It happens sometimes that I get interest from a potential client after they have seen a design that I have created for one business that is similar to what they want for their own business. This is a great way for me to get attention to my work, because it allows the client to visualize how their own concept might look without too much risk on their part. For me, the challenge is making sure they get something that is uniquely their own, even if one of the elements (subject, theme, etc.) are the same.
This happened with the owner of Alpharetta Flower Market, who was looking to find a vintage style sunflower logo for her business. She saw the logo I had created for the Sunflower Farm Creamery (whose owner had, in turn, been inspired be some of my other drawings). She, too, was looking for a sunflower logo, but with a rich, vintage, elegant feel to it. Photos she sent me of her lovely shop helped me to visualize what it might look like.
I started by offering her color-blocked layout suggestions so I could understand what shape she was considering, and by suggesting an elegant font that looked like it had an elegant 1920s vibe to it. I also liked how the text reminded me of the stalks of flowers done by Mucha. Once she approved a shape for the composition, I sent her a very loose pencil mock-up, as you see here.
I transferred the approved image in very light lines to my good Arches Hot Press Paper, which honestly is not terribly ideal for pencil work on its own, but gives such a smooth surface that it is good for a project like this. Shortly thereafter we also decided on the addition of a bee, which was great for me, considering I had written my master's thesis on a portrait bust bearing the Barberini bee, and had used the bee on my own wedding invitation and as a decoration on the base of my bridal bouquet.
I did a lot of hatching style shading in this to give it the look of an old print. Once the pencil work was complete, I scanned it and cleaned it up on Photoshop.
To give the drawing a more vintage vibe, I altered the pencil in Photoshop to a rich brown, and added the digital color on a layer below the pencil drawing. I added a few lilac blossoms dipping down toward "Market" to make it a little whimsical as well.
This drawing of Alice wandering into the Garden of Live Flowers was born as a sketch a month and a half ago. I planned it out and began to dream. I stopped to work on two manuscript dummies for an illustration class I was taking, and longed to go back to it, to transfer it from sketchbook paper to watercolor paper on my light board, and to add color. But it languished when I fell ill; my hands were unusable for drawing. For weeks it sat untouched in my studio, admonishing me as I tried to recover. I thought about its name: "Alice in June." It would be named for the start of summer that had just finally approached.
Miraculously, the buzzing in my right hand calmed down, leaving the sickness in my left side. But that meant that I could draw again. Finally, I transferred the sketch to the final paper. I do this to prevent eraser marks from degrading the higher quality paper. I began to color. My energy level from my illness was and is still very low. My hand felt wobbly. But I had to draw. A few days into the color work, my beloved godfather passed away at just sixty. We traveled by train to Niagara Falls to attend his funeral. On the way, I saw an entire field of tiger lilies, one of the blooms that Lewis Carroll described in his passage of "The Garden of Live Flowers." I thought of the other flowers there: the daisies and the roses, the larkspur and the violets. And I changed the title to "Alice in July," for that's when most of these flowers grow here, at least. I added a few stargazers because they are in bloom here, too, and I love them.
It's appropriate that Alice walks alone into the flowered forest. This last month has been one of fear, sickness, sadness, and death. Though the forest is full of blooms and color, there is only darkness before her.
Even as a child I knew how lucky I had been to have had an uncle like Stephen de Rosa. But more than that, he was my godfather, which meant he was even more special to me; we had a bond formed by ritual and sacrament, but strengthened by love.
Stephen de Rosa. His eyes always smiled, too.
Uncle Steve had a dramatic impact on my life as a child. He was a storyteller. He could take a tale and add some little embellishments in the Italian way and make a legend out of it. His voice was dramatic, deep, and riveting, given that he had worked as an actor on stage (The Man of La Mancha is one I recall). He taught me to tell tales. As a child, I remember trying to imitate that. When my school announced a storytelling contest, it was Uncle Steve's voice that was in my head. I won, and then lost the next round, but that didn't matter. What mattered is that he had made me try, and he didn't even know it.
Uncle Steve always had a joke at hand that he told with the same flair as his stories. They were usually short jokes, under one or two minutes. There was one series that always began with three characters: Pete, Steve and John. John was always the butt of those jokes. I still tell the jokes with those names. He slept with a book of jokes next to his bed. Some of his are still my favorites. Given his love of jokes, it's no wonder that he was also a prankster. He would prank his siblings and in-laws. He would scare us with his pranks and his Halloween masks. This weekend I found an old photo of that mask and it scared me again. That beautiful Halloween night, full of mystery and wonder, was his favorite of the year. As you know, it is also mine.
Though Steve worked as a lawyer, his inner world was far beyond the world of laws and rules and regulations. He was an avid reader, and taught me to love the great men of legend: Robin Hood and King Arthur, "noble men", as his son aptly described it to me this weekend. That was in keeping with his own noble, loving, generous, and honest character. He spent weeks in the wilderness exploring throughout Canada as an Eagle Scout. I wonder if he ever pretended to be part of a band of the Merry Men as he walked through those green forests. I never asked, but I know the answer, because I do the same thing. By inspiring me to read and to love these old legends of heroes of our world, he gave me permission to dream and to have an imagination, something that my parents also fostered. He loved seeing my drawings as a kid. I know he would be very happy now to see me work towards storytelling and illustration. It was in that imaginative realm that he worked and lived. He taught his children in the same way.
This past Monday, my beloved godfather passed away. He was still a young man. In his death, a gentle passing after a hard and debilitating illness, he taught me once again. The day that he died, I had a powerful image of Robin Hood in my head. I wondered now if he were in Sherwood Forest. This passage, from the Adventures of Robin Hood, came to mind:
'Lay me a green sod under my head,
And another at my feet;
And lay my bent bow by my side,
Which was my music sweet.
And make my grave of gravel and green,
Which is most right and meet.
Let me have length and breadth enough,
With a green sod under my head;
That they may say, when I am dead
Here lies bold Robin Hood.'
What would his Heaven be? There was no doubt in my mind that he was there. When I sat at his funeral, a complete certainty of his peace washed over me, and comforted me.
The night after his funeral, we stopped at the Wilson Pier on Lake Ontario. There I felt his presence more keenly, but also more peace. Sadness, of course, for my loss, and for the loss of my family, but not for Steve. He was comforting me. That night, as the sun dipped below the clouds, we played a last song for him: "Here Comes the Sun," by the Beatles, one of his favorite bands.
Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter /
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here /
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun /
And I say it's all right
And Uncle Steve gave us the most beautiful sunset I have seen in months, a sign that he was triumphantly at peace. Goodbye, dear Godfather. I love you. Thank you for everything.