Sunday, October 31, 2010

DIY- Medusa geisha Halloween costume

In compliance to this year's Greek mythology Halloween theme, my costume was the Gorgon Medusa but with a Japanese Kabuki/Geisha style.

I was lucky to find lots of helpful elements to build the rather elaborate costume around. I wanted a very lavish kimono in tones of black, gold and red, to match with Jacob's Minotaur costume. A trip to the thrift store (Value Village) yielded a kimono-top dress and another large dress in the right colours for a total of $20:

I got a bit more fabric from the fabric store for about $40. A glossy black fabric to make the kimono's long sleeves, a rich golden fabric with dragons for the kimono's 'Obi' and some red trim ribbon:

After visiting several craft/dollar stores without success, I found some nice-looking rubber snakes in a toy store (no picture, sorry) and a basic black wig.

I found some neat yellow contact lenses, to finalize the Medusian look that could turn onlookers to stone, at for a pretty good price. Their shipping was very fast too.

Putting the whole costume together was a somewhat haphazard affair, as I had about a week left and a busy little 3 month-old to entertain. I wish I could have made a more comprehensive tutorial, but it basically consisted of sewing the various parts (sleeves, trim, obi etc...) together. The kimono was assembled in two parts, attached with snap buttons, to allow me to nurse Penelope easily. An interesting observation was that Penelope seemed completely oblivious to my attire, full-face makeup and creepy eyes eyes: She just giggled and demanded her embraces and feedings as eagerly as usual :D

The final look:

Little Penelope also had a costume of sorts to celebrate her very first Halloween. She sure nailed the essence of jolly, carefree Pan:

... She got more enthusiastic once she got out of the car seat, promise ;)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

DIY- Minotaur Halloween costume

This year, for Halloween, awesome paper-craftster Jacob (and my hubby) and I decided to go for a Greek mythology monsters theme. However, we were a bit underwhelmed by the usual plain toga idea so we thought of mixing other cultural elements to the costumes.

I picked a Kabuki-inspired Medusa and he went with a Venitian carnival Minotaur.

Here's the Minotaur in all its glory and we're pretty psyched about it! :D


First, Jacob made a rough structure for the bull head. I'm always impressed at how he can capture the basic essence of a shape with very little effort. Here' the bovine shape made out of a cereal box:

The horns were molded out of good old papier mâché and some fine wire for support:

Next, Jacob used plaster of Paris to solidify the shape and add more details. Since this is a functional mask and bovine eyes are too far apart to serve as seeing holes for a human, he added a few seeing holes on the front:

The finer details, like eyes and nostrils were made out of a baked clay-like putty (which was lighter than the plaster, as the mask was getting quite heavy), then glued to the plaster head with contact cement:

The final, fully plastered mask model:

It was my turn to paint the bull mask, Venitian style. I began by painting the whole mask with black acrylic paint to create a uniform base:

Then I used a sponge to dab some gold paint mixed with black for a bronze-like effect that would show through the other colours:

Using a warm, antique-white, I outlined the mask's patterns:

It was then only a matter of adding some finer details in gold, black and red paint:

And here's the final Venetian Minotaur mask!

My Medusa costume is coming along well; kimono, snake-wig and all... Pics coming soon!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Work in progress - God of Birds

I seem to have been dabbling heavily in mythological/god-like figures lately. It's mainly because I enjoy the allegorical quality of such characters: It's like putting a human face on wonders of nature and life.

With that in mind, I was pondering one night on the fact that, aside from some animist societies, we represent deities, nature spirits and allegorical figures as humans or, at least, partly human. Even Death, despite being universal and a reality for all creatures, is traditionally portrayed as a human skeletal figure (my own piece featuring Death coming soon ;) ).

Therefore, I was wondering whether our fellow animals would personify objects of worship as their own species, if they were so inclined.

To explore that concept, I began with the God of Birds. I figured that birds would probably come up with a sun-deity. Since birds tend to begin singing at dawn, many birds who flock do an impressive 'dance' at sundown and migratory birds rely heavily on celestial bodies to navigate (the sun being the brightest), I pictured birds celebrating a surreal, vaguely bird-like god in the shining orb.

This is a first sketch, entirely digital (as opposed to a pencil/ink drawing) and the style turned out quite different compared to my usual stuff: The God of Birds-

Monday, September 6, 2010

New piece - Sky Maidens

Another piece with mythological undertones. Since I've recently explored more Asian and Indian styles, I went with a Greek or Roman feel. At first, I had the goddess Selene in mind, but it turned into more generic allegories of the Moon and stars.

I guess I could post more images of the work progress. It looks nice and spiffy on a blog... But as I previously mentioned, I'm a bit lazy about it. It's good enough that I draw, no?? ;)

New piece - Mehndi

A new piece I did, inspired not by a specific goddess but by the art of mehndi or henna designs.

The figure is based on old, voluptuous Indian sculptures and I hope I successfully captured the 'rasa' as Vilayanur Ramachandran might say ;)


It's been a while since I've updated the good ol' blog, but I like to think that introducing little Penelope to this crazy world is a good enough excuse...

Born on July 21 (right on the due date), she's been every bit as wonderful as one could expect. Every cliché about parental love and how one 'falls in love the minute one sees their little face' is true. In spite of the 14 hours-long labour, the home birth abruptly ending in the hospital- not to mention a very freaked-out taxi driver- and no sleep, I was mind-boggled by how happy I felt (Jacob sharing every bit of the intense emotions) and how intensly I loved the little sweetie dozing off on my chest. She had just popped out, but she certainly felt like no stranger. It was little Penelope, alright.

So fast-forwarding 6 weeks, our little 6 pounds bundle is closer to 10 and showing off her first coos and laughter and making her parents topple over with glee. I don't know where all those weird studies about parents being unhappy come from :P

I'm looking forward to every step of the way with her by our side.

All that said, since this is in theory an art blog, Penelope has been letting me draw. I've just been lazy with the scanning and posting... ;)

Monday, July 19, 2010

New Piece - Mechanical

Another piece finished this week. I'm updating my portfolio (again) and figured I'd stick with whimsical, line-based, fantasy style.

The ink drawing:

Coloured piece:

A detail:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Benzaiten- New piece and Step-by-Step progress

I've created a piece to enter in a contest on an art forum. I was interested mainly for the possibility of a few entries to be included in an artbook. The theme was 'Ethnique- Women of Legend', so it was about choosing a female mythological or legendary figure from various cultures. Of course, I only found out about the competition 2 days before the deadline, but I do draw well under pressure ;)

As subject, I chose Benzaiten: The Japanese/Shinto equivalent to the Hindu goddess Saraswati, Benzaiten represents music, language, knowledge, poetry and speech.

Old Japanese prints were a big inspiration for style. The water and fishes represent the flowing nature of words and songs and the fact that both Saraswati and Benzaiten are associated with rivers. I've used chiefly tones of muted blues, orange and pink to represent the peaceful and feminine nature of the goddess. She is supported above the water by a moonfish (akamanbo) and accompanied by goldfishes: Both kind of fishes represent good luck, indicating her status of protector goddess and bestower of fortune.

Step 1- Pencil sketch (crappy digital picture, because I was too lazy to scan the large drawing in 2 pieces):

Step 2- Inking:

Step 3- A limited insight on the colouring process:

The finished piece!

A few closeups of details:

I've been wanting to draw a moonfish for a while now: I think they just look so gorgeous (and they're huge! Probably large enough for a dainty goddess to ride on, too!). Fishes in general are lots of fun to draw.

It would be awesome to be included in some anthology, but I'm quite happy with this one as a new portfolio piece, if nothing else. It was very enjoyable to create.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cedar Waxwing- Birthday Gift

It was my mother's birthday a few days back, so we had a nice picnic to celebrate the occasion today.

Since she loves birds/nature (already having a lovely Robert Bateman limited print featuring a barn owl in her living room), I was inspired by my recent comments on the animals book and Cedar Waxwing birds. So I made a piece featuring that pretty bird (the whole thing is about 5.5" x 7.5") for her:

The artwork is in three layers, with the watercolour bird on smoother paper, the branch on slightly coarser paper and a heavily textured paper as background. I was quite happy with the frame I found, with the glass creating a 'floating' effect:

Now I gotta lay down and digest a pile of mini-sandwiches and chocolate cake...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

World Animals Part 2 (Decisions!!)

I'm really trying to get this out ASAP. So after a bit of procrastinating, I'm working out some kinks in the final book organization and layout...

My initial idea put the emphasis on the world map and geographical areas, but I'm now wanting to showcase the animals more prominently. It's tricky in terms of space. The bigger the animals, the less space I have for text. So I'm thinking of downsizing a bit and featuring a maximum of 3 animals per region/continent (instead of 4). Problem is, that means leaving some cute beasties aside and, well, it makes me a bit :(

Some changes are easier to justify:

I initially had the Arctic Fox in North America, but found out it was better suited for Iceland (being its only native mammal). I had intended to replace it with the Bison (seen here not coloured yet) but I will drop it altogether for the 3-animals limit. I like the Racoon and Beaver designs best.

The Hummingbird will be changed to a Cedar Waxwing, which is more exclusive to N-America (I have yet to finish it). I will have to find another use for him!

The Caribbeans page doesn't look so crowded (partly because the land-mass isn't taking much space) but I want to try keeping the layout consistent. I love the Green Woodepecker, but I think I prefer making the other guys bigger (besides, there is another woodpecker in the Korea area... that makes it okay. ...right? I'll put you to good use somewhere, Woody; I SWEAR!!):

I justify my downsizing with Europe (BTW the texts here are still bogus filler text, obviously). With all the countries, it leaves the four animals just competing with the text for space. The Salamander is staying for sure because I want to include reptiles/non-furry-feathery animals. The Ibex is truly endemic. So the Pine Marten is probably going to get the pink slip... as if I don't feel like a jerk enough already...

I get a bit too personal with my art, sometimes...

Alright! Five regions left to finish!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Disney rant, in context...

After my initial, rather snarky post on my impressions of the upcoming movie 'Tangled', I saw several other blogs, videos and articles on the same topic. The opinions were fierce on both sides: Those who were underwhelmed by what they saw, and the ones who felt the former were acerbic cynics raining on a perfectly fine-looking flick's parade.

I actually don't like to be some big bad wolf, putting down the hard work of skilled 3D artists, so I figured an honest opinion in the proper context is wiser than a few snarky remarks in a vacuum.

If I did NOT love Disney and its contribution to animation, I wouldn't be bothered enough to voice criticism about their recent output.

Animation is an important and delightful form of art. I have been fascinated by it since early childhood. I have studied it out of sheer interest. I have a beloved collection of films including Paul Grimault, Soyuzmultfilms, Ivanov Vano, Norsteyn, Miyazaki, Kon... Pixar and Disney films are on the shelf with them.

It has bothered me that, for the past few years, I have no longer been drawn to the Disney flicks (I don't count Pixar as Disney: I did love Finding Nemo, WALL-E and UP, each for reasons I won't get into here).

I was SADDENED that after all the contrived, PC issues and blatant business-driven changes to 'The Princess and the Frog', I had to make myself want to see it. It's not at all how I wanted to feel about the 'revival' of Disney's 2D animation.

It had lots of good potential. The art no doubt was lovely. But it struck me as artificial, not magical; repetitive, not innovative. A familiar recipe: Broadway tunes, a slightly darker-coloured Belle clone, another 'necessary' ubiquitous, Owen Wilson-type love interest that the girl is bound to marry (no matter how utterly mismatched), a Jafar/Scar-type villain.

All I could think was, this is set in the roaring 20's, it's in New Orleans' jazz era, it has VOODOO in it... how can it NOT feel like a mind blowing, refreshing, trippy masterpiece!? The whole thing ought to feel like the 'drunk Dumbo scene' on banned absinthe and swamp gasses, an intoxicating juxtaposition of art-deco sophistication and quietly mysterious bayous...

Basically, I was extremely disappointed in Princess/Frog because I had high expectations. I had this nagging feeling that the idea and premise had ME way more inspired than the writers. This may be too arrogant of me, but we're talking about DISNEY, arguably America's most heavily funded, premier, default animation studio (unless I'm wrong). Mea culpa, I DO expect more of them.

I'm starting to have the same, nagging feeling about 'Tangled'. I'm seeing a pattern: Business-driven, contrived changes (namely the ridiculous name-change to attract male viewership; obviously, the suits at Disney have a low opinion of young boys' intelligence, in spite of desperately pandering to them), the 'necessary' Owen Wilson schmoozing bad boy, a Barbie/Bratz-doll clone... I'm waiting for this one to come out on DVD. My expectations are now lower.

I think I have OUTGROWN Disney movies. I loathe saying this, because I am a firm believer of animation as a great art form for all. But Disney movies are starting to smell more like flashy selling tools for tickets, DVD's, games, toys and plastic tiaras than inspired and passionate stories and works of art.

I finish with the words of Sylvain Chomet, of Les Triplettes de Belleville fame:

Walt Disney invented everything, he absorbed all these guys who came from the eastern countries who brought their rich cultures with them. He found this brilliant way of making money out of a new artform.

[...] The artists have no say any more. The suits decide everything now, and there are so many of them. It is like the dinosaurs, it has got too big and the brain is too small.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Oh me, oh moai...

I upload some of my vector drawings on Istockphoto as stock images. I've noticed that despite the fact that I keep adding more, with various subjects and themes, none of them get downloaded nearly as much as my Easter Island moai pic:

It leaves all the others in the dust. I always thought it would be neat to know where all my stock images get used, but that one is an especially puzzling riddle. Where are all these moai going? (they have no legs!)

One of life's minor mysteries...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I want to want to see Disney movies again...

... but I just don't think I can handle seeing THIS expression on an animated character yet again without breaking in hives.

And then there's THIS (Rapunz... oh, sorry boys, TANGLED trailer):

Like, OMG right?

Disney, do you think you could take us 'kids' again to a magical land far, far away, especially away from valspeak and shmoozing fuck faces?

Ready when you are.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

World Animals- Part 1 (whew)

The one project I'm really working hard to finish is a children's book on animals around the world (especially endemic animals). I wanted to make a book that would combine a bit of geography and the appeal of animals, as well as putting a lot of focus on the illustrations so it would look good as a coffee table book.

I am about halfway through as far as the animal artwork is concerned. I also have about half the pages laid-out. The animals are organized by continent or region. I'm hoping to have it out in both languages (English and French) by the end of the summer...

Here's a few of the animals so far. They're isolated on white here because the pages' backgrounds are HUGE files and it takes a long time to resize. Besides, I have to keep some of it a surprise, no?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Frazetta Tribute

It took me a little while, but here's a little piece done in honour of the late Frank Frazetta.

In memory of one of the greats.