process

Hot Pink Recap

Let me tell you the story of one amazing day. A lifetime ago (or a very short while, depending on your perspective), I had my very first solo art show.

I was half-assing my way through organizing the show till Tess McCann stepped in to offer her assistance. I would mark that as the most significant turning point in my art career to date (and of course, Tess is now my agent).

From there it’s been… I dunno, would it sound pretentious if I said it “a journey of self-discovery” ?

Anyway.

We’ve spent the last year and a half experimenting and learning about art shows and art marketing, and we’ve met some incredible people along the way. And all the things we’ve learned got applied to the latest extravaganza, Hot Pink .

Now, Hot Pink has its roots in two sources: a suggestion from Alex Stewart last summer that we do a pin-up girl show together, and a request from Tess the summer before for a hot pink painting of a dancer.

Everything just gelled from there. Putting this show together was almost effortless, apart from the labour in actually creating the art itself. Many people stepped in to help promote the show, offer suggestions and their encouragement, and lend a hand in many ways.

But wait . I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Let’s backtrack. Friday night, Feb. 22. Team Hot Pink gathered at imagemaker photographic studio to hang the show. I wore my toolbelt, because I’m told it makes me more popular with the ladies:

Alex brought along some stunning pieces. I’d been following their progress for months via social media, but it was my first time seeing most of them in the flesh.

(I brought along a few pieces of my own, of course.)

And in no time at all the entire show was hung, the pizza eaten, and beers drank. Waking up to sunshine the next morning was a nice omen.

And just like that, the Big Day was upon us:

You may have noticed the beautiful Hot Pink button in that last pic. It comes courtesy of Annie Friesen, the proprietor of Dottie’s Buttons . In addition to that button, Annie is now selling others that feature my artwork and Alex’s. We’re pretty pleased to have her on the team.

In addition we had a major contribution from Candice Roach’s Love Your Cake business. Another great local company run by a good friend. And her cakes are mindblowing to see (or to eat, for that matter).

My latest paintings were a hit. Several of them were sold before the show even happened. Here are the ones I’m particularly proud of:

Aside: Agent McCann and I also donated a painting to a fundraiser by our friends at the HiVE called An Evening of Debauchery . Full of inappropriate dirty jokes, politically-incorrect comedians, burlesque performers and an artist with a… unique approach to painting, the event was held to raise money for a non-profit business incubator. In the end the painting went to Nelu Oncel, who was patient enough to let us keep the painting for a few more days so it could still be in Hot Pink.

Alex and I also collaborated on two pieces, which is probably the creative highlight of my year so far. I started one piece that he finished, and vice versa. An incredible experience, and one I learned a lot from. Hopefully there’ll be more joint efforts from us in the future.

And from there, things just… rolled . Many excellent friends showed up, both old and new. These pics should give you an idea of how it went:

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At midnight we wrapped things up, exhausted. Took the party to several other locales, and in the AM we were back to tear everything down. By that afternoon you’d never know there’d even been a show.

So thanks to John Carter, Sarah Merris, Kimli Welsh, Steve Kinsey, Jeremy Ball, Amanda West, Jamie Presley and Meghan Low, Vicky Hames, Meghan Kilner, George Smeltzer and Lori Kittelberg, John Bell, John Watson, Alex Stewart, Jon Crewe, Jaime Lee Purgavie, Aimee Vuilleumier, Lyndsey McEwen, August Wiled, Chantal Michaud, everyone who wore pink to support the cause, and the incomparable Tess McCann, who once again deserves a huge round of applause for everything she’s done for me.

Photos courtesy of John Watson, Tess McCann, Alex Stewart, Heather Prost, Cathy Browne, Christy McNeil, Scott Graham, and Bret Taylor.


I’ve mentioned this before, but I picked up a nice little sketchbook from Zequenz back in the spring, and I take it with me whenever possible. I like documenting simple, cool little things when I’m visiting friends, or in a restaurant, etc. It’s become a visual diary to mark little events (and big ones too, I guess). Very nice smooth-finish paper in it, and the book will fold flat when you open it, which is nice for both drawing and scanning.

It also keeps me drawing on a regular basis, which is crucial. I’ve found over the past couple months that it’s really helped crystallize my drawing style. This actually caught me by surprise, because I’ve never really tried to find a specific style.

And yet, it seems to be happening, and it feels damn good.

Not long ago we were barbecuing at a friend’s place, and I saw a wooden giraffe that I just had to draw:

I definitely want to pursue more art along these lines.

And then just last week I was hanging with some other friends, watching Misfits on Netflix and pigging out on Wendy’s. At some point I looked around for something to draw, and saw an Imperial Stormtrooper helmet. These are pretty ornate pieces of design work, so there were some minor challenges to drawing one.

But I like how this turned out, and it was probably only 10-15 minutes’ work:

Stormtrooper

More to come in the future.


Unless you’re a newcomer to this site, you probably know that I recently completed a thousand consecutive days of art. Every one of those days, from January 1/2010 – October 1/2012, I drew and/or painted, without fail.

One thousand days.

As time went on, the numbers actually began to mean less and less to me. Because it was really about the journey, of course. About what I learned, where I went, how I changed.

The past few years have been challenging, to say the least. Apart from the financial hardships of the recession and its aftermath, one thing I’ve been struggling with is the lack of structure in my life (I’m a freelancer, by the way). So the added benefits to this extended art experiment are just that – structure, purpose, direction.

For a long time people were asking me what I planned to do on the final day. I considered several options, because I wanted to do something momentous. But in the end these options fell through, so I decided that the best course of action would be…

… Business as Usual.

After all, I had a show to prepare for. Paintings to finish, logistics to be sorted out, all sorts of promotional work to do. Putting on an art show is no small task.

So when I got up that morning, I did a quick little sketch, just in case:

That way if the sun exploded or we got invaded by zombies, at least I could still say I reached the 1000th day.

(Fortunately they didn’t. But hey, you never know.)

After that it was back to the metalflake dinosaur paintings. Since my T-Rex sketch from back in February was the central image in my upcoming show, I decided that finishing one of those pieces would be my best bet. And that just seemed fitting – it tied in with the show, with my calendar, and any number of other peripheral art ventures. Plus it was inspired in the first place by the person who’s made the biggest mark in my life during the Project – my Agent and former Muse.

So there you have it. One thousand days. I painted and drew a lot, I learned a lot, I sweated and bled, and I’m still standing.

Oh, and one more thing: I’m already working an art book based on the experience. Watch this space for further details.


Earlier today I was alternating between editing a picture and posting on Twitter, and things kinda went like this:

Just been doing some touchup on an illustration, and it prompted a question for my fellow artists (especially the ones whose rendering styles are relatively loose). If and when you’re cleaning things up, how do you decide which lines stay and which ones need to be edited or removed?

‘Cause y’know, I think about these things sometimes. Especially when I’m doing something that’s more mechanical than creative. Didn’t get a lot in the way of replies, but the one guy who did answer gave a nice, in-depth, nuts-and-bolts . (Thanks, Wes. Much appreciated.)

Anybody else have some feedback? What I realized about my own process is that every piece seems to have its own internal logic as far as style is concerned. Which only makes sense, given that I rarely work in the same style. How ’bout the rest of you creative types?


Okay, confession time: drawing is something I struggle with from day to day. Some aspects more than others – hands, for example, are a real bear. They’re gradually getting easier, but they still take a lot of work. Which doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given how complex the structure of a human hand is. Definitely one of those areas where practice is the answer. I also used to find hair pretty difficult as well, but not so much anymore. (Oddly enough, it was harder to draw back when I still had hair.)

In comparison, pulling a long, even, curved line in ink never gets easier for me. I’ve never had the steadiest hands for that kind of thing. Short lines aren’t a problem, so if you’ve seen me do something with lots of loose, sketchy lines, now you know at least part of the story.

Take this illustration for example:

I inked this today. The rough sketch was printed out at about 10 inches wide, and I inked over that. Now, knowing how tricky the linework can be, I got out my French curves, my oval template and my ruler, and I decided to just keep drawing through if something went wrong, rather than agonizing over something I could fix after the fact, and letting that derail the whole process.

So finally I got the linework finished and scanned, and then I spent a few hours on the details – smoothing out uneven curves, duplicating repeating elements like the louvers, and just general touchup. Probably spent almost as long cleaning up the illustration in Photoshop as I did drawing it in the first place.

This is often a dilemma on my part, of course. On one hand I’m tempted to draw the stuff fairly small, so it’s easier to get smooth curves. But then the gaps between the lines fill in, and I can’t use reduction to clean things up.

On the other hand, if I draw it large I have to freehand all the lines, because none of my French curves and oval templates are big enough.

I guess it’s largely a matter of what sort of touchup I want to do. Do I fix a lot of little, niggling details, or do I use Bezier curves in Photoshop to fine-tune the bigger areas of the lines? By now I’d likely have hit upon the optimum procedure, if I didn’t work in so many different styles.

Something to consider in the future, I guess. Not like my hands are magically gonna get less shaky.

Thanks for listening, everybody. What aspects of drawing trouble you?


I thought, just for the hell of it, that I’d do an overview of my creative process for the blog. Hopefully this won’t come across as too egotistical; I’ve always been intrigued by other people’s methodology. I won’t get too nuts-and-bolts about the whole thing, though, ’cause I think that might make your eyes glaze over. Without further ado, then, this is for all you process junkies:

First off, I’ve got a bar in my livingroom (built it myself, yes I did), that quickly got pressed into service as a drawing table/studio. It’s a big, flat, extremely solid surface, and it’s got lots and lots of booze in it.

(Also, the light is really good during daylight hours.)

The digital part of my work gets done on the computer from which I’m currently typing – 24″ iMac, 4 gigs of RAM, 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo – plus an Epson Stylus Photo R320 printer and an ancient Epson Perfection 1250 scanner. I keep thinking the scanner’s on its last legs, but I’ve been thinking that for at least three years now, and it still takes a licking and keeps on ticking. I’ve gotten several thousand scans out of it to date – not bad for a $175 scanner with a $25 mail-in rebate.

The ideas, though – those just pop into my head unsolicited, for the most part. It’s almost rude.

But seriously, I learned a long time ago to let my subconscious do the heavy lifting. As long as I feed my subconscious well – stuffing it full of sensory output, basically – the creative part of the process is probably the easiest. Years ago I was given a blank hardcover book, and I stuck all my loose thumbnails and PostIts into it. (There are hundreds of still-unused ideas in the book by now.) Looking through the book is usually enough to jumpstart the process. Not an entirely efficient method in terms of time and money, but from the perspective of pure creativity, it works like a charm. And it only recently occurred to me to do the same for my graphic design work, but it’s already starting to pay off.

The gist of all this is, you’re trying to train your brain to do a lot of the work while you’re not even conscious of it. If you keep pointing your subconscious in the right direction, eventually it’ll go there without being told. Example? In 2008 I made a point to paint every day, even if only for a few minutes. The payoff was that painting was always on my mind, so a lot more creative ideas were generated. (I’m doing it again this year, hopefully.)

So in a nutshell, then – set yourself up a dedicated workspace if you can, keep a sketchpad or notebook with you at all times, and above all else, feed your head.

Also, whiskey.


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