Vintage Photo

Vintage style portrait of mother with two girls. © Jameson Gardner Art

I have a this shot of my sister with her two girls that I took at a birthday party a while back. I thought it would be fun to try to make it look like a vintage print. Turns out there is more to that than you’d think. There is the photoshop work, of course, but I also created the distressing patterns by hand. I didn’t follow any instructions or tutorial, so there may be an easier way. I thought it turned out kind of nice. It makes me want to try out different techniques, which also makes me wonder if there is a market for portraits like this. Let me know if you’d hire me for portraits of you or your family in a vintage style.

Also, my wife and I will be in the UK for the next two weeks, so blogging may be sparse. But rest assured I’ll be back with plenty of material soon.

Self Portraits: Real guy, Evil Genius, Distinguished Guy

I took several photos of myself yesterday hoping to use one on my website. When I was finished I uploaded them to my computer and picked out a few that I liked. I wanted to name the files so that I could distinguish between them later.  I named each the first thing that came to mind as I looked at the it. These three are Real Guy, Evil Genius and Distinguished Guy—but let’s see if you can guess which one is which.

©James Gardner Tweed Herringbone Jacket, black tie and blue button down shirt portrait

This is kind of embarrassing…

©James Gardner Tweed Herringbone Jacket, black tie and blue button down shirt portrait©James Gardner Tweed Herringbone Jacket, black tie and blue button down shirt portrait

Taking photos of yourself isn’t as easy as it looks, but if you don’t like the pictures, maybe you at least like my blazer.

From Mind to Paper: Thumbnail Sketches

pen and ink

Anyone who has taken illustration classes has probably been expected to conform to some sort of process involving  thumbnail sketches. Thumbnails are small preliminary sketches that communicate the gist of an idea. I think sometimes students feel like the only purpose of thumbnails is to figure out an idea and if they are already thinking of something awesome it is an unnecessary step. Well, I am a believer that there is more to it than that.
In my experience both as an illustrator and as a graphic designer, translating an idea from your mind to your paper or design isn’t always as easy as it seems. When I worked for the BYU Universe, sometimes my coworkers would ask me to take a look at designs that they felt were struggling. I told them to explain to me what they didn’t like about it. The response usually included something about how the idea in their head had been significantly more awesome than the version they had actually produced. Of course, we would proceed to discuss the specifics of what was falling short, but I think problems like that could be avoided with a little more work on the front end.  The purpose of thumbnails is to avoid errors in translation from mind to paper. Figure out what is important about the idea. Figure out what compositional elements can convey the important things and what can create the right feel. And remember, if the composition works small it will work large.

You might have a specific image in your head, but until you draw a little version of it, you aren’t going to realize how vague your imagination can be sometimes. Don’t forget the golden rule of creativity either: Your first idea usually isn’t your best idea. I think I’ll write more about that later… but for now, use thumbnails to try some variations, chances are they will get more creative and interesting as you go.

Thumbnails can also convey the gist of your idea to a client before you get too invested. I think most illustrators and art directors are on-board with the process of approving thumbnails, sketches/comps and then the final piece. Thumbnails can work for a lot of other people too though. Landscape commission, or portrait? Show the client a little sketch before you spend a ton of work on it. Thumbnails for graphic design could save some hassle too. My coworkers and I used to complain about all the changes for which our boss or clients would ask. Sometimes I think we were totally justified, but other times we probably could have avoided it by sending them a sketch of what we were thinking.

So don’t underestimate what a Thumbnail sketch can do.


Thumbnails can convey the gist of something even when they are really tiny. All of my thumbnails included here are 2″ tall or smaller.

Preliminary sketch for illustration from Tremsin and the Firebird

Thumbnails can be used to jot down ideas for characters or objects too, not just entire compositions.

masked villain, comic book

Building a Website From Stone

The point of my website is to market hand-made traditional and dimensional illustrations—real things with real texture and dimension. So, I decided to drop the digital, though custom, typography from my header and replace it with something that would emphasize my brand. I thought it would be cool to make it out of stone.

Ok, I don’t actually know anything about carving stone, but I do know how to make faux stone. So here is what I did:

Weathered stone tablet for Jameson Gardner Art and Illustration

The first step was to carve it from styrofoam. High density foam works best because it holds the little details better, but I actually just used some foam that came in a box of shelves.

When the styrofoam was carved I covered it in a thin layer of plaster of paris, enough to protect the foam from solvents and to give me something to carve the type into, but thin enough to preserve some of the details carved into the foam.

work in progress

I then chiseled the type into the plaster.

work in progress

And covered it with a stone texture spray that I picked up at Home Depot. It comes out a variegated grey, and provides a pretty good texture, but it sure doesn’t look like believable stone until you do some painting by hand. I used acrylic washes to finish it off.

work in progress

Of course, photographing it in the right light and separating it from the background are necessary too.

The Mountain Mouse

I read a great post on MuddyColors by Lauren Panepinto. Muddy Colors is a Science-Fiction/Fantasy Art blog with contributors among the most renowned in that genre. Lauren’s post described some of the pros and cons for illustrators and other artsy folk living in the city vs the country. She mostly focused on possibilities for networking (which is very important). I think Lauren’s posts are always insightful, but she did mention that she was born in New York City and spent a lot of her life there. I think that may be the reason she didn’t list nature as one of the pros of living outside the city.

I think for many people it isn’t so easy to decide if you are a town mouse or a country mouse.  I spent  and enjoyed some time living in Kiev, but as someone who’s grown up in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains, I would certainly not trade the inspiration of nature to live closer to more Art Directors.

For example, I woke up yesterday to falling snow and thought I’d go take some photos. I wound up halfway up a mountain waiting for the fog to clear so I could take a picture of a bush, and wondering if there was a less break-necky way down than the way I came up.

To each their own, but I think I’d rather break my neck in a canyon than in a taxi.

Mountain in falling snow, fog and cliffs

A couple of the shots from yesterday’s adventure.

Bush on ledge in falling snow

Etsy Opened and Coupon

Now that I have a little more time on my hands, I’ve finally been able to open my Etsy shop. I’ve started listing prints there but it’s hard to know which images will most interest people, and how much people would pay. I’d love to get feedback on both of those things. Check out the shop at Etsy. There is also a link in the blog menu.

To accompany the opening of my shop I’m giving you all 10% OFF. Just enter the coupon code from below.


Nervous About Etsy

I’ve wanted to start an Etsy shop for awhile—a few years in fact. Every time I seriously consider it, though, something has stopped me. Sometimes, it is because I am just to busy. Sometimes, it has been because I don’t feel like i have a group of images that would appeal to buyers on Etsy. Now, I find myself just worrying about whether it will hurt my self esteem or something. I browse Etsy from time to time to see what the competition is like and I keep finding people who’s art is either mediocre or not very good at all (that of course is my opinion, but it’s an opinion that I tend to value), yet, they are making sales.

A more optimistic person might say “well if they can sell, I will have no problems”. I find myself, rather, saying, If I don’t sell, logically, my work must be less valuable than mediocre or bad.  That is my dilemma—it is dumb, I know it, but it’s how I feel.

This is a portrait/study of a girl with a green hat.  It is a little older and doesn’t really relate to this post at all… but I hate to put up a post without a picture and I couldn’t see myself writing a post for just this image. So this is the orphan illustration.

Oil painting study or portrait of girl with pink shirt and green hat