The inspiration of watching process.

I grew up watching Bob Ross on PBS practically every day during the 1980s. He was an artist that literally completed a painting in an hour and it was just him standing with his canvas, his palette of colors and his brushes. That’s it. No fancy backdrops, no guest speakers, no background music. The show was entirely about Bob, his ability to paint “happy trees,” and create something from nothing. It was about his soothing voice as he tutted through his process. (Watch a full episode here).

PBS Remix-Happy Painter

PBS was on to something, maybe without even knowing it. People are fascinated with how something arrives from nothing. Now, you can’t throw a stick without seeing a tv show about building a tree house or learning how a potato chip is made. But sometimes I just want to see pure process again. The endless interviews usually drive me a bit batty and force me to change the channel. But sometimes I get lucky and come across a fantastic illustrator who knows how to put a process video together.

Camille Rose Garcia, is an illustrator based out of LA. Influenced by her Mexican activist filmmaker father and a muralist/painter mother Camille became interested in creating narrative and wasteland fairytales with a style all her own. Her work always seems to be a study in contrasts. Her style allows for the creepy and the beautiful to mix, and at times still retain that Disney-like polish that is applied to many classic fairytales these days.

Camille Rose Garcia: Snow White

What’s even better is that she has created a video that shows her illustration process and it’s nothing short of fantastic! Between the polka music in the background, her use of a hoof ink pot, and her actual illustration techniques, it is no wonder I have watched this video close to six times already. It may not be the same as Bob Ross, but really, what is? hehe Enjoy!

Inspiration is the key to a happy creative!

Designers are collectors. Whether you have actual flat files full of ephemera or you wear the newest piece of technology, we collect the things that inspire us. Even the most minimalist designer will have a few key pieces on their walls that are highlighted to really let them shine. I personally have many inspirations that range from vintage fabrics from the 1920s (where do you think I get my color palettes?) to educational charts and books. I know other designers that collect bottle caps, match books, comic books, magazine spreads, vintage cameras, sewing patterns, maps, and the list goes on. Anything can be inspiring to the right person.

Vintage 1930s Fabric

We also get a charge out of seeing what other designers are doing and what they’re interested in. Designers are inherently curious folks. We can’t help ourselves. The only upside to critiques in school was that we got to see what everyone else was doing! So when I was researching designers for an upcoming book project, I happened to come across Andrea D’Aquino, a woman that resists titles such as designer, illustrator, art director, but instead tries to exist between.

Her work is EXCEPTIONAL. Between her new rendition of Alice in Wonderland and the Moroccan-inspired backdrops she created for Anthropologie, I didn’t know where to start first. Needless to say, I was on her site for about an hour, pouring over her work. Her work is definitely mixed-media, with each piece pictorially telling a narrative that is so simple, you know it took her a fair amount of time to tell such a nuanced story. Each time you view her work, you can always find something new that you most likely missed the first time. This is why her work is perfect to keep coming back to for inspiration.

Alice in Wonderland: Andrea D'Aquino (Alice in Wonderland. Copyright Andrea D’Aquino)

Anthropologie: Moroccan Series (Andrea D'Aquino)

Anthropologie: Moroccan Series (Andrea D'Aquino)(Anthropologie: Moroccan Series. Copyright Andrea D’Aquino)

So who knows when the influence of this inspiration will strike, but it never hurts to keep the coffers full! Want to see more? Check out Andrea D’Aquino’s full site here.  What inspires you? Share it in the comments section below!


Ernst Haeckel: The man who did it all…and did it well.

Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel is an 1800s German biologist, naturalist, philosopher, zoologist, physician and artist. This was a man that was able to take all of his interests and do some very rather impressive things with them. The part that interests me most is that he is responsible for discovering, naming, and depicting thousands of species around the world. It’s one thing to be able to discover these new species, to see them for yourself, but quite another thing to be able to bring those images to the masses.

The multi-color illustrations of animals and creatures of the sea by Haeckel, in my opinion, are some of the best examples in the world. This man’s attention to detail (most likely brought on by his other interests in biology and the medical world) seems unparalleled to me. There were no computers, no quick digital photographs to come back to for reference. This man was in the field, taking sketches and getting detail that a camera would be lucky to capture, especially if the subject was moving. When his images were put to the test, using 21st century technology, they easily stood the test, even at a microscopic level. Talk about being good!

While most of his images were published separately, you can now find books with his complete illustrations. My favorite are of his underwater sea creatures. They’re simply breath-taking! I marvel at both the man’s skills and capabilities, but also that species such as these exist in nature. Can you say passport please!

While Haeckel is not a graphic designer, nor did he even remotely profess to be, he had an air about him that makes me think he might have appreciated meeting one. The best graphic designers that I know live very full lives. They have multiple interests, know everything about their own discipline (read: eat, sleep, breathe), but also have knowledge and interest in disciplines that affect their’s (photography, video, illustration, letterpress, etc). They are not only focused on what is in front of them but they use ALL their knowledge to influence their work and be as connected to the world as they possibly can. With computers and internet, that’s not necessarily hard to do in today’s world, but Haeckel had none of that, yet still managed to do more than most. In short, he was no slouch.

So be inspired by his work, take a page from his book of life and continue to have multiple and varied interests. Then if you can combine all this…well then you might just make a name for yourself!

Polymer biaxially-oriented polypropylene technology aka Money!

I’m hoping that the title of this post makes you scratch your head, make a weird face, and ask yourself, “What the heck is she talking about?” Because it should! I was out last night with friends and co-workers and for the first time in my life, I learned about plastic money or polymer biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP for short). I specifically learned about the Australian version of this type of money. We had a charming Australian amongst us who was more than happy to talk about home!

Being the inquisitive person that I am I kept bugging my Australian counterpart to see this money he spoke of, some part of me not quite believing him. Sure enough though, in-between karaoke songs, out of his wallet came some of the most colorful money I had ever seen. They’re really quite beautiful! Then he mentioned the plastic part and showed me that you can’t even tear them in half! I think I yelled, “Nooooooo!” as he attempted to tear the money. But there the dollar (aka banknotes) remained, all in one piece if only slightly bent where the attempt on it’s life was made.

Before the use of polymer money, Australia had paper money just like the rest of us. But due to an increase of counterfeit 10 dollar banknotes, the government started to get concerned and decided to make the switch in 1988 to commemorate the bicentenary of European settlement in Australia. While there was a switch-over period, all bills are polymer now.

Now that we have the history, let’s get down to the fun part, such as color choices and imagery! Each bank note uses what I would define as suites of color, with each note specifically tending towards a dominate color, making it very easy to recognize denominations. As for imagery, after talking to my Aussie friend, it ranges from the Queen on the 5 dollar banknote to other figureheads in Australian history. Then add to that secondary, completely detailed images and then place all of that on complex, swirling patterns and you’ve got yourself something that is not only beautiful, but a warning/deterrent to anyone thinking that they could easily forge one of these banknotes.

Now if talking about beautiful colors and fantastically detailed drawings haven’t gotten your interest yet, I’m about to make it worth your while. When was the last time you were able to see through your money? I don’t mean holding your money up to a light and seeing the somewhat incoherent image of a president swirling around between paper fibers. Actually see through your money, like a window? The answer is you haven’t because that’s just not possible with paper money, but with polymer, apparently anything is possible!

An added security feature has been added to the Australian banknotes called simply enough “transparent windows” that was introduced to polymer money in 2006. On each banknote there is literally a small window that can be shaped like anything and with the absence of ink, the clear polymer shows through. Of course everyone held it up to their eye and looked through. Naturally…haha

Besides learning about something new, the reason the Australian currency attracted me like a moth to light, is that money is a completely utilitarian object. We use to as a tool and mode of function but really nothing else. Some people collect coins and other currencies, but for the most part it sits in your wallet, purse, or pocket until you’re ready to part with it in exchange for something better than some pieces of paper. And while I also understand that all the colors, images and intriguing parts of the money is to deter forgeries, they could just as easily have made the money ugly, but still have the same security features. But countries continue to make their money colorful and interesting. My hunch is that if you have to look at it every day, you might as well make it the least visually offensive you can make it!

I tip my hat to you Australia! Keep up the good work!

Starbucks cup learns new tricks!

I’ve been unfair. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. On my blog, I tend to only write about print related items. Perhaps a commercial now and again, but it’s mostly about books, paper, and all that entails. But I’m not ignorant to the fact that the world is turning digital, as much as I slightly cringe at that. Digital can do some amazing things that paper can’t even touch. However, with this post, I managed to find something that mixes print and interactive design.

My friend Lacy Kelly, a print designer who is now moving into web work was telling me about this app weeks ago, but it took me until now to really look into it. It’s called the Starbucks Cup Magic App. Starbucks brings out holiday cups each year with a cute and completely distinctive illustration. Usually a set of 4-5 different illustrations. Well this year they’ve taken that concept a step further. Now, using their app, you can use the camera on your iPhone or Android to have animations interacting with your actual cup, wherever you are! Starbucks calls it “augmented reality, an innovation that uses digital information to enhance your real world environment.” It certainly does! It’s very cool! Watch the video below to get a better idea of this fancy app!

I have no doubt that with each passing year the app and interaction between print and digital design will only increase in its level of “magic” and creativeness. So pop on over to Starbucks, pick up your fancy paper cup, download that app (click here) and have a very creative holiday moment!