July 25, 2006

Swan Song

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Photo Friday's theme-of-the-week – common – reminds me of this image I took when Kerry and I were on a 2003 holiday to Ireland. Mute swans, like these ones packed together in Galway harbour looking for handouts, are common across the pond, but have only localized populations in North America – mostly in city parks and zoos.

July 17, 2006

74: Summer Break

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Top row (left to right): Me and Kerry at the Winnipeg Folk Festival; teaching Duncan to make an origami crane; Kerry searches for a seat at the festival's afternoon Sadies concert. Middle row (left to right): Anna mugs; skipping stones at dusk; Anna gives her brother a boost on the Gimli pier. Bottom row (left to right): Sunday sunrise, Lake Winnipeg; on the porch on a hot evening, curing what ails me.

I'm shutting down for an indefinite amount of time, for a variety of reasons - some good, some not so good. Firstly, it's summer – and I'm having a harder and harder time justifying the act of using my time to sit at the computer tinkering with photos or crafting other creative jobbies while it's either too sweltering or too beautiful outside to fully devote myself. Also, with summer come summer doldrums – recently I’ve found my ability to concept is outracing my ability to properly execute; too often I'm scrapping ideas at the sketchbook stage for lack of craft, concentration or the seemingly outright ability to draw. This I have to attend to on my own, without the self-imposed pressure of posting stuff here each week (this sounds strange as I type it, but it's oddly true).

On the plus side, the days ahead are also busy with fun and fantastic things. The Winnipeg Fringe Festival will roll into gear this Wednesday, and Kerry and I plan to get our fill before the end of next weekend when my sister, her partner and my niece come for her inaugural visit to Manitoba. Quickly on the heels of this is a visit from my dad. Then it will be the all-too-brief local corn season, and fingers will be far too messy to type. And then it will be the MS Society's "Biking To The Viking" event, a 170-kilometer weekend charity ride to Gimli, which Kerry and I are attempting for the first time. The thought of a strong north wind scares me even now, more than a full month in advance.

In the meantime, I have to quickly cobble together a concept for the fall edition of the HOWieZine (theme: pirates) for mailing to the States next week. And below I've attached submissions to both PhotoFortnight (theme: work) and Photo Friday (theme: remarkable), to fill the void.

Have fun with your summer. I'll be back as soon as I rediscover my creative mojo.

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Above: a penned goose at an organic strawberry farm. The geese are let out to the fields while the berries are still green, and devour just the weeds. While they also adore overripe berries, they do not touch the good ones – nice work if you can get it.

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Above: my remarkable niece Cadence at six weeks. Nearing her second birthday, Cadence is about to make her first trip to Winnipeg.

July 09, 2006

73: The HowieZine Cometh, Part V

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Summer brings with it the latest incarnation of the HowieZine (I won't describe the project again, but you can click here for all the info you'd ever want). Themed lost toys, the seventh issue of the group project might seem easily comparable to HowieZine 5 (theme: lost and found), and the new theme gave contributors possibly the tightest boundaries yet to work with. However, the narrow focus made me really think hard for a suitable angle, and the search for inspiration led me to a standout childhood moment when I lost one of my favourite toys – an Inuit ookpik named Ija – on a Greyhound bus trip to my grandparents.

I wanted to build something akin to a scrapbook page, and I remembered I had written a book about it as a class project in elementary school. So the zine page was essentially written by me – as a ten-year-old kid. All I had to do as a 30-year-old adult was to find the words in the book, scan them and turn them into a cohesive Coles notes version of what went down that day in 1985. About 90 per cent of the words popped up in the book; the remainder I had to create by building an alphabet out of individually-scanned letterforms (this led to a few moments chastising my kid-self for not having a better vocabulary – and misspelling Winnipeg, my home town for chrissakes!).

Once the story was pieced together, the visual elements fell into place – including a doodle of Ija, a photo of my brother, me and some ookpik toys, and a scanned excerpt from my diary the day it all went down. The backside of the zine page (below) features a self-written bio from the original grade six book project. You can click here for a closer look at the layout of the first page.

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July 07, 2006

72: Waterbabies

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The folks over at Photo Friday have, suitably enough, offered up a weekly theme of summer. And summer was no more apparent last weekend at the lake as we celebrated Canada Day. Above and below are a couple of my favourite pictures from the lake in summer. The first is Kerry at the base of the swimmers' pier taken just last Saturday, a calm and muggy day where the grey/beige lake and a blanched sky merged with a near-invisible horizon. Below is a photo taken a couple of summers ago of Kerry's nephew at a beach a few kilometres north. In both images I was fascinated by the subject's sense of calm and isolation while being dwarfed by a giant expanse of sky.

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July 03, 2006

71: Wood(s)tick

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I wasn't set to do an Illustration Friday submission this week. The site's theme of sti
cky had me thinking of a couple of ideas, but I didn't follow up. Then – as it is often prone to do – inspiration came crawling across the floor and up my leg, this time in the form of a woodtick. Ticks can be sticky things (or stick-y, in a truer sense of the word), but fortunately this bloodsucker didn't get the opportunity. Instead, it earned a date with the department scanner at its highest power of magnification, and immortality not in the literal sense (that I made certain) – but rather as the centerpiece of this quick digital concoction. So bear with me in that no illustration ever took place to build this; instead, try to view it as a form of performance art – and a fast bit of summer fun.

Those less squeamish can click here for a closer look at a scanned wood tick. The rainbow effect on both images was a happy accident; but that's what you get when you don't stay still while being scanned at a bazillion DPI.

Celebrate! (Célébrez!)

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Top (left to right): Kerry on the pier's parallel bars; a farm goose shows her good side; I show off my long weekend stubble. Center (left to right): a goose ate my camera lens!; me and Kerry; the pier from below on a hazy day. Bottom (left to right): precious berries; precious Kerry; an incredibly purple flower.

Two of my favourite holidays happen a week apart, and one of 'em ain't even Christmas. Canada Day marks the beginning of July and this year it was spent at Kerry's parents' cottage in Whytewold – a block from Lake Winnipeg and an hour or so north of the city. The cottages on this side of the lake are a throwback – many left untouched for decades – giving the village a distinct and timeless feeling, with just about the only cottages left in the country still attainable to the common man. And with the exception of a few long-weekend revelers, it's a quiet and relaxing destination where time slows down. The lanes are gravel, the birds and dragonflies fill the air and lanky wooden piers are rebuilt every summer to help swimmers over the stony shores.

On the other end of the spectrum, let me introduce to you my coworkers Jacques' and Nathalie's annual St-Jean-Baptiste Day party. Kerry and I dropped in on last year's revelry, which was extra-celebratory on account of a visiting Mexican deligation to work that Jacques invited. But with or without the Latin tinge, the party held at their house in the city's french district is fast becoming legendary – complete with bonfire, all the joie de vivre one could ask for and toasts of Caribou (fortified wine) on the quarter-hour. The day, originally held in honour of the patron saint of Québec (St. John the Baptist), now marks the Fête nationale du Québec – an official stat holiday recognized only in that province.

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Top (left to right): Jacques prepares the obligatory Caribou; I acquire the mark of approval; Dusty looks the part. Center (left to right): Kerry and I get cultured; our umpteenth toast of the evening. Bottom (left to right): It ain't a party without a fiddler; un petit feu keeps the bugs away; house party!