December 14, 2010

'Twas the night before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not an idea was stirring as I tapped at the mouse.

The keyboard was hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that a concept might soon appear there.

The sketches were rattling around in my head, while visions of photoshop pranced overhead.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the screen to see what was the matter.

I turned off my screen, I closed down flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature tablet with pixels and beer!

I whistled and shouted and tried hard to mix in;
"Draw! Vector and Pixel!
Paint! Neezer! and Vixen!
Draw! Marquee! and Lasso!
Paint! Cloner and Blitzen!"

I muttered some words and kept on at my work, drawing their outlines; then turned with a smirk.

The wacom went flying, the team gave a whistle. The beer suds went flying like flames from a missile.

And then I exclaimed, ere they drove out of sight, Happy Holidays All! And to all a good night!

© the Jolly Neezer

December 12, 2010

The 'Pineapple Express'

The 'Pineapple Express' is a local moniker given to the 2,000 mile long tropical stream of rain stretching from Hawaii to Seattle in autumn. If it lands on you, you'll get a soaking!

2 am: I wake to the sound of torrential monsoon downpour. I worry the basement might be flooding. I fall asleep.
4 am: pitch black: I wake up and begin to worry. Torrential monsoon continues. I decide it is prudent to check the basement. Yes, basement is flooding!
4:15 am: pitch black: I venture outside into the downpour to discover downspout clogged.
4:20 am: I carry 25 foot (60 lb) ladder and drag it to the site of the clogged gutter. Flashlight in pocket provides light.
4:30 am: pitch black: I ascend the 18 feet to clear the leaves from the gutter... downspout gushes 50 gallons of pent up water & leaves.
5:00 to 7:00: I sweep gallons of water across the floor to the drain with a sponge mop. Floor is getting really quite clean by now! Monsoon continues...
9:00: Daylight finally dawns. Intermittent mopping continues. Flooding continues. I install an improvised sump pump to remove the pooling water in the worst places. Biceps have had quite a workout!
11:00: Rain begins to taper off from tropical downpour to just plain rain.... whew!
Basement floor will look fabulously clean once it's all dry.

*note: Drawing was from Art School...

December 1, 2010

Drawing, Reading, Listening, Disconnecting

Drawing: Mooses, Swiss Misses, cowboys and horses.

Reading: In a moment of weakness I've gone back to Beverley Nichols, 'The Gift of a Home'. I'm also enjoying 'An Hour From Paris'. It's a travel guide book about all the overlooked places surrounding Paris. No doubt it's best just read, since I'll never actually get there in person.

Listening: Getting a bit addicted to WCPE. It's Ravel in the afternoon that really is difficult to resist. Of course Mozart in the morning is a given. Sunday afternoons are especially well programmed.

Watching: I was looking for Black Thursday and Cyber Monday sales... but didn't find anything. Ho hum.

Disconnecting: Cable TV. Good riddance! But getting the behemoth cable company to agree is like trying to convince a giant sea squid to let go. And being a giant behemoth corporation, they have incompetancy on their side. They also have the terrors of the 'phone tree'... a never ending maze of defeating number punching that comes with the guarantee that you won't leave any happier than you started.

I was truly amused though when the robot suggested at option #1 that I offer an assessment of their corporate 'service'.

First off, 'service' is the wrong word entirely. Abuse is a better description... in other words the question should read "How can we rate the faceless corporate abuse we have offered you?" Hmmm... monopolistic price gouging? Insanely complicated and misleading extra charges for spurious unknown items on the bill?

No, no... I'd get right down to brass tacks and ask how does our offering of corporate discomfort compare to say 'Jack the Ripper' or a gang of Blackbeard's pirates on a bad day at sea?

That'd be more like it. lol!

November 24, 2010

Valiant little puffballs...

Here we have a return to a Siberian winter... sub-zero temperatures, blowing snowdrifts and all the rest.

But at least the sun came out shining the next day! And that makes it all much nicer.

The valiant little hummingbirds somehow manage to survive the snow and sub-zero temps. They puff up into little feathery round balls and go into a state of torpor overnight.

I have to bring their feeders inside or soon they'll be solid ice. I made this movie a few years ago. It's fun doing nature movies. I managed a better one a while back, but haven't turned it into an iMovie yet.

November 21, 2010

A fun sneak peak...

Here's a fun sneak preview of the upcoming xmas card. I really had no intention of doing a card, but I started on a figure from the book I'm working on, and next thing you know I had the first figure done, then the next, and then it was almost finished.

Of course since winter begins here on August 15th, that gives us Northwesterners lots of time to practice.

It's fun trying new textures and line techniques... and figuring out all the new photoshop settings. What's especially weird (I think) is that I seem to learn everything by instinct, and not with any planned logic. I just kind of muddle around the keys in a subconscious way to get things done instead of really thinking about it.

October 29, 2010

Artistic Indecision....

I think the main activity of being an artist is deciding things. The problem then becomes a question of what do you like? Or more precisely, which do you like more of two similar things?

Or maybe it can just be further refined down to the quesiton: WHO are you? lol!

None of these are easily answered questions, so the artist is left with indecision. This is especially the case when they're starting a new project and wondering what might be different this time.

I think all artists go through this phase, where they have to try a zillion different papers, pens, brushes, etc. This complex process if made easier with the advent of photoshop, of course. But that also can just add to the zillion & 1 choices.

For instance the attached graphic shows some versions of a new book I'm starting on... my last book ever? Anyhow, the details that I argue with myself are the following:

paint: real paint vs. digital paint
color: bright vs. subdued
characters: simple vs. complex
line: brown vs. black vs. no-line
design: complexity vs. simplicity
eyes: dotty eyes vs. drawn round eyes

Add in topics of perspective, texture and overall effect... and it takes an artist to decide it all. As you see, I've spent days trying different approaches... each with it's own merit.

One reason I like digital is that I'm finicky and completely undecided about everything a lot of the time. I have too many ideas and can't keep them sorted.

And I like changing my mind halfway into things. In other words, I'm nuts.

Now, if only I had decided to become an insurance agent instead of an artist, I might just be struggling to decide where to go on my next 2 week vacation.

October 22, 2010

A Presidential Visit!

Because we aren't New Hampshire or Ohio, we almost never get visits from Presidents here in the 'other Washington'. So imagine my surprise to discover that President Obama had spent the morning at a backyard business summit just a mile away from where I live... in the quiet Seattle neighborhood of View Ridge!

Presidents usually only drop by for quick airport speeches... then they're gone. I'm sure no president has ever been to a backyard in View Ridge before. I missed the neighborhood summit, but at least I got to see the President of the United States yesterday... at the campaign rally at the U.W. It was amazing. I was lucky to even get in... I sat on the aisle steps.

I arrived late and didn't even realize that there was an overflow crowd of 2,000 in the football stadium. Obama was mesmerizing... at times you could hear a pin drop in the crowd of 10,000. He is a dreamweaver and spellbinder... I felt like I'd been hypnotized.

The President also told what has to be the funniest political joke I've ever heard. A sort parable about the broken down car in the ditch that is our present miasmatic economy. The perfectly timed joke was delivered with the moral lesson being - R for reverse - D for drive.

I'm glad he didn't stop at the View Ridge Top Pot donut shop... that would have been too much to miss!

October 5, 2010

So long ye olde Powermac...

I'm immune to wanting a Cintiq... but I finally did upgrade ye olde G4... to a new machine I bought on ebay. Such a confusing experience... shopping and comparing all the components. If you need any information about the attributes of PCI cards... PCIe vs PCIx vs plain old PCI, I'm the guy to ask.

But I'm now enthralled at the ability to open ginormous files in a fraction of the time it used to take. A huge increase in productivity. I see CS 5 has changed lots of things around... most for the better but some for the worse.

But it's the making of images that a computer can often help to expedite. Especially if the artists has too many ideas or is too hard to please.

It's the artist's inclination to forever change things around that I find so compelling. And it's often so quick... but probably the best thing of all is I don't have to tear things up the way I did in the good old days.

I still plan to keep real paints... because they offer unique aspects... but digital has it's advantages!

September 30, 2010

Bright colors... red leaves and deep blue skies

Fall is here! The season calls for bright, bright colors... red leaves and deep blue skies.

Brings out the painter in an artist, I think.

Soon I'll be setting up a new computer. I finally bought an older new Mac on ebay. Oh boy! No more waiting... waiting... waiting for files to process. I'll finally be crossing the divide from mac pcc code to Intel mac and 64 bit processing.

Brings out the geek in an artist, I think.

It will be a winter of hiking up the computer learning curve. I hope it's fun...


September 19, 2010

If you can imagine it...

Portrait of the artist as a young pig.

I 'saw' this face in the nap of a pillow... it appeared as a faint shadow in the nap of the fabric. And since I liked it so much I sketched it on the spot. Actually it was only the face that I 'saw'. I made up the rest.

Later I had an idea for a sketchy line style in photoshop. I wondered if it would work. And it did work... almost the same as I imagined. That's one fun thing about digital complexities. Sometimes if you can imagine it, you can make it real.

September 15, 2010

Two versions of a scene...

Here's a couple of tangential umbrellas. These two scenes are both for the same page from my book, 'Cromwell Dixon's Sky-Cycle'.

I thought it was interesting, looking back, how much easier it might have been to do a really sketchy style. But I guess that'd be a bit like going to a dress up dinner engagement in blue jeans and a sweatshirt. More comfortable, for sure.

September 6, 2010

Too many choices!

One problem with digital art is it's hard to pick just one color.

I find even days later it's easy to decide to change everything! In fact if the digital artist sticks around long enough it's possible to completely redo the book entirely.

August 28, 2010

Joy of Camping #2

A very big view

Some seaside hollyhocks in a lovely garden by the sea in Port Townsend.

Waterfalls... very big waterfalls.

The fog rolling across the bay... tall ships peek over downtown Port Townsend.

Fields of lavender... buzzing of bees in Sequim.

Edward Hopper by the sea...

Hansel & Gretel might have been here...

A still life of sea wrack.

August 8, 2010

1950's Retro & Digital

This new book I am illustrating is a fun story set in New York's Central Park Zoo. The real challenge to this project is trying to find a new synthesis of a retro 1950's style and a contemporary digital style. The art is based on pen brushed line on watercolor paper. The colors are bright and bold... with patterns and textures done in photoshop.

I searched through the amazing artists of the 1950's, whose work seems very much akin to this current age. I looked through magazines from the 1950's with amazing samples of Alice and Martin Provensen's work which still looks very contemporary. The parallels between 2010 and 1950 seem clear. Maybe that's because 1950's design seems so similar to our own decade... or maybe it's just a timeless classic. Of course they didn't get to use digital tools to embellish their amazing designs, but I guess their work will last the ages.

Some of the hallmarks of the graphic style might be thought to have iconic simplicity, overprinted color areas and simplified color backgrounds isolated by white space. I tried to get some of that same look, along with an added contemporary cartoon edge. I hope I've succeeded.

August 3, 2010

Joy of Camping #1

I am back from my week in the sunshine, mountains, beaches, rain forests and victorian seaside towns.

I saw glaciers, japanese tourists, sea otters, winding trails through the rain forest and listened to the eternal surf on the beach.

I think this photo of the campsite in the woods near Rialto Beach captures my favorite things about camping... the mysterious deep woods, the glowing memories from the fire, the simplicity of having a camp for a home.

I hiked all sorts of amazing trails, marveling at Nature's handiwork. I relaxed at camp sites with sunshine glowing through the chardonnay... what better vacation might there be?

I saw numerous picturesque light houses... and had all sorts of exciting ideas about paintings.

I am most likely a camping wussie... since I have to be able to carry along an ice-box, wine, beer, cold cuts, two burner stove, giant tent, umpteen mattress pads and all that. The simple basic necessities.

It's just so much more relaxing than being in cities... from my perspective. Just nature all alone... absolute peace & quiet... a few simple tasks like getting wood and water are all that's needed.
The scent of cedar in the sunshine, the sound of the boughs in the wind, a bubbling brook... it's heaven.

July 20, 2010

Cromwell Dixon on History Detectives

It was fun to watch the History Detectives piece on Cromwell Dixon. They didn't use any of my graphics, but then my expectations were low, even though they had requested a graphics release form from the publisher.

Even Martin Kidston, the main Dixon biographer scarcely got more than 45 seconds of airtime... and no image of his book cover. I thought it a bit odd that the History Detectives didn't just get on Facebook, where they could quickly get in touch with the actual living relatives of Cromwell Dixon. Instead they seemed to take a more circuitous route of discovery. Perhaps one might speculate that for the astute History Detective, the instant connection of Facebook might make it all too easy... and they were in need of a challenge.

But I was interested to see this spike of the website stats this morning! I quite agree with the premise of the program that Cromwell Dixon is one of America's forgotten pioneers of aviation. Still, the wisdom of the chain stores to decide to not allow this book on their shelves seems a wise one.. who is to question corporate wisdom? I'm sure the corporate book buyers decided that today's modern child has no interest in dusty old things like bicycles flying up a mile over Columbus Ohio!

My favorite parts were the photos of Cromwell, many of which I'd never seen. The one picture in particular seems to capture the spirit of Dixon's innate mechanical genius and determination.

Imagine... a boy of 14 who built his own flying bicycle!

I think they have an app for that now, so today's kids don't have to leave the couch and get up to that sort of mischief.


July 12, 2010

Summer Morning & Fruitopia

Summer morning... the most beautiful phrase in the english language. William James erroneously said that 'summer afternoon' was the most beautiful phrase, but he probably didn't get up at with the sun.

Yes, it's that time of year again... Fruitopia.

After all the ballyhoo about the iPad taking over everything to do with the printed page... I find it to be reassuring as a professional book maker to read this article which is drawn from conclusions of a study of half a million readers.

The implications of the findings are that students using real books do significantly better in school than students using e-books. Long live real paper and real artists. (40% better).

"It’s not the physical presence of the books that produces the biggest impact, she suggested. It’s the change in the way the students see themselves as they build a home library. They see themselves as readers, as members of a different group."

July 1, 2010

Theoretical pastimes...

With the endless days of rain and gloom here in Seattle, I've decided to think up a new summertime sport to match the climate. There is a limit as to how long one can stay cooped up inside, after all.

This pastime might be known as 'lawn rolling'. Lawn rolling consists of heading bravely out into inclement weather for a good roll in the rain soaked grass.

The technique is really very simple. One simply stretches out, with arms held down by one's side and begins to roll. Don't ask me how it's done... it's easier to just do it than explain how.

Variants on lawn rolling might include cross country rolling, uphill rolling, downhill rolling, obstacle course rolling, tall grass rolling, long distance rolling... etc.

Eventually it might even become an olympic sport. There could be speed rolling, the 50 yard roll and even marathon rolling.

Since it's so hard to find anything that's dry and warm around here, we ought to simply embrace wetness and cold! The one rule is that it must always be raining and grey.

I spent the other day out in the rain scrubbing down the porch and stairs. I guess that gave me the idea for the whole idea.
Embrace the wetness... get out in it and roll!

June 24, 2010

Finally summer & missing comments re-discovered!

Thanks to everyone for sending in comments over the last few months. I was shocked to discover 47 comments that had been hidden away somewhere in blogger's settings panel. Since my outmoded version of Camino doesn't seem to pick up on them, I didn't even know they were there. I must have clicked a wrong button or something. I just thought everyone on the planet had been subsumed by Facebook.

But it's nice to know there are still people not abducted by Facebook.

Meanwhile, summer has been a long time coming here in Seattle. Even the natives who are used to the gloom were starting to grumble.

So when the longest streak of cold weather on record finally came to an end I wasn't about to waste a minute of it.

Even though the TV weather-people were all calling for clouds and rain... we sallied forth. They're wrong so often it's not even funny.

These pix are from Whidbey Island's Ebey landing, which is a great place for wide open skies... and it's just an hour from Seattle. One of my favorite places. Langley is a nice little town to drive through on the way there...


June 16, 2010

Secret Garden Bookstore 'Ultimate Tuesday' - June 29th 7:00 pm

The Secret Garden Bookstore in Seattle has invited me to be to be their guest on June 29th at 7:00 for their Secret Garden 'Ultimate Tuesday'. The graphic above shows some of my recent books.

I'll be on hand to chat and sign copies of my new book, CROMWELL DIXON'S SKY-CYCLE, June 29th from 7 – 7:30 p.m. at the Secret Garden Bookshop in Ballard.

It ought to be fun to see a copy in a bookstore. I've heard lots of folks say "Oh, this is just the sort of book that kids need these days."

I quite agree... and this will be just the perfect occasion to make that happen.

The Secret Garden Bookshop
2214 NW Market Street
Seattle, WA 98107