Tag Archives: Michelle Fitzurka’s Art

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!

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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!!! 🙂

I’m Just Warming Up…

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Michelle Fitzurka's Art

One of my better daily practice sketches.

Continuing my organizational mission in my studio, I found some charcoal sketches from a portraiture class I had enrolled in 10 years ago at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts — WOW, has it really been that long?!  At the time, I wasn’t really sure if I would be any good at drawing faces, but I wanted to give it a try.  As it turned out, I really loved this subject, and I realized that pencil sketching each day would open me up to clearer observations of the details and sharpen my skills little by little.  So now that I am gearing up for my Drawing class that begins in the Fall, I thought I would post a few of my favorites.   I decided to add a few of the smaller sketches that were a part of my daily practice routine, as well.  This is a conscious reminder that I need to get that drawing pad out again for my down times… Did I really write that?  I am a mother of 4, there are no downtimes!!!  So in Momspeak, that is to say that I need to carve some time into my quiet hours ~ which equates to the time that the children are in bed sleeping, and when I probably should be doing the same.  But who has time for sleep when there are creative conquests on the horizon!  These are the moments when you recognize that you are doing what you were created to do.  You are recharged with a second wind of passion that drives you into the wee hours of invigorating process until you reluctantly surrender to your pillow.  With a breath of fresh morning light your workscape beckons to you… ahh yes, THIS is my Fitztopia…

A quick sketch of Gandalf emerging out of my fascination
with “Lord of the Rings” when the first movie was released.

Exploring various exposures of light in the studio with charcoal.

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!