Obsession and the Equinox

Not an Allegory.

My current assignment for Advanced Illustration is to create an illustration in collaboration with B:Light Magazine (pronounced either Be Light, or Blight. See what they did there?) The art director, Lauren Schaefer, came in and spoke with our class about B:Light and to give us our illustration prompts.

B:Light is a project within PNCA’s MFA Collaborative Design program.

B:Light seeks to acknowledge and explore realities that are largely ignored, misunderstood or under-analyzed by mainstream cultural media. We hope to enhance literacy regarding such issues in hopes of motivating readers and out community to further inquiry and/or action. Our second issue of B:Light attempts to understand the omnipresent yet elusive complexities of addiction while pointing the finger back at ourselves, realizing that on some level we are all obsessed/addicts.” – Lauren Schaefer

This mission statement makes me want to mail them my thesis when I’m finished with it.

There were two articles to choose from, one about Portland, OR and another about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I was most interested in illustrating for the latter. We were asked to make the illustration not too dark to avoid alienating the reader (damn it) but still honest and not “glamorizing” the condition. Does that happen? Do As Good as it Gets and Monk really count?

I find the biggest disconnect between people with forms of neurosis like OCD, as well as other intense anxiety disorders, and the people that do not have them would be in empathy. It is extremely difficult to explain to someone what a panic attack is, or why it is happening, or why why isn’t even in the equation since they can happen at random. Many people have no reference for that sort of experience, and it can be frustrating to try and understand why your friend or loved one has to suddenly leave the grocery store or a party. At the same time, it is insulting to that friend to be asked to justify what is happening to them on a chemical level.

For the few people in my life with OCD, I know they experience the same frustration when trying to convey the anxiety that they experience over their fixations, and when they are not respected. They do not want to have to explain why they can not concentrate in a room with cupboard doors open, or have to justify why they have their apartment arranged in a very specific way and can’t handle things being out of place.

That disconnect, which can seem like a small thing, can be extremely alienating. Whether someone is unable to get out of bed because of clinical depression, unable to leave the house because of agoraphobia, or perpetually stuck in a compulsive ritual, it can feel like life just goes on for the rest of the world around you and you will find little compassion extended to you.

Considering all of those things, plus the criteria that Lauren had given us, I thought I would try to work from a form of obsession that everyone can relate to and push it to severity. But I did keep it light:

line work for OCD editorial© Valerie Herron 2013
line work for OCD editorial
© Valerie Herron 2013

I wanted to illustrate the concept of obsessive-compulsive nature in a dignified but fictional/conceptual way, and in a way that was relatable at the same time. As much as I like this drawing, I think the concept did get away from me a little bit. To reinforce the compulsive-ritual element to the piece, I created a wall of numbers with a brush pen and I plan on incorporating that in the background if the figure’s all consuming ritual of pulling off petals and her inability to stop doesn’t scream “psychosis!” to the art director.

numbersWP

We’ll see what happens. I will post the final illustration when it’s finished.

 

boxing hares
boxing hares

Happy Equinox! I started a tradition this year: The Ostara Rabbit Graffiti Challenge. Go draw a bunny somewhere you aren’t supposed to.

Ostara bathroom graffiti. MAYHEM!!
Ostara bathroom graffiti. MAYHEM!!

I seem to be the only person that has taken myself up on this challenge so far, though my uncle drew a rabbit in his office and my boyfriend drew on himself. I will strive for more clarity next year.

 

 

Midterm Review and Thesis Progress

I made it through Midterm!

The midterm review was a little intense. I had to present my thesis concept to a panel of professionals (my panel consisted of art directors from the design, comics and gaming industries, and one freelance artist.) I also showed them my process and my work in progress. Here is a glance of the process behind my Brutality piece, the first image in the series. These are just a few of the items that I presented:

The panel thought my project was very strong conceptually, and they really responded to the work itself. I was thrilled. I also presented my current portfolio. Why yes, that is gold leaf!

The panel seemed excited about my work. They were all very nice, and gave extremely thoughtful feedback. This was definitely the help and encouragement I needed to push forward into the rest of my studio work over the next 6 weeks. And I must thank my amazing thesis mentor Annie Heisey once again. She knows exactly when to push me and when to not freak out! It’s a crucial balance that I think I need from all the people in my life, but she has been especially helpful this semester and I’m sure I’ll gush about her awesomeness a few more times before all of this insanity is over. Thanks, Annie.

“Keep your Space Face close to Mine, Love…”

Hello! I’m back from an insane week of decompressing from FaerieCon West and catching up on my work. I have finished my Star Goddess illustration!

I mentioned in the last post that Christine Hoff Kraemer had commissioned this illustration from me. Christine is a religious studies scholar, specializing in Paganism, sexuality, theology, and popular culture. She is a teacher, a prolific author, and the managing editor of the Pagan channel at Patheos.com. I was absolutely thrilled and honored that she sought me out to create the cover illustration for her upcoming book Eros and Touch from the Pagan Perspective: Divided for Love’s Sake.

Christine wanted a depiction the Star Goddess from the Starhawk creation myth. Check my last blog post for details about the myth and my process up to this point.

Finished with the thumbnails, I proceeded to create a textural background that I could scan into the image. I created this with a mixture of wet media: gouache, acrylic ink, and liquid acrylic paint. I felt like I was back in Anna Fidler‘s studio! When I create these kinds of textural pieces, I really feel like I’m in communication with the animal part of my psyche, or maybe my subconscious, that part of me that doesn’t analyse but simply responds to stimuli. It is very meditative.

textual background, mixed wet media
textual background, mixed wet media
nebulous abandon
nebulous abandon

Then I moved on to the line work. I knew that the lines in this image would mainly be a scaffolding for the painting, and I was prepared to remove it all together. For this reason I tried to make it as simple as possible

Line work for Star Goddess Illustration
Line work for Star Goddess Illustration

This drawing was deceptively challenging. Because I was painting God Hirself here, my goal for the figures were for them to be feminine, but ultimately gender-neutral. I was also very concerned with being able to express the angles of the faces without much detail, which was difficult. This was was probably my fifth attempt at drawing this.

I then scanned everything in and started painting digitally. Here are screenshots to show you some of the process:

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And here is the final result:

Divided for Love's Saketraditional and digital media© Valerie Herron, 2013
Divided for Love’s Sake
traditional and digital media
© Valerie Herron, 2013

I’m happy with her, and Christine seems to be as well.

On another note, I wanted to say that working at FaerieCon West 2013 last weekend was an amazing experience. It was extremely high energy and chaotic for me as part of the staff, but it was exciting. When I got home I was apparently still reverberating with all of this insane fae energy, my boyfriend asked me what it was like and all I could say is “I feel like I just spent the last three days doing meth with my boss in a hotel filled with glitter.” It was magical!

I not only got to see my dear friend Maxine Miller completely pwn her presentation about her illustration career, but I got to meet and hang out with a number of luminaries and creative professionals that I’ve been really wanting to meet like Raven and Stephanie Grimassi, T. Thorn CoyleStephanie Pui-Mun Law, Charles De Lint, and Mariee Sioux. 

Faerieworlds LLC is such a wonderful creative enterprise. There is something very empowering about giving people permission to harness their creativity and step into fantasy roles which express something very real about their inner selves. I have had a few conversations with the producer of Portland’s annual Vampire Masquerade Ball who has expressed that that is the main reason she runs the ball every year. She loves to see people feel beautiful and empowered at her event.

I view these sorts of events as giant art instillations that implore the viewers to interact. In fact, the instillation is comprised mostly of the participants and their contributions. It was truly amazing to be part of such a gorgeous, giant, crazy piece of living art and I look forward to working with Faerieworlds LLC as long as I can get away with it.

Valentines, Thesis, and The Star Goddess

Hello, Friends! I hope the Year of the Water Serpent is treating you well so far. Things continue to get busier and busier for me here, but as thesis progresses I become more inspired and excited about my project.

ecmajor-the-black-water-snake-of-the-new-year

I survived the dreaded PechaKucha. It wasn’t too painful, everyone seemed to feel equally unprepared and unsure of what they were supposed to be presenting. The good news is that it did really help me determine a direction for my research.

“In this paper I will consider why people need fictional allegories to empathize with the reality of suffering. I will explore the connection between allegory and social responsibility, as well as the ways that some find empowerment and catharsis through allegorical devices.”  – current thesis statement

I am examining historical and contemporary artists that utilize violent and tragic allegory to convey social and political messages within their work. To bring my paper back into the realm of contemporary illustration, I plan on dissecting a few relevant graphic novels that speak with the same vocabulary.

research materials
research materials

 

I finished the last bit of conceptual groundwork for my thesis project and created comps for all six pieces. This week I start actually working on the art, and I couldn’t be more excited. I will continue to post updates throughout the process.

a comp for one of the six pieces
a comp for one of the six pieces

 

Phase one of my book cover commission is complete. What Christine requested was an image that would evoke the imagery of Starhawk‘s Star Goddess creation myth:

“Alone, awesome, complete within Herself, the Goddess, She whose name cannot be spoken, floated in the abyss of the outer darkness, before the beginning of all things. As She looked into the curved mirror of black space, She saw by her own light her radiant reflection, and fell in love with it. She drew it forth by the power that was in Her and made love to Herself, and called Her “Miria, the Wonderful”.

Their ecstasy burst forth in the single song of all that is, was, or ever shall be, and with the song came motion, waves that poured outward and became all the spheres and circles of the worlds. The Goddess became filled with love, swollen with love, and She gave birth to a rain of bright spirits that filled the worlds and became all beings.”

– Starhawk, The Spiral Dance

Christine wanted something more anthro and less pin-up, but sensual none the less. I was up for the challenge. I started out with some very loose sketching trying to design shapes that would be appealing for the composition.

sketches
sketches

 

I then created six variations of silhouettes to see which I liked best. I decided that the second and sixth had the most potential for a pleasing composition that met the client’s criteria

silhouettes
silhouettes

From there I created some final thumbnail comps in photoshop to get an idea of how the silhouettes would look in the form of star clusters. I imagine the line work will be created out of stars (white light/linework) and the line/star clusters will dissipate the further they move away from the goddesses’ kiss. The same would go for the misty looking nebula color which I plan to paint in. To mimic that, I made the shapes/nebulas more transparent moving from the center outward in all of the comps.

As much as I think there is potential for lovely shapes with the full-body nebulas, the client doesn’t want the cover to resemble a pin-up in any way, so the faces definitely are less problematic in that sense. I also appreciate the possibilities of conveying intimacy in a more subtle way through facial expression with the face nebulas. Between the two comps that feature the faces, I prefer the third. It is the better composition, it contains the potential for key facial details, and it gives more room to show off the fading effect of the nebulas and line work. So this is the composition that I proposed for the book cover. Christine seems pleased with that decision, so the next step is creating the line work.

For all of you who celebrate, happy Valentine’s Day and a joyous Lupercalia to you! My boyfriend and I exchanged gifts early, since his work week starts tomorrow. More traditional gifts would include jewelry and chocolates, but we are far from traditional. (Bragging time) He got me my favorite candies, a big bag of tea lights, and the Wildwood Tarot, which I have been coveting for a long time! I got him a locally made set of runes – carved from white tail deer antler – complete with a handmade leather bag, and a Chinese zodiac pendant. And of course, a sappy, sappy card.

nerdy love
nerdy love

 

Vile Kirby and What the Hell is a PechaKucha?

You can not tell me that my blog titles aren’t enticing. Whether the blogs themselves deliver, who knows. Here’s some more art!

I just finished my first assignment in Advanced Illustration. This one takes some explaining:

For the 1st assignment we were supposed to pair up with a classmate and interview them about their work. Depending on things that they wanted to explore, their portfolio was missing, or things that they absolutely hate doing, we then were to create an assignment for them, being as mean or helpful as we wished.

My buddy Josh Burd (you may remember him from this assignment) came up with a pretty hilarious assignment for me. Because I don’t have a lot of packaging design under my belt, and because I never do anything “cute or fluffy” Josh thought it would be a good exercise for me to design a new variation of Kirby as a character, and the box packaging for its inevitable collector’s toy. Josh named him “Vile Kirby” and instructed me to create him in my style. And that was it.

If you are unfamiliar with Kirby, he is a cutesy Nintendo character that has been featured in a number of different video games, including Kirby’s Dreamland and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. He even has his own bizarre cartoon.

Nintendo's Kirby
Nintendo’s Kirby

 

So this proved to be interesting challenge. Vile, by definition, means extremely wicked or unpleasant. I needed to create a Kirby that possessed those qualities, but retained some of Kirby’s cuteness and some key, recognizable characteristics. I sketched out some ideas and came up with a Kirby I really liked.

IMAG0066

 

I designed the typeface for Vile Kirby’s name and started to design the actual packaging from a box template. The final result was this:

 

Vile Kirby, digital media© Valerie Herron 2013
Vile Kirby, digital media
© Valerie Herron 2013
Vile Kirby box packaging, digital media© Valerie Herron 2013
Vile Kirby box packaging, digital media
© Valerie Herron 2013

 

Then I made a prototype box.

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My cat Naharra jumped in there to model and demonstrate scale. Thank you, darling. I’m not sure if I’ll use this in my portfolio or not, but it was a lot of fun to make. Thanks, Josh 😉

I’m beginning to write my big, scary, thesis paper. I was happy to discover that the paper doesn’t have to cover all of the conceptual territory that the project encompasses (thank all of the gods, my project is way too ambitious) but it is required to be a lengthy research paper that will shed some light on the project. I finally narrowed down all of the research possibilities to this thesis statement:

In this paper I will consider why it is that people need fictional allegories to empathize with the reality of suffering. I will explore the connection between allegory and social responsibility, as well as the ways that some find catharsis and empowerment through allegorical devices.

The first step into research required by my thesis writing class is to construct and present a PechaKucha. What the hell is a PechaKucha? It is a painful exercise of indeterminate pronunciation (my professor thinks it’s either Peh-chuh-Koo-chuh or, hilariously, Peh-chatch-kah) where you must give power point style presentation on a complex subject, limited to 20 slides, 20 seconds each. The idea is that the presenter will be forced to distill their subject matter and will only present salient information. Making the exercise even more fun, we are limited to 4 minutes or less, 10 slides.

So I have to figure out how I will be defining all of my terms, presenting valid examples, and tying it all into my work in 4 minutes or less. Oh, and we will be merging classes. I will be performing this train wreck for two classes total. I suppose after my thesis proposal, this can’t be that painful. We will see.

 

 

 

 

I’m Back! Get ready for consistency!

Hello! I am back from hibernation and I am now forced (via Advanced Illustration) to provide weekly updates here. Hooray! I’m actually glad I’ll be getting back into the habit of updating this blog, I love sharing the process of my various projects and keeping in touch with everyone.

Thesis update: I managed to create a solid thesis proposal, and I think I did a good job delivering the presentation. The amazing Annie Heisey agreed to be my thesis mentor, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

So that was last semester. So far this semester I have been doing a lot of ideation on my thesis, and I am just now starting to rework the visuals. The conceptual aspect of this project is in a major distillation period, and things are really starting to come together. Stay tuned for updates on the process of my thesis project.

As a follow up to my last post, I completed the cd cover illustration and the cd packaging design for the Hermetic Library’s 5th anthology album. John Bell (the Librarian) was really great to work for. He was very nice, knew specifically what he wanted, and has great design sensibilities. All of these things make a world of difference when trying to communicate with clients via email. I would love to do more work for The Hermetic Library in the future. Here’s the final cover piece:

Cover for Magick, Music, and Ritual 5 Anthology Album.Illustration and Design© Valerie Herron
Cover for Magick, Music, and Ritual 5 Anthology Album.
Illustration and Design
© Valerie Herron

“For the cover art of this anthology, I wanted to create something that was in the spirit of the Hermetic Library project, as well as something that honored this time of year. Autumn is the season of rot, and the process of death and decomposition is apparent in every direction. Leaves wither off the trees, the days grow darker, and the chill of encroaching winter begins to creep into our lungs. The veil between the worlds is receding, and the gaze of otherworldly things is palpable. I wanted to interpret this seasonal ambiance into a dark composition accompanied by the simplicity of line.

A grim icon that truly seems to resonate with people right now is the deer skull. I have seen it in numerous places lately, appearing to have surfaced from the collective unconscious with great purpose. I felt it was an appropriate memento mori for this image. The bind rune is a glyph that is representative of the mythical Wild Hunt: a phantasmal cavalcade, tracking and claiming the lives of mortals. Lastly, the leather book texture is a nod to the Hermetic Library itself.” – My statement about the cover art, from hermetic.com

I was happy to end the semester with one of my favorite illustrations that I have ever made. I created it for my Advanced Illustration class, it’s and homage to American Gothic literature, which I was inundated with at the time:

American Gothic, digital media© Valerie Herron
American Gothic, digital media
© Valerie Herron

If you are on tumblr and Pinterest, I have new accounts on both! This is the tumblr page for my art, and here is my Pinterest page. Follow me on both!

I’m happy to announce that I will be having a solo gallery show this summer! I will announce the details closer to the date, so stay tuned. Second, I am working on my first book cover commission. Also, I am honored to be creating an jacket illustration for Christine Hoff Kraemer‘s newest book. I don’t think she’s promoted it yet, so I’ll keep the title under wraps. I will post the developments of these projects as they unfold.

Last, my internship for Faerieworlds LLC continues as we are gearing up for FaerieCon West. If you are in the Pacific Northwest the weekend of February 22nd and you are interested in a giant fantasy convention complete with two Masquerade Balls, a slew of vendors, talks/workshops by a ton of rad people, you should check it out. I will be there all weekend doing media stuff. Here’s the official website for details: http://faeriecon.com/west/

That’s all I have for now. I’ll be back next week 🙂

Thesis Progresses and other New Developments

Hello friends and fans of my art! I have surfaced once more from the insanity of thesis and other projects to give you some updates.

Endurfæða after some finishing touches
Valerie Herron, 2012

My Endurfæða piece is in a studio show which opened yesterday for Portlands official Design Week. I was honored to take place in this show with selected PNCA illustration students, the most talented people I know!

Second, I am so excited to announce that I have been hired into a new internship: I am now the social media intern for Faerieworlds LLC! This is an enterprise that I have followed for years. They produce gigantic events on the east and west coasts that coalesce art and artist, musicians, vendors, and workshops and a multitude of other romantic expressions fantasy. I’ve participated in their events for years now, and I’ve even vended at a few. I can’t say enough good things about these folks, and I urge you to check out and follow their various outlets on facebook, tumblr, and pinterst.

Be sure to check out FaerieCon East! It’s coming up next month 🙂

I am very excited to start an artistic collaboration with The Hermetic Library. The enigmatic “Librarian” describes the Hermetic library simply as an endeavor for “Archiving, Engaging and Encouraging the living Western Esoteric Tradition.”  The Hermetic Library releases quarterly music anthologies, songs are submitted by musicians who are inspired by the occult. I am in the beginning stages of working with the Librarian on illustrating and designing anthology covers. I will keep you posted throughout that process, in the meantime, be sure to check out The Hermetic Library at their official blog, tumblr, and facebook.

Thesis marches on! As I mentioned previously, my idea for my senior thesis project was accepted. I am now in the process of creating preliminary sketches and mood boards to nail down the visual language of this project. I also am starting the process of writing my thesis proposal, which I will be presenting to school in 8 weeks.

two of my moodboards in process

Ok, back to work! I want to thank everybody who has helped me out, as well as everyone who has taken an interest in my art over the years. I would not be able to keep up this volume of work if it wasn’t for all of the encouragement I receive from loved ones and even random people online who simply like my drawrings! Thanks 🙂

I leave you with this classic song to commemorate the birthday of the Megatherion himself. Herron Out!