December 24, 2009

"It Came Without Packages, Boxes Or Tags..."

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In what's become a Jeopopolis tradition, it's come time to show off the tree. When we bought our house in 2005 – after 11 years of apartment living for me – I was especially eager for two things: kids on Halloween and a tree at Christmas. Five Christmases later, the novelty has yet to wear off. If anything, the anticipation of a sweet-smelling conifer in the living room is getting stronger; this year we procured ours earlier than ever.

After the out-and-out fresh, local red pine monsters of 2007 (shunted to yard duty to accommodate New Year's wedding guests) and 2008 (so big, Kerry found it intimidating), we went smaller and more traditional, opting for a pre-triangularized balsam fir from the timeless Boy Scouts tree lot in River Heights.

Merry Christmas, one and all.

December 19, 2009

219: I've Come Undone

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It took my friend Amy's Illustration Friday theme suggestion of undone to pop up in my email yesterday to realize a) I haven't completed an IF assignment in weeks, and b) I still have a whole wadge of incomplete MayDay illustrations from last spring that I never expounded on. Combined, this is the reason for the tubes-unclogging stream of sketchery you just scrolled through to at last reach this paragraph of explanation.

These are all unfinished (undone) works from the once-a-day creativity marathon my wife and I went through earlier this year (me, drawing; she, writing) – sketches dating from the first to final day of May. A select handful of other pieces from this adventure passed lovingly and thoughtfully through digital post-production to show up here since then (click here to see the results). But not this undone crew, who, once June arrived, did not see the light of day again – until now. The year is almost through, and, nuts to Photoshop, they need airing out.

Click on these links to see any of them larger. They are, from top to bottom: cowboy singer/troubador Pop Wagner, a vulturine guineafowl from the Assiniboine Park Zoo, my sister's dog Kayla, an unexplainable pen-and-watercolour skeletal bird of some sort, a big fat prairiedog and a toucanet (both from the zoo as well).

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November 26, 2009

Jeopopolis Celebrates Five Years: A Blog Giveaway And Momentous Opportunity To Kick My Butt

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It was five years ago today, that I sat and sat and stared at the biggest personal creative doldrums I've ever faced. I punched the clock at work. I sat on the couch and watched
Battlebots. I had a tiny point-and-shoot camera I rarely stocked with film. I had for all intents and purposes forgotten how to draw, not having done it for a years. The phrase "use it or lose it" comes readily to mind, and it had become entirely applicable to me.

So since the end of December 2004 I've devoted myself to 218 pseudo-weekly artistic endeavours, and by fits and starts have rediscovered a creative spark I had previously allowed to fizzle through a rut of daily routine.

But that is not to say I'm cured. Perhaps far from it. Each time I sketch it's a struggle. The Rebel I received a year into my blogging life for my 30th birthday sometimes sits for days and days. I still need kicks in the butt. All. The. Time.

But now and then I enjoy scrolling the oodles and wadges of output and see what I've made. Or read what visitors have written in response. And even though the responses have dropped muchly over the past year, what I'd like to do – to honour my great big fat five years of doing things – is offer up a dose of gratitude to those who have stopped by, to those who still belly up to the comments bar, and to all those who silently look but don't touch. I thank you all so, so much for what you've contributed to this site.

In the form of the ever-popular blog giveaway, I invite all poppers-in and stoppers-by to drop a comment. All you need do is – in the form of the written word – kick my butt to keep me going. Be creative; phrase it however you want. A randomly-drawn winner will then receive a 6X8(ish, depending on dimensions) plaque-mounted print of their choice from this pre-determined selection of the 50 all-time most popular Jeopopolis entries (as deemed by favourited status on my Flickr site). And if the comments overwhelm me, I'll make a second print available for grabs.

Remember to leave me a means of contacting you with your comment. An email address (or if you know I know how to reach you, just say so).

December 31, 2009, at the stroke of midnight – that's the deadline, and when the bell officially tolls five years for Jeopopolis. You've got plenty of time, so think hard about how you're going to kick my butt. And I thank you, in advance, for doing so.

November 21, 2009

Big Pancake

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I've never been much of an activist. But when Big Pancake came to me with their sights set square on this humble photo of Kerry's family-recipe miniature pancakes
* – I saw it as a call to arms.

I talked here once about people trolling Flickr for free imagery in exchange for exposure and a photo credit. To Big Pancake's credit, it was not how they approached me earlier in the fall (to be honest, they didn't approach me at all; rather, it was an agency out of the U.S.). The ask was up-front and professional in nature – stating their interest, the end use and asking straight-up what it would cost.

Through some research and negotiation – and with the cook's permission (hesitant, but she did appreciate their tag line: pancake lovers unite) – I ultimately caved in to Big Pancake, and accepted their big pancakey cheque in the mail last week. You can now find an agency-modified version of the photo serving as the current background image for Bisquick's online kingdom (the best view can be had at the very bottom of the page). And I can safely say this is the strangest thing to have happened to me in a long time.

* I would like to stress that no Bisquick was involved in the making of the above miniature pancakes.

November 15, 2009

218: The Brown Owl

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This owl I drew in the spring as part of my May sketching spell, but I spent some time tinkering this past week to add colour and texture (and also performing bits of digital surgery, moving the bird's right foot inwards and adjusting a previously-awkward right wing). The original sketch was drawn entirely with a black brush pen. All told, done for hoots and giggles, nothing more.

The verse comes from the poem The Great Brown Owl, by Jane Euphemia Browne.

November 14, 2009

Photo Of The Day

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I willingly submit my more oddball photos to the CBC Radio 3 Flickr group, which allows the folks at Radio 3 to use them freely for their online ventures. The way I figure, for the amount of new music they've exposed me to over the years I view this as one way of saying thanks. Last week CBC Radio 3 used a photo of mine for the fourth time – this one as part of a blog posting of random recommended website links.

The image, of my friend Jason on our annual spring nocturnal owl survey in 2007, is a 30-second long-exposure at a frozen Shoe Lake in Nopiming Provincial Park. Over the course of the half-minute, I had Jason stand still with a flashlight for eight seconds in three side-by-side locations in the snow, having him turn it towards his face for a couple seconds before quickly jumping to the next position. A nice, Photoshop-free goofaround session just after sunset before we hit the road for the night-time survey.

November 01, 2009

217: The Skinny

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Illustration Friday's brand-new theme of skinny allows me a chance to show off a brand-new freelance illustration endeavour. It also sends me spouting off about blogs' inabilities to showcase or scroll long and skinny horizontal pieces (like comic strip panels and stitched panoramic photos, which I love to build). But on this matter I digress.

Recently I was afforded the opportunity to craft a unique illustration to support a one-pager article in a new magazine being published by Canada's National History Society (makers of The Beaver, a time-honoured Canuck literary tradition). The magazine, Teaching Canada's History, unveiled last week, is being distributed to educators and will also be available at newsstands.

I, of course, delayed any decision to show the piece until following the launch. But as a freelance assignment it was a fun challenge and a chance to work with tall and skinny pre-set dimensions that I’ve taken advantage of with previous Illustration Friday themes like this, and this.

The article called for a support piece that dealt with themes of history and technology, and connections between the two. Wide open skies for an illustrator, and among presented rough concepts to the client is what you see here, with the connection being shown quite literally (in the blue corner, representing technology, the cur-sorrrrr!... and in the red corner...). Also called upon for divine inspiration were Michelangelo’s doodles in the Sistine Chapel.

The hand, based on the hand of Adam, was drawn using soft pencil and charcoals; the cursor icon was created originally with pens and a ruler, then coloured and tidied up digitally. Amalgamation, background texture elements and distressing were all finalized in Photoshop. The final piece measures roughly 3" by 8" – and I do enjoy drawing skinny, so thanks, Canada’s National History Society! And thanks, Illustration Friday!

October 30, 2009

Mouse

I am going to hell for the things I have done to mice.

My favourite items to receive in my loot bag on Halloween were Wagon Wheels. I make no bones about this. I hand them out to the kids who come to our door now, always saving one for myself. My least favourite items – enemies, even – were bulk-bin orange-and-black wrappered toffees doled out by thrifty-pantsed clueless types who obviously had lost touch with their own childhoods. But I digress.

Mice. I suspect they are even searching for cracks in our house as I recant this tale. I know they are after me. A dusting of early fall snow last year revealed tracks around and about our weathered foundation.

Halloween 1985, 10 years old, and I return home from a valiant night of trick-or-treating, an old pillowcase slung over one tired shoulder, straining under the weight of a champion Halloween stockpiling. Within days all chocolate had been purged. By mid-November chips and raisin boxes were consumed. Not long thereafter, Rockets, Sweet-Tarts and suckers were subsequently taken down.

What remained were the toffees. Countless toffees. In said old pillowcase. In my closet, left in spite. It was no coincidence that with winter came the mice. They invaded the confines of our dark unfinished basement and, to no one's surprise but my own, my bedroom closet. My mom scolded me over the abandoned loot bag and set out little stacks of death-bringing poison pellets. And then – no more mice.

I grew older and out of Halloween traditions, and my bedroom evolved into an everyday teenager haunt. Despite my best efforts to keep the place clean, I was teen-aged – and as such did not smell the rotting mouse corpse deep underneath the Billy bookshelf units.

We moved from that house in the summer of '92. As I made disappear long-obscured dust bunnies and dirtpiles with the family's never-quit 1960s-era Hoover, I made a discovery. A tiny, curled, sleeping mouse skeleton inside an orderly ring of brown-grey fur and dried insect shells. The grisly scene rattled into the vacuum hose, and was quickly gone. I did not tell a soul.

-----

Halloween 2002, and the onset of a cruel winter. I was then living in a small but decent apartment in a ramshackle building for four years, but had not seen mice until this time. Watching Battlebots on a late Friday night, I detected a darting form from the corner of my eye.

Mouse. I knew it to be true, and I was on the case instantly. With a can of compressed air I flushed it from hiding time and time again, looking to corner and trap the beastie. It escaped my hockey stick-wielding clutches.

I set about mouse-proofing my pad, but to no avail; the apartment was made of holes. That winter many mice invaded my space, yet none would munch on my munchables nor take bait from the standard traps placed about the suite. They did not even make poop. They seemed interested only in passing through, announcing their skittery presence with a squeak or two, then vanishing – likely to filthier apartments within the building.

I had to strike at them with the last resort of any mouse-hunter: the dread sticky trap. All my resident mice did were walk; I had to strike at them where they walked. Thus began a wintertime opus of 4:00am piercing peals for mercy. What ensued: a quick tipping of the gooey plastic tray and its squirming contents into a Nike shoe-box, a closing of the lid, then a boxer-shorts-and-parka death march to the dumpster outside. One mouse out of the house, the shoe-box cocked and ready for the next transport. Five times this ritual occurred in total before the hordes were extirpated from my home.

Five celestial rodents now await me in the afterlife. Six, I guess – with one giant plastic tray of gooey spread toffee for my own personal Han Solo carbonite treatment. But they are waiting.

October 29, 2009

216: WYUTAZCO, Part Four

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Top row (left to right): Ranger Dan shows us the Mesa Verde ropes; Cliff Palace; early morning and Delicate Arch. Middle row (left to right): Kerry, in Mother Nature’s stockade; petroglyphs! Bottom row: one last sit-down before the long trip home.

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Colorado's Mesa Verde National Park and Utah's famous Arches National Park provided fodder for the remainder of our time, before finally putting our heads and the pedal down for the non-anticipated and arduous trek home. Both locations offered incredible sights and distractions from the looming two-day Interstate marathon.

Mesa Verde was plenty scenic, a towering plateau of rock rising from desert and scrubland. The location is more well-known for its historic content, housing countless restored and untouched Puebloan cliff dwellings and villages. We signed up for guided tours of two such ruins, learning our brains and navigating the jungle-gym network of trails, ladders, ledges and tunnels – then saved time for a solo jaunt on an entertaining trail that led to a wall of petroglyphs. Come late afternoon we took off for the thrill-seeker haven of Moab, Utah, and the base for our final day spent hiking and exploring in Arches.

Arches is the ultimate cartoon landscape, and immensely popular, even on a weekday in the middle of October. We arrived early and beat the tourist onslaught to Delicate Arch, quite possibly one of the most recognizable and photographed pieces of work Nature has cobbled on the continent. But the majority of this final day was spent tackling possibly our most grueling hike in the Devil's Garden, traversing sand, inclines and slippery-smooth swaths of slick-rock, which earned Kerry – and I still chuckle – likely the only booter for hundreds of bone-dry miles. We saved just enough time to witness the sunset, sinking the park's west facades into hues of deep red, coming to a close in the cathedral of Double Arch. Bloody awesome.

I'll tinker with my scads of photos for days and months probably, but a good, solid set of photos is now up and running. Click here for the set, or here for the whiz-bang slideshow treatment.

October 27, 2009

215: WYUTAZCO, Part Three

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Top row (left to right): the Jerome Gold King and his pet donkey Pedro; my badass birthday Haunted Hamburger; Kerry crosses the line. Middle row (left to right): Monument Valley spire; Grand Canyon with eggplants. Bottom row: grand pano.

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A whistle-stop was all we afforded the Grand Canyon; it was our intention all along to take snapshots and move on, figuring the size and scope of America's greatest natural attraction was bigger than our two-week plans to see as much as we could. From Kanab we visited the less-visited North Rim and breathed in a few vantage points. But after being so close and personal with previous stops, the Grand Canyon seemed unapproachable. At least for our schedule, and I will grant it that. It's really a destination unto itself.

But it was on this day, traveling to Sedona, we did witness the true openness of American southwest desert country – there is indeed not much going on between the Canyon and Flagstaff beyond scrub, Harleys and a Navajo-language lite-rock radio station. Sedona, on the other hand, is a comparative oasis ­ of enterprise, traffic and eyebrow-raising New Age craziness. We took a day off from nature and went on a birthday excursion to nearby Jerome, a reinvented hillside mining town now dedicated largely to a lively arts and crafts scene. Despite this, we concocted a visit to the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town – essentially a glorified packrat scrapyard ­ for some red-blooded American kitsch (with donkey!), and a stop-in at the Haunted Hamburger for the most badass of all the world's hamburgers. Shopping was also in order; I procured a sweet Stetson cowboy shirt.

This was to be as far from home as we would go. From here we would turn back north, through the Painted Desert and Tuba City (a most disappointing town, in comparison to its name), past the Coyote-and-Roadrunner-inspired monoliths of Monument Valley and into Colorado for a visit to the ruins of Mesa Verde National Park.

October 26, 2009

214: WYUTAZCO, Part Two

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Top row (left to right): Bryce Canyon at sunrise; the colours! Middle row (left to right): juniper antlers; our car shall not pass; dwarfed in Zion. Bottom row (left to right): look up, look way up; the rocks are melting.

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The drive from Old Faithful to Bryce Canyon, Utah, was longer than I anticipated – near-empty interstates and 80mph speed limits notwithstanding. But the day was encouraging in that we ably ditched the snow of Yellowstone for the sun of the desert in a matter of hours. Regression back to summer kicks an early winter's ass every time.

Warmer weather in tow, we could finally ditch the car and set out on foot – which we did at Bryce, totaling over 2o kilometres of ups and downs in the candyland spires of this fantastic place. The park is comparatively compact, and with one solid day we got a good fill of what the place is about. Starting out at daybreak on the less-traveled Fairyland Loop trail, we walked and gawked at this trippy otherworld. My memory card filled fast with amazing hues of red, yellow and white. Nearer midday we connected with some of the park's more popular routes for those willing to navigate the switchbacks into the canyon floor, made our way out of the park's namesake "ampitheater" through the cavernous formations of Wall Street, and finished with an exhausting return to the car via the Rim Trail from one end to the other. The place never ceased to amaze; some of its geography was near laughter-inducing. And in our combined stupour we both received fine October sunburns.

Bryce is for lovers of good lighting. The next day allowed us time to slowly make our way to nearby Zion National Park and Kanab, our ensuing place to crash for the night – and I used this opportunity to leave pre-dawn to catch one of Bryce's famous sunrises while Kerry slept. It did not disappoint; I camped out in a good spot with other photographers on the same pilgrimage and watched the show.

We would experience Zion in a similar vein (sans vehicle), but a random day of shunts and spurs was laid out in between. The nearby rehabilitated ghost town of Grafton made a fine turnaround point – we checked out its rickety remains and desert cemetery before making a bee-line to Kanab, and failed attempts to locate two other nearby ghost towns before nightfall. Kerry wrote about one such attempt, to find the town of Paria, that I hope to show in the future. She's a great storyteller.

Zion and Bryce are two hours apart, yet on altogether different planets. Where Bryce displays delicacy and curiousity, Zion imparts sheer blunt force. It's the immovable object, with vistas and grandeur to rival any mountain range. Playing one-day tourists, we hopped the park's shuttle service and made an attempt on its most famous hiking excursion, the Angel's Landing trail, a precipitous series of switchbacks and chain-aided clifftop scrambles. But so did every man and his dog (or kids), and midway we opted instead for a palette of lesser-known – and just as thrilling – hikes into hanging valleys, porous, dripping cliff faces and crevasse-like dry canyons.

That night, and the night previous, we stayed in the area hub of Kanab – home of two highly-recommended establishments: the Rocking V Cafe and the wonderfully-eclectic Bob-Bon Motel. I won't do this often, but both of these places were very, very cool.

October 24, 2009

213: WYUTAZCO, Part One

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Top row (left to right): Kerry, at the northwest entrance; Lower Falls, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone; foyer of the Old Faithful Inn. Middle row (left to right): colours on display at West Thumb; I can't see a damned thing. Bottom row: Mammoth Hot Springs.

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I've decided to break down our epic, 8,000-kilometer road trip into bite-sized pieces – this because I worked my camera(s) overtime and have spent much of the past week culling and processing photos (we returned last Saturday night). I don't want to write a marathon, and for those of you not keen on the written word, there is a newly-posted Flickr photo set of snapshots and stitched panoramic photos now available. I've gotten as far as our time spent in Yellowstone National Park. More will follow.

Yellowstone was our first stop. It would end up being nothing like the remainder of our trip, an anomaly in every sense of the word. It was cold, snowy, blustery. It was also insanely eerie, otherworldly and head-scratching. It's a zoo of a park, encapsulating so many unique landscapes, creatures and bizarre geological oddities it made us sometimes laugh. We saw much more of the park in our three days than we ever intended, hoping to tough out a pair of long day hikes. But the temperatures and constant threat of snow kept us close to Bill, our unsuspecting and prairie-spoiled Honda Civic.

Our first two days were spent making the best of less-than-ideal conditions. Luckily the place was so fascinating; the glut of hot springs, fumaroles, steam vents, hissing puddles, gurgling mud pots, teasing half-geysers and neon pools all did their part to distract and temporarily warm us up. We explored Yellowstone's north end: Mammoth, the Lamar Valley and one of its resident grizzly bears, Tower Fall, Norris and the park's namesake canyon. The weather channel was predicting the worst, snow was falling in the higher altitudes and we feared we'd have to scuttle our last day.

But the next morning, we awoke to sunshine and newly-reopened roads to the south, passing through the bison-clogged Hayden Valley, West Thumb and the famous swath of geysers surrounding the even-more-famous Old Faithful itself, capped with a one-night stay at the grand and rickety Old Faithful Inn (meeting up with online friend and Baltimore-based photographic whiz Janet Little, coincidentally shooting in the area). The sun and patches of fresh snow made for an entirely different day than the previous two; even though it was just as crisp, it was decidedly more pleasant. And the new light provided all manner of great photo opportunities.

Onwards and downwards, we'd had enough of this early winter and headed for the heat. Our next night would be spent in the southern fringes of Utah.

September 29, 2009

212: Getting The Buck Out

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In a couple of days we're heading out on vacation, a road trip that will take us to Yellowstone National Park and then south to a whole wadge of scenic stops in southern Utah and northern Arizona. When we return, I'll be busy as snot no doubt – not to mention a year older (can I get a woohoo for birthdays on the road) – so hold tight and I'll be back on here and posting in about a month's time.

In the meantime here's a deer for you, another one of my May Day drawing assignments – based from this photo taken on a thick-fog morning in the Whiteshell, the last time we had an October vacation. Hopefully more moments are to come. Stay warm.

September 21, 2009

211: Bachelor Week

Kerry was away last week, leaving me with a dozen cobs of corn and a wadge of bachelor time. It was largely uneventful, but on a pair of occasions I took the car out for some evening and late-night photography with the little-used remote control I had bought for my camera. I gathered some CDs and some Muskol and traveled east, to the ruins of the old Pinawa Dam and Tulabi Falls in Nopiming Provincial Park.

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On my first trip out, I headed straight for Tulabi Falls (above). With all the rain this summer, they were thundering. This is the first set of gentle rapids before the water really gets going. I love how the falls drain directly from the calm of Tulabi Lake.

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The falls connect Tulabi Lake and the larger Bird Lake (above). I watched the sun set here as mosquitoes searched for any cracks in my Muskol coverage. They were absolutely brutal.

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With the remote, I took long-exposures of the stars. In the Nopiming there is zero light pollution, and with no moon out I needed my camping headlamp to punch settings into the camera and find a focus. I pointed it straight up for this 100-second shot of the Milky Way. Later I took this portrait of the night-time forest with Jupiter, lighting the ground with the headlamp.

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Before I left, I headed to the boat launch at Tulabi Lake thinking I could view some nice reflections off the water. The northern lights were out, but they were weak and fading quickly – this 120-second exposure caught them before they disappeared for keeps. The full image can be viewed, here.

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On a second day out I visited the old Pinawa Dam, one of the province's most photogenic spots. There's plenty of exposed shield rock, rapids and the eerieness of the decommissioned dam's ruins, slowly being reclaimed by nature. This shot (above) is a composite; one photo was taken of the water and lower landforms, and a second one was taken to capture tones of the evening sky. They were then merged in Photoshop.

September 13, 2009

210: Food Porn!

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I dig food. Breads and cereals? I'm there. I love the whole wheat multi-grain loaves at the hippie bakery down the street as much as a jumbo box of Corn Pops™. Dairy? Yes. God yes. You can't mellow a mouth-shredding bowl of Corn Pops™ without milk, and I can't comprehend where I'd be in this world without the cheeses. Meats? Nuts? Eggs? Yes, yes and yes. This wonderful, magical group is responsible for the luscious vendor-cart smokie in my hand, pulled pork that graces my poutine at a recent ballgame (above), the walnuts in my brownie – and the impenetrable density of said quality brownie.

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But as much as I do love the fat and the junk, I am equally drawn to the undenying appeal of the home-grown veggie – except beets, because beets suck – so when I witness the array of colour at the farmers' market or a parked pickup truck with cobs of corn spilling off its tailgate, I'm drawn. Our meagre backyard garden had its ups and downs this season. Basil and lettuce produced early and often. A redeeming September, following a cool and wet summer, is giving hope to our eggplants, surging chard and stunted pepper plants. But our normally foolproof prize tomato patch took a big hit this year, suffering from unending rain, eavestrough overflows and mystery ailments that attacked their foliage. We're making hay with what small fruit developed (above) – but our biggies are likely not gonna make it.

So, if you will, a moment – for our dear departed tomatian backyard homies. The Lord of Food took ye too soon.

September 08, 2009

209: I Doodled...Again

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This past week, I enlisted in another doodle swap, an insider circuit of mostly-American graphic designers partaking in the ever-popular hobby of creating artist trading cards (ATCs, for hipsters in the know) – 2.5"-by-3.5" non-digital artworks mailed back and forth between game participants. My first-ever swap was documented earlier in the year.

This time, I ditched the randomness and stuck to a theme – that of, well, birds with glasses. Six of the even dozen I created are here; the full set can be viewed on my Flickr photostream. These pieces were all sketched lightly in pencil on pre-cut Strathmore watercolour cards, overlaid with light, one-tone washes, then inked up nice with both fine-nib and calligraphic-nib pens. Shadows were then quickly accented with a light grey marker. All told, each entry took between 15-25 minutes to complete.

September 06, 2009

208: Nice Day For A White Wedding

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A couple of weekends ago I attended the wedding of my friends Jim and Wanda. They were married on the white sands of Victoria Beach, a couple of hours north of the city, followed by an after-party at a nearby cottage. The vibe of the whole event was a nice summertime yin to the yang of our in-house New Year's Eve marriage nearly two years ago. In the spirit of the wedding, I was hired as official pro-bono photographer.

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Jim and Wanda each have two young daughters, who, in matching dresses and flowery tiaras, gave the ceremony an added dose of adorability – and their future a decidedly Brady-esque feel.

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After the official portion of the ceremony, I switched to the 100mm lens for some candid shots.

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Weddings are unofficially 'all about the bride', and Wanda was immensely photogenic. It helped that the couple lucked out with one of the year's rare sunny Saturdays.

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I relaxed a bit at the dinner and after-party. Kids were everywhere. As far as weddings go, this was right up my alley. A beautiful day.

September 02, 2009

207: When Pigs And Logos Fly

One of the handful of projects that has kept me occupied over the latter half of summer has been a logo design for my good friend's local start-up venture. This assignment simmered slowly and comfortably over much of the summer, and followed a fairly uneventful and standard process for logo development until one fateful night, when it was turned on its ear by a dream. More on that later.

The company – currently being crafted by recent PrairieView School of Photography grad Sarah Hodges-Kolisnyk – is Hodgepodge Creative (site under work, but be sure to check the blog), a one-woman wrecking crew of skills ranging from professional photography to creative and journalistic writing to audio/video production.

The trick then for her logo-designer-in-arms, as per her wishes, was to express this wide-ranging skills set within a single, strong – and simple – all-encompassing visual. And following an initial coffee-house meetup to discuss and peruse her then brand-new portfolio, I sent her on an expedition to gather together visuals that shared common traits with what she had in mind for her own business (not a standard procedure, but between friends one can do this).

Sarah came through in spades; she is a great client (Sarah, if you're reading this, you are a great client). She had a strong built-in sense of what she wanted in terms of look/feel, colour schemes and general aesthetics. And I'm a huge fan of not having to mind-read. Who is?

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From her Big List of Inspiring Visuals, I was able to confidently go about building a few options, then submit them for further discussion and refinement. Two concepts (above) played largely on her zeal for the outdoors and knack for nature photography, and utilized compatible tones as such. A third (below) took on a more abstract/typographic form. All were received well and good, and constructive feedback was lent.


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“The word ‘hodgepodge’ makes me think of a pig,” Kerry said to me around this point (I’m paraphrasing). “You should do one with a pig.”


And that night, I dreamed of a logo concept – with a pig. The next day, I set to work.

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After time, the concept – that of a creative beast of many talents – eventually came to fruition (above). Much tweaking and haranguing was involved, particularly in how the three equal elements would join and/or overlap. It was important that no one element overshadow the other two, and yet a single, blended shape was not achieving the desired outcome. I finally came about with offshoots of red, green and blue – representative of the colour model used in displaying images electronically.


I felt it imperative Sarah remain integral in the development of the final result (below). Throughout the process I included her input on style, colour and typographic decision-making, which eventually resulted in a last handful of tweaks; dropping the bold – yet perhaps overly-industrial – typeface for an earthier, friendlier one, and an automnal colour palette more in tune with her company's character and focus of her work.

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September 01, 2009

206: One Fine Day

I thought I'd take a break from the grid format to tell the tale of our Saturday just past. It was a glorious day out, so we took off to the Whiteshell for a hike.

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The summer's been wet; a near write-off – but apparently excellent for mushrooms. First I saw this high school fire alarm bell jobbie. I wanted to pull it to get out of gym class.

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I got a little closer, to view these fan-fugu-tastic spiky Viva Puffs.

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And then I shelved my discomfort of fungi altogether for this giant, super gills-flipped-inside-out number.

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Our lunch spot we shared with this chipmunk. In rapid succession it shunned my offerings of carrot, a grape, and then a smaller, more chipmunk-suitable grape.

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On our return, we took turns on this made-for-dozing tree. It was much more suited to the contours of my back, despite how at peace Kerry seems here.

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Over a fire that evening, I grilled some corn cobs and smoked-gouda-topped portobellos. These were inserted into buns – with tomatoes, basil and lettuce from our garden – and chased with s'mores.

August 31, 2009

205: Magnify This

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This doodle represents my personal take on Illustration Friday's current theme of
magnify, as well as a sneak peek of another stress-free artistic venture I took on to see me through the fading days of summer.

Loosely drawn first in pencil, these birdies were afforded the quickest-of-quick rose red watercolour washes before being inked with .01-nib and calligraphic pens.

I'm not sure what all else to add – except I have a lot of material piled up and ready to display in the near future. Please stand by.

August 16, 2009

¡Incommu├▒icado!

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It's been a teensy-weensy while since I've posted, and realize it may be some time coming as well. I've recently been the recipient of a wadge of fun and enjoyable freelance and pro bono work/assignments – ranging from illustration to logo design to photography – and need to direct my efforts as such. Some of it I'll be showing off in the weeks and months to come, no doubt, but for the time being
Jeopopolis must resort to keeping the back seat warm.

Stay classy. In the meantime, here's a photo to melt hearts; when my four-year-old niece in her pink summer dress snuck up barefoot on a lazing rabbit at the magic hour for photographers – well, I thanked High Holy Bacon.

See you in September.

August 04, 2009

204: Pimp My Photo

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Illustration Friday's theme of modify had me scouring my photo vault, then interpreting in a purely technical manner. So bear with me here, if you think I'm off my rocker.

Firstly, the quick sketch above, drawn with a fast-fading black brush pen – my new best friend – is of Kerry's brother-in-law and his mega-awesome hat. In Photoshop, I frittered away at the drawing's edges, particularly along the bottom, and performed some minor tweaks to a few detail areas where the brush pen was overly blunt.

Where Illustration Friday's theme enters the picture is in choice of colour scheme and setting. The original photo (shown below), was snapped on a cloudy and blustery day on a northern Manitoba lake, from a boat halted at a barren, wretched colony of nesting gulls. The modified illustration instead inserts our hero into a far warmer climate. And there you have it.

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August 03, 2009

203: Cabin Fever

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This was the scene – according to the eggheads at Environment Canada – awaiting our six-day jet-away to the jungles of southern Ontario last week. My geographically-challenged family unit pitched in together for a lakeside cabin rental in Port Elgin, a resort-and-cottage town on the shores of Lake Huron that I know well from my childhood. And fortunately, the federal government does weather prediction about as well as [fill in the blank].

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Rainy overnights and mornings were more the case, but afternoons and evenings were by and large, glorious, and even included a solid sunny day from open to close mixed in. This laid the groundwork for a classic stuffed-to-the-rafters cabin experience, including much wine, six-ton brownies, barbeque, bocce, beers, badminton, biking, Big Bay homemade ice cream and a run-amok midnight bat in the living room.

It was a grand time, to be schooled in bocce by my almost-five-year-old niece, and to giggle with my nephew, a 15-month-old ball of giddiness. To munch on fresh fish and veggies still weeks away from harvest back at home. To hear cheer-uppy cardinals at dawn and see egrets in the marsh, and to escape one of the coldest summers on record at home to be with people I love and a place in the world I will always have fond memories for.

July 16, 2009

202: Blarg!!!

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Another piece of prodigious May Day output, this was my May 19 sketch – originally drawn with a couple of fine-nib pens, brush pen and light grey marker – of my nephew at two months old. Source material was from a photo shoot I had with him during a visit east last summer; also my last time seeing the chap – fortunately though we have a long-overdue second date coming up next week.


A closer look can be had, here.

July 13, 2009

201: Festival Banner Crop

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Top row (left to right): Iron & Wine, Okkervil River, Patrick Watson. Middle row (left to right): Great Lake Swimmers, Josh Ritter, Neko Case. Bottom row (left to right): Hey Rosetta!, Serena Ryder, Elvis Costello.


"Alright Winnipeg, check this sh*t out" ­ – Afie Jurvanen (aka Bahamas)

This year's Winnipeg Folk Festival was spectacular, for me, on many levels. But principally two: talent and weather. The latter goes without explanation; for myself, a lousy forecast can dampen even the best show – fortunately I can't think of too many examples where this has happened. So, lucky me.

But the crew behind the scenes, who patch this whole thing together, put forth an incredible lineup for 2009 – in my humble opinion, the best ever. Frankly, somebody there must have read my mind. Some notes from this year's festival:

The continuation of a second night-time stage has been a huge blessing, and this year's was, by leaps and bounds, the best. Between the only scheduled showing by late addition Hey Rosetta! On Friday, a quick pop-in for a screening of The Big Snit on Saturday and back-to-back concerts on Sunday from Patrick Watson and Great Lake Swimmers, the old guard can have their main stage.

Patrick Watson (the man) and Patrick Watson (the band) were lights-out. I hadn't seen them before, and had no clue how they'd manage to put across live what they do on their albums (having a most daring percussionist doesn't hurt). I only wished I'd waded in closer to see his homemade mobile soundsystem, which I could only describe as a backpack/coat-rack of megaphones. Their Sunday workshop with Danny Barnes, human beat-box C.R. Avery and klezmer-rapper Socalled was quite fine in its own right. A ton of improvised fun, anyways.

The Great Lake Swimmers put in an appearance or ten, or so it felt, holding their own against Josh Ritter and Neko Case (Saturday afternoon), and the bombastic Okkervil River (Sunday). Arguably the hardest-working band of the festival, they capped off the weekend with a rousing version of "I Am Part Of A Large Family" with Serena Ryder, complete with a rose-red sunset.

These sideshows almost make me forget my personal highlights of the evening main stage, the specially-added Wednesday marathon from Elvis Costello, the all-eggs-in-one-basket Friday night, capped by Iron & Wine and my lady crush Case (led off with the happiest man in the business, my man-crush Mr. Ritter) and a Saturday bash with the 11-piece British party band Bellowhead – complete with tuba solo.

I had a great time with my camera this year, shoehorning my way up close for some of the daytime shows. Bigger, crisper looks at any of these photos can be had here.

July 09, 2009

200: Happy Bicentennial, To Me

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This is the 200th artistic/creative diversion I've given myself since I began this blog at the outset of 2005. I am not one who tends to toot one's own horn, but right about now I am finding this pretty f**king amazing.

This is another entry from my May Day drawing series; my May 18th contribution to be precise (I'm telling you, this is one self-started drawing challenge that continues to pay out). A brush pen portrait of my niece, based on a photo I took during a Thanksgiving 2007 visit to my sister's in Nova Scotia, this was dressed up not for Illustration Friday or any other themed assignment. It was done – as athletes sometimes say – simply for the love of the game.

A closer look can be had, here.

July 06, 2009

199: Daytrippers

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Top row (left to right): adding machine of the beast in Ponemah; Sarah the roadside camel in Glenboro. Middle row (left to right): Kerry styles at the Souris agate pit; explosive words in the Souris caboose. Bottom row (left to right): daisies, yo; Kerry, on the bridge.

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Kerry and I celebrated an odd Canada Day Wednesday off by seeing a bit of the countryside and jet-setting off to Souris, Manitoba. For those outside certain local circles, the town of Souris (population 1,683) is home to the country's longest cable-stayed footbridge, which spans the Souris River at a length of 177 metres (584 feet). Souris is less-known as the hometown of a former coworker of mine, who claims to have punched fomer Philadelphia Flyers' goalie Ron Hextall – who hailed from up the road – in the nose during a childhood hockey game. But I digress.

With local scribe Bartley Kives' tome A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba, we hit the highway west to see this village first-hand, for the first time. The book came in handy, guiding us through some backwoods directions to find a farm-based reptile exhibit in nearby Shilo. That was cool in its own right; certainly not something one would expect to see on the bald prairie. If you can find it, I'd say it's worth the $5 admission.

In Souris proper, we ate lunch, strolled through the town park and chased the town peacocks. We explored a caboose-turned-museum. Walked the planks of the famous bridge (Kerry noted the shake makes it feel as if you're walking "like a Sweathog"). Rockhounded our heat-stricken butts off at the local agate pit. And then headed home – via Glenboro and its giant roadside camel – to a 9:00 dinner at Headingley's traveler haven Nick's Inn (bacon cheeseburger and fries for this hombre, but sadly out of milkshake). Following, we were so pooped we couldn't stay up for fireworks; instead, we heard them boom as we fell asleep in our bed.

June 28, 2009

198: Portrait Of Roy, G. And Biv

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I forgot about this one – the first illustration from my May Day drawing binge that I took further, in terms of post-processing, in June. Based from a photo taken of myself and friends Karla and Kirsty at a hotel room party during the GDC National AGM, the original illustration was a two-tone pen and marker number. Once scanned, the brown ink was desaturated in favour of shades of grey, and colour and texture were added to further differentiate the three figures. The paper texture was a freebie download made available at BittBox. A better look at the detail can be had, right here.

197: Worn Out

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Illustration Friday's theme of worn made me think of a lemur. Yes, that's right.

Not just any lemur, but one I photographed during a spring 2007 visit to the local zoo with my zoom lens in tow. I was there to test the lens out on my favourite Big Cage of Snowy Owls and came upon this tired-looking fellow. Granted, I'm not zoological enough to differentiate a healthy, virile lemur from a grizzled old one, but the mannerisms of this guy led me to believe he was pretty aged – and well-worn.

I sketched this lemur based from the photo, using an equally well-worn Pigma brush pen. I'd been using this pen tons lately and it's quite low on ink now – but this gives me a texture I love when I dab the nib on the page (an effect best seen in the muzzle area). The drying pen was also beneficial for the fur, providing delicacy that a healthy, virile brush pen could not achieve.

To follow the theme even moreso, I used an image of weathered wood planks to superimpose the illustration over, placing down Photoshop layers of white paint and muted splashes of colour. I then used a variety of custom brushes to whittle away the spaces between the planks and bring out a few cracks in the surface in an attempt to mimic painting the piece directly on wood.

A closer look at the detail can be had, here.

June 24, 2009

Zhup Wolf: Quark Superstar

I like checking where visitors to Jeopopolis come from – the free SiteMeter doodad I hitched up helps me do this. Today it earned its keep. Tom Waits and Alphaville may be big in Japan, but apparently I'm a "trusted" and "significant figure in the industry" in Russia – according to a "Quark consultant" who posted links to my Flickr set of magazine page spreads on a Russian design and printing forum yesterday.

I used Google Translate to find out what the Reds are saying about me; posts to the thread are laid out below. It's somewhat encouraging to see the eternal Quark-versus-InDesign debate crossing borders and spanning oceans (I switched to InDesign four years ago, despite the consultant's glowing review and ventriloquistic ability to put words in my mouth).

The consultant seems to be a Jeopopolitan convert; it's iffy whether others in the thread are – but Google's attempt at turning the conversation into English can be pretty amusing.


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Poster 1: Creative Good Luck: Conservator Magazine

Conservator, natural log Association Ducks Unlimited Canada, published a quarter century. Since 2000, the editors turned to QuarkXPress.

"Starting with the fifth version of QuarkXPress, we keep pace with the progress and to continuously update the product" says art director magazine Zhup Wolf. "'G' pleased us most of all: easy access to all functions, focus on creativity and, most importantly, almost double the reduction of time on layout."

Wolf can be trusted: as significant figures in the industry, he is also a graphic designer and photographer with nearly half of experience. Is your tape on Flikre and blogs Blogspote.

Fifty of his best turn of the journal Conservator, made in QuarkXPress, you can see here and Flikre. They are really good.

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Poster 2: Yes, a good layout. Especially liked the picture 2. It's a good idea.

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Poster 3: It is necessary to clarify what exactly the program moved to the wording of the quark C pajamas? Indesit then and Quark was not.

Imposition of coding. If an opportunity like this make up – the dignity of Quarks. Well, well higher number of ducks on the page still does not measure creativity 4 th in my opinion – terrible porn.

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Poster 4: Indesit then and Quark was not.

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Poster 3: Well, more or less working, he became half of the version. Until then, all vopili "Well what!"

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Poster 5: Mr. Duc really lucky – when the 500 characters in turn and cool photos in such circumstances to make ugly – have to postratsya.

June 22, 2009

196: Drifting In And Out Of Snow

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It's funny (to me anyways) that at the moment summer finally hits my home town – and hits, big-time – illustrative thoughts turn to such cold imagery. But when you come from a place that can conceivably get snow during parts or all of 10 of 12 months in a calendar year, the white stuff can drift into your consciousness quite easily. To wit, to hoot: this owl – sleeping under a blanket of drifted snow.

And since it's too hot to go into further detail, I will insist only upon viewing this link where you can see the piece in its more feathery, detailed glory.

The original line-work was drawn with a Pigma brush pen.

June 16, 2009

195: Panic Shroom

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I have a fear of mould. On food, on dank basement floors, on rotting logs – pretty much on anything. Maybe not a fear, even. More like a disgust bordering on paranoia on the cusp of dread. Case in point, a recent backyard gag-inducing dumping of kitchen compostables, which terrifyingly enough contained as much fuzz as veggie matter.

Depending on an extremely specific and seemingly unidentifiable set of circumstances, this disgust/paranoia/dread can occasionally cross over to the realm of mushrooms. But mushrooms to me are a grey area; I'll eat the cutesy store-bought ones like there's no tomorrow, but come across bad boys like you see above or below and I become equally fascinated and squirmy. I like to think of these photos, taken in the Whiteshell last weekend during a late spring hike, as somewhat of a step towards truce – between myself, and icky, sproingy, intestinal fungi everywhere.

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Addendum! Anyone out there who can identify these... things... please, by all means pipe up.