Friday, December 31, 2010

277 - JSVB: Year One In Review

The first of January is also the anniversary of the start-up of JSVB, my visual blog.  So, today provides me the opportunity to look back over a year's worth of work:

This stately column of images represents an entire year of my work.  Distilled into this matrix form, it reminds me of a tall modern tower filled with windows.  Each window belongs to someone or something for most days of my life during 2010.  These are all of the pictures, drawings, and digital paintings I have posted to JSVB.

My intention for JSVB was to challenge myself to create more artwork, and to get better at art production.  I believe that I met that challenge, although I did not post every single day.  I have just over 275 posts.  From a year with 365 days, that means I posted roughly 75% of the time, or approximately five days out of every week. 

Some posts took just a moment to compose, others took weeks.  On average, I would guess I took four hours to complete a typical post.  With my total post count, that would make 1,112 hours of specialized work.  If I were paid my asking wage, I would have earned $44,480.00 to produce JSVB.  I'd like not to discuss what I actually earned this year, though. 

Around mid-June, Blogger the blog host decided to add some statistic tracking functions to their software.  I had wanted to track blog views since the outset, but I am happy to get tracking data from June onward.  The data does not include any personally identifiable information, but it does track basic items such as viewer nationality, the favourite posts, and how people link to JSVB, i.e. links from other blogs, Google™  and Facebook™ search engine hits, and the ubiquitous pings from automated bots looking to spam my blog with comments.

About adding comments to JSVB: that has been one criticism I have not really addressed.  I did add the "Choose Your Opinion" boxes at the bottom as a way for people to acknowledge that they have seen and possibly liked any given post.  Normally five or so people click on a box, which is cool.  I purposely chose "STUNNING" and "EVOCATIVE" as my descriptors, as I do not at all appreciate the contemporary trend of adding "likes" and "dislikes" to everything.  All that does is help the advertisers without adding value to JSVB. 

As far as comments are concerned, I have over 275 posts this year to keep track of.  A malicious bot can fill any or all of them with spam, whereas I would have to clean all that gunk out manually.  Even just one minute per post cleaning out spam means I am spending four and a half hours on pure monkeywork.  That time equals what it would take me to create a new post.  I'd much rather spend the time being creative.  If you have comments, my e-mail remains at the top of every page of JSVB. 

I do get a few e-mails regarding my blog.  Most are congratulatory or requests for clarification.  I enjoy hearing from JSVB readers.  I also encourage people to sign up as my Cultural Elite, which means becoming an official "follower" of JSVB.  It's a bit of a hassle to set up, as you need to use a Google™ account.  After that, though you should get some automatic notifications of my latest posts.  For what it's worth, I've also added some sharing functions for ease of linking to my posts, including RSS feeds and the like. 

So now for some statistics.  Each item has a clickable hyperlink to take you to the post:


Honourable Mention 1 - Goes to Mr. Keith Langergraber.  People are searching for Mr. Langergraber and finding mention of him on JSVB.  Only in the last few days did he drop from the Top Ten searches on JSVB.

Honourable Mention 2 - Another popular item is Momma Horse & Baby Horse Sketch.  This was just a quick and simple drawing, but people seem to like it a lot.  A couple of weeks ago, it was dropped from the Top Ten.  Maybe I will rework it into a more finished piece.

10) Momma's Boy Blues - An ode to poor Janice, who has broken several bones in her body as of late.

9) Rassen Frassen Gesture Poses - I suspect I get hits from search engines for "rassen frassen", which was animation producer Hanna-Barbera's solution to swear words in G-rated pictures.  A full phrase goes "rassen frassen franastanic brickle brackle", which can sound awfully mean without injuring the ears of children. 

8) Mousey Tongue - I like this drawing of our little mouse visitor, and so do other people it seems.

7) Trek Or Treat - Kind of an embarrassing pic, but it was an excuse for my wife to get painted green for Hallowe'en.  That day, we went out to a football game where she cheered her head off for the green Roughriders.  I spilled beer on my phaser. 

6) 30th Terry Fox Run - Thirty years after he passed away, Terry Fox lives on strong in the hearts of Canadians and the people of the world.  Living in Port Coquitlam means always having some part of his magnificent legacy close at hand.  I plan to do another post on Terry Fox, as this post generated a few queries.

5) Better The DVLA You Know - A play on the phrase, "Better the devil you know than the one you do not."  DVLA is England's Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, which is a target of search engines from the UK.

4) PoCo UFO Incident - A really creepy UFO landing that was reported just a few blocks from where I live!   This is one of my favourite posts, as it combines the capabilities of Corel Painter with the spectre of a flying saucer hovering over trees.  I've always been deeply attracted to that kind of X-Files-style imagery.  It's like postmodern gothic horror, I guess.  Strangely, the majority of views for this post occured within a three week span, and then ceased entirely. 

3) Why Phi? Or: A Silver Golden Rule - I kept getting clusters of multiple hits for this post.  Then I discovered that art classes kept finding it using the Internet for research.  There are other websites than mine that do a better job of exlaining how Phi works.

2) Nat Bailey Nooner - This escape to the iconic Vancouver ballpark is the most searched-for single image on JSVB.  I carefully altered the colour curves in Photoshop to achieve a somewhat nostalgic effect. 

1) Ricci De Mare (Sea Urchin) Recipe - By far, this is the most popular post on JSVB.  It gets hits every day.  People seem curious about sea urchins in general.  As well, they want to know more about the fascinating, grisly technique for preparing red sea urchins for dinner. 

Well, that's the lot.  I would like to express my deep gratitude for any JSVB readers who have followed my blog for the year.  I wish a big welcome to anybody who is just dropping by to look at Orion Slave Girls, Hyde Creek, the Olympic Posts, the Stained Glass Saints or anything else here.  Be sure to check out the SHOWCASE category to the right to see my own favourite pictures on JSVB!

Happy New Year in 2011!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

276 - Ukrainian Dancer Sketch

I have a sketch of a Ukrainian dancer, or at least a prototype.  I'd like to expand on her character, but that will have to wait.

Monday, December 20, 2010

275 - Pirates of The Legislature

British Columbia's political scene never fails to entertain, if anything else.  The other day, I compared behind-the-scenes players Bill Van Der Zalm and Moe Sihota to maggots feeding off of the carcasses of not just one but both of our major political parties.  Both the Liberals and the New Democrats chose to eject their leaders from caucus at roughly the same time, leaving our fair province without leadership or direction.  This is seen by some as a welcome change. 

Recent discussions have suggested to me that comparing the scandal-ridden careers of Mr. Van Der Zalm and Mr. Sihota to the life choices of maggots was grossly unfair, perhaps to the maggots.  Some have suggested that the opportunistic Mr. Van Der Zalm and Mr. Sihota are more like pirates roaming the halls of the Legislature looking for easy plunder, just like back in the good old days.  At the very least, these two do seem to be hijacking some of the press releases normally reserved for government issues.  At the most are large sums of money rumored to be exchanging hands, with new deals brokered by these two gentlemen hidden mostly from public scrutiny. 

While The Libs and the NDP scuttle their own ships at sea, who can blame the outsiders for wanting another shot at political power?  Certainly, niether of these two men has enough credibility with the public to be re-elected, but they do wield considerable powers from behind the figureheads. 

Please click here to revisit the documented self-destruction of the Libs and NDP in unison.  Please click here to see a previous, somewhat less cartoony iteration of today's sketch. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

274 - Prototype Privateer

A pretty good attempt at a pic I am working on.  But it needs more.  There is always room for more.  I will post a more refined attempt tomorrow.

Friday, December 17, 2010

273 - "Yuletide Gastropod"

"Yuletide Gastropod" is, or more properly was, a Googlewhack.  A Googlewhack is a sort of personal contest where you enter two words into the Googlesearch engine.  If your two words generate precisely one hit, i.e. one single page on the Internet, no more, no less, then that is a Googlewhack.  There are a few additional rules for a true Googlewhack, but that's the basics of it. 

Yuletide Gastropod was my wife's first Googlewhack way back in 2005 or so.  Today, Yuletide Gastropod yields just over 5,000 hits.  Now, on JSVB, I am adding one more:

For this post, I've repurposed the gastropod from a previous JSVB entry.  Please click here to see it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

272 - Yuletide Payload

Here's our collection of Christmas cards to be sent, about three dozen in all.  I'll drop them in the mailbox tomorrow.  Next year, we thought it would be a good idea to stamp, address, and write out all the cards in June.  We'd still send them in December, just move the chore of processing to them for some sunny summer day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

271 - Edmonton Tonite

A photo I took of Edmonton, Alberta at night.  I used to live a few blocks from where I took this picture.  The glass pyramids are greenhouses for the Muttart Conservatory gardens. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

270 - "The X Sample"

Today, the thirteenth of December, marks the final "Ungood Art" feature for JSVB this year.  I can't really believe I've racked up a (baker's) dozen.  As the days and weeks have progressed, I believe I have seen an improvement to my ungood art, while my good art has either levelled off or improved in such a way that I have yet to percieve it.  Either way, the gap between ungood and good art narrows, which makes Ungood Art Day increasingly difficult to service. 

So, today, I took a photo of some noxious glop that had collected on the bottom of my oven the day I tried to bake a yam.  The skin of the yam broke in the heat and fluid poured out, cooking into this black, alien-looking display on the floor of the oven.   Fortunately, it was very easy to scrape up. 

I painted in an additional Mr. Spock from Star Trek for his signature mind-meld abilities.  The Spock character belongs to Paramount Pictures, and I used a kneeling pose from the episode "For The World Is Hollow, And I Have Touched The Sky". 

I call this piece "The X Sample" in honour of my Trekkie friend Earl, who some years ago came up with a mythical "fourth season" of Star Trek episodes (the original show was cancelled after three seasons).  In "The X Sample", according to Earl, Mr. Spock becomes obsessed with a mineral sample with which he comes into contact. 

It's something of a coincidence that my picture illustrates Earl's imaginary episode.  I composited the picture first, and then searched out Earl's archives for something that was a close enough match.  Odds were good that I would find something.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

269 - Kids These Days

The other night, I took my wife out on a date.  We ended up seated next to a couple of twentysomethings.  For three quarters of the event, the young man was completely absorbed with texting on his smartphone, ignoring the entertainment, his date, and us, for that matter.

That reminded me of a night my wife and I spent on the shore of Lake Como, in northern Italy.  Tourguides refer to this region as "the heart of Italian romance"; it's easily one of the most breathtakingly beautiful locations I have ever seen.  The evening was clear, and we had finished an excellent meal prepared in a local restaurant.  The sun shone golden rays upon the distant fairytale towers of the famous Villa del Balbianello.  Tame swans on the shore honked gently and jostled for bits of bread thrown by tourists. 

The Italian locals all came out dressed in their finest evening wear, as is their custom.  Watching the Italians from this region enjoy a night out on the town was like watching a fashion show with Brioni, Gucci, Prada, and Versace all on display. 

My wife and I shared the gorgeous sunset quietly together.  Nearby a handsome young Italian man and his date were sitting on a quaint stone bench, enjoying the same sight.  Then, the fellow's cel phone rang, and he spent the next half an hour focussed entirely on that.  His comely date just sat and waited for him to finish.  Waited and waited. 

Honestly, with so many beautiful women in the world languishing on benches in the sunset being barely attended to by anybody at all, I do not understand the allure of mobile phones. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

268 - Night Of The Teddy Bears

Tonight was "Teddy Bear Toss Night" for the WHL (Western Hockey League) Vancouver Giants, a local junior hockey team.  The WHL is one of the Canadian junior hockey leagues that feeds players directly into the NHL (National Hockey League), the world's premier professional hockey league. 

Teddy Bear Toss is a charity event that happens once a year near Christmas.  Fans bring stuffed animals to the game, which are thrown onto the ice surface when the home team scores their first goal.  The animals are then donated to a worthy childrens' charity, often with money from sponsors to match the donations. 

I didn't take pictures of the game this year, but I did find an old entry in one of my sketchbooks relating to teddy bears.  I don't recall why I did these, and nothing came of them, except to prove that I now have the same soft spot in my heart for teddy bears as I did when I was a little boy. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

267 - "Leaderless And Rudderless"

"Leaderless and rudderless".  That's how one of our local television news broadcasters described our provincial system in British Columbia.  Recently, Liberal Premier Gordon "03-02659" Campbell announced his retirement, after dropping the popularity of his party into unprecendented single digits.  Please click here to read about that. 

The Official Opposition recently responded to their opportunity to finally overtake Campbell's majority government-slash-cult of personality.  Their tactic was to commit political hari-kiri by ousting their leader Carole James.  All the Libs have to do now is call a snap election, and hey presto, they're in for four more years.   

In my opinion, our government seems to be in a death spiral towards total incompetence.  Campbell led his party by sheer will, total arrogance, and an unending personal supply of red knit mittens.  James couldn't find an issue even if somebody gave her one to blow her nose into.  I hope these two enjoy their newfound retirement, giving the voters some respite from their antics up on The Hill. 

Or does it?  Instead of the usual cast of inept bunglers on the main stage, we now see the encroachment of old political hacks (and I use that word in the kindest sense, i.e. as in to to take another hack at something) like Bill Van Der Zalm and Moe Sahota, both who were forced out of office because they were charged with breaking the law.  Is there a massive underground conspiracy that ignores the party lines of Liberals and New Democrats in a secret cabalistic surge for power?  Or are the bottom-feeders coming up to chew on the dead carcass of BC politics like maggots squirming and wriggling in sudden sunlight? 

Personally, I like the conspiracy theory better.  A conspiracy would imply that at least somebody out there cares enough to do something about our current political mess.  All hail the cabal! 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

266 - Sensor And Santa's Abilities

My wife told me an amusing story about those white plastic motion sensors you see in modern homes these days.  They're little boxes with a sensor and a red light.  When the sensor sees motion in the room, the red light comes on.  If the thing is hooked up to a burglar alarm, then it will raise a klaxon.  When folks are at home, though, the alarm is off, so the red light sliently goes on and off on its own.

The story involves a particular mom who was on the edge of losing control over her children, who were becoming increasingly hyperactive what with the upcoming Christmas holiday season. 

Mom patiently explained to her children that the white boxes on the walls were actually cameras from the North Pole.  When the red light comes on, that means that Santa is watching you.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

265 - Duck!

An icon for a duck.  It's a re-use from a previous set of icons.  Please click here to see them.  I've repurposed this one for a sticker.  I can think in my mis-spent younger years of a particular nail sticking from an overhead beam that would have been less painful had it had a duck sticker nearby. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

264 - Through The Scanner Glass

I've fallen out of the habit of adding drawings to my sketchbook.  As an exercise, I am forcing myself into a stronger Disney-esque illustration style.  I am trying to emulate Milt Kahl's Alice.  It's hard work, with mixed results.  My native style is far from Mr. Kahl's peerless draughtsmanship.  Unlike Mr. Kahl, though, as long as I wake up tomorrow, I can always try again.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

263 - Alberta Legislature Building

A picture postcard view of the Legistature Building in Edmonton, Alberta.  For a prairie boy such as myself, this building represents the seat of governmental power.  Saskatchewan and Manitoba have legislature buildings of similar design, except larger. 

The overall design, I am told, is Beaux-Arts, which originated from an architectural school in France at the beginning of the 20th Century.  For a time, I lived a couple of blocks away from this building and its beautiful park-like grounds.  My recent revisit to Edmonton allowed me the chance to take this definitive winter photograph. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

262 - Post Grey Cup Post

Here's the view from our seats at the 98th Annual Grey Cup Canadian Football League Championship Final, held this year in Edmonton.  I never knew they made seats this remote.  We could actually see the top of the main speaker suspended above the field.  While the players looked like swarming ants and the half-time show pictured above was just a dot, we were so close to the Canadian Forces Snowbirds jet formation fly-over we nearly got clocked on the head by their landing gear. 

Frigid the night was, and cheapjack our seats, but the game was entertaining and Edmonton's hospitality was warm and inviting.  The parties during the week that led up to the game were great!  We had a lot of fun attending this most Canadian of major sports events, but we also look forward to the 99th Grey Cup, which will take place in hometown Vancouver, in shirtsleeve conditions indoors. 

Also, I'd like to extend a big welcome to anybody who picked up a JSVB card at the Cup and followed it here to my blog.  Please look around, enjoy the pictures, and if there's anything here you'd like to see in print, I can make that happen for a modest price. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

261 - The Catspaws That Refreshes

After yesterday's post, I thought I was on a roll.  Nothing like real life to return humility to the artist.  I'm hopping around to get things done, but I am being pulled in all kinds of directions.  Today, I tried to make some more topical artwork, but without proper warm-ups, I ended up getting jammed up instead.  Maybe tomorrow, I'll get down to it.

There's always the big cat, though. I've added detail to the paws.  To make them seem weighted solid to the stone, I've also started to refine the look of the rock base.  You can see a bit where there's no model at all, just neutral grey.  Later, I think I will add some snow for visual interest.  I also might have to recompose the image, as perhaps the cat's head is too high.  Fortunately, computers make recomposition relatively easy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

260 - The Penultimate Naked Truth

Acclaimed actor Lloyd Bridges Leslie Nielsen passed away two days ago, leaving our world a sadder place, yet also perhaps a little less fart-intensive.  Although I've never met Mr. Bridges Nielsen in person, I've always felt that we could get along.  Here was a man who won dozens of awards in his field of tradecraft, yet he almost never left home without some kind of device that could make loud flatulent noises on command.  I truly respect that. 

I used a royalty-free photo from Life Magazine as the source for this image.  I'm also going to borrow a quote from the blockbuster autobiography "The Naked Truth":

The girl at the airport counter in Toronto:
"You're Lloyd Bridges!"
"No, I'm Leslie Nielsen."
"But you play Lloyd Bridges, right?"

Saturday, November 20, 2010

259 - Developing The Big Cat

Slow progress on the big cat.  I've laid down the foundation and some fur for the head.  It seemed to go well, so maybe I had better not overwork it.  I've read that most healthy big cats are seldom wider at the shoulders than the width of their whiskers.  Based on that, I may have made the head too large.  If so, I can fix it easily in Photoshop.

Also, I am setting up the background layers.  I sampled most of the colours I wanted at the very beginning of the project: this creates the palette for the piece.  Here, I've re-introduced the palette in new background layers to see if the cat colours look okay. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

258 - Brown & Yellow Baby Clothes

The fine art business is really hard!  You need a lot of talent, perseverance, and great social contacts.  If nobody is buying your stuff, you spend a lot of time, er, not selling much art.

So in an effort to make a lot more money, I thought I'd put out my sure-fire million-dollar idea. 

And here it is:

I designed a concept for brown and yellow baby clothes.  The idea is that if your baby makes a mess, brown and yellow baby clothes will camouflage the worst of it.  Clever stripes, blots, and optical patches deflect visual attention away from the areas that typically get soiled.  The striking brown and yellow tones are completely gender neutral, making these clothes ideal for boys, girls, whatever. 

Of course, these adorable brown and yellow baby clothes still need regular cleaning, but the carefully-deployed anti-spatter patterns will at least keep your tyke looking au courant, even with a bib-load of boiled currant slopped down the front. 

To create this image, I rotoscoped a baby picture I pulled off of the Internet.  The image was public domain from a US Government website.  Hooray for public domain!  Then, I painted over it and threw on the distinctive brown and yellow baby clothes.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

257 - Cat Sketch Fever

Here is a sampling of sketchbook efforts concerning large cats.  Apart from physical scale, and how that large cats tend to keep thair tails low to the ground, large cats and small cats seem to hit many similar poses.  I should really get to looking at the Disney cats.  Athough Walt Disney definitely preferred dogs over cats, his studio designed cat character prototypes that I feel will easily stand up to any for the forseeable future. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

256 - Jewel The Size Of My Thumb

Today's JSVB entry features a rather large picture of a rather large spider I found yesterday.  It's not a bad picture, but if you don't like spiders, please do not scroll down to see the picture. 

Smile for the camera!  I found this spider hanging by our front door.  Her remarkable abdomen is about the size of the tip of my thumb.  The flash from my camera makes her look very dramatic.

Armed with this picture, I researched on the Internet and found out what type of spider this is, likely a Jewel Spider.  Judging by her size, she's a female.  In Canada, the species lives in British Columbia and Alberta.  They like to live on houses as they are attracted to lights.  The Jewel Spider is an "orb" spider.  Orb spiders  tend to spin the very regular, round, stereotypical web like you would see from "Charlotte's Web". 

Jewel spiders are common, but shy.  The females attract notice since they get so big before they lay their eggs.  Although they love eating flies, they probably would not bite a person.  Even if you are bit by a Jewel Spider, you would likely only be mildy irritated.  Despite their exotic appearance, the Jewel Spider is not considered poisonous. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

255 - Furrier

Here's some progress on the big cat painting.  I'm working out how to lay on the fur.  I've settled on a method of repeated underpaintings, followed by dabbing on the hairs stroke by stroke.  I have the midrange of my palette working, but I still have to add the high and low tones to make the cat look better. 

I've discovered that there is a timing to laying down the strokes.  Too fast and the strokes blur and lose pigment,  too slow and the strokes come out looking mannered and artifical.  Plus, I am growing old painting fur.  If I follow swing time (think of a quickstep like the jazz standard "Happy Feet"), then the strokes seem to come out right.  I've been listening to a lot of swing recently...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

254 - Salmon Run

My wife and I went out to look at the running of the salmon. Our region in local native dialect is called Kwayhquitlam, which translated into English means "River That Reeks Of Fish Slime". That's not a fact that often finds its way into our tourist brochures. Every year at this time, the salmon come up our creeks to spawn, after which they die. It's a beautiful and awe-inspiring sight, but also a powerful and awe-inspiring stench.

This photo ends up looking very impressionistic. The light was very low on account of clouds being overcast, so I could only use long exposures. The rythmic motion of the fish and flow of water creates an almost painterly look to this image.

For another look at Hyde Creek, please click here to see my painting of a different section of this parkland. Note that it might take four to eight years for the fish in the painting to grow to maturity. Then they will return to Hyde Creek just like the fish seen above.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

253 - True Grit

The thirteenth of every month is Ungood Art Day on JSVB. This time around, the actual art is okay, it's the artist that is ungood. I was making a recipe with corn grits and I spilled a bunch on the stove but neglected to mop them up. Knowing that I would catch disfavour from my wife if I didn't get rid of the slopped food, but not having enough strength of will to hunt down any cleaning supplies, I took the path of least resistance and made a cute mousie out of the messie.

Friday, November 12, 2010

252 - Scanned Ham

I am juggling multiple art projects at one time, which is not my favourite way of handling things.  I get distracted too easily, and pay too little attention to each project.  So in lieu of something wild and exotic, I present a little hamster which I scanned from my sketchbook today.  

Thursday, November 11, 2010

251 - Why We Remember

November 11 is known as Remembrance Day in Canada.  It is a time that we recall the price our soldiers pay as they go to war in our name. 

In recent times, people seem very emotional about how Remembrance Day is observed.  Canada has been at war with Afghanistan since 2001.  While our military involvement is seen as essential, it is not a happy or glorious duty.  We must recognize the sacrifice our armed forces make deploying to the war zone overseas.  Yet, I believe it is this recognition that turns away from the traditional remembrance of November 11.  We are turning this day into something new because we need to. 

Top left is the current standard plastic poppy, the approved symbol of Canadian remembrance for November 11.  It is based on the red corn poppies that grow as weeds in the battlegrounds of World War I.  The poppy was featured in the famous poem "In Flanders Fields", which pleads for us to remember the brave sacrifice of  soldiers who died for us.

Top right is a poppy with a yellow ribbon.  The yellow ribbon is a symbol of support and recognition of our troops.  However we feel about the war in Afghanistan, we cannot ignore the efforts and contributions our troops are making overseas. We cannot allow ourselves to diminish their place in society. 

Bottom left is a white poppy.   This is a relatively new symbol that calls for peace instead of war.  It is not a figure of remembrance, but rather a clarion for change.  The white poppy sometimes comes with text as seen in the illustration.

Bottom right is the traditional poppy with a green center instead of a black one.  Originally, Remembrance poppies had a black center, but were changed to green to "represent the fields of France".  Later, the poppy regained its black center, but not until after such period of time as the green material in stockpile had been used up. 

We are free to celebrate Remembrance Day as we see fit thanks to the bravery of our veterans.  We can observe a moment of silence, we can take the day off to go shopping in the US, we can attend the military service at the cenotaph.  What we cannot do is diminish the contribution our veterans have made to keep Canada free.  We must not take away crucial benefits that keep our soldiers from becoming destitute in our time of great wealth.  As one vet said at today's cenotaph ceremony, "We are not looking for any more.  We are just looking to not lose what we have". 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

250 - QRiouser And QRiouser...

Curiouser and curiouser...

Check out this little black and white box, it's part of the Brave New World.  It's called a "QR" Code.  It's an improved version of a bar code.  Very basically, it's what you get if you took two bar codes and overlapped them, with one turned perpendicular to the other.  Each black or white box forms a pixel in a grid, and the entire grid is a matrix.  Data stored in matrix form tends to take up less space than in linear binary form (i.e. a bar code), while at the same time, a matrix can hold more data. 

For example, a bar code can hold up to 20 numbers, wheras a QR Code can hold up to 7,089.  A QR Code cans also store text or pictographic information, like Japanese kanji writing.  At the same time, a QR code can be up to ten times smaller than a bar code and still be legible.  The one I have posted above is greatly enlarged for artistic merit. 

A QR Code can be read by any device with a camera and QR software.  Smart phones generally come with QR apps built in, or with the ability to use a freeware QR app.  Simply scan the QR box with your smartphone, and you will see the data right away.  In this case, my QR Code links here to my blog, JSVB. 

QR Codes can be read from computer screens or printed out.  The boxes in the corners provide alignment cues so that even if you take the picture crooked, the data will still be read correctly. 

"QR" stand for "Quick Response", and was originally designed by the Denso Wave Corporation of Japan in 1994 as a means to track packages and industrial parts.  Although Denso owns the patent rights to the QR Code, the code is free for public use.  The actual name "QR Code" is a trademark of Denso Wave. 

I created this code using free online software.  Many thanks to Allan who double-confirmed that my JSVB QR Code actually links properly to JSVB and not some crazy porn site. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

249 - The Fur Flies

Moving on the big cat picture, I am reminded of all the crazy bugs that plague my work flow when I am working with large files.  I spend more time with file management than I do painting. 

I am teaching myself to paint proper fur, which is something I've never worked on in detail before.  Ordinarily, I watch my line count.  This is where I go into a drawing and count all the lines.  It's a routine I've picked up from animation, since every line I draw would have to be animated. 

For example, the figure above has just shy of forty lines.  Simplifying the fur, usually in clumps of three, will save on lines.  Already the big cat has a line count of what, just shy of a million?  And that's what bogs down my computer.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

248 - Big Cat Beginnings

I've decided to get to work on another larger project, one with some continuity.  I never know how these things will turn out in the end, which is a stress for me. 

In this case, it's also very cliché, a big ol' mountain lion perched on a tall rock with some trees and mountains in the background.  Maybe I will later stumble upon some way of adding more interest.  I got a lot of positive feedback about being able to see the fish underwater in "Hyde Creek", which was a gimmick that I though redeemed an otherwise kitschy river scene.  Please click here to see my "Hyde Creek" artwork.  I'd like to come up with something analogous to that for this cat. 

This is just the start of the project, called "underpainting".  In a true underpainting, you start with your design (in classical art, this was known as a "cartoon"), which you draw on paper and transfer onto the canvas.  Then you choose your palette of colours and lay down solid blocks of colour to represent your visual elements.  Then you begin to blend the colours.

With digital art, I created a composition using several photos of mountain lions.  I cut and pasted several visual elements together to build the structure of the cat: a face from one photo, paws from another, a body from a third, and so on.  Then, I used Photoshop to define my palette of colours, and sampled them onto the image as you see above.  

With digital paint, this goes much faster than with real paint.  Not only do I never have to worry about paint consistency or dryness, I can also break the image up into layers.  You can see the layers that represent the parts of the painting that I have yet to begin.   All that's missing is a flock of "M" birds.

Friday, November 5, 2010

247 - JSVB Logo Revisited

I've cleaned up the logo design I've been playing with.  Please click here to see the previous attempt.  I've cleaned up the lines a little and toned down the Photoshop blenders.  I've also added some text.  Finally, all of the finely-tuned changes all get smooshed into blurry purgatory by converting this file into something the blog software can use.  It ought to look a lot sharper when printed out on glossy business cards. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

246 - Queer Stylus For The Straight Guy

Today, I end up with another piece of accidental abstract work.  This time around, I was trying to adjust the pressure sensitivity of my computer stylus, the digital pen I use to draw a fair amount of my work directly to the computer.  I must have chosen a sensitivity value that went outside of the range of my application.

This is supposed to emulate a somewhat worn nib on a fountain pen.  Instead, the stylus went queer, and I use that word in the sense of unexpected strangeness. It turned out looking to me like cells, or feathers, or a photomicrograph.  Completely impractical, yet interesting to look at.  


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

245 - #03-02659

Today, Gordon Campbell, the Premier of British Columbia, decided to do the right thing and announced formally that he was retiring from public office.  Among other things, Mr. Campbell was remarkable for having the lowest ever poll scores for a democratically elected official in the Americas (and possibly Europe).  In British Columbia, we may have referred to him as "Mr. 9% Popularity", but in the United States he is simply #03-02659.

03-02659 is the number on Gordon Campbell's police mug shot.  That's the number the Premier picked up while he was on vacation in  Hawai'i in 2003. He was arrested by the Maui 5-0, tried in court, and convicted of a drunk driving offense.  Mercifully, nobody was injured or killed while Mr. Campbell was under the influence of alcohol. 

At one point, Gordon Campbell's mug shot was placed on the front cover of a major comic book.  The issue had to deal with a rogue's gallery of villains.  Since the mug shot was in the public domain, the artist responsible for the cover felt free to use it.  He had no idea that Gordon Campbell was a high-ranking Canadian politican.  He used the photo because he felt that the convicted gentleman looked "evil" and "creepy". 

To Mr. Campbell's credit, he did work hard to bring the Olympics to Vancouver in 2010.  It might be 3010 before we finish paying for all the outstanding bills, but it was a terrific party.  The world may then remember Premier Campbell as the white haired grinning man in the nice suit on TV who always wore red mittens everywhere he went.  (The mittens were symbolic of the Olympic Games, and were a popular souvenir item in Canada.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

244 - Cheap Chocolate Season Begins

What a better way to celebrate the beginning of Cheap Chocolate Season 2010 than by regurgitating repurposing some old newly re-issued artwork:

Cheap Chocolate Season means that you can sometimes pick up holiday-themed chocolate candy for a cut-rate price for a few days after the holiday ends.  There's a wintery stretch between Hallowe'en and Easter where this trend runs strong.  However, it's getting harder to find retailers who will discount their chocolate snacks: evolutionary hermetic packaging and contemporary chemical preservatives mean that a shopkeeper can just store the unsold candy and sell it for full price the next year.  At least this is what I think happens, judging by the abysmal quality of mass-produced candy these days. 

In honour of re-using holiday treats, I've taken the artwork from my previous Cheap Chocolate Season post on JSVB (please click here to see it) and added it to my artwork regarding the loss of the so-called "Michael Jackson Zombie" from the popular Plants vs. Zombies videogame (and you can please click here to see that).  A couple of fancy yet needless Photoshop permutations later, and there we have it: today's groundbreaking JSVB entry. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

243 - Trek Or Treat

Here is our Hallowe'en get-up for this year: I get to be Captain Kirk and my wife is a Green Orion Slave Girl from Star Trek.  We had a lot of fun this year with the costumes.  Well, really, any excuse to strap on a phaser gun and slather on the green body paint...

Please click on this link to see a previous entry regarding the exciting topic of Orion Slave Girls on JSVB.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

242 - Hallowe'en Preview

Today, I decided to present a sneak preview for tomorrow's Hallowe'en costume spectacle.  If you've got geek cred, you will recognize our outfits right away.  If not, then tune in to JSVB tomorrow! Tune in anyways, to get the full effect.

Friday, October 29, 2010

241 - Drawing Trees During Flu Season

Today's blog entry goes on at length about phlegm.  Maybe too long at length.  If you find images of phlegm disturbing, then do not scroll down to see today's JSVB post.

Just because you're too sick to get out of the house for a week doesn't mean you cannot get your creativity on.  When the E.P.A. comes to knocking  on your front door dressed in Class III Environmental Suits, you can show them your latest art project, even as they bundle you into a hermetically-sealed personal safety container.  Use the virus you are incubating to your own  advantage!

I present How To Draw Trees During Cold And Flu Season:

You will need some blank paper and coloured drawing tools, like pens, pencils, or crayons. 

1) First, with a brown crayon, draw three tall, thin spikes pointed on top.  Then draw a bunch of little lines that run across each spike.  These will make the trunks for a stand of tropical palm trees.

2) Then, just do what comes naturally.  Cough up a lung.  Try to aim the phlegm at the top of the tree trunks for best effect.  If you miss, be prepared to draw a new tree trunk underneath the green fronds. 

3) Finally, use a yellow crayon to draw a sun, and blue crayons to sketch out the water and horizon.  Now you can enjoy your exclusive beach view!   Note that adding a couple of "M" Birds makes the picture so realistic, you will be reaching for your sunblock.  Aloha!

Master Class:

If you followed the first exercise and you think you are ready for more, try this out if you can:

1) Okay, with any luck, you've got bronchitis.  A lung infection will allow you to bring up lots of different phlegm colours.  You can take advantage of that!  Try to make the splatters line up on your page.


2) I've added stout tree trunks under each blob to make a boulevard.  I've also sketched in some buildings and a horse and carriage.  Now we are in Central Park in the autumn.  How lovely!


3) Finally, if you can score tuberculosis, so much the better!  Now we can have apple trees.  See how the fruit looks so ripe, you can almost pick it right off of the image.  With mad art skillz like these, you'll be sure to be the darling of the quarantine ward. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

240 - Unsolicited Snazaroo Product Plug

From my previous Hallowe'en-related post, I realized I needed to promote one of my favourite art supplies: Snazaroo Face & Body Paint.  Hopefully, this might help some JSVB readers (if any) before October 31.  

Snazaroo is a hard tempera-style watercolour pigment.  Just add a little water, and you can brush or sponge the paint directly onto skin.  It comes in two 18 ml forms: one is a single large cake of paint in your chosen colour, and the other is a plastic "palette" of eight smaller colours.  Currently, there is a "girl's" palette and a "boy's" palette available, although you'd probably want both for any decent project.

Snazaroo is one of my all-time favorite products.  It's very easy to work with.  Most of the colours go on well with just one coat.  Although any cosmetic product can set off allergies, my experience with Snazaroo is that it is one of the gentlest skin products I have ever used.  I have extremely sensitive skin, and Snazaroo always feels completely comfortable.  There's no scent, either. 

Snazaroo is a durable body and face paint, in that it won't easily come off with sweat, rain, tears, etcetera.  However, it is very easily removed with water plus soap.  So you can wear Snazaroo confidently outdoors without worrying that it will run or come off on your clothes (if any). 

The downside for all Snazaroo products is the packaging.  The plastic container for the large cakes is very brittle and liable to break.  The plastic palette for the small cakes is the cheapest unit possible.  You also get a cheap, ineffectual brush, and a small plastic sponge that will collect dangerous mould almost instantly. 

The price point for Snazaroo is also high.  Each large cake will cost around $10, and the palettes are $15 - $20.  It's easy to spend $100 on getting a good set of colours.  However, the paint cakes themselves are extremely durable and long-lasting.  You can paint dozens if not hundreds of faces off of a good set of paints. 

I find Snazaroo available at better art and craft stores (such as Michael's), but you can also find it at costume shops or online.  Snazaroo has been steadily becoming more popular worldwide, so more power to them. 

Snazaroo has massive appeal for kids, but let's face it, Snazaroo is also fun for grown-ups as well!