August 03, 2010

239: Six-Month Check-In... And Out

Something is inherently wrong here; I've really let this place go to pot, and I'm feeling bad for it. Typically, in summers past, this is the time of year where I consider a shutdown – usually for good-weather reasons, getting away from the monitor, etc. But this time is different. For the first time in this site's long run I've neglected it to a worrisome point.

So consider this an official check-out notice. I'm essentially saying what has been painfully obvious: I haven't been around here – and I don't plan to, until I decide exactly what it is I need to do next with this site. I've been putting so much effort into my Flickr photo challenge that this place seems like an ugly stepsister.

It's not to say I don't have creative irons in the fire. I do. A few, anyways. And someday down the line they may be worth showing. But the bigger picture dictates I close up shop until further notice. It may result in a retooling. Or a total comeback. Or something else, but it's clear from the overwhelming silence here that it's necessary.

My July batch of photos are above, and my pick of the litter below. It's been a great month for shooting, and just when I think I'm tapped out even taking photos something wonderful presents itself. That's exactly what happened today, with this shot of Maximilian sunflowers at work – and I'm grateful we crossed paths, and the wind blew the way it did, and the sky was as blue as it was.


As always, check the photos daily. Right here.

July 05, 2010

238: Five Month Check-In

Nearing the halfway point, which will strike in early August. I can't believe it. For now though, it's summertime and the photo-taking is (relatively) easy. Subject matter is everywhere. In the garden. On the barbecue. At weddings and parades. It's a fun time, and it's been reflected in the past 30 photographs or so during my image-a-day challenge.

Based on the response over on Flickr, the preferred photo from the past fiscal month has been this one, of a ghoulish-looking storm that struck one day during my evening commute from work. And for the first time since I began these monthly updates, I have to agree. It's my favourite, too.

I'd love to hear from you, what you think of the effort to date. If you have a camera, it's a project that I highly encourage embarking on. You can certainly cater it to however busy you happen to be (I let it consume far more time than I wager most do).

Interested in seeing any of these past 30 efforts larger? As always, check the slideshow, or create an RSS feed to the set. New product arrives daily!

June 23, 2010

237: The Tanager

So, the other day I was in the cafeteria lineup at work next to our resident naturalist (and all-around bird expert, who also leads Friday morning songbird banding, for which my camera and I are most grateful).

In typical bird-nerd fashion, I asked her where I could go in the area to improve my odds of spotting a scarlet tanager, one of the most vibrant and colourful songbirds around these parts. Since my early childhood days of bird geekdom, I've still only seen them in field guides.

She told me, essentially, what I already knew ­ tanagers like deep forest and high tree canopy, largely away from prying eyes.

But it got me to remembering my apartment-dwelling days. I spent upwards of four years in a fourth-floor suite overlooking a city park through the canopies of huge boulevard elms. And every May for a few short weeks, the treetops outside my windows would be filled with brilliant and wonderful little birds passing though during spring migration. Warblers, thrushes, kinglets and thrashers; from street level I'd have had zero idea they were even up there. Probably, much like that elusive scarlet tanager.

I created this digital illustration in homage of my search. I'm often hard-pressed not to look at a big fat tree and think of what's up there, out of sight in the leaves. But they're obviously there. The field guides say so.

This is almost an entirely digital concoction. The bird and leaves are scanned outlines, vectorized in Illustrator. The tree itself was originally a high-contrast silhouetted photo, inverted and simplified. The background is a tinkered-with scan of faux-wood panel. The leaves were repeated in an analogous array of greens, rotated and bunched for copy-and-paste sessions in Photoshop. For a closer look at the overall piece, you can click here.

June 12, 2010

236: Four Month Check-In

It's hard to believe I'm now a third of the way through my photo-a-day challenge. And this past month has been exemplary of the highs and lows while conducting such a venture. There's the obligatory days where you want nothing whatsoever to do with the project. Days where an image falls in your lap. Days where there's even too much to choose from when boiling down to a single submission. This past month in particular, saw the arrival of my new camera (and replacement macro lens a week later), spells of brilliant and terrible weather and an extremely photogenic trip away to New York City.

It's ironic then, that in choosing my favourite snap from the past 30 days, I find myself not particularly drawn to any one shot. But in selecting this portrait of a savannah sparrow, I realized one camera-friendly reason why I love this time of year – bird-banding mornings at work. And though I was told the brightly-coloured warblers, ever the stars of these sessions, overflew the area this year, capturing a wonderfully-textured bird in the hand like this chap is still worth the time and effort.

As always, check my 365 progress as the set grows and grows, here – or view it slideshow-style, here.

June 02, 2010

235: Back To The Windy Apple

The days leading to, and following our trip last week to New York City (and Philadelphia – thanks, Mel!) have been frenetic for me, so I apologize for my absence here.

And while Manhattan isn't top-of-mind on anyone's lists of most relaxing getaways, it certainly ranks high among the world's great distractions. And that's what I needed right about now.

Kerry and I traveled to New York almost
three years ago to the day, and had a fabulous time. This time around was no different, although our approach to the trip subtly seemed to be; I didn't realize myself until we got home and I began to skim through the photos. Images from our first trip together showed scope and grandeur, frame-filling snaps of the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station and the Brooklyn Bridge. We were tourists in the purest sense, and it showed.

This time around, the camera was largely aimed back at us. We have photos of each other. Photos of good food we ate. Photos of small things, quirky sights and unsuspecting people. Photos of us carving out our little niche among one of the world's most frantic places. The pictures don't lie; it was a fun, fun time.

I dressed up a select series of images as panoramic black-and-whites. You can view the set here, or as a slideshow here.

May 10, 2010

234: Three Month Check-In

It's been a whirlwind month for my photo-a-day challenge. April saw my trusty Canon Rebel sidekick disappear into the thieving ether, and two scrambled snaps from my PowerShot before an amazing friend of mine stepped forward with a loaner – another Rebel, no less – while I dealt with an insurance claim and the eventual purchase of a new camera. All along though, the photos came – and I consider this at least a small victory.

Amazing April weather was a big help, too (I wish I could say the same thing for May so far). Friendly conditions outside always makes for better material overall.

As has come to be a tradition with these monthly updates, I provide once again my favourite from the past 30 days: a portrait of our friends' kiddo being held my the ankles – simply because I suggested to dad that it would make for a fun shot. Hopefully kiddo doesn't hold a grudge; he seemed to enjoy it.

Be sure to stop by my photo-a-day home base on Flickr – or enjoy this ever-growing slideshow from the very beginning.

May 06, 2010

233: JeoJeo: Boy Graphic Designer

I never experienced the glory of a comic-book phase at any point of my childhood (or adulthood, for that matter). I was left awkwardly in the lurch in high school art class when my friends held competitions to see who could draw the best Wolverine. My only comparable obsession came from reading The Adventures of Tintin books, which were stocked as a beat-up, dog-eared collection in my elementary school library, usually alongside a few copies of Asterix.

Now that I'm all grown up – complete with disposable income – I'm slowly piecing together my own collection of the Tintin series. One here, one there – usually procured at Toad Hall Toys whenever I'm searching for presents for my niece or nephew (or for Kerry). I'm finally coming into my own as a full-blown Tintin geek.

This primarily stems from my absolute love of Hergé's artwork (that, and the fact that any scan of Captain Haddock's furious mug usually makes me laugh). But Hergé's graphic, flat-colour, stay-within-the-lines approach has always had an appeal for me as a sensible, structured and detail-oriented graphic designer. I've long wished to make an attempt at placing a character of myself into Tintin's world, seeing how we share similar dimensions, taste in clothes – often, even the same wisp of hair. And this week, I finally pulled it off.

Click here, for a closer look.

April 20, 2010

One For Bad, Four For Good

I will be the first to admit this blog is stagnating. Partially because, on the flip-side, my photo-a-day challenge over on Flickr is booming – until today anyways. My trustiest of trusty sidekicks, the Canon Rebel I received as a gift for my 30th birthday five years ago, was stolen this morning along with a lens I gifted myself with funds procured from leasing this photo to the City of Winnipeg, my wallet and Christmas iPod. So while I begin simultaneous grieving/recovery periods, I thought I'd mosey over here and see what's what. See what good things there are that have made me happy recently.
There was this photo shoot, part of Ian McCausland's ingenious Facebook Foto Friday get-together, an open house of sorts at his studio for friends to acquire pro profile pics.

There was this attempt at a self-portrait, which, though didn't pan out exactly accurate, did have me dabbling in the messy soft pencil arts once again. I prefer this picture of the picture more than the picture itself, which I can't show because the scan of it was on a flash drive, also stolen.

There was my friend Jason, who returned from the Big Smoke to once again take part in the spring nocturnal owl survey a couple of weeks ago. We heard four owls and smashed ice blocks like we were nine years old.

There was – and is – Kerry, who joined me on an amazing spring hike and cookout/smorefest on the most glorious day of the year so far. Who took me on a mystery date Friday night to one of our favourite restaurants. And who loaned me two bus tickets, 20 bucks and bought me a brownie on this bad day spent canceling credit cards, acquiring a new drivers license, talking to police, insurance and the ceiling.

April 08, 2010

232: Two Month Check-In

With the arrival of spring it has become infinitely easier to add tallies to my photo-a-day challenge. Three days ago marked the two-month benchmark, and even just quickly glancing at the grid above I see more light, more colour and more 'interestingness' (as Flickr calls it) than in the first 30 days spent in snow and too-short daylight hours.

Not so strangely enough, my personal favourite from the second month of shooting is another portrait of Kerry. This was taken a couple weekends ago under exciting circumstances – she had just received sudden notice her second book of poetry had found its way to an interested publisher (and will be on shelves in the fall). Titled Vs., the book will focus on her training and anticipation of her successful boxing debut. A second image from the impromptu portrait session is being used in the publishers' promo materials, and perhaps even on the back cover.

Be sure to view my photo-a-day progress here, in handy-dandy slideshow format.

March 30, 2010

231: They're Magically Beauticious

A couple of weekends ago Kerry and I went to Montréal, much like last year; don't ask me why I'm only getting around to this now. But even though the days were drab and grey and nippy and even big-fat-sloppy-flakes-falling-from-the-sky, we found more than our fair share of colour inside the greenhouses at the city's botanical gardens. In particular, on display was a giant room full of flowers and free-roaming butterflies. In the spirit of Lucky Charms, there were...

Photobucket morphos!

Photobucket caterpillars with creepy false eyes!

...yellow cacti!

Photobucket monarch-/viceroy-like butterflies (possibly monarchs or viceroys)!

...and red reservoir flowers!

March 17, 2010

230: Screech

For the past couple of weeks I have been scoping out a certain tree in the neighbourhood, as it was rumoured to be harbouring a screech owl. Friends of Kerry's had spotted it on more than one occasion in a notch of a grizzled tree about two kilometres from our house, but were reluctant to disclose the exact location. Owl hogs.

Luckily, I was able to recognize the tree from the photo they showed. We found it during our frosty walk a couple of weekends ago, but the owl wasn't included. Two more visits by bike this past weekend were equally fruitless, though the ride – my first of the season – was muddy, filthy and tons of fun. Yesterday though, I struck paydirt, and the owl and I had a decent 10-minute shoot before direct sunlight disappeared. It seemed half-asleep, but tracked me with a mean stinkeye (below) as I navigated around with the camera.

I am hoping this is the little fellow's home and not just a hangout; it looks more than suitable. It would be great if I could track its progress over the summer.

March 16, 2010

229: Subterranean Homesick Owls

Illustration Friday's current theme of subterranean – very specific, which I like – allows an opportunity to display wares from a weekend spree of woodcut-based monoprints.

In January, a friend offered me a couple of small blocks of particle-board and some cutting tools to try my hand at carving, something I hadn't really done since high school (on linoleum, I think we all did this in high school). After a few sessions of trial and error, I carved myself a nice little cut of a burrowing owl (above).

Actual printing went down on Sunday; about a dozen or so decent copies (above) run off on a small but effective homemade press at my friend's place. These I am quite proud of.

For Illustration Friday's purposes I scanned one of the black-ink prints (above) to further the piece digitally, though I hoped to retain the print's sense of hand-craftedness. Burrowing owls are unique among the owl set for nesting in abandoned prairie-dog dens, among other subterranean abodes, and the stark, confined nature of these prints suited an idea I had in mind. Where the concept – and this write-up – takes an odd turn is in the piece's source of inspiration. Subterranean, for some reason or another, made me recall the mining sequence about midway through Dance, a two-minute animated National Film Board vignette that used to fill space on CBC when I was a kid (any Canadian worth his toque should recognize this tune).

Click here, to view the illustration larger (and on black).

March 10, 2010

228: One Month Check-In

Just over one month of my photo-a-day project has lapsed, and I don't know if I could be more pleased with the outcome. The camera – and my brain – have been getting a workout, the results by and large have been decent, even the usual stark and mind-numbingly cold of February was held at bay. I really can't wait for this thing to inch into the colour and daylight of spring and summer. For now, as seen in the grid above, vibrance isn't a word that comes to mind (with a few exceptions). But I am having fun, and my schedule has been mostly kind.

This is my favourite so far. It was taken in the brilliant late afternoon Saturday sunshine in our living room a couple of weeks ago. I stood on a chair, and Kerry stood very, very still.

Take a look through my Flickr slideshow of the 34 entries to date. And I'll try not to think that I'm only 9.3 percent complete.

March 08, 2010

227: A Frosty Reception

It has been – and I'll say this now because it's a week into March – an amazing winter. And if it really is drawing to a close (jinx!), then yesterday was truly its crowning moment. Kerry and I went for a walk in the neighbourhood, and on the river, and witnessed the frost of frosts – and there have been some real treats this season in the frost department.

At the end of Dominion Street where we scaled the banks and hopped onto the Assiniboine, we saw this branch…

…and this branch…

…oh, and then this evergreen. It was all around; I was basically pivoting with my camera.

We got off the river at Omand's Creek Park, where it was laid on even thicker. We watched kids on the toboggan hill for a little while, then went to look for a tree that's rumoured to be harbouring a screech owl. We found the tree, but not its denizen.

But we did see more frost.

February 22, 2010

226: Portrait Of A Metal Duck

A culmination of the past two Monday night Creative Nights – last week: drawing, this week: colouring/styling – this drawing enabled me to get the pens out and work on some hatch-based texturing. This is a roughly one-foot-high welded metal duck sculpture sent to Kerry and I as a gift some time ago, which I situated at my new drawing desk last week and treated as a still life sketching subject; the sketch itself ended up almost actual size, resulting in a pair of stitched-together scans to make the final image in preparation for finishing up tonight. No theme, no reason, just drawn for quacks and giggles. A larger version, with a look at some of the detail, can be viewed here.

February 14, 2010

225: My Funny Valentine

Kerry bought this vintage Sunshine tricycle at an antique shop near her work a number of years ago. Since then it's been a fixture in our apartment, and now the living room of our house. Every now and then I hop on and wheel around the main floor – which, to date, has yet to fail to test my knees, strain my butt and amuse her greatly. So, in this fancypants digital age, I am now able to wait for her to leave the house for a hot yoga class, set up the tripod and Canon PowerShot, giddy-up/do my thing, import into iMovie, add effects and a soundtrack of The Sadies' "Sixteen Mile Creek" and craftily pop this video onto her laptop. It amused her greatly; a happy Valentine.

February 11, 2010

224: 365

I'm one week into a new venture, of taking a photo a day for an entire calendar year. The concept is simple and entirely unoriginal – there's thousands of people on Flickr right now in the midst of their own 365-photo campaigns – but one that I hope will result in at least some photographic paydirt. I've thought about doing it for some time, but there was just something entirely random and pleasing about the eventual timing of my dive.

I didn't want to crush under the weight of cheese in starting on my birthday, or New Years, or what-have-you. And there's not enormous pressure behind the concept, but it may certainly force me to realize how many days slipped by in the past where I didn't give the camera even a second glance – especially in the thick of winter. In one week it has already kept me awake and thinking more about ideas, concepts and composition than I can recall.

I'll post the occasional shot from this little project here, but the glut will be housed in this Flickr photo set. Keep checking in. The images shown here are from February 6, 9 and 10.

February 03, 2010

223: Moom

My friend Kal Barteski – she of Love Life fame – invited me to join herself and a few others in a spontaneous creative bout this past week. Operating in the vein of Illustration Friday and other creative of-the-week themed concepts, the GO/venture is far more open to interpretation, offering participants the option of providing output ranging from sketches to photos to written word submissions. The theme of the edition I took part in was permanent. I was initially excited at coupling a piece with Illustration Friday's theme of clumsy – but clumsiness prevailed in the end; turns out that was last week's theme.

This piece was drawn quickly over the weekend, then dressed in Photoshop on Monday evening as part of Creative Night. You can click here, to view the illustration larger, and here, to see the Flickr-based GO/venture home base, stuffed with other folks' entries covering a whole wadge of past themes.

January 25, 2010

222: Falcon And The Snowman

Knowing I'd be spending Monday night Creative Night knocking off the tandem workload of my after-hours Dreamweaver class assignment and a noon-hour presentation for my workplace's winter Wednesday travel slideshow series (I'm presenting on Portugal), I took time out yesterday to work on my sculpting skills. I often state my clumsiness in any artistic dealings in the third dimension. Fortunately, my childhood excitement for wintertime "packing" snow takes precedent. Warm winter days of this past weekend's calibre are so rare in these parts – proven quite effectively by today's harsh, blizzardy contrast.

So, given the material at hand, I sculpted this homage to warmer days. I call it Snowman No. 1, with Frisbee, Beer Bottle and Lawn-Chair. It's a mixed media piece, utilizing snow, a frisbee, a beer bottle, and a lawn-chair (the ballcap was a temporary add-on). Today's sudden temperature plummet has nicely solidified the piece, which will now be on display in my front yard/gallery for the remainder of the winter – global warming, territorial dogs and punk kids permitting. Cost is suggested donation. Plan your visit soon; come April the gallery will be installing a new exhibit, titled Rotting Springtime Detritus.

And yes, that is a Falcon Beach frisbee. I don't mind if that gets swiped.

January 18, 2010

221: Small Wilderness

This is my submission for Illustration Friday's theme of
wilderness. The word conjures up images of vastness and scope. True, the wilderness is big. But step inside it, and you'll see it can also be quite small.

I love the wilderness, and I'm most grateful that I live in a place where true wilderness is a stone's throw away. I realize a great many people in the world don't have the ability to say that. The wilderness – and all that is in it – continues to be my number one source of inspiration; anyone skimming through this blog will notice this. I couldn't have come up with a more inviting theme for Illustration Friday.

I'm still dickering around with my woodblock carving, and I don't want it to seem that I have nothing to show for Monday night Creative Night. I hope to display my wares someday very soon. For now, you can click here to see this sketch in greater detail.

January 11, 2010

220: The Return Of Creative Night

It's been too long since I did anything, so Kerry and I have reinstated our mid-winter Creative Night, delegated – like last year – to Monday evenings for the foreseeable future. But this evening I do not have much to show, and that's because I spent the evening working off the grid for once, with a block of wood and some loaner carving tools pretending to know what I'm doing. And at some point soon I'll be finessing my little wood-block, preparing it for my very first press session at a friend's place (I promise to show off the results, no matter how clumsy it winds up looking – I have to work on the deftness of my carving touch). Fun times.

I spent the latter part of tonight tinkering with some photographic elements, off-loading images from a post-Christmas trip to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. That's where this fossil (above) comes from, merged with abstract wallpaper textures and a textbook cover from a summertime trip to an old-timey one-room Mennonite schoolhouse. Also, fun times.

January 06, 2010


First off, apologies if I took too long in announcing it – but congratulations are in order to Sean, from Kingston NY, and Steph, from right here in the 'Peg, for winning their bad selves a free print of their choice from all the artwork ever displayed on this site. Their comments were selected at random from all the bloody aresome responses I received in recognition of Jeopopolis' five-year anniversary.

Many thanks again, to all who responded. It was an absolute treat to read through them one and all.

January 02, 2010

Ought Nine In Music

2009 was a fantastic year for music in our house, our town and in our country. K. and I attended some fine shows passing through the city, culminating with my favourite Folk Festival – check that, far and away favourite – since I started attending in 1993. Seven of my favourite albums (and four of ten favourite singles, below) this year hail from the homeland. Canada, take a bow.

1) Patrick Watson //
Wooden Arms – I picked this up in advance of their appearance at the FolkFest and haven't put it down since. Spooky, ethereal, inventive, like nothing else I've heard in a long time.

2) The Deep Dark Woods // Winter Hours – a selection of K.'s from the Folk Fest, the perfect prairie album with great storytelling.

3) Metric // Fantasies – mebbe not as airtight and rock-hard as Live It Out, but solid nonetheless. Just try not and sing along to "Stadium Love" at the end.

4) Neko Case // Middle Cyclone – following the footsteps of "Ghost Wiring" and "The Needle Has Landed", "Red Tide" continues an odd streak for myself of finding the final track my runaway favourite from Neko's albums.

5) JBM //
Not Even In July – who is this guy? A gorgeous piece of work.

6) Bahamas // Pink Strat – a FolkFest discovery and absolute wiz on the guitar, Afie Jurvanen's album is desceptively sweeter than the goofy/gruff rock-star exterior he exhibits on stage.

7) Marie-Pierre Arthur // Marie-Pierre Arthur – I have no idea what she's singing about beyond the titles "Elle" and "Pourquoi", but I'm hooked – a tribute to her amazing voice (and her band's sound).

8) Clem Snide // Hungry Bird – a quiet and heartfelt little thing.

9) Yeah Yeah Yeahs // It's Blitz! – the one-two punch of "Zero" and "Heads Will Roll" is as balls-out as anything put out in a long time, making up for a mellower back end than I would have liked.

10) Great Lake Swimmers // Lost Channels – a solid addition to their œuvre, even if a step down from the beginning-to-end awesomeness of Ongiara.

I also pilfered a number of singles off of albums I wasn't keen on as a whole. They're ranked here, and this list does not include singles from purchased albums:

1) Radiohead // "These Are My Twisted Words"
2) Handsome Furs // "I'm Confused"
3) Laura Gibson // "Spirited"
4) A.C. Newman // "All Of My Days And All Of My Days Off"
5) Charlotte Gainsbourg // "Heaven Can Wait"
6) Leeroy Stagger // "Everything Is Real"
7) Basia Bulat // "Gold Rush"
8) Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros // "Home"
9) Florence + The Machine // "Kiss With A Fist"
10) Franz Ferdinand // "Ulysses" & "Katherine Kiss Me"