The OwlCat Art Studio

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The music of Middle-earth

Hey all, sorry for my silence since Halloween.  I hope it was a great holiday for everyone.  🙂  A few weeks ago I was taken somewhat by surprise when a good buddy got me in touch with his friend Aaron Dunn, creative entrepreneur behind a musical project: The Silmarillion Symphony.  Take a look and a listen, it’s really lovely.  The album will release on November 12 — that’s right, in FOUR days!

At any rate, Aaron asked me to illustrate the album cover and I was really excited to get on board with the project.  I really enjoy the world that Tolkien developed.  I’m a huge fan of The Hobbit (don’t ask me my feelings about the movies) and The Lord of the Rings.  If you haven’t read the books, I really deeply recommend them.  I was happy for an excuse to start reading The Silmarillion (any excuse to read!).  If you aren’t familiar, the book is a collection of stories mostly relating the origins and creation of Middle-earth and its people.  I’m enjoying it a lot so far.

Here’s the album cover I designed:

The trees of Valinor

The trees of Valinor

 

Sorry about the watermark.  Anyway, the tree on the left is Laurelin and the one on the right is Telperion.  In the middle is one of the lamps of the Valar (either Illuin or Ormal).  The sea is pretty significant in the early history of the world and the elves especially.  I used watercolor and some gouache on mat board, if you want the specifics.  It was a really fun project and it’s nice to do some commissioned work.  It was also a pleasure working with Aaron, so if you enjoy Tolkien, music, symphonies, awesomeness, great literature, inspiring music, nice album art, etc. please consider buying (pre-order is available) a copy for yourself.

 

I’ll try to update on other projects this coming week.  🙂  Until then, have a great weekend!

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An activity for the season

Happy October!  Don’t you just love the Fall?  It’s my favorite season, and host to my favorite holiday: Halloween!  While we were in Korea, I had the happy opportunity to draw up some coloring pages for our students as an activity during the Halloween Party we hosted.  I’m happy to continue that habit by sharing some pages over the course of this month.  First up, two pages a lot of my students would recognize:

Color me!

An Autumn Owl

 

Candy, please!

 

I’ll be putting up more printable pages over the next couple of weeks, so check back soon!  Requests?  Hit me up!

 

 

 

Art you can cuddle

Hey all!  So, squishable.com, if you’re not familiar, is a delightful website full of great and adorable stuffed animals.  My fiancée and I own three, naturally.  😛  Something else wonderful that they do is their Project Open Squish, which allows anyone to design their own squishable.  Eventually, the design goes up for vote on the website and through the grand democratic process (and its social-media charged biases), they determine a new design that they go on to produce as a real stuffed toy, for sale on their site.  The artist gets some money as well as the stuffed version of their design.

THAT’S not even the sales pitch!  At any rate, back in December I sent them a design of my own.  My delightful fiancée Thomas wrote up the flavor text.  Just yesterday it went live for the voting process and I’d just be tickled if it won.  Of course, I’m not asking for votes.  It really shouldn’t be a popularity contest (not that I’m terribly popular).  But here I am to encourage anyone reading this to take a look and, if you like it, vote.  It’s on a 1 to 5 point scale, so follow your heart.  You’ll need to make a login, but that’s free and easy if you don’t mind spending a couple of minutes.

Here’s the picture, so you can get an idea:
Squishable Puffin DesignTake a look and, if you think it would make a good cuddle-buddy for yourself or any of your favorite people, please take a minute to vote.  Here’s the link one more time:  https://www.squishable.com/opensquishp/opensquish_puffin_29030/

Thanks, everyone!

Back to the “drawing board”

(The title is a pun!  Great, right?)

All right folks, so I went to Korea for two years.  I then traveled across Europe for over a month.  I’m engaged to the awesomest guy.  Let’s get this art train moving again, okay?

 

Not to sound unprofessional, I’m just excited.  While I’m hunting for decent job opportunities, I can commit a lot of good hours to getting an updated portfolio together and putting myself out there as an artist.  For all intents and purposes, “there” will be the internet for now.  I’m looking forward to sending things to publishers, but in the meantime I have things going on with squishable and deviantArt.  As a bit of an experiment, I’m going ahead and making some prints available on the latter.  PR is not one of my stronger suits, but I need to get back into networking with the people that are interested in art.  This is exciting.

Step one:  keep up on the website, including putting up work-in-progress sketches etc. on at least a weekly basis.

Step two:  go through my deviantArt account and ditch some of the old pictures that no longer represent myself or where my art is.

Step three:  Illustration!  My fiancee is a delightful writer of childrens’ stories and I’m going to start there.  Even if publishers opt out of the whole package (I think it’s well worth publishing, but I acknowledge that we’re in a tricky market right now), the artwork will still be great for my portfolio.

Step four:  Vast success.

Wow, when I break it down like that it looks so simple!  😉

New York City, and where things stand

So, clearly, I did NOT update obnoxiously often (or indeed, at all) at the end of January.  Turns out all that travelling and adventuring and conferencing and travelling actually keeps a gal pretty well occupied.  First of all, it was a fantastic experience overall.  I can’t tell you how much I needed a chance to get out of town and a solo adventure to the city that never sleeps was really invigorating in a lot of ways.  I won’t go into too much detail.  If anyone’s interested, I’d be happy to devote a whole post or two to the trip in general or the conference in particular, but for now, let’s try to see the big picture.

New York City was AWESOME.  And comfortable, despite my concerns.

The SCBWI Conference was…. a conference.  I don’t regret going to it, but I also can’t say that I really got anything from it.  It was a worthwhile experience, but I don’t feel like I got any better (and certainly not any more personal) input than I’ve gleaned from their website and other member resources.  Considering the price tag, and how long they’ve been doing this, I feel a little dissatisfied.  So.  Unless they make some serious changes, I don’t have any intention of going to another one of their big conferences.

That said, I definitely still intend to pursue illustration.  And I definitely intend to visit NYC again.  Maybe regularly.  It’s pretty rad.  Illustration though, I don’t think I’m done with it.  I have a lot of problems with the whole industry, and maybe that’s not something I’ll ever be able to influence even a little bit, much less on a larger scale… but as long as I’m doing artwork that I think is worthwhile (and certainly, the process is worthwhile to me at least), then there’s nothing I’d necessarily change.  I talk (usually as a monologue, embarrassingly not always an internal one) about my conflict as to whether I should be applying myself as an illustrator or as a fine artist.  The conflict though, is that I think the two should overlap more than either industry is comfortable with.  Fine Artists want to feel high-minded about their supposedly technique and high-concept driven results, while illustration seems to cater more and more to graphic design standards.  And I’m not making any claims that either philosophy is wrong.  It’s the market, to some degree.  My problem is that they’re each so exclusive, or they think they need to be.  Once upon a time, illustration happened to be fine art.  And, even today, fine art is applied in an illustrative context.  A LOT, actually.  So I have trouble grasping why it’s so complicated to be a fine artist that happens to be applying herself in illustration endeavors. 

Well, maybe that’s neither here nor there.  My point is, I’m going to keep making art.  Maybe someday it’ll mean something to someone other than myself, but it’s enough that it’s important to me.

The conference had one illustrator-specific activity: a showcase.  You could pay some extra money and have one artwork featured (along with 200 other featured artworks) for art agents and publishers and publishing professionals to check out during some shmooze they were involved in.  Thank goodness for externally-enforced deadlines. 

I finished Empty Promises just (JUST) in time to take it along with me (miraculously it survived the entire trip).  It’s watercolor (and a few touches of gouache) on watercolor board.  The watercolor board was an interesting experience.  Dense enough that it handled what would otherwise have been some disastrous wash effects.  However the density made drying time really peculiar and letting it dry enough to do the fine (and generally drier) details was tricky.  I enjoy a challenge though, and it was great fun to work on.  I still hate trees.  And, settings in general, though I don’t feel awful about how it turned out.  It’s just not my strength.  I’m working on it.  I’m afraid the best image I have (here) is from a photo after framing.  I had to trim it down at the frame shop and didn’t have a good opportunity for photographing it sooner and it’s still too big for my scanner bed.  One of these days, I’ll unframe it to get a decent scan and maybe even do some prints of it.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ve got a few projects in the “pending” file, of course.  And I like the idea of going ahead with my portfolio plan, whether or not I stick with the children’s illustration angle.  So, one of them is a sea dragon.  I had that one doodled out ages and ages ago (after reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in fact).  Also, I doodled up a lazy siren hanging out on some rocks.  I might do that one in acrylic, more as a study than for any particular purpose.  The sea dragon will be watercolor, probably on another board… possibly with ink.  Not quite sure yet.  But I like having a few things basically ready for me to sit down and work on.  Sitting down and working on them is actually one of the hardest parts though. 

But I’m not worried.

And you shouldn’t be either. 

/ramble

A brief post…

… to prepare you all for some self-indulgent over-posting in the next week and a half.  The SCBWI conference is next weekend!!  It’s in New York City!!!  I’m attending!!!!! 

It’s pretty exciting, I guess.  There have been a few minor changes; for one thing illustrators will be able to wander through the art showcase as everyone’s picking up their art.  So that’s cool, originally we weren’t going to have that opportunity.  They keep fidgetting with the schedule though, which makes me unnecessarily nervous.  I should be more concerned with actually FINISHING something for the showcase rather than bothering myself about whether I’ll be able to drop it off at 9am or at 11am.  😦 

I’m a worrier. 

It’s a flaw that I’m working on, just have a little patience with me.

That’s it for now!  Nothing earth shattering clearly, just a heads-up.  I’ll be there.  It’ll be awesome.  I might update compulsively and obnoxiously about it.  I might videoblog it a bit too, I haven’t decided if that’s acceptably ridiculous or not.

Have a good night, world.

Eastward Momentum

Not that there isn’t always something new and exciting on the horizon… but let’s face it, most days (months?) that horizon just keeps receding before us, despite how fast we may run.  I can’t speak for everyone’s shortfalls in reaching their goals, but one of my biggest challenges is making and sticking to deadlines.  When you’re a perfectionist like myself you’re constantly conflicted by the knowledge that you can keep doing a certain project better than it already is.  … When you’re a procrastinator like myself, you’re certain that you’ll always be able to do it even better tomorrow.  It’s a vicious dilemma, curable only by getting sick of working on the project or when outside influences assert direction or expectations less wishy-washy  ambiguous dubious than your own (which, really, let’s be honest and call it wishful thinking).

So I’ve been talking about (if not working on) getting into illustration for a few years now.  I illustrated a children’s book from a small publisher over a year ago, but it’s way past time to move on to bigger and better things.  More specifically, I’d like to get together a strong portfolio to send out to the big-name publishers and, hopefully get onto a big-name project.  It’s a daunting process though, and I admit to having some reservations about the market, about my own intentions, about the best portfolio strategy to follow, etc.  Needless to say, I’m not quite a household name yet in the world of illustration, children’s or otherwise.  However!  The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI, if you don’t mind) has recently made some changes to their 2011 Winter Conference and the Illustrator’s Showcase would be just a fantastic opportunity to get some exposure and maybe even some work.  Even though the format won’t allow me to browse other artist’s work, I’d get to rub elbows with them and maybe make some industry contacts.  Possibly I’ll have enough of a portfolio put together to deliver it to a few New York Art Directors.  I would certainly adore their feedback, if nothing else.

Furthermore, frankly I just need an adventure.  New York seems like a good bet for that.  Travelling can be a great experience and maybe a trip like this (pseudo-business related, I thrive on structure!) will recharge my batteries for whatever’s coming next on my artistic journey.  I’m still working on the logistics of the whole venture, but I’m optimistic, and even if it all falls through I’m going to do my best to take advantage of whatever momentum I can tap in the process.

By the way, no, my retail jobs would not nearly cover this trip, I owe a great deal to my parents and their 25th birthday (+ Christmas + 26th birthday + next Christmas …) present of a chance to get out of town.  I can cover a bit, but their contribution is really the game changer that takes this from being a flight of fancy to being a plan in motion.

Art is as art does

Being a habitual daydreamer and multitasker, I’m never satisfied with any single occupation of my time and thoughts.  I spend a lot of my day mentally frivolous, designing my dinner or sifting through my life experiences as they occur to me (or, when I’m feeling indulgent, considering my future as a wildly successful artist).  But, unsurprisingly, I also spend a lot of time thinking about Art.  As much of this mental exercise takes place at either of my work places (one a print gallery, the other a custom frame shop), this is a very natural distraction.  It’s so easy to take art for granted though, and it really deserves a lot of consideration.  Art is all around us in a multitude of forms and formats, after all.  I have a lot of respect for art’s mundane functions, but my personal interest is more high-minded in general.

So what is art to me?  What is art to you?  It has a different meaning to each of us and speaks on different levels, sometimes through our personal experiences, sometimes academically.  As an artist, I have a lot of limits.  I strive, in general, to communicate an idea or a story.  So many artists strive instead to convey emotion, and I admire that a lot, but art is also what we take away from it, and I’m probably too insecure to feel comfortable putting my heart into a picture without glossing it over with representational, intellectually accessible figures that probably have more to do with who or how I want to be rather than who I am.  I intellectualize MY art, but when I’m in the right mindset I can appreciate other artists’ work for what it says to me rather than what the artist was necessarily feeling at the time.  This subjectivity is so vital (and perhaps more valid than objectivity) in human nature and culture that it can be hard to look out from our own viewpoint and understand that other people can have a radically different understanding of the same image (or book, or poem, or song, or dance, or what have you).

I’m not particularly involved in the Art world; I don’t live in New York or Santa Fe, I don’t keep up with what the latest post-modernists are thinking about doing… from my artistically isolated point of view it seems like the art world is made up of thousands of nations, each talking at each other about different things, and that everyone else is too busy talking over everyone else they don’t even realize they’re not speaking the same language.  There used to be art movement, and they were largely intellectually fuelled; artists discovering what art meant to them or to the average person.  They were discussing the meaning of art, both for itself and for the sake of expression in general.  It seems as though the Art In-Crowd is directionless and treading water lately.  Maybe history will disagree.

I don’t really have a point, I suppose, but I’m always curious to hear how other people feel about art.  How do you go about reading a picture?  Is your immediate feeling more important than understanding what the artist was attempting?  If you were the artist, would you have made the same choices?

In the works…

It seems like art has been on the back burner recently, but I’m happy to say that I have PLANS.  I always have lots of plans, actually.  I’m very much a planner.  A lot of artists can just sit down in front of an empty canvas and go to town on it, and more power to them, but I like to map out each project and have an idea of where I want it to end up, though I’m generally surprised to some degree by the end result.  So, despite my failure to finish big projects on any kind of regular basis, I can say with confidence that I’m always at some level of planning on at least three pieces. 

My next big project is going to be a new “Saint George and the Dragon” (my previous painting, based on Raphael’s design, shown on the Paintings page sold recently).  It’s going to be an acrylic, on 30″ x 40″ canvas, which may be the largest I’ve worked.  I may post some of my initial sketches at a later time.  At any rate, once I finish my color study for it I can get to work!  I’m optimistically hoping to get it done before October.  I say “optimistically” because I’m currently working two day jobs and life in general has been fraught with distractions.

After that, I’m in the composition phases for a painting on Perseus fighting the sea monster/saving Andromeda.  I’m in the later composition phases for Belerophon and Pegasus.  Also, I’m toying with a few other projects, which shall go unnamed at this time. 

In other news, there’s a gallery in town that features local artists and I’m going to be bringing in some work for them to display and hopefully sell.  To be fair, there are several galleries in town, but this one is a very convenient location for me and they also carry a wide variety of styles and over a dozen artists.  Some smaller galleries really limit themselves in the artists they carry and it can be difficult to get a foot in the door to display with them.  When I have more information, I’ll be sure to pass it along!

Commissions and etc.

I’ve finally updated the Commissions Gallery, please go check it out.   The occassion was called for by a recent project, my first acrylic painting in over two years, based on Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.  While I was never particularly struck by the book and I’ve no particular interest in montrous fish, the item was intended as a gift for an avid fisherman (also my brother-in-law).  And while the content of the picture wasn’t quite enough to get me excited, I’ll admit that I was psyched for an opporunity to try my hand at an ocean scene.  Living in Colorado, it comes much more naturally to get stuck on “dry” landscapes, and this was a welcome challenge.  I actually repainted both the sky and the ocean several times, but by the end I feel like I had a much better grasp on it and I’m really pretty pleased with the result.  The marlin looks pretty marlin-ish too, so that’s a bonus.

The Old Man and the Sea

Acrylic on 12 x 16″ canvas panel

 

In other news, I’ve constantly got a dozen or so projects on the backburner (I could fill a kitchen with ovens just for the backburners), so stay tuned for my next endeavor.

~KRH