23 October 2016

[liff in pdx] Goodbye, Mike's Drive In

As reported in the PMerc, in this age of changeable Portland, a Sellwood stalwart may be going away rather too soon from the Sellwood corner of SE 17th and Tenino:
We are on a lease expiring first of year. Yes they want to redevelop the property and at this time they won't give us more time. That could change depending on many factors. But at this time we are sad to say Mikes in Sellwood has limited time. However this does not effect our other locations.
Mike's has been part of my Portland experience since the late 80s, when I worked at a place down in Sellwood called Superior Answering Service (yes, I've even worked in an answering service, back when such a thing was needed and we didn't have eight billion ways of leaving a message for someone). At the time I lived in Lair Hill on SW Porter Street (back when that was affordable) and the TriMet Line 40-Johns Landing connected both areas. That was pretty sweet.

More than likely, by January of 2017, Mike's at 17th and Tenino, 1 block south of Tacoma St, will be yet another palimpsest on the increasingly scraped parchment of Portland's social history. There will be two other Mike's … Milwaukie and Oregon City … but this is kind of an irreplaceable thing. The burgers there are quite yummy.

And so it goes. 

[logo] Kodak Is As Kodak Was: What Does 'Kodak' Mean, Anyway?

As reported by many outlets that look at such things, the Kodak logo has been changed again. The new looks a whole lot like a certain golden age.

b. 1971, d. 2006
From 1935 to 1970 the company had been using the word Kodak in a thick-stroke, slab-serif (or, 'Egyptian') style, with the word in red and the background in yellow. The only change in that time was for the background yellow to go from a rectangular cartouche to a right-triangle in about 1960 with a curl suggestive of peeling the cover paper from one of those self-developing Polaroid photos that were the rage before instant photography became viable.

In 1971 the company went modern with an abstract approach that made the arm and leg of the initial K into a symbol also reminiscent of the way light converges to a lens. The word mark's typography was updated and found a home inside the arms of the symbol, which legend said was turned into a rounded quadrilateral meant to recall the visual outlines of a viewfinder.

The company stayed with this until 2006, when a sort of return to an earlier form was called for: the logo again reduced to a word mark, Kodak, in a serif-less red font that looked bespoke. The yellow was similarly reduced to a bold underline to this word, when it appeared at all.

born again, 2016
This year, what's old is newish again; that 70s logo has returned, as reset by the creative team at Work-Order, the wordmark is rearranged. Ten years after, and about nine years after I was taught that stacked type is a graphic design no-no, I am reminded that there are exceptions to all rules. as the stacked type works pretty well here. Not only that, but it brings to mind the sprocket holes of old 35mm camera film, evenly spaced along one side. Kodachrome, it gives you nice bright colors …

Wait. They took our Kodachrome away in 2010. Well, at least we have memories. And this. And Kodak is getting back into consumer photography, bringing back its signature Ektra as a photography-oriented smartphone, which is perfect if you have Paul Simon on speed-dial.

Which brings me round to another aspect of Kodak branding: while it's known that the "Polaroid Land Camera" was named for Polaroid's inventor, Edwin Land, the word Kodak seems inscrutable. That's a part, if accidental, of the design; the founder of Kodak, George Eastman, happened to just like the letter K. He found it strong and incisive (a perceptive man, said the author with a name beginning with K). The word itself was created by playing with letter tiles from an anagram set, and had to fit three criteria: 1) short, 2) cannot be mispronounced, and 3) impossible to be associated with anything else.

Coincidences may be coincidental, but George Eastman anticipated the concept of the word Exxon over 100 years before it even was possible.

And now you know. 

22 October 2016

[cartoon] Spiral Notebook Comics Binge Watches The West Wing

John E. Williams (no relation), a comic artist of great amounts of ilk, has entertained before with a look at Law and (dunkdunk) Order. Now, on TV hour at Spiral Notebook Comics, he takes a rocket ride through any given episode of The West Wing, in which we may or may not get the answers to questions like this:

The writing is as sharp as a very sharp thing. Hie thee hence:


It's in a spiral damn notebook, y'all!

21 October 2016

[logo] The New MetLife Logo: What They Ditched Snoopy For

Despite the wide-spread social consternation over the forced retirement of Peanuts' Snoopy from the logo of the insurance firm MetLife, I was a little bemused to find very little … nothing really at the time … about the new look of MetLife other than logo talk about colors and type font changes and business friendly this-or-that.

I did finally turn up what the new logo and word mark is, and here you go:

In logo-ese, the blue references the company's historic logo and brings that presence forward, and the green represents energy and life. The profile of the logo glyph is that of an M, and if you need to be told what that stands for I don't want to know you any more, and the two colors combine to form a dark bluish not-really-a-color which probably signifies something somehow. You decide.

I do enjoy the new type, which is a solid improvement over the old one which now looks dated next to it. That was a good choice.

Also, business-friendly black.

A link to the page that contains all this info (and a link to a PDF press release too)? Here you go, pilgrim: https://www.metlife.com/about-us/brand/

[pdx] In Passing: Donald Trump's BS available in Pioneer Square

The BS here refers to baloney sandwiches. I don't know what you were thinking, reader.

Oh, OK. I know what you were thinking. But what DJT pushes is baloney as much as anything else, and will serve for the terms of this missive.

Via KGW, our legendary local advertising house, Wieden + Kennedy, has brought a new food cart to the supersaturated Portland street-food scene, and it's only here for a limited time, in Pioneer Courthouse Square. It was there today and will be there tomorrow (Saturday) from 11AM-2PM. The trailer, made up in the Trumpian color scheme of Yuge Black and Only-The-Best Gold, is dubbed DONALD TRUMP'S BS and offers an array of 'hero' sandwiches, such as the Working-Class Hero and the Tell-it-like-it-is Hero, sumptuously clad in a gold wrapper and packaged in a distinctively decorated cardboard sleeve. Classy.

However, when you unwrap it, no matter what sandwich you order … it's just baloney on the whitest bread you can find.

The same old BS.

Here's the video W+K posted to Instagram via YouTube. You'll get the idea.

Follow this link to the OLive story which has better pictures of the trailer and the personnel, as well as a glimpse of the menu and the sumptuous packaging. It's all silver lining, my friends.

[logo] Why MetLife Would Kick Snoopy To The Curb

Much consternation in the public as the nationally-recognized insurance icon, MetLife, is doing away with a multi-decade branding institution by ending its identification with Snoopy and the Peanuts characters, themselves American icons. But why?

It seems a sad thing to do, but when it comes to branding, meaning is everything. Up until now MetLife has been big in consumer life insurance, currently the largest life insurer in the United States. In 1975 it licensed the characters because, in the words of Esther Lee, MetLife chief marketing officer, they wanted "to make our company more friendly and approachable during a time when insurance companies were seen as cold and distant."

MetLife will be exiting from the personal insurance market by this time in 2017 for a more B2B approach: selling directly to corporations that provide insurance to employees. Being solely in the corporate market, being seen as cold and distant, a drawback anywhere else, becomes a positive boon. The new logo set, which we've not yet seen, has been described as being in a different typeface, with a change to a more "business friendly" black color.

About as cuddly as a leather briefcase, but it works for them, and, just as importantly, it'll save them around fifteen megabucks a year in licensing fees, because there'll be no cartoon characters to buy the rights to. One wonders if they got the 'coffee's for closers' speech before being shown the door. Whatever.

The Inquistr has the best article I've seen about it so far, with several aghast tweets

[font] Free Donald Trump Script Font Makes Your Computer Arrogant! Sad!

Well, since it's all Donald Trump all the time, now …

Agent Orange has this way of communicating verbally. He has this way of communicating in writing which perfectly resonates with that. His handwriting is quizzically blocky, squat, rounded, bold, as though someone who only writes when he absolutely has to does but all he likes to use are broad-point markers.

This is not the writing of a man who has any sort of internal dialogue. He doesn't have much in the way of expression, and he leaves it all there on the paper: staccato tempo, writing askew, boldface script making up in for in graphical volume and physical presence what it lacks in informative content.

Most of us can say we write more sophisticatedly than we talk. This is not a problem Donald Trump seems to wrestle with. And, if you can't get enough of the human mass of quirks that is the man who is the GOP offering for President, here's something other than else for you: a free font based on what we've seen of the man's handwriting. It is, as the man, blunt, direct, and uncomplicated.

It's also named TinyHand. Yes, they went there, but then, that's BuzzFeed for you. That's right, BuzzFeed. The thumbnail version of this history: BF wanted to compose a satirical article featuring fictitious-but-totally-believable (though by now it's hard to think of something the man wouldn't say) Trumpian notes for one of the debates. The editor asked one of BF's designers (and a person who also does work for Font Bureau) to scan examples of Hisself's hand written output and create that font. And we did. And like DJT himself, it's probably never going away:

Actually, it has some appeal to it. The pent-up furiosity, a sort of ersatz anger, kind of drips from it. It's artless, but in a way, it's artful because of it. It is, indeed the handwriting of a man who has little else to say but the obvious, and say it with a punch!

I loaded it on my computer and instantly, it copped an attitude:

This may be more trouble than I anticipated.

Well, at least there's little, if any follow through.

And so it goes.

For your enlightenment: The article at FastCoDesign announcing the font, and a direct link to the Dropbox so you can download it. If the Dropbox link doesn't work, then just go to the FastCoDesign article and there should be a link there.

20 October 2016

[cartoon] How To Draw Donald Trump: Four Vanity Fair Artists Show Us

While it's not exactly an art lesson per se, it is highly instructive and a great illumination on why illustrators are such dead-fascinating people.

It's hard to do a good subjective caricature. The ones in Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, for examples of the genre, are the acme. Via Jack Ohman, a cartoonist and caricaturist of much estimation and ilk, we find four VF illustrators (Edward Sorel, Steve Brodner, Philip Burke, and Robert Risko) drawing and explaining and verbally illustrating the thoughts of the shapes they draw.

Mad respect for the fellahs who use the dip-pen and the Staedtler-Mars Lumograph pencils. I don't mean  to show disrespect for any illustrator who uses digital, after all these are much more skilful than my own amateur scractchings, but as someone who draws for pleasure I have some experience with the idea of something created with classic tools directly on classic media. It's a visceral feel, and it transfers to me whenever I so much as watch the thing.

[WyEast] The Great Mount Hood Car Lockout

Did you know that you can get back in to a 1972 VW Beetle with a lockpick?

That's the kind of thing someone says to one that the interlocutor typically responds to one with a request for the story pertaining to that remark. Yes, there's a story attached.

Before the stark realization.

Olivia and myself, see, were one SE 122nd in front of the old Rossi place, as is our wont when the sunrise looks like the above and I know it's going to be cloudy and dark the next several mornings. And I pull over to the side, get out and run across the big boulevard slab of 122nd, I'm not thinking about where I'm putting my car keys.

I mean, I've been driving enough years.  Almost every other driver I know can relate to that, I think.

I'm not even thinking about it yet, when I'm playing with settings on the camera and noticing that I enjoy using the Canon's "Vivid Color" setting for scenes like this. The above is what it looks like with the filter in. The below is what it looks like with auto settings.

In both, the there are two really entrancing things; the lattice-work of the cloud patterns in the upper sky, and the low deck hovering in front of Larch Mountain there on the left. Really imposes a sense of scale and wonder.

Not quite as much wonder as the wonder I'm now feeling when involuntarily patting my right front pants pocket to verify the presence of my keys as is, again, my wont. Hmm. Not there. Not to worry, they made it into the left front pocket. I do this sometimes.

The cloud cover is beautiful, but not quite the wonder it would be if it were clear, that'd be prit-near an iconic representation of the sun breaking over the side of the mountain. If you strain the eyes, you can see the mantle of recently-acquired snow.

And there's still a sense of wonder with they keys, because they aren't in the left front pants pocket, not neither, the wonder being oh, my, I couldn't have, could I? Well, I'll look in my jacket pockets. That's usually where they are when they are where I should have put them.

I don't have the keys to this wonder in more ways than one.
Well, I wondered on more than one level that day.

I got a shot that I could reframe and crop to the wonderful thing above and stalked up and down the east side of 122nd for a few more minutes. I knew exactly where this was going, but could live in the glow of having created a little bit of photographic art here for a few minutes. And when I got back to Olivia, that beautiful yellow VW, I looked on the passengers' seat … and there was every key I had, safely locked away inside the car.

The key ring … a large, jailer's-style I've owned since about 1985 (it's a keyring that's easy to find) was there, just tucked under one corner of my bag. And, to provide subtlety to the jest, the spare keys … which I have in case I, for large example, accidentally close the door with the keys in the ignition having, ideally, left the car with my ever-present bag slung over my shoulder … gleamed at me in the morning light from the small mesh zip-up pocket in which I keep them.

You have an evil sense of humor, Reality.

Olivia was cool. She, as The Dude, can certainly abide.

And I was on the phone to The Wife™. She came perforce, but whereas she usually has a spare set of keys (her keyring is legendary, and has started many impromptu conversations as well as a friendship or two), they had been accidentally dropped at the Fabric Depot over at 122nd and Stark. They had been recovered. But she hadn't yet been to retrieve them. And it was about 8 AM. And Fabric Depot didn't open until 9 AM.

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse. Never doubt the providence of chains of causality.

We, fortunately, still have roadside assistance left on our AAA Plus membership so we called and Tim Scott, a very patient and avuncular fellow with AA Express Locksmiths, came and restored Olivia access with a reasonable quickness, and therein the lock pick. One lever on a side of the cylinder, one small whatever-the-locksmith-technical-term-for-it-is with a little curved end feeling around inside the lock itself, and we were open and in in very short order. And watching him, I felt like I was in some heist movie or an epside of Mission:Impossible for a few minutes.

Between the call and the locksmith, my spouse and myself shared some contemplative time together. As she's been doing social stuff on line and I've been busy with a volunteer layout project we haven't had much no-device time together. It was good. It was why we got married after all.

I was home about two hours after I'd though I'd be.

A bit of inconvenience.

And so it goes.

17 October 2016

[logo] DC Comics' New Logo: Insert 'Back To The Future/Forward Into The Past" Gag Here

DC debuted a new logo back in 2012 that was a break from their past presentations. Moving away from the obvious and straightforward presentation of the old DC bigraph, the 2012 redesign was abstract and, as the blog Brand New termed, 'FX-driven'. Featuring a sticker-ized D being peeled away from the C it was apt for customization for each character brand it was promoting as the peeled area made for a window into the world of each story.

Here we are, scarcely five years into that rebrand, and DC has chosen to re-logo yet again. The new logo is very pre-2005, with a few chips knocked out of the DC to give it some sort of edge and the letterforms enlarged to merge with the circle. It's sort of an updated-glory-days approach. Which is a thing that's accomplished.

There's nothing much really to say about it as such. It's a solid logo and gets the job done, but the 2006 re-design went over pretty well, and had grown on most of us that didn't care for it at first. It updates the pre-2005 look aptly, but it leaves you wondering what factor or factors of the 2006 logo were deemed to have made it weak.

So far the reviews range from the irritated to indifferent, and on a gut level, I can see why. It's not a bad logo, in and of itself. But did they really need to update it?

[ad_icons] They Call Her "Irritabelle"

She's manic, she's totes adorbs, she's your BFF (she'll tell you so), and she's obvs been working out.

I, too, have been charmed by the mascot and easy-on-the-eye incarnation of irritable bowel syndrome with diarrhea (IBD-S) and mascot of Pantheon Phramaceuticals' treatment Viberzi (generic name: eluxadoline). Anyone who needs to be explained-to what a nasty thing this can be needs to take off your human suit, but only after you get back in your flying saucer and are well on your way out of the atmosphere on the way to your home planet, thanks. What one may not know is that IBS-D is a particularly wily variety, which can leave you alone for a great long time and then say 'hello!' with no warning, no idea of how annoying it can be and no obvious way of telling you it's going buh-bye again for a while.

The actor playing the role's name is getting known, just as we all once wondered who played Progressive Flo (that'd be Stephanie Courtney), and that customer's name is Ilana Becker. She's an up-and-comer, with a role as 'Salesperson' in the season 2 episode of Orange Is The New Black episode "Power Suit", and with roles in the series Girl Code and Odd Mom Out to her credit so far. She brings a cockamamie, Lucille-Ball-esque maniac affability to what is quite obviously an affliction that … well, you know. But it is funny, and has a sort of sitcommish irreverence, and dressed as she is in a figure-revealing bodysuit with a cartoony depiction of the anatomical bowel, she's appropriate, being built like a brick … well, you know.

AdWeek has the skinny and a link to two longer (about 3 and a half minutes each) videos talking about the condition and featuring self-aware, fourth-wall-breaking humor. I particularly liked the one where they staged the intervention on her. 

16 October 2016

[news design] The Willamette Week Goes Full Enquirer

The cover of this week's Willamette Week tells us that it has endoresments for the political derby, but tells us in a way that totally reflects the bizarre, chaotic, lurid thing that the presidential race 2016 has been:

They're satirizing the National Enquirer and the Star with equal wit, and in a tone-perfect way.

The endorsements are a rather bewildering lot that may leave you with a slow burn in some places, but the cover's suitable for framing. 

[Out122ndWay] The Windstorm That Wasn't, And The Rainbow Over Fabric Depot

Yesterday was supposed to be the Day of the Storm; Cascadian weather forecasters were warning everyone from Seattle to Eugene that, if this wasn't the Columbus Day blower, it was something to be contended with. But, some time into our weekly library sojourn, it was clear that that was not going to happen. Mind, there were some gusts, and it was a very active atmosphere. But it sure wasn't the Thursday-night-storm-plus that we were expecting.

Weather forecasting in the Pacific Northwest is both a weather professional's boon and bane, from what I hear. This would be one reason. Another example of the chaos that permeates nature; even yesterday that storm looked like a monster coming our way, as I noted a couple back. And some people had trees fall. A car was crushed in a Dari-Mart parking lot down in Eugene, I hear. A high-school chum returned from his vacation to find a tree leaning against his house. A raucous storm, certainly, but one that didn't live up to its billing.

The storm at its height, over 122nd and Stark just outside the library, offered waving trees, an active sky, and staccato gusts. It was an interesting storm, but not historic, and not all that destructive to the Mill Park neighorhood (I heard of tens of thousands of PGE customers without power. We, thankfully were not one of them.)

There was an adorable bit of rainbow though, of which you can see here. I'm not sure what the pot of the end of the rainbow is … it's either the Fabric Depot clearance sale, or the beers on tap at the River City Taproom. Or it might be one (or both) of those two treese there.

Well, maybe it's just you can have your choice. And that's cool, too. I know several people, actually, for whom a clearance sale at the Fabric Depot is, indeed, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The only real evidence the photographs show of something untoward is the way this Old Glory here is proudly waving, though that too was more of a fast ripple. Kind of like the flag on the moon, which is kept up by either (a) a support along the top or (b) a fan blowing because it's all a hoax, depending on how you plan on voting for President this year. 

And, so it went.

[ad design] Hipsters and Man Buns … Always Comedy Gold

Saw this on a northbound TriMet bus on SE 122nd and Division yesterday:

I'm of  mixed feelings here. I'll say it, I hate the 'man-bun'. Everything's ugly about it, including the name. That 2-level (!) monstrosity is atrocious, and quite possibly a crime against some facet of humanity.

The joke is an easy one to make, though. The stereotypical hipster is someone everyone loves to hate and it's becoming something of lazy trope.

That said, though? As a reflection of the culture right now? It's funny. We laughed our asses off. 

15 October 2016

[liff in Cascadia] The Wind, This Time

It won't be Columbus Day Storm (1962) bad. It won't be Hannukah Eve (1993) bad. It probably won't be Tree-Falls-In-Our-Yard Night (2014) bad. But, hail Eris, who can tell until it gets here?

Via http://earth.nullschool.net, a full-planet live rendering of atmospheric conditions:

The small bright teal circle is the approximate location of Portland, Oregon.

ETA? About 2 hours from the time of this post.

Mount Hood not visible from 122nd Avenue at this time. 

14 October 2016

[art] Fugitive Colors of the Past

There's a rubric in art I like: fugitive colors. They're colors that get away from you, over time. Alizarin crimson is a notorious fugitive.

Basically what's going on here is a factor of the way pigments interact with sunlight. Colors, quite simply, bleach out and fade over time in paintings. Reds are the hardest to keep in place, it seems, and alizarin crimson is about the worst. You'll know about a color's fugitiveness by looking on the package: typically, there's a specification for permanence on any given tube of acrylic, oil, or watercolor or pan of watercolor, and the higher the permanence, the more likely that color's going to be standing by you over time after you create your work.

There are some colors that are actually no longer with us; they've truly escaped us. There's a variety of reasons for this, usually having to do with something about the materials; too expensive, too poisonous, or too fictional. There's a luminous quality to white lead, for example, but you make a habit of using it (providing you can actually get it) and you'll pay with a bit of your health. The colors arsenic can enable add to the artistic atmosphere, but the stuff it releases won't add anything you want to your breathable atmosphere. And things like that.

Here at a blog called Hyperallerigic, blogger Allison Meier recounts the stories of a handful of pigments that have completely escaped to the past, never to return: White lead, lapis lazuli, even (ha!) mummy brown, made with real mummy, as the legend has it.

The article can be read by pointing yourself at http://hyperallergic.com/74661/the-colorful-stories-of-5-obsolete-art-pigments/.

12 October 2016

[Wy'East] Another Mount Hood Sunrise

I have a very beautiful volcano in my back yard, and I go past places I can get good sunrise shots of it, so you people are just going to have to cope with the fact that my obsession with Wy'east is rivalled only by that of T.A. Barnhart and George Orr.

Again, in front of the old Rossi place.

You want it big? I got big.

You want it tall? I got tall.

You want it tight? I got it tight. And the sun just breaking over the skyline. You'll recall that the last time I took it, the sun was cresting over the slop of Larch Mountain. It's a bit south of that now. We're heading deeper into fall in Oregon.

If you look carefully, you'll see there's snow on the peak, but not so completely covered, not yet.

Oh, and panorama, stitched together in the GIMP.

There's going to be a storm this weekend, so they say. So this is the last clear view I expect to have for a few days, at least.

11 October 2016

[art] Why Do You Think You Need To Draw A Straight Line?

Now that I've returned to drawing and plan to draw more I can expect this to happen.

Now, it must be said that my drawing talent is middling at best. I, as every aspriring artist, want it to be more, and that's why we practice. And what follows is some philosophical ruminating; feel free to skip. But it is a question I heard whenever I found myself drawing and people would look at what I was doing.

When you have a reputation as an artist, people will do that. They love to see art happen. And when they do, a phrase comes unbidden, almost compulsively from those who admire what you do:

Oh, I couldn't even draw a straight line!

Which is a nonsensical thing to say, when you think about it. There are, I'm confident to say, absolutely no straight lines in my sketchbook. I've looked it over. They don't exist. But the question is ere asked and I've heard it enough in my life that me, only an aspiring artist with middling talent who still mostly draws for his own pleasure that it's become this conversational token, something that is handed over for the privilege of watching (which, ironically, is free, so long as you don't, like, lurk over the shoulder. Bubble, people!)

The more one thinks about it the more quizzical it becomes. It's patently easy to draw a straight line, anyone and everyone can do it; get yourself a ruler, a piece of paper, and a pencil, and run that one bad boy along the other. Et voila! Straight line achievement unlocked.

Pointing out that simple truth, of course, isn't the answer, because that isn't what people mean, not at all of course. Everyone, I think, has a yearning to do art; they don't because they think there's this mystical barrier keeping them out, that once they quit being kids, when the only excuses they needed were a box of Crayola and a stack of scrap paper (or maybe a wall, as many parents still struggle with budding artists who want to do installations), they had to have training. They had to be accomplished. They had to produce perfect finished works or it wasn't worth starting.

You can point this all out to an admirer, and still you'll hear it: I can't do art. I couldn't draw a straight line. Which makes you wonder who said drawing a straight line became the barrier for entry into the artists' clique.

You don't have to be able to draw a straight line. Not only that, you don't have to really want to be a capital-A-Artist. You just have to want to do some art.

And, I find myself coming back, as Ouroborous, to the head from the tail with this thought, which leaves me with another one: Why do people who admire art being made feel compelled to declare that this simple thing, they cannot do? I don't know if anyone, including me, will ever be sure, but I have a feeling that, when seeing art being made, we all hear the call to do it ourselves, and art in society is not treated as a given but as an option, and we fear failure at the trying.

I suppose I would ask anyone saying that to look at themselves and ask why, and just that once, answer that call. Perhaps people feel as though you need to be going for pro status for just trying, and that's certainly not true; I have gotten so many hours of pleasure out of simply drawing for the simple creative act I've lost count of them. I'd advise my interlocutor to come to terms with that thought; try drawing simply as a perfectly private pastime. The world, after all, isn't full of commercially successful artists. That isn't everyone's destiny. But one may well enjoy drawing for pleasure, and you don't even have to see yourself as an artist to do that. Bob Ross and Bill Alexander built empires on teaching people to do art that they liked just because they liked doing it, and not much more.

And if you, after trying to draw for pleasure, feel that it bores you, then don't regret letting that go. The world is, after all made up of artists … and art lovers. And if you enjoy just looking at and being around art, we artists appreciate that, truly. Because a great deal of the fun of doing art is knowing someone's going to look at it and maybe even like it. We could very well be pointless without the rest of you.

So, do some art. Even if you can't draw a straight line.

Nobody ever said that was really a requirement, anyway.

I'll probably revisit this idea some time down the road. 

[SF, Design] Penguin Galaxy SF Classics Cover Design A Challenge To The Eye

(via IO9) Penguin Books have just released a series of five undoubted classics of science/speculative fiction in a package designed to have your SF collector go straight to avarice mode.

They've called the Galaxy series, and it comprises six classic novels: Frank Herbert's Dune, William Gibson's Neuromancer, T.H. White's The Once And Future King, Robert Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land, and, saving possibly the best mention for last, Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand Of Darkness. The range is undeniably significant (the inclusion of LeGuin legitimizes this collection on so many levels for me, personally) and the packaging, in an orange-tinted plastic box, including a series introduction by none other than Neil Gaiman, indicates that Penguin is taking the subject matter very seriously and driving hard about being stylish about it at the same time. This is cool SF; this is collectors-item stuff.

The designs on the covers may leave your eyes crossing and you on a slow burn, however. The style point is hit hard here and carries the echo of chances taken and creativity at work; the letters, made of lines and rendered in various styles mostly parallel lines, seem to seek to merge a classic feel found in Art Deco with the subjective atmosphere of speculative fiction and a sly graphic visual pun on the themes in the story. This works best with the cover for Neuromancer: shimmering silver-green on green evokes retro computer displays while the visual static hints at similarly-retro visual ideas of displays breaking down, becoming something other than they are and the disharmony represented by Gibsonian dystopiae.

The cover for The Left Hand of Darkness puns similarly, by evoking the theme of gender ambiguity and changeability upon which the novel rests into a double-visioned title that seems to have to live on the cover with an alternative vision of itself in the same space, being both and neither at the same time as it suits.

The most conventional cover is the one for The Once and Future King, an abstraction of a visual cliche on illuminated type; the weakest one, Dune, in which the four letters of the title, two of which almost resemble what a hieghliner might have looked like through an Art Deco lens as held by Dino de Laurentiis, are banished to the four corners of the dark orange title. While this does evoke the emptiness and dryness of Arrakis quite well, it renders the title unreadable as a word.

This series is a true adventure in design, pushing the boundaries of what it means to be the title of an SF work beyond the 'appropriate cover art' ghetto most SF and Fantasy tends to find itself in and elevates it to the level of a more universal literature. However, the reader might find themselves torn between the daringness of the cover design and the simple truth that, in challenging the eye by going heavy on design, some readability … and, hence, communicative ability … might be lost, leaving the viewer with what they may regard as an indulgent exercise in overdesign.

Quoting Brenda Balin, a friend who was at one time an art director, "Form must follow function. These don't function." And, David Gerrold who, on Facebook, blandly stated "They're great design … but they're lousy covers."
I myself feel simultaneously drawn to them and WTF'd away from them.

The Penguin Galaxy series can be more fully peeped at http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/series/PGX/penguin-galaxy.

[print] You Can't Expect A Redesign Rollout Without a Memorable Glitch

The rollout of the new re-re-redesigned The Oregonian was pointed out here two missives back. And it's not a bad thing.

But the redesigns of The O haven't been without their oopsies. Here's a highly amusing one. The fact that involves the comics page is sheerest coincidence.

Peep, if you will:

On the left, the section for Thursday, October 6th. On the right, Wednesday, October 5th. There is one difference: Thursday's section is headed Puzzles, whereas Wednesdays is headed Puzzles & Comics. 

But that's it. That's the only difference. Thursday's content is the exact same thing as Wednesdays.
Check the detail here. Wednesday's:

vice Thursday's:

The downside is, you've seen it all before; but that's the upside too, as you already know how to do the puzzles, you know how the comics turn out, and if your horoscope was splendid on Wednesday, well, Thursday's going to be just as good. 

And so that goes.

[pdx_liff] We Were Wierd Once … And Young

Seen in the Portland group on Imgur (http://imgur.com/r/Portland) where many nifty things both appalling and banal can be found:
Once upon a time....

We have come so far.

10 October 2016

[print] The New New Oregonian Front Page, In The Flesh

Saturday was our weekly sojourn to that bastion of a democratically informed public, the Mighty MultCoLib, and I finally got my chance to lay my meat-peepers on the real thing, and get an idea of how visually impressive, the new new The Oregonian design is.

Here, on the table in front of me, the paper:

A thing that was merely a protoype a few days ago is now a thing that's a thing. It's still a tabloid thing, though; one feature of the re-design is certainly not a return to broadsheet-ish.

The impression one gets is not so much that of a newspaper as some sort of hybrid between a newspaper and a magazine.

The modified blackletter O which serves as the "Oregonian Media Group"''s logo has the pride of place on the page, in the upper left-hand corner, where most of us really enter a page. That's smart; if you think of the page as a battlefield, that's where the invader (your reader) will make their landing. This also sets up a natural idea of grid, espeically the way they've sliced off the O on the right, giving a hard line with which to define a visual column and to draw the eye right down to where an important story could be. The bottom of the O extended left could also be a visual boundary, but somewhat of a weaker one.

The name of the publication, always a good thing to have, still plays but a supporting role in the layout.

Here, the O not only defines a natural visual progression from the top left down but the top left to the right across the top of the page, where a couple of notable interior news stories are called out.

The foliage photo in the middle of the page is allowed to break out of its bounds and overlap the big O, providing a bit of visual iconoclasm that has the result of drawing the eye into the one direction that the big O in the corner does not directly encourage. This space, already defined by the trend of the big graphic to pull the eye along the top and down the side, is ideal for a bit of color. In this case, a brief seasonal word about Portland's Hoyt Aboretum as a blandishment to visit, along with hours of operation and encouragement to visit online sources where more information can be found about the place, as well as online links to more images.

Where's the front-page index, you say? Right here, at the bottom, almost invisible.

The use of the fonts, Tiempos and Guardian Egyptian, are appropriate, but like the front-page index, the bylines and slug lines have also been rendered nearly invisible. I'd punch that up just a little. And I've noticed the type in the headline about the Arboretum, which is one I don't recognize and don't remember seeing it announced, is for subject headings in many of the stories. It scans well and has a genteel feel to it.

My verdict? Since The Oregonian has been going through it's changes the last few years, I've not been a fan. I don't get the idea of scaling the paper down to a tabloid size; thus robbed of the pleasure of not reading a broadsheet, the whole experience is a little less fun. I'm still making my peace with it. That is an ongoing project.

This redesign is, however, a solid idea. Reducing the O to a small box in the upper left was a change that was visually aggravating, and making the old masthead type even smaller broke my heart. A classic masthead like that is something you boast, not something you tuck away. So, even though the design fixation on the O is something that strikes me awkwardly, the way the design manifests it is an improvement, and the way it's put into service to catalyze the page layout here is sensible. It does bring a welcome sense of personality to the layout that the redesign lacked.

That was the message I read between the lines of the editor's blog post last week, and that's what's been accomplished. 

[cartoon] Major Tom Cat: Winning Friends for No Opposable Thumbs Feline SF Anthology

I didn't think he'd go over this big. I'm going to have to develop him into a more of a character of his own!

A very short while ago, I did a cartoon cat as the beginning of a few cartoons that my friend, Amanda Wolfe, needed as an illustrative theme for her upcoming SF-feline-themed anthology, No Opposable Thumbs. Since he was a boy kitty he got the name of Major Tom and she liked it and I was proud and she had his visage put on some cards and for promo, took it up to GeekGirl Con in Seattle this last weekend.

Well, seems as though is first mission was something of a success, says Amanda on her Facebook post:
The cards for No Opposable Thumbs were a hit. Even the artists who know writers loved the Major Tom (Cat) drawn by Samuel John Klein. There was one dealer there who had a Space Cat on some merch that looked like Tom... although not as comical of an expression. Even they loved it and kept a card.
Pretty sweet, huh?  The approbation is almost as sweet as knowing Major Tom made such a good impression for Amanda's effort, which is a worthy one and I'm happy to support this with my art, such as I can provide it. There are more drawings underway, and I can't help but think, after he's done his service for Amanda, Major Tom can't become a sort of continuing character in his own right.

He sure got The Right Stuff, don't he?

The submissions guidelines and form for submitting to No Opposable Thumbs can be found at Wolfeangel Press, http://wolfeangel.net/no-opposable-thumbs-anthology/.

09 October 2016

[type] Google/Monotype's Noto project: A Half-Gig of Free OTF Fonts To Get The Tofu Off Your Screen

Add to the list of logisms about the type tofu. Any time a computer displays web text, and the fonts on your system don't carry the glyph that the content requests or (worse) doesn't have the font at all, you get small boxes (most of the time) as place holders for the letter from the computer would draw if only it knew how.

For your device, it's a teachable moment. You learn it up by downloading a font, installing, and refreshing the font cache, usually by closing and relaunching the app. To he right of this Latin text you'll see a illustration from Wikipedia's article on the Deseret Alphabet before installing a font that has those glyphs defined.

That's tofu, intermountain-West style.

This is an issue that has developed as more information that didn't come from a core early compuiting constituency … Latinate-script using Westerners … came under the unblinking gaze of the Earth's developing, evolving technological consciousness. A lot of things, like the Deseret Alphabet or the Shavian script, were invented, not evolved and extant at the time computers began developing, and a lot of encodings weren't thought of at first. So, you'll go to the Wikipedia page on Shavian without the proper font file installed and come up with a case of tofu, all nicely arranged in boxes:

Yummy tofu, Shavian style

Which fill in quite nicely once a font file, such as andagii_.ttf is installed and recognized:

Fully cooked, Shavian in all its odd glory
It's a problem that you'd think that Google, with its Borg-like focus on assimilating information and returning it in a usable format, would be thinking about, and you'd be right about this.

Just announced and made available, the collaboration between Google and font foundry Monotype has goal that is simple if huge; eliminating tofu from your screen.  From the Google Developers' Blog:
Five years ago we set out to address this problem via the Noto—aka “No more tofu”—font project. Today, Google’s open-source Noto font family provides a beautiful and consistent digital type for every symbol in the Unicode standard, covering more than 800 languages and 110,000 characters.
There are, at this writing, 114 Noto fonts including Devangari, Cuneiform, CJK, Osmanya and, yes, Deseret and Shavian. Installing the extant Noto fonts should cover you in a variety of situations so wide that the average user stands more of a chance seeing tofu in their stir-fry, where it belongs, rather on their screens.

The biggest news for the font-avaricious is, perhaps, that the entire Noto family is free to download and use as thou wilt, and is licensed under the SIL Open Font License. That means they're free to download and use in any way you deem necessary; not only free as in Open Source, but free-as-in-free-beer-free. The whole zip archive is close to a half-gig of free fonts; the design, as seen in the illustration a the right, isn't out to be flashy or game-changing; the basic Noto Serif and Noto Sans are good, basic book-hands, meant to be pleasing to the eye but not to be the star of the piece. It's meant to harmonize, not to dominate.

The Noto Project's website is https://www.google.com/get/noto/ : this'll take you directly to a download page where you can download any number of the available font files or the whole thing at a go (about 473 MB worth). It's totally and wholly up to you, font explorer.

06 October 2016

[cartoonist] New Artist!: Jupiter Dragon And Her Blog

Recent readers will remember that I've been a fan of J.R.R.R. (Jim) Hardison's writing for a while (Buy Fish Wielder on Amazon, yo) but what we've been aware of on Facebook is that his daughter is a budding artist which undoubted skill.

Human Lady Rainicorn (c) 2016, Jupiter Dragon
He's been sharing her art online. The illustration is just a clip out of one of her works in which she depicts the character Lady Rainicorn from Adventure Time as a young, hip, stylish human lady.

There's more now, she's just starting out but she's got work that a strong manga influence but also hints at a firm grasp of drawing natural forms, inking, and a great familiarity with craft that a lot of us aspiring artists reach for.

The strength of the talent behind the "First Post", a stunning realistic picture of a rearing horse's head, must be acknowledged.

She is launching an art blog under her art nom de guerre: Jupiter Dragon, and ignition has happened at http://jupiterdragon.blogspot.com/. Impressive!

[art] No Models Allowed: Books About Figure Drawing From Your Head

I have drawn with a model. I, in my modest experience, have drawn in a life-drawing class.

Presumably my interlocutor knows what that is, but if there's any doubt, you know those drawing classes where everyone is arranged in a diverse semicircle around a raised platform where a real live nude model comes out and poses a lot and you have this easel with this big pad of newsprint and then everyone takes out a piece of charcoal or a stick of graphite or a light saber and starts furiously making marks with the whole of your arm over this pad and you're drawing something which looks vaguely like a naked person but could actually be mistaken for a frog, and the light saber pokes through the paper and singes the back of the head of the person in front of you and there's EMS and a trip to the emergency room for someone?

Well, I'm telling a bit of a fib there. Nobody ever called EMS. We were artists, dammit, we were tough. And light sabers are copyrighted anyway. And they don't actually exist. As far as you know.

Anywhoozle, to be serious again, it was quite an experience. You want to draw and if you're unfamiliar being in a room with a totally naked stranger, it's amazing how quick you get over this. Anyone who's ever been in the zone drawing knows this. The ecstasy of making those marks and experiencing the flow really overtake any nervousness you might have. I'm glad I did it.

After you get out of school, though, life-drawing class experiences come few and far between. Classes cost money, yo, and asking strangers on the street for volunteers leads to enquiries from the police. No bueno. It's a goal, then, to learn the human body well enough to be able to draw figures from those that may only pose in your minds eye.

Seriously (again), this is a goal of mine. It's something I nearly achieved in the past and an acme I really want to work toward. Drawing credible figures at the drop of a hat, literally if needs be, seems to me to be serious playing at art on an elevated level. And it's not that drawing with a model is a bad thing either; some of the best classic comic artists did it. But this is a powerful tool, and if you had the chance at a power tool, well, who wouldn't?

Currently I'm studying two books that deliver an artist's knowledge of anatomy in a way that you can adapt it to just about any situation. They really are good books, and I recommend them.

In The Classic Style

The two books take a similar yet divergent approach to the idea of drawing figures directly from imagination. They are Draw From Your Head, by Doug Jamieson, and Freehand Figure Drawing For Illustrators, by David H. Ross. The former comes from what I consider a 'classical' approach, the second, from a more 'modern' point of view.

Draw From Your Head is by Doug Jamieson and was released in 1991. It's a distillation of the system he taught at the New York School of Visual arts. As described, the essential difference between it and other system of anatomy visualization is that it starts with the skeleton, renders it down to a grammar of basic lines and shapes in accordance with the classic 8-head canon, then progressively drapes that simplified skeleton with simplified masses representing muscles, rather than starting with the muscled figure and working back to the basic. The student is encouraged to draw each at each stage and at the end of each stage, a new group is explored and added to the student's growing repertoire.

This sequence, near the back of the book, illustrates very well the progression from simplified skeleton, to dressing it with the muscular masses, to the ending fully-fleshed figure.

Along the way, the student is encouraged to get to know the muscle groups so there is awareness to back the practice of abstract shapes. The figures are most detailed.

In The Modern, Action Style

The second book, Freehand Figure Drawing for Illustrators, is very much geared toward the modern illustrator who wishes to draw from their head and illustrate for the modern comic book and graphic novel.

The author is David H. Ross, whose bio includes credits from Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse, as well as storyboards for movies and consultation for television; this book is for the hot, fashionable constituencies and serves them with depth and erudition.

Ross' central trick is what he calls the glass mannequin, something illustrated on the book cover in good detail, which is his way of viewing the human body as a series of abstracted shapes which, once familiar, can be positioned in any number of ways, just like the wood mannequins adorning my own desk. Tellingly, though, we don't go there straight away, we start in on the one subject every decent art instruction book should contain: perspective. Given that this is a book aimed toward the comic and graphic novel artist, it's a good place to start; you get a skeleton of a world to place your action figures in. After a thumbnail of the freehanding process, we are introduced to the mannequin, then, once we get to know him/her, we go into the anatomy informing the mannequin, the details, the differences between male and female bodies, and how to put them all in motion and action.

We call him Manny.
So, two routes to the draw-from-your-head-mountaintop, two different ways to reach similar goals. The appealing thing about the idea of drawing model-less is that you are ready, at any time, to close your eyes, imagine something, and bring it out.

That's real User power, as Flynn might say. Totally worthwhile, it's a power tool for artists in the best way, and the prize of any artist's tool box.

For a strong modern artist's auto-didacting, I can think of few things better to have on your shelf than these two books.

04 October 2016

[print] Proofreading, Schmoofreading

I know it might be in poor taste to poke fun at a prototype layout, but geez, Soylent News™, how hard can it be to recognize this one?


Next thing you know, this state will be called Idahoregon. 

Proofreading. It saves … well, something. 

[print] The Oregonian: Redesigning Again, For The First Time, Again

So, I just peeped this on OLive:

Meet your new-new, New new new The Oregonian, Portland. Editor Mark Katches has some joss-stick and whalesong about it in his Editor's Notebook posting, including that it's starting today. From Tuesday, October 3rd, 2016, then, this will be the look of your morning paper, should you choose to look at it.

Featuring a new headline and body type, the most noticeable change is the releasing of the O from that tiny box they tried to imprison it in. The gothic blackletter wordmark The Oregonian also seems to have enlarged a bit. The technical aspect of the type, as related by Katches, is this:
Although the body type in the printed paper is the exact same size as the one readers are used to seeing (8.6 points), focus group participants overwhelmingly felt our new font and style was more readable. We've switched the body type from Guardian Egyptian to Tiempos Text – something that really only will matter to typography nerds. Bottom line: It is designed to read bigger.
We Portlanders read big. And, I am a typography nerd, so, for compariston, here's Guardian Egyptian:

Guardian Egyptian with drop caps. Source.
And here's Tiempos:

Tiempos Headline, with Text below. Source.

Also visible at the editor's blog post is a sample of what The Sunday Oregonian's going to be looking like. The 'nameplate' is going to be more the traditional style, across the top, a more old-fashioned newspaper approach. Of course, it's still all going to be tabloid, not broadsheet, but at least it won't look bad like it used to. If we're going to have to endure this Fun Size paper, at least it won't look awkward and uncomfortable.

The big O is going to have more fun on the front page, that's for certain. As Katches says:
Don't be surprised to see photographs and illustrations "interacting" with our Big O from time to time.
… which suggests to me that they're going to play similar graphic design games with the O as USAToday is playing with the big blue dot, which I actually like the sound of … I scoffed at the USAToday redesign when I first saw it, but the visual puns they play with that dot have actually been witty more often than not.

Also, the longtime Foodday section is simply going to be called Food from here on out. Whether or not the three ending letters were given buyouts or simply laid off is not known as of this writing.

I only have a virtual version of the paper to look at; as soon as I get a look at the newsprint-version, I'll add some more remarks and snarks.

03 October 2016

[pdx] The Original Design For The City Of Portland's Seal, Revealed

It's long been known that, in the secret history of the Rose City, that Portland is a town that was built on an ancient unicorn burial ground. What's less known is that the original city seal's design featured one.

Portlandia, of course, is a virgin in this depiction. Unicorns will only associate with virgins, goes the legend.

Naturally, more sober heads prevailed and we have the current boring version which features Portlandia, a sheaf of wheat, a hammer, a gear, a ship to shop the poor people out so more prosperous people can move in, and three food carts, only one of which is ever open (never when you stop by).

And so it goes.