Friday, September 25, 2009

The Mornings After: Monday

The idea of a series of nude drawings came to me last summer, when I was in our Surami cottage with Diana, just before the August War. It was a beautiful morning, and Diana was even more beautiful, lying in the bed, half-awoken and naked, with her long amber hair flowing like a river. Such mornings, after a long night of passion, are always delightful, even if it's raining outside.

Enjoying the breathtaking view, I remembered a song by Lacrimosa, "Der Morgen danach" -- and quite appropriately, because it means "The Morning After." I immediately pictured a series of "morning drawings," made on a toned pastel paper, possibly with sanguine or some other sepia medium. The drawings, as I imagined, had to be seven in number -- one for each day of week -- and the title of the series would be, of course, The Mornings After.

After returning to Tbilisi, we arranged a morning photo-session especially for this project. I took the pictures already in sepia mode, to feel the mood of the series better. Later I picked the seven photos and distributed them among the days of week. Now I only had to find a suitable paper and start working, but that would have to wait until Diana's departure.

Literally the same day as Diana left for Vilnius, the tension in the "South Ossetian" breakaway region reached its peak, resulting in a full-scale armed conflict, with a subsequent Russian "peace enforcing" invasion. Naturally, I had to postpone all my projects, including The Mornings After. Like they say, when the cannons speak, the Muses are silent. And even when the cannons stopped, all I could think of was the informational war against Kremlin and my part in it, as an artist. For many following months, the Politika series, inspired by the August events, was the only art I did.

When finally I was able to return to more pleasant things, like drawing my beautiful girlfriend (presently my wife), I faced another problem -- I simply couldn't find the right paper! I tried many different pastel papers, but they were either too light or too dark, or just the wrong color. For a long time the search was fruitless, until I finally found what I was looking for... in Vilnius, during my summer vacation. CANSON Mi-teintes 340 "Chanvre clair" (that's the brand of the paper) seemed to be just perfect for my needs, so now I finally could begin the series -- a year later after its "conceptual birth."

Firstly, I had to "lay the ground" with a common graphite pencil. On the right you can see the artwork in its preparatory stage, beside the monitor displaying the reference photo from the last year session. Prior to the next stage I had to choose the media -- and I had to do it carefully. As I suspected, my Conté sanguine crayons, used in Her Childish Smile, turned out to be too "vivid" for this particular task, but they still would do as a complementary medium -- especially for hair. Koh-i-Noor's Gioconda 6 sepia leads looked a lot better with this tone of paper, so I decided to trust them the main job, having placed one of these leads into a mechanical holder, especially designed for them (it's very convenient, believe me). For the finer details and darker parts I chose a dark brown pencil from my favorite LYRA Super Ferby series. Finally, I brought in some chalk for the highlights.

The paper I had chosen has two different sides: toothed and flat. It's harder to work on a rough side, but in the end its more rewarding, because it gives those classic "grainy" looks to the drawing. Fortunately, I already had received quite a training in drawing on toothed surfaces with similar techniques, while working on Her Childish Smile, Tamro and The Purple Haze, so I hadn't faced any particular challenges, other than trying to maintain the balance between the chosen types of media. Below you can see the development of the artwork at the later stages.

And this is the finished drawing, named "Monday" -- the first swallow of the upcoming series. Six more to go...

As a bonus, here's a zoomed detail showing the technique more "up close and personal."

That's it for now. Stay tuned for the next "morning after" -- it'll be coming very soon!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Still Life with a Mirror

On a rainy day of my summer vacation in Vilnius I was sitting at Diana's desk, thinking of what to draw. I had my Red Folder with me, where I keep my unfinished drawings, but I wanted to start something new. I was on the edge of frustration, when I incidentally looked at Diana's mirror and was struck by a sudden idea.

I asked Diana to look into the mirror, so that I could catch her glance. That was it! I took a probe shot and started to polish the idea further. I needed to clean up the scene and leave only what was necessary, making it more minimalistic. But I also wanted to bring in some "conceptual elements" that would help convey a certain mood. And that would be a lipstick and a ring.

Diana doesn't wear lipstick, but she still has one. As for the ring, I decided to use something plain and classic. My concept required an evening setting, so I dimmed the window and turned on the table lamp. The next task was to arrange all the objects according to the unwritten rules of any still life composition: looking good together, but with a certain degree of natural randomness.

Now that I had all four elements (the lamp, the lipstick, the ring and the mirror itself) in place, I needed to get the most important, but elusive "fifth element" -- Diana's face in the mirror. After some intensive trial and error, I was finally able to catch her reflection exactly the way I was looking for.

All set, I started to draw using my detailed technique, which takes much time. Naturally, I wasn't able to finish it in one day, and since my vacation was nearing its end, I only had time to do some initial work on the basic elements. Still, it was a start.

I had a pile of work waiting for me when I got back home, as it usually happens after vacation, so I was able to continue the drawing only about a week ago. I finished it yesterday, scanned and sent to Diana, as I always do -- she's my first audience (besides, it was her face in the mirror, after all). She liked it very much, having commented that the "life" in the picture isn't exactly "still," which is definitely a good thing. So here it is, (Not So Very) Still Life with a Mirror, all finished...

I like still lifes that don't just represent some carefully arranged objects, but also tell a small story. Hopefully, Still Life with a Mirror has one of such stories to tell. In my perception, it's about a woman who's getting ready for an evening, planning to go out with her beloved. And if she happens to be your woman, it's a great feeling when you catch her glance in the mirror, as she smiles at you, as if saying: "Aha, you like what you see, don't you?"

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Quick Rinse

Yep, more detergents are coming your way. No no no, don't faint on me -- it ain't gonna be another Big Wash, just a quick rinse this time, I promise.

It was the first order I received after returning from my summer vacation, and it came from the customer who was behind my very first detergent labels back in 2006: a firm called "100+1" (the same name as their production). Only this time they decided to go with a new brand name: MAX. Naturally, the design also had to be different and fresh.

As before, the labels needed to be done in three different flavors, so I locked myself up in my FruitLab to breed some more of those "self-made" fruits. Since I already had a stock of lemons and oranges, I only needed to add some green apples to my "digital garden."

After tailoring the shape of the labels to the actual liquid container and designing the MAX logo, all I had to do was "stirring up" the background and adding some eye candy like pretty bubbles and shiny sparkles. And here it was: another fruity detergent in the best traditions of the genre.
But that's not all. A few days later I received a new "dish-washing" order from another regular customer: a private venture primarily using ECO+ brand for their production (those who had been fortunate enough to attend the Big Wash should be familiar with that name). The customer didn't want anything new this time, but rather to alter an existing label which we did earlier: a detergent balsam, featuring Diana's "glamoured" hand and a mascot character. The task was to change the shape of the label and replace the ECO+ brand with BEST. Also, the original label was a "solo project," and now it had to be done in three different flavors, as we usually do with other labels.

The FruitLab already contained the "raw ingredients" for the two of these flavors, but it didn't have any strawberries, so I had to design them from the scratch (which was actually fun: strawberries proved to be a very interesting fruit to "build," so to speak).

The "ECO+ girl" also had to undergo some changes: now she sported a new "sponsor's logo" on her apron (which effectively made her the "BEST girl"), and this new sponsor turned out to be quite generous, adding two new dresses to her collection to match the new flavors.
Usually I don't like redesigning the labels, because the new elements are often hard to fit into the existing arrangements. Fortunately, this wasn't the case here: the completely redesigned top part of the label matched the rest quite naturally.
That's it for now, but I'm sure there will be more episodes in this soap (or rather detergent) opera: my ever-competitive customers declared a real war on each other, which is certainly fine by me, as long as I remain the main weapon supplier for the both sides of the conflict...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Village Cross

The story behind this drawing had been already recounted in my epic post called Summer in Vilnius, but I can hardly imagine anybody able to read that one through beside myself, Diana and a couple of martyrs who decided to bore themselves to death in the name of art, so here it is in a more exclusive form. Besides, when I was writing that post, the reproduction of the artwork still hadn't been ready for publishing, only some photos where you could see the work in progress and the finished drawing.

The drawing represents a "village cross" in Avižieniai, a rural outskirt of Vilnius. As I wrote before, I had already seen this place during my winter trip to Vilnius, but back then it had been all covered with snow and I had barely noticed it. Now it appeared before me in all its glory, captivating me with its simple beauty and peaceful quietness.

Having noticed my interest, Diana briefly introduced me to the history of this place. There was no church in Avižieniai, so the local community decided to gather the money and build this simple cross as a modest tribute to the Lord. The cross has been surrounded by a short wooden fence with some hydrangeas inside, which at first made me think it was a grave or a memorial of some sorts (here in Georgia the graves are usually surrounded by individual fences, with flowers growing inside, so that was a natural thing to think).

When one of the sunny days of my vacation I decided to draw something in the open air, this beautiful place was the first thing to come to my mind. I was so eager to draw it, that couldn't wait for the proper lighting: the sun wasn't in the right position yet, casting awkward shadows on the cross. I still made a rough sketch just to feel the proportions and "breathe" the atmosphere of this lovely site. Diana was beside me, as always, sharing my enthusiasm, taking some photos and greeting the neighbors curiously passing by.

Later, when the lighting was more suitable for this particular scenery, I came back and took some pictures to be used later as reference: since I had no easel and no place to sit, I couldn't make a detailed drawing in the open air, so I decided to finish the job some other time, at home.

Franciszka, Diana's mother, liked the sketch so much that she asked me to leave it to her, so that she could boast to everyone, what a talented son-in-law she had. But I wanted to leave her something more valuable than a simple sketch on a rough paper, so a few days later I took a sheet of Canson Vivaldi Crème paper, settled in front of Diana's monitor and started drawing a more detailed version of The Village Cross, based on my previous sketch and the reference photos made earlier.

A few hours later the drawing had been finished, but it wasn't quite ready to be given away -- I had to scan it for my website (and this blog) and frame it. Diana's scanner had died on her a long time ago, so we had to go to her work to scan the artwork. Then we went to the framing shop, located in the Old Town of Vilnius, and ordered the frame. It fitted the artwork perfectly, and now I could leave it to Franciszka in a proper state.

That's the whole story behind The Village Cross; I hope you found it interesting. And here's your "reward" for being patient: the scanned artwork itself.