Monday, June 18, 2012

The Night Circus Ship

Quick updates:
-My Guitar Train will be in CMYK Magazine #53, to be out in July!
-I now have a Tati Dengo Illustration fan page on Facebook. 
-Electric Keychain Collective is working on a children's book to be published by Matter Deep Publishing. "Like" us on Facebook to keep up with our progress.

Now onto my newest illustration!

The Night Circus is a book by Erin Morgernstern that came out last year.  It's a very dreamy story told in vignettes, about a circus that is very much unlike your traditional clown and balloon-filled colour explosion circus. I highly recommend it. Also, it's been optioned for a movie, so you might be hearing a lot about it in the future.

Recently on the author's Facebook fan page, they posted this quote from the book and asked for artists to illustrate it, so I did: 

“The ship is made of books, its sails thousands of overlapping pages, and the sea it floats upon is dark black ink.” — The Night Circus

I took artistic liberty with the description, especially with that of the sails, since mine clearly don't have overlapping pages as the quote says. I tried overlapping pages multiple times, from different angles and overlapping in different patterns, yet they always looked too busy and never seemed to mold to the shapes of the sails correctly. Eventually I had to accept that the shape of a sail is absolutely dependent on the wind blowing behind it, and fortunately, that shape just so happens to be very similar to the shape of an open book. Regardless of my sails not sticking to the description in the book, I really do like my solution, especially since it perfectly fits the rest of my portfolio (i.e.: guitar-train, trumpet-hummingbirds, seahorse-hairdryer).

This piece also took me longer than usual to finish partly because I was trying out a new paper I found, called "Bogus Recycled Rough Sketch." Since the colours of the Night Circus are black, white and a splash of red, I tried out this paper so that I would have a set mid-tone from the start. That way, I could more freely and quickly achieve the stark blacks and whites of this colour scheme than if I had started on white paper.

Once I took the piece into Photoshop, the rest of the work wasn't as simple as just desaturating the drawing (making everything grey). Back when I was taught how to paint, I was always told to never use black, UNLESS if I a) mixed the black with another colour so that it wasn't just pure black (this is because of how light reflects off of different colours) or b) made the black out of other colours (such as green + red).

In this case, I had a layer of the original drawing colourized to a deep red, and then superimposed it with a layer of the original black and white drawing. That gave me the wholesome black with a mild tinge of red that you see on the sea. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

SCAD Sidewalk Arts Festival 2012

Every year, SCAD hosts the Sidewalk Arts Festival in Forsyth Park. Every artist gets a square and a box of chalk. It is one of my favourite events at SCAD, since the whole community comes out to view the art. People come by your square and talk to you, comment on your art, share stories, etc. They also bring out all their cute dogs, and this year there was even a tortoise (it was huge)!

This is the square I drew, now in the alumni section:

I loved my toucan design. I'll certainly draw him again for a full-fledged illustration.

For the background I just went with freestyle whatever. Now I wish I had done something exclusively green and vibrant. I had an original plan for the background that I ended up scrapping because it was going to take too long and I wouldn't be done by judging time. I didn't win anyway, but I still really like my toucan.

Either way, I always intended to leave some of the sidewalk showing since I love the contrast of the dull gray of the sidewalk, which makes the chalk stand out.

The "Pura Vida Costa Rica" I added on a whim. We do have lots of beautiful tropical birds there, and who knows? Maybe some of the festival goers have visited CR too. So it was me saying: "I'm Costa Rican, come say hi."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

This is a scene from The Magician King by Lev Grossman. I loved the image of two lone chairs sitting on a walled beach at the end of the world, so I just had to draw it myself.

The original image is 11.5" x 8.25", but I cropped out the excess on the sides for a more snug composition. 

In the book, there is actually a really interesting door that opens the arch, but I figured it would be more appealing to have it open in this particular composition. The door would be better seen up close anyway,  so I may still draw that some day, especially since keys and keyholes are quite fun to draw.

I am very pleased with how the colours turned out, even though they're not anywhere close to the colours I had initially pictured when reading the book. I have no qualms about using different colours than what I imagined, seeing as these worked to my liking.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Maze for Drawchange

You may have seen my posts about it them before, but in case you haven't Drawchange is a non-profit organization that brings art into the lives of children of low resources. Because of the communities they live in, these are children who may not normally be enticed to be creative. Drawchange introduces them to a number of ways to be creative, which helps them envision ways to find joy in their lives, despite the circumstances they may be in.

The latest project I completed for them is a maze. I had a game designer, Erik Lueck, design the maze for me since I was short of time and I hear he is quite experienced with mazes!

This maze will be in Drawchange's magazine "Let's Create!" Every purchase supports Drawchange's cause. I will update with another post once the magazine is released.

I love supporting Drawchange because theirs is definitely a cause I believe in and have personally applied to my life for as long as I can remember. In the past, drawing and creativity as catharsis have lead me to happiness (or at least temporary distraction from upsetting situations). With enough practice, this can eventually lead to the development of a talent, and that is something no one can take away from you, and that too, is another reason to be happy.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Light Bulb Pattern

This is my first ever try at a repeat pattern, for Electric Keychain's newest project. I figured light bulbs would be great for a pattern since they come in varied shapes and sizes, and since I hadn't made any illustrations with light bulbs yet. Not bad for a first try, I think!

I have loved light bulbs since I was a kid. On trips to the grocery store, I would often stop by the aisle with the bulbs, just to look at them, and my mom or dad would come over and tell me, "Tati, we don't need any more light bulbs."

Why do I like light bulbs? I just always have. It's easy to take them for granted but I just think light bulbs are beautiful. They're as shiny, round, and fragile as any piece of glass jewelry. Just because they serve a practical purpose does not make them any less interesting or aesthetically appealing.

I now have a collection of light bulbs that started growing without me even realizing it. Most of them are burnt out, only a few of them are vintage, a lot of them are like any common household light bulb that you've ever seen, but I still like to keep them in my collection despite their abundance.

 The last one in this picture is the first one in the next.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Living Cemetery - Instigatorzine

The ever supportive Narciso gave me the opportunity to make an illustration for a piece of poetry in his zine, Instigatorzine. The poem is "The Living Cemetery" by Anthony Ward.

This was a challenging project because of the amount of imagery in the poem. Given the abundance of images provided by the author, it was hard to decide exactly which ones would convey the overall feel of it. I ended up picking a few separated verses that could be related to each other.

What I gathered in a nutshell is:
-The people in the city are free to leave but they don't, or can't, because they (psychologically? emotionally?) trap themselves within it, like a vicious cycle. So, the bounds on their legs are wide enough that they could easily slip through, yet they don't. 
-They remain anonymous to each other. Hence, no faces.
-Their fall is "made all the more prominent by [their] height." I took this literally and elongated their limbs, which also makes them frail and flimsy-looking, which is how I had already imagined these people.

For the colors, I wanted something drab, depressing and almost disgusting. The military green dulled the mood, and the rusty/coppery orange added a punch of brightness to balance out the dull. I definitely find these two colours together disgusting, but that works, because every time I look at it, it reminds me of the depressing mood of the poem.

Lately I've also been steadily experimenting with not having outlines everywhere all the time. I have a penchant for heavy outlines and defined contours, but on the other hand, I also love that printmaking look of a shape without line work. I've found it tends to balance my work out, such as in this piece.

[EDIT] As commenter Jade kindly reminded me, the wide open space in the middle is supposed to be for the poem!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Secadora Seahorse

This is for Electric Keychain's "Mustachioed Machina." We had to illustrate: "Objects turned into living things, with moustaches."

I love projects where I can grab unrelated objects and join them to form a cohesive shape.

At first this project seemed too easy. I could've drawn anything and just slapped a moustache on it. "Heeey! It's a computer! But it has a moustache! Ha-ha! ...."  But I didn't want to just stop there because that's too easy. So I went through a mental list of everyday objects that I see and/or use around the house, and of what else do they resemble. Eventually I figured that a hair dryer with a diffuser looks kind of like a seahorse's head, and then I just took it from there.

This was a nice goofy break from the seriousness of the last project.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sketchbook Project 2012 - Part 2

This is the second half of my Monochromatic book for Art House Co-op's Sketchbook Project 2012. Here's the first half.

Mailed it in today and I am entirely pleased with how it turned out! It's weird to think this little book I have dedicated so many months to is going away and I probably won't be seeing it again for a long time (if at all.)

The covers I am especially happy with since I haven't done much hand lettering in my illustrations and outside of my sketchbooks. These were really fun to do.

Front cover. Spine reinforced with paper-backed bookbinding cloth.
Back cover.
Small reinforcement. 
I left these blank as pseudo endpapers.

Lengthy, behind-the-scenes explanation Part 2:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jorge Manuel Dengo 1918-2012

Jorge Manuel Dengo 1918-2012
Today, Costa Rica mourns the loss of an invaluable man. Universally acclaimed by Costa Ricans as a visionary, Jorge Manuel Dengo was the incorruptible voice of reason, both extinct traits within the rulers of our country.

My dad tells me that as a child, I sometimes drew for catharsis, as a method to deal with the loss of numerous pets. As I am far away from home, my guttural instinct was to draw this, quickly, as a way to cope with this loss. My sadness stems greatly from the fact that I did not get to know my grand uncle better, but I am joyful that the response from "Ticos" has been so universally heartfelt. It is a reminder, and an inspiration, that there are those who have sincerely sought what is best for the country, and not just what is best for themselves.

"We are left without one of the greatest, of which there are none left." 
"One of the best that Costa Rica has ever seen." 
"An example to follow."
"A visionary."
"We are left with his legacy."

Rest in peace, Jorge Manuel.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cigarette Butts

This piece is part of Just Cause at Electric Keychain. This time we chose to illustrate subjects that we feel strongly about, or that we feel need to be addressed.

There is an abundance of comments I could make about this topic, and the feelings that inspired me to draw this. But at the same time, I drew this to show you how I feel, not to tell you. So I won't.

Instead, I will recount how this piece came to be.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Tyger by William Blake

"Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" 
-William Blake, 1794

Electric Keychain's last project of the year is a Calendar inspired by books. Every artist had a month to illustrate and mine was April, which is National Poetry month. I illustrated my favourite poem, William Blake's "The Tyger." Blake was also an artist, so this illustration is also a tribute to one of my favourite pieces of his, "The Ancient of Days."

I'm not an immortal hand or eye but I dared frame his fearful the clouds!

I love calendars and every year I have a couple decorating my wall. I'm picky with the April image since it's my birth month. Usually I look for something calm and spring-themed (rain is fine too as long as it's happy puddles rain and not dreary sadness clouds rain.) So a fierce "Tyger" in a tempestuous environment is really out of the norm for me in terms of what I'd like to see in an April image. Also figured this was a piece in which I absolutely could not lean towards my usual cutesy look.

I first read "The Tyger" in Tracy Chevalier's book "Burning Bright." She writes a lot of historical fiction aimed at the arts, which is right up my alley. I highly recommend her "Girl With a Pearl Earring."

I realized after I was done that I have been using a lot of blue-orange complementary colour schemes lately but it's been mostly coincidental. I just used colours I found worked and they happened to be blue and orange!

Today, I am featuring some lovely EK people since I was especially excited about this project. Everybody got to nerd around about books and literature and I loved seeing what everybody found close to heart from what they've read. Here's a few pieces I especially liked for particular reasons: 

Jennifer Ely's "Winter Is Coming"
©Jennifer Ely 2011
You are always in for a treat when it comes to Jenn's portraits. This summer I started reading George R. R. Martin's "Song of Ice & Fire" series and was therefore really excited when I saw her initial sketch. She has HOW MANY characters in this piece? Eight! From the wolf silhouette, to the likenesses, to the sword, to the tree, she absolutely nailed this and I can't imagine how any Game of Thrones fan would NOT love this.

Find more of Jennifer's awesome portraits at

Carly Strickland's Sherlock Holmes
©Carly Strickland 2011
This is definitely my favourite piece that Carly has ever made. There was so much care put into  picking all the details and arranging them in the image. All of these items serve to portray a more accurate portrait of Holmes than just his face would do, and that is why this piece works so well.

Find more of Carly's vectors at

Francis Anderson's Cat's Cradle, Ice-ix
©Francis Anderson 2011
Francis's piece is so effective because you make a double take. "Oh it's a gentle little snowflake, look how gingerly the hazmat guy is handling... the ice-ix that could obliterate life on Earth?!" Also, nice touch with the reflection on the helmet.

Definitely check out Francis's animations at

Last but not least, a honorable mention for Elizabeth Allen!
©Elizabeth Allen 2011
She agreed to make a piece on extremely short notice and I was surprised to find out it was a 3D illustration. I don't often come across people who make 3D illus but I'm always intrigued by them. You're using an entirely different skill set and way of thinking, while still having to be conscious of how it will turn out as a 2D image and composition. She certainly captured the serene nature of Wordsworth's poem.

Find more of Elizabeth at

Finally, here is a glimpse into my process work: