Thursday, September 30, 2010

216 - Mousellanous

I nearly forgot an animation milestone I wanted to mention.  "The Flintstones" TV show made its debut precisely fifty years ago today.  So why didn't I draw something Flintstones-related?  Why the old-school mouse?

Looking back at my visual references for mice, I came across some of my classic Preston Blair texts.  Anybody who has studied animation, or who has looked in the "How To Draw" section of a bookstore will know Preston Blair.  The man was an animation genius.  he worked on Disney's Pinocchio, Bambi, and Fantasia before moving on to other studios. 

As I understand it, Blair was a consultant subcontractor for Hanna-Barbera when he pitched to them an animated series based on the old Jackie Gleason "Honeymooners" show.  Hanna-Barbera didn't want to get into Honeymooners, but they were keen on transposing the action to the prehistoric era.  "The Flagstones" was born (quickly re-titled to "The Flintstones").  Preston Blair worked on the first couple of shows and then moved on. 

Like several other talented Disney animators such as Walt Stanchfield and Grim Natwick, Preston Blair had the ability to teach his tradecraft.  His animation texts, while drawn in an older, quaint cartoon style, are as powerful and relevant now as the day he published them. 

So, the rodent above is my rendering of a Preston Blair mouse.  Walter Foster Publishing specifically allows me to produce this image "for study or finished art".  Any commercial use of this image is not permissable. 

---   ---   ---

On a completely unrelated note, I'd like to send good wishes and deepest thanks to "J.B.".  She and my wife cheered me up after quite a down day, although I doubt J.B. even knows she did it.  

215 - More Mouse Sketches

More variations on the mousey theme.  These are very rough.  Crude draftsmanship.  I'm trying to get the right idea for the mouse.  I felt I only started to warm up to the task when the page was done.  I need to look at good visual sources.  Disney is the best, they've been drawing state-of-the-art mice for years and years. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

214 - Cartoon Mouse Studies

When all else fails, it's back to the sketchbook.

Here's a page from my sketchbook.  I've decided to try drawing mouse expressions.  The four main pillars that support cartoon animals these days are Dog, Cat, Bird, and Mouse.  All cartoonists should strive to perfect these forms.  These mice are experimental.  They aren't yet at the stage where I want them to be, but they make reasonable fodder for JSVB. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

213 - SMG: Super Monkey Girl

Sometimes, people ask me, and they are usually new acquaintances, when will I start to draw comic strips?  Okay, here's one I drew a long time ago that unexpectedly resurfaced:

You can click on the image to embiggen it. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

212 - Raiders of the Lost Nut

How the mice foil the trap and steal the bait.  At least the mice that have seen "Raiders of the Lost Ark", anyway.

"Throw me the macadamia nut!  I throw you the whip!"

Please click here to see a mouse on JSVB that didn't get away.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

211 - Please Release Me...

If you look closely, you will see the pink snout of a tiny grey mouse as it peeks out from the hatch of a Havahart humane rodent trap.  That's my wife operating the trap door, while I snap the picture using a fast shutter.  Somehow, I caught the brief interval between the door opening and the mouse zipping into the woods in a furry blur. 

My wife reasoned that if there was one mouse, there would be more, and she was right.  So far, we've trapped and released three mice, although only one was in our house.  The rest of the brood has been living in our garage, or so we believe. 

For more mouse-related JSVB entries, please click here, here, here, and even here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

210 - Macadamia Mouse

Please click here to see more about this mouse:

I had a little bit of time today to sketch how I figured our houseguest mouse got the macadamia nut past the trap door.   This is a view of the tunnel in a "Predator" trap, ominously named.  It's also called a "Mini-Mouser".  By either name, this is a non-lethal trap where the target mouse is expected to run through a tunnel with a trap door.  When the mouse steps on the sensitive pad, a spring trigger sweeps the unaware rodent into a secure holding chamber.  That's the theory, anyway.  All we heard was the rattle of the macadamia nut bait as it was hauled along the entire length of the trap, and then the mouse and the nut disappeared into the night. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

209 - 30th Terry Fox Run

Today marks the 30th Terry Fox Run, the annual event in memory of one of Canada's greatest heroes.  Born in Winnipeg but raised in Port Coquitlam no more than a few blocks away from our house, Terry Fox was an athletic young man who was afflicted with cancer.  At the time that he was enrolling in University, osteosarcoma took his right leg, which had to be amputated. 

Terry Fox learned to run using an artificial leg, and vowed to run across Canada from coast to coast to raise money for a cure for cancer.  His goal was to recieve a dollar from every Canadian.  Tragically, the cancer was too much for him, and he died before completing his heroic run. 

After his death, a foundation began to raise money in Terry's name.  The flagship event of the foundation is the annual Terry Fox Run, which occurs worldwide on this Sunday.  In the thirty years since Terry Fox passed away, it is estimated that his foundation has earned over $500 million dollars towards the cure for cancer.  Today, it is recognized that many cancers that used to be considered incurable now have some mode of treatment.   Even Terry's osteosarcoma is now treatable. 

This is a picture I took some time ago of the Terry Fox statue in front of the Port Coquitlam Public Library.  I don't know who rendered the sculpture, but it makes for a powerful picture. 

I took this shot of the Terry Fox memorial in St. John's, Newfoundland.  In behind is the Atlantic Ocean, where Terry dipped his foot into the water to begin his run.  What you cannot see is the mountainous, tortuous climb for the miles  that Terry had to endure just to get out of the harbour. 

The inscription reads:
"This slate marks the spot where one man's dream began and a nation's hope lives on.

Terry Fox Marathon of Hope Mile 0
Started April 12, 1980
Ended September 1, 1980, after 3,339 miles, just outside Thunder Bay, Ontario (5,373 kilometers)

His run continues always in our nation's soul."

Lastly, here is a picture of my wife and I posing with the recently restored 1980 Ford Econoline "Funcraft" van that was the support vehicle for Terry's run.  Words cannot describe how powerful it was to look inside that van, knowing that this was where Terry Fox ate, slept, fought, cried, and laughed along the harrowing journey of his Marathon of Hope.  Every night he would hunker down in this van, wounded yet determined.  Every day it was his departure point for another gruelling run. 

I didn't take this picture, of course, so I can't take photo credit.  I'm pretty sure it was Terry's brother Fred who snapped the shutter.  The Fox family are certainly well-known in Port Coquitlam, as they are tireless and enthusiastic fundraisers for Terry's cause.  I think that Terry would have been very proud of his family's continued support, as well as that of our great nation. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

208 - Mousey Tongue

The little mouse that has been living in our house has finally been trapped.  After several nights of us feeding her macadamia nuts covered in peanut butter, she finally stepped into one of those Havahart humane traps.  The Havahart trap looks a bit like a tiny cage, with two balanced doors that swing locked shut when the animal takes the bait.  Today's drawing captures the look and size of our rodent invader just about right.  In brief, too cute for words.

It's not that we were trying to feed the mouse.  She was just too fast or too clever for our previous traps.  Precisely at twelve thirty each night, she would foray into the snare, take her prize, and vanish back into her lair beneath the oven.  The only trace of her exploit would be the sudden rattle of macadamia nut against whatever material the trap was made of, and then of course, the total disappearance of the macadamia nut.  For a while, I thought my brother-in-law might be eating the nuts, but the Havahart trap proved otherwise. 

Mousey Tongue (as we called her, a play on the name of the deceased First Chairman of the Chinese Chinese Communist Party, Mao Zedong) was fast and she was smart, but she did not have a credit card.  Once we settled on a trap that worked, we escorted our little houseguest on a midnight drive across the Pitt River to a nice, remote undisclosed location, where she was allowed to run free and live wild. 

Please click here to see my previous rendering of the house mouse.  I may have been a little off with my earlier version of the critter.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

207 - Chocolate Waffles

Our chocolate waffles keep warm and cosy in the oven, awaiting to be eaten!  This is just a basic waffle recipe with a bit more egg and sugar, also some cocoa and lots of chocolate chips.  We ate them with caramel sauce.  All that sweetness kept us buzzed for the day.

And yes, our waffle iron makes heart-shaped waffles.  Whoever says that romance is dead hasn't yet had a heart-shaped chocolate waffle in caramel sauce. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

206 - Ernst Stavro Mousefeld

A few days ago, we were startled to discover that a mouse had taken up residence in our house.  I was convinced that I had heard the skitter of tiny rodent feet, and then a mouse shot out from under the computer and stowed away into an inaccessible corner underneath our oven. 

Baking the mouse out was not an option, even if it could work.  We had to trap the critter somehow.

I drew this diagram that depicts the diobolical nature of the mouse.  I am sure it is laughing at our pitiful snares, as it reposes in its little wingback chair and strokes its little white Persian cat.  Well, okay, that's stretching it.  But the mouse is outsmarting us so far. 

Maybe this isn't my best composition ever.  The evil mouse chair is not supposed to be on fire.  The flames are supposed to represent the unsavoury intent of the mouse as it schemes to chew up computer cords, coax cables, and other valuable commodities around the house.  Mice aren't evil, either, they just do what they do. 

This mouse is a very loose parody of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the famous villian in the old James Bond books and movies. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

205 - Jeff Minus Jeff's Wife

Ask anybody, and they will tell you that I hate postmodern deconstructionism.  That's the current art form where somebody takes a pre-existing piece of art or design, tweaks it a little, and then re-brands the thing as their own.  It borrows on the hard work and genius of the previous person.  Grafting your own name onto somebody else's efforts just seems powerfully wrong to me.  Unless, of course, I am the one doing it, because, after all, I think I am getting pretty darned good at it. 

Another exception is if somebody else thinks of it before I do, and it's really, really awesome.  Case in point, "Garfield Minus Garfield" by Dan Walsh, but mostly by Jim Davis. 

Since it's girls' night out, and my beloved has stepped out of the house for a while, I decided to try a "Jeff Minus Jeff's Wife" comic strip, just to see how things would go.  Not that I ever want to end up this way, mind you...

Jeff Minus Jeff's Wife

Original Unaltered Strip:

You know, maybe I spend way too much time at the computer.

Monday, September 13, 2010

204 - Bad News Bear

What misbegotten example of artistic flailing do I have for this, the thirteenth of the month, otherwise known as Ungood Art Day?  I present to you my Bad News Bear.

The idea was to make a Canadian aboriginal-style series of art prints based on the local animals and their interaction with humans.  I was inspired by the Haida designs, which feature symbolized high-contrast fauna.  Bill Reid, if you choose to look him up, provides one of the finest contemporary examples of Haida art.

Unfortunately, I neglected to actually look at any reference pictures, nor to learn anything of deep Haida graphic symbolism, or even try an Internet search for Mr. Reid.  I more or less figured that a heavy dose of sarcastic content would carry the image.  While the benighted bear thinks about fish, his stomach is filled with scavenged MacDonald's food. 

As I worked over the image, I had visions in my head of an entire series of animals rendered thus.  I was going to create an enlightened new genre, cross-over art that appealed to aborigines and white suburbanites, art critics, and of course, hyperironic teenagers with disposable income.  I even began to rehearse my acceptance speech for my upcoming Order Of Canada.

When the glitter faded from my eyes, I saw that I had been in fact labouring for long hours over sad bear here.  It might not look like I did all that much, but I did spend a lot of time on this bit.  It took me several tries to nail down the Michael Corleone pose "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!!" from the Godfather III movie, but in bear form.   And I came to realize that although sarcasm thrives in aboriginal culture, it rarely makes an appearance in their symbolic art.  For good reason, too: it makes for a very ungood presentation.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

203 - Empire Of The Lion

Due to extensive reconstruction of the dome of BC Place, our beloved Lions CFL football team has had to relocate to their historic field at old Empire Stadium. 

The original Empire Stadium was torn down when BC Place was built, leaving nothing but the literal field.  The lot was never used for anything since the demolition, as I believe it belongs to Playland, Vancouver's famous old-time amusement park (formerly "Happyland").  The Lions made a deal to return to their old field while BC Place is being refurbished.  A new, temporary Empire Stadium was built, partly constructed from pieces left over from the 2010 Winter Olympics. 

The new stadium holds roughly 25,000 rabid Lions fans.  As you can see from the photo, it remains a beautiful venue.  It's a tremendous opportunity to sample what CFL football was like thirty years ago, when the players and the fans all braved the elements for a classic gridiron clash. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

202 - Me vs. Plants vs. Zombies

If you greatly enjoy the PopCap videogame Plants vs. Zombies, just like my wife and I do, and you use the STEAM online gaming service, just like my wife and I do, you should therefore today see that all of your saved game files have been automatically deleted from the remote Steam Cloud server, just like my wife and I did. 

Today's automatic patch fixed an issue with the saved game files by deleting them all without warning.  Given that I discuss major social issues on JSVB from world hotspots like Pakistan, Haiti, and Jamaica, by comparison this videogame glitch is very small and petty.

Oh well, small and petty it is tonight.  I tried all the sytem restore tricks I know to salvage the local game files, but to no avail.  So instead, I drew the forbidden Michael Jackson Thriller Zombie eating my computer.   Although MJ and the Thriller Zombie are the intellectual properties of others, I rely on the satirical content of this post to allow me the priviledge of keeping this artwork on JSVB. 

(N.B.: A previous automatic patch from PopCap and STEAM removed Michael Jackson content from Plants vs. Zombies, reportedly at the request of the Jackson Estate lawyers.  PopCap preserve us from any more of your automatic patches!)

For another image of unnatural entities chewing on my computer hardware, please click here.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

201 - Ornamental Sunflower

Just a simple rendition of a decorative sunflower that sprouted in our front yard. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

200 - "Maîtresse Kaffein"

I decided that I wanted to express my inner demons as artwork.  I've seen some other artists do that.  There is a perception that if you can identify your demons, you can conquer them.

Most of my demons, I think, aren't violent or macabre.  They're dull by Hollywood standards, but they do persevere.  One in particular is my addiction to caffeine. 

Nearly everybody I know loves their caffeine.  Some of my friends have elaborate daily rituals involving their morning cup of brew.  I used to take large doses of the stuff, but I've had to stop.  Caffeine encourages kidney stones in my system, and I don't like kidney stones at all. 

So, around ten years ago, I quit caffeine cold turkey.  No more cola, chocolate, tea, or coffee.  After suffering the symptoms of withdrawal, I was left with a powerful and near constant craving for the stuff that I feel every day.  Sometimes, with friends, I will enjoy a Coke or some tea, but even that will keep me up half the night. 

My original intent was to imitate the brilliant Art Nouveau poster art of bohemian Paris in the early 1900's.  If you wanted a beautiful artwork that depicted the vices of the period, you looked no farther than Pigalle.  Think of de Toulouse-Lautrec. 

I chose a French and German text for "Mistress Caffeine": French to represent the bohemian mentality and German on account that kaffein was first isolated by a German chemist, Friedlieb Runge in 1820.  Of course, the effects of caffeine were well known since ancient times. 

The image contains many representations of caffeine in my life.  The pretty girl idealizes the allure of caffeine.  She wears a pure white dress that mimics the colour of isolated caffeine.  The bottom of her dress represents the flower of the coffee bean.  She is entwined with blossoms, ripening beans, and leaves from a coffee plant (although coffee grows on trees, and not vines).  She holds a cup of coffee with a picture of an overstimulated brain.  The bi-lobed brain has a similar shape to the coffee bean, which forms a stream in the background.  Did you know that the coffee bean is the world's second most traded commodity, after oil?   The steam rising from the cup mimics the shapes of Earth's continents. 

Zombie-like hands reach for the coffee.  Maybe once they get their caffiene fix, they will be more human.  I know a lot of people who are like that.  de Toulouse-Lautrec used grasping hands in some of his poster work.  I though they might add another level of dynamism to my composition. 

I hope JSVB readers enjoy this piece.  It was surprisingly difficult and time-consuming to put together.  It drained me to bring this personal demon into concept form.  The end result is this full poster-sized print.  I've had to shrink the image quite a lot to make it fit into JSVB. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

199 - Mac & Tease

Here's a treat to get you in the mood for my next post, the much-awaited 200th JSVB Post Extravaganza.  Think of it as 200 Post Eve.  

Here's a picture of what I would consider my ultimate comfort food: homemade macaroni and cheese.  You eat it straight from the bowl using a wooden spoon.  It just does not get any better than that for me.

The "tease" part in the mac-and-tease is that I cannot share the recipe online.  The reason is that the recipe is not my own.  It's Beecher's famous "World's Best Mac And Cheese" recipe, familiar to the residents of Seattle, Washington as well as Seattlephiles everywhere.  However, I've made some modifications.  For one thing, I think Beecher's chronically overcooks their pasta.  I use a more robust noodle and a slightly different combination of cheeses, spices, and other secrets.  It's pretty darned good.

A trip to Beecher's is an education on how to shop for healthy cheese.  It's disgusting how much cheese in supermarkets contains bovine growth hormone, artificial preservatives, and other nasty surprises. 

So a big bowl of high quality cheesy noodles are in order.  I have been slaving away on the 200th entry, and it's nearly complete.  What an aggravating experience, though.  I pushed my computer to its maximum performance.  It continuously stalled, crashed, corrupted, and mangled my files.  Equipment  broke down, memory failed, and bugs kept creeping into the workflow.  Error messages prompted all kinds of midnight work-arounds.  It got to the point where laying down one single line would cost me half an hour at a time.  If nobody ever gets interested enough to buy the thing, I'm going to have to search the very corners of my soul to scrounge enough motivation to do another.  Maybe the next one, I'll just charge twice my rate. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

198 - Cuppa Prop

We are getting very close to the 200th JSVB Post Extravaganza!  Here is a bit of something I am working on right now. 

Does it look like a coffee cup or a brain in a jar?  I am a little worried about that, but I remain committed to the final product.

It's interesting that a coffee bean and a brain can resemble one another, on a basic morphological level.  This is because Nature likes the dicotyledonous form.  Dicots are seeds with two lobes (like a coffee bean).  By comparison, monocots (like corn seeds) have a single lobe.  With two lobes, if one gets destroyed, the other can possibly continue to function.  It's Nature's insurance policy against disaster.  Also, from an aesthetic view, two lobes can have more visual appeal than one!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

197 - Pork-A-Cola Recipe

A bit of a break from posing ladies, yet today's JSVB post will still tie in with my upcoming 200th Post Spectacular (so stay tuned)! 

This is one of the easiest recipes ever.  Maybe you couldn't follow making authentic Ukrainian perogies (please click here to see more), or you just didn't get around to your own fresh sea urchin suprise (please click here if you have the stomach for it).

There is no excuse to miss on today's recipe.  There's only two ingredients, and as long as you heat them up together, something good should come out. 


Boneless Pork Chops
Cola drink

Pork can be a tough meat, as mosst recipes require that it be cooked completely.  However, cooking pork under high heat turns it into leather.  Marinating or soaking it in a cola soft drink will soften the meat.  Likewise, you can braise the pork.  To braise something is to sear it with high heat and then simmer it in liquid.  In this case, the sweet and acidic cola will make pork supple and tasty.  Braising is much faster than marinating, too. 

I like to slice the raw pork into bite-sized pieces.  A good trick if you have the prep time in advance is to put the chops into the freezer for an hour or two.  This makes it a lot easier to make thin slices. 

Chilled or not, put the slices into a large frypan with a teaspoon of cooking oil on medium heat.  Brown the slices a little.  Then add cola drink.  I estimate that you will need 1/3 cup cola per pork chop. 

Start by adding a bit of cola at a time.  As the drink is mostly water, much of it will steam away.  You'd think the cola would make a sticky, goopy mess, but it does not.  Even so, if you really are nervous, use a nonstick frypan.  Be very careful never to use high heat with a Teflon®-coated pan!  High heat (above 396°F/202.2°C) causes Teflon® to release toxic fumes that can kill small housepets, and the fumes aren't that great for humans, either.  Also, if you braise using diet cola, don't use a beverage sweetened with Aspartame.  Aspartame is easily broken down by low cooking heat (above 86°F/30°C), which makes it go bad. 

As the pork braises, the cola will reduce to an ugly, brackish syrup that sticks to the meat.  If the meat is not fully cooked, just add a bit more liquid until the pork cooks.  If you have too much liquid, just pour most of it away.   After the liquid is reduced, continue to cook the pork until the syrup carmelizes or turns brown on the meat.  Then you are done!

The pork bits will taste like tender sweet-and-sour riblets, with a surprisingly delicate flavour.  You can serve them as is (along with some veggies), or you can use this as a base for some alternatives:

  • Serve on oriental noodles or rice.  Add soy sauce or another store-bought oriental sauce to taste.  Serve with steamed green beans or oriental vegetables.
  • Add a small amount of catsup, Worchestershire sauce, and Tabasco/hot sauce, to make a sweet-and-sour BBQ sauce, serve with beans and cornbread.
  • I've never tried this, but you can make a French cream sauce such as Béarnaise or Blanc and serve the pork a la français.
  • For curried pork, add some curry.
  • I like just adding salt and pepper to taste, plus maybe a small amount of fried onion.  Instead of onion, try chopped green onion, leek, or shallots fried briefly at the end, after the carmelization. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

196 - And Now With Colour

And again, "that pose".  My wife is starting to think I am obsessing.  I've finished the missing hand.  I also added some colours that I want to see, and the beginnings of clothing.  I had a more ornate dress rendered out, but I lost it when Painter crashed the file I was working on.  This is a previous iterative save.  I only lost 30 minutes of work, but at this time I am too tired to try and recover it. 

Just four more posts until 200: must work harder!