Painting Process

New Piece, Painting, Places

I’ve been on a painting kick in the last year. Normally I don’t make time to get down into the garage to work on personal projects, but I’ve been trying harder to make it a habit. Helping keep me on task, I’ve also been documenting my process more than I ever have, and in this last painting, I took snapshots of the piece at the end of every painting session in order to see how the piece evolves. It’s so easy to forget where you started from, especially when you have days and weeks between sessions. So, I enjoyed seeing it come together and thought it would be fun to share.

painting-process

A little back story is that the photo I referenced I took while on a road trip through the Southwest. The image was taken on Navajo land just east of the Grand Canyon. The gorge in the painting is in fact the same canyon, just a little less of the grand part, as it becomes shallow and narrow enough to cross like any ol’ river a few miles further down the road from where the photo was taken.

San Francisco Card Deck

Branding, Cards, Design, Illustration, Packaging, Places, Print, Uncategorized

This year, my client gift was a custom deck of playing cards featuring landmarks from San Francisco, a fun personal tribute to the city I love and that so many also love to love.

I am no stranger to designing cards, having created a custom deck of poker cards for a charity poker tournament, as well as two card-based games for Google (Data Center Manager and Launch & Iterate). I love games, and also love designing for them, so deciding on a poker deck as a client gift seemed like the perfect pair.

I started back in the summer, thinking how to organize the face cards. There are a variety of options, such as by neighborhood, or by personalities (techie, hippie, by park, etc. I decided on buildings and landmarks because they had a pretty decent correlation by category for each set of 4 face cards and also had a certain amount of historical and intrinsic value to the people of San Francisco. But, as no option was perfect for capturing every aspect of the city’s culture, heritage and history, some icons didn’t make it, such as Dolores Park, AT&T Park, or the Presidio, to name a few that got cut from the long list.

What I did include were 3 categories of landmarks for each set of face cards.

Kings

SF Card Deck KingsKings were represented by famous tall buildings or towers: Sutro, TransAmerica, Coit and the Ferry Building clock tower. I think I chose them as Kings purely based on height.

Queens

SF Card Deck QueensQueens were some of the beloved bridges that are either in or connect to San Francisco: Bay Bridge both east and western spans, Golden Gate, and the slightly less famous but delightful bridge in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Perhaps I chose them for queens because they hold some of the real power in the city, as far as connecting us to our neighbors.

Jacks

SF Card Deck JacksJacks comprised of other famous tourist attractions including the Painted Ladies in Alamo Square, Alcatraz Island, Lombard Street, and the Palace of Fine Arts, which coincidentally happened to celebrate its 100th birthday this year.

SF Card Deck 2Of course, the real character of the cards lies in the Joker, whom I aptly chose our dear Emperor Norton to fill the role of. It seemed all too appropriate. (Don’t know who he is? Check out the wikipedia page).

SF Card Deck 3

The final consideration for the cards was the color palette, which is very limited. These colors are the ones I’ve chosen for my personal branding, but it’s not a huge coincidence that the cadmium red (not quite international orange, but certainly in the spirit) and sea green are in play for this San Francisco-based designer.

SF Card Deck 1

Want a deck of your own? Email me, and I can mail you a pack ($20+shipping). While supplies last.

SF Card Deck 4

In the Wilderness for a Week

Illustration, Places

Backpacking 2015

Just a note that I’ll be off in the wilderness for a much anticipated week of backpacking the Rae Lakes Loop Trail from the 21st-29th. I’ll be back in action (in this case “action” is ironic since I will simply be back in front a computer instead of hiking all day) and filling your feed with more infographics and illustrations upon my return.

Family Greetings in Retro Travel Postcard Style

Cards, Design, Illustration, New Piece, Print

Day Care Project final web

I worked on a project recently that was a lot of fun. A mother whose child attends a small daycare center wanted to pull together a unique thank you gift for the class’s teachers. She found a board she really liked on Etsy, and thought it would be fun to have pictures of the families to pin onto it. We got to talking and the idea expanded to be not just family photos, but vintage inspired travel postcard themed cards with a greeting of their choice on it. Each family had a fun story or background that we could highlight, so I whipped up a textured template (working with a limited palette that went well with the board she’d found) and I made a bunch of fun graphics to include on each family’s card. I also aged the photos a bit to make them fit in with the retro style a bit more.

Day Care Photos Lutz

Father came from Hawaii, and they love to surf!

They love to be outdoors, especially their garden.

They love to be outdoors, especially their garden.

Mom is from Trinidad and Father is from Norway, so they can never decide between skiing and surfing.

Mom is from Trinidad and Father is from Norway, so they can never decide between skiing and surfing.

Parents are from Taiwan and New Jersey - their love met in the middle. Can't forget the dog!

Parents are from Taiwan and New Jersey – their love met in the middle. They love biking and hiking, too.

All their love, from Switzerland.

All their love, from Switzerland.

We have a rivalry on our hands! Also, can't forget the dog.

We have a rivalry on our hands! Also, can’t forget the dog.

Both parents are basically professional dancers, both ballroom and swing.

Both parents are basically professional dancers, both ballroom and swing.

Can't forget the Frozen fans. (image blurred by family's request).

Can’t forget the Frozen fans. (image blurred by family’s request).

A very fun, personalized gift for the teachers. They loved it so much they plan on keeping it in the classroom even after the current class has moved on.

It was a lot of fun coming up with graphics for each family and having it work with the theme. I liked the color palette a lot, too. Would be fun to make more graphics like this.

Oh, here’s the backside, where the family’s wrote their personalized messages. Complete with custom stamp and post office marker.

Print

California Wine Infographic

Design, Illustration, New Piece, Posters, Print

Kowal_Wine_Infographic_BoldItalic-1

 

Made another fun infographic, this time all about the Wine Industry in California (spoiler alert: it’s big). From production to consumption, California is a big winner. Prints are also available at Society 6.

Kowal_Wine_Infographic_BoldItalic-2

Kowal_Wine_Infographic_BoldItalic-4

Kowal_Wine_Infographic_BoldItalic-3

Kowal_Wine_Infographic_BoldItalic-5

 

Here’s a peek at the full scale, poster version.

Print

 

 

 

Austin’s Awesome

Cards, Design, Illustration, New Piece, Places, Print

Austin Thank You web

I recently spent a week in Austin and had such a fantastic time I decided to draw about it. Spending time with friends who just moved down there and knew the lay of the land was the added bonus, as we got such good insider knowledge on where to go (and eat!).

While my little illustrated thank you card to our fabulous hosts has a few inside jokes, for the most part, I think I captured the spirit of our trip with our adventures in learning the Texas Two Step at the honky tonkest joint I’ve ever seen, going to a UT Football game (the first time I’ve ever been to a college game, oh lordy), waiting in line for the most delicious brisket I’ve ever tasted, seeing the bats come out from under the bridge at dusk, enjoying live music and tasty beverages on Rainey Street, and playing a little bar trivia (and that’s not even mentioning the time we spent on the East side!). In addition, I thoroughly enjoy Austin’s mid-century modern style which can be found across the whole town in its architecture and interior design. Such a treat to see classic neon signage and amazing lettering used so well in so many places.  Such a fun place, I’d like to draw it even more.

Southwest Roadie

Places

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to go on a wonderful road trip from San Francisco, down the coast and across to the Grand Canyon and back. I would not file myself under the label of photographer, but I know what I like and decided to take the chance on a fancy rental lens to see how well I could do while discovering the wild west.

I love painting landscapes, and I think I got a lot of great source material this trip. The colors were warm and vibrant. The sky was clear on most of the days, and even the days that were a bit hazy leant themselves to some wonderful atmospheric perspective.

Day 2 (uh, we got a late start on Day 1 – I have no photos): Carmel to Santa Barbara

Starting off from Pebble Beach and driving along 17 Mile Drive to Carmel admiring the rocky shores and wind blown Monterey Cypress, then driving down the coast to Big Sur. There’s a beautiful waterfall at Julia Pfeiffer beach that can’t be missed.

Day 3: Santa Barbara to Joshua Tree

Santa Barbara is a beautiful town full of lots of spanish mission style architecture and tons of sun. One of my favorite things to check out though, is the mural that’s painted on the walls of the courthouse. No photo I took will capture its entirety or magnificence, but I highly recommend checking it out. The other random highlight of Santa Barbara is the epic and ancient fig tree that resides just next to the 101 freeway. Planted in 1876, it is mighty. Per a 2010 measurement, the widest spread of the branches is 198 feet (60 m). The trunk diameter above the buttress roots is 12.5 feet. Huge.

After Santa Barbara we drove through LA (stopping for some amazing Korean BBQ in downtown first), we drove on to Palm Springs and then up to Joshua Tree just as the sun was setting. Our airbnb for the night was an amazing little “homesteader cabin” a good 6-7 miles off the main highway, off a dirt road. I got a couple night shots of the view from the porch, but it was nearly a full moon, so the stars were a little daunted by the bright light. Still, a really beautiful and serene evening.

Day 4: Joshua Tree to Sedona

Joshua Tree is a crazy place. It reminded me of a Dr. Seuss book. I also discovered that Joshua Trees are in the Yucca family. They came in so many shapes, appendage numbers, and sizes. We had seen a few of them as we traveled closer to the National Park and also throughout the rest of the Arizona/Nevada area, but there truly wasn’t the same concentration as in the Park itself. Quite stunning to see a forest of them line the road as we drove through. We caught them with a brilliant blue sky and wispy clouds that added another level of character to the landscapes.

And then there’s Sedona. We planned our entrance into the valley perfectly to catch sunset. The formations are beautiful enough in the middle of the day, but when the warm light of sunset hits the brilliant red rocks, they glow. We arrived at that night’s airbnb just as the light was prime for photos and we had a great view of the hills from the porch. After the sun set, I caught a nice shot of the moon rising in dusk light.

Day 5: Sedona to Grand Canyon and over to Kanab, UT

We woke up in Sedona and drove through town a bit to get some views of the wonderful formations. We also wandered over to the chapel that is built into the hillside. It was a pretty impressive construction. I was more amused by the view from the chapel looking down upon the gaudiest home I’ve ever seen. Yeah, check it out – you can’t miss it. I think they must have thought that by painting it red like the rocks it would blend in…

We moved on towards the Grand Canyon afterwards. It was cooling down at that point (it even snowed lightly a little bit), and we were greeted by a very overcast sky when we got there. While I was a little sad to not have the sun illuminate the striking colors and formations that the canyon makes, the diffused lighting did have a certain somber and powerful character of its own. I remarked that the whole thing just looked like a painting in some movie backlot. It’s really hard to believe it’s real even when you’re standing right in front of it.

We drove west a bit, then backtracked along the eastern side of the south rim to the “look out” which was a unique perspective – looking west you could still see the deep cavernous ridge line, but looking east, you could see the plateaus and flat land that extend beyond where the canyon gets shallower. We continued our drive going east towards Lake Powell, stopping at a reservation where they kindly let me take a few more pictures from their vantage point. We drove all the way around up into Utah and landed for the night in the adorable town called Kanab.

Day 6: Kanab to Las Vegas

Kanab is the most quaint little roadside town. Feels like it belongs on Route 66 and clearly gets frequented by people visiting the surrounding national parks. Lots of great neon and retro details throughout the town. It is considered the Little Hollywood of Utah. It definitely had a hay-day where lots of Westerns were filmed in the surrounding area – and movies of note, too. We just watched The Outlaw Josey Wales, a Clint Eastwood flick, that was filmed there to see if we recognized anything.

They have an amazing little movie museum with some sets that were used in films. It’s pretty much perfect.

We went from Kanab to Zion, only about an hour’s drive away. Zion is a beautiful canyon with more stunning rock formations. It has the longest tunnel I’ve ever driven through, carved straight through a mountain side, with only a few pockets of light streaming in as you drove through it. We hiked in the canyon at the end of the northern loop of the road which had a beautiful river running through it.

We left through the southwest entrance and headed on to Vegas for the night.

Day 7: Las Vegas to Death Valley

Being in Vegas was even more surreal than usual, having come from such natural wonders to the artificial wonder that is Vegas. We did the usual Vegas thing that night – dinner and a show, then headed out in the late morning towards Death Valley. We passed a little gas station/brothel on the way, too, on the outskirts of Area 51. Gotta love Nevada.

Death Valley was glorious. We have both decided that we’ll have to come back with more time to explore it. The colors, textures, and formations we saw were so surreal and like nothing I’d ever seen. It looked like something out of a Dalí painting. There was also a quaint little Inn tucked into the hillside that was quite literally an oasis in the middle of the desert.  And then the sun was setting as we drove out, making such gorgeous colors: purple hills, golden tumbleweed brush, auburn red dirt, all against a fading blue sky. Such a treat to see. We ended our night in Lone Pine, on the Eastern foothills of the Sierra.

Day 8: Lone Pine & Alabama Hills

Lone Pine is another one of those go-to Western Film shooting locations. Not to mention a few Star Trek movies/episodes. I’ve always loved it. My family used to come up and camp in Onion Valley and surrounding areas, and my Aunt once took my brother and me up Mt. Whitney which you get a nice view of from Lone Pine. While it’s the tallest peak in the continuous US, it doesn’t look like the tallest from the valley. Fond memories, and of course, a gorgeous view. Snow still specks the peaks, and the contrast of the bright blue sky, light blue and gray mountains, with the rambling auburn Alabama hills in the forefront made for a great shot.

This was basically the end of our journey though. We decided to just drive back home via the 5, which isn’t as spectacular as what we’d just seen (unless you count the usual cow concentration camps). Or else I’ve just gotten too familiar with the drive to really notice it’s beautiful spots.

Saga Motor Hotel, Pasadena

Places

This hotel was timeless, and by timeless, I mean totally dated. A relic from 1950 (60?), and loving it. I loved the typography of the name “Saga,” the two-toned peach paint job, the teal accents, cinderblock lattice walls, decorative concrete motifs, viking mosaic, and excessive use of palm trees. A total California retro gem. I was sad to see that they had attempted to update the interior of the rooms, so they weren’t nearly as cool.

My brother put me up here when I was down visiting in Pasadena, and I have decided it’s the only hotel I ever want to stay at again when visiting.

 

New Orleans

Places

I spent the weekend in New Orleans, which was incredibly fabulous for many reasons. In addition to it being a fun town, it also has some of the most amazing architecture and atmosphere. When you see people trying to make “shabby-chic” look cool, NOLA is their muse, and frankly, is the only place that can get away with it and look authentic. The colors are vibrant, all the textures are perfectly weathered, and the wrought iron is delicate and intricate. It is genuine, rich, and chock full of its own history.

Around San Francisco

Uncategorized

Last Friday I had the privilege of going on a fun bakery crawl sponsored by Scharffen Berger chocolates. I wrote all about it here on my baking blog, but while I was at it, I couldn’t help but enjoy the perfect October afternoon and evening San Fran was having, and took a few pictures of the places we went along the way.

Not sure I’m equipped for some of the night shots I took, but the colors were still pretty fabulous.