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!

239 - Keep Your Eye On The Ball

More Hallowe'en hijinx.  A couple of Hallowe'ens ago, my wife had to work a shift, but I stayed home.  I was set on turning off the lights and watching Hudson Hawk (1991) on DVD, when my brother-in-law calls up: he wants to come over to hand out candy to the kids.  I make a quick trip to Costco to get the sweets the tykes like, which leaves me with about an hour to come up with a costume idea.

Well, Zombie-Anything works these days, which is fine by me.  I've always appreciated the zombie genre.  I sawed a tennis ball in half, glued it to my head, threw on my track suit, and painted on some gore and pale skin with Snazaroo body paints.  Instant Zombie Fitness Instructor.  No pain, no gain!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

238 - Ave, Romanus

You can tell by all of the Christmas decorations in the shopping malls that Hallowe'en is right around the corner.  Here is a picture of last year's costumes for my wife and I: ancient Roman citizens.  The weather was so spectacular that we were actually getting a bit hot in togas. 

We were on our way to watch the Lions at our local area.  The BC Lions, that is, which is why we were wearing orange, black, and white.  We also like costumes that complement us as a couple, which is deadly for singles of course. 

This picture was taken by my single brother-in-law, at his place. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

237 - World Series Chickens

Today's the day we needed to come up with new replica jerseys for our television-addicted toy chickens: tomorrow is the start of the 2010 World Series.

This year looks to be an even match between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers.  For the jerseys, we came up with more poultry relatable names. 

The "Hen Francisco" chicken wears the now-famous #48 Panda Hat, as seen on TV.  Pablo Sandoval, the differentially-motivated utility fielder for the Giants, is nicknamed "Kung Fu Panda", and he also wears #48. 

The chickens as well as the remainder of our household are split on opinions as to who will win the Series.  We're just all happy the Yankees aren't in it!

The baseball picture in the background is public domain.  For another view of the chickens, please see the JSVB entry here.

Monday, October 25, 2010

236 - Plasticated Lawn

Here is a current photograph of our back lawn: 

We've covered the whole thing in plastic tarp!  Look at all of the debris the tarp has caught.  This is just the beginning, though.  We'll easily collect enough biomatter to fill two or three large green waste bins. 

Covering the lawn with plastic is not good for the grass, but it's better than the alternative.  We aren't too lazy to rake, either. 

Looking closely, we see that the lawn is covered in needles, not leaves.  The needles are knocked off of the giant cedar trees that surround our property.  The orange bits disintegrate instantly into crumbs when touched, and so are the very devil to rake.  If left to decompose, they turn into acid that kills the lawn.  So our solution is to plasticate the whole thing, and sweep off the mess into the green waste for the City to pick up.  Once all of the needles have come off the trees, we clean off the tarp and roll it up to give the grass a breather. 

Note the garden animals that we use to keep the tarp from blowing away in the wind.  I'm pretty sure my brother-in-law thought the pig was real for about a month. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

235 - Drawn To Elegance

I like ballroom dancing poses.  Although the dance appears to be flowing and spontaneous, the choreography is as precise as clockwork.  A good dancer will hit poses that tell the story of the movement.  This appeals to the animator in me, as this is exactly the same ideal I try to follow when I draw key frames for a sequence. 

Also, it's an excuse to draw a red-haired model.  My wife re-henna'ed her hair, which makes her look even more elegant than ever. 

For a look at my wife with henna hair, please click here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

234 - Jeff Catches A Cold... Again

The other day, I complained to my wife about getting really sick.  Well, guess what, she was just as sick, too.  We have a matching set of head colds.  Being ill has slowed us both down.

The wonder of the Information Age is that I've already documented my previous cold on JSVB.  It's a multi-part series that you can look at starting from January 17.  Please click here if you want to see that. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

233 - Speculative JSVB Logo

I've been working on some new visuals for JSVB.  I am working towards upgrading my presence on the Internet. 

This logo is going places I like.  I can't shake the feeling I've seen it somewhere else, though.  It's still a little rough, and will need some tweaking soon. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

232 - Squash-A-Leekie Soup Recipe

Just because I am not a big fan of the vegetable does not mean that I don't know what to do with them when I get them.  In this case, I made a nice soup out of fresh squash and leek. 


1 medium-sized green squash (spaghetti squash works nicely)
1 medium-sized leek
1/3 red sweet bell pepper
1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock (storebought is okay if it is not loaded with salt)
2 oz. red wine
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. onion flakes (or green onion, or chives)
salt & pepper to taste
pinch of saffron


Wash and peel the squash.  Clean out all the seeds and the stringy raw bits.  Take the remaining squash flesh and cut it into large bite-sized chunks.   Wash the leek and cut off the green top and root at the bottom tip.  Chop the remaining leek flesh into small bite-sized bits.  Chop the red pepper into small chunks.

In a large frying pan, get the olive oil hot under medium heat.  Add the squash, leek, pepper, and onion.  Stir all the pieces vigorously.  Fry the mixture until the squash becomes soft, which can take up to half an hour.  Stir periodically to make sure all of the squash bits get cooked.  Try to avoid burning the leek, pepper, or onion.  If need be, turn down the heat a little and cook for longer.  You do need to keep an eye on the mixture as it cooks. 

In a large stockpot, bring the vegetable stock to a low simmer.  Once the squash is reasonably soft, dump all of the contents of the frying pan into the pot with the hot vegetable stock. 

Don't let the stock boil, just simmer it on low to medium heat.  If it boils, you may lose too much liquid.  The liquid should just cover the vegetables.  If you need more liquid, just add some water.  I sometimes keep potato water on hand.  If you have that, by all means, use it.  Potato water is the water you get when you boil potatoes.  instead of draining the water away, keep it in the fridge for a few days or freeze it.  Potato water makes an excellent base for gravy, and it is good for adding to soup as well. 

Add the wine, salt, pepper, and saffron.  Cook for at least an hour, or until the mixture becomes very soft and mushy.  You cannot overcook the mixture unless it dries out.

Pour the entire mixture into a food processor.  Puree the mixture on the highest setting.  Serve immediately, or refrigerate for a few days or freeze for later.

Serve the soup on its own with a light garnish of truffle oil and good quality Parmesan cheese.  Or serve with breadsticks, home-made crackers, or a hearty whole-wheat sandwich. 


Sunday, October 17, 2010

230 - The Biker-Hamster Connection

The event that I am going to document actually happened a couple months ago.  I just now got around to doing something about it.  It all begins with this little toy hamster pictured here.   We bought this little guy for being so cute.  We refused to put the hamster in a bag since the carrying cage has a nice handle on top. 

When we needed to walk to where we were going next, we had to travel through a somewhat seedy part of town.  Nothing dangerous, but you could find some trouble if you went looking for it. 

Along the way, we see three huge tattooed biker dudes.  To me, they looked like they were in a gang.  Tough guys.  I don't much want to make eye contact, but the biker at the head of the trio was staring at my wife.  Staring hard. 

I'd like to say that I was ready to rumble, but let's be serious.  I barely sound credible trash-talking in a Civilization videogame.  As we approach the three bikers, I begin to wonder if something is up.  Something sinister.

Then the lead biker breaks out in a huge smile and points right at the hamster my wife is carrying.  I get it now: the biker has a child, and he must have bought a similar toy for his little one.  Kids really love these things. 

I think the biker was about to point out the hamster to his buddies, but they both shot him fierce looks, and he thought the better of it. 

For another biker-hamster connection, please click here.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

229 - Omens

Today, I was witness to a strange and disturbing event.  As I was approaching, I could see dark shapes in motion over the center line of the street.  It was a crow and a rat engaged in combat to the death. 

In stories and legends, witnessing such an event could have been seen as an omen.  Shakespeare had predatory beasts prowling the marble floors of the great Roman Forum the night before the Ides of March.  Native beliefs hold both the crow and the rat in high regard. 

Many people do not like either crows or rats.  Living so close to the forest as we do, we have gained some appreciation of their natural habits, and we try to live in such a way that we disturb the animals as little as possible.  In return, they treat us with a sometimes curious circumspective respect. 

However, this crow and rat refused to co-exist.  I tried to break up the fight, but I think the crow had already struck a terrible blow against the rat.  It upset me to see the animals suffer.  There was nothing I could do to help them. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

228 - Chilean Rescue!

What an incredible day yesterday was!  Thirty-three Chilean miners, trapped 600 meters beneath the surface of the Earth, were finally rescued after spending 69 days in an underground emergency shelter after their mine collapsed.

Months of frantic yet precise drilling created a path for the 900-pound Fenix (Phoenix) rescue capsule.  Just large enough to fit a man, an oxygen tank, and some basic electronic equipment, the Fenix was raised and lowered into the mine by a large motorized winch.  A one-way trip in the Fenix took about twenty minutes.

For one heart-stopping day, the phrase "light at the end of the tunnel" was not a cliché, but more of a prayer.  Some people suggest that the rescue is our generation's "Apollo 13".  I couldn't bring myself to watch it on news television, though, not until it was all over.

I am so happy the miners are safe and sound.  Lone Star Chilean flags are appearing all over town.  And Chilean wine, I've discovered, tastes extra-sweet after a day like yesterday. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

226 - The Artless Horseman

JSVB readers know that I reserve the 13th of every month for Ungood Art Day.  However, October 13th has special significance, so I have to move the Ungood Art forward one day. 

This large unfinished piece has a nice Hallowe'en theme, considering that Hallowe'en is about two weeks away now.  It's my telling of the story of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman: The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow. 

It's not that this drawing is so bad, although it's not so great either.  Good visual references would have helped me work out the problems with the horse's anatomy.  I think the main problem comes in where I decided to colour in the picture with a 2B pencil, which is not the strongest tool for the job.  Even so, If I thought about what I was doing, I would have made it work. 

Instead, I made the rookie mistake of picking a feature, colouring it in completely, and then moving on to the next.  This prevents me from setting up a logical series of values for brightness and shade.  I should have set up the dark and light areas around the entire picture at the outset, and then worked my way down into the details.  After the neck, I more or less just gave up on this, never to come back to it again until today, where it remains ensrhined as one of my Ungood Art features but a day early. 


Monday, October 11, 2010

225 - Die Grüne Birne

Somehow, labelling The Green Pear in German makes it seem more artistic: Die Grüne Birne.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

224 - Canadian Thanksgiving

Thank you, Train Guy!

Tomorrow is the Thanksgiving holiday in Canada.  I've been meaning to post about Train Guy for several days now.  Today is the perfect opportunity. 

The only thing I know about the model train hobby is that I used to have a small train set as a boy.  Recently, I ended up meeting Train Guy, who is a total model train fanatic.  Apart from showing off his train collection, he very generously gave me his old copy of Axis & Allies, a rather large boardgame, for free.  I don't follow model trains, but I do enjoy boardgames, so the gift was warmy appreciated. 

I do have many, many things to be grateful for in my life.  Train Guy's generosity, I hope, will stand in and represent all the good things to which I give thanks.   

Saturday, October 9, 2010

223 - "Marilyn At The Bat"

Since the baseball playoffs are on, it's easy to find inspiration for my drawings from bases, bats and balls.  Today, I found a black and white photograph of Marilyn Monroe playing ball, which I used as a pose source for this image.  There is definitely a baseball connection, she had been briefly married to Joe DiMaggio.

The photo I used as a reference for today's JSVB entry came from an Internet baseball fan site, but I wish I knew the true photo source so I could give proper credit.  Apparently, DiMaggio first became enamoured of Monroe after he saw a picture of her posing with a bat and a couple of players.  If that's the same photo, I can understand how he must have felt. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

222- Swinging For The Fences

I've been making significant changes to my drawing workflow.  At least I can watch playoff baseball as I work.  This is a drawing exercise as well as a technology test.  It failed somewhat as I lost the main file I was working on, but I was able to recover a screen grab.  The result is a pixellated end-product.  Just like in baseball, we'll get 'em next time.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

221 - Better The DVLA You Know

A distant friend of mine across the pond in Merrie OIde England mentioned her woes dealing with the DVLA, the bureaucratic government branch that issues drivers' permits over there (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency).  Her tirade made me think of coming up with upper-management stereotypes for future reference.  What I ended up with was not what I had in mind.  These are just free-form doodles in my sketchbook.  I should look up better visual references on which to base my models. 

I started with the fellow on top.  See how he has a rolodex filled with pound notes?  Well, I don't know what that means, either, but it has kind of a sarcastic feel to it.  The next was the snob in the tweed suit.  I think he would have been better in a full-on frontal view.  The last is the evil genius.  I actually kind of like him.  To me, he represents the spirit typical of a motor vehicles ministry, if not the public face. 

It's easy to make a sarcastic flip verbal comment, since those usually come on the spur of the moment.  Or, they are rehearsed well in advance, waiting to be shot at an unsuspecting victim like a well cared-for gun concealed in a purse.  Sarcastic drawings are hard, though.  Making a good one can take several hours or even days.  I find it difficult to maintain that level of sardonic wit for so long. 

I think so far my best sarcastic art on JSVB turned out to be the Ivan Fecan piece, please click here to see it. I spent all day on that drawing, pretending to be a political cartoonist. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

220 - The "Elvis Pizza"

This is a picture of an actual "Elvis Pizza".  Reportedly, this was Elvis Presley's favourite food, and The King willing, it's one of mine, too. 

The recipe is simple: make or take an ordinary American-style cheese pizza and top it with BBQ pulled pork (although I like mushrooms, too).   There's nothing to it! 

Of course, there's caveats:  1) It's nothing like an authentic Italian pizza.  This is a very American dish.  It's probably mostly unhealthy for you.  2) Most pizza joints don't serve pulled pork.  You'll either have to barbecue it yourself, or get it from a good BBQ restaurant.  I use pulled pork that's left over from a previous meal, as there is always more than enough.  2a) BBQ pulled pork, or slow-cooked in a crock pot?  Both have their advantages and disadvantages.  BBQ pork can be wood-smoked, but you need a heavy salt crust to help retain moisture.  Slow-cooked pork needs much less salt, but you need a smoky barbecue sauce to finish it.  3) This is definitely not my idea or recipe.  I made my pizza based on the Elvis Pizza from Vancouver's famous Memphis Blues restaurant, and they got theirs presumably from Graceland. 

Say what you will, I've got a hunka hunka burnin' love for this pie!  Thank you, thank you very much.  The Elvis Pizza has left the building. 

I lifted the Elvis image from a previous JSVB post here.  I have another Elvis post here as well. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

219 - OSG #2

A second try at the Orion Slave Girl.  The magic of digital technology allowed me to keep the original Orion model while I changed her costume.  The new costume is not canonical, but I have my reasons. 

To see the previous version, please click here.

As before, Orion Slave Girls are from Star Trek and Paramount Pictures.  The drawing is mine, the original concept is theirs. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

218 - Green Orion Slave Girl

I've got green Orion slave girls on my mind.  This is a concept sketch for an Orion costume.

Ther Orion slave girl may be one of the most iconic incidental characters from the Star Trek television show, if not science fiction in general.  Feminists who are too young to have watched the show, or who aren't geeky enough to sit through any episodes should note that it's the men who become the true slaves, ensorcelled by the guiles of the green women.  

Star Trek and the Orion Slave Girl character are the property of Paramount Studios, and are the reference source for this picture. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

217 - J.B. And The Sketch Artist

Last post, I mentioned J.B., who mysteriously gave me a boost I needed.  Today, I'm going to send J.B. some fan mail.  Since I'm sketching, I thought I could use this piece for today's JSVB post as well.

Here's the finished sketch, which really only took a few minutes and is the size of a large postage stamp:

Since it's on a greeting card, I had one shot to get it decent.  Frequently, I will do a "thumbnail" sketch to see how to solve the problem of creating the final picture.  It's like a little stage rehearsal. 

This is the thumbnail.  I think I got the expression right, but the proportions and details are not there. 

J.B. is very musical.  She says that music is her companion.  That's probably why I am jealous of musicians.  They can pick up their glockenspiel or their ukelele at a party, strike up "Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da", and then they become the warm and fuzzy center of attention.

Drawing isn't my companion, it's more like house arrest.  Don't get me wrong, I love to draw, and it's a big part of me, but truth be told, it's stressful as anything I've ever done.  If I start to sketch at a party (unlikely!), people quickly learn to leave me alone.  At the best, I make all kinds of bizarre facial expressions as I work.  At the worst, I get downright snappish.  No warm and fuzzies for the visual artist. 

Well, I do appreciate J.B.'s philosphy, I could learn from that.   I wish her all the best!