March 29, 2006

It Was The Best Of Ads, It Was The Worst Of Ads

Image hosting by Photobucket
An annual rite of spring for me is the Winnipeg Art Gallery's screening of
the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. Shortly after moving here in 1982, my mom started taking us to see this display of the world's best TV commercials – and I've gone every year since. The most recent collection was pretty much on par, but not as many laugh-out-loud entries as in years past. A British series for high-speed internet, a beautifully animated two-minute French ad for safe sex and Spike Jonze's Adidas spot featuring the voice of Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were definite highlights. If the Lions ever come to your town, check 'em out.

This was coupled with a Tuesday screening of Kubasa In A Glass: Winnipeg TV Commercials (1978-1993) – a 6o-minute collection of extremely rare local advertising – and a who's-who and what's-what of visions I had, until this night, buried deep in my subconscious. The stomach-churning superimposed spots for Clifford's. The provincial government's "Break Free" stop-smoking campaign featuring Luba (!). The reach-out-to-the-youth effort from the local curling association (spiky hair, mullets, denim – to the tune of Bryan Adams' "The Kids Wanna Rock"). From Stan Kubicek's signature moustache to K-Tel slicer/dicers, from Nick Hill to Hunky Bill and his fantabulous perogy-making device – including a gutbusting segment of F-bomb-ridden outtakes from an old local program about RVs – it was all there in shocking LO-FI video brilliance. Our city's advertising sector has a great deal to be ashamed of.

March 20, 2006

57: Crowfoot

Image hosting by Photobucket
Illustration Friday showcases the word feet this week. And what started out as a concept in my head to show a delicate and intricate sketch of a bird's foot turned into this odd scene of a crow launching from a branch with its feet dangling behind. Originally meant to be just feet of an unseen flying bird suspended in the air, I couldn't find suitable enough reference material to use (I thought I had a photo around but realized I was imagining the crow from the opening credits of Six Feet Under).

So instead, this sketch ended up coming straight out of my head.

The crow and branches were silhouettes drawn in pen, while the background texture was made with watercolours. The two were scanned and merged in Photoshop; snow, text forms and the crow's eye were added digitally. Click here for a more detailed look.

March 17, 2006

56: Illustrator For Hire

Image hosting by Photobucket
I've done the occasional spot of freelance design work in my time, but I don't always actively pursue it. I've got a nice job that keeps me comfortably in my decidedly un-lavish lifestyle. On the indirect advice of my dad once to not bring my work home with me – and since I abhor stress – I made a decision some time ago to try and always have ample time to do fun things. Since Jeopopolis started, healthy portions of that ample time have gone towards creating all the stuff on display here.

Image hosting by Photobucket
But on Tuesday – from out of the clear blue sky – I received an email from a fellow designer on the HOW forum in regards to a quick jobbie he needed by Thursday morning (the request was to create a 5" X 5" illustration for a fiction excerpt in a magazine). And I took the challenge for my first-ever freelance illustration assignment. On my Tuesday evening commute, I read over the excerpt (a taught newsroom showdown between a scrappy journalist, his editor and their bottom-line-worshipping publisher). I quickly envisioned two illustration scenarios and chose one.

Later that night I took reference photos to set up this composite (above right; that's me versus me there) to help scope it out better, and snapped other photos of various newspaper pages for the background. By midnight I had finished the sketchwork, then quickly pieced together this rough Photoshop file (below right) to show the idea on Wednesday morning. But because of the time constraints, I was nervous about approval; I wouldn't be able to incorporate any potential changes until after work on Wednesday, and it was due the following morning. Fortunately, any feared changes didn't pan out – sans one minor detail – and I was able to craft a final submission after my Spanish dance class on Wednesday night. And by half-past midnight, it was complete.

Image hosting by Photobucket
You might notice the final piece is a bit familiar: I borrowed heavily from this Illustration Friday submission of mine from last summer – again, that's because of the quick turnaround time. Under the circumstances, I had scant time to brainstorm – so, draw what you know, essentially. I had no qualms with that, and like how the final result turned out. In my rationale I described how the character of the publisher was shown as an obstacle and how I attempted to show the chaos and clutter of the newsroom. The background is made up of the photographed newspaper clippings (ones that best fit the plot of the excerpt I was given), a simple wash of colour to emulate faded newsprint and a few coffee stains – but I don't drink coffee so I had to use red wine instead.

March 13, 2006

New Additions

Image hosting by Photobucket
It's March, so I'm finally getting around to finishing up Kerry's birthday presents from November. This screen-print (above left) I bought for her in the fall because she laughed hard after seeing it at the Cream Gallery's Love 2005 exhibit last Valentine's Day. It's called Always Swim With A Buddy, by Daryl Vocat – and the print and frame (added just this past weekend) measure about three feet square. Kerry likes laughing at underpants, namely a scene in The Royal Tenenbaums with a framed sketch of tighty-whities on the wall – and scenes in Spongebob Squarepants where he's walking around in his skivvies. It's our centrepiece now, right above the puffy red couch.

This salmon-coloured critter (above right) isn't a birthday present, just a total impulse buy. I remember seeing these UglyDolls on the net once, and promptly forgot about them – until we saw this thing in a shop-window in Osborne Village after drinks with co-workers Friday night. Maybe it was the booze, but we now have the fortune of sleeping with it nightly. Nah, we like it ("It's got thumbs", Kerry giggles).

March 06, 2006

55: This Sucks

Image hosting by Photobucket
The week's Illustration Friday theme was insect, a fact of life people here in Winnipeg know all too well. And just like the real thing, this digi-mosquito gave me a tough time; the difference between the original concept that buzzed in my head this past weekend and the final result you see here was drastic. But I stuck it out with the beast and came out with this finished jobbie, a merging of a few different styles I've been playing with a lot these days (sketchy pen-and-ink, scattered vector shapes, various overlays).

This mosquito ties in with the very first illustration I posted on this site over a year ago. In my blogging infancy I up-and-decided to draw a horse – something I had never drawn before, to see if I could. And this week I've sketched myself my very first insect, though with the generous aid of a photograph. Even still the photo didn't provide strong detail, and outside of basic shapes and parts I ended up drawing a fair chunk of this fella out of my butt*. Total sketching time was about three hours, some while watching the Academy Awards (Kerry was so happy that Philip Seymour Hoffman won).

Meshing the sketch with my idea for it was a mess at first. The detail of the line-art wasn't gelling with the concept, and after tinkering with a few compromises I eventually settled on this result with a much simpler colour palette and some type inserted as a last-minute addition. I may revisit this bugger and simplify it even further, but for now I wanted to show as much of the original mosquito sketchwork as possible.

* figure of speech

March 02, 2006


Image hosting by Photobucket
I'm having a rough go of it at work of late. I'm currently working on what is both the most frustrating and potentially most rewarding project in my time spent there, but as it stands now, it's leaning heavily towards the former. The details I'll spare, but it's wearing me down to the point that I was even sick for a few days recently.

And just before I skew this blog dangerously towards the stereotypical (stats show nine out of ten blogs are about either cats, high school enemies or bitching-about-work), I'll veer sharply and reveal what I believe to be the true root cause of the problem: Taco the turtle.

Taco the spiny soft-shelled turtle – the cutest, friendliest and most awesomest resident of the interpretive centre where I work – died earlier this winter. Taco lived in an aquarium in the large exhibit hall at the opposite end of the building when I first showed up in 1998 and has been there through thick and thin ever since. Whenever I became consumed with stress, creative block or frustration, I'd go see Taco. His skinny pig-nose and flapping flippers never failed to shake whatever low mood I was in, and within minutes – or some cases, seconds – I'd head back to the desk and be ready to go again.

I guess I was on a roll through most of the winter. I hadn't seen Taco in weeks before I dropped by for a visit near Christmas, to find the tank empty. There's a little painted turtle in it now, but he/she's just not cutting it.