Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Sketchbook Project

Hello, all! Just wanted to put a plug in for Arthouse's latest project, the Sketchbook Project:

The Sketchbook Project: 2011

I actually signed up for it a few weeks ago, but I didn't want to do a post since I didn't have anything to show for it...and an illustration blog post without pictures is like a day without sunshine. Or some other overused cliche...

Anyway, the jist is that you pay $25, pick a theme, and they send you a sketchbook. You fill up the sketchbook with stuff along the theme, send it back, and they take it on a tour across the country. What's more, people who attend the shows can check out your sketchbook to read, much like they were at a library. The book becomes part of the permanent collection at the Brooklyn Art Library, and everyone is happy. Yay! Also, for an extra $20, the fine people at Arthouse will create a digital version of your sketchbook for people to view online. Even more yay!

I got my sketchbook a few weeks ago (it came about 10 days after I signed up) and have since been storyboarding and doing materials studies. There are about 39 full page spreads, so I'll be doing quite a bit of drawing. My theme is "I'm a Scavenger", and my idea is to do a "story" of several creatures in Africa (and a poacher), and how their lives end up interconnecting. We'll see where it goes...with art, everything has a tendency to change as you go. Since the sketchbook steps away from my media of choice, I had to do some materials studies. If I felt really up to it, I could rebind the book with a surface that would suit acrylics, but after hand-binding 7 copies of my book, I'm a little bookbinded out.

Left to right: ballpoint pen, pen & ink (with Winsor & Newton's nut brown ink), pencil, and colored pencil (using Prismacolor's dark umber)

What I'm looking for in materials: something that won't smudge, works with my drawing technique, and has minimal bleed-through on the paper. The sketchbooks provided by Arthouse are Moleskine cahier notebooks (popular with hipsters worldwide!), and the paper is much thinner than I am used to working with. Since my overall design will be using both sides of the paper, I want to draw with something that won't ruin the underside of the paper. Tricky stuff, let me tell you. To do practice studies, I went out and bought a pocket sized pack of cahier notebooks, that way I wouldn't mess up my official sketchbook.

Study #1, ballpoint pen: I'm not a ballpoint pen person, but some people can sketch up a storm with it. It has no bleed through, but it's also limiting in that there's only one size of point on it.

Study # 2, Winsor & Newton ink: I'm a big fan of the color, especially since I'm kind of going for an old, used travel journal look. But there's a lot of bleed through on the underside of the pages, and the ink would spread out from the nib a bit when I was drawing. Since I'm not a super pen and nib inker anyway (unlike some people I know), I passed on the medium.

Study #3, pencil: Finally, something I'm a little more comfortable with. However, it's a little boring, and has the tendency to smudge. Since I'm hoping my sketchbook will be flipped through by quite a lot of people, I want to minimize smudgy graphic thumbprints.

Study #4, colored pencil: Ah, now we're talking! Pencil technique without smudging. And I can get a variety of values through pressure instead of hatching (like I would have to do with pens). Plus no bleed through! Though just to be sure, I should probably do a bigger sketch...

Yep, I think this will do quite nicely.

If you're interested in signing up for the project, click the Sketchbook Project picture link above. There's still plenty of time to sign up, but if you're interested in a certain theme, sign up for it ASAP as they tend to fill up!

Friday, July 23, 2010

GotPrint, Overnight Prints, and iPrintfromhome: a Review

I've been doing a lot of print-ordering lately in preparation for a new string of mailers, as well as getting up an online shop, and as such I have been using some different print companies. I just got my new set of mailers today, and, well...I'm not particularly ecstatic about the quality. Rather than whine I thought I would do an overall review of different companies I have used for comparison as I figure it might be helpful for those of you wondering what companies to use for all your illustrative printing needs.

Thus far I have used 3 different companies for various printing functions:,, and iPrintfromhome. GotPrint and Overnight Prints are both more for marketing purposes, whereas iPrintfromhome does professional-quality prints (they offer both photographic prints and giclee fine art prints). GotPrint I found when I was in school and it was the stand-by for my classmates and I for our mailers as they offered a pretty quick turnaround, plus good prices (you can get 100 4x6 single sided postcards for $23.36, and 100 single sided business cards for about $9). I have ordered two sets of mailers from them, as well as my business cards and have been thoroughly pleased with the quality.

However, for my current set of mailers I decided to go with Overnight Prints. My pal Jade posted a review over their products recently, and they had a few things that I wanted to take advantage of. One, they offer smaller postcard quantities in their "value" line of cards (printed on a digital press rather than an offset press, as with their "premium" quality cards). I've been planning on opening an online shop that will offer both prints of my work as well as card sets, and the smaller quantities would be perfect for the latter. ONP also frequently offers coupons for their products, to that kind of sealed the deal. I ordered 25 value cards to test the quality for sellable notecards, as well as 100 premium cards to be used as mailers. I have used ONP in the past for holiday cards, as well as for some business cards I designed for my stepdad, and both times I was happy with the quality. This time...not so much.

 Original painting on the left, value card print on the right. The values are much, much darker.

There was a large discrepancy between the colors on the value cards and the original piece, although I will be the first to admit that may be due to monitor calibration and/or how the cards are printed. I ordered my Syd piece as a test print, and this piece is also featured on my new mailer.  The values look fine on the mailer, but not on the value card. I know the image above isn't great, so I'm including a scan of the card, as well.

The values are waaaaay too dark, plus it also printed rather "cool". While I wasn't too happy about that, the value cards are pretty cheap, even without a coupon, so I figure it will be something I may just have to play around with on the digital file.

 The 4x6 mailer. If you click on the image you can see the white dots along the left side of the card.

My mailers came out...okay. The cardstock and glossy coat on the front are fine, and the same quality as GotPrint, but the values aren't as dark as I wanted. The black background isn't "black" enough. It almost seems like a "light black", if that makes sense. I wanted a black-black. Plus to the left of the pig head there are a bunch of tiny, white dots. I thought it was maybe just on one, but no, it's on all 100 mailers. I'm also not super enthusiastic about ONP's packaging. While my 4x6 mailers came packaged in a form fitting box, the value cards were thrown in a cardboard envelope, leaving plenty of opportunity for their corners to get bent in the shipping process.

All in all, I'm not super happy about my ONP cards. I will probably give them another chance with the value cards (after all, I'm only out about $3.95 with the sale price...not a huge loss), but with the mailers I could have gotten exactly what I wanted from GotPrint for the same price.

**7/26: I emailed ONP customer service over the weekend about my disatisfaction, and they responded that day. As of today they offered to either reprint my cards or give me a refund, provided I send back defective cards. I will do another update once I receive my reprints, but for now kudos on the excellent and prompt communication.

**8/3: Received my reprinted mailers today and they look great---blacker blacks, and no white spots! Plus a super fast turnaround...just a little over a week! Thanks to Overnight Prints for great customer service and for taking care of my order.

And now for something completely different...iPrintfromhome. Like I mentioned above, iPrint is for professional prints, so they are a bit of a different animal. I don't have scans of their stuff as a lot of it would be hard to register as a 2D picture on a computer monitor, so I will try my best to describe their work. I ordered a couple kinds of prints: fine giclee prints, lustre photographic prints, and metallic photographic prints. Since I wanted to see how a collection of my pieces looked on the different papers, I resized some of my pieces and formatted them on an 8.5" x 11" image so I could just order a few 8.5" x 11" prints on different papers. I also resized my "Which One's Pink?" series to ACEO-sized prints and ordered a 5 x 7 metallic print. Everything was good quality; I just preferred certain pieces on different papers. I found that some of my pieces (the Greyhound, Animal Farm, and Human Rights poster) looked better as lustre prints as the blacks looked "blacker", while others (my Drawgasmic and The End bomb) looked better as giclee prints as the values were too extreme as lustre prints. My Pink series looked good as both lustre and metallic, though I prefer the metallic as it gives a really nice sheen to the pieces that really makes some of the colors pop. I plan on ordering real prints as soon as I can afford them. Fortunately iPrint has really great prices! Photographic prints are very affordable, and the giclee prints are, too, especially considering they are archival, high quality prints. If you're thinking about ordering prints, I definitely suggest doing the test print route. And for first time customers, they will send you a monitor calibration kit that includes samples of their papers so you can see the difference between matte, lustre, glossy, metallic, and giclee prints. I highly recommend them!

Whew! Was that a long enough post for you? I promise to have real artwork up on here...sometime...soon. I plan on doing a post on the Sketchbook Project, which I signed up for, so definitely expect to see process work from that. Also, you may have noticed I broke down and joined Twitter. Feel free to follow me! I promise to attempt to keep it professional and avoid any "this is what I had for lunch today" posts, though I can't promise there won't be an occasional Floydgasm on there.