A few months ago, I was hired to do an illustration for BITCH magazine (YAY!) and now that the magazine has finally been published, I can post about it! I was so excited that they contacted me, and even more excited when I found out the article I was illustrating was about animals :) Oh, and that they gave me a FULL PAGE!
Working with the staff at Bitch went really smoothly, and I'd love to do it again. I try to send out promotional postcards to publishers, etc. at least twice a year (next year I'm aiming for 3 times) and apparently the last postcard I sent to Bitch prompted them to contact me. It's working! Slowly but surely...
This issue of Bitch will be at stores on December 1st -- I received my copy in the mail a few days ago, and it looks great. Go get yours! :) My illustration was for an article about the connections between feminism and vegetarianism. Here it is!
Last week I went to the San Francisco Zoo for my weekly sketch-from-life trip. I haven't been there in YEARS. Every time I've been to the zoo out there by the ocean it's been overcast, but this time, even though it was cold, it was a gorgeous, clear, sunny day.
I told my mom I was going, and she asked what kind of animals I wanted to spend time drawing. I told her I was looking to draw some big weird birds. "You always want to draw big weird birds!" she said. I told her if I found some meerkats or something equally cute and cuddly I'd draw them for her.
Since I last went to the zoo, a huge "African Savannah" exhibit has been installed -- the first thing you notice when you come in the gates. It is really nicely architected, with bridges and underpasses that allow you to stare into the same enclosures from like ten different places. The first big enclosure houses zebras, kudu, oryx, giraffes, and some AWESOME big weird birds, which I started sketching immediately to warm up.
These African storks are called marabou -- sound familiar? Their feathers are used for feather boas, feathered collars, fishing flies, etc. Poor guys! My sister asked "wait, do they have to kill them for their...? oh."
Drawing in public places is funny. I like to pretend I'm not even there when other people are around (although I smile at kids) and I often get to eavesdrop on all kinds of weird comments and conversations. Sometimes what I overhear leaves me feeling depressed about humanity. The stupidest thing said in my presence at the stork enclosure:
"Daddy? What are those birds?"
"I'm not sure! I think they're pelicans." he says, not bothering to look at the SIGN about 2 feet from him... (PELICANS?!)
His kid kept calling the ostriches "emus", as well, and it was all I could do to keep myself from correcting him... but I guess that's my problem ;)
Smartest thing said in my presence (perhaps the whole day, actually):
8-10 year old boy runs up, looks at the storks, points, and tells his nanny "Those birds eat MEAT. They have bare heads." ! True! I wanted to commend him for his intelligent assessment, but he was already on to the next thing. Oh well.
After I'd warmed up sketching for a while I went to the African savannah aviary to spend some real time with big weird birds! I went in through a series of doors and came out, turned around, and saw that the roof of the small building I walked through was COVERED in some of the weirdest big birds I'd ever seen. I spent more than an hour standing in there drawing until I had to go eat.
I realized this funny stork is called the 'Open-billed stork' because the top and bottom of the beak actually curve in opposite directions, so there is a space between them. The other bird, the 'Waldrapp Ibis', was a totally freaky dinosaur-like combination of ibis and vulture, with a scaly naked red head and a big poof of black feathers coming off the back. I think it may be my new favorite weird bird.
Most hateful exchange overheard in this enclosure:
Dumbass frat boy: That bird is so fucking weird!
Dumb muffy bitch girlfriend: I *HATE* birds.
Dumbass frat boy: You do? *laughs* Why?
Dumb muffy bitch girlfriend: They're SO gross! Let's go.
(note: there were plenty of cute and pretty birds in here too, not just funny-looking ones!)
I actually spent so much time with the weird African birds I only had a couple hours left before I had to leave. I made a beeline for the South American section -- time to draw some of my favorite weird mammals!
The capybaras, who I didn't see at first, were hanging out looking EXTREMELY cool and casual, lounging in their own little carport style shade structure. (I could almost see them looking at me over their Risky Business-wayfarer-style sunglasses.) Of course these capybaras are for Mo. The anteater is for Khris (and ME)... I LOVE THEM! It was just me and the anteater for a long time in there -- he came up and snuffled his long snuffly nose right by my feet! I wanted to pet the snuffly end SO badly.
Found the meerkats in the children's zoo. It's a really awesome installation, actually. These are for mom, who is totally into "Meerkat Manor" right now.
On my way out, I determined that the zoo is free the first Wednesday of every month. I intend to go back in the next few months and install myself in the African aviary again!
After months of work (ok, I was working on other stuff too, but STILL!) I FINALLY finished penciling all 18 pages of my elephant seal story "Breeding Season" on Sunday. I was so excited to get on to the inking that I did these two panels right away. These panels look SO different from the delicately penciled pages I've been working on for so long I find it kind of startling -- it's just so high contrast and BOLD! I think I'm going to like it a lot, but first I have to get used to it...
Did you know there is a natural spring in the Presidio? I sure didn't! Apparently this was a spot frequented by native americans because it was a great source of fresh water. Where is it coming from? I have no idea, but it sure is neat.
I was talking to someone about bird watching in San Francisco, and she mentioned El Polin Spring as an amazing place to see birds. I found it on a map and drove over there. I soon learned that she wasn't talking about the kind of big waterbirds *I* generally prefer to look at -- apparently birding snobs are above bothering with such large, easy to distinguish birds as egrets and night herons. El Polin Spring is a haven for lots of little tiny brown songbird type birds, so fast and small and hard to tell apart (or even look at for more than 5 seconds), I guess it's truely challenging... or truely IMPOSSIBLE if you're trying to draw wildlife!
I did my best and dutifully got out my Sibley's and binoculars and tried to identify some of those tiny little bitches. I actually figured out what a few of them were, but I came out there to DRAW. I noticed a banana slug on the ground in front of me, and he wasn't moving very quickly, so I drew him instead!
Then I decided to practice some of the quick sketching techniques I've been working on with some of these light-speed birds hopping around me. I actually made a couple sketches of an Oregon Junco I'm pretty happy with:
As for bird identification, there was one type of bird I was seeing a lot of, and having a hell of a time figuring out what it was, until it flashed its unbelievably bright, iridescent red crest. There were a ton of these little guys flitting around, and they're really pretty cute. I got to see a few bathing in the spring, splashing more water around than a bird 4 times their size. Still, they aren't all big and huggable like pelicans.
Ruby-crowned kinglet from BirdSource
Last week (11/2/06) I spent a peaceful, rainy afternoon sketching plants and flowers at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. I spent most of my time sitting in rooms with tropical plants, kept nice and toasty and pleasantly humid, listening to the rain on the millions of glass panes that make up the Conservatory walls and ceiling. It smelled of vanilla, plumeria, and wet leaves, and if I closed my eyes I could pretend I was in Tahiti, waiting out an afternoon tropical shower.
I've been reading a book Todd ordered called Fast Sketching Techniques, and so far the author has spent a lot of time talking about the difference between a SKETCH and a drawing. Sketching is something that really becomes important when trying to capture the likeness of something that is moving around a lot, like animals, or when just trying to get the general feel for the subject. I've realized that most of what I do when I'm out on these 'sketching' trips are actually drawings -- I'm sitting and taking the time to add in details, mostly because animals in tanks and enclosures don't really go very far, and airplanes and plants and fossils don't move at all! However, each of these 'drawings' take between 10-45 minutes, which means that the amount of different things I get to pay attention to is really limited. I also feel like sometimes I get too caught up in noodle-y details too soon, and I'm not really getting the whole feeling of the subject.
The drawing classes, workshops, and even modeling sessions I have gone to tend to start with a series of very short, loose sketches to get us 'warmed up'. I used to be in the habit of doing this on my own, but it has kind of gone by the wayside, and I think I'm starting to figure out that this practice is really important!
Here is a DRAWING I did at the Conservatory.
After doing this drawing, I forced myself to spend some time doing quick, gestural sketches of the plants around me. (Next time I will probably start out this way.) I decided this was necessary because one of the things I have trouble with is NOT drawing every leaf if I can see every leaf and have a (somewhat) unlimited amount of time! I started to feel like I was getting bogged down by detail, and wanted to stop feeling overwhelmed by plants with say, more than ten leaves. Like most of them...
So here's some of the quick sketches:
Some more I like, that I feel really get the overall gesture of the plant...
After a few hours alone the notes to myself in my sketchbook tend to get more and more silly... but don't those leaves look like tacos?
After about 8 of these 1-2 minute sketches, I was feeling kind of beat. I'm out of practice at this kind of vigorous recording, and to my credit I also didn't sleep much the night before. I was ready to sit back down and draw at a more steady, measured pace.
I like this one because, okay, I did draw almost every leaf (they're BIG though) but I feel like I loosened up a little and still managed to create a really nice representation without getting too agro about all the little nuances of light and shadow, veins in the leaves, etc. Although I'm also not using a really fine point pen, but a fairly thick pencil... I don't know... I'm still figuring all this out.
I made this little pug painting for Todd for his birthday: