Saturday, July 30, 2011

418 - "Bali, Hi!"

Untuk teman-teman Indonesia saya, halo! Saya harap Anda menikmati mengunjungi JSVB.

When it works, if it works, the Google™ Followers tool on the right hand side of the JSVB page shows all of my current "followers": people who are signed on to get automatic updates of my blog.  I like to call them my Cultural Elite.  The other day, I noticed my first addition to my Cultural Elite from overseas.  Welcome Anak Muda 3007! 

From what I can tell, Anak Muda 3007 doesn't speak English, and has a link to an Indonesian news website.  I guess Anak Muda 3007 visits for the pictures, which is cool.

Well, I don't know any Indonesian, and I am very ignorant about Indonesia in general.  I do have a copy of Rogers and Hammerstien's "South Pacific" (1958), which explains the garish colour scheme for today's illustration. 

This is my version of a lagong dancer.  Lagong is a traditional girls' dance that tells the story of a young princess held captive long ago by a warlike king.  The costumes are opulent and the dance moves are convoluted and precise. 

Lagong dancers are seldom tall, but to spruce up the composition I threw in elements of the Balinese Borobodur Temple that I picked up from copyright-free U.S. Government photographs. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

417 - Dystopic Pump Part Art

A couple of days ago, I made a small, simple sign that cautioned against recycling plastic pump parts.  Please click here to see it.

However, this is the sign I really wanted to make, something dystopic and reminiscent of the movie Blade Runner (1982):

The big Collector's Edition of Blade Runner has a small documentary about the art department crew that designed all of the signage for the movie.  Early on, it was decided that every surface of Los Angeles in 2019 would be covered with logos, writing, labels, and advertising. 

For a movie that missed predicting smart phones,  they nailed the look of things to come.  Even now, most of our home is covered with text and print of one sort or another.

What I found cool about the Blade Runner set decoration was that all of the signage was laid out by hand - the artists had very little in the way of computer assistance back then.   I rattled this sign off quite quickly in Photoshop, which is faster and more accurate.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

416 - Hephaestus' Kitchen

I spent a good part of today attempting to bake things.  Behold as the dough rises in the infernal heat and cooks to form... lumps of some kind.  Apart from some bread, baking is a weak link in my chain of abilities.   I am working on a new recipe, which I am referring to as Muffin X.  If they actually turn out to be edible, I will share the recipe.

Hephaestus was a Greek god of fire and used a forge for metalworking and presumably muffin cooking, although Homeric-era texts don't ever mention muffins at all.  The god Vulcan was his equivalent in Rome. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

415 - Pump Part Art

The art world is not always the superglamorous domain of semi-nude fashionistas, bajillionaire jetsetters, and limoncello-soaked troubadours that some people think it is.  Sometimes it's very mundane, as seen by this humble poster I recently cobbled together for a small job:

The pump part images are courtesy of Medala, Canada, Inc.  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

414 - "Professor Sack"

I've been asked why I chose to animate a hamster for yesterday's JSVB post.  The answer is because my Francis Xavier Hamster character is very close in shape to the student animator's best friend, the flour sack.

Since the early days of Disney, the animated flour sack has been the proven model to test the skills of budding animators as well as an excellent starting point for those wishing to learn animation art.  The construction of the sack is very simple, yet its apparent weight and mass lends itself to a variety of realistic motions.  Although we call it a flour sack, animators construct the character around the most basic model possible: the bouncing ball.  If the ball gets squashed, so does the sack.  If the ball stretches, then the sack stretches as well.  Wherever the ball  goes, it takes the sack with it. 

It takes very little to suggest arms, legs, hands, feet, and a head if we use the basic sack shape as the torso of a character.  FX Hamster is very much sack-shaped.

Back when I was teaching animation courses, I realized I needed a real sack model to help the students visualize the range of motion the character could achieve.  I picked out some realistic burlap, and my wife sewed together "Professor Sack", my personal teaching assistant.  She based the real sack on drawings I provided.  Notice the pleasing proportions.  The feet lay flat on the ground, and the ears create visual appeal by pointing at different angles.  We stuffed the upper half of the sack with polyester fiber fluff and the bottom half with buckwheat so that Professor Sack would have some heft and could stand up on his own. 

Professor Sack enjoys retirement now, spending his august days quietly watching television.  He was pleased to be featured in today's JSVB post.

To see FX Hamster in a very short, very limited test video, please click here.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

413 - "Francis Xavier Hamster"

I have animated. 

It's been almost ten years since my last animation.  In that time, my animation skills have dropped back down to almost zero.  Today is a step towards my rehabilitation, or final demise... one of the two. 

After coming into enough money to purchase a tricked-out copy of Digicel FlipBook, I've started animating again.  Today's effort features Francis Xavier Hamster, who jumps three times.  There is no audio. 

I spent the day drawing FX Hamster, which was the easy part.  Much of the time I spent trying to figure out FlipBook's tricky user interface.  Most of it makes sense if you know traditional animation, but some of the bits and pieces are difficult to set up.  Interesting trivia: this animation was rendered completely on computer, and is 100% paperless!  It's the first time I've ever tried to go without paper. 

I am taking my own lesson plan from ten years ago, when I used to teach animation.   FlipBook is much better than the software I had to use back then, but my skills feel like they have evaporated to dust.  It is truly humbling to be a student again with my own decade-old instructor's notes as my guide.  It feels like rehab, which I mentioned already, and like bizarre time travel where 30-year-old Jeff is giving lessons to 40-year-old Jeff.  How I wish it was the other way around. 

If you like this animation, you might want to see the previous character sketches I worked up for this by please clicking here, here, and here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

412 - Dragonbreath

For today's post, I dredged up an old study sketch for a juvenile dragon.

To see more dragon studies, please check out JSVB post #174 by clicking here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

411 - Hamster Rotation

Sketchbook work of a hamster character being rotated in 45° increments.  Spot the changes between the ruff and line quality rotations!  More work needs doing.  These represent just a couple of hours at the drawing table. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011

409 - Afghan Grilled Chicken

Like many Canadians, I am trying to come to grips with how my country fared in the war in Afghanistan.  I wanted to find some good in this situation, and not so much political spin. 

In the old days, when Persia was still Persia, this region was renowned for its hospitality and cuisine, although it could be a rough place for travel back then as it is now.   I found an old recipe for Afghan grilled chicken that I thought would give us a taste of something good to come out of that region.

The secret is in the marinade, which is based on peanut oil, and is heavy on pepper, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and molasses.  Chicken, when grilled, smokes up a lot, and marinated chicken doubly so.  If you try this, keep a water spritzer on hand to douse the flames coming out of the barbecue.  You want to cook the chicken, not burn it. 

While the marinade is powerfully savoury, the grilling seems to cook out most of the heat, leaving the chicken nicely flavoured in a caramelized glaze, and also deliciously juicy.  Top the finished pieces with a dusting of sea salt and fresh cilantro.  Be sure to have some napkins on hand! 

Friday, July 15, 2011

408 - Solarized Sketch

I've been doodling in my sketchbook today.  I scanned some results for JSVB, and by mistake I solarized the scan.  Technically, what Photoshop calls solarization is only marginally related to the Sabattier Effect, where dark and light regions of an image are swapped, usually in a darkroom when an overhead bulb is accidentally turned on during the process of developing photographs. 

In the case of Photoshop, it's easy enough to swap the colour inputs if you are messing with the properties of their curves in a histogram.  In short, you're telling each colour pixel to display another opposite value.  The effect can be interesting enough to share, especially if you don't have anything better to show for the day. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

407 - Naan Tucker

Friends, this is a naan-wich, which I consider my signature sandwich for the next few months.  Naan is a delicious, easy-to-make Indian flatbread that tastes best if you bake the raw dough on the hot clay sides of a roti, a type of earthenware oven.  If you are like me and don't have a roti, you can place the dough on a barbecue grill.  Yum!

There is what I would consider a somewhat racist folk saying that tells us "Only Punjabi hands can shape naan." True naan often has a distinctive and decorative shape that my white-bred hands do not cope with. I am happy if the little loaves come out of the grill looking like tiny blobby buns; it all tastes good regardless.

I've stuffed the sandwich with deli chicken and Italian prosciutto which pair together well.  Salad greens come directly from our garden, which completes the outdoorsy summer flavour of this sandwich.  A small sprig of arugula adds a tone of pepper that jazzes up the filling. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

406 - Sandworms of Cataan

The thirteenth of the month brings us to yet another Ungood Art Day on JSVB.  That I haven't created any truly bad art these past four weeks speaks to the fact that I have not been trying very hard.  I do have a very crappy jump animation of a hamster to my credit, but it's bad mostly on technical merit and not aesthetic bungling as is the norm. 

So today I am relying on old bad art.  Years ago, when we first bought our "Settlers Of Cataan" board game, my wife and I decided we needed to spruce up the game pieces.  There is a section of the board that is trackless desert, so we made for it a scale model of a Shai-Hulud, the iconic "sandworm" from the "Dune" science fiction novels by Frank Herbert. 

Our worm deviates in some respects from the canon.  For one thing, a true sandworm is not bright blue, nor does it smile or have cute buggy white eyes.  Our worm, one of a kind, was fashioned out of some leftover Blu-Tack, which is a form of putty for temporarily putting up posters onto a wall without marking the paint.  The eyes are the tops of a couple of stickpins that came out of a nice dress shirt I had purchased for myself.  The ear-to-ear grin, as if to say, isn't it just a wonderful day! was my wife's idea.   The entire model is roughly an inch long, or 109,370 times shorter than full scale.  This makes the sandworm my smallest piece of Ungood Art.

Monday, July 11, 2011

405 - Seven Eleven

July the eleventh is "Seven Eleven Day", the eleventh day of the seventh month.  7-11 is also the name of a large chain of Canadian convenience stores.  They celebrate Seven Eleven Day by giving away free soft drinks.  I guess they wouldn't get so much business on the logical 7-11 day, the seventh of November, but I digress. 

By our modest calculations, my wife and I discovered the eleventh of July statistically provides the nicest weather of the year in British Columbia, which is why we picked this day for our wedding.   Now, it's our anniversary, too.

Despite the great temptation, we won't be spending our big day at the convenience store.   

Sunday, July 10, 2011

404 - "Saving Private Cinderella"

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I found the the DVD bargain bin a copy of the Cinderella fable "Ever After" (1998) starring Drew Barrymore.  Sometime ago, my friend Earl blogged extensively on the subject of this film, which likely brings the total of fan-based weblog essays for "Ever After" on the Internet up to two if you include today's JSVB post. 

When we brought the DVD box to the checkout, we explained to the cashier that we were going to watch "Ever After" as a movie double-header with "Saving Private Ryan" (also 1998).  The cashier thought that was a good idea, and related to us the same story  we were going to tell to her. 

"Saving Private Ryan" and "Ever After" were in theatres at exactly the same time.  For JSVB readers who are younger and may not know, back in 1998 it was considered affordable to go to the theatre to see movies, and you could even take your date to see more than one on the same night without having to write out a bank loan.   I wanted to see the bloody action of World War Two on the big screen, and my wife wanted to watch some sappy, syrupy chick-flick.   We compromised by going to see "Ever After" and "Saving Private Ryan" in the theatre back-to-back. 

I realize now that many couples of our generation made this same decision.  "Ever After" remains an agreeable enough film, and "Saving Private Ryan" has lost none of its visceral horror.  They do make for a pretty weird double feature, though.  The two memorable effects upon me were some sleepless nights with bad dreams about the war, and now whenever I see anything about Omaha Beach, I can't help but think of Drew Barrymore in a wimple. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

403 - Hamsterama

I want to animate a hamster character.  Despite how much I like the little critters, I find them tough to draw.  The reason I want an animated hamster is that I figure he is going to be an easy step up from the flour sack character that I and every other animator on the planet has drawn a million times.  The closer the hamster is to the flour sack model, the more I like him, but if I expand on the detail level, he gets much more expressive.  The more expressive he gets, though, the harder he is to keep on model. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

402 - Dial "M" For Mordor

My wife, her brother, and I are big fans of the "Settlers of Cataan" board game.  It's a creative game that emphasizes social building skills.  Although players take turns, they must continually negotiate with one another to achieve their goals.  Down-time is rare in Cataan, but it also has the advantage that if you purchase enough of the add-ons, you can use the various little wooden game pieces like building blocks to put together some nifty designs, should you find yourself with nothing better to do.

Here, my brother-in-law Steven crafted a tribute to The Lord Of The Rings with his scale model replica of terrible Sauron's fortress Barad-dûr.  Note the eager lines of Orcs preparing to sally forth from the gates of Mordor, while overhead the unblinking gaze of Sauron himself frowns in haughty redness over his domain. 

Alas, in this version, there was no Ring Bearer to stem the tide of evil, and Sauron, a.k.a. Steven clawed his way past us to eventual victory.

For another, kinder look at Steven please click here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

401 - The End Of Red Fridays?

Today represents a watershed moment in Canadian foreign policy, although the press does not seem to be very interested in the event.  Today, the Canadian military has officially withdrawn from the theatre of war in Afghanistan, after occupying the country since 2001. 

Did we win?  We lost several hundred troops who were either killed or wounded in action, and so did the Afghani forces.  The Taliban, at the very least, seems to have lost its religious leadership, and now functions as a guerilla military group.  Afghanistan still maintains its position as the world's leading supplier of opium. 

Red Fridays represent a non-partisan public movement to offer support to our troops overseas.  From what I know, the movement began on the East Coast of Canada, where the families of soldiers in Afghansitan began to wear read as a show of support.  The idea seems to have blossomed in 2006, which was when my wife and I began to wear red every Friday, roughly 250 times by now. 

Can we stop wearing red now that the troops are coming home?  So far, apparently not.  Some troops are being seconded to NATO and will remain in Afghanistan.  Others are engaged in attacks on Libya.  No matter how we feel about Canadian foreign policy, as long as our brave armed forces remain committed to the field of war, those of us who remain at home should continue to wear red in their honour. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

400 - "Mary Theotokos"

I've reached the milestone of four hundred posts on JSVB, my visual blog.  I present my finished religious icon of Mary, Mother of God. 

This icon is painted using traditional technique, but with some modern conveniences.  Instead of egg tempera paint, I used acrylic, and instead of powdered gold, I used 23 carat gold leaf.   The icon is painted onto gessoed canvas glued to cabinet-grade plywood board. The Greek lettering along the top, "Μρ θγ", is shorthand for "Mary Theotokos", which translates loosely to "Mary, Mother of God". 

This icon is no masterpiece.  I made many mistakes along the way, but that's all part of the learning process.  I do like the way this piece turned out in the end.  The original image has some visual power that scans and photographs lack. 

Mary now watches over my Mom in her home:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

399 - Twelvefield Bounces Back

Today's JSVB post sure doesn't look like much, but for me it's a huge milestone.   It's a frame from the first animation I have drawn for almost a decade.  In the past, I used to draw animation quite a bit.  My "twelvefield" Hotmail address, maintained carefully almost since the inception of Hotmail itself, refers to the field size of standard animation paper, which is 12 (12fld). 

My stars have aligned to the point where I have garnered enough money to begin purchasing some quality animation software.  Today, I finally had a chance to give it a workout.  This moment, I've just realized how terribly far my animation skills have slipped, though.  I thought I could just pick up where I left off, especially considering that I've been keeping up my visual blog fairly regularly.  Nope.  It looks like I am going to have to learn everything all over again. 

I do hope to post some animation to JSVB, but this jumping hamster looks so uncool that today I will stick to posting a single frame to represent my progress.  

Friday, July 1, 2011

398 - Oh Yeah, Canada!

Happy Birthday Canada, which turns a strapping 144 years old today!  What a great time it is to be Canadian!  Go Canada Go!