Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fall in Central California

Inland Central California usually has a very short and fall season with little color.

However, this year there was a sudden cold snap where the temperatures went from the 70s to the 30s over night and then stayed in the 50s thereafter. This caused some glorious fall colors, to which we are unaccustomed. And fall lasted much longer than usual. In the average year, the leaves here just turn brown and fall off.

Since fall is my favorite season, I have been happily taking photos, and enjoying it immensely.

I can well imagine that you folks from the east coast and mid west are probably thinking "big deal" and, "those leaves aren't really that colorful". And I have traveled enough to know why you would say that, but we think your "big trees" are pretty puny - so it is all relative to what you are used to.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sequoia Santa

Santa's Summer Vacation is available for purchase on mugs, shirts, and many other items at the Vee Mack Ink store.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Vee Mack Ink

Mr. Zzyzx has added new artwork and products to the Vee Mack Ink store. Many of them are currently on sale.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Before and After

I really enjoy the artwork and comics of Charles Addams and Edward Gorey. One of my favorite books by Edward Gorey is the ABC book: "The Gashlycrumb Tinies". In which which different children meet with disaster, or even an untimely demise. I love children - I have three children and two grandchildren - so, I can't explain why I think those are funny. I guess it is like slapstick humor - even though someone is getting hurt, there is something funny about the way it is presented and it is nothing like reality. If it seemed the least bit real, I wouldn't be amused by it. It is the extreme contrast from reality that makes it so funny - like the movers who struggle to get the beautiful grand piano up the long stair case and at the last minute drop it down to the sidewalk, smashing in a thousand pieces.

Other then when I was a teenager, I've not done much macabre humor. However, several years ago after seeing before and after weight loss pictures, I was amused by the idea of extreme before and after pictures. I was also amused by the idea of unusually shaped heads with matching skulls. The sketches posted here are the simple doodles that came out of those musings.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Banana Munching Festoon

This pen and ink drawing, painted with Dr. Martin's watercolours on a watercolour block, was done as an experimental illustration. By that I mean that it appears to be part of a story but there was no story that went with it. At the time, I was considering illustrating children's stories but hadn't written much - hence the illustration without a story.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bristle Blocks Acrobats

One of the best ways to restore sanity while raising a toddler is to steal his toys and play with them. I recommend buying earplugs so that you can ignore the screams of "mine! mine! mine" when he sees you playing with his stuff.

These Bristle Blocks Acrobats are great fun but you have to keep them out of your two-year-old's reach or he'll tear them a apart. This sculpture was placed on top of a tall bookshelf, well out of reach of the little tike.

Bristle Block Momma with her two babies and upside-down husband portrays the struggle of motherhood and marriage: she does this with great skill and beauty. Note: her flowering breasts and the three hands - two outstretched in both strength and love, and the third reaching forward into the future. All this she accomplishes while carrying for her children and supporting her useless husband, who spends his day writing on blogs.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Doodles and Icons

While it is very rewarding to spend hours drawing or painting something suitable for framing, little compares to getting so lost in the doodle zone that you lose a sense of time or troubles. You are not self aware. You are not drawing to impress or please anyone else. In fact, you are not even drawing with intent to please yourself. The drawing just emerges while you observe.

It is similar to that feeling that you get reading a great story or watching a really compelling movie: you are transported to another world.

I don't recall where this doodle began - probably with the face - that is usually where I start. The starting place is always a self-aware decision. It is sometime after that as the drawing begins to take shape that you stop trying to draw and just draw. That is why doodling is somewhat therapeutic as a way to relax.

This sort of doodling is a faint echo of an even more significant form of artwork that transcends personal therapy: iconography. For monks who paint icons, the process of painting is a form of prayer as they paint, understanding that the finished icon will be a vehicle of prayer for others. I am not trained in the method of painting icons, but the general concept is one that we can embrace. Several years ago when I was drawing portraits for a living I took this concept to heart and adapted it for my work: while I was drawing the subjects portrait, I prayed for him/her. It transformed the way I thought about the subject and the process of producing a piece of artwork. It was no longer just a creative effort or a business transaction, but took on a sacramental significance.

Block Head

This is a concept drawing for a tactile sculpture that was designed for children.

Each mouth is a cavity, which contains objects that can be felt, such as marbles, feathers, water, et cetera.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mr Zzyzx Presents: Zingot

My recent sleepless night allowed me to finally complete the illustration of "Zingot", an annoying character from my unfinished novel.

You can read about him in an excerpt from the novel posted previously in this blog: click on the "Chimera Crusade" label.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Man with Bowler

In my last post I promised - or at least implied - that I'd be writing soon about my latest graphics tablet digital artwork trials. Well, I must confess to yielding to the temptation of drawing with fountain pens and paper.

I have been listening to the audio book version of "The Invisible Wall" by Harry Bernstein, and his description of men wearing bowlers inspired me to draw this sketch. And, rather than turn on the computer, I just uncapped a few fountain pens and sat back in my comfy wing-backed chair and sketched the guy you see here above. He's mostly drawn after Bernstein's descriptions of his father.

I used a Pelikan M215 fine point and Namiki Falcon soft fine point for this sketch, with Noodler's Feather-X black ink. I really like the graphics tablet but it is not a sufficient substitute for a pen nib on quality paper.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Wacom Tablet MTE-450 (Refurbished)

For Christmas my wonderful wife bought me a Wacom Tablet - she let me pick out the one I wanted. I've been looking at them for years but they were too expensive and so never got one. I had hoped to be able to get a larger one but when Amazon offered the Refurbished MTE-450 at $40 just before Christmas, and the reviews were so encouraging, it seemed like the size might not be that important. In fact, one reviewer on Amazon stressed the fact the size of the tablet wasn't as important as the quality of the tablet, because the you don't generally make long sweeping movements and the tablet scales to match your screen size. While I haven't used the tablet very much yet, I am finding that review to be true. I have used the (less than) 4X5 tablet with a 22" widescreen monitor and not felt the least bit inhibited by the small tablet. The greatest difficulty I have experienced so far is trying to get the software to completely recognize the pen sensitivity. All of the software will recognize the pen but it is difficult to get the pen sensitivity settings working. I am using the pen tablet with three programs - trying to figure out which one I like best between Paint Shop Pro 8, Corel Photo-Paint 12 (CorelDRAW Graphics Suite 12) and GIMP 2. Suprisingly, the oldest program, Paint Shop Pro 8 was the easiest to calibrate for pen pressure variance. GIMP is the newest and so far I can't get it to recognize the tablet. Even the solutions on the two discussion pages that describe this problem, didn't solve it. I am not impressed with the GIMP help files, even though I suspect that GIMP is good software - especially since it is free! I am surprised that GIMP seems so graphics tablet unfriendly when it is being presented as a graphics program more than photo manipulation program. [See update below.] And I would guess that the open source geeks who are developing it are probably using it with pen tablets rather than mice. I suppose they are my own geek deficiencies that have kept me from uncovering GIMP's full potential. So, for now I am getting the best results with Corel Photo-Paint 12, once I finally figured out how to adjust the very obscure pen variance settings. The auto-detect feature was not very helpful. And, I am considering buying Corel Painter X, which simulates a paint mixing palette and has rave reviews.

So, why all the obsolete software? Who can afford the new software? - Not me!

I had wanted to upload a charcoal drawing that I spent a couple of hours drawing on Corel Photo-Paint 12 but the default save settings mysteriously changed to one pixel per square inch and my drawing turned into a crossword puzzle when I saved it. So, that was unpleasant. I used the Wacom tablet to render a quick color version of the "Bird on a Wire" to see if I had successfully repaired the save settings, which I've included above. The original print is presented in the post below.

The bottom line is: the Wacom tablet is great - unbeatable at $40 (refurbished was just like new), but the tablet is only as good as the ability of the software to enable you to draw and paint as you intend to. So far, I have spent much more time calibrating than actually drawing - but that is a necessary learning curve. However, it does give me an increased appreciation for my fountain pens!

UPDATE: [01-12-09] After using GIMP2 with my notebook, I tried using it with the Wacom tablet on my PC and discovered that it recognized the Wacom tablet by name and model and eve has a dockable menu which gives you a visual indicator of the settings you are currently using with the pen. The remarkable thing is that it continuously updates the menu as you change colors, brush styles, or even when you turn the pen upside down to use the eraser. So, of the three programs mentioned in this review, GIMP is clearly the best, with the exception of the help files. However, it is fairly intuitive. I'll write more on GIMP and the tablet set up later in a separate post.