Year: 2018

BEHIND THE BEANS: HOW I CREATE BLACK & WHITE ILLUSTRATIONS

I love black and white. It’s such a powerful color palette, one that forces onlookers to move beyond the surface and explore the details contained within. Since my style of illustration is predominantly black and white—and trust me when I say that style comes with a whole set of unique challenges—I thought I’d share my process, from beginning to end, to highlight the rather detailed journey I undertake every time I craft a new piece. So, dear readers, shall we begin? / PEN TO PAPER / My process always begins with a concept. A foundation. An idea that inspires me and implores me to create. From that idea, I craft rough sketches in my sketchbook using nothing more than a standard no-frills black pen. These rough sketches help me put my ideas on paper and are typically messy. But once I have a firm grasp on the style, elements, and layout, I move on to formal sketches. This stage is more structured and involves a careful application of ink to paper in order to generate …

BEAUTIFUL CHAOS & ITS ELEGANT FRAME

All creative work must begin somewhere. That “somewhere” is generally unkempt, to say the least. But stepping back a bit from the slovenly linework and disjointed ideas reveals a piece of art, a magical composition, always unintended but pleasantly surprising. For the sake of this thought train, my attention is focused on visual art and the “somewhere” native to that discipline: Sketch studies. Sketch studies are scary and wondrous places. They unshackle the mind and give license to move within and around ideas. Studies explore nuance and grand contrasts in equal measure. And above all else, they open the door to surprises—happy accidents—that can, in fact, reveal far greater ideas…notions that would never have seen daylight without this unbridled investigation. The excitement to explore new ideas can leave a creative with barely a single breath. But at the same time, the mind can struggle against the pen in an effort to achieve perfection. And it will cringe when an errant mark defiles what was once beautiful chaos. That’s a good phrase: beautiful chaos. I’m reminded …

The Mad Hatter | Joe Blend | Illustration

ON HATTERS & HEARTS

beneath the hat…truth rich minds…deep hearts…playful steps We’re all a little mAd! — The Mad Hatter, from the Tim Burton interpretation of Alice in Wonderland, was an odd bloke to say the least. Definitely odd…and bizarre, a bit disturbed, and certainly loony. But he was also a passionate artisan who had a kind heart and good soul. Mad is a word that has multiple definitions, but I think the best one of all is that which implies being carried away by enthusiasm. Which you could also read as a playful passion for life. So, in that sense, all of us—to some degree, in some way, at some point in time—are a little mad! Illustration and writing © 2018 Joe Blend. All rights reserved.

SPILLING THE BEANS—020218

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Ink SnackTM, a book of bite-size writing and nutritious thinking! My latest book project is a publication of original haiku and drawings—created by hand—in a handmade journal I purchased at a local store. The name refers to small portions that provide sustenance when the mind is starved for creativity. And of course, it’s all crafted with ink. The content contains a variety of artwork alongside the haiku—art that reflects the meaning behind their respective poems—and includes the blackout technique and collage, in addition to drawings. The book is one of a kind; however, once it’s sold, it’s gone forever.                    IT’S IMPORTANT TO NOTE that none of the content was created using a computer. For example, the page numbers (along with the “About” page content) were created using an antique typewriter. Furthermore, all the writing and drawings were done by hand using a black pen (i.e. no erasing my mistakes!). And, the book itself is handmade (not by me). Handcrafted in Nepal, …

ON SMOKE & MIRRORS

Ladies and Gentlemen, magicians are real. Flesh and bone, living and breathing. They are not, however, the masters of prestidigitation who dazzle us with trickery born from distraction, smoke, and mirrors. Although they employ wands —to fabricate marvelous creations and previously unimaginable accomplishments—the exclamation Abracadabra!, for them, is nothing more than eleven letters and a bit of punctuation. Real magicians spin yarns of wonder. They immerse us in worlds where anything is possible. They create something from where there was once nothing, and their stage is much larger than wood planks betwixt two curtains. Their magic resides within the pen, brush, and camera. Artists are magicians. – Writing © 2018 Joe Blend. All rights reserved; illustration © 2016 Joe Blend. All rights reserved.

ON FAILED IDEAS & HOPE REBORN

Failed ideas. Attempts at something that eventually yielded nothing. Hope and excitement, shattered; a mess of broken ideas clearly born from inspiration that was delicate to begin with. But as the accumulated detritus is swept away—Whoosh!—a spark flickers. Hope is among the remnants. Therein rises the Phoenix. © 2018 Joe Blend. All rights reserved.

KID DESIGNER & THE POWER OF A PAPER VOLTRON

I once made my own toy, when I was a kid. I did so in order to participate in an adventure I knew others were experiencing. — Money was tight when I was a kid…at least for a period of time, long enough to prevent me from obtaining one of the most coveted toys on the market at that point: Voltron. There were three versions of this mechanized force for good—gladiator, warrior, and lion—and I eventually owned the first two. But before that blessing was bestowed upon my young imagination, I owned none. And during that period of none, the version I wanted most was the Deluxe Lion Set. We can all relate to being a kid who doesn’t get what they want. Especially when others in your neighborhood had what you wanted. That’s how my Voltron period began. But instead of focusing on the problem, I committed to a solution: I made the toy I couldn’t have. “Let me tell you that my level of patience as a kid was apparently, and significantly, more …

FOOTSTEPS & TIME TRAVEL

time travel in white snow records a fresh journey footprints, a story While looking out of my studio window last week, I noticed a few tracks of footprints snaking across my driveway and side yard, after a light but fresh overnight snowfall. I didn’t see imprints from boots or loafers but instead, paths…decisions…time, by the moment. Someone was there. They had a place to go, or someone to greet, or maybe just needed to eat. And they were probably thinking about something, although the subject of that thought is now lost to the ages. But it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that they had a story. © 2018 Joe Blend. All rights reserved.

A FRENCH PRESS, STUDY #6

I don’t draw what’s in front of me. I draw what I see. My style has been sculpted through careful study and exploration, and it found its momentum with a simple approach: perspective. The definition of the word perspective is, in part, concerned with “the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.” (Merriam-Webster, s.v. “perspective,” accessed January 21, 2018, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perspective.) Relative importance. That’s how I see the components of a subject I’m drawing. I blur my mental focus—only paying attention to what jumps out at me, as the most critical elements to the function or form—in order to draw not what’s in front of me, but instead what I see. What my mind sees. Clearly, my artwork above is not a French press in its entirety. That’s because to me, a French press wouldn’t be a French press without the plunger and filter assembly. Everything else is merely a support system. To me, anyway. SUBJECT: An original abstract drawing of a French press DIMENSIONS: 7.75″ x 9.75″ MATERIALS: Black drawing pens on 90 lb. Strathmore …

SPILLING THE BEANS—012018

A fresh blend of news, about photography. I recently wrote a piece about black and white as an artistic palette, and how my passion for that palette developed during my now-finished digital photography days. Finished…that’s a word that carries a lot of weight. It leaves no room for doubt—its terms are absolute—and it implies closure. Finished, as in “my photography days are done.” Or so I thought. — The issue that caused me to part ways with digital photography was simple: perfection. The work I created with my iPhone was nearly flawless (granted, it’s the best point-and-shoot camera on the market). And when I tried to degrade the image, in the camera, it looked sloppy. That’s what caused me to leave digital photography, I think. But recently, and as a result of all the drawing that I’ve been doing, I found myself once again drawn (pun intended) to photography, which was shocking. So, dear readers, let me reminisce a bit before I dive into my latest epiphany. AROUND 11 YEARS AGO, I shot with a Polaroid …

THE BRILLIANCE OF BLACK & WHITE

Black and white is brilliant. Not when it comes to interacting with people, but instead as a visual palette for art. That’s because black and white dismisses distraction. It discards the surface to explore the depths. It banishes the jewel-toned “SQUIRREL!” factor I like to call “color.” Let me say, in no uncertain terms, that I’ve never enjoyed working with color. I’ll grant you that as a writer, I don’t struggle with color. But when I began my work as an artist—especially during my days as a graphic designer and fine art photographer—color was a challenge. What’s interesting is that it took a second, albeit brief, immersion into digital fine art photography for me to finally toss color aside and explore the limitations of black and white. And what I found was not restrictive: it was liberating. The contrast. The simplicity. The powerful visual effect. It was all incredibly exciting! I felt as if I’d found the true underpinning of my work; my artistic destiny, if you will. Granted, my photography days are done, but …

An Extension of Waves and Time | Joe Blend | A 2-oz. Read

AN EXTENSION OF WAVES & TIME

life, priceless purpose monuments to moments remind us always love each breath The artwork below was made using a black Sharpie marker, a Ranger white opaque pen, a Precise V5 Rolling Ball extra fine black pen, and a sheet of paper from a Moleskine journal. The piece was then copied in black and white using an HP copier. The artwork and haiku are inspired by “Beyond Waves & the Notion of Time,” my journal post about the importance of the journey. © 2018 Joe Blend. All rights reserved.