Today I decided to make a get well card for the daughter of a woman I know. The woman gave me a few photos and a few of her girl’s interests, and I proceeded to make some careful tracings from photos, and turned them into a one page composition. Normally at that point, I’d put that one page into my projector and project it down to watercolor paper at a larger size, but today, battling the flu bug, I didn’t quite have the strength for it. Instead, I decided to work smaller on an actual copy of the ink tracings. This saved me some hard work but also limited the size to 8.5″ x 11″, and to crummy bond paper. I decided to take on the challenge, and I carefully water colored the copy, using as little water as possible, since it would wrinkle the page. I did this, and it looked good. The final piece of this was to spray mount the copy paper on to a piece of foam core board. The last step…..and I ruined it! When I mounted the page, it wrinkled badly, and burnishing it only made matters worse. Three hours of work down the drain? Ugh……I decided to try one more thing: I took the wrinkled art and put it on the flat bed scanner, scanned it, and put it into Photoshop. I cleaned up all the ugly wrinkles, some excess pencil too, and one or two other details that had been impossible to change on the copy, printed it out in color, and it looked good. It looked better than the original. I got a second chance! This time when i spray mounted it on to the foam core board, it came out nice and flat. It is now entirely presentable.
There are lots of people out there who are far more creative than I, especially if one defines “creativity” as “coming up with ideas, solutions, new thoughts that are exciting”. I may not really fit into any of those categories, but there are times when I feel like it does fit, and so it was with Parallel Advisors and the recent art I did for their end-of-year card. One might think that a wealth management firm would put out a pretty conservative piece, and all my initial sketches reflected that belief, but that’s not the direction the art eventually took. What we ended up with was a piece that was semi-abstract, loose, colorful, and still had their logo prominently displayed. It was a lot of fun for me to create, they are pleased, and it was one of those rare times when the commercial and the abstract came together. I will reproduce the art as soon as this site allows it, so for the moment, trust me.
From 1996 to 2014, I was fortunate enough to create some 55 cards for the Lang Antique & Estate Jewelry store in San Francisco. Many of these cards involved two illustrations, and were of a humorous nature, yet still came around to being ads for the store, sometime pretty circuitously.
The people at Lang generously gave these cards a place on their website, and most of the cards were represented. There will be a new website launch in the near future, and I was asked to go through as many as I had and re-scan them , or better still, scan off of the original art.
We had a lot of fun creating these cards. Here is but one of the front piece illustrations, done for Halloween some years ago. I’m still going through my archives and am struck again by their inventiveness and varying styles.
While I’m far from expert at Photoshop, and still much prefer to do it all by hand, there is one feature that I’ve found to be invaluable for cleaning up the art, which is the clone stamp tool…..here are two details one before and one after cleaning up….since I am able to enlarge a given image some 500% on the screen and do the cleaning up on a pixel by pixel level, I can truly clean the art, and overall it appears far sharper to the eye, even if some of what I’ve done is so miniscule as to easily be overlooked…..the work is slow, and sometimes tedious, but worth it.
Here is my explanation. Picture three rings that intersect and overlap one another in the middle, with each of those rings representing one of the following categories–illustration, graphic design, and “fine art.” Each one is an entity unto itself, and yet they have common areas. There are plenty of examples of one piece of art being all three at once, with the caveat being that the term, “fine art,” is subjective. I’m a fan of all three.
Illustration is what I do. I create images by drawing and painting them in ink and watercolor. While my work is done entirely by hand in “traditional media,” perfectly valid illustrations may be computer generated. Regardless of the medium, illustrations are images usually created to highlight something that is written first. The image is illustrating the written word, and bringing more attention to that message than if it was simply a written word.
When that illustration is combined with typography, as in a poster or advertisement, we’re in the category of graphic design. Graphic design normally involves words, layout, and combining those with images. Logos are usually considered graphic design, even if there are aspects of illustration in them. Those aspects are stylized and hard edged enough to blend in with the lettering, and this type of work is mostly done on a computer. I have hand drawn some logos, and those fall right in between the two categories.
The purpose of illustration is specific, as is that of graphic design, and, to put it loosely, they are advertising something, be it a product or an idea. A client, either individual or business, hires the person creating the illustration, or design. The artist knows that he/she will be paid, usually receiving a down payment to begin.
Fine art is art that is created by and for the artist. It can be anything the artist feels like doing at that moment. It may be representational. It may be abstract. Its intentions are to be “art for art’s sake,” and, after completion, the artist will try to sell it. Many aspects of illustration and graphic design, such as composition, use of color, texture, shadow, and subject, are also parts of fine art, and that is where the three categories intersect.
Lastly, an anecdote: many years ago, fresh out of college, I was chatting with two artist types who both did abstract work. I was already clearly more of a cartoon/illustrator. One of them said, “of course you know that our art is higher than yours,” to which I expressed strong disagreement. Some twenty years later, I was visiting people back home, and this artist happened to get wind of my presence. He found out where I was staying, came over, and apologized.
While snobbery may help in the world of art sales, I have no need for it. The lines are too blurred, and there is too much subjectivity and personal taste involved. Illustration is not a higher art form than graphic design nor is abstract art higher than illustration. Each form has its place in our culture and media.