Thursday, January 15, 2015

Reality Happens

A lot has happened since the last time I did a blog. I should really try to keep up better, but here goes...

This year has seen some changes starting with cutting my hair. Doesn’t normally seem like much, but those who know me know I have had long hair for over 25 years now… until July 2014. My buddy Jim Norcross finally finished his stylist and then barber schooling and licensing and then landed a chair. I had been thinking about the change for a couple of years actually. Congruently, all the filming for Dark Operations (the Indie Film I acted in and was slated to be a series - DVD available here - which was also written and directed by Jim Norcross) series episodes #2 through #5 to eventually be released on DVD, had finally been done as well - so there were no longer any reasons to keep the hair beyond my own desire. That desire had finally run its course and I decided that “I am not my hair” so off it went. I did not donate it due to assorted state restrictions and paperwork necessary, and because I would have had to have someone else cut it. I wanted to support my friend. I also understand there may be a memorial art piece in the works - which I will post about later as it developed.

Vacation happened

Vacation at the Outer Banks then happened, and I will have to do another post sometime to cover the fun photos I did during that.

Calendar is out and for sale

I have also delivered several projects I will need to post about and my calendar is also done so go buy a Mitchell Davidson Bentley 2015 Calendar available here. It includes lunar phases and all kinds of Holidays from traditional and legal to pagan and other major faiths.

Calendar Cover:


Calendar back with previews:


The biggest change

On December 7th, 2014, my father died of complications from a stroke. This has affected me more than I thought it would. My mother died in the early 1980s and frankly, I was closer to her than I ever was with my dad. That one sent me into a tailspin of drinking and denial for at least 10 years. This one is different though, more abstract, yet deep. It has also delayed several projects. I left for California on the 2nd to see him and be there while he left this plane of existence. I played music for him, held his hand occasionally, spoke to him of projects I was working on, and gave him permission to let go. He seemed at peace despite some pain which was managed while under hospice care. We held services for family and friends at the local Episcopal Church, in order to honor his beliefs and the Navy sent an Honor Guard to give him Military Honors and Taps. He was cremated and we did not do a viewing, so we later had him buried at sea, scattering his ashes just off the southern point of Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.

This is leaving me with much to think about and while I had been slowly reaching a point of re-evaluation within, this has now been thrust upon me with depth and urgency. I do not yet know where this will lead me.

Thanks for listening.

More soon on recent projects, I promise.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Ego Battling - The Artist's Journey pt. I

Some of you may be aware that depression is an animal that stalks me. It slinks around corners like a cat trying to go unnoticed, slowly, methodically, ever closer. It is stelthy-quiet and rarely announces itself before it pounces. Sometimes, I can see it out of the corner of my eye… sometimes, I catch it frozen in mid-stance… just a few feet away, eyeing me like a hungry tiger, saliva dripping from its toothy grin. Sometimes it is just a shadow self wavering as the heat off of hot pavement wavers, rising like scentless smoke from beneath my feet… slowly engulfing me with doubt and self recriminations, steeling away the breath of assurance - the oxygen of my otherwise Zen-full acceptance of who I am in the universe.
Sometimes it comes unbidden from such a simple thing - one in which I have absolutely no right to take to heart, no argument with which make a stance, to plant a seed, no possible way to think it even has anything at all to do with ME - but there, there it is and the ME that is me - the fragile EGO - goes *tink* like glass when it cracks so subtlety… and here I am surrounded suddenly by the self-doubt of depression and the ever-present second-guessing game.

The trigger this time

I did a piece for a cool project called Streets of Shadows - a Kickstarter for an anthology of Sci-Fi Noir stories by top names in the genre. They seemed to love what I did, paid me, and I delivered all the appropriate and requested files. I supplied banners, and eBook versions, and they paid my regular rates which included the final cover layout - the whole shebang. I believed all parties were happy and I was certainly happy. It was a bit of an unusual piece for me, in a style I am familiar with, but isn’t exactly my normal thing - think chosen for my range here rather than being chosen for my style. Have a look for yourself:


Not bad, I thought - and nary a word was said about it being anything other than what they wanted. In fact, everyone seemed rather pleased. I was pretty happy myself with what I thought really said “NOIR” yet punched that Sci-Fi ticket pretty well. A few months went by, the Kickstarter was funded and a few more moths went by then I sent off an email to follow up and ask if they were ready for the trade paperback layout. They request some layered files and said they would do the final layout in-house. I provided what they wanted and life continued on…
Yesterday I saw a reveal for the trade paperback edition of Streets Of Shadows.

Here it is (I don’t have the right to post it so go look, then come back).

It isn’t my art.
Obviously, this is when the ego battle ensued.

It isn’t my art. WTF? Okay, it isn’t my art. No problem. They have every right to not actually use my art. I mean, they did use my art on the Kickstarter - it actually helped them get funded. But I really kind of expected it to actually BE the cover, you know?

Worse yet - it’s GREAT.

I immediately thought, It’s not exactly Noir, it’s more like Bladerunner - dystopian urban retro-future. Hell, if they had just said something - anything - I could have done that. Well, okay, maybe not that, but something more like that, something more urban Bladerunner in style. Hell, I would have LOVED to have done something more like an urban Bladerunner!
But you know, you gotta TALK to me people. I don’t read minds. If you say Noir, I do Noir. If you say you are unhappy, I try to make you happy - I WANT to make you happy, but dammit, you gotta TALK to me.

It’s GREAT. It's a really, really, fucking GREAT piece of art! A great fucking piece of art by a young, 25 year old Australian concept artist who posts his work on Deviant Art. And it’s better than mine. WAY better than mine. It’s a FUCKING GREAT PIECE OF ART. And this kid has the audacity of a profile picture in a school cafeteria, smirky-grinning while holding a fabulous looking sandwich, with his oh-so-trendy hair, pierced soul patch and young self. (What an upstart!! What a young whippersnapper!!) Okay, okay, he’s probably a really nice guy and a real go-getter and dammitalltohell, a GREAT FUCKING ARTIST.

Gee, I used to resemble that remark. I was once the fair-haired golden boy. I do remember those days  (cue Don Henley's The Garden of Allah)... Now I am an aging, pretty average genre cover artist. What the hell happened?

(So, the stages of grief are like - 1) Denial and Isolation; 2) Anger; 3) Bargaining; 4) Depression and 5) Acceptance)
I think I did every one of the first 4 stages of grief in like 20 seconds, then repeated them in a loop over the next 12 hours.

There, right there is the crux, the ego battle. There is the artist’s dilemma. It’s not like I didn’t know there were… no ARE, better artists out there. It’s not like I don’t know it is really about style and what I do vs. what someone else does and it’s all good - because I do. Hell, that’s one reason art is so solitary. We need inspiration, but it is also so easy to just be overwhelmed by how damn good everyone else is.

So, it’s not MY art. Not on the trade paperback. And they have every right to do as they please… to use a better piece of art.

For me, I have to use this to propel me forward. I cannot get too wrapped up in “what did I do wrong” kind of victim thinking… which is the depression cat pouncing and rending the flesh of my fragile brain. I have to take this and use it as a means to find a way into better art myself. My style is different. My voice is different, and that is okay. The next generation is coming into their time and who am I to resent that? That should have no reflection on my own worth though perhaps it can be an impetus for my own pursuit of art and style and the betterment thereof.

Next up: Some updates from this summer.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Major Projects Part Two

Lands and Legends: Volume I of The Fantasy Illustration Library
Of course as you have probably already read, last year was very busy with auto and health issues interwoven with work. If not, go back and read about my back issues at least - all is well now, but I was initially slated to get my piece for this project done in time to be part of the first Kickstarted advertising. I missed that entirely, but I did manage to get a lot of research in and after my surgery, went to work on my version of Shangri-La.
But let me begin with the pitch…
This one is to be a volume that is sold. It is as the title suggests, all about Lands and Legends - so there was a long list of approved subjects, and only two versions of each one would be accepted. This was by invitation and a huge number of top artist within the fantasy field were listed already as having agreed to be a part of this. Some who declined to do the first project, were not invited. Many others from fantasy that were not invited to the first project were invited. This time, I knew many of the names and I am incredibly honored to be included.
What I didn’t realize is this is only the first of SEVEN possible volumes. Michael mentioned more, but the ambition is huge. There are 160 artists contributing to this first volume. Again, it is a large coffee table book, this time in faux leather, with a hard case and a satin marker. No velum or onion skin pages though. A gold embossed cover logo graces the front. It is heavy too - at least a couple of pounds, and very much like the volume of an old-fashioned Encyclopedia.
My interior write-up includes my bio, which I will not include here. There is a preface from the editor, on my page:
Shangri-La is an ancient lamasery in a hidden valley located somewhere deep in the Kunlun Mountains. It is surrounded by perpetual blizzards. The peoples of the Himalaya region talk of it as a magical place of wonder. Some say it is the lost kingdom of Prester John, others equate it to Shambala. According to some tales, it was constructed in the late eighteenth century by a Catholic monk who still lives today. Once someone decides to stay, their aging slows; if they leave the valley, they age quickly and die. The weather is eternally spring-like. All creatures exist together in peace and harmony. It can only be found by a man pure in heart. The journey is long and extremely hazardous and few make the attempt.

[My name & Bio] Then, my write-up:
My love of art is based in exploring media and tools. For me, digital, rather than traditional media and tools, allow for a broader range and versatility of exploration, much as science fiction and fantasy allow a broader range of thought exploration beyond traditional literature. I am fascinated by all visual arts, so photographic techniques can be found in my work as readily as brush work, 3-D renders and plug-in filters - no tool is left unexplored. I also have an abiding love for the great painters of the West. The Hudson River School of artists, Bierstadt, Moran and Cole, and their interplay with photography and the broad vistas that fill their work informs the compositional approach to my work.
The lure of a spiritual connection and the freedom of fantasy imbedded in a sweeping landscape vista was inescapable. Beginning with the source text, Lost Horizon by James Hilton, I thought about the similarity of ceremonial dress between Polynesian cultures and Tibetan monks, which reminded me of Thor Hyerdal’s work. I then added my take on connecting world cultures - as if Asian peoples migrated south though Cambodia and Laos, across the Pacific to the Polynesian Islands and on to South America. I wanted to capture a cultural mix that might have left a trail of influences, but originating from the “Lost Lamasery” of ancient Monks at Shangri-La. Finally, I took cues from the film Avatar, which referenced the work of Roger Dean and added an element of fantasy to illuminate the idea of spiritual power bound to Earth.

I then looked up a lot of symbolism to use in the is - something I like to do with any pieces I deem of esoteric value or spiritual in nature. For this one I wanted to tie into the idea of Gaia, wherein the Monks get their power and longevity from Mother Earth, so I researched Chinese Deities. I do have a fairly extensive library of esoteric books of my own, but it is mostly Western Traditions. Of course my wife and partner, Cathie, has long been interested in Chinese culture and philosophy, so her collection is weighted in that direction, and mostly for the Tao. Much of my research was therefore done in our own collection and online. Wikipedia actually had a pretty extensive series of articles to get me started.

From Wikipedia:
Xi Wangmu (Hsi Wang-mu; Chinese: 西王母; pinyin: Xī Wángmǔ; Wade–Giles: Hsi1 Wang2-mu3; literally: "Queen Mother of the West") is a Chinese goddess known from the ancient times. The first historical information on her can be traced back to oracle bone inscriptions of the fifteenth century BCE that record sacrifices to a "Western Mother". (Cahill, 1993) Even though these inscriptions illustrate that she predates organized Taoism, she is most often associated with Taoism. From her name alone some of her most important characteristics are revealed: she is royal, female, and is associated with the west.(Benard, 2000) The growing popularity of the Queen Mother of the West, as well as the beliefs that she was the dispenser of prosperity, longevity, and eternal bliss took place during the second century BCE when the northern and western parts of China were able to be better known because of the opening of the Silk Routes.(Mair, 2006)Xi Wangmu (Hsi Wang-mu; Chinese: 西王母; pinyin: Xī Wángmǔ; Wade–Giles: Hsi1 Wang2-mu3; literally: "Queen Mother of the West") is a Chinese goddess known from the ancient times. The first historical information on her can be traced back to oracle bone inscriptions of the fifteenth century BCE that record sacrifices to a "Western Mother". (Cahill, 1993) Even though these inscriptions illustrate that she predates organized Taoism, she is most often associated with Taoism. From her name alone some of her most important characteristics are revealed: she is royal, female, and is associated with the west.(Benard, 2000) The growing popularity of the Queen Mother of the West, as well as the beliefs that she was the dispenser of prosperity, longevity, and eternal bliss took place during the second century BCE when the northern and western parts of China were able to be better known because of the opening of the Silk Routes.(Mair, 2006)

Exactly what I was looking for! But before I go farther, here is the image:
The Guardians of Gaia (Xi Wangmu) at Shangri-La
I wanted the Monastery to be immense and old and contain the seeds of other cultures. I needed the environment to reflect perpetual Spring and renewal, yet surrounded by the realities of the rest of the world. I saw this Western connection through Xi Wangmu as Gaia, or the Earth Mother, with Shangra-La as her refuge away from the mundane passage of time. I envisioned the central palace, church or cathedral to be a secret, sacred place that was floating atop Earth energy like a fountain, and had to held down to Earth as if it would just float away into the heavens. So to me the Monk’s tower was a manifestation of the Watchtower of the North (Earth Element), so that the Cardinal Directions could be set from there. Each side of the canyon becomes a direction and a season; North/Winter, East/Spring (the view is from the East), South/Summer, West/Fall. A perpetual snow blows in from the North and the valley is heated via the magma below within the fissure. A sand mandala encircled by the Ouroboros is etched into the central stone and the peach tree of immortality grows at the foot of the tower. The peaches are Xi Wangmu’s gift of immortality to the Monks who stay as her guardians. In the South a smaller temple houses her Phoenix, the steed of Xi Wangmu’s chariot (seen rising from the brasier out front).
The season of the world is Summer with the sun overhead and slightly North, the moon full and Venus just below… nonetheless, this valley remains out of the main stream of time. The elder Monks are seen blowing their horns on the central Palace/Temple as the northern wind blows an approaching snowstorm, and others are along the bridge or looking out their rooms in the Monastery. Prayer flags dance and release their blessings on the winds from the top of the world. You will notice that all of the plants are indigenous to China as you step through the mountain pass into the valley of Shangri-La…
This piece is created to be a 20” x 30” canvas. I hope to do a series of prints as well - my usual exclusive run of 10 each, matted to 16x20 and a limited edition of 100 each matted to 11x14.
If all goes well, I intend to do Xi Wangmu herself for Volume II: Gods and Goddesses.
By the way, interested in the book? You can Buy it Here. They are also going to multiple conventions to sell it, a list is here.
The list of artists will knock your socks off! From Clyde Caldwell, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, Donato Giancol, James Gurney, Jim Burns, Don Maitz, John Harris, Janny Wurtz to O-M-G I cannot believe I am in such company!!
It sells for $125 and is strictly limited to an edition of 3000.

Major Projects

The Doomsday Project

At the Chicago Worldcon, Chicon 7 in 2012, I ran into a collector of mine as I was waiting for my van and packing up to leave. His name is Michael Phifer but he goes by the moniker “The Collector” and has the world’s largest collection of non-sports trading cards - all art and gaming cards. He has a twin brother, Malcolm, whom I met at that time that also collects Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. Michael was very excited to talk with me about participating in a pet project of his - a coffee table book, fine art style, with art of Doomsday, the character that killed Superman. Despite being a subject I am neither very familiar with, nor exactly up my artistic alley, I was stunned that he wanted ME to be in this collection, which would also include a number of HUGE name artists from across the industry and across the globe. Stunned.

So, of course I agreed.

I agonized a bit (because, hey, artists do that), did some research on the character and sent several questions off to Michael over the next few months as I tried to conceptualize what I wanted to do. You know how it goes… the deadline marched inexorably closer… until it is SO close, you HAVE to work on something, anything, NOW. After dismissing several thoughts and informal attempts I decided to play to my strengths and do a piece from his mythology of falling to Earth - though I decided NOT to depict an actual scene, or even as it was originally written.

Along with the piece, part of the deal is to write up a description (and a bio) to go on the facing page:

“My approach to this challenge began with re-imagining the development of the character. Starting with the re-sampled cloning concept I decided the development in pre-historic Kryptonian conditions would yield a armored skin with reptilian or insect qualities more akin to an exoskeleton as opposed to less flexible bone protrusions.

Once the character was developed I found myself influenced by current events, drawing from the meteor in Russia and several comets passing close this year, I played to my personal strengths and revisited a concept I have done several times - meteors plunging through the atmosphere.

Though Doomsday is chained and casketed in the storyline when he makes Earth-fall, depicted him merely in a state of semi-conscious regeneration. He was thrown into deep space and is here only by happenstance...”

My piece is “Doomsday Approaches”


I received my copy via UPS early last year.

One of the interesting aspects of this project was how exclusive it it is. This one was not to be sold at any price. It would be given to those involved in the project, but there would be no way for anyone else to get a copy - this was strictly to be a showcase for the artists. Obviously, this will be passed to my heirs, but in the meantime, I will show it around at shows I go to. I did get a chance to show it at my tables at ConQuest in KC, MO, and LoneStarCon 3 in San Antonio, TX (Worldcon last year). There were 80 artists involved in this, about 6 of them as a penciler/inker/colorist team in the traditional comic style. Most were character portraits and action shots, many alone but many with Superman as well. Mine was rather unique.

Here is a shot of the piece in the book proper… as you can see, this is a classy, top-notch production; there is an onionskin sheet/page between the write-up and the art, and yes, that is a separate hard case it comes in, as well as a satin place keeper/bookmark:


But wait, there’s more…

The Doomsday Project was just the beginning

While at the next Worldcon, LoneStarCon 3 in San Antonio, Michael told me of a new project he wanted to invite me to participate in… Lands and Legends.

Can I admit to being stunned again? I was, absolutely floored. So much so that besides managing to get out a YES! I failed to understand the full scope of the project.

Next up … Lands and Legends.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Catchup - SKS Video covers

SKS Video Productions is a regular client and as such gets some time set aside every month for a title. They don’t always need the time, but they do about 9 to 15 titles a year.
Not much to say about these - they are videos of radio controlled (R/C) aircraft events. I have done camera work for SKS as well, though I don’t do that anymore. However, I do create their DVD and BluRay cover designs as well as distributor versions. The process is much like any design work; you work for the client and they must be happy with it in the end. In this case, it is “work for hire,” which is to say, I am not doing art so much as layout and photo-manipulation on these. There is no copyright to transfer or license and Scott Stauffer, the proprietor takes the photos himself usually, though occasionally he gets usage permission from someone else. These events are also often covered by industry magazines such as Traplet Publications, and sometimes by on-line R/C networks and other video companies. SKS was one of the early ones and has remained long after many others have come and gone.
Here are the covers done early this year so far (only the DVD/SKS versions are shown - the others are base on these):
I was going to post the ones from the end of last year, earlier in this year, but alas, business is.

A short post here then and more to come… hopefully sooner.
Trying to get into a routine that is new, can be difficult!
Thanks for checking in.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Questions, Thoughts and Musings

The Biggest Thing On My Mind
As you may have heard on Facebook, I am not going to travel this year. Correction - I am not going to travel to any conventions this year. I am, however, going on a family vacation to Nags Head over the same weekend as NASFiC - and the only car we have will be full of out of town relatives, so I cannot go to NASFiC if I wanted to. Last year, I managed to go to LoneStarCon 3, (the 71st Annual Worldcon), mostly as a representative of ASFA. I sold some prints, but not a single large piece. I spent a lot of ASFA’s money getting there to run the ASFA Hospitality Suite, with some great success (and a bit less success once the Chesley After party was done), as well as an awful lot of my own money for shipping crates and shipping, so that I could show my latest work. General reviews of art at the show were along the lines of, "the Darrel Sweet retrospective was great, but there was a real lack of decent Pros and good art otherwise," — gee, John Picacio, Julie Dillon, Phil Foglio, David lee Anderson, William J. Hodgson among others, and I, thank you…
This has brought me to a peculiar place. As I grow older, family becomes more important. Compounded with the very real facts that travel is increasingly expensive, wearing on me physically, and convention sales are down and unreliable, I find myself unable to do conventions. Moreover, I am completely unable to keep up with printing technology, supplies and maintaining a realistic stock of a large inventory of images. This means that while I can create all day long, my only means of showing my work is online. This means I don’t get paid for what I do. I cannot continue like this. Without sales of basic prints, or art shows with sales of larger pieces, my work is useless and ineffective. Oh sure, covers are fine and I get paid okay for those, but that is illustration and doesn’t help much for impact. The art is moot. It remains small and uninspiring. I firmly believe that the best impact art can make, illustration or otherwise, is as a larger image, displayed nicely on a wall and framed well.
Thus my quandary: how do I get my work into the hands of people who want it, maintain my level of quality and keep up with production should demand become time consuming. Therein lies the rub; an artist can spend his time producing art or he/she can spend their time promoting, selling and producing stock. For mr, I can no longer support the illusion I am good enough to do both, or that I have the income to feed the production process - I simply do not.
The Question
So, the question is, if I set-up an online store with a high quality outsourced production system in place, how will people feel about my prints being unsigned, open editions? Because, frankly, that would be the result. MY stock would be signed and of the very same quality as always, which is to say the older Ultrachrome on Lusterpaper or canvas, which I have been producing. BUT, the outsourced prints would be produced with equal or even better quality — certainly more up-to-date, newer inks with longer life and newer, better papers & canvases available as options, and an array of frames I cannot hope to offer — would not be signed by my hand, nor directly supervised to my visual inspection and control.
How would this make my previous customers who have bought from me, as well as potential buyers of my work, feel about that option?
Please leave a comment and let me know. Thank you!
I know I promised more art next…
I have been very busy, still getting caught up. As some of you may know, I am (still and again) the president of ASFA, The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. I have seen it as my duty, my mission if you will, to bring ASFA into the 21st Century, which is to say, the digital age, and the age of social networks. In this capacity, I have been building the ASFA Community Network and re-branding the association to reflect a newness that hopefully will appeal to a younger crowd. We really need to face it and admit that only by doing that can ASFA continue. As they say, the children are the future, the hope for our race - so it is with any human endeavor. In this case, not so much children as younger blood, fresh and energetic ideas and activities. As fandom grows older and conventions change, so too does our society. We must adapt or die. We cannot sit on the sidelines while the world we dreamt in visions of Star Trek materialize around us, and deny their reality - refusing to embrace the very world we helped materialize. So I have taken ASFA to the next online level in hopes of streamlining and building something from the slowly crumbling state I found it in. Funny. David Cherry, who has served ASFA well many times, a fellow artist and ex-lawyer, once told me I would become President. I didn’t believe him then, and now here I am… for my third term. On the plus side, progress is being made and ASFA survives.
Acting this Summer
I am also acting some this summer, with Penn Owl Productions. Since I won’t be traveling to any cons, I can do a little traveling to do some paid acting. The production is Susquehanna to Freedom, by Dr. Dorothy E. King, and I play the part of Howard Malcolm, president of Lewisburg University, in act 5. It takes place in the mid 1800s and tells the story of freedom seekers along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania through a story telling. The first 2 performances will be on at 1 PM and 7 PM Friday, April 4th at Harford College in Havre de Grace, MD. More performances are planned for later in the summer.
Next up really will be art, I promise!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Art Update 02: a Logo

A Business Logo

Business Logos are a special thing. They require a lot of thought, patience, back and forth and they have to be done as a vector. Why? Because it is branding and it must please the company, say something about it and be infinitely scalable - as well as recognizable small to building sized. Not all companies survive or grow large enough to really utilize the need for vector, but doing that way up-front is like doing a cover for trade paperback first, then scaling it down for eBooks - it is just easier. Besides, if you don’t start right, you may not be able to rework it large correctly.

So, a friend calls and we talk Logo. The company name is InvKon. I get a description of what they do and I don’t really understand. This is why I do so few of these.

I go to the website and look around… I ask more questions, gain a glimmering, more questions still, look over their website again…

This is a “bootstrap” start-up, and the site is full of corporate buzz words, jargon and business-speak. I am way out of my element there, but I can find common ground enough to offer some suggestions. At first they want to just have this logo fixed… it’s a mock-up someone else did, someone who then dropped the ball, or perhaps wanted too much to finish the project? I don’t know, and it is really none of my business why… so I agree and take on the task, only to realize it is just a compressed JPG and must be reworked completely (as I suspected when they sent me what they had and mentioned they didn’t know about formats…), which is why it turns into a full-blown Logo job. Here’ is what they sent:


This becomes the process I know, and try to avoid as much as possible. Sigh. (a globe is not a logo guys…)

I do charge quite a bit considering how it always winds up so simple, after a ton of work.

That piece was part of this Logotype (FYI: a Logotype is a logo that includes typography and often IS the company name AS the logo itself), which was a flat mock-up on a white background:


Okay, a Logotype. I can work with that. In fact, the first thing I did was completely duplicate it in Illustrator. But of course, the story continues...

We talk and I find out they aren’t entirely happy with this either. They wanted the color flat and to change the logo to… not sure… they didn’t think in terms of a logo vs. a logotype, after I mentioned using it elsewhere they wanted to be able to use the logo separately, plus they wanted to change the tag line. So I was already ahead by re-creating it as a typeface (or font - the difference being a typeface is the whole family of a font with its italic, bold, extended, etc.) and a separate logo element.

I am going to skip the conversations here for confidentiality reasons, and because it is always a convoluted, drawn-out, back and forth process to really figure out if what they are saying is what I am understanding. Then there is the changing of their minds along the way. This is not unusual - this too is just part of the process; these are business folk, not other artists like myself - they don’t speak the same language, so they need to SEE if what they want will actually look decent… and be what they think they really want. So we talk about the cloud and platforms, apps delivered via the cloud and what kind of apps, who will use them and for what purpose… and so on.

Of course, this is just before my back surgery in November, so I am on many, many pain killers and I may not be thinking very clearly…

I want to start with, or concentrate on the logo proper, because we need that before we include type… however, because I realize early on that they need to see the name with it to adequately visualize the possibilities, I include the company name with the Logos.

The Process

This is a long one. I am going to include a ton of pictures to show how this works. I am one to take advantage of stock content, then refine and personalize once I am in the ballpark, so to speak. I learned early on, creating everything from scratch at the outset was an exercise in futility since everything is changed when you are being art directed. I abhor wasted effort and lost time. There is nothing wrong with utilizing stock content and making it your own, no matter what the critics say. This part of the process is how I work rather than doing pencil sketches. Everything can be modified and altered to fit your needs once you know where you are actually going. Little tweaks early on into bigger modifications as you close in on what you are doing - then final small refinements to polish that last 10-20% into a finished product.

Here are a few early mock-ups using stock elements in a mash-up as roughs (I don’t do thumbnails because I can visualize very well before I even get started - not everyone can do that, but I score exceptionally high in spatial thinking intelligence tests):


I usually like my first efforts really well, however it was too complicated, and they want apps and a cloud, but they liked the swoopy thingy —


I send a couple of quick variations… that’s how this works —



More technology —


No, no, too complex, simplify —


Wait, we need Apps! —


How about something that looks more like the applications? (I begging showing different typefaces along the way, to speed up the process some…)


Refining to the Logo Proper

They liked the cloud but wanted it colored to match the website, and I needed to try some different tech elements and get a handle on their taste (I hopped) and look at another typeface —







I really thought I had it with this one, after all that. Besides, I thought this one was really cool. I had gotten some feedback but they saw the tech “platforms” as obscuring and swallowing the earth… rather than the world emerging from the tech in the cloud (perspective is everything, eh?)


Oh, and the typeface was all wrong… we want Apps back too, there will be 4 basic types so how about 4 corners? And we kind of liked the one with the target in the middle, but put an “i” in it —


Can you loose the frying pan and handle? (Frying pan handle…? That took me a while to figure out...) Refine, feedback, refine, feedback, refine —



Refining Colors and the Arrangement of Elements

Notice how little things have shifted along the way. The cloud shape, the effects and the color were all tweaked a bit here and there… the inside “target” graphic was eventually rounded out and elements of it were dropped. Now we are getting somewhere… put it IN the cloud, and variations, and with the Logo like this, now with this part in this color… (and since I am working on the same art board in Illustrator, everything is in layers I can turn on & off, moved to the side in these cases, because the new cloud is bigger and shifted, etc., then exported as a JPG to email). We tried some other typefaces (fonts) along the way, but came back to this one. I am including a lot here, but less than half of what I really did.





Now, let’s get rid of the cloud —


and put the Logo in the typeface —





After much, much more twiddling and tweaking over about a two to three week period, we finalized the Logo proper to be this —


Refining the Website Logotype Version

So then we worked on typeface treatments. At this point, since this is primarily for web, I can move into Photoshop and work at the pixel level with layer styles. I can do some really cool stuff to type with those tools! Some of these work better on dark backgrounds (outer glows don’t show up against white) and some work better on light backgrounds (drop shadows don’t show up against black), so I included white, black and 50% gray backgrounds… I will spare you the full compliment. —








My favorite was the light blue one above, but in the end they had to choose something they would be happy with because they were going to live with it for a very long time. In some cases a glow of a different color than white will work on white, and of course, any dark glow will also work. As I suspected, they first wanted a flat color, so all my fun was just that, an excuse to show off a little and play. As I said, they got versions on black and gray, italicized, glows, reflections, shadows, deeper shadows, we tried slightly larger type, smaller type, etc., etc...

Their final choice:



Logo design is similar to any other illustration project in many ways, but there are special requirements. Communication with the client is key and when in this position, you work for them. Ultimately, they must be happy with the final product. Additionally, you don’t own it in the end, either.

I hope you have found this to be an interesting look into my own particular methodology.

Next up: more cover art - layout & design for SKS Video.