Minggu, 21 Juni 2015

Rock On!

When I was approached by the 'Rock & Roll Hall of Fame' to design the poster for their 'Summer in the City' event I swung back in my chair and played air guitar to celebrate.

They liked the tribal tattoo art I've done so I agreed to work in that style.

I have to admit I am not exactly a 'Head Banger'. I grew up listening to classic rock with bands such as 'Journey', 'Dire Straits' and 'Huey Lewis and the News' and my personal childhood favorite which class mates paid me to draw on their pee-chee and jean jackets 'KISS'. Actually my first ever paying commercial gig was to draw Peter Criss for a neighborhood kid who lived down the street, but that's another story.

On this project I knew I wanted to do a flaming type of guitar motif but I knew it had to reflect enough of the real thing or else I would run the risk of getting ultra-scrutinized by Rockers everywhere. So I asked my buddy a true 'Head Banger' to be my art consultant to make sure I was on the right track visually speaking.

(Click Image to View Poster)

Jumat, 19 Juni 2015

Vonster Doodle Brushes

I love to doodle. Doesn't matter where I am at or what I am doing if I have a chance to put something on paper chances are I'll be all over it. I've found that if I am in a meeting I can pay better attention if I am doodling. My mind doesn't wander. I save all my doodles too. I have binders full of them that I can refer back to years later. It's fun seeing these obscure thoughts and images captured in a moment of time.

I took a handful of them and have created some Photoshop brushes.
Download the 'Doodle Brush' set here.

Rabu, 10 Juni 2015

The Bat is Back!

I am constantly amazed at the variety of people who view my web site and take the time to email me with a response. It's a whole lot of fun hearing back from people in regards to my work. One style that has caught the attention of a lot of tattoo lovers nationwide is the tribal face tattoo art I do. Recently an ad agency guy in Florida contacted me about designing a personal tattoo he could have on his back.

He wanted a bat tattoo in the tribal style. So below is the art I created. I mocked up the tattoo on the back just so you could see how it would look in context. It's kind of strange knowing that someone will be walking around with my art on their body and then eventually be buried with it someday.

Now if I can only get someone to let me do a monkey on their back, now that would be fun!

(Black and White Art)

(Tattoo on Back)

Senin, 08 Juni 2015

Portrait - Jacob Renfold

Back in like 1995 me and my wife noticed our phone blinking meaning there was a message left. I went over to the phone and hit the button to listen and the following message played.

"Hello this is Jacob Renfold. I called to get my ears cleaned. I think there full of wax. I can call back again later. Thank you."

At first I thought it was my goofy friend Matt who loves to do stuff like this just to mess with my head. But then the more I listened to it I realized some elderly guy had dialed the wrong phone number. I saved the message and then played it for my wife a few minutes later. We both laughed.

We kept that message saved for about five years until we had to switch our phone service. We'd play it for friends who came by to visit. How odd that a complete stranger would be such a source of entertainment for us without him ever knowing about it. It made us both wonder over the years who Jacob Renfold is and if he ever got his ears cleaned?

Sabtu, 06 Juni 2015

Fear of Math

I've been asked many times how I knew I wanted to do this for a living. I have often replied by saying "Fear of math." You see it was a clear case of math anxiety that would ultimately lead me into a career in communication arts. You see Pythagorus, and his numerical cronies equations never came easy for me, and the thought of college level mathematics kind of freaked me out so when an art school rep came by our class in high school I immediately knew I had found a creative escape route via art.

The style of this piece is basically how I draw when I am just entertaining myself. Most of the time I have no idea up front as to what I will be drawing or how it will come out, I just pick up a pen and let it simply flow out of me onto the paper. I often look at the art and try to figure out what if anything makes any kind of coherent sense on any level. Sometimes I am surprised by what I discover and other times I have no clue why I drew it, I just did. So I guess I enjoy the mystery of this style?

Lately I've been wanting to use it for a paying gig but couldn't find a good fit. That is until I got a call from an agency who was wanting background art created for the next incarnation of Windows Messenger they were developing a special site for. I immediate thought of this style and asked them for direction in terms of content etc. and they literally said the only limitation to the art is "No naked people or guns. Other then that anything goes." I responded "Giddy up!"

Thus 'Fear of Math' was born.

(Click for larger preview)

Jumat, 05 Juni 2015


Today I participated in the Portland AIGA chapters 'Student Portfolio Review'. The first 80 students to sign up get the opportunity to present their portfolios to 20 industry professionals. Each of us had 4 students books to review. My assessment of most? Well I think you get the idea.

Student Number 1 This first students work had good potential, signs of emerging talent for sure. His manner of communication was somewhat lacking but understandable. His enthusiasm for what he did and what he wanted to do and learn was nothing short of contagious.

His work was above the norm although a bit predictable at times in terms of style. But I can tell he has the raw skill needed to survive and eventually thrive, he just needs to refine his craft and process. Turns out he's also from Salem so I told him if he ever needs feedback I'd be more then willing to help him out.

Student Number 2 This student was borderline marginal at best. On par with a Kinko's quality design service. His work had a somewhat amateurish flair and made me nervous about his future success. I do feel he can improve but he's a long way from even being a junior designer, more on par with grunt production artist as it stands now.

The common denominator with all his work was the obvious tool-driven design solutions. His concepts were at best half-baked and the execution and attention to detail in his work was pretty weak.

Student Number 3 The third student was absolutely craptacular! I was at a lost as to how to give him any form of positive feedback what so ever. Usually I can find something but in this case it was trying to find the lips on a chicken, they just aren't there. Frankly he should not even be considering this industry as a career. I know that sounds harsh but unfortunately it's an honest and accurate assessment based on his work.

On the review form I filled out I basically told him as much. AIGA told us to be brutally honest with these students so I was. I tried to be as friendly as possible but it's hard to come off that way when everything about the persons work is nothing short of crap. He just doesn't have it.

His work is a testimony to knowing tools of our trade but having zero creative skills to utilize them effectively. He is what I'd consider a 'Hack'. 15 yrs ago he would have never pursued this career because the level of craft needed to even enter into it demanded you could do a certain level of creative work. Well the cheap PC has removed that industry speed bump and we have all sorts of educated tool savy designers flooding the industry who 15 yrs ago would be flipping burgers instead.

I must admit I felt a little guilty writing the review only because I didn't like knowing that my opinion was going to hurt him. I don't like knowing my words will cause him pain. It's this part of doing these reviews that I really don't like. I understand it's necessary but it's certainly not fun.

Student Number 4 At least the fourth student made up for the past two books I had to let assault my eyes. I must say first off that this girls presense is very professional but at the same time approachable and friendly. She is the best designer I've personally seen come out of a local school in four years. Great design but more importantly great concepts behind the design. She is a 'Good Thinker' and thus a good designer. She has a good grasp of how things work and to top it off she is just a good communicator. She is going to go far. Reviewing her work was a true joy, I did have some good feedback about a handful of pieces and how she could improve and strengthen her book but I didn't have to address any of the basics her fundamentals were iron clad and dialed in with precision.

Some firm is going to nab her and be a better place for it.

So How Does This Happen?
You have two students one whose work is on par with a polished turd and another whose work is anything but student in quality? Both have the same tools, both had the same opportunity, both have the same parameters to work by in this industry yet one is good and the other bad. I am not talking personal taste, what I like is what I like and what you like is what you like. This wasn't a vague dislike anymore then it was a vague appeal I had for the other designer. This was an absolute situation and the proof was the work.

Schools do a good job of teaching students how to use the tools. What are the proper techniques and methods used to create the design. But the one thing that seperates the good from the bad seems to be the one area art schools lack in and that is 'Concepts' the art of thinking creatively. How do you teach a student to be creative? How do you teach them to be good thinkers? Can you even? Will our PC society allow us to call a spade a spade anymore as far as talent and skill goes? Can a design teacher just tell a student at some point "Look you need to give it up and find a new career because you are simply not good enough." Allowing these people to further self-deceive themselves into thinking they are legit designers is not only dishonest to them but it hurts our industry as a whole.

I am sure some will take offense at these comments? I know I probably haven't adequately relayed my feelings very well in this regard but I think most designers will understand what I am trying to say? Life is too short for bad design. I always come back to the same thing when I think about design in the larger sense. Creation itself is the ultimate example of good design, you don't find bad design in the animal kingdom. You might find strange beasts but thier purpose puts their seemingly bizarre design into context.

I am not pretending to have any sure fire answers but maybe teachers need to head off these type of portfolios in mid-stream before they waste their time and money pursuing a career that their tool-driven designs cannot help them succeed in?

Selasa, 02 Juni 2015

Super Doodle

As you've probably noticed by now my blog header and footer contains an illustration I created. I've never posted it on this blog but it's one of my all time favorites.

I call this style my doodle style. Most of the heavy lifting creatively speaking is done outside the box (computer) I use a black flair pen and just start drawing. When done I scan it into Photoshop and start painting in colors and textures.

Don't ask me what it means because I don't have a clue. That said, you'll notice desert landscapes, serpents, flames, winged creatures, hands and nebulous shapes are common themes that appear often in this style.

This specific piece I labeled 'Super Doodle'. That is because the original was about 12 inches long. It was a personal piece I did for myself. Up until the time I did this I had never used this style commercially. It's been one of those styles I've kept to myself. But recently I've decided to leverage this style and use it in a current project I am working on. I'll post more on that later.

Design Catch Phrases.

Over the past 18 years in this industry I've heard and experienced a lot of things design related. And as any good designer does I've learned to deal with most of them in a fun sarcastic way of course. The following is a brief collection of catch phrases that have evolved over time, some inspired by specific co-workers or ones gleaned from a conversation and elaborated on. They are fun design related quips you can start to use in your own circle of influence. Think of it as the 'Verbal Advantage' for designers. If you piss someone off and get fired though it's not my fault so use at your own risk.

You can't polish a turd!: If the concept or design is bad to begin with then no amount of revisions or repurposing will improve it. (My room mate in art school was fond of this saying and so am I.)

FRANKENSTEINING: The process of collecting graphic parts from different design options and compiling them into one new option. What you end up with is a design solution worthy of a mob carrying torches and pitch forks and not good design. (Inspired by weasel marketing people. Big surprise huh?)

Craptacular!: An easy one word critique used to relay your dislike of the work being presented, while still sounding up beat about it. (Inspired by art meeting that catered to the lowest common denominator.)

Serial Design Killers: What you start calling the marketing department when they keep shooting down every original idea or design? (See the pattern yet?)

The client may be King but they're not the Art Director: Listen to your client, take into consideration all their input, weigh the options, study the details, know the target audience and then if necessary ignore all of it and design what you think will work best.

Design-O-Saur: A designer who refuses to embrace digital design methods and trends and is constantly referring to the good old days of colored marker comps and border tape.

Horrawful: A design piece is so bad it cannot be classified into either 'Horrible' or 'Aweful' category by itself but rather a combination of both. In context you could use it in this manner. "Did you see that project he did? It was horrawful!"

Have a good design catch phrase? Post in the comments and I'll add it to this list.

Senin, 01 Juni 2015

You're Hired!

Over the past three years since I've started my own design business I've had a lot of art students contact me asking for various forms of advice. I am happy to share with them and I hope it helps in their pursuit in this industry. A while back someone on the HOW Design Forum asked for insight in regards to an interview they were going to have the next day. This caused me to think back when I interviewed after art school seeing as everyone else in the forum was already giving good solid advice about what to do, I decided to share with this person some real-world examples of what not to do that I personally experienced while interviewing.

What not to do Number 1: If your sick re-schedule it. I didn't and during the interview I was sniffling and playing yo-yo with post nasal drip. Then at the end of the interview I sneezed put my hand up to cover my face and deposited about 12 fluid ounces of snot in my right hand. Immediately after doing that the art director finished looking at my book, smiled and extended his hand to shake mine while standing up. Remember, I now have a hand full of snot so what should I do? I can't tell him "Sorry but my hand is full of snot right now." So in those few moments panic started to set in and as I stood I let my right hand slide against the padded cushion of the chair wiping the snot off in one constant motion as I then raised my arm and shook his hand hoping I had wiped it clean. Needless to say I didn't get the job and someone using the chair later got a nice slimy surprise.

What not to do Number 2: Never mention other design work you didn't do that you've seen in public that you didn't like or thought was poorly executed. Murphy's law dictates that the art director interviewing you when you comment on fore mentioned work will be the one who did that work you didn't like and they won't appreciate your design opinions.

What not to do Number 3: Put your portfolio in a safe secure place the night before you goto an interview. This prevents any cats from pissing on it to mark their territory i.e. your portfolio case. And since they do it during the night the urine dries thus making you unaware of the problem until your in your really hot car half way to the interview location and something starts smelling really hinky.

What you might not want to do Number 4: When a company shows enough interest in hiring you that they have a two hour phone interview and then pay to fly you to meet with them for another interview onsite, it's a good idea to dress professionally and not wear a t-shirt, shorts and sandals to the interview. Then again I got the job with Upper Deck so maybe it's ok to do that? I still get ribbed for that to this day.