28 November 2016

[political_humor] There Is Another System

There are a lot of people right now who are discouraged by politics, and I get that. Boy, do I have the 2020 ticket for you:

Don't care for the current crop of humans? Tired of waiting for the Singularity? Well, as the villain in Colossus: The Forbin Project revealed:

So it goes.

[liff] Passive-aggression Does Not Suit You, Seattle Times

A blandishment from The Seattle Times recently displayed my way:

Here I am, slaving all day, working my fingers to the bone printing news on paper and online, and maybe you could throw a dollar our way, we're down at Pioneer Square begging for a handout and we have to hold out a tin cup just to get by, but, no, websurfing consumer, please enjoy your limited access. We'll just be over here in the corner if you need us.

Look, Times, how am I going to enjoy my limited access if you kvetch like that all the time.

Sheesh. How needy can you get?

[SF] The Orycon 31 Souvenir Program Design

The year after my triumphant debut as OryCon publications, I managed to finagle another go at it. OryCon 31's Guests of Honor included urban fantasy author Patricia Briggs and mononomial artist Lubov. Lubov specializes in fantasy and SF painting and illustration but seems to have a heavy accent on the whimsical, softer side of fantasy. Her paintings were a fresh revelation to me and seemed to call for a similarly whimsical typeface. I found one which I loved, a font which looked sketched and chaotic yet compelling called 'karabinE.' And, as the whimsy got itself into the thinking, it asked that I arrange the type vertically, like so:

This is the full wraparound of the cover, of course; the front cover to the right of center, back cover to the left. Doesn't the idea of a parade with flying sharks make you feel king of antic inside? It did, me. Fanciful, whimsical, romantic, fun. The use of a gradient on the right and left gave me the space I needed to make the type readable but also to bridge the gap between the white space and the illustration, unifying all the parts.

This spread demonstrates how the type announcing the GoH's names allows more than one GoH's bio and info to spread across the spread and live together while still remaining separate:

The type dominating near the artist head-shot sets up a strong relationship, even when it appears, contra-expectation, to the right of the artist's info, rather than the left.

The above gelled, of course, after the cover and the TOC page (below) were hammered out, suggesting again how the them developed organically, like roots finding their way in the soil. Even now I remember how satisfying it was to watch it develop front of me, almost like a living thing that had something of a mind of its own.

26 November 2016

[art] Jon Gnagy: He Made The World of TV Safe For Bob Ross

The tradition of the TV art instructor, as it turns out, goes back about as far as TV itself does.

A name I haven't heard up until recently was Jon Gnagy (which I believe would be prounced NAH-djee, and I say this because I knew a kid in Jr. High named Zoltan Nagy, which is Gnagy without the G, and is pretty much the most kick-ass name I've ever heard), but back in the dawn of the electronic hearth, he was the television art instructor.

I can find out very little about him. He was, as the legend I've heard tell, an art store owner and teacher from New Jersey and a TV drawing lesson taught by him was the first TV program broadcast from the then-new transmission tower on top of the Empire State Building, in 1946 or thereabouts. He had two series, You Are An Artist and Learn to Draw, each telecasting an easy-to-follow, 15-minute art lesson that resulted in a fairly realistic picture. Watching him is kind of like watching a proto-Bob Ross: even-tempered voice, clear articulation, friendly mien while constantly working on and explaining the drawing he was doing and hoped you'd follow along. His lessons are on YouTube. Here's one:

Nice, friendly approach, encouraging, easygoing, beckoning. It's said that Gnagy influenced quite a few people to try, amongst them, Andy Warhol; he grew quite popular during the 50s and 60s, just as Bob Ross does now, selling art supply kits and books with his smiling visage.

It might surprise one to find that Gnagy's book, Learn to Draw, is still available. I found a vintage copy at Powell's City'o'Books last week and got a good look at the bones of his method. Very basic, eminently followable, very accessable. Here's the book itself:

It's a slender book with a lot to give. Gnagy lets us in on the secret of realistic drawing … it's shading. Which makes sense: shading turns flat forms into masses. And the demonstration is succinct as well as informative:

He points out the difference between 'primitive' and 'realistic' drawing here:

And, just inside the front cover, words of wisdom and encouragement. Gnagy, too, was of the opinion that art was for everyone to try, that everyone had a bit of an artist in them, and a satisfying life could be had if you encouraged that artist to come out and play.

The recommended material list was very modest. A dark gray carbon pencil (not graphite), a light gray carbon pencil, black chalk, and paper stumps or tissues for blending. Anyone could take a whack at this.

So, when you load up a video of your favorite TV art instructor, be he Bob Ross or Bill Alexander or whomever you prefer, have a  moment of respect for Jon Gnagy. He created the form at the dawn of television; just add personality and your own media. Instant artistic magic.

Here's something else to see: Jon Gnagy's official website, http://www.jongnagyart.com. Contains links to 10 of his video lessons, other online lessons, and access to information on how to get Jon Gnagy producs (which are still produced by the Martin/F. Weber company, stalwart supplier to public TV art instructors for decades, apparently).

And something else, too: A page by a fan that has a lot of interesting Gnagyana including a video at the bottom with another Gnagy drawing lesson (including an intro to his drawing program where we learn he prnounces his name NAY-gee) and an ad that proves he was at one time broadcast by KPTV: http://www.jeffs60s.com/jon-gnagy.php.

25 November 2016

[SF] The OryCon 30 Souvenir Program Design

Starting with this post, I'm going to do a little look back. The centerpiece of our year is OryCon, Oregon's premier SF and F convention. All the people I've known and loved over my years of living as a Portlander come together each year to throw the best party ever thrown and continue to do so. 2016 saw OryCon 38, and 2017 will see OryCon 39. I've attended since Orycon IX.

Wife goes me one better. She hit OryCon VIII.

After I learned graphic design and got layout skills, I wanted to contribute in the way that spoke the most to me: creating the program guides. OryCon standardly puts out two: the Pocket Program, which has all the tough details about who's going to be where and doing what and what panels and where and such, and the Souvenir Program. So far, I've designed the main publications for OryCons 30, 31, 32, 33, 37 and 38. Six of the last nine. That may or may not be more than any one person has done in the history of the 'con, at least as far as I know. The fact may be a little different.

In 2007-2008, I finally got my chance. I seemed to find myself on a tabula rasa, of sorts; there wasn't anything but inspiration and a little organizational memory to go on. The Guests of Honor that year were author Harry Turtledove and artist Jeff Fennel, amongst the others, and I took a little spiritual inspiration from both, though it clearly was the artist that influenced the tone … as well as the theme, Days of Future Past. Looking at the future through the lens of what we thought it would look like during the salad days is a base SF tends to touch on a semi-regular basis and it's got a powerful pull.

Here's the cover of the OryCon 30 Souvenir Book, which is centered on a particularly beautiful example of Fennel's retro-futurist style:

The idea of retro-future influenced the type chosen: Futura Condensed seemed a natural choice. And here's where the influence of the art translated into visual theme: somehow it occurred to me that setting half the name in Futura Condensed Medium and half in Futura Condensed Bold would be visually complex while retaining a simplicity, visually playful without losing its earnestness. A perfect encapsulation of the innocent, antic yet serious hope the past had for the future.

An epiphany quickly followed, one step in front of the last, in which I realized how the half-and-half type approach would lend itself to a certain unifying treatment; putting one work in Medium in a black block at the ear of the page, forming an ready anchor point to let the rest of the page 'hang' from. Here's how it worked on the bio page for the Author GoH, Harry Turtledove:

The black block nicely defines the vertical space in which I could tuck a photograph of just about any size (sometimes you get very small graphics and have to make do with them) and provides a reference point that I can hang the rest of the page design from. The eye goes right to the black block and since the bold type outside the block is on the same baseline as that within, the unity is provided, and one's vision falls naturally down to where the text begins.

I had great fun coming up with this design and idea. It went over very well, as I recall.

One other page I want to show off: The table of contents:

I think it was on this page that I really hammered out how the type was going to play together and I just let the snowball run on out from here.

Note in the upper left-hand part of the page. The blue disk with the red swallowtail and the green Oregon shape with Portland picked out by a particularly bold star was a one-off; part of the 'Days of Future Passed' theme involved getting NASA photos from the 70s and 80s as illustrations (along with Jeff Fennel's art); I even found one where the Star Trek original series actors posed along with Roddenberry at the rollout of the Enterprise STS glide-test vehicle. It inspired me to come up with a sort of mission patch for OryCon 30 based on the NASA designs I've known (notice how the margin of the design (pictured right) is full of details, including the GoH names arranged as though they were a crew on a manned space mission. This is proud bit of inspiration; the simplified mark (with just the words OryCon at the 12 o'clock position and Portland, OR at the 6) appears to have been informally adopted as a logo/icon for OryCon*, a bit of indirect flattery which I'll cherish as long as I have memory to.

The logo of the 2017 edition of OryCon at http://39.orycon.org

It was a coming of age as a ComCon member and a demonstration to myself that I could take on a big project and make it work and succeed. And it was finally contributing in a real way to something in my life that I love very very much to this day.

I would go on to do it, so far, five more times unto the present day. Of which, more to come.

* IMPORTANT NOTE: The author does not speak for nor represent the views of OryCon and any views I have on the adoption of the 'mission patch' design as OryCon's logo are strictly my own impression and not to be construed as a statement of OryCon policy.

22 November 2016

[OryCon] An Artifact For The Ages: The OryCon Travel Mug

Another example of the OryCon logo in action. This year we got the chance to purchase a travel mug with my OryCon logo on.

This is what it looks like:

It's a stainless-steel thermal mug, with the 'con logo etched out of the surface. This isn't a decal. It'll last.


[art] Found On The Studio Floor: My Anxieties Have Anxieties

Charlie Brown is, in many ways, along with the fox, my totem. No explanation should be required.

So it goes. 

[design] OryCon 38 Souvenir Book: The 'Why' Of The Cover

When I first got the chance to come up with a design for the OryCon 38 program books, the rationale pretty much wrapped itself up for me and gifted itself to me on a silver Manticorean platter.

The real challenge to designing an SFF Con's program book is finding the one key thing that will blossom into a theme. Once you have that, everything else falls into place pretty quickly, and it's just a matter of making everything fit. The theme idea inspires the cover, the typographical approach to headings and display pages through out. It's a catalyst thing.

The reason it came so easy this year is because the Honorverse books of David Weber and the art of David Mattingly combine almost organically to present a certain gestalt from which a handle on the feel and form can easily be grasped. Once I saw the motifs I knew that an approach calling to mind the covers of the Honor Harrington books was demanded. This is this year's cover:

The choice of font was easy too, as Friz Quadrata is a font used in several of the Weber novels' covers. They were filled with a dramatic gradation to evoke the feeling of the type on those covers, and the star title ORYCON 38 was set in a black cartouche to evoke the feeling of the heavy-line framing used on many of them. The illustration involved, David Mattingly's Honor Amongst Enemies, seemed a natural; the right line drawn between complex depiction and simple composition to show off the richness of the art and the incredibly seductive detail of Mattingly's tech depictions and space vistas and still work well with the bold type.

Honor's steady, gimlet gaze looking out at the reader gives the theme a very personal punch.

A theme is born. The inspirations that brought this together cascaded through the document to anoint page headings and subheadings and headlines, like a catalyst.

The result is a satisfyingly laid out document and one which, once again, I'm proud to say I did.

[pdx] It's OryCon 38, Days Two and Three

I wasn't able to get right back to blogging about OryCon, but there were two more days of it. And it was very, very good, of course. And here are some highlights.

Day two was the one where I got to some panels. OryCon isn't just a great place to hang with some of the best people on earth, but the panels are always thoughtfully done and usually very well chosen.

My interest in art making ramping up yet again, I wanted to keep my knowledge fresh by attending a panel titled Composition 101. The panel description said it was going to be a discussion of light, value, key, and other basics, but it evolved away from that into this bracing metadiscussion of how ideas happen and how to be a working artist. The three artists there, Herb Leonhard, Paul Groendes, and Vincent Vaughn provided keen insights on working, how to keep working, and the function of cliche. I was able to firm up my own ideas about cliche as well. There was a bit of a round-table feeling to the panel. This was one I was glad I didn't miss out on.

After that was an Art Show docent tour. You want a decent docent, of course, and there are few more decent than the Artist Guest of Honor, David Mattingly. He's notable in the context of the 'con because he's the artist that gave David Weber's (our Artist Guest of Honor), Honorverse its visual look and feel via the masterful cover art he did: his art graces every Honor Harrington novel cover. Many of those covers were available as 3D lenticular art (you know those pictures that have the grooved plastic surface that seem to have depth and perspective changes as you change your angle of viewing? Those.) and he described the process and some of the business considerations of doing that. That was good enough just to show up but the real treat was moving about the Art Show and commenting on specific artists' work.

David Mattingly comes close to being an artist's artist here. His knowledge is deep and his insights insicive and generous; to an artist who does superb fired-clay sculpture, Mark Chapman, when seeing that sculpture he seemed quite astounded that Mark wasn't operating at a higher level than he was. He encouraged him to punch through to that next level, and was plainly impressed at this talent (which you can meet by going to this link here on FB). Mark had also branched into drawing and David viewed that as well, and Mark's drawing is pretty good, definitely approaching a good level of skill, but David emphasized that his strength was with sculpture, not illustration so much, but, and this is where David's generosity of spirit really shown through with a shout, if he wanted to expand his drawing skill, he told him to consider Rodin's sketching style and suggested that, instead of pencil, he should try sketching with paint.

I remember back when I was studying graphic design, the critiques were sometimes the best part of the design process. It wasn't just identifying what wasn't working it was also coming up with ideas on how to make what was working, work better. David is splendid at this; he had a way of commenting on a weakness in a way that perhaps could be nurtured into a strength … if not a main strength then a very strong supporting player in the artist's lineup of tools

To an illustrator named Lizzy D. Hill he suggested studying some of the old masters, John Singer Sargeant and Andrew Wyeth, for ideas on how she could push her watercolor hand to the next level as well, because, to his eye, it was splendid, and must only get better.

David had many cogent points to make about original work and the pleasure of seeing it rather than a print, and also how prints might not do justice to the originals. I pointed him toward Herb Leonhardt's work and David asked me if Herb was here, and I said he was and how I'd just been in a panel with him moderating. David asked me to have Herb seek him out if I crossed paths with him again, and I said I would (thank you FB for helping me bring two artists together).

The other panel I visited was a talk on visions of TEOTWAWKI in literature led by Roget Ratchford. He discussed a variety of doom scenarios and classed them from worldwide to personal, and talked of the ascendance of AI in a way that makes me want to hide in the basement until the day I die. Let me tell you this much my friends: the man can communicate. 

Day three was mostly just us hanging around, connecting with people, and attending one panel which is a perennial favorite and a uniquely OryCon experience: Onions and Orchids, the feedback panel. The orchids were well-placed and the onions were deftly proffered. Anyone who wants to get an idea of what ConCom has to do to get a Con on the road but doesn't want to volunteer for anything that world-shaking, I recommend this panel to you.

As anyone can see, attending an SF convention, when it's done right, is an expanding experience. You can't help but come away with at least one thing that you didn't have before, one nugget of knowledge or inspiration that isn't important. I got a few myself.

I hope everyone who went did. We put on a pretty good OryCon, I think. There were a lot of happy people there, and they had a great time.

So it goes.

19 November 2016

[pdx] It's OryCon 38, Day One

Spent yesterday evening and afternoon at OryCon 38, at the Marriott down on Naito Parkway.

This is the 29th consecutive time I've attended OryCon. It's like a homecoming, it always is. And I have more than just a history of being a member, I've contributed: in the OryCon 30s, I've designed no less than six of the Souvenir/Pocket Program sets: 30 through 34, then 37 and 38. I'm most proud of that. I feel very invested in the past and legacy now. I wasn't there at the beginning, but I still remember when it was a very young convention. I feel as though it were a part of me and now, for better or otherwise, I'm a part of it no matter what else I do.

I've even left a legacy of my own, at least for now. The illustration on the left I did as a one-off for my first stint as publications designer, back at Ory 30. It's evolved into a semi-official-unofficial logo for the event; it is the profile picture on both the event's Facebook presence as well as its Twitter.

I never became the successful graphic designer I though I was going to be. That is a kind of a sadness. Life intervened and possibilities did not come to flower. However, the contributions I've done here are very sustaining to me and remind me that, if I didn't attain the success I've hoped for, I do have the ability to create under pressure and under deadline, and that it can be good. 

The first day of 'con is for settling in. I breathe the atmosphere, connect with old friends, meet new ones. I saw opening ceremonies, which culminated in the host getting led away by someone in battle armor over the quality of the script (everyone's a critic). I got a good look at the dealer's room; attended the Art Show reception for the first time (urbanely snacking on cheese and crackers whilst browsing the works is a terribly, terribly ennobling thing for someone as feral as I). I got to meet a favorite cartoonist, Roberta Gregory. I wrote several pages in my dairy at an unclaimed table in the gaming room. All good things.

Steeped in the company of such interesting people makes a good many things feel possible. It's a renewal and a spiritual refreshment.

As long as there's an OryCon, the world isn't entirely broken, yes?

Next we meet, I may have pictures, or maybe just impressions.

18 November 2016

[art_in_PDX] Dianna Ahearn, Creating In Powell's Coffee Room

The Coffee Room at Powell's City of Books has become an addiction to us not merely because of the caffeine content and that you have to go through the rest of Powell's just to get there, though those are very powerful draws. No, I've seen art in its many manifestations there. The last missive is one good example. I've seen people doing art and people who are works of art themselves.

Tonight, this was hard to miss. Here, in the middle of an off-night session of Book Church, the easel on the long table against the 11th Avenue window was impossible to miss.

This portrait of Bernie Sanders on black-painted wood was done, I found, entirely in acrylics. Working in monochrome is challenging, in a different way, than working in color.

The deail is quite wonderful and shows a skillful hand.

Here's the owner of that hand, who graciously consented to allowing me a picture:

This is Dianna Ahearn, and she has a Facebook presence at https://www.facebook.com/ohtheplacesyoullgooo. I love anyone who puts the hard work on display in public. It's one of the thrills of visiting Powell's on a regular basis.

So it goes. 

17 November 2016

[art_in_PDX] Sharpie Art Cartoons in Powell's City Of Books

Right now, on one of the endcaps on one of the aisles of graphic novel and comics rows in the Coffee Room of Powell's City of Books, there are 6 roughly drawn yet thoughtfully-done and skillfully-executed cartoons. Here's one set.

There are six of them (they're still there as of last weekend), three on one side, three on the other. They appear to be drawn on imprecisely-trimmed foamcore board with a Sharpie. They seem to be very zeitgeist inspired, some obviously, others more indirectly.

Here's the other set:

Let's take 'em one-by-one. Top, left:

BLM. No explanation needed by now, I trust.


The Political Is Personal. For a variety of reasons I won't expound upon here (though I will eventually elsewhere) I have learned this to the bone over the last year: to the bone. Not just last week's presidential spasm, but a variety of events, votes both local and national have tied the political to the personal in my life like never before.

Thanks to 2016, I'll never look at politics quite the same way again.

This next one is enigmatic, and I'll leave the meaning for the inconstant reader to decode for themselves:

A lot of emotional responses obtain for that one above. None of which I can really put into words, but then, sometimes, art should do that to you.

That was the left side. Top right, now:

A young, hip, modern woman reads from a book on whose cover are the rubrics IMMIGRATION, SAME-SEX MARRIAGE, TRANSGENDER, CLIMATE CHANGE, EDUCATION, ABORTION, WAR. 
Important issues before. Even more, after. It's fitting that a woman should be reading them, because I think we should be hearing more from women about things like this. We know they know a lot, but the last election strongly suggested that we don't really want to hear what they have to say.

I wish that would change. I think we're collectively going to be sorry that it isn't.

Another enigmatic one. Decode the meaning for oneself:

And this last one also spoke very loudly to me. I once aspired to cartooning; editorial cartoonists have long been heroes of mine, and I've gone on to be fortunate enough to get to know a few astoundingly well on Facebook (never let it be said that Facebook never did anything for me). And this is what they do.

A revolutionary act. Especially considering the info-tainment and ratings center that modern news seems to be evolving into.

A tiny, vital art gallery, in the coffee room at Powell's. Meditation during book church.
I highly commend it to you. 

13 November 2016

[Out122ndWay] Tiny Lions In The Library

Saturday, traditional Library day, I'm diarizing trying to make sense of the all, and what should I see but some rather feline patrons.

One was a wild African cat. Well, really just wild about playing with his friend.

The other, a most watchful micro-panther.

I needed the smile. Just the mere look at a cat and I smile. And I usually have a bit of an averse reaction to people bringing their personal pets into the library … I don't really think that's allowed … but these guys were pretty well-behaved. And nobody else was freaking, the fuzzbutts were in plain sight.

Sometimes, you need to see a kitty.

The micropanther was called Zimba:

And this is the other little guy, Leo:

They were in the possession of this young couple, who were taking them out so they'd get used to other people and the chaos of the street. We didn't find out about their story, but they were quite a nice young couple.

The Wife™, of course, handled the social interaction. I got some serious pets in and heard some serious purrs.


So it goes. 

05 November 2016

[Wy'East] The Third Mt-Hood-Shadow-On-The-Clouds Event Of The Year

Well, I'm back after getting through some stress. Some of it is dealt with; some of it, a little more intractable, but we're working on it. This caused a break in blogging, which see, which I'm hoping I'll break with this posting. It's got some pretty special pictures.

A couple of years back, many people got a shot of what seemed to be a rare thing: the rising sun casting a shadow on the underside of an overcast sky of Mount Hood, our Wy'east. I missed it that day. 2016's been a mixed bag but, I'll tell you what, I've more than made up for missing that boon. Times three. And this's the third.

I'll beg forgiveness for those on slow connections. I kept these pixs big.

It was fairly dark when I got to my Rossi Farms corner on 122nd and Shaver, parked Olivia (making sure all keys were my pocketses) and ambled across a very-quiet NE 122nd Avenue to the east side of the street. Experimented with settings. Got this nifty HDR image:

And a few more tries akin to this, which is not really memorable except in a personal way:

A close up that I played with colors a bit to make it a little bit psychedelic. Clouds are clinging to the parasitic cone on the south side, just below the summit.

Groovy, man.

It was getting on t'ward 7:45 AM and I was deciding to move along. And then I saw the beginnings of the shadow:

… and decided to stick. My whim was amply rewarded.

It just got better from there. People started shouting what sounded like good wishes toward me as I took snaps, and a lot of friends-in-spirit started pulling over, parking for a moment or two down Shaver Street as the shadow defined itself.

I don't remember this corner being this popular, even during the last shadowcast.

The sky lightened, the clouds became more memorable, as they do when they have the sun refracting through them in that way they do.

It became memorable.