Saturday, April 28, 2012

Recent Inspiration: the Titanic

I've become preoccupied with the story of Titanic ever since the re-release of James Cameron's 3D version that commemorates the centennial of the ship's sinking. I went to see the movie on April 14, 2012...100 years to the day the ship sank in 1912. I stayed up all night following the History Channel's tweets of the Titanic's demise as it happened 100 years ago. It officially foundered at 2:20am on April 15th. I can't seem to get the sad story out of my much so that I wander through cities looking at tall buildings comparing them to Titanic. She was 882 feet long - that's almost as long as a 90 story building is tall!

The first time the movie came out in 1997, I saw it 10 times in theaters, partly because I had a crush on Leonardo DiCaprio (I was in high school, ok gimme a break). But now watching it again on the big screen 15 years later, something deeper has captivated my imagination. I want to know the true stories, to empathize and experience the bitterness, to cry with those who lost loved ones. I am inspired by the brave souls who went down with the ship, the women who climbed out of the life boats because they would not leave their husbands, the parents who tossed their children into a life boat and stood on deck, waving goodbye. It's heart-wrenching, and somehow learning about the historical catastrophe offers courage and strength to deal with life.

On April 15th, I drove to Orlando to a brand new museum called "Titanic: the Experience". The place was packed and I was forced to tour with a group of about 50 people. I barely had room or time to sketch anything, but I lingered in the back and was able to experience a life-size recreation of Titanic's grand staircase all to myself. It was fabulous and eerie. I imagined myself on the ship, what it would be like to be a passenger and walk up those stairs, admiring the beauty and feeling so proud to be on the maiden voyage.

Try this experiment: place your hands in a bucket of ice and count to 10. One one thousand, two one the time you get to ten, that's what your body would have felt like being plunged into the icy Atlantic as a doomed passenger on the great Titanic. Most people didn't drown, they froze to death. Having a taste of what that would feel like somehow makes me a apply the lessons of Titanic to my own life.

What lessons?

A lesson in humility.
A reminder of the sublime.
A test of self-sacrifice.
That when the game is over, both king and pawn go back into the same box.

Logan Marshall, editor of the book On Board the Titanic, sums up:

"Whatever view of the accident be taken, whether the moralist use it to point out a solemn warning, or the materialist scout a theory that it was nothing more than the 'fortuitous concurrence of atoms', there is scarcely a thinking mortal who has not been deeply stirred in the sense of personal bereavement, to a profound humility and a conviction of his own significance in the greater universal matter what one believes, the effect is the same. To reduce man from a swaggering braggart - the self-made master of fate, of nature, of time, of space, of everything - to his true microscopic stature in the cosmos....How little is the 882 feet of the 'monster' that we launched compared with the arc of the rainbow we can see even in our grief spanning the frozen boreal mist!"

"Lest we forget! Lest we forget!"

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Influence Map

These influence maps have really become popular, just Google it to see what I mean...

I wanted to make an influence map because I'm often asked who are my favorite artists. I have a lot of favorites, but they don't all influence me. When an artist influences me, that typically means I look to their work for inspiration on how to problem-solve, how to paint, how to tell a story.

 I love the artists above for their sense of color, design, and conceptual narrative. Subject matter is also key - I love all things adventurous, emotional, uplifting, and fantastical. If an artist is crazy-talented but their subject matter is very dark, I typically won't be inspired to go paint like them. The message and the technique have to vibe with my soul in order to inspire me. When I discover an artistic soulmate, their work typically makes me want to race home and bust out my paintbox to create something beautiful.

So, I'll briefly cover why each of these artists has made it to my shortlist:

1. Jacob van Ruisdael - I discovered this Flemish northern renaissance painter while studying abroad in Holland. I fell in love with his depiction of clouds and landscape.

2. N.C. Wyeth - what can I say besides "hail to the master!" I really love his technique and use of color. Subject matter is also inspiring.

3. Justin Gerard - Subject matter is so epic! I study his compositions and color choices.

4. Jeff Soto - Jeff is from my hometown and has made it so big that I can't help admire him for an uber-successful career. His work is meaningful, bold, well-crafted, and very creative. Plus, he's a really humble, hard-working fellow which greatly inspires me.

5. Jon Foster - amazing compositions and color schemes. Plus, the subject matter is always intriguing. Sometimes it branches out into Sci-Fi which I'm not that into, but I still admire each piece created by this man.

6. Robert Mackenzie - emotion, technical sensitivity, character-cuteness factor, subdued color palette, has an old-world appeal.

7. Joe Sorren -  bizarre, very creative, bold and painterly use of color, very juicy oil paintings (must see originals to appreciate the glorious oil technique!!) emotional, makes you want to empathize with the characters.

8. Vladimir Kush - conceptual and brilliant at combining disparate subjects into a new idea. His paintings are very colorful and refined. I'm always in awe of how he blends oil paint.

9. Mary Blair - Color!! Design!! Fantasy!! Disney, Golden Books, her career was incredible.

10. Chris Buzelli - very generous in answering questions and talking about his process. I love how he stylizes people and animals, his color palette, and editorial concepts.

11. Peter de Seve - Brilliant character designer, which is what I look to him for the most. I also love his painting technique.

Chop Chop! I cut off my hair!


I've always had long hair ever since I had a say in the matter (the exception being my long bowl cut in preschool, but that was not my doing). However, last Wednesday I decided it was time for a change...

I chopped off my long hair into a pixie cut!! 

The idea had crossed my mind months ago - in fact the thought is documented in a tweet I posted one late night while contemplating life. I had asked myself why do I bother with long hair when all I ever do is wear it up? Granted, I wore it down occasionally, but it always bugged me. The tangles, the frizzies, the weight, the heat, the straightening and curling and blowdrying - UGH. After a while I began to default into a no-maintenance ponytail or bun. And I wore it like this for years!!  

Until one day last week, I was just over it. Just like that. Over it!! I called up my friend who is a hairdresser to make an appointment. Sitting in the salon chair, she put my hair in two ponytails and with scissors in hand, said "Ok, I'm going to cut!" CHOP! CHOP! I was past the point of no return and very happy about it. The experience was an adrenaline rush - very exciting to do something drastic, yet not too risky because luckily, hair grows back.

I have no regrets, haven't shed a single tear, and have yet to say I miss my long hair - because I don't! I love having short hair!! It's so easy to wash, to style, to drive with the windows rolled down and not have pieces of hair flapping in your face or blinding your vision. It's just wonderful :)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rainforest Faces

 I recently went with a friend to the lovely Selby Gardens in Sarasota, FL, to see the annual Rainforest Mask Exhibit. A family of artisans from Boruca in Costa Rica work year-round creating these masks from soft balsa wood and then hand-paint each one with acrylic color.

 As you can see from the drawing above, I had my sketchbook handy and was drawn to this particular face. Many of the masks portrayed a face of some sort, known as a Diablito intended to ward off enemies, but some masks featured flowers, birds, frogs, and other rainforest creatures. I LOVED all the scary fanged faces, such as this one...

Haha! He is so cool. I wanted to buy him but he was sold, as was practically the entire show!

It's obvious that the artistic process to create one of these masks involves a lot of skill. I was most impressed by the quality of carving and the vibrant colors, patterns, and details. On average, a design is carved in 3 days, then painted in another 3 days, so nearly a week of hard work before one can be called "finished". If you are interested in learning more about these masks, check out this overview presented by Selby Gardens. 

Here are a few pics of my other favorites (awesome fangs).