Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Better Habits

l think one of the problems l run into currently is the lack of art that l experience. Not just visual art, but all art in general- architecture, painting, sculpture, installation, and all sorts of others. l'm not getting as much culture as l would like to.
Largely the reason for this is my Internet addiction. Since l was much younger, I've somehow managed to whittle away most of my free time every day on the Internet. I'm not even sure what it is that l do there. Certainly nothing constructive- mostly l spend a lot of time in chat rooms, and lM'ing friends. Over the years I've lost so much time that l could have been experiencing culture on the Internet. lt's still a bit of a crutch, but one I'm looking to shake off more and more.
Firstly, I'm trying to at least make my Internet time constructive, and beneficial to myself artistically. I've found a nice design blog, and a good fashion blog, which I'm starting to follow. I'm also trying to find blogs from the artists who inspire me. lf anyone knows of any good blogs along those lines, please- don't hesitate to send me the link!
The reason l'd want to explore design and artists blogs is pretty obvious, since they apply directly to my desired field. You might be wondering though, why a fashion blog? There's two basic reasons for this. The first, and foremost, is that recently I've been revisiting my love of fashion illustration- and it's tricky to do that without actually following what's happening in fashion now. I've always loved the mastery of fabric that the worlds top designers have, so following all the goings on is very pleasant. Some of the designs are so wild.
The second reason has more to do with advice I've received over the years about experiencing culture. Art teachers have always preached that one can hardly expect to create original material without experiencing the evolving world around us. I've often heard the example of an artist who refused to look at any art of any kind in order to stay 'pure'. That simply makes no sense to me, as it didn't to the teacher who presented the example. ln order to see what's in going on now, and to predict what will be in demand next, one has to have their eyes open to everything- every facet of culture. The more culture you're taking in, the more creative you can be. This applied to everything, not just illustration. By doing this you'll have fresher ideas. When I'm in an art block I'm always told to go out, go to a library, a gallery. I've never kicked an art block by just sitting around at home.
Following these blogs is a small step towards immersing myself in culture, even though it still involves me being at home, on the internet.
I've been going to art shows up at The Magic Pony, when there's something new on. They have great books, too. l try to experience the major events the city has to offer. Nuit Blanche was amazing, and filled me with many ideas. These are the things l do to get myself out of the house, and experiencing culture, though l think l should do more still.
Recently I've been looking for more work. Student loan payments lurk over the horizon, so it seemed wise.
I've been extremely lucky to find a job that not only pays well, but that l expect will help me in regards to experiencing the culture of the city. I'm going to be working at the Art Gallery of Ontario. While l won't be on any of the gallery floors themselves (one again l have landed myself a lovely lilttle cafe job), l think l'll be having a lot of opportunity to look around. I'm especially interested in getting up to the contemporary collections to look around them. Being surrounded by so much art, of so many different varieties is sure to fill me with all sorts of ideas.
More than the direct rapport l'll have with art there, l'll be learning a lot from the people. During the training sessions l went through this weekend, l met so many people. l was training with the volunteers, since the weekend was the only time l could make the orientations. Mostly we covered branding, and the AGO's new identity. Most of the people there were much older than me, but they were all very friendly and inclusive.
l've really been enjoying the knowledge and variety of informed opinions these people have. Just listening to the conversations that they would get into was educational for me. l met one woman who has an employee at her paying work who is in an art co-op, and she's going to talk to her about having me involved. l think working at the AGO will be really beneficial from a connections point of view.
Having been at the orientatons with droves of volunteers, l noticed something interesting. l, a staff member, was always focusing on what the AGO and the people there could do for me. The volunteers are all talking about what they'll bring to the AGO, what they'll learn. They talked much more about the infrastructure than about the benefits.
Just a little observation.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


There's a mix of feedback we get at school about style.
All of us illustration students know we need to have a style. We're told as much. Most of us want one right now! Many of us just don't have a style that's really solid.
I've gotten mixed reviews from teachers about this. Some of my university professors have said that we should try to have a style by the time we're out of school. Some of them say that we shouldn't worry about it- style will come in time. I've heard that sentiment more often from teachers who l hold deep respect for, especially since they tend to emphasize this with stories of their own trials towards a style that suited them.
A week ago we had a guest lecture by Anita Kunz, and l was really thrilled to hear her talking about how she was in the same position. Coming out of school she got a lot of work doing very fluffy, fuzzy illustrations of animals, flowers, and suchlike- children's book sort of art. Now she's a prize-winning illustrator for her editorial, politically driven works. l found the drastic shift in the old work she showed in the lecture, and the work she's adopted as hers since then to be fascinating, and reassuring.
So many of us at school are worried about our styles.
Yet, even those of my peers l can think of who have solid styles (Ginette Lapalme, and Christopher Kuzma, to name a few) might find that the direction they're taking now is not where they'll want to be in ten years. Most of us don't know what we want for breakfast tomorrow, let alone where we want our art to be in a decade. l certainly don't (but I'm thinking oatmeal).
Recently l asked a couple of teachers for their opinions on my website- my online portfolio. I've had some really nice feedback about the layout, and some of the graphics. I'll likely be doing a lot of remodeling soon thanks to what I've gleaned, especially in order to be more considerate of smaller screen sizes (verwho.com was designed for a 15" screen).
One of the more interesting pearls of wisdom l received from Kathryn Adams, who is my business teacher and a huge influence on how I'm organizing myself these days, was about the content of my website- digital portfolio. She raised a very good point l hadn't considered. There are quite a few pieces l have up that have a lot of personal and mature content in them- nudity, especially, was a highlight. I'm wondering if that extends to metaphorical work, and also work with curse words in it? That would be three pieces out of a small portfolio already. I'm inclined to agree with Kathryn, though- what would potential clients think? ls that a style l want to brand myself with and possibly spear myself on?
My issue now is one of bulk. These images I've selected for my portfolio are those works that I'm happiest with, that are also of a very cohesive style. There's that word again! l feel that looking at them you can tell they were made by the same artist. Should l remove these few pieces, l need to find work to replace them with, and l simply haven't got anything l feel is good enough. Should l put up some of my art that is good, but maybe not as good as l feel that other work is? Maybe l should take a weekend and work on some portfolio pieces. l too am of the school of wanting things now, but l know that isn't always how things work out.
l don't think the content of what l do is going to change so much. What l draw that l now feel might be too 'racy' to put up on my website will go here. l think my sketchblog should be a place where I'm much more honest with what l draw- from the racy and highbrow to the cartoony comics and character work.
The pictures I'm planning to move from my website will eventually resurface here, at any rate.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sketch Day #1

l have a few things l want to talk about, but I'm trying to spread my posts out, and this one is most certainly reserved to post some images from my sketchbook in.
Just so you know what to look out for, though: l have a new job, am working on a massive body suit for hallowe'en, have been making templates for contracts, quotes and invoices, and have generally been keeping busy. l'd like to talk a bit about some of my school plans soon, too.

Here's some sketches from September-October:
Snake Armer
Warming up a sketchbook is always hard for me. I'm not a doodler. I'm pleased with my style, but when l go to draw l almost always have a purpose. Just letting my hands idly drift across the page is so hard. This was my warm-up. lt's a bit awkward. l like a few of the effects. lt encouraged me to invest in some more doodling pens.

Bird Brained
Another warm up. This one really makes me happy. I've gotten much better at drawing birds and animals the last year. Drawing skinny, sad-looking nudes is always a fun time.

Doodled during a lecture. l can't remember what inspired this. l think we were analyzing symbols used in advertising, and had been talking about a series of hair care ads. I've always liked the strength in Lady Godiva's story. Not too happy with the lettering.

Sore Neck
l'm not even sure what to say about this. Playing with a look much creepier than my usual. Snakes are also something l can never get enough of drawing!

Wino Daydream
My favourite beverage. Lots of fun with texture.

Hollow Baby
Another attempt at a spookier effect. This comes from hanging out with my mate Trevor Henderson (I'll get a link up to his website when he's got it going), who does a lot of monstrous and macabre work.

Hustle that Bustle
l used to be VERY into fashion illustration. l have pages filled with skinny-legged women wearing strange dresses of a Vivienne Westwood look. All my own designs, though l'm a mediocre seamstress at best. l recently got my hands on an extraordinary fashion illustration book. This and the next picture are the results.

l am beyond happy with her hair. The veil was a mistake, however.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Party- alas

My friends and l had had this scheme to go to the American illustration party in New York City, which is on November the 13th.

l'd started planning this at the middle of September, after l had dropped thesis. Going to this party was the first spark in my inspiration to create my website and launch my career. lt would be a great way to start, l thought.
l talked to my friends about this, and four of them were also interested (though maybe with a bit of cajoling). The plan had been to rent a car between the five of us to drive to New York in, then get a cheap hotel room on the subway line, since our driver wasn't comfortable driving in the city itself. lt would have been a blast, and also cheap at under 300$ a person, counting lodgings, travel, entry fee, and food for the trip.
We are a group of students though, with different things going on in our lives. The one of us with a license, who was going to drive us down, is saving up for a trip to Dubai, and couldn't go in the end. This left us without a driver and with higher costs to make it down, since bus and train are very expensive. l had more gusto for the adventure than the rest of my friends from the beginning. l think it's wonderful that my friends would go with me to the party when they weren't feeling it like l was in the first place. They would also have all been taking time away from working on their thesis's in order to come down.
Another of the group has tight money, and l have also suddenly developed a money problem. l hadn't realized that taking university part time means l have to start repaying my loans in November. So in the end, we've decided not to go, since it just wouldn't be worth it monetarily- this time.

And so, regrettably, l won't be going to the Al party this year. lt would have been a great opportunity to meet professionals and share stories, business tips, and most importantly to make good contacts. l think l would have learned a lot. lt's not for this year, though.
l plan to be there next year with bells on, come hell or high water.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Setting up the blog.

l have never run a blog before.

That said, let's get the basics out of the way.

lf you run a spellcheck on this page, you will find that all the capital i's are in fact lower case l's. That is because the i key on my keyboard is broken. l copy and paste lowercase i's, and substitute lowercase l's for capital i's. l am saving to have the keyboard fixed, because my typing habits have gotten quite strange because of this.

This is an art blog- or it will be. My name is Katherine Verhoeven. l'm a student at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Ontario, and l'm in year 3.5.
3.5 instead of 4...l was registered for my thesis class at the beginning of this year, with plans to graduate in May. l attended class with Gary Taxali as my instructor. ln the first week everyone's proposals were rejected, but most regrettably l did not rise to the occasion. l panicked, scrambled, and ended up dropping the course. lt was extraordinarily upsetting at the time, but now l think my dropping the course may have been a stroke of good luck. l've certainly learned from the experience.

Suddenly l have plenty of free time. Also, because of being a part-time student now, l have plenty of bills coming in- rent, OSAP, Internet, phone. The usual.
l've decided to meet the challenge head-on this time. l've decided to take the time l've developed from dropping my thesis courses to start up my business. l've launched my website, my portfolio. l have plans for getting my name out. l've already started applying myself. l'm using this time to plan and work twice as hard for next year when l will take thesis again- and this time stay in it no matter what.
Funny what good can come of bad, and what motivation a failure can grow.

ln my first year of university, Gary Baseman gave a lecture which l attended. l remember one of the more interesting things he said was how he never went to college or university for his art. Yet, he's succeeded exceedingly well. When l failed my thesis class it felt like the end of the world...but in the end, what's graduating one year late, when someone can succeed without graduating at all? l'm not going to let it affect me at all, or get me down.

l want to use this space to document what l'm doing to get to where l want to be. l want to post about getting myself organized.- setting up my records, arranging my workspace and my time. l want to talk about what it's like trying to be an illustrator working two jobs and going to school part time. This is the diary of an upstarting illustrator. l will post sketches, ideas, musings on art, style and money, and all other things of interest.