Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring waterfalls

Like many people, I am fascinated by waterfalls, big and small. Actually, I think I find the small ones even more captivating than really huge ones.

In the hills of New England around this time of year it is common to find what I refer to as "spring waterfalls". These are small watercourses created by the melting of the winter snow in the spring. During this time, these little streams will run freely, but as the snow finishes melting, they tend to dry up and disappear until the following spring, occasionally reappearing before that if there is lots of rain.

But it's cooler in the spring, because these things are easier to spot while you are driving around, given that there are no leaves yet to block the view.

I found these little waterfalls last year, just a hundred or so feet off a road which I travel quite a bit. For some reason, I had never noticed them before that. A few days ago I was out on the Victory and decided to stop to take some shots, as the snow around here has been melting rapidly and I could see that there was quite a bit of water coming down this hill. I put some of the photos together into this panoramic view. -- PL

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blast from the Past #290: "Chickens" cover for Hampshire Life

This is another piece done on coquille board, in this case as a cover for "Hampshire Life". I like the egg-shaped doorway to the chicken coop.

Although it's difficult to see in this image, I also used a small piece of Chartpak pattern film -- the kind with opaque white dots instead of black dots -- to fade out the silhouette of the trees in the background. I usually didn't combine media like this.

I also found in my archives these rough sketches I did while trying to work out the idea for this cover drawing. (Don't ask me what that strange face in the upper right hand corner is doing there -- it's probably just a random doodle having nothing to do with the work I was supposed to be doing.) -- PL

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thoughts on the new "Alice in Wonderland" movie

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of going to the movies with my wife Jeannine and Dan Berger and his wife Jess. The movie we saw was the new "Alice in Wonderland" by Tim Burton.

The pleasure was mostly in the company, not in the movie itself -- I found it quite underwhelming, and sadly one more example of a movie in which visual spectacle wildly outstrips the story being told.

I've greatly enjoyed several of Tim Burton's movies, especially "Nightmare Before Christmas", which I've probably seen ten times (most of those viewings with my daughter). He has quite a wild visual imagination, and that quality is very much on display in this new "Alice". I applaud everyone who had a hand in crafting the look of this movie -- it's really quite something, a truly sumptuous feast for the eyes. I found it far more compelling than, say, the visuals in "Avatar". In "Alice", the world being created is surreal and ridiculous, and thus (in my opinion) much harder to render convincingly "real" than the more prosaic jungles and spaceships of "Avatar". I might even go back to watch "Alice" again just to look at the images.

But I wouldn't be returning for the story, which is woefully thin. Not that the source material is a masterpiece of plot, mind you, but even that "collection-of-incidents-which-passes-for-a-story" would be preferable to the thin gruel of this new tale. In fact, when, for a brief moment in this movie, we see a short flashback to the original Alice and her first journey to Wonderland, I found myself thinking how much more fun it would have been if Burton et al would have just turned their considerable talents to a straight adaptation of the original. They just might have produced the ultimate cinetmatic iteration of "Alice in Wonderland".

And I must also say that I groaned loudly when, near the end of the movie, Johnny Depp's "Mad Hatter" busted out some boogie moves to a funky beat. Ugh. -- PL

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Blast from the Past #288: "By the Waters of Babylon" adaptation

Many years ago, my brother Don, knowing my interest in tales of a post-apocalypse Earth, turned me on to a story written by Stephen Vincent Benet titled "By the Waters of Babylon". I was quite taken with the story, and thought it could be cool in comic book form. So I set about adapting it (sometime in the late 1970's, I think), just for my own pleasure, with no thoughts of publishing it.

For some reason, I decided to draw it on heavy illustration board, and in a large size (about 10 by 15). I finished about seven pages of it, and partially drew five more, before I abandoned the project. At this late date, I can't recall why I didn't finish it. -- PL

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It's Spring! (almost...)

This Thursday, for our regular weekly meeting, my friends Rick and Rob and I decided to drive out to Pittsfield, hauling the bicycles in my truck, so that we cold take our inaugural 2010 ride on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail which goes from Pittsfield to Adams. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we were very much looing forwad to this ride. I fully expected that the bike path would be clear of snow and ice, as the trail between Northampton and Amherst has been for several weeks, and Pittsfield (or so I had always thought) had more or less the same climate as the Northampton area. Rick kept telling me that it would be colder out there, and I didn't believe him.

So off we went down the trail, grooving on the sun and sky and the wide-open trail. I snapped this photo of Rob and Rick shortly after we started riding -- I think there's a kind of "Easy Rider"/Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda vibe to it.

My first clue that I might be wrong about the climate difference could have been this still half-frozen lake along the first part of the bike trail on the Pittsfield end.

ABout two-thirds of the way down the trail, after having to skirt a few tiny snowy patches along the way (no big deal), we were confronted by a section of the trail COVERED in snow and ice. Rob voluteered to jog down the trail a bit to see if this was just a small aberration -- here's a photo of Rick waiting for him.

Rob came back with the bad news the as far as he could see, the trail continued to be covered by the slippery stuff. (I should note that this part of the trail is the shadiest section of its entire length, which is nice in the heat of the summer, but apparently not so great for the melting of snow and ice in the spring.)

So we decided to turn back, and didn't make it all the way to the center of Adams as we had planned. Bummer. But it was still a very nice ride, and we got to have a meal at Ozzie's, one of my favorite restaurants, so it was definitely not a total loss. -- PL

Friday, March 19, 2010

Blast from the Past #287: Gourds on coquille board

I recently found this piece in my files, framed it, and hung it on the wall in our kitchen. It's almost certainly something I did for "Hampshire Life", but there is a remote possibility that I drew it for a "Big Y" advertisement.

I especially like the "flying saucer"-shaped gourd on the lower left -- not sure what kind that is. -- PL

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blast from the Past #286: Homeless man making coffee

I can't recall exactly what publication I drew this piece for, but I suspect it was "Hampshire Life".

It's one of the few times I used ink wash for grey tones in an illustration. -- PL

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Monday, March 15, 2010

Zombie weekend

I am not a huge fan of zombie movies, though I do occasionally like a few of them, such as that remake of "Dawn of the Dead" that came out several years ago. But recently I read a review of a flick called "Pontypool" in a British movie magazine, and thought it sounded intriguing. So I looked for it on, and found a couple of others that also looked interesting, so I ordered them all. I spent some time this weekend watching all three.

"Pontypool", set almost entirely inside a small radio station in Canada, has some genuinely creepy and scary moments, and a very unique rationale for the spread of the zombie infestation. It gets a little confusing near the end, but for the most part it holds together.

"Outpost" is pretty good, though it could have been much better with some more thought to explaining exactly what was going on. Like "Dead Snow", it deals with Nazi "zombies", although their true nature is never quite clear. But it has some nice atmospheric sets, good acting, and features Ray Stevenson (Titus Pullo from HBO's "Rome" series) as the lead.

"Dead Snow" was the biggest disappointment. I had been aware of the existence of this movie from various reports on the Internet, mainly from the "Ain't It Cool" website. I'd seen some intriguing stills from it showing some pretty nifty-looking Nazi zombies in a bleak snowy wilderness. Sadly, the movie itself is atrocious. It wastes its nifty setting and concept and settles for a bunch of silly splatter scenes. The characters are bland and forgettable. And you never find out exactly WHY there are Nazi zombies in the snow -- they're just there. (There IS a half-assed attempt to explain it in some awkward exposition from a throwaway character, at one point, but it doesn't really work.)

"Dead Snow" also suffers from one of my pet peeves in these kinds of movies, and that is giving characters special abilities so they will LOOK REALLY COOL!!! in a couple of scenes, but then those characteristics are conveniently forgotten later on when they might interfere with the poorly-thought-out storytelling. In this case, you see in several quick scenes early on that these Nazi zombies are superfast -- they are almost blurs as they zip past the camera. But later on, the young campers who are menaced by the Nazi zombies are able to outrun them. It makes no sense.

Of the three, I'd say that "Pontypool" is the only one really worth the time. -- PL

Thursday, March 11, 2010

It's a spider, man!

Like many other human beings, I am slightly arachnophobic. I appreciate spiders for their evolutionary success and wild variety in shapes and sizes, but I also find them somewhat creepy.

So I was a little disconcerted when I stepped outside a few nights ago and saw this beast lurking on the doormat.

It was sizeable -- the ladybug under one of its legs is a good scale reference.

Anyone know what kind of spider this is? -- PL

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Blast from the Past #283: Fire tower

This is another drawing I did back in 1980 for "Hampshire Life", and this one was printed on the cover page. It's an illustration of a tower in a local state forest employed for scoping out forest fires. (I think I used the one in Goshen, at the DAR, as the model for this piece.) I'm posting it without cleaning it up, so the things done to the original for purpose of pasting up (this was pre-computers, remember) are visible. You can see that some of the paper around the top bits of the drawing was actually cut away -- I'm pretty sure that was to allow the drawing to be superimposed over the "Hampshire Life" logo. I wish they'd done that to a stat of the artwork instead of the artwork itself, but -- such is life.

As I recall, this was not a fun drawing to do. Getting all those skinny girders to line up in proper perspective was a real pain. -- PL

Monday, March 8, 2010

Motorcycle + camera + almost Spring-like weather = fun

We had another very nice day here yesterday -- sunny and around 52 degrees. I was going to take the NT700V out again, but developed a craving for the Victory Vision (probably for its seat and grip warmers as well as its superior wind protection). The only problem was the fact that the space where I store most of my bikes during the winter always develops a large, compacted lump of icy snow which blocks the doors (it slides off the high roof and packs itself quite densely). I usually just wait until it melts.

But for whatever reason, yesterday I got obsessed with the idea of getting the Vision out on the road, so I spent about half an hour chopping, hacking and shovelling a just-wide-enough path through this snowpack, and managed to get the Vision out without falling over or getting stuck. Here's a photo of said path (taken the following day, so a little of it has melted).

So after a short bicycle ride in Northampton with my friend Rick, I headed up to Shelburne Falls to grab a coffee and a pastry at McCusker's, followed by some wandering around taking photos. I always like looking at the "Bridge of Flowers" in Shelburne Falls, ever when it's out of season and aboslutely nothing is flowering. It's still a beautiful bridge. Here's a little panoramic view looking at the south side of the bridge...

I like this bit of impressionistic color I caught in the ripples of the river below the bridge.

Of course, I had to go look at the glacial potholes (always fascinating for me), and noticed these dead plants backlit by the setting sun.

On my way home from Shelburne Falls, I noticed that the light was getting very pretty as the sun set, and I stopped near a marsh with the hope of getting some interesting shots. I like this one of an old cattail starting to fall apart.

And of course I had to take a shot (actually several, to make this little panorama) of the bike.

When I got home, the sun had almost set, and I noticed some lovely clouds out of our back window, so I grabbed the camera again and took some shots for this panoramic view.

All in all, a good day. -- PL

Sunday, March 7, 2010

NT700V near snowy beaver pond

I took the Honda NT700V (aka the Deauville) out for a nice, albeit short, spin yesterday, and stopped near the beaver pond I've mentioned in past blog posts. I am happy that spring seems to be coming, slowly but surely, although as my wise wife reminded me today, I should be prepared for the possibility of more winter storms dumping yet more snow upon us.

But for the nonce it is nice to take these opportunities to get out on two wheels aagin. While stopped here, I took some photos that I could later stitch into a panorama with Panorama Maker4, and this was the result.

It's interesting how the program distorts what are, in reality, straight lines, like the egdes of the road and especially the overhead wires. -- PL

Friday, March 5, 2010

Blast from the Past #282: Early Duo-Shade drawing

I think this may have been my second attempt to employ the Graphix Duo-Shade art board -- the stuff Kevin and I used for many of the early TMNT books -- to create an illustration back in the early 1980's. I'm pretty sure it was done for Hampshire Life.

I'm showing this one in its "raw" form, just at it looked in the photograph I took of the original, so that the odd contours of the piece of Duo-Shade are clearly visible. I do this to reiterate how -- because this stuff was so expensive -- I would try to maximise the use of every single square inch of a sheet of it. -- PL

Monday, March 1, 2010

Interesting effect

A couple of weeks ago, I took this photo of some trees near the Mirage parking lot as the sun was setting and the sky was a lovely blue.

There are some bright security lights in the parking lot, and the way they lit up the trees and gave them extra contrast against the darkening sky was interesting.

A few days ago, I was playing around with this photo in Photoshop, and for some reason -- don't ask me why, as I can't remember -- I did the following:

-- Selected the image (Command-A)
-- Copied the image (Command-C)
-- Pasted the image (Command-V), which created a new layer
-- Chose "Overlay" as the option in the "Layers/Blending Mode" pop-up menu

... and this was the result:

I was immediately struck by the apparent 3D effect that was created. It reminded me of images from those old "Viewmaster" discs for some reason. I don't know why this operation created this effect, but I must say I like it.-- PL