Ellis Island June Assignment – making of

I haven’t posted for a while, because I needed to digest last month’s MATS Bootcamp assignment as the theme was quite controversial and got me a bit down. ‘A bit’ is probably an underestimation of how I felt last month. I felt downright depressed about the topic. And here’s why:

The Mini for June

The mini for the June assignment was Ellis Island. We were not given a particular focus. Rather, we were to research, observe, and create.

My online research resulted in me finding many portrait photographs of people who passed through Ellis Island between 1892 until 1954.

They looked exhausted, sad, annoyed or uncertain.

I did notice some interesting images of boats, ships, architecture and suitcases the passengers carried with them, but the intensity of the people’s faces did not let me go.

Deciding upon an approach

I decided to work on my portrait sketching skills:

Left: pencil sketch of an Italian immigrant on Ellis Island. Right: a modern-day refugee

I don’t sketch portraits very often (next to never, actually) and thought it to be a good opportunity practice.

But the week passed with a heavy feeling in my heart. I was thinking about the lives back then and the lives today being forced by circumstances to leave their current homes to venture out to new lands in hope of a better life.

The thing is, ‘Ellis Island’ still exists, just under different names and in various locations of the world. And all nice-talking aside, for some, Ellis Island was but a prison stop before they were sent back to where they came from.

This assignment reminded me too much of the current plight of people being forced to leave their home countries with their future in the hands of the judgment of officials and authorities.

From pencil sketch to line drawing with ink pen and gouache poster-style painting.

Some get through the human sieve others don’t. Who get’s to decide where we may or may not lay our hats? To me, it’s a painful topic.

In modern-day, plain and simple travelling of mine, I can say that I really dislike going through customs. Not because I’ve got anything to hide, but because from 7 out of 10 times, I’ll be stopped and will need to undergo additional screening. I keep blaming ot my ‘nose’. Whatever the reason for the holdup, I detest this kind of invasion of my privacy.

Cutting to a chase, admittedly, this topic struck a chord with me and I was left hoping the main June assignment would depart from Ellis Island and we’d be assigned something on a lighter note.

The June Assignment

As the second Monday of June arrived, it was clear, we were stuck with Ellis Island. But this time it was worse (at least to me)! The topic was hair or hairstyles of Ellis Island and all this needed to be designed for a mug. What?! And while many in the Bootcamp community saw the lace and shoes and bags and fashion and embroidery, I only saw the people (luckily I was not quite alone and had some empathisers).

Giving up?

In addition, the photographs of people passing through Ellis Island were wearing either scarves or hats. Not much hair to see! At this point, I was toying the idea of passing the June assignment.

Creative Block

But, I never cut and run without giving something at least a try. So, I rationalised: I like drawing lines. Hence, I like drawing hair, waves, tree structures and any kind of structure in which I can incorporate lines. But hair on a mug? I was stuck.

Finding inspiration

For inspiration, I decided to learn more about Ellis Island and watched a documentary. It also meant the second week of June left me with a heavy heart, too.

After watching the documentary and as I intuitively guessed, a very small amount of people just got to pass with no health checks, no screenings, no nothing. All the rest were held back and scrutinised with medical and lice checks, x-rayed, they even had to undergo questionable intelligence checks.

The methods used to judge over people reminded me all too much of the methods the Nazi Germans used in the second world war.

People were judged by their looks and facial features and deemed ‘stupid’, ‘imbeciles’, ‘idiots’ for the shapes of their eyes, eyebrows, noses and mouths.

However, while watching the documentary, I noticed a couple of people who stood out for their beauty despite the overall sadness.

Coming up with the Design

And so I decided to portrait themΒ and use them in my mug design:

First Design

One of them was a woman undergoing a health check. To me, she was so graceful in this uncomfortable situation and she had these beautiful two, long, dark braids, beautiful hands and classical facial features:

Second Design

The second person I noticed was a woman posing in a group photo of nurses who worked on Ellis Island. She kind of had a Mona Lisa smile and a voluptuous figure. I liked how her hair got a bit messed up by the wind during the photo shoot:

Third Design

The third (two) person(s) who caught my attention was a man and a woman. Obviously, they had just met after a long time of no see. They could have been related or a couple, that was not clear. But they were immensely happy to see each other. Their embrace was so heartwarming and emotionally intense:

Fourth Design

Lastly, I noticed a couple of children on Ellis Island for their expression of curiosity, fear, and annoyance and the overall innocence they radiated:

The Mood Board

I had already designed the mugs before the mood board was published.

Colour palette

The colour palette I had chosen for my design was luckily pretty much in tune with the mood board suggestion.

Lettering

However, what was added to the assignment was the need to add lettering in form of quotes of strong women.

This did not fit so well with my design and so with no time to redesign, I decided to add some tuned-down lettering with phrases around having or getting together for tea.

Are you still with me? Thank you, I feel honoured and hope you will not be disappointed if sticking with me to the end. So far, you’ve probably also noticed that the June assignment really got me brooding and thinking. And, believe me, you’ve just read a fraction of the controversy happening in my head.

Overall design and symbolism

I used symbolism, to be able to summarise on a mug all the turmoil in my mind the assignment caused during the assignment. Yet, I wanted to keep the design timeless, clean, clear and simple so that it could be enjoyed out of context, too.

The golden circle:

Can be the moon and at the same time the sun. Standing for activity and passivity. There are times in life we can take action to improve our situation, and other times we need to let go and move with the flow.
Gold symbolises warmth and abundance.
It stands for the wealth of our personality shaped and moulded over time and linked to a certain culture and its traditions.
At the same time, it stands for our hopeful vision for a better and abundant future.

The waves:

Water stands for emotion.
While waves stand for the turbulence of our thoughts, the noise in our minds as well as outer circumstances.
They also stand for long-distance travel, adventure and discovery.
Blue stands for our ability to be in tune with our intuition and our ability to communicate.

Lettering – all about connecting:

I kept the content really light and simple and chose a layout making the lettering only noticeable upon a second glance.
I’m a tea person, and to me, tea is a culture, a way of living.
Good tea cannot be rushed either in the brewing nor in the enjoying part of tea. Sharing tea moments with others is a wonderful way to connect.
I also kept thinking of the beautiful tea ceremonies of Japan (I’m quite fond of the simplicity of Japanese art).
Tea brings humans together and stands also for moments of rest and tranquility. I love tea time. All who know me well know of my love for spiced tea with milk: chai.

I’ve recently discovered Kashmiri chai! My goodness, what a delight. I’m hooked! Ok, back to – what was I writing? Ah yes:
Basically, you can look at the lettering as my personal engraved tea-time wishes that have meaning written between the lines:
No matter where, no matter what: may we humans learn to take moments in time, to connect and share.

Aaaaand finally, if you haven’t left me yet and are still reading, thank you so much! I truly appreciate it! As a Thank You, the first reader (with this tremendous reading endurance) to contact me at: bbluesnowflake[at]gmail[dot]com will receive a signed print (including a Kashmiri Chai sample with brewing instructions).
Please use ‘Ellis Island’ as subject of the email and include your choice of design 1, 2, 3, or 4 (according to the chronological order the designs are listed above in the post).

For all those who did not get lucky, the designs are available in my Society6 store: as artprintsΒ  and as beautiful mugs, (currently there is a 20% off and free shipping until tonight midnight PT).

Last but not least, if you have any questions or some thoughts to share, please leave a comment below, I’ll be happy to connect.

With Love
xoxo

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A Garden is a Grand Teacher – making of:

The final version of the May assignment for MATS Bootcamp using the suggested roses, a quote from Gertrud Jekyll and the given trend colours.

Journal/notebook mock up and partial design close-up.

Journal/notebook and more in this design available in my Society6 store here (lined and blank paper options)

The first design: line work scanned from inkpen on paper and edited in Photoshop

Before we were given a mood board with a suggested trend colour palette, our initial assignment was to play with and study roses in as much detail as possible (see previous post: In the Name of Roses).

For the mini assignment, the main working colour was still pink. That is why my first colour experiment was with pink.

First completed journal/notebook design.

But with the mood board, this changed drastically, as the colours were darker, bolder, and more adventurous. In the beginning, I hesitated to follow my first hunch to use the nearly black colour as background and opted first for the greyish-blue:

But the next day, upon looking at it again, I just felt that it was too flat for my taste and tried the nearly black background, which is the one I ended up posting to the online gallery, too.

But looking at all three colours, I find they all work well in their own way. I guess, colour choice can depend a lot on current colour trends and then on personal likes and dislikes.

The final design with no quote:

Notebook/journal design, no quote

I’ve noticed that colour trends can inspire me to try new colour combinations I might not have considered.

With clothes, I know the colours that suit me well. All the powdery colours make me look like an old chewing gum that was stuck under a table ages ago.

I like stronger, brighter colour on me like grass green and a juicy yellow. The non-colours black and white go well, too. Brown, depends. I’ll always run away from grey.

As far as blue is concerned, I’ve become overly saturated with it as blue has become too uniform and corporate for me. At one point, I suddenly noticed, I had mainly blue clothes and an occasional red, white or black something to combine it with. Kind of as if I’d been affiliated with Tommy Hilfiger, which I’m not. That is why I think the blue journal design just did not work for me.

Also, I do not wear flower prints. I do not decorate my place with flower prints, either. I hardly illustrate or paint flowers.

initial pencil sketch, scanned and edited in Photoshop

So, drawing roses turned out to be a challenge. I feel, for not being a very ‘flowery’ kind of person,Β  I’ve managed to find just the right amount of flowers I can handle in this design (I will put a flower in my hair if I find a nice one that fell off a tree, though. Flowers on a balcony and garden, lovely, too. A bunch of flowers for inside the home, also: fine).

wild rose sketched, scanned, photohopped

I think, if I were to design patterns with flowers, I’d go more abstract with the flower design with bolder shapes and colours and then soften it with line work as in the yogini’s hair. Then, I may even consider wearing a flower pattern.

This is what MATS Bootcamp is doing to me. I am suddenly thinking of design, patterns, textiles, fabrics and clothes. It’s been a while since I had these thoughts…

As for the next MATS Bootcamp assignment: next Monday we will get our June mini assignment. Can’t wait.


Until we meet next: have a lovely weekend!


 

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In the Name of Roses

Hi there!

How is life treating you lately? I hope all is well on your side of the world.

Today was a really dreary and cold day. The kind of day where all I’d want to do is stay in bed with a hot cuppa chai or a hot almond cinnamon chocolate drink and a good book.

But there were enough tasks to do, and so I got out of bed, took a hot shower, did my daily yoga and meditation and was off to work.

 

Appreciating the small things in life: roses. Digital sketch made with Ps and Ai.

 

One thing I got done today was to colour in my roses sketch I did on the weekend as part of the MATS Bootcamp roses study.

Roses are really tricky to draw. It’s like you see something and then when you put it down on paper, that what you had in mind looks nothing like what you executed on paper!

So, I tried again, and again, and again… until, after many failed attempts, I kind of got the hang of it. Or let’s say, I am not as intimidated by drawing them anymore.

In the following are the results of my weekend rose exercise sketches I dare to share:

Wild Roses: Pencil and black ink pen

 

Rosa Bourboniana: Pencil and black ink pen

 

And finally, the above shown digital sketch in pencil and black ink pen straight from my sketchbook. I made this one as a compilation of my rose exercise:

Appreciating the small things in life: roses!

 

I think this weekend and for the moment, wild roses turned out to be my favourite roses.

Not just because they are relatively simple to draw; because they are. But, their simple shape and pink colour tossed around haphazardly in a juicy green bush is so beautifully chaotic and charming. A bit like an abstract painting.

I guess it’s kind of in my nature as a Sagittarius to like all things wild. πŸ˜‰

The other thing I noticed is, I must have quite a vivid imagination because while sketching, drawing, inking and working digitally on all roses, I had the feeling I could actually make out the scent of the roses as if I were sniffling in a bunch of roses as depicted in the above sketch.

Now where many artists and designers participating in MATS Bootcamp mentioned having had this on their mind ‘Roses are red, violets…’, I couldn’t help having the song: ‘I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden,…’ on my mind.

After a while, it felt a bit like a broken record, I must admit, and I am glad that I was able to knock it out of my mind.

But as for roses, what more can I say than: they are simply beautiful.


May your week be beautiful!


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Advent Day 24: Prayer for Peace

For the last day of Advent a quick illustration:

A prayer for peace
A prayer for peace

 

This one was inspired by the rather contemplative and introspective mood I’ve been carrying around with me all day.

I also feel the urge to retreat, light candles (nope, I do not have a Christmas tree, because I feel sorry for the trees [no judgement – it’s just another ‘thing’ of mine πŸ˜‰ ] ), do yoga, pranayama and meditate.

I wish to express my gratitude on this day for being loved, safe, warm and sound.

So, for this evening, I’m keeping it short and wishing you all a very


MERRY CHRISTMAS!

May all beings in all the worlds be peaceful and happy.


 

 

 

Advent Day 23: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

For today’s Advent day 23: little Sugar Plum Fairy honours us with a dance.

Sugar Plum Fairy Dance
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

 

White Peacock follow-up

Because, I did not want to offer you yet another white peacock illustration, I just hinted its relevance with the Sugar Plum Fairy wearing and carrying its feathers.

I actually stopped thinking about the white peacock since my last white peacock illustration. But, today white peacock came to remind me of its relevance for 2017. And so I wanted to share a follow-up:

Nope, no peacocks walking around in the area. If I wanted to see a peacock in real life, I would have to go to the zoo. But spirit animals can appear in various ways (at least, that is what they do with me).

Today, the white peacock was the first thing I saw upon opening my Facebook account. A friend shared a post with a white peacock fanning his tail.Β  Such a beautiful sight!

Therefore, I felt further research into the meaning of this beautiful creature was necessary. White peacock had something more to say to me and I wanted to get to the bottom of it.

What it said was profound and it started with a question:

‘Who am I’

WOW! This is THE question!

Am I a daughter, auntie, lover, friend, sister, cousin, niece; a communication specialist, an IT professional, a dancer, an artist, a traveller; a coach, a friend, a teacher, a writer, a shaman, a spiritual aspirant/intuitive/healer?

I am actually all the aforementioned, I am also more than that and at the same time nothing of that! THAT is and is not at the same time. Finding THAT shall be the quest of 2017!

My head is slightly spinning now πŸ˜€

Best remedy: yoga, pranayama, meditation

Namaste

 


One more day before Christmas!


 

Advent Day 21: It’s Snowing!

Well, there is still no snow outside.

But, because today marks the Equinox and with it the first day of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere, I felt today’s Advent illustration needed to be a snow themed one.

It's Snowing
It’s Snowing!

Hope you’re enjoying the Advent season to its fullest!


Happy 1st day of Winter and 21st day of Advent!


Advent Day 20: Gingerbread Cookies

Another quick one for today’s Advent day 20: some gingerbread cookies:

Gingerbread Cookies
Gingerbread Cookies

Now this one comes without a recipe. Mainly because I’ve never made gingerbread cookies. Not that I do not like eating gingerbread (pretty much anything gingery), just never got around to baking any.

Although, each year before Christmas season I think to myself, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to bake some cookies?’

Well unfortunately this year yet again, I’ve got to put this sweet project on hold; just too much going on before Christmas.

Maybe I’ll succeed next Christmas season.


A joyful time to you!


Advent Day 19: Christmas Gift Boxes

Here a very quick illustration for today’s Advent day 19, because my day was spent wrapping Christmas gifts:

Christmas Gift Boxes
Christmas Gift Boxes

 

I really enjoy wrapping presents. A lot of love and attention to detail goes into the gifts I wrap. I’ve never managed to get a paper, add a ribbon and call it a day.

Most commonly, I use wrapping tissue in all possible colours and layer them. To me, wrapping tissue is the watercolour amongst the wrapping papers. And, I always have a stock of wrapping tissue in various colours at home.

Another type of wrapping paper I like to use is the natural brown one. There are endless possibilities with this paper.

Finally, on some occasions I will even use fabrics.

 

It just makes me happy, when those on the receiving end not only enjoy the gift but the process of seeing the gift and unwrapping it, too.

As a child, I used to make many, many Christmas presents for my parents. No matter how small the gift, each one would be wrapped separately.

Presents wrapped-up were (and still are) a delight to my eyes. So much so, that I would prolong the opening moment to such extent that my parents would get all jittery and started persuading me to start opening the gifts!

When I finally gave in to their wish, I would take it nice and slow with unwrapping. Ribbon after ribbon, sticky tape after sticky tape. I made sure no paper or ribbon was ruined. Because, you know, maybe it could be used to make something –Β  I don’t know – just something.

Still today, I am not the tear open gift ‘unwrapper’. I still enjoy looking at wrapped gifts – even if they are not meant for me.

I guess it’s just my ‘thing’.

(In case you were wondering, I’ve never ironed wrapping paper… ok, ribbons and fabrics? yes; paper? no)

 

Do you have a ‘thing’ when it comes to gift wrappings?


Happy 19th day of Advent and see you tomorrow.