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Look Harder

Austria National Day

The "anatomy" of a recent doodle for Austria. Experimented with ink and colored penciled cutouts, which I then pieced together in Photoshop. Slowly finding my way to a happy medium where I can mix cutout shapes, drawings, and painted elements, reserving Photoshop as a final-stage editing tool. 

The doodle itself is based on the lyrics of the Austrian national anthem:

Land of Mountains, Land by the Stream, Land of fields, land of cathedrals, Land of hammers, with a promising future, Home to great daughters and sons, A nation highly blessed with beauty, Much-praised Austria!

About the only things missing are hammers and the future!


Inktober Thoughts

Some more ink stuff for Inktober with some light experimentation. In general, I feel myself drifting more and more toward abstraction. But not really abstraction. Maybe not cartoonism either. It's more than just drawing wonky perspective and anatomy. I haven't quite figured out how to verbalize it, but maybe these recent sketches adequately summarize where I'm going. I am also enjoying how the "Inktober" theme limits me to one medium of picture-making so I can focus on these bigger questions I've been kicking around lately.

EDIT: Ben Shahn actually lays it out fairly clearly what Realism is to him in this extremely well-written and thoughtful piece. I fullheartedly embrace his philosophy and am actually kinda embarrassed to have gotten more into his work only a month ago. 

I suspect this kind of thinking-out-loud exceeds the wordage limit for Inktober. Maybe should have saved it for NoveLmber?


A Light in Brace

A beautifully filmed short video by my brother, Dave, who drove me around for an afternoon of painting during my recovery. Despite how uncomfortable the neck brace was, watching this makes me feel very nostalgic.


That Inking Feeling


These are actually from the past few weeks, but conveniently enough, October is also known as Inkotober. Ideally, one should be doing some kind of sketch every day of the year, but I think the point of Inktober is to then share your sketches on the social network(s) of your choice, and to make sure they are made of ink. 

I tend to post round-ups of sketches and whatnots on this blog, but if you want to see what I'm up to on a more frequent basis, here are some Ink Links (ooh, I like what I made up, there): Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr


A Love Note from one Valley to another

Earlier this evening, my doodle for Yosemite went up. It is set to run through October 1st to celebrate the 123rd anniversary of the opening of Yosemite as a National Park.

Creating a doodle for Yosemite has been a longstanding item on the “Dream Doodle” checklist. Perhaps as long as the three-plus years I've been at Google… actually wait. Longer! When I was first approached by Google four years ago to become a full-time “doodler” they asked me to do an art test. Part of the test was to draw a famous landmark. Without hesitating, I chose Yosemite:

Yes…. that test piece is pret-ty rough to look at (they graciously asked me to draw a second landmark. I went with Santorini). But I think it’s good to show this sketch now because the rest of what I’m about to write here may also be a little freeform and messy. So please bear with me.

I guess my point is – Yosemite and I have always been close. Of course, I may be one out of four million annual visitors, but it's that easy for a place like Yosemite to give you that unique, once-in-a-lifetime sensation and you can't help but develop a bond with the place. Memories include family camping trips as a youngster, early rockclimbing days on Glacier Apron and the Five Open Books, and swinging 200 feet above the treetops on a rope swing anchored to El Capitan. Just last year, I attended my best friend’s wedding in the chapel right in the heart of the Valley... I guess you can say a lot of my Yosemite memories revolve around knot-tying. So when my boss asked me to draw a doodle for Yosemite with only a couple weeks to spare – not to mention I had just returned from two months of down-time due to a debilitating injury – I thought….


...Well, I’ll be honest, I thought it might not be a good idea! The recent fires in and around Yosemite have managed to destroy hundreds of square miles (though mostly contained, it continues to burn as of this writing). If doodles are all about bringing surprise, joy, and delight to our users, wouldn't it be better to wait for a less bummer of a period? As I’m seeing the doodle go live on U.S. homepages this evening, I’m also seeing Yosemite is once again in the news, as part of a potential mass closure of national parks threatened by a federal government shutdown.

So why do I think we should run with this doodle after all? Well, part of it is in the messaging behind the visuals.

I chose to go with embroidered patches similar to what you might see a park ranger or a backpacker wearing. I wanted a variety of patches that, when combined, created a sense of history, symbolic of the kinds of people that have made Yosemite – or national parks, or even state parks – a greater part of their lives. In return, they are the stewards of some of our greatest natural treasures. People like the National Park Service, park rangers, Search and Rescue medics, firefighters, and volunteers. Personal heroes like rockclimbing legend Lynn Hill (that climbing patch is her negotiating the great roof on The Nose!), or the aspirational hiker who decides to walk some or all 211 miles of the John Muir Trail. The patches include the next generation of stewards, little "Junior Rangers" or the Youth in Yosemite. 

Of course, ultimately it does come down to being a somewhat personal piece. You see, this doodle is also a kind of "love note" to the park rangers who came to my rescue after I broke my neck on a mountain biking crash in Lake Tahoe over the summer (that debilitating injury I mentioned earlier). They huffed it for four miles on foot, carrying 35 pounds of emergency equipment until they found me at the bottom of the hill. Then they sat with me for three hours, taking turns letting me lean against them for support, and shielded me from the harsh sun and relentless insects, and kept me alert in conversation until more help and a helicopter arrived. They even called me a few days later to see if I was okay.

Part of me knows this is just part of the job. But the other part of me knows that being surrounded by nature in all its beauty tends to bring out the best in people, allowing us to overcome difficult challenges, natural or manmade. For that reason alone, I hope you’ll agree this doodle has a place on the homepage today.