Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Art, inspiration, pigs, and butterflies

I've been pondering and playing around with design ideas and a theme for the next edition of the Useful Calendar, which I start working on shortly after the current year begins. It comes in two formats: a set of cards for desk or purse, and a year-at-a-glance poster. I focus on the cards first, making the poster only after all refinements and corrections are completed on the cards to save duplicated effort.

Most years I take the Lunar New Year animal as my theme, and for 2018, which is Year of the Dog, I even modified the layout to allow more room for illustrations—because dogs, right?

You can still get the calendar cards in my Etsy shop until May 17, and they're half off. Just click here.
For most years prior to this I did one illustration for the cover card and put more text on the individual months, as in 2017, the Year of the Rooster:


But in 2016, feeling uninspired by the Year of the Monkey, I decided to change the theme to bees. Specifically, 12 wild (native) bees from around the world. But I didn't have any ideas about how to make more room for the illustrations, so the cards were still quite text heavy and the bees were kind of small—the original watercolors are about 4 x 6 inches; the calendar cards are 2.75" by 4.25".


I did take the bee illustrations and the research I did about them and make it into a zine, which is available in my Etsy shop, and locally at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.

Which brings us to 2019—Year of the Pig. I wanted to continue with the new layout allowing more room for art, which means coming up with 12 unique illustrations of pigs. I  had started to gather some ideas, trivia, and inspiration about pigs to inform the artwork, including looking for folktales about pigs and bookmarking sites with curious pig trivia, like this one about Pigcasso, a painting pig in South Africa, and another about a spot in the Bahamas called Pig Beach.

But, as fun as those discoveries might be, none of it was inspiring me to start doing illustrations of pigs. I mean, even with the added room for artwork, it's still got to be quite small, and a picture of a swimming or painting pig kind of needs some context, and I still needed to come up with 10 more unique ways to depict pigs. It just wasn't working for me.

So I asked myself, what would I like to illustrate the 2019 calendar with? 

When I am pondering ideas I tend to stare out the window. And when I look out the window I see a foot of snow in the middle of April. So, naturally, I think about my garden, and summer ... and butterflies.

Question mark butterfly, perched on the wood frame of my kitchen garden last summer.

And it just so happens that I've already got a lot of butterfly photos that I've taken in my own garden.

A slightly tattered tiger swallowtail visiting hydrangea in an alley near Minnehaha Falls park
 I'll also do illustrations by referencing a variety of photos on the web to put together a generic composite image, such as for this watercolor of a nonspecific azure butterfly:


So now that I've settled on a theme, the next step is choosing colors (one of them will certainly be butterfly blue) and fonts. Which I've already done, but this post is long enough, so I'll show you my inspirations and design work in process in another post in a few days.

Some of my illustrations end up on note cards, book plates, and stickers, which you can see in my Etsy shop, also called Sharon's Compendium.


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