! 🙂

Emerging from a Cloud of Charcoal

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Scribble gestures of gourds and peppers for homework.

Just another quick post on the fly to update you on some more of my drawing class assignments…

We have been getting more into “Mass Gestures” with compressed charcoal… So other than feeling like I have a constant black film filling my pores, I am loving this exploration of textures and media!  Here are some of my homework assignments, along with some classwork.

My mass gesture study of a stuffed pillow in class.

The objective for this homework was to create a mass gesture of 3 stuffed objects… I couldn’t leave Cappuccino out of that one! 🙂

Exploring my new world through Prismacolor!

Moving right along, we are preparing to take on landscapes soon, depending on how the weather treats us.  Meanwhile, in a whirlwind of personal projects, I have been getting immersed in the world of Prismacolor pencils.  I am developing an idea for a series that I will share when I feel they are ready.  Here is a little cropping of one of the drawings I have been working on most recently.  I have been kindling this desire to illustrate for children’s books, exploring more detailed renderings of subjects and really enjoying the journey!  Thanks for stopping by my virtual studio! 🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge – Everyday Life of an Art Mom!

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Here is a snapshot of the days that fill my every week in a nutshell (no pun intended)! :)…

Just the basic supplies to get me through the week!…

…and this is what I have been up to in the first 3 weeks of my drawing class!

To find out more examples of this week’s photo challenge

“Everyday Life”

follow this link and join in on the fun!…

In the Beginning…

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Cotton application of ink onto newsprint
was the method of shading used in this studio art project.

Now that I have finally made it to the end of this summer semester, it is time to return to my domestic responsibilities in full force.  Our garage is still stacked high with boxes from our recent move and my [somewhat] freshly painted studio is buried in the basement by bins filled with supplies begging to be organized.  Do you ever find yourself vowing to purge stored forgotten treasures only to become entranced by volumes of unboxed memories?  Well, as I meandered through this maze of sketch pads and easels, I came across my cardboard, poorly duct taped college art portfolio from a time that predates vector graphics – at least before they were commercialized to the general public.  Yes, I realize that maps my post secondary education on a timeline, but it also serves as a disclaimer for coloring outside of the lines in these projects… in the spirit of ‘We just didn’t know any better’… That was the season when “Def Leppard” played in the Ratskellar, Dana Carvey & Mike Myers were dabombdiggity on “Saturday Night Live” and cell phones looked more like walkie talkies… Good times, good times… So just for the fun of it, I thought I would post a few of my earlier projects that I unearthed in the process of declutterization… okay, who am I kidding… this is just a great excuse to get out of that mess downstairs!  Enjoy!…

An early ink graphic designed for my studio art class at the university.

This design was created with cut Canson paper.

The visual transformation of a sketch into an abstracted non-objective rendering.

Mission Impossible III1/2: Design Protocol

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Mission Impossible III1/2: Design Protocol

Project #4 Objective: Create an interesting and/or provocative narrative or linear story using a photographed sequence whereby meaning is effectively conveyed.  The final sequence should include 12 – 15 original images that are visually interesting and relate formally to one another.

 

 

 

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This project was a little bit too much fun!  Once we got past the paparazzi while we were ‘on location’ at Great Falls National Park (McLean, VA), Cappuccino was able to get into character to give us the shots we needed.  I’m not sure, but this assignment may have inspired a family project for the summer!  There could be more adventures in his future…

The Narrative:

“Most would think it is a charmed life I lead.  Hugs, tea parties, wardrobe changes… They are all a part of a day in the life of your average bear.  But that’s just it.  I was an average bear living an ordinary life.  I knew I was made for more.  There was a world beyond these walls that beckoned to me.  I had seen it in the movies when the children buried their faces into my fur — the excitement, the intrigue, the danger!  It was all right there, waiting for me to explore.  The time was now… GERONIMO!!!”

Finding the blue sports car in the driveway made Cappuccino smile as he climbed behind the wheel.  “Barbie always has my back,” he thought.  The car puttered, warming up for the drive.  As he finally began to accelerate, he could hear Barbie’s voice from the garage, “Dream big, live large, Cap!!!”  With that, he hit the gas and headed toward adventure!

The journey was a long one, but there were so many new sounds and sights that Cappuccino could barely take it all in.  He needed some peace and quiet, a place to ponder where this path should lead.  Suddenly, the trees parted and gave way to the most spectacular rock formations he had ever seen in all his two stuffed years!  This was the place!  He jumped out of the car, changed into the clothes that Barbie had packed for him, and headed for the woods.  “Now THIS is the life!” he thought as the memory of his bedroom seemed like just a flicker in his past.  He felt like a new bear!  He was on top of the world!

While he reveled in the view of the waterfalls, he caught a glimpse of a small black capsule emerging from the ground.  He cautiously approached as it opened to reveal a pair of sunglasses. Placing them over his eyes immediately triggered the digital download through the lenses, and then the voice began to speak…

Good afternoon, Mr. Cappuccino.  Your mission should you choose to accept it, involves successful completion of the accelerated CAT 111-875 session.  Should you be caught or killed, the secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions.  And Mr. Cappuccino, welcome to the I.M. Force.  This message will self destruct in 5 seconds…

“A mission!!!”  This was fantastic!  He ran back to the car to find a map to his next destination… The Vault!

Cappuccino read all of this clues carefully and followed each instruction.  Once the key to the Syllabus and the Software were retrieved, he was ready to proceed.  Vector graphic illustrations flowed from his paws ~ it was like poetry!  Premiere Pro proved to be just as engaging… this was fascinating!  Who knew there was so much available to anyone who had the desire to learn!

A week later, the results of his mission were transmitted.  He beamed as he reviewed his grades.  This was truly life altering for such a small bear, and he just couldn’t stop there!…

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As in all great works, there must be edits.  We were allowed 12 – 15 photographs, so here were some of the shots that were cut from the final slideshow…

Blog-a-licious

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Project #1 Objective: Create a blog to share things you are learning and researching that relate to visual art (film, animation, graphic design, painting, photography, etc.). The goal of this assignment is to gain an understanding of the internet and web design.

Here I am, winding down at the end of the summer semester.  My Project 1 parameters have almost been met, and the whole exercise has become somewhat addictive.  This blog has been a great tool for keeping track of research that I make mental note of along the way and sharing my progress as a student.  But admittedly, I find myself getting more excited about the traffic to the site by the day.  It started out with my online classmates, then trickled to family and friends… until international flags started lighting up on the Stats map!  Then my whole family was hooked, from which stemmed the realization, “We must conquer the world!” (in your best Dr. Evil voice)

While I am fairly certain where the Canadian hits originated (…a shout out to my cousin, Sandra, & sister-in-law, Tanya! Thanks for being the first to bridge the international gateway! 🙂 …), I’m not sure what drew visitors from the UK, Brazil & Germany. Regardless of the reason, my son has now determined that we must gain recognition in Madagascar.  You can imagine where the interest was born.  Here is a hint:

Da-da-dada-dada-da-da-Circus
Da-da-dada-dada-da-da-Afro
Circus-Afro-Circus-Afro
Polka-dot, Polka-dot, Polka-dot… MOVE IT!!!

Yeah, what can I say, we love the movies.  Anyway, I can see the value in continuing to ‘journal’ about this academic road I travel.  This will help me to maintain focus, to keep trudging toward my goals – my ultimate “Fitztopia” – and with hope in my heart, may even inspire a few other moms to open their minds to their own possibilities.  So with my bright pink Jansport on my back, and a constant stream of java in my cup, I am unstoppable…

                       I am one mom…

                                 returning to college…

                                                with a magnificent dream of creative proportions…

Here I go!!!

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It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of Times…

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Project #2 Objective: Complete a set of drawn studies of a simplified object using traditional drawing tools followed by vector production tools. Create a final study of 3 abstracted views of your object on a single page or composition.

Project 2, Part B… okay, this is where it gets good!  This is what I came to do!  My first crack at Illustrator, or any vector graphics program for that matter.  My closest interaction with this type of software, was back in the day when I was singing with a band, and we decided to put out a CD. That was my first fun with logo design, and I got to be the backseat driver for the graphic designer we hired to ‘pretty up’ the insert and get it printer ready. I’m sure he loved it ~ “hmm, that’s a nice idea, but, um – no… okay, slide that over there… no, more purple and make it gradient… oOoh, and marbly!… hey, what does that do?”… yeah, good times…

I diligently watched the tutorials, getting more and more excited about the possibilities.  Ideas were flowing out of my head on how it could be incorporated as an invaluable, production multiplying, time saving tool!  I couldn’t wait to download the application!!!… All set up, I started with what seemed to be the easiest image to trace, placed it on the artboard, cut the opacity so I wouldn’t confuse the new black traced lines with the original image, locked the layer and opened a new layer to get started.  Hmmm… where do I start?  Elliptical tool, line tool, pen tool… *!@#!!!… CMD+Z, CMD+Z, CMD+Z… okay, we’ll go back to that later… fill… polygon tool… pen tool… anchor points… handle… Why isn’t this working???… This doesn’t make sense!!!  Maaaarrrrk (that’s my husband)… look at what this crazy thing is doing, have you ever seen anything so ridiculous? (rant, rant, rant)… I mean, you would think for the actual price of this software it would be functional!  (he sits down, click, click, click)  “Is that what you were trying to select?”  Okay, psh… well, YOU didn’t watch the tutorials, so they must have confused me somehow from the obvious common sensical approach you just mustered there, whatever… okay, fine, I can do this… I CAN’T DO THIS!!!  What was I thinking?… Going back to school… and don’t even get me started on how to make a living as an artist!… Suddenly, I imagine Tom Hanks in a baseball cap yelling, “There’s no crying in Illustrator!!!”  No time for tears, project is due tomorrow… push through the pain…  After, a few more hours & just past pumpkin time, I collapsed into bed feeling completely defeated from my first and most simplified image.

I did not get a lot of sleep.  In fact, I tossed and turned most of the night.  The next morning, and for some unexplained reason, the image of Richard Simmon’s face danced around in my mind, while he beamed, “Come on, Honey!!!  Hop out of bed and get this day started!!!”  I moaned.  Then something snapped and a determination swept over me to figure this out.  I got dressed, dropped the kids off at school, poured my coffee (THAT”S a given!), grabbed a CD of Celine Dion to have at the ready… yeah, the FRENCH Album…  Okay, let’s DO this!!!

It wasn’t pretty at first, but time was of the essence, and I needed to get creative to get the effects I wanted.  I’m not proud of it, but I became one with the blob brush and the warp tool.  I still manipulated the paths and formed a few compound shapes, but I focused on cleaning up the lines and maintaining the integrity of the original images.

Save… Attach… POST… done!