Friday, November 27, 2009


Technology is so much fun but we can drown in our technology. The fog of information can drive out knowledge.
~ Daniel J. Boorstin

I think this is a perfect quote with which to launch a short break from the interwebs. I'm going to read this and work on the photo project for family Christmas presents and clean up the garden and finally finally dip my toe in the oil paints, so to speak. Be good while I'm gone.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


After checking out the website and watching some of the clips, I am dying to see Objectified now:

OBJECTIFIED, by filmmaker Gary Hustwit, is the second installment in his trilogy on design (his first was Helvetica). OBJECTIFIED encourages us to stop and notice our surroundings and to think critically about creativity and consumption. Who makes all these objects, and why do they look and feel the way they do? How can good design make these things—and by extension our lives—better?

And for a little fun, find out what object you are. This is similar to, but better than, those lame Facebook quizzes. I am a VW Beetle. Interestingly, a blue toy Beetle (because I've loved them since I was a wee tot) and a Bond Street Underground sign (it was the tube station nearest where I worked years ago) are the only decorative design products I have in my studio.

PS Thanks again, Donn.

the easy life

I want to be just like Hugh MacLeod when I grow up.

Instead I'm like me. These days being like me means injuring your fingers three times in one week, the last being the worst. I slammed my finger into my minivan's sliding door last night and followed that up with the doctor actually burning a hole in my fingernail to relieve blood/pressure. X-ray results not back yet. Like the cartoon above implies, it's not a very good way to get out of doing work.

But being like me also means that I have the pleasure of Jesse's goofy company for a week. Some of you may remember that Jesse is the Lab puppy we raised for service dog training. He's living at the PADS kennel right now, going through advanced training, but suffering from kennel stress and needed a break. That's code for "the other dogs needed a break". A total clown, he learns fast but has trouble chilling, and has the habit of getting in everyone's faces, making him a bit of a geek in doggy social circles. Coco thinks he's great fun, though, because she can play him like a fiddle. His trainer tells me he'll never make a wheelchair assistance dog, but his enthusiasm and physical power mean he's being guided towards
being a wheelchair-pulling (if they can keep his prey drive under control ... who-o-oah!) or drug-sniffing dog.

That's all the typing I can manage for now with my gimpy hand. No artwork this week!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

a beautiful day in the neighbourhood

arts off main inventory mosaic

OK, it's actually cold and starting to rain again with another storm on the way -- but my back is better and I had a good workday! Just before heading out this morning I got a call from Mila, the gallery manager at the Federation Gallery on Granville Island. I entered one of my mini drawings in the annual Small Painting Salon (it's a holiday tradition for me now) and won first prize! (AKA The Ellen Poole Award -- Ellen Poole is the FCA's archivist.) It had been awhile since I'd gotten off my butt to show anything there so it was a pretty nice surprise. Check out the rest of the show (67 pieces) and the other award winners (second, third and two or three Awards of Excellence) here. This is the piece that won.

To add to my good day I headed down to Arts Off Main, a very well-run artist's co-op, gallery and framing shop in Vancouver, just east of Main Street at 216 East 28th Ave. They have accepted me as a consignee and I dropped off the above six small pieces. Take a look at their website and if you're in Vancouver drop into the gallery between Wednesdays and Sundays.

Monday, November 16, 2009

the evolution of blogging

Bloggers new and old, but especially old, read this about how blogging has changed in the past half dozen years, and why. I certainly know that Facebook now fills the void that was once filled by what I considered my particular blogging community. As far as my own responsibility as a blogger goes, I can tick almost all the boxes in the article, especially the ones about laziness, burnout and blogrolling; but as a reader I'd still much rather check in on my favourite blogs than read a Facebook update.

I've found that as blogging has changed, mine has become more about my work and, as a result, the fun and the humour have all but disappeared. I do blame Facebook to some extent, but I mostly blame myself for second-guessing. Awareness of an audience can be a real killer of creativity. Just look at children's art. I remember all those girls at school who became my little art clones because they "wanted to draw like Andrea". As for me, I just wanted to be little and self confident and as good at sports as Penny and Fionna. Blogging moves on but I guess my own evolution has stalled, since I'm laid up with an injured back like the fat guy in the marathon who forgot to train, then keels over with a heart attack. Meanwhile, Fionna is still an elite-level 10k runner. Ouch.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

scanning vs. photographing artwork

While looking for images that combine steampunk with Bob Ross (a mighty challenge) for my last post I happened across this image of a steampunk guitar. (There are a few out there. Here's another one I like.) Then yesterday I took Coco out for a little Remembrance Day run and had the stupidity to try and keep running after I felt twinges in my lower back. Needless to say, I'm grounded today -- and feeling elderly -- so thought I'd carpe diem and do a drawing of the guitar while it was still fresh in my mind.

It's the best kind of day for photographing artwork outdoors (i.e. high, light cloud cover) so thought I'd also conduct a little experiment (all the while hobbling around all hunched over like a geriatric mad scientist). The drawings I do on black paper are hard to scan as a black support deadens colours, so they need a little reflection to get the full effect, but since a lot of them are tiny (4" x 4") they are too small to photograph. Getting the right focal length is a challenge with the smaller ones anyway as any distortion is highly magnified. My larger drawings, however, don't fit the scanning bed so I do photograph them (I use a Nikon D70), and find that a focal length of about 70mm creates the least amount of edge-to-edge distortion. And the advantage with photography, of course, is that the reflective parts of the surface are shown to full advantage.

The image portion of this drawing is about 9" x 7" -- just small enough to scan but also large enough to try photographing. Since I couldn't do much of anything else today, why not try both and see which works better?



I'll leave it to you to decide which is the better image. What I did learn was this: the current settings on my scanner mean that I get truer colour balance from photographing. At first I thought it might be caused by my Photoshop settings, but since I use Photoshop to crop and improve both my scanned and photographed artwork, I guess not! I found it necessary to crop, add contrast and sharpen the top (photographed) image only slightly. The bottom (scanned) image required extensive colour correction and to get the reflected effect I had to bump up the contrast enormously, which detracted from the crispness/resolution of the image.

I will continue scanning small and photographing large, but this experiment has taught me that I have slightly better results (i.e. it's less work and I get a better quality image for the size) with a photographed image than a scanned image, and if I can get the edge distortion under control then photographing my work is my better option ... until I get that $3000 scanner that is!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

steampunk bob ross

This is for Ellen (and Google).

Bob Ross paints Slayer

Saturday, November 07, 2009

r.b. pratt, man with right conception of things

A couple of days ago I got a new document from Ralph Pratt, my dad's cousin, who lives in Winnipeg. He is the family go-to guy about our one relative of public achievement (and the man he is named after), my great grandfather, Ralph B. Pratt. Back when I first started blogging I posted some photos of train stations he designed, then later on a church. Ralph keeps me topped up with what he discovers as a government employee in the town where the senior Ralph made his mark. This is the latest thing: Deer Lodge. It started life as a hotel, then during WWI was converted to a military hospital. It remained as such until after WWII and is now, apparently, a geriatric care facility? I know there are Winnipegonians who read this blog. Can you tell me anything about the place and how it looks now? It looks pretty uninspired, architecturally, from the photos, yet well-designed in a conservative, dignified and undemanding way. Quasi-interesting factoids:

War hero Tommy Prince stayed there. And there is another famous trainee from England who dated the hospital's radiologist's daughter. The trainee went on to become the Hollywood actor known as Richard Burton.

(Coincidentally I was flipping through channels and discovered Look Back In Anger on TV earlier today.) Anyway, what I love best about reading these old documents is the affected, formal use of language. I particularly love this testimonial from a sort-of Winnipeg Who's Who from 1913:

Mr. Pratt is a member of the Adanac Club and the
Winnipeg Canoe Club and takes an active interest in all kinds of outdoor sports. His easy dignity, his frankness and cordiality of address, with the total absence of anything sinister or anything to conceal, foretoken a man who is ready to meet any obligation of life with the confidence and courage that comes of conscious personal ability, right conception of things, and an habitual regard for what is best in the exercise of human activities.

As a person who also obviously possesses "
an habitual regard for what is best in the exercise of human activities" I must be related to the guy. Then there's this of course. And this.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

website revamp

It was actually fun redoing my website, even if it took three days. I added the slideshow feature that I've admired on other art websites, tried really hard to edit myself (only partially successfully) and keep it simple and professional looking. I'm thinking it's pretty good for a hack like me who uses online tools, knows very little HTML and hasn't taken a single instruction in web design. But I know I've missed things, have made typos and there is probably a broken link or two, so please visit, look around and click on a few links. How is the width of the pages on your monitor? I would really appreciate any feedback!