31 July 2009

Making Watercolor Paint Itself

Before I went away with my family, I had picked up a book on watercolor technique. It's called How to Make a Watercolor Paint Itself by
Nita Engle

Though I'm not anywhere near capable of painting what this woman can, I can't say I'm completely enamored with all her paintings, just some of them. The ones with striking contrast and beautiful gradations look nicest to me.

But it's her technique that made me buy the book. Rather than using brushes to make the paint go where she wants it to be, she uses water. Through spraying or using a fine-tipped squirt bottle, she somehow gets these amazing results. And it looked like a lot of fun to try, so try it I did.

What I learned really fast is you go through a lot of paint, and you need to have thought ahead and designated a container for all the runoff from your paintings.

Here are my first attempts at it. It's easy to overspray and end up with really washed out (yet salvageable) paintings, like this:

But if you luck out, sometimes you get nicer things like this:

There was this one, which wasn’t too bad until I ruined it:

I started with wave exercises because they seemed like the easiest to do, but threw in a foliage and pouring experiment later.

If I can better understand the way the water reacts when all these different variables come into play, it’ll make this less trial-and-error and slightly more predictable. But that’s easier said than done. I think a lot would be demystified if I could see a video of Ms. Engle painting, but to do that I'd have to buy her DVD.

Still, I like trying to paint this. The next good rainy day I get I’m pulling the paints out again.

Along the Way

I notice a lot of interesting things in my travels. Typically speaking, my travels don’t take me far at all, but I’m always on the lookout for unique roadside things wherever I go. It’s true my heart belongs to diners first, but there are all sorts of other oddities to appreciate out there.

Like this for instance.

It looks like any small car dealership on Rt. 21 in Newark, but the layout of the place and the small size of the building makes me want to believe that this was formerly a drive in eatery. There’s another one further west on this road that I have the same suspicion about, though I’ve been unable to photograph it so far.

Then there are scenes like this. I call it “Sprawl: 1950, 2002”.

I swear I’ll get a better composed shot of this, but I can’t always get the right seat or weather conditions for it when I take the train. The reflections in the photo are there because it was shot through the train window, and the interior of the car is lit.

On a longer and more exciting trip, I snapped the following photos from a moving car (don’t worry, I wasn’t driving).

Forgotten Keys

Sometimes my animation exercises were just too ambitious for the time allotted, or in this case, too ambitious and slightly stupid.

Either way, there are usually some worthwhile drawings that get left in a pile collecting dust. While cleaning and organizing my room, I came across some forgotten assignments and decided to scan a few in. These are from a 3rd year exercise that I ended up scrapping completely. There were a ton of other drawings involved, but these are the keys from the set up for the “Note” assignment.

Not pictured is the second character, a zebra munching some grass. The lion sneaks up on him.

But the zebra just keeps on eating, unfazed.

The lion keeps trying.

Then he turns his back, scratching his arm.

There was more to this, but kind of loses steam from here on, so we’ll leave it at that.

30 July 2009

Fluff: Childhood Americana in a Jar

While walking through the food store the other day, I noticed something that hasn’t been in my kitchen cabinet for a long time: Fluff. So I bought a jar.

That’s when I realized how perfect the overall product design was.

The jar design has been in use since 1947, and the logo design looks like it hasn’t changed since about that time as well. That makes it awesome. (If the logo were redesigned today, they’d try to make it look edgy and hip. And then I’d cry a little.) I love the typeface, the painting of some Fluff on a spoon, and the stippled glasswork. The ingredients are listed right on the front (corn syrup, sugar, dried egg white, vanillin). And look, its overall red, white, and blue theme makes it patriotic!

Next to peanut butter, Fluff’s best compliment is a Ritz cracker. Seriously. Put Fluff on a Ritz, it’s amazing.