Lilla Roger's June Bootcamp brief: Nautical Wall Art Part 1

The day before releasing the mini assignment Lilla warned us it was going to be a fun one: nautical! Whales, ships in bottles, and all kinds of sea life. Everyone was pretty excited. So many interesting things to draw that goes with ships: sailors, anchors, lighthouses, mermaids, etc. There's something about the ocean with its mysterious underwater life that immediately triggers the imagination. And even without having to imagine fictional characters, the sea is filled with weirdly shaped creatures for an abundant source of drawing material.

Since I was busy working on a submission for Land's Gallery group show the week of the mini, I only started looking at references in the second week, after we received the month's brief, which was to do a nautical piece of wall art.

Besides going over to Pinterest and putting together an inspiration board, I flipped through one of the Dover books I ordered while taking MATS A , 1300 Real and Fanciful Animals, which has a great collection of sea creatures to get ideas from. Somewhere in there was a funny drawing of a mermaid and merman that I turned into one possible concept for the brief.

In another concept I thought it would be fun to play with stripes and make a graphical piece with a ship. Or like in my first concept, maybe find another play on words like "seafood bar" and make an underwater bar with sea creatures as customers. Who says bar says music and by now you know I love to give my characters instruments so it wasn't long that the idea pop in my head to make a nautical underwater band. 

In the interest of time I thought I might combine my monotype prints class with the brief and make a print for one of my concepts. For that I figured the mermaid couple would be the best, so I could cut stencils more complex than the ship but not so intricate like the band.

Below you can see my printing setup with the stencils and a few of the prints that came out experimenting with colors and different layering orders. At the same time here are a couple pictures of my studio, as this month Lilla suggested we shared the spaces where we work with the group. 

The brief asked for square dimensions but without specifying a size. I spent time researching standard sizes and looking at various sites to find the most popular. On society6 they have canvases at 13", 18" and 24". I thought I could go for 18" if I made a 9" square monoprint scanned at double resolution.

I had hopes in the random process and results of this printing method, and if it worked well the idea was to scan it and layer drawing elements on top. I even scanned intermediate states so I could play around in photoshop. But maybe my gel plate has too many surface defects or something. When zooming in on the high res scans the texture wasn't going to make a beautiful background for a piece of wall art, especially at a large size. To make a large piece with this concept it needs a lot more details, great textures or really interesting bold shapes and composition.

I'm glad I experimented with this but sometimes it's best to drop an idea and pursue another that will give better results. When I shared my concept sketches in the facebook group a couple people said they would love to see my underwater band, and going by the number of likes on instagram it was the most popular concept there too. So why not give the people what they want, haha. I'll just save the mermaid couple drawing for later!  My little ocean musicians I think provide plenty of opportunities for a detailed 24" square canvas if I throw in extra elements. Stay tune for part 2 of my June nautical art adventures in the next post!