Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A toast to Google image search!

I'm a bit obsessed with Google image search. It all started about a year ago when I received an email from a graphic designer in NYC. He had a client—a very small Napa Valley winery called Gofessel Vineyards—that was looking for an illustration of a magnolia to use on a wine label. They'd done an online image search, found my magnolia drawing, and wanted to know if I'd be interested in licensing it. I was thrilled, of course! We worked out the details, and I emailed the file off to him. I was beginning to appreciate the benefits of online image searching.

Months later, I realized that I hadn't heard anything further. I checked in with the designer and learned that the wine was actually bottled, labelled and available for sale. It was great fun to order a case of these babies for Christmas gifts.

Well, my love affair with Google image search continued when I read that it's a great way to check and see if anyone has used one of your images without permission. Really?! You just go to the Google search site, click on "images" and there's a little camera icon that appears in the search box. Clicking on it allows you to upload any of your images, and then it'll find matches on the internet. I tried my magnolia drawing as a test case, and lo and behold, it immediately found my blog and the aforementioned winery website!

But the really fun part—if you're as easily amused as I am—is that it will show you  images that it considers "visually similar" to yours. For instance, here's what popped up when I entered my red onion drawing (seen below as the first image):

or how about when I entered my purple beans?:

Isn't that a hoot?

But all silliness aside, Google does seem to provide an amazingly in-depth image search. I did find that a small non-profit used my drawing of a Starbucks cup on a one-time online invitation to a coffee hour meeting. Of course, I'd never care about something like that, but if your images are being used commercially and/or extensively in ways for which you should be compensated, shouldn't you know about it?

So if you have some time, do a little sleuthing via Google images...but I warn you, it's addicting!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Illustration Friday: Shades

Prismacolor colored pencil on pastel paper, 5" x 7"

Charlotte and May love how the mandarin orange tree shades them 

on a sunny afternoon.

This drawing could use a little tweaking, but since I'm working the rest of the week, I wanted to get it posted. I almost always work from actual objects, but since chickens don't sit still for very long, I worked from some photographs this time. May (the golden one) is actually the bigger of the two girls, but she was letting Charlotte upstage her when I was taking pictures.

Speaking of shades and chickens, I was watching one of my guilty-pleasure shows, "Storage Wars", this weekend, and learned that chicken sunglasses actually exist! So, I went online to try and find some photos to share with you, and found a great blog with a wonderful post about that very episode. The photos are hysterical.

Owning chickens provides a pretty constant source of entertainment. The other day, I heard them chattering loudly in their "upset" voices. My husband went out to check on them, and saw nothing unusual. He decided to check their nesting box for eggs while he was outside, and when he opened the little door, the neighbor's cat was sitting on the eggs!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Illustration Friday: Yield

Last summer, we enjoyed a bountiful yield from our vegetable garden.

I fell in love with these beautiful "Royal Burgundy" beans, a variety from Botanical Interests—I adore the artwork on their seed packets! The deep purple beans turn back to green when they're cooked, but they're gorgeous raw, and so much easier to see on the bushes than green ones. (I posted this when I drew it in July, but since it wasn't for Illustration Friday, I thought I'd share it again.)

I actually started out with another drawing for this topic (some lovely oranges from a friend's tree), but am not thrilled with the result:

I used a textured, toned paper, which is usually a fun change for me, but I soon realized that the grey-green paper wasn't a great choice for rendering oranges. You can't layer colored pencil very heavily on this type of paper, so you have to achieve the colors you want with one or two passes instead of the many that I sometimes use.  I think that they turned out looking more like peaches than oranges! I did play around a bit with the background, which I tend to leave untouched—something that's good for me to explore, I think. The textured paper does help to create an interesting backdrop. Who knows, maybe I'll try the oranges again on my good ol' white Strathmore Bristol.

Meanwhile, here in Northern California, it's about time to plant seeds for this summer's garden...I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Birthday Bouquet

Prismacolor colored pencils on Strathmore Bristol, vellum finish

Back on Washington's birthday, I mentioned a birthday-related piece I've been working on. So, here you go: this is a drawing that I did for my sister's birthday. I took the birth flower for the month of her birthday, and combined it with the birth flower for the month of her daughter's birthday, for a little "family bouquet". And since her three cats are an important part of her family, I tucked in three sprigs of catmint in for good measure, and tied it all up with a ribbon bearing their last name.

I love the symbolism of flowers. Besides birth month flowers, there's a whole tradition of floral meanings. Floriography, or communicating through the coded language of flowers, was especially popular in the Victorian era—I find it fascinating. I recently read a really wonderful novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh called The Language of Flowers. It's a contemporary story, but a lot of the plot revolves around flowers and their traditional symbolism. (It's also set in the San Francisco Bay area, where I live, which made it doubly interesting to me.)

I'm planning on doing one of these bouquets for my own immediate family; it's a concept that I think would work well as a customized gift for weddings and births as well, don't you think?