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don@donberryillustration.com

 


An Artist's Journey

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Chapter 12: Adjusting to the Digital Age

 

By the mid 90s Positive Promotions established a fully functioning editorial office in Tucson. Part of that strategy included the creation of an in-house art department that was a computerized, state-of-the-art operation. At that time I had no experience with digital media. I could still supply artwork in the traditional way as a freelancer, but by the late 90s they began calling me less. As usual when business slowed, I painted more.

Examples of paintings from the 90s

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Portraits of friends Axel Keck, Crimson Crabtree, Emily Tellez, and Dan Castelan.

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Beachscapes from the imagination

Outdoor art projects included this address fence. It screened the driveway at the front of the studio for several years until it deteriorated from exposure to the weather. It was cut from sheets of OSB (oriented strand board) . The "2" swung in to serve as a gate.

The VGC camera developed leaks in the tanks that held the photo developing chemicals. The machine was ruined so I reorganized the parts to create this junk sculpture in the front yard. It still lives there today.

The french doors in the studio were double paned, and one of the doors developed a leak that clouded the glass. I painted a victorian design on the doors to disguise the flaw.

The next construction project was a boardwalk to connect the studio and casita. I used redwood to extend the floor of the studio through the french doors to form a continuous deck. When I built this in the fall of 1994, Thompson's Water Seal had a promotion called "America's Favorite 50 Decks". Although they were looking for a family angle, like a wedding on the deck, they included my design as one of the 50 winners. I received a gift certificate for 5 gallons of sealer but no marriage offers.

This is the walkway when first built in 1994. The view on the left looks back to the casita, on the right is the studio.

This sculpture, made from scrap plywood, overlooked the deck for a few years until destroyed by weather.

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In 1997 Hugh Holub decided to revive the Bandersnatch, his underground college newspaper, as an on-line news parody. He asked me to Help with cartoons and other graphics. At that time I still had no computer experience, but he was upgrading his equipment and gave me a small monitor and PC. He also provided a scanner and graphics software. I spent the summer of 1997 self-training and soon began providing graphics for the Bandersnatch web site. At first I simply scanned images that I had created with traditional tools.

The first cartoons for the Bandersnatch were scans of traditionally done artwork with type added using graphics software.

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In 1998 another book illustration opportunity popped up when Rebecca Salome from Mantos Press, her publishing company in Berkeley, California called with a project. She was referred by Harrison Shaffer, a designer I'd worked with at Harbinger House. Her brother, Thomas Shaw had written "The Engineer's Diet", and they wanted a cover plus several light-hearted drawings to illustrate the text. Harrison would put the book together.

The key point in the diet was to skip lunch, so they asked for an image of a cancelled lunch box on the cover. The illustration was done with prismacolor pencils with cut colored paper for the symbol and background.

Some of the interior drawings

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Around that time I was also creating a cartoon series, Dinosaur News, for the Bandersnatch site. I scanned line drawings then used graphics software to insert color. I also began to do a certain amount of drawing and painting with the mouse. The images were getting much cleaner and had more vibrant color.

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My work for the Bandersnatch was valuable training that paved the way for participation in the digital revolution. Assignments from Positive Promotions were becoming less frequent and other paying work from the local marketplace was rare. Usually enough came in to pay the bills, although credit cards got me through a slow month more than once. I busied myself with home art projects in the resulting free time.

This mural greets visitors to my studio. It was inspired by a dream in which I saw a red rhino painted on the side of a barn.

The back house was named, "La Casita", the studio became "Sala Grande", and the entire property was dubbed "the Linden Street Hermitage".

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Junk sculptures populate walls and yard areas. On the left is "Homage to a Mockingbird", on the right, "Sentinel"

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A sheep? A pig? A deer? Just the underside of a bathroom sink?

This Tiki was originally carved from a palm trunk. It had become a home for Africanized bees, so was sealed and covered with stucco with the help of my friend, Dan Castelan.

My 19-year-old Mustang finally became unsafe to drive and in January, 1999, I donated it to a charity to sell for scrap metal. Since I have a bicycle, work at home, and live in central Tucson within 3-4 miles of everything I need, biking to the grocery store, bank, dentist, etc., was quite doable. Even the Positive Promotions office, still my primary source of work, was only six blocks from my home. I soon discovered that life without a car was more peaceful and healthier than life with a car, and less expensive.

By the year 2000 business slowed even more, all my credit cards were maxed out and I could no longer make the payments. An opportunity arose thanks to the bankruptcy laws. I was a good candidate for debt relief, and I filed in November.

 

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