February 13, 2012

259: Holy Canadiana

holy Canadiana
There was a recent and amazing stretch of winter that almost made the season's dearth of snow worthwhile. First there were four consecutive days of hoarfrost-birthing fog, captured at work with my camera in an earlier post – and then again here, and here, and here.

the loneliest position in hockey
And then, when it finally lifted and the sun returned, there was a single brilliant Saturday morning where the frost and crisp blue sky coexisted. I took the camera down to the river to scope things out, and stumbled on a kiddos' outdoor hockey tournament. Much Canadiana ensued.

super sunday
On the next day we went skiing at Grand Beach. We'd hit up the trails at Birds Hill the previous four weekends because it was the only park nearby reporting decent conditions. But the artificiality of Birds Hill was beginning to wear, and the thicker forests and lack of highway noise of Grand Beach was a decent tonic. It's a beautiful trail network. Next weekend we're heading even farther afield, to Pinawa and the Whiteshell, and I'm excited. I hope the winter doesn't turn on us.

February 06, 2012

258: "I Want To Draw A Bird."

Coccothraustes vespertinus
So, when I really want to draw something – and know at the end of it all I want to be happy, I draw a bird. Anyone who's visited here in the past eight years knows this by now. Writers are told to write what they know; illustrators, I'm not sure if they live by this creed or not. Lots do, I'm sure – really good ones don't have to care. I do. I started this site all those years ago to venture forth and see if I had a style. Or could develop a style. And as I drew and drew and struggled and tried different things, I came to the realization it was this, this technique all wrapped up and on display in single drawing of an evening grosbeak. My style has found me, rather than the other way around.

Not to say this drawing is any sort of revelation. It's not. I knew I hadn't genuinely drawn something for quite awhile (as is often the case). When this happens, and I want to make sure I still 'have it', or a semblance of 'it', I draw a bird. It comes to me often like a craving (or a nagging): I want a brownie. I want to get out of the city. I want to draw a bird.

And I get to work drawing the bird. I pencil-sketch it, so lightly you'd think I was confident enough to go straight to pen and ink. I draw a basic framework with a thin-nibbed pen. Go over the more integral lines with a thicker pen, and again with a chisel-tip pen. A patchwork of short strokes in small fan shapes, over and over, and over again, for feathers and texture. Finally, a go-around with a brush pen, to rid the thing a bit of its careful, calculated feel and add some spontaneity. Big, brush-penned needles to cover for my disinterest in adding feet (yes, even with this amount of detail there is laziness peeking through). Then, I scan and I colour.

I've also noticed over time that many of the birds I particularly enjoy – and enjoy drawing – share similar characteristics, textures and tonal ranges. That might be the designer in me talking, but I made this Kuler-style chart anyways, and realized it was the case.

February 02, 2012

257: What Tangled Webs We Weave

It's been a strange winter here. Jinxes be damned, there's only been a single week of legitimately cold weather. There's been so little snow that all the energy I typically expend on shoveling has been transferred largely to sitting on my duff. Our days out skiing have been limited to areas with enough forest cover to nab what snow has accumulated.  

cobweb I
And, quite miraculously, the past two days have seen wadges of thick-as-borscht fog descend on the city and – to a much greater extent – out where I work, in the country.

cobweb II
So after the news crews out to see Manitoba Merv prognosticate an early spring (as if winter ever really arrived – again, jinx) wrapped up their on-site reports, I took a short walk.

cobweb III
I went over to the clubhouse, a locked-up out-building on the premises used by school groups in warmer seasons. Under its eaves is a network of cobwebs and barn swallow nests. Because of the fog and damp, the webs were all coated with a thick beading of hoarfrost.