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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Calling a turd a turd.

I worked for Steven Brodner for a while when I first moved to NYC. Among the many things I learned while helping out in his Studio were two very wise quotes that stuck with me....

1: The most important drawing is the next drawing.
2: If the wine is no good, throw it out!

Both are basically his philosophy on work ethic. I'd watch him eat a stack of paper making sketches for a single likeness, most of which I'd drool over, but he knew his standard and wouldn't settle. He also was a believer in not falling in love with a drawing if it wasn't the right one.

Now here is a story of me not heeding this advice.

Normally when creating a rollover I have a plethora of imagery to think about and skew to my whim. Usually a holiday is associated with its own managerie of icons, mascots and folklore. This time, however, I was tasked to create something for the obscure "Pi Day" (aka 3/14) celebrated by math fans everywhere (or maybe just MIT.) So, what do I have for Pi Day? The irrational number starting with 3.14 and the symbol π. I had to relate it to something Tor.com would be interested in, so something scifi/fantasy/literary/comic booky. I thought something that was a classic riddle in stories could rollover to reveal the shapes in π. My buddy, Frank, mentioned the Mad Hatter's Riddle "How is a raven like a writing table?" which is a riddle with no answer (the Mad Hatter is mad). Seemed like a good excuse to do an Alice illustration.

My first clue that I was on the wrong track should have been that I'd never heard of that riddle.

But I went for it.
I tried to figure out how I'd like to show the scene of him asking the riddle. Something that wasn't too obviously inspired by Tenniel and Rackham.


Then I played with the shapes of π and ravens and desks to get them to be somewhat similar.
And I had the great idea of framing the drawing in cards. But ho! The cards are in order of Pi's digits!
I got to about this stage before I realized that the idea was bad. Very bad. Only a handful of people would understand what was happening, and the fact that the table and raven looked like π didn't actually mean anything.

So... even after committing to paint every-effing-one of those cards accurately, I knew it was toast. I had to start completely anew. (notice the creases from when I threw the painting out, only to dig it out of the trash to blog about the experience)

Now, with much less time to work, I rethought my whole Pi dilemma. In about three seconds I realized the word Pi was extremely accessible and had a much better idea involving the Pied Piper.

Moral of the story: Don't fall in love with an image if you know it isn't the right one. A pretty illustration that makes no sense is a bad illustration.

-S

12 comments:

McLean Kendree said...

But the riddle has an answer! "Poe wrote on both of them!"

Scott Brundage said...

Ah, but it wasn't meant to have an answer. Lewis Carroll made a couple up after every asked, and some other scholars added their own.

McLean Kendree said...

Oh, that's cool to know. Now I'm going to track down some of the alternate answers! (also, thanks for the good read sir!)

Frank said...

No, Scott. McLean is right. That IS the answer. Just because the author didn't know, doesn't make it not true!


Oh, and your final idea is way better.


f.

Joe DiGuiseppi said...

you should have had a geek with a calculator leading a bunch of other subodinate geeks, becoming the numbers like you did with children n pied piper... good look though! forgot that Pi day existed.

Kenny Callicutt said...

Good read and a clever pun. Thanks for sharing.

Scott Altmann said...

good stuff man - I like how it turned out and that's a tough assignment to begin with .
i have nothing witty to say

kel said...

Actually your first idea is stronger because Lewis Carrol was actually a mathmatician. And hid those riddles throughout the book as a commentary on the changes in the math world at that time. Here is an article from NPR that discusses the book & the math throughout it.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124632317&ft=1&f=1008

Scott Brundage said...

Wow, thanks for the head's up, Kel.

Marc Scheff said...

nice work Scotty. came out great. Glad to see the evolution. Also, yeah.

Erin D. said...

I love the Pied Piper idea. It is clever and an excellent marriage between several of the greatest things this world has to offer: children's tales, math, word play, pie...

As for your first idea. It was nice but did harken back to every other illustration of Alice at the Mad Hatter's tea party we've ever seen. Your second idea was much more original and a much better fit for the Holiday anyway. Although I did rather like the frame of cards.

I.W Mitchell (mr le marquis) said...

Hello!
All of this work is superb. I'm not an artist, I do some juggling with words, but quite frankly the imagination displayed, together with the quality is "unearthly"
Are you from another Galaxy....?
iwmpop@gmail.com