Monday, March 30, 2009

Her Childish Smile

The most amazing thing about my personal witch (and the main source of my inspiration) is her smile, which makes her look like a teenager, although she's already in her thirties. The portrait is drawn on aquarel paper with sanguine (Conté crayons). Later this year I'm planning to make a whole series of sanguine drawings, called The Mornings After, so this could be considered as a warm-up before the match.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Russian Leprechaun

This is a very special leprechaun -- the Russian breed, significantly larger and greedier than it's Irish relative. It collects the pipe money, sings chastushkas, drinks vodka, and eats nearby small states when hungry. It's favorite place is Canteen No.1, which currently has quite a few items on the menu: Georgia, Ukraine (hot dishes), Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (cold snacks). Unfortunately, they have run out of vodka because of the global economic crisis, so they have to use kerosene instead. You see the last bottle of vodka on the table, and its label reads "fire and kerosene" in Georgian, which is another way to say: "Choke on it!"

As for the newspaper, you can see two headlines in Russian: "Peace Enforcement" and "The Fork Is Ours!" The last one refers to the famous golden fork, liberated by the leprechaun's army among other goods. This cult object is also represented on the picture: you can see it on the plate with the leprechaun's favorite dish.

If you're curious, the inscription on the purse behind the pile of gold coins reads "GOSBANK" (the Russian State Bank). And finally, if you look at the wall carefully, you'll realize that the crumbled plaster may also have something to say...

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Every self-respecting designer hates cliparts and I am no exception. But, despite my hate, I have to use them on a daily basis, like many others do. This is mostly because the evil customers rarely present us with the opportunity to work on our leisure, limiting us with ridiculous deadlines and never giving enough money. Or maybe we're just a lazy bunch of people, spoiled by digital technologies. In any case, I'm not here to sermonize, but to share my experience in trying to deal with the problem.

Last year I came up with the idea of creating my own cliparts, or rather the "prefabricated ingredients" for my design works. In reality, it would be a collection of raster and vector "body parts", allowing various combinations when assembled together. I called it FruitLab, because it's primary objective was to provide me with "assembled fruits" for soft drink labels, which is where I use the cliparts most.

I had attempts to grow my own "garden of fruits" long before that. I often made outline drawings, scanned them into computer and colored them. Sometimes I even drew the separate elements entirely by hand and combined them together with graphics software to achieve some variety. But this approach was very time-consuming and hard to use on a regular basis. FruitLab, on the other hand, was entirely digital and more flexible, as it provided with a significantly larger amount of basic elements, allowing to get a lot of different combinations much quicker than the old methods.

The only disadvantage of FruitLab is that the fruits look somewhat simplified, which is because they are digital from the scratch. A graphics tablet would do the job nicely here, but unfortunately I still don't have one. It's a shame, I know, but I'm working on that.

Meanwhile, here are some examples of my FruitLab cliparts, demonstrating both the "ingredients" and the assembled combinations, as well as their subsequent usage in actual design works.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Constructing the Towel of Babel

The idea came into my mind sometime last year. I thought it could be interesting to use the wordplay "towel tower" as the base for a surrealistic imagery and associate it with the famous Tower of Babel. But to get the perfect mix of sex appeal and humor, I needed a suitable model. So the idea had to wait for the better times...

This January Diana, my friendly witch from Lithuania, who has kindly agreed to pose for some of my future projects, visited Tbilisi for her third time. It was a perfect opportunity to arrange another photo-session, like we did last year, just before the August war. As I was taking some probe pictures, I remembered about the Towel of Babel and asked her to bring her towel and see what we could do with it. The result was exactly what the doctor ordered: the combination of her slender arms and funny expression, as she looked up at the giant construction on her head, provided the right balance of sexuality and humor.

After finishing The Gas Cowboys I decided to take a break from the Politika series for a while. I really needed something enjoyable and heart-warming to work on and the Towel of Babel was the best choice for that. So the construction began, at long last...

Stage 1

The original Tower of Babel needed to be perfectly symmetrical in order to reach the Heavens... so I had to use a ruler while drafting the composition to make sure it's exactly in the middle of the workspace. At this stage I still had no idea, what the background would be like. Also, I wasn't sure about the top -- initially I was going to make it complete, but then I changed my mind and decided not to contradict with the Bible, leaving the top unfinished. Still, I needed to decide how it should end at the top. It was a towel, after all, so it couldn't just stick up there forever -- it had to come loose, eventually. So I made it look like it's slowly unrolling -- although rather strangely, defying gravity and flapping like a banner in the wind.

Stage 2

With the composition drafted, it was time to think of the scenery. The most obvious choice was to make it look like ancient Babylon, but I didn't want too much detail in the background, only a light resemblance. I decided to use the same approach as good old Pieter Bruegel did in his famous Tower of Babel -- the city on the left, the river on the right and the mountains in the distance. From my side, I added some palms in the foreground. Also, I made the ships and buildings look more appropriate to the supposed age and place, unlike the Old Master, who intended his scenery to resemble his native Netherlands rather than Babylon.

Stage 3

Finally, it was time to bring some colors into the action. Originally, I wanted the towel to be blue -- the handwriting in my sketchbook clearly indicated: "light blue towel" -- but when I actually started to distribute the colors, I shifted towards the orange, since it would look better against the blue sky. Although, I decided to fade the upper part to blue -- just to bring a sense of "vanishing in the clouds." At this stage Diana really started to look like an African woman -- mostly because her eyeballs were still uncolored.

Stage 4

This is the stage where colored pencils usually play their last accord. I tried to render as much details as I could before the final stage, where the ballpoint pens take the lead. The clouds, the "towel tower" and the scenery became more defined, and the colors gained more depth. The actual drawing finally started to match the one I had in my head, although there was still much work to do.

The Final Stage

It was time to use my ultimate secret weapon -- the ballpoint pens. Although, I had to resort to now retired colored pencils when dealing with the clouds, because, to be honest, I was so eager to proceed to the final stage that I rushed their rendering a little bit previously and now I had to finish the postponed work. That was normal for me, though -- usually I save the sky for last, sometimes even leaving it totally blank until later stages. Other than that, everything went on as planned. The ballpoint pens did their job well, bringing the desired sense of volume and completion. After two days of work, the Towel of Babel was finished...

I had drawn Diana before -- we already did Metalliana in 2006 and Vilnius-Tbilisi in 2008 -- but it was the first time when she posed for a major surrealistic work. She did very well, and I'm really satisfied with the results. As you can see, Diana fits into my surreal world just perfectly...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Gas Cowboys

And here come the long-awaited Gas Cowboys. Inspired by the January's "gas crisis", which nearly left half the Europe without heating, this picture represents our happy "Twix" couple as cheerful cowboys mounting the trunk pipeline ("Pipe No.1") which generously supplies the European Union with Russian gas, while some "light-fingered" Ukrainians are trying to "illegally benefit" from the transit -- with the help of their "Hose No.1" which has turned pitch-black from corruption.

As you can see, the cowboys were so excited to climb the pipe that they forgot to put their pants on, thereby granting us a rare privilege to observe their underwear, which is especially rewarding in Medvedev's case, who sports a cute pair of teddy bear themed shorts. To avoid any possible misinterpretations, I would like to clarify that the colors of his costume have nothing to do with Estonian flag and the match is purely coincidental.