Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hauntings in the Cathode Tubes

Have started getting the new book "The Pumpkin Dream" lined up for availability in a few brick-and-mortar stores this coming fall... (I am in discussion with three stores in the Denver/Boulder area)... and while those are in process - trying to see what additional elements and sneak peeks I can add for the book via online venues. Most recently I added images from the first few pages of the book recently available on Amazon - see The Pumpkin Dream: A Cautionary Tale from the Library of Mr. Bumble Bindlegrim (image gallery) on

As that progresses I'm further delving into surrealist mode for the video project of Ghost Radio part 1, and here's another sneak peek at what oddities come from the mind working in autonomic mode - these images takes advantage of some cool cathode tubes that were found once in a sadly now defunct store in Seattle called Ye Olde Technology Shoppe:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Film Reel Organism

Over the last couple of weeks I've started to work on a promised music-video project for a song by the band girabbe for their upcoming release slated for this summer. I believe there is a full video-album planned with different video artists participating on certain songs, and I'm looking forward to experiencing the full release!

Somehow, perhaps aptly, I was able to grab a really hauntingly atmospheric number titled "ghost radio (part 1)" and have been doing some test runs on style and content. (There is a very interesting story behind the song, but I will leave that tale up to girabbe).

In the meantime, here are a couple of experimental snippets from my work thus far, utilizing an old freeware software friend InkScape, to create animated bits brought into Final Cut. (Note - the sound on these tests is also random personal experiments - see Moon City Costumes).

(please place your amoebas between the speakers)

(a skeletal broadcast from the dark ride)

I've got a long way to go, but I've been enjoying this break, that has given me the opportunity to get back into my more surrealist abstract leanings.

Also, as a side note, I would like to recommend the following fun internet search for images  from the book Codex Serphinianus (a strange, wonderful book that is inspiring for its unintelligible other worldliness) -- (think Fantastic Planet in book form). Someone has also posted a youtube video of some page turning through the book:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Free Spooky Stuff via Microsoft Office Online

This past weekend was all about touching up the website... decorating the framework with spooky Halloween imagery from "The Pumpkin Dream" illustrations:

And... installing a new section for FREE! Halloween and Christmas templates that can be used with Word or Powerpoint. (These are templates I worked on during my contract employment with Microsoft Office Online)... and, if I do say so myself, include really fun countdown calendars, coloring books, and stationery sets that are now part of their free download template library. I thought it was worth including these links on the website to direct you there.

NOTE - I should state right off that in this case the art for the templates below was sourced from the Microsoft template library. They have a ton of holiday oriented clip art. (Sadly I can't remember the name of the art contributor - but she has some of my favorite collections) -- see MS Clip Art - Style 1450 in the Office Online Art Library.

Basically, I downloaded the vector art, broke them down in the respective program (that's right - Word can manipulate some vector images now!), re-arranged them, colored them, etc., and turned them into the brand new templates you see below. Microsoft encourages you to do the same, (as well as join and share your creations with their online template community). So here were my contributions to the template library:

Halloween Stationery Set (Nine Items) - Word

Eight Page Halloween Coloring Book - Word

Animated Halloween Countdown Calendar - PowerPoint

Sumer Santa Stationery Set (Nine Items) - Word

Eight Page Christmas Coloring Book - Word

Animated Advent Calendar - Powerpoint

As with all templates - these are offered to use as is - or better yet - customize with your own images and content before printing and/or sharing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

iBook Apple-Pumpkin

I guess this past week was a bit of a crash time for me..., but still quite busy... I'm still working on making sure all the various formats of the book are released. The digital version has been approved via the Smashword Premium Catalog and most recently appeared on the iTunes bookstore...! Prices for the digital release start at $2.99.

Note - I did get to see this on a friend's iPhone today, and thought it looked great (!!!) - (minus a few small formatting issues I hope to fix on the next upload). I noticed that the book works very well turned in a horizontal direction (at least on his iPhone, and I shrunk the text a bit - I think he said he had his upped). I wasn't crazy about the occurrences of hyphenation orphans (and wish the full word would just drop to the next line, but again that's a small thing out of my control... it was a small screen after all).
Pumpkin Dream - eBook Cover

I have to say, it's very difficult to think ahead of what may happen in such a nebulous digital realm (and to accept that as true), with so many different types of electronic book readers with their own layout interpretations! Many electronic book reader formats are not yet designed for poetry layouts and illustrated text, so, as of this writing, illustrative writers are sorta pushing the envelope.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Brief History of the Pumpkin Dream: (Part 6) - Swing You Sinners!

Continued from:
A Brief History of The Pumpkin Dream: (Part 5) - Monsters from the Id

Okay, so finally, I found my way to the end solution for illustrating this book project - Inkscape (a vector-art freeware program). Contrary to the shading and modeling of images occurring in the previous blog (with Corel Painter 11), the actual goal was to create simply-designed characters that could be easily manipulated for every eight lines of the poem, whenever a new image was needed.

Coming from years of working will Adobe Illustrator (and still a bit sad about Illustrator not being compatible on the new system) the learning curve was frustrating. I slowed down quite a bit to read the software instructions, and decided to at first just try to work with simple shapes - combining them, splitting them, playing with the line points, etc - which wasn't too far from my final goal. And here are a couple of the early character drafts with Inkscape :

Our main character here in mouse outfit.

her name was Olive Green...
Trick-or-Treat Witch
(Olive Green absolutely only accepts coven-approved sweets).

a worrisome pitchfork in troublesome hands...
Duo of Trickster-Treaters

Also, at this time, I was re-ingesting lots of 1930s animation for inspiration (see end images part 4). In particular, I have always been fascinated with 1930's Fleischer Studios (Koko the Clown, Bimbo, Betty Boop). I would set the screen on freeze, and pencil sketch the images.

The next test was to see how well I could recreate characters from source sketches. I had sketched the tree below from a great little piece called "Swing you Sinners" (see YouTube video below) that involves a character who finds a soul full of trouble when he gets caught in a graveyard. The character below is one of the singing trees in the graveyard, and it turned out that InkScape was nice for pen-tracing sketched characters with the Wacom.

swing you sinners

So between the tree (with a few borrowed and scattered limbs), and maybe the walking house near the end, etc., together with tons of old school Halloween inspiration... the image below was my first of a few versions that finally culminated in the final style for the imagery:

north wind (version)
(The North Wind (Peter Max ala Saw) was nixed here for a more Halloween-ish sky).

Whew, well this generally decided, this then started two months of intense illustrating! For every eight lines of poetry,  my goal was to create a drawing - 37 illustrations in all...., so, as far as the blog is concerned, I think from here I'll take a break on this whole "history" of the book set-up and maybe just dabble in a bit of postings about sketch to digital translations... perhaps...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Halloween Kisses

While I would like to someday say the most popular image on the flickr account is original, it is actually this groovy little piece of vintage Halloween paper. This is the paper seal for the top of what was likely a plastic bag of candy, (and now has well over 500 views based solely on web traffic searches for terms like "original molasses Halloween kiss").

Based on the company info, (of Allan Candy Company in Aldershot), history would place this around 1943-1961. And here is some interesting information about the Canadian molasses kiss candy (which I had no idea until after I started to research the item):

Trick or Treat Halloween Candy Kisses

I got this from a stack of ephemera at the Craven Farm holiday show, held in November in Snohomish, Washington (near Seattle) -- from the tables of incredible Halloween product designer Hobgoblin. (Check out this fun fall photoshoot with Hobgoblin , and this ghost created by Hobgoblin).  Personally, I was instantly charmed by the simple imagery, (that special character of the witch face), and the classic silhouette color scheme in orange and black.

In retrospect, this was a definite inspiration!

Monday, June 6, 2011

An Industry-Standard Sized Pumpkin, Almost

Okay, well the 4th proof (sigh) is on the way, and hopefully this will be the last... as I attempt to get a version I feel comfortable enough to release on Amazon's publish-on-demand service called CreateSpace. Keeping my pitchforks crossed:

I was almost instantly happy with the Blurb version. It's a nice square shape with a classic poem-left image-right layout, with semi-gloss (not shiny) color printing, in an accidentally rich orange akin to some early Halloween decorations that mix in just a touch of red. So far it's my favorite. I worried though that with a "boutique/vanity printing" costing more, and with one single shipping fee (which feels a might expensive to my artist's pocketbook), I was skeptical about many people ordering it there. However, if you can, that's the one I recommend for quality and layout. Blurb just upped their prices by $1, so it's now currently $22.95 plus shipping.

After that, I looked at CreateSpace which is Amazon's P.O.D. service. For a much more affordable range of print options, I could offer the book from them (and more people) at a lower cost in an industry standard size - with a catch - unlike Blurb, as a DIY kinda project, I had to completely recreate my layout, (in a layout software that you yourself provide, so I had to try a new-to-me freeware program called Scribus - see below):

Working with Scribus (interior)
The layout of the book for Amazon

Well, after days of work, that turned out okay, and I like the quality of the proofs I've received, but I've been going back and forth on the actual image quality (pretty important for an illustrated book). Part of the problem was my own, as I tried to process them differently for this particular printing - first sepia, then screenish blue, then pure black and white, none of which looked great. Note, I'm also trying to print on their matte paper which isn't helping. (I think you can upgrade to additional options of quality but that would defeat my purpose to create a more affordable version).

After all that, the fourth proof will return to the tried and true classic orange/black/white colors. I'm hopeful I will enjoy it, in the same way I enjoy the Blurb version. And that the Amazon version at a cover price of $14.95 with better shipping options, will be another great option of the book.

Pitchforks crossed...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Brief History of The Pumpkin Dream (Part 5) - Monsters from the Id

A continuation from A Brief History of The Pumpkin Dream (Part 4)

So after realizing that Adobe products were going to be out of my reach (without the dream possibility of upgrading toward a full suite in inexpensive increments), I decided to look around further, and this was actually very informative. It got me to consider my next trial download which was Corel Painter 11 which is great fun with the Wacom tablet!

With Corel Draw you can get very expressive, because there are a huge number of pen and brush styles that combine fantastically with the pressure sensitivity of the tablet. Whereas Illustrator seemed more exacting and strict, Corel Draw was great for free-form expression. Without trying to recreate any of my sketches just yet, I just doodled around with the settings of the charcoal and pens to create this bit of weirdness:

monsters from the id

This, I admit, took me on a bit of tangent, exploring how sculptural I could get with the sensitivity and shading. And continuing with my doodles, created this bit of alien-esque fantasy. (Having no anatomical guidance or backdrop for the first, I realize it's a bit off, so I took the first into Photoshop and just played with a bit of mirroring on the latter two)... 

charcoal and blend
symmetry 2
symmetry 1

I really hope to explore this program more in future, but my end goal was to create a total of 37 illustrations, and quickly. I didn't see how I could do that with this program... And, honestly, I just didn't have a big budget, so when someone finally suggested freeware - I skeptically decided I might as well take the time to investigate the options... and that was when I found a good link that lists these: 15 freeware graphic programs.

I decided to download InkScape, which seemed more inline with my vector needs, to create simply-designed, repeatable graphic characters that I could tweak from one image to the next.

I'll continue that story in Part 6.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Ghost Story Animatic (2001)

A friend of mine mentioned she was going to be taking an animation class in school next quarter... which had me thinking of my ever so brief foray with a class (way back in 2001, shiver) that was called "animation pipeline"... and in some ways was less about the animation itself, but more about the process of getting an animated work completed. So, in the first quarter, our personal project, was to each come up with a story and go through the processes of creation - story pitch, storyboard, animatic, etc.

This was my story from that quarter, and the animatic I cobbled together with my grease-pencil storyboard sketches, some Poser figures, and a bit of Photoshop - Final Cut processing. It's rough, and was only supposed to be used as an animatic - which means more focus on things like timing... not so much on visual finesse.

In this short animatic, an elderly couple, (an inventor and a records clerk), seek the moonlit graves of forgotten souls. And with the aid of a strange mechanical device and a book of bedtime stories, loss and sadness are replaced with peacefulness.

Nine Designs for Trick or Treat Bags

I added 9 designs from "The Pumpkin Dream" to the shop on zazzle, together with t-shirts:

The Pumpkin Dream - Trick or Treat bags

The Pumpkin Dream - T-shirts

Have a look and customize the material!
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