virtualDavis

\ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs\ Blogger, storyteller, flâneur. G.G. Davis, Jr's alter ego…
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Mike Lowery: Master Doodler and Illustrator

Mike Lowery, Illustrator and Doodler

Mike Lowery, doodling… and doodled! (Credit: argyleacademy.com)

Mike Lowery (argyleacademy.com) is a master doodler illustrator. I must learn to be careful about calling illustrations doodles and illustrators doodlers. I get it. They’re different. And many artists who illustrate or draw consider the terms doodling or doodler to be pejorative.

I don’t consider doodling or doodler to be pejorative. In fact, I consider doodler a complement of the highest order, for to doodle is to break free. To be playful. To be curious. To explore. To express. Not all illustrators and artists doodle. But those who do doodle inspire the blazes out of me!

Mike Lower, Doodler

I would like to propose – with apologies offered in advance – that Mike Lowery is an especially inspiring master doodler.

And it turns out I’m not the only one who associates Mike Lowery’s capricious illustrations with doodles. For example, Jenipher Lyn (blogger, doodler and all around creative whiz) captured him in this aptly title post, “Mummies, DRY Humor and silly doodles, oh my!” And The oxford American made the doodle connection in an interview a little over a year ago.

THE OA: Did you ever consciously decide to be a cartoonist? Or were you always doodling and drawing all your life, and then one day someone paid you for your art?
ML: I’ve always worked towards the goal of doing illustration or comics or fine art…anything art related for work. There wasn’t any question that I would shoot for anything else. (Oxford American)

And sometimes even Mike Lowery makes the doodle connection:

Who Really is Mike Lowery?

So you’ve humored me long enough, endured my “Mike Lowery is a master doodler!” schpiel and now you’d like the unbiased bottom line. Right. Better pass the baton…

Mike Lowery is an artist living in Atlanta, Georgia… Mike’s work has been seen on everything from greetings cards to children’s books to gallery walls all over the world, and he is a Professor of Illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta. (Mike Lowery)

Mike Lowery is an artist, an illustrator, and a professor. But he’s also a doodler. Period. And a damned good doodler! I dare say, a guru.

Mike Lowery, Illustrator and Doodler

Mike Lowery, doodling (mikelowerystudio.tumblr.com)

It’s difficult to explain the near-cultlike following Lowery has achieved if you’ve never seen him perform — and I do mean perform. Even though he prefaces every presentation as being a simple matter of sharing some drawings from his diary, there is no question that the self-concious, deapan commentary he weaves through his slideshows constitute a high form of performance art. You’re never sure if Lowery’s actually that charming or completely aware of his own brilliance and putting on that aw-shucks demeanor entirely for his act — either way, it’s tough not to be taken in. Somewhere between the Still Life series, a collection of cartoons about an apple and a pear who are in a relationship, but live with a third-wheel banana, and the introspective robot who worries about whether his wife is right and they’re ready to have kids, a devotion to Lowery is born. (DCist)

Ah-ha, Mike Lowery is even a performer… See why I like this guy?

iPhone 5S: Doodling Skeuomorphism

Don’t fret, friends, this isn’t an iPhone 5S perks and burps post. We’ll leave those to the gadget gurus. I’m actually pretty content with my iPhone 4S, but my 2 year contract is up (Or nearly up? Better check that!) and there are a couple of intriguing new iPhone 5S gizmos to tempt:

  • iPhone 5S has a better camera (real value to me)
  • iPhone 5S has a fingerprint sensor (hmmm… dubious/potential value)

But the most exciting iPhone-y newness getting hashed and rehashed in the scuttlebutt-o-sphere isn’t the iPhone 5S at all. It’s iOS 7. And the prospect of both wrapped up tidily together? Hmmm…

This software looks nothing like the old iOS. It’s all white and clean, almost barren… Above all, it completely abandons Apple’s formerly favorite design principle, skeuomorphism, in which on-screen things depict real-world materials… iOS 7 is more efficient to navigate, because nothing on the screen is eye candy; everything is a button, so you spend less time hunting for things.

Furthermore… Siri… responds faster, has a more realistic voice and understands new kinds of commands (NYTimes.com

If only Siri could massage my shoulders. Of course my bride already resents Siri’s intrusions into our otherwise monogamous marriage, so massage could prove dangerous. I retract my wish and unrub the genie. Safe?

Honestly, the real inspiration for this post is the totally un-tech-geeky iPhone 5S doodle above. Genius! And learning about skeuomorphism is the icing on the cake. Perhaps you need a little help with skeuomorphism? I did. Try this super helpful skeuomorphism sketchnote by Eva-Lotta Lamm.

Skeuomorphism Sketchnote by Eva-Lotta Lamm

Skeuomorphism Sketchnote (Credit: Eva-Lotta Lamm, Core77)

Drunk Doodles

Drunk doodles and doodled drinks... An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails, by Orr Shtuhl

Drunk doodles and doodled drinks… An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails

What do you get when you cross top drawer doodles with top shelf booze?

Drunk?

Happy?

Drunk doodles?

Yes. Yes. And yes. Here’s how…

Order a copy of An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails – by Orr Shtuhl (@orrshtuhl) and with habit forming illustrations by Elizabeth Graeber (@elizabeth_draws) – and then get a sneak peak with this fun video trailer.

Fun, right? Here’s what the punditry is offering after probing the illustrated booze cruise.

Cartoonish penguins and other wildlife are shown imbibing in “An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails,” a whimsical little book that offers recipes for 50 cocktails. It also includes lore,the author’s personal stories, advice about equipment and abundant references to historic figures like William Howard Taft, George Washington, the bartenders Jerry Thomas and Fernand Petiot, Rudolph Valentino, James Pimm, Giovanni Bellini and Ernest Hemingway… (NYTimes.com)

Orr Shtuhl and Elizabeth Graeber self-published their first run of An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails and sold the recipe collection via Etsy, but the book caught the eye of Gotham Books and a new edition, packed with stories and illustrations we haven’t seen before… (Village Voice)Orr Shtuhl and Elizabeth Graeber’s An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails is a bar gem. Penguins and historical figures make repeat appearances in this recipe book and stories of alcoholic drinks. You’ll accumulate fun facts, like the origination of the phrase “the real McCoy,” and delicious recipes for traditional cocktails. Shtuhl’s lighthearted tone and Graeber’s drawings give the book a childlike quality not often found in books about drinking. (Serious Eats)

I am an immediate fan of any book that can simultaneously make me laugh and make me thirsty. Illustrated with pictures of seals sunning themselves with mint juleps in hand (in flipper?) and cats making snide remarks about your state of tipsiness, this book is bound to travel from my home bar to my coffee table and back again many times over… I give this book a big ol’ thumbs up. (The Kitchn)

And earlier this month Design Sponge included the Illustrated Guide to Cocktails in their post, “Summer Cocktails + Bar Essentials Poster Freebie: What We’re Loving This Week” with an author interview.

Hey, Orr Shtuhl, what’s your favorite…

Sight? The skyline.

Sound? A pencil on paper. Or, Belle & Sebastian.

Smell? Coffee! Straight out of the grinder.

Taste? I know this is about cocktails, but coffee again.

Feeling? Waking up rested, then doing a bunch of stuff.

What is your favorite summer cocktail? Negroni! It’s light, refreshing, and just bitter enough to be grown up. The recipe’s easy to riff on (equal parts gin/vermouth/Campari). Swap gin for whiskey, and it’s a Boulevardier. Swap for champagne and it’s a Negroni Sbagliato. I love it so much we gave it 6 pages in the book — a real centerfold treatment.

And, hey, Elizabeth Graeber, what’s your favorite…

Sight? Colors and patterns.

Sound? Flipping threw a book or sketchbook.

Smell? Fresh rosemary. Or any herbs.

Taste? Olives.

Feeling? A sunny crisp day.

What is your favorite summer cocktail? A mint julep. (Design Sponge)

I’ve ordered a copy to tune up my mixology and doodle-ology. But until it arrives I’ll start experimenting with my own drunk doodles!

Summer Squash and Doodles

Summer squash blossom doodle, 2012

Summer squash blossom doodle, 2012

Rain stopped. Drought started. Sun soaked scorcher after scorcher. A heavenly week! Playing on Lake Champlain at last. And bracing for the return of rain tomorrow…

And so it goes.

Garden’s in a funny state. Corn, waist high, is already tasseled and covered in silky corn. Pigmies? Most plants stunted, endeavoring to recover from a month and a half of rain. Zucchini squash are still a week or so pre-blossom. Totally unusual for mid-July!

Summer play time with family has been a long anticipated treat, and ongoing preparations for another semi-solo storytelling show (Doodler’s Guide to Essex, NY) is in the final pages of prep. Much news, but it can wait. For now I’ll squash summer-so-far into a couple of timely publishing and doodling reads:

Fascinating! All hats off to friend and Depot Theatre board colleague, Kim Reilly, for putting me onto this doodle news story. If you’re too sun-logy to read the full article, here are the gems.

What do you get when you ask 56 Nobel Laureate scientists to cartoon their greatest discoveries?

Photographer Volker Steger fearlessly tackled the challenge during an annual meeting with Nobel Laureates in the Bavarian town of Lindau. And what resulted was gritty, unpolished and playful — a far cry from the research itself.

When the scientists entered the room, they were greeted with a blank sheet of paper and a pile of crayons, and without warning, asked to illustrate their discoveries. “The resulting pictures show surprised people, who haven’t had time, really, to polish their pictures or burnish their reputations,” Hunt writes. “No aides or colleagues were on hand to help, no slides, no Powerpoint: these people had been ambushed!”

“Perhaps the public would prefer to invest them with a gravitas, a dignity befitting to their status, but in truth, most of these people had fun finding things out, and if this shows, it’s perhaps a good thing,” Hunt said. “It ought to help demystify the austere aura of scientists as priests of an arcane, impenetrable religion.” (PBS NewsHour)

The emphasis is mine. The reason should be obvious. And if not, I hope to see you at the Depot Theatre in Westport, NY on July 23 for further explanation.

My mind is obsesses with the storytelling potential for doodles. Especially quick, un-precious doodles. Doodling is discovery. And it just might be a fascinating way to crowdsource very abstract ideas in a universally accessible way. Or so I’m beginning to believe. Doodle experiment v1.0 is less than a week away. Then hoping to refine and retest in August and September/October at different venues. Drop me a line to share doodle advice, resources or secret sauce.

From Doodle to Vector Image

Griffin doodle as vector image

Griffin doodle as vector image

I’ve become a little obsessed with vector images lately. Not necessarily the colorful, cartoony, commercial-feeling images so prevalent in marketing and entertainment, but smooth, crisp line drawings  rendered in black and white. In fact, I am as enthralled with vector images as I am incapable of explaining with any degree of precision or even accuracy exactly what sector images are, but the clarity and simplicity and minimalism possible when converting from raster images to vector images is the Holy Grail I’ve been pursuing lately.


While my unrepentant doodle habit is no secret, I haven’t yet mentioned my experiments — extremely rudimentary experiments — with transforming my doodles into vector images. Soon soon I will share a collection of architectural doodles I’ve been working on, and perhaps at that point I will be better able to articulate what exactly fuels my newfound fascination with vector images. It has something to do with an aesthetic preference for ultra-simple, almost impressionist style line drawings, as if the absence of unnecessary lines allows the image to strive for a more universal, more archetypal…


But already I’m knee-deep and bogged down in “goofy talk”, so I’ll cut to the chase.

Did you know that you can  convert digital images into clean vector images online, easily for free? I’m not expert enough to critique how good/poor the free, online vectorizers are, but they certainly impress me. Although the following list isn’t inclusive or representative, I’ve used all four of these with good results. You’ll be asked to upload a bitmap image below, and the service will quickly render vector image.

Online Vector Image Converters

  • Vector Magic Vector Magic offers “precision bitmap to vector conversion” allowing you to automatically convert bitmap images (JPEGs, GIFs, PNGs) into scalable vector images (SVG, EPS, PDF). Note: only two free conversions, then you will need to purchase the service or software download.
  • Autotracer.org Autotracer’s online image vectorizer also converts raster images to vector images, but it doesn’t limit your free conversions. “You don’t believe that a free online service will deliver usable results? Give it a try and save time and money.” In addition to uploading a bitmap image, you can enter a URL for an image. Autotracer also offers some control of the conversion/enhancement process.
  • Online SVG Image Converter Online-Convert.com offers many free online converters including this vectorizer which lets you convert bitmatp images to vector images (SVG). Similar to the service above, you can either upload an image or provide a URL to an image, but Online-Convert.com offers greater control of the conversion and digital enhancement of your conversion.
  • Free Online Raster to Vector Converter This stripped down convertor automatically converts PDF, SVG, DXF, AI and EPS images to vector images.

Let me know if there are other similar resources (especially if they are better) that are available online by commenting below. Thanks!

More Vector Software Resources

Special thanks to artist and graphic designer Terre Britton (@TerreBritton) who offered up some useful links.

As for vector software… I’m an Adobe gal so my first recommendation is always from the “Family,” in this case, Illustrator. There are a few pricing plans, including cloud-pricing: http://www.adobe.com/products/illustrator.html with tutorials on lynda.com: http://www.lynda.com/Illustrator-tutorials/Tracing-Artwork-Illustrator/117142-2.html

I’ve never used these tools but have heard good things about both:

  • Both have the ability to apply filters and autotrace parameters.
  • Both are open-source (and therefore free)

Gimp: http://www.gimp.org/. Video tutorials: http://ow.ly/jOwbq

Inkscape: http://inkscape.org/ Video tutorials: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dB6-S6zgb0

And if you’re a book fan, even in this digital age (and I admit that I am,) the following instructional books might be just what you need to learn how to use Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape or Gimp.

The Goose is Getting Fat

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat.

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat.

Not sure what a psychiatrist would make of this admission, but “Christmas is Coming” was my favorite carol as a child. No, scratch that. It was my favorite Christmas carol to sing as a child, though I preferred listening to others. Does this distinction make sense? Think of “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”, for example. Fun to sing given the right context, but I’d gamble that most of us have a long list of songs we’d rather listen to…

Originally a nursery rhyme, “Christmas is Coming” is most enjoyable when sung in the round with your brother and sister while commuting an hour over icy roads to school, patient mother at the helm occasionally joining in for a round.

If you’re inspired, but can’t remember the words, here’s a pre-Christmas gift for you:

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, then God bless you!

If you picked up on a subtle deviation in the first line, the change is mine. I’ve always sung about a single goose rather than a flock. Stick to the original if you’re a purist.

About a week ago a friend told me, “I can always tell when it’s you because you’re a whistler.” I guess I am. Not a good whistler, mind you, but an enthusiastic whistler. Sort of like my dancing! Not fun to watch, but plenty funny! And enthusiasm isn’t the only common denominator, though I’m not sure how to put my finger on the other similarity. Freestyle, perhaps. I’d like to say innovative, creative, improvisational or even uninhibited. But I’ll surely be called to account if I gloss up the merits of my freestyle whistling and dancing. Melodies and rhythms are flexible, mere inspirations for extemporaneous experimentation. Ah-ha, I’ve got it. I’m a jazz whistler!

What? Your BS detector is buzzing? Hmmm… Must need a new battery.

What’s your favorite Christmas carol? Dare to whistle it?

Can Square and iZettle Revolutionize Busking and Micro-Philanthropy?

You’ve heard of Square. Buy on the fly. Accept credit cards through your mobile device. Cool, right? Listening to a Salvation Army bell ringer the other day I imagined a chilly Santa passing his iPhone around to pedestrians to swipe their cards instead of tossing change into the dangling cauldron. Off thought. But not out of the question.

In fact, universalizing (and lowering the bar for) credit card transactions could revolutionize micro-commerce. Remember that “clever web-based platform for social action, fundraising, group action” called The Point? A whole new boom in micro-philanthropy could emerge virtually over night.

While Square has been the darling of the venture capital world lately, its honeymoon may be coming to an end…

Enter iZettle, a smart new way that anybody can transact commerce on the fly.

Take card payments. With your iPhone or iPad!

Now anyone can take card payments. You and your friends. Your business. All you need is an iPhone or iPad and iZettle. (iZettle website)

Jag tar kort

iZettle (image by JonasG106 via Flickr)

Hold your horses, fellow Americans, the Swedes have pole position this time. We’ll have to wait until it deploys in the US. Or move to Sweden!

Why might this nifty gadget and service give Square a run for their money?

iZettle… is Europe’s answer to card payments app Square, only it is a better solution. While Square uses the magnetic strip on your credit or debit card, iZettle securely handles the card’s chip… this could be one of those technologies whose time is about to come. (WSJ)

Having lived in Europe (1999-2003) I’m quite familiar with these smart chips. I’m not a finance tech wonk, but I suspect there’s an added security element when the chip is integrated. Maybe not. Whatever the case, much of western Europe used these cards, so even a non-US, European roll-out of the iZettle could make some waves. And it seems already to be receiving a warm welcome.

iZettle offers huge advantages over other systems that let businesses accept chip-card payments. (Forbes)

iZettle — the New, Better Square — Coming Soon to America? (Huffington Post)

I’m not one to prognosticate in the world of finance, but I can’t resist good storytelling. And this little video is good storytelling. The story arc is compelling, and the mashup of realistic video with cartooning is intriguing. It transforms a boring topic (credit card readers, financial transactions) and into something hip and fun.

Doodling plays on our earliest memories of drawing fantasies into realities. A scribble on a page was actually a friendly dragon just waiting to carry us across the river to a fantasy land filled with chocolate and trampolines. And if they can de-business-ize (It’s my blog; I can make up words if I want to! Consider it blogger’s license.) credit card transactions, make them easy, accessible and romantic, well then they deserve to give Square a run for their money. And hopefully along the way, some good will trickle down to the rest of us. I’ve mentioned micro-philanthropy (imagine a church service in which an iPhone with a card reader is in the collection bowl with the cash and envelopes), but the image that really tickles me is a busker entertaining an audience on a street corner and then tip via credit card using the busker’s mobile phone. That’s the day I slip away to wander the globe as an itinerant storyteller!

Doodles and SuperDoodles

SuperDoodle, by Warren (The Doodle Daily)

SuperDoodle, by Warren (The Doodle Daily)

A while back I stumbled upon (tweetled?) The Doodle Daily, a clever creative crash course in the art of doodling.

Actually, Warren, the blog’s creator wouldn’t call it that. He’s a fair share less pretentious than that. He originally set out to create and share a doodle each day for a year. He succeeded. And he got stuck succeeding, so we all can benefit from his so-far-bottomless fount of doodles.

I’d actually almost forgotten about Warren and his addictive designs until yesterday. He materialized out of the ether. Poof!

Okay, so it wasn’t really a poof. But he did post a comment that sent me somersaulting back to his doodle blog to catch up on his creative enterprise. And much catching ensued including the dazzling image above.

Deft doodle design! I like it a lot, but why? It’s just another dandy doodle, dude.

Or is it?

There are doodles and there are doodles. There are dumb-ditty-doodles and there are whipper-doodles. (Also Labradoodles, but they’re really far off topic, and I’m hoping to limit my present acrobatics to merely-slightly-off-topic…)

So what makes a whipper-doodle special? What defines a super whipper-doodle? Warren sums up his SuperDoodle thus:

Simple, clean
classic

He’s on to something. Of course whipper-doodle rules are far from universal, but it does seem that at least a few essential ingredients can be found. Perhaps simple, clean and classic should be on the list. Classic might be too limiting, though I understand what Warren’s going after here. It’s a familiar design despite being original. Or it seems familiar. It exudes familiar canonical design roots, perhaps…

I’d suggest that there’s more to it though. In this doodle, for example, there’s symmetry or near symmetry. Warren’s SuperDoodle combines two separate, reverse mirror images. The symmetry is instantly appealing, especially so because the design is a bit complex, a bit ornate. And yet Warren’s inky oracle plays with the symmetry, plays with the viewer really, by distorting the scale of the nearly symmetrical half. Perhaps the composite consists of two conceptually symmetrical halves that deviate in execution. Now I’m approaching the sort of gassy verbiage upon which dissertations are built!

Suffice to say that a whipper-doodle is more evolved than a dumb-ditty-doodle. It contains a sort of universal design appeal. I think of the glorious paisley in its infinite iterations, or the minimalist lines of prehistoric hieroglyphs or globally familiar brands such as the Red Cross, the Jewish star, the Nike swoosh. (If tucking these dissimilar entities into a single rucksack and calling them “brands” offends, please excuse. This is not my intention. Simply overlook that last sentence and leap-frog to the next paragraph!)

After the first flush of my aesthetic crush fades, I catch myself asking what compels me, what draws me into Warren’s doodle? It’s clean and elegant, but it’s also playful. The near symmetry flirts with me, cocks her ringleted visage coquettishly and bats her eyes, smiles just enough to draw me in. I study the image, my eyes volleying back and forth, back and forth verifying accuracy, chuckling at the elements shrunk and stretched just enough to intrigue… I am drawn in. And I am smiling. Thank you, Warren.

virtualDavis Caricature #2

virtualDavis Caricature #2

virtualDavis Caricature #2

Remember the last caricature experiment? This next virtualDavis caricature was created by a gifted digital artist who goes by konko on fiverr. He was a friendly fellow and I’m considering having him create some additional images, this time of non-virtualDavis subjects. Vanity be damned! You can check out some examples of konko’s digital artwork in his online portfolio.

Soon I’ll share another fiverr caricature, an image that endows me with a fatter but tougher look. Until then, you might want to invest five of your own hard-earned ducats in a personal caricature to adorn your holiday card. Or your business card? Might be a handy way to let clients know you don’t take yourself too seriously. Of course, if you’re a surgeon or an attorney, you might want to pass on this genius idea. Back to the drawing board…

I’m not sure what I like so much about caricatures, except they seem to offer a self-deprecating way of looking at ourselves. And that’s categorically a good thing!

Have you ever noticed how many realtors include their photograph when advertising the properties they are listing? It’s weird. If I’m looking for a house, use that extra space in your ad to show me the kitchen, the back yard, the bathrooms. We’re in love with our own images. In the age of social media, we eagerly post pictures of ourselves all over the place. I’m no exception. Google keeps track, so there’s no denying it. But — despite frequent advice to the contrary — I tend to post goofy pictures of myself. Snapshots in quirky hats are a favorite. In other words, I try not to take myself too seriously, inviting others to chuckle when they see my photos. If I ever run for president, this may come back to haunt me, but I see it as being a bit like caricatures.

When I was young, there used to be a Mexican restaurant in Plattsburgh, NY called the Tijuana Jail where caricatures covered the ceiling. Diners who frequented the restaurant were eventually memorialized in exaggerated cartoons for the amusement of others. Both of my parents were up there, looking about as silly as they’ve ever looked. I never asked them, but I’d guess they liked being up there on the ceiling for everyone to laugh at. And probably all of the others did too. I hope so.

Brooding & Sultry

Brooding & Sultry

Brooding & Sultry: An apparition summoned from the glossy pages of Wine Spectator early in the morning...

Saturday morning found me soaking up the early December sunrise and flipping through the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2011. Perhaps the only oenological pleasure surpassing sipping (and swallowing) fermented grape juice is reading (and imitating) wine reviews. I’ve scribbled a few myself over the years and toyed with collecting them into a fun collection of poems, vignettes and doodles. I won’t submit you to my bizarre brand of wine esoterica, not yet, but you might enjoy this curmudgeonly if slightly pompous fart who wafted out of the magazine pages briefly before vanishing into thin air to the surprise of my dog, Griffin, who sighed and rolled over to reflect on breakfast past and a sunny walk to come.

Perhaps that audio clipped played for you? Perhaps not. It’s a bit of a memory glutton, so — depending on your internet connection — may be a bit grumpy. If listening requires too much patience, consider abandoning the mission. It’s a trifle. A goofy trifle. An audio sketch. Half baked at best. A better idea altogether? Tuck in next to a roaring fire and open a brooding but sultry bottle of claret to quaff with fresh baked bread, pheasant pate and runny Époisses. Aaahhh…

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