February 26, 2009

180: Just Like Mom's

A few years ago I asked my mom to send me a written alphabet in her
handwriting, with hopes of learning how to turn it into a typeface, and the plan eventually fell by the wayside. But I was inspired by comments in a recent meme that's been spreading through Facebook like a virus, where I boasted I had the world's neatest printing – with my mom's coming in second. Digging up her printed alphabet I realize now I infact have miles to go to achieve her neatdom.

So, using this free online font-o-matic
service, I placed my mom's scanned letterforms into a provided template and followed a series of instructions that led to the site popping out a 16-kilobyte TrueType font.

It was almost that simple, but the results were not truly satisfying. The service naturally took each letter as I supplied it, making no adjustments in terms of baseline alignment, x-height and what-not. But luckily my mom kept her lines of text quite level, so only minor tweaks were needed to smooth things out. She also neglected to supply numbers or any other miscellaneous characters, so I searched stacks of postcards (she's a real world traveler these days) and other bits of mail to make up some of the slack. It is not a complete font by any means, but I now have it at my disposal the next time I need a note getting me out of gym class. I could have really used this back in junior high for phys-ed gymnastics and wrestling.

February 23, 2009

179: My Gut Instinct

Illustration Friday's current theme of instinct made me think of one phrase and one phrase only: go with your gut. There's not a whole helluva lot more to this, considering. But there was one major conceptual change between the original image in my head and what eventually made it to paper – at first, the concept had one man's entire bottom half walking away on him. But a chat with Kerry cinched the deal that the man's gut should be the only part making a break. I said OK, then mebbe the guts should have their own pair of feet, strutting off stage right, but she said no, make it move like an inchworm.

I actually posed for myself with this one ­ using my tripod and remote, thinking I'd draw it in a more realistic manner. Even though I didn't in the end, I thought I'd give that visual as well, despite your pleas; I don't believe I've shown off my gut here on my site before... or have I?
Click here for the obligatory closer glimpse at the spectacle. The drawing, I mean.

February 20, 2009

178: A Hazy Shade Of Winter

Top row (left to right): Aquila steers us through a whiteout on Highway 67; Kerry's miniature pancakes (and CBC Radio 3's image-of-the-day for February 18). Middle row (left to right): the boy in the box, on Wellington Crescent; attack, el robot!; nothing but blue skies and an inukshuk arm, on the river trail. Bottom row: clutter amidst the roaring game.


My gift to you – a grid's worth of subtle off-season tones, as I plod my way through the dog days of winter. These were all taken with the macro lens attached, barring the top left corner – that was done with my trusty little go-everywhere PowerShot. A great many of these are already posted up, in glorious detail, o'er on my Flickr page.

February 16, 2009

The Big Two-Five

I've reached the big two-five.

Not in age, I did that in the fall of the fantastic year 2000. No, I mean the rad fad all the kids are talkin' about on The Facebook. Writing 25 interesting things about one's self takes time, if you want to do it up right (say, like my friend Al). This I pecked at over days. You're supposed to then tag people... aw hell, you know the deal. But I don't tag; everyone who's done this has done this...

1. You'd think that as a kid I was a magnet for abuse with a name like mine, but surprisingly not. The worst I can think of was a customer on my paper route who asked if my parents were potheads when they named me. And I thought at the time, man, that's actually pretty funny.

2. Over the course of my life, my fantasy career has been as follows: park ranger, guy who built Lego Village at Eaton's every Christmas, astronaut, ornithologist, cartographer, sportswriter, graphic designer for National Geographic, park ranger.

3. When I was 10 I saw Labyrinth and became a huge fan of David Bowie. Not too long afterward, I learned he was also a singer.

4. I first (successfully) rode a bike when I was 11. I learned to drive a car when I was 30. Ironically, one of my favourite pastimes is, and has always been, the road trip.

5. In junior high, my friends had posters of Alyssa Milano in their lockers. I had one of Michelle Pfeiffer. Later I developed a crush on Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years.

6. I miss the grunge era, for music and fashion. But not for design. David Carson can kiss my ass.

7. A few years back, friends and I pulled a whirlwind trip to Mardi Gras. While there I saw five boobs.

8. A couple of weeks ago I killed a cactus. Who does that?

9. I'm a bird nerd. And a design nerd. As such, my favourite species share one common trait: an aesthetically-pleasing colour scheme – including my favourite colour, a cinnamon-esque dried-blood red: ruddy duck, ruddy turnstone, northern saw-whet owl, red-breasted nuthatch, American avocet.

10. I run a very tight wardrobe, and hang on to clothes like grim death.

11. I won't spill details as to how, but I can intentionally sneeze. For the endorphins alone it is worth it.

12. My favourite song is "Sexy Sadie", and has been so for years.

13. I have the neatest handwriting in the world. Deal with it. Second neatest in the world is my mom's.

14. I can navigate circles around you. This is because I read maps like books. If I'm riding shotgun, you will not get lost – unless it's yer own damned fault.

15. I do not pull this out of my hat often, but I can belch astoundingly loud and fantastically long. On command.

16. There's a piece of glass I can jiggle around underneath the skin of one of my knuckles, the result of a clutz moment with a tumbler of orange juice a few years ago.

17. I will drink water straight out of Lake Superior, but none of the other Great Lakes.

18. Death Row foodstuff? My mom's baking powder biscuits, newly warm. Possibly with honey, possibly with a bowl of chili – I'm not sure – but I would hope the folks on Death Row would be understanding of my indecision. Mebbe also a roasted duck. Then a brownie, with walnuts baked in and bits of Mars bars in icing almost at a 1:1 ratio with actual brownie.

19. I have not seen a speck of either the Godfather or Fast And The Furious trilogies.

20. Touching a perfectly smooth, dry stone will produce the same effect in me as fingernails on a chalkboard does for others. To touch one I have to first lick my fingers. Funny enough, the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard does not bother me too much, but touching a chalkboard with my fingers will.

21. My top score in Wii bowling is 279. I have never come close to that mark again. There's a small chance I might have dreamed it.

22. I am afraid of mould, and some mushrooms (depending on how icky they look). As a kid I was afraid of fiddlehead ferns (pteridophobia, I'm over it now).

23. I am also often subconsciously – and sometimes-not-so-subconsciously – afraid of screwing up. You wouldn't believe how much that tends to get in the way of things.

24. There are two books out there, in the world, dedicated to me.

25. I first kissed a girl when I was 12. I last kissed a girl a few minutes ago.

February 11, 2009

177: Think Small

A recent and unprecedented run of consecutive snow days had me finally getting around to trying tilt-shift photography – a digi-technique I'd read about in the past few months. I did not have many photos that fit the bill, and I'm keen to take some photos downtown specifically for this once the winter is over and done with. But for the time being I used a tutorial found via Drawn! and attempted it on a pair of suitable panoramic photos I took during past vacations. This technique, combined with certain subject and compositional criteria, has the ability to give a photo the illusion of a miniature model – criteria that includes:

  • subject matter believable enough to be miniaturized in a model (urban scenes work best, naturally; streetscapes, train yards, etc.),
  • a slightly elevated viewpoint (as one would typically view a model), like from a balcony or bridge,
  • sharp directional lighting, particularly full sun, to mimic indoor bulb light or spotlights,
  • tight composition – shots out of airplane windows need not apply – again, to ensure believability.
Originals and stylized versions are on display here of Bethesda Fountain in New York City (above) and Pra├ža 8 de Maio in Coimbra, Portugal (below).

To make the technique really work, the criteria above should definitely be considered before the photo is taken. These images of mine are what worked best without being able to do so; as such, there are still flaws with both. For example, the Central Park
fountain and banners would be wholly in focus if this were a real model, and more foreground than sky in the Coimbra panorama would be preferred (I also did a quickie patch job here to 'eliminate' a few folks). Both shots also show more detail than perhaps one would attempt in constructing an actual model, and there are many subtleties to consider in the blurring procedure to make the technique pop just so.

You can click here to access a handful of absolutely ace examples where the technique is done right, and here to follow a pretty basic tutorial of the process.

February 09, 2009

176: A Man For His Time

An oddly random link cropped up in a thread on HOW magazine's online forum – this one, to be precise; an image gallery on a seemingly forgotten genealogy page – which painted a strong picture of a time in none-too-distant history that, for many reasons, many who witnessed would choose to forget. Take a look at the link and you'll see. I may one day think the same thing about my own favourite period of nostalgia (the grunge era) – but for now, not likely.

Coincidentally, Illustration Friday offers up the goes-in-all-directions theme of time. And I decided as such, that I wanted to pay tribute to the mutton-chopped chap in the go-go, whiz-bang 1960s information retrieval industry, and to a unique period of time in fashion (and facial hair).

This illustration, drawn with a fine-nib Pigma Micron and a pseudo-calligraphic pen, does not venture far from its original source material. But afterwards I opted for a certain colour scheme, and style, that accentuates the man's place in time; and had fun sticking to a two-toned palette. The erasing away of the background shapes was done with custom Photoshop brushes I made, based from old scans of sumac bush leaves.

There's detail in the inking that this blog – and its 500-pixel picture dimensions – does not do justice. So for that I say look here, for a better glimpse of what I was attempting.

February 03, 2009

175: Down By The Riverside

The City of Winnipeg – coupled with an absolutely frigid December – hit a home run this winter with an extra-extended edition of the Assiniboine River skating trail. Almost 10 kilometres have been cleared from The Forks to the Assiniboine Park footbridge this season. And while I don't skate, I do gladly take part in the trail's side-by-side multi-use portion – a super-smooth pathway of crushed snow – on my bike, as two of the past three weekends have seen tolerable weather to get out, and not lose my eyesight from welling tear ducts in the process. For insurance and safety reasons, I doubt the whole enterprise has more than a few weeks left, so I hope to get out a few more times still. It's a wonderful and different viewpoint of the city that one can't get the rest of the year without a boat or being the son of God. Here are some candids from my trips out so far, a skyward shot of the footbridge underbelly and its cluster of cliff swallow nests (above) – and a llama (below), which was part of a skate parade that traced the route last weekend.


February 01, 2009

The Kindness Of Strangers

This January came with it some special deliveries to my mailbox; special in content and special in that all arrived from people I have yet to – or perhaps never – meet.

Hot on the heels of a surprise anniversary brownie shipment from Rob and Melissa, this Christmas ornament (above, top right) showed itself early in January, compliments of distant e-friend Jenn Bowman (whose rock-star husband Keith I met in Vegas a couple years ago). Noticing from Flickr and elsewhere my penchant for all things owlular, she picked this adorable fellow up at a Philadelphia market and popped it in the mail. Yes, just like that.

Mid-month, a general call-out for all people interested in my GDC button swap submission netted an email from Adam Koford, originator of online comic strip The Laugh-Out-Loud Cats and perhaps the most prolific illustrator I've discovered in all my internet ramblings. I sent him a trio of buttons from my years in the swap and unknowingly, I received an envelope a few weeks later containing an original panel sketch (above, bottom right). Do yourself a favour and peruse his Flickr vault – but be warned, it may take you a few weeks.

Lastly, a seemingly innocuous post of some newly-minted promo stickers by Flickr contact, sketching wizard and fellow SFG Blank Book Project contributor Tommy Kane caught my eye. I asked for one, and lo! My mailbox produced a three-pack of stickers a short time later, all the way from Brooklyn. One now graces the cover of my sketchbook (above left). And yes, that is a squirrel with a pistol. I've yet to decide the fate of the other two. One will definitely make it out into the city someplace.