Archives for category: art







Here are a couple of my recent doodles, completed during a lecture class to prevent me from falling asleep. I have a robot and mustache(moustache?) obsession, by the way.

Between now and the end of the Spring semester I have an incredible amount of work to do on school and personal projects, so I figured I might as well document their progress. Here are some of the projects that will prevent me from sleeping for the next 6-7 weeks.

The T(ea) Book
        One of the projects due in 6 weeks for my Book Structures class is a partner project, where each pair comes up with their own book concept and design. My partner, Sara, and I, discovered a shared passion for tea, and are making a tea book. This book will contain tea-related imagery (my strength) and will be printed on fabric (Sara’s strength); the pages will be held together with a length of ribbon with a printed quote. The inside of the book will contain famous quotes about tea paired with the imagery. The box will be a canvas or muslin covered slipcase with a lid, similar to a tea box. We will likely stain the muslin…with tea! Because we our book is so simple, we had trouble coming up with a title, but then landed on the simply typographic letter “T.” It will reflect the simplicity of the pages containing text.

The Word Book
         For the same Book Structures class I mentioned above, we need to complete a final book project on our own. I’ve been having a lot of trouble coming up with ideas, and this particular idea is still a very tentative one. I have favorite words in the way that I have favorite songs; I hear or see them and I’m comforted, I laugh, or am prompted to think. The book idea I’m proposing will be an entire alphabet of my favorite words; my favorite word for each of the 26 letters. The page containing the word will have pronunciation, origin, definition and whatever other information I feel like including. I may also pair the words with sketches, imagery, or illustrations, although the book will be very typographic in nature.

        I have no ideas yet for the cover or binding style, but I might want it to look something like a dictionary (although I don’t want to use leather!) This proposal is still very tentative, and I may change the plan at the last minute like I usually do.

       My favorite word starting with “N” is nostalgia, and the letter “O” is onomatopoeia. Pinning down my favorite words for each letter will be incredibly fun….which is why I might stick with the idea; it will be entertaining!

Green Production Posters
     For my Production Graphic Design class, we have a poster assignment in which we need to conceptualize, research, and design a series of 3 informational posters on some part of production. I decided to incorporate another area of interest of mine, sustainability, and will be going through the steps the designer can take to be more eco-friendly in 3 areas: Prepress/Design, Onpress/Printing, and Post-Production. I’m the only one of my classmates researching this topic, and I’m even more excited about it since more businesses and individuals are now striving to be “green,” and the topic is becoming more prominent in everyday life, including the life of a designer.

     I have about half of my research done and am still in the sketching process. I’m still not sure about imagery/illustration, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out soon enough.
     Rough thumbnails:

Music Business Cards
     I’m in the process of making music business cards for my Dad, to promote him as a musician for small events, rather than for just executive purposes. These cards will be very simple but dynamic, and clearly emphasize music. I’m still in the sketching process, but I’ll start working on them more as my school projects near completion.
      A few sketches:

And of course, my portfolio website is an ongoing project, although it hasn’t seen any changes in quite some time, especially because I now think it’s boring, want to revamp my logo and my entire website design.

Starting shortly, I’ll be taking on some small design projects for friends that will help them out while helping me build my portfolio.I’m also applying for an internship with Blue Line Style for Little 500. If I get the position, I’ll be one of the photographers documenting the events surrounding Little 500 and the races themselves. I have a meeting on Tuesday to learn more about the internship, so I hope it goes well!

Earlier this month, Indiana University’s Counseling and Psychological Services sponsored “Celebrate Your Body Week,” an annual event consisting of activities that promote positive body image and educate students about the dangers of eating disorders and over-exercise. Students were invited to submit work related to the event for a gallery. Unfortunately, I was too busy to get my idea realized and printed before the deadline date, but it did inspire me to address this issue through art. I created this triptych to show the extremes of an eating disorder in a straightforward, simple way, without incorporating a person.

I have unfortunately witnessed the destructive nature of eating disorders in friends and peers from high school until now. I have heard many women (and men) my age become visibly distressed over the pressures of being thin in today’s society. We have all felt these same pressures at some point, but it is truly tragic to see them take over the human mind and transform negative thoughts into self-destructive behavior. It is painful to watch a friend chew gum for lunch, and eat a few crackers for dinner, but it’s nothing compared to the pain felt by those with the disorder. It is important to raise awareness for eating disorders, and educate people about their dangerous consequences so that we can combat the causes.

Advertisements depicting unrealistic Photoshopped bodies on actual healthy and beautiful women are certainly not helping the problem (see link below). Nor are the general requirements for editorial and fashion modeling, which are (according to my internet research), between 5’8″-6’0″ in height and 90-120 lbs. Those are nearing Barbie’s unnatural and slightly emaciated proportions, and create unrealistic ideals for young women, not to mention the low self-esteem women feel when they see these magazines and wonder why they can’t look the same way.

A huge mistake by Ralph Lauren’s advertisers shows the odd desire for disproportionaly skeletal women in the fashion world:

Campaigns for real beauty and fashion shows incorporating more “plus size” models are starting to appear, and I can only hope that they continue to push the emphasis towards a healthy body, rather than one that is unnaturally thin. V Magazine is starting to help, by showing that women larger than a size 4 are just as beautiful.

This is an issue that I will continue to follow, and I will do my best to use my photography and art to propel modern society’s image of the ideal body away from where it currently resides and towards something more realistic, and less dangerous. I urge others to do the same.

Because I am lacking in photographic inspiration, and can’t think of anything new to shoot, I’m going to play with old images. I love monochromatic images; black and white will never go out of style…but sometimes I want something more. I recently discovered the beauty of duotone images. Duotone refers to a halftone reproduction of an image, where one color is superimposed over another. When one of these tones is black (as in grayscale/black & white imagery) and one tone is a specific color, you can get some really fantastic subtle effects. I’ll manipulate one of my images for the sake of comparison:

Here is the original monochromatic photo        

This is an obvious duotone photograph, where the superimposed color is an red-orange (specifically PANTONE 166 C) I rarely see duotones with this intense of a bright color…it seems more common to use extreme colors when they are cooler tones, like the example below.

So…yep that’s blue (PANTONE 2915 C to be exact). Pretty extreme for a portrait, but it can be really dynamic for cold landscapes and the like. Now, for subtlety.
Now this one also has a blue tone (PANTONE 544 C), but it is a lot more subtle. It just gives the image a cool feel, rather than screaming HEY LOOK I’M BLUE. Anyway…I like it. There are places where it can really enhance a photo in a quiet way.

This effect is perhaps my favorite. The superimposed color is a light beige/brown, called PANTONE 5835 C. It is a subtle warmth added to the photo. Not immediately noticeable or bothersome, but it adds a nice effect to the portrait.
You might think you see this all the time, with sepia and hue-adjusted photos, but it is a different effect. Hue adjustments change all the tones of the photo (shadows, midtones, highlights) to reflect that color. A duotone is a combination of two tones, that create a more natural effect. The highlights generally remain white, and the darkest shadows stay more or less black. Hue adjustments and sepia of course have their place in photography and digital manipulation, but I am a huge duotone advocate. It works within an image rather than overlaying an obvious effect on top of it. 
So, if you’re wondering how to do this:
1. Open an image in Photoshop
2. Change the color mode to grayscale, to make the Duotone option available  (Image>Mode>Grayscale)
3. Change the color mode to duotone (Image>Mode>Duotone)
4. A box will pop up where you will choose your color
5. In the “Type” box, change the selection from Monotone to Duotone (Yes, there are other options there…you can do Tritone and Quadtone too!)
6. Click on the white box for Ink 2, and choose your color. (You can change your color options under the “Book” tab. I stick to PANTONE Solid Coated, because it is a common system used among professional printers)
7. Press OK, and you have yourself a fancy Duotone image! You can always go back and change your color in the .psd file, by getting back to the Duotone menu.

In the box that comes up after clicking on “Duotone,” you’ll see a small box next to your ink selections with a diagonal line through it. If you click on it, you can adjust the curve of a particular tone. If you know how to use the Curves adjustment, you might want to try this out. You can adjust specifically where you would like to see the most color (midtones, highlights, etc) with this feature. It gives you a lot more control over the use of color in your image.

Three cheers for duotone!! Hopefully I’ll have some NEW images up soon that showcase this technique in all its glory.

Since I’m always talking about how much I dislike pencils, I figured I should explain why. I guess it’s not that I dislike them, I just think that pens are 2000% better for certain things, where pencils are normally used. I am a strict ink advocate. I only voluntarily use pencils for marking measurements and where I’m doing actual representational drawing (which is rare anyway). The rest of my drawing/sketching/writing is done with pen. And because I love lists oh so much…. this is why pencils suck:

1. Pencils aren’t permanent. Yes, I understand, the whole point of pencils is to erase your mistakes. But I don’t think we should be doing that. “Learn from your mistakes,” is a very common philosophy, which I think most people agree to be true. Shouldn’t this apply to art and design as well? When I’m sketching out an idea, I don’t try to make it perfect. If I make a mistake, I try again. Keeping screw-ups in my sketchbook shows me what doesn’t work in a particular design, and on occasion the mess-ups can turn into a final design element (ex: a rounded corner that was supposed to be sharp).

2. Ink is quicker. When I try to sketch with pencils, it takes me forever, because I get caught up in shading, detail and shadows. Pens generally have one line width and weight. With a pencil, by the time I make everything perfect and pretty, I’ve lost the idea. Pens allow me to ignore the detail and just get a rough idea on paper, ignoring the small mistakes and focusing on the big picture (literally).

3. Ink is bold. With pens and other permanent mediums, you get bright, bold colors. I think that it’s easier to see what colors work in your design when you have the extreme versions.  Color can be adjusted later, so the easiest way to immediately choose what might work is to have the quick, yet bold color right in your sketch. With colored pencils, it’s easy to get wrapped up in all the choices, and blending of color. My favorite colored pens to sketch with are the Staedtler triplus Fineliner ( They have a wonderful line, great colors, and are very fun to sketch with. I’ve also incorporated them into the final product of mixed media art pieces.

4. Pens are more aesthetically pleasing. Writing in ink is definitely more beautiful than writing with pencil. Ink can create smooth lines, and fantastic letterforms. The typography geek in me gets so excited to see how certain letters looks with different types of ink…in pencil they are just boring.

5. The flow of a pen somehow makes it easier to get my ideas onto a page. This might be more of a personal preference, but I find it easier in every possible way to get words and images onto a piece of paper with ink rather than a pencil. I’m not sure how exactly to explain this preference, but that’s just how I roll.

Think in ink!

In posting that last thing about my 365 project, I realized that it’s almost February and my New Year’s Resolutions exist only in my head. This is quite strange, because I usually write everything down either on post-its, in a planner, journal, or in one of my various notebooks that comes with me everywhere. My horrible short term memory and unbelievable lack of organization of thoughts requires this. So, before I forget them completely, I might as well list them here on the internets, where I can’t forget or accidentally recycle them. It’s a long list, but I’m confident that I can do, or start, most of them. Not in order of importance…

1. Run/workout often (cliche resolution, so it had to be first)
2. Meditate daily
3. Start doing yoga
4. Finish my portfolio website (almost done with this one!)
5. Build up the fashion photography/portraiture parts of my portfolio
6. Blog regularly
7. Be more involved in social media/increase online presence (twitter, flickr, blog, deviantart, etc)
8. Keep playing guitar (just started learning before the new year)
9. Get into the world of animation and film (keep making my stop-motion videos)
9.5 Become more comfortable in Flash and Adobe Premiere Pro
10. Lessen my carbon footprint, and encourage others to be more environmentally friendly
11. Travel somewhere over 6 hours away from Bloomington, IN
12. Read more nonfiction, especially topics regarding religion, art, philosophy, and the environment
13. Give myself personal design projects, mock clients, and deadlines to strengthen my portfolio and design process

There’s the basic list. I’m sure I’ll end up adding a few as I remember them, but even if not, it looks like I have a productive year ahead of me….I hope.

One year ago today I had completed the first month of my 365/Photo a Day photography project. In noticing the date, I realized that I never reflected on that project except to various friends and family, and I never fully got closure on this project (I use the word closure, as this project was quite the relationship).

So, the 365 project, started January 1, 2009 and ended December 31, 2009. I took a series of photos every single day, and chose one to edit and upload to flickr as that day’s photo. I never missed a day of shooting, although I did get behind on editing and uploading, and would end up processing 2 weeks worth of photos in a day. But still, I got it done, and now that I’ve had a month to sit and reflect on it, I can tell what effects it has had on me and my work. I tried to summarize it in 4 main points:

1. Because I was shooting every day in roughly the same location, I had to train my eye to look for interesting things in everyday objects and in scenes you wouldn’t normally photograph. It is now easier for me to find a good photograph almost anywhere (and by good I mean aesthetically pleasing, not necessarily meaningful).

2. It’s okay to have some crappy work. In the first couple months of this project I would get so stressed out on the days I had no inspiration or couldn’t find a decent subject. The photos would turn out mediocre, some even terrible. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t make a good image every single day, or why I would run out of ideas so quickly. But I realized that most of the time, out of a rut comes something great. I’m a firm believer in learning from mistakes, in life, but especially in art. Of all the bad photographs I took, I learned what not to do, or what doesn’t work. It’s a constant cycle of learning and making mistakes; I then understood how important it is not to get discouraged by less than perfect work; every artist goes through this cycle repeatedly.

3. I became so comfortable with my camera, that it became an extension of my eye, rather than a bulky box in the way of my vision. Using my camera every day was at first a struggle, since I hadn’t fully explored its technical aspects, and had relied on “guess and check” since then. Making images every day really trains your eye to see variations in the photo based on exposure, depth of field, ISO, etc. rather than “it’s too bright.” I started to see in f stops. Just kidding, but seriously. Anyway, I began to understand the relationship between my vision, the camera, and the actual produced image, which sped up the process of getting my idea realized and opened up the possibilities of things I could do.

4. Once I became more comfortable with the technical aspects of my photography, the real change happened. I started to see improvements everywhere, now that I wasn’t burdened by my lack of technical knowledge. My composition of images improved, and other aspects like that, but more importantly, ideas improved as well. As it became easier to translate my ideas into an image, my ideas began to take a different form. I moved from just trying to create a beautiful or interesting image, into a work of art; I started to see how I could make my work conceptual, evoke emotion and get people thinking. This project brought my work to an entirely new depth; of course I still create images for their own sake, like landscapes and macro and all other neat things, but I now have the possibility of doing something more. Before, I had so much trouble translating emotion and concepts into an image, but the constant photographing and forcing myself to learn new things brought out a new level of inspiration and thinking.

So, that was a longer than I expected, but I guess I didn’t realize until this moment what an impact the project really had on me. I could extend this list into an entire book, but for the sake of everyone who might end up reading this, I’ll keep it short(ish).  A few things I didn’t include in the main list: increased self-discipline, more comfortable in my own skin (way too many self portraits due to lack of friends who like modeling), twenty times more comfortable with Lightroom and Photoshop than I used to be, improved editing/processing skills, and of course, now I don’t totally freak out when I’m in an artistic rut; I know that inspiration is a cycle, and it will come around, probably at 3:35 am on a Monday night.

I urge all artists to do a personal project like this, even if not exactly the same thing. It has its ups and downs, (at times I wanted to chuck my camera across the room) but getting through it and really giving it your best shot has unbelievable effects on the mind and the artistic process.

The set containing my entire photo a day project is here on flickr

So, I’m finally doing what I said I would, and uploading a couple more examples of smoke photography that I’ve processed in Photoshop. And yes, I do recognize that smoke photography is in no way an original idea, and some of my methods for processing them are derived from examples I’ve seen. This was mainly an exercise to improve my technical skills, and really just to see if I could do it!

The above photo was relatively simple to process. In Photoshop, I converted the image to black and white, with the Black and White adjustment layer. I then added the Invert adjustment layer, and make slight changes to the contrast. Voila! Cool smoke.
This purple smoke was also pretty simple to create. I took one of the original smoke photos, opened it in Photoshop as a layer. I then added the following adjustment layers: Hue/Saturation, Color Balance, and Color Mixer. I didn’t use any specific settings, but just played around with the sliders in each layer until I achieved an effect I wanted. Changing the color of smoke and making it look good is most easily done with my favorite “guess and check” method.
Who doesn’t love rainbows right? This was quite an experimental photograph. I had seen multicolored smoke photos before, and wanted to see if I could figure it out for myself. Again, I opened the original smoke photo as a layer in Photoshop. I duplicated that layer and dropped the opacity to around 60%. I then added a rainbow gradient, switched the blending mode to “Overlay” and adjusted the opacity until I achieved the effect I wanted. Contrast and Hue/Saturation adjustment layers were also added to alter the intensity of the color, and to keep it looking somewhat realistic.
And there we are! If anyone has additional questions about smoke photography, or the post-processing please feel free to ask by comment or by emailing me.

I really don’t like pencils. I believe that it’s important to see the progression of ideas, even if they start out terrible. I do not dwell on the mistakes, but with time a mistake can transform into the best idea of all. Much of my work has turned out this way. Countless people stand by the phrase “learn from your mistakes.” Shouldn’t that apply to art as well?

Don’t forget your mistakes. Use ink.