Thursday, September 29, 2011

IP Weekly Progress -- #3

What I did:

Monday: (4 hours) Sketched imaginary flora to help figure out possible foliage for my final layout for my final project. Also went out and gathered materials to start the paper pulp making process: recycled paper, a bucket, a cheap blender, dryer lint, and a measuring cup.
Tuesday: (3 hours) Researched paper artists Allen Eckman, Kevin Dyer, Dana Major Kanovitz, Peter Callesen, Debbie Wijskamp and took notes on their paper pulp processes. Looked at various paper recipes online. Also wrote a list of questions about the possibilities of using paper pulp (More on this below).
Wednesday: (3 hours) Went to the Museum of Natural History and drew in the back room of the Bird Range.
Thursday: (2 hours) Started the paper making process. Tested different samples of consistency and made the first batch. Filled one of my older mold with the first batch and will let dry for one day.

I used my time, but I don't think I used it wisely at all. I didn't feel quite as productive as I originally hoped to be. I wish I started making the paper pulp earlier this week and focusing on the actual sketch of the paper installation. Next week I think I might be on better track because I've finally reached the point where my IP project is physical and beginning it's life. I started learning the material so the next step is to continue this, but simultaneously working on my sketches of what I will be making out of the paper pulp.

What I accomplished/discovered/encountered:
As a brief side note to my sketching ability: I've found that sketching while listening to lectures, friends, radio has been incredibly helpful to my thought process this week. I watched a TED video online by Sunni Brown on doodling ( and how it improves your comprehension and and creative thought. After watching it, I doodled while listening to a book on tape and found some truth to this video. It was a fantastic discovery for me to find. Rather than sitting down and sketching myself -- listening to someone helped me retain information and translate it into diverse and thoughtful plant sketches this week.

I took the time to head to the museum sketching birds. Did some drawing studies on a few species I found unique: Kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus), Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil), Kakapo (Strigops habroptila), and a Motmot (Eumomota superciliosa).

Other things I've been up to is working on creating my own paper pulp recipe. I found my old mold of a bust I made a year ago and decided to use that as a test dummy for my pulp. It's my most detailed mold -- so if I wanted to find the right pulp recipe it would be successful with this mold. I went through several iterations of pulp where I had to mince it into a liquid, scoop it out, and squeeze the water out in order for it to properly attach to the mold though until it completely dries I'm not sure. I've let it dry for 8 hours, but still too wet. I'll take it out this weekend.

Some questions I have now that I started making the pulp is:

What kind of binder/bonding agent should I use with the paper pulp? Glue, wax, bleach ... ? (Juliet made an excellent point of watching out of mold if it's just paper and water)
How thick should the paper be when applying it to the mold?
Could I make a sheet of paper from pulp, soak it once it adhered together, and then break it down into the mold?
Should I leave the paper a specific color? White or grey (From the newsprint) or try and dye it?
Should I paint on the paper once I finished the sculpture? What kind of paint would look the best?

These are questions I hope I can start to answer in the next few weeks ...

What I think I should do next:
Continue working with the paper pulp material to see if I can actually go forward with it. I started the process this week, but the recipe might need more work. I'm taking a class at Hollandar's next Saturday on paper making so I hope to learn something new. I plan to keep drawing around campus -- specifically at the Museum of Natural Science and hopefully the Botanical Gardens soon. I'm gaining a hands-on experience with some animals rather than just look at them online. Allen Eckman has a tutorial online that I will try to follow in terms of creating the paper material and Kevin Dyer as a technique for painting on paper pulp, so I may try and experiment with the idea of adding color.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

IP Weekly Progress -- #2

What I did:

Sunday -- Came into the studio for 2 hours to brainstorm ideas and look for inspiration photos of animals

Monday -- 2 hours dedicated to scanning and composing concept ideas.

Tuesday- Spent an extra 30 minutes at the Fine Art library picking out some books: Tibetan Art, Northwestern Indians Symbolism, and South Korean art. Spent another 30 minutes in the studio to review through my library books as well as some digital books I found: Animal Sketching by Alexander Calder and Animal Sculpture by William Winans. Afterwards, went to the Museum of Natural History to sketch animals for about 1 ½ hours.

Thursday – 2 1/2 hours dedicated to reflecting on my recent work and considering new techniques after speaking to Hannah. Researched the process of papermaking for paper pulp sculptures and possible recipes of combining cotton + paper pulp. I looked through my books some more during this time as well.

What I accomplished/discovered/encountered:

After speaking to Hannah today, I think I really want to go large. Whether it’s 2D or 3D, big is the answer for me. There is something to making larger pieces that will probably be much more rewarding in the long run and this would be the time to do it. The context of my sculptures are still a little vague, but I believe that adding an educational aspect is the missing link that I’ve been looking for all along. Perhaps I’ll consider making a huge pop up book suggested by my partner Chelsea or make large installations of unique/unknown/extinct animals to show actual scale of them compared to the human body. I am going to try developing my idea of human and animal relationships and re-establish a lost connection and bring back a childish sense of wonder.

What also sparked my idea was today’s Penny Stamps lecture with Francois Delaroziere. His work is influenced by nature and life. His mechanical animals all have attributes that make them distinct and recognize it’s audience. The spider, which I first thought of as creepy was actually a creature with a nurturing personality. It’s legs caressed the crowd and acknowledged the waves of people surrounding it – it was a touching scene when Francois showed a film of the spider extending it’s legs into the crowd to touch and that is probably one of the moments that drew me in the most.

What I think I should do next:

I definitely need to try an experiment with paper pulp and see how successful/frustrating the process might be. I have some plaster and rubber molds that I can test once I seek advice from some experienced paper makers and find a good recipe. I need to also start selecting a group of animals I find enticing and study them. I’d like to do a few pieces with at least 5 animals, made of my own design or real.

Make Something Update -- Last Thursday

This is a Siphonophore study I drew and speed painted (20 minutes of painting)-- I did a few illustrations of the animal on the side and then composed a brand new creature inspired by my sketches. The Rhizophysa is a real animal that lurks within the dark depths of the deep sea. This specific species lurks around the Philippines a few meters down, but they are terrifying because of how long their "fishing line" tendrils stretch to capture prey. The reference photo (Philippines Marine Photography, is an actual image of the animal in it's natural habitat. In some ways the delicate nature and shape of the animal in the photograph reminded me of a woman. There is a bulbous shape at the top, which could be a head on top of the creature's shoulders with multiple arms reaching out to snare prey. The first picture to the left is a character sheet of my creature just because I wanted to try it out. It's a mock-up of a basic character sheet after looking through other concept artist's layout designs for their characters/creatures for display. It's playing off the educational informative aspect of concept design. It seems that whatever I create has some sort of educational benefit to it and I'm curious to try making another one of these character sheets for a more "scientific" benefit such as displaying the species, genus, location, etc. rather than just display the health point statistics and personality traits of my creatures. I'm interested in the biological background of these "fantasy" monsters and am kind of taking the route of a naturalist sitting down with a sketchbook and observing these pretend creatures as if they were real. With what little is left this week or possibly over the weekend I will try exploring another animal and playing with the "character sheet" again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Reflection: Two Ideas, One Issue, What to Do?

After my IDEA proposals to Stephanie's Group Gathering:

Empathy for animals, connection, natural world, nature, texture, interaction, intricate, delicate, details, animals, illustration, color, paper, clay, hand made/hands on, education, cause, exotic, display, 2D/3D relationship.

Interested In:
Animals and Plants
Craft and Process
Merging 2D and 3D
Detailed color and texture
Education/Public Awareness
Developing personalities and characters

At this point, it's no secret that I love animals. It's pretty natural to have animals make their way into my work despite whatever I'm doing. My overall concept is still under wraps, but I like the idea of creatures that are not common knowledge. I like researching and exploring the possibilities of flora and fauna in unreachable parts of the world (Arctic Deep Sea, Siberian Tundra), organisms that no longer exist (Dodos, Quagga, English wolf), made of creatures (Fantasy, mythological animals) and the relationships of humans and the natural world.

I originally brought 4 ideas to Tuesday’s class, but I decided to only present 2 of them because the both of them I’m seriously considering. The most pressing issue I seem to have is whether my project should focus on 2D or 3D, and depending on what medium I pick the concept will travel different routes. I recently discovered that my journey for detail in illustrations/sculptures is a slow process and the more time I spend with the piece I begin to develop a personality and relationship with the subject. I normally draw plants and animals because I believe they have personalities and I illustrate/sculpt them emphasizing their playfulness. 3D I tend to focus on the pose and position – like I am trying to bring the creature to life. They are never standing still, but are active and living their lives. My 3D sculpture tends to acknowledge its audience just by looking back at them. My 2D pieces, however, tend to be drawings of animals/plants living their lives. They normally don’t acknowledge the audience, but my drawings portray their true character in their environment.


Next to this paragraph is a few pictures of inspiration I kept in my sketchbook for my first idea of sculpture. The white sculptures are made of paper pulp from molds by Allen and Patty Eckman. It's a technique I really wish to explore using my bronze and slip casting mold making experience and my new found love of paper. Paper is a delicate, subtle medium and yet expressive because of how malleable it is. I love working with paper and the solid white color would be interesting to work with, it seems mysterious -- though I would like to experiment with coloring the material or possibly painting and decorating it. The other artist responsible for the colorful clay sculptures at the bottom of the page is Ellen June -- I'm interested in using bright colors in my final pieces -- the idea of clay would be an easier and controlled process (No molds and less waiting time, and less "surprise cracks, breaks") and I can probably produce many more creatures this way. My sculptures in clay would be a raw product, rather than sculpt it in clay, make a mold around it and display a copy -- it would be a raw original, mistakes and all. Ellen June is a wonderful and very talented artist known for creating creatures. Her style is incredibly similar to my mine -- the expressive personification of creatures. They lack human traits and qualities, but they adopt a playful and curious personality. Something that I can explore with sculpture -- full expression in 360 degrees.

(Idea 2, Illustration and Papercraft/Pop Ups)

Technically I managed to sneak in 3D into my original 2D oriented idea. I would really like to combine the two elements together such as through a pop up book or the art of papercraft models. The major different between this and IDEA 1 is that I have manage to merge my illustration skills with my sculpting prowess. The process is specifically related to paper engineering techniques and drawing in the digital realm. The process is tedious and similar to the mold making project in IDEA 1, but something I definitely wouldn't mind in. I love long processes -- the research, learning, and practicing gives me such nostalgia once the end result is complete. There will be a lot of mock-ups and some will not work, so the time placed into this project has to have a couple of months set aside for possible paper folding "failures."

What's next?

Studying the relationships between humans and animals. I'll be taking out books on cultural relationships with animals -- (Inuit Art, Korean Art, the Reindeer People of Siberia, Celtic Societies, Zuni Indians, Hindu Faith Societies) just to explore other concepts and see how they portray animals in their art.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Inspiration: Concept Artist Rodrigo Vega

An Argentinean artist I follow online with his beautiful creature designs. He designs environments, creatures, and people for video games. I love his pieces straight from his sketchbook and it's interesting to figure out the thought process behind his drawings. I research flora and fauna, learn the background and characteristics of them and after sketching them through several iterations they blossom into another creature of my own design. Rodrigo is pretty how I approach my designs, but a lot more successful in how he displays his creatures. Something I need to work on.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

First Week

So my first week is IP turned out pretty good. I started the year with a nasty cold which transformed into a nasty infection. It put me a little behind this week, but after this weekend blows over I feel that I will be able to get back on track again. Lots of wonderful things have happened to me this week in IP -- for the most part I believe I know what I truly want to do and it's an exciting thought because I can get started on my project earlier than I expected. Currently my goal in September is to build my skills and see what I can do with the skill set I have before committing to my project. All I know right now: Plants and Animals. That's the theme, but what is the concept and how do I display it (Book, bunch of drawings, sculptures)?

Here is my progress for the week!

What I did:
On Monday I finished furnishing my studio -- I added a table, chair, painted my only wall green, and decorated the vent near the window. Took me about 3 hours that day, and another 2.5 hours throughout the week doing this. Tuesday I sat in the studio for 2 hours researching different types of fauna for "making" something. I checked out The Deep book and looked through a few Animal anatomy books for inspiration. I sketched for 2 hours roughly trying to figure out how my creatures would look. Wednesday I spent 4 hours in my studio finishing my piece before taking it home to complete the rest of it. I grew very ill this week with Bronchitis, so any more time in the studio this week had been cut, with the exception of coming to the studio on Thursday for an hour to pick up books and restock my bookshelf for next week. Chances are, once the severe symptoms of my illness is over, I'll probably be coming into the studio on Sunday to make up any lost time.

What I accomplished/discovered/encountered:

Images from "The Deep"

These are some of my sketches based of the animals I studied. Many of them are inspired by Siphonphorae, a class of colonial marine invertebrates. They are similar to jellyfish, but instead of one animal, it's a collection of several thousand organisms that come together to help hunt for food. Many of them are deep sea creatures -- which is why you may have not heard much about them. They are mysterious creatures that look almost alien and unreal. A lot of my drawings this week have transformed my research into my own definition of these creatures and in turn made my own. I've been following some of my favorite concept artists in creature design tips and some layout work I've found particularly interesting are these:

Marine Fauna by concept artist and illustrator Tiffany Turill
By Virgil C. Stephens

I'm trying to learn the process of naturalist journaling and note taking to further my work first, but the process is harder when you do not large animals roaming around Ann Arbor. I'm thinking of taking a trip to a zoo to "pretend" I'm out the wild and take notes that way. I'm currently reading "Field Notes on Science and Nature" by Michael Canfield and I've learned different methods of studying animals in their natural habitats and the process of becoming a naturalist. It compares the notes of Darwin to Jorn Muir to modern day naturalists. Some are specifically notes with basic linar sketches while other journals are more elaborate in what they see or feel. What I'm struggling with is working with my individual sketches and combining my research and observations into scientific concept art. "Concept design is just as much a science as real world evolution and it's important to learn real world anatomy as the images posted above."

What I think I should do next:

I think the next step is to pick another animal species like I did this week and dedicate my research and sketches towards it. I'd like to attempt another series of concept sketches based off that animal and try to possibly make a piece that combines multiple sketches into one. Bringing my research into one decorative and elaborate piece. Possibly try a sculpture to help me learn the "anatomy" of the creature and it's characteristics.


My Studio

Do you like my pink chair? :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Integrative Project

Greetings everyone,

Welcome to my blog! I'm Lindsay Balfour, a Senior in University of Michigan's School of Art and Design. My focuses are in illustration and sculpture, with a heavier emphasis on Scientific Illustration. I work with traditional + digital illustration and clay, bronze, and paper sculpture. Some of the themes I capture are studies of fauna and flora with some occasional medical work in the mix. I tend to have accurate, technical pieces when it comes down to my serious illustrations and other times I develop child-friend work for Children's books. A lot of my pieces are made for educational benefit or study.

Just to get to know me: Some things I collect and keep for inspiration are reprints of old scientific journals kept by naturalists and scientists while working out in the field, antique prints of traditional ink drawings, antique children's books, everything and anything with animals and plants, nature prints, posters of multiple species of animals and plants, Japanese and Chinese paintings, colorful graphic design pieces ... I love art nouveau, Gyotaku Fish Prints, artists like Alphonse Mucha Gustav Klimt, and Trudy Nicholson are among my top favorites! I'll post an inspiration piece very soon.

This blog is geared towards the process and progress of my IP (Integrative Project) Senior Thesis from start to finish. It's a method for you (and I) to gain a proper understanding of how I work, how I think, and what my work is. Feel free to leave comments and critique my work as it goes along this year. I'll be posting my sketches, designs, and other delights so I'm open to any suggestions or comments you have.