processed tomatoes

10 minutes     —          about an hour     —      weeks

Coming up with a concept when you already have the design is clearly not the way to go. Learning to draw something organic and very real with a tool that seems to want to turn everything into a pixar movie … well I’ve made better choices.

Case Study Digital Design Art 112A  Prof. Krikun

One of the first assignments for the class was to find 3-5 different objects that can be conceptualized into a business. I started out with some ‘found objects’ that were grouped loosely by subject, the first group was about knitting, the second about art supplies, and the third was about gardening. I wanted to learn to use illustrator to augment my skills as a traditional illustrator/designer, seems these days that everything is an app, or will soon be.

I chose the photo of 4 cherry tomatoes on a white tablecloth. it was very similar to the sort of composition that I would normally draw. Unlike my classmates who started with a concept, I started with an idea for an image, this is not the way to go.

the sort of tomatoes that I like to draw

photo of 4 tomatoes that I selected for the project

photo of 4 tomatoes that I selected for the project

the start

working on the vector shapes

working with color and mesh

working with color and mesh


one sketch idea with a new type font

another sketch idea

another sketch idea

history of tomato

a fast sketch with some background information

final concept

the final concept for the project

starting packet design

starting to design the packet

Then spent weeks learning to use the various tools in illustrator to make a believable tomato. Vectors are a very simple and elegant solution, I kept trying to make it more complicated.

Now it was time to come up with a concept.  Growing tomatoes is something that I do passionately, my family would say obsessively.  The weather for the past three summers has not been helpful, Early tomato blight and weather that was either way too dry (2009) way too wet (2010) or the worst of both (2011) made growing heirloom tomatoes a lost cause.  I began to look into the genetic research that is being done to modify plants to cope with increasing climate change, this became the beginning of the concept for the tomato illustration. I started brainstorming to come up with a seed related concept. My first ideas: Seed True, based on Breed True, a phrase that is used in animal breeding and genetics. I also tried some of the more obvious seed phrases, Seeds of Success, Seeds of Passion, Seeds of Desire that come first to mind.

looked at a number of type fonts at, thinking that I could work up something for a seed catalog or website design. then did some research into the idea. There are already a number of companies using Seed True as their name.

Thought that Seeds of Desire might have some resonance and went with that for a bit, I did some research into the history of the tomato, it’s ‘discovery‘ in the new world and trip to Spain and then Italy.  In 1519 Cortez discovered tomatoes growing in Montezuma’s gardens and brought seeds back to Europe where they were planted as ornamental curiosities but not eaten. Most likely the first variety to reach Europe was yellow in color since in Spain and Italy they were known as pomi d’oro, meaning yellow apples. I drew a simple map with a bit of the history for Mortgage Lifter Tomato, it took about an hour and a half even with finding the atlas and tracing a map of the Atlantic Ocean, Seeds of Passion, or pomi ‘doro was mostly going to work for a restaurant. Clearly I had to put down the pencils and wrap my mind around vectors.

I used one of the 4 tomatoes that I had rendered and worked with the passion idea. tried to think of a way that it could be used for a restaurant or nutraceutical concept. I could make this look reasonably pretty but it didn’t seem to anchor to any useful concept.

I continued to brainstorm ideas for a seed development/plant development concept, and continued to struggle with illustrator. I was making things way too hard, when using the mesh tool I would put in 9 or ten points on the mesh before I would even think about the colors the way that I normally do when making a drawing. I was really lucky when Sadie Rebsch took pity on me and showed me what to do: start simple, one point, one color. next point, next color, don’t distort the mesh in weird torque-y ways….

In thinking about seed and plant research, growing local, I combined the words seed and evolution into Seedvolution and began working on a concept that might include a website, or stationery, I came up with an idea for a business card for Seedvolution as a start.

As I continued researching the subject of seed banks, seed development, heirloom plants and local suppliers with knowledge of specific microclimates I came across the Hudson Valley Seed Library in Accord, New York,  From their website:

The Hudson Valley Seed Library strives to do two things:

  1. to create an accessible and affordable source of regionally-adapted seeds that is maintained by a community of caring farmers and gardeners; and,
  2. to create gift-quality seed packs featuring works designed by New York artists in order to celebrate the beauty of heirloom gardening.

Found my concept! And my goal: to be one of the artists featured on their artist seed packs. Again, from their website:

Our Art Packs are each designed by a different artist from the greater New York region (this includes upstate New York, the Hudson Valley, the City, Northern New Jersey, and Connecticut). Each pack celebrates the beauty inherent in heirloom gardening.

I made a seed package vector design based on the one featured on their website, and started to use the Seedvolution logo design, set type on a path for the seed variety and imported latin text to use in the place where the growing instructions normally go on a seed packet. I came up with   6-8 different types of seed packets using photographs from my own garden. I know that I could have downloaded images from the ‘.net but that always feels like stealing to me. I’m not fond of people ‘right-clicking’ on my drawings from fb to use, so I tweaked the color on a few of my garden snapshots from this summer.

The shape for the seed packet before folding reminded me of Islamic tile work, I looked up some amazing patterns from the Islamic collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, I’ve been there with my sketch pad to draw it can be a useful way to think about the interaction of shapes.

For the poster for class I repeated the seed packet design using different colors for each one, trying to keep a different color for each category but using the same design for the type to keep a modicum of corporate identity.

Update: I did have some success, doing an illustration for this company has always been a goal of mine, and I was selected as one of the Art of the Heirloom Artists for the Philadelphia Flower Show in 2014.


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