Archive for April, 2010

[art] Some Heraldry I Drew Tonight

Posted in art, heraldry on April 29, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

When I can get off my figurative duff and finally draw something, I do heraldic designs on demand for my SCA friends.

I’m trying to draw more. I don’t think you can call yourself much of an artist, or even a designer, if you don’t draw, and I’ve always had some facility with a pencil and paper. Latterly, I enjoy a great deal drawing in pen, but I’ll always adore the graphite.

About heraldry: maybe it’s because I’ve been in the SCA and near those who play in this singular organization for a long time, but I’m always surprised when I tell someone about it and they haven’t heard of it. I tend to think it’s as common as the Boy Scouts or the National Guard or summat.

The Society for Creative Anachronism is that group of medieval recreation fanatics who aren’t those Ren Faire people you hear about. It sprang from a garden party held in the back yard of the fantasy writer Diana Paxson in about 1962 or so, and it currently has thousands of members across the world (but largely still in North America) and is organized into “Kingdoms”. Oregon falls into a Kingdom called An Tir. Since the SCA had its origins in the world of idealized Europe in the Middle Ages, of course, that means coats of arms, and that is what I mean when I say heraldry.

The practice of heraldry is actually a sort of graphic design. A person has a vision of a design and asks an artistically-talented herald (say, myself) to render it. The challenge of designing these “devices” (which is another technical term) comes from the fact that coats-of-arms designs are created according to fairly strict rules and a limited canon of symbols (a large variety, to be sure, but one with limits). What’s exhilarating about designing within these limits is wresting not only credible heraldic designs from them but also forging a unique style.

This is possible! I have developed a reputation amongst my heraldic colleagues for having developed a recognizable and visually desirable style while remaining within the heraldic graphic tradition. It’s one of my proudest achievements, as well as coming up with credible drawings on very short notice when necessary.

Enough (way too many, actually) words at this point. I did do a couple of drawings tonight and I’m quite happy with them. Here’s one:

Many people like acquiring designs that in some way symbolize them and what they do or see themselves as. the above design – a squirrel in “rampant” posture (that’s the name for the stylization of the limbs wielding a knife and a spoon as thought they were ninja weapons, with acorns strewn across the background. This was requested by a dear sweet lady, a person who’s cooked meals for many many SCAers across this section of An Tir (ask any An Tirian about the legendary “Golde Lemon”) and is incredibly hardworking and, well a bit of a nut – but in a good way.

Naturally, squirrels don’t actually look like that, of course, but there are giveaways that identify the squirrel – the spoon-shaped ears, the triangular head, fluffy, ticked tail. This is the personal style that at once doesn’t violate the heraldic mode and canon but kicks it up to the next level.

Also, it must be said that just because people tend to choose images that express what they seem themselves as, some aspect of their character, there’s not – and there never was any – requirement to create a design with any connotations at all! If there’s a heraldically-correct combination of colors, shapes and/or symbols that one likes just because they like it, then there’s no reason you can’t do that. Your coat-of-arms is simply for indentification’s sake. The only requirement, beyond it being unique (and there’s a book of rules to insure that it is unique) is that it obey several design rules which are drawn from real-world heraldic tradition.

It may seem a bit arrogant to say that what I do here transcends the form a bit, but I have people look me up to do their design just because they’ve seen me do others. And satisfied customers can’t be too far wrong.

The other drawing I did tonight was of a boar’s head. This is a common-enough element in coats-of-arms … they can connote roughness, toughness, fierceness, or just someone who likes boar’s heads:

I was a little intimidated by the thought of drawing the boar’s head until I identified some things from some other pictorial resources that were easy to use as touchpoints – the snout, the tusks, the ears. Of course, it doesn’t look very much like an actual boar, and my style is a stylization on top of a stylization, but it does seem rather piggy. And rather fierce as well.

And when I showed them to the people who will be using them there was much admiration.

Next best thing to being paid for this stuff.

Apparently I’m kind of awesome at doing this stuff.

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[pdx] Don’t Know Why, There’s No Sun Up In The Sky …

Posted in PDX Phenomena, PDX photos, Samuel John Klein on April 22, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2400.… stormy weather …

Taking pix in PDX is a good thing to do, even if there’s clouds most of the time. This, of course, is my favorite angle on Downtown, taken from the east end of the might, mighty Ross Island Bridge. This is particularly interesting territory because, if you turn your head a little to the right from this vista, you get a look at what I’m thinking is some sort of aggregate plant or summat:

Off on the horizon is the towers of the Lloyd District, and it’s sequestered from the nearby industrial neighborhood by the construction on the McLoughlin Blvd Viaduct – which looks to be proceeding quite swimmingly.

Speaking of swimming, here’s a pool at the foot of this property that I wouldn’t want to jump in:

There’s something as strangely pretty about that color as I’m sure it’s not-too-healthy for you (not to cast aspersions, I certainly don’t know what’s there, but I wouldn’t want to have to find it in my water glass, let’s just say).

If you turn south, you get a glimpse of something that’s not just 180 degrees in direction, but attitude:

That’s the northwest corner of the Brooklyn nabe, a bit of PDX that goes from the river back to about SE 21st Avenue and Powell Blvd south to SE Holgate Boulevard. Nice little nabe, centrally-located, pretty houses. Lived there once in a four-plex on SE 8th, which was lucky for us because once a clutch gave out on a car we owned as it was cresting the Ross Island Bridge, and The Wife™ was able to coast it most of the way home.

Good times.

Some of those houses on the brow of the knoll there inspire visions of how one would live there if they had one. It would be awesome if someone turned one of those houses into a version of the one the Addams Family lived in.

If me and The Wife™ ever won the lottery – well, watch out Brooklyn. Watch out.

Not too much after that we found ourselves in Hollywood at the Grocery Outlet store. I found the clouds there luminious and photo-worthy, and really needing of no other comment save that Spring in Oregon is grand … unsettled skies, and pretty much no thunder storms. The perfect mix.

Dramatic backlit clouds.

When I was a kid studying weather (but for the vicissitudes of life I’d of been a TV Weatherman) I was told that cumulus clouds were friendly, happy things – but that cloud’s clearly got a ‘tude on. I bet it’s got a switchblade.

Backlit clouds taken through an old, straggly tree that doesn’t have its Spring foliage yet create a moody picture that’s luminous with a tiny hint of macabre drama, and seems particularly record-album-cover- or book-cover-worthy. I therefore encourage any one laying out an album cover or book jacket to contact me to purchase rightsemphatically if you’re a particularly large, wealthy, or popular musical act or publisher. Let’s deal.

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[design] How Is The Author Of XKCD Like John Stump?

Posted in art, satire, teh_funnay, visual humor on April 21, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2398.Well, there is one way: the Author of XKCD needs no introduction, while you’ll probably be scratching your head over the name “John Stump”.

And that’s not really a commonality, is it? No.

But they do have something important in common – a firm grasp of communicating comedy through a limited canon of symbols.

Today, XKCD posted the funniest electronic schematic I’ve ever seen. Here it is:

Clicky on the image to go to the entry and see it embiggened. I’ve had some basic electronics, so this is a howl. A 5-ohm decoy resistor? Sure! A switch marked “Hire Someone To Open And Close Switch Real Fast”? Oh, yeah-job creation! I’m not sure what the bullfighting arena is supposed to do, but I notice there’s a “120 Ohm (or to taste)” resistor – as well as a gap labelled “touch tongue here”, just daring you. 666 timer chip? Yeah, always suspected computers were the work of the Devil.

John Stump knew, in the same way, how to exploit the conventions of notation to deliver in-jokes. For years, famous around music departments on campuses, was a sheet of music entitled Faerie’s Aire and Death Waltz, just waiting for the unsuspecting eye to get drawn in.

The score contains amazing notations, lines arcing to and fro, and bizarre stage and orchestral directions, including Lakers in 6, add bicycle, release the penguins, and ending on the emphatic direction Gradually slide from 12-bar blues to a more Vivaldi-like cadenza. Intonation!

It’s a generous piece, allowing some violins to knock off early if the 3rd Clarinet shows up.

The above calls for a light and airy delivery, but this multiple-note collision is so intense that only a little farther along, one must apply ice to the cornet.

Naturally, the piece isn’t meant to be played, but just meant to play with the readers mind. But John Stump knew the mode so well, he could make it sing with absolute ridiculousness by working within the canon of musical notation and typesetting styles, and delivered the joke so well that even musical tyros could enjoy it.

What exactly makes it funny is hard to put one’s finger on – this was John Stump’s unique talent. Faerie’s Aire (noted early on that it was “arranged by accident” and was derived from an ancient Cro-magnon skinning chant) and XKCD’s circuit digarams are amazing satires crafted by artist who understood exactly what it was they were lampooning – and that what makes them ring so true.

John Stump died in 2006, perhaps not knowing how far the joke had travelled. Very well-done versions of his most famous works – Faerie’s Aire, String Quartet No. 556(b) For Strings in A Minor (Motoring Accident) and Love Theme From Prelude and the Last Hope in C and C# Minor (from the opera March De L’oie (March of the Ducks)) are documented and can be seen at the blog Lost in the Cloud and the family still offers high-quality prints of these sheets via the links listed hither:

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[liff] Me and The Tom Peterson Watch

Posted in liff in PDX, PDX Phenomena on April 20, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2397.Back in January, when I finally got, through the grace of a good lady in Happy Valley, a Tom Peterson wristwatch, I figured I’d have fun with it, of course, but I figured I’d wear it about 50% of the time, give or take. I have a perfectly good watch that keeps alarms and all that, nice little Timex.

Takes a licking and keeps on ticking, as they say.

It wasn’t that I think Tom should stay on the shelf, no, he deserves to be taken out and used. But the more you use a thing, the more the chance is that something will cause damage to it – you know, catch a doorjamb or flying stone or something.

But the truth is, that since I’ve gotten it, I can’t picture going out without it. It is just that cool. So, instead of a kitschy little bit of fun, I’ve come to depend on it.

So far it’s only been a few months with the watch – but I feel undressed if I go out without it.

You rock, Tom.

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[liff] Roberta Phillip is Out Of The Race

Posted in creativity, design, logo design on April 17, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2396.The competition for the Multnomah County District 2 seat is pretty tough; Roberta Phillip, as of yesterday afternoon, has included herself out.

I mention this because I designed part of the look of her campaign – the campaign logo and, at the time of her withdrawal from the race, was entering into a revision cycle (set something on high speed) for her tri-fold campaign brochure.

Looking at the content I must say I think we’re missing out. She has a group of firm, good, people-first values and her history suggests she would have done her level best to carry them out into her leadership style. It’s to be hoped that she decides, at some later time not too far down the road, to try again.

Thanks to T.A. Barnhart, local liberal lion for giving me the opportunity to design the look of the campaign. I was proud of the logo that I produced, and it looked rather good on the top of her website.

It would have been nifty to see this on a lawn sign, yes? And, I never did get a chance to meet the lady, that would have been cool too.

For what it’s worth, I’m available for similar work. I greatly enjoyed this, and would love the chance to do it again for some other political candidate.

The complete tale of the work I did here can be found at my Behance portfolio:

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[web design] Wear My PDX Skyline As A Firefox Persona

Posted in art, digital design, web design on April 14, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2395.Here’s a goodie for Firefox users I couldn’t help but share – I’ve crafted my first Firefox “Persona”. Now, you can wrap your browser in one fantastic downtown Portland skyline (clicky to embiggen):

And you can get it here:


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[design] More Connectivity On My Website

Posted in business of design, digital design, Samuel John Klein, web design, ZehnKatzen on April 13, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2394.More contact choices for the ZehnKatzen Graphic Arts website:

Now my Twitter and Facebook connections are upfront, and “Contact” has morphed into E-Mail – because “Contact” is kind of vague. Maybe someone’s looking for E-Mail.

The implementation, in this Web 2.0 world, is very simple – a high-quality JPG and an image map. That’s it. My website expresses an ideal, that it’s fine to come up with things that are obviously technically brilliant, but sometimes, Good Enough is just as genius. I like getting a lot of mileage out of technical princples that still are ironclad. JPGs and image maps make for econonmical yet vivid website design.

You can go all-out with Flash design if you want (and so can I), but this is very easy to update, keep current, and maintain. It can go anywhere, even on servers without a lot of space.

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