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Origins: Ocean Commotion

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Origins: Ocean Commotion

Some readers like to see the process behind a product. So, here’s the backstory behind the Ocean Commotion jigsaw puzzle.

In 2015, I launched a Kickstarter project to produce a limited-edition letterpress print I called Sea Monster Jamboree. It was an excuse to draw my versions of the creatures you see in the wild places of early Renaissance maps.

Sea Monsters Framed

In 2016, I enlarged parts of that drawing to create the world’s most whimsical shower curtain featuring the same assortment of creatures frolicking in ocean waves.

Curtain

That should have gotten sea monsters out of my system, but in the fall of 2019 I found myself returning to the idea of fanciful creatures swimming in ocean waves. This time I wanted them to be in color. Making a jigsaw puzzle seemed like a perfect excuse to draw 40 or 50 new aquatic monstrosities.  

Fairly early in the process, I looked at different ways to depict waves. To test alternatives, I drew the white bits and then reversed the image to create whitecaps on dark waves. My favorites were these zigzag waves that can be layered to create an ocean sea scape.

Waves 

At one point I considered including a ship for the creatures to menace. But that idea sank. I preferred an approach that could make the scale of the creatures ambiguous.

Ship

I spent many pleasant winter days drawing exotic sea creatures. That’s my idea of a good time.

Drawing

My technique to create a sea monster is basically my process to create anything else. First, a pencil sketch. Next ink that drawing with a brush pen. Then, break the inside of the line with white strokes or dots. I wrote a nerdy blog about my technique with details about how I draw tentacles.

Finally, I scan the drawing to bring it into Adobe Illustrator (my favorite drawing application.) There I add colors and build the final composition. Sounds easy, right? So why does it take me more than two months?

whole puzzle

People tell me they like a puzzle to be challenging, not too easy. So I used a  limited color palette to force people to pay special attention to other details such as textures, shapes, and orientation.

People also like it when I include unexpected details. That’s why you’ll find a rubber duck, capybara, and even a tiny cat.

********

I’m pleased with the final result. A challenging puzzle with lots of intriguing details. Best of all, it gave me an excuse to wile away days drawing beasties.

 

Don—Pittsburgh, September 24, 2020

Comments on this post (12)

  • Oct 21, 2020

    I got your wonderfully awful Calamity mugs for my nephew’s first civilized apartment (room for visits from old people) and he loves them.
    Since then I have been thinking why, why did i waste them on that errant youth when i could have had them for myself.
    Just hoping he knows me well enough to right that wrong by Christmas.

    — Barbara Duncan

  • Oct 16, 2020

    I’m a teacher, and I know your type. You sat in the back row and doodled bizarre creatures in the margins of your notebook. Having a great second youth, are you? Still drawing monsters.

    — Maggy Shannon

  • Oct 07, 2020

    I second the suggestion for a shower curtain in this exact design and colors. I would buy it immediately!

    — Deborah Hirst

  • Oct 07, 2020

    I love the calamity puzzle, and would also like to purchase the 2015 monster print.

    Sandy

    — Sandy Tucker

  • Sep 25, 2020

    Hi Don!
    Thanks for sharing your creative. Interesting!
    I love your sea monsters! I have the shower curtain. I’ve ordered the puzzle. And would love to find a print of your 2015 drawing.
    Fun!

    — Frances Weathington

  • Sep 25, 2020

    Two months seems fast for such a big project. It looks so cooool! Congratulations. :)

    — Lora

  • Sep 25, 2020

    Love it!

    — Jan Cope

  • Sep 25, 2020

    So excited this puzzle is ready for sale! I’m just about finished with “Apes and Aliens” and I’m thrilled to know that I will have another Don Moyer puzzle to puzzle over.

    — Dorie

  • Sep 25, 2020

    I would love it if you made a shower curtain in the same colors as the puzzle. The blues are beautiful and it looks more like the sea than the black & white version.

    Thank you,
    Pat

    — Patricia DeWald

  • Sep 25, 2020

    I love this! You have found the perfect niche. Thanks for sharing.

    — Diane Thornton

  • Sep 25, 2020

    Thank you for this insight into your creative process. As an artist still astounded by the myriad of ways we can express what arises in the mind, I salute your kind and quirky self.

    — Phyllis Cole

  • Sep 25, 2020

    A nice nod to Cthulhu, but I rather fancy your idea of tossing in a ship to heighten the Calamity. After all, it isn’t really a calamity until you have to face one!

    Who am I to critique your work, but just sayin’ that the best part of Calamitous products is the juxtiposition of the mundane (a shopping mall, for example) with the absurd (zombie dachshunds, or poodles). And in 2020, anything goes! Keep up the baleful work!

    — Karen Mencotti

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