February 26, 2007

104: Ill Communication

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I like to think I can understand french, living as I do in an officially bilingual nation. Truth is, I don't. But I also do – somewhat. Working for many years at a national non-profit conservation organization, my knowledge of our second language is limited primarily to the words of the trade: I know my ducks in french (ruddy duck, my fave = érismature rousse). I know a volunteer is a bénévole. And a few other things. So for Illustration Friday's current theme of communication, I present this. Dropped into an actual confrontation with a francophone, it's fair to say I would be equally inept at conversation as this poor guy.

Incidentally, please do not misconstrue that I believe all french-speaking folk to be six-eyed – I was merely trying to better highlight how lost the chap on the left actually is. Click here for a closer, more detailed look at the finished product (then click on the magnifying glass icon).

February 19, 2007

103: Losing Out To Gravity

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
I haven't done an honest-to-goodness Illustration Friday submission since t
he middle of December. To be truthful, I haven't had much urge to draw since Christmas – but I'm not bothered that these ebbs and flows happen. It's just like I mentioned earlier, I've been having fun with my camera (which is evident over on Flickr), and primarily at the expense of drawing. But I saw through this sketch I did on the weekend and coloured quickly this evening, and now present my submission for I-F's current theme of gravity.

The concept? Simple enough: an unfortunate fellow who's lost the battle with gravity. Maybe some of you checking in can relate. I'm not there myself (nor do I ever intend to be), but I can relate somewhat with the gradual fight with getting older – to be specific, a current battle with a sore back that painfully came to light last week in a ball-hockey match with whippersnappers close to ten years my junior.

A closer look at this illustration can be had over on my Flickr base (click here, then hit the magnifying glass icon to view).

February 18, 2007


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Last night Kerry and I saw one of our favourite performers, Idaho singer-songwriter Josh Ritter, on tour and promoting his stellar 2006 album The Animal Years. We first got a glimpse of him opening for Sarah Harmer for a show at Pantages in October 2005, and bought into his craft and style immediately. I brought my camera to the West End Cultural Centre; I've been harbouring a wish to get a smaller camera to accent my Rebel for months, to use for stuff like this, but since it's winter I figured I'd tuck the big thing under my coat. It was dark and I tried about 20-30 shots, of which I think three worked out (they're over on Flickr). It was a great show. He's a strong singer and a sublimely skilled writer, and equally fine and with the banter. I missed his band, but he's a captivating presence on his own and seemed genuinely enthused with the city – mentioning his newfound crush on Manitoba curling champ Jennifer Jones – and talked of bringing his whole crew another time. Next up for us is a show with local alt-hipsters Nathan, a CD release of their new album Key Principles.

My sister mentioned to me that she was looking here for movie recommendations, which I used to do at one time. Since the fall we've seen our fair share of good stuff, including more than a few Oscar hopefuls. For me, The Departed, Volver, Babel, Children Of Men and The Last King Of Scotland come first to mind, though they're all in their own way tough to watch and need a specific (re: serious) mood to appreciate. The Pursuit Of Happyness was what I'd call quality feelgood fluff (toss Little Miss Sunshine in that catagory also). I'd recommend wintertime successes like Borat and Casino Royale, which filled their roles admirably as exqusitely squeam-inducing and revved-up, smart action fare, respectively. Who Killed The Electric Car and The U.S. vs John Lennon were decent, though biased, documentaries. And The Queen was solid, though I felt I needed to be a few more decades older to really feel that one (it's slow-moving, but Helen Mirren is fabbo). We saw one dud that we could agree on, that being The Good Shepherd. Steer clear.

February 10, 2007

102: Threesome

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Still cold outside, and dementia is setting in. But instead of simply caving, I figured I'd attempt to harness some of it – specifically through my camera lens. This picture represents some of the results. Rather than describe the mood that inspired this photo session (because there's more, believe you me), I thought I'd detail the process that turned the raw image into this delicately Photoshopped final piece. It wasn't that difficult.

I first set up the shot. Recently I purchased a new sheet of that puke-green vinyl desk covering to protect the soft pine table in our attic. I used it for this shoot, taping it to the wall and flowing it over the desk to help eliminate background edges and shadows. It would fill the screen and allow for easy close-cutting in case I would follow that route (and I did). I used the tripod since I wanted to use the fading natural light in the room.

In Photoshop I cropped it to a square, duplicated the image and set about close-cutting the three animals on the copied layer (simple, since all the edges were so sharp). Once finished, I was able to tinker with the hue and saturation of the background without affecting the animals, mainly taking some sting out of the awful green coloured vinyl.

To get the desired effect on the animals, I pumped up the contrast some – but mostly it was setting their stand-alone layer mode to multiply, and then duplicating it to create even more contrast. There was some dodging and burning involved, to bring back some of the highlights in the elephant's dark body and to keep the armadillo's flanks from completely whiting out.

Back to the base layer, I added a circular gradient (olive-green to white) – set to multiply mode – to create a subtle central background highlight and darken the image's edges. I darkened the frame even more with the burn tool and finally added the edge effects with a myriad of downloaded custom brushes, their opacity set low (about 20 per cent), again set to multiply mode. And like I mentioned, there's more to see over on my Flickr site from this shoot, and closer looks at the detail on them. Below is the original shot.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting