2015 Midnight Sun Festival Logo Contest

Because I have immersed myself in art for the last few weeks I have realized that I have a lot of content that I could use for my blog. And as I was looking through my photos yesterday to add to my new WordPress app media I found my design entry from this year’s Midnight Sun Festival n Fairbanks, Alaska and thought it would be a good way to start.

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This entry, as they all usually are, was a labor of love. There was a lot of hand drawing involved, a lot of seeking opinions on colors and design parts, and with a dash of soul searching thrown in. I came up with a monochromatic design that I fell in love with. Although I am disappointed that it wasn’t chosen as the winner, for one thing I think the winning design was amazing. I love the retro look of it, & I adored the color scheme. The entries this year were all top notch. And second, I am still very proud of my design and I keep it in my phone as proof, for me and for when I show others, that I love what I do and that art is current and rewarding, no matter the accolades received.

Henna-Inspired Painted Rocks

I have discovered a new hobby, one that I have until this point have only been showing on my personal and business Facebook pages. I have had a fascination with painted rocks and a few years now, ever since I discovered them on Pinterest and created a board devoted entirely to this art form. I decided to try it myself and while the resulting rock was decent as you can see at left, I wasn’t happy with the actual painting. To me it was too sloppy, and it wasn’t up to the expectations that I had had in my mind for the project.

20141222_231655-1I  moved on to using my Prismacolor art pens, which I thought were working out great (note the rocks at right – I was ecstatic!) I knew they weren’t drying very fast but I had no idea using these pens on latex paint would mean it would take days, even WEEKS to dry. Don’t get me wrong, I adored using the 005 micron pen and the wonderfully detailed designs I was able to create, but waiting weeks for one rock to dry just wasn’t an option.

I went to our local JoAnn’s (with coupons in hand!!) and bought three different kinds of pens. After experimenting with an “Ultra Fine Point” Sharpie which dried immediately, I decided to try to find something similar. I ended up buying a 2-pack of Sharpie pens (the line was too thick), a Faber-Castell “Pitt Artist Pen” in Extra Superfine (it turned out gray on the latex paint, not black), and a LePen Permanent art pen with alcohol-based ink (ding ding ding – we have a winner!)

20141228_210508-1The LePen art pen dries almost immediately and the ink shows up black on the latex paint. If I linger in one spot too long the ink appears to liquify the white latex paint so I try not to do that.

This whole process of finding pens and paint that will blend well together and not mess each other up has made me really curious as to the what and why of these interactions. Running off on a tangent for just a moment: I bought a clear oil-based satin finish and it instantly smears the LePen ink. In-stant-ly. The force of the spray from the can smudges the ink. $8 down the drain unless I can find something else to use it on!

My only complaint about the LePen Permanent art pen is that I can’t achieve the ultra thin lines of the 005 micron art pen. Although I am happy with the designs I can create (note the rock above with said pen in the picture), I miss the fine detail of the micron.

If you are reading this and you know of a brand of micron pens that use alcohol based ink, please mention in in the comments! This ink seems to be what I need in order to color successfully on latex paint.

20141228_122318-1Since seeing me drawing on these rocks, my 7-year-old daughter has started to explore similar designs. I get my inspiration from the Henna tattoos I used to do on myself in high school and from examples I have been able to find on the internet. My daughter has been creating similar symmetrical patterns on paper, so there might be a blog post in the future featuring her own rocks!

Thank you for reading and have a great day!

Today’s Mental Struggle = Tomorrow’s Mental Gain

Has this ever happened to you?

You get an idea, something that in some point in the near or far future you would like to see come to fruition. Whether it be by your hand or someone else’s, it is a goal that you can imagine in your mind and you can see it being a success.

Now, how do you get it there? How do you bring it from intangible thought bouncing around the pinball machine of your mind to full-blown creative vision fleshed out and flourishing?

Sometimes I feel like I have hit a snag in a project that runs parallel to my design business. This snag comes from the sheer magnitude of a task that I have set out for myself as a goal, and I find myself nearly rendered incompetent and motionless whenever I sit down to think about it. Seriously, I think, “Now’s the time to finally get down to business and… dust the whole apartment.” At night before I go to bed I feel like a task-oriented mega-businesswoman who can handle anything she happens to throw at herself. And in the morning I am a child who doesn’t know how to spell “the.”

So why is this task so monumental, so huge, humongous, gi-normous? It boils down to being a project of a hundred smaller tasks all linked together in such a way that to do one of them wrong could mean financial and legal ramifications my family is not ready to deal with. It involves research, trial and error, mountains of my time and energy, and the necessary neglect of dust bunnies. It involves computer time, both on and offline, sketchbook time, brainstorming time, brain-calm-seas time (that needs to be a word—get with the program, Webster)… And so much of me that I sometimes wonder if the person I am today will survive by the time when I will eventually be able to put my pen down and say, “It is done. Let no man put asunder what my blood, sweat and tears has created.”

Of course, all this drama could just be my mind putting weight in areas of this project that really mean no more than sitting with a library research book and a hot cup of tea after the kids go to bed. Or sitting at the computer with a hot cup of coffee while the little one naps and the older ones are away at school.

Or having a quiet date night with my husband while brainstorming on napkins and holding hands by candlelight.

Life is tough. So are minds. Minds being not “tough” as in “Boy, she’s a strong woman,” but more like, “Your mind is turning this project into a dissertation when it’s really only a high school level essay.” But isn’t that was life is all about? We choose our battles (and I think I have picked a doozy), and our battles are only as hard as we make them out to be? I certainly like the idea of sipping a cup of sweet tea with cream while reading a book on my squishy couch rather than piling my hair on top of my head, wearing vinyl gloves, and scrubbing the baseboards in my bathroom.

That’s not to say that changing my way of thinking instantly turns this task into a high school level essay, but it certainly puts things into perspective. One step at a time, right? I could always look at it this way—I had to brush my hair, put it on top of my head in a sloppy bun, pull on the gloves, fill the bucket with soap and hot water, make sure I had the right sponge… The big task separated out into much smaller tasks (that may all be connected but are each as equally important as the one before it) suddenly makes it more manageable. More acquirable. More, “Hey, I can do this.”

So this task? It involves trademarks, legal fees, income and profits, and yes – lots of my time. I might be successful, I might not, but I know by the time it’s over I will have learned an insane amount of stuff that will make the time I spent on the project invaluable.

And perhaps a few months down the road it will mean a new blog post featuring the fruits of my labors and a rundown of the steps I accomplished in order to complete it. After all, a task such as this one is a task worth teaching someone else how to do as well.

Downtown Fairbanks – Midnight Sun Festival Design

So I am finally getting around the writing this blog post that I promised a couple weeks ago. That’s what a flu-like illness will do to a person! After recovering from the horrible symptoms and waiting for my heart activity to come back to normal (yep, it was that bad), I was then free to… Catch up on school work! No blog posts for yet a while after recovering. I was behind in school work and now that I am caught up with that I feel it’s a good time to finally write about my experiences with designing the Midnight Sun Festival t-shirt and logo design.

Final Copy T-Shirt Colors

The instructions were to design a logo and then incorporate the logo into a t-shirt design, so that every entry consisted of two files. For some reason I decided to attempt to do the whole thing in Adobe Illustrator, which I have been trying to learn for the last couple of years in half-hearted attempts at designing various designs. This time I challenged myself to do the entire thing in Illustrator.

Now on a side note, I probably could have done this exact design in just a few hours using Adobe Photoshop, since I have been working with that program for 10+ years. But Illustrator has always struck me as an integral part of graphic design knowledge, thus my desire to use it and only it in designing the Midnight Sun Festival t-shirt and logo.

My very first problem was getting the swoop in the text “Midnight Sun.” I have to admit, I created the text in Photoshop but then traced over it with the pen tool in Illustrator. I just couldn’t figure out how to do that in Illustrator without sneaking in a little Photoshop into the process. This, however, gave me a great deal of practice with the pen tool, which I am able to use but am not proficient with.

And since I am a font-lover I settled on a condensed version of Big Caslon for this text. It fit my original idea for the text, which was to have accompanying accent lines just outside the lower and right hand surfaces of the text (which I ended up not using in favor of the thick drop-shadow type behind the main text).

I also used the pen tool to draw the “The” letters after sketching those out in my sketchbook. I decided to make “The” and “Midnight Sun” match so the next step was figuring out how to use swatches, what it really meant to lock a layer so I couldn’t alter it when I was manipulating other pieces of the design, and how to create outlines out of strokes so I could manipulate by hand the thicknesses on various parts of the strokes. This process probably took me two or three days alone, since at this point I was still very new to these new aspects of Illustrator (and because as a mother of three little ones it is darn near impossible to sit at the computer for hours at a time uninterrupted while working on a design!).

During this time I looked up so many different Illustrator tutorials I should have kept a list. Most of my new Illustrator knowledge came from these tutorials and not from me fiddling around with the controls. I think this was how I learned about locking the layers!

And the funny thing is, many of the things I learned were from the narrators of these video tutorials were actions they were doing from second-nature, such as locking layers, rather than them actually instructing me to do what the topic of the tutorial actually was.  If that makes sense…

I altered a font to come up with the “Festival” and used my three selected colors to color it the way I did. And the font I used for the “2014” and “Downtown Fairbanks, Alaska” was Cheboygan, a font I found on www.dafont.com. It took a while to figure out where to place the “2014” but I managed to squeeze it in. My husband suggested I make it really big underneath the “Festival, Downtown Fairbanks, Alaska” but I declined. It made the “2014” appear like the focus of the design rather than the rest of the text.

The final part of the design was the sun, which took an additional two days to make in Illustrator and to color just the way I wanted it. During this time I found the amazing rotate tool, which enabled me to make a circular grid to perfectly line up the sunbeams. I will be utilizing this trick in the future, for sure!

After all of this week-long drama, the logo took me a day to design out of elements from the t-shirt design. I really liked what I came up with for the logo but in hindsight I probably should have incorporated more hand-drawn elements, and maybe more elements of downtown Fairbanks.

MSF Design Logo Haley Holland

I now have a whole year to tweak this design and to come up with new ones. You will see me in next year’s contest! And look for my designs in any other local contests that might pop up. I know some designers may feel it is beneath them to enter local contests but I find these are excellent opportunities to flex my skills, learn new ones, and to earn a little name recognition in the local art community.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Color Schemes From Photographs

These color scheme graphics that have been popping up on the internet for the last few years, and in home improvement and paint stores for decades, have always interested me. In fact, I have been known to swipe the small paint color cards from various stores when I come upon a great color scheme for a graphic design, scrapbooking, or crochet project! It’s easier now that I have a cell phone that takes decent pictures and the wonderful Adobe Photoshop CS6 at my fingerprints, but I still wander to the paint department and eye the interior decorating cards and the wonderful array of “Whites.”

I have wanted to take a stab at creating my own graphics for a while so tonight I chose five pictures from my computer and utilized the eye dropper tool to select five colors for each photograph. It was fun, interesting in that I never really knew what color the computer would conjure with each “click,” and a good way to exercise that small part of my mind that is obsessed with color. Here are my results!

The first one brings to my mind fairies and the wonderful unknown worlds that await us when we take a simple walk in the woods at sunset. This mushroom was found on a nature walk with my husband and kids behind North Pole Elementary in North Pole, Alaska. I believe I held my camera to my chest with the power button in the “Off” position because I was desperately trying to preserve what little battery power I had left! There were so many wonderful scenes to capture with the lens, needless to say I had to be very choosy that day.

Color Scheme 3

This one is a snap I took with my cell phone of a sunrise sometime around mid-December on Lakloey Hill in North Pole. I like the lens flare that my camera so wonderfully inserted into the picture for me! I can’t say what temperature it was at the time but I know it was COOOOOLD!

Color Scheme 5

This is a photograph taken out of my kitchen window, which faces away from the sun. I was struck one day by the beautiful, white winter wonderland outside and couldn’t help but grab my camera. All that’s missing is a mama moose and calf to complete the picture perfect scene. I don’t even mind the white house next door, which seems to fit right in.

Color Scheme 4

I occasionally take pictures from an odd point of view, and at the time of this photograph, when the sun was just touching the very tops of the trees and the sky was blue and crystal clear, it seemed the perfect opportunity to capture the glory of the planet we are blessed to live on. That I can go for a walk with my family and glance up and be caught up in the beauty of a simple sunset never ceases to amaze me.

Color Scheme 2

Last but not least, a landscape photograph I took while sitting in the passenger seat of the truck on our trip back from Homer, Alaska. If you look closely you may be able to see the motion blur in the greenery at the bottom of the image! As I said in a previous post, I am fairly obsessed with the sky. And on this particular stretch of highway how could I NOT take these pictures? Indeed, I have probably about 80 that I took in the span of just 5 or 10 minutes. Gotta love digital cameras!

Color Scheme 1

I hope you have enjoyed this small display of my technological doodling. This was a very fun exercise and I recommend it to anyone as entranced with the colors available to us on our wonderful computers as I am. The eye dropper tool is our friend!

If you have done this and would like to share, feel free to add a link in the comments, or to just share your experiences with this exercise. Thank you for reading!

Waiting…

I can’t tell you how many times I sit in front of the computer staring at a work in progress, waiting for inspiration to strike. I stare at it for so long that eventually, just like staring at a word for a long time makes it seem less like a word and more like a jumble of letters that don’t make sense, my piece of work starts to separate and become a mess of elements that in my mind don’t work well together.

When a project doesn’t come together as I would like it to, it becomes easy to blame myself and to accuse myself of having a lack of talent for graphic design. When color combinations don’t meld beautifully I decide I don’t have a knack for color theory. When I can’t settle on layer styles and drop shadows and strokes and gradients I decide I can’t make up my mind and so have no talent for graphic design. And when—Good Lord, this is the worst—I can’t settle on a font… The sky is falling.

Here is the big revelation that always takes me a while to come up with in my own mind—sometimes I am just not in a graphic designing mood.

I am waiting for inspiration to strike when I should either be a) putting down the work, shutting off the computer, and reading a book to my kids, or b) doing a little bit of inspiration-surfing (Pinterest is great for this). I am an internet “browser,” a “surfer” to the core. Have always been and more than likely always will be. I am one of those people who can sit in front of a computer for hours looking at random things.

A funny thing about that is it is not always random. Sure, someone who watches me doing it (Master P, as my husband likes to be called) might automatically and loudly proclaim that it is his turn on the computer because he thinks I am not doing anything productive, when in fact I am! I swear it! This random text not-so-artfully arranged on the screen in front of me has a purpose—Font Research!

Research Fonts

There is another reason why I start to doubt my abilities when I am working on a project and it has nothing to do with my abilities. I fail to understand that sometimes my mind is too full of other things to produce a viable piece of creativity on the screen. To succinctly put it, life gets in the way. Interior cartoonist and artist Jamie Smith wrote it best on his blog Ink & Snow when he said, “Sometimes what can kill off art is real life, when the banal realities of mundane everyday activities erode and eclipse the pursuit of one’s passion. It’s an irresistible force meets immovable object scenario on a daily basis: exhaustion versus inspiration.”

Jamie Logo

When I sit down to the computer, which is in our living room, I often have a 2-year-old asking me to run her back, or an 8-year-old complaining that she’s thirsty, or a 6-year-old complaining that the 2-year-old is bothering her. It sometimes gets difficult accomplishing the completion of a project from start to finish in one sitting. If inspiration hits while I am at the computer, well, tough luck. Life is calling.

IMG_8412

Lastly, what can prevent me from recognizing my own potential while working on a project is none other than artist’s block. Sometimes is it due to just not feeling like I have a good enough idea of where I want a project to go. Sometimes it is due to working on side projects that have nothing to do with graphic design, such as homework from a college class or a crochet project that in my mind has a deadline of yesterday. Focus focus focus! Eh, impossible.

I have found that I am most productive when I use all tools at my disposal to complete a project—Pinterest for inspiration, my iPad for hand drawing, a sketchbook for brainstorming layouts, bouncing color ideas off Master P since he was a painter for 25 years and knows his stuff. I draw on 10 years of experience in knowing what to do and what not to do. I take a breath, make a cup of breakfast tea with cream and sugar, and I tackle the project as if my life depends on it. And I get it done.

I must say, I am not always happy with it for various reasons, but that is perhaps a blog entry for another day. (Have you ever looked back on a project and cringe?)

What ART 105 Has Taught Me (CAUTION: Drawing of a nude…)

Tonight is my last class for Art 105, the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Beginning Drawing class. Although I am certainly sad to see it go I am so happy to have found that I am a better artist for taking the class.

2013-12-12 14.10.12

Much of that success I have to credit to the professor, Jamie Smith. He is a fantastic professor and introduced me to techniques that I might have balked at before. But his willingness to demonstrate every technique really made me a believer! By using his techniques I found that I really can draw PEOPLE! This has eluded me in the past. Faces are still a challenge, but I am getting better.

2013-12-12 14.04.43I also think that I was successful in this class simply because talents that had lain long dormant in my mind were brought to the surface. My high school art teacher, Lillie Stoutenberg, was also an amazing teacher. She packed so much learning into my four short years (sometimes with multiple classes per semester in her classroom!) that it is little wonder to me how much I was able to dig up and dust off during my time in ART 105.

What amazes me most about my experiences in this class is that of course, when I put my mind to something I can be successful. There have been so many instances in my life where I have given up because things were too hard, too boring, or I was too busy with other things. If I had given up when things got tough I never would have known I could turn scribbles into a work of art (which Professor Smith calls “scumbling”).

2013-12-12 14.10.50There were plenty of assignments that really stumped me. The vignette assignment (above) was very hard for me composition-wise. I had no idea what to draw because we were supposed to use sketches from our sketchbooks and up until that point my sketchbook was full of baby blocks, leaves and paper folds. We also had to put in some of our own writing, and the only thing I had was a poem I had written for my husband a couple years ago. I put all of this together and came up with the vignette drawing picture above, and even impressed myself with the humber of different drawing techniques I was able to utilize to make the whole drawing really come together–stippling, cross hatching, scumbling, hatching, and lettering.

Needless to say, this assignment more than any other showed me if I really want to accomplish something, my mind is fully capable.

It also taught me I work well under pressure… I really procrastinated with that project!

Since I have recently changed my major to Art I have also decided to pursue the Bachelor’s of Fine Art rather than the Bachelor’s of Art (I think I wrote those correctly–all I know is I want to do more drawing!) That way I can have a concentration in drawing. Somehow I will incorporate more computer graphics courses. I have heard a rumor that UAF is considering adding more of those, but don’t quote me on it!

I’m excited, can you tell?

ART 105 will be kept in my pocket for when I am needing some extra help with drawing in graphic design. The possibilities are swirling around in my mind like a cauldron of ideas! Although much of the graphic design work I do is 100% computer, I think ART 105 has broadened my talents to include a more homey, hand-drawn look for certain designs. Have I mentioned that I’m excited?!

I can’t wait to see what art classes I will be taking next!