Light in the Eyes

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Something a little different today: a process GIF from a recent illustration commission! This cat portrait was done start-to-finish in Manga Studio with Frenden’s blue pencil and Hairpin Sable inker brushes.

You notice how the cat really comes alive in that last frame when the white highlights in the eyes come into play? Every time I add those to a piece I get this really vivid memory of going to art classes as a kid.

My teacher’s name was Sharon Butler. She was a realist painter from South Africa who painted waist-high stones to look like living cheetahs, crouching in the greenery outside the studio. The two rooms in her establishment were filled with the perpetual, chalky scent of pastels and Prismacolor pencils. We’d get pieces of illustration board handed out every time a new project began, cut down to the appropriate size. I completely lost track of time every session I spent there. My only job was drawing, as well as I could.

This was pre-internet, so Sharon kept a morgue file in the inner room. It was a metal filing cabinet—dull beige and taller than I was at the time—crammed full of photos and magazine clippings. There were folders for horses and dolphins and birds and architecture and chairs and people and costumes. Every manilla folder had a grouping by subject, and since Google simply wasn’t around yet we’d fight over who got the best picture of the dolphin to draw from.

I drew a lot of animals when I went to those classes with Sharon. She’d stop by while I was struggling to render a hummingbird as something other than a crude cartoon, giving suggestions on how I could better train my eye to see what was actually in front of me. The second-to-last touch, before the fixative stopped our pastel smudges from scattering off the page, was to add a dot of white in each eye. She taught us to use a Q-Tip or the back end of a paintbrush.

At the time it felt like wizardry—the amount of life that tiny dot of white could bring to an otherwise flat animal.

It still does, kind of.

The 100 Day Project

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Those of you following me on social media may’ve noticed a new series of drawings going up over the last couple weeks! I’m participating in The 100 Day Project, which comes to us via Elle Luna and The Great Discontent. The premise of this project is simple: make something every day for 100 days. That’s all. Could be anything; a written word, a cake, a joke, a drawing, a button. I’ve actually been pitching it as a do anything for 100 days project—so one could even eat an apple a day or something similarly arbitrary. I think it’s the regularity of the ritual that’s important. There’s also value in creating something small every day and using the exercise to break down our inhibitions around perfection, but regularity breeds ritual, and ritual can take many forms.

Anyway, I’ve opted to use up the many, many Scout Books and Field Notes sketchbooks I’ve been accumulating from various events by chronicling 100 objects in my possession with words and pictures.

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Notebooks from Linework NW (designed by Lisa Congdon), XOXO (designed by Brendan Monroe), Reid Psaltis, Scout Books, and Erika Moen.

The format involves a drawing, however crude, and as much context about the item as I can cram on the page. It started here:

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And has continued apace for the last couple weeks.

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I love projects like this that require relatively little commitment on the day-to-day, but add up to something vast over time. I’m really excited to see where this goes. If you’d like to follow along, take a peek at my Instagram page or follow along on Twitter.