Friday, August 27, 2010

Illustrator fears have been dashed

I was tasked with an economic project last week. Every year, a monitor is released on how the local economy is doing. Depending on the results, the paper will either centerpiece the story or play it up in some way, usually with file art or a good concept or something. Guess who got the project this year? Me!

The initial idea of this year's monitor was that the two industries of ports and tourism were really the driving force behind the economy's upturn in Savannah. There is a quote in the story about the two industries being "tentacles" that reach out and assist other industries with things such as jobs and other opportunities. So we thought that maybe we could illustrate these two tentacles reaching out for things. Several editors, the writer and myself were all gung-ho on this idea, so this is what I came up with:

The response overall was pretty "eh." It looked cartoony, I thought, and new readers of the story didn't get the whole "tentacles" feel from the story at all. So, it was back to the drawing board. The headline for the story was "Savannah economy turns corner," and the real overarching theme was the uptick of the economy in general. After some brainstorming with a few co-workers, we developed a road sign idea. You know, actually turning a corner. I had to dive into Illustrator for this project, something I tended to avoid because of general lack of knowledge. That definitely changed. Here is what we came up with, which executed with some help:

I created a traffic sign using vector graphics and and a bit of gradients. I am really proud of the result, and the overall response from editors was good, too. What do you think?

After all of that craziness, I decided I should really focus on my Illustrator skills. I shouldn't be that intimidated by a program. So, when I had some time on my hands tonight, I tried an Illustrator tutorial this time. Through this tutorial, I learned how to manipulate gradients with both the gradient tool and the layer overlay function. Here's what I made:

It might be a little early for Halloween, but I thought it was good practice!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Foster kittens, take two

I took my Midsummer Night's Dream kittens back to the Humane Society about a week ago. It was really sad for me, but I didn't keep any of them. I think one of the reasons is that after I handed them off, I agreed to take another litter. So I traded in a litter of five kittens for a litter of two. Five was a lot.

These new kittens' names are Jackie and Jamie. They have wiry hair and are part tabby. They both have blue eyes, which I think is absolutely adorable, and stripes. I tend to call Jackie Jackson when I am angry at him, and that leads me to thinking about Josh Jackson from Fringe, which makes me want to call the other kitten Olivia. Maybe one day I will actually accept the Humane Society's naming of animals.

I had to take the new kittens back to the Humane Society last week for a checkup, and I wandered into the cat room. I saw all five of my Shakespeare kittens, and they had gotten so big! It was really sad to see them again, and if any of them are there when I go back in a week or two, I might have to adopt them. I am finding myself not getting nearly as attached to the Fringe kittens as I did the other ones ...

Anyway, in case you want video evidence of new cute kittens, here you go!

And here is Maia sunbathing on my little deck. She's continuously angry at me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Journalists have a thing for drama

It's funny how the things I love about journalism are also the things that drive us crazy if they happen all in one night. I have always been intrigued by journalists' pessimism. We get excited over car wrecks, shootings, house explosions, you name it. We do this because we then get a chance to be the first people to tell you (the general public) things. It's also a race with the different media organizations to see who will have the first story about something. Last night was no exception.

I was designing 1A for the paper, and the centerpiece story was about the high number of jellyfish stings on Tybee Island. Now, if you know anything about me, you know that I have a ridiculous fear of jellyfish. I can deal, but they make me all squirmy. So I was dealing with the jellyfish when, all of a sudden, two people died in a car wreck on I-516. The three-photo, 20-inch package on the front page was bumped (Buh-bye jellyfish!), and the one-photo, 6-inch story was to replace it. This happened at 10:15 p.m. Our deadline for pages is 11:30 p.m. I had a little over an hour to re-arrange the front and its two subsequent jump pages, which both needed more stories because the text was heavily shifted.

It was an exhilarating and stressful experience at the same time. I had help from the two other people on the desk, and we ended up sending the last page at 11:31 p.m. INCREDIBLE.

The conclusion? Journalists have a thing for drama, but you already knew that about me, didn't you?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

So far from home

Marching Mizzou band camp has started in Columbia, Mo., and I am not there. It's good and bad. I don't have to re-learn (or teach) pregame and marching fundamentals in the scorching heat, but I also don't get to spend a whole week with 300 of my bestest friends -- especially my color guard girls and boys. Bittersweet doesn't even begin to describe the extreme pros and cons of this situation. Marching Band was about 70 percent my life; now it's not, and I have that much of a hole in my heart where it used to be. I realize that life goes on, but this is my first year away (far, far away) so give me a little break.

So I am trying to move on and be a grown up. I am doing pretty well: making money, paying my bills, making new friends and contributing to society. But just when I think that I might survive this growing up thing, something pulls me back down.

My friends have been getting engaged left and right, and that has been freaking awesome, but I found out today that one of my exes is doing the same thing -- with the very reason we broke up to begin with. A friend of mine put it plainly and truthfully: "For some reason you can never forget the assholes in life." She's right. I can never forget him or how he shaped who I am. I can also never forget his promises to me before he cheated. I should be happy for him and his 4-year-old, but I just feel sick. My only respite is that I am so far from home that I don't have to deal with any of this in person.

I guess this post is more on the "life" part of my life than the "design" part, but it is what I have been thinking about. I can't just ignore it.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Photoshop tutorial: The scream

I was inspried by a coworker to practice my Photoshop skills during downtime at work. I consider it honing my skills while waiting for pages to proof. So last night, I looked up Photoshop tutorials and took a crack at one involving smoke and a human protrait.

Instead of going with a woman's face for the image, I decided to replicate something I had seen on Fringe, one of TV's coolest sci-fi shows on right now. The show has certain recurring symbols, and the scream above is one of them. Changing up the steps a bit in the tutorial, I found a man's angry profile on Google images to work from.

From there, I cut out the guy's background and stylized the image so that I was just using the edges of this face as a guide. You can find the full instructions here. I used Photoshop smoke brushes provided by the same webiste, and I manipulated them into the outline of the man's face. After adding a couple filters (clouds, blurs), I overlaid an angry-looking gradiant that reminds me of the colors of fire. The colors are colder when the fire is the hottest. Here is my final project. What do you think? Kind of scary right?

It also kind of reminds me of when Voldemort leaves Professor Quirrel's body in the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone movie... Yep, I went there.

You can't miss: Double-meaning logos

You thought I was done with those blog posts didn't you? Well, I am, but I found this entry on, and I thought I would share it with y'all. I like these because they make you think a little. There is more to each logo than meets the eye at first glance.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Are you scared of losing the music?

One of my best friends sold her violin today. She had played it for nearly six years, but hadn't touched it in a really long time. The last time she did touch it, she said she sounded horrible. I just played my viola for a bit, and I missed a couple notes, too. I could still read the music, though, and I still had enough vibrato in my notes to make pretty sounds. I didn't want to play too much because #1 it's almost 10pm on a Wednesday in an apartment complex, and #2 the wine could be altering my judgement of what sounds good.

It scares me though. It makes me wonder if, in a few years, I might lose the music too. For the past four years, I had Marching Mizzou to keep me into the musical swing of things. I was still reading music for guard routines, and I could still keep a pretty good beat. Without that, will my sense of music be lost? I haven't actually played in any ensemble in more than four years. I just don't want to lose the music.

I have looked for musical opportunities in Savannah but haven't come across any in my skill level. I am not fantastic at the viola, but I would like to get better or at least not get worse.

Any suggestions?

An update on the kittens

Everyday they get more attached to me (and vice versa). This is what they were up to today.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sometimes, DCI needs a color coach

This past weekend, I went to Drum Corps International's Southeastern Championship in Atlanta. Basically, I saw 25 "professional" marching bands for $0 thanks to a friend that is interning with DCI this summer. Because I didn't know anyone in Atlanta that was there or that wanted to go to this show, I had to make friends with other people. I ended up sitting with a recent high school grad from Oxford, Ala., who was attending his first DCI event and was also by himself because he bought different tickets from his friends. I made due with what I had.

Anyway, that is not the subject of this post. I want to talk about corps' color scheming for their shows. There has to be a lot of thought that goes into some of the uniforms the players wear on the field, and there is a huge difference between what the band wears and what the color guard wears. Some corps, such as the Phantom Regiment, are very traditional in their dress. The corps will wear an all-white uniform every year. Others, such as the Madison Scouts, will maintain a color scheme, but change up the uniforms from year to year.

However, the thing I take issue with is the coordination between the band and the color guard. In corps, the guard's dress usually reflects the theme of the show. For example, the Scout's show this year kind of has a 1920's industrial theme (photo courtesy of They play "Rhapsody in Blue," which is one of my absolute favorites (the link is to a video of Fantasia 2000's interpretation). But I digress. The color guard's uniforms, above, reflect the show's theme, and by using the neutral colors, they don't necessarily clash with the rest of the band, left.

Corps have even begun to use their uniforms in different non-traditional ways. In the Blue Coats' 2009 show, the whole band, which started in a traditional marching uniform, ended up stripping down to match the color guard, as shown below and courtesy of smata2 from Flickr.

A show I saw this year from The Cadets was unique in this way, too. Their show "Toy Souldier" involved a "little" boy and his "toy soldier" army. He was directing them, and all the toys were dressed alike. In this instance, the guard matched the band exactly for a while, which also made sense for the show.

Carolina Crown, even though I don't really like their uniforms, have been color coordinating brilliantly the past several years. The band wears an off-white uniform, but its plumes (the feathery things on top of their head, for those non-nerdy types) and other decorations will reflect the show's theme and color guard's uniform.

It is the corps that clash, that really need a makeover. The ones with the red and white uniforms for the band, and pink and purple ones for the color guard, such as the Boston Crusaders this year. Their show, "Thy Kingdom Come" celebrates the Crusaders' 75th year marching. I can understand wanting to incorporate the regal colors of red and purple, but in my opinion, they should not be used together.

It is an interesting dilemma. Should a corps maintain its traditional dress even if the show they are doing one year completely clashes with the uniforms? How do you remedy a complete color clusterf*** on the field? I think more though should probably go into these decisions, but that's just me.