Scott Bakal
August 2010
Something different.

Ron Escobar at Yoga Journal called me with an idea.  Ron pitched this idea of just taking my line work and incorporating it into photographs for their 35th Anniversary issue with a special section dedicated to the Lotus Pose.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to see some of my work in a different context than what I am used to.

I've done quite a few pieces for Yoga Journal over the last year or so and would have to say they are one of my favorite clients.  I think my sensibilities works well with what they try to convey so even with a new idea at hand, I was confident that we were going to make it happen and work well.
Note: In number 3, you should know that its the guys foot there by his waist. That's...his...foot. I think my leg would snap off if I tried that.
How this job happened was pretty simple.  We agreed on the budget, found out what Ron wanted and I drew and drew.  I did a few initial drawings to make sure I was going down the road he wanted then with some more information I kept going with it and just funneled work to him every couple of days.

I think I did about 30 drawings of just lilpads.  All different sizes and shapes and patterns.  Probably at least  10 drawings of lotus flowers in different forms from realistic to very decorative.
This whole thing is actually a little different for me.  I am so used to being the idea generator and my art being the focus of the design.  In this case, I had to be more of a decorative artist and work back and forth with Ron about how he was thinking the drawings would interact with the figures and the space of the photos.  It was interesting just being allowed to make drawings without the pressure of the 'idea'.  It kind of goes against my grain a bit and not what I am used to but still fun nevertheless.

It was great seeing the final PDF's come in.  All those drawings I was like pot-luck of which one's were going to be used and I think the end results are pretty fantastic.
Here below are just a minute sampling of some drawings that didn't make the cut for various reasons...too complex, not complex enough, etc.  Yes, we even discussed the idea that I would hand-letter the headline of the opening spread.  I've been wanting to get involved with more lettering so I was pretty excited to have some time and an occasion to do it.  Unfortunately, it wasn't used.

Thanks to Ron for the great time working on this project!
Tactile Virtual Reality
One of the coolest things about being an illustrator is all the new stuff I learn and get to read up about.  One week it is about virtual reality, the next week about modern racism, the next about gun buying frenzies in the mid-west, the next cultural and racial awareness of breast cancer goes on and on.  In May, I got a call from Catherine Gontarek from the Penn Gazette to do a feature story on tactile virtual reality.

After reading the article my mind immediately sprang to the future possibilities of creating digital art.  I've done digital illustrations using a Wacom with Photoshop and Painter and even have done some finished jobs that way to see if it is a direction I would prefer to go in.  Even got into some annuals.  In the end it wasn't something I preferred.  I am a total computer dork but I like having a physical piece in the end.
The article describes how gamers and even surgeons could use 'tactile' virtual reality to actually feel cutting skin or being shot in their favorite games.  With the gamers, it wasn't enough to just feel the pulse of being shot but trying to recreate the burning sensation of a bullet.  Apparently, they've done research.

Further along in the article it goes into what a pencil would feel like on different surfaces and even describes an example:

"Now imagine dragging a stylus—or a pencil tip, if that’s more familiar—across the smooth screen of a tablet monitor, or a handheld PDA device. It scoots across the glass practically without friction, making almost no sound. 

That’s exactly what doesn’t happen when Romano calls up one of his textures to a screen that sits next to his keyboard. This time, you drag the stylus over a picture of crinkled plastic and it jiggles around in your hand as though you were plowing across actual furrows and seams. The pixels of denim “feel” like a pair of broken-in jeans. Writing on the virtual stationery is downright eerie. The papery scritch-scratch might as well be emanating from a pen nib scrawling an old-fashioned thank-you note."

I imagine the possibilities of running a pen over a tablet and and feeling the sensation of a watercolor brush on heavy handmade paper.  I imagine how having this tactile quality could actually add to the handling of the art itself.  Would I be able to feel the same sensations of running my palette knife over the surface of my painting?  How would this transform digitally created art?  Will having this tactile quality help the artist improve their work?  I would love to hear from digital artists out there your thoughts on this.

Read the full article here:

Penn Gazette - Touching the Virtual Frontier
It was great working with Catherine and had a lot of fun doing these paintings.

As I am writing this, it occurred to me that I haven't gotten the physical copy of the magazine, only the digital PDF's.  I wonder, with the advent of the iPad and other 'readers', that if someone or company is going to create a 'virtual tactile magazine reading sensation' program.  Maybe I can reach up, touch my screen and feel the texture and crinkling of the newspaper and magazine paper as I turn the pages.
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Bakal is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!