I designed two stickers recently, both based on real dogs.
The first was for a local dog groomer.
This one was a fun challenge. The dog, Penny, needed to be driving the shop’s trademark Econoline van. In real life, Penny is quite small compared to the van, so I would need to scale her up without making her look like a different dog.
The second was for a bike frame.
This one was just a head. I wanted it to be graphic and adaptable — thick lines, simple color variations.
The line quality between the two sticker designs is very different, as you can guess. Penny is much more “storybook” and the bike dog is more like a stamp.
Between the two, I can’t decide which I enjoyed working on more.
I liked the sunglasses dog for its simplicity and satisfying, chunky lines. I enjoyed exploring Econoline vans and figuring out the right scale for the two elements.
I think both of them are distinctively whimsical in their own way, and each convey their own personalities.
We’ve all seen those beautiful Moleskine sketchbooks, leather covers, brimming with flawless drawings, not a single page torn out in shame. Then there are folks who scribble on napkins and loose leaf printer paper — low pressure media. Most of us probably sit in the middle of this bell curve.
For us, our sketchbook is not a portfolio, and we would regret leaving it on a cafe table. Some of us are quite choosy about who gets to look at which pages. A peek behind the scenes is a peek into the mind.
For the longest time, I didn’t trust my process.
I remember my mom shooing me out of the kitchen while she was cooking. [Note: I am certain this was for safety reasons, and not out of any concern that I would judge her ability to chop tomatoes.]
Most people don’t like to be watched, and certainly not when they’re making something. Even if you’ve done it a hundred thousand times before — as soon as you feel eyes on you, you get the feeling that this will be the time you blow it.
It was something I wanted to shake off.
Last year, I started recording time lapse videos of my watercolor paintings. It was a great way to get used to showing people my process. It helped me to understand my own work, and I could delete the footage if I didn’t want to share it. Best of all, every decision looks so much more confident in fast-motion. People loved seeing these videos. Their enthusiasm gave me just enough confidence to take the next step. I dedicated a hashtag to these watercolor portraits.
I signed up for a total of 7 events this year, and I made drawings on the spot, in front of people, at all of them. Not only have I stopped worrying about people seeing my process — I’ve come to really enjoy it.
Trust your lines
Of course, it’s one thing to share a video of the last 30 minutes of a painting condensed into one minute. Going from a blank page to a finished product — in real time — is a different beast entirely. You need to be able to trust your lines.
I’ve always loved drawing animals, and I especially love dogs. I know all about just about every kind of dog. I’ve worked with dogs. I know how they move, how they think, and which way the fur lies across every plane of their body. I know, without a shred of doubt, that I can draw a dog.
That’s lucky for me for two reasons: dog owners like art of their dogs, and dog owners are very sweet people.
Going into this, I knew my process to be messy. I work very loosely, relying on gesture drawing to construct the form. If I try to work slowly, there’s no life in my lines. Things get too stiff. But I worried that a gestural drawing wouldn’t be taken as seriously as something with more polish.
I quickly learned that, if the drawing expresses their dog, people are thrilled. Besides, it’s a fast drawing at an event, not vector art. Dogs are lively, my lines are lively — it’s actually a perfect fit!
There have been so many lessons like that. Reminders to get out of my own head. My process isn’t even as messy as I had imagined.
I enjoy working with ink. No eraser means you live with your mistakes until you realize they weren’t so bad after all. I love seeing the construction lines, too. Sometimes they’re more true than the finished ones! That was definitely a strength — I could move more quickly and confidently.
The more caricatures I did at these events, the more positive feedback I got, the more experience I gained, the more I realized something:
It’s not about the process at all.
It’s about the friends you make along the way. It’s hokey, alright? But look, it’s that connection with people. You’ve made a thousand drawings, and it’s become routine for you. But when you let people, non-artists, see behind the curtain, they will be mystified by what they see. They see this as a kind of magic.
I’m not saying we have to feel comfortable opening our sketchbooks to the world. I just think that, if we did, it might not be as terrible as we imagine.
And when it comes to drawing in front of people: If the final product is great, nobody cares how you chop the tomatoes.
Do you like art-related babble? I’m trying something new in 2020. The Artful Armadillo Newsletter! It will only go out 4 times a year. First edition drops January 1st. It will contain a secret word that you can say when you see me next year to get free goodies! Sound like fun? I’m excited. Sign up here.
The Huntington Beach Art Center is showcasing local artists again! The show has been up since January 26th, and will close on March 9th.
Opening night was wonderful, as I have come to enjoy meeting and connecting with my fellow local artists. There are so many styles and mediums at this show, there really is something for everyone. My personal favorites include a pelican quilt by Linda Sackin, a colorful circuit-board-type piece mixed media collage by Eva Altmann, and an abstract swirl called “Color Go Round” by Larry Wallace! The art isn’t just on the walls, either – there are inventive metalwork pieces and lots of fiber arts (for which I have special affection) to enjoy.
The cherry on top of all this is that my print of “Arrival at Emerald City” sold before I even saw it on the wall! If my other piece, “Davie for Adoption” sells, I plan to donate that money to the HB Humane Society, where Davie currently resides.
I created this series of illustrations to briefly summarize the scope of services this business provides. The assignment was to walk customers through “a day in the life” of a dog at their location. From that prompt I came up with the storyboard, characters, color palette, and overall design. I also wrote it, but I’ve covered the words here.
The turnaround on this was tight, so I kept colors minimal. Bare bones backgrounds and unfussy brushes kept it spontaneous without sacrificing neatness.
I drew these frames from a video I took of a very happy dog I was walking.
I keep a sketch pad on my desk for when my computer hangs up, and this week it hung up quite a bit (I’ve been asking a lot of it lately). So I worked on this sporadically, since pencil and paper never hangs up or needs more RAM. Relaxing too, made the time pass quickly until I could get back to work! It’s 12 frames and the timing was all guesswork, as I’ve never made an animation on paper like this.
This year, I finally did it! I made an ink drawing for every single day in October. Thirty-one unique drawings with my trusty crow-quill pen (and one in ball point). I’m so proud! I only fell behind twice during the very last week.
Using the “official prompt list” by Jake Parker, I [mostly] based each drawing on events and dogs I’ve seen at my various dog-related jobs. It was the structure I needed to stick with the challenge!
They’re all up on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. If you’re reading this much later though, save yourself some scrolling and look below.
These are my top six favorites:
All thirty-one (in reverse chronological order):
I even tried a little animatic. Be advised: do not watch this if you are eating!