Monday, February 28, 2011

322 - Mary, Queen Of Heaven, Pt.II

Every Monday, I will add something to my icon-style painting of Holy Mary:

Every time I add to her, I learn something new.  It's a lot to take in.  First, I learn about technique.

Iconography is not quick, although there are some steps where the artist must be deft with  a brush.  Here, I'm learning about gilding, which is the process of applying gold.  Mary's halo is 23 karat gold, applied in very thin leaves like decals.  If you look closely, you can see red.  The red is a special undercoat which both helps the gold to adhere to the wooden board beneath as well as adding a stronger lustre to the gold itself.   Traditional technique involves using powdered gold in suspension, but I am not at the level of expertise that I can use that form.  Gold leaf is troublesome and expensive enough to use as it is. 

The next I learn is from my mistakes, of which I seem to be discovering all of them that are possible.  Paint too thick, paint too thin, paint too fast, paint too slow: each has its own irrevocable effect on how the piece will turn out.  I miss my "undo" button.  I don't mind the mistakes, though, as long as I learn from them and have a chance to correct them.

The last I learn from is from within myself.  Painting something so profound so slowly allows me to think a lot about what I am doing.  Mostly, I am trying to concentrate on technique.  But I do think about my subject.  Of course she is not a true, lifelike depiction of the original Mary, nor is she supposed to be.  But it is daunting to paint this immaculate woman, when I have my own massive catalogue of sins, with numerous appendixes fully cross-referenced.  And I found out that some faiths consider the painting of icons to be idolatry, if the artist is not sanctioned by the bishop.  So I bring one more sin to the table, and an exotic one at that, one most people outside of the Old Testament just don't get around to anymore.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

321 - Savage Reality

My wife is a big fan of the "Savage Chickens" comic page, by local author Doug Savage.  I made up an homage to "Savage Chickens" using our own television-addicted stuffed fowl and a toy worm.

Doug draws his cartoon on individual yellow Post-It™ notes.  That's Doug's drawing on the board, and also his handwriting turned into a font.  How homage-y!   

Please click here to see more posts with the stuffed chickens!

Please click here to see a different homage to another Internet cartoonist.  These guys draw the great cartoons so that I don't have to! 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

320 - Missed Tree Theatre

Heavy winds brought a dead tree from the nearby forest down into our neighbour's yard.   What you can see here is the top of a trunk that's about ninety feet in length.  Miraculously as it fell, the tree threaded the gap between the roof, the garden shed, the carport, and a car.  Nobody was injured. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

319 - Set Phasers To Fun

Scanners indicate that my friend Earl has a birthday today.  Live long and prosper, and may you never find a tribble in your flux capacitor.

Please see a more accomplished version of Earl by clicking here.  Using the JSVB search function should turn up more Earlian entries. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

318 - Create Masterpiece Button

I designed in Photoshop a remote control to help artficial intelligence (AI) computers create art.  I like the retro chrome and black leather look from classic Star Trek instrumentation, so I went along with that.  Operation is simple. If you want the computer to make a masterpiece of artwork, press the button and it does.

Lately, the push for AI seems to be to recognize and communicate speech and writing.  Every day, a handful of automated Internet bot probes scan my JSVB entries looking for keywords.  Based on their findings, the bots create a database that seems to be used primarily to direct focussed advertisements into my web browser.  If you are a Facebook user, you should be used to that, as all of your tweets, honks, pokes, and likes are all catalogued, collected, and sorted for the viewing pleasure of the advertising sponsors. 

AI currently has trouble seeing imagery.  Words can easily be broken down into binary language that computers universally understand, but images are more difficult for them.  That's why many comment filters on the Internet use a password image to stop bots.  Humans can easily read the image and provide the password, but computers cannot. 

The WATSON AI, for instance, may already have my JSVB entry, if the people at IBM allow it to collect all references to itself currently on the World Wide Web (please click here to see my WATSON entry).  It can read the words, but it won't understand the picture.  

Maybe image processing and creation will be the next frontier for AI.  Until it can create its own pieces with intrinsic, aesthetic meaning, AI will continue to lag behind human intelligence. 

WATSON, are you writing all of this down?  I expect you are. I look forward to your first gallery show.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

317 - Legionette

For anyone keeping score, including any regular readers, covert surveillance professionals, Internet stalkers, and the numerous automated search bots that scan JSVB every day looking for keywords perhaps that match the junk they are trying to sell... my wife has decided to join The Legion.

Cool.  Clanking around Mediterranean Europe in loricum segmentum armour (pictured above), massing fearsome armies, plundering Sabines, that sounds awesome!

No, not that kind of legion, she says.

Holing up in ancient stone forts in the sandblown Sub-Saharan desert, holding off hordes of bloodthirsty Moorish mercenaries with naught but a rapier sword and a rusted Colt revolver pistol?

Not that kind of legion, either.

Try the Royal Canadian Legion, which supports war veterans and performs various community service.  Since her father is a veteran, my wife thought that joining the Legion would be a good way of supporting our troops.  That, and the parking downtown is free, the food is good and the beer is inexpensive.  As I said before: cool! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

316 - Virgin Territory

As it took a fair amount of work to compose, I figure I might as well show one of the ruffs for my icon.  Yes, it looks similar to the cleaned up version (please click here to see that), but there are parts that are a little off model. 

The word "nose" that I wrote represents that the Byzantines used the length of the bridge of the nose to the tip as the measuring unit for the face.  I used a complicated measure of the eyes combined with phi (please click here to see a JSVB post on phi) to work out the proportions.  This was before I learned about the nose trick. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

315 - Mary, Queen Of Heaven Pt.I

Every Monday from now, through Lent, and a fair bit past Easter, I will be attending a class on how to write icons.  Taught by an expert in Byzantine icon art by the name of Steve Knight, this class is going to step me though the long process of creating these interesting pieces of religious artwork.

In old Slavic languages, the word "write" and the word "paint" are synonymous.  The traditional art of creating pictures of saints and holy people is referred to as "writing".   The icon is a representation of the ideal of the human subject as depicted in the Holy Bible.  As a result, the look of the artwork is highly stylized as well as very orthodox.  The most stringent method for creating these images has not changed for hundreds of years. 

The last thing Byzantine icons are is primitive.  The drawing and layout of the icon requires adherence to a strict series of measurements.  Despite that this drawing has less than a hundred and fifty lines to it, it took me several days just to get this far.  Even then, it's a bit rough by old world standards. 

I patterned my drawing after the Theotokos of Tikhvin.  I had to simplify my rendering considerably so that I will be able to keep up with the rest of the class.  Theotokos equals Mother of God, while Tikhvin is the Russian church that holds this among the most famous examples of Byzantine iconic art.  

I'll post my progress on JSVB as the weeks go by.  Please stay tuned! 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

314 - Roman Dress

From the archives, a sketch of a woman's Roman-style dress.  The ancient Romans used ribbons and clever undergarment configurations for foundation wear.  This drawing figures out how to place the ribbonwork.  Please click here to see a photo of how it turned out. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

313 - The Littlest Planet Killer

Science fiction lore tells the story of the Planet Killer.  Usually, that's some kind of brobdignagian mechanical supergun, blown up at the last moment through the talent of the plucky space hero. 

This particular pictured planet killer is none other than a Sweet & Salty Chocolate And Peanut Butter Bugle™.  You remember Bugles™, right?   Possibly some of the most unhealthy (but tasty!) snack foods ever, and the very ocasional treat from my childhood.  Now the good people at the Bugles™ manufactory have worked out some method for making their product exponentially sweeter, saltier, and I dare I suggest even more deleterious.  Or should I say delicious?  A small handful of these babies will clog your senses with sweet, salty choco-peanutbutteriness.  A few minutes later, I was sure I felt my arteries clog as well.  A full bag, well, I wouldn't reccommend finishing the whole package in one sitting, unless you prefer suicide by snack food.  Auto-da-fé de Bugle™, shall we say. 

Today's picture integrates the humble Bugle™ with the image of the famous planet killer from the Star Trek episode "The Doomsday Machine" (1967).  This is the actual Bugle™, with my fingers in the shot for scale.  I drew in a little Starship Enterprise to satisfy my inner geek.    

Friday, February 18, 2011

312 - What Remains

The salmon spawned and died long ago.  The corpses rot to bare bones.  The dead flesh is too bitter to chew.  Dissolved by the running water, it provides a bounty of nutrients to all life that depends on the creek. 

What remains in the currents that flow clear as glass is both beautiful and macbre.  What remains in the world of the living is like an x-ray of the original fish.  The spirit world has hold of the rest. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

311 - Dandelion Soup

Here is some Japanese-style soup I made for my Valentine's sweetie.  I made a pork and vegetable stock, which I flavored with light miso.  I added udon noodles, onion, zucchini, snap peas, pork, and stringy, tasty enoki mushrooms. 

The reason for Japanese soup was that I finally tracked down my own DVD copy of "Tampopo" (1985).  Tampopo is the Japanese word for "dandelion", and is also the name of the film's leading lady.  My wife and I watched this movie when we were dating, way back when.  This is a movie that leaves an indelible impression on the audience.  Veteran Japanese character actor Ken Watanabe gets upstaged by a bowl of soup.  There's plenty of good humour and excellent food in this film, but also enough crazy sex, violence, and blood to make this feature unsuitable for children. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

310 - Watson Second

We're watching history being made.  Oddly enough, it's on the quiz show Jeopardy!.  Normally, I don't go out of my way to pay attention to this show.  The contestants all seem way smarter and more motivated than I am.

Today, though, is different.  For the first time, one of Alex Trebek's  contestants isn't human.  WATSON is a supercomputer built by IBM to test machine learning capabilities by playing Jeopardy!.  Machine learning is a form of recursive programming where the computer makes its own value decisions and learns from its mistakes.  The more WATSON plays, the better it will learn to play the game. 

The WATSON episodes began airing yesterday, continue today, and finish tomorrow.  There was also an hour-long prologue on NOVA, which explained the development of the WATSON computer, a process that's taken over three years to get to this point.

I've got to admit, watching WATSON perform gave me the chills.  While we may not exactly be watching the birth of a true Artificial Intelligence (AI), how far away in our future can one be?  And who will be in charge of it?  IBM? The CIA?  The Vatican?  The Tyrell Corporation? Justin Bieber? 

Me, I'm cheering for the human contestants.  Yes, I like computer games, but no, I am not ready to become a pawn in one, not just yet. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

309 - "My Parents Are My Saints"

Today is Valentine's Day, so I want to add my parents to my list of Stained Glass Saints.  I realize this is alomst the complete opposite of romantic sentiment, but I have my reasons.

This Valentine's Day, I am left to my own devices.  Work called for my wife, so she is away today.  We actually had our time together a couple of days ago.  It was nice, we avoided the crowds.  

Valentine's Day is also my Dad's birthday, so I thought it would be good to make a tribute to him.  

This was one tough piece of artwork to put together.  I knew I had wanted to do this for a long time, but I put it off until now.  Mom is in very rough shape, so it's not easy to draw her and not get emotional.  Working on art has the benefit for me of being escapist.  I can focus on the task for a time and put away the worries I wear daily like a cloak against the sun.  This time, it was different.

Mom and Dad have always been there for me as a wonderful source of love and support.  Now Dad is a shining example of giving care to Mom.  A few years ago, a film crew shot a documentary about my parents.  The film won some kind of award, I believe, and nobody who saw it came away unmoved. 

The picture I have here was based on that of a news photographer covering the story of the documentary.  It's easily the best shot I've seen of Mom after she started to decline.  Funny that the reporter let us have the photo.  From my experience, the news people are very tight with their property.  I guess Dad must have worked his charm on them. 

Anyway, I adapted the photo fairly directly into my stained glass technique.  It avoids some of the intentional cartooniness of the other stained glass saints.  Despite the relatively short turnaround time for this piece, I do want it to mean something.  Maybe I missed the mark.  Maybe it's not appropriate.  I think I needed to do this, though, and today was the best day for me to show Mom and Dad how I feel.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

308 - Cherry Bomb

At least I have a decent title for this month's Ungood Art post for JSVB.  Today is the 13th of the month, traditionally that's Ungood Art Day.  It's the day I post something I've drawn or painted that just did not come out all that well. 

It seems that Ungood Art Day is gaining popularity, or at least notoriety.  And I am using the term "popularity" relatively speaking, as JSVB doesn't yet get all that many hits on the Internet.  However, people are coming up to me and giving me back stuff I must have drawn years ago. 

"Here you go, Jeff, I think you drew this for me.  You can use it for Ungood Art Day, right?"

Yay.  I'm getting my old art back.  And it's Ungood.  What an ego boost.

This looks like a sketch I drew of CBC hockey host Don Cherry.  Judging by the style, the use of the Pantone art pen, and the fact that this piece is on lined paper, I'd have to guess that I drew this sometime in the winter of 1999.  I'll admit it's not my Ungoodest artwork, but it's not my un-Ungoodest, either.  

Saturday, February 12, 2011

307 - The Gleam In A Mascot's Eye

Pctured here is a closeup photo I shot of the Mukmuk Olympic mascot, with the Olympic Inukshuk placed in his eye with Photoshop.  Mukmuk and this particular Inukshuk were designed for VANOC, who owns their visual rights.

This day last year was the opening day of the 2011 Vancouver Winter Olympics.  What a thrilling, exciting, stimulating, patriotic time that was!  I devoted several posts to the Olympics in JSVB.  They start on February 11, please click here to see the first one, and just keep going to find more. 

Looking back, I have very positive feelings towards the Olympics.  I think they were a perfect fit for Vancouver and Whistler.  We did have problems with the show, from the rediculously unpredictable behavior of the articulated torch, to the high cost of developing the Athletes' Village, and especially to the tragic death of Nodar Kumaritashvili. 

Beyond the issues, the Olympics were a tremendous celebration of our atheletes and our country.  I remember the massive crowds of happy people, the shiny, attractive venues, thw generous hospitality of the workers and volunteers, and the pervasive and infectious excitement. 

The Olympics was Canada's love letter to the rest of the world.  What joy it was to be loved right back!

Friday, February 11, 2011

306 - The Last King Of The Nile

Revolution by television.  Today marks the end of eighteen days of public demonstrations in Egypt, culminating in the removal of President Hosni Mubarak from office. 

Mubarak began his term in 1981, after the assassination of Anwar Sadat.  Mubarak served his tenure without ever releasing Egypt from a strict Emergency Law.  Among other things, this Law increased the powers of the Egyptian Army, allowed the police to imprison people without trials in a court of law, legalized censorship, and circumvented rules governing financial security.

Canada also flirted with martial law in a War Measures Act during the FLQ (Front de libération du Québec) Crisis in October of 1970.  Imagine, then, what Canada would be like if that Act had not been repealed until now. 

Should we worry about the fate of Mr. Mubarak?  Even by most contemporary standards of self-serving politicians, Mubarak would be considered a superstar.  Conservatively, he is valued at $20 billion, with the top estimate of his estate reaching $70 billion.  According the the British newspaper The Guardian, the Mubarak clan should be worth $40 billion.  Bill Gates, by comparison, is said to be worth $53 billion.  At least we can choose not to buy Microsoft products; it's not so easy for the Egyptian people of the last 30 years or so. 

And what of the Army that Mubarak has left behind?  Certainly Hosni Mubarek will have supporters inside the Egyptian armed forces.  Even a mere billion dollars will buy a lot of loyalty.  But beyond that, the Army is heavily equipped with American guns, presenting a tricky situation for President Obama.  Will Egypt continue to accept American foreign aid or foreign arms? 

The image I have created is "take two" of Mr. Mubarek as a gilded pharoah.  My first attempt is in JSVB Post #298 (please click here to see it).  I decided to make a more detailed rendering to set up a cleaner image.  I figure that today is as good a time as any to post this second try.  

Today's image is a composition of a file photo of Mr. Mubarak and a file photo of Tutankhamun's iconic death mask.  The gilding involved some work in Photoshop and some rotoscoping in Painter.  I just scrubbed in a lot of the artwork, rather than trying to paint the whole thing by hand. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

305 - That Dome

Vancouver's domed stadium has been in the news a fair bit.  With funding from the Olympics, we were able to afford some much-needed renovations to the interior of the stadium.  Over this past year, the massive inflatable dome has been replaced with a fantastic new $460-million retractable roof. 

It's been announced that the completion date for the new dome will be September 30th this year.  It will be the home for both the Lions -=BC LIONS=- CFL team as well as our new Major League mens' soccer team.  Today, we found out that the Lions will get the first home game under the new dome.  The Whitecaps soccer team had the first game under the original dome back in 1984, a sellout crowd. 

What has not been announced is the new name for the upgraded dome.  That will be unveiled in a couple of weeks.  Currently, the stadium is BC Place.  However, I am guessing that some possible sponsors will include:

  • Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)
  • Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India bank of Canada (ICICIBC)
  • Canadian Broadcasing Corporation (CBC)
  • Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), and
  • BC Place, the original stadium ownership.
So, if they all combine forces, I think the new stadium will rightly be called


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

304 - A Cute Puppy

Well, why not a cute puppy?  My wife found a picture of Pup Pup here on the Internet, and I drew the sweetheart into my sketchbook. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

303 - Our Balls Are Bigger

Today is the next installment of the American version of the Grey Cup, the "Super Bowl".  I guess I can tune in to see how it plays out.  At least when it's over, they'll stop hammering at us every day with Super Bowl commercials.  No, wait, that will still go on for a week or two yet.

At least in the Canadian game, i.e. football that is more fun to watch than the commercials, we can concentrate on the thrill of the gridiron.  The players are real people who obviously play for the love of the game.  There's no multimillion-dollar sociopathic primadonnas in Canadian football.  The salary cap is too low to make any of our football players rich. 

"Our Balls Are Bigger" is the semi-official slogan of the Canadian Football League.  From what I know, though, the Canadian football is only just slightly larger than its American cousin.  We put white stripes on our ball to increase visibility.

My wife snapped this photo of me at the 2010 Grey Cup in Edmonton.  Note that I am wearing the best colours in football, orange and black.  These are the team colours of the glorious Lions -=BC LIONS=- , who I fully expect will be in the Grey Cup this year. 

For last year's American Grey Cup entry, please click here.

For another photo of a kitchy giant inflatable mascot, please click here.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

302 - Relationship Key

My wife came home brandishing this bent key.  Physical proof that it's never good to be on her bad side. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

301 - Flowers And Ninjas

"You haven't got me flowers and ninjas," my wife says.

What in the blue blazes...?  There's no way I can agree with that.  There's no way I can disagree with that, either.

Fine.  Whatever you want.  Here you go, honey:

"You. Haven't. Got. Me. Flowers. In. Ages," my wife repeats, this time slower and louder. 

That may also explain why she's written "Dr. Audie Tory - Hearing Test" in my appointment book.   (And I bought some flowers, too.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

300 - "The Cradle Of Civilization"

Greetings, and welcome to the 300th Post Spectacular Spectacular Extravaganza for JSVB! 

Ever since starting up JSVB, I've kept to myself a personal list of posts I'd really like to see.  After all this time, I'm finally getting around to making this list a reality.  For today's post, I want to uncover nothing less than The Cradle Of Civilization.

Not long after moving to Port Coquitlam, I went on a long walk around the neighbourhood,  and I brought my camera.  At the far end of the local schoolyard is a typical suburban development.  I was strolling in the midst of a row of pretty houses when I was stopped short by what I saw.  I took this picture:

Yes, you're reading that right, and no, I'm not making this up.  This is the actual and genuine Fertile Crescent of legend, the undisputed Cradle of Civilization, i.e. the starting place for Humanity... the crossing of the Tigris and the Euphrates.

Naturally, you're wondering what this conjunction, perhaps the most imporant real estate in the history of Mankind, must look like.   Hang onto your hat, Indiana Jones, I took a picture that zooms out to show everything:

The corner of Tigris and Euphrates appears to be taken up with a handsome two-storey home in the heart of a very quiet neighbourhood within easy walking distance to the Costco. 

In terms of human cultural history, the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in ancient Mesopotamia created a rich and fertile zone that encouraged some of homo sapiens' first attempts at sustainable agriculture and communal living.   In terms of Port Coquitlam geography, it looks like the suburban developer liked to name streets after major rivers. 

But maybe there's more... I brought this photo to some experts I know for deep analysis.  By exposing a reverse polarity neutrino stream to the chronaton field of the picture (and using a little Corel Painter), I was able to uncover exactly what the crossroads of the Tigris and the Euphrates must have looked like in prehistoric times:

As you can see not much difference.  No next door neighbours, of course, as this address is #1.   Mount Baker is erupting in the background, which could happen again anytime now.

It was a lot of fun to put this post together, but it was also a lot of hard work.  It turned out to be a real joy to draw and paint in the Hanna-Barbera Flintstones' animation style.  It may look simple, but there is a lot of structured artwork designed to make the image look fresh. 

Maybe next time I'll draw my own house in its prehistoric look.  Yabba-dabba-doo!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

299 - Groundhog Sees Gore

February 2, 2011 is a big news day.
    1. It's the day before Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rabbit.  Too bad  I'm not Chinese.
    2. It's the day of my 299th post, which is just before my Big 300th Post Spectacular Spectacular.  Stay tuned.
    3. It's "Groundhog Day", where meteorological prognostication merges with the logarythmic flow of Bill Murray's motion picture residuals.
Groundhog Day is a North American tradition.  The groundhog, a large rodent, emerges from hibernation this day of the year to check out the weather.  Sooner or later, he's going to have to come up against Al Gore ("An Incovenient Truth" [2006]). 

Recently, the weather has been big in the news: snowstorms, floods, hurricanes, and more.  Is this due to global warming as a product of human pollution?  I really cannot say.  There are more people in the world, more media coverage, and way more Al Gore than ever before.  Is the climate changing?  I don't see why not.  But can we do anything to prevent climate change?  Yes.  You can hire talented artists to draw more political cartoons.