Sunday, January 27, 2013

off the drawing board

Eustace's Gift was finally finished by late yesterday - at least this version was. As usual right after I finish something I look and see a few things I wish I'd done differently while other aspects are pretty close to just right. There's a story behind this painting but it's one I'm not ready to tell right now. If you'd like to see the progression I've posted some transition pictures below.

This was the very first sketch of the scene as I imagined it on a drawing pad last summer.

A few weeks ago I revised the original, added the other main character, and inked outlines and areas that would be in shadow. The next picture in the group I posted last week so won't do so now.

The first color washes continued to define the background while still allowing for either full or partial color of the toys and decorations.

Detailing added in the background and initial character colors done. Obviously, there's still lots of room to intensify the colors and shadows so that's what I did over the course of the next few days. I didn't do any more in between scans because the changes after this one are all pretty obvious even as the difference is notable.

Anyway, it's done and now I'm going to start working on another (and very different) story while this one and the others in the eventual series go back to the portfolio.

I hope it's not too cold and nasty wherever you are. Eustace wishes he could bring everyone the perfect gift.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

little distractions

Is is just me or have you also noticed how distracting it can be reading news articles on line compared to elder days when mostly what we read was in printed form on paper? It's not that there isn't a whole lot more information openly available these days but I often, usually, in fact, find I get distracted by silly stuff that either pops up or flashes in bright colors in my peripheral vision. Stuff like this:
Why did Beyoncé lip-sync the Star Spangled Banner at the Presidential inauguration?
She didn't know the words?
Bieber dethrones Gaga on Twitter.
Who are these people?
Can we reverse engineer the brain?
Ask Fox News?

I have to admit that sometimes I'll find something interesting enough or funny enough that I end up being glad I wandered off for a few minutes. Today it was the story about IBM's super computer Watson having been taught natural language by being given access to the Urban Dictionary. When the researchers questioned it later Watson answered their queries with 'Bullshit'. We may be on the brink of AI beings fit to run the world. How could they do worse than this guy?

MAN from Steve Cutts on Vimeo.

The picture above is of Eustace in company - he's a charming but somewhat tentative creature who's trying to learn the ways of a new world.  The painting/illustration is still underway.

Friday, January 18, 2013

the squirrel whisperer

We call him the Squirrel Whisperer.

Most days (weather permitting, of course) we like to spend an hour or two walking around the forested paths of Point Pleasant Park. No matter the route it's inevitable we eventually make our way along the broad beach path where the ocean waves provide the kind of wild entertainment the North Atlantic is famous for. About half way we're given a choice to cut across the now icy snowfields around the remains of a decrepit wwII fort to the ploughed road or to follow the path as it narrows between the fort and the old gun emplacements. Yes, they did have concerns Halifax might be invaded by Nazi u-boats in 1942  but it seems they needn't have worried.

Anyway, as often as not when we walk along that confined space, we'll pause to watch the Squirrel Whisperer. Sometimes we see him in other areas of the park but most often we'll find him standing near a tree stump in that defile patiently holding out one unshelled peanut in his bare hand. Usually there's a dubious looking squirrel wondering if it should take a chance. It's kind of fascinating to watch the two of them as they measure each other's intentions. Hunger nearly always wins.

Once the weather gets cold I always carry my little bag of shelled peanuts and raw sunflower seeds but I tend to scatter them at the spot where we like to sit, the place where our crow friends expect us. The rest of the contents get deposited in an open feeder a few hundred yards further along. I like wild animals but I don't need to have them eat from my hand. When it comes down to it I'm probably as wary of them as they should be of us.

The Squirrel Whisperer has another point of view.. or maybe he likes being out there all day.

ps: Right now the temperature is noted as 8˚ feels like -20˚ with 30mph winds. Yes, we went for a walk but not to the park. I wonder if he did.

Monday, January 14, 2013

back at ye olde drawing board

If I'm not doing one thing it seems I often find myself involved in doing half a dozen things at about the same time. It can get confusing but it's kind of fun too. This little guy who appeared this afternoon will likely be an element in a painting I have on the drawing board. It's good I have more than one drawing board because there's another illustration in progress that had to move to a shelf temporarily while I work on this one. My drawing table isn't all that big.

The painting on the shelf I'm afraid to show you. It's not that it isn't a good one in my opinion but that it's the first  picture in what will be a story that was only told once or twice a long time ago. It never had pictures. It may not even need pictures as most people, especially small people (known as children) have very active visual imaginations. Anyway, it's getting pictures, probably a dozen, but I'll keep them to myself for a while as I work the whole thing out in the real. Scans are being done so once I'm closer to finishing I'll show you the process as it happened. It may take a while.

Next, I have a couple of stories in mind for the long neglected Adventures Ink. The whole idea with them was they could be drawn fairly fast once I knew which one I wanted to relate. I've remembered a couple.

So that's what I'm up to. If you're not bored yet or don't have anything else to do for a couple of minutes you might like this little animation I found. It's a bit strange but I like strange and I like van Gogh and it's nice to see something a little bittersweet. So far as I can tell it was made by an Iranian team.

Painted Pie from Mehdi Farrokhtala on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

the sculpture class

Okay I've been scribbling again but while I was doing so I remembered one of the sillier things that happened during my art modeling career long ago. You may recall I was in the process of saving money for a long trip to Europe - one my parents reluctantly agreed to but wouldn't fund.

At one point I was invited to model for an introductory sculpture class that would take place as three hour sessions twice weekly for six weeks. The fee sounded pretty good so I signed on. I didn't usually accept poses determined by instructors but in this case it was necessary that it be a standing pose with my arms held close in to my body. The students worked with modeling clay over wire armatures and during the course of those weeks gradually built sculptures that looked vaguely human and female but didn't bear more than a cursory resemblance to me. By then a major reason for continuing as an artist's model was my certainty nobody would ever recognize me as having been the model.

Eventually some of the students entered the final phase of the process that would allow them to cast their work into more permanent material. The first part was to divide their figures in half lengthwise by attaching a thin two inch wide collar of clay around the outer edge. After coating the figures with vaseline to allow for easy removal later they'd flick wet plaster in tiny droplets at the clay statue to make a mold. Meanwhile, I was still posing for the benefit of slower workers. I should tell you that by this point I'd be in pain even if I accidentally slipped into the pose when I wasn't in the class. Added to the agony of the long pose I was now subjected to being pelted by stray bits of plaster - not always by accident, I suspected.

There was a rule back then that no cameras were allowed in the studio while the model was posing. One evening a student arrived with a camera. Now this wasn't one of the smaller varieties of cameras people could buy in those non-tech times, but a giant studio rig. Grinning widely, he hauled in his tripod and lights and was in the process of setting up the whole lot directly facing me. What did I do? I grabbed my robe and left the stage while everybody else told him off.

I'm happy there were no cell phones in those days, or facebook. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

nothing like a good breakfast

Here we are not far into another year that looks, for all intents and purposes, much like the one just gone. If there was an Apocalypse these past few weeks I must have missed it - either that or they did a nice job tidying up while I was sleeping. Except for more snow the place looks pretty much as it did in November.

Earlier today I found myself looking at the list of posts I did last year. Out of 66 in total I drew or painted pictures for 40 of them. I wasn't that impressed with most of the results so I've resolved not to do that again this year. There are enough strange (and free) images on the internets and even more strange things to write about if one doesn't feel obliged to sit down and draw a picture first.

While I've been actively ignoring my drawing table for the past two days I have been re-reading a couple of novels written by Kurt Vonnegut. By the time he wrote 'Breakfast of Champions' he was inspired to draw his own illustrations for the book with a felt-tipped pen. I'm going to assume everyone has read 'Slaughterhouse 5' (just in case you haven't and don't have the time the movie is pretty good) but not everyone has read 'Breakfast'. This page I scanned is one from near the beginning and just so you don't have to squint at what's written here's the gist:

1492 - "The teachers told the children that this was when their continent was discovered by human beings. Actually, millions of human beings were already living full and imaginative lives on the continent in 1492. That was simply the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them."

"The chief weapon of the sea pirates, however, was their capacity to astonish. Nobody else could believe, until it was much too late, how heartless and greedy they were.”

"Here was another piece of nonsense which children were taught: that the sea pirates eventually created a government which became a beacon of freedom of human beings everywhere else. There were pictures and statues of this supposed imaginary beacon for children to see. It was sort of ice-cream cone on fire. It looked like this:"

and another, somewhat less cynical, quote that epitomizes his message to us:
“What is the purpose of life?...To be the eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator of the Universe, you fool!”

Kurt Vonnegut on the shapes of stories from Maria Popova on Vimeo.

I'll be back soon. Maybe I'll tell you the story about how the biggest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai, was constructed without being hooked up to a sewer system. That's because there wasn't one. Another thing Kurt Vonnegut got right was:

"Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Carl and Crow and somebody else

Still no borders that we can find. We wish all our friends on this pale blue dot a Happy New Year of peace and understanding. May all your best dreams come true.

With love from,
Crow and susan

♡ ♡