Saturday, June 8, 2013

A blurb about

Ta-da!! My first Blurb book.

This past Friday, I found a nice surprise at my doorstep: a box leaning dangerously close to a puddle as the dying rains of tropical storm Andrea washed through the open halls of my condo building.

Packaged carefully inside the box was a book from which I had ordered five days earlier and expected to received a week and a half later.

The back side.
The book I had printed was a 20-page edition featuring my submissions to Dani Jones' Daily Doodlers sketch challenge from back in March. I had requested a paper sample package from and also received a promotional code for any order placed by June 2. Got it in just under the wire.

Due to copyright restrictions of some of the images' inspirations and quotes that I used, this book won't be made available for distribution. It was only a personal test-drive of Blurb's Indesign plugin, PDF transfer and printing. I may be involved in a Blurb-printed project for someone else later this year, and wanted to learn more about the process. Still, it was quite exciting to see my own little book.

I was very happy with Blurb's printing results overall. The book was a perfect-bound softcover with their premium lustre paper. The colors on the glossy cover were brilliant. (The photos don't accurately convey the colors. It really looked good.) The inside pages were also bright and saturated. 20 pages exactly, placed right, plus one page at the end which had the Blurb logo on it, which I could have had removed by paying an extra 7 or 8 bucks. It didn't matter much to me at this point.

Inside pages.
The only areas to keep an eye on with future printings are these: Any textures or patterns in which the colors are similar seem to lose contrast. This can happen under any printing process. I've seen it in the best art books. The images also look a bit darker - not in a way that I was very upset about, though. But, it is something to keep in mind when prepping any photos or images. They always look brighter on the screen. If the digital file looks dark, the printed piece certainly will be, perhaps even more so. And, it is so important to use the color profile that Blurb provides. It will make all the difference.

More inside pages.
The process for creating the book was relatively easy. Having worked in the graphic design industry for many years, I can't emphasize enough the importance of good image and file preparation prior to submitting to any printer. I scoured all of's FAQ pages, tutorials and forums for every ounce of information on how to get the best result. Blurb has great webinars available on their site covering monitor calibration, book design, file preparation and more.

They also offer tools like Bookify, which can be used to upload photos and make books instantly, and BookSmart, downloadable software that allows for more personalization. I chose to go with their InDesign plugin for maximum control. It helps you create the document at the right size and page count, including bleed and safe area marks. The final PDF can also be uploaded through the plugin. It was really simple.

So, here I am, thrilled with the results and very motivated to create more images for future publications of all sorts. Thank you,

And, special thanks also to Dani Jones, who provided a great inspiration with her daily sketch challenge. Many artists participated and produced some awesome images. They can be found on Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr under the hashtag #dailydoodlers.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Locutus - iPad with Procreate

 Why do you resist? 
We only wish to raise quality of life, for all species. 
- Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Best of Both Worlds, 1990

Proud to say I am a Star Trek fan, specifically a TNG girl. So, here's Captain Jean-Luc Picard during one of his off-days as an tricked out Borg. This two-part episode will be released in select theaters soon for a day or so, and even though I've seen it a million times, it's tempting to check it out on the big screen.

Below are process pics of the sketch. I've seen the process of other artists, usually a graceful ballet of brush or pencil strokes which evolves into a beautiful piece.

I am the first to admit, my process is a train wreck. Nonetheless, with patience and persistence, it still yields postable results.

This is the source image I began with. I also referenced others with a brighter red light.
I first lay down preliminary lines. Then, I start to fill in the eyes, nose and mouth area.

Fill in more features. This is the point where I'm wondering where it's going. I start to tackle the Borg hardware, then notice poor Locutus has cranial swelling. Time to remeasure.
Fixing up my proportions, Locutus is back on track. Adding details and further tweaking. Once I'm satisfied with a black and white sketch, it's on to coloring. 

It's easy to get spoiled on the iPad or any digital device, where you can do infinite corrections and changes. Tactile media forces you to make more of a commitment. I'll be returning to traditional painting and drawing soon, to see if these exercises have strengthened the "perceptual" muscle. At least, I've saved some trees in the meantime.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Timey Wimey

The Tenth • iPad with Procreate

I'm old enough to know that a longer life isn't always a better one. In the end you just get tired. Tired of the struggle. Tired of losing everyone that matters to you. Tired of watching everything turn to dust. If you live long enough, the only certainty left is that you'll end up alone.
- The Tenth Doctor

In celebration of David Tennant's return to BBC with "Spies of Warsaw", this iPad portrait exercise features the Tenth Doctor and his magical time box.

I've been watching Dr. Who since I was a kid. Yes, I remember the old black and white episodes on PBS. So, here is where I stand as a DW fan:

Favorite doctor:
Classic: Tie - Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker
Modern: David Tennant

Favorite companion:
Classic: Tie - Jamie McCrimmon, Sarah Jane Smith
Modern: Martha Jones

Favorite episode:
Classic: The Ark in Space (first one I ever watched)
Modern: Blink

Favorite alien menace:
Classic: I remember some silvery humanoid thing that was so fast, it could jump and disappear, but can't remember the name. That, and Davros, though I didn't like his Modern version
Modern: Weeping Angels (especially the Statue of Liberty one)           

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

T-Rex does the Hop

Easter T-Rex • iPad with Procreate

In the Spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.  
- Mark Twain

As Spring comes kicking and screaming into our area, like a cat being taken to the vet, another holiday quickly approaches. Fake plastic grass, themed items of every pastel hue in the spectrum, and candy enough to put a gargantuan dino into a diabetic snooze have littered the stores since before Valentine's Day.

So, what's up with the picture? A result of a jelly bean overdose hallucination? A mockery of Eastertime commercialization?

None of that. He fell into my head - kerplunk! - one day while pondering what kind of bunny drawing I was going to do for illustrator Dani Jones' March Daily Doodle Challenge.

The Challenge can be followed on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr (mostly on the first two) under the hashtag #dailydoodlers. Each day, from March 6 to 29 minus weekends, has a different theme and participating sketchers post their offerings. The results range from sublime to hilarious. A collection of crazy creative blossoms for all to see and enjoy. It's been so much fun, and the daily sketching has sharpened my skills in ways I didn't expect.

I am also taking my Easter T-Rex to Aquariann's Bunny Blog Hop, where I hope he'll stick to egg distribution and abstain from gobbling up the cute little critters featured there.

Click below to visit, and feel free to participate, too!

aquariann's Bunny Blog Hop

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Shine Together

The Conversation - iPad with Procreate

When something happens, it can leave a trace of itself behind. Say like, if someone burns toast. Well, maybe things that happen leave other kinds of traces behind. Not things that anyone can notice, but things that people who "shine" can see. 
- Dick Hallorann, The Shining, 1980

Stanley Kubrick's film version of The Shining glossed over the family dynamics and more emotional elements in Stephen King's novel, and that's a shame. But, in spite of the slasher theatrics and cartoony performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, it's still visually impressive and has some nice moments in it.

There was a 1997 mini-series that was a bit more faithful to the book. Unfortunately, it went too much to the other extreme and came off like an ultra-sappy Hallmark Moment-of-Truth movie.

The above iPad portrait features my favorite scene from the Kubrick version. Hotel chef Dick Hallorann converses with little Danny Torrance, played wonderfully by Scatman Crothers and Danny Loyd, respectively. A small child who is stuck in a situation he has trouble understanding is comforted by an adult who offers advice and lets him know he is not alone. In all incarnations of the story, the character of Dick Hallorann is a kind, compassionate and brave soul.

Sometimes, when you are small and feel disconnected from everyone around you, it means the world when another person makes an effort to offer kindness and help you find the strength within.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Midnight Star

Stella - iPad with Procreate

The world is what you make of it, friend. 
If it doesn't fit, you make alterations. 
- Stella, Silverado, 1985

This week's portrait features another strong lady, a fictional one from the 1985 film Silverado.

I saw it when it first came out in theaters. It was a fun homage to the popcorn Westerns of the past, with all the traditional elements - corrupt lawmen, outsider heroes and the final showdown shootout. It wasn't a movie that was out to blaze any new trails, proudly serving up every cliché in the genre. But I loved it anyway and thought Kevin Costner was the cutest thing in a fancy two-gun rig I'd ever seen.

The most impressive supporting character was a diminutive barkeep named Stella, played by the always impressive Linda Hunt, currently of NCIS: Los Angeles fame.

Stella sits in the eye of a storm of evil swirling around Silverado. She runs the Midnight Star Saloon with a calm demeanor and has the townspeople's respect. My favorite scene is when she first meets Paden, a luckless wanderer. He stays mostly on the sidelines as events unfold until Stella says the words he needs to hear to help him choose a direction:

Some people think because they're stronger, 
or meaner, that they can push you around. 
I've seen a lot of that. 
But it's only true if you let it be.

That's a statement worth raising a glass to.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thank You, Harriet Tubman

Miss Harriet - iPad using Procreate

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. 
Always remember, you have within you the strength, 
the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars 
to change the world.
Harriet Tubman

But your father lived by a philosophy, a principle really.
He believed that...that if you could do good things for other 
people, you had a moral obligation to do those things. 
That's what at stake here. Not a choice, responsibility.
- Ben Parker to Peter Parker, The Amazing Spider-Man 2012

March 10, 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of Araminta "Harriet" Ross Tubman, a woman whose heroic efforts in the freeing of many slaves through the Underground Railroad continue to astonish.

While creating this iPad painting from an old fuzzy photograph, 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man was playing in the background. But, it wasn't till later that I noticed the coincidence. Two figures, one real, one fictional, and both choosing to do the right thing and help others, however difficult. 

Today's kids are more impressed with a swinging web-slinger than anyone in a history book. Computer generated monsters hold their attention longer. But, there was nothing artificial in Harriet's mission. She worked mostly in the cold of wintertime and in the dark of night. And the night was really dark. 

We in the modern world, especially those close to towns and cities, forget what real darkness is. When you can't see your hand in front of your face if it's cloudy or there's no moon. When it's clear, the sky is crazy with stars. There's nobody to call on, no phones, no passing cars, no maps or GPS. You're completely on your own. Add as a bonus, that in Harriet's case, she and the people she was leading to freedom were constantly pursued. 

Harriet escaped from slavery, but didn't stop there. She returned for her family, but didn't stop there. She continued to go back for people, through all kinds of adversity and the threat that she could be caught and/or killed.

What kind of courage is that? Where does it come from? And why is it so hard to find within ourselves. Looking at this life makes our own little problems seem beyond absurd. Our roadblocks don't come in the form of slavecatchers and dogs. They are the ridiculous illusions built up in our minds that we cannot do a thing. That our goals are too far off and we don't have what it takes.

If Harriet agonized over whether or not she had what it took to perform this incredible work, she didn't let it stop her. This little five-foot-nothing woman did it anyway. She set out to blaze a trail and succeeded, and that path to freedom continues to light the way for anyone who has dared to realize their dream.

Now, what possible excuses could any of us have?