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Pay No Attention to the Woman Behind That Selfie

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Another class assignment! Here’s an illustration inspired by a New York Times essay by a woman whose online persona became a real-life façade.

If you spend eight years building a house (no matter how uncomfortable or ugly it may be, no matter how impractical or poorly lit), it becomes nearly impossible to knock it down. That is about how long I put into building my social media presence, into becoming the cool girl I showcase on Instagram and Facebook.

This was a lot of fun, because it was another chance to put planning and problem-solving into action. I had something a little surreal in my head, but no idea how the heck to draw it. I probably did 20 or so little thumbnail sketches trying to figure out angles and shapes that might work. Deciding on colors, which I find harder than drawing, took way more time than I’d like to admit. And, after some feedback in class tonight, I added a few more visual cues to hopefully make anyone familiar with Instagram know that we’re seeing the behind-the-scene angst of a larger-than-life online personality.

Whatever Gets You Through the Day

Posted by Mark in Mark's Sketchbook

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This week’s assignment: read this New York Times article from 1987 and come up with an illustration. It starts with jotting down your own short summary to wrap your mind around what the article is fundamentally about. My take on this article:

Walter Mitty is real–a small but significant portion of the population are happily spending more than half their lives in a fantasy world.

The next step is to fill a page or three with quick idea sketches. The idea is not to create a great drawing, but to come up with a concept or composition that tells a story.

After deciding on this one, I did another series of small sketches to come up with a composition I liked. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, solving problems at the thumbnail stage saves a lot of frustration in the drawing stage. I think I still have a lot to learn about color and contrast, but this approach has really taken most of the pain out of the drawing process.

By the way, I have no idea why my first two illustrations for this class involved the subway. It wasn’t intentional–I’d rather walk any day of the week!

If You See Something, Draw Something

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I’m really enjoying the illustration class that I signed up for on a whim. The instructor is Steve Brodner, a very accomplished illustrator and caricaturist.

That first assignment morphed into a few more pages of thumbnail-sized doodles. Brodner really emphasizes the importance of figuring out all the potential problems of your drawing BEFORE you start working full-size, or with any sort of detail. Figure out which character is most important, and either through size, or contrast, or both, ensure that the viewer’s eye is drawn toward them. And most importantly, ensure that your drawing tells a story. The job of an illustrator is often to literally sum up a magazine or newspaper article in some way.

So my story here is, if you’re someone who likes to draw people, it’s hard to beat the tableau provided by the NYC subway.

Of course, unlike my acrobatic alter ego here, I’m often too self-concious to start sketching people in public. One interesting thing not depicted here is that, as much as people in NY exist in their own bubbles, there’s always that guy that will cross over into yours and ask you a million questions about drawing. I guess that’s another story for another illustration.

Home Sweet Homework

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This may look like a rough comic strip, but it’s actually the first homework for my latest “continuing education” (i.e. old person) class at the School of Visual arts, which starts tomorrow. Here’s the prompt:

  • Think about the moment something you saw, heard, experienced in some way changed your life. Write a paragraph telling that story. How you were before, how you were afterward, the moment of inflection.
  • Fold a page into 1/8s.
  • Fill all 8 compartments with sketches that express what is important about that story.

Here’s my paragraph, with a disclaimer:

Cheating a bit. My first thought was the first time I visited NYC, flying in from L.A. in 1999. Even though it would take another seven years, I knew I would move here. I went back and looked at a journal entry from the time, and found a paragraph that sums it up perfectly.

I felt a strange sensation as we pulled into Grand Central Station. It persisted as we walked up to the exit on 42nd Street. And suddenly I was outside. I looked around. It was as if I had gone through the looking glass. I had seen New York countless times before, but never in three dimensions. Sure, Los Angeles has the Hollywood sign, but you can’t reach out and touch it. New York has New York—no matter what street I ended up on, I was surrounded by icons of American culture: cabs, subway stations, hot dog and peanut vendors. Starting with Sesame Street, I was brought up accustomed to these things, even though I never actually saw them in real life. In a sense, I was instantly comfortable.

(Oh, and to explain one of the panels: There’s a New York diner mainstay called an “egg cream,” which is just chocolate syrup, soda, and milk. No eggs, no cream.)

Pollen Hate

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Did Spring come late, or does it just take a while for my histamines to catch up? At any rate, g’bless me.

As is usually the case when I draw my stupid mug, this rare non-digital watercolor was homework for my never-ending Saturday art class. Oh wait, did I say never-ending? Apparently the school is closing in the Fall after a mere 192 years! Word on the street is that funds were colossally mismanaged by new management.

What is it with 2017 and amateurs running great institutions into the ground?

 

Better Call Ripley

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These three kids are the best of friends, but one of them was born 104 years, 10 months, and 11 days before the other two. Believe it or not!

Giving Thanks

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It’s hard for me to think of my Uncle Mike without picturing a pool cue in his hand. Sure, he had a lot more going on, but rarely did I see him light up as when he would explain to his nieces and nephews the physics behind his favorite trick shots. He was a billiards nerd the way I’m a…nerd, except for him it was actually lucrative, keeping his young kids fed and in diapers when money was tight.

Everyone gets older, people pass on, and yearly traditions once taken for granted run their natural course. In my mind, Thanksgiving at Uncle Mike and Aunt Anita’s, in the hills above Napa Valley, has coalesced into a single, timeless memory, like a movie I’ve watched again and again.

The sound of gravel being kicked up as we pull into the long driveway. The boisterous hellos and the giddy anticipation as we hover around the busy kitchen. Plates piled high, the popping of corks, and unrestrained laughter. The beckoning dessert table, and the strategies concocted for trying every type of pie without literally exploding.

And then, finally, people falling into their post-feast rhythm. On the main floor, the true adults settle in for stimulating conversation, while those of us craving more of a show head downstairs to watch Uncle Raymond razz Uncle Mike, as Uncle Mike effortlessly runs the table and looks for his next victim.

No takers? Then it’s time to learn from the master, as he shows us how to win money placing pool hall bets using a knowledge of angles and english, and clever uses of spit.

We try to take it all in. For a moment, becoming a pool shark seems like a real possibility, and we try to think of ways to fit it into our schedule.

And then we snap back to reality, realizing that it’s easier just to live vicariously through the tall, lanky, seemingly unflappable hustler turned entrepreneur turned cool friendly uncle.

And finally, the long goodbyes, the yawns, the hugs among a soundtrack of crickets under a starry country sky, and the sound of gravel under rubber once again. We look back and wave, never thinking it’ll be the last time.

Inevitably, one time, it is. But that’s okay–I know it all by heart.

Babies Having Babies

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Oh wait, my baby cousin is almost 33? Wait a minute, that makes me…(minus 7…carry the one…) elderly.

In that case, congratulations are in order to Emily, Bryce, and my first cousin once removed, Jetty!

Side note: it’s never been more appropriate to point out that I drew this in an iPad drawing app called Procreate!

Rumors of his dirty ratness are greatly exaggerated

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I’m greatly enjoying the epic podcast The Secret History of Hollywood. Actually, it’s less of a podcast and more of an audiobook. You should check it out. I’m just starting part three of the latest series, “Bullets and Blood.” In parts one and two, Cagney emerges as one of the few people in Hollywood with two feet on the ground and a good heart. Some of the best anecdotes in the podcast are of his tussles with the mercenary head of the Warner Brothers Studio, Jack L. Warner, who was vexed by a rare star who needed the studio less than the studio needed him.

If some crazy dark side of his personality emerges in part three, please don’t spoil it for me!