It has been ages since I posted! I have been busy though and I am excited to share all that I have been up to lately. Firstly, I have a wonderful mentor who I have been working with for the past couple of months - Amanda Sartor. If you are not familiar with her work - check out amsartor.com. Just the couple of months of her pushing me and guiding me has created a real breakthrough for me artistically. Plus, I have started Schoolism which I got through funding their Kickstarter. I am taking the Pictorial Composition class with Nathan Fowkes. Though I have not been able to progress very far since I was busy with a paid project. (I will share that shortly as well!) In the meantime, I feel as though I have turned a corner with my art and i can't wait to experiment more. A merging of abstraction, stylized forms, and figurative art - it feels right to me. Anyway...here are a couple of my more recent pieces.
I have, for some reason, always loved designing cards. Be it tarot, game, or playing cards. So, I have decided to create my own custom deck. Working my way through the hearts right now. To see all the cards go to my "Other Stuff" section. (please note includes some adult images.)
It feels like I have illustrated this book a thousand times. In reality, it is about 7 times. Still, I was never happy with the composition of each page and the end result. Everyone who saw previous iterations loved them...but still, I knew they weren't quite up to par with my vision for it. This illustration belongs to the first book I wrote that gave me the confidence to pursue writing and illustrating children's books. I love this story. It took a while, and a good amount of learning, but I think I have finally 'cracked' it. I am finally as excited by the illustrations as I am the story. I am almost finished the dummy for this book and I can't wait to submit it. Treasures on this page include the Stanley Cup, a stethoscope, an anchor, the medicine wheel for the Anishnaabe (Toronto First Nations people) on a surfboard, and the nautical flag shown means "pilot on board". (hehe). There is a running nautical gag throughout the book. Lots for kids to enjoy and enough for parents and adults to appreciate even if you are reading it over and over again.
Here is the latest re-do of my chapter covers - this one is for Chapter 2 - The High Priestess. Comments are always welcome.
Taking a brief break before I tackle the 4th revision on CLEAVE my YA novel (joblakely.com) to play with the Art Nouveau style covers for my graphic novel Paris Ballad which will also be published under the name Jo Blakely. Thinking of re-doing the other chapter covers that I have already done - but not quite happy with. This one is for Chapter 6 "The Lovers".
This was for a twitter #daily___doodle, but I used the opportunity to really practice what I had been learning lately about composition, perspective, and light and shadow. I originally had the chicken in Mr. Fox's arms pulling away scared, but prefer this version where she has fallen in love with his charms and would go anywhere with him. Sly fox.
I had a lot of fun working on this. It's great to draw without any purpose other than to have fun with it. Thinking of doing a subway ride next...
I haven't done much drawing lately, I have been focusing solely on my YA novel, CLEAVE, that I am publishing under the name Jo Blakely . I have really been missing drawing. I have a picture book that I am also working on...which for the moment is top secret and I still have quite a bit to do in order to get the 'dummy' ready for submission. So, I needed to play around and just draw without end goal, pressure, or purpose. Here is the sketch and I like it! Can't wait to start playing with color.
Guangxi, China - Around the World in 80 Illustrations
I have always wanted to go to Guilin because of the beautiful karst formations along the Li River. A while back I watched a program on the entire Guangxi area (Lonely Planet, I think) and it visited a Longhorn Miao village and then I REALLY wanted to go. As much as the landscape draws me to a place, it is the people and their cultural traditions that draws me even more.
There are many different kinds of Miao (Hmong) people which are an ethnic minority in China.The Longhorn Miao are fascinating to me because they wear the hair (mixed with wool) of their mother, and I think also their grandmother, on their head wrapped around a crescent shaped horn. They are renowned for their beautiful embroidery and batik work. I love that they dress so traditionally and yet finish the look off with running shoes. The Dong people, also an ethnic minority in the area, are known for their beautiful architecture. The Water Buffalo is native to the area and a common sight, along with rafts of cormorant fishermen. The landscape that I chose to depict in the image, are Elephant Trunk Hill which is the symbol of Guilin, and Pagoda Hill, some general karst formations along the Li River, and the Dragon's backbone rice terraces. To see the rest of the illustrations in this series visit my portfolio.
Socotra, Yemen - Around the World in 80 Illustrations
Often called the strangest place on earth, and the whole archipelago declared a UNESCO site, Socotra, Yemen is replete with the strangest plants and many creatures that are endemic to the island and completely unique and alien in appearance. The waters which have abundant fishing, and great diving, I could not represent here...sacrificed to what is remarkable and unique about this place. Dragon's blood trees whose sap runs red and from which the famed dye cinnabar comes from, strange bottle plants, also called desert roses, odd aloes and plants that would look more at home underwater, and the very famous frankincense trees from which the incense comes from. Remarkable mountaintop mini-cities, and amazing caves, some of which are homes. Men greet each other by touching noses, and atop roofs, Egyptian vultures keeping watch over all. This, however is not one of my favorite illustrations in the series, I have already redone it twice and I may have to go back and do it a third time. To see the rest of the illustrations in this series visit my portfolio.
Kerala, India - Around the World in 80 Illustrations
Kerala, India is a beautiful place that is very high on my list of places I want to go to. There is so much to commend it, that I had a very hard time selecting elements to show. What initially drew me in was the exotic and romantic houseboats that can range from simple to very luxurious that travel the backwaters there. There are a plethora of wildlife preserves for birds, tigers, elephants, lion tailed macaques, leopards, and soooo much more. India as a whole is a colourful place, however Kerala takes that one step further and contains a city called Auroville which is a modern, sustainable and experimental city whose mission is human unity.
Kerala is an excellent choice for that as it is, like Toronto, a place where people of all religions and races live in harmony. The difference is they have done so for thousands of years. There is a Jewish population that has been there since the days of Solomon, there is a Christian population called the St. Thomas Christians that trace their history to when St. Thomas came to evangelize back in the 1st century. There are also, of course, Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims. It is diverse in many, many ways. Kerala has the highest literacy rate IN THE WORLD! So much to love. I can't wait to go there one day.
What I have selected to illustrate: Kalaripayattu - which is the mother of all martial arts and originates from Kerala; a lion-tailed macaque; the hornbill (which is the state bird); in lieu of an actual tiger - a tiger dancer from the tiger festival; in lieu of an elephant - Ganesha,; Onapottan - the harbinger of prosperity which is from Northern Kerala; and one of those romantic houseboats which drew me in to discover the place to begin with. Kerala is one of National Geographic's 100 places to see before you die. The only other place in India on that list is the Taj Mahal.
Yap, Micronesia - Around the World in 80 Illustrations
Another illustration in this series, is Yap, in Micronesia. Yap is on my bucket list of places to go to for a number of reasons. Firstly, I love to scuba dive and Yap has stellar scuba diving. It is famous for its Manta Ray Bay, where huge schools of manta ray come to get cleaned by pretty little wrasses and angelfish.
Another thing Yap is unique and famous for is its stone money. Very large and heavy stones, often quartz, are quarried on other islands and brought to Yap at great danger by canoe. The value of the stones is dependent on how dangerous and difficult the journey was to bring the stone over. It isn't always the biggest stone that has the most value, either. This money still has value among the islanders today, though when the value is traded the stone might not actually move from its place as it can take as many as 20 men to move a stone.
These islanders are expert navigators and use the stars to find their course. They travel in canoes that are rigged with a mainsail. They also still keep traditional clothing customs of grass skirts, bare breasts, flowers for men and women as decoration, and have several different types of traditional dances.
Conquering Stereotypes...Of Myself!
I seem to be 'known' for doing Asian culture in my drawings, and I don't want potential clients from thinking that is all I do. So, to that end, I have started a new series, Around the World in 80 Illustrations. My goal/new years resolution is to also slow down and refine my work more.
I have started the series in Canada...looks like I am starting in the west with the Haida.
I was thinking about #Idlenomore while doing it and did my own version of the Dogfish woman on the drum in honor of Chief Theresa Spense.
From http://www.geocities.ws/smkruta/symbolism.html :
The dogfish woman represents persistence & strength. Innate leadership. The Dogfish Woman is the most prominent Shark in Haida legends. It’s considered a family crest of Haida royalty. All other Sharks are referred to as "Dogfish Mother’. In addition to the Shark-like features, the Dogfish Woman wears a labret in her lower lip which is traditionally worn by artistocratic Haida women. The Dogfish is one of the most powerful crests that is associated with feminine qualities.
Above is the final pencil for Around the World in 80 Illustrations - Haida.
I am not going to do inks for this, just keeping a tight purpley brown pencil line. I like it like this, but am going to do a colour version too. To see the final version o of the illustrations in this series visit my portfolio
I am desperate for input and feedback. Paris Ballad, the 350 page graphic novel I am working on (and have already completed over 90 pages in a greyscale pencil style, I have been considering re-doing by inking and adding red and blue overlays as well. I'd love feedback as to what people prefer. I dread re-doing all 90 pages and the greyscale would be cheaper to print, however the colour might be more interesting visually. Please help me decide. If you don't think it makes that much of a difference, I'd like to know that, too! In the color version I have made some editing changes so far as well, so they aren't identical...but still, you get the idea.
“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”
Copyright © 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 little jo (Jo Swartz) All rights reserved.Please do not copy or use these images in any way without express written consent. You will be sued and/or publicly shamed