Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Robots and Water

Drawings / designs for a storyboard superimposed on a photo I'm using as a background for another project.

This is a very busy work-week for me - one proposal for an Artist Residency due on Friday, another funding proposal I'm trying to get done by the weekend (which is what the robots are for), and a longer ongoing project that I'm working on every day. So my only excursions are quick swims and walks into town for groceries. I'll have more time to swim and draw and paint next week, I hope.

I've seen some local men coming out of the water with harpoon-guns and belts lined with all sorts of big colourful fish, including octopi. All they had were masks and snorkels, and that's what I have, so I'm hoping I can see some of that as well.

The place I've been snorkeling has small colourful fish. There's some fairly large (and presumably healthy) coral reefs just out from where the local harpoon-fishers were, but it's been too windy to swim out to them. On the less-windy side of the beach I found one big chunk of reef where I saw my first Moray Eel! Very exciting.

When I was young 'un, it was my dream to be a Marine Biologist. The ocean still fascinates me. Peering into that diverse aqueous world takes me back to when I was a child, camping along the Washington and Oregon coast, playing for hours with the crabs and sea anemones in the tidal pools. What a gift, to be able to float over this cool, silent world and look in on all these amazing, almost alien, creatures.

Drifting back and forth with the currents and the waves, marbled sunlight casting along the sandy bottom.

Monday, January 30, 2012

burnt plastic upon the soothing wind

There's a strong wind coming off the Atlantic this morning, but it's warm. Feels like a big soft pillow is rubbing against my skin.

It's a cloudy day - the end of the rainy season, apparently. The light that's filtering through is casting everything in a gorgeous diffuse grey-blue.

This is a long weekend in the Dominican Republic - the day of Duarte. Duarte was one of the founders of the Dominican Republic, who helped separate it from Haiti (which shares the island of Hispaniola with the D.R.). Two nights of loud partying and big fires on the beach. We're not talking Canadian wood bonfires, though - these are garbage fires! Yum. Thick grey smoke and the smell of burning plastic and rubber that got stronger as the night wore on and more garbage was piled onto the fires. It got so bad that I woke up at 3 am thinking a kitchen appliance was on fire.

I'm not sure about the entire country, but the area I'm in is incredibly international. One thing I like is that there is very little North American influence, but a lot of European influence. Even though the island is fairly close to Florida, there are far more Italians, Germans, Swiss and French people here than Americans. You can get a pizza or a panini anywhere, but no hamburgers. None of the products are American either - the soap is from Germany, the cars are either Peugeots or Daihatsu, the canned and processed food is mostly from Italy. Who woulda thought? For some reason I've had the impression that the US Export industry would have dominated all the nearby countries with trade agreements. It's refreshing to see that's not the case. It gives me a fresh perspective on how much US culture and material we consume in Canada.

Even the international gringo population is fairly small, so I'm getting a lot of full-on 100% Dominican culture. No all-inclusive resorts within one hundred kilometers at least! Ahhhh.

The people here are as friendly as I've seen anywhere in the world, except maybe Newfoundland. I can only think of one person out of probably a thousand has not smiled, laughed, and been friendly. Twice already I haven't had enough money to buy something, and both times the shopkeeper just told me to take it and pay them later. The uninhibited openness of people here soothes my soul.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Now I'm in the jungle.

Instead of temperate rainforest hikes, now it's tropical. Splashing up humid streams, crawling up waterfalls, reminds me of a certain creek on Vancouver Island. I half-expect to see game trails, but there are none. I think all the large mammals were hunted off the island a long time ago.

An hour down the road is the beach - long reefs, warm water. I could swim all day.

I actually have a lot of work to do while I'm down here, which is going to be my biggest challenge. The landscape and the culture is so inviting and distracting. Also, it takes a little more work to get everyday things done (like plan and find food, get around, etc) when everyone speaks Spanish. But for some reason my Spanish is better than I thought, and already improving since I got here. So I hope the 'getting normal things done' part becomes less time-consuming, as I find a routine and my Spanish continues to improve. Also, my major work-stuff mostly needs to be done sooner rather than later, so I'll have more time to explore as time goes on.

**ps. potential thieves in Canada - my house is subletted, so even if you knew where I lived (which you probably don't, because I'm secretive like that), don't bother trying. And even if you did know where my house was and there wasn't a subletter, probably the most amazing thing you'd come away with is a nice pair of rubber boots.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


I'm going through some old drawings to use for a proposal I'm writing that would put me in the Yukon bush for a month next summer. Painting and drawing and camping for a month straight. That would be heaven. I'm thinking that, even if I don't get accepted for it, I'd like to do that anyways in the middle of some bushy place.

These panels are from a couple weeks I spent near the Arctic Ocean, two summers ago. I did comics like this every day. This comic was from a day I spent out with some entomologists who were counting bugs. There were so many flies that they were wearing full-body mesh suits in the middle of summer. (Twenty-four hours of daylight up there).

I didn't wear the suit - instead, I had a wide-brim hat with DEET sprayed all over it. I didn't need to put DEET on my face - the soaked hat was enough to keep the blackflies away.

Friday, January 20, 2012


2' x 3' detail of an oil painting I'm working on.  

This painting is 4.5' square. I've been working on it for a LONG time, and it's finally getting somewhere. There are parts of the painting I like now. I keep those parts, try to piece the rest of the painting together to fit the parts I like, occasionally discover that the parts I like no longer fit, so paint over them. It sometimes feels like I could keep going, painting over things, forever, but it does seem to head to an endpoint eventually.

The act of painting fills me with a feeling I don't get anywhere else. It's a churning mixture of meditative peace, complex pattern recognition, critical thought, observation, memory, and the constant excitement of stepping into the unknown. All that combined together... I would call it a highly active state of bliss.

I hope painting never becomes a chore to me. I hope every brushstroke continues to be a question, rather than a premeditated statement.

I hope my life keeps going that way as well.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012



There's something really special about snow on the ocean. I wonder if it's my Newfoundland heritage that makes me like it so much. Coldness mixed with wild rough ocean spray - waves crashing on icy rocks - a monochrome world of black, white, grey, and dull blue. 

Both my computers are rendering tonight. That means they're working hard to process animation data into finished-looking frames. Some of these renders are taking 4-6 minutes per frame. This animation is at thirty frames per second, which means it's taking my fairly new and powerful desktop computer 2-3 hours to process one second of animation. Think about that.

And that's not the whole frame - that's just one layer of a frame. I have 4-5 different layers that I'll digitally lay on top of each other ("composite") to create the final frame. Some layers are faster - even so, it probably works out to about 4-6 hours of rendering for a second of animation for this project.

So much of computer animation is time management. It's so easy to waste time if I'm not careful. I have to do all kinds of shorter tests before I start a long render like that, to make sure the final product is going to look right. Otherwise I've wasted days of computer processing time for nothing. This is the case at studios with render farms, but the necessity of maximized processor time is even more apparent when all you've got is a laptop and a desktop. 

These poor ol' computers sure do work hard for me. I'm glad they're not live animals, or powered by cats or tuna or something, or I would be abusing them for sure.


Tuna-powered computers would be really big.


I'm hungry.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

data-sized americano

People in cold-weather jackets and a hair render for a project I'm working on. I've done more work with 3D hair in the last three months than I have since I started 3D animation in 1997. Then again, there was no such thing as 3D hair in 1997.


All I've done so far today is:

Start a fire
Eat oatmeal
Read about the conservation of energy and momentum in spacetime
Eat three slices of toast
Look at the internet
Send film to festival
Buy coffee, beer, peanut butter.

I got screwed early because of the internet. I try to stay away from it before noon. Today I wasted a lot of time looking at absolutely nothing.

It's interesting how the best times of my day are always when I'm away from my computer. Very rarely will a Top Five Thing Of The Day be related to the computer.

Whenever I have a "I'm Doing Nothing" day, I reach a crux point like this, where I have to say "The rest of your day is going to be shitty if you keep planning on working and don't get to it. So what are you going to do, write off the day and call it a Day Off, or get to work?"

Today I'm going to work. I have coffee, beer and peanut butter and jam to keep me company. Lets do it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I try to go for a walk every morning, but the majority of the time I find myself drawn down to the ocean, where I crouch under an Arbutus tree or sit in its branches and watch the waves for thirty or forty minutes.

I'm fascinated by this little bit of shoreline. The strange part is that it's on someone's property, so I'm trespassing every morning when I go down there. There are three houses on the property; two are abandoned and one is the owners' summer home - a ramshackle manor that must be a hundred years old. I draw the houses and outbuildings and remnants of older buildings buried under blackberries in the forest - a brick fireplace with a gorgeous wrought-iron frame, or an old trellis that has collapsed over a dark, rocky stream.

I don't know what I'm going to do in the summer when the owners presumably visit the property. I imagine that I'll come down in the predawn and stick to the far side of the lot, where there's no way we would see each other and where I can feel like I'm respecting their privacy.

I justify my actions by thinking that I'm not causing any harm, and that I really respect and enjoy the land - most of which has probably not been walked across in decades by anyone but myself. I stay away from the manor. I think there's a part of me that just refuses to accept that it's possible to buy land, put a line on a map and say that no one else can go there and enjoy it, even if it's not being used. Eventually, all the enjoyable land would be private property and only enjoyable by the wealthy.

I think about Cancun, where apparently the locals can't put their foot in the ocean without driving for hours because the entire shoreline is owned by all-inclusive resorts.

I think there are laws allowing people to walk and even camp on private property in some European countries. Makes sense to me.