Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Details, details

I have some mild OCD (diagnosed by an actual professional, this is not hyperbole).  I am also a person who makes things.  As such, I am something of a detail freak.  My work doesn't often show sketch marks, knots, wonky seams, or glue gun strings, at least not if I can help it.

It has been suggested to me that I should be less detail oriented, and look more at the big picture, for the sake of timeliness and whatnot.

Ask the fish to be less wet, basically.

I cannot allow my work out into the world if there are sloppy edges and uneven lines.  A certain degree of slop will naturally occur, because I am not a robot (contrary to popular belief).  It will not be perfect, because I am human.


I can get awfully close.  Why would I be okay with a color that's not quite so, if it is within my power to get it spot-on?  I can't erase brush marks completely, but I can get the color right.  Let's not let sloppiness creep in where it can be prevented.

It was also suggested to me that I could maybe get it to "pretty good" and then go back and fix things later, so as to get things done in a timely manner.

If I have to go back and fix things, then it was never really DONE, now, was it?  What's the point of rushing things if you have to go back and revisit them?  I understand that some things need to be DONE by certain dates.  I get it.  I do.  But if the deadline is somewhat arbitrary, how is it any better to get it up on display only to have to take it down and fix details at a later date?  Why not do it right the first time?

In any case, I have been working on an informational kiosk for work.  My last kiosk panel was a bunch of charts and graphs and text boxes, which are a pain in the ass to hand-paint.  It conveys the message it needs to convey.  This kiosk, however, is going to be education disguised as art.  We're trying to get people to fall in love with locally native plants.  I'm going with an Art Nouveau theme (although, with my penchant for sharp corners and symmetry, it's creeping ever closer to Art Deco), with a large central image of a quail among poppies against a medallion of butterflies (think of an Alphonse Mucha poster, but replace the girl with the diaphanous gown with a quail).  The sides of the panel will be individual illustrations of flowers, bordered by pictures of the birds or butterflies that depend upon that particular plant.  The only text will read "Native Plants- Save Money, Save Water, Save Wildlife."  It's all blocked out, now I'm getting the plant illustrations squared away before tackling the center.

For the record, I cheated on these a bit (for the sake of timeliness, actually).  Five of my reference pics are from very old botanical illustrations.  The other three are from photos I found on the internet.  I printed the images, and then went over them with a Sharpie to find the lines, transferred the lines to the panel, and then filled them in with color.  I'm not sure where the ethical line is drawn when using reference material- what I've done is probably shady as hell.  Because I essentially traced the images, I wouldn't feel comfortable selling any of these things.  Perhaps in the future, on my own time, I might create my own illustrations of these plants, and then I could truly feel comfortable calling this my own art.  As it stands, they're highfalutin coloring pages.  I bet I could alleviate some of my weird feelings if I took the reference photos myself- then it's just self-plagarism, which is probably okay.  I will not take me to court for copyright infringement.

Of the eight individual flower paintings, I have completed four.  I'm not super happy with the penstemon, as I think the linework is a little wonky, but I can eyeball it tomorrow to see if I'm not just feeling crabby about receiving constructive criticism.

Mimulus guttatus

Viola pedunculata

Lupinus nanus

Penstemon spectabilis.

I still have to finish the gooseberry, the milkweed, the seaside daisy, and the ceanothus. The longer I look at that penstemon, the more I think the leaves and stems need some darker greens to stand up against the obnoxious cobalts and pinks.  Yeah, it really does look like that in real life.  California wildflowers are a trip, yo.

In any case, this thing should be pretty once it's done.  And I am not going to apologize for how long it takes- because I am not a photocopier, despite my method of using reference images.  It takes time to brush paint on wood.  If you don't want me to spend so much time on these things, then stop building kiosks and asking me to fill them.  Nobody looks at them, anyway.

For the sake of comparison, here are my other kiosks.  The graph one is paint on a panel, and is somewhat permanent. The others are felt cutouts.  Felt is the only thing that will not fade horribly in the sun, and can be easily changed out.  It's not my favorite medium, but we must work within our limitations.
I later fixed the spacing between the letters and added a large QR code to the empty corner.  I did those letters freehand, and you can tell they were my first foray into the felt-cutout world.

The camp kiosks have interchangeable seasonal decor.  These letters look nicer than my first attempts.
The February camp has a felt hummingbird instead of butterflies.  Winter has a snowman (not pictured).  This hummingbird has an inner-ear disorder, and cannot tell up from down.
This one is underneath a large solar array.  Our facility is 100% solar powered, as you can see from this handy graph.


  1. WOW! I absolutely, 100% agree with you: why let anything out into the public's eye unless it was 150% perfect, especially if you can control colors, line ... *ahem* wording. I am guilty as hell of doing exactly what you do AND I also get shit for it.

    Since you are using the images as educational tools I believe you're ok in terms of ethics. Yes, if you start doing something like this for your own gain then it would be considered unethical and a copyright infringement. THe rules change for educators when they are educating.

    1. I just don't understand how people can be okay with something if it's not absolutely up to code. I can understand on a rush job, but if there's no hurry, why halfass it?

      I'm leaning pretty heavily on fair-use right now as far as images go. Oh well, I'll work out the learning curve on this, and then come up with something commercially viable that's 100% kosher. We could sell tee shirts or something.

  2. The concept of "pretty good" does not appeal to me. If we all settle for "pretty good" or "close enough," we end up living in a world of mediocrity.

    I've done a lot of proofreading in my career. I can't tell you the number of times someone has asked me, "Can you quickly proofread this?" Um... no. Proofreading takes time. I'd tell them that I couldn't proofread their 70-page document in an hour, and they'd get peeved at me. Too bad! I'm not willing to put my name on a half-ass, sloppy piece of work. If you can't give me enough time to do the job properly, don't ask me to do it.

    I don't think there's an ethical issue when you're using the images for educational purposes. Your paintings look great!

    1. I saw a sign in a booth at the Ren Faire this year- hand carved amber and bone jewelry, for a pretty penny. The sign simply read
      Truer words have never been written. John Cleese has a lecture about creativity, and he spends a lot of time talking about the pondering-time it requires. I might look like I'm not doing anything, but my brain is always rolling the project around, keeping me from making expensive mistakes when I DO start putting paint on panels. Gotta allow pondering time.

  3. Wow, gorgeous painting! Since starting my blog, I've had to struggle with putting pictures up of work that isn't 100% ... I think it's good to document failures as well as successes - it's still difficult though! :)

    1. I'm famous for showing people the mistakes in my work. People give me shit for it.
      If I don't show you the mistakes, you won't realize HOW HARD IT WAS.

  4. Oh wow. I've been seeing these posted on your fb page but I didn't know what they were for. I can't wait to see the finished piece. You are very talented my dear.

    1. It's gonna be SIIIIIIIIICK. Seriously, it's one of my better design ideas. This is, of course, if I pull it off.

  5. "Replace the girl in the diaphanous gown with a quail" - THAT'S AWESOME! Snorted a little Diet Pepsi out of my nose when I read that one ...

    1. One of these days, I'll actually finish the thing.