Saturday, July 24, 2010


HUGE assignment this weekend. I need to totally rebrand a tea company. they need a business focus, we're going high end, a personality, we will be classy and luxurious, a logo, a web site, packaging design, and an email HTML flyer.

I'm looking forward to the project, but I have almsot none of it pulled together yet.

I will post any bits as they are created.


Monday, July 19, 2010


I am fed up with the nonsummer weather, tired of waiting for the funds to purchase my Empire Avenue upgrade (so that I can sell more shares of myself) and thoroughly sick of having to drop projects that I am only half-way into so that I can start work on the next looming damn thing.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Yay today

I made scones in the early morning, worked on packaging design for the rest of it. In the afternoon I strolled through a huge outdoor art exhibit, came home for beers and a BBQ with corn and potato salad. I made vegetarian chili for tomorrow and sold out my shares on Empire Avenue. (yahoo) I beat hubbie at poker, but let him win crib, since there is already a growing list of games he won't play with me. And now? Now I plan to develop my taste for skunk weed and single malt scotch, both of which I am sure I can learn to like if I just apply myself.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Embedding experiments

Well, since my own animation attempts are so far under feeble (so far), I decided I should get some web design work done. I need to be able to play video on a site I am working on, and I debating how to go about it.

One way is an embedded link, and I hope this works for here because it's a beautiful little piece by Simon Rouby.

Le Pr├ęsage (the Omen) from Simon Rouby on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

No pictures today

Alas, I spent most of the day trying and failing to overcome my Flash blockage or impairment or whatever my problem is whenever I am confronted with a new program to learn.

I swear some people just start dancing across keyboards finding short cuts and testing whistles and ringing bells. I spend a week grumbling about the fact that nothing ever seems to come with a manual anymore. Then I spend two weeks looking for the missing manual online and reading tutorials. Then I have to practise in dead of night, well actually crack of dawn more usually. And eventually I make something amazing.

Today was not that day. It wasn't even one of the practise in secret days. Maybe tomorrow will be that day and then soon I'll have the amazing day.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Phew, midterms are over. Quite an unusual experience really - exams in visual arts. Yesterday's was the most fun and also the most productive for me. The assignment was to design a satirical poster on the BP oil spill while also emulating a graphic designer of our choosing. I ended up with 3 pretty good roughs, the best of which is shown above.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Beautiful photos

Night Owl, originally uploaded by Mr. Graves.

Found some beautiful stuff on Flickr by a Mr. Graves. His landscapes have the kind of personality a portrait might. And his portraits have the vastness and poignancy off great landscapes. If you like Ansel Adams, or Tarkovsky films, you will like these.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Epic fail...

Well I can't say that we weren't warned that we would be set up for an "epic fail". We just weren't sure when it would happen or what form it would take. Turns out it came in the form of a Mission Impossible Midterm.

I'm left trying to decide whether it would be better to analyse the errors of the day in hopes of never repeating them, or whether I should just blot the whole thing from my mind.

The accompanying image is admittedly a pretty bad treatment, but it was made in its entirety in under 10 minutes, which unfortunately seems to be what is meant by workflow.

heavy sigh

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Vectors, vexels and vexations

First off vector images are great in a number of ways, but their real advantage from a designer or artist's point of view is their scalability. You can make them reeeeally really big or really small with no loss of clarity whatsoever. You won't be able to test that here, because once I have posted an image to the web, it becomes a raster image, meaning it's made up of a bunch of little pixels. Everything you see online is a raster image no matter what program it was created in, no matter what file format it was saved in. Got that? That was vexation number one.

Vectors only really have an advantage in print media. If you think about a logo for instance that might get printed on everything from a business card to a box car then you will be able to appreciate the importance of scalability and why logos are almost always vector images. But this wasn't about logos or print even. These were for things supposedly meant for the web. So not being able to achieve the effect that I wanted for some small online icons with vectors, or in this case in Illustrator in general, I got in a snit about the whole "must be vector" regime that I was dealing with at the time.

I got over it more or less, but then there was the whole separate issue of the vexel, which is different than a vector image. A vexel is a sort of bastardization of vector based images and pixel based images. They start out in Photoshop, a program that I love dearly despite its inability to create real vectors. What I think happened was that people who had Photoshop, but lacked Illustrator learned to use the former's ability to make vectorish shape layers as a means to achieve an almost vector image. Sorry for the jargon, if you're not a user of these things yourself.

Bizarrely enough however, what they chose to do with these almost vector images was to trace photographs which had first been manipulated in Photoshop. The manipulations are aimed specifically at achieving clearly defined areas of subtle color changes, which can then be traced using the pen tool and filled in with solid colors to mimic a vector shape. Many such shapes on many layers make a picture called a vexel. If you have ever seen a paint by numbers kit, then you'll have some idea what I am talking about. The plan goes something like this. Find a very detailed high resolution image and blur it in Photoshop, then posterize it into bands of color, then apply a blur layer to restore its original colors. Then faithfully, slavishly trace each and every one of the shapes you can see on a separate layer and viola, you get an image that is virtually indistinguishable from its posterized form. The main difference is that getting there in Photoshop doing nothing other than applying filters and adjustments takes 3-5 minutes, and getting from there to the finished traced version is likely to take 3-5 days. See the added aesthetic value? I don't.

In case the above isn't quite masochistically tedious enough, people doing this in Photoshop are forced to use the pen tool, since it is the only way to freehand a psuedo vector shape layer. Now the pen tool has a lot going for it if you need straight lines or bezier curves. But last time I had a good long look at a portrait or a landscape, both of these were in short supply. The world of natural things is kinda lumpy and rough around the edges. So the pen tool, which is touchy and time consuming is not the tool you want unless you need a perfectly smooth curve or a perfectly straight line.

Lucky for us, we did not have to do our completed vexel in Photoshop, we got to move over to Illustrator, which specializes in vector images and so has lots and lots of tools for tracing and drawing, all of which will produce vector shapes by default. Alas most people still stuck slavishly to the pen tool, because the instructions said to. Make that that 3-5 days above into 3-5 weeks and you'll get an idea of how many student hours went into making these things.

If you search the word vexel you will find lots, as well as tutorials if you have time on your hands and want to make your own. Most are much more photo-realistic than mine above. And my friend Dano has made a couple of gorgeous ones, one of which you can see here.

Actually, once I finally got off my ass and started one, I came to see the number of hours required as part of their charm. It is a lot like doing needlepoint, which I confess I used to find sort of addictive. If you combine vexel tracing with a decent podcast or two, you can pretty much do this until the cows come home, and if you're like me and don't have any cows, you can pretty much do this forever. Plus, when you're finally finished the damn thing, you don't need to sew it into a pillow. You can print it on the side of a box car and watch its perfectly sharp lines and flat colors fade off into the distance.

Monday, July 5, 2010

I'm baaaaaack

Sorry, sometimes you step away from something for a minute, and then you get distracted, and then you forget to come back, and well, you know how it is... next there's a leave of absence, then you meet some guy and move to another city, then there's a whole new career. No wait, that was before, this time I just went out to get some air.

I feel especially concerned for the Empire Avenue shareholders who lost money on me over the last couple weeks, (at least the ones not mercenary or sharp enough to sell me), so I will be doing what I can to rebuild my social capital.

Another reason for my quietness of late is the lack images to post. The last couple weeks have been all about learning to code web sites, and while it might be fun to learn to make a rollover effect for a button or a horizontal navigation bar, trust me, it's nothing you haven't seen before.

But I have been busy drawing, and I am sure I can drag something up here to post.