April 25, 2006

63: Housebot

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The next time I hear someone say they're headed to the bathroom to "do some thinking", I might be inclined to believe them. Never one to dilly-dally in the lavatory, this morning a strange thing happened: I was doing some "thinking" of my own and noticed, for the first time, just how much the bathroom cabinet reminds me of the giant metal-eating robot that menaced Manhattan in an old episode of The Amazing Spider-Man.

And, bam! This week's Illustration Friday theme just happens to be the word robot.

So this evening I took a number of shots of household objects – trying to keep in mind a similar perspective – and pieced together this photo-collage, using the cabinet as a base and then building from there. The feet/wheels are from our eco-friendly, push-powered lawnmower. One arm is a tripod; the other a hose from a hand-me-down vacuum cleaner. The antennae are made up from our reading lamp, and – aaaugh!!! It's taking the TV! Right in the middle of hockey playoffs!

April 19, 2006

62: Spotted Dick

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I like Illustration Friday's new theme, spotted. I can't put my finger on why; perhaps it's because it's not a word anyone can take and interpret in the multitudes of ways like the site's usual offerings. And when I learned the theme, my brain turned to word-association mode, and within a fraction of a second I had an idea: spotted dick.

Quit snickering.

But then I had to figure out what to do with it. And it only took a few seconds more for an image – the one you see here – to pop into my head. Then I prayed my hand could follow through with the picture my brain was set on; a caricature of Richard Nixon peppered with measles. For that I searched for pictures of Nixon that I could base my sketch from. A historical art buff might be able to tell that this caricature is based heavily from the painting of Nixon by Norman Rockwell that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.

My sketch began with pencil, then was inked over in pens of varying thicknesses and finally touched up with some quick shading (using a soft pencil for the skin tones and a black conté stick for the suit jacket and final touches on the face). Colour work, done in Photoshop, was done after erasing smudges and any wayward lines digitally. Sketching took two-and-a-half hours; colour and touchups, another two hours.

A larger image of the pre-Photoshop sketchwork can be seen here. It almost seemed a shame (to me) to add the colour and spots because I enjoy the original drawing so much – but then again, if it wasn't for I-F's theme it wouldn't have happened in the first place. Let me know what you think.

April 17, 2006

61: Zero To Sixty In Three Pushes

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Having not submitted to PhotoFortnight in awhile, I promised myself to create something for their latest theme of transport. With the snow gone and the bike out of the basement, I figured it was as good an opportunity as any to try to capture some biking shots. For a number of reasons this goal didn't pan out save for a single moment when I had the bike and camera handy at the same time, during a dreary lunch-hour at work last week when I attempted some in-motion shots. Maybe not the wisest idea, keeping an eye on the road and the viewfinder simultaneously, I took a couple pictures (above) – and scrapped the concept.

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Then on Saturday during a glorious long weekend, Kerry and I went to Bird's Hill Park just outside Winnipeg to see what's what in the country. We hung out at a swing set and I took several shots of what has become an annual ritual of mine: taking a photo of Kerry on the swings. I ended up submitting this picture (above) to PhotoFortnight for the theme, using a defence that the swing transports her in the immediate sense, but also back in time.

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But in hindsight, this outtake from the same shoot (above) is probably a better image. I liked my official submission because of her nonchalant pose and that it had no point of reference – she could be a foot or a mile off the ground – but looking at this second photo, there's probably something to being able to see the whole story. That's hindsight for you, though.

April 14, 2006

60: WWJD?

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This fast graphic stemmed from incidents at work where the company webmaster, would descend upon one of our designers who helps him out whenever there was a problem with the site. It was built from a pair of photos Рone of his hand, one of the rest of him Рand some quick Freehand framing work. It was then snuck onto the designer's monitor as a desktop image. But it's our larger goal to have this decal attain some form of pop-culture status, like those stenciled aerosol jobbies of Andr̩ the Giant's face that read obey.

April 09, 2006

Twelve O'Clock And Owl's Well

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Early April means it's time for the annual nocturnal owl survey, a spring ritual my friend Jason and I have done now for five years as part of a Manitoba Conservation study. Survey volunteers are able to choose any number of predetermined ten-mile routes across the province, and from the get-go we've always selected the most rugged and remote one possible: a dark, often hair-raising, ends-of-the-earth stretch of logging road leading from just north of Pine Falls into the gut of Nopiming Provincial Park – a beautiful wilderness I'd visit more often if it was passable for most vehicles. Washouts, washboarded gravel roads and recent overland flooding have made that a truth.

The trip always begins with a rest at the still-frozen Shoe Lake after the two-and-a-half hour drive from the city. We usually dawdle here while it gets dark (the survey begins a half-hour past sundown), and then head to the start of the route a few kilometers away. The route is broken down into one-mile stations with a two-minute listen at each stop. This year was ideal; no wind, a bright moon, temperature about zero. And it paid off, with no less than 14 owls (two long-eared, two barred, two boreal and eight saw-whet owls) heard over 20 stations – our previous high being four. Also heard in the dark were the wing-thumping courtships of ruffed grouse, the overhead whistling of flying ducks, one unknown ground-pawing creature in the bushes and other odd noises that sounded like empty mustard bottles being squeezed.

I love the owl survey. It's always the first chance of the year I get to really disappear from the city and winter, and out in the park and along the routes we're often literally the only people for miles. I love the quiet and the near-creepiness of the deep boreal woods at night, and that it only takes two hours in these parts to truly "get lost".

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top: a lonely stretch of logging road north of Pine Falls, nearing midnight. above (clockwise from top left): a busted CD player meant we were back to the classics; Jason's new GPS unit shines on a particularily bumpy part of the road; the almost-full moon; the still-frozen Shoe Lake at sunset.

April 06, 2006

59: Arrivals

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I promise that after this, I'll lay off the birds - but Illustration Friday dammit, sends out a theme of spring and what am I supposed to do? Around these parts, spring doesn't start until the droning exhausts of city plows and the styrofoam crunch of snow underfoot gets replaced by the sound of certain birds not heard from in months. First crows and gulls, then Canada geese, followed by robins, killdeers, ducks and the rest. I heard my first robin this morning outside my bedroom window, and the first killdeer at work this afternoon. The marsh is frozen here at work but that hasn't stopped a thousand geese (or so) from showing up already and beetling each other for the best territory. It's reaffirming to know that it's finally tolerable enough outside for creatures other than parka-clad humans and the occasional chickadee.

This was a quick exercise in making final art directly from a doodle. To be honest, this was an incomplete doodle from a couple of years ago, reborn into this piece. The rough pencil sketch was strengthened, then scanned directly and cleaned up, to a point, where some colour could be added ... albeit quickly, because it's late. And it's spring, and warmer things are on my slowly thawing mind.

April 02, 2006

58: The HOWieZine Cometh, Part IV

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At long last, the latest edition of the
HOWieZine is en route to its contributors. It seems like ages since I actually pieced these pages together; back in a time when I was younger, it was still nuts-cold outside and I had a full-out soul patch that annoyed Kerry to no end.

The latest (and greatest) HOWieZine theme is superheroes – a concept that never ceases to inspire the illustrator or designer within (or kid, for that matter). I have to admit right now though that growing up I was never into the comic-book-and-superhero subculture. But I was aware of the basics. And I was determined to pay homage to the theme of superheroes in its purest sense, at least for one page. I set out to draw Superman for the first time. That turned out to be the inspiration behind my first page, and this one-panel comic is what I came up with (surrounded by some of my all-time favourites).

My somewhat scrawny Superman was drawn in pen and coloured in Photoshop. I added an artificial halftone pattern at the very end to merge better with the surrounding strips, and the font I used was Fanboy Hardcore. A bigger version of this page can be seen here.

Unfortunately for me at the time, all my brainpower and time went into this first page, and with the "deadline" looming I hadn't given myself much for the second page. But this led to a much freer concept for the back-side, so behold! Eiderman!

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Eiderman came about during a department meeting. A co-worker friend and I both share an affinity for the classic Spider-Man cartoon series, and when discussing a company eider study in Newfoundland somebody unintentionally mentioned the words "eider man", I muttered "eiderman" to him in a gruff Rhino voice and we lost it.

Out of time constraints, Eiderman was done up collage-style. The figure drawings are from an old how-to-draw book and the common eider head was nabbed from a field guide. Feathers were scanned; the 'wings' are a pattern scanned from a feather off a mallard's speculum and the frame is made from owl feathers I found as a kid. The background is a bit of Photoshop hoopty-doo and the lyrics (sing 'em loud!) were hand-written and scanned. Click here for a closer look.

It's true about eiders, too – and of most ducks: once the dirty deed is done, males pretty much disappear from the whole parenting scene. In a sense then, Eiderman is the superhero of deadbeat dads everywhere.