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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red, green and bronze

Red, green, and bronze: Virginia creeper in the rain. virginiacreeper-best-blog I was exercising the weather resistance of the K-30 and the DA* 55mm f/1.4 lens we call the Mouse (Or maybe “Maus”.  I’m not sure yet.)  in the backyard this morning, and was surprised to discover that in this rainy light, the old chain link fence looks just like bronze, giving the finished images a pleasing (to me, at least) vaguely Japanese feeling.

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the mystery of the missing bedroom

Two visits to the Art Institute two weeks apart enabled me to discover a secret passage leading to a mystery.  The secret passage is the one connecting the second floor of the new Modern Wing to the Impressionist galleries on the upper floor of the old building– enter through the back of the Caffe Moderno (after stopping to eat a bacon scone) — it will save you ten minutes walk and a climb up the big staircase.

On the first of my recent visits I happily entered the Gallery with the Yellow and Green Van Gogh In It, eager to see one of my very very favorite pictures in the world, only to find that only four days before, it had disappeared under mysterious circumstances. bedroominarlesnoticeWell, maybe not so mysterious. Mysteries do not usually leave a tidy little notice on a preprinted and numbered form tacked to the wall behind them.

Then I went back last week, and notice #2173 was gone, and this was in its place. bedroominarles1-blogI’ve seen this painting, which I have loved since I was a kid, approximately a jillion times, but it never fails to show me something new or at least make me happy by being mild and utterly quotidian and passionate and profound and full of color.  I don’t think I’d ever been to the Art Institute before and not seen it. There are several versions of “The Bedroom”, sometimes called “The Bedroom in Arles”, but this is the best one because of the color of the floor and the window frame and the way the table is sitting.

(image of the picture as it was hanging in the gallery last Thursday, Pentax K-30, Pentax DA*55mm f/1.4.  Exposure data for photography nerds: 1/160, f/2.8, ISO 1250.)

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“let’s add cars to old landscape paintings”

We seem to be on a fine art kick here on the old blog recently, and I say if we can catch a trend we should saddle it up and ride it off into the sunset.  So when I was taking my morning constitutional through the wilds of the internets and found a great art link, I knew I’d also found today’s special topic. So here, from Jalopnik … Wait. Jalopnik? Isn’t that the Gawker blog dedicated to sarcastic coverage of the auto industry and other car related topics? Oh, yeah. And today it’s the home of the aptly titled  “Let’s add cars to old landscape paintings”.

In this feature readers (whose digital image manipulation skills vary from rudimentary to mad) add cars to old landscape paintings (and newer landscape paintings, and other kinds of paintings) with results that range from thought provoking to just silly.  Also included are some beautiful Thomas Hart Benton paintings that had cars in them originally.  Expand the comments to see all the entries, but here are two of my favorites to get you started.  First, Monet’s classic Impressionist work “Amphicar and Water Lilies, Giverny”.old car landscape-amphicar monet And who can forget Edward Hopper’s lyrical “Lancia 037 on a Road in Maine”?old car landscape-lancia 37 hopper

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tumblr sunday: see venus by elephant

tumblr_ndd2zwz7pv1s7wovzo1_500It’s my own interpretation, but I sincerely hope this pulp science fiction cover by the great Frank R. Paul was inspired by a story where tourists come to Venus and are carried on swamp and jungle tours  by a flotilla of trained elephants. Science fiction elephants for the win.

(image via tumblr,  by way of the blog of transparentoctopus, which is full of interesting things.)

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the temptation of the byzantine dog mosaic

I could resist the human figures, the stag, the camel, even the giraffe, but I snuck my phone out of my pocket to take two illicit photographs of the Byzantine mosaic with the little dog.

Can you blame me, really? He’s a rather wonderful little dog, and very inspirational.  (The plant forms are terrific too.)

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