Friday, October 30, 2015

Water color

Call it a niche hobby — designing emblems or marks for swimmers' grand endeavors.

I created one for Annabel's English Channel crossing earlier this year.

More recently I did one for Katherine's attempt of the Catalina Channel between Santa Catalina and the Southern California mainland.

The latest (left) is Lisa's, for her planned crossing of the wide Monterey Bay in the near future.

She wanted something that commemorated the process more than the achievement, and gave me a grocery list of inspirational possibilities:
  • Paddleboarder — we’re a team. I doubt I'd be distance swimming without him. 
  • I have my sights set on Monterey Bay, which, apparently is a super difficult swim. What do I know, I'm just a dreamer. I swim in Santa Cruz, I swim in Pacific Grove. Just thought it would be cool to swim from one home beach to the other. Really nothing more to it.
  • Moss Landing twin smokestack: I see them from both Lovers Point and Cowells.
    It's halfway. 
  • I'm a birdwatcher. It’s an unofficial sub-group within the Kelp Krawlers. We’re the ones too slow to keep up with the “A group,” they’re the fast triathletes who swim all the way to the buoy. 
Katherine's request was more open-ended, but specified
her love of garibaldis, the state fish. I tried to depict the
night-to-day nature of the long Catalina Channel swim,
and the iconic start (though the swim doesn't actually start
from Avalon or its casino) and finish near Palos Verdes.
  • We’ve been training in Monterey Bay, San Francisco Bay, and Carmel Bay: Santa Cruz to Capitola, SF to Berkeley, Berkeley to Treasure Island and back, Carmel Bay double-crossing. In addition to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, the Berkeley clock tower. Carmelite Monastery became beloved sighting landmarks this summer. 
  • The yin and yang of breaststroking. Breaststroking as a handicap (slow, energy inefficient), breaststroking as an advantage (chop, tracking). 
  • Filipinos aren’t known in the sport of swimming. 
  • I LOVE Pelicans and cormorants. Instead of frog-kicks I’d like to think I kick more like a cormorant. 
  • Sharks. Seals. Otters. 
  • Our ocean monsters: Jellyfish...sharks... hypothermia. 
  • The Monterey Canyon
As much as I like to show my own process, I have little to show for Lisa's mark. Katherine's came quickly, starting with a representational human arm and head, and anatomically correct garibaldi. But I had done a fair streak of realistic and anatomically correct stuff, and was growing tired of it. Time to pare it to the barest shapes.

Repeating the paisley shape through water, light and eyes, I sought to bring the image together. And … done.

With Lisa's, I was stuck in the yin and yang, and didn't know whether to extricate myself or keep working with that idea. I like the yin yang symbol for its power to say so much in compactness, and like to play with the idea when given the chance.

I did the only rational thing. I left it the hell alone, letting it work itself out.

Annabel's English Channel mark
Meanwhile …

I had been playing with a marker, trying to get some illustrations done as fast as I possibly could because I didn't have a lot of time, wanted something different, and wanted to pursue saying more with less, doing less to say more.

I drew the simplest, scribbliest shapes, scanned them, then played with them in Illustrator™®, moving them in front and behind, making some shapes transparent, others solid, chopping them up, tweaking, tweaking.

It is raw and uneven and spontaneous and childlike.

It has become the new fun thing. Until the next thing comes along.

Then, while swimming, I saw my way out — by diving headlong into giant kelp.

I had been resisting kelp as an art element of Lisa's logo, even though it's really the unspoken common element in her grocery list.

I couldn't help thinking the Monterey Bay Aquarium had perfected the use of giant kelp in its logo, and ruined it for everyone else.

But the kelp's natural flowing precise elegance, its repeated pattern of bulb and frond, beckoned me. I had to use it.

The kelp became the sea in Lisa's logo, the words the sky. Originally it looked like this:

But Lisa asked that it read "One breath:"
"One breath as in one breath, that very first breath, can mean the difference between hyperventilating or being able to swim comfortably in cold water.

"One breath as in it takes just one breath to inhale cocci...

"One breath as in using the swim to breathe life into an otherwise unknown cause."
And the strawberries? They refer to that unknown cause.

Lisa is raising money for a scholarship to honor her former husband's late father, who engineered several strawberry varieties for a major berry producer in California. Lisa says she can see strawberry fields from some of her training swims.

Moroccan (top) and Tunisian flags
Algerian flag
I also got to design some swim-related flags for Sakina, honoring Arab and swimming culture at once, with these versions of the Algeria, Moroccan and Tunisian flags that Sakina wants to put on swim caps.

Algerian Berber flag
Besides bubbles, the symbols became sea shapes to reflect Sakina's Southern California ocean playgrounds.

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