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Illustrator Spills The Vegetables, Admits He’s Not Perfect

November 15, 2013

You’ve heard of spilling the beans? Well, I’m spilling all the vegetables here, and confessing two things:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

1. I make a lot of little mistakes when I draw
2. I sometimes struggle with an idea, knowing it’s got potential, but that it needs workBlankVertSpace.8pixels

Yes, I know you’re shocked, but don’t do anything rash, like dropping out of the Mark Armstrong Fan Club… : (BlankVertSpace.8pixels

I think it’s good to demystify art. So often we see final art and unconsciously assume it all came easily, that the creator must be a genius, specially gifted, etc, etc. The truth is, the process is often messy– at least for me.BlankVertSpace.8pixels

Here’s a recent example: I had an idea for a visual pun– a joke about a podcast being made from a real “pod.” Here’s my initial sketch:

original pea podcast line drawing, broccoli string bean tomato eggplant, lettuce celery carrot other vegetables standing next to a peapod that is broadcasting a podcast

I could see a number of problems. The musical notes don’t make sense. A podcast usually involves instruction or discussion; they’re not music programs like you’d hear on the radio.

The proportions are wrong: a pea pod is a lot smaller than your average eggplant, for example. A giant pea pod doesn’t make any sense.

And the orientation is off: the tomato is facing in a different direction than the other veggies. I also thought the carrot should be taller, to better frame the right side of the drawing.

Finally, I wanted to do something more ambitious than just a simple cartoon with a spoken caption.

With all that in mind, here’s my revised line drawing:

revised line drawing for pea podcast showing broccoli string bean tomato eggplant, lettuce celery carrot other vegetables standing next to a peapod that is broadcasting a podcast

Oops! Looks like poor Mr. Broccoli got the hook. What else is different? Here’s a side-by-side compare:comparison of original and revised line drawings for pea podcast showing broccoli string bean tomato eggplant, lettuce celery carrot other vegetables standing next to a peapod that is broadcasting a podcast

Biggest changes: the pod’s much smaller, the broccoli’s gone, the tomato’s now facing the same way as everyone else, the carrot’s taller, and the entire veggie group has been moved back so it’s slightly behind the pea pod.

I did the original sketch on paper, but I do all my line revisions directly in Photoshop. I’ll use the Pen tool if I need to draw an additional line, but I’ve found I can usually copy and paste bits and pieces of existing lines to get what I need.

For example: the tomato’s new eyes are simply dupes of another vegetable’s eyes. And the tomato’s new smile is simply his old smile flipped horizontally and rotated a bit.BlankVertSpace.4pixelsBlankVertSpace.8pixels

I wrestled with the concept for several days– where was I going with this??

Finally I thought of the term vegetable matter, and I had my solution: a program called Vegetable Matters that would discuss topics of interest to… vegetables.BlankVertSpace.4pixelsBlankVertSpace.8pixels

It’s always a mistake to use too many different fonts in a design, but I decided to go with three here, and I like the result:

Vegetable Matters The Podcast and farmers market text added to pea podcast revised line drawing, broccoli string bean tomato eggplant, lettuce celery carrot other vegetables standing next to a peapod that is broadcasting a podcast

Believe it or not, the really hard work was done: an idea that works, and a drawing that works. The rest was a series of color experiments and Photoshop techniques. A lot of time and effort, sure, but I knew I was on solid ground.

Here’s the color final:

color final for Vegetable Matters The Podcast humorous poster drawing showing broccoli string bean tomato eggplant, lettuce celery carrot other vegetables standing next to a peapod that is broadcasting a podcast

I know what you’re thinking: could I buy a print for all the geeks and vegetarians on my Christmas list? Absolutely. It’s available on my Fine Art America website.

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I don’t listen to too many podcasts– how about you?

Did you realize vegetables are intellectually curious before reading this post?

Do you still love me even though I’m not perfect??

Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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Other Posts You Might Enjoy:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

Is It Too Late To Wish Everyone A Happy New Year??

Silly Me: The Beguiling Power Of Self-Mockery

What Kind Of Man Inserts Himself Into Old Print Ads??

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39 Comments leave one →
  1. Lily permalink
    November 15, 2013 3:10 PM

    You had me at “spilling the vegetables” 🙂

    This post is pretty inspirational. The fact that you’re not perfect and make mistakes too just means that you’re real! It’s also nice to know that even a pro comes across a few challenges sometimes 🙂


    • November 16, 2013 10:18 AM

      Ha! Your opening line– You had me at spilling the vegetables– made me laugh with joy! Thank you, dear Lily, you sweet person, you.

      Very glad you enjoyed the post. I know what you mean about mistakes and flaws somehow making a person more real. When I consider all the mistakes I make, I think I may have to bump myself into a higher category: from Real to Truly Authentic!! : )

      Thanks for that lovely comment, and your wonderful support!


  2. November 15, 2013 3:41 PM

    Love your podcast post. To answer to your question – no I don’t listen to pod casts but now I’m beginning to wonder if I should? Can anyone enlighten me, please.


  3. November 15, 2013 3:51 PM

    Howdy, Mark.

    Art is a process, as you well know, and I fully understand that the process isn’t mistake-free, and it doesn’t flow without some effort. What I think matters is the final product, and I really like what you’ve done here.


    • November 16, 2013 10:47 AM

      Ah!– a most gracious comment, Jak, thank you.

      Yes, it’s funny: one can grind away, putting in a lot of time and effort on piece, but it all seems to fall away if things come right in the end. If you’re happy with the result, you forget the blood, sweat, and tears it may have taken you to get there!

      Thanks as always for your support, sir! : )


  4. November 15, 2013 4:30 PM

    Those are your deep dark secrets? You’ll never rise to the level of tormented Goth with that, Mark! 😀 Nice illustration, I’m glad it had some color in the end. Really bought it to life. And yes, I downloaded all sorts of apps. Never had plans to pay until I discovers instructional podcasts. Now I’m relearning 2 languages, learning Chinese for the fist time. Addicted.

    My friend paints dark scenes, he grew up n a town where a bunch of kidnappings took place and everyone lived in fear. Definetly affected his art. Is genius stuff.


    • November 16, 2013 10:59 AM

      Oh, no! I don’t have what it takes to be a Tormented Goth?? I guess I’ll hafta return all these black clothes to the store, then. Too bad– I was looking forward to wearing the black boxer shorts with all the little skulls… : )

      It is amazing what one can learn online these days. Every so often I’ll read an article which predicts the coming demise of brick-and-mortar learning institutions, i.e., colleges and universities. Sounds shocking, but things do seem to be trending that way…

      One’s upbringing and environment must surely impact an artist’s sensibility. And one can’t help but marvel at how pain and dire circumstances can sometimes produce beautiful art.

      Good to see you, Amelie, many thanks for your comment!


  5. November 15, 2013 6:07 PM

    You, not perfect? Mock all you like, I do not believe you!
    That means that my admiration is solid! 🙂
    Have a great weekend, my friend and lots of sales …it’s a nice boost from time to time!! 😉


    • November 16, 2013 11:25 AM

      My dear Marina!! I am humbled by your adamant disbelief in my imperfection!! OK, I’ll climb back up on my pedestal– now where did I put that stepladder… ? : )

      Lots of sales– yes, that sounds good! I must start planning now for my new life as a millionaire… : )

      Perhaps someday I’ll be almost as popular as this wonderfully talented painter.

      Wishing you a delightful weekend as well, and thanks so much for your mirthful support!! : )


  6. November 15, 2013 7:36 PM

    Thanks for sharing your creative process Mark, and no, I did not realise that vegetables were intellectually curious, who knew!


    • November 16, 2013 11:32 AM

      Ha, ha!– thanks, Jen!

      Yes, you’d think by now the intellectual curiosity of vegetables would have attracted more attention. I got another reminder of it recently while I was grocery shopping. I always bring some weighty philosophical work with me (in paperback), so I can improve my mind as I roam the aisles looking for candy, cheese curls, and other health foods.

      As I passed thru the produce section, many of the veggies leaned forward so they could read over my shoulder. The sad part is, they probably understood the material better than me… : (

      Thanks as always for your wonderful support!! : )


  7. November 15, 2013 8:37 PM

    As a sometimes “would be” illustrator and a fledging writer, I know the feeling Mr. Armstrong speaks of. I was a fine arts major in college, but went on to do other things non-art related. I recently began again to draw and it is like coming back to a true love that one has to become re- acquainted with.


    • November 16, 2013 9:39 PM

      That’s excellent news, Karen– glad to have you back in the illustrator fold! A writer, too? Hm… if you’re going to start combining words and pictures, you could become a very dangerous person… : )

      Many thanks for your comment, wishing you all the best!


  8. November 15, 2013 8:53 PM

    I like the final poster product! It became a wonderful more mature fun idea with the right slogan.

    And no I don’t listen to any podcasts.


    • November 16, 2013 9:47 PM

      Many thanks, Jean, I appreciate that kind review. It’s odd: my work often matures, but I never do… : (

      No podcasts? Well, perhaps that’s for the best– it would be hard for you to concentrate on a discussion as you pedal down steep mountain passes, scaring goats and passing big semis at 100 mph… : )

      Always good to see you, thanks for whizzing by! : )


      • November 19, 2013 10:47 PM

        I wish I could see the long haired white wild mountain goats in our Rocky Mountains. I don’t think little me scares them..I have to get to their rocky high corner lst.


  9. November 16, 2013 12:49 PM

    To paraphrase the movie, “Casablanca:” “I am shocked, SHOCKED, to learn (that Mark Armstrong ever made a mistake).” Signed, stunned fan who still adores your creative and humorous illustrations.

    Even though you have demystified the process, I do love that final illustration.


    • November 16, 2013 9:58 PM

      Ha! Judy, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Wait! I mean the continuation of a beautiful friendship!! : )

      Sorry for the shock to your system. Your fierce loyalty in the face of such emotional devastation leaves me humbled indeed… : )

      Thanks for your kind words and truly wonderful support. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid!!


  10. jujujuhu permalink
    November 17, 2013 12:51 PM

    Reblogged this on Coloring a Monochrome Life.


  11. November 17, 2013 4:18 PM

    Mark, as you are like family to me – who else would bail me out when I’m in the slammer? – I’ve nominated you for The WordPress Family Award. See my blog for details:


    • November 20, 2013 8:32 AM

      Absolutely, my skateboard’s oiled up, and I’m ready to hustle down to the jail anytime! I’ve got an envelope on my dresser marked “Judy’s Bail Money,” and that’s where I put my spare change. Right now, you’re covered for anything up to $1.27!! : )

      Thanks, Judy! It is indeed an honor, and I accept with pleasure!! : )


  12. November 21, 2013 6:11 PM

    Mark, I was just reading some old posts of mine and read through the comments and there you were. It’s been a super long day and i thought to myself…I should go find out what Mark is writing about. He always is good for a laugh. And today proved no different I laughed I cried I loved your post


    • November 23, 2013 10:40 AM

      “He’s always good for a laugh.” I used to hear that a lot when I worked at the dunk tank. It was the kind of job where I could really make a splash… : P

      Always great to see you, Alison, and thanks for that lovely comment. Very glad you enjoyed the post. All part of my ongoing mission to cultivate “vegetable awareness.” : )


      • November 23, 2013 9:33 PM

        I was the copy doctor for a book by Rosie Battista called Cooking Naked After 40….she says a lot about vegetables….I definitely think they deserve more press.


  13. November 24, 2013 11:29 AM



  14. November 26, 2013 7:46 AM

    Being privy to the process is always so fascinating, Mark. I shall order several for my wall 😀 – While you were so right to remove the musical notes, I saw nothing wrong to begin with, nor did I with the size of the pod and that is why you are your best critic!


    • December 3, 2013 9:15 PM

      You’re ordering several for your wall?? Excellent! I also have some circular prints available. Many people get them for the bottom of their birdcage. Just an idea… : P

      You saw nothing wrong to begin with?? Lesley, you are exceeding your own kindness parameters!! I’m going to replace me with you as my Best Critic!! Thank you veddy mucho!!! : )


  15. June 17, 2016 5:00 PM

    This post was all things you….and was very informative and fascinating to boot….it was so great how you broke it all down for us…I love process, and found it very intriguing to get a glimpse of the inner workings of your mind….and, the end result is fantastic!!! You are such a fantastic artist and so funny and kind….we are so lucky to be able to connect with you 🙂 Thanks for sharing 🙂


    • June 18, 2016 4:35 PM

      My dear Truly!! Your wonderful comment staggered me! I dropped my bushel basket, and spilled all the beans!! But, gosh– it was worth it!! 😊

      A glimpse of the inner workings of my mind?? Hm… I’m not sure the world is ready for that! If it happens again, please squirt some oil in there– all that squeakin’ is drivin’ me nuts!!😬💦

      Thank you for that lovely comment, and your incredible support!! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

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