Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Scott Wade's Dirty Car Art

Poker Dogs

Sick of seeing the boring yet ubiquitous "wash me" on the windows of dirty cars? Scott Wade will change how you perceive—and use—that fine layer of dust.

Cars get dirty. It's inevitable—especially if you have to drive a mile and a half on gravel and clay to get to your house each day, as Scott does. Realizing it was impractical to keep washing his car, he turned the fine dust on the back of his windshield into art. With a strong drawing background, Scott soon began making impressively detailed images on his new-found canvas. He uses paint brushes and fingers to carefully etch away the dust that accumulates each time he drives home.

Escape to... The Mountains!

Escape to... The Desert!

Mona Lisa - Starry Night: Peak

To draw a new picture on the back of his car, he has to clear the existing canvas. Sometimes, the occasional rain helps move the process along...

Mona Lisa - Starry Night: 1st rain

Mona Lisa - Starry Night: washed out

I don't know why, but I've always had this fascination with ephemeral art. Maybe it's knowing that one has to be there to experience it; maybe it reminds me that nothing truly lasts forever. I love seeing art that is made from the elements and art that, in turn, has to deal with the elements. A number of factors—wind, rain, animals, and people—may disturb the final piece, but artists like Scott know how to integrate these disturbances into the artistic process.

Albert with Paw Print

My friend at Manga Start recently wrote about how fulfilling it can be to draw with everyday items from our own desks. Some of the best art we make are done using tools in our immediate surroundings. They yield unplanned and candid results, and show off our creative process. You don't need an expensive sketching set or gold leaf leather-bound sketchbook to draw.

You also shouldn't feel like art has to be confined to sheets of paper or done in a studio. Someone truly innovative can recognize and seize opportunities in his or her environment to generate something creative.

Take a quick look around you. Is there anything that can be used to draw or make something? What can you do with the various objects surrounding you? Share your results!


Related links:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sketch Sunday 3

Ginger is a Dreamer

Sketch Sunday is really helping me keep up my drawing. Are you drawing too? :-)

Before I draw a picture, I like to brainstorm. Sometimes I draw a small 1 to 2-inch thumbnail in the corner. This helps me visualize the pose and emphasis of the main curves. I've also gotten into the habit of jotting down words while I'm sketching. Sometimes it relates to the picture, other times my drawing becomes a notepad for a discussion with someone nearby (like trying to figure out what the seven deadly sins are).


This week, my style is influenced by animator Ronnie del Carmen. I love the way he uses solid colors in his slender girls drawings. I tried to make my girls more exaggerated and cartoon-y, but they came out more proportioned and detailed than planned—which is okay—that means there's more to explore in the future.

A Close Encounter at the Edge of the Woods (digital coloring of previous sketch sunday)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Type's Inconspicuous Metrics

I learned something really cool about type today via this article about inconspicuous vertical metrics. Since most of the things we read on the 'net are size 10 Arial, it's not uncommon to overlook the minute details in the typefaces we see daily.

Vertical metrics
are used to gauge the heights of various aspects of a font. There are five vertical metrics that are commonly used, and over a dozen that are more obscure. All of these measurements are used to make the typeface more clear, uniform, and pleasing to the eyes.

My favorite inconspicuous metric from the article is the overshoot because it's based on the optical illusion of rounded sides. The idea is, if letters with rounded tops or bottoms had the exact same caps height or baseline as the other letters, they would appear smaller than other characters. This vertical difference is not apparent at normal (small) font sizes, but the disparity is obvious when the type is enlarged.

Curious, non?

Since each character has unique edges and curves, typefaces must compensate for the optical illusions created by the diverse shapes. Did you know that the horizontal bars on the capital A, H, E and F are all different heights? Or that each upper curve of the capital R, P, and B has its unique shape?

Read more about these and other cool metrics and how they are used in font design at iLT. I now have a new appreciation for the thought and details that go into making our typefaces!

Related links:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Nothing is Original

Design by Mark Malazarte

Nothing is original—is it true?

Personally, I'm not sure I agree with this quote entirely, but I think it does a good job generalizing most things art and design. It's a beautiful quote on a beautiful design and I thought I'd share it with you.

(via swissmiss)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Validation"—a short film by Kurt Kuenne

Today, I was totally inspired by the short film Validation. Nowadays, it's not unusual to see some pretty good videos on the net, but this one really caught my attention because of the positive message the film gave and how well it was executed. The story begins by introducing us to the parking validater (you know, the guy who stamps your ticket), who in addition to giving people free parking, helps them feel validated by giving compliments and putting a smile on their face.


This 16-minute short is written and directed by Kurt Kuenne, and has won a handful of awards. The touching story flows and unfolds with much finesse and TJ Thyne is a wonderful actor whose character is incredibly sincere and genuinely compassionate. I encourage everyone who likes putting a smile on someone's face to watch it.

"Validation" was especially inspiring for me because the protagonist did things that helped others in so many unimaginable ways at practically no cost to himself. Unfortunately, as simple as this sounds, it doesn't always happen in real life. If everyone could do just one unconditionally good deed each day, the world would be so different.

This film inspires me to be kinder to people; it shows that a small positive gesture may result in an enormous positive impact, and this world is always in need of more positivity. You know that awkward silence between two strangers when they share the same space? I'm usually quite shy around people I don't know, but I will make more of an effort to acknowledge their presence, strike up conversation, and most importantly—smile. After all, meeting new friends is much more fun than awkward silence. How will you leave a positive impact?

Related links:

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sketch Sunday!

I finally got my scanner, so no photo substitutes this week. :)

We visited my parents' house over the weekend and they have this wood burner in the living room. (It's so efficient that they don't need gas heating during winter.) The above is a 10-minute sketch using ink and no pencil.

Completely unsatisfied with the first sketch, I then did a 20-minute sketch of the same thing using the same parameters and a different pen. I think it came out better mostly because I was better acquainted with the details from the first pass.

Another ink sketch using a new fountain pen (no pencils). Thin, curly hair is fun but difficult to draw.

"Yours" as in "Hi, I'm Yours." Drawn using Lascaux Sketch at Again, the curls were fun but difficult to get to look right.

The pen is my favorite medium for sketching, but I know there are many aspects of drawing that I still need practice with. In an effort to improve my weaker areas (like coloring), I will try to identify these areas and explore them in upcoming Sunday Sketches.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

English Language Typography Poster

English Language poster by Michael Ciancio

Are you a typography nut? If so, then you will surely understand the sentiments behind this poster.

Graphic designer Michael Ciancio spent some time in Europe before coming up with this design—conclusion, rather. This 24.5" x 37" silk screened poster is for sale at his website and makes a great gift for the ligature lover in yourself or a friend.

Do you speak or write another language? English has 26 characters, while Spanish has a few more. I guess at the extreme end of the spectrum is Chinese, which has hundreds of thousands of characters. How many characters are in some of the languages you know? Are there any cool ones you can share?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Breathtaking Close-ups of Nature's Tiny Wonders

Fernlike stellar dendrite

Have you ever wondered why no two snowflakes are alike? Or why are all six branches nearly identical, even though they are formed separately? Snowflakes are nature's fascinating works of art. I like admiring a fresh blanket of powder as much as the next artist, but I've never realized how beautifully intricate individual snowflakes are up close.

Triangular crystal

The website (developed by physicist Dr. Libbrecht of Caltech) explores ice crystal growth under varying conditions. It is a complete guide to everything you will ever want to know about snowflakes, along with gorgeous high-resolution pictures and short time-lapse movies. The diversity of snowflakes out there is astonishing—and they have been classified into over 40 different morphologies. The detail in every individual is breathtaking and I am fascinated by how the delicate lattices arrange themselves and bend light.

Stellar plate morphology

Along with a fantastic gallery, you can also read about how his lab makes "designer snowflakes." By altering precisely controlled conditions, they make a variety of artificial snowflakes that mimicked natural shapes. The website is full of pictures, diagrams, interesting facts and even fun projects for the young and inquisitive.

Snowflakes of various shapes and sizes

Although their shape is constrained by their hexagonal lattice structures, the possible shapes of snowflakes are seemingly endless because of the differences in each water molecule that crystallizes to it. There are about 1018 water molecules in a small crystal, and 1015 of them are different from the last. That means there are more possible combinations of water molecules that make a snowflake than there are atoms in the entire universe—and it is very unlikely that any two will have the exact same combination.

Stellar dendrite

The branches of each snowflake can look similar—but not identical—because they are all formed under the same temperature, pressure, and humidity conditions. However, the vast majority of snowflakes are irregular and not symmetrical at all. As humans, we are naturally attracted to things exhibiting symmetry, so it should be no surprise that symmetrical snowflakes are photographed more often than irregular ones.

Simple prism

Rimed crystal

Hollow column snowflake

Learning about the physics of these microscopic crystals really makes you awe at the intricate wonders of nature. Do you think artists try too hard to replicate what nature does so well? Why do you think that is?

12-sided snowflake

Related links:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sketch Sunday!

A Close Encounter at the Edge of the Woods by spyra

Since this blog is used as a way to inspire artists, it's only appropriate to post some of my own work.

A Close Encounter at the Edge of the Woods was inspired by snowfall around the new year. In this drawing, a feisty young girl is caught off-guard by her encounter with a larger stranger, who, having the unfortunate fate of being a snowman, cannot retaliate. Aside from the facial expressions, I really enjoyed patiently etching out the patterned tree bark, probably subconsciously inspired by the beautiful forestscapes of Stephanie Pui-Mun Law.

Two Faces by spyra

After a period of not drawing, I find that sketching faces is the easiest way for me to ease back into the habit. Just two generic characters here, although the cap on the chap is inspired by the snowman's hat in the previous pic.

Random Poses by spyra

For me, drawing poses is a little harder than faces and takes a bit more effort. I usually don't use references for my drawings, so being able to imagine everything and execute it so that it looks natural is always a challenge. Here, I was just trying a variety of different things so I can get used to imagining the human body again. I felt like everything here is pretty incoherent, but I am hoping to get better with practice!

Have you ever taken time off from a hobby then decided you wanted to get back into it? What kinds of hobbies do you have? If you like to draw, what kinds of things did you start with?

If you have any sketches you did this week and would like to share, I would love to see them in the comments section.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Tragic Paper Sculptures of Peter Callesen

White Hand by Peter Callesen

In the spirit of paper art this week, look at these paper sculptures created by Peter Callesen, made with plain A4 sheets. He likes the A4 size because it is the most common medium for transmitting information and most people never notice its materiality. His uses inspiration from fairytales and the contrast between dreams and reality to craft delicate sculptures that bring to the attention to the frailty of the paper.

Looking Back by Peter Callesen

Peter uses these blank white paper sheets to explore the possibilities between the 2- and 3-dimensional. While we may first see the 3-dimensional sculpture, we also notice that the it is left bound to the paper and can be contrasted with the negative 2-D cut-out shape it leaves behind.
All in All by Peter Callesen

What impresses me about Peter Callesen's work is his ability to execute so intricately these abstract concepts using such a simple and seemingly mundane medium. I am inspired by his dexterity and patience to manipulate the 2-D shapes into astonishingly detailed 3-D sculptures. You can check out more of his work, as well as his paper installations that are much MUCH larger than the standard A4 at his website below.

Snowballs by Peter Callesen

Distant Wish by Peter Callesen

One thing I find interesting in the work featured in this and the last post is how these two artists utilize the versatility of paper differently. I've been drawing for such a long time now, but I've never really thought too much about the medium I draw on—paper. There are so many things we can do on paper, but now I find that there are even more things we can do with paper! Artists like these inspire me to do more crafts and make more things with my hands.

Eismeer (detail) by Peter Callesen

Besides drawing in 2-D, what kinds of crafts do you like to do? What kinds of things do you want to do more of? Would you like to see more projects on this blog like the snowflake one?

Impenetrable Castle by Peter Callesen

Related links:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Yulia Brodskaya's Papergraphic Illustrations

Artwork by Yulia Brodskaya

I am completely inspired by Yulia Brodskaya's beautiful papergraphic illustrations. The playful swirls flow in and out of the type, creating depth and dimension, even with just white paper.

I find it clever how she disguises some of the text in seemingly arbitrary swirls. Her use of three-dimensional negative space creates fun textures and layers, while her remarkable colors and whimsical curves shape amazingly complex and beautiful works of art.

Yulia's papergraphic illustrations remind me of the endless possibilities of a given medium. She is a talented designer who inspires me to use more bold colors and to design using simple everyday materials.

How do you integrate color into your art? Are they vibrant or muted? Is there such thing as too much color? (Is the image below too busy?)

Related links:

Monday, January 5, 2009

DIY: Crystal Snowflake Ornaments

Here is a fun mid-January craft project you can do with your family, friends or kids! If you are lucky enough to live somewhere where the temperature drops below freezing at night, or if you have freezer room to spare, you can turn simple paper cut-outs into (ice) crystal ornaments!

When I was little, I would cut paper snowflakes with my mom during the winter, place them in a bowl of water, and wake up the next morning to find beautiful iced snowflakes that we could hang around the porch. Since I am spending the holiday season in a place with snow, I thought this was a good chance to make a fun evening and revive a bit of my childhood.

In this blog post, I will show you how to make these simple, inexpensive, and ephemeral ornaments, the same way I made them when I was a kid.

Materials you'll need:
  • Paper (white or colored—we used mostly white here)
  • Scissors
  • String (scrap pieces of yarn or ribbon—about 4 or 5 inches each is enough)
  • Tupperware or bowls (needs to withstand water freezing in it—I recommend plastic ones)
  • Water
  • Cold weather! (or freezer space)

Step 1—
Cut your paper into squares or circles roughly the diameter of the bowls you'll be using.

Step 2—
Fold the pieces symmetrically about the center.
  • To make a four-pointed snowflake, fold the paper in half one way, then in half again the other way (so you end up with a square).
  • To make a six-pointed snowflake, first fold it in half, then fold it in thirds.
  • In the picture below, I folded the paper in sixths, then in half again in order to cut symmetrically on each side. When you open it up, it will look like a pie with 12 slices.

Step 3—
Cut a design! Keep in mind how the paper connects where the folds are. I recommend something pointy at the top, and a few arbitrary triangle holes.

As you open it up, you will be able to see the symmetry unfold!

Experiment a little! Your first snowflake will not be perfect, so don't worry if it doesn't come out the way you wanted it to! Remember that each snowflake is beautiful and unique.

Step 4—
  • Grab a couple of plastic bowls and fill them with about 1/2 to 1 inch of water.
  • Submerge your unfolded snowflake. It will want to sink, but that won't make much of a difference in the end product.
  • Dip the ends of your piece of string such that it forms a loop in the water. In the image below, I tied a short piece of ribbon in a loop and submerged the knot in the bowl, leaving the loop out.

Step 5—
Place them outside! (If you live in California or other temperate climates, try your freezer space.) Check to see that your string has not shifted during the migration.

In the morning, you will (hopefully!) find frozen ornaments that you can hang around outside if the temperature stays cold enough.

To our readers: Liked this project? Tried this project? Let us know! We would love to see your finished products. Leave us a comment and be sure to link your photos too!

Don't be surprised if your neighbor's cat finds them tasty... it happened to us!