Pepper’s Ghost, Part II

this hummingbird 1_edited 1This is not the first Pepper’s Ghost illusion to appear on Pop Goes the Page. Back in 2020, we posted a kid-friendly version featuring a spirited fox. The illusion is basically a reflection trick, but it’s very effective when done right!

seeing spirits   You’ll need:

  • A clear plastic drink container lid
  • Paper (heavier paper or thin cardboard works best)
  • A small section of clear plastic (like the lid of a food container)
  • Scissors and pencil for construction
  • Cell phone

The project was originally designed and posted by artist Joshua Ellingson on his Instagram. First, wash a clear plastic drink lid. Then cut a half circle template out of paper. When you have a half circle that correctly fits at a 45 degree angle inside your cup lid, trace the paper template onto a piece of clear plastic. We used an acrylic gift box, but plastic food containers work great too. Tape the plastic half circle inside the cup lid. The hardest part is getting that 45 degree angle just right. I made about 4 templates before I finally nailed it. Here’s my finished cup with the plastic half circle:

Head to YouTube for a Pepper’s Ghost illusion on a black background. We tried a couple different ones, but had the most success with this hummingbird. Cue up the video on your phone, maximize it to full screen, and lay the phone on a tabletop. Place the cup lid on top. Finally, roll the video and turn off the lights! Your object will appear to float inside the cup lid! It’s really quite remarkable.

The original designer, Joshua Ellingson, also made a GIANT version of this craft with a thrift store bubble chair and his flat screen television. It’s a must see! And Disney’s Haunted Mansion famously employs this illusion, including an entire ballroom of ghosts!

Master of the Menagerie

A seagull with aerodynamic impossibilities. A strangely disproportionate cat. A grinning mouse with…six eyes? This is the world of Tom Curtis and Things I Have Drawn, an Instagram sensation that features hilarious and very LITERAL interpretations of children’s drawings.

It began a five years ago, when Tom took at look at his young sons’ drawings and wondered how their wild interpretations of the world would look if they were actually REAL. As his children have aged up, Tom has relied on his scores of fans to continue the creation of lopsided lions, fanged fish, and pop-eyed people.

In 2017, Tom and his collaborators released Things I Have Drawn: At the Zoo (Trapeeze Books). It’s a must-have coffee table book for anyone who has proudly displayed unexplicable kiddie artwork on their fridge and walls at home.

I reached out to Tom in London to chat about his playful cast of characters and his creative process!

Please tell us a little about yourself and your artistic collaborators!

I’m Tom and I’m the Executive Creative Director of a media agency in London called MediaCom. I’m also the ‘dad’ behind an Instagram account called Things I Have Drawn.
TIHD has a very simple premise. It imagines a world in which the things kids draw are real. In other words, the form of what they draw is accurate. Big heads, little bodies, eyes on one side of the head, a beak as well as a smiley mouth, that kind of thing.

My two main collaborators are my own kids, Dom and Al. When we first started, they were 5 and 3. Now that they’re 11 and 8 their drawings aren’t as gloriously naïve as they used to be, so I work with lots of other kids’ drawings as well these days. I’ve always said that the ‘I’ in Things I Have Drawn can be anyone. After all, there’s a lot of talented young artists out there.

Walk us through the creation process…

The creative process has evolved a bit over time and is usually determined by the subject matter and the circumstances in which the drawing is produced.

When we first started Things I Have Drawn there’d be a bit more of a discussion with the boys about what they were drawing. Sometimes we’d even visit the zoo together and they’d take their sketchbooks with them. I’d take photos of what they were drawing, usually from a number of angles, and then the Photoshop process would begin on our return home.

More recently what I’ll do is start with a drawing I find lying around the house – unless it’s one that’s been sent to us by one of our followers. I’ve still got many hundreds in the archive to choose from.

The ‘real’ images I create are sometimes made from a combination of photos I’ve taken myself and specific pictures I find on stock sites. It’s a lot more satisfying using my own photos, and the end results, I find, are normally better, because I’ll have taken multiple photos to work from, and the realism is easier to achieve.

Occasionally I’ll use the body of one animal to create the body of another. For example, for a giraffe, it would be far too time consuming to adjust each individual patch on its fur to the pattern a child has drawn, so on more than one occasion I’ve used the body of a white horse and then added the patterns later.

Do you wait until the very end to reveal the final product to your kids, or do they give you feedback along the way?

The boys are usually intrigued to see what I’m working on, so will peer over my shoulder to take a look – if they’re still up when I’m working on them that is, as I work mainly in the evenings. They’ve seen me do enough now not to want to watch avidly for hours.

Occasionally I have to ask them what various bits of their drawings are supposed to be. I’m sure I’ve got noses mixed up with mouths, and even tails confused with ears when they’re not around to ask, though.

When I work with people’s submissions, I can’t so easily clarify what every detail is, so I have to take a bit of a punt sometimes. I enjoy the debate on Instagram though, when people think I’ve got it wrong.

Over the years, have their reactions changed at all?

We’ve been doing Things I Have Drawn for over four years now, so it’s inevitable the boys’ reaction is different these days, but it’s been a slow change overtime. I guess the big difference is that they used to just think most of the creations were funny. Now they’re more interested in how many likes each post gets, as if that’s a measurement of quality!

Has a drawing ever stumped you?

Not that I can remember, but I can be selective, of course, so if a drawing looks like it’ll be too complicated to do, then I won’t attempt it. The more detail there is in the drawing, the longer it normally takes. I don’t have masses of time to do them because I still have my full time job.

Is it more difficult to do people? Or animals?

It depends on a few factors, including how detailed I want the image to be (I often make the images a lot higher resolution than Instagram requires them to be, which is time consuming in itself). One key factor is the main texture of the subject matter. Reptiles’ scales are surprisingly fiddly to get right, especially when you’re trying to fit them into an unusual body shape. Human skin is a lot more uniform and therefore tends to be simpler. Shadows can be a bit of a pain though, which is why I’ll often try to avoid people and animals that are standing in direct sunlight.

Do you have a personal favorite, and why?

I always used to say it was the first ever one we posted to Instagram – a picture of our pet cat, Ninja, who sadly died a couple of years ago. I say ‘sadly’, but she was a bit frightening at times – not a cuddly lap cat, that’s for sure. It was based on a drawing Dom had done when he was very young.

But looking back through the many images we’ve produced I actually think it might be an image I created from one of Al’s drawings of a half-emu, half-turkey (at least that’s what we decided to make it). I found it in a pile of paper, having not been aware Alistair had drawn it. It’s a really bizarre looking creature, and I had a lot of fun working out how to interpret many of the lines he’d scribbled across it. The end result is quite grotesque, but I was always quite pleased with it.

Please finish this sentence: “When I started this, I never thought it would lead to…”

…being on the front row at the Gucci Men’s Fashion Show in Milan. That was a very recent collaboration and saw us doing a Story takeover of the Gucci Instagram account. Pretty incredible really.

All photos courtesy of Tom Curtis, Things I Have Drawn.

The Artistic Journalist

the artistic journalist_artwork by megan whisner-quinlanWords of wisdom, explosions of color, gorgeous layers, and playful images. You will find all of these in the work of art journalist Megan Whisner-Quinlan. What is art journaling? Basically, it’s a more formalized version of a sketchbook. The goal is to express yourself with small, complete works of art within the bound pages of a journal.

A self-taught artist, Megan recently completed an Instagram-hosted project called #the100dayproject. I asked her to share her work, and answer a few questions about her process!

1_artwork by megan whisner-quinlan2_artwork by megan whisner-quinlanWhen did you first learn about art journaling?
I learned of art journaling about 16 years ago, right around the same time I discovered book binding, as they often go hand in hand.

How long have you been doing it?
I did art journaling for about 3 years until I had children and then stopped because I was so overwhelmed with the early years of motherhood. I came back to it about 3 years ago. Initially, I was just journaling during a difficult time, but then I added some nice designs on the pages and before I knew it the art took over.

Do you lean more towards the art…or the journaling?

Right now I lean towards the art. It really depends on where I am in my life. Art journaling is considered an art, but a therapeutic form of art. Sometimes, I will add more writing if I want to focus on certain elements of my life. Many art journalers use a lot of positive affirmations when journaling.

What are some of your favorite go-to supplies?

I use Ranger Ink’s Dylusions journals, paints and inks. They are specifically designed by art journalers for art journaling. I also love watercolors, watercolor pencils. and gel pens to add detail and background to my pages. I do a lot of collage as well, so used magazines are my favorite source for supplies as well.

Are there any parameters to art journaling? Or is it whatever you can imagine – text, images, sketches, color washes…?

There really are no parameters to art journaling, which is why it is so great and accessible for anyone.

Is it difficult coming up with a concept every day?

I almost never have any plan anytime I sit down to journal. Usually I will generate a direction from an image that is interesting and go from there. More recently I have been prepping many pages at once and just go back and forth between them each day.

How has your journaling changed since you first started posting it on Instagram?

I have only been posting on Instagram since January so It hasn’t actually been too long. But as an artist, you tend to try different techniques and phases all the time. I still feel like I’m “learning” and maybe I always will, so I guess right now at least I don’t feel like I have found my niche yet.

What are your top 3 favorite entries and why?
This is a tough one. I have some favorites, but more interesting to me is when you put it out into the world. You don’t know what will resonate with others. To this day I have always noticed, at least on Instagram, my favorites are often the posts that get the lowest “likes.” I love that. It is actually a comfort, because I know that I am still pleasing myself regardless of others opinions.

You finished your 100 day project, what are you up to next?

Right now I am in an “absorption” phase and am doing a lot of workshops online. I looked up one of the more known art journalers, Teesha Moore, and have been watching her videos. I recently just learned she suffered a stroke in March and is still rehabilitating. It is remarkable to see her progress, and even though she is struggling to regain control of her right hand (and speech) the art she is doing just for her recovery, is beautiful. She is such an inspiration to me, so right now, I am trying to learn as much as I can from watching her and grow even more as an artist.

19_artwork by megan whisner-quinlan

Click here to see this journal entry flutter!