December 29, 2008

Ought Eight

I've done this four times now since the inception of Jeopopolis – take a gander through the calendar year's output, grid them together in one lump and look them over one final time before the next year commences. Just to make sure I'm still doing good, to make sure it still makes me happy. And – sans a couple of dry spots and busy spells – for the most part I am still, on both counts. So, I will keep doing it. And I hope you keep watching, reading and remain encouraging. The commentary I receive always means so much.

December 22, 2008

170: Voicing On Nibbles

Illustration Friday's pre-Christmas theme is voices. And for a few short years during my childhood, the voice of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve must have sounded an awful lot like the nocturnal squeaks of my pet gerbil.

My memory is hazy when it comes to so many key childhood moments. I dislike myself about that. One notable – and timely – example is the circumstances surrounding the suspension of my belief in Santa Claus. I don't remember the secret being spoiled in the schoolyard, by TV or my bigger siblings. But I was usually one to quickly deduce things – even minutiae like how similar Santa's handwriting was to my mom's. But pre-dating this discovery, my brother and I owned a pair of gerbils – Friend (his) and Nibbles (mine, making for an awesome what's-your-pornstar-name: Nibbles Kingswood). And as those formative Christmases rolled by, fewer presents arrived in my stocking or under the tree from Santa – and more began arriving from Nibbles. Then following Friend's and Nibbles' brief gerbilian lifespans, Christmas gifts then became the exclusive responsibility of my family.

And that was pretty much that. A nice, smooth transition, no questions asked.

So in honour of my childhood proxy Santa – Nibbles the gerbil – I sat down and attempted my first real attempt at sketching her, something I never did as a kid when Nibbles was alive and chewing happily through our discarded toilet paper rolls.

You can click here to see a closer look at the pen detail.

December 19, 2008

169: Pine For Thee

Presenting our latest piece of work: the 2008 entry into our pantheon of living room Christmas trees. This is the fourth Christmas tree in our house, and quite possibly the biggest – though that was never our intention, after last year's behemoth found itself representing in the front yard after it was found to be too big for our New Year's Eve wedding. But it's amazing how a flattened and frozen tree on the lot can turn into a colossus once it unfurls itself in the comfort of our home. Next year it's a smaller one. Promise.

Before it was decorated this thing was intimidating, glowering as we sat on the sofa. It came from our lot of choice – and the frozen soul who runs it – outside the Grant Park Zellers; a locally-grown red pine that was strapped to our Civic like a rack of brontosaurus ribs.

Be sure to nab a better view (and different angle) over here, on Flickr.

Merry Christmas, blog-o-sphere!

December 09, 2008

168: Yavatar

Here's me – continuing my playing around with the macro lens – shooting a familiar subject, the little stone ookpik sculpture that has eventually become my brand. I continue to use a vectorized version of this fellow – that I made in Freehand a few years ago – as my avatar here and on a handful of other internet haunts. And during yesterday's Creative Night (following a failed drawing), I sat down and tested just how accurate my hand and eye are at manual focusing with my ookpik and our red sofa.

December 02, 2008

167: Balloons Save Lives

I go through doldrums like any creatuve type, and they tend to hit my psyche hard. I get down on myself. So Kerry and I first tried the concept of "Creative Night" – her as writer, me as illustrator – last January, resulting in this drawing of a painted bunting for Illustration Friday's theme of "stitch". For one reason or another, Creative Night didn't take – but we resurrected it a few weeks ago after I went a pallid stretch of about three months without drawing a single thing (except for this doodle), and since then I've reeled off submissions for Illustration Friday's past three themes of "pretend", "opinion" and now balloon. My entry was inspired by a sequence of photos in an old National Geographic I read, in which a leopard seal literally whip-lashed the skin right off a penguin for a meal. And I thought, well, a balloon might have helped that penguin.

Critters drawn separately using calligraphic and brush pens; image seamed together in Photoshop. Click here for access to a more detailed view.

November 29, 2008


Act now!

*edit* I scanned this from a 1965 Life magazine – an issue commemorating the first American space-walk – that I picked up at Aqua Books the other day. But if this offer existed today, I would be first in line. A trip in a bushplane is another one of my life-long wishes.

November 24, 2008

166: Opinions Are Like Belly Buttons...

... everybody's got one. That's the inspiration behind my submission for Illustration Friday's fun theme of opinion. And really, there's not a whole lot to say after that.

I went with this variation after doodling a few concepts while watching Patrick Roy Night on Hockey Night In Canada (after a pre-psychotic Theo Fleury, Roy was my favourite player growing up). Perhaps he served as a subconscious inspiration, as Mr. Roy let fly more than a few of his opinions over his career.

After scanning, I cleaned up a few errant sketchy bits, removed a shticky speech bubble, and then added the subtle background and typography (Rosewood Fill is the face; overused, but I still enjoy it). There's plenty of ink detail, lost in this view, that can be seen larger here on Flickr.

November 19, 2008

165: The Great Pretender

Illustration Friday's theme of pretend painted an image in my head fairly quick – that of a half-mechanical "pretend bird" caricature, featuring a spring-loaded musical note shooting from a wide-open beak. Early doodles on a piece of grid paper reflected this, but somewhere along in the process my allegiances switched from the original concept to what you see here – a far less literal interpretation featuring the original musical note which now may or may not appear spring-loaded anymore (nor the bird mechanical). But since my intentions were honest – and I mostly devoted myself to the cause – I figured I'd still enter this under Illustration Friday's theme. I'd be more worried if I never diverted from an illustration's original course.

Drawn in varying thicknesses of Pigma Micron pen (mostly the .005 and .05 nibs, brush pen and Graphic 1 pen), then scanned and coloured in Photoshop. The musical note and surrounding circle were created in Illustrator and stitched into the line art before colouring. For a bigger and better look at the detail, please click here.

November 16, 2008

164: New Toy

Top row
(left to right): Pop Wagner, performing in a weekend house concert; barite rose, from my rockhound days as a kid. Middle row (left to right): home sweet home on my Wii control; patterns in stained glass. Bottom row (left to right): back off, get yer own tasty sammich; extreme salt shaker action.


With the money I earned from leasing this photo to the City of Winnipeg to use on their website, I treated myself to an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens for my Rebel. And I am absolutely loving it at the moment; I've barely even scratched the surface of what it can do to improve my game. It's just fun to see things around the house – little things, particularly – in a whole new light.

Some of these are available for closer inspection on Flickr.

November 08, 2008

163: Jellybean Is Wise

In honour of Illustration Friday's current theme of wise, I present this (mostly) digital concoction of my wife – one of the wisest decisions I've ever made. Based quite literally from my favourite photo of her, it was an exercise largely in texturing and layering, and trying something in the way of a technique that perhaps I'm not so comfortable with – probably why it took me the larger part of an entire day to get it down pat. She's currently in Montréal on a five-day, work-related conference, and shortly after she returns it'll be her birthday. So... happy birthday, jellybean.

Don't you be so mean, my beauty queen, my movie screen
Don't you be so mean, my jellybean, my Boston Cream
Blow November blow, my sweetheart home, before the snow
Blow November blow, my sweetheart home, before the snow

"Don't Be So Mean, Jellybean" by Justin Rutledge (though I'm not sure he came up with it).

There's a bigger version of this available for gawking, right over here. Please take a look.

November 05, 2008

Fifty Bucks Well Spent

Thanks to my now-married friend Allan ­ – and the iTunes gift card he bestowed on his groomsmen earlier this fall – I was able to unabashedly walk into Apple's virtual shop recently and haul ass with a basket of all manner of aural goodies. I'm working on being more in tune with tunes; this list of music that I'm currently appreciating muchly comes thanks to a few sources: CBC Radio 3 and NPR podcasts, the recently (and nicely) reformatted CBC Radio 2 late-night programming, my occasional Illadelphian music hook-up Melissa (and husband) ­ – and of course Al, who provided the coin as part of a most incredible gesture. Thanks again.


"Hey Modern School Girl " – *The Awkward Stage, Slimming Mirrors, Flattering Lights
"The Sun Will Set" – Bombazine Black, Here Their Dreams
"Frenchy's" & "The Pulse" – *Holy Fuck, LP
"Acid Tongue" – Jenny Lewis, Acid Tongue
"Hello Tomorrow " – Karen O. & Squeak E. Clean (single from the 2006 Adidas commercial)
"Body Of Years" – *Mother Mother, O My Heart
"Cocaine Cowgirl" – *Matt Mays & El Torpedo, Matt Mays & El Torpedo
"All The Old Showstoppers" – *The New Pornographers, Challengers
"Life In Parentheses" – *Novillero, A Little Tradition
"How Can You Be Sure" – Radiohead, Fake Plastic Trees (single)
"Believe In Me" – *Sloan, Parallel Play
"Time Machine" – *Sweatshop Union, Water Street


Summer Rains – The Ditty Bops
*Ongiara – Great Lake Swimmers
Till The Sun Turns Black – Ray LaMontagne
Time Without Consequence – Alexi Murdoch

* Canadian content!

October 27, 2008

162: Zoomanity!

Above: four stages of snowy owl stink-eye, two gut-heavy prairie dogs and one Kerry, practicing her birch-bark biting on the Hunt Lake hiking trail.


The weekend previous was salvation. Fall here is sometimes mercilessly brief, and following a most miserable Thanksgiving weekend it looked bleak for lovers of the season. But Big Weather tossed us in Manitoba a life preserver last weekend and we made good use of it, squeezing in a day of hiking on our favourite trail in the Whiteshell and a trip to the zoo to
fulfill my need to see the owls at least once a year.

The Whiteshell was in fine form, even if almost all the leaves had fallen. The park was quiet, virtually empty of critters (the sole highlight was a scavenging red fox that circled our weenie-fire in the evening). And Owl Row did not disappoint either, though one snowy was so perplexing we ran out of time to see almost anything else, barring some extraordinarily obese prairie dogs. But this owl, hopefully she is OK; despite making comical expressions and interesting photos, her stretch-and-yawn act every 15-20 seconds made me believe something is not alright with this poor thing.

Closer looks at a few of these shots can currently be had, o'er on Flickr.

October 21, 2008

161: The Couch Trip

I've been neglecting this site. But rest assured, I've concocted a methodology here to boost productivity: well-dressed clones.

These were results of a recent bout of Photoshop play-time and a rental tuxedo, courtesy of Allan's wedding (mentioned previously). I moved nearly every scrap of living room furniture to pull this off; stuff was either in the frame or casting a shadow in the frame (the lamp remained; I enjoy its slight hindrance to the overall symmetry of the photos).

I had some questions about the lighting: it's natural – there's a bank of windows six feet or so to the right and another set about 15-20 feet to the left, with diffused late afternoon light coming from the right. The dimming of light reaching the corners of these shots is artificial, the result of adding gradated duplicate layers in Photoshop set to multiply mode. Some additional (subtle) dodging and burning was done to other portions; the artwork on the wall, the sides of my face(s), etc.

With a tripod, I took sequences of timed photos of myself on all three couch cushions. These ones, looking directly forward, worked out the best, but a quick second series with my own wedding suit created some options also. Let me tell you though, this is it for me and neckties for awhile – those things were giving me a rash after some time, creating yet another patch job in Photoshop.


October 10, 2008

Flickr: Get Bent!

As promised, here are some accounts of Flickr image requests that were unscrupulous, crassly commercial or rubbed me the wrong way, either eventually or right off the bat.

The ask:
"I am working on Mazda customer magazines,
Zoom-Zoom. We have a section for people to submit their own groovy photos, I think your "Swing High" (above, top left) one will be perfect for our Zoom Zoom moments. I hope you can get in touch with me and let me know you are up for this."

The response/outcome: I own a Honda. Get bent.

The ask:
"I am writing to let you know that one of your photos (above, top center) ... has been short-listed for inclusion in the fourth edition of our Schmap
New York Guide, to be published early December 2007."

The background: Schmap runs a successful series of online and download-able travel/tourism 'guides' for a multitude of cities around the world, and have a fairly honest reputation with Flickr users. However, they are still a commercial operation, and fair is fair: if you're making money, the folks you glean your photos from should be making money. Yes, even if it's a pittance.

The response/outcome: I'm a tiny bit sorry, but get bent.

The ask:
"My name is ______, working at LIZ Editions, Paris, France.
I have the pleasure to announce that your photograph (above, top right) has been selected to be published in this photographic book Red Inspiration! This book ... brings together 300 of the most pertinent photos illustrating this powerful color. At the end of the book, there is a Photographer Directory that lists the web address where you can be contacted – to consult your biography or any information concerning your photo (legend, anecdotes, copyright). Edited by LIZ Editions, the LIZ-books (a total of 96 works, including Red Inspiration) present elite photos taken by those who show a particular passion for the art of photography as well as young professionals."

The background: a search on Flickr's help forum details many folks' experiences with this same request. Turns out this outfit sells a whole line of colour-themed photography books on the backs of the most naïve, desperate and attention-hungry Flickr users, and sells them for upwards of $40 a copy through retailers like Amazon. They're turning profits, plain and simple, and not passing it on to photographers who make these books even possible. That's sh*tty business practice. Lowest of the low.

The response/outcome:
Get bent. Big time.

The ask: "My name's _____ and I'm an intern at Just to let you know, NowPublic is running a news story on American Idol and your photo(s) (above, bottom left) would be an excellent addition. If you're interested in sharing it, please follow the links below and feel free to add your own comment as well. Looking forward to seeing your work on the site!"

The background: NowPublic is a "crowd-sourced, participatory news network that mobilizes an army of reporters to cover the events that define our world" – essentially citizen journalism. However, since crowd-sourcing is currently a blight in my chosen industry, I don't really wish to endorse it in other fields, either.

The response/outcome: Get bent.

The ask:
"I am designing a website for Destination Winnipeg, intended to attract people to Winnipeg.
I wanted to see whether I could use some of your pictures (above, bottom right) ... would you charge anything, or would credit be enough?"

The response: this fellow was asking about three photos in particular, and I offered an educated answer as to how much they would cost for leasing purposes, based partially on test searches through online stock services for similar shots/usages and a bit of advice from friend and local super-pro Ian McCausland (who informed me of DW's shady practice of sniffing about Flickr for their photo needs). Their response to my response? Nothing. Silence.

The outcome: Get bent, despite the promising start.

October 09, 2008

Flickr: Get Serious!

Over my time as a Flickr member – just over two years – I've been contacted no less than 19 times via email about image requests. It's a common practice, I'm sure, through the site (but not nearly as common as simply taking images without asking, or the only slightly less grating practice of taking images, not asking, but still supplying credit), and these requests have run the gamut from intriguing, to encouraging, to downright insulting. Requests have ranged from high school projects to online travel/tourism sites, to blogs and podcasts. And to come to an abrupt point, not a single request came with the intention of receiving an image – or an OK to use – by offering any compensation greater than straight-up exposure. Because, I gotta say it, Flickr is a vast, grey realm of chum posters largely inexperienced in these matters, and sharks looking to snag images – stock, essentially – for free.

So in a nutshell, a memo to all Flickr account members: if and when you get asked about a particular photo – and I have to wonder now whether it has or will invariably happen to many – do not get drawn into the alluring high beams of almighty exposure. If you are told in no uncertain words that this opportunity will increase exposure to you and/or your work, then I have to inform you: often times this is codespeak for I'm looking for stock imagery for free and thus, boiled down, I consider you sucker material.

Say no. Or add that you'll consider it, but for a fee. See where that takes you; you never know what may happen. I'll detail a handful of situations that dictated such a response, and others where I believed in the requesting party's cause and shifted my stance. As a Part Two later on down the road, I'll detail a handful of ones I told to essentially get bent...

The ask: a Cornell Lab of Ornithology production assistant requested a mosquito submission of mine for Illustration Friday's long-long-ago theme of "insect", for inclusion in an episode of their Meet the Scientists online video series, about avian malaria and its transmission through mosquitoes.

The approach: courteous, genuine.

The response: a no-brainer for me, the Lab is a huge presence in birding circles. I offered permission after asking a few questions about the project, final application and the image's part in it.

The outcome: video! (you don't have to watch the whole thing, but trust me, it's there.)

The ask: a representative from a Brooklyn, NY, ad agency asked of using a photo of Kerry (above) in an internal microsite for an accounting firm, built to celebrate a local branch's ten-year anniversary. The site would be accessible to firm employees for ten days, each day featuring a different image – yup – culled from Flickr.

The approach: misguided.

The response:
(I keep a canned version of this on file now) "Apologies, but I cannot release this photo for use without the suitable compensation. I appreciate however, that you've asked – I know of many situations where this is not the case, so thanks for asking, and best of luck with your imagery search for the site."

The response to the response: "I was wondering if you would just let me know what you would have wanted to be paid for us to use your image for one day in the US. We have gotten approval from all the other flickr photographers for free but we are happy to pay you what we can for use. Could you just let me know what that would be?"

The outcome: this was all it took to open a dialogue, even though I was saddened by the prospect of nine other Flickr users coughing up images for free to an international accounting firm. The agency and I eventually settled on a dollar number for a lease, plus it opened the door to a second lease for an e-invite, effectively doubling the amount. I also asked for a signed separate contract for each use, which the agency provided. The cheque was in the mail for some time, but eventually showed.

The ask: "I'd like to use one of your photographs (above) in a video podcast I am co-producing for the new Peterson Field Guide to Birds ... I would be happy to send you a copy of the book as a thank you for this use, or $20 if you prefer. Your photo would only appear for a few seconds onscreen. You would be credited as a photographer in the closing credits of that episode."

The approach: all-business.

The response: done and done – I opted for the book, and downloaded a nicely-made podcast on North American wood warblers (which look to be accessible now only via their website and a registration process).

The ask: the web services coordinator with the City asked about using my hot-air balloon panorama of downtown (above) as the header of the City of Winnipeg’s redesigned website. Since it was not mentioned in the initial message, I led with a more open-minded variation on my canned response.

The approach: professional, informative.

The response: through a dialogue, a two-year lease of the image was agreed upon and a contract was signed. I did not opt for selling the image outright, another option that was presented.

The outcome: my image is now poster child for the City of Winnipeg website for the next two years.

October 07, 2008

Back For More

My friend Melissa (of Operation NICE fame) was decidedly not-nice in challenging my GoogleChat-Battleship supremacy to a rematch. Last winter's inaugural tilt – dubbed the Thrilla From Peg/Philla – was as bloody and high-seasy as any great naval battle in history, ending in favour of the Canadian. And early on it looked as if the tables would be turned, as the Jersey Admiral picked apart the staggering Canuck defences. But she was no match to my super-awesome strategy of lumping all my ships together in one spot – except for that little weaselly boat, whatever it's called – and eventually fell in a stunning bottom-of-the-ninth-esque collapse. Boys rule!

October 06, 2008

Congrats, Mister

Top row (left to right): Kerry snaps Al and I before we finally split for the evening; fellow groomsman Steve captures Kerry and I at the magic hour. Middle row (left to right): the happy couple, plus father; Sarah gives thanks; Al gets a peck from mom. Bottom row (left to right): Al, next up to bat, gives an emotional thanks of his own; Sarah's dad steals a nap at his afternoon-after-party.


My oldest friend Allan (aka el negro magnifico) married his amazing fiancée Sarah this past weekend, on what very well may have been the city's sunniest, finest October day in recent memory. And I was fortunate enough to join him for almost every step of the way/day, as first-time tuxedo-wearer* and choked-up member of their wedding party. It was an all-around sweet occasion.

Al and I go way, way back. Upon arrival in Winnipeg from Ontario in 1982 all big-headed and funny-named, he was one of my first friends in Grade 2. He played Team Africa during Olympic-themed recess foursquare matches. He swiped the diary of my Grade 6 crush to find out if she liked me back (conclusion: nebulous). I yelled at Mr. Lawler to quit picking on him in a high school chemistry class. He inspired me to try my hand at journalism in college, and in turn I inspired and aided in his Great Tackle of graphic design. His long-standing site was the inspiration for this blog, even.

Sarah and Al met about a half-year before Kerry and I began dating, and their match was a huge inspiration. And it's so nice to see, a decade later, the both of us have it all figured out.

* Not actually. I also sported an all-white number at a high-school fashion show.

September 30, 2008


Clockwise from top left: Chris and Steph check out attendees "hate faces"; Karla and I wonder what you're lookin' at; the night was a blur; copies of PIMF2, with ketchup.

Item! Friday marked the launch of the second issue of local creative zine A
Paw In My Face, held once again at the venerable Kings Head Pub. One year after the release of PIMF's inaugural book ­ themed "love" ­ the companion "hate" issue will now hit up select locations across Osborne Village and the Exchange District. The book's varied submissions range from poetry and written rants to photography, design and illustration, and were once again lovingly mashed together by PIMF co-founder Chris Pointon (with assistance from Issue 2 co-editor Stephanie Besselt-O'Leary).

A wall-to-wall online version, in all its tastiness, can be devoured here.

I submitted this, eons ago it seems, in case you don't remember.

September 28, 2008

160: The Craw!

I'm a sane person. I swear. But I can't help it; a co-worker of mine finds a pair of severed American coot feet at work and immediately I get these ideas in my head (and no, there's not some psycho stalking our workplace – likely these feet were all that remained from an eagle or hawk kill). They're absolutely lizard-like, and I love it. I look at these feet and I don't picture a clumsy, big-footed chicken-like coot – instead I imagine an out-and-out nasty velociraptor. Holding a pencil.

So I took the feet home in a baggie and took photos on Saturday in the porch, just doing some texture studies against a white sheet of paper. And the toes were splayed just so to slip in one of Kerry's old Laurentien pencil crayons – Sarasota Orange for maximum contrast, but luckily also the stubbiest in the set – afterwards, declared a victim of the procedure and directed straight to the garbage can.

Then in Photoshop, I bleached out the white paper to make a basic white background, and set about with some minor touch-ups. The foot, originally a faded blue-green, was pumped to a more reptilian hue. The pencil crayon was close-cut for some cleanup work as well. A line of orange was added, as was an alphabet-book type treatment to tie the whole thing together. That was how I spent my weekend.

You click here for a closer look at some of the foot detail.

September 22, 2008

159: Fingers Are Jerks

I love Illustration Friday's current theme of clique, in my mind one of their most creative keywords in weeks. Originally I was going to try and draw a caricature of my Grade 10 class photo – all gawky mullet and seven-hair moustache, a look that successfully shunned any and all area high school cliques – but an evening on the couch with Kerry, watching Flight of the Conchords, changed all that. My feet were on her lap, she was tugging on my big toe, and I realized how much of an oddball that fellow is (and by extension, how clique-y the remaining toes are). This image above (but with toes) popped into my head. But toes aren't quite as expressive as fingers (and in my case, hardly photogenic), so I opted for a hand instead. And from there – as you can see – it was an amazingly simple concept to produce. The only special skill involved was matching up my facial pen doodles to the original hand photo.

You can click here, for a slightly larger view.

September 18, 2008

158: Autumn Or Bust

Kerry and myself, a 25-second exposure and the absolute last shred of daylight on the pier in Whytewold, escaping the bugs on the Labour Day weekend.

The rain – and the mosquitoes – were (and still are) torrential. Success in our thicket of (mostly) solid green tomatoes are now at the mercy of unpredictable September temperatures. Corn season was truncated. The city was void of its standard one- or two-week-long heat waves. I laughed after I said it, but with a week left to spare in the season, I officially conceded to Kerry that this summer was a bust. So, Summer of 2008, hear this: you've made my sh*t list.

That being said, I enjoy autumn more than most – and nothing would give me more pleasure than a sweet, smooth, harvest-scented extension into winter. Here's hoping, anyway.

September 04, 2008

Don't Make Me Use My Karate On You

I've noticed a key element of funny stories – notably, when they happen to you – is that you never know when to expect them. I had one occur this evening, on a corner store run for a slicing cucumber, two sweet red bell peppers, a can of white kidney beans and a box of Shreddies.

With Harry's Foods in sight (I know it's not Harry's anymore, but try and stop me from calling it that), a man roughly 100 feet ahead of me on the sidewalk locks eyes with me, stops, points at me and performs what I can only describe as a tai chi move – a slow horizontal wave of both arms.

Whatever. I'm going to the store. So we continue towards one another.

And in the split second that we pass on the sidewalk, the man stops again, raises one leg in the Karate Kid crane pose and performs a quick, through-the-air karate chop and halts his hand within a foot of my head. He says nothing. I move my head back about three inches.

The f*ck?, I tell him. That's all I've got.

But he's moved on. And I do, too, glancing back more than a few times. I head to the store, procure my groceries, go home and make my Friday potluck pasta salad. I tell Kerry, but find the man difficult to describe – until I realize he looked just like one of the dudes in the Just For Men ads. Like this:

August 29, 2008

157: Memories Take Flight

I've been into birdwatching from the get-go almost, but my early zenith came during the ages of nine to 12 when I feverishly scoured the bushes and skies with binoculars and Audobon's Field Guide to North American Birds (Eastern Region). Naturally this passion took a backseat to high school – you know, girls and such – but it rose again in my 20s once the risk of appearing uncool stopped mattering. And today I am a fully fledged bird nerd.

But my memories of those early days persist. Every summer Saturday was spent with the family at Patricia Beach – hotspot for birders but nowadays also for naturists, an awkward mix of skin and binoculars – and some of my most prized bird firsts were here (ruddy turnstone, western grebe, American bittern). My mom took me to Oak Hammock Marsh for my tenth birthday to birdwatch; I now work there. Out during lunch hours I've spotted a white-faced ibis, a red knot and a cinnamon teal. Once – right from my desk, swear to Jebus – I watched a golden eagle snack on a dead rabbit.

This illustration is concocted from memories of my early birdwatching days, wanting so badly to see certain species that, to this day, have not made themselves available to my checklist. Chief among them, the blackburnian warbler is a model of elegance in pattern and colour (my favourite birds all share one trait: a well-thought sense of design). So this is more a tribute than anything – Illustration Friday's current theme of memories will do that to a guy.

Done in pen and watercolour-inspired Photoshop brushes. You can click here for a slightly larger view of the piece.

August 25, 2008

156: Old-Timey Fun-Timey

Just goofing around, experimenting with this 2005 shot of Kerry's niece taken at Batoche National Historic Site north of Saskatoon. The interpretive centre there had a tickle trunk of sorts full of vintage clothes, and Anna – camera-shy on that particular day – was proud to show off.

The edge effect I pilfered from Renee Robinson's (aka the immensely talented Playingwithbrushes) Flickr page. Her photostream is stuffed to the dusty rafters with elegant, delicate portraits and other imagery – the perfect treatment for Photo Friday's current theme of old-fashioned. A closer look at the original photo can be had here.

August 21, 2008

155: X(OXO)

It's been awhile, but I'll admit that part of my self-imposed hiatus was a ruse. I needed a healthy chunk of time to create this poster, which I pieced together over the last couple of weeks in July in order to provide enough time for float-mounting in advance of our ten-year (non-marital) anniversary.

This poster was constructed as a companion piece to a similar one I made in the summer of 2003 for our fifth anniversary (and that poster was modeled after Charles S. Anderson's amazing Seinfeld tribute jobbie for Entertainment Weekly). The initial poster was built around a New York Times Sunday crossword, filling in squares with bits of photos, scans and memorabilia saved over the years. It was always my intent to make a second one, similarly built with a Scrabble board as base.

The board itself is a stitched composite of four flatbed scans, then a layer-happy Photoshop file was made to accommodate the 100-or-so images that fill in the blanks. I made five folders for the years covered and stuffed them with the choicest cuts, so to speak; photos, concert stubs, scans of cards, even maps. From there it was an exercise in patchwork; deciding which images go where, arranging an approximate chronological order of things, tidying up the grid. With my own personal digital camera era in full effect, the selection and scanning process was greatly reduced in comparison to the first poster.

The two posters now share headliner billing at the end of our dining room table. And in the end, we shared a nice little anniversary day.

You can click here and here, respectively, for much closer looks at the old and new poster.

July 31, 2008

The Summer Of Jeope

Today in the cafeteria at work I procured and ate the first taco of my entire life. I am 32 years old. And it was good – but not great – so I'm left uncertain if I will ever have one again.

This summer is going swimmingly.

July 20, 2008

154: Photomiscellanea VI

Top row (left to right): precious golden gummi, a suggestive (at least to Dave) lady-slipper macro, the quintessential prairie cowboy-with-sunset capture. Middle row (left to right): new evergreen growth macro, a leg-banded yellow warbler, abandoned farmstead interior. Bottom row (left to right): abandoned farmstead exterior (four-photo stitched panorama), Kerry's feet in smoke-obscured evening light.

a.k.a. Jeope's Annual Summertime Shutdownagain, I find it difficult to muster posts for this site when the weather is the way it is – despite the cooler-than-usual summer, the added rain and added-added mosquitoes. So, I offer you this grid of recent unblogged photos, a gentle push to my Flickr page where most of these have already been posted and written about – and a reminder to remember me and my humble site when I return.

You've been a great audience! Try the veal!

July 15, 2008

153: Folk 'Em If You Got 'Em

Behold, a six-pack of Canadians.Top row (left to right): Rebekah Higgs, John K. Samson of The Weakerthans, Basia Bulat. Bottom row (left to right): Joey Burns of Calexico (said he was born Canadian, who am I to disagree), Kathleen Edwards, Andrew Whiteman of Apostle of Hustle.

The 2008 Winnipeg Folk Festival expanded on a reputation for bringing the world to our door, outpost that we are, all tucked away up here in the dead-center of the continent. While the virtues of the festival itself continue to be debated as it grows ever larger, more popular and businesslike, it still cannot be ignored as the province's premier annual event for area music-lovers. This year more than most, I was able to get a sense of the festival's something-for-everyone credo – on the same weekend, followers of afro-beat, jug-blowing bluegrass, Word-spreading gospel and – here's where I get excited – a satiating mix of Canuck (and elsewhere) indie rock, could all locate their niche and contently co-exist.

On the evening main stage, genres meet and, on occasion, awkwardly connect (example: Thursday's opening set included, in order, Côte d'Ivoire singer Dobet Gnahoré, The Weakerthans and multi-culti feelgood hero Michael Franti). On the daytime stages however, themes can be hammered out and attendees can get their niche-y fixes. Among personal highlights were glimpses (or more) of...
  • Geoff Berner’s Thursday evening accordion-led ballad The Dead Children Were Worth It, hilariously skewing the bloated Vancouver Olympics. His subsequent knock on fest sponsor Volkswagen was even better.
  • Kathleen Edwards, whose lyrics can lift your spirit one moment, then crush your head in a kung-fu grip the next. Her mainstage rendition of Back To Me and a playful version of The Cheapest Key were dazzling.
  • Friday’s “I Hate Tucson” afternoon show, with Hayden, Calexico and The Weakerthans merging talents, often backing on each other’s songs. Calexico’s brass brought extra oomph to the Weakerthans’ Pamphleteer, and their own simmering build-up on Corona was pretty awesome in its own right.
  • Basia Bulat and The Apostle of Hustle – seeing both up close for the first time, finally putting faces to the names.
  • Ray Davies, despite seeming a touch cantankerous and primadonna, provided as good a weekend capper as any by obliging fans to a sing-along of Lola.
(Unfortunately, Saturday was a complete washout, a rarely-witnessed summer trifecta of cold, wind and rain that kept me housebound – yeah I'm a wus, but you shoulda seen it).

The more I get a handle on my camera, the more I can appreciate the access that can be had at the festival. My best shots above, plus a few more, can be viewed here on my Flickr home base.

July 08, 2008

152: Go Suck A Lemon

... is what this mosquito was dared to do – and in honour of Illustration
Friday's current theme of sour, I present to you the toe-curling results.

My original concept was of a trio of raucous mossies egging a compadre on to suck the lemon – a type of hazing ritual – but I found the three of them together quickly becoming an indistinct tangle of probosci and bug legs. So for the sake of simplicity, I put my efforts into boiling the sketch down to a single dim-witted, unfortunate critter. And then even moreso by removing the lemon altogether and opting for a piece a touch more 't-shirty' overall.

This illustration was crafted near-completely digitally, with the exception of the original mosquito doodle in pen. The typeface used is Rockwell Extra Bold, and the background texture was gleaned from Crumble Crackle Burn: 120 Stunning Textures for Design & Illustration (pick up a copy – I'm in it!). Click here for a larger, detailed view.

June 28, 2008

151: The HOWieZine Cometh, Part IX

Somehow this got lost in the mix, my übersimple submission for the most recent issue of the
HOWieZine, a collaborative zine project done up by members of HOW magazine's online forums. My contribution to this long-standing tradition (I believe this is HOWieZine number 12, the series spanning some four years) were hamstrung somewhat by our extensive spring holiday in Europe. As such, I panned through my vault of photos to search for applicable entries, eventually settling on these two above to best represent the zine's theme of nightmares and dreamscapes. Both photos have appeared on this site over the months and years; the first, an indoor roseate spoonbill at the Assiniboine Park Zoo taken beneath a blanched-out skylight in 2007 (click here for a closer look), and the second, a mannequin street performer at Mardi Gras (pre-Katrina) in 2005 (click here for a closer look).

These I figured to be my best two singular 'storytelling' images to fit the zine's dual theme words. The typeface used is Diavlo, available for free download from the typographically amazing and generous folks at exljbris – do check them out.

150: News That's Fit To e-Print

I've just completed my second issue of the Manitoba chapter's Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) e-newsletter. One of my primary aims of joining the all-volunteer chapter executive as communications chair was to attempt to reconnect with the local graphic design community after years of working far outside its realm (geographically, and to a lesser extent 'spiritually', for lack of a better word). And with the aid of these newsletters I'm gradually doing that. This issue, far more than the previous one, was a great example of engaging chapter membership for content submissions, then donning the editor's cap to build a cohesive single file. And with a template now in place following the inaugural issue, far less time was spent in the design stage. Hopefully as time progresses, these newsletters will continue to inspire and improve – and with luck (and news), another one will come along around Christmas.

Sorry – I can't believe I just mentioned Christmas. But in the meantime, click here to download yourself a copy of the spring/summer Manitoba chapter e-newsletter. Note: I took the cover photograph of a vandalized birch tree last summer while camping near Flin Flon (the photo was then rotated 90 degrees).


June 27, 2008

I Ate Shreddies Yesterday

So allow me, this one time, to be bloggy and answer a chain-letteresque pass-along series of questions from my friend Maria, who – bless her – resurrected her own site just days ago. However, in the spirit of being difficult and lazy and it being a hot summer weekend and all, I'm going to halt the chain here.

What was I doing ten years ago?

To the day practically, I was graduating – with honours, betta recognize – from the graphic design program, then known as Advertising Art, at Red River College. At the ceremony, I was planning to ask this girl from another program I liked to go out sometime, but she ditched the graduation and I had to cold-call her a week or so later. We're now married.

What are five things on my to-do list for today?*

*Note: I wrote this yesterday.

eat Shreddies (done).
design an ad of company merchandise (done).
freak out over cankerworms (ongoing).
attend a baseball game, weather permitting (done).
this thing – what I'm doing right now (done).

What snacks do I enjoy?

Are you kidding me? Brownies. Compared to brownies, everything else is a pile of puke. But if there's a gun to my head...

Miss Vickie's sweet chili & sour cream chips
Ritter Sport (any kind with whole nuts in 'em)
hot fudge sundaes, with peanuts
Wagon Wheels
baby carrots
monster cookies
Corn Pops
brownies with ice cream

What would I do if I were a billionaire?

Much. But this is as good a time as any to state, for the record, that I would like to go into outer space – and I think that, as a billionaire, I could achieve that goal. Kerry says that outer space would be boring, that after she did a couple summersaults and squeezed out a tube of toothpaste in zero gravity, there wouldn't be much else to do (and she’s the poet). Me? I'd have my face pasted to the window, watching the earth like a TV. For the record, is all.

Where have I lived?

Figure 1: where I have lived.

Kitchener, Ontario
On my aunt and uncle's farm, near MacGregor, Manitoba
Winnipeg, Manitoba – eight addresses within a seven block radius, over 25 years (see figure 1)

What jobs have I held?

Ahh, a natural progression...

graphic designer

June 23, 2008

149: Catching The Red-Eye

More creative fallout from my visit east. My sister's house is smack in the middle of the Nova Scotia interior, nestled in mixed woods on the shores of a long, slender lake. Beavers. Loons. Blackflies. Hooting owls at night. It's the great outdoors.

And so, for Photo Friday to offer up their current theme of the great outdoors, I have to admit this one pretty much fell right into my lap – much like this poor red-eyed vireo nearly did, dazed as it was sitting on the deck following a window-strike. Torn between leaving the little guy be and using the opportunity to again play with my sister's macro lens ... I chose the latter.

Not known for flashy displays of colour, members of the drab green vireo family can be hard to distinguish from one another. This one is likely the most ubiquitous, easy to spot with its blood-red eye (if you can get close enough to see it) and nonstop, day-long singing. Getting as close as I did for my shots, often lying on my belly while the bird regained full consciousness, I caught a good glimpse of the bird's textural and tonal subtleties. Because the deck was so bright, I was easily able to dodge out the wooden tones to create the stark, white background. I really like these shots – I combined the two here for my current desktop display at work. Click here, and here, respectively, for a better look at the feather detail.


June 19, 2008

148: Boys Rule!

Well, here he is: Avery Daya, my new little nephewical bundle of joy.

Over the course of two photo shoots – and several impromptu snaps in between – altogether approximately 200 shots total, ­ I gathered a pretty decent collection of photographs of Avery that I now have at my disposal for sending to family and for my own keeping. In these shots, Avery is nine weeks old and a very good model, always curious and eyes-on with the camera. During our visit he was quiet, content (even while snorting like a piggie due to a wee head cold).

For some of these shots I had the added benefit of my sister's Canon EF-S 60mm USM macro lens (which I now love, and please buy me one – yes, I'm talking to you).

Amazingly, it was only around Halloween of 2004 that I did a near-identical photo shoot of Avery's sister Cadence ­ then six weeks old ­ on the very same bed. Only I was using a hand-me-down Minolta Maxxim 400si and two rolls of llford black-and-white film. I treated each shot so carefully, lest I blow a precious frame of film. And after the negatives were developed, it seemed I spent an eternity scanning each picture and rubber-stamping the inevitable scratch marks that came with the process.

Jebus, bless the digital camera!

June 16, 2008

A Tower Of Song

So our trip east to see my new nephew Avery in Nova Scotia, and Leonard Cohen in Toronto, was a total creative rejuvenation. A five-day whirlwind, the most I could take after blowing our vacation wadge in Portugal, was punctuated by seeing one talent at the top of his game, and another one just starting out. I'll break it into chunks over the days to come, starting here, with Mr. Cohen.

Growing up with both parents as fans, and having a wife who in all likeliness would step over my dead body to meet him, I've always been a silent admirer. I appreciate any musician at the talent level of Mr. Cohen, regardless of genre, so to witness a rare live performance was worth any toil of diving deep into downtown Toronto to experience it first-hand. And to do it among thousands of devotees waiting 15 years – or for some, possibly their entire lives – to see him perform, made the experience even sweeter.

A former co-worker of mine who sings in a band, said the secret is to surround yourself with better musicians. This would be the same for Mr. Cohen; he is not The Voice, even if his growl is a defining characteristic, but his words – pop stars take note – are the stars of the show, and his bandmates excelled at framing them. And then every once in awhile he surprised, opting to read verses instead, or in finding the perfect tune to accent his vocal range. Mr. Cohen's œuvre – the legacy, decades in the making – was on full display, and his surprising physical spryness made the evening more of a party than anyone likely expected, fuelling the fire that yeah, maybe he will drop by again one day.

June 13, 2008

147: The Hate Is On

For Illustration Friday's tricky current theme of punchline, I'm using the
opportunity to sneak-peek my submission for the upcoming second issue of Winnipeg local art zine A Paw In My Face (PIMF). As such, let this act as a warning to fellow contributors checking in: first, don't look at the picture above, and second, stop reading this description of it and get back to work on yer own submissions (now due at the end of the month).

Themed hate, the second PIMF will serve as an interesting companion piece to last summer's love issue (read about that, here), which was snapped up quickly and well-received from several establishments around downtown. And I thought cool, because, well, I hate all manner of things: cankerworms, raisins in cinnamon buns, the thump-clap thump-thump-clap baseline of every modern R&B song. But I also thought, it's too easy to expound on things I hate. It's more fun to imagine what other people hate (but that reminds me, I hate quite a lot of people other than me, too).

Take muppets, for example. Kerry and I have been watching the first season of The Muppet Show, which is frequently infiltrated by Scooter, annoying and cloying nephew of the owner of their theatre, who uses nepotistic connections to further his talentless run at fame. Sure, they all appear to be buddies, but back-backstage and off-camera, the cast members detest Scooter (and I like to think he knows it).

Therin lies the punchline of this illustration, drawn with my brush pen and shaded/halftoned in Photoshop. The hate issue of A Paw In My Face should hit streets later this summer. Click here for a closer look at the finished illustration.

June 04, 2008


Biding my time, blogwise, on the last days leading up to my first visit with new nephew Avery in Nova Scotia (with a whistle stop in Toronto to witness the majesty of Leonard Cohen). I have a couple of items to post in the near future before taking a blog break to work on the next GDC Manitoba e-newsletter. One, a submission for the second issue of local art zine Paw In My Face (bearing a theme of hate), and two, an illustration I sketched for fun while trying out a new set of watercolour-inspired Photoshop brushes from the relaunched Design Bureau of Amerika. These will be posted shortly, no doubt alongside photos from our quick-but-memorable jaunt east.

In the meantime however, Photo Friday's current theme of minimalism brings to mind this shot (above) of a bonsai trunk, taken at the Assiniboine Park Conservatory a couple of years ago. One post-processing note: I dodged the original darkened background to a pure black in Photoshop, then added extra black to make the image a square (click here for a more detailed look).

May 25, 2008

146: Banding Together

From May to September, leg-banding of songbirds is conducted every Friday morning where I work (weather permitting). Using mist nets (much like ultra-fine badminton nets), the birds are snared in clearings between willow bluffs, carefully placed into individually-sized cloth bags – then banded, identified, aged, measured and weighed before being released. May is the best month for variety as many birds pass through while heading further north, so I staked out a spot at the table this past Friday with my camera. Small warblers like these are prized catches, though in the hour I stuck around I also photographed a bank swallow and three species of sparrow.

In the realm of professional bird photography, this is deemed 'cheating'. I make no bones about it though: I am no professional, and these warblers were all hand-held while I shot. Even still, there is much difficulty in "keeping my eye on the birdie" through the lens. The birds can sense impending freedom at this point of the procedure, flighty and anxious to flee the scene (many outtakes reflected this). Selective cropping eliminated the human presence, then a quick run through Photoshop (primarily dodging and blurring of backgrounds) helped to create further focus.

Respectfully then, I submit this for Photo Friday's current theme of difficult shot. Pictured are (from top to bottom) a magnolia warbler, blackpoll warbler and Wilson's warbler (click on the species names for closer looks at their feather detail).

May 16, 2008

145: The (Purple) Thinker

There's not a whole helluva lot to this one. Kerry and I went to the local Safeway, bought our regular stuff – plus this eggplant, which looks like one of those Easter Island
Rapa Nui stones. Ever since a certain homemade pizza went awry I have trepidations for eggplant, despite successfully growing an adorable pair in the garden last summer. But I'm a sucker for an anthropomorphic vegetable, so this fellow came home with us. We had a little photo shoot using Kerry's purple yoga mat, then he had a date with a ratatouille recipe. Turns out, these things can be tasty. Eggplant, I forgive you (and click here for a closer look).

May 10, 2008

Hire A Student

It was ten years ago, almost to the day now, that I handed out these little state-of-the-art jobbies to interested and prospective gawkers at the 1998 Advertising Art Open House. Imagine, my entire portfolio of college work on a 1.44MB diskette, complete with self-contained slideshow software. A technological marvel, and about as practical today as a Beta tape.

I was the prototypical student then; I had a dive apartment with a hand-me-down spider plant and stalactites of gunk hanging from a leaky ceiling. That sport jacket in my diskette design here, I nabbed from a box of free clothes at CoreFest, the long-defunct alternative music festival at Garbage Hill. Those shoes were ten-dollar loafers from lord-knows-where. I ate macaroni. I had a firm grip on frugality.

My portfolio today is markedly improved over the one you’d see if you cracked this floppy open. That should be a given. I was quite high on my college portfolio at the time, but now find it embarassingly bad. The one standard I work by is whether, as a whole, my output as a designer each year is better than the last. I’m a harsh critic on myself – and that extends especially to creative output – so I may be thrilled with any one thing I make at any given point in time, and be blasé about it weeks (or even days) later. I must continuously remind myself this attitude is healthy.

May 03, 2008

144: Portupanoramarama

The vacation, today, is officially one month old – and I am finally prepared to stash my photos in a folder, designated henceforth as memory-inducing. My final vacation-related activity was piecing together a generous handful of multi-photo panoramics I took on the trip. These shots are a combination of Photoshop's Photomerge feature and hand-and-eye stitching work.

Above: morning fog lifts from the Rio Guadiana, as viewed from the balcony of our hotel room in Mértola. Still quite early in the trip, this photo was taken on our self-guided bike tour. The previous two days featured constant threats of rain, and I woke up very early on this morning to check the weather from the window – expecting ominous, overcast skies but witnessing this beautiful scene instead. Four-photo stitched panorama (click here for a larger view).

Above: a seven-photo panorama of Alcoutim, one day later, as viewed from the village's castle ruins. That's the Guadiana again, much larger at this point, where it forms the border between Portugal and Spain. Click here for a larger view.

Above: a five-photo panorama of morning bustle in Praça 8 de Maio, Coimbra. There are flaws in this piece if you look close enough, but I absolutely had to have this shot. I did some initial seaming using Photomerge and went to work on the rest by hand, adjusting architecture, tones, angles and even a couple of people. Click here for a larger view, where some of the flaws become more apparent.

April 27, 2008


Kerry's first solo book launch went as smoothly as could be on Thursday evening, as a packed-in café audience was on hand to hear her read selected poems from The Sleeping Life. I hear from the week's purchases alone, that Kerry made McNally Robinson's weekly best-seller list in today's Free Press.

Available at McNally's locations (or online) in Canada for the locals, copies can also be procured through Target, Amazon, Chapters/Indigo, Tower ... well, you get the drift. But do the author, publisher and local booksellers a favour and nab your online purchase of The Sleeping Life from the good folks at McNally Robinson, if you can.

I could not have been more proud, watching from my seat, taking flash-off photos as quietly as I could, to hear Kerry read from what has been, essentially, a years-in-the-making piece of work that is as tight and polished as any book of poetry you'll come across. I encourage everyone checking in to give the book a shot.

Side note: the launch coincides nicely with the fourth installment of the May Day Poetry Project, a blog-based, month-long cavalcade of poetic creativity – which Kerry will be contributing to.