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Sunday, January 27th, 2008 - 12:19 AM

"Drawings From Brazil"

While in Brazil this winter, I had sufficient free time to complete some drawings. The flights down and back are long, though those were not my most productive times. Most of the drawings were completed either while we were driving halfway across Brazil or during times of relaxation. Without further ado, here they are. Click the link below each for more information and a slightly larger image in EsoGallery.

Tipsy Rickshaw (Bad Map Data)

Tipsy Rickshaw (Bad Map Data)
more description on EsoGallery

The Chainsaw Reaction End of Foolin' Nantucket

The Chainsaw Reaction End of Foolin' Nantucket
more description on EsoGallery

Seltza Spaghetti Head Rocket Jelly Ghost Puppet A La Cart

Seltza Spaghetti Head Rocket Jelly Ghost Puppet A La Cart
more description on EsoGallery

Goop For Supper De Novo

Goop For Supper De Novo
more description on EsoGallery

Giggles and Faculty Frustrations

Giggles and Faculty Frustrations
more description on EsoGallery

Even Lippies Blister Over Time

Even Lippies Blister Over Time
more description on EsoGallery

Wah Veen Wah Flow

Wah Veen Wah Flow
more description on EsoGallery

A Parede do Natal

A Parede do Natal
more description on EsoGallery

Blow the Sacred Elf Trumpet

Blow the Sacred Elf Trumpet
more description on EsoGallery

Apartment in the Sea

Apartment in the Sea
more description on EsoGallery

Woo Woo Chicken Surprise

Woo Woo Chicken Surprise
more description on EsoGallery

Cubby Calories

Cubby Calories
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Syndrome Modeled After Susie McDust

Syndrome Modeled After Susie McDust
more description on EsoGallery

Mystery #237: What/Who is Craig?

Mystery #237: What/Who is Craig?
more description on EsoGallery

Poor Worrisome Barney Blessed

Poor Worrisome Barney Blessed
more description on EsoGallery

Wandering Camel Consortium

Wandering Camel Consortium
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Que Bagunça

Que Bagunça
more description on EsoGallery

Master Sun Lu & Son

Master Sun Lu & Son
more description on EsoGallery

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Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008 - 9:52 PM

"My Latest Discovery: Yupo Watercolor Paper"

Okay, enough for the suspense. Or, in my case, no one cares and forgot completely (including me) - an emotion I call "suspense" for some reason or another. So what am I talking about anyway? WAAAAY back here, I was talking about a discovery of "something that just might renew my interest in the fine, manual arts". Well, that might have been a gross exaggeration, but it is true (is that a contradiction?).

My recent discovery is simple, nothing profound or meaningful. I merely found a new type of paper. This art material looks like paper at first glance, but it in fact is not paper at all. It is called Yupo, made by a company with the same name in Japan. The "paper" as it is called is actually a form of synthetic plastic, a versatile material known as polypropylene.

One might think, "What good for art is a piece of plastic?" I might have thought the same thing until I tried Yupo paper. Believe it or not, you can write or draw on Yupo with pencils and pen, and the results are like no other. The finest and sharpest lines you've ever seen will never bleed (well, unless you smear them - but not on the initial lay-down). I cannot even describe the magical feeling of a writing implement passing across the perfectly smooth surface. Even people that don't like to draw or practice handwriting, I venture to say, will get a kick out of trying this material. Only those who have tried it will know what I'm talking about.

It sounds like I'm describing some sort of new drug. Well, I can honestly say I got a little buzz - a rush - when I first felt the paper. My coworkers can vouch for my excitement, as I immediately went around exclaiming the coolness of my latest find! Why on earth does this material excite me so much? As an amateur artist, I have a history with smooth papers. While most artists seem to prefer expensive, heavy art paper with a heavy tooth, I have generally always preferred smooth paper. Rather than the texture of the paper entering into the randomness and shape of the drawing (something I finally appreciate and use), in my early days I wanted total control. It bothered me that I couldn't get smooth lines with a pencil on rough paper. So I always looked for the smoothest stuff I could find. I discovered vellum a number of years ago and quickly became fond of its smooth surface and great erasing qualities. The translucency of vellum always bothered me, as I prefer an opaque drawing surface.

Several years back I took a Basic Design class at Portland State University. One item on the class supply list was a pad of "Bristol". At the time, I had heard of bristol, but didn't know much about it. I went to a local art store and picked up the cheapest pad of bristol I could find. With my broader knowledge of art materials today, I realize that what I found back then is not a typical bristol. Bristol is basically a hard-pressed, heavy paper that is generally smooth in texture and useful for illustration and many multi-media applications. What I found back then was far more interesting. It was called "plate bristol". It was clearly some sort of plastic material. I was drawn to the smooth texture and realized that some unique blending effects could be achieve by simply rubbing pencil lead around on the non-porous surface. I had discovered this technique mostly by accident back in high school, but now I found a material on which it could be fully utilized.

Ever since discovering this plastic surface years ago, I have been looking for more of the same. I had never found anything that came close, even looking through all the papers we carried at C2F Inc., an art supplies wholesale distributor (my current place of employment). Finally, a couple months ago I happened upon a sample of Yupo paper, provided by one of our buyers who was bringing it into our inventory. The second my fingers touched the surface I knew I had found what I had been seeking for a number of years!

The capabilities of the versatile Yupo paper brought back some of the interest in artistic ventures that has been a bit dormant since almost high school. Ironically, while I have definitely been drawing more because of this discovery, I haven't been using Yupo for most of my creations. I still want to explore its potential, but I was discouraged by perhaps its only weakness. Though it can be used to an advantage, the surface is so smooth that water-based inks, paints and pens can be wiped off with a swipe of the hand, even after days of "drying". In fact, you can reuse a single piece of waterproof Yupo paper many times simply by washing the surface virtually spotless with just soap and water.

Liquid media doesn't bead up on Yupo like you would expect to see on plastic. It lays down quite beautifully. In fact, most people including me would claim the vividness of colors on Yupo paper far outshines the same colors applied to perhaps any other paper available. The problem is, while the color remains eternally vivid as when initially applied, it seems to also never completely dry.

I've never liked the idea of my art being temporary, and I sometimes go to great measures to make sure my art doesn't smear, fade or disintegrate (though my conservation and restoration skills leave much to be desired). To see precious artwork wiped off the paper after 2 days of drying is very discouraging. In fact, that is precisely what happened with Willard the Walrus IV: Pilfered Soaps Inferior. I experimented quite a bit with a wide variety of wet and dry media. When I went to laminate the finished drawing, the whole thing became a sopping wet mess, and I had to start over again, wiping much of the original work away with a napkin (my efforts at preservation became a very effective destruction). The final drawing currently presented in my gallery sadly bears little resemblance to the original, and it took a bunch of doodling to make it even halfway interesting (I don't like it much). I still haven't forgiven the paper for behaving that way and ruining my art - though it was really the fault of my own ignorance. Eventually I'll return to it for the original application interest - graphite pencil work. Lately I've been using a paper that more closely resembles traditional bristol - something that accepts and absorbs most media without having to worry about smearing.

So far I have not attempted a full piece of art with Yupo paper. I have only began to experiment with different strokes, different pens, inks, paints and pencils. Pay Me Buckaroos Lacrosse is the result of my second doodling session on a scrap piece of Yupo. It is a quick experiment with both Sharpie markers and the recently discovered COPIC Sketch Markers (the far superior art markers on the market - another recent key to my recent personal artistic renaissance). Aside from the awesome experience of using graphite pencils on Yupo, these permanent marker experiments have been the highlight so far. Because polypropylene is so smooth, permanent ink can be manipulated and blended. The ink isn't completely absorbed, so subsequent strokes from various pens and colors will revive the ink, creating an astonishingly attractive effect that resembles painting. Fortunately, once dry the permanent ink cannot be wiped off like the water-based inks described above. I like the idea of painting with pens and will probably pursue the possibilities a bit later (especially with COPIC Sketch Markers = yummy!).

P.S. Another weakness of Yupo is that it doesn't accept some waxy or greasy mediums, like colored pencils. Look at the blue-red-blue region below on the top left of the drawing. That's the darkest patch I could achieve with my colored pencils. For some reason it doesn't take, even though Yupo is brilliant for regular graphite pencil.

Pay Me Buckaroos Lacrosse

Pay Me Buckaroos Lacrosse

The Blending Up Close

Keep in mind I could have done a better job blending these colors or creating interesting shapes. I made the majority of this drawing in about 5 minutes, scribbling very rapidly. The potential is obvious. With just 5 colors of Sharpie markers (red, magenta, tangerine, blue and black), I was able to make a decent gradation. With a bit of patience and skill, just about any color could be achieved with just a few primary color pens. Just imagine what could be done with the vast selection of 322 colors in the Copic Sketch Marker series! Woah! The third image below is a scribble on the same Yupo paper with 2 COPIC markers and the use of a colorless blender.

Sharpie Marker blending on Yupo paper

Sharpie Marker blending on Yupo paper

COPIC Sketch Marker blending on Yupo Paper

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Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008 - 1:15 PM

"Joker May Miss His Finest Performance Yet"

Heath Ledger

It's amazing how fast news spreads on the web. Yesterday afternoon, actor Heath Ledger was found dead in his New York apartment. Probably less than an hour later, seemingly everyone already knew. I was going to post yesterday, just so I could be among the first five billion people to report it, but I forgot.

Normally I'm not at all interested in celebrity gossip. While I find it very unfortunate to hear of the death of any person, I don't generally give much regard to the happenings in the lives of famous people. The reason I felt led to report about Heath Ledger is that he is playing the important role of The Joker in the upcoming Batman movie, The Dark Knight. The first thing I thought of when I heard reports of his death were "I wonder if they finished the movie." I know, it's sad. I'm sure he would like to have been remembered for more than a random movie. But I'm sure, like everyone, he had family and friends who gave him more identity and made him feel valued in this world. It's too bad he died so young, and possibly because of some sort of sorrow or despair - based simply on the report that he was found with drugs that may have contributed to his untimely death.

The Joker

At any rate, from the bits of web gossip I found in searches, it appears the filming of The Dark Knight was finished, and the movie is now in post production. I imagine there will be some sort of credit or memory given in the film to honor Mr. Ledger. I hope those that valued him most in this life will remember him for more than his portrayal of a psycho clown, even if it ends up being a great performance. I have to say that his face does resemble the general bone structure of some the classic Joker from the comics. It'll be interesting if Heath Ledger can also capture the persona as well. From the few pictures I've seen, the facial makeup looks more on the lines of the relative realism of a horribly marred face, rather than a perfectly defined clown visage (not sure if that'll be a plus or not). I look forward to seeing the movie, and perhaps it will add something to the experience, knowing that the actor is no longer here. It's a weird thought.

For more Batman fanfare and an early picture of Heath Ledger as Joker, see here.

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Tuesday, January 15th, 2008 - 10:02 PM

"What Esotropiart Is All About"

Some of you might have already noticed a discussion that somehow resulted from my post about tornadoes :), even though it is an entirely different topic altogether! My good friend and brother in Christ, Allan, and I had what I consider to be an important and valuable discussion about many key feelings and theological points that relate to salvation and Christian living. In essence, this is the kind of stuff I always wanted to happen on Esotropiart. Open, honest discourse about life and experience. The primary theme of this site is "The Process of Life". I want to attempt to share some of what I'm going through and where I am now. I used to keep handwritten journals that were full of all my inner thoughts. Though I don't share as many journal-like posts as I'd like, sometimes it just happens.

Maybe someone feels/has felt the same way I do at times in the Christian walk. Or perhaps you are not a Christian or are not really sure. At any rate, as long as your speech is "family friendly" and not demeaning or harmful in tone, please feel free to post a comment here, with your own story or thoughts. Or perhaps you have something to add to the discussion. If your comment or question is of a matter too personal or serious to be public, please mark it as private, and I'll read it and respond if appropriate. Oh wait... I have a brilliant idea: I'll move those comments to this post, where it would make more sense for them to be :) processing... done! (sorry tornado post)

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Tuesday, January 15th, 2008 - 5:31 PM

"C2F Winter 2007 Web Theme"

C2F Winter Term 2007 Web Site Theme
see a sample in action

I'm way late in reporting on this C2F web site theme change. I made the switch from Holiday 2007 a few weeks ago before leaving to Brazil. This latest theme includes some significant enhancements. I made wide use of PNG transparency, a graphical feature all web designers would like to use en masse, but few venture to do so. I myself had been hesitating to use a significant amount of PNG graphics in my projects prior to this one. Basically, PNGs are a vast improvement over the GIF graphics format. Not only is it better in every conceivable way, but it is an open source solution, in comparison to the very closed and proprietary GIF option. The coolest feature of the PNG format is its support of the alpha channel, which allows varying levels of transparency across an image.

The reason that most people avoid heavy use of this file format is poor support by Microsoft Internet Explorer. This is the only browser that has ever had significant issues with the format. PNGs have been around for well over 10 years, and Microsoft has never bothered to support this brilliant technology. It's no surprise, as everyone with knowledge of the situation is well aware that Microsoft is 15 years behind the times in their browser technology. Resulting from their unfair monopolistic ownership of the market (their browser is included with Windows - and thus virtually every computer in the world), most people aren't aware of the browser's MANY problems, weaknesses and shortcomings. Because the overwhelming majority of people use what comes installed on their computer without researching other superior options, web designers are stuck in the stone age of coding and antiquated technologies in order to support Microsoft's inadequate software that is widely used. Interestingly enough, all other web browsers are free, and all of them - without exception - are vastly superior to Microsoft Internet Explorer in every measurable aspect, feature or experience. If you see the "Blue E" when you use the internet, it is time to change; you have the wrong browser! Download and install one of the following browsers, all of which are free and far superior to what you are currently using: Mozilla Firefox, Opera, or Apple Safari (for PC and Mac).

Now that the more important side topic of browser change and awareness has been covered, I'll describe what I was able to achieve in my latest web site theme. One of the effects I've long wanted to achieve in my designs is translucent window panes and boxes. It might sound ridiculous that such a thing is considered a challenge, but the reason has been explained. All major browsers aside from MSIE support every aspect of PNG transparency. To get the effect to work in IE remains the challenge. There are certain aspects, such as 2D tiling of transparent graphics, that is yet impossible to achieve in Internet Explorer. But something as basic as single color, consistent transparency is possible with several hacks and cheats for IE's sake.

I am sick and tired of waiting for IE to catch up with the browser pack. Therefore, I decided to do the bit of research necessary to find the slimmest possible and most successful IE hacks. Go here for the most complete and up-to-date information on PNG support. I will not try to replicate the immense work they've done. I simply regular their site and see how slowly the world is changing (thanks largely to Microsoft). Perhaps the best tool out there for optimizing your PNGs is a combination of 2 free tools: Irfanview and Ken Silverman's PNGOUT plugin for Irfanview. Using these tools, you can convert and compress your PNG files to the maximum extent possible. As far as making the graphic material to be converted to PNG, you can use just about any program out there. My favorite is Fireworks. It's the superior solution for making web graphics because all the objects you make can retain all their editable qualities (especially vectors) - non-destructive editing.

Sorry, but I'm not going to get into the details of how I hacked IE so it would support basic PNG transparency - that would be boring for all. I will mention the methods I used, however. Of course, the primary hack I used is Microsoft's proprietary css filter, which is essentially a crude Javascript-like morsel of code that corrects some of IE's misbehavior (not all, unfortunately). To hide this junky code from other browsers (they all ignore it anyway), I used yet another of Microsoft's hacks which allows you to embed any code you want in an HTML comment ("IE Conditional Comments") which only particular versions of IE can see and use. Realizing that I make use of a number of other IE-specific hacks for a variety of purposes, most unrelated to PNG support, I moved all of this trashy CSS into this file, so now the clean can remain separate from the unclean - as it should be.

The third, and most annoying workaround I had to contend with is the clickable link flaw. If you use a CSS background-image rule with a transparent PNG in combination with the aforementioned IE-specific filter hack, any links inside the container with the background will be unclickable! The reason is that the stupid filter hack actually creates an invisible, unwanted object that covers your layer/container, so the links are in fact not the topmost thing, and therefore, cannot be clicked (STUPID!). The fix I dreamed up for this is simple: create a dummy, empty div inside the container you wish to have the transparent PNG background. Apply the junky filter to this div, and make sure it has a z-index less than the other content you wish to be clickable (which means you have to give your content a z-index and position:relative or less likely position:absolute so the z-index actually does something). Position this empty div absolutely and give it a huge width and height (bigger than any content in your container will be. Make sure the container it is in has overflow:hidden in force so your div doesn't take over the world, and you will effectively have your transparent (translucent) background that no longer blocks out any links. Yes, it is a junky method because you are required to create yet another div that shouldn't have to exist... but it works. I've come to realize that, while I'm a total CSS and standards-compliant purist, if I want to do anything cool or make use of graphically interesting methods and technologies - and have the vast majority of the world actually SEE and EXPERIENCE it - I have to include some undesirable Internet Explorer hacks.

I could provide some working code examples here, but I currently don't get a lot of traffic and questions regarding CSS (or anything else for that matter). Not to mention that my 3 to 5 faithful readers would probably skip right past it in total boredom. There are a million sites out there with well-written articles on the subject. If, however, someone comes across this and is struggling with the same issue and wants more information, please let me know. I may be of some assistance. My goofy empty div link fix hack might be a little unique, as I didn't copy the solution from someone; it just came to me (I'm sure I'm not the first to use this type of hack, as it resembles the faux column hack and others that rely on huge backgrounds). But the rest has been done before a million times and is well-documented elsewhere.

So, without further ado, here is a link to a dummy layout demonstrating all these techniques and giving a better view at the new Winter 2007 theme in action. As always, best viewed in any browser except IE, but it should look presentable in IE6+, as that was the point of all these hacks!

Previous Posts About C2F Themes:

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Thursday, January 10th, 2008 - 9:50 PM

"Tornado in Vancouver and Nationwide Disasters"

A very rare tornado touched down today in the vicinity of Vancouver Washington. This sort of natural disaster is almost unheard of in our part of the country. In fact, the Pacific Northwest has been free from life-threatening disaster for a long time, though we get our share of property damaging fires, floods and storms. I suppose the Mt. Saint Helens eruption of 1980 counts as a local natural disaster, but so far that has happened only once on a grand scale. Many scientists say Oregon is due for a large earthquake. If you overlay all the following maps and consider the relative dangers of each natural disaster, probably the "safest" places to live in the U.S. are parts of Nevada, Wyoming, and the tip of Michigan. Interesting that somehow the "sin cities" in Nevada seem to be most immune to "acts of God" :) Here's some basic map data showing the frequency and/or probability of natural disasters across the continental United States:

Presidential Disaster Declarations

presidential disaster declarations
Presidential Disaster Declarations in the United States and Territories by county from 1965–2003 reflect the broad geographic distribution and human impacts of earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanoes and wildfires. (Map not to Scale. Source: FEMA)

Earthquakes

earthquake probability map
This map shows relative shaking hazards in the United States and Puerto Rico. During a 50-year time period, the probability of strong shaking increases from very low (white), to moderate (blue, green, and yellow), to high (orange, pink, and red). Map not to scale. Source: USGS

Floods

flood probability map
Presidential disaster declarations related to flooding in the United States, shown by county: Green areas represent one declaration; yellow areas represent two declarations; orange areas represent three declarations; red areas represent four or more declarations between June 1, 1965, and June 1, 2003. Map not to scale. Sources: FEMA, Michael Baker Jr., Inc., the National Atlas, and the USGS

Hurricanes

hurricane probability map
The number of hurricanes expected to occur during a 100-year period based on historical data—light blue area, 20 to 40; dark blue area, 40 to 60; red area, more than 60. Map not to scale. Source: the National Atlas and the USGS

Landslides

landslide probability map
Landslide potential of the conterminous United States: Red areas have very high potential, yellow areas have high potential, and green areas have moderate potential. Landslides can and do occur in the black areas, but the potential is low. Map not to scale. Sources: the National Atlas and the USGS

Tornadoes

tornado frequency map
This map shows the position, path and strength of 3000 tornadoes, from a total of 49,315 recorded between the dates of 1950 and 2006. source: http://www.tornadohistoryproject.com/

Tsunamis

historical tsunami map
This map shows seven earthquake-generated tsunami events in the United States from the years 900 to 1964. The earthquakes that caused these tsunamis are: Prince William Sound, Alaska, 1964, magnitude 9.2; Chile, 1960, magnitude 9.5; Alaska, 1946, magnitude 7.3; Puerto Rico/Mona Rift, 1918, magnitude 7.3 to 7.5; Virgin Islands, 1867, magnitude undetermined; Cascadia, 1700, magnitude 9; and Puget Sound, 900, magnitude 7.5. Map not to scale. Sources: National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA, USGS

Wildfires

historical wildfire map
This map shows locations that experienced wildlfires greater than 250 acres, from 1980 to 2003. Map not to scale. Sources: Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, and the USGS National Atlas

Map and caption data retrieved from the following sources: usgs.gov, tornadohistoryproject.com

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