Making a Book Cover: Plug Ugly Ball, part 3

Time for the final installment on making the cover for Plug Ugly Ball (available on Amazon!) (Get caught up with part 1 and part 2)

Now it was time to add the one part of the cover I wasn’t making myself: an engraving of the city of Baltimore from 1868 that depicts the neighborhood where most of the story takes place. The Library of Congress provided a beautiful high-resolution scan, but it was unevenly yellowed with age. I color-adjusted the scan overall, because I was going to need it for the back cover too, and did more adjustments for the inset panel so it integrated better with the other artwork.

Antique Etching of Balitmore

Now it’s time to start adding all of the textures and details that bring all of the artwork together. We were making a hardcover book with a matte finish on the slipcover (rather than shiny) so I wanted the cover to have a softly antique look. Some of the textures are from photographs, while others were generated from Photoshop filters. I layered them into rest of the artwork using a lot of transparency so they’d be subtle.

Sample TexturesSome textures required something a little more. For this center area, I drew some starburst shapes in Illustrator and copied them into my Photoshop file.

Starbursts used as textureI wanted this texture to be subtle, so I used the blending modes and other effects in Photoshop to fade them, way, way back. After doing similar things with my other textures, I had that gently worn look I was looking for.

Plug Ugly Ball - final texturesNow that the front cover artwork was finished, it was time to build the book’s slipcover. For this I used Adobe InDesign, software for designing printed documents. I received the correct sizes and other technical requirements from the publisher and the text from my client for the back cover and the wrap-around flaps. Together with the 1868 engraving, I put everything together with my cover illustration, being careful to leave plenty of room where the folds and edges would be when it was wrapped around the book.

Plug Ugly Ball - Cover in LayoutThen I sent everything off to the printer, and had to wait for it to come back to see how it all turned out. And here it is!

Plug Ugly Ball book photoThanks for following along! If you find these kind of blog posts interesting, let me know. And if you’re a member of Behance, I have this and my other recent projects posted there too.

Sketchbook Project 2012

Sketchbook Project 2012: cover

This year for the first time I joined Art House Co-Op’s Sketchbook Project. They collect sketchbooks from all the participants and send them on the road for a tour before permanently archiving them in the Brooklyn Art Library for anyone to see. When I signed up I chose the topic “Encyclopedia of…” and took it from there.

Sketchbook Project 2012: Peculiar Snails and Slugs

I tried to use this as an opportunity to do something quick without overthinking it, as close to my real sketchbooks as possible. It’s actually quite a bit cleaner than that; my real sketchbooks are full of false starts and piles of scribbles where I’m trying to perfect an idea. This time I wasn’t aiming for perfection, even though I was inspired by incredibly detailed books like Rien Poortvliet and Wil Huygen’s classic Gnomes and Brian Froud’s Faeries

Sketchbook Project 2012: House Gryphons

 I wish I could have spent more time on these, but it was a very busy fall/winter. Still, you can see where I first pulled together the idea for my little house-gryphons and it also sparked a few other ideas that I may develop further.

Sketchbook Project 2012: Strange Insects

The show is now on the road, making its way across the country and around the world before returning to the library in Brooklyn, NY. Check the tour schedule to see when it will be near you! Soon the entire book will be available for viewing online, I’ll be posting the link when it’s available.

And in the meantime, The Sketchbook Project 2013 is open for participants… I’ll be sending for my sketchbook, will you?

It’s here! The Sketchbook Project

Sketchbook Project: Arrival

This year I was paying attention in time to play along with everyone else and signed up to participate The Sketchbook Project’s 2012 tour. My sketchbook arrived this week and it’s just waiting to be scribbled in.

What’s this all about? It’s an endeavor by the Art House Co-op to collect sketchbooks filled by anyone who wants to participate and take them on a touring show before adding them to the permanent collection of their gallery, the Brooklyn Art Library. Head over to the Sketchbook Project website for more info, and to sign up for a sketchbook for yourself if you’re so inclined.

So now my job is to fill this little book up by the end of the year and send it in. I signed up for the theme “Encyclopedia of” which seemed like a good fit for me. 🙂

What will go in it? Maybe some brainstorming for my garden.  Maybe some warmup sketches for my fundraising pet portrait cards.  Most likely there will be a page or two filled in next weekend for Drawing Day (more on that later…)

Do you have your sketchbook yet?

April Flowers: Day 4

Critterwings Flower Alphabet

At the Critterwings Zazzle store spring is busting out all over! It’s April 4 so that means we’re up to the 4th letter of the alphabet: D, for Daffodils.

I may be biased, but I’m loving the way all the Zazzle products look with my Floral Alphabet art on them. Here’s a sampler, but remember: if there’s a specific product that you’d like to see this series on that’s not already in the Flower Alphabet part of the shop, let me know and I’ll see if I can make that happen.

A for Azalea Flower Monogram and Name Mug mug
A for Azalea Flower Monogram and Name Mug


B for Begonia Flower Monogram iPhone 3G Case speckcase
B for Begonia Flower Monogram iPhone 3G Case


C for Columbine Flower Monogram Bag bag
C for Columbine Flower Monogram Bag


D for Daffodil Flower Monogram Address Labels label
D for Daffodil Flower Monogram Address Labels

And don’t forget, you can also buy the entire Floral Alphabet series at my RedBubble store too, including the oh-so-awesome die-cut stickers:

A is for Azalea sticker B is for Begonia stickerC is for Columbine sticker

Illustration Friday: Enough


… or really, more than enough! My rather liberal interpretation of this week’s Illustration Friday topic is one from my archives, but I’ve never used it for anything. The project it was drawn for mutated into a different format before I finished this particular drawing. One of these days I will have to scan it and finish it nicely, because I’ve always liked it, but at the moment I just have this rather poorly-shot photo to share. (click to enlarge!)
This piece is trickier than usual to scan, partly because of its size (16×20) and partly because it’s drawn on clayboard instead of paper. Although the texture is a dream to draw on with crowquills, and highlights can be scratched out like scratchboard, I can’t use my light table to trace onto it like I can with sheets of bristol — had to break out the carbon paper! And because it’s inflexible it doesn’t scan as easily on my home scanner. Also, it’s far more expensive than the bristol, but probably worth it for a very special project.

Studio update

My weekends and most of my evenings are still being devoured by my studio-remodeling project. Why does painting a room always seem to take longer than you think it will?

My studio - In progress

Progress is being made, however. I was able to finish the walls and molding and put the shelving back where it belongs. I’m not able to start putting things away just yet, since I’m using the modular shelves to store the contents of the built-in cabinet under the window while it gets its turn under the brush, but it’s one step closer. And it makes it a heckuva lot easier to work in this small room.

Studio remodeling, accent color test

Studio remodeling in progress

The cats are still quite confused by all of this, especially when I close to door to the only room of the house with its windows open. But now that things are settling down a bit they’re making themselves comfortable. My tomcat’s going to be very disappointed when I fill the shelves back up.

The Important One approves

Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t fretting over the details at this point. I’ve been prepping the built-ins while I decide if I really like the color I picked out for the cabinet doors. I fear it may be a bit too pink, but I’m planning on covering part of it with some kind of bulletin board anyway. I want to introduce a nice light green into the room too. I haven’t picked out my curtains yet, so those will influence any additional accent colors. I’ve still got a few stores to check out, but some of the stripes from JCPenny’s are looking pretty good. Haven’t seen one yet that I’ve fallen in love with tho…

New colors for the studio

Curtain 6 Curtain 1 Curtain 2

Curtain 3 Curtain 4 Curtain 5

Further updates soon! And hopefully some more drawings!

Why no scribbles lately?

The short answer is: chaos!

My studio - BeforeTo celebrate my finally achieving my MFA, and to give myself someplace a little nicer and more pleasant to work in, I am finally decorating my studio. It is the smallest bedroom in our house, but gifted with ample built-in storage. Unfortunately, even that is still not enough for my huge stash of reference books and the large flat files I use for finished artwork. Not to mention all the miscellaneous craft supplies, souveniers, and other junk I accumulate.

Way back when we moved in, lo these 2 years ago, it was the weekend before the beginning of the semester, and I was still in the MFA program. As a result this room was thrown together quickly and with little to-do, made functional enough for me to get by. In addition to all of my art supplies the room was also home to stacks of boxes and other bits of random furniture which we didn’t know what else to do with at the time. The room was packed. It was perpetually a mess, with only the area around my drawing table clear and only the art supplies I was using for my thesis work at all accessible.

My studio, work area - BeforeSo for the past few weeks the room has been disassembled as I’ve been going through all of the furniture and boxes and sorting out what needs to stay and what really should go. Among the things discovered when going through some of this buried “treasure”: two boxes of financial paperwork, my missing dip pen supplies, a stereoscope and large box of images to go with it, and a huge stash of family photo albums left behind by Dad when he sold us the house.

My studio, closets - BeforeI don’t have any true “before” pictures; those accompanying this post are after the initial clean-up phase when I was testing my chosen paint colors. It’s the boldest color I’ve ever put on a wall outside of a theater production, but there won’t be a whole lot of the actual wall showing when all’s said and done.

Since I’m mostly only able to work on it on the weekends and some evenings, and I wanted to keep up my drawing as much as possible at the same time, It’s been taking over a month so far. The room had not been thoroughly cleaned in years, so the woodwork required a bit of scrubbing before I could start priming it. There is quite a bit of woodwork in this room considering its size. There was really no place to easily relocate the few large pieces of furniture, so I had to get creative about working around them.

I did have a little bit of help with this project: my resident Tall Guy painted the ceiling for me. It’s the one painting task he feels comfortable with.

And he wasn’t the only one “helping.” I suspect I could have done a little better without the contributions from the fuzzy faction of the household, but this one in particular was having a ball hiding under the tarped drawing table for her patented “surprise attack”

I’m almost done with all the painting… photos of the finished product coming soon!

My studio - In progress 2My studio - In progress 3

Technical notice

So, not that I expect anyone is actually keeping that close of an eye on this humble blog, but just in case, I wanted to apologize for the downtime Thursday-Friday. Actually, my ISP should be apologizing, but they haven’t even given an explanation to me about what went wrong. Things seem to be up and running again tho, knock-on-wood. Carry on with your lives….