I began Inktober 2017 with the goal of inking all my drawings with a dip pen.
I abandoned this plan on day one.
Something about the first drawing just didn't sit well with me, so I redrew it on a piece of scratch paper with a fat tipped Faber-Castell. The bold lines of the marker grabbed my attention, so I decided to attempt the month with a Pentel Pocket Brush instead of the dip pen.*
I also struggled to decide on a topic this year, so I sought the advice of my friend, Paula (of The Laughing Goat). She suggested I continue the theme I began on Art Drop Day (a drawing of Fiona the Hippo), but add Tajiri the Giraffe to the storyline.
Posts about Fiona, a premature hippo beating the odds, and viral videos of April, the ever expectant giraffe awaiting delivery of her baby, Tajiri, often gave me a pleasant break from the vitriol nature of the internet this year. Paula's idea seemed like the perfect way for me to participate with Fiona and Tajiri in interrupting the bitterness so prevalent in today's social media feeds.
I enjoyed adventuring with Fiona, Tajiri, and a brush pen(!) through Inktober, and am hopeful that my silly drawings gave a second or two of happiness to others this month!
Happy Halloween, everyone!
*The dip pen did make one other brief appearance on day 17 (corn maze) due to an unexpected ink outage in my brush pen.
Silhouetting is one of the main design principles I tried to follow in all my Occuclaytions' drawings. This principle states that if an image is blacked out, the character should still be readable. According to the Society of Visual Storytelling, the silhouette should emphasize shape and clarity, while also distinguishing a character's unique features.
I happened to catch a shadow of my film director mid-sculpt. This allowed me to check my progress against the silhouette principle. To my delight, he was entirely distinguishable in shadow form.
Clarity of design is critical in character identity. I intend to run this simple shadow test on all forthcoming sculptures to insure the highest level of readability.
Up next: a tommy gun toting varmint!
Horses are God’s reminder that artists are not, in fact, gods. If you’ve ever tried to draw one, I think you’ll agree. If you haven’t, grab a pencil and paper and you’ll see what I mean. If you still don’t believe me, try sculpting one in 3-dimensions. Clad it in bib overalls to remove all doubt.
Here are my attempts. I am happy with the results, despite my difficulties. Horses humble, sure, but maybe it’s humility, not execution, that makes us more like God in the end anyway.
Thanks for following along! Up next-a wolf in director's clothing!
I spent the first few months of 2017 preparing for my Occuclaytions project by working through SVS Learn's “Breathing Life into Your Character Designs” class. The sketches below are my attempt to abide by some of the principles I learned. Although I am miles from mastery, I can already tell the influence the class is having on how I think through a drawing, and, subsequently, how I sculpt.
Thanks for having a look! I'm on to sculpture number two, so stay tuned!
I find history deeply enchanting. While researching for my 1920s Vaudevillian character, George "Dutch" Williams, I would often get lost imagining what cities he might travel to on the circuit, what sorts of people might frequent his shows, what kinds of clothes those people might wear, where those people might work, etc. During this time, my Pinterest boards became inundated with black and white photos, my Pandora playlists were filled with ragtime and jazz inspired tunes, and I reread The Great Gatsby for the first time since college.
Rather than discarding these hours spent immersed in early Americana, I decided to delve a bit deeper. I've spent the last several months designing characters that might have populated Dutch's world. Each character is, like him, an anthropomorphised animal representing a particular occupation of the era. I'm calling the project Occuclaytions. Its underlying goal is character design, but at its heart, this project is my attempt to capture just a bit of the ephemeral exuberance that was the Roaring Twenties.
Until next time...
I posted one of my favorite sculptures-an acrobatic mole with musical feet-a year ago this month. He was inspired, in part, by this image drawn while watching the movie The Book Thief (in which an accordion plays a significant symbolic role). I didn’t, and still don’t, care for the drawing, but the accordion (later morphed into a concertina) reverberated in my imagination long after I shut the sketchbook.
Sometime after this, I read an article written by illustrator Joe Sutphin entitled, "A Cure for Head and Shoulders Syndrome." In it, Joe discusses budding artists’ tendency to draw characters straight on-portrait style, cutting off arms, legs, and any chance of a compelling story. According to Joe, no matter how well rendered a character may be, head and shoulders syndrome is a malady that must be treated.
I suffer from a slightly different strain of the syndrome. It isn’t arms and legs my sculptures sometimes lack; it’s just story. My first attempt to alleviate this condition came when I decided to build a character around that ubiquitous squeezebox. I took notes, consulted reference, sketched a few ideas, wrote a vignette, and then sculpted Vaudeville’s most highly celebrated mole, George “Dutch” Williams.
I’ve worked on several projects since then, but just like I couldn’t shake the inhale and exhale of the accordion from my imagination, I can’t shake the desire to create more story-driven pieces like Dutch.
It is, therefore, my goal to spend the remainder of 2017 doing just that. I’ve begun work on a project that will, hopefully, breathe life into 16 fully developed characters. If all goes according to plan, I will compile these creations into book form by year’s end.
I’m excited to get started, and welcome you to follow my progress via monthly blog posts and bi-weekly social media posts!
My Clay to Z project is complete!
I began this endeavor back in March. The first few letters came slowly, at a rate of about one sculpture per one to two weeks. Eventually, toward the end of summer, I found a rhythm that helped me achieve the project’s initial goal of increasing efficiency. I made 20 sculptures (including two commissions unrelated to the ABCs) over the last two months. September’s output alone trumped last year’s by three times!
As mentioned in an earlier post, Jake Parker’s “finished, not perfect” mantra played in my mind as I determined to finish all 26 letters before the Wilmore Arts and Crafts Festival on October 1st. I painted the final zebra stripe at 6:30am on the morning of the festival. As I looked at the finished, but definitely not perfect, final animal, I was reminded of a thought I had during the recent Summer Olympics: crossing the finish line isn’t always a pretty sight. Sure, Z isn’t that well executed, but it is executed, and I’m counting that as a win.
Now that I’ve finished Clay to Z, I’m going to take a short sculpting break. I’m casually participating in Inktober as a transition between this project and my next one. Starting mid-October, I’ll begin fulfilling rewards for Jonny Jimison’s recently funded Kickstarter campaign. Whim’s Workshop partnered with him to provide sculptures of his main characters from The Dragon Lord Saga graphic novel as prizes for supporters. Once I’ve completed those sculptures, I intend to begin work on some more character driven pieces. I’m looking forward to beginning that process, but as Clay to Z taught me…one letter at a time!
As of today, I am halfway through my Clay to Z project! I can already feel the wind in my hair as I begin descending the slope of this 26 part mountain! That, or this room is really drafty.
I began this project for several reasons. First of all, I wanted to fill my Etsy shop. I only had a few items ready for purchase when I launched earlier this year, so alphabetic animals originated as a way to build stock. I’m also participating in the Wilmore Arts and Crafts Festival in a few weeks, so I need sculptures to sell there, as well.
Secondly, Clay to Z was meant as a skills exercise. I am notoriously slow and needed a way to increase speed. This project is helping to alleviate some of my hesitancy. It’s teaching me to plan ahead, rely more on reference, and solve design problems in the moment. In addition to quickening my pace, I'm also practicing building more anatomically believable armatures.
Another reason I am continuing this project is that I’ve finally had enough of undone things in my life. I’ve been using Jake Parker’s mantra of “finished, not perfect” as a defense against perfectionism, procrastination, fear of failure, and my history of beginnings without endings. Making it to M gives me hope that painting the final stripe on the (spoiler alert) zebra will signify a new era of finishing what I start.
Onward to N!
I made the acquaintance of comic book artist, Jonny Jimison, through our mutual participation in The Rabbit Room community. After a few online encounters, Jonny commissioned me to sculpt Martin and Marco, the 2-dimensional stars of his graphic novel series, The Dragon Lord Saga. I worked from Jonny's detailed model sheets and read his first book multiple times to try to capture the particularities of each character. It can be difficult to translate an image from 2-d to 3-d, but I consider it an honor that Jonny allowed me that opportunity with his creations.
Please enjoy Jonny's comics and my sculptures on this recent post from The Rabbit Room!
George “Dutch” Williams burrowed his way onto the Vaudeville stage after years of working the night shift beneath the Orpheum Theater. He joined the circuit just days after resigning from the Talpidae Excavation, Co. Promoters capitalized on these working class beginnings, billing Dutch as “the ear to the ceiling with an eye for the big time.” A grassroots following grew out of these shows. Dutch’s popularity, paired with his musical acrobatics, eventually garnered critical attention. By the end of the 1920s, George “Dutch” Williams was the most highly celebrated mole to ever play Vaudeville.
My name is Jenny Dorf, and I’m a polymer clay sculptor...Read More