Shawarma: a contemplation of the marvels of modern life

Sometimes, I am struck by the notion of how very small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of the universe. The thought is both terrifying and intense. Sometimes, though, I think about the scale of my little slice of earth in relation to the rest of it, and the comparison is…surprising.

There are so many of us- of humans. So many people, in so many places, and each of us has a story and a future just as incredibly complex as your own. If you’re interested, the word you’re looking for to describe that feeling is sonder. On the surface, it seems like it should make you feel tiny and unimportant- you’re a speck, floating, with a billion other specks, through an infinite void of potential nothingness from and towards a great unknown. Look closer, though.


First, there’s the ‘six degrees of separation’ concept. The idea that any human being can be connected to any other human being through no more than six intermediate ‘degrees’ (other people, places, or some other general factor that the two subjects have in common). That makes things seem a bit bigger, doesn’t it?

Then, there’s the miracle of the age of computers. My sister is in England right now, and I had a conversation with her just a few hours ago. I have friends in other states and countries that I get to chat with pretty regularly, and I sell knitting bags to people in places like Norway and Australia. The post office makes my international shipping wonderful, too: Almost any country for just $6.55, so my international buyers love me. My association group spans several countries, and I’d like to think I influence those people at least a bit.

You probably want to know what got me thinking about this. I shall tell you. A few days ago, actually the first day after my cold when I didn’t feel like death warmed over, we went to a Mediterranean restaurant to get shawarma. For those of you unaware, there’s a scene in the Avengers where Tony tells Cap that they should get shawarma once they’re done fighting the aliens. He says “I dunno what it is, but I want some.”- then, the post credits scene is all the Avengers sitting around a table in the shawarma restaurant looking all tired and hungry. Exhibit A:

Shawarma end-credits scene

Shawarma end-credits scene

So, since our favorite Marvel superheros eat shawarma- so should I! As it turns out, shawarma is wonderful. It’s basically little meat morsels and some other things served on pita (and anything served on or with a pita is pretty awesome by default anyways). It’s like meat candy! Seriously, go try some shawarma.

The shawarma got me thinking- how incredibly wonderful it is that I can not only find out about other cultures and their foods, but that I can go out and find that food somewhere within driving distance. This, to me, makes the world seem like a pretty small, and also wonderful, place. If I want to try Indian, Mediterranean, Chinese, all I have to do is hop in the car.

I used to spend a lot of time thinking that I was born in the wrong decade. I should so have liked to have been around to witness the 20′s, the 60′s, and the 70′s. I would probably avoid the 80′s entirely, but also Victorian England, man. that would have been cool. The invention of swimsuits that went from your ankles to your shoulders. Yeah, I used to be really hung up on the way things used to be- but if I lived in the 20′s, I’d never have tried shawarma. I wouldn’t have been able to start a very successful business, or meet people from other countries. I actually probably wouldn’t be doing much at all because without modern medicine I wouldn’t be able to feel my arms right now. I’ve come to realize that I definitely belong right where I am- right now, in the present. This is where I can make the most difference, and where I can be the person that I want to be.

I do things like this sometimes- I’m reading in to the shawarma a bit too much, maybe. I love to think about things like this, though. It’s fun to have these little conversations with myself, and I hope I can make you think about some of these things. Maybe you have something to add. If you do, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


It’s easy to think of yourself as that insignificant speck, but then…well, then you start to think of yourself as insignificant and that is absolutely no good for any kind of self esteem. I love this modern world, I love how people constantly work to make connections with each other, to learn new things, and to create a better life for themselves and the people they interact with. I love that there is technology that makes these connections possible, and I love being a part of the movement.



PS: Next time, there’s going to be an update on the design side of things. I’ve been working on a lot of stuff lately, and things are starting to come together- stay tuned! There’ll be lots of pictures next time, to make up for the lack of them presently.



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August 15: The Void

There’s this bag of cookies I keep in my nightstand. I was looking at it yesterday, calmly enjoying a midnight snack, when I realized that the cookies expire in the same month that I graduate. I sort of panicked. We’re not measuring my education in years anymore, are we? We’re measuring it in the time it takes a box of cookies to expire.

I ate the last cookie, just now. What does that mean for the rest of my education?

It will help you to follow the rant that follows, if you have some kind of general outline of The Plan, so I suppose I’ll start with that. I graduate in May, as the cookies have told us, and two days later I’m shipping off to the UK for two weeks of exploration and cultural experience. Then, once back from there, I have a few days’ worth of lull before we’re off on a family road trip to Ohio to congregate with the rest of the family- at the end of which, I’ll be flying up to Maine to be the photographer for a summer camp for six weeks. This all ends on August 15th.

August 15th begins The Void. The day after which- to the best of my knowledge at this point in time- nothing else is planned. I’ll no longer have school, work, or any other obligations tying me to any particular place (besides relationships, which are obviously important, but they don’t make The Void seem any less big).

If any day were to signify my transition from kid to adult, August 15th is it. Hopefully, by the time The Void comes, there will be another plan in place, but for now it’s too early to tell. Plans have a tendency to change, anyways. Basically, my goal now is to stop The Void from opening up on August 15th, and I have between now and then to make that happen.

Then again, if nothing ever ended, then nothing would ever begin.

Here’s a beginning:

photo 1march

My realization of the existence of The Void happened late last week, over a batch of croissants. I was rolling 81 layers of butter between 82 layers of dough, when I realized that eventually, in the not-too-distant future, my life was probably going to be completely different than it is right now. Furthermore, if I wanted to have any control in the kind of different that it was, I had better start planning for it now.

photo 3march

I’ve started poking around for jobs, and the prospects definitely seem good- but it’s also become very apparent that the first real step in this process is going to be updating my portfolio. Who’s going to want to hire me if they can’t see what I’ve done, after all! I’ve started putting projects in Behance, which you can find by clicking in this general vicinity, and that’s gone surprisingly well already. I have a couple of followers already, and my thoughts on Compliments Paid By Strangers are already well documented, so we all know how I feel about this.

photo 2march

The general format of the Behance portfolio page also has allowed me to identify areas where my portfolio needs to be improved. Example: for a person who spends a lot of time thinking about digital illustration, there’s sure not a lot of it up there. Granted, this probably has a bit to do with my own impossibly high standards. I’m working on it, though. More projects will be posted soon, and then the real fun will begin. (Hint: There’s a section for fashion and costume design.)

Prom Dress

It’s occurred to me that this is the only photo I have of this dress. Problem? yes.

So- anyways. That’s where I am with the job hunting, news as it comes. Aric wanted to know how my stress level was yesterday. Despite acknowledging the existence of The Void, I am feeling pretty zen. I told him as much, too. There are a lot of things going right in my life at the moment- big things like the continuing success of the Etsy store, medium sized things like that right now I’m knitting a baby blanket from a historic Shetland pattern that my great great grandmother knit for my Dad before he was born, and also small things like that my new cap erasers are perfect and don’t leave unfortunate colored smudges everywhere. The Void isn’t succeeding in getting me down (if it’s even trying. Is it? I’m not the type to cower in the face of an adventure), and it would take a lot, I think, at this point to make that happen.

This may be a baby blanket pattern, but this is not a baby blanket. If a kid ends up with it in the future that's fine, but it's mine for the present.

This may be a baby blanket pattern, but this is not a baby blanket. If a kid ends up with it in the future that’s fine, but it’s mine for the present.

I’ve also shifted some of my time around so that, although I’ll spend fewer hours reading in the evenings, I can start working on some more portfolio-enhancing fun stuff. You’ll probably be seeing some more of that. If you build it, they will come!

Here’s one very important thing that I learned this weekend. Everyone knows the phrase ‘curiosity killed the cat’. I’ve never liked it, it just seemed so pessimistic and defeatist. The sort of thing you’d tell a kid if they wandered off one too many times. I learned, though, this weekend, that the whole phrase is supposedly “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.” I did a quick google, and couldn’t find any definitive proof that it first appeared with or without the second bit, but I certainly like it much better this new way. It fits, don’t you think? The only way for me to conquer The Void, after all, is to jump in and trust that I’ll land on my feet.

Go forth, my dears, and be curious! The Void awaits us all.

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The Semi-Annual Report

We’re sort of working on branding a company, which includes annual reports, in Capstone right now, and it’s really interesting to compare my ‘imaginary’ company and my ‘real’ company.

Hi. My name is Kat, and I run a business out of my bedroom.

When I started this whole thing, it was just an excuse to try and make money back for the exposure unit I desperately wanted (remember that?)

Kat's Exposure Unit

basement pictures, yay!

Basically, I wanted to be able to print t-shirts for myself, and I thought ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’- so I opened a store.

I won’t bore you with the details, except to say that it was a considerably more successful venture than I had originally intended. The end of summer came and went, and it sort of kept going.

At the end of last semester, I’d sold all but 7 of the original bags, and desperately needed more. So, over Christmas break this year, I cut, dyed, and printed approximately 200 more:

This is what a pile of approximately 200 not-yet-sewn-up project bags looks like. They take up considerably less space this way...

This is what a pile of approximately 200 not-yet-sewn-up project bags looks like. They take up considerably less space this way…

I reprinted some of the old designs (the post apocalyptic life skill print always sells quite nicely), and I also designed and printed two new ones. Here’s the first:

(also in pink and purple!)

(also in pink and purple!)

I shall save the second to show you for when they’re actually sewn together, because they’re prettier that way. I’m particularly fond of how this turned out, especially since those silly balls of yarn took way longer than they should have. I’m not exactly in a good line of work to be complaining about drawing balls of yarn, but seriously- one color vector illustrations of balls of yarn is really hard. If you’d care to stop by my little shop and see the other colors, you can do that here.

I spent a good part of Friday and Saturday sewing bags together, with some interesting consequences:

The only thing that could make this better is if I was buried in there somewhere...

The only thing that could make this better is if I was buried in there somewhere…

This, apparently, is what happens when you run a business out of your bedroom. All those bags seem like they don’t take up too much space until you actually lay them out. They grow, I tell you. They expand to fit the space they are given. There’s probably a new law of physics waiting to come out of the way these things behave. “The Law of Whether or Not Katherine is Taking Her Life In Her Hands As She Walks Across Her Bedroom”… I don’t even know what it’s going to be like once they’re all sewn together.

The most colorful of closet doors

The most colorful of closet doors

So that the drawstrings won’t tangle, I’ve draped them over my closet door according to color. It’s nice because it allows me to see how much I have done, but it’s not nice because it forces me to stare at how much is left to do. Also, I can’t close my closet door until I’ve sewn them all together. Incentive?

I find it helps to ward off the boredom of performing the same 5 steps over and over if one has a movie playing in the background, so after much deliberation I bought myself a copy of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and proceeded to wail along with the songs and make all of Magenta’s crazy faces along with her whilst I was sewing:

It's just a jump to the left!

It’s just a jump to the left!

Tim Curry, guys. That man is brilliant. The first time I watched it, I was pretty on board until the ending happened (I shan’t spoil it for those of you who haven’t seen it), after which I didn’t like it at all in the very least, and it took me a long time to watch it again after that. Then again, I also didn’t like Monty Python the first time I watched that, so clearly my opinions cannot be trusted.

Another thing that’s new with the shop is most certainly something I should have done a long time ago…



I don’t know how my shop survived six months before I made tags! I’m a vis comm major after all, the fact that I waited so long to do this is nothing short of disgraceful. Etsy doesn’t give you a lot of personalization space to work with, all I have is a little 75x700px header that I can put an image into, so my shop can’t really have that much branding. However, my hope is that the tags add a bit of a professional vibe, and also that they encourage return customers. There’s a coupon code on the back ‘for your next purchase’, along with care instructions (which are also printed on fabric tags inside the bags but who’s counting). There’s also space back there so that I can write the number and color name of the bag that the tag is attached to.

Action Shots! These were the first two bags to get shipped with tags attached!

Action Shots! These were the first two bags to get shipped with tags attached!

I wonder how many people will notice that there’s a little sheep in the damask pattern. It’s like a little secret in plain sight that I can share with the more observant masses :) Did you notice him there?

There are a lot of little alterations, much like the addition of the tags, that are important to make as one realizes that the shift from ‘This sounds like a cool summer project!’ to ‘Holy cow guys I have an actual business and there’s a demand for my stuff!’ happens. For example, when I started all this in June, my screen washouts occurred outside, which is just a terribly not-good idea when your store still requires restocking in January. With the help of a very friendly powwow of home depot employees, however, I discovered a way to attach the pressure washer to the shower in my parent’s bathroom. Thus, indoor screen washouts could occur!

Along with the cold, wintertime is just generally a bad time to take glamor shots of bags to be listed- although I love everything about winter from a personal standpoint, it is generally ugly through the lens of a camera. Everything just looks dead. Everything is dead. Or hibernating. I solved that problem with $30 and a trip, once again, to my friendly neighborhood home depot:

The college student's lighting studio

The college student’s lighting studio

I have two shop lights, from Home Depot and a cheap (ugh! polyester!) sheet from wal mart, and now I can take really nicely lit photos of the new bags without risking frostbite for something that’s just going to have a drab background anyways. I still much prefer natural lighting, and the pretty backdrop of some vibrant green foliage is hard to beat, but as far as alternatives go, I’m pretty pleased with this solution. The light that my lamps give off is only slightly cooler than sunlight, and I can control the shadows much more effectively. When I grow up, I’d like to have a pair of actual photography strobes, but $30 for a pair is a lot more reasonable than $400 for one, at this stage in my life. For the next few months, I have access to the photo studio in the art building, which I may take advantage of at some point, but the whole point of this store is that I don’t need to depend on anyone else’s stuff to make it happen.

Also, as a side note, don’t be giving me crap about how wrinkly my sheet is- I took this picture of the setup when I was still testing to see if everything would actually work. I ironed the stupid polyester sheet for the actual shoot.

I was talking to Rusty yesterday about the things that I’ve learned here at Truman, and aside from the idea that I think I’ve learned more of the ‘how to deal with this situation in life’ variety than I have ‘what this button in Photoshop does’, we both agreed upon the importance of interdisciplinary learning to a visual communications student. It’s one of my favorite things about Truman, that I can take so many different classes and yet they all relate right back to what I’m doing in vis comm.

Now, most people, in the summer before their senior year, do an internship, but I opened this store instead- and I’m still of the firm opinion that I’ve learned so much more doing this than I could have under any other circumstances. I use skills I learned in fibers, printmaking, and  vis comm, and it has taught me about advertising, business, and marketing, along with some fun facts about SQLs (those things that control what happens when you type a thing into a search bar… COOLEST EVER! I could do a whole post just on how cool that stuff is, but I won’t subject you poor people to it…). What I’m trying to say is, I know a lot of art people in general look at etsy with some degree of disdain, because they think it somehow emphasizes on a different aspect of the creative life than universities do, but it really doesn’t. There are better things to do than to kick at the line between ‘art’ and ‘craft’- everything is both, and everything is neither. The fact is that this store has provided an interdisciplinary outlet for all the foundations I’ve learned at Truman, and has provided me with the time and capacity to think about and question what I want to happen with my life after school, and there’s just no substitute for that.

Sorry, that got deep really quickly. I can go from tidal pool to rift-in-the-ocean-floor in about two seconds, though, so I don’t think anyone is surprised. Here’s a picture of some more bags:

Purple. Purple is the best.

Purple. Purple is the best.

So, a summary: I started the store as a summer project, and it’s taken off in a direction I could never have seen coming. I’m besties with the ladies at the post office, and I ship these things all over the world! I’m a bit proud of myself. Time will only tell what the next six months will bring!

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An Unintended Social Experiment

When I decided to dye my hair magenta instead of letting the blue fade out, I was mostly just not finished with my ‘questioning socio-cultural constructs of beauty and attractiveness from within the safe confines of a liberal arts university’ quest, but this has turned into something so much more.

The pinkest pink to ever pink

The pinkest pink to ever pink

It’s pink guys, it’s real pink. I did it the first time over Thanksgiving break, and have since refreshed it, instead of switching to a new color. When I did it the first time, I noticed some pretty immediate changes concerning people’s reactions to it. People always stared at the blue, but as soon as they noticed that I’d seen them staring, they would look away. Not so with the pink- some smile at me, some stare even though they’re aware I can see them, and some will look away only to look back a few seconds later. That’s the first big thing- the second big thing is the touching. So many people asked to touch my hair. I mean, it’s just…hair. I know it’s a surprising color and all, but it still feels the same.

Like hair.

That never happened with the blue.

And on Wednesdays, we wear PINK!

And on Wednesdays, we wear PINK!

It continues to occasionally happen, and only with strangers. It was a little disconcerting the first time an unfamiliar person walked up to me and said “Can I touch your hair? Please?”- It turns out I don’t mind that much, though, because apparently I like having my hair played with. As long as they don’t just stick their fingers into it without asking first. That would be weird.

People say they like the pink better, but I think it may be because the haircut it accompanies is better as well. Some mysteries, though, will never be solved. I don’t know what any of this means- I just know that it’s an interesting little social experiment, and that I’m going to be sadder than I anticipated to see it go.

I know it seems silly, because my blonde hair is a very nice color, but whenever I see the roots growing back, it just looks so…dull. So normal. I’m not ready to go back to having ‘normal’ blonde hair. Wouldn’t it be nice if nobody cared what color my hair was? If I could change it with my moods, and allow my impressions on it to change with the wind?

Rabbits are not what they seem to be.

Rabbits are not what they seem to be.

There are two kinds of little old ladies at the supermarket. The kind which scowls at me and turns the other way, and the kind which looks wistfully and longingly just above my eyes.

There are two kinds of moms at Target. The ones who steer their kids around me and whisper at them not to stare, and the ones which, with four children under the age of 7 in tow, tell me that my hair looks fantastic and that they wish they were that bold.

There are two kinds of people who drive pickup trucks. The old men who scowl unnecessarily out their window and into mine on the highway, and the women who roll down their windows and flash me thumbs up signs with huge smiles at stoplights.

Kids are the very best: they’ll stare at me like I’m the best thing since pockets, and they’ll smile like I’ve just told them the secret to happiness, and then they’ll just accept it at move on. It’s inspirational, really.

One of my favorite parts may be walking into new rooms and places and checking to see what sort of shade it is with different lighting. It was definitely purple at one point. Indisputably so.

One pink to rule them all

One pink to rule them all

It makes me smile to know I’ve brightened (literally. hah.) someone’s day, and I can only hope that the people who don’t approve are off somewhere having a powwow and discussing their archaic stereotyping habits. I like the general effect I have on people, especially since it’s usually a smile. The frowns just make me laugh, anyways. It’s also oddly comforting (and this is surprising because I am a textbook introvert), to walk around and know that everyone’s staring at me, and it’s because I’m fabulous. I’ve gotten rather good at observing people, because I know they’re observing me. The people-watching may be a lot more conspicuous, but it’s also exponentially more fun.

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ADVIL Masterpost

Welcome, 2014! I’m sorry I jumped ship with the blogging for a while, there. Things got…

Well, things got how things get near the end of a semester, I guess.

So. I address this post to my readers (read: parents), to Rusty, and to anyone who happens upon this place and likes what they see. What lies beneath these words is everything I’ve done for my illustration independent study this semester. I’ve called it ADVIL, which I think is clever. (ADV-anced IL-lustration).

I’m including a few things that I technically did with another end goal in mind, but it all goes under the umbrella of illustration-I-did-this-semester. The point was learning, and I learned from all of these things.

I started off the semester by doing what can only be explained as experimenting. Tried to dip a finger in as many jars of jam as possible, if you will. As many pies. We’ll start with the gouache stuff:

blind as a bat

blind as a bat

I like hand illustration, I really do, but the worst part about it is trying to get it into the computer in a way that looks not-awful. I didn’t mess with it too much in Photoshop, because- well, you can tell when they’ve been messed with… But I still think this turned out quite nicely. I wanted something with a concept, and I did a print a while ago that was called ‘Carpe Diem’- a raccoon holding a fresh-caught carp- so I thought I would continue that trend with this one. It made me giggle, which is really all you need.


medical illustration

I didn’t label it. Should I have labelled it? I didn’t. I could. I still might.

Practical, practical, practical Kat. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I hate things that aren’t useful. Medical illustration isn’t the most useful, perhaps, but there are definitely still jobs in the world for medical illustrators. I chose a hand because I think it’s the most interesting part of the human body, and interesting is as important as useful. It includes the circulatory, muscular, skeletal, connective, and nervous systems (connective’s not really a system. I mean tendons). I had a huge bunch of fun with this one, largely due to all the long lines of the veins and nerves. I got hold of this wonderful pinstriping brush, and all but jumped for joy when I realized I’d finally have a chance to use it:

Pinstriping like a pro!

Pinstriping like a pro!

I quite like gouache projects, and it seems I’ve finally found a decent (if expensive) watercolor paper that doesn’t have an awful texture. That was probably the worst part of Illustration as a sophomore; the texture of the paper always shows up in the scans! Solved that problem by taking photos instead, though.

Here’s a little study I did in an attempt to practice skin tones and fabric behaviour:

Fabric study with umbrella

Fabric study with umbrella

I know, I know. don’t give me that ‘why didn’t you put her in an environment’ look. S’not about the environment. I drew this without any reference images (which is something I need to do more often. Those parts of my brain are rusty)- but not for the reasons you think. I have such problems choosing the right colors for things, and I wanted to do a little study of how things behave in my head, as opposed to the real world. Looking back, I think I need to be more aggressive with my shading on the fabric, and it lacks texture. But the skin looks like skin and the dress looks like dress, so I’m generally pleased. This, as one of the earlier ones, lacks a bit of somethin’ somethin’ that the others seem to have found, but it’s about learning, right?

Now then. You may recall these little guys, done as a supplement to a magazine article in Vis Comm IV:

platen press

platen press

Typewriter vs. MacBook

Typewriter vs. MacBook

old school computer

old school computer

The way I’ve done illustrations in the past is way different from the way I handled these, mostly because I was after a different, looser style, supplemented with the outlines. I drew them with one color on a lowered opacity, and layered strokes to get darker tones, instead of actually choosing darker colors. I think the most successful one is the typewriter vs. MacBook, and it makes me want to try this style with more things. Maybe on a black background? It just goes to show that you can’t be too complacent settling into a routine you know. It often serves to mix things up a bit. I’m definitely going to play with the opacity side of things some more.

I had such a hard time coming up with projects to fit the requirements for things I wanted to experiment with, so whilst trying to come up with an idea for a product illustration, I just decided to pick something I really wanted:

Volkswagon Van

Volkswagen Van

This is my dream car, and one day I will have one and I will drive around the US in it, and visit all manner of interesting places and finally go to Boring, Oregon and Hell, Michigan. Both of which are actual towns in which actual people live. I will dress like a hippie and it will be perfect.

That said:

I regret the decision to ever even so much as consider drawing a car, and I fully intend to try it again because I refuse to think that there is a thing (chemistry excluded) that I cannot do. I might even try this one again. Might shift gears to a nice performance car first, though. Maserati? Lamborghini? Who cares? Cars, man. Cars are hard, and I definitely learned a lot about reflections during this project. I spent a lot of time looking at what reflected where on different types of cars, and I now am confident that I could tell you a lot more than any one person should need to know about the way roads reflect off of cars. Maybe that knowledge will be useful later in life. I wish I had budgeted my time a little more wisely, because I spent rather a long time on the hubcaps and headlights, and not enough time on the windows and roof. Also, you don’t even want to know how hard it was for me not to hang fuzzy dice in the windshield. We don’t talk about it.

Here’s something I had been wanting to try for a while:

Aric fighting a Dragon

Aric fighting a Dragon

Emma floating away

Emma floating away

Lauren the Pirate

Lauren the Pirate

Valerie tied up on the railroad tracks

Valerie tied up on the railroad tracks

I’d been wanting to try adding illustration to photographs, so this was a natural idea for me. Technically, it was a photo project, but it also goes along with drawing-with-opacity, so I felt it was important to include. Anyways, the idea was to bring the imagination to life, creating things that wouldn’t happen in photographs through drawing. At first, I wasn’t sure if I wanted the people to interact with their imaginations, but it occurred to me that people interact with their imaginations all the time, that’s kind of the point… so I went with it. I really like how these turned out, they’re quirky and strange and they make people who look at them do a double take. It’s a whole different set of cards to work with a photograph- you can’t just tweak the layout a tiny bit to get something to work the way you want it to. It forced me to look at my photographs in a new way, as much as my illustrations. Also, it was hard to find a suitable style for these- I wanted the difference to be obvious,but not gaudy. There were a lot of hideous test-drawings and mock ups before I finally decided where to let this project take me, and I’m so very happy I stuck with it. I’m fond of doing things in series, because it opens new doors in terms of being able to explore a thing from many angles. Also, going to a liberal arts school was probably the single best decision I’ve ever unknowingly made for my education, because it lets me do things like this: mash two classes, two disciplines, together, and see what each can bring out of the other.

Albert Einstein and the theory of textures

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

One of the things I talked about wanting to accomplish was working in a program other than Photoshop. Al here was painted in Corel Painter, and I am here before you today to tell you that if such a thing were possible, I would marry Corel Painter. Al here isn’t the most beautiful thing I’ve ever done, but he represents a whole world of possibilities that I have been wishing for since I started drawing with a tablet. Textures, and blending variations, and brushes like you wouldn’t even believe! not only do I get to choose between hundreds of brushes that are each uniquely programmed to be as realistic as possible, I can choose my media, my canvas texture, and can control the viscosity, blending, opacity, stroke length, dryness, and bleed of the paint, and that barely scratches the surface. As if that weren’t enough, Painter plays nice with Photoshop, so you can easily transfer a project back and fourth between the two. I love it so much! It’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of, and some things I didn’t even know I wanted. Textures! I swear, if paint behaved like this in real life, I’d never leave it alone!

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Book Cover

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Book Cover

The Restaurant at the end of the Universe

The Restaurant at the end of the Universe

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Book Covers! I had planned to do Sherlock Holmes, but I’ve already done Sherlock Holmes book covers, so I went with this instead. Also, the imagery in these books basically begs to be drawn.

So. If you think they look random: good! They’re supposed to be random. There are two more books in the series, called So long, and Thanks for all the Fish and One More Thing… but I chose to focus my attentions on these three. Taking what I learned from Einstein (also, let’s talk about how much fun space is to draw in Corel!- I wanted to tie the three books together so they’d be an obvious series, so I went with space. More and more of it is shown as you go on to show the progression. That, and the similar treatment of type, of course)..sorry. Taking what I learned from Einstein, this project largely consisted of me switching back and forth between Painter and Photoshop to get each thing to have the textures I wanted.  I think they turned out really well, and I definitely think I’ll do the next two books in the series, if at all possible. Also, back covers? Dust jackets? The possibilities are endless!

Let’s talk about how much I love books. I think they’re awesome and I want to adopt all of them and keep them safe from the evils of this digital society (but also digital books are cool too, and offer a whole different set of interesting problems!). Maybe that’s why I want to go into publishing. One reason of many, to be sure. When I told you, Rusty, that I wanted to write an illustrate a children’s book as part of the independent study, you told me that I probably wouldn’t get it done, and that you had a student who focused an entire semester on just a children’s book alone. I thought that I would probably be fine, but I just smiled and said “Well, we will just wait and see what happens, I guess!”

Rusty, you were right. I didn’t get it done.

I could have, I could have stayed up late and gotten something down on every page, but this is a project that I’ve been wanting to do for at least three years, and I didn’t see the point in rushing through it and ruining my drive to work on it in the future by messing with my brain about it. I’ll tell you about the process, things I’ve learned with it so far, and then show you what I do have done. It just doesn’t look like much, but here’s the thing about things not looking like much: In illustration, at least the way I find that I do illustration, instead of a steady, linear progression of a thing looking like something more and more until it is finished, it goes something like, “this looks like nothing, this looks like nothing, this looks awful, how is this a thing you think you’re good at”- and then, in the last two or three hours or so of a drawing: “BAM. That’s what I’m talking about!”

So, basically, right now, I have a bunch of a children’s book that looks bloody awful, and a tiny bit of a children’s book that looks rather nice. I’ve discovered- and Rusty, this is probably what you were trying to tell me, that most of writing and illustrating a book is the planning of the thing, rather than the execution of the thing, and boy, have I learned a lot about planning. I spent several weeks researching and testing ways to make the book become an actual thing, first by sending it off to be published, and then by printing and binding it myself. I conducted a test of binding by making a sketchbook for my sister, and it turned out really well- so when it actually gets done, I have every intention of printing and binding a few copies. After writing it (which was really fairly straightforward), it took me a good long time to get it laid out in a little test booklet I made out of scrap paper- trying to figure out what lines of text would correspond with spreads versus individual pages, and how to break up the text so that it made sense to young readers, and their parents.

There’s a scene in Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, where Captain Hammer says:

“I am sick of the homeless”

“-ness problem in our city.”

So I kept that in mind as I was breaking up the text, because flow is really important to comprehension for little people.

After I did my little scrappy layout booklet (okay, well actually after I did about six little scrappy layout booklets), I set out to sketch each individual page, in detail. This was the part where, for the first time, I actually started thinking about how I wanted to illustrate it. Pen and ink? Watercolor? I knew I wanted to at least involve digital media, but I wasn’t sure in what way. This was further complicated by my discovery of Corel Painter, because any notions I had of what I could do digitally were basically completely overturned, and I basically ended up resetting my thoughts on how I would do it. I also thought a lot about font choice, which arose from my attempt to make my handwriting for where the text would be on each page as pretty as possible. I toyed with writing the words out for the final copy, but I eventually decided that it had no bearing on the story itself to do such a thing, so I ended up choosing to go with a nice, elegant serif font. Though, at this point, obviously, I could feasibly change my mind and choose Helvetica.

A thing in progress

Colors? I’ve spent more time thinking about colors in the past month and a half than I have sleeping. You’ve no idea.

So, here’s where I am now- well versed in the binding of the book, and nearly every page is sketched out in my sketchbook, and I know where I’m taking this and have the confidence and drive now to keep on with it, and… only one illustration that’s nearly finished. Needless to say, I could have budgeted my time a little more wisely on this one as well, but I’m not actually upset that it hasn’t gotten done yet. It may not look like much, but I’m both happy with the progress that I’ve made, and happy that I have by far learned more from this project than from anything else I did this semester. Other classes included.

While we’re talking about things that didn’t get done, though- there was another thing that I haven’t yet done. One of the points of this class was to find my style as an illustrator- to find just one thing that I’m really good at and that I really like, and I haven’t done that either. I’m actually a little upset about this, but the only way to do it is to keep going. So that’s what I’m going to do. Eventually, something will come out, right?

I hope so.

Congratulations! You’re extremely dedicated for making it to the end of this post. I’m glad you survived, hopefully relatively unscathed. I’m so very happy I had the opportunity to make this happen, and I learned a lot from the experience. I’ve ended up with some portfolio pieces, and some that are well on their way to becoming portfolio pieces. I was very happy to be able to retreat into my head and work through this stuff on my own, but still have the looming deadline and possibility to ask questions. And, to everyone else- stick around! If there’s one one thing I’ve learned this semester, it’s that I’ve only just begun.

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