December 23, 2006

97: Ought-Six

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Holidays are upon us, and it gave me a little time to clean up the computer and revisit all the jobbies I did for this site over the past year. Turned out I was busier than even the year before, probably due largely in part to the new camera kicking about. For now, in addition to spending time building pages for the next issue of the HOWieZine (theme: myths and legends), I have some vacation days coming to me – and I intend on using 'em – like I suspect many of us will.

I realize the image here is a big fat mess, but it pays to click here and see the thing in all of its slightly higher-resolution majesty. And if you'd like to have your chocolatey, grubby Christmas paws on any of these 2006 creations high-rez, shoot me a comment here and I'll gladly send you a nice, crisp version.

So be merry, stay merry, and I'll be back to open up shop again in 2007. For now, it's time to rest, and also see where I want to take this thing next year.

December 18, 2006

Photo: Ambushed

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On first glance this may not seem to exemplify Photo Friday's current theme of ambushed. But an ambush of sorts is what it took to get this shot, taken in the spring of 2002 near the outpost town of Roddickton, Newfoundland. This is my mom, a difficult photo subject – with a lengthy record of declining photos and snubbing the camera. On this trip the two of us took together to The Rock, we stayed with a friendly local couple at their cabin (a misnomer, kind of, the place was nine miles' boat ride from their house). Holed up there on a lousy, wet Newfie day, the sun finally broke through with about an hour's daylight to spare – and we tried fishing; rather, my mom and I watched our hosts as they explained the finer points of trying for some of their native ocean-going species. Camera at the ready for a potential bite, I nabbed this shot as my mom was distracted for a moment. I'm not even certain she was even aware it had happened – a photo-ambush. And probably the most honest picture I have of her; no posing, no forced emotions, no hands-out refusal of my attempt.

You can click here for a more detailed image. I played a bit with the time-limited free download of Flaming Pear's Melancholytron photo filter on this shot.

December 12, 2006

96: My God, It's Full Of Stars

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For Photo Friday's current theme of fresh, I present this seemingly endless array of chocolate peppermint stars, made by Kerry for an annual Christmas cookie swap with friends. I believe well over a hundred of these bite-sized jobbies were made, each layered like an Oreo, measuring about an inch and a half across – and in exchange our freezer is now an icy glory box of holiday cookie creations. Sweetness!

You can click here for a closer look at the image, and also here for an outtake from the same shoot. Be sure to stop by my Flickr page for glances at a few other recent shots ... while you're up.

December 06, 2006

95: A Mighty Handshake

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Illustration Friday's theme of might brought to the forefront of my consciousness an apparent fascination of mine with big hands. One of my very first vector illustrations was that of an angry, stomping man with oversized red fists. There was this I-F submission last winter, for their theme of blue. I laughed out loud at the "giant hands" dream sequence in The Science Of Sleep. "Man Hands" is still my all-time favourite episode of Seinfeld. And now this chap with the, um, lobster claws. But really, the theme just gave me an excuse to exercise some of my big-hands kicks – and as I looked around my desk at work and noticed a wind-up lobster from Prince Edward Island, I had an image that would not leave my brain until I posted this picture here tonight.

It's another drawn-in-pen jobbie, intentionally made to look like cheesy, "businessman on the go" clip art. Assistance from Photoshop and Freehand helped round off the image. You can click here for a closer look at the original pen drawing.

December 03, 2006

One Two Three Four Five

I was recently tagged by Jessie Jane, fellow HOW design forum haunt and buzzsaw-pace creator of Small Failures, an upstart blog on sustainable living (and the like). The tagging refers to a game of mentioning five things about one's self and then passing off to five new people to do the same. Without further adieu, five – quite – random things of my own:

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I was recently on The Tonight Show ... sort of. At the tail end of our September local vacation, Kerry and I ate at an upscale restaurant at Elkhorn Resort in Riding Mountain National Park. I noticed trout was available, which I absolutely adore having in my tummy. Kerry began to snort – then laugh – at something she noticed in the menu. The reason? Colossal typo. And a pilfered copy was in the mail to Leno a couple of weeks later, which appeared on the show's "Headlines" segment just last week. Above is a transcript of sorts, which you can check out on the show's website.

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I was lunchlady for a day – During a transition period at work between in-house cafeteria staff, the lunchroom has been heroically run by the interpretive centre crew. But on Friday, my buddy Jason and I volunteered to craft the day's lunch special – not completely aware of the amount of work actually necessary. On top of shopping for ingredients the previous night, we prepped and stuffed manicotti over most of the morning for 25 lucky meat-loving (and vegetarian!) co-workers. And to the best of my knowledge, nobody keeled over and died.

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I'm selectively moment-oriented– I'm not blessed with the greatest memory; I've forgotten many things in my time, from countless days and events of childhood, to names, faces, tasks and lunches at home in the fridge. But what I do have is a strong selective memory, especially an impeccable visual lock on circumstances and surroundings when I'm in a moment I appreciate. It's difficult to explain. One example happened the same day as the outhouse trout dinner; near the end of a disappointing day of hiking, Kerry and I were on a non-descript trail – when out of the woods popped this completely placid lake and dock (above). And in time I may not remember a lot of the goings-on from that day, but I'll always be able to recall this intensely visual moment. The photo is now framed in the foyer of our home (click here for a highly recommended closer look, and here for a look at the picture's final resting place).

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I did not make my New Year's resolution – that of riding 2,080 kilometres on my bike this year, despite beginning a month earlier than normal (wiping on the ice my second day out) and closing near the end of November. But I did put in 1,700.29 kilometres, a personal best. I'm not hardcore – I know some can polish off this number in a few weeks – but for me it's an accomplishment. Plus I got to see the countryside on my way home from work, join the cycling ranks in a marathon fundraiser – and one morning, almost mow down a galloping raccoon.

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I do the Sunday New York Times crossword – in pen. Which puts me in a league with whiz-host Jon Stewart and ex-prez Bill Clinton (according to the crossword-doc Wordplay). I don't brag about much, but a couple of weeks ago I destroyed a puzzle in 61 minutes. OK, that too was a personal best, and truth is I only fully complete about one in five – but I do use a pen and almost always finish more than half. And this ties in nicely with my third point: my selective memory.

So that's it, kids! Maybe not the randomness that "tagging" usually evokes, but it was a good excuse to toss some recent happenings your way. I'll spare the pay-it-forward portion of tagging since I think just about everyone I know who blogs has likely done this already.

November 29, 2006

Immature/Invention II

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A dual post: Photo Friday's current theme of immature got me to thinking of this photo, taken the last time I had a roll of black-and-white film in a camera. That's Kerry at Grand Beach in the spring of 2005, caught in a rare moment of immaturity with a large, washed-up reed as a rat-tail. Some post-development Photoshop action was applied as I was also intending to add this shot to Flickr denizen Mick "Damned Thing" O'Dwyer's Detail Is Everything photo-group, a cool spot in the Flickrverse for all photos textured, dirtied and distressed. Click here for a better look at this shot.

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And Illustration Friday's theme of invention reminded me of this Swiss Army knife design I created for my sister's dental practice business card way, way back in the fall of 2000. One of my first genuine post-college stabs at using FreeHand, I've learned a few more of the program's intricacies since then. It's too bad the program was just swallowed up by the good folks at Adobe.

November 27, 2006

94: The Mother Of Invention

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I've never had a concept in mind so quickly for Illustration Friday then I did this week; their current theme of invention brought a vision to my head in a matter of seconds. Stuck at work though, I made a quick doodle of it in a notepad (below left) so I wouldn't forget it on the weekend when I had more time. This old lady is my interpretation of the Mother of Invention (as in "Necessity Is..."). And though my original vision was of a cartoony, Far Side-esque comic strip panel, I ended up with something much more complex. I usually intend to do something simple; I just can't seem to help it.

I found some source material through a few Google image searches: a few turn-of-the-century photo portraits for the pose and fashion sense (below right), and obviously the objects in the wall-mounted frames, which I left photographic because they kind of look neater that way. I sketched on Sunday – all in all about two hours or so – and used photos of various textures to fill in the background, like wallpaper and carpet samples and some wood-grain for the baseboard. Be sure to click here for a better look at the whole deal (the web just doesn't do some illustrations justice).

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November 22, 2006

93: Thanksgiving Is Sooo Like, Last Month

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Illustration Friday's current Yankee-leaning theme of Thanksgiving gave me
little inspiration until I figured I could perhaps Canadianize it. This, the Holiday of Holidays south of the border, is seen by some for its crass commercialism, special Thursday NFL matchups, bacon wrapped, chicken-stuffed, duck-stuffed turkeys ... and for millions of other turkeys, straight-up instant death. Now I love me a turkey as much as the next guy, but in Canada we get a drumstick up on the southern competition by celebrating Thanksgiving a month and a half earlier. So for any turkeys currently on the lam from the proverbial chopping block, I know some primo spots to cross the border without tipping off the fuzz. All you've got to worry about here is the snow.

Sketched in pen with reference material for the bird, and coloured in Photoshop. Click here for a closer look at the final artwork.

November 15, 2006

92: NonComputerStuff

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A couple of weeks ago I ponied up and spent a day with industry chums celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC). The Manitoba chapter's efforts included spending a day largely getting acquainted ­ and reacquainted ­ with old/new school art techniques on a 'creativity circuit', including printmaking, cutting graffiti stencils, creating Polaroid-esque photo transfers and (eep!) life drawing. The day was capped off with peeks at the Graphex '06 and GDC Fellows poster exhibits, and an inspiring discussion with GDC co-founder/designer/illustrator Frank Newfeld (most notably of Alligator Pie and Garbage Delight fame).

The group I was in was taken straight into the studio for a morning life-drawing session with the U of M's Derek Brueckner. Like most of the designers in attendance, I hadn't drawn the human figure from direct observation in years, so I was a bit nervous. Behold my output though (above right): I say not bad for my first model sketch since the end of the Grunge era!

From there we headed to a photographer Ian McCausland's chemically-induced session of photo-collaging and trying our hand at a photo transfer technique using a nasty bit o' business called Xylene. Which was fun, in a return-to-kindergarten craft table kind of way. Only with Xylene. Check it (above left, ­ images lovably supplied by Ian).

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My attempt at mastering the art of creating a stencil at the Graffiti Gallery was thwarted by my foolishness in creating one that was too complex for the time involved (I tried to make the head of Rocket Robin Hood that I showed here last year), so I played photographer and instead documented the others' fine work. And lastly we spent some time with the Manitoba Printmakers Association, getting our hands, and clothes, supa-dirty with some basic printmaking techniques. Shown above is my roughshod, busy attempt at using
just about every tool they had there to play with.

November 13, 2006

91: The Plants Are Taking Over!

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Top row (left to right): a blooming, yellow mum-like flower – possibly a mum; bonsai tree limb (background made black in Photoshop); middle row (left to right): palm bark abstract; flowerball (background darkened, blurred in Photoshop); spiral trunk abstract (background made black in Photoshop); bottom row (left to right): bonsai detail; a whack of daisies.

Last weekend I went out on my bike in the fast-melting snow to get myself dirty on the trails in Assiniboine Park. But by the time I got there – after all of five kilometres – I was feeling tired, and instead popped into the Conservatory to warm up and dry off. I ended up staying there with my camera for almost an hour, scoping the place out for plant abstracts like the ones above. I ought to go back again sometime. It's a great place to escape when it's frigid outside, and a tripod would be handy in the dimly-lit areas.

This is a low-resolution grid of photos, some cropped. For the real, close-up deal on any of these, click here and peruse at your heart's content.

November 08, 2006

90: Where There's Fire

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I almost skipped the week's Illustration Friday theme of smoke. Over the weekend I had grand ambitions to challenge myself further by combining it with Sugar Frosted Goodness's current theme of orange, and set out to draw the General Lee (from The Dukes Of Hazzard), laid waste and smoking from one of the show's signature killer gulch jumps. It got too complicated for my liking and I halted it yesterday. But on the commute home – appropriately enough – I had visions in my head of a phoenix rising from the flames – only in the simple, graphic and geometric way I've done here. The illustration was done near exclusively digital; I only drew a rough pencil outline of the shapes to help guide me when I built individual vector forms in FreeHand. In Photoshop I then filled the shapes with portions of two texture photos I took; one a closup of a fire, the other of creek-bottom sand and sludge.

November 01, 2006

89: Winding Down

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I drew this somewhat quick sketch for Illustration Friday's current theme of wind. I liked the sneakiness of the chosen theme; I'm certain that a good majority of contributors took the theme in a wind-as-in-skinned direction. For some reason, I read the word and first recognized it as wind (as in "kind").

I've been feeling groggy lately, hopefully not battling something harmful. It kind of makes me feel a bit like this sagging chap, in need of a good wind-up to get the energy flow going again. And if I could just reach out and nab that yummy, healthy carrot I think I'd be set. But for the time being, you get a little vignette of this rundown fellow. Special thanks to Kerry, modeling for me to get that right hand (it was a too-tough angle to use my own). I inked it while on the lookout for Halloween kids coming up the front steps. Click here for a closer look at the detail.

October 30, 2006

Hey, Five-Eyes!

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What the bloody hell?! Here's me and our home's loverly jack-o-lantern for 2006, inspired by the Smartie-shaped pumpkin Kerry picked up at the Prince Albert farmers' market at Thanksgiving. You can never put too many eyes on a jack-o-lantern, I say (last year's only had one, though).

Happy Hallowe'en, friends. Here's hoping the kiddos can make it through the 20-odd centimetres of snow we just got. But the less kids we see, the more Wagon Wheels I get to keep.

October 29, 2006

Accidents Happen

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Photo Friday's current theme of accidental made me search through my collection of photos for those that turned out cool via fluke, accident and what-have-you. Some of these have appeared here before, and some highlight the theme more than others – but all of these images were not originally as intended. You can click here for a closer look at the grid of images.

Top left: Michelle in the big, comfy chair at Melissa's Vegas wedding reception. Part of a larger image in which she was chatting with buddy Steve, it was originally meant to be a flash-on snapshot. The camera was on night mode, and with some creative cropping this is what I squeezed out of it.

Top center: My niece Cadence at six weeks of age. We were conducting a black-and-white photo shoot and this shot captured her on the verge of a yawn. What I got was her tongue, in a classic stick-it-to-The-Man pose.

Top right: Me and Kerry, fireside. A long-exposure shot, I thought I could sneak in quick enough not to show up on the final image. Looks like I was too slow.

Center: Kerry's nephew showing off his ice-cream tongue. I honestly had no idea at the time that so much blue was being showcased.

Center right: Kerry at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland in a cool mood shot, September 2003. The wind grabbed control of her hair, but she also closed her eyes when the picture was taken.

Bottom left: Kerry at Grand Beach, April 2005. Deceivingly downtrodden, she just had some sand in her eye.

Bottom right: I was attempting to take a quick photo of my work's entry into a local parade, an adult tricycle towing three light-laden wheeled wooden ducks. But like the first picture here, the camera was set on a far-too-slow shutter speed. This abstract was the result.

October 25, 2006

88: Ghost Story

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My submission for Illustration Friday's theme of ghost went from a direct take on the word to one that instead used the word as inspiration – based on a concept that you don't often hear stories about ghosts of anything but people. All living things meet an end, and if ghosts purportedly exist in human form (though I've yet to see one), why not other critters in the wild kingdom?

Considering this: hundreds of billions of birds in the world – estimated; nobody really knows for sure – all with varying shelf lives according (usually) to size. A great horned owl can survive up to a quarter-century. Hummingbirds last roughly three to five years. The common house sparrow we see just about everywhere has a maximum lifespan of a dozen years. Turnover in the bird world is fast and relentless, and makes me sometimes wonder why we don't see more dead birds just lying about. So where do they go?

This drawing illustrates a theory that most of them simply fade away, evanescing into thin air. On a summer day I can look up into the canopies of elm trees that line our street – and hear a lot more birds than I can see.

Drawn on separate sheets of paper with pen, these three sparrows were merged in Photoshop for colouring and effect-work. You can click here for a closer, more detailed look, and also here, to see the original black pen artwork on the middle bird.

October 22, 2006

87: The Leaf Monster

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There's something about a big pile of leaves in the fall that can bring out the kid in just about anybody. We had a unique fall here; the weather came in a way that our boulevard trees dropped their entire load near all at once – 13 Glad-bags' worth in the front yard alone, which, for a brief moment was in the form of two giant piles. That was before the inner kids took over and dove in, reminding me of the Calvin and Hobbes strip where the "leaf monster" surprised Calvin mid-leap, only to be beaten to oblivion with the rake. This is the last known one of Kerry before the leaf monster struck our property, which I am submitting – in her honour, of course – to both PhotoFortnight for their apt theme of autumn, and for Photo Friday's current theme of innocence. And as is the case nowadays, more photos from the day – which also includes the evening's "Art & Soul" fundraiser soirĂ©e for/at the Winnipeg Art Gallery – can be seen over at my Flickr site.

October 16, 2006

86: Smittens

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This week's Illustration Friday theme of smitten instantly reminded me of a photo I took not so long ago when Kerry and I were on vacation. Not one to be too squishily sentimental often, I thought I'd attempt to create a photo-based digital illustration much in the same manner that I did in my submission for I-F's early-summer theme of "portrait" (click here to jog memory, or to see again for first time) – which I had a lot of fun doing and wanted to try again.

Using the photo as a base layer in Photoshop, I first applied a slight median filter to eliminate some of the pixel details and night-shot noise. Then I took a whole whack of time with the smudge tool, pushing along the clothing folds, fire licks, etc., to mimic an oil-based, painterly style. I then subdued the picture's overall redness with hue and saturation shifts and upped the yellow content with Photoshop's yellow and sepia-toned photo filter presets. Following this, I inserted another photo – of wood-grain pattern – and tossed it in the mix, fading it back to add a bit of canvas texture. Overlying details were added last; the paint blotches and stains around the edges and the word itself, done with the freebie download font Klink-O-Mite (get it here). There's quite a few finer points and adjustments in the overall process too, that I'm either neglecting to mention or just plain forgetting.

You can click here to get a closer look at some of the detail, and here, to see the original photo and just how much – or little, depending on your point of view – alteration was actually done.

October 15, 2006

Eve Of Destruction

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A photo from the vault to keep things flowing. I haven't been to Photo Friday for awhile to see what's up on that front. And their latest theme of destruction brought to mind the image above, which I took with my sister's borrowed camera on a 2002 visit to Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. It had been a lousy day of traveling mostly; plenty of that grim maritime rain they get 50 per cent of their time (it seems), and we stopped at a stony beach marked by scraps of the S.S. Ethie, a steamer that wrecked there in 1919 during a fierce storm. It was at this time, late in the day, that the sun decided to show, casting this cool purplish light over the ship's rusted metal remains.

October 11, 2006

85: Here Comes Trouble

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Don't pick up that coin, kid.

Lately I seem to have been in an outright sketchy mode when it comes to putting stuff here. Which is good. I have to remind myself to loosen up when I'm drawing, when more often than not I'm attempting to get lines and curves to mimic a technique bordering on vector-based.

Case in point, this little piece of storytelling here. For Illustration Friday's theme of trouble, I felt like drawing a monster – and then working from there. And for monsters there are no rules, and as such, nothing suited my monster more than making one as loose and as sketchy as I could. The kid and the coin were added afterwards as I molded my idea to suit the theme.

You'd think the bumps and jiggles of an eight-hour road trip would cater to this style I'm striving for, but I guess I'm not that loose. I tried, coming back from a Thanksgiving weekend in Saskatchewan, but I couldn't seem to get to that point where I could draw in the car. So instead, I spent a good chunk of Tuesday evening at home with this drawing, and finishing it over lunch on Wednesday. I spent a couple of hours Wednesday night fixing up any schmegs and adding colour. You can click here for a better look at some of the detail. Also, below is a look at what I had to work with before delving into Photoshop, as an example of how much cleanup I sometimes do digitally.

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October 05, 2006

Update With Peppers

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A quick note – and some homegrown red peppers – just to say the complete Flickr photoset of our vacation photos from last week are now available for scopin' out. You can check the holiday set right here – these are the best shots the week had to offer. There's a handful of stitched panoramas I'm still working on; they'll show up in my panoramas set when they're finished.

And the peppers? An experiment, done a couple of weeks ago. I took our five most successful peppers from the garden and lined them up on our kitchen stove, snapped this pic and in Photoshop, "whitened the whites" and removed the stovetop elements. The only problem: it was at night, and even though I had the tripod the ceiling light made it fuzzier then I'd have liked.

October 04, 2006

84: The HOWieZine Cometh, Part VI

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I'll be the first to admit that for the first time, I ran out of time with an edition of the HOWieZine. The current version, themed pirates, gave me a stellar opportunity to create an idea for a relevant illustration I've had in my head since high school (you heard right). And on the off-chance that I still realize it someday, I won't divulge on that little nugget any further. I know, nasty, right?

In the meantime, I made two quick pages – only one of which is on display here – that were still fun in the making. The first (not shown) used a scanned page out of one of Kerry's high school yearbooks, with each photo tagged overtop in pen with various hand-drawn pirate features (eye-patches all around, mustaches for the dudes, a few speak-bubbles and a parrot tossed in for good measure). Although I agreed not to use a page with anyone she knew closely, I'm withholding it here anyways out of respect for the embarassed – well, that and the fact I accidentally deleted the file off my hard-drive.

The second page (above) is a montage of words that any booty-loving pirate would love to say. Pretty simple, yeah, and Kerry and I had fun putting this list of words together. So let your inner buccaneer out and sample a few when nobody's watching.

October 02, 2006

83: Into The Woods

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Last week's vacation has been offically declared a hoot, and a culmination of several factors made it so. Start with my absolute favourite time of year, throw in one of my all-time favourite places to be since childhood, add fires, grey jays and smokie-dog cookouts and mix together with the sensation of being the only people for miles. It's bliss – and amazing that we didn't consider this sort of thing sooner.

Kerry and I are no strangers to visiting the Whiteshell, but have never made our excursions into anything more than day-trips (with the exception of a sole overnight stay two years ago for my birthday). So the prospect of staying there for nearly a week was exciting, since many more options open up when the (upwards of) four hours of travel time are cut from the equation. We made day-trips out of the two ends of the Mantario Trail, a gruelling multi-day hike through the heart of the park. The day from the south trailhead offered varied terrain, train-squashed pennies (a Whiteshell tradition of mine, I was bold enough to try a quarter this time) and fire-toasted turkey-tomato-avocado sammiches at Caribou Lake. The following day we took the hefty drive to the north trailhead for a hike along the shores of Big Whiteshell Lake where we encountered gusty winds, an abandoned 40s-era car reclaimed by the forest and a pair of shotgun-wielding grouse hunters ("so yer the ones scarin' all the chickens away.").

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Top: me and Kerry by firelight. Above (left to right): boulder on Big Whiteshell Lake; the beavers are clearly in charge on the Mantario trail; driftwood face.

Tuesday we drove deep into the park to visit a popular trail leading to Pine Point Rapids on the Whiteshell River. I can't recall offhand just how many times I'd done this hike since I was little, but this trip offered something I had never seen before in all my visits: no rapids – and no running water whatsoever. Neat in its own right, but a touch creepy, to be able to walk across silent and bare rock usually lost underneath fast-flowing water, fish and thrill-seeking innertubers. Any further creepiness was dissuaded by a local gray jay that could snatch peanuts straight from our hands. These birds, along with a fox, four eagles, about a hundred deer and a million idiot grouse, kept us company during the week when we were out pretty much alone in the woods.

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Above (left to right): the falls are gone at Pine Point Rapids; staredown with a trophy buck; the gray jay does my bidding (photo by Kerry).

Even though the weather slowly turned sour as the week went along, we were never turned back by it. The following day we paid a visit to the Hunt Lake trail just down the road from where we were staying, and Thursday we split our time between the bland Cabin Lake trail and the short but scrappy MacGillivray Falls trail (again, no water though). On a thick-as-molasses foggy Thursday morning, I also crossed the road from our rental cabin into the empty neighbouring campground to view what I could of West Hawk Lake from atop a high granite outcrop. In the fog I nearly bumped into a giant (to me) and fearless white-tailed deer buck that I talked to gently in order to pass. For the record, I won't divulge what we talked about.

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Above: a foggy Thursday morning on West Hawk Lake.

Our cabin was a quaint and down-homey affair, and on a five-day, non-weekend, out-of-season rate, a fair deal considering the full kitchen, barbecue and satellite-TV/DVD setup that allowed us to keep up-to-date with The Office, rent movies and sneak peeks of old glories like 21 Jump Street, 90210 and The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.

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Above (left to right): Kerry at Kinosao Lake in Riding Mountain National Park; fall leaves along the Ochre River trail (photo by Kerry); the road home.

This past weekend the scene shifted westward for a weekend stay in Riding Mountain National Park. Not quite the challenge for the hiking set, but gorgeous weather and some interesting sights (a bounding otter, trail-blocking moose and more bear scat than we'd prefer) made the short holiday addition fine in its own right. Sunday was quite possibly the day, that one fall day, that makes the season my favourite, despite its quickness and damning end.

Note: I'll be posting a link to the complete vacation Flickr photo set when it's up and ready, prolly a couple of days.

September 23, 2006

Flickr's Got My Back

Kerry and I are on holidays now, so this place will be left to sit and fester for the better part of a week and a half. In the meantime, I can't think of a better opportunity to have you leave this part of the blogosphere and go to visit my upstart corner over in the Flickrverse. It was not too long ago I started a full-fledged Flickr account to store the growing stash of photos that inevitably comes with digital camera ownership. And while I'll continue to post the best and brightest things that come out of my head here, my Flickr page is a great spot that allows me to display larger collections of images from days out, photographic experiments and other general goings-on.

I've been delving into the recent past to stock the site up to the state it's in right now. Currently on display is a gallery of stitched scenic panoramas, an extensive set of magazine spreads from work, local snapshots of shoes hanging on power lines and a stash of photos of random objects appearing in large numbers. There's also full sets of pictures from past events mentioned here, like my niece's August visit, the MS Bike Tour, our day at the Criddle-Vane homestead and my PhotoFortnight shoot for their winter theme of "night". And if that's not enough, there's also party pics from the awesome St. Jean-Baptiste Day party and the HOW Design Conference in Las Vegas. And if that's not enough, dig even deeper and find photos from past vacations in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Or, click here and view them all as part of a Flickr slide show (it's pretty cool). I'll make sure to post about any new developments at my Flickr site here in the future, likely starting with photos from the vacation I'm leaving for tomorrow morning.

And if that's still not enough, then I don't know what is. And I'm on holidays, so tough.

September 18, 2006

82: It's Hard Out Here For A Mobsta

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What with these topsy-turvy economic times, even the mobsters are struggling. Or not. I don't know. But this mafioso certainly is. Originally a fast doodle drawn while performing volunteer duty manning a hole-in-one hole at the company golf tournament, I spent time this past weekend dressing this don up to the version you see here. I was attempting to honour the weblike and sketch-heavy style of the Winnipeg Free Press's inhouse editorial cartoonist Dale Cummings who, rumour has it, creates many of his works primarily with ink and toothpicks. I didn't stretch so far as to duplicate that feat, sticking with the pens I know best and some help from the brush pen for the fatter lines.

Drawn for Illustration Friday's theme of change. You can click here for a more detailed look.

September 16, 2006

Photomiscellanea III

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Top row (left to right): A guy at the ballpark who likes like Dick Cheney; shoes on a wire; popcorn in my glasses (photo by Kerry). Middle row (left to right): lobsters from my sister's summer visit; kitchen-related hubbub at my brother's house. Bottom row (left to right): how embarassing - Jason and I wear the same shirt at the Folk Festival; the Gladstone Happy Rock (get it?) on Highway 16.

I'm closing in on the 2,000th photo taken with my birthday Rebel. And granted, even though a vast amount of these were outright experiments and castoffs, I'm still as thrilled about it now as I was last October when I got it. In honour of this momentous occasion, here's pics and a post about as random as you will ever see me get here - largely since I promised that this site would ever get to "bloggy" (beak about politics, slag off about work, post pics of kitty).

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Top row (left to right): a sample of our bounty; our champion red peppers. Bottom row (left to right): colossal tomatoes the size of your frickin' hand! (photo by Kerry); morning glories.

1) We have been backyard slackers. Our backyard is in terrible shape: bumpy, weedy, infested with worms the size of snakes (side note: I'm OK with worms, but worms should be worm-sized, not snake-sized or bigger - which I have seen, with my own two eyes, in our back yard – but I digress). But probably our biggest success story from one year of homeownership has been our tomatoes. Kerry grew the hell out of some tomato plants we bought in the spring, mainly romas and grape, but also a few mutant giant ones and some yellow ones. Our summer was also a boon to tomatoes province-wide, but still. We also managed to squeeze out a few modest red pepper plants and a single banana pepper so far. Time is running out on all these veggies, but we hope to see at least another week of production out of 'em.

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I get all gangsta about my beard: chin foliage (left) circa January (photo by Allan); photo #1,997 – my current attempt (right).

2) I've been letting my facial hair out. For argument's sake I am not calling it a beard because I reaffirm to Kerry on a near-daily basis now that I am not growing one. I have been living clean of such hair for quite some time – up to the turn of the century it was a constant part of my "frumpy college" look, when I gave scant thought to how much hair grew across my head. Rarely since have I attempted anything close; once was last Christmas, and now this experiment. The last time I did this it refused to fill all the way in and I was called out by my (then) boss:

Boss: Jeope, what the hell is that on your face?

Me: I'm trying to grow a beard.

Boss: Well then, sh*t or get off the pot.

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Five-photo stitched panorama of Epinette Creek, Spruce Woods Provincial Park.

3) I neglected to mention that on the September long weekend, apart from visiting the Criddle-Vane Homestead, Kerry and I also followed through on an idea to completely plan a day for each other and see it through. Hers involved the aforementioned trip to the homestead, an afternoon hike on Spruce Woods Provincial Park's Epinette Creek trail system and dinner at the Headingley greasy-spoon stalwart, Nick's Inn. My day included our first visit to Riding Mountain National Park to test our mettle on the Gorge Creek Trail and a visit to see Ken, Kerry's favourite waiter in the city at Star Grill.

September 08, 2006

81: Riddled & Criddled

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This past weekend Kerry and I visited a hidden little bit of local history, the Criddle-Vane homestead south of Brandon. The Criddle family were pioneers known for contributions in the fields of science, art, sports and culture, as well as for their eccentric lifestyle. They settled in Manitoba in 1882, and the last family members left the homestead in 1960. The site is significant to the entomological research community for long-term scientific study; Norman Criddle collected specimens from the region which are now found in major insect collections around the world.

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Not really well-known as a destination yet, the main house was left open so we wandered around inside, alone – quite creepy, but cool – the trip definitely wouldn't have been the same had we not been able to go inside. Click here to see a larger collection of images from the visit.

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Top to bottom: the main house of the Criddle homestead; inside one of the biggest kitchens I have ever seen; the view through a second-floor bedroom.

September 06, 2006

80: Safe!

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I was watching the BBC series Planet Earth – specifically, an episode about mountains and mountain-dwelling creatures – and saw amazing footage of a mother panda tending to a cub in her den. I thought, that's the ultimate sense of security and safety. So for Illustration Friday's theme of safe, I decided to draw myself a bear for the first time. Bears may not seem to personify safety to most of us, but whatever a bear cradles in its massive clutches must. But on the verge of hokey-ness, I veered off course and decided that my bear should hold something else. But what? Kerry and I brainstormed over a drive on the long weekend. A duck (my guess)? A jar of hunny (her idea)? A piggy bank (mine)? A backpack (hers)? A big fat turkey drumstick (mine)?

In the end I go with a baseball. Why? No clue. Just a loose tie-in to another popular usage of the word safe. This bear says "safe" – and who's gonna argue with him?

This sketch was loosely based off of a black bear photo I dug up to use as reference. I loosely sketched in a thin pen and then went over most lines again, working the thickness of the lines with a brush pen. Colour was added in Photoshop using a palette based mostly from the reference photo and a downloaded sequence of custom brushes by Keith Bowman. You can click here for a closer look at the brush effect, and a portion of the final drawing.

September 04, 2006

Silver Sliver

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Photo Friday offers up a theme of silver – and I instantly recalled this abstract shot taken of the St. Louis Arch en route to New Orleans for Mardi Gras in 2005. Slight Photoshoppery was added to this image; I removed much of any colour reflected in the steel to make the silver tones stand out more. Jeopopolis stalwarts may remember this shot from my post for Illustration Friday's theme of reflection last summer.

August 30, 2006

Biking To The Viking (And Back)

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Top row (left to right): this is how we ride; me and "Pinks", the Rest Stop #2 clown. Middle row (left to right): Kerry in the country; Saturday afternoon welcoming committee; me and the Gimli Viking. Bottom row (left to right): nature calls on Sunday morning; the open road.

This past weekend's MS Society "Biking to the Viking" fundraising event was an eye-opener for me in terms of what I thought I could accomplish on a bicycle. Not that the ride was any back-breaking endeavour, but my previous high for kilometers in a single ride topped out at about 60, on either of my commutes home from work. But the bike tour, which covers 170 kilometers of unrolling Manitoba countryside over two days, had Kerry and I just a little concerned in advance about uncontrollable variables like wind, rain and gluteal endurance. I'm proud to say it went without a hitch (some rain, defying even that morning's forecast, did occur for the first 20 minutes or so of the ride and from then on it was calm, sunny and comfortable).

On the first day, traveling to our destination of Gimli, everything was new; stuff to look at, muscles to test out, a pace to set. Rest stops spaced intermittently along the route kept us well-fed with snacks (even if the promise of so many cookies failed to pan out). By the midway point of the day we were defying the pace we anticipated pedaling at, much faster than on the streets of the city. Bikers were jovial. Highway traffic remained unthreatening.

The return trip on Sunday looked to be the harder part – and it was, but not by much. Any soreness from Saturday was virtually nonexistent, but returned slowly over the course of the day – particularly in the you-know-what, and particularly for me, the you-know-wheres. Even the slight west wind put me down a notch, and after nearly seven hours of total ride time over the weekend, any semblance of conversation withered away and I spent time with my tired brain. I resorted to quietly singing to myself the only two songs I know by heart, With Or Without You and Rocky Raccoon, as Kerry rode a few meters ahead. And by mid-afternoon Sunday, after an exhausting final leg, it was over.

A good time, and a good feeling of accomplishment.

August 28, 2006

79: A Happy Accident

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This summertime snapshot of Kerry's nephew in Gimli was a happy accident on two fronts. Firstly, the photo itself was taken for reasons other than its outstanding 'blue-ness'; Duncan here had just finished his bubblegum-flavoured ice-cream cone and requested that I take a picture of his tongue, and of course I obliged. But in all honesty, I gave no thought to the fact he was wearing a blue shirt, that the ship tied to the dock behind him was awash in a new blue coat of paint, not even that he had blue eyes. My only goal was to get him out of the direct sunlight because the shadows were too harsh. But hey, accidents happen; and here I am the proud owner of one cool photo.

Secondly, the current theme running at PhotoFortnight was – appropriately enough – blue. So this photo also doubles as my no-thought-behind-it-whatsoever submission for the site's voters. The photo beat out this image below, an extreme closeup of the blossoming-like-mad morning glory vine in our backyard.

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