Sunday, December 22, 2013

Advertising Dilemmas

I think the worst thing I have to deal with as an artist/illustrator is advertising.  My job is to come up with illustrations and art that will entice people to buy the product of the company signing my check.... whether I like or approve of their values and methods or not.  I find this dilemma odious to say the least.  How can I work as an artist and still maintain some semblance of integrity when the system rewards sleaze and starves out the righteous?  I hate the misogynistic, racist, exploitive ads, which perpetuate the notion that girls have to be white and anorexic to be beautiful.  It is absolutely wrong.

I saw a manikin in a store window wearing a pair of jeans the other day.  A real person would have to be starving to death to fit into those jeans.  Even the manikin looked like bones to me. How can we think this is beautiful?  Bring back the days of the Botticelli body, please.

We don't think about it anymore, but these proportions are impossible.  Our legs cannot be that long and thin at the same time.  The length of the torso from the shoulder to waist is unlikely.  For an artist like myself, I have measured people in order to draw them.  Most women measure one head from chin to nipple, one head from nipple to top of hip, one head from top of hip to mid thigh (or where the fingers end at thigh), one head from mid thigh to below knees, one head or so to the top of the ankle.  If you measured this manikin you would see the legs and arms are proportionally longer than normal, and the head would have to be enormous to compensate for the discrepancy.

The interesting thing about this video is that many men wrote in the comments that they preferred the more curvy "before", than this photoshopped "after" picture.  It is we girls who get sucked into this false premise of the ideal woman.  Even when I was a teenager, I did not have the ideal body, and I can testify that precious few women did/do.  If all advertising model's and movie star's photos have to be retouched in photoshop, how can a real girl hope to come near the ideal?  Girls have a real problem with their changing bodies, feeling confident, or feeling normal without this added advertising pressure.

But this is not a new problem.  It has been going on for decades (maybe even longer).  These sewing patterns from the 1950's prove that there was an unrealistic expectation of tall and thin even then.  It has only become worse now that we have the technology to create realistic-looking unrealistic images of women.

My mother used to wear dresses like these.  She was not abnormally tall (5' 6") or extremely thin, but I remember thinking she was a movie star.  My perception of the ideal was not distorted yet.  She didn't look like these drawings, but then, these are only drawings, not the real thing.  Perhaps that is what photoshop has done for us.  It has deceived us into wondering what is real and what is drawing.

As an artist I haven't been part of this industry yet.  I have concentrated my talents in the children's picture book field and fine art paintings, but if I were ever called upon to design an ad such as these, I'm not sure how I would handle it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Changing the shadows

I still struggle with what to say in a still life but I think I am getting the concept a little better.  In the last post I created a still life using a drape but I painted the drape too dark.  I have spent some time making the drape lighter and more colorful.  Maybe too colorful. But I love color.  Here it is.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

I was working on still life paintings recently and was asked "What are you trying to say?"  An interesting question.  What does a still life say, besides a grouping of colorful random items?  Does it say, "Oh, someone needs to clean up this mess" as if you just got up from breakfast?  Does it say "Nice flowers," because you just couldn't let these flowers fade and die without immortalizing them?  What is a still life for?  I guess I always thought it was little more than an exercise.  Something you do to prepare for the "real art", but now I see it is a little more.   A still life says something about you, your environment, your state of mind, your thoughts about the universe and beyond.  A still life is still about life.  So what am I trying to say?

This is a hard question.  I still don't know.  I think I am trying to just survive at this point.  To be able to share something meaningful and profound would be great but I don't think I'm that clever.  I somethings wonder if I have anything at all to say.  Suddenly I feel like that little girl, quietly sitting in the corner afraid to speak because I will be rebuked and rebuffed for interrupting the grown-ups.  Why does this question make me feel so small?  Maybe that's it.  Maybe what I'm trying to say is that I feel so small.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Elderly Editorial

This was an editorial illustration used to show "I carry every mistake I ever made with me."  I felt this lady's hands showed her whole life, her loves, her widowhood, her children and all the work she ever did.  Notice the arthritis in the joints already bending the fingers, which have worked all her life.  To me this was her life written in her hands. Hands are very expressive.  After to a person's face, the hands hold the most expression and emotion.  There is something beautiful about this lady's hands that I have been intrigued with.  I'm not even sure why her hands fascinate me so.  Is it the way her ring slides to one side?  Is it the veins that look green through the paper-thin skin?  Is it the long nails signifying her lack of physical labor now in her latter years?  Maybe all these things together.  Maybe also it is that I knew her and know that one day some despicable teenager ran into her home and ran out with her purse before she could even scream.  The following week her grown children decided she couldn't live alone anymore and they put her in a home.  That cruel thief stole more than her purse that day.  He stole what was left of her freedom.

Scholarship Essays

One of the hard things about applying for scholarships is that many (most even) require you to write an essay.  They usually vary in length and are about some required subject or theme.  For the non-writer this is the element that causes most to bypass the scholarship.  However essays are usually not that difficult.  I have found that most of them are on a similar theme, namely "What do you plan to do with your education" or "Where do you see yourself in five years."  It basically is saying why should we give this money to you?  Who are you and where are you going and how will society benefit if you receive this scholarship.  I started writing these essays and saving them in MS Word.  After a very short time I found I had a data base of similar essays I could use again with a very few changes.

Step 1:  Write when you have the time.  When you can focus on the subject and you are not distracted.

Step 2:  Write on one of the subjects above 500 words and try to be funny, entertaining and grateful for the monies you hope to receive.

Step 3:  Save in a folder filled with only scholarship essays.  Be sure to note the number of words.  This will be vital when you are filling out an online form and only have a short time to find just the right essay to plug into it.

Step 4:  Update and edit your essays periodically.  I change mine twice a year during the school breaks.  This is the time to create new ones or tweek old ones.  I have found the best, and most successful essays, are personal with a dash of humor and humility.  Those people who have to read the essays appreciate a little humor in their day.

There are very few essays that require more than 500 words.  Most want 250 or even less.  It is much easier to add words than to edit them down.  I have them labeled by subject and number of words for easy access.  My essays are under specific subjects such as:  My most inspiring teacher;  where I see myself in the next five years; what I want for my epitaph;  my chosen profession/major and why I chose it; the importance of reading and education.  There are more, but those are the top subjects that get the most use.

It is now summer break and it is time to get to work on the next scholarship essays.  If I can do it anyone can.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

More on Scholarships

In my twenties I had to buy books, see academic counselors, etc, to get the 411 on upcoming scholarships, and oftentimes the deadline had passed or was so far in the future you had to wait to apply.  Today there are websites devoted to looking up scholarships for you and they even send you a reminder email when the application deadline is approaching.  These are free websites but since someone must pay the bills, they are sponsored by schools and organizations that put advertisements on the sites.  These are only mildly annoying and, I guess, a necessary evil.

My two favorite sites are and  They are both easy to use and confidential with all your information.  You fill out the profile and they look up possible scholarship matches.  Then you look over the application requirements and either say "I will apply", "Doesn't fit", "Applied", "Will not apply", etc.  The site files these for future use, like next year, you will know if you applied or if it didn't fit your profile exactly.  There are many more sites than just these two but I find two are all I can juggle and keep up with school projects as well.  Each one will lead to another and another.  Those will be up to the individual to accept or not.

On both of these sites school ads pop up and you must look for the "No, thanks" button at the bottom of the page.  These ads are mildly annoying but not insupportable.  I have found dozens of scholarships through these sites to apply for, and won 4 from each site.  I have to appreciate the work that goes into building and maintaining informational sites like these.  They are invaluable.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

For the past two years I have been pursuing my education.  I finished my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in June and now I'm working toward my Master's Degree in Illustration.  Because of this I have been looking into scholarships to help with the cost.  I wonder if anyone knows the hoops that people have to jump through to find decent scholarships to apply for.  Many of what they are calling "scholarships" are nothing more than raffles or drawings where the applicant puts in all sorts of personal information and must endure the clogging of the email channels from then on.

In applying for so many of these scholarships, and having won a few, I can give a little valuable information.  There are several kinds of scholarships that people applying should be aware of.

1.  The Scholarship Contest:  is really a contest where you must submit more than an essay, such as a photo, video, or design, and which is usually judged by popular opinion (social media) as well as a judge or committee.  It's only a scholarship because the money, if won, is sent directly to the school not to the recipient.

2.  The Promotion:  is not really a scholarship at all but usually does have monies sent to a school and not a recipient.   The promotion requires the applicant to buy something (such as a book), or to give 5 or more friend's addresses and information.  This kind is more of a raffle or drawing.  The chances of winning a promotion are so slim you have a better chance of being struck by lightening or winning the lottery.

3.  The Essay Contest:  is the most common scholarship where a certain grade point average is required along with an essay of varying lengths.  The applicant is chosen mostly on the quality of the essay.

4.  The Scholarship:  is the least common scholarship because it is judged on the basis of financial need and grade point average taken together.  Sometimes an essay is requested as well, but not always.

Most scholarships are contests that happen only once a year, but there are a few that repeat monthly.  Most of the best scholarships require essays from 250 words to 1000 words.  Many want to know "how you will be changed for the better because of your education,"or "a positive experience," or "a person who most influenced you."  It helps to have a few sample essays already written during times of less stress so that when a deadline comes up you don't have to scramble or divide your attentions between these essays and your school work.  I find that Winter and Summer Breaks are the best time to prepare essays to use for contests.  Then I can edit, change or tweak them to fit the particular contest I am entering.