Tuesday, August 31, 2010

rainy day

I don't enjoy the West Coast rainy season in Vancouver. The hissing sound of car tires on wet pavement, the bleak grey clouds casting grey light on grey concrete...

I do enjoy the rain in the forest, though... but I've never spent a winter nestled in the trees of southwestern BC, so I'm looking forward to seeing if the joy lasts.

Rain in the forest feels right. Distant trees fade into misty silhouettes. Wind whisks the treetops, but everything is still and meditative on the forest floor. Big droplets fall from the canopy like crystals, and explode on ferns and mossy humps that were once tree trunks. This weather is what the west coast is all about.

Today is the first day I've needed to use the woodstove. Nothing beats the radiant heat of wood burning inside a metal box.

Every woodstove is different - it takes a while to figure out the tricks on how to get the best draw when you're starting the stove, and where the air intake sits best to give a good burn... and, once winter hits, figuring out that sweet spot with the smallest amount of air that will let you keep a big log burning all night.

Speaking of "burning all night", there are way more parties on this little island than I ever imagined. I'm looking forward to the day when I don't feel hung over or intoxicated, or both. I'm working steadily, but it's a tough slog. Maybe I'm partying too much to get over the perfectionist anxiety I always feel when I'm right at the end of a film.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Sketches from a greasy spoon for breakfast this morning.

New favorite saying: "Life is full."

New favorite threat: "I'm going to open your asshole like the back of an armoured vehicle."

Favorite weekend memory: An image of four good friends sitting on a bench, lit by candlelight. None of them had met before that night - so bizarre and perfect to see them all together, having a good time.

Second favorite weekend memory: Drawing in my sketchbook with 2-year old Leelu in my arms, contentedly watching. "What's that? What's that?"

Third favorite weekend memory: Swimming back to the party on Saturday night. Walking back up the road to the house, dripping wet, and seeing that more people had arrived.

Music and candles and discussions, dogs and children, laughter and freestyling, costumes and wigs, moonlit awe on the rocky beach, watching waves and feeling the wind.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

bye, monkey

Here's a still of the shot that uses the painting I was working on yesterday.

"Monkey" is the name of the yellow protagonist in my film, "Perfect Detonator". I don't know why I called him Monkey - he's more like a mouse or some other rodent. These creatures don't speak English, so you never hear his name.

Sadly, this is the last day I will be animating my little yellow friend. After this are three more shots, but none of them involve Monkey.

Later, buddy. You did good.

I think Monkey is gone for good, but these little animal creatures are likely to make an appearance in some of my future films.

I was worried about finishing this film and being left with no work to do... but already, things are piling up. There's going to be very little break between finishing the film and moving on to other projects (including post-production and marketing The Perfect Detonator).

In fact, things are already starting to overlap. The final weeks of this film are interspersed with meetings in Vancouver, budgets, schedules, grant applications, and cost estimates. The trick is to keep my priorities straight - namely, staying happy, and making art. The easiest way for me to keep those priorities in sight is to draw every day. Draw or be drawn, bitches!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


A semi-complete background painting for the film. Not many more backgrounds to paint now. I think the film's animation and rendering will be finished by next Friday, God willin' (as the Newfies say).

Today I learned that a small posse of 6 killer whales was spotted swimming in the same area I swim last Wednesday. I got the people to point out where they saw the whales, and what time. An hour later I swam over that exact same spot.

Apparently these six killer whales hang out in this area. Great. Someone took a photo of them, it's going to be in the newspaper, and I'll post it when I get the paper.

Killer whales are smart animals, and, like every other animal, the more I read about them the more fascinating and ingenious they are. They're the only other animal besides humans have observable cultural differences. They have different family "clans", which speak different dialects of language and have different diets. One type only eats fish (sockeye salmon preferably), the other only eats marine mammals. My local posse is a transient pod, which means they swim silently (don't communicate much), and eat marine mammals. Great.

I've been told that there are no documented cases of a human death by killer whales in the wild. That eases my mind - I'd like to think that they're smart enough to tell I would taste different and be semi-covered in cloth that's hard to unwrap and digest. Maybe they even think we're kindred spirits. Maybe one day I'll ride a fucking killer whale into battle against the salmon farmers...

In the survival-centric area of my brain, however, I wonder if there are no deaths because few humans are stupid enough to be swimming when killer whales are around. I read about one case where a swimmer in Alaska was "bumped" by an Orca who likely mistook him for a seal. I've reserved some books from the library, and I'm looking forward to learning more about these creatures.

Not so afraid of the seals any more, in comparison.

When I first moved to this island, I was a bit turned off because the ecosystem seemed so tame. The largest natural predator is a raccoon - deers roam around like bunnies and sleep in your lawn.

But I'm starting to realize that the real wildness is in the water. I really appreciate that I'm able to skim along the upper surface of that mysterious world and explore it, in my own way.

Monday, August 23, 2010

the first commandment

Here's something I'm having fun with - unrelated to the film. It's about 11" x 20" - using watercolors, pencil and ink. I think it's about half done, but I should probably stop sooner rather than later.

The First Commandment is:

"Thou shalt not not draw
or thy name will be in vain
and thine paint will not maintain its stain."

More modern religions and bohemian poets translate it thusly:

"Draw or be Drawn."

The Second Commandment is more confusing. There is much discussion and debate concerning its deeper meanings:

"Hallowed be the Rain
its okay to be insane
propriety is pain."

Friday, August 20, 2010

suck-ass ass sucking

Fun game: find three hints in this photo that today sucked ass.

1) Using two computers to work at once: One layer of my 200-frame render wasn't working, I had to restart my animation software after every 3-4 frames. Eventually I transferred to my 64-bit laptop, which seems to work better for these renders. (It's happened before).

2) Piles of cable on the floor: Wireless router went down. I think it overheated in the sun - it hangs in the window so my landlord can steal a connection from it. He had a bunch of internet stuff to do today, so he was running in and out of the house (sometimes without knocking), in a panic. Tom, if you read this, it's all good, but you're a crazyman!

3) Bodum of coffee on the desk. This means I'm too intent on work and too multi-task-y to even get up from the desk to get a cuppa joe.

I enjoy being a one-man-show, but one huge disadvantage is that you have to troubleshoot every problem. No tech department to call. It can really screw with your momentum sometimes.

Bonus Round:

At sunset I walked down the road to the pub, ordered a pint, put it on the deck table with my wallet and shirt, went across the street to the water, swam, came back and drank and created this piece of malarkey. I kind of like the overall composition:

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I've been hesitant to show much of the film lately, but I guess it's good to give a little away every once in a while. Here's a few shots from it. They're screengrabs from compressed Quicktimes in my editing software, so the picture quality isn't great.

I'm really happy with the flow of the last part of the film. The pace feels good, there's lots going on, and the camera moves and onscreen action flow into each other well. I find myself being drawn in whenever I review the cut.

I'm not as sure about the first half of the film. There's a few shots where the conflict settles more than I'd like, and if it makes the audience drift away for even half a second, I'm going to lose people. So I have to go back and fix that. I've already cut four shots from the middle, which helps a lot, but I might have to cut more. Weeks of work down the drain! C'est la vie.

The ocean was colder today because of a wind change, had to swim harder to stay warm but I'm growing more confident that I'm not going to suddenly cool down and stop swimming in the middle of the water. I'm still not sure why that happens to people, but I've had to drag friends to shore on several occasions, so I know it happens.

An osprey snatched a fish out of the water while I was swimming, and on the way back to land, took a detour and swooped over me to see what the hell kind of creature I was.

C'est la vie!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

swim calculations

Here's what I figured today.

The yellow line is what I'm swimming now - across the cove and up the shore and back again, without stopping. I do a little jag to avoid a big kelp bed, which is scary to swim over without goggles, because it gets all tangly and touchy and crabs hang out all over the kelp.

The big red line represents that same amount of distance stretched into a straight line.

So I can almost swim out to Entrance Island (but not make it back safely), if no freighters / ferries hit me (it's a big-ship corridor, but only gets used 6-8 times a day). I've seen photos of killer whales in that channel as well. Plus 1 knot currents depending on the tide, and colder water. Not safe, I'll likely never try unless a kayak is with me (but I sure do think about it a lot).

I think I can make it along the sheer cliffs on the West side of the island now, though. I've never swam that entire distance yet, but the first half is mostly rock climbing, so the second half is the nonstop swim. I've been looking at it carefully whenever I take the ferry. I'll likely do that with a kayak spotting for me, too.

My new daily swim plan is to swim from my cove right out to the far Northwest tip of the Island, where the red line to Entrance Island starts. Then back. If I can do that, I might make a go for Entrance Island before September, when the water starts to cool off. There and back would be about two kilometers of swimming, taking currents into account.

I was thinking today that I should buy a marine chart to get the currents in the area, and start timing myself so I can calc. how fast I swim, so I can plot vectors and figure out where I'd have to swim towards to hit Entrance Island. (You wouldn't want to swim right towards it if there's a current, because you'll be pulled away. Instead, you want to swim on a different course so you're pulled right towards the Island if your calculations are right.)

I'm also thinking about getting a diving knife, just to give me some parity with the seals. I would never stab one unnecessarily, but if I got bit or was being held underwater, I'd like to be able to bite back.

Even writing about this stuff puts a big grin on my face. What kind of bizarre hobby am I making up here?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

cramerotti crop cycle

Here's my steed. He's light on his feet, and if you treat him right, he'll get you where you need to go every time. His name is Guiseppe, otherwise known as the Cramerotti Crop Cycle.

Here's a note written in my sketchbook a few days ago, when I was drawing chairs that had weird perspective:

don't see things as they SHOULD be.
instead, observe without judgement, carefully and neutrally, then
try to understand why
they are as they are.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Nice place to visit, better place to rob."

Did about 30 pages of 2B pencil sketches this weekend. Here's one.

Amazing how only three days in the city filled me with tension and drained me of fulfillment. It's easy for me to feel "not good enough" there. Who's got the nicest bike, who can ride the fastest, who has the nicest IPhone, who's more toned, have you seen the latest movie, where are you working, etc etc.

I prefer my own little fucked-up universe, thank you very much. In my world, when an old man shouts a question across the coffeeshop, you don't smirk and ignore him like he's crazy, you shout back an answer. Who's crazy, the old man, or everyone else in the coffeeshop who's too embarrassed to see a man is just looking for a conversation?

For the first time ever, I pulled up to a stop light alongside another cyclist, and he consciously ignored my greeting and turned away to avoid contact. He had an IPod in, which made it even easier for him to avoid the present moment. Biking with an IPod?!? Bikers ignoring each other?!?

I do like that there seems to be a rebellious undercurrent rising up. Lots more tattoos and insane haircuts around. I'd love to see a real rebellion of street art slam all the new buildings downtown. I'd like to think the city is getting big enough for people to overrun bylaws and make their own rules.

Did you know you're not allowed to have a chair on the sidewalk outside your business in Vancouver without a permit?

Did you know you're not allowed to paint grafitti at the skate parks? It's the only place in the world where I've ever seen that. Even small towns like Gibsons let you paint at the skate parks.

One of my Top Ten Things To Do is bike through Vancouver's downtown core (from my courier days, I guess). Bikes can react so much faster than cars, you can rule the street if you're aware enough. One big trick - take control of car traffic. Point at a driver, make eye contact, then point to where you're going. It's amazing how they'll obey. It works best if you're going the same speed and direction as the car, so you're basically 4 feet away from the driver looking into his / her eyes. It works when you're in a car as well. Unroll your window and use hand signals instead of blinkers. People will stop and let you merge way faster. I think it's because they see an actual human extremity, instead of a blinking light.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

more than words

Here's some of the things I did in the city this weekend. Only two of these situations were related to each other - it was a mad wander into like 15 different scenes:

- Chased a car on my bike.

- Trespassed and climbed onto a roof.

- Consoled a friend who just lost big in the stock market.

- Stole water and gave it away like Robin Hood.

- Watched the sun set on the beach while talking about Boroque music, honour, and duels to the death.

- Wiped cat hair off a quilt. (This is significant because it took a LLOOOONNNG time to clean cat hair off the quilt.)

- Called 911.

- Planned a dance / animation show.

- Swam and rock-climbed at Lighthouse Park.

- Chased someone into a crackhouse.

- Played with children.

- Washed blood off someone's hands.

Fantastic times, but I'm hoping nothing else happens for the rest of the day. I'm drained. Tonight I'm sketching at a theatre rehearsal. The play includes a sperm-stealing witch and a man with a ginormous penis.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

100 Shots, Boulders, etc

Check out this rock. I stretch myself all over that sumbitch at least twice a day. The routes I boulder / climb always change because of the tide. When the tide is low, I can climb lower and use the hightide footholds as handholds. When the tide is really high, I can climb vertically instead of horizontally, because the water is there to catch me if I fall from too high. I fell for the first time yesterday while trying to climb up to the grass from a new route.

New challenge - wasps are building their nests in some of the choicest deepest handholds, so I have to work out new ways to travel. I accidentally twiddled my finger on a nest yesterday, but no harm was done to either party.

The wind really blows in the morning when the day is going to be hot - it's a real workout to swim. You gotta keep your eyes on the waves, and you often have to break your rhythm to get a good push over a breaking wave.

I definitely have the same evening swim pattern as Missus Seal. I think we're developing a mutual respect. Neither wants to get too close. It seems like she appears whenever I submerge, though, which freaks me out. I go under for 10 seconds, and when I come back up, there's her big head (and huge powerful bulldog jaws) staring at me. I usually talk calmly, and make growling and huffing sounds, and hope I'm saying "Stay Cool", instead of "Hump Me".

Working on shot number 100 today! Actually blocking in all the remaining shots to get the pace right. Shot number 100 is called "POV_Carnage". Whoa!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Here's a retarded picture. It was way more retarded at the start, when it was only a bunch of 3am drunken ramblings I wrote while listening to Led Zepellin and laughing and saying "yeah. yeah. yeah." out loud to myself. Then it got better when I drew a man and fingerpainted coffee on it. Then it got worse when I finger painted white acrylic on it, then better (but still terrible) when I washed off the acrylic. Now it's a honking pile of shite I call "Mentalist Finds Flies Behind Venetian Blinds".

I recommend watching "Shutter Island" - it is the opposite to the goo-chasm illustrated above. Martin Scorcese and Leo DiCaprio. It's a very tight script, great story that gives tonnes of motivation and tension, and Leo is so committed and present in every scene.

I think the film stands out for the camera work. Watch how simple tricks of the camera are used to discomfit you (switching the Director's axis, quick pans and cuts that are off-pattern, etc.) That is what you get with an old-school director (and D.O.P., I'll bet) who know the basic language of film, and can fuck with it. None of that CGI sweeping camera move bullshit, or crazy special effects. (In fact I think some VFX were intentionally done wrong for discomfort and story purposes!) Lots of risks taken directorially, and they all worked. That's what you get when you've been art-ing for so many years, I guess.

I'm inspired that Martin Scorcese still challenges himself and takes risks at his age. Something to aspire to for sure.

*footnote: the term "mentalist" traces its roots back to Chris Huggins, salesman-gone-wrong, guardian-of-parkades.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

sun heart of sky beast

First shots for the next film. It's not going to be a conventional story, more like a series of images that you can find our own meaning in. I'm going to use all kinds of techniques and not restrict myself to keeping any rigid style or creation process.

I'm extremely excited about it. To me, a big part of art is letting go of restrictions and making your own rules. Every single shot I've planned makes me cackle so far, because it's so far off convention and so true to myself.

The weather has changed and the ocean has become significantly colder. I've lost some fat in the last few weeks, and really felt it swimming yesterday - I didn't do my two big swims, only went about 1/5th of the distance once. In cold weather I'll need to eat more and/or wear a wetsuit, and/or maintain a high heartrate for the entire time I'm swimming. No chill-out breaks floating on my back and rolling over waves.

A big ol' seal followed me around while I was swimming last night. I climbed onto a floating dock out in the middle of the cove and he circled it, watching me cautiously. I didn't have the balls to jump in until he swam down the shore a bit.

Makes me realize that there is a bit of a risk of encountering larger sea animals. There's a huge undersea cliff right offshore where I swim, so I need to be a bit more aware, because I'm in very deep water that a killer whale could easily be cruising through. If an orca ever spotted me I'd be dead, guaranteed. Maybe there's an orca-watch website I can look at. Or maybe I should just stick to the cove when visibility isn't so good (waves / wind / fog)...

Friday, August 6, 2010

sketch with words

Doodlin' at the coffeeshop. I sometimes add random thoughts to a drawing, or little phrases that I overhear. It makes the images feel like they're part of a story.. you start to fit the sketch into a situation just because of one little phrase.

On a related note, I am dying to create a graphic novel, but instead of writing it myself, I want to adapt a screenplay / theatre script / short story or something. Does anyone have any work that translates well into visuals (i.e. not too much dialogue?) Or maybe there's an old film or novel that you think would work? A science fiction short story might be cool. Or maybe it's a story / script that you've written?

Any subject matter is fine.

Send me an email at gogomax49 at gmail dot com if you have any ideas - thanks!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

firewood rant

"Phone doodle on laptop - 2010 - work in progress" Gesso, Spraypaint, India Ink, Pencil.

I thought firewood down here would be cheaper than in the Yukon, because there's so many damned trees. The problem is that there's way more people (and money) in proportion to those trees. So you get shit wood at high prices.

I paid $170 for a truckload of 15" rounds of fir today. Just a normal pickup truckload - like what, 2/3rds of a cord at most? (A cord is 4' x 4' x 8' of wood). It was supposed to be $200 / truckload but I wanted rounds so I can handsplit them myself. (Rounds are a slice of tree, like 15" chunks of stump - i.e. not cut into pie shapes. I way prefer that, because splitting wood with an axe is one of my top 10 things to do in life.)

At least 10% of the wood is funky (rotten inside) and another 10% isn't seasoned (i.e. it was cut this year, so it's full of moisture, which means it doesn't burn easy, and puts out a lot of creosote, which is not healthy to inhale and clogs up your chimney.) Balls! Balls Balls Balls!

Another guy on this island offered me $200 for a cord of fir that was cut this year, i.e. not seasoned. He said, "Yeah, we just cut it,but let it sit out in the sun for a month and it'll be good." What?! Do people fall for that? How dishonest!

This all makes me miss the Yukon.

Ooooohh, give me a place where we're all talkin' wood,
prices are good,

woodsmoke in the air
dog barks at a bear

the mornings are crisp
and its early august...


At least I get to swing an axe this winter.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


A doodle while in a Skype meeting. Korean characters from a Kimchi container. I also drew and painted a big crazy design on the back of my old laptop, but it's not finished yet. I like how it's turning out.

No phones in this house, just internet. So you can't call me, I can only call out using Skype phone. Been going that way for six weeks now and it's working out fine.

Monday, August 2, 2010


A lady on the ferry. It's not as easy to draw people on the ferry as it is in coffeeshops. People on the ferry move around a lot and look around a lot. I suspect it will get easier in the fall when tourists aren't around. It's easier to draw the regulars who sit in their car and read / nap during the 20-minute ride.

I had a beautiful swim tonight right at sunset. The water was super calm so I swam further than I ever have in my life. There's an adult seal that hunts in the kelp beds at sunset. He/she scoped me out right as I was nearing shore. Thank gawd it wasn't when I was way out in the water - I don't think I'm ready for that yet. I honked at him a bit and we watched each other and dove / surfaced at a distance of about 50m, but that's it. I wonder if we'll get to know each other over time. Maybe he'll kill me eventually.

I'm circumnavigating this whole island bit by bit, by hiking/swimming/climbing the rocks. I have a map where I mark the bits of perimeter I've done so far. The tough part is going to be a long stretch of cliff. It doesn't look like there's any breaks in the cliff so I'm going to have to swim the whole way. I think it's about 8-10 times further than I swam tonight... but I suppose I could rest by holding onto cracks in the rock for a while. I've been bouldering along the rocks every day, so my fingertips are getting strong. It would be nice to do that cliff-part with someone, but the only person I know who's interested is away for 2 months.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

some asshole is making graffiti that looks like my drawings

My sister works as a book editor. Publishing companies get these sample books from book binding companies - really nice hardbound books, but there's no text on the pages. So I get these sweet free sketchbooks every once in a while.

This image is from one of these sample books - this one is entirely glossy paper. I'm filling the whole thing with images like this. I like to use water soluble ink, then wash the whole thing in water to give it texture. I put a bit of a watercolor wash on this one as well.

These images are very relaxing and meditative to create.

Some asshole is following me around and making graffiti using shapes just like this. I've seen a few in Vancouver. There's one on this island I'm living on too. Stop following me, buddy!

I'll take a photo of the graffiti sometime.