“Kids Draw” at the Library

2014-07-08 10.22.30

 

One of the coolest and most unexpectedly popular programs I run at our public library is Kids Draw. Every Wednesday, from 3:30-4:30, I set up tables and chairs in the downstairs meeting room. Some paper, pencils, and crayons are laid out, along with a few cool New Books packed with fun illustrations, and I pump up some Chip Tunes music from Pandora. Kids and their folks show up, grab their gear and a seat, and doodle away.

That’s it. Instant art event.

As a librarian, this is a hit on a multitude of levels. It’s incredibly cheap, weekly cost consisting of just a few dozen sheets of computer paper and a some simple art supplies used repeatedly throughout the year. As far as planning and prep goes, there is practically none. I keep all of the gear in a basket, snag a handful of good picture books on my way over, and the whole thing takes barely ten minutes to set up, most of that just lining up chairs. And since the focus is on social drawing over artistic instruction, there is no need for a lesson plan, or for the facilitator to even consider themselves an artist.

On a sappier note, it’s wonderful to see the interactions between parents and children. While some of the older kids get dropped off, at our library anyone under 10 must be with an adult. This has resulted in several parents that might not usually think to draw spending a solid hour sketching and doodling. Kids are so much more tuned in to something when they see their parents participating, and you can just watch a bond forming over shared art. As a bonus, the children have a tendency to talk and ramble as they work, and I’ve heard many parents getting a little extra insight into their young one’s day.

Beyond all of that, the educational value, the social value, the parenting value, I must admit that the thing that keeps me so invested in the program is the outright fun of sitting and drawing with these kids each week. We have a core group of regulars who show up for every session (even linger after and help pack up!), and as we sketch away on our monsters and robots and trolls we discuss current movies, favorite books, and general thoughts on life. I get instant Art Direction on what colors look best for certain space ships, and many is the time I’ve been prompted out of my comfort zone by a request for specific cartoon characters or someone’s favorite dinosaur.

If you’re a librarian, I highly recommend trying this out as an easy addition to your regular programs. If you are a parent, perhaps ask your local library to try something like this, or just set aside an hour at home for Art Time. If you’re an artist, grab some pencils and paper and go find some wee cousins, nieces, and nephews to draw with.

It’s worth it for everyone.

Photo Smorgasbord

I’ve had these bits and pieces from assorted projects  bouncing around my hard drive, thought I would post a bunch of them together. Enjoy!

A set of owl plaques drawn as a gift. Ink and watercolor on stained pine.

I promised my sister a trio of drawings for Christmas, entirely her pick. What did she go with? A list of six animals, to be combined however I saw fit into three new creatures. Slothkey, Hippoplatypus, and Sea Giraffe. She knows my strengths! Ink and watercolor on paper.Mass Effect commissions. Had a lot of fun playing with some colors. Marker on Bristol.

Kitty Ballerina for a friend. Cute x10. Ink and watercolor on paper.

Pinocchio plaque commission. Ink on stained pine.

Wicket E. Warwick commission, to accompany a Boba Fett and Vader I made earlier. Ink and colored pencil on brown paper.

A Christmas present for my gaming group, The Nerdhouse. I caricatured us all as some of our favorite characters, doing single watercolor paintings to give to each of them. Then I scanned them all in and collected them for a digital print.

Omnicon Aftermath: “A Hero’s Journey”

My entry for the Omnicon Art Contest this year was a large story mural entitled “A Hero’s Journey.” For some time I’ve been aware of Joseph Campbell and his Monomyth theory, but have never done any real research into it. I recently found time to watch his “Power of Myth” interviews, which I found fascinating. And so my piece is an incredibly boiled down version of his Hero’s Journey. It is composed of seven story panels, laid out vertically to be read from bottom to top, each depicting a step in the journey. The seven stages I chose/combined are The Call to Adventure, Meeting with the Mentor, Crossing the Threshold, Trials and Tests, Descent into Darkness, The Final Confrontation, and Salvation.
I wanted to use very stylized and minimalist characters and layout, to show the generic and all-encompassing nature of the story, though I was certainly influenced by outside forces. When I decided to color-code the three main characters, that of the Hero, the Villain, and the Princess, I went with a green/red/blue pattern as a tribute to the Legend of Zelda series (which is also very obviously influenced by the Monomyth). To further iconicize them, I attached a basic shape to each of the big three, respectively a triangle, square, and circle. I used these shapes as central features, as well as a guiding force in the physical design and layout for each character’s form. In retrospect, it may have been a mistake to make the Hero both green and a triangle, since I was regaled all weekend with “That’s a cool Zelda piece!” and “Neat, but you got the Link and Ganon wrong.” Oh well:]
Another symbolic choice was using the same brown color for both the scenery and the Mentor figure, to imply that he was of the earth, and something of a primal force (I wanted a solid Old Ben Kenobi vibe about him). Furthermore, once he bestows the Mystic Power on the Hero, it creates an immediate change in him, which we see stays with him even once he has let go of it, and is also passed on to his love.
 
As far as art technique goes, I started with a six foot long and one foot wide pine plank, which I sanded thoroughly and stained liberally. I used a gloss polyurethane coat to make sure my ink would not bleed, which, unfortunately, also made it quite difficult to photograph. My apologies.
 
Once the stain had dried, I went in and measured out my panels and borders, and then penciled in each of my scenes.  A lot of my technique here has been refined on the smaller drawings I do on wooden plaques. If I’m careful and keep my pencil lines fairly light, they’ll usually erase right off.
 
After everything was penciled, I mixed up copious amounts of each ink (terrified that I would not mix enough, and have to try a color match at the very end) and went in to ink each figure. I used a dip pen with a basic drawing nib, first outlining each shape and then going through to fill it. For some reason a brush does not get good coverage on top of the stain, instead making little beads everywhere, so I actually had to go through and scribble each solid shape full.
 
This took For-ev-er.
 
Once all of the figures were filled in, I then went back and added the horizon and foundation lines. And when these had dried, I tediously painted in the borders with gold acrylic paint. Once that was all finished, I was fortunate enough to retain assistance from The Gentleman Philip Fox, who went back and quite carefully erased all my pencil lines and smudges.
 
Then, it was finished! All told, I believe this took a little over a week to complete, and that was with some Very sleepless nights.
Whenever I work on a major piece like this, especially one in which I’ve invested so much thought, it is important for me to surround myself in inspiration the entire time. Normally I do this through thematically and emotionally appropriate music, but for this I ransacked my DVD collection for some of my favorite epic hero stories. Imbued within the ink are equal parts A New Hope, Never-Ending Story, The Rocketeer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Mask of Zorro, Hellboy, Conan the Barbarian, and more I can’t currently remember. As I worked, I noticed just how many this basic outline could fit over. Certainly Star Wars, as Lucas is a long-time supporter of Campbell’s. But also most of the others, perhaps with some slight rearranging of the steps’ order. And videogames equally well, when you think on it. The Super Mario series is basically a starter course in Monomyth.
All said and done, this was certainly a labor of love, and I am quite happy with my results.

Omnicon Aftermath: Con Report

Recent blog silence has been due to the frantic workload leading up to my hometown con, Omnicon!
In preparation, I produced a run of Dungeon Monster prints, a brand new sketchbook collection, and a massive wooden story mural entitled “A Hero’s Journey” for the art contest (that one gets its own post later:). After a several week haze of sleepless nights and coffee-addled days, the con was upon me!

 I had a variety of wares on display at my table, including many of the prints I showcased at the Art Prowl, as well as a new one featuring my art from the official Omnicon 2012 poster, entitled “Cockroaches and Nerds” (also soon to receive a dedicated post). There was a selection of larger sketchcards I had produced, with themes including Marvel Heroes, Disney Pixar, and Hogwart’s Faculty. Also, a series of small watercolor paintings, inspired by my Tiny Link drawings. To further the videogame theme, I offered some brownpaper drawings of Mario, Mega-Man, and Zelda characters.

My favorite item, however, was the Dungeon Monsters print series, available exclusively to those willing to brave the DIE OF DESTINY! Although only a handful had the guts required, we saw both a Critical Hit and a Critical Failure, both accompanied by the appropriate whoops and lamentations.

By far my most popular items were the mini-sketchcards, both pre-drawn and custom made. I had a sampling of characters from Adventure Time, Star Wars, Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon, as well as many original doodles. And I was also asked to draw several unique characters (including a couple Derpy’s:) but easily my favorite commission of the day was a pairing of Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla, complete with Electric Pigeon Soulmate (fascinating backstory here).

All in all, it was a delightful weekend. I can hardly wait for next year! And if any of these pieces catch your fancy, let me know, they might still be available, even if they haven’t shown up in The Shop.

 

A lotta little Links

Hey, all! Sorry for the recent radio silence. I’ve had myself sequestered to the drawing table, working up a bunch of new pieces for an upcoming art show (the Art Prowl, this weekend, for all you Cookeville folk) which I am excited to show off, as soon as they are finished.

Until then, I thought I’d share my silly doodles from the day. I decided to shake the cramps out of my fingers with a bunch of Link variations.

 

I can’t help it, I love me some Legend of Zelda. Hope you do too!