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This week, our Challenge has been inspired by a post on The Fox Is Black, a blog I recently subscribed to. The blog is “an art and design website that seeks to discover and share the most interesting, beautiful and inspiring parts of contemporary life.” Well worth checking out—but let’s cut to the chase: they’re having an art contest where the winner gets a $100 gift certificate from Amazon!!!

But there are zillions of contests out on the interwebs; this one is actually really cool AND fits in nicely with the mission of Marvin Artists: to inspire you to create different types of art. The contest is part of The Fox Is Black’s regular feature “Re-covered Books”, where they invite people to come up with their own unique interpretation of a particular book’s cover. For this contest, your task is to create a new cover for Homer’s Odyssey. Use whatever media you wish, and feel free to make a back cover for extra credit. And don’t forget: $100!!!

You can find full information for the Recovered contest here. We hope to see your Marvin Artists submission before next Wednesday, but the actual deadline for the contest proper is April 15.

Now I just need to read The Odyssey…

-Ted

Hey there Marvinites. Another week, another exciting artistic Challenge!

Penguin Books, the UK publisher, is famous for their distinctive cover designs. The design style has gone through many different phases, with the iconic orange covers being arguably the most famous. (The covers were coded by colour, sharing a common design layout. Orange was for general fiction, green was crime, cerise for travel and adventure, and so on.) Illustrated covers were resisted for many years, but when they did arrive, the images were distinctive and bold. Icons and text were also used in a bold style that made Penguin Books stand out from other titles at your local W.H. Smith’s. Penguin also published Pelican books (intended to be educational) and Puffin Books (aimed at children).

For examples of Penguin Book covers, a simple Google search will turn up zillions of matches. Good centralized collections are this one of science fiction titles, this great two-page Flickr collection, and this large gallery from a book cover-related site. Need the Penguin logo? You can find a nice large one here. The older Penguin badge is in this image (which may also serve as a template if you want to do one of the more basic, classic cover styles). And the excellent Wikipedia article from which I got much of the information in this post tells us that the common font used on the early Penguin Books was Gill Sans.

So what we’re doing is picking a book that has not been released by Penguin (don’t feel the need to prove it hasn’t been, though! Save your energy for being creative!) and then making a new cover design in the Penguin style. Do one in the banded colour format of the early days, something bold and dynamic like the books of the 60s and 70s, or the classy artsy covers of the 21st century. Be imaginative; be clever; be a Marvin Artist!

-Ted

PS: pretty much unrelated, but this poster advertising Penguin’s new audiobook range is AWESOME.

PPS: Another aside: this is possibly my favourite Penguin cover EVER.

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This should be an interesting Challenge: we’re tackling the unique look of the dvd covers from the Criterion Collection. Criterion produces some of the most complete, researched, and well-restored movies available, and their distinctive “arty” dvd covers are part of what has made them famous. Your mission this week (should you choose to accept it) will be to pick a movie that Criterion has NOT released, and design a cover for it.

While movies from the Criterion Collection have a unique and identifiable look, they don’t follow a strict formula, and thus there is a wide variety of styles in their covers. Some include an image or two from the film itself, while others might include a mix of images and icons. Some are drawings, some are manipulated images not necessarily drawn from the movie itself, and others are more abstract. The one unifying characteristic of all Criterion covers is boldness; they have a marked style that sets them apart from mass market videos, with artistic qualities, clever use of colour, and striking typography.

A good place to get an overview of real Criterion covers is this website, where a guy has posted his fifty favourites. For this Challenge, you can get a lot of inspiration from the Fake Criterion website; there’s about 6 pages of fun dvd covers there. (That’s where I got the pictures at the top of this post.)

I thought I’d give y'all some links to helpful resources for the Criterion graphics themselves. A clean copy of the “C” icon can be found here. An EPS of the “Criterion Collection” text can be found here, although I’d suggest just using a narrow sans serif font like Helvetica.

Now go out and make something that looks expensive!

-Ted

Hello fellow citizens of Tatooine…I have felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if Evil itself has called out into the night and demanded to be redesigned by a group of innovative independent artists. We have a new Challenge. It is our destiny to honour Lord Vader and rethink his image in a new, original, and supa-cool style. The folks over at Superhero of the Month have introduced a contest calling for submissions of Darth Vader redesigns, and our Challenge this week is to do just that. Once you’re done with your design, post it here AND enter the contest! Wouldn’t it be cool if one of the Marvinites won???

I’ve got a good feeling about this…may the Force be with you (whichever side you owe allegiance to.)

-Ted

PS: The above image is from a different Vader Redesign contest earlier this year, and is by Hydro74, who designs some really cool fonts and has the badassiest business card on the planet. Check out his site!

Hey folkses! We have a new Challenge, the first of five weeks in the Mad Month of May, where we devote ourselves to the mystic arts (see what I did?) of TAROT! In honour of our newest Marvin Artists acolyte, Robert Bapst (of Houdini fame), each week in May, we’ll feature a new Tarot Challenge, redesigning the cards of a standard tarot deck. Our inspiration comes from that always-entertaining blog, Super Punch, who challenged a number of artists to each design a card in the tarot, with the complete deck being featured at an art gallery.

For this first week of the Mad Month of May Tarot Challenge, Marvin Artists dares you to design a card from the suit of PENTACLES! Pick any card, Ace through ten or one of the face cards, Jack (also known as the Page), Knight, Queen or King. Do a few, if you like! Note that the suit of Pentacles is sometimes called the suit of Coins or Disks, so that’s cool too.

If you’re unsure what cards look like, or are generally unfamiliar with tarot cards, check out the above link to Wikipedia, or search around on Google Images. Two important things to remember: 1) Have fun. 2) Don’t summon the Devil (or Charles Nelson Reilly).

ON TO THE PENTACLES! MORE SUITS TO FOLLOW, AND THE MAJOR ARCANA IN THE FIFTH WEEK!!!!

-Ted

Wow! Thanks to all who submitted redesigned superheroes this past week! That was an impressive turnout. Would love to see y'all back this week if you can make it!

And speaking of “make”, it’s time to make more art! This time we’re being inspired by Kyle Tezak’s “Four Icon Challenge”, whereby he attempts to summarize his favourite films or books in four simple, concise icons. What a challenge! Love it!

We’re inviting you, the Marvin Artist maven, to pick your favourite movie, book, play, historical event, or the like, and try and reduce the plot down to four events. Then reduce each of those events down to a single icon. Then draw those icons. Then post them and share them with your fellow Marvinites!

See you next Monday, artisans!

-Ted

Hi there Marvinites! We’ve switched to Mondays; did you notice? We got together and thought more people might feel able to do the Challenges if the (albeit loose) due date was immediately following a weekend, when folks might have more free time to make art. Prove us right! Make some art and share it with your favourite artizens! (That’s artisans+citizens.)

This week our Challenge is inspired by a contest held last year by Phil McAndrew at his Phil In The Blanks blog, where he invited people to illustrate their favourite scene from a movie. Here’s a link to the initial contest description; if you scroll down to the comments, you can find links to a lot of different submissions that might be inspiring. The winners are here (although I would’ve totally voted for the Ghostbusters one by JSalvador, pictured above.)

So get out your favourite tools, explore whatever medium you wish, and then daydream about your favourite movies and pick a scene you want to illustrate! Post it by next Monday, and you too can be a Marvin Artist!

-Ted

Hey there Bob and Sally, we’ve got another Challenge for you! Grab your bottle of ink and nib pen, for we are emulating famed caricaturist Al Hirschfeld!

If you’re not familiar with Hirschfeld’s work, Google Image him, or check out his website. He has an amazing expressive style, full of sweeping lines that capture the essence of his subjects. Speaking of his subjects, he was probably best known for drawing caricatures of the cast of Broadway plays and Hollywood film stars, so that might help lead you to a suitable subject for your own tribute.

A fairly well-known fact about Hirschfeld (reflected in its own section on Hirschfeld’s Wikipedia entry) is that he would frequently hide the name of his daughter Nina in his drawings, sometimes multiple times. (If the name appeared multiple times, Hirschfeld would helpfully include a number next to his distinctive signature to help the viewer in their quest to find all of them.) For example, check out this drawing of Lucille Ball. Note the “3” next to the signature, and look through the drawing to see if you can find all three “Nina"s.

We here at Marvin Artists have no daughter, so we encourage you to hide the name "Marv” in your drawing one or more times. As Kit said in the prompt, don’t forget to put a number next to your signature to indicate how many Marvs there are!

Now get out there, muse over whose caricature you’re going to do, and commence to drawin’!

-Ted

Greetings, true believers!

Here’s hoping everybody had fun with last week’s Burma-Shave Challenge. This week finds us in the super-colossal world of comic books! The Challenge we have for you this time around is inspired by the always-entertaining Covered Blog, which features artists remaking a classic comic book cover in their own style. Go take a look at some of the interesting inspirations you can find there—I love the way some people are fairly faithful to the original art, but the really fun ones are the original takes on a cover’s art (like the one at the top of this post.) There’s also a “Rejected From Covered” blog which has even more unique interpretations. And if that’s not enough examples for you, you can also check into something from a similar vein with Repulped.

This week on Marvin Artists, we want you to cover a cover—reproduce your favourite comic book cover in the style and media of your choosing, hopefully reinterpreted in your own unique way! Unsure of which cover to do? You can browse a gajillion comic book covers from different eras at the very excellent CoverBrowser. OR if you’d like to narrow down the list, some people have listed their favourite covers here and here.

Let’s see what you’ve got!

Up, up, and awayyyyy!

-Ted

PS: Just found some great best/worst covers lists here! Worth gandering at!

This week, we’re giving you until Monday to reimagine a superhero or team of superheroes! The Challenge was inspired by one of my fave blogs, Project Rooftop, whose mission is summarized by the text in their masthead: “superheroes, redesigned”. They feature posts about reimagined superheroes both from fans and from the comics companies themselves.

What we’d like YOU to do is come up with a new look (or perhaps a whole new characterization!) of a superhero. If you’re feeling REALLY creative, redesign a whole group! Pencil, pen, brush, sewing, all media forms are valid–share with us, we want to see what you’ve got!

Enjoy,

Ted

Kate Beaton is awesome, but you may have already known that.

She draws fun cartoons, frequently on historical subjects but with a wacky bent. She has a great blog called Hark, A Vagrant where she shows off her keen-o scribblings. I first discovered Kate from the blog Super Punch, where they highlighted a particularly amusing idea she had come up with: judge a book by its cover, and then illustrate it. Basically, she looked at a book’s cover, then dreamed up what she thought it might be about (or, more accurately, what it might be about if it was hilarious) and then illustrated it in a four-panel comic strip, where the first panel was the cover itself. (One panel in the strip would usually be a semi-direct interpretation of the cover, with added dialogue.)

As an avid Nancy Drew fan (there’s a revelation for ya!) I particularly love her interpretation of Nancy Drew covers: one, two, three. (Where IS the old person zoo???) If you’re of a more literary bent, you may enjoy these. (Or perhaps this set or this set).

This week on Marvin Artists, we give you the Kate Beaton Challenge: grab a book off the shelf–from your own collection, a thrift store, a library; heck, you can just grab an image off of Amazon iff'n ya want to–then look at the cover and dream up a wacky scenario or plotline based SOLELY on the cover art. Then draw a three panel cartoon summing it all up, pair it with the original cover, and share it with the world!

Hey, here’s a funny cartoon. It’s not directly related to this week’s Challenge, but it is by Kate Beaton, and it amuses me greatly. (And it is about Nikola Tesla. Did I mention Kate Beaton was awesome.)

Now go draw art!

-Ted

We’re back! In fact, some might say we’re paperback! (Assuming you define “someone” as Kit FitzSimons). This week, we’re doing book art in the style of one Mr. Thomas Allen! The prompt can be found right about…here. Check out the link there for more Allen examples, or Google his name for tons o’ inspiration.

Basically, the challenge is this: go down to your local used bookstore or thrift shop, and grab a bunch of books that you think have interesting covers: ones with big figures, people in interesting poses, or unusual objects. Then get out your X-acto knife, and carefully cut around selected images from the cover–but not ALL around it! You’ll want to leave one edge uncut, as you’ll be bending the image up so it sticks out of the cover. Pick images from different books, and arrange the books in an interesting diorama. Take a carefully-framed picture, and share the result with your fellow Marvin Artists!

Note that some of Allen’s work is done with interior pages from a book–that’s okay too. The only restriction is no glue, no tape, no pins, no Photoshop–just a sharp knife, some folding, and a clever positioning of your images in juxtaposition to one another.

This’ll be fun! It won’t be too hard…or should I say hardback? (Maybe I shouldn’t….)

-Ted

This week we have an interesting exercise for all the Marvin Artists out there. We challenge you to summarize, in comicbook-esque form, a movie of your choice in SIX PANELS. No more, no less. This Challenge was inspired by a contest held by the magazine Little White Lies. Take a look at the winning entries at this page.

So pick your favourite movie, identify the six high points, and pull out your pens. The original contest restricted artists to black and white, but we here at Marvin don’t want to handcuff you in any way—go nuts! And as always, have fun.

-Ted

After an oh-so-brief absence for the holidays and the accompanying laziness, Marvin Artists has returned!

We all seemed somewhat overwhelmed at the prospect of designing our own line of blindbox toys, so this week, we’re doing something fun and easy! Students of pop culture history and the slightly more specific field of Populist Roadside Poetry may recall the famous advertising campaign by the shaving cream company Burma Shave from the 1920s to the 1960s. What they did was this (and thus): on rural roads, they places a series of (usually) six red signs, each with a short phrase on it. Together, they would form an amusing little rhyme, with a coda of the product’s name on the last sign. The clever rhymes and recognizable signs were a big hit with customers, and helped raise Burma-Shave’s sales.

You can see samples of signs in the above picture, and this website has the text of many others. The roadside poetry sometimes specifically advertised the wonders of the product, sometimes reminded the reader of road safety, and even pushed war bonds. As the 1950s wore on, more people were traveling on the superhighways, and the small signs couldn’t cope with the high speeds people were driving.

Your mission this week is to design your own Burma-Shave rhyme, preferably multiple ones! Read the examples mentioned above to see what the style and meter tends to be. You may try and advertise Burma-Shave if you wish, or push the aforementioned highway safety or war bongs, or heck, advertise some other product if you wish! You may submit your rhymes in text format (like the website examples linked above) or illustrate them in some fashion in sign form. Gold stars to anybody who actually makes signs and sets them by the side of the road.

It’s funtime, people!

“Get up off your ass/Don’t be vegetative/It’s Marvin Artists/Time to be creative/BURMA-SHAVE”

-Ted

So we have another Challenge! The past few weeks’ Challenges have been pretty straightforward, but I thought I’d write a note on this one, to encourage and explain.

This week, we’re inspired by the art of Robert The, who (among other things) makes art out of cutting up and otherwise manipulating books. Check out his site for all the cool stuff he’s created. (The cockroach is scary cool!)

What we’d like you do do this week is cut, fold, spindle, mutilate, weave, interlock, or otherwise make art using books in some fashion. Use one book or many; hardback or paperback; use the cover or the pages (check out the hangman’s noose that The made; keep clicking the picture in his gallery to see different shots–he wove a rope out of shredded newsprint…er, bookprint!) Take a pic of your creation and share it with your fellow Marvellites.

Time for a trip to the PTA Thrift Shop!

-Ted

Hi there Marvateers! As is clearly evidenced by Kit’s post, we have a new Challenge! We’re moving out of May, so this week’s art is non-tarot-based. Instead, we invite you to visit your past (or your older brother’s past, or your mom’s past, or the past you read about on some hip blog talking about retro crap). Yes, we have become inspired by Jamie and Kevin over at the 8-Bitscapes site. The Marvin Artists Challenge for this week is to take a picture of reality and insert some fantasy into it, namely that special fantasy born of the cathode-ray tube, 8-bit videogames!

So take a picture (either taken from online or taken in the sense that you take it yourself) and then use your image editor of choice to place an 8-bit game character and/or item into that environment. You can grab your 8-bit image from a screencap, draw it in, or (if you’re feeling ambitious) do as Jamie and Kevin did and make some 3-D 8-bit i-mages to insert into your real world. It’ll be fun, we swear!

When you post your image, let us know what the game is that you got your 8-bit part from, and let us know where the real world part is, if you feel like it. And don’t forget to include your name in the description, so’s we can smile and recognize who you are!

The power is yours,

-Ted

Fuckin’ blindboxes, how do they work?

If you saw our new challenge this week, you might have noticed that we’re designing our own blindbox toys! Your mission: to design a line of toys (you can just sketch ‘em, you don’t have to MAKE each separate toy!) Blindbox toys, for the uninitiated, are little figures or zipper pulls or whatnot, that are sold as a series of different figures, but one at a time. The catch is: the figures are sold in sealed boxes, so you don’t know which one you’ll get until you open it! It’s like gambling AND toys, all in one!

Some blindbox toys, like the Fortune Pork pictured above, are a series of toys all done in the same design style, but where each figure is a unique shape and character. Feel free to go this route if you like when designing your toys.

OR you might want to design something along the line of BearBricks, which are figures that are all the same shape, but are decorated differently. (Check out examples here and here. Heck, do a Google image search for “Bearbrick” and see all the amazing variations!

Other famous lines of blindbox toys include Dunnys, Skelanimals, and the Gloomy Bear Zipper Pulls. (And hey, if anybody gets the one with the bear punching the kid in the gut, I realllly want that one. I’ll even trade you my bloody albino attack bear.)

BTW, the Fortune Pork pictured above was purchased (for official research purposes) from Carrboro’s FINEST source of blindbox toys, t-shirts, and BOSS velvet paintings, Wootini! Visit them at their new and exciting location, at 101 Lloyd Street, across the street from Cat’s Cradle! And that is why this week is called THE WOOTINI CHALLENGE!!! Woot! Woot!

So get out there, commence to designin’, and as Skit FizTimons sez, “Don’t forget the rarity!” (There’s always one super-rare figure in a series…the one everybody wants the mostest!) Oh, and design up the box for bonus points! 1UP!

Ride the wave,

-Ted