Friday, August 31, 2012

644 - "Wink At The Moon"

Today, we buried Neil Armstrong, the first human being to set foot on the Moon.  The  powerful and inspirational words are from the statement by the Armstrong family:
"Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.
Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati. He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.

While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.

For those who may ask what they can do to honour Neil, we have a simple request. Honour his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

643 - Peter Swanwick

Mr. Peter Swanwick, who played Number 25 The Supervisor on the famous British television show "The Prisoner", lived from 1922 to 1968.  Tragically, Mr. Swanwick died just after the show originally was broadcast, eluding the fame he should have enjoyed as the fan-favourite Number 25.
In order to create his collectible action figure mock-up, I needed a good high-resolution image for the packaging.  I used a BBC promotional photo and boosted the resolution.  Then I re-coloured it to make the image seem like it was printed using old inks.  I painted over all of that, attempting to re-create the look of gouache illustration.
Gouache is an opaque watercolour paint.  Most watercolour is transparent, so that either the paper shows through the pigment, or else the artist has to make many layers to create solid colour.  Gouache is easier to apply than watercolour or acrylic, but it never seems to dry to the same colour as it was when wet.  Illustrators, especially back in the 1960's - 1980's favoured gouache, as did animators.  With gouache, you can literally draw with paint. 
I wanted that older, illustrative look for the Supervisor, with visible hurried brush strokes and bold colour blends.  It took about one day to render this.  Afterwards, I dumped it into Photoshop and very carefully added a half-tone print effect.  The image above is "clean" without the Photoshop effect, but you can see the half-tone in the toy packaging on the finished art.  The half-tone was intended to simulate the look of a printed package using older inks and print techniques.

To see the completed Number 25 collectible action figure mock-up, please click here.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

642 - "The Supervisor"

JSVB Post #642 was reserved as another homage to the great 1960's-era British thriller "The Prisoner".   I only realized the signifcance of the number with the posting of JSVB #641, so it took me a few days to render this image, making this entry late.
642 is the numerical form of "Six For Two", a campaign slogan for enigmatic Number Six (played by Patrick McGoohan) as he ran for the elected position of Number Two in The Village.  This was in the episode "Free For All" (1967), one of my favourites.  So, when I saw that 642 was coming up, I figured I should make a Prisoner-related entry.
I had been planning to make a mock up of a doll and packaging for Number 25 for months.  I dreaded doing it because I knew it would tie up a lot of work hours, and that's what happened.  Much of the time was spent coaxing more power out of my reluctant computer, as I had decided to make this picture in high resolution.  It could easily be printed out to poster size. 
Number 25 is an incidental character in The Prisoner canon.  The position of Number 25 was given to the administrator in charge of running the security and day-to-day operations of The Village, a clandestine prison that is home to spies and secret operatives who know too much and are too valuable to be allowed to live in the open world.  Number 25 is also referred to by his rank, "The Supervisor".  Although played by a few different actors, the part of The Supervisor is best associated with bald-pated Peter Swanwick.  Swanwick brought energy and dark enthusiasm to a role that was otherwise thankless.  His unique utterance of the famous line, "Orange Alert!" is iconic within the show.  (An "Orange Alert" meant that one of the Prisoners, usually Number 6, was attempting to escape The Village.)
There are no officially licensed collector figures for The Prisoner, but fans have created their own dolls.  As far as I am aware, there are no figures for The Supervisor.  I drew this image up because I would love one, especially if he said the "Orange Alert" line and if he had a Village-style telephone!
As I pushed pixels around for this artwork, I got to thinking about the rest of the dolls in the series, what they would look like, what accessories they would have, and what they would say when their button was pressed:
Number 6: "I am not a number, I am a free man!", comes with inflatable Rover balloon
Number 2: Just an evil cackle when the button is pressed, comes with detachable scarf, glasses, beard, and hat to change appearance
Number 25: as above
Number 58 (maid): Speaks gibberish when button pressed, comes with two-sided breakfast tray one side toast and eggs, the other side Village control panel
Alexis Kanner: sings "Dem Bones", has a top hat
The Girl Who Was Death: "This mountaineering rope would hold an elephant.", has a children's bedtime book
The Butler: When button is pressed, explains in detail the true nature of Number One, comes with working umbrella.

For a sketchier tribute to The Prisoner, please check out JSVB Post #388 by clicking here.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

641 - Ruff Pig

Obligatory pig: to click off another JSVB post, I'm presenting the ruff  for the pig I drew yesterday.  I started with a much better body pose, but the head was working fairly well.  Unfortunately, the head would not attach properly to the body, so I just kept redrawing the body until it fit the head.  How ever that worked, it meant twisting the page to fit the new pose as it evolved.  That's why this ruff is askew.  I later straightened it in Photoshop.

Friday, August 24, 2012

640 - Pig'n A-Waller

I took a break from JSVB and as it turns out, I needed it.  This week away has proved to be very powerful, emotional, and ultimately draining.  Not like anything is resolved, though, not by far. 
Coming back to artwork, I present this pig in a wallow. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

639 - Selfpictake: Number One Jeff

The very laziest in photojournalism: the selfpictake.  That's where you point the camera lens at yourself and squeeze the trigger.  The arm going into the shot is the giveaway. 

Still, as selfpictakes go, this one is one of my better ones.  Usually, they don't turn out.  Please see JSVB Post #427 to see more by clicking here ).

The number one (1), was my ticket in line for takeout Chinese food.  I was pleased to be Chef James' Number One Customer, and for an altogether too-brief moment at the Chef's cashier's desk, the feeling was mutual.  I have to say my subsequent days and night are empty waiting in vain for him to call back.  I shouldn't have returned the number card. 

One is a pretty good number for the Chinese.  Two isn't.  If you were unaware, four is the unluckiest number, as its spoken name sounds very similar to the Chinese word for "death".  Eight, on the other hand, is a very auspicious number in China.  Within a civilization that loves to gamble, any little bit of luck that you can use as leverage against your 1.3 billion countrymen ought to help. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

638 - Savid Cram

Welcome to Ungood Art Day, traditionally the 13th of every month. 

Here is a draft of JSVB Post  #636, "Coyote Queen" (please click here to see that).  This was supposed to be my wife in pre-sneeze pose, but it got away from me. 

A lot of artists will lay out a very lean rough to get the basic head pose.  Then, knowing where the eyes and nose go, they start with those features and work outwards.  This technique allows the artist to avoid "filling" the facial area.  A good example of "filling" is drawing the outer boundaries of the face and working inward.  When this happens, the artist will tend to fill in parts of the face with the features, distorting them to make them fit.

Working from inside out works very well as long as you keep your measurements consistent.  I did not do that with this draft, and the results horrify.  Instead, I recall thinking, "I'm drawing like Marc Davis (Disney animation hero) today!"  I just kept drawing until I thought I had it, then pulled back to see what I had achieved.  Not Marc Davis at all.  More like the opposite of Marc Davis.  "Savid Cram" equals "Marc Davis" spelled backwards. 

Oh well, that's why drafts are drafts. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

637 - Disaster Cookie

Our disaster cookies have expired.  What's a disaster cookie?  It's a ready-to-eat survival item that you can pack away in your disaster kit.  Vacuum packed, the survival cookies are a small hedge bet against running out of food in the event of a massive disaster.  After a few years in storage, the cookies might begin to lose their nutritional value: they contain protein and vitamins, but mostly carbohydrates and lots and lots of calories.  A single bar is equivalent to a meal, give or take.   The other day, my wife and I bought a pack of fresh cookies to replace the old ones.

When pondering the block of disaster cookies in the kit, I always think of Tolkein's lembas bread, the fictional concoction of his elves, wherein a single nibble of the cake sustains an elf for what seems to be close to an eternity both in the books and in the films.  Since our old cookies have "expired", my wife and I have slowly been eating them over the last month.  I can report that they taste good, very sweet and remarkably filling.  The cookie seems like a rather heavy shortbread with a pleasant rich fruity-plum flavour and so much sugar that you can feel crystals grind against your teeth when you bite. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

636 - Coyote Queen

Astonishment when my wife's eardrum-shattering sneeze in the kitchen proved so powerful, it caused the coyotes in the nearby forest to start howling in sympathy.  I guess she's their alpha queen, now. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

635 - Japanese Corn Dog

I guess if I have a JSVB section called "Good Food", I should have a JSVB entry on the Japanese Corn Dog (Coated With Fries!, $4 ea / 2 for $7).   All I have relative to the topic is this picture I took.  The lineup for a Japanese Corndog Coated With Fries! seemed far too short to make the product appear reputable.

I went for the Cup Of Squid instead, which although overcooked, was pretty great loaded with garlic. 

Shylukian Trivia: I once played a character named "Corndoggie" in a school play.  I was no Brando by a long shot.  Not even Ewe Boll. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

634 - Lady And The Tramp

A big, belated, elated congratulations for Team Canada and tramp girl Rosie MacLennan!  Rosie won Canada's first gold medal for the 2012 Summer Olympics.  Her medal was the first gold medal ever for a Canadian in the sport of trampoline gymnastics.  She powered past her Chinese competition who were heavy favourites to win, yet who faltered in their final performance.  Rosie had the score of her life, and she did it at the best possible juncture.  All of Canada is thrilled by her golden, glorious example! 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

633 - "633 Squadron"

Any blog that gets as many posts as JSVB will only get a 633rd post just once.  I saw this as my opportunity to provide a showcase for the thrilling tales of 633 Squadron RAF.  You can almost hear the brassy roar of the Merlin engines and the deadly drumbeat concert of ack-ack batteries!

War buffs and even science-fiction geeks of a certain age will recall the first time they read the 633 Squadron novels by Frederick E. Smith, or watched the 1964 movie.  The main story features a fictional squadron of Allied WWII bomber pilots called upon to destroy a Nazi factory.  The target facility was built under the overhang of a massive cliff at the end of a narrow Norwegian fjord covered by dozens of anti-aircraft cannon.  The enemy plant cannot be touched using conventional bombs, since it is situated deep into the rock face.  The Allies decide that the only way to take out the installation is to run a squadron of small Mosquito bombers full speed into the fjord underneath the anti-aircraft fire and try to lob their earthquake bombs into the narrow opening, thereby causing the cliff to collapse onto the building.  It's a suicide mission made worse when the Norwegian Resistance is unable to incapacitate the defensive guns.   This is the event that I have chosen to represent with today's action-packed painting: "633 Squadron". 

If you feel that you're familiar with this story, then likely you know it from another source.  George Lucas has stated that the final mission in 633 Squadron was the inspiration for the Rebel run on the Death Star trench in "Star Wars" (1977).  Watching the 633 Squadron movie, I felt there were indeed similarities.  There is terse "Stay on target!" dialogue in both movies, and they share many visual set-ups with regards to the harrowing flight into the trench or fjord. 

633 Squadron isn't a great war movie, though.  The wooden acting and hackneyed script bring the quality of the picture down.  Even so, the visuals remain very impressive.  633 Squadron was the first aviation film to be shot in colour using widescreen Panavision lenses.  Since they could not use old stock footage, the film crew resorted to hiring their own bombers and fighters and to shooting much of the action using real aircraft.  The music is also notable, with a memorable score by film composer Ron Goodwin that truly soared.  If you've played the arcade videogame "1942", you'll have heard the score: it's the same music as in 633 Squadron.

I have some good sentimental memories of the 633 story.  I recall reading the books for thrills as a teen, and watching the movie on television.  There's a lot of blustery soap opera in 633 Squadron, and it's derivative of the far superior true story of The Dam Busters.  I did think enough of 633 to paint this picture, though, which took quite a bit of work.

Fortunately for me, people in Norway have taken many pictures of their fjords, and aviation buffs have detailed records of what a deHavilland Mosquito should look like.  I feel that I even have the correct insignia for the bombers.  I owe thanks to online resources from Don Color, Chris Davey, and Den Pascoe for their Mosquito reference pictures. 

This image is presented in low resolution on JSVB.  I do have a high-resolution poster-sized master copy without the yellow signature watermark that can be made into prints.  If you are interested in one, please contact me at the e-mail on the top of my blog page! 

Friday, August 3, 2012

632 - What Jumps At Midnight

Today's JSVB post is a close-up picture of a large insect.  It's not gross or anything, but if bugs make you queasy please don't scroll down.

Here is a close-up shot of a big bug I've seen from time to time.  I'd suggest that it's a night crawler, but those meaty hind legs make it a night hopper.  For scale, I think that body is about an inch and a half long, around the length of a pine needle.  Maybe it's a big woodland cockroach.  I wish I knew. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

631 - Chickens Of Olympus

I've just been asked how in my previous JSVB post, there are chickens sitting on the couch watching television.  My reply is, why shouldn't there be chickens on the couch?

I know I have mentioned them before, the two chicken brothers.  My wife and I bought them from a small-town hardware store that had a shelf of toys: these two stuffed birds were the last items left for sale.  We were planning to send them to charity for Christmas.  They sat around our apartment, waiting to be gift-wrapped, but somehow we ended up keeping them for ourselves.  They've got these perfect open-mouthed facial expressions that give them a look of perpetual slack-jawed amazement.  So we sit them in front of the TV, and they watch everything we watch.

Over time, we've taken to decorating them with sports jerseys and Olympic medals.  You can see the poultry-influenced design in their gold for the Summer Games.

They've even been lauded by world-famous cartoonist Doug Savage, who admits to having a chicken brother of his own on his drawing desk somewhere.  Please click here to cross that road to see the chickens.