A Peek At My Art4Educators Poster Collection!

I’ve squirrelled away for the first half of my summer vacation, and it has been so amazing for my spirit, my family and my art.

Have you ever been working away when it hits you? This is where I am supposed to be.

That just happened to me. I took 1 and a half days a week this summer to focus on building my business, and figuring out what that even meant. Uh – I still don’t know, but anyway. I’ve been planning for a line of art for educators (aptly called “Art4Educators”), and working on collections of surface designs that could be licensed, and profiled for companies seeking licensees. I also launched a new service to illustrate people’s kids.

I thought I might get 1 or 2 interested buyers, but within 3 days, I sold out. Sold out meaning, I had 20 clients commission illustrations – and that is more than enough to keep me drawing and painting until school starts again! I am overwhelmed with the reality of how opening up space to create has translated into more business than I’ve ever had before.

One of the new products I’ll be offering in, I hope, September, is a line of updated inspirational/motivational posters for the classroom. As a teacher, I know I’m sick and tired of walking the halls and seeing the same outdated, tired, cheesy and frankly – tacky – posters in the halls and classrooms. But there aren’t many options for good ones.

That’s why I’ve created some with quotes that are relevant to today’s learner and today’s teacher – and are simple, beautiful and classy.

It was in the moment of reviewing these this evening that I was hit with that “You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing” moment.

And so – I’ve got to share some peeks at what I’m working on! These posters are created digitally, and are one side of my Art4Educators collection. The other side features hand-painted acrylic and mixed-media illustrations with quotes, and I am very excited to share those – when they’re ready!

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“I can’t do this!” *Mr. Patrick directs student to this poster*
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THIS is what I want my students to leave my class with – the understanding that it’s up to them, and that curiosity is the key to a life worth living.
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I made this one for my family, but it will make its way into my classroom, too. This is our family’s motto, our “golden rule” – and now it’s up for us to remember every day.
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I also made this one with a turquoise brushed background, and it is, dare I say, delicious.

Process Post: Every Child Deserves A Champion

When a fellow educator asks you to make their art, it turns out that it is actually really tough. It’s one thing to think about education from an outside perspective: desks and text books and smiling teacher, oh my! But when you’re deep in the trenches and have strong (very strong … like, REALLY powerfully sometimes to a fault strong) beliefs about learning and education, it makes it more of a challenge. Add to that, I know – and admire – the client. I had my work set out for me.

After much discussion around imagery, purpose and intentionality of the piece, I set to work implementing a quote that she wanted to use, and I sketched out a few samples.

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We agreed on this image – the teacher is helping the student up, but is not entirely supporting the student. Learning is about the right supports, not entire support. The student is climbing this mountain of books – knowledge – all the while, gently and lovingly guided by the teacher. In the background is the quote, and on the books is a second quote from the same TedX Talk by Rita Pierson. Oh, how I love Rita Pierson’s being, words, and light.

Next, I set to work on the background, drew in the basic structure with chalk, and got to painting. For the faces, I blocked in the colour and set to work on shading and blending later. The text popped in quite nicely, and I was so in love with this piece by the end that I actually had a pretty tough time letting it go! However, it now lives in the Vice Principal’s office at a school in my board, and I’m so proud to be part of this new VP’s journey.

I take commissions! Check out my Facebook page for pricing, and get in touch! www.facebook.com/patrickguindonart (Pricing starts at $0.40/square inch, with uncharges for complexity or intensity needed for each individual piece! This lets me price it out for you fairly, but still adjust to your specific piece. Pre-made originals + prints are priced differently.)

EdPost: Debilitating Creativity by Offering Creativity

It’s ridiculously important to respect that the creative process, cycle and experience is different for every single person who engages in it. This includes both children and adults, both experienced and newcomers.

For myself, I can’t just DRAW you something. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of studying, exploring, and trying. I often hear at workshops, when the presenter suggests, “You can DRAW what you think!”, which is supposed to engage the creative people in the room, that it’s perfect for someone like me. In fact, I should be the person to draw and design the ideas that the group is working on! People sometimes argue over having me in their group.

And then … disappointment!

Because – I can’t draw on command.

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There are major issues with assigning roles like this. I think it is time we start asking ourselves what our intentions are. If the intention is just classroom management, it’s time to dig deeper and consider why the students aren’t engaging.

I wish I could, but I can’t.

And, just like I can’t draw on command, I also can’t draw every single thing in the known universe. Kids? I’m getting there. Animals? Depends on which one. Houses? I can do them in a variety of very whimsical approaches.

There tends to be this myth tagged to creativity and creative, artistic people, and it can be debilitating. This is something we need to remember with our own children and students.

It is important to push (and be pushed) outside of comfort zones, but it is not okay – in my mind – to label someone as creative and expect them to create on command. Sometimes, it won’t come. Sometimes, it takes hours. And sometimes, it comes in a flash.

chalk-girl-1432392.jpgThis is an issue with many of … no, most of … our art classes. We give the kids 30 minutes to do a predetermined project on a Friday afternoon, we pray they will behave appropriately, and we threaten the art period. Conversely, we might offer an “open ended” project, but then add a timeline, and for some kids, this just won’t work. So they get a C, and they stop loving art, and they’ve lost one of the most powerful tools to express themselves. This isn’t really okay, is it?

I think we need to build a greater culture of respect around creativity. It isn’t some kitschy thing that we can pick up at the dollar store or on Pinterest. My artwork shouldn’t be created from a menu: you pick the style, the medium, the colours, etc. That’s not me being creative. That’s me filling an order.

The pressure to perform on command can be a terrifying, stressful, disengaging experience for students and for our own kids. We need to keep this in mind when we present them with creative opportunities.

 

Book Review: Oh Dear, Geoffrey!

Oh Dear, Geoffrey! by Gemma O’Neil is a stunning piece of art.

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Just look at this cover. How could you not buy it? How could you not fall in love? If you’re worried that you’re just infatuated, I dare you to open it up and read the story, take in the tremendous artwork, and then you will realize: it’s love.

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I picked it up when Kingsley was just a couple of months old while shopping for some books for school. The stunning use of negative space, bold use of colours and textures, and the depth of artwork was truly what grabbed me. My inner artist was SCREAMING in excitement. This felt fresh and vibrant. I had to have it.

Kingsley, it seems, felt the same.

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At such a young age, he couldn’t really move around, but he could definitely look around. Not many books commanded his attention quite like this one. He was thrilled to see the pictures and giggled when I would recite the chorus: Oh Dear, Geoffrey!Unknown

This is the book I first started to read in true “read aloud” fashion. You see, my wife and I split up our weekends: I get up early on one of the days while she sleeps in (“sleeps in” is a relative idea; 7am instead of 6am is sleeping in!), and then we switch. I usually use this time to read to him, even now that he is a bit over a year. Back then, I would place him in his bouncer and he would stare at the book as I read it. If he was crying, it always stopped him. Gemma O’Neil’s words and artwork saved my sanity more mornings than I can count!

Now that he is a little older, he still loves to interact with the book. He points at the meerkats, birds and monkeys the most. We count them find ways of incorporating math, even though he is too young to grasp concepts. It’s crucial to make this part of his vocabulary and culture, so we do it anyway. There is a spread that says how Geoffrey has so many friends now, he can’t even count them. The page shows off a number of animals, so I model counting them and pointing at each one, and then adding up the birds and the monkeys, and so on. If I was teaching Gr. 1 this year, I would have this in my classroom.

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It is a quick read, with only a line or so on every spread. (For those non-writer/artists of picture books, you may be wondering what I mean: a spread is when a piece of art spreads across two pages. This book is mostly made up of these spreads.) The text is even quirky and curls around the artwork, takes on larger, more bold fonts, and truly engages the reader with the words. It is impossible to read this book in a monotone fashion.

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LOOK AT THIS ART! This is true ART! It could be framed and found in any home and you’d never know it was from a kid’s book, yet it is loose and fun and vibrant. It’s the perfect mix. I’m drooling.

By the end of the book, you’ll fall in love with clumsy Geoffrey and you’ll drop your jaw at the final illustration. It is stunning.

If you only have money for one book this month, make it THIS one. You will NOT regret it.

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Discovering the books in his library. “Oh Dear, Geoffrey” is NOT in this library – it is kept safe in my personal reference library, but brought out very regularly for reading and exploring!

I give this book a totally edible rating, according to the Creative Daddy rating. If I was in the business of giving out awards, I would also award it with the “Saved My Sanity Without Annoying Me Award”.

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See more of Gemma on her website, including process pictures of her picture book dummies (that’s what we call our outlines and storyboards in the story making world): http://gemmaoneill.co.uk

Also check out her Facebook page.

Creative Daddy Rating System:

Edible: It’s so good we want to eat it!

Viewable: It’s good, but we don’t feel the forever-connection to it.

Oncer: We’ll read it once, maybe twice, but it just wasn’t for us.

Meh: Move on.

Process Post: Illustration Work

My latest illustration for my portfolio is a piece of “spot illustration” – something that can stand alone, but doesn’t feel like a “one-off”. I saw this photograph appear in my newsfeed. This is the daughter of one of my University friends, and I just had to use it as my reference.

When creating art, lately I have found that using a reference (or a number of references) has allowed me to create stronger pieces. I had received a lot of feedback about my art not quite working because the references were clearly missing. We can only draw so much from our imaginations; it is good to use reference material! My critique partner, Jami, has really pushed me in this area (thanks Jami!).

I’m going to share bits of the process in this post. If you’re a teacher, or the parent of an artistic kid looking for a push, you could study this process for an art lesson. If you’re an artist or wondering about references and digital and blah blah blah, this may give you some ideas.

So, here’s the original image:

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Adorable, right? This kid is so freakin’ cute; I loved the energy and pure happiness that was in the picture. She looks a little bratty, too (in the best way), and I wanted to maximize on this in my character design. I didn’t want to make a true-to-life replica; I wanted to use this as a reference, and then build on it in my own style.

I started with a LOT of sketches. Here are some of the ones closer to the finish:

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Both my critique partner and I really liked most of the structure in this image. There were some issues though. For one thing, the cat along the back fence was placed right above the squirrel and the pumpkin. Structurally, this bothered me. I wanted to push the use of triangles in my structure, which I had achieved between the head, to the pumpkin pile, and then down to the wheelbarrow. I decided I would shift the cat over to the left, and create a smaller triangle between her head, the squirrel/pumpkin and the cat. The other thing bothering me was the face. It wasn’t working. The style was all wrong – nothing special or stand-out. I sketched a number of other faces, eventually coming to this pointed nose approach, and then played with that:

10253807_10101210893049141_1065879714802194734_n11061719_10101210893039161_4343989371578205925_nMy plan was to use one of these heads on top of the old head, when I brought everything into photoshop. That will be shown in a few seconds, but first I want to point out an area of concern for my partner. She suggested that the image I was referring to was causing an issue. The perspective in that image was coming from the parent’s eye view – a photo shot down from higher up. I was trying to take a head-on approach, which I continued to want to use. She sent me this image to help me see how I could work on it. You’ll notice that the horizon lines were really all that needed the most fixing.

She actually used a photo of my son to help work on the issue:

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I brought photos of my sketches into Photoshop and moved some things around. This is the REALLY ugly part. I cut and pasted the cat into a new spot, and changed the size slightly. Then, I erased the old head, brought in the sketch of the head I wanted to use, and resized/angled it so that it looked more uniform with the body. Next, I changed the horizon line.

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I turned down the opacity of these layers so that I could sketch, using my Wacom tablet, over top:

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Then, I removed the original sketches entirely.

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Next, I added the background details and some shading. I also changed the tongue sticking out, because my wife (who is just as skilled with constructive feedback as my art critique partner Jami is) suggested that it looked like she wasn’t wearing her dentures. Eep! Not the message I wanted viewers to leave with, so I fixed the mouth and then got to work on the background.

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I used color.adobe.com and searched for the following terms to help me identify my color palette: harvest, pumpkins, pumpkin patch, skin, hair. Note: I have a subscription to the entire Creative Cloud, so I can easily use any of the Adobe tools. I highly suggest this for digital artists. I complete most of my illustrations in Photoshop, including this one.

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I hated the way the dress was looking at this point. I spent a long time looking at samples of clothing in both real photos and in illustrations; at digitally rendered and watercolor renderings (because I tend to use watercolor techniques in the digital setting).

As I got further into the colour, I turned to another reference: The Paper Bag Princess, with art by Michael Martchenko. Now, being a Canadian boy, I grew up with this book and a billion other Robert Munsch/Michael Martchenko books and have long admired his ability to create intense situations and children in various poses and expressions, with so much life. In this case, though, I was looking specifically at the color choices he made, based on a suggestion from my partner, who receives a million Facebook Chat messages a day when I am deep in a project. If you don’t have a great partner yet, you need to find one who you trust, who knows their stuff and who can be honest when your work isn’t working.

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Jami had commented that actually building the dress up from the colour of the background might make the work easier. When I saw this image (while reading to Kingsley before bed), what she had said came to life: it doesn’t need to be a total contrast; the tones and hues can be similar between the background and the main subject.

I spent some time trying out a dress in the browns and greens, but it wasn’t entirely working.

I changed the hue to a blue and suddenly it started to come together.

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I tweaked the blue using a combination of airbrush (with texture) and watercolor brush settings. Then, I duplicated the layer and set both to “multiply” (this is a great effect; it brings out what it underneath, almost like using a magic marker over a black line would). I called up the “Burn” tool and darkened the edges a tad. You may also have noticed the face: in the photo above, with the bad dress colors, it is darker; however, in this shot, it’s much subtler. I utilized the blending tool, as well as the “Dodge” tool, to pull this off. I think that if you can paint the skin of a character to be unnoticeable, you’ve pulled it off. In my opinion, the stronger artists can do things that look so damn easy, but are difficult to duplicate if you aren’t them. (Disclaimer: I’m not saying that this is me.)

Now I was feeling like it was almost ready. I switched over to greyscale (on a Mac: Command + 4, then try Command + 3 … Command + 2 will bring it back – this has to do with the settings of the color and is another post in itself) to check the quality of the color work. This is a huge piece of determining how finished you are. Most people don’t bother. I am a firm believer in it.
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I noticed some shading discrepancies in the wagon, so I fixed them up.

And that was that. I felt good about it even the next morning after some time away. Of course, this is where I am now. In 2 years, I may look at this with new eyes and information and experiences and might pull it off in a whole new way. But for now, I am very satisfied!

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To summarize, from this:

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To this:

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And onto my portfolio, at art.patrickg.ca.