Friday, March 8, 2013

Spots: Anchorage Press "Super Shorts"

(hat-tip Sarah)

Scored a sweet little gig doing a batch of spot illustrations for the Anchorage Press' annual "Micro-Fiction" issue, out on the stands this week. Somewhat similar to the "Haiku" series I did for them back in 2010, this was a quick assignment and a nice break in the routine. After a recent wave of freelance gigs and commissions it's a great feeling to be "in shape" to catch an assignment outta left field and knock it right back.

It's always interesting to note the evolution of the image - mostly in color shifts and compositional cropping - as it progresses through different stages and as it then in turn appears in various media. I see the changes firsthand from pencil rough to the line art of the pen & ink drawing, and then to the digital color version (and in the case of the cover, an intermediary phase in grayscale). But then it gets turned over to other folks, and this is where the distinction between Fine Art versus Commercial Art becomes apparent, as you learn to just let it go and surrender control by trusting in the process and skills of others further up the publishing stream. Usually change is good, and in the majority of instances it's somebody else who makes me look good, or at least better. And still to this day, after years of drawing art for reproduction, one of the sublime pleasures is always actually getting to physically see the finished copy in print, on on the end-product like a tshirt or mug.

The initial query from the editor was super wide-open as far as parameters in the assignment: based on previous examples of other artists in past issues, it was up to me whether of not to base the illustrations on the the actual winning entries to the competition, or on the comparatively more loose category prompts:

An alley off Spenard
That's why we don't bother to name them
The eve of the apocalypse
Fire Island
High Pressure system
A fish processing plant in Seward, where a woman makes gluten free donuts 
used for fish bait (no sinkers required)
A storyknife in a pickle jar
A Questionnaire
A door
A bitter quadriplegic

Here's the series of quick roughs that I sketched primarily drawing from the prompts, and a couple specific ideas riffing off winning entries, which the editor also provided. The thumbnails were emailed back for approval, and given the green light within a matter of hours.

The "Bitter Quadriplegic" one in retrospect didn't mesh up at all with the written entry on said topic, but everything else went straight to inks. That stage was done over the course of a couple lulls in the hectic schedule: right before class and while sitting at a cafe after work.

Given the rapid turn-around over a few days I took as many short-cuts as possible, like Photoshopping in the spawn swarm on the above panel. As with everything doodled out, more ideas for potential future cartoons came about as a result of the process.

This particular piece was originally intended to be one of the black & white spots in the interior of the paper, but as it happened - due to a tech issue with the file of the photograph originally slated as the issue cover - it morphed at the eleventh hour into a full-color version. This allowed for the inclusion of a few other elements into the composition, as seen when compared to the published variation posted earlier.

There was a minor speed-bump in the process after experimenting with a new brand of India ink (Dr. Phil Martin's Bombay Black) + a new nib, both of which reacted badly with the poor caliber of paper I did the sketches on: turned out to be way too lightweight and so buckled and bled. But partly to expedite the work and also maintain a consistent look throughout the series of spots I went ahead and finished all the pieces and compensated by a slightly longer digital cleanup stage after scanning.

Couldn't decide which of these two went better with the associated text, so did 'em both, figuring whichever one didn't make the cut could be recycled for something else later on down the road. And as with everything, once the wheels begin turning and ink starts too flow more ideas beget more inspiration-through-perspiration (for example we'll see a variation on the gaping mouth on a collaborative ceramic piece in about a month).

For topics like a "high-pressure system" and the ensuing effect this can have upon a cabin-dweller's fragile psyche, one doesn't have to dig very deep for ideas. Or exaggerate either.

Likewise the frequent moments of amusement espying skiers traversing the back edge of the property line that the cabin sits on, which abuts the university trail system and is withing hailing distance of the outhouse. Talk about a crappy check-point.

“Nature is as wasteful of promising young men as she is of fish spawn.” - Richard M. Nixon
“You can't spawn your way over a concrete dam” - Bruce Babbitt

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