Sunday, September 30, 2012

664 - Kid, Plane, Again

That boy with the airplane I drew a couple of JSVB posts ago got under my skin a little.  I had drawn what I wanted, but very few of the elements in that piece were what I was hoping for.  Please click here to see the old version.  Today, I went back to the drawing board and re-rendered the boy.  Now he's more cartoony than before, and I think the new design is more appealing.
I made his proportions more babylike, and simplified his structure while thickening his line quality.  It's still not ideal, but it's an improvement.  If I can come way from a project and say, "I did that better today than I did yesterday," then there's a positive take-away for the session. 
What really helped was slowing down my drawing motion while laying down lines.  I can always tell when my drawings look rushed.  I almost always forget to slow down, though.   Maybe I will tattoo the word "SLOW" on the back of my right hand.  Sometimes, I even go so far as to wear a cotton glove on my drawing hand as a reminder to slow down; I'll have to post a picture of that on JSVB some day. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

663 - Earl-Identified Flying Objects

There is something about mowing the lawn that draws my mind directly to the topic of flying saucers.  It seems obvious to me on a primal level.  You're performing a dull, repetitive chore while looking directly at the ground and pushing around a very noisy machine.  There's no way you'd avoid being ambushed by a flying saucer even if it had very bright lights and a loud hyperdrive. 
The photograph is of my friend Earl, presumably taken by his brother.  He was gracious enough to allow me to play around with it in Photoshop.  The biggest problem with the picture was that there was a large tree growing out of Earl's head, or at least behind him in the picture.  I needed that sky space for the UFO squadron. So, I airbrushed out the tree and fixed the elements with which it had been entangled. 
I could have deleted the rightmost tree, but then there would be a lot of work fixing all of the shadows, including the ones falling across Earl.  UFO debunkers always look for suspicious shadows in pictures. 
Then I added the otherworldly spacecraft and a nice column of smoke from their strafing run.  If the smoke pointed the other way, it would have matched the light source better. Keeping Earl on the smokeless side of the photo makes him more oblivious to the alien invasion, in terms of theme.  
Finally, I re-cropped the picture, added the film print border, and aged the look of the picture using filters and airbrush. 
Here is the original picture:
For another take on mowing the lawn underneath flying saucers, please check out JSVB Post #604 by clicking here.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

662 - Bottle Baby

Mom bottle-feeds an infant.  This image is all over the place.  I kind of like how the mother looks a little masculine and homely in a cartoony way, but the kid doesn't look like her either in genetics or style.  The dominant hand is too rendered-looking, and you can see the parts where I just gave up on trying to improve this pic. 
If I go over this another time, I'll keep the stuff that works, get rid of the stuff that doesn't work, and go at it again.  That's how it is in design.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

661 - Kid With Toy Airplane

A  cartoon boy with his toy airplane.  I would like this image to be much cartoonier, though. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

670 - Archangel Michael Part I

For the third time, I am beginning the adventure that is the writing of a Byzantine religious icon.  This time around, I have been inspired to paint the Archangel Michael.  He presents a more martial figure than Our Lady Mary, and allows me the chance to render arms and armour in iconic form.  The basic image is painted out, but it's really rough and not much to show.  As I paint over the figure, I'll have to re-work the lines. 
As before, my first step is gilding, which this time around went fairly well.  I was torn between gilding the background or putting a very small castle in the background.  Although I feel I should have done the castle, you cannot go wrong with too much gold:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

659 - Dog On A Wall


Loyal JSVB readers will have noticed the progression from the early stages to the completion of my dog portrait.  JSVB artwork is often suitable for printing and framing, as can be seen in this example.  Drop me an e-mail at the address I have listed above, let me know what piece you'd like printed, and I will send you a fair price.  Support your local (or not so local) artist!

Friday, September 21, 2012

658 - Paw Print

More dog news: my wife and I decided that we should take a paw print of Duke the puppy.  That wasn't easy.  I settled on the idea of painting pooch's paw with Snazaroo paint, since that pigment is very easy on the skin and also is easy to wash with soap and water.  Then, we'd stamp his paw on sketchbook paper like he was a criminal suspect.
Doggy didn't like the game very much, and resisted the attempts with much squirming and biting.  We got a lot of pawprints all over our clothes, but this was the only decent print we got on paper.  Even so, I had to cook it a lot in Photoshop to get it to look like a paw and not a smeary mess.  That's why it gets a post on JSVB.
To see more on Snazaroo, please click here. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

657 - "Duke"

Please give a warm welcome to Duke the Dog.  He's big on chewing things, being a puppy.  Chewing and walks outside, when he can get them.  Unless I decide to make changes in the next few hours, I will print this puppy and get him framed. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

656 - Pup Touch-Up

My day was busy, just like the rest of the planet, so I only devoted an hour to working on the  puppy portrait.  I've added more grass, fixed some layer issues, and worked out most of the fur.   I did glaze the colours, but I'm missing something in my technique.  I'll run this puppy through Photoshop tomorrow to see if I can balance the colours.  Then, there's a whole legion of tiny details that need to be set right.  Then, printing and framing, and at last we will be done and ready for a new project.

Monday, September 17, 2012

655 - Puppy Progress II

The next evolution of my dog portrait.  If you squint your eyes and look at if from far away, it starts to look like the original photo.  That's not such a bad thing, as it means that the rough draft is fairly solid.
The dog doesn't sit on the grass properly, not yet.  I rendered the grass using my computer so that I didn't have to paint each blade, but I will have to go in and paint several tufts to make the dog look like he's sitting in the grass and not on a layer on top of it.  Now that I have the basic greens and yellows worked in, I can colour-correct the image either by adjusting its curves in Photoshop or by applying thin glazes.  Obviously, Photoshop would be faster, but glazing is more painterly. 
I also have to fix layering goofs like the obvious artefacts around the leash.  I also need to work on some corrections for subtle issues with the fur on the forelegs and the top of the head. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

654 - Puppy Progress

I am making progress on my latest dog art.  It's slow going. The face is getting better definition, and so is the rear leg.  Most of the colour is laid out, but there's a lot of detail that needs finishing, plus the background. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

653 - Blue Spanish Rice

If you hang around in elevators that play old-timey music, or if you've taken ballroom dance lessons, you'll maybe get a laugh out of the visual pun.   Otherwise, it's Photoshopped blue rice.
Spanish rice is easy to make if you know how to make regular rice.  I just use short grain so that it cooks quickly, and my rule of thumb is one part water to two parts rice.   One half-cup rice makes enough for two people, so you need one cup liquid.
Instead of water, use chicken broth. You can make it out of bullion, or you can buy it ready-made at the grocery store.  Cook the rice as usual.  I sometimes add a little onion.  Once the rice is cooked, stir in a couple of tablespoons of tomato sauce (you can make some out of water and tomato paste) - enough to turn the rice red.  Then stir in a couple of tablespoons of salsa.  Depending on the salsa, you may need to add salt and pepper to taste.  ¡OlĂ©!

Friday, September 14, 2012

652 - Sketch-up Pup

I've decided to a portrait of a dog.  I don't know how long it will take to complete, but hopefully sooner rather than later.  I've got a bunch of reference photos.  I drew a very rough sketch to settle the pose and I've also sampled and laid out the base colours.  I am going to wing it with the paint; a better strategy would be to use a finer cartoon sketch - a "cartoon" is the name for a drawing the artist makes that gets painted over. 
I took the cartoon, reversed the colour in Photoshop, and superimposed it on the paint so that the dog doesn't look like the amorphous blob the first stages of a paint job so often resembles.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

651 - Transporter Accident

My wife and I went to the Vancouver Pacific National Exhibition, and saw the travelling Star Trek museum (could you guess?).  One highlight of the Star Trek feature was the chance to be photographed in three of the iconic sets:  the for-real chair Captain Kirk sat in, and mock-ups of the Enterprise-D bridge and the transporter room. 
Since the thirteenth of every month is Ungood Art Day here on JSVB, I decided to share this picture of us on the transporter.  Unfortunately, as we were beaming in, the technician spilled ra'taljno over the control console and there was an unfortunate accident just as the commemorative photo was being taken.  Believe me when I say it hurt as much as it looks.  The PNE people were very gracious to re-assemble what they could find, although there was a lot of prodding with cold tweezers for what seemed like hours.  The good news is I'm around five pounds lighter than when I started, but I don't like to think about where that extra weight went.  For our troubles, we got a couple of T-shirts, a  tribble, and a sealed Ertl die-cast metal Enterprise-A (Sequential number: 34,390, which makes this a collector's item!  Well, not a valuable one.  According to Wikipedia, every man, woman, and child currently living in the Yukon could have an Enterprise-A, and there may be a few toys left over.  I guess I'll open my toy package tomorrow.)
Sympatico drove my wife and I to hit the same "transporter accident" pose at the same time when the picture was being taken.  Then, my relentless effort to use every filter in Photoshop resulted in the final look of this very corny pic. 
By the way, Captain Kirk's chair was awesome.  It even had a phaser burn right where you would expect if someone had dropped a lit cigarette onto William Shatner's lap.  I have to believe it's a phaser burn, but I know that everyone smoked in the 1960's.  Also interesting was the Enterprise-D bridge mock-up, from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  A minor mystery is solved - why did Commander Riker never sit straight in Captain Picard's chair?  Because the chair was custom molded to fit Picard, and Jean-Luc Picard has impossibly narrow hips!  Not a comfortable chair for those of us with a larger body frame. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

650 - Grey Cup Train

The history of Canada is woven in fibers made of metal that shines.  Strong, durable iron that forged the train tracks which united the  True North under the banner of confederation.  Silver that gleams like the arctic sun, that makes that most revered of all Canadian trophies, the century-old Grey Cup.
The Grey Cup celebrates its one hundredth football championship on November 25, 2012.  The famous cup was donated by Lord Earl Grey, the very same philanthropist who loved hard sports and hot tea in 1909.  Shrewd mathematicians will note that 1,909 plus 100 does not equal 2,012.  The Grey Cup was not awarded in 1916, 1917, or 1918 on account of World War I, nor was there a championship or playoffs for football in 1919 due to a bitter dispute about the game rules.
Canadian football has seen a century of history.  Hugo Ross, whose rugby trophy was awarded to the playoff champions leading up to the Grey Cup, drowned as a victim of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.  (His last words were reported to be, "Is that all?  It will take more than an iceberg to get me off this ship!").  In 1957, drunken fan Dave Humphrey stepped onto the Grey Cup field, stuck out his foot and tripped Hamilton's Ray "Bibbles" Bawel as he ran along the sidelines with the ball, preventing a touchdown.  While Mr. Humphrey, forever labelled "The Tripper", evaded punishment for this offense, he did hone his sense of justice when some years later he became a Superior Court judge for the province of Ontario.  Glamour star Pamela Anderson began her career at a Canadian Football League game in 1989.  Every year after that, dozens of Hollywood hopefuls crowd the camera lines at the annual Grey Cup game hoping for their turn to be discovered. 
Canadian football players have, through the excellence of their play, evolved the game for over a century.  Look at Warren Moon, who transcended racial, cultural, and rules barriers to be inducted into top honours in the Sports Hall Of Fame for both the CFL and NFL.  See the warriors like Normie Kwong, who translated fierce gridiron ability into a determined effort to serve as a dutiful politician.  Behold stars like Lui Passaglia, who has singlehandedly scored more points than any other player in any other football sport or league, or Anthony Calvillo who continues to astound after decades of play.  George Reed, Norm Fieldgate, Ronnie Lancaster, Doug Flutie, Milt Stegall, Angelo Mosca, Pinball Clemons, Gizmo Williams, Geroy Simon... the list is nearly endless, with new players coming in all the time. 
All this history, this glory, this celebration of the best of Canadian sport, is travelling across Canada in the inaugural Grey Cup Train.  Blending the century-long tradition of football and rail travel in Canada, the Grey Cup Train is arriving at every major city in Canada to support the 100th Grey Cup.  This is a travelling museum and a wonderful homage to Canada's greatest home-grown sport.  Some of my friends are both fans of the game and trains as well, but I would recommend that as many Canadians as possible get out to see the train.  You will encounter a beautifully-written timeline of the sport that features highlights from all the CFL teams across Canada and through the course of a century.  You will get to see a realistic mock-up of the players' locker room with real uniforms, real equipment, and the sights and sounds of a real locker room pep talk.  Finally, you will be able to walk up to the Grey Cup itself, displayed in shimmering glory for all Canadians to see. 
When the Grey Cup Train comes to your town, do not pass up the chance to see this rolling piece of Canadian history!  

Friday, September 7, 2012

649 - "RAF vs UFO"

Today I decided to repurpose two of my previous JSVB works, "Summerlawn" and "633 Squadron".  Combining the two, I got my new "RAF versus UFO"!  It reminds me a lot of the kind of thing I used to fill notebook pages with in school: clouds of fightercraft from mismatched genres in a massive aerial dogfight with dozens of tracers, bombs, broken bits, and explosions.  The only difference is that today I can draw and that I have at my disposal some advanced software and technique.  This work was way too much fun to put together!  I was laughing out loud as I was working. 
The big mothership is a custom element I painted for this picture.  I reserved the background from the original 633 artwork, and cut and pasted the RAF and UFO squadrons from their respective sources.  Then, I added tracers, fire, and explosions, fun!  Finally, I rebalanced the colours to make the composition more vibrant and graphic, like a the cover of a pulp novel (although I didn't leave any pace for a title!).
Strangely enough, as I was reseraching the proper colour of tracer round for the RAF Mosquito, I ran across a website that reprinted a January 2003 article from UFO Magazine (UK).  While I was aware of American Air Force interactions with so-called "foo-fighters" late in WWII, I did not know that the British RAF also had several encounters with flying saucers. 
Were the stories the result of battle fatigue and pilot stress?  Some of the encounters are shrugged off as rocket attacks, however others are harder to dismiss.  The RAF have record of actual dogfights with the strange invaders, including shots fired by aircraft gunners.  No account exists of a UFO attacking an RAF plane, although some of the "Things" or "Lights" as they were referred to at the time, proved to be at least as manouevrable and eager to mix it up in the sky as the human craft. 
While I was having fun creating this picture, maybe it's already happened...?
Please click here to see JSVB Post #604 "Summerlawn".
Please click here to see JSVB Post #633 "633 Squadron".

Thursday, September 6, 2012

648 - Bird Watching

When I go bird watching, the birds come to watch me. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

647 - "Night Market"

For the past couple of months, I've toiled away at this picture of my wife at the Richmond Night Market.  The Night Market is a large open-air bazaar in Richmond, British Columbia that features a thousand different kinds of plastic junk nobody needs and a dazzling selection of barbecued foods on a stick.  Illustrated are hunks of skewered fishcake smothered in sweet tangy springroll sauce, yummy!
This picture started out as a photograph.  At the time, I thought the photo was a good one: my wife was nicely rimlit by the golden setting sun.  When I got the picture home, though, I noticed all kinds of bits that detracted from the quality of the image.  There was a lens flare that bloomed on her teeth.  The exposure was too low. The composition had a dozen faults that I had missed when I pulled the trigger.  At first, I thought I could make the corrections in Photoshop, but a few minutes of dragging around sliders and curves proved that making any gains on this picture would require hours of labour.  So, I decided to use the picture as the basis for a painting instead.
I did recomposite my wife into a new multi-layer background that I created by assembling elements from some other photos I took of the Night Market.  That's why the light sources don't quite match up.  Then I set myself up as a painter and tried to make this picture as portrait-like as possible given my experience level in this sort of work. 
This picture has gone through three phases.  One phase, I am trying to be painterly with the facial portrait.  It's not as well-defined as I had imagined it would be, but I don't think that working it any more would improve my wife's good looks.  The other figures in the garish blooms of light have the illustrative feel of gouache.  This second phase is not a perfect blend with the rest of the image, but the different style and colour palette do seem to serve to set the background apart from the other elements without needing extra details.  The third phase is the rest of the background which exists in a very loose rough form.  I decided that adding detail might detract from the rest of the image.  It's easy to over-work a piece.  The great Masters had a keen sense for the balance of colour and detail that I just barely comprehend. 
Today, then, represents for me the point where the picture may not be finished but  it can at least be safely abandoned for a while. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

646 - Drink Like A Fish

My brother-in-law brought up as a topic of conversation the caffeination of the Pacific Ocean.  A recent study has shown that caffeine levels in the ocean have been rising, and that stresses the marine life.  Caffeine does not occur naturally in ocean environments, so the culprit is likely the world's leading consumer of caffeine, which is people. 

We dump our leftover coffee into the sink, and transform tea into liquid waste by the tonne.  Well, I say "we" in the cultural sense.  Loyal JSVB readers will know that I take as little caffeine as I can.  From my view, I can be correct in pointing out that we should all be drinking much less caffeine than we do now.  It would help save the fishes!  However, even the researchers who presented their data refused to suggest that we cut our caffeine.  Probably they are all coffee-drinkers.  The Big Roasted Bean has got to them, I figure. 

Caffeine in our water is nothing new.  For decades, the ground water under Seattle, their freshest clean water source,  has been caffeinated.  You can get a buzz just from drinking their tap water.  This is on account of all the used coffee dumped by the citizens of The Emerald City. 

The cartoon makes fun of the situation a bit.  It was a request!  See!  I do requests!  Sometimes it takes me months to get to them, but I do honour requests!  I don't know anything about parenting, though, so it'd likely be a bad idea to give your offspring coffee to make him feel better about going to school.  JSVB: disclaimered, so there. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

645 - The Luthor Solid

Knowing that I needed a model for my mock up of the Number 25 action figure, I recalled that my friend Earl has a small collection related to Superman.  Lex Luthor is as bald as Number 25, and he also wears a suit.  I asked for a "Luthor Solid", and by way of granting me the favour, Earl snapped a few photos of his collection. 
Collectible figures have varying levels of quality.  Some of the expensive ones are on-model likenesses in miniature of the stars that they portray, little tiny works of art.  Others that have come from longer assembly lines and less strict art departments look vaguely like the character they are supposed to represent.  Lex fits squarely in the latter category.
Earl's figure, properly described, is the Lex Luthor Button Action Power Punch version.  There's a button on Lex's back that releases a spring in the arm, causing it to make a dramatic uppercut punching motion.  Usually, the Lex lands  the punch upon his own head with an audible "clack" noise.  Matters are made worse where Lex's facial features are painted on with little grace and his expression is wildly insane. 
Using the photo, I re-coloured the figure to more closely match Number 25's clothing.  Then I painted over the figure, re-creating the pivots and hinges for the limbs.  At first, I thought of making a more realistic-looking Number 25, but the properly-rendered face looked out of place on the generic body.  So, I kept the face simple, like it would have had it come off of some distant assembly line for toys.  I painted the eyes, lips, and glasses with as much of a lack of care as I could manage.  I decided to keep the skin tone for the original Lex figure as the base colour sample for Number 25: it's a good skin tone for a cheap doll, not so much for a human. 
Number 25 has no left arm because Lex Luthor has no left arm.  Presumably, Lex lost the arm in a mortal duel with Superman.  I cannot imagine the Man of Steel would let Lex keep his Button Action Power Punch for very long.  I intended to re-render a left arm, but by the time I thought of it, I was most of the way finished my mock-up of the artwork.  At that point, my old 32-bit software kept crashing under the pressure of computer memory requirements that were consistently being exceeded.  Rather than force myself to continue, I simply hid the missing arm under some Photoshop effects. 
To see the finished mock-up of the collectible Number 25 figure, please click here.