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Mr. Puddle Opens A Store

January 13, 2014

It’s been awhile since I worked on a new header, but I had occasion to design one recently.

I joined Fine Art America last year. It’s one of many sites where an artist can sell prints and greeting cards online.

For a $25 annual fee, you get your own store— basically a site which you can personalize, including the header.

Here’s what the default header looked like:

Original default header for illustrator Mark Armstrong's Fine Art America store where he sells prints and greeting cards

Pretty simple, pretty boring, a typical default.

Also: extremely narrow. Its dimensions are 970 pixels by 100 pixels. (My blog header, by contrast, is 920 pixels by 180 pixels.)

Not much room to work, but I decided to give it a shot. I wanted to add a bit of humor, and the blog’s URL. Here’s the result:

New Bottled Genius header for illustrator Mark Armstrong's Fine Art America store where he sells prints and greeting cards

Here are two larger detail images. That’s a little caricature of me as a puddle. Yes, I’m a man who knows how to relax.detail image for new Bottled Genius header for illustrator Mark Armstrong's Fine Art America store where he sells prints and greeting cards
detail image for new Bottled Genius header for illustrator Mark Armstrong's Fine Art America store where he sells prints and greeting cards

I drew the graphic elements at approximately double-size. I was pretty sure I’d have to make adjustments when I pasted them into the allotted space, so I didn’t worry too much about trying to get the sizes and perspective exactly right. Here’s the finish.

I included some extra jokes: a little umbrella and a straw. I thought I’d have room for them. I was wrong. drawing of Bottled Genius ink bottle with straw and drink umbrella and ink puddles and Mark Armstrong caricature puddle for new Fine Art America store header

Adding a black border shows how very narrow the allotted space is. I had to delete the umbrella and straw, and you can see that my head is now longer and flatter.Bottled Genius Mark Armstrong Fine Art America header construction sequence, paste in, resize, distort ink bottle and puddles

How do you squash a head and keep things proportionate? In Photoshop, it’s the easiest thing in the world: you select it, then apply Transform>Distort. I clicked on the upper center handle, then pulled down and to the right. You can always Undo and try again until you like the result.Distort sequence showing how to use Photoshop Distort tool to flatten and stretch image to make it look like puddle on flat surface

After positioning the elements, I added some flat color, using a darker brown to suggest a table surface.Bottled Genius Mark Armstrong Fine Art America header construction sequence, add flat color for background and desk top surface

I used three separate text layers for maximum control, and a layer mask to eliminate the hard edges between the two colors.Bottled Genius Mark Armstrong Fine Art America header construction sequence, add text and mask out left side edge of desk top surface

To finish up: a bit of grainy texture, some shading, and a few ink blots.Bottled Genius Mark Armstrong Fine Art America header construction sequence, add texture and shading to complete final image

Here’s the finished header again, in context. If you’re an art lover, I invite you to drop by the store!  : )New Bottled Genius header for illustrator Mark Armstrong's Fine Art America store where he sells prints and greeting cards

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Do you pay much attention to headers? Ever tried to design one yourself?

Is it dignified for an artist to portray himself as a puddle? Does it suggest he likes to lay down on the job??

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

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I also invite you to get updates. Just click the Get Updates button in the sidebar below the Portfolio Thumbnails, or click + Follow in the blog menu bar.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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footer for all future blog posts showing picture of blog author Mark Armstrong, along with short bio and contact information

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39 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2014 4:23 PM

    Mr. Puddle! I love it. Bottled genius – no kidding! And Mr. Puddle is so much better than Puddle Head. 😉

    I was actually to your store not too long ago. When I was writing Maple Leaf Hunter, I moseyed on over that way to see if you had a beaver print. I love your blog header. I found your O Canada print and have been considering it. I’ll choose something from you soon!


    • January 13, 2014 9:24 PM

      Dearest Maddie–! When I read your lovely comments, I weep like a baby peelin’ an onion! Which creates more puddles, of course. No wonder my socks are always wet… : (

      You’ve been to the store?? I thought I heard the little bell ring rather breezily the other day– I shoulda guessed! Well, I’m flattered. Just knowing you’re a fan is a sustaining force for this illustrator. Really can’t thank you enough.

      Thanks for the kind words about the O Canada! print. Rather amazing to think the humble beaver is an official symbol of Canadian sovereignty. Very cool that your latest Susan Hunter mystery, Maple Leaf Hunter, is set in Canada. I’m predicting it will be a hit on both sides of the border– and then some!! : )


  2. January 13, 2014 4:24 PM

    A good header gives insight into what the site is about.
    I like the one you designed, but I wonder if it would work if it’s too small…


    • January 13, 2014 9:49 PM

      Ah, a lot of wisdom in those two sentences– well said, sir.

      A good header can sum up a blog at a glance, and make that crucial first impression. If the header conveys friendliness and credibility, a visitor’s a lot more apt to subscribe.

      But if a header’s so small it’s hard to see, its impact must necessarily be reduced. That could definitely be a problem here. Ah, well– we can but try!

      Thanks a lot for your insightful comment! : )


  3. January 13, 2014 4:40 PM

    You are much more than a puddle but a wonderful puddle you make 😉 love it. Good luck with the store!


    • January 14, 2014 12:10 PM

      Hi, Tania! What a nice surprise to see you here– you and your astounding eye makeup have been sorely missed!! : )

      Many thanks for that very charming comment and your good wishes. I promise to stop by soon and check out your latest photographs. Hope you’re well, looking forward to seeing your work!! : )


      • January 19, 2014 11:17 AM

        Ah thank you Mark!! I will do my best to keep going this year and keep tabs on what everyone’s up to 🙂


        • January 21, 2014 9:23 AM

          That’s good to hear, my very colorful Ms. Smith! I’m definitely a fan of your lovely photographs– such a wonderfully diverse mix. Very glad to hear you’re recommitting to ye olde blogosphere! We need your good influence… : )


  4. January 13, 2014 5:33 PM

    Brilliant header mark! I am a fan of making blog headers myself and have even received commissions to make headers for others!


    • January 14, 2014 12:14 PM

      Thanks so much, Dean, your generous comments always get me fired up! Yes, headers are a lot of fun, and they present a unique challenge. Your very congenial style is well-suited to headers, and I’m glad to hear people with good taste have sought you out for same!! : )


  5. January 14, 2014 4:45 AM

    A lovely store Mr Puddle, I don’t think a puddle signifies lying down on the job, rather that you’ve worked up a sweat with all your efforts!


    • January 14, 2014 12:19 PM

      Ha! You are entirely too charming, my dear Jen– I like the way your mind works! You are a wise young owl, and a delightful bird. Thanks for flying over to deliver than wonderful comment!! : )


  6. January 14, 2014 7:33 AM

    Hey Mr. Puddle – I never expected you so shallow 😉 I apologise, SORRY, I couldn’t resist this pun *blush* No, you are truely a genie in a bottle or did I translate again something wrong??? English is so difficult….


    • January 14, 2014 12:39 PM

      My dear outrageous Tutti!!! What a superb pun– ingenious!! Also, what we Americans would call a “zinger,” which is slang for a funny, good-humored insult, often directed at a friend. You made me roar with laughter. In fact, I laughed so hard, Mr. Puddle almost dried up!!– think how shallow I’d be then!!

      “Genie in a bottle” also made me laugh– I’ve never been called that before!! You’re thinking of the kind of magic genie that always seems to be stuck in a bottle or Aladdin’s lamp. If you let him out, he has to grant you three wishes, right?

      My little joke here is that you could actually take creative genius and bottle it– that if you ever needed some, you could walk into a store and buy it, just like shampoo or laundry detergent. Wouldn’t that be nice?? The other joke is that I’m a puddle that has been spilled out of the bottle of “Genius.” And you’re right– I’m a very shallow puddle!! : P

      No need to blush!– your comment is beautiful, your English is beautiful, and you are beautiful, my dear Tutti!! : )


  7. January 14, 2014 7:48 AM

    Just back from your store. Your header looks great!!! Happy new year to you and good speed!


    • January 17, 2014 3:30 PM

      Thank you for visiting my famous store!!– I am honored!! I’m going to mount a little plaque on the wall, saying: “Tutti was here!!” People will come from miles around to see it!– my store will become even more famous, and I’ll sell millions of prints and become incredibly rich!! All thanks to you, my dear Tutti!! : )


  8. January 15, 2014 9:36 PM

    I do love Mr. Puddle and the Bottled Genius. But I also love the Beaver walking away from the gnawed pencils. Decisions. Decisions. Your wit and talent cannot be bottled up. Your genius would have your competitors weeping and gnashing their teeth …. hence, the puddle … and the chewed up pencils. Argh! I just can’t decide. 😉


    • January 17, 2014 3:36 PM

      My dear Judy!! Your wonderful, outrageous comment made me laugh so hard, I slipped in a puddle and came face to face with myself– a very disconcerting experience!! : P

      Your wit and good humor are a reflection of your own unique genius, and I’m always so happy to be a recipient of same. I have a big smile on my face, which makes it easy to see the pencil shavings stuck in my teeth– thanks as always for your cheerful support!! : )


  9. January 16, 2014 12:15 AM

    Best wishes on hanging out your electronic storefront there, Mark! I loved the Christmas card design with solo island resident under the palm tree with solitary Christmas decoration!


    • January 17, 2014 3:44 PM

      Hanging out my electronic storefront– ha! Never thought of it that way, Jean– what a wonderful image that conjurers up!

      If I’d known that desert island Christmas design was gonna be such a hit with you, I woulda had a bicycle leaning up against the palm tree!! Thanks for the kind words and your ongoing support– a belated Happy New Year to you!!


  10. January 17, 2014 9:12 AM

    Wow, this is awesome Mark and I love your header… there is always this touch of humor and I like that. Thanks also for sharing this site. I recommended it to my daughter right away… perhaps she will earn extra income too… 🙂 mmwahhh, mmwahhhh , mmwahhhh


    • January 17, 2014 3:55 PM

      Thank you, my dear Dolly! And I love your wonderful mmwahhh-mmwahhh comments. I walk around for days with lipstick on my face after I read them… : )

      Tell your daughter to open a store, sell lotsa prints, make lotsa money, and use it to buy her mother expensive presents. That would be my advice!! : P


  11. Margie permalink
    January 17, 2014 1:19 PM

    That isn’t a lot of room to work with, but if anyone can do it, you can!


    • January 17, 2014 3:57 PM

      And that wasn’t a very long comment, but it made me feel ten feet tall!! I’ll be bumping my head on the ceiling for awhile, but it’s worth it– thank you, Margie, you charming person you!! : )


  12. January 18, 2014 5:01 PM

    I’d always known that you’re a genius and your head in a puddle is a mark of ingenuity! Congratulations on the store, I’ll sure order something soon! Wished I had enough money to order all your work! 🙂 🙂


    • January 21, 2014 8:42 AM

      My dear Seyi! How did you get to be such a kind and supportive person?? What’s that? It all comes naturally, you say?? Well, I’m not a bit surprised… : )

      Puddlehead as a mark of genius?? I like it!! Of course, with a puddle, there’s always a danger of spreading oneself to thin… : )

      Your wonderful comment has me floating on air! I should brush away some ceiling cobwebs and change a few light bulbs while I’m up here!!

      Thank you, Seyi, for your lovely comment and cheery support!! : )


      • January 21, 2014 9:02 AM

        I have smiles on my face while reading this! You have a way with words, and I put it down to the creativity inherent at the core of your being!!


        • January 21, 2014 9:47 AM

          And you just put a big smile on my face!! The creativity inherent at the core of my being… gosh!! If I ever have to go to the hospital to get an x-ray, I’m gonna ask the doctor to look for it– I’d like to see it!!! : )

          Thank you, my dear charming Seyi!! : )


  13. January 18, 2014 6:48 PM

    This is very cool, Mark! I’ve designed headers before, but I don’t think any of them turned out quite as nice as yours. If you look at my “Another retrospection (Zero to Hero Day 7)” post, I’ve shared some headers I’ve redesigned/created and used.


    • January 21, 2014 9:03 AM

      Thanks, Jak. Yes, designing headers is great fun. I think there’s always a temptation to try to squeeze too much into a small space. I know I’ve made that mistake in the past. Simplicity is key, which means one has to do some rigorous self-editing!

      I enjoyed your header slideshow– some lovely panoramas there. As always, many thanks for your kind support!! : )


  14. LaLindaArtStudio permalink
    January 20, 2014 3:57 PM

    I just stumbled across your blog here. Very informative post, I always love Photoshop tips. Best of success with your new store, I’ll have to go have a peek. Linda


    • January 21, 2014 9:39 AM

      Hi Linda, very nice to meet you, glad you enjoyed the tips. I always enjoy seeing how other digital artists create their illustrations– you never know what helpful info you might pick up. My FAA store has stats that tell me how many people have looked at a print, but I don’t get to hear a little bell when someone “walks” in… : )

      Many thanks for your kind comment and good wishes!!


  15. LaLindaArtStudio permalink
    January 21, 2014 3:38 PM

    It’s probably good you don’t hear a little bell, I might be tempted to go in and out all day just to ding your bell : )


    • January 23, 2014 8:24 AM

      HAW!! You just dinged my bell pretty good with that very jolly comment– thank you, Linda!!! : )


  16. January 24, 2014 11:26 AM

    Portraying yourself as a puddle? Wethinks you may be a bit wet! (Though funny, as usual.)
    Good luck on FAA; hope you sell buckets.


    • January 25, 2014 12:14 PM

      Puddles, buckets? I think I see a rather soggy theme emerging, just the sorta thing I’d expect from a coupla sailors… : )

      My blanket’s always been a bit wet, but life’s always hanging me out to dry, so I guess I’m OK… : P

      Thanks for the kind wishes, always great to see you chaps– ahoy!! : )


  17. February 1, 2014 8:22 AM

    I love your work! I am looking for an illustrator. Do you do commissions?


    • February 3, 2014 7:57 PM

      How very kind, thank you for that lovely comment.

      Yes, I do commissioned work, I can see I need to be more clear about that.

      Will send you a personal email and we can go from there– many thanks! : )


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