Category Archives: Digital Illustrations

An exploration of vector graphics and digital illustration innovations.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

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I am just returning to the weekly photo challenges and couldn’t imagine a better way to begin.  With all the beautiful snow came an extended long weekend from school and work, along with the trip to the infamous hill in our neighborhood.

Here is my family trekking through the powder…

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And my four bundles of joy… literally.

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If you would like to join in the fun, go to http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/photo-challenge-family-2/ for more information.

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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

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!

Merci Beaucoup!!!

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Many thanks to Daniela from New Zealand for honoring me with a nomination for the Reader Appreciation Award!  She shares wonderful writings and stories on her blog, “Lantern Post”  ~ Please be sure to click over to her site for a read-around-tour!

I am thrilled to participate in this award process, so without further ado and per her direction…

  • 1st  I will share 7 interesting facts about myself 
  • 2nd  I should go on to nominate 5 – 10 other bloggers
  • 3rd  Then I will let them know how nifty I think they are when I notify them of the nomination!

So let’s see, 7 interesting facts in chronological order…

International Brotherhood Days on Pine Ridge Reservation, SD (1994).

#1  My parents are Canadienne, but I was born in the U.S.  Sadly, I do not have the pleasure of dual citizenship, but I love me some maple cookies & Tim Horton’s Iced Capps just the same!

Rockclimbing at the Falls

Rockclimbing at the Falls

#2  During my college years, I was a rock climber under the misguided perception that dressing like David Lee Roth correlated to climbing agility and ability… I think the picture really says it all.

#3  At an annual Native American Pow Wow called “International Brotherhood Days”, I camped out for an incredible week at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and won the Rabbit Dance competition partnered with one of the assistant arena directors.  It was totally waste {pronounced wash-TAY, which is Lakota for “good’}!!!

#4 For the 4th of July parade held in Washington, DC on Independence Ave., I participated 2 consecutive years by operating the tail of a Chinese dragon for my kung fu school.  It’s a great workout no matter which section you choose to handle, however, the tail will guarantee a full sprint as it whips around behind the weaving trail of the dragon dance team!

Chinese Dragon Dance in the 4th of July parade
held in Washington, DC.

#5  I once started a fire with tater tots ~ to be filed under the headings, “Dumb Things to Do before a First Date” and “Don’t Try This at Home”… Yeah, THAT’s a story for another time…

#6  When my church decided to host a fundraising dinner theatre production of “Godspell”, I designed & painted the stage set, choreographed all of the musical scenes and then applied stage makeup to the cast before every performance… Ahhh, to be in my 20’s on summer break with a limitless supply of creative energy!

Sound checks before the concert at Longchamp.

#7  By the amazing grace of God, I was blessed with the opportunity to harmonize alongside some of my dearest friends during the 12th Annual World Youth Day in Paris, France.  We performed during this week long event on sound stages throughout the city, in Bercy Arena and in the final afternoon concert on a stage constructed at L’Hippodrome de Longchamp… an experience that I will always treasure for countless reasons!

Aerial view of L’Hippodrome de Longchamp at 1997 World Youth Day, Paris, France.

This is a tough one, with soOoo many terrific sites I have had the pleasure to read in this WordPress Blogosphere.  But now ‘paying it forward’, I will introduce some of my favorite blogs through my nominations for the Reader Appreciation Award (drumroll, please):

http://jumpforjoyphotoproject.wordpress.com  I love the premise behind this photographic project, and you will find plenty of inspirational quotes along the way!

http://rich-full-life.com  I find myself laughing out loud when I read these posts!

http://shesamaineiac.com  Another happy-place that keeps me on a steady chuckle-mode!

http://lesleycarter.wordpress.com  If you haven’t been here before, this is a great down-to-earth place for travel and general ‘getting your game on’ inspiration.

http://searunner.wordpress.com  I live vicariously through these traveling photo-posts.

http://irisinteriors.wordpress.com  This designer shares fabulous examples of decorating your interior personal spaces in your own unique style.

http://makinglifepretty.wordpress.com  More super DIY ideas for making your world beautiful and not breaking the bank to get there!

http://joyandwoe.wordpress.com  For more fun and hilarity in the world of Mom-blogs, this is a gem of a read!

http://aimsphotos.wordpress.com  Enjoy browsing through Amy’s warmly expressive portfolio of photographs… 

http://maplemousemama.com  When I need to go to my Disney happy place, this is a great place to start! 🙂

Have a wonderful weekend!!!

Forty Years of Video Games

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Summertime blues and boredom have gotten me surfing the web for ideas on how in the world we can get out of this house and explore something new and exciting.  We live in this vibrant area – in one direction you have Washington, DC, then drive north and you run into Baltimore, Maryland!  I grew up in Virginia, and there are still places I haven’t seen in this metropolitan mecca.  So with a Saturday of rest under our belts, we decided to head to the museums in the city after church.  It was a late start, but it was a tad spontaneous — I mean, we did go home and change out of our ‘Sunday’s best’ after all — yet it still qualified as an adventure!

A classmate had mentioned that the Smithsonian Museum of American Art was showing “The Art of Video Games” exhibit through September.  It wasn’t a mind-numbing electronic device — no, no… it was a trip to the museum disguised as a video game!  This was perfect!  So the, “What? We have to go walk around in the heat to boring museums?” morphed into, “Cool!!!  Are we there yet?”  It was magical…  I was even a little excited about it myself.  One area of graphic art that I have been intrigued by is 3D gaming animation.  I was able to get some introduction to creating a 3-dimensional space in my last summer course, but I would like to delve deeper into that virtual arena… especially with its dynamic rate of innovation!  I feel like Marty McFly hanging onto the bumper of technology with sparks shooting out from under my skateboard!  Well, if you think that last reference dates me, take a look at where the genesis of video gaming began with me… That’s right, “Era 1″… bring on your “Pac Man”, the “Space Invaders” and “Break Out!”  Those were the days, alright… when the characters were subtle and the audio was muddled.  Fast forward thirty years, and I am watching my children flailing their arms about while bringing their Miis to life in a virtual game space.  I wonder what the next 30 years will bring… Will we be installing a Holodeck in our basement for our grandchildren?  Fortunately, we’re not there yet, so I have time to savvy myself up to speed with the young-un’s and to jump into this genre of illustration.

While the exhibit was a fun stride down memory lane, it was much smaller than we anticipated.  Three virtual stations were available to people who wanted to showcase their gaming skills in public, with a loOong line of hopeful players watching on.  There were probably three small rooms with video interviews sporadically mounted throughout the exhibit — none of which I was able to hear well with the crowds.  So the obvious lesson learned here was, don’t visit on the weekend unless absolutely necessary… and if it IS the only time you can go, try to get there when it first opens.  For the homeschoolers & parents of younger children:  WARNING… I will advise you to move along quickly past the huge hypnotic wall of multiple screens.  As I was standing there trying to snap a visually interesting photograph, I was dismayed by the images of a topless women at the hub of this digital display that appeared rather suddenly (and then lingered) in the looped video sequence.  I felt that was inappropriately projected considering the target audience for video games, but I will stay off my soapbox for the moment.  At the end of the day, I would not recommend heading into DC specifically to see this exhibit, which we found to be somewhat underwhelming.  We felt that the potential to show 40 years of technological gaming evolution was underachieved.  On the upside, the kids enjoyed seeing all the different displays of games and listening to narratives through the phone tours.  Additionally, there are other engaging exhibits in the museum, and blocks of attractions to enjoy all over the city.

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!

Project 2: Less is More, More or Less…

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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.

So I poured my coffee, pulled the cobwebs off my sketchbook, sharpened my pencil and got into the zone… ahhh yes, welcome home…

I love the details… finding all of the curves and grooves to convey through a drawing… thinking about how I will be able to eventually simplify shapes and forms… okay, remember, no grayscale.  No worries, that should be easy enough. Just need to show the blurry reflection on the rubber handle… but no grayscale… um, okay, stick to the shapes… no that’s not right, maybe try this… I’ll come back to that, let’s go back to my happy place of details. Wow, there is a LOT of detail in this nozzle, why did I choose this thing anyway???  (insert deep cleansing breaths here)

“Hey, Mom, why did you draw our hose?!”

“Because it’s visually interesting, and because I LOVE A CHALLENGE!…”

(Breathing… relaxing… sigh)  “No GRAYscale!  AHHHHHH!!!…                                                                                                                 Okay, I’m already committed here, let’s turn up the music and move on… simplify the details and everyone’s happy…

So then I thought the easy part would be outlining and blackening.  That took a lot more planning than I initially imagined… what an eye-opening process this turned out to be!  I had to re-think how to conceptualize this nozzle. I had to look at it in a totally different way than I would in my normal sketching mode, and then I would start seeing double when I was working in just the black and white.  Experimenting with swapping the positive and negative  elements in each image proved to be much more difficult than originally anticipated, as well.  I had to un-think my visual cues and focus on the simple shapes.

In between my work sessions, I began to notice every day objects in a new and simplified way.  What were the prominent and identifiable shapes embedded in each object?  Logos take on more meaning to me in this perspective… fascinating.

So here are my 6 snippets up for review… Next up, learning Illustrator for Part B!