Friday, September 30, 2011

458 - Text Goes Here

I created for myself a fun, funky letterhead for the purpose of begging for money. 

The text is called "lorem ipsum".  It's randomized latin words from a textbook by Cicero around 45 BC.  Lorem ipsum is nonsense placeholder text so that you can figure out what the intended real text should look like.  It's better than writing "Text Goes Here."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

457 - "The Facility"

On the top of Burke Mountain in the heart of the Simon Fraser University endowment lands, deep within the forest hunkers what I call The Facility.

The Facility is a cylindrical cement construct.  It's been there for decades.  As you can see, it's getting weatherworn.  There are no visible doors or windows to this place.  Despite its remote location, the grass around The Facility remains trimmed, no doubt by a lethal kick murder squad operating ultrasecret black lawnmowers.  There is a safety railing on top, presumably to prevent people standing at the roof edge from falling.  How anybody can access the roof without scaling the wall is a mystery. 

And so is the untold purpose of this singular building.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

456 - Minus One Million Style Points

A somewhat disturbing, possibly tongue-in-cheek, probably unscientific Internet poll suggests that Vancouver is one of the least well-dressed cities.  Leave aside issues of poverty and that judging people by their clothes is highly superficial; it's true.  Vancouverites don't know how to dress for success.  If I show up at a restaurant wearing a basic sport coat and decent trousers, I get treated like I am a visitor from another planet. 

The soaring popularity of hockey jerseys plus the seductive and available comfort of Lululemon clothing lines leave our citizens at the bottom of the fine fashion barrel.  Tough luck that Milan doesn't have an NHL franchise or a summer that lasts two weeks out of the year, or else they'd be us. 

I am not trying to set myself up as the Omega Man in a world filled with fashion zombies, as I have enough questionable choices on my clothes horse.  But I can wear simple, classic fashion when I feel I have to. 

It could be worse.  We could be like Fashion Cowboy, the only buckaroo in Metro Vancouver who knows what the word "shantung" means (hint: it's a type of rough silk cloth).  To see the Fashion Cowboy, check out JSVB post #120 by clicking here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

455 - Autumn Cranes

I believe I have found photo-artistic merit in a pair of loading cranes at the dockyards.  For human scale, those are stairs for longshoremen leading up the leg of each crane. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

454 - Where She Been?

For today's JSVB post I revisit the topic of the Drunk Canucks Flasher Girl, hopefully for the last time.  There is no frontal nudity, however the subject matter is intended for mature audiences only.  Scroll down only if you are allowed to see adult content!

We are getting close to the new Vancouver riot NHL season.  I was wondering how my favourite hockey mascot fared during the summer.  I refer, of course, to the mildly famous Drunk Canucks Flasher Girl who showed the entire nation her endowments during the dying minutes of a playoff  game against the San Jose Sharks.  So, what was she up to during the off-season? 

Maybe she visited the dedicated volunteers who cleaned up after the 2011 Canucks Riot, you know, to give them cheer.

Perhaps she visited the barber shop where dejected Roberto Luongo got his postseason "victory beard" shorn. 

Here, I've depicted her visiting the sick children at the Canucks Place hospice.  Well, maybe not.  There's no way I am going to draw Drunk Canucks Flasher Girl lifting her jersey for a  bunch of kids! 

The most likely thing Drunk Canucks Flasher Girl had to do this summer was explain to her parents what the blazes she was thinking at the hockey game that night.

So, here's to the new Canucks season, and let's see if they go all the way this time.  As much as I appreciate the talent of the Drunk Canucks Flasher Girl, and as tired as I am already of the too-tight bodysuit  antics of The Green Men, I hope this year the Canucks find a fan mascot the whole family can appreciate. 

For other JSVB posts on the Drunk Canucks Flasher Girl, please click here and here.  Please note that both posts feature some mature content. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

453 - Scannergeist

Scannergeist, or ghosts in my scanner.  Not real ghosts, of course, whether or not you believe in them.

A while ago, I repaired the broken spine of my current sketchbook with duct tape.  Some of the adhesive made it onto the glass of my tabletop scanner.  As you would expect, I simply used Photoshop to erase the smudge from several weeks of JSVB posts.  Today, the smudge went across a drawing, so I resolved to clean it out. 

My wife ran a special cleaning cloth over the glass while I pressed the scan button to allow more light on the subject. The result was this image, which shows what the scan head sees as it swept past my wife's hand.  This looks so cool, it is pre-empting my intended JSVB post, which I hope to upload tomorrow. 

Way back in the old days, animators would use photocopiers to squash and stretch their drawings.  If you knew how to time the movement, you could shift the artwork on the glass by hand as the light bar moved underneath.  Then, you'd get some interesting, transformative result.  You can still do this using a photocopier or a flatbed scanner.  It's interesting and fun!  Nowadays, artists just use Photoshop to achieve the same effect, but with greater precision.

Below are some examples.  I took yesterday's JSVB sketch of Sergeant Penny and transformed the scan.  On the left, I stretched her by moving the drawing as the scanner operated.  On the right, I took a pristine scan and made roughly the same transformation using tools in Photoshop.  Neither method makes for a pretty Penny, but in a pinch and with a steady hand, you can make decent squashes and stretches without using computer applications.

Moved by hand.
Transformed using Scale and Liquefy.

Original scan.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

452 - Sergeant Penny Of SHAPE

From what I know of creative writing, writers sometimes play games to challenge their imagination.  Artists do the same thing, although graphic art often requires more dexterity and less imagination than writing, in my view.  Artist exercises tend to bulk up the connection between the eye and the hand, and often leave the imagination out of the loop.

I found in one of my art books an exercise by Will Eisner.  Will Eisner's books in my opinion focus more on the imagination than on dexterity.  Burne Hogarth tends towards the opposite.  In any case, the Eisner exercise has the artist create a full body pose based on a random set of circumstances pulled from a matrix.

I rolled CHALLENGING-MILITARY-WOMAN WALKING-FROM A FRIGHT.  The result is Sergeant Penny, above.

James Bond fans will recall that SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) is the operational command for NATO.  Sergeant Penny was transferred to SHAPE to act as  executive secretary for Col. Drake.  Drake is handsome in a hard-jawed way, and attentive to Penny's charms, perhaps to the point of distraction.  However, he retreats into his own dark space with mention of the secret file room in the east wing.  Certainly, Drake would never believe in the wild stories of ghosts that have haunted the file room since the days of the Cold War, but then how else to explain the flickering lights, the icy temperatures even with the heater on full, the disembodied groaning noises, and above all, the mysterious disappearance of Sergeant Wulreich, Penny's predecessor? 

Penny does not believe in ghosts, either, but she refuses to let the matter rest.  Gathering her courage, she seeks out the far corner of the east wing.  Are those glowing red eyes past the microfiche stack?  Or the elaborate ruse of an as yet unseen Communist spy gambit?

I kind of riffed on of Eisner's poses for Sergeant Penny.  I also Spielberged the gun out of her hand and replaced it with a flashlight.  The writing on the top of the image is just notes in my sketchbook, and have no real meaning.

Monday, September 19, 2011

451 - Inchwormie

One inch per second is 0.5681 miles per hour, and this little fellow easily hit speeds of almost up to 0.569 m.p.h.  Blistering!  That's 0.914 kilometers an hour, if you are keeping track in metric. 

I think it's quite something how this little inchworm sports a colour scheme that so closely matches the center of the sunflower.  In a moment, he's completely hidden.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

450 - "Terry Fox On The Far Shore"

Terry Fox stands on an uncertain shore.  Knocked down but not beaten, he arrives in St. John's, Newfoundland in April of 1980.  He is a cancer survivor, but he has lost his right leg to osteosarcoma.  He has trained himself not just to walk but to run on a crude artificial leg.  Not everyone has come to believe that he can do what he wants to do.

The beach is rocky and polluted.  Even the more sure-footed tend to avoid walking right up to the oily, freezing water.  He dips his artificial leg wearing an Adidas track shoe into the Atlantic Ocean, then turns to face the marathon he will run today.  He wants to run across the entire Canadian nation, and again dip his leg in the far shore. 

One hundred and forty three days later, Terry Fox has run as far as he can, almost to the western border of Ontario in central Canada.  The cancer has returned.  Ultimately it will claim his life.  Terry reaches his far shore. 

Although Terry Fox cannot, we continue the fight in all our own little ways. 

What was Terry Fox thinking, about to take that first step?  I drew this pencil sketch in an effort to find out.  A few years ago, I stood on the same beach as Terry Fox, at the monument that marks the very beginning of his Marathon Of Hope.  Please click here to see JSVB Entry #209, one of my most popular posts, and find out more. 

Although Terry Fox made some beautiful and compelling speeches along his route, he likely had little to say to begin his journey.  He groaned out loud when he took his foot out of the water and saw the massive steep hill he had to climb just to get out of St. John's Harbour. 

Several months ago, Blogger statistics informed me that people were searching for the answer to "Why did Terry Fox dip his foot into the ocean?".  I thought that would be a worthy follow-up to my previous Terry Fox entry, and I had an elaborate graphic visual in mind.  Eventually, I decided a simple pencil sketch might be better, as several municipalities are planning to upgrade their Fox memorials, and they have some exemplary designs.   

I did write to the Terry Fox Foundation, just to make sure somebody knew why Terry chose to get his artificial foot wet.  Donna White from the Foundation replied:

"Terry’s goal was to dip his artificial leg in to the Atlantic Ocean to mark the beginning of his Marathon of Hope and to then again repeat this same thing at the Pacific Ocean when he returned home to British Columbia and to celebrate the end of his amazing journey. "

Today was the 31st annual Terry Fox Run for the cure for cancer.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

449 - Tokarev's Piece

I don't particularly like guns.  Nor do I draw them very often.  I do pay attention to them, however.  I took a sketch I drew some time ago of a Tokarev TT-33 handgun and colourized it. 

The TT-33 was a World War II-era Soviet-made sidearm.  It would have been favoured by the Eastern Bloc mercenaries hired to take down Ian Fleming's James Bond.  White dinner jacket with a blood red carnation in the lapel, fez, and a dark moustache would have been optional dress, at least until Labour Day. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

448 - Twitter Background Template

Another day, another template.  This one is for a Twitter background.  Exactly as I have absolutely no interest in using Facebook, I also do not want to use Twitter.  What possible use can I have for tweets when my focus is on graphics?  A picture is worth a thousand words, so goes the saying.

Yet here I am again designing templates for social media.  As cryptic as I find the setup for Facebook, Twitter is positively byzantine in my opinion.  The Twitter interface is designed for ease of use for text, but not for graphics.  Twitter employs a "floating" menu system which allows their text boxes to conform to a variety of screens, from high definition widescreen televisions, to handheld smartphones, to wireless tablets, to old school cathode-ray tube monitors. 

How this affects the graphic designer is that he or she must create a template that fills the screen but averages out where the floating menus may go.  That's what I believe this template does. You can put contact information or logos in the boxes anywhere to the left of the three vertical lines.  The floating menus should cover up most of the Photoshop-style gradient. 

Or you can enjoy this piece as minimalist abstract artwork that took me a lot longer to put together than you might think. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

447 - Facebook Banner Template

I'm not on the Facebook social media site, nor do I plan ever to use it for myself.  However, from time to time, I do work for people who use Facebook.  I find Facebook difficult in part because of all of the background research one has to perform to be able to use the product correctly.  A case in point is the Facebook banner system which changed recently but which I feel was not widely announced.

Previously, banners could be 200 x 600 pixels.  Facebook has suddenly changed the dimensions to 180 x 540.  This makes the old banners illegal, either causing cropping faults or page errors.   After some research, I found out how the new regime works, and in an almost unbelievable act of charity, I will pass on my findings.  I am also including a real-size template you are free to use for your own banners.

To begin, 180 x 540 is the maximum banner size.  You cannot have a banner that is more than three times tall than it is wide.  Nor can you use banners with dimensions that have odd-numbered pixels (i.e. 179 x 539).  You may have smaller banners if you wish.

The Facebook banner is built around what I call the "hot square", although I do not know what the Facebook engineers call it, if anything.  On default settings, Facebook will crop your banner to a 180 x 180 square exactly in the center of the image.  Formerly, this used to be a 200 x 200 square, which makes sense as many social media sites use a 200 x 200 square image for avatars (your personal picture).  Now that the banner has shrunk, so has the hot square.  For maximum readability, or if Facebook changes to defaults without your input, you should fit the most important part of your banner within the hot square.  That way, if Facebook re-crops your banner, it can still be readable.  You can usually adjust the crop manually within Facebook, after you have uploaded your image.

There exists around the edge of the image a "gutter" which is 17 pixels wide all the way around.  The gutter is the dark part on my template.  This gutter is to account for any inaccuracies that Facebook may exhibit when cropping your image.  While you are free to use this space, I strongly suggest not allowing  text or any important graphics to reside within the gutter space.  Anything in the gutter has a chance of getting cropped. 

Finally, you will want to keep your file size extremely small.  Try to avoid exceeding 20 kilobytes, which is asking a lot.  Facebook uses an undisclosed image compression algorithm which is very lossy, meaning that it will distort your colours and make your image blurry if it is too large.  Facebook will do whatever it takes to make your banner conform.  The smaller your image is, the less compression Facebook will apply to it. 

Your best bet is to convert your image to 256 Indexed Colours, and then save as a .PNG file.   That's what I did for my template.  If you have to use a .JPG, you may have to experiment a little.  Likely, Facebook will compress a banner that is saved at full .JPG quality.  Even at 50% quality a .JPG can suffer.  Probably 30% may be okay, or you may have to go as low as 10%!  Watch the file size: as you approach 20 kB mark, you should see less degradation in Facebook.  The other alternative is to save as a .GIF.  How your moral compass swings may affect your choice to use .GIFs, for until the year 2004 the .GIF format was under legal dispute.  Users should now be free to use older .GIF compression technology, but newer .GIF forms may be under legal protection.  Use at your own risk; I simply avoid .GIF as much as I can. 

Avoid using fancy blend modes in your graphic, such as complicated drop shadows or gradients, as the Facebook compression may turn them to mush.  Simpler is often better, and clean, crisp images will capture the most attention. 

I wish I could take credit for coming up with all of this, but that would be a lie.  I credit Mr. Kieth Heustis of Clear River Advertising & Marketing, and also his friend Kathy Burckhardt for cooking up a concise method for creating a functional Facebook banner. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

446 - "Grey Venus Rising"

Hello and welcome once again to Ungood Art Day on JSVB, traditionally the 13th of every month.  This also happens to be my thirteenth ungood Art presentation, for which I've prepared a doozy.

Today, I present to you the grandiosely titled "Grey Venus Rising". 

What I recall of the construction of this piece was that some years ago I had the opportunity to work with modelling clay and a nude model.  I remember thinking that the model's poses were far too benign for an artist of my calibre, so I set to the task of improving them in my sculpture.   Although Grey Venus has a certain abstract charm, she also has certain abstract proportions, musculature, and facial features that put her closer to the "I made an ashtray in art class" node of the clay-modelling axis, and farther from, say, the "I successfully emulated the Venus de Milo" node. 

My normal disclaimer for nude art stands:  in no way does this work represent anybody that I know by name, and that the model was anonymous. 

Another disclaimer: watch out next month, because Venus has a sister!  I'll show her then, unless I happen to make a bigger art blunder in the next four weeks.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

445 - Gatherers' Sketches

After months about complaining about the weather, it's nice to be able to get outside with my sketchbook.  The local animals are busy harvesting their ripening produce.  I've documented a Steller's Jay triumphant with one of my wife's blueberries.  Elsewhere, a manic squirrel has been hauling away green crabapples from one of our neighbour's trees and burying them in our yard. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

444 - V-K the Lumpenproletariat

"Stop right there, pal! You're not cop, you're lumpenproletariat," growls Bryant, the nominal boss to bounty hunter Rick Deckard.  His threat is as menacing as it is un-politically-correct.  He doesn't use the word lumpenproletariat, though.  Leave it to the Germans to come up with a word that means what Bryant meant, equally nasty, but at least not insulting to modern audiences.

In the "Blade Runner" movie (1982), Deckard uses a V-K machine, the Voight-Kampff test (spelled Voigt-Kampff in the original 1968 book, if anybody cares), to check if people are androids, or vice versa. 
I have a V-K test to see if you are a proletarian, one of the masses who sell their labour until they are eventually retired.  This is in honour of Labour Day, the Celebration of the Working Person, which was yesterday. 

It's only one question.  Did you get paid a bonus to work on Labour Day? 

If you answered yes, sorry, you're likely as anything to be a prole. 

Your employer was guilted into playing you extra to work on this particular long weekend simply because it's supposed to be in honour of the common worker.  In union labour terms, this is called working a "superstat": a statutory holiday that pays off at 2 ½ times the going rate or better.  There are three superstats: Christmas, Good Friday, and Labour Day.  Why these three days?  Go ask a unionista. 

In any case, non-proles don't get paid bonuses to work superstats.  Either you're a big wheel Eldon Tyrell with a salary  that supercedes superstats, or you are Roy Baty rabble.  Either way, what bliss.

The preceeding JSVB entry was presented to you by the Shimago-Domínguez Corporation: "Helping America into The New World". 


Monday, September 5, 2011

443 - Night Skunk

Last night as I was heading for bed, I noticed that the motion-sensing light came on in our back yard.  Here was a large skunk cavorting on the lawn. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

442 - The Naughty Schoolgirl

I read on another artblog that every artist should have a drawing of a naughty schoolgirl in their portfolio.  So, here's my concept:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

441 - Plumbing The Depths

We broke the tap on our bathroom sink.  The tap was old, so there was no surprise. 

What was vexing were the repairs made under the sink made by the previous owner of our house.   All of the fixtures were fastened so tight that even the Incredible Hulk would complain that they were hopelessly stuck.

Worse still, the pipes were altered in such a way so that it was impossible to operate the water cutoffs.  Risers, drains, pipes, and stopcocks created a Gordian knot of hardware beneath the basin.  I've replaced taps on my own before, but this job was on a whole new magnitude.  We resorted to calling in a handyman, who also puzzled over the bizarre plumbing. 

Together, we hit upon the solution of installing a new stopcock past the stuck  cutoff valve.  It looks like the repair ought to hold!