dogwood: all in a row

Sorry, but it’s a riotous world of intense color out there and you just can’t keep me inside.  The way dogwood leaves and the buds of next year’s flowers arrange themselves is endlessly fascinating.  There are way too many images in my files of this particular branch of my favorite dogwood tree.dogwood2blog

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best of the drawing of the day, week 131: “inconspicuous” is in the eye of the beholder

drawingoftheday-week131-inconspicuousTime travelers and dimension walkers both agree– inconspicuous clothing and gear is the way to go if you don’t want to be discovered and condemned as a wizard or worse.  Usually this means a plain cotton shirt and canvas trousers, a loose, styleless canvas or leather jacket, boots or moccasins, and a plain satchel for that computer slate you are determined to smuggle in.  A felt slouch hat, a blanket/cloak, or maybe a hand knitted wool sweater might work as accessories if you are particularly bold or stylish.  In an outfit like that you can travel fairly safely in any timeline or dimension with a reasonable level of technology. All of the basics are freely available to ordinary workers and students just about everywhere– and everywhen.

This guy here is not quite with the program.  Or maybe he is– and he’s just from very, very far away, where his ensemble is the height of mild mannered anonymity. Even so, he’d probablybe  better off traveling with a familiar who is small enough to hide in his satchel.  Let’s hope that big felinoid has his own pocket dimension, and the common sense to hide in it when it’s wise to do so.

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a portrait of an old friend

While I was looking for something this afternoon, I had a surprise meeting with an old and very dear friend, one I miss very much these days.  No matter how much I like my digital cameras, their power and flexibility, the immediate results and the endless free film and second chances, there’s a big part of me that wishes I could turn back the technological clock a bit.  Maybe far enough to reach the days when  it was me and The Brick and this particular lens facing a world of possible subjects?  And are we really talking about only 7 or 8 years? IMG_20141023_204839

Elegant simplicity: Pentax K1000 SE “The Brick”/Pentax 85mm f/2 M.  Add a battery for the light meter and a roll of film and it’s ready to go.  There is no digital equivalent.

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new fountain pen first steps

People sometimes come to this blog to read about fountain pens and how to care for them and use them for drawing and hand lettering, so I thought I would share with you what I do to get started with a new pen.

First, of course, I do what I do with any new tool– unpack it carefully, make sure it actually is what I thought I was buying: in the case of a pen, that means that it is the the correct brand, model, body color and nib size and type.  (Always do this before you fill a pen with ink, since returning it after it has been filled can be difficult if not impossible. If you detect the voice of experience in this, you might be correct.)

Then I check to see if all the  accessories (if any) are included, and inspect it for any damage or obvious defects.  If I was sensible at the time I bought or ordered the pen, I made sure to get a converter at the same time, so the next step is to try to fit the converter and establish that it actually is the one designed to fit the pen.  If it is, I can go on to the next step.  If not, I can always go to the parts box and see if one of my spare converters happens to fit.  If so, next step, if not, the wrong converter goes into the parts box (it will be right for something sometime) and the pen goes in the drawer while I try to order the correct converter.

Once the converter is fitted, correctly I hope, I fill the pen with ink.  There are those who suggest a fill with distilled water first, to establish that everything flows properly and that there are no leaks or blockages.  This is probably wise advice when dealing with an old pen or one of unknown origins, but I have never had a problem with  a new pen from a reputable manufacturer, so I usually don’t bother.  Plus, I am eager to draw with my new pen.  So ink it is, always Aurora black, a high quality ink which seems to get along well with all pens.  If a pen won’t run Aurora … well, you probably have an issue to take up with somebody.  Fill, wipe, and then the moment of truth– those three hatched lines on the pad of scratch paper with the grocery list on it.   If the pen works at all, it’s on to the next step.  (If not, beat on it a bit ’till it does work.  Check the fit of the converter and make sure there is pressure and that it is pulling ink out of the bottle.  If you can’t get a seal after wiping and refitting, get another converter.  You are much, much more likely to get a dud converter than a dud pen.)

But let’s assume when you tried to make a line, you got a line.  Then it is on to the sketchbook. dod-new fountain pen I make a page like this for every new pen I get.  At the upper left hand corner are “chicken scratches” of various kinds– lines, hatching, spirals, squiggles, sometimes circles.  Those are to make sure the nib is wet and the pen is dropping ink from the reservoir through the nib and onto the paper– not too much ink and not too little.

If everything works, then I move on to lettering.  Lettering is a microcosm of everything that goes on in a drawing or on a page of comics: straight and curved lines, circles, diagonals.  If a pen will letter, it will draw.  Rather than starting with “the quick brown fox” or the Preamble to the Constitution or some other fixed text, I generally describe the pen, its nib and body, adding comments on its behavior as I go along.  I vary the size and style of the lettering as much as I can, trying to figure out the exact width of the lines the pen produces and how big and small I can go with it without getting either stringy or muddy.  Mistakes get covered up with a form that gets shaded in; that is a test in itself.

If I can get clean, blotless freehand lettering out of my new pen, I know I can draw with it, so I do.  The final piece of every test page (if there’s room) is a freehand drawing with no pencils underneath it.  If there’s a lot of room, as there was in this case, I can add further notes to the lettering section as I learn more about the pen.  As I did in the lettering I try to vary what I do with the linework in the drawing: different line weights, large and small scale motifs, different kinds of shading and hatching and fills, building up various levels of blacks and so on.

The advantage to using my drawing of the day sketchbook for this project is obvious.  The records for each pen are preserved safely and their dates of acquisition are easy to look up.  Plus the test drawing counts as the drawing of the day, thus hitting two artistic birds with one stone.   This is “The White Bat In Flight”, and I think he and his cat creature prove that the neon red Safari is going to be just fine.

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Money can be exchanged for goods and services.  And the selling prices of goods and services are determined, in the broadest sense, by the forces of the marketplace.  Material things are worth what people are prepared to pay for them.  So things that cost the same, are, in this one abstract way, equivalent.

Just for fun, here are two things I bought on Sunday for which I paid, after taxes and member discounts, almost exactly the same amount of money– right around $20 US.two things that cost the same It’s an interesting pair of objects, both of which will probably be with me for a while.  Which will give me more reliable service?  Which will be more pleasing?  Which, in the end, will I feel was the better deal?

(Yes, I have decided to reread The Lord of the Rings, cover to cover, including all appendices and supplements.  But when I took my original paperbacks off the shelf, they were too fragile to handle, hence the need for the new edition.  The quality of modern reprint paperbacks, particularly the digitally reproduced “type”, is appalling.  This volume was modestly priced, looked like it will be at least readable, and the cover is only mildly unattractive. )

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when winter comes, you won’t be sorry for “wasting” a sunny autumn day

stripedgrassimpressionism2-blogAnd there is no better companion for a time wasting walk than a camera.  Playing around with a very narrow depth of field in the garden on the corner, with sort-of-impressionistic results … the striped ornamental grass is cheerful and always slightly alien.

(For photogeeks, Pentax K-30/Pentax DA*55mm.  1/500, f/1.4, ISO 100)

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tumblr sunday: mysterious objects from the distant past

tumblr_n8rogmGhG81s6dotio1_500Do you know what these things are, and what they’re for?  If you know, can you remember the boxes they came in, the sounds they made, the way they smelled?  How ridiculously angry you would get when one worked only three times, instead of four? You only had so many, either with you in your pocket, or in the cabinet at home.

(image from that gathering of random images I call the Coelacanth Gallery. )

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drawing of the day bonus: natalie, mr. whiskers, and the green man

Thought I’d show you some more of the “Twins, Tutor” series this week, but the first sketchbook I pulled down at random didn’t have one in it.  But I did find Natalie, Mr. Whiskers, and the Green Man,drawingofthedaybonus--natalieandcompanyand here they are.  Natalie is one of those serious, dark haired girls you find around libraries, the Green Man is the Green Man, and Mr. Whiskers is a felinoid, otherwise known as a longcat or catsnake.  I bet at first glance you thought he was just an ordinary cat.  Longcats can do that.

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a better map of a classic imaginary place

This blog’s complex relationship with the works of JRR Tolkien is well known (search “Tolkien” for assorted links), but there’s no denying that Middle Earth is a complex setting that lends itself to the best in fantasy cartography.  And if there’s one thing this blog loves, it’s a really good map of an imaginary place.  I was never totally in love with the classic map of Middle Earth drawn by Tolkien himself, as reproduced in every paperback “Lord of the Rings” volume that we read until the spine cracked and pages were yellow and soft, back when we were young.  Whatever hand drawn and lettered character that map had was lost in the smeary, squinty fifth generation copy, and it wasn’t detailed enough to actually be useful as an aid in following the story.  This is much better.MAP-OF-MIDDLE-EARTH-VERSION-7It’s old news now, apparently, but today I discovered this amazing map of Middle Earth, made by a man called Thierry Jungels in France and dated 2004.  Now, that’s a useful map– rich in detail and well proportioned.  Already the story (so familiar that I can tell it to myself even though I haven’t reread it in probably 20 years) makes more sense to me.  This map just seems to give me a better sense of the space involved.  There are quibbles–the font is definitely Tolkienesque, but it comes at the cost of readability. If nothing else, the Tolkien style font could have been kept for the large divisions from the original map and the details set in a coordinating Roman for contrast and better small size legibility.  And that cobalt blue and the rest of the old school colors are just vulgar to modern eyes.   But the map is undeniably both a functional tour de force and a genuine labor of love.

I never thought I’d say this about any piece of creative work, much less a map, but it’s actually tempting me to do something I’ve never thought I’d do again.  I know exactly where to find it, that soft, yellow, broken spined paperback Fellowship of the Ring I bought with my allowance back in 1974  …

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best of the drawing of the day, week 130: twins, tutor, groceries


“The Twins, with their new Tutor, at the bus stop, with the groceries”

Imagine my shock to discover that the “best of the drawing of the day” posts have been going up more or less every week for rather more than two years– and you have never seen one of the “Twins, Tutor” series!  This is an occasional series of captioned drawings built on the formula “The Twins, with their New Tutor, in or at (location) with a/the (something).”  As nearly as I can remember, the first drawing reminded me of a Victorian or Edwardian family snapshot, the kind Mama would put in the family album with that kind of caption.

The twins vary, the tutors vary, the situations range from sweet to absurd to amusingly horrifying.  In this case the twins are boy and girl, on their way home from their fancy private school with their vaguely overwhelmed “tutor” who is actually more of a babysitter and who may not stay on the job for much longer.  Whatever he or she is being paid is not worth it and that barista gig is looking better all the time.  The girl twin was originally holding a hair ribbon, which is boring and hard to draw so it is recognizable as what it is.  The scary snake is much more interesting.  The Jumbo Market, with its elephant mascot, is the official grocery store of all my comics and sketchbook drawings.  Go to Jumbo for big, big savings!

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