Saturday, May 22, 2010

Doin' the Stamp Stomp, Part Deux

When the mare and stallion were on their own separate tiles, I toyed with the idea of perching the mare on top of a snowflake, like the Chinese Flying Horse motif. I may revisit that idea eventually.

I made it! Just under the wire!
Phew. It was a rather hairy last couple of hours yesterday to make the 48 hour deadline! Narrative motifs often take longer than the main subject, and again, the process requires a lot of experimentation and tangent directions in order to hammer out a good design.

I initially drew out the flames and blowing icy wind on a sheet of paper and inked them in. That's an old print out of the two horses, only so I could gauge placement and proportion of these flourishes.

Makin' snowflakes in Photoshop! When it comes to rubber stampin', making snowflakes is easy and fun. You just have to be aware of what will stamp well, so lots of delicate little lines are dumped in lieu of chunky shapes. I designed three types for this tile. I think it's important to design my own rather than use those offered in the program, or with free clip art.

OK, after some time of working...and reworking...and reworking...I ended up with this -- and I absolutely hated it. Feast your eyes on this bubbling spew of ineptitude:

Here is a classic example of busy-busy-busy busting the design. There are just too many ideas and too many elements all crammed together, and the horses -- the subjects that should be the focal points -- are totally lost in the hot mess of this silly thing. ARGH. Good design is simple. It should be a visual haiku. Getting the idea across with as little "stuff" as possible is the goal, not only for the design's sake, but all that busy work just won't stamp well.

So, stuck with this piece of poop, I fiddled and fiddled with it, creating untold numbers of variations trying to get it to work. Nothin' doin'. There was just too much going on, and like Mr. Fredricksen from "UP," I began jettisoning elements from the design like a woman possessed. It had to be carved down to its most basic ideas so you see the horses, not the "stuff."

So I got it as simplified as I could, but I got stuck again at those curly cues on the left side of the tile and the streaky bits of "wind." The flames also bugged me. What I wanted was the fire to blend with the icy wind, and then the icy wind to blend into the fire again. And dang it -- no matter how I worked it, it didn't. Now I can be very possessive and territorial of my design aesthetic -- that's good. It means I can defend my work because I believe in it. I believe all good work starts with a kind of fanaticism. Yet it also can be bad because it can lead to situations just like this. So it's times like this that a second pair of fresh eyes and ideas were needed. I need my Ginzu Man. "Oh Hammy?"

My husband insists that he cannot draw to save his life, but he does have a good eye for design. He's also devilishly astute at getting me to divorce my impulses from those ideas I'm too married to, and can see beyond an idea to take it into a whole direction. All of this was very much welcome when my brain was just so sick of staring at this stupid thing and coming up with nada.

His first suggestion was a light bulb moment for me: I didn't need all the fiddly bits in the middle. The horses were exchanging a gaze, so did I really want to interrupt that energy by disruptive "stuff?" Nope! Purge!

His second suggestion was: The idea is fire and ice, not fire, ice and wind. Get rid of the curly cues and streaks. Each horse should just be its "element" and nothing more. Yes! Hit the button Max!

His third suggestion built on that little flame below the stallion's left hind hoof, as though he was striking the flames with his hooves. He suggested that all the flames should follow the stallion and, likewise, the snowflakes should waft out behind the mare. This makes it look like they're dancing together in a circle, with their elements trailing behind them. HIKEBAH!

That's exactly what I was trying to get to, but I needed his katana-sharp eye to lead me out of my own dense creative jungle. It also simplified the design dramatically, and allowed the horses to shine. Plus, I've always loved the balance of opposites in life, and so I really like the yin-yang suggestion of this design, making it work on many levels. So I'm thinking I could adapt this concept to different breeds to create a whole line. And, ultimately, Hubby's help on this project was all the more fitting because it was a quip he made about fire and ice that inspired this piece. Thanks a million, Ham!:

Fire & Ice, the finished design for a 4" tile.

Each new design presents its own challenges and nothing ever gets old hat. To me, this is the appeal of creating these tiles -- the options are infinite and the road blocks are many. Also, I've found that this kind of work seeps into my full sculpture work and improves it because it forces me to consider composition, narrative and bigger ideas than simply sculpting another realistic horse. In the truest sense, I "flatten" my sculptures into a 2D silhouette, and if that would look good on a tile, from all sides, then it's a good design for sculpture.

Now to get this puppy turned into a rubber stamp. I use a local stamp maker here in town, ABC Stamp Sign & Awards because they do high quality work, they can make the stamp protrude quite a bit more than regular stamps (so I get a nice deep imprint), they can leave off the handle so I can use my tile press, and I can email them my designs and pick them up when they're ready. So in the next installment, which will be coming in a couple of weeks, I'll show you how I start stamping with this design, cleaning and glazing, so you can see this piece from start to finish!

"I think that in a lifetime there are only a few people you can work with...where you can trust each other and push each other in different directions." ~ Errollyn Wallen

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