Monday, February 28, 2011

All the hours of the day....

It's really easy to let the day unravel as I try to paint illustrations, juggle various projects, and process new orders. Working from home is wonderful, but invites plenty of distractions from my kitten Puck learning how to climb onto the mouse cage to three cable guys and the downstairs neighbor needing to check the wiring in our apartment this afternoon. Plus there's the never ending flood of social media. Many of my best friends are spread throughout the country from New England to Los Angeles to North Carolina. Facebook and im windows have replaced our old neighborhood haunts as we happily spend virtual time together. As the afternoons draw to a close and five o'clock rolls around I look at my desk and feel frustrated. I know I could be getting more done!

Believe it or not, when I lived back east I was a banker. Every moment of our day was accounted for (literally, even the computers were monitored  for time stamped activity). We made notes throughout the day: who did we speak to, what did they say, was there a possibility for a sale, was there an issue that needed fixing? My days were gently guided by friendly pop up calendar reminders and not so gently motivated by the numbers meetings where I knew I had to have results or get ready to explain myself. It kept us accountable, and now that I'm working from home I realize I need some of that accountability.

I spent this afternoon breaking my week down and then my day. I know I need to paint, that's simple enough. However I also need to find shops to sell my prints, to check etsy for orders, to process and pack those orders, to submit new illustrations to publications and editors, and then to share those successes. Right now my day begins early, charges through in the creative nervous chaos that comes from trying to accomplish all of these things in eight hours, and continues late past midnight. Repeat. It's no way to get anything done, and so I'm ready to try adding a little structure to my day.

After breaking my days into the tasks I want to finish, I gave myself some actual work hours. My work day currently runs from about 8:45am to 1-2am. Seriously. The trouble is my work looks a lot like my free time. I enjoy drawing and painting immensely. Even when I find myself with a free hour or two I devote it immediately to sketching or cartooning. I'm preparing to begin a new web comic and it is much more involved than my last one. Countless nights I set aside an illustration to work illustration, but for the new comic and so it feels like recreation. I worry about tapping myself out though, and I think set work hours will help divide the line between work painting and fun painting. During those hours I'm going to avoid the phone and social sites, as I would have to at any job.

So...I'll guess I've written about it enough, tomorrow I'll start doing it!

My Zombie Paper dolls are featured on today!

My zombie family paper dolls were featured on this morning! Click here to see them on the site!

I painted these undead folks this summer, and I was sad when they didn't immediately sell. The past month or so they just took off, I've sold 3-4 sets the last couple of weeks alone. Sometimes you've just got to be patient, I guess!

They were so much fun to design, particularly their gruesome wedding set!

I definitely have to go back and put together some better example shots of them, these don't do them justice. What I need to do is print some off, cut them out, and take photos to really show off the colors. A project for this week, perhaps!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Escape from the Factory"

I've loved robots for as long as I can remember. There are countless possibilities when it comes to drawing them. They can be new and sleek or old and junky. They can be big enough to attack a city or small enough to sit on your hand. They can have wheels, buttons, clamps, lights, laser rays--on and on! About a week ago I found myself sketching three little robots escaping from a factory filled with rusting tanks, gears, and tubes. Each one was slightly different, but they all shared the feature of a little green light swinging over their head. Here's a few photos showing the progression of the illustration from pencil and ink to watercolor!
The robots escaping, pencil and ink....

A close up of the last robot looking over his shoulder.

I had to figure out what the robots could use to scale the side of a tank, and
so I tried to think what a little robot might have on hand. A cord running from one
of their chests came to mind, and I ran with it.

The first watercolor wash....

Soda Pop is a pretty vital part of my creative process.

The watercolor washes completed.

Scanning muted the vibrancy of the colors a little, so I adjusted the levels
of the illustration in Photoshop before preparing for printing.
And there you have it, my latest robot illustration! It won't be the last, I'm sure. In case you're wondering these three little robots made it and are currently living it up charging their batteries and feasting on scrap metal!

I decided to title the painting "Escape from the Factory" and prints are already for sale in my etsy shop here:

Self Portrait on Yellowed Paper

Tonight I experimented with the yellowed newsprint paper again, this time painting a quick self portrait. I picked out a photograph of myself to reference and started sketching.

 Again I left out the ink and kept it strictly pencil and watercolor. For the most part I think it went well, although I will have to change the amount of water I use with the darker pigments as they kind of thicken on the page. I think this paper works best when light colors and washes are applied. I planned to crop out everything but my head and shoulders, but decided to do a full illustration anyway. I kept it simple and fun for myself: sitting upon a branch, drawing, surrounded by some of our animals. The surly Siamese is Elvis and the rodent perched upon his shoulder is Atticus, our eldest rat. The little kitty drifting placidly in the sky beside me is Puck, our young black cat who is missing his right back leg (though you would never know it, he is remarkably active). It's certainly not my strongest painting, but not bad for 45 minutes.

One of my favorite aspects of self portraits is how very easy it is to paint exactly what you wish. You really have only yourself to please. If you love the results, you can proudly display it. If you dislike the results you can pretend you're Dorian Gray and just hang it in the back of the closet. 

I used to hate self portraits, however the last few years I have found myself dabbling in them more and more. Now I feel that creative folks should attempt them at least once a year. Think of it as an emotional snap shot. Usually a person has one nice photograph of themselves taken annually, a portrait that starts in grade school and continues through holidays and life events. It chronicles the physical changes on the face and body. A yearly self portrait follows the changes in ability, medium, emotion, and taste. A self portrait needn't be a drawing, photographers should take their own photo any way they wish, sculptors should mold themselves--quilters should capture themselves in stitch and thread. Jewelry makers ought to try a cameo or a charm bracelet that represents that year. You get the idea!

Years from now when I look back on this portrait I'll remember the lovely yellowed paper I bought secondhand. I'll remember I was finally enjoying the efforts of growing my hair long over a few years. And I'll remember where I was in my life that brought that optimistic little smile to my face.

Incidentally, the necklace I am wearing in my portrait has become a new favorite. It was a gift from Ryan on Valentine's Day. It's painted very simply here as the illustration itself is so small, but here's a photograph of it! He bought it from Bead Couture by Steph (click on the link to visit her etsy shop!) Two sparrows are carrying a beautiful little envelope that opens up so that little notes can be tucked inside. Ryan surprises me with a new one every few days :) How wonderful is that? I've worn it every day since he gave it to me, so naturally it made its way into my new portrait.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pseudooctopus Painting

Usually I draw my illustrations in pencil, ink them in pen, and then add light watercolor washes. Recently however I got my hands onto some marvelous yellowed blank newsprint, and I couldn't resist changing things up a little. The paper itself is really gorgeous, and looks old and wonderful, like something you'd find in a scary garage! (Stay with me here, it's nice paper, I promise).

Knowing I was going to be starting this new blog tonight, this afternoon I pulled a piece out and sketched the Pseudooctopus across it. I was hoping to use the illustration as the head banner for this blog, to tie in the word Pseudooctopus visually. I really liked the grey of the pencil on the hazel hue of the page--and so I decided to skip inking it and keep the illustration just pencil and watercolor. I'm happy with how light and ethereal it came out. I may continue to try and play around with this combination of yellowed newsprint, pencil, and watercolor.

I may try the Pseudooctopus again as well. Since coining the marvelous nonsense word ten years ago it's come to be my regular online name. You would think a name like "Georgia Dunn" would have few mix ups, however long story short, another Georgia Dunn beat me to our name online. So I continued to use Pseudooctopus beyond the world of im and emails. Several time over the years I've thought about drawing the creature. I've always wanted it to have mechanical parts and slick underwater machinery attached--however as the sketch went on this afternoon he sipped a cup of tea and read a novel instead. What can I say? Sometimes characters kinda draw themselves. This fellow seems to be some kind of highly intelligent decoy cephalopod, and I'm happy to have him usher folks onto my blog. Even if he does seem to be ignoring them to finish the paragraph he's on.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Adorable Monster is on Literacyhead today!

This morning one of my illustrations was featured on the online education magazine! My painting "Adorable Monster" was used in their 'Visual Vocabulary' section to demonstrate the word 'bulging'. Click here and scroll halfway down the page to see! I'm delighted that they used him, he certainly has a bulging, fat little belly.

Literacyhead is a site which helps educators to teach writing, vocabulary, and reading through art. They use engaging images to show the meanings of words. This is the second time one of my illustrations has been published there, "Letters from the Edge of the World" was used to depict the word 'fluttering'. I enjoy contributing to such a wonderful tool for teachers!

New Art Blog (You're Looking at it, baby!)

It's taken me many years, but I'm finally ready to design a real deal big girl blog for all of my illustrations and adventures.

Oh, I'm not doing it tonight.

I'm more...deciding to do it tonight.

Yeah. Someday this is going to be great!

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Smooth Move

I decided to import 3-4 older posts from earlier this month which were published on my previous blog. I felt like they'd bring this blog up to date, introduce me, and make the transition more smooth. Starting a new blog always feels a little bit like changing addresses: all forwarding mail and driving to the wrong house. However, I think the change of scene will be worth it. I'm excited to have one place to share all my projects and illustrations!

So going forward, that is, all the posts above this are new to the blog!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Moon Honeymoon

When I was a little girl I really bought into the future. My Mom adores science fiction and from the time I could hear she told me the tales of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. Space wasalways drifting across the television screen, the backdrop of some weekly adventure like V, Star Trek, or Earth II. Robots whizzed across the pages of my childhood books, and later rolled clumsily across construction paper thanks to my crayons and determined fingers. I knew I would see the turn of the century, like my great grandmother Irene had in 1900. Somehow knowing the amazing things she had witnessed in her life--automobiles, flight, television, the moon landing--gave me promise of the advancements I would experience. I was going to mature into a young woman in the 2000's, and how far away and grown up that felt! Beautiful hair, ray guns, silver bikinis! I happily awaited my Barbarella futurewear.
The world I envisioned for my adulthood at the age of six resembled any episode of the

"I happily awaited my Barbarella futurewear."
Jetsons. I looked forward to robots, flying cars, and casual space travel to moon colonies and the more friendly planets. Where other girls may have been whizzing their Barbie to her daily job in her pink car, I had carefully padded a shoe box with tin foil to serve as her space ship/time machine. My Barbie navigated the vast universe of my bedroom and greeted the My-Little-Pony-people and diminutive Strawberry-Shortcake-race with tidings of peace. She bravely faced the evil Grey-Cat-Under-the-Couch and played more quietly after her spaceship collided with The-House-Plant-That-Was-Overly-Top-Heavy. Like most little girls, my Barbie's exciting life mirrored my own desires for the future.
One thing I decided upon most certainly by grade school was my honeymoon destination. Ihad the perfect place picked out, it simply could not be beat for romance. A ski cabin in the woods? Bears. A train ride through Europe? Vampires. A sunny beach with warm surf? Sand. (I didn't know what sex was exactly, but I knew it happened on honeymoons and I knew from tv that it involved a lot of rolling around and kissy faces. Eight year old me watched black and white movie love scenes in the surf with more than a little skepticism). My perfect dream honeymoon location? The Moon.
I had it all planned out. After our wedding performed by a robot (I couldn't imagine peoplewould be police, teachers, priests, or any other childhood authority figures. A heavy dose of Terminator had warped my sense of the future slightly dark) we would board a lovely little ship bound for space. We would travel through a dark sky and glittering stars to the American Moon colony and take up a little cabin with a big round window. If we really had to, rolling around and kissy facing would happen after a dinner of chocolates and romantic ice creams. Afterwards we would stay up talking and laughing all night, and watch the Earth Rise together in the morning.
The future has arrived, and what a gloomy outcome. My childhood dreams couldn't have fallen further from the mark. Our generation put exploration aside to pursue adventures like 'the end of affordable healthcare' and outsourced technology in our ongoing chronicle: 'the destruction of all jobs'.  Tonight Ryan put in 2001: A Space Odyssey. After watching it and talking about how wonderfully realistic all of the spacecrafts were I confessed the silly childhood dream I'd had of honeymooning on the Moon. I told him about the little room with a round space portal window, the Earth Rise, the whole story. "I don't know what I was thinking," I laughed. "Imagining we'd be on the Moon by now."
He wrapped his arm around me and said, "People usually celebrate anniversaries with second honeymoons. We can always renew our vows someday when we're older. We'll just go to the Moon then!" Ryan said it in his casual seriousness that makes the most insanevery plausible. And it struck me, that one of the best things about love is it makes you believe again in all the things you thought you learned were impossible. Love itself is one of them. When I was six I believed so simply that I was going to find a handsome, funny, intelligent, sweet, brave, great guy. He wouldn't mind that I was confident or strange, because he would be too. We'd build on each other's jokes. We'd go on great adventures and laugh ourselves to sleep every night. I grew up and the future wasn't what I thought it would be. I started thinking love had been one more fairy tale I had to grow out of. Then I met Ryan, and he was just what six year old me promised. Space Barbie couldn't have found a more handsome, funny, intelligent, sweet, brave, great guy. He's just as bold and weird as I am. Life came back around to tell me the impossible isn't, it's just worth waiting for. And Ryan kissed my cheek so simply and smiled about the Moon. So, heck, we'll give it another fifty years I guess and see what we can all accomplish by then!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Threadless Experiment

A previous submission....
It's rare that I'm open to collaborating unless I know the person very well. I've had too many crackpots approach me with work only to never pay me, or folks who are convinced they can help me get published/sell prints/get greeting cards out only to find out I've looked into all of that and it's not free. There's no publisher sitting on the other side of a desk with a big cigar who wants to make a star out of me--or them for finding me. If I'm ever successful I'll be lucky to bring in $35,000 a year. I'm cool with that because it's my dream to illustrate children's books, not to be the next big 'it' artist. Idea men (or women) never seem to get that though. I contact agents and publishers regularly and I get rejected regularly. I listen to their feedback, I make my adjustments, I try again. It's not thrilling work for someone who thinks they've got a hot idea and I can make their dreams come true by drawing a good picture for it and bam, we'll get published!
However now and then I make exceptions. I am nearly always in collaboration on something with Amy or Preston because I think we work well together. If someone approaches me with a genuinely good idea for a children's book, I'm on board. If someone comes to me with something that seems really out of my style, I'm honest.

Another previous submission....
Seeking free feedback and exposure has lead me to submitting my work to certain sites, and one is My ultimate goal with submitting to threadless has actually not been to have a tee shirt made. My goal has been to get my drawings accepted for scoring, (which I have 5-6 times out of 7-8 submissions) to get folks to see the drawings and like them, and to hopefully grab a few new fans of my work. While I like the illustrations I have sent in, I don't really have a mind for actual tee shirt design and so every time I try to place one of my drawings on a shirt the border is an issue. Basically, I'm sticking a rectangle on a shirt and poorly trying to disguise it. Since I'm just trying to get them past scoring, I've never thought much beyond that. If you read the comments on one of my shirts it's always "great illustration, you should illustrate kids books! But the border is killing this---"
So a few nights ago a guy on threadless approached me with his email and said, "I love your drawing style but I think you need help translating the image to a tee shirt. I have some ideas that I think could actually win but I don't do art, could we collaborate?" Already I was on board. Here was someone observant, direct, and polite. Why not at least hear them out?
Today I received his ideas, and I've got to say, every one of them has a real chance on that site. It's made me think of threadless a little more seriously for the first time. I'm going to try to draw 3-4 of his designs (the ones I felt would work with my style, although I encouraged him to send the others to more artists because they've all got a shot). I also may try to do a design Kyle had a few years back that I always felt could win and split it with Kyle if we did.
So, we'll see how this goes! I must confess, I'm more interested to try my drawings with a person who has actual tee shirt designs to see how the score rating changes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gnome Home

For a few weeks I've had a little house in my head. Literally, quite little. Were it a real

The sketch in pencil.
house I imagine it would stand no taller than seven to eight inches (and even that may be stretching it). A miniature great Victorian with sprawling wrap around porches, many windows with wrought iron over glass panes, chimneys sticking out at all angles. Each roof would be red, as I saw it, the cheery rosy spotted caps of toadstools.
A gnome home. A home for gnomes. I've come to adore traditional gnomes the past few years. My sister Gracie is partly to blame, as she gave me a lovely book The Secrets of the Gnomes by Wil Huygen and RienPoortvliet. Before reading this wonderfully enjoyable book I painted cynical illustrations of two very 'natural' looking gnomes eying a traditional lawn gnome statue with resentment, as though they had come across the effigy on their backyard journeys and found it too simplistic and offensive to their teeny race. I figured I might try to re-work gnomes into a more respectable species.

Pen and ink....
What I failed to realize before reading more about traditional gnomes was just how respectable a mythical race they were. Their itty bitty lives are believed to be full of ritual and responsibility. They care for the forests and are friends and protectors to the creatures dwelling within. They work hard, they are clever, devoted, and excellent craftsmen. In short, they perform every task with the utmost care.
For sometime I have imagined what their homes and culture would be like if the creatures were real. Skilled in weaving, carving, and painting as they are I feel like many of their clothes and belongings would be ornately decorated. I'm sure they would keep their clothes simple for all the work in the forest they must accomplish in a day--however if they are so talented and tireless how could they resist embroidering the occasional shirt?
Being sensible I have no doubt that most of their homes would be underground burrows

Watercolor washes over the ink complete the illustration.
and the like, however I'm sure that one or two would not be able to resist building a fine above ground home out of natural materials. And so the idea of the toadstool cottage began to take shape in the back of my thoughts.
Today I sketched it out, penned it, and applied light watercolor washes. I added a gentleman gnome walking a harnessed snail, and a lady gnome shaking out a sheet from the second story window. Little pointed hats peek out from other windows, indicating little children. I'm thinking of doing a series of illustrations on this family, but we'll see. I think about doing a lot of illustrations that sadly sometimes get pushed to back burners. However, I have a feeling I will keep returning to gnomes.
I have prints of this illustration for sale in my etsy shop! Click on the link below to see.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A Little Bit About Myself

Myself modeling the best hat in the world.
 I was born in a small town in Rhode Island, which is a state in America no one outside of New England knows about. It is a real place, I assure you. Believe it or not, in between Massachusetts and Connecticut there is a magical little land that is not a part of New York (you're thinking Long Island). And that land, nestled within the forest beside the sea, was my birthplace.

I grew up weird and loud, the hyperactive child of a politician and an artist. I spent my childhood scribbling away over countless drawings of strange creatures and far away places. I gobbled up every adventure story I could, and particularly loved wizards, dragons, and cowboys. I sat in the back of my mother's council meetings where she helped decide the fate of our town with an eloquent tongue and an iron will, crayons firmly in my little fists, fists running across the paper battlefields ever unfolding in my lap. When I was old enough I went to the University of Rhode Island and even graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts. I have been trying to get illustrations published since.
Last year my then good friend Ryan and I accidentally fell in love. It was pretty inconvenient for us at the time, given I was still back in our hometown in RI and he was living in Seattle working as a graphic artist. We both agreed that long distance relationships never work, and so Ryan flew back to RI and we drove 3000 miles together to Washington. Even though we had gone to the same high school and been friends for years, we'd only been dating a few months. What can I say? Love makes people do crazy things, and we're both a little crazy to begin with. It turned out to be totally worth it. We're one of those gross, way too happy couples that makes most people sick. It's great!

Neither one of them is allowed on the counter.
It's been quite the adventure. I lived in the same New England town for most of my life, and now find myself adjusting to life on the west coast. These days I live a little north of Seattle, Washington with my dashing boyfriend, two ridiculous cats, several loving rats, and a begrudging mouse. My homeland of Rhode Island is never far from my heart, and spend my days pursuing illustrating, writing comics, and baking.