Sunday, February 25, 2007

Coopers Brewery Best Extra Stout

The next Superbowl beer is Coopers Brewery Best Extra Stout. It's imported from Australia, and therefore costs an arm and a leg.
It doesn't taste too stouty, but it does have that bitter stout aftertaste. The aftertaste starts before you even finish swallowing, and lingers for a good long time. Don't drink it after eating anything sweet. Bleh.

The first taste is bright, with a hint of sweet, and lively. It's tangy in a pleasant way, sort of like a tart piece of fruit. It's a refreshing beer, and not as heavy as most stouts. But, since I prefer the sweeter stouts, I think there's room to improve. However... there's a kangaroo on the American bottle, so it gets coolness points.

M: 7
N: 6.5

Pastel Addiction

If you remember, the last time I posted about pastels, I ragged on them pretty hard. They're messy, blocky, and not made for fine detail. In other words, they make life difficult for perfectionists. Like me, for instance. But after Bugsy, pastels started stalking me. Well, no problem, I thought... I had one sheet of pastel paper left to use, and a set of cheap chalks.

But that wasn't good enough. No, I went and bought a pad of Canson paper and 40 half-sticks of Sennelier. Each half-stick is about an inch and a half long, and costs $1. I've got the pastel monkey on my back, as all those smug pastellists said I would.

So, what I learned this week: It's a lot harder to indiscrimately throw dust everywhere when it costs more than gold. The Sennelier sticks are soft and buttery; the tactile sensation of drawing with them is hard to describe. It's like drawing with high-quality, vibrant sidewalk chalk, but instead of that harsh scraping, you can barely feel the chalk touch the paper. Smooth. But because they're so soft, they get used up quickly. With Bugsy, I'd lay down layers of chalk, rub it in, and let the dust fall. With these sticks, I don't want to waste any of it. So here's part of the background of the color study I just finished:
The tooth of the tan paper shows through because I didn't want to waste chalk. I just dusted lightly over the paper. Another area, this time of the main subject, shows the tooth full, simply because I went over it so many times, trying different colors.
Today's lesson: Art suffers if you think about how much the supplies cost. But are we in the business of being art purists, or are we in the business of being in business?

Oh, and don't ever pick up a pastel stick unless you want to be helplessly addicted for life.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Tap and Bottle

Last weekend, N and I went to a bar where they had about 3 million beers on tap. Well, maybe more like 54. But either way, at most bars, if you ask for a dark beer other than Guinness on tap, they may have Newcastle, or suggest Killian's. Right.

So, needless to say, we were impressed at the North River Tavern in Sandy Springs, where they have at least half a dozen dark beers on tap. They even had a few of our favorite bottled beers. So between us, we sampled five dark beers on tap. We'd had four of them in bottles before. The differences were interesting. N discusses our experience in detail here.

I'll be rating the beers on tap as their own entities. The four we'd had already were quite different from their bottled brothers. Today's focus: Left Hand Milk Stout on tap. Sound familiar? It should; we rated it here.
Since I gave the bottled version a 10, I can't rate this any higher... but I want to. It's just as tasty as the bottle, with no bitterness at all. It's smooth, sweet, and delicious. It's hard to beat the freshness of a beer that's just been drawn, and I like this one more than the bottle because of that. It also seems a bit smoother.

I'd drive the 45 minutes in a heartbeat for this beer. It's gooood.

M: 10+ (10 bottle)
N: 9.5 (9 bottle)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Scanner Ate My Shading

In this modern world of illustration, the final product the artist delivers is often in digital format. Since I am mostly a traditional media girl, this means scanning. And to me, scanning means losing a lot of subtle detail.

Maybe it doesn't have to be this way. But with my digital toolkit, I have problems that make me pull out all my hair to distract myself from the fact that the scanner ate my shading. Again.

On the illo board, the pencils trace a delicate shaded gradient from oh-so-light (I usually do not leave bare paper) to pleasant, deep dark. The scanner reads this beautiful physical effect, gets jealous, and spits mush onto the screen. Perhaps it is trying to get me to hold it tight like I do the pencils, or is getting revenge for all those times the cat violated its space. Until I figure out what's bothering it, mush ensues:
The lightest lights look totally white, although they are ever-so-slightly tinted on paper. The darkest darks are medium grey. If I try to correct this with the scanning software or the Gimp, I can get a nice, deep dark:
But lo! The lights are still very light. Since the lovely light pencil strokes at the bottom have turned dark too, this means I lose the gradient that was so delicate in the mush version. No matter what tools I try, digital tweaking cannot achieve an effect to match the paper.

Granted, your final product must look good when printed, so I tweak until I get the most printable version. It doesn't hold a candle to the original. I think this is a universal problem with reproductions. Someday, the genius nerds of the world will come up with a way to tame my scanner's jealousy, and when that day comes, I will lift up an offering. Maybe I'll burn the scanner.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Bridgeport Black Strap Stout

One of the beers we cracked open during the Superbowl last weekend was Bridgeport Black Strap Stout. Unfortunately, none of the Superbowl beers were anything to write home about. But neither were the Superbowl Bears, ha ha. *sniffle*
Bridgeport Brewery is in Oregon. They say the name of this beer comes from black strap molasses. Having licked molasses from a bottle once, I can understand why I don't like this beer all that much. (Tasting pure molasses isn't recommended, bleh. If you're going to lick bottles, stick to syrup... or vodka.) This stout sort of tastes like chocolate bread; you know the kind - it has cocoa in it but isn't sweet. Not like chocolate muffins - which are Satan's perfect baked goods of temptation - but more like a chocolate bagel, if you can imagine that. It has a wheaty aftertaste and a small tang. Pretty boring.

M: 7
N: 5

Art Contracts

This week, I drew up my first contract. I have some potential logo design work, and the client dug up a good contract example from the great vast Internets. I liked the cut of its jib, so I used it as a guide and wrote one for my business. I also created one for fine art commissions.

I haven't put it into action yet, but here are a few things I included in the contract:
  • Deadlines: How long I have to generate thumbnails, how long the client has to make changes to / approve thumbnails, how long I have to finish the art
  • Purchase Options: Original, prints, print rights (first print, one-time print, ongoing print, royalties)
  • Final Product: Original, prints, high-res file
  • Rights and Usage: Who owns what, my right to display on my website and make my own prints
  • Copyright
  • Alterations: I get dibs
  • Contract Agreement: can be done via e-mail
  • Termination: If one side or the other doesn't deliver on time, if I croak, etc.
  • Payment: I require half as a deposit and half when done but before I deliver the final product (i.e. I send a low-res jpg showing the final, they send money, I deliver)
I tried to cover everything that could bite me in the ass later. I used knowledge of the process that I got mostly by example; friends, art boards, and sample contracts online. I also used the Graphic Artist Guild's Guide, which is a great purchase for any artist.

I'll let you know how it goes. Comments, suggestions, additions? Anyone?

On a side note, I varnished two paintings yesterday; one on cheap board-mounted canvas and one on cheap stretched canvas. The varnish made the board warp and the canvas sag on the stretchers. I wonder if this is solvable, or yet another inevitable side effect of buying cheap supplies. People say, buy cheap stuff if you're just starting out! See what the medium is like! Great advice, but after you use the cheap stuff once, you're intimately connected with the reason why it's cheap, and you want better stuff. The problem is, you have a whole set of pastels that you've used once, and what do you do with it?

Oh yeah, I updated my website on Friday. Go visit!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Excuses and Fan Art

Right, so, this week's beer rating is postponed. The thing is, I ran out of beers for which I wrote down comments, and a girl can only drink so many beers a week. I have 35 beers on my list, 23 of which are rated, but only 13 of which have comments. I started rating before I started taking notes.

The good news is that we bought 3 new beers this week: Bridgeport Black Strap Stout, Left Hand Blackjack Porter, and Cooper's Brewery Best Extra Stout. By the time the Superbowl is over, I'll have 3 new fully-commented ratings for you. And no more excuses.

Speaking of the Superbowl, my team is in it for the first time since I was too small to care. After we moved to Chicago in '86, I became smitten, and all the time between now and then, the Bears have consistently let me down. Now they're going to Superbowl XLI, and although my hopes aren't too high, I'm proud of them for getting this far.

This is my first piece of original Fan Art. I've done things for Star Wars and Samurai Jack, but they've just been copies of stills or promo photos. This I invented on my own. It came to me shortly after it sunk in that the Bears were actually going to win the NFC championship (I was giddy with glee). It took 2 weeks to formulate and execute, and it's my first finished piece of digital art. After many hours the last two weeks, including 15 hours yesterday, it is done. It was hard. My wrist nearly fell off.

To: My favoritest team ever, da Bears
cc: Their loyal fans, at home and displaced
Subject: The Littlest Fan

link to a higher-res image: [link]