Category Archives: illustrate friday

the good old days

I recently caught up with a former student (Hi Floyd) and I was ranting about how cool the technologies are today – no more wrecking backs and knees lugging heavy video cameras and such around. I can get almost the same quality video from my little point-and-shoot Fuji still camera as I ever did from a 3-tube, and in terms of editing, Quicktime and Movie Maker can give me pinpoint accurate editing and still have $20k in my pocket compared with the old edit suites. I could just about be drawn back into teaching again. Just about…

The difference, though, that really makes a difference these days is the ability to communicate – around the room, around the corner, around the world. And even though that’s what my Masters is in, it still makes me shake my head in amazement and delight – I love it when it works, especially when connections work through a fusion of traditional and contemporary ways.

Here’s an example:

A few weeks ago I was wondering what it would be like to have a pet hyena.

image from Well, you do, don’t you. Except I don’t have Conan-sized biceps and I decided that a beast that size would probably knock stuff off the coffee table and shed everywhere and generally be – well – beastly. Cool, yes, beastly, undoubtedly. Damn useful, though, if I ever went back teaching. You need a good laugh when you work with people who find themselves unemployed.

The photo, by the way, by Pieter Hugo – the story behind the photos is great, and has given rise to ‘My baboon is feeling nervous’.

I digress. I decided a different kind of animal might be the order of the day, and after clicking around blog rolls and the net, I ended up falling in love with My Pal Walter. Who wouldn’t want a giant tortoise for a pal?

I thought Walter, and his pal, David Palumbo, were just the best thing, and I was moved to discover a little more by reading David’s profile. Turns out he’s an illustrator from Philadelphia, USA. And he (of course) presents some of his ideas, paintings, and sketches in an online portfolio. Using technology to communicate that’s called.

image by David Palumbo - davepalumbo.blogspot.comIn addition to the science fiction-y / fantasy type illustrations – book covers and the like, David does a fine line of erotic postcards. I’m not 100% sure if they’re erotic – they’re certainly beautifully illustrated with young women at various states of undress, however if you look at my drawings of nekkid chicks they’re anything but erotic. Perhaps it’s because I don’t draw as well as David.

An aside: horrors, I note I haven’t drawn since 2007, and some of the works from then are pretty odd and awful. I firmly believe it takes 10,000 hours to learn how to do something – I’d guess about another 9,995 hours are needed urgently.

As a warm-up exercise before working on his commissioned work, David began creating small postcard-sized paintings. What started out as a fun daily practice has turned into a new passion, and before you knew it, a book was born and a new web site, Quickie, was launched.

As part of the promo for the book David posted on his blog that he would give away prints of the postcards as – wait for it – postcards. If you sent him an address he’d send you a card. I figured there’d be none left or any other excuse I could come up with to explain why I wouldn’t get a card, however, to my complete delight a card duly arrived – signed by the artist himself – what a joy! The image is the one above – some chick removing purloined y-fronts. Hmmm, now there’s an interesting story…

MYOBBack to loving how connections work through a fusion of traditional and contemporary ways … way, way back when I designed and ran a Government funded business course for the YMCA (well, someone needed to get the profits and, as a not-for-profit, the Y was second to none in terms of taking profit).

There was no money to promote the course (of course) so I created a series of posters shamelessly re-appropriated from appropriated art and when no one was around fired them off through the Y’s copier, and posted them across town. Most were not coloured (this was in the days before cheap colour copiers), however I sat down with my coloured pencils and did a few for fun.

My friend Floyd rocked up to do the course – “I saw the posters and figured you’d probably have something to do this kind of carry on.” We got on with the course – Floyd pursued other fields, I went on to work with another oppressed minority group, the terminally rich.

The core image (with Gordon and Cynthia) was, I believe, created by Boris Vallejo – part of his Conan portfolio. The vulture (not by Boris) on the left says, “Oh well, I spose we better clean up Jenny.” The vulture on the right replies, “Yeah, else she’ll stain the carpets and stink up the place.” Jenny? Jenny Shipley, then minister of social welfare, and definitely not someone you’d want to take home to meet your parents, unless they were rabid National voters. Despite Gordan’s sovereign efforts, Jenny received her knighthood today. So much for the carpet.

And the connection? Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell turn out to be David Palumbo’s parents. I love how blogging allows us to make connections, to weave old stories in with the new – our world is hundreds of times richer and with far greater potential than it was 20 years ago. The real changes are not new minerals or whatever, rather something not only sustainable, but something increasingly available – human intercommunication and sharing of ideas.

drawing conclusions

I finally managed to get my drawings sorted and online over at the Turnbull Group. I’m amazed at how different the drawings are once they’re photographed – sometimes the photo flatters the drawing, and sometimes the image brings out horror not immediately apparent from the drawing. I guess it’s like those old school photos – if only I could look at the photos without cringing. Maybe it’s the same with the drawings – I know from previous experience that looking back on the drawings that are – say – a year old, I’d think ‘Hey, that’s not as bad as I thought’, and others it was more like ‘Oh good grief, what were you thinking?’. I don’t imagine Leonardo or Albrecht ever thought that though. Probably never gave it a second thought. Tradesmen, turning out consistent works, time after time. *Sigh*.

how to sketch a portrait

You can have fun drawing online at BenettonPlay. This is a 37 frame animated gif. The whole process is managed through a Flash 9.0 application. I suspect given how long it took to save and render that if you’ve got dialup and an old computer try the 5 frame animations. My prototype was 100 frames. Um, everything died. It is fun, and the results are easily achieved, albeit slowly. I particularly liked the ‘onion-skin’ approach as this allows for quite accurate animation and tweening, if that is your wish. I didn’t need it for this anim, but it’s good never-the-less. In many respects (ignoring the time just w-a-i-t-i-n-g for flash to do it’s thing) more fun than aquarelles on paper because you can undo and/or white (or other colour) out.

Update: 24 hours later three people liked 🙂 my little drawing. Wow! Thanks folks, I’m delighted.

writer’s cramp

It seems like ages since I wrote here – my apologies, regular readers – irregular writing doesn’t help. I have been writing pretty much non-stop for the past few weeks, just not here. Words and time and space are becoming squeezed together in a most unseemly fashion…

I write as part of my job – that uses up quite a few of my available words each day. In addition to this I’ve converted our office manual into a tiddlywiki – not a hideous task but time consuming never-the-less. If you, or your company, desires a wiki manual (or indeed, a more traditional paper-based model), please feel free drop me a note – will write technical content for money. I am particularly interested in the creation of procedures manuals – i.e. specific instructions on how to do stuff.

I’ve also been writing for fun, for me. I’m writing a couple of books, and I have a third busy fermenting in the spare moments. I’ve been finding writing the books a challenge – one has started to take shape quite well and I’m very happy – it’s a kind self-development book based on reflective practice. I don’t know if it will ever see the pale light of day but I’m learning a lot – dare I say it? Reflecting on what I’m doing as I do it. Reflecting on action, while in action. It’s causing me to want to make changes about myself, and that’s not always comfortable – it’s easy to want to make change, it’s easy to make change…for once. Maybe twice. But sustained change so it becomes even beyond an ingrained habit – now that’s a demand that takes an effort. I’m preferring to think about it as a work in progress.

The other book is a work of fiction – and I have to say it could easily make an effort and write itself for once. I work and rework the ideas out in my head and then on to the screen – the results are stella – as in they make you want to reach for a beer. I guess like everything it’s a learnable skill. I’d just for once like to find something useful, valuable, and profitable to do that just flowed for me. Sadly it seems everything extracts a price – a learning curve – and a high tolerance for mediocrity and worse. Urgh! The novel and I are working out on an almost daily basis and in general I’m impressed with my paucity of fiction writing gifts.

I’ve added a few postings over at the Tea Garden, and I’ve gone a little further up the video editing/publishing curve as well. I find the collecting of stories is exceptionally interesting – I’d hoped the video recording would help capture more of the context – and it is good – but the incorporation of stills really enhances the material. And I like the stories people tell about themselves and their responses very much. I want to add more stories as soon as possible.

In the meantime I’ve also been taking myself off to life drawing. Yes, naked people. I’m slightly amazed at how good some of the drawings are – there’s a slight potential for likeness – that ever-elusive prey (from my perspective). I find somehow I can generally capture a reasonable image and magically – I simply don’t know how – suddenly my drawings fit on the page. It used to be that I needed to get tape and more paper because the models were bigger than the paper. Now, it’s nice. Thought: perhaps the models in Wellington are shorter. Or simply more experienced in the art of fitting on a page.

One of my work colleagues looked at my drawing book and asked, ‘Do you sketch the drawings before you put them in the book?’ He was amazed when I told him no, you just draw straight into the book. You get sudden success (or the unmentionable alternative). Nowhere to hide, what you see is what there is. And I suddenly realised that maybe my drawings had worked, he was amazed to think that someone (well, me, more to the point) could just draw the human form in a book. I started to look at my drawings in a new way myself – perhaps they aren’t too bad after all…

give the direct oval a half hour’s practice each day…

Image from http://bibliodyssey.blogspot.comThe first time I saw this kind of penmanship was in an old “Speedball” lettering book, long since vanished. Speedball made the nibs, and the book was a combination instruction manual, and of course, if they inspired people, somewhere along the way nibs were sold.

I love this kind of work, and knowing that it is done by hand makes it even more mind boggling to me – if I can find the time and patience that I didn’t have as a kid, it might be possible. I had forgotten about it and then thanks to the amazing BibliOdyssey I not only rediscovered the idea, but found some great examples as well.

Now, all I need to do is find 30 minutes a day, and a direct oval, and I’m in – well, if not business, then helping the ink and nib business along.


2 minute poseA week or so ago I noticed one of my colleagues drawing during a meeting. Who doesn’t draw at meetings – for some time I thought their sole purpose was to engage people in a reflective drawing interlude. Back to my colleague – he wasn’t doodling, he was drawing. Interesting.

I asked him if he’d had any training, and no, he was a natural – i.e. self taught artist. We spent some time talking about drawing (he was interested because I’d noticed the drawing vs doodling thing).

15 minute poseHe, like I, often spends longer at work while we wait for our respective wives to finish their working day. I mentioned to him that I was thinking of going along to do some life drawing and he, like me, thought that spending a quiet couple of hours starting at a nude woman was not a bad idea, and may even be good for our health. And if we made some drawings, well, so much the better.

25 minute poseWe headed off – me with my roll of aquarelles and a sketchbook, he with some pencils, pens and some paper hooked from the photocopier – desperate times call for desperate measures. Going to life drawing for the first time is quite a daunting prospect.

40 minute poseFortunately my colleague was more than able to manage the situation. The model was also quite daunting in herself, storming in, taking the pose, and generally working at being a model, quite irrespective of us – the artists.

I had a great time – my drawings weren’t overly hot, but I haven’t drawn from life for about five years so you get a bit rusty. I used to have no problems with hands and feet – unfortunately our model appears to have had transplants from an eagle. Or silly putty. Or something. My colleague’s drawings were rather impressive – for someone who’s never drawn from a model before he did (annoyingly) well. *Sigh* I’m still working on creating drawings that actually bear a passing resemblance to the person – drawing is one thing, likenesses are something else.

We’ll try again next week – we booked the session into our calendars, and our workmates – well, we’ve managed to supply them with hours of entertainment although sadly for us, a singular lack of interest in becoming models themselves. In some cases, however, this may be a good thing…


image from http://link.library.utoronto.caThe University of Toronto Libraries Fisher Library Digital Collections generously share Anatomia – a collection of about 4,500 illustrations of human anatomy. Nods to Drawn! for the heads up.

If you want to get real, there’s the Vesalius Project, 3D photographic quality color models of anatomical (sub)structures, obtained from the Visible Human Data sets. Visible Human? You know how some days you feel strained? The (USA) National Library of Medicine has developed the Visible Human Project®. They’ve scanned complete, anatomically detailed, three-dimensional representations of the normal male and female human bodies. The male was sectioned at one millimeter intervals, the female at one-third of a millimeter intervals. That’s strained.

There’s now no excuse for not having beautiful drawings of the human form that you, yourself, have made.

my hi-fi, my sci-fi

koromiko by Elizabeth ThomsonIt came as some surprise today, to see the leaves of the lancewood were, in fact, cast metal. Elizabeth Thomson’s ‘my hi-fi, my sci-fi’ exhibition would be one of the best I’ve seen at the City Gallery in a very long time. I would compare Thomson’s work to the earlier exhibition of Bridget Riley, but whereas Riley’s work seems repetitive and dated, Thomson’s skillful casting and colouring serves to create work that is at once comfortably familiar and yet disconcerting in the context.

While the sculptures of the pubic hairs of unborn ants didn’t really work for me, the wave form cartesian planes recalling the gems of Paul Klee were luckily supervised by a security guard or I would’ve risked an exploratory prod – there’s something slightly mean spirited about creating a texture that begs to be touched and then forbidding people the discovery. The large bronze lancewood leaves with their subtle, yet vibrant colour main veins reminded me of the colour field work by Morris Louis, and the large scale work encouraged the spending of time to compare and consider the variations.

The magnum opus is the work that takes an entire gallery wall, created specifically for the City Gallery. Just like Bridget Riley, except this century, this country, this town, this gallery. On point, on purpose, on target. A great work, using cast, life sized pohutukawa leaves, from tiny to large, each beautifully coloured so they look freshly plucked from the tree. I wanted to photograph it. But you’re not allowed. I wanted a brochure so I could write about it. But there are no brochures. I wanted a catalogue. But they’re not out until July. July! The exhibition opened June 18. I wanted to find it on the web. But the counterhopper didn’t know if the gallery had the exhibition on the web site. I wanted to find it when I finally found the web site. But the big work is not there. Not even a mention. With the largest and most strategically located exhibition space in downtown Wellington, and a budget large enough to haul in international exhibitions, you’d really think the City Gallery might do better for a local (Newtown, for God’s sake, Newtown) artist. Bizarre.

I suppose that’s the sci-fi part after the hi-fi part…

misty watercolour memories…

Most of the day has been spent producing some nice little watercolours. I’ve been inspired by artist pal, Trevor Romain. It’s been a real exploration as I’ve found some of the paintings I thought I’d like weren’t as successful as those I didn’t expect to work that well. I suppose life is like that – it’s the unexpected seed that throws the nicest flower, or the best fruit. It comes as no surprise that life imitates art. For me there’s also a sense of embarrassment that my art isn’t all that much like – let’s say Durer or Klee. After all, I’ve spent an entire three or four hours on it – I should be better by now. Some of it is growing on me, however, as the works dry, the colour changes. Maybe tomorrow in a more natural light I can add some final touches, a scuff or two. I’m along way from feeling confident about drawing in public – good grief – painting public would be just too much.

Thanks, Trevor, for the inspiration, I’ll keep working on the ideas. Practice is all it ever takes.