Thursday, January 24, 2013

Marion Deuchars on Design Matters

I usually don't write about things I hear on podcasts. I usually tweet the link or share it on Facebook if I think it is something I find necessary for everyone to hear. But today, it was different. I actually stopped what I was working on to take a few notes. I even replayed the show when it had finished. So what makes this particular episode so newsworthy? Because it made me understand art and my relationship with it. It made me understand why I wanted to go to an art school. It made me realize why I am striving to be a designer.

I recommend listening to the episode before reading any further. As hard as I might try, I could never fully do it justice. Maybe you can connect with something else that has been said. I would love for this post to become a discussion.

You can find the episode here: Design Matters: Marion Deuchars

What I really want to talk about is the conversation between Debbie Millman and Marion Deuchars when Debbie asked Marion why she thinks around the age of 11, children stop drawing. I may be paraphrasing but this is what I got out of the conversation. This is what I found interesting.

When we are young we draw with expression. When we start to get to the age of 11, and into adulthood, we try to draw with a sense of realism. If we can't get the proportions right or make our drawings look like they are real, then we get frustrated and stop. Some people even develop a fear of drawing and never try it again. 

Ever since I could remember I wanted to be an illustrator of children's books. But when I was in the second grade a boy named Alex, who was a particularly good drawer, pointed at my comic strip that I was making and said it looked ugly. He said I couldn't draw. It was really hard on me because a few of the other kids around me agreed with him. I told Alex that I was going to be a book illustrator when I grew up. Alex said you have to be a good drawer to do that.

Ever since then I was self conscious about my drawing skills. It followed me all through middle school where I would get in arguments with my drawing teacher Mr. Taggart. I told him that I could never draw a cube and that he could never teach me. I like to think that I tried hard to be a good drawer in his class but I really don't think I was. I think my lack of self confidence was to blame.

This dilema followed me into my college courses where I barely passed 3 drawing classes. My teachers knew I couldn't draw and would routinely laugh out loud at my drawings.

Marion and Debbie continued on to say But if we continue to draw in this expressive way and those around us encourage and celebrate our exploration, then we will keep drawing. Drawing is about looking. When we draw something we see it more intensely. When we look at someone else's drawing we see it in a different way.

I couldn't agree more. Not only will we continue to learn more about drawing, and become better at it, but we may stumble across our own style. Art is suppose to be an expression. The art I appreciate isn't art that is an exact representation of an object. I like it to be a little abstract. I like it when colors are different. The drawer can inject sentiment into a piece of work that a photograph may not represent as well.

Near the end of the episode, Debbie Millman interviews Marion Deuchars' two boys. When asked about designing, one of the boys replied, "If it's rubbish, you don't have to cross it out. You can turn it into something." The charming young boy, complete with british accent, continues to tell Debbie that his favorite part of the book his mom created was a picture of a man standing on a balloon. Debbie tells him that that is a fantastic part. The boy interrupts her and says, "It's not really true actually. It's just my imagination. And you have to use what ever your imagination... It doesn't have to be true. It can just be in your imagination or in your head where there is imagination."

Yes. Art let's you use your imagination. It doesn't matter if Alex from second grade didn't like my drawings. I can continue to work towards becoming a better artist, drawer, and designer. I can find my own style that maybe someone else will appreciate.

Thinking more about this episode, I would say I got two main ideas from it. 1- Never stop developing your skills.  2- Embrace your short comings and the world they can create.

Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated that I can't make something that looks as good as something a more established designer made. While I can look at their work and try to emulate their style, it's also important that I explore my own skills and style. As much as I like Jessica Hische, it's probably best that there aren't 100 little Jessica Hische wanna-bes running around.

I've been trying to make a conscious effort to make stuff that isn't already being made by others. I want to explore beyond the current trends. It's important to know what is going on in the industry now in order to be part of the industry's future. Maybe embracing and exploring my shortcomings in my design skills will help me find my niche and help me create a style that let's me draw my world the way I see it.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Courtney's Birthday Cake

Tomorrow we're celebrating one of my favorite people's birthdays! And tonight I made a cake. I decided to try and be artsy with it and this is what I came up with. But before you all start calling me a Susie Homemaker I should warn you that I made this cake right after I got home from watching Django Unchained. So thanks to my love of Tarantino movies, this cake may a little agressive. No I'm kidding. It's not. But I just wanted to tell you that I went and saw Django and I loved it and you should all go see it because it makes me want to become a vigilante. But instead I went home and made a cake. There's always tomorrow.

ANYWAY- I started by making a three layer chocolate cake. Full disclosure, I used a box mix because it's a lot faster and my record of making edible boxed cakes is a lot better than my record for making edible cakes made from scratch. I glued each layer together with buttercream frosting (made from scratch, thank you very much) and put it in the freezer.

Then I went and saw Django.

Then I came home and took the cake out of the fridge. I froze the cake because it's easier to frost when the cake is colder. When the cake is at room temp. the cake is more like a sponge and can sometimes get crumbs in the frosting.

I took the frosting and added a few drops of red and yellow food coloring to create a coral-ish pink. Then I put a light layer of frosting on the cake.

I used a leaf tip with the frosting and created a ruffle around the top of the cake. I made 3 laps around the cake with the same color of frosting. I then added a few more drops of red food coloring to the frosting and took a few more laps around the cake with the leaf tip. I then added a few more drop of red to the frosting and took the darkest pink and took laps around the cake until it was completely covered. I then took the darkest pink and wrote "Happy Birthday Courtney" on top of the cake.

Writing on the top of the cake was very frustrating. Maybe because I'm a perfectionist but I rewrote it 4 times. That meant that each time I messed up, I had to take a toothpick and remove the frosting very carefully in order to not mess up the layer of frosting beneath the writing. In order to make a baseline to anchor my letters, I took a piece of paper and took the edge and made a thin indent line in the frosting. The line is still there if you looks very carefully. Usually if you do this you can smooth out the line with a few drops of water but the top of the cake had a texture to it so I didn't want it to be completely smooth so I left the lines because you can't really see them.

I like making cakes. My mom and my grandmother decorate wedding cakes and they've taught me a few things. Actually, in middle school I took a cake decorating class from the woman who taught my grandma how to decorate. I'd like to get more into it and practice more but when I'm done decorating I have a whole cake and I don't want to eat it. At least, not by myself. I guess I should start attending more birthday parties.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Chalk Art

It's been a crazy past few weeks. I went home to visit the fam, moved my roomie out, finished up my internship, and I'm getting ready to start my new job. I've also started a whole bunch of new projects for the new year. I have so many goals and things that I  want to accomplish this year and I'm so excited to be posting them as artistic flings.

But first, I wanted to start with this week's artistic fling- Chalk Art. I've been seeing a lot of it lately and I wanted to try my hand at it.

Now, I'm not really trained in creating letterforms but there's no better time to start practicing and trying like now. I found a quote online, one that is particularly resonating with my life. I sketched it out on paper. So I don't have a fancy chalkboard wall or anything but I do have a black table. It isn't matte or anything. It's a normal table. You, know, the kind that has that plastic wood-like veneer on it. So I grabbed a piece of chalk to make sure it would work. It didn't really work that well so I wetted the chalk. It worked good enough.

I then took my handy-dandy ruler and a pencil and started coping my sheet of paper onto the table. I had an eraser handy incase of accidents. When I was finished, I grabbed my chalk and started tracing the pencil markings. This whole process sounds so easy but it took me a good 2 hours. There are lots of problem with the chalk. If you accidentally bump it with your finger or elbow, you have to retrace it. If you do it to a letterform or any thin line, you have to erase the whole line and redraw it. Sometimes the chalk wouldn't cooperate and make the marks in the exact width you wanted them to be made. But with patience, it worked.

I then decided to take a picture of it and turn the quote into a vector image in order to make posters or whatever. This is also a process that sounds a lot easier and faster than it really is. I created these posters that will be available for sale in the near future.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hires Big H

I spent the holidays in my hometown. I haven't been there in over year. While somethings have stayed the same, there are alot of differences. While I was growing up the town was full of small businesses. We went to a little Ace Hardware store for all our home improvement needs. We frequented the bakery that my mom use to work at during high school called Hunk-a-Bread. My grandparetns met at The BlueBird Restaurant. Our favorite pizza place was Papa Kelseys. People buy their wedding rings at Needham Jewlers. "Middle of the block at the sign of the clock." (That last bit was their tagline.) But now the hardware store is gone. The bakery has been replaced with a Pretzel Maker and my family makes daily trips to one of the two Walmarts in a town of just over 50,000 people. When I moved out of Cache Valley, Utah we didn't have a Starbucks. We had Citrus and Sage or Cafe Ibis. There were no Jimmy Johns. We went to Logan's Heros. But now the main street nostaligia is covered with Chic-fil-A, Home Depot, Ulta, Walgreens, PetSmart, Kohls, 2 Walmarts, Noodles and Company, Michaels, Staples, and many more all too familiar names. These are the types of names I expect to see in a big city, not my little happy valley.

The BlueBird. My grandma worked as a waitress while
frequent customer, grandpa, stole her heart.
So why I am crying about the corporal rape of my home town? I need you to understand how happy I was when I saw the below image.

 While shopping with my mom at the grocery store, Macey's, which is thankfully is a Utah original, we were walking through the baking aisle. At the end of the aisle there were a few shelves full of ice cream toppings. There were the usual Hershey's, Smucker's, Keebler's, Reese's, and all the other brands that specialize in making ice cream even more delicious. But in the middle of this big brand snooze fest, there was a beacon of hope. Hires Big H  sat on a shelf about the height of my elbows. The packaging was so clean and refreshing. In a crowd of ice cream condiments that were screaming "HEY! Look at ME!!!" Hires was sitting their like a cool and sophisticated wallflower. I picked up a bottle and started reading. "For flavoring colas, rootbeer, and other sodas, lemonade, milkshakes, ice cream, and snow cones." The packaging had given shoppers the nostalgic bliss of an old timey Soda Shop. I read more about the product. Hires Big H was a Drive-In that opened in Salt Lake City in 1956. The small Drive-In has been opened ever since. I still have memories of going there a few times with my family as a kid.

So I got to thinking. There has got to be a lot of people with the same experience as me. Twenty-somethings going back home to discover all their favorite local places have been replaced with corporate industries. I bet even the parents and grandparetns feel the same way. It's kind of sad to go into a grocery store and discover that your favorite shampoo or the cereal you're brand loyal to has changed it's packaging to a hipper, more corporate feeling design.

I think people now days yearn for the feeling of nostalgia. We like the old because it reminds us of our childhood, a simpler, carefree time. Even if I didn't grow up in the 1950's, I still remember my grandparents talking about it. They talk about all the fun they had. I see pictures of my grandma cooking in the 60s in her A-line dress and her hair in a beehive. Those are times older relatives laugh about but I can never be a part of those memories and I want to be. Those were the days, according to grandma, when things were made to last. Things were made with quality. It wasn't about having the most. It was about having the best. Somewhere our ideals have changed.

I think alot of designers now days are borrowing from mid-century design because it was simple. These designs give the feeling of quality. I'm not saying that we all stick a retro soda shop man on our packaging. I'm saying that we make it simple and smart. Apple products come in probably the best packaing I have ever seen but they are just white boxes with a straight on product shot. That's all they are. Simple.