Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Flight of Fancy

Over at Spoonflower (the fabric design on-line store), they are hosting their fabric of the week contest with the theme of Flight... and/or Birds. It is a limited palette contest: grey, teal, green, & yellow. It is being sponsored by UK craft magazine Mollie Makes and they're planning to use the winning fabric in a cover photo. You can vote this Thursday here.

Technical Stuff: The Process

About 2 weeks ago, I did a little pencil sketch on a scrap of paper. Working in pencil alludes to a planning process. This is already a stray from my typical working directly in ink. 

I prefer to work around the unexpected and see what happens. So, I decided to start again, but true to form, in ink.
Then, I scanned it to try to work out the repeat. I did a free form brick repeat so the 'sun' would tuck into the cusp of the cloud. Then I printed it & traced the negative space onto fresh bristol paper & filled that in with more bird elements.

As I drew, I stopped accepting things I didn't like & simply outlined the area again to start over.
I struggled with the limited color palette. I struggle with adding color to my ink drawings in general because I don't really care for the 'paint by number' look. However, I think it turned out okay.

The Guts: The Meaning

This design became very meaningful to me which made many of the elements become more intentional than my usual art. The large mother bird represents me. The little one clinging to her represents my son. He's very, very, very clingy. But, he's trying to move on. The medium sized yellow bird represents my 3 year old. She's independent. Confident. Ready to go. The migration is the events that lead up to my son & daughter. I was 33 and already considered to be of advanced maternal age. It took 3 years to experience a successful pregnancy. Then, when my daughter was 10 months old, I found out I was pregnant again. The clouds are the gloominess of infertility as well as the challenges of motherhood while the flowers & sunshine are the hope & happiness. The sleeping birds represent the dream babies, all the failed embryos that refused to implant. The small, malformed birds represent the miscarriages. I think there is certainly more happiness than sadness in my mother migration but the work is endless. 
See the full repeat pattern here.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Therapy Session

For the last 3 months I've been adding some 'doodle babble' to the hubcap I received from Landfillart.org and here's my finished piece.


I used an Ultra Fine Point  Sharpie®, a silver Sharpie Paint Pen and my trusty Koh-i-nor Rapidograph. I decided it was necessary to coat the final piece with clear Rust-O-leum with the hopes of preserving the design for a little while. I wish I had more experience with spray paint. I tried to follow the advice I received from Dave, of CPC Powder Coating, which was to lightly spray the piece with a layer of overspray first, wait 5-10 minutes & then spray normal but I accidentally got too close to the piece and blurred some of the design. I have no way to correct this error. It exposes my inexperience. I hope my creativity overshadows my technical flaw. I hope they will still include it in their online gallery.

So, what's it about anyway?

Well, I decided to title the piece "Therapy Session" because it is the best description I could come up with to explain the mish-mash of doodles. It reflects the random things that crossed my mind this summer as I worked on the design. A big part of the design is the anxiety, anguish & frustration of having life's challenges thrown upon us, against our will. Then there's just a lot of filler, just like life. 

Topics include but are not limited to:

  • Cancer. Lots of cancer. Polyps, nodes, cysts, you name it. My dear friend Marilyn had to endure treatment for a hearty dose of thyroid cancer. She is in the clear now and feeling back to normal but it made me sad, angry, frustrated & helpless. 
  • Anguish 
  • Solitude/Escapism
  • Confinement
  • Motherhood
  • The Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting
  • The 2012 Olympics
  • Heroism

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hubcap as Fine Art

I got my very own hubcap!!!

First off, some background info:
Last spring, shortly after my son was born, I started to design fabric for the site, Spoonflower. There are tons of talented designers & artists creating one of a kind fabric designs there and among those artists is Kristen Stein. Her fabric is beautiful and her artwork equally beautiful. Her blog is where I found out about Landfillart.org An Artist Reclamation Project.

Landfillart.org and their mission: 
Landfillart is an international effort encompassing one-thousand-forty-one (1,041) artists to claim a piece of rusted metal garbage and create fine art.
The 1,041 pieces of rusted metal are actually old automobile hub caps from the 1930’s through the 1970’s.  Each hub cap, after being cleaned and primed, is affectionately called a “metal canvas.”  Although most “metal canvases” have been transformed by the artist using oil or acrylic paint, some have been weaved on, glued or screwed or welded to, or made into fine sculpture.
I have found that the fine artists I have worked with on this project do not even flinch when looking at this white round disc of metal canvas.  And why should they.  Artists from the beginning of time have used cave walls (Lascaux, France and Altamira, Spain,) walls of pyramids (Egyptians,) animal skins (American Indians,) etc… as their canvas.  In addition, as a gallery owner for over thirty years, I maintain that artists, generally speaking, are more ecologically in touch and environmentally aware.  Perhaps that is the reason forty-one artists readily accepted the challenge and embraced the project.
Although the project is in its infancy (I hope to have it completed by 2012,) it will evolve from a simple idea of taking forty-one old rusted hub caps and creating forty-one pieces of great art.  The second phase has already started with the acquisition of one thousand additional (1000) rusted hub caps which will be turned into cleaned and primed “metal canvases.  The project will continue with finding one thousand (1000) talented artists who believe in this project.
The third phase will involve publishing a book on the project showcasing all one thousand forty one (1,041) completed “metal canvases.”
The fourth and final phase will involve choosing 200 metal canvases that adequately represent the project and create a traveling show. The book and traveling show will publically portray the global art community's effort to positively impact the environment through repurposing previous metal waste into great landfill art.

My first thought was "I want to do this!", my second was "I can't believe they haven't already reached their goal!". So I looked at their application page which read:

If you are a professional artist, who would like to apply for consideration to become part of the landfillart project, please send:
  • short biography
  • samples of your work
  • a description of what you'd like to create
  • why you'd like to participate (please limit your descriptions to under two-hundred words)
to: artistsubmissions@landfillart.org. You can also mail your information (CD format is preferred) to the address below.
conactLandfill Art
122 South Main Street. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, 18701 USA

Telephone: 1  570 823 0519
In USA:      1  800 248 2467
FAX:           1  570 823 7182
EMAIL: ken@landfillart.org

Then I thought "Do I qualify as a professional artist?" I have sold a few designs through Spoonflower. I was a graphic designer for over 15 years. Does that count? It took a full 24 hours to muster enough gall to send Ken Marquis an email.

The email went as follows:
Dear Ken and all in charge of submissions,

* short biography -
My name is Jennifer Starchvill. I am a married, mother of two small
children. I live in a suburb of Chicago. I became aware of your
project by way of Kristen Stein's blog yesterday. I found her on
Spoonflower, where I also post my designs for sale as printed fabric
patterns. I have always been an artist. I was a professional graphic
designer for 15 years where I did everything from package design to
product design, marketing anything from construction supplies to baby
toys. I've experimented in quite a few artistic mediums however, the
one I keep going back to is pen and ink. What I draw most is what I
call 'Doodle Babble'. Doodle Babbles are ink drawings inspired by my
subconscious. Some are decorative, some are deep, some whimsical and
fun, and some can be weird, but mostly, people say they're interesting
and they like them.

* samples of your work -
'Subconscious Garden' Pen and ink on paper, repeat pattern -
'Bejeweled Lines' Pen and Ink on paper, repeat pattern -
'Curves' Pen and Ink on paper, repeat pattern -
'The Shirt' Pen and Ink on cotton knit single continuous pattern (see
attached), plus, this blog entry includes photos of paintings The
Shirt inspired - http://doodlebabble.blogspot.com/2012/06/shirt.html

* a description of what you'd like to create -
I would like to create a subconscious scene on one of your metal
canvases. If ink isn't feasible, I can use a different medium, like
oil paint or acrylic.

* why you'd like to participate (please limit your descriptions to
under two-hundred words) -
Why not? Your project seems so cool! I love the idea of arting up some
junk, making it functional again (even if it is decorative).

Thank you for creating this project.
I hope I get the opportunity to be a part of it.
Best Regards,
Jennifer Starchvill

The Fun Begins:
To my surprise, I got a positive response and my hubcap was shipped on July 5th. I received it the following Tuesday. I wasn't sure what to expect but I thought it was going to be primed in white like the photos on their site but mine was still metal. Which, after looking at many of the ones in the gallery, it seems many of those were in their natural hubcap condition before the artist got a hold of them too.

Then I started to experiment. Will my ink stick? Temporarily. It rubs off quite easily with a paper towel. It's really not commonplace to use a rapidograph on metal. There are home made inks and some graffiti market inks but I need (want) them to work in my rapidograph pen and I don't have the luxury of time. I figured, ink would stick to paint, right? So I started to look for paint that would stick to metal. The preparation process was just too much for a mother of a 2yr old & 1yr old to handle... Sanding, acetone, rubber gloves...Ugh! So I looked for a powder coater that could 'prime' my 'canvas' for me. I sent out a few emails searching for advice & pricing. I hit pay dirt! My new friend Dave, of CPC Powder Coating in Crest Hill offered to coat it pro-bono! Understanding my artistic vision, he did a clear coat for me. Another coater offered the advice of a matte silver for $25 but ya can't beat 'free'. I also felt matte silver would have taken some of the hubcappyness out of it. Now, it is still reflective and looks like steel. But, the ink still rubs off with a paper towel. I anticipated a top coat of clear would be needed to hold the design. Dave assured me once my design was complete, some clear rust-o-leum should preserve it. He suggested to do a 'dust' coat first & let it set 5 minutes, then to do a regular coat. There shouldn't be a problem with the top coat adhering to their clear coat. I'm crossing my fingers. Since I can't leave well enough alone, I thought I'd try a different ink, just in case. A good old Sharpie®. (Some artist I am, it just didn't occur to me sooner to try a good old fashioned Sharpie.) Yes! Sharpie will work!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Today, I magically threw together a design for Spoonflower's Fabric of the week contest, Pomegranates. I'm trying to challenge myself more by moving out of my comfort zone and drawing actual things. I referenced some images via the internets & did some 'doodling'.

Then, I used auto-trace in illustrator, colored & arranged them.

Using the signature pomegranate shape, I used just my outline and layered in a screen of it at a larger scale for a scribbly, urban effect. I hope to get a few votes.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dinosaur Room

Original computer illustration drawn to scale
Since I had my daughter & quit my day job in November, 2009, I'd been searching for other ways to express myself creatively. When she was about 5 months old, I started designing her room. I designed a large dinosaur mural on the computer that would cover one of her walls. The plan was to do the one wall and the window. I ended up painting a 360° mural around her room of an entire cartoon prehistoric scene, in addition to the large orange dinosaur, I added an extra large prehistoric flower and a distant volcano & misc. other foliage. It took weeks to complete since I only had her nap times to work on it, but I think the effort was well worth it.

To make the window into a tree, I bought brown blinds & painted the window frame brown. Then, I had to make the leaves for a valance. I decided to use wool felt since I figured it could be cut to shape and not require much sewing. I also thought it would drape similar to actual palm leaves the best. I chose two green colors, one for the leafy part and one for the stalk. The stalk was sewn up the middle of the leaf to create a long pocket & I filled it with poly-fil. Then I put heavy wire in the pocket to support the leaf and get it to arc out from the wall. 
To attach the leaves to the window, I bent the end of the wire in a bit of a 'z'  shape to hook over the curtain rod & rest under the frame at the top of the window. I was so proud of myself and thrilled with the result. Mostly because this is the first sewing project I've done since Jr. High.

I had all these odd drop off pieces from cutting out the leaves. I barely had to think about what to do. I'd make fat, plush blades of grass to sit at the bottom of the tree, of course. Lilah and her brother Jack like to play with these fun, odd shaped pillows.
Lilah in her prehistoric scene
The distant volcano
I used the grid technique to transfer the dinosaur to the wall but the remainder of the room was free-handed shortly before I began painting. 
Another view of the volcano
Entry door to the room with fantasy foliage
While my babies had no choice in their room theme, I think any child would love to play and sleep in this room. While the colors are bright & bold, when you stand in the room, the green & blue is incredibly calming and the happiness of the illustrations are simply, fun.

I used Benjamin Moore Aura paints so I wouldn't need a primer. It was so worth the added expense. It was low odor. I did need 2 coats which was wonderful compared to my previous experience with bold color. I purchased 1 quart each of Peony, Citrus Blast, Mystical Grape & Jade Green. I got 1 gallon each of my custom blue & custom green for the sky & grass. The guys at the Westmont store did a great job color matching to the Disney color palette, (Sonic Boom Green & Buzz Blaster Blue) which really matched my original colors from my computer illustration. The brown was some left over paint also from Benjamin Moore but I'm not 100% sure of the color name, I think it was Clydesdale Brown. The black was Liquitex Acrylic, Mars Black.

It was fun designing this room. I still have ideas for some sewing projects but my inexperience & lack of time keep holding me back. I've designed a couple of wall quilts I hope to make some day. But, I've never quilted or done any applique.
I also wanted to create a custom cushion for the rocker. But again, super amateur. Luckily the babies are still very little, and maybe this theme will last a few more years, or at least until I get my projects complete.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Shirt

Here is The Shirt.
The Shirt is not just a version of a sketch book, it is a bit of a diary of my 20's. There are things that I actually remember from the time, just looking at the individual doodles. And there are things that I am able to interpret now, kinda like examining a weird dream.

There are various themes that reoccur. Voyeurism being a prominent one. Eyes peering, sometimes direct, sometimes peeking from behind a hand or other object. I suppose I am both watching and, in my head anyway, being watched, therefore uncomfortable in my skin.  That whimsical uncomfortableness occurs a lot throughout, seen best through the facial expressions of most of the monsters. They all make a sort of deer in headlights look. And they seem to not really know what's going on. I felt that way a lot then, and occasionally do now as well. I am approaching my 40th birthday this year and while I know I'm older & wiser, I still harbor a lot of who I was then.

The weekend I drew the scorpion (center, just off the pocket) was when the birth of the name Doodle Babble occurred. It wasn't long after I turned 25 & I was visiting a friend for the weekend while he was away at college. He had to work during the days so I sat, doodled & wrote bad 'boy who hurt me' poetry. It was in one of those crappy poems, the term Doodle Babble was first used. I remember this because I rarely draw stuff I see, and in that day sitting alone in my friend's trailer, watching 'the bug channel'... and I was creatively stuck. I felt I had no excuse not to draw but nothing was happening. Being bored of the terrible poetry, I decided to draw that scorpion simply because I saw one on TV.

Original drawing of the Beach Scene below - The Shirt: Left sleeve
Doodle Babble comes from my subconscious. As I created The Shirt, when existing lines didn't spark new lines, I would deliberately smear ink smudges on the blank areas of the fabric to inspire myself to make something out of the supposed mistakes. Making something from nothing and without a plan. Sometimes I could simply stare at the blank fibers and see lines, shapes or paths I'd want to draw. As I'd draw, tangible objects would emerge. Figures like monsters, aliens, plant-like doo-dads. Sometimes a scene would emerge.

I've started to make a few of The Shirt drawings into actual paintings.
The Beach Scene - Oil on canvas

I took a couple of oil painting classes at the Art Institute of Chicago as non-credit a few years ago. I wasn't sure what from The Shirt I'd paint but I wanted to do something. I chose the Beach Scene because of the cute weirdness of it. Other than using some smudges to create these little characters, I don't remember actually drawing this scene on the shirt. I can't remember when, why, where, anything about it's creation. I like it though. And so does my sister. She said she wanted it so it hangs in her home.

Shame, did not originate on the shirt but I copied her there from one of my small scrap paper sketches. She was inspired by my first long-term boyfriend of whom I cheated on & the first boyfriend who dumped me. He dumped me because he didn't love me anymore. I cheated on him because I didn't think he cared much about me anyway. I always felt like he thought he could do better, cheating on him helped to prove that right. I wanted ownership in the failure, I couldn't bear simply being unlovable.
Shame - Acrylic on canvas
She became a painting not long before my 25th birthday. It was a new boy who inspired me to put her to paint. I had my first corporate job & a hard crush on a coworker. He simply paid attention to me. And he was artistic & aloof. I wanted to be around him as much as possible, I wanted to be like him. He was an active actor & musician. I should be an active artist then. So, I painted. I was ashamed of my crush. Everyday I went to work with a knot in my gut. Then there she was... My Shame. Nearly a year later that crush got used to me hanging around & told me he wanted me to be his girlfriend. For his birthday, I gave him this painting as well as another one because he was the one to inspire me to paint them. A huge slight to the man who inspired the original sketch, but I was trying desperately to move forward. He reluctantly accepted the gift under the condition that if I ever felt I needed the paintings back, I could have them. He broke up with me about 6 weeks later, right before my 26th birthday. I asked for them both back a couple of years later. I felt he didn't deserve them anymore & probably never deserved them & he should have been honest with me from the start. I had hoped to stay friends at least & it turns out he was a shitty friend too. Shame on me. Now my Shame is with me where she belongs.

The Shirt continues to be an inspiration for future projects for me. I have another oil painting sitting around waiting to be worked on. I started it in 2001. Life just keeps getting in the way of my art!

Saturday, June 16, 2012


I've noticed artists of all mediums speak of what inspires them. Many times it's nature, or music, or other works of art... movies or stories or moments in life.
I, however, am inspired by line & shape. To get things started when I was working on 'The Shirt', I would use some of the blank space to clean my leaky pen. From the smudges, I'd create shapes. Sometimes those shapes would lead to something tangible, like a monster or some sort of alien foliage.
For Spoonflower's Hand Drawn fabric of the week contest, I created Subconscious Garden. I started it with a bean shape, inspired by some woman's shirt pattern at the park. I'm not sure about how I thought 'bean' since her shirt was a large scale paisley print but I did.
This bean led me into all the other lines. At first I started to think seed pod of something floral, then it became butterfly, then more likely a moth.

This is the finished drawing that I scanned for the pattern. I rolled the paper on some plastic material I had to create the repeat drawing from top to bottom.
I mirrored it left to right to complete the surface design. And then, I noticed the psychedelic skull-flower faces. Even the cyclops sticking out his tongue between the moth's antennae. Now the moth has the illusion it's wings are flapping. I dig it and so did the Spoonflower crowd. In the end, it placed 37th out of 500 entries with 213 votes for Subconscious Garden - A 'Color Me' Fabric. It will be available soon for purchase, the order is processing.

Urban Bouquet

In January of 2012, Spoonflower hosted a design contest with a graffiti theme. I knew I had a graffiti-like squiggle somewhere that I could maybe use to make a design. It was on The Shirt, of course, right up under the arm pit. A filler design, but still a design. Somehow, it immediately seemed floral to me. I tried to keep the 's' shape in tact but quickly realized it had to go.

I was having problems inventing a flower and I remembered I had taken photos months ago of a bouquet of flowers I got in the fall (Thanksgiving, maybe?) from my mother-in-law.

I duped & rotated that little squiggle to create the middles of the flowers. I removed the inner lines, scaled & rotated them in 2 or more layers to create the petals. I stylized the middle of the flowers with large radiating circles that I think give the design that 'urban' appeal. The final touch was adding the heavy black offset drop shadow. I think this added a bit of dimension & made it more graffiti-y. 
Then, I arranged the repeat. It turns out, even this process is a bit subconscious for me. I'm sure there's a formula, or trick, or something for this step but for now I eye-ball it to make it work. It's probably the long way of doing things but it works. I evenly distributed the flowers so the same colors don't touch, creating balance within the design. As I examine what I did, it seems I scattered about 4-6 of each flower within the repeating area. In retrospect, I suppose I did apply a bit of a mathematical strategy, just not in a preconceived, calculated way. 

As for the contest, I placed 15th out of 157 entries with 254 votes for UrbanBouquet. My highest ranking entry so far! While I've gotten more votes on other designs, this design is still generating viewers that are marking it as a 'favorite'. And I've even sold a swatch to a customer who says she has plans for curtains! I hope she doesn't change her mind.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Birth of Sea Creatures

I am fueled by tangents. I offshoot so much I think I may have ADHD. As I try to write this post, it is becoming more difficult to organize my process. But I'm trying. Please bear with me while I get my bearings.
This doodle was created with Spoonflower fabric in mind to become a mirror repeat. Then a Spoonflower contest came about for Ditsy Sea Creatures. While doing my research, I found these little 'spores' also appeared similar to some microscopic jellyfish. So I created a new drawing in ink.

Since I am more familiar with Illustrator, I auto traced the scan & created my repeat. Below is the final entry for that Ditsy Sea Creatures contest at Spoonflower.

SeaCreatures ended up placing 29th out of 214 entries with 310 votes.

The next contest after Sea Creatures was one for Jellyfish so, I created a pink version of the ditsy to make a coordinate. I used Illustrator to create a sort of 'mod' jelly.

GeoJelly4 came in 70th out of 226 entries with 156 votes. It uses rounded square elements from another previous design shown below.  As a design, I like the GeoJelly but as a fabric pattern, I think it's a big fail. The details of the tentacally-goo are too fine. So, the Jelly has to be quite large to appreciate them, thus making it impractical for fabric application. I'm willing to be wrong. Maybe it would work well on a dress?
These mod squares were created years ago as a concept that never got used for some business card ideas. Here I duped them & arranged them in a repeat for fabric which I hope to someday make into pillows. I like to re-purpose & reuse ideas all the time. Constant reinvention. And I can be a bit lazy. So I use my creativity to make my processes more simple & pick up elements here & there to create new. But only from my own work, of course.

So, what's my point?
Well, years ago, I made some retro square design that I later used to make a repeat for some future 'mod' pillows, which led me to make a square-y mod jellyfish that ties in with a more recent random hand drawn thing that I felt sorta looked like microscopic sea creatures and made it all work in an effort to enter a contest or 2. All done in the hopes of someday establishing myself as a 'real' artist. Good thing I hung onto that old file & old idea.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Getting Started

So, I think I need to do some blogging about my art.
Mostly in an attempt to make myself more artsy.
I named this blog Doodle Babble because that is what I describe my art as... Doodle Babble. Sometimes it's incoherent scribblings, sometimes it's deeply cryptic, meaningful stuff all via wiggly lines, mostly from subconscious origins.
It all started with a stain on a white t-shirt in my early 20's. I thought I'd simply cover up the stain with some doodles. I got my rapidograph pen because the tip was very fine and the ink read 'waterproof' on it's label and started drawing. It took years to complete, but many long stretches of time passed without touching it. My commitment to my art was somewhat fleeting. I was easily distracted by life.
I am currently in the process of properly digitizing all of the drawing from 'The Shirt'. Eventually, I hope to create an official repeat pattern of it to share with the world on Spoonflower.
The Shirt became an interesting study of my growth as an artist since it spanned so many years to complete. I began in the lower center of the front of the shirt & worked my way up, out & over the shoulders & around the sleeves to the back. It was my main sketchbook. I carried it everywhere when I was binge drawing, kinda like a security blanket. The drawings got looser & on occasion, more meaningful as time went on.

Drawing on a t-shirt with a rapidograph pen is very time consuming & meditative. While the ink flows nicely, you do have to use a bit of a pointilistic approach since the tip gets caught in the weave of the fibers, ya can't just 'draw'. Like a slow motion tattoo gun, with a single needle. This obstacle forced me to have to go over my line work repeatedly to smooth out any edges to make things look crisp. I now use a similar technique even when I draw on paper. I prefer the organic, variable thickness in my lines.

This untitled drawing shows how repeatedly going over the lines gives that variable thickness. I think it gives the line work movement. I created this to be used as a mirrored repeat pattern on Spoonflower for fabric. Until I can come up with a better name, it's Curves.