Wednesday, January 31, 2018

1468 - Godzilla Bites Again I

I've got a special project that will take a few days.  It's a poster of Godzilla wrecking a city.  This is the tracing and contour drawing of the basic ideas of the poster.  I've erased the sketchy thumbnail art and guides, since those lines are just very rough anyways.  Primarily, I used as a guide a picture I had assembled in Photoshop of Godzilla, the buildings, the train, and the roads, all culled from reference photos I found on the Internet, mainly from Japanese sources.  Then I more or less just traced the various elements into layers in my drawing program.  I used Photoshop to alter and correct the perspective.  

Thursday, January 25, 2018

1467 - Archangel Gabriel XII

On values:

I have a small collected library of books on the history of iconography.  Most of it is Russian but I also have some references on Italian orthodoxy, which just barely predates the birth of the Renaissance.   

Really good up-to-date resource books cost a fortune and have to be imported.  Iconography is not well-appreciated in secular markets like North America.   The research into older icons is difficult, since competing politics have over time effectively turned iconography into an illicit underground activity: for hundreds of years in some countries owning an icon could be a death sentence.  Lay scholars of iconography don't receive compensation to cover the amount of investigation that needs to be done; generally the top researchers belong to the Church.  

The books I have were mostly donated to me by my relatives who in turn bought them either from library sales or goodwill stores.  The library sells them for a dollar apiece simply to avoid having to throw them away.  The books from goodwill stores have inscriptions on the flyleaf such as "Happy Mother's Day, from your family 1985, We Love You."  

At some point, these books would have set the purchaser back a fair sum.  Given time and neglect on a bookshelf, they become worth less than the paper they were printed on.  By luck or providence, a book or two finds its way to me.  Honestly, I don't read them very much since the museum entries on icons are powerfully obscure and dry reading for the most part, or else wildly speculative to the point of describing the paranormal.  

An entry on Cimabue, the great Italian master who pre-figured the Renaissance, gave me insight on how to finally render the wings on my icon of Gabriel. I am very far from mastering that technique, but at least I got through how to get feathers onto the wings.  From Father Reynaldo SJ documenting countless dusty crawls through the sombre attics and cellars of ruined sanctuaries, to the publisher lavishly binding full colour images in heavy tomes that are presented to scholarly art department libraries around the world, to a bemused but reasonably devout housewife making ends meet through the Reagan/Gorbachev era, to the bottom of a millennial goodwill book bin, and then to me so I can figure out how to paint feathers, this book is the connection between my own work and that of the grand master employed in his sun-saturated Florentine workshop nearly eight hundred years ago.  

Sunday, January 21, 2018

1466 - Sylvia Line Art

I drew this work based on a picture my friend Earl took of his wife Sylvia.  I thought it was a nice composition, and the photograph has some very interesting use of light and shadow.

This drawing is just contour line art.  I've intentionally left out any dark values.  I plan to use this artwork as the base for experimenting with different shadow forms.  Since the master file is unshaded, I can use it over and over again for exercises which I will publish later on JSVB.  

Thursday, January 18, 2018

1465 - "Life Is Like A Box Of Tribbles"

Please click to embiggen.

Fan artwork for television shows, especially ones that mix together different franchises, are always so uncool to me.  Unless I'm the one making the artwork, then it's brilliant.  

With that out of the way, this month I find myself in the happy confluence between two of my all-time favourite shows, Star Trek and The X Files.  The context of each program excites my imagination: both are smart, inclusive shows with a lot of nostalgic appeal.  

Emphasis on "nostalgic".  Certainly aware that there is a large built-in audience who has watched decades of this programming, television producers also seek to give the viewers something new.  The trouble is most everything new has already been done, and Star Trek and the X-Files have attempted to pursue new frontiers while remaining tethered to the concept that launched them in the first place. 

Star Trek: Discovery has been entertaining, but it's not the Star Trek I want to see.  Violent, often gory, definitely not a show I choose to share with my family, Discovery charts a dark, mean-spirited and morally ambiguous course through yet another interminable space war.  The production values are far above any other Star Trek show, the look and sound of the series makes all the older Trek shows seem like stage plays by comparison.  The acting is normally sharp and the writing makes frequent smart call-backs to various interesting and surprising story beats, so that later episodes for the most part seem to stand on the careful foundation laid down by earlier adventures.  But: it's not Star Trek to me.  It's some kind of militaristic soap opera where the characters find themselves trapped in relationship minefields as often as they are ensnared by science fiction munitions.  And the characters themselves for me range from annoying to loathesome almost without exception.  Yes, it's amusing to see what will happen next to the Discovery, but I also feel that Star Trek would be better off if the ship remained lost in space.  I want to see a Star Trek episode where the ship and crew genuinely trek.  I'm tired of fictional war stories, especially when I know the outcome. 

The X-Files is the opposite side of the coin.  Built into the X-Files is the greatest character duo on television since Kirk and Spock.  Again, yes I find the new X-Files episodes entertaining, but it's not the  X-Files I want to see.  Confusing, indirect, the X-Files has become a show impossible to share with anyone outside of the fan base.  Agents Mulder and Scully have become ciphers of themselves, having faced the same perils over and over again so many times.  The dangers are all iterative but hew to the same truth: the world is doomed, alien intelligence may or may not save us, and only Mulder and/or Scully have the key to unlock all of the clues, if only Mulder and/or Scully were not mortally wounded in hospital and/or being protected by extra-terrestrial shadow agencies.  Knowing that the narrative is hopelessly bound in knots, individual episodes often become flippant or experimental, sometimes with memorable results, sometimes not.  Then there are episodes devoted entirely to exposition, forty-four solid minutes of Mulder and Scully telling the audience what has happened to date.  X-Files hasn't really changed in that regard, not since the movies were released.  

So, I find myself wishing for Star Trek: Discovery's production values and writing, with the strong morality and conviction of Mulder and Scully.  I guess that's why I gave today's JSVB artwork the flavour from Forrest Gump:  sophisticated computerized visuals coupled with geek nostalgia.  The trouble is Forrest Gump for all of its virtues just isn't all that good of a film, at least not to me.  There is a reason why sentimentality and high-tech storytelling don't mix: the harder you work the recreate the past the more you squander your future.  

I certainly don't mind having good choices for entertainment on television, but I'm also ready to leave some of the shows I've loved in the past behind.  I want to be a patron and not a demographic. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

1464 - Archangel Gabriel XI

Does anybody out there know how to draw wings?

I went in with the plan to make the angel's wings work.  I had an effective set of drawings that I carefully copied onto tracing paper for transfer onto my image.  The lines all came out clunky, though.  I straightened them out, but the flaw was at the design level.  I ended up blocking out most of the lines and at this point, well, I remain unconvinced that I am on the right track here.  This puts back my progress for a week or two while I search out some appropriate visual references.  

Sunday, January 14, 2018

1463 - A Box Of Tribbles Line Art

Captain Lorca keeps two things on his office desk at all times: a bowl of fortune cookies and a tribble.  Riddle me this: I understand why the fortune cookies don't eat the tribble, but how come the tribble never eats the fortune cookies?  

Saturday, January 13, 2018

1462 - "Use The Force"

Today is the thirteenth of the month, which is traditionally Ungood Art Day on JSVB.  Most artists strive to display their best work to the public.  I think it's a reasonable idea to show some of the doubtful things I have accomplished, since like any artist I will blunder, make mistakes, and despite my best intentions have projects that go not badly but rather ungoodly. 

People have remarked on my desk clutter, which sometimes oversteps into ungoodness.  Here, I am putting one of my sketchbooks into the flatbed scanner.  I have to keep the book steady while the scan head performs its function.  Rather than spending valuable human artist time holding up the book, I discovered that my lightsaber works nicely as a prop.  

After I was done my scan, I considered leaving the book where it was, since it gives me that much more handy shelf space!  I wouldn't be able to use the scanner again (or the lightsaber), although I do have an old scanner in the garage I could maybe pull out from retirement...  well, no.  I've learned that leaving things on the scanner bed tends to glue them to the scanner bed, and that creates a new set of problems.  

 Please click here to see JSVB Post #1034, and another view of my desk clutter from four years ago - notice the piles of stuff are all different! 

Friday, January 12, 2018

1461 - Mulder In A Gump Suit

An older Agent Mulder sits on Forrest Gump's bench.  

There is a funny story for this.  Of course, I don't have a photographic memory, so I was searching for some stock footage of Gump sitting and waiting.  Among other things, I found a fellow who had re-created the famous scene, but only twelve inches high.  The cotton suit that the Forrest Gump doll wears is immaculately tailored and correct to the smallest detail, except that it was made to fit a doll.  No matter how carefully you design doll clothes, they won't drape like human clothes.  I thought the stiff pose of the doll and the bagginess of its clothes were comical, so I used that to give old Mulder an exceptionally frumpy and out-of-place look. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

1460 - Lorca, Stitting

A drawing of Star Trek's Captain Lorca (Jason Isaacs).  Of course it's not random, I've got more planned, but I also have JSVB to pad.  

Coincidence: I have a sketch from long ago with Michelle Yeoh sitting on a bench, and she was in the same show as Mr. Isaacs. JSVB Post #502, back in 2011, was long before Ms. Yeoh signed up for Star Trek, though.  Please click here to see that artwork!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

1459 - Drills IV

Another page of drills, combining the hatching techniques I tried previously.  Exciting?  That's up to you.

The text on the right was some scribbling for a recipe to make a great hamburger.  Unless you have your own grinder, you'll need a butcher to grind together brisket, chuck, and short rib meat.  You mix the patties with breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, onion, and oil seasoned with garlic and rosemary.  You add the condiments you like but make certain you infuse the mayonnaise with truffle and basil.  Sounds pretty good!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

1458 - Zhora's Orthodox Christmas

My wife has already used this picture of our hamster Zhora for December 25th.  I decided to post it on JSVB to celebrate January 7th: Orthodox Christmas. 

I've been asked how we convinced our hamster to wear the little hat.  The answer is, we didn't.

Zhora is  not good for posing in front of the camera.  See JSVB Post #1447 (by please clicking here) for proof.   One trick we've learned is to surprise her out in the open with her favourite food.  She will sit and munch chickweed, spinach, or a small piece of fruit very happily.  Usually, she turns her back to the camera, so we have to nudge her to get her to face in a photogenic direction.   I have a good collection of hamster butt photos now, again see JSVB Post #1447. 

And so: the hat.  Zhora and the hat do not get along.  Fortunately, photography is near instantaneous, converting a ten thousandth of a second into something that can last forever.  

I laid the bait, my wife positioned the hamster and I primed the camera with my finger on the trigger.  My wife held the hat above the hamster in such a way that her hand was out of the frame.  I instructed: "On go, I press the shutter and you drop the hat onto Zhora's head!"

3, 2, 1, go!  

My wife dropped the hat and I mashed the trigger button.  The camera took the photo the precise moment the hat touched the hamster.  A twinkling trice after this picture Zhora shook off the hat, stole the food, and ran out of the frame.   

Saturday, January 6, 2018

1457 - Archangel Gabriel X

Tomorrow, January 7th, is Orthodox Christmas as reckoned by the Gregorian Calendar (as opposed to the Julian or Roman Calendar).  What better way to celebrate than with an Orthodox icon?

Well, I also have a worse way to celebrate: with the flu.  

Friday, January 5, 2018

1456 - Drills III

This drill uses light, medium, and dark shading to describe cubes floating around a central light source.  It shows me I should probably focus more on perspective drills (cube drawing!) than shading drills. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

1455 - Drills II

Another hatching drill.  Again, the hatching goes from deep to light.  This time, I use hatching to describe a curved surface.  One is positive, the other negative.  You can decide which one is which. 

The key is to decide exactly how dark and how light the region is to be.  Start with the dark, and make a small area exactly as dark as is needed, maybe even black.  Then partway between the darkest and the lightest area, hatch half as dark as the darkest area a small part of the medium value.   Hatch the medium value all the way to the dark value.  Then gradually build up the area nearest the dark value with more hatching.  As you go, you should see the medium hatch become darker.  Strive to make the darkest part near the black edge or core.  That's half the shading.  

The other half goes from medium to light.  Partway between the medium area and the light, apply a small area of hatching that is half as dense as the medium hatch.  Build that into the medium hatch the closer you get to the medium zone.  Then apply light hatching to finish the transition from light to medium to dark hatching.  

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

1454 - Drills I

Although this looks like New Year's resolution fervor, the timing for this JSVB post is coincidental.  I've been going through a long slow patch of work, so sometimes doing artistic drills helps me to create fresh material.

This drill is to make value changes from deep shading to medium to light using hatched lines.  In animation, I very seldom used hatched lines since every line that goes into the drawing must be accounted for and animated. Those were the old days.  Now that I don't have to worry about line counts, I have begun to study how to make effective hatches with lines.  Drills help to tighten up these otherwise vague skills. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

1453 - Zhora's Happy New Year

Happy New Year to all JSVB readers, from the Shyluks and Zhora!

Monday, January 1, 2018

1452 - Year Eight: JSVB In Review

January 1st was the starting date for JSVB, back in 2010.  Now I have eight years' worth of material to peruse.  Each year in the matrix above is represented by a column of coloured squares and bits.  Each square is a JSVB post.  Last year, Google changed their archive format, so the rightmost two columns look a little different from the others.  

2017 represents the very first year I've ever managed to produce more than the year before, by a margin of four posts.  I'll admit: 2017 was a struggle.  My health and stress level aren't great, but then I'm no different from everyone else in that department.  There were some wide gaps where I didn't post, as JSVB has dropped a little as a priority for me.  

Even so, I managed to create some pieces that I am proud of that people liked.  Here are some favourites of mine from the past year:

JSVB Post #1338  Of Chimps And Villains - A nice little bit of cartoon foolishness, inspired by my friend Earl.

JSVB Post #1357  Vote For Jeff - 2017 was heavy with April Fool's pranks.  One was a political flyer that does everything wrong in a political flyer: a grinning picture in a suit, a six-point plan (should be five) of platitudes and empty phrases, meaningless illustrations and an endorsement that was not legitimate.  Also awful fonts like Comic Sans and Papyrus.  The final sin: a picture of a check mark in a voting box.  These are the things that candidates do when they don't know they will lose.  Still, I do have the promise of two votes I can count on, and not from my wife, friends, or family - just my vote and a guy in Winnipeg.  Others have responded to my political ambitions by sending me the end bit of Apocalypse Now where Colonel Kurtz whispers  in agony: the horror... the horror...

JSVB Post #1362   Destroy Planet - A Photoshopped illustration with a hand-drawn Death that seems to capture the feeling of 2017.

 JSVB Post #1371   Mayor TV Podium People - I did a number of these small banners for my friend Greg Moore's Facebook page, advertising his MayorTV show.  Mayor Moore plans to retire in 2018.

JSVB Post #1379  The Girl With The Gerbera Daisy - This is my personal favourite from 2017.  It was something I saw in real life which I took the time to copy into my sketchbook and then rendered out as an illustration.  A really, really good illustration, that probably only I care for, but at least I know how good it is.  I nailed it! 

JSVB Post #1382  Happy Birthday To Me (8) - I like doing these Happy Birthday posts because I get to satisfy my own weird ideas.  This time, I accompanied James Bond/Maurice Binder imagery with Shirley Bassey style lyrics.  "Goldenass" (JSVB Post #1283) was a helpful early version of this artwork. 

JSVB Post #1384   BBQ'AN - I made myself into a tribute to the movie poster for Logan, which was an absolutely terrific show.  Photoshop made me look good. 

JSVB Post #1388 Crow With A Croissant - This has proved to be a favourite with JSVB viewers.

JSVB Post #1400  Sean Bruises His Shin - This was my blockbuster post for 2017, a wacky combination of Japanese woodcut art in the manner of master Hokusai melded with the Internet meme of my friend Sean bruising his shin while his cat watches.  And I even wrote a haiku to make the whole thing work.  

JSVB Post #1404   Illuminating Girl - I only had four JSVB posts in August, but this Art Nouveau themed line art carried the entire month.  This little illustration turned out amazingly well. 

JSVB had a large spike of viewers from January to June.  When I started to take time off from posting in Summer,  I squandered those viewers and my blog fell back down to its normal rate of a few hits per day.  Well, that's on me, of course.  I wish I had paid closer attention to JSVB in the hot months.  Now things are much slower, and I wonder at what new things will happen in 2018.  

I am grateful to the JSVB readers who purchased artwork, and I do enjoy having people follow my blog, as cranky and oddly-fashioned as it and I can be.   Let's look back on the past with wisdom and forward to the future with keen anticipation!