Searching with my good eye closed…For Inspiration in Design.

Some days this ingenious song lyric (Chris Cornell via Soundgarden) is how I feel about finding inspiration for new projects. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my day job, and one of my hobby’s is graphic design.

Now that’s a pretty big umbrella statement, as (GD) has a multitude of facets, and I am hardly a guru in all of them. Like they say, a jack of all trades is a master of none, so I’ve had to pull back on my desire to learn something useful about every single facet of graphic design and focus instead on a core group of skills that are near and dear to me. But at its heart, (GD) is still about producing artwork, perhaps not “Art” but commercial art nonetheless. No matter how hard I try I don’t ever feel like an artiste. Even though I make 100% of my living off of producing quality images, logos, compositions, type set pages etc etc… To me I don’t feel like an artist. I may well be more artistic than the average bear, but I don’t dress all in black, nor do I walk about covered in paint/ink/chalk, nor do I wear a beret or act particularly bohemian. (I know that is a fairly stereotypical account of what an artiste is, but it’s a hard image to break inside my own head). I’m also a pretty shallow person (in mind set) I’m not all that concerned with symbolism, reading between the lines, undertones or subtext. I’m… for lack of a better turn of phrase; blunt. Like a grey cinderblock. Perhaps because I have eschewed the preposterousness of pretension I feel like I’m not an artist. I also have very little creative control over the substance of what I produce, except for where the item(s) are for myself. Artistic integrity is a luxury I can’t afford at this stage. Not to say that some things don’t rankle my bones, and make me spitting mad, but my job is to produce what others have asked for, in the format they have asked for it. Perhaps those high level agency types know what it is like to be able to walk away from a project over “creative differences” or “artistic integrity”. I don’t quite have the weight to throw around like that just yet.

Back to my main point, which is, searching for and finding inspiration. A real creative spark. I personally have no formula to follow, no checklist to run down in order to find that spark of life which will turn an average idea into something that really gets people talking, or creates a very visceral response. I am not even all that superstitious, so I don’t have the luck to believe that wearing the same socks, or hat or sitting in the same chair will bring that feeling back. So some times that fabulous little spark finds me, and some times I do what I can without it.

So then, what does searching with your good eye closed mean? I don’t actually try to look at stuff with my eyes closed, that’s preposterous… well unless it was a tactile object meant to be experienced, touched, interacted with, rather than just observed… but you hardly close your eyes and touch a poster (scratch & sniff excepted here). It is a whole lot like reading a page while not paying attention to it. Your brain is reading the items, but the words flow in one eye and out the other (I almost said in one eye and out your mother, but that’s another Soundgarden inside joke). You sort of know you read the words but you didn’t take in all in, you just weren’t all that present while you read it. You were on a sort of distracted auto-pilot. Then you have to go back and actually re-read it again (This idea isn’t new, by any means. Any sociology text book or phycology text will have a far better explanation of this than I will ever put down in words.) But what I mean is, there are a whole lot of times when I am searching for inspiration under time constraints, and rather than soak up the nuances of the research materials I’ve gathered for a project, I’m glossing over them and missing that … that, I don’t know, just that “THING” that jumps out at you, akin to a mental domino in your brain that falls against something else and begins to snowball and before you know it your synapses are firing like mad and a picture is forming in your head, and you just start pouring work out onto the page. That excited rush of ideas crashing over you in waves, some of them so fast and furious you don’t even have the time to get them out onto the page before they have slipped out of reach again, but you have flashes of them still, which you cling to and work off of. If I’m lucky a few of those little snippets are enough to bring the idea back into my conscience thought  as a whole idea and I can take it even further. Other times I’m left with parts of a good idea, but have to really work to unify them, or pull them apart and use them piece-meal elsewhere.

In order to be (oh god, I am going to say this, Ugh) “open” to finding inspiration, I need to really take the time to look, and see what is in front of me. Not just view it absently, but really take the precious time to not watch the clock, not be consumed by the deadline, and just look, think and brainstorm. Sounds really hokey, and wishy-washy I’m sure.  But it happens to me, I get so tied up in the technical details that I don’t take the much needed time to really look and see. I have to just keep reminding myself to come back to it with fresh eyes, and positive outlook.

But, you say, even when I have the time and am really aware of myself and my subject matter, there is no guarantee that I will find the inspiration I seek. Yes, sadly that is true. I have no real insight into helping anyone else with this same issue. But perhaps you are taking a breather right now while reading this. That might be all the help you need.

I always feel just a little bit better after putting things down on paper.



My baby is coming home.

So about a month ago I was playing my guitar in an empty warehouse at work when I had a real shitty accident. My guitar slid off of my makeshift stage and sheared the headstock almost clean off. I was not amused. I took it rather well considering the damage that was done. I guess after a solid 90 minutes of rocking out at ten thousand decibels (I jest it was probably closer to 110) I was all played out and didn’t fly into a rage or throw a tantrum. I had a few choice words to say but can you blame me!?!

Anyway I just got the call that my Moosehead Custom Painted Gibson Studio Guitar was ready to come back home. I am thrilled to bits. My guess is that the 100+ degree warehouse and the 100% humidity worked its evil magic on my guitar and snapped its neck pretty cleanly after it took its tumble.

Warning bad language used (but not much).

Any way I will be glad to have it back. For anyone else that wants to see how it looks here is a photo. It is broken in the image.


That is all for now. So go rock out and enjoy music if you are able.

Brief update: The repaired guitar is back in my hands at home, and plays like a charm once more. A big shout out & thank you to the repair guys at Long & Mcquade.

Collections: What’s the lure?

I have a confession to make, and it isn’t one that I make lightly. But here goes:

I have a knack for collecting things, or perhaps it’s just a weakness of mine. I have collected all sorts of items over my lifetime (well, at least since I’ve had a job anyway, which means I started at about age 12). I have collections of; books, music books, comic books, toys, movies, music, video games and a small number of musical instruments). I’m pretty lucky as my wife shares at least some of my interests at heart, mainly books, movies and some video games (yeah she’s pretty awesome that way).

What I’m getting at is that I can never seem to want just one of anything (well my wife excluded, I’m not from Utah, a Mormon, nor do I have an interest in being polyamorous). So I have a huge array of Spawn Toys, and some polystone statues, the newest of which showed up at the house this week from a great place called Side Show Collectibles [this is what really got me to thinking about just how much of my life has been spent collecting]. So here we are at the heart of the matter, as I said previously I can’t seem to ever own just one of anything, and now I have the “bugg” again. I spelled that with two g’s because it isn’t a disease for me (I can stop at will & I do for long periods of time), nor is it a stomach virus I am speaking about. I wish I could say that I am in-thrall of pop culture items, or that I have a need to archive and curate such oddities, but the truth is, I get this weird internal desire to just “have” stuff. Mind you this stuff looks awesome, and has incredible detailing, paint jobs, clothes, weapons etc etc… but I digress.

So this is how the story plays out for me, perhaps it is the same for you. You stumble across something in a store/catalogue/on-line/at a friends house or at a convention (whatever!!) and you have some room in your budget to pick up an item that really gets you excited. Then you see what other companies have to offer, and pretty soon, you’re weighing one item against another, planning for more purchases, rationalizing with yourself over possible purchases, and then either you go a little crazy and later suffer some buyers remorse, or you snap a lid on that “bugg” real friggin’ quick and move on. I’m getting better at snapping a lid on it and moving on, after all I’m not made of money, and I have a crazy ass dog; who likes to sink his teeth into things that we love, hell even the way he chews his own hind legs gets pretty ghastly if he has an itch he just can’t quite scratch.

The thing I wished I’d had available when I was younger was Youtube, yup it has come in handy when squelching your need to own everything in sight. I’m pretty fond of “Hot Chix Cool Toys” 1/6 scale toy reviews, as a means to seeing neat items up close and personal, hearing all about it, but not having to pay $200-300 bucks for that un-boxing rush of new item coolness.

The items I do have are pretty cool, and I have every intention of displaying them in my home when the time is right. As it stands now I wouldn’t bother displaying every single piece, some of the items have lost limbs and accessories or been damaged over the years. Every so often I find an item that catches my eye and I just start to assemble large volumes of it, I have a small collection of War Hammer 40K items, which I spent many hours painting, but have never played a single game with (I probably don’t even have an army to skirmish with, as I bought the cool alien species, Orks, Tyranids, Cadian forces blah blah blah…) I’d be more interested in building a detailed diorama and setting them up on it, rather than rolling dice and going to WAAAAAAGH with them anyway.

Not to mention that I also have a large collection of paintings which I have done, and now that I spend so much more time working on a computer in my particular field of expertise, namely graphic design, I have a substantial collection of personal Photoshop Composites building up on my hard drive[s] (yes plural). On the downside I don’t paint with acrylic’s at all any more. I have a few canvas’ left, but I have just become so enamored with HDR style Photoshop compositing. To be honest, I can’t even really remember the last time I stayed up all night, or even into the evening to draw some comic book pages, or pin-up art. No, scratch that, I was taking life drawing classes again at the end of last year and it was taking a real long time for me to remember any tips & tricks I had learned as an avid comic book artist from my teenage years. (Crohn’s Disease did a real good job of keeping me in my room/house for days & weeks on end as a pre-teen, so drawing was a great way to escape & explore beyond my bedroom walls). But that was life drawing of human nude models and not anything comic book related.

Some of you might think I have collectors ADHD, and that is probably true. I can get bored with stuff fairly quickly. Although now I am getting more comfortable saying that collecting is my hobby and not a habit.

But, whatever, I like to collect stuff.

Vampires. Not the sparkling kind.

So I usually don’t do as much sweet stuff for my wife as I probably should. Although in my defence I can’t draw or paint flowers particularly well. So since I have had such a quiet few days at home this week I thought I would attempt a modern and violent looking vampire piece with images that I had readily available. I prefer my vampire the oldschool Way with blood and gore and castles and gloomy villages. But, alas, I don’t have any of those types of images on hand, so without further ado I give you my interpretation of modern blood sucking vampires in expensive clothing in an abandoned warehouse. ( A tad specific you say?, well… so).


Pour vous.

Taking in the game.

Lucky for me we got here early enough to watch batting practice. Working in downtown Toronto has a multitude of benefits.
Here’s hoping it turns out to be a great game.


We are sitting in the grand slam combo area with all you can eat goodies. I polished off several hot dogs, nacho platters and a handful of cokes.  It is shaping up to be a great Friday the 13th.

But good lord is it hot in here today!

Spec Ops: The Line game review

So over the weekend, I had just come inside after finishing mowing my lawn when a tv spot for Spec Ops The Line® came on, and I thought “Ok, this looks pretty good, the Unreal engine strikes again”, so off I ran to Walmart® and got myself a copy of the premium “Fubar” edition.

The first ten minutes are pretty unremarkable, but then again I only ever play FPS games on casual (I just don’t have as much time to devote to gaming as I once did, nor do I have the inclination to go back to 20+ hours a week of it at this point). However, the game LOOKS superb, the atmospherics and lighting, weather and sand/dust particle are about as good as you can get from this generation of the Unreal engine. Yes I have seen the new Unreal Engine 4 demo, and that looks killer! I am excited. Anyway, off track a bit, so I digress.

The music selection of classic rock from the 60’s is a real treat, although I don’t ever buy games for their sound tracks, that’s just weird. I wish there was more of it playing through out though, as the constant stream of Fuck’s!! get’s a little tiring after 1-2 hours of game play.

The trick of using the environment to help turn the tide of battle is cool, except there isn’t a whole lot of it, and you can sort of see it from a mile away. In some cases it just feels like a cheap way to end a set piece. That may just be me, as I am not ashamed to say that I get my ass handed to me more often than not.

I was pleasantly surprised with the slow-mo action after a stellar headshot or take down, I just haven’t been able to finesse a way to keep it going for any length of time.

I hate the fact that the same button is supposed to make you complete a melee attack and vault obstacles, or tuck in to cover. I get shot a whole lot when I smack a guard rail or cement block rather than jumping over it or getting cover behind it. That sucks and it gets real irritating, it feels an awful lot like Gears of War one in that aspect. (Truth be told I am really excited for GoW Judgement). I’m not all together that impressed with the gun-fire mechanics. I love to use a sniper rifle in fps games, but even in a crouch this feels like a chore when you’re in the height of battle. Maybe I need to calibrate the settings better so I don’t get so much movement after each shot. As I said before, I’m no pro at fps games, and that just seems like an irritant to me.

Overall I do like this game, but it seems like they could have done so much more with it. I get the sense that game developers spend more time thinking about DLC and on-line modes now more so than the single player campaign (which is why I buy the games in the first place). I could go and play GOW or Halo on-line if I was looking for a very rich multiplayer experience.

What spec ops the line needs is a wider more open world, not massive, but to give you 2 – 3 options to get from point a – point b. More environmental breakable items to be used during the battle. Also the ability to sneak up on people and kill them quietly a la splinter cell. I like the silencer attachment but it doesn’t do much beside add 4 sec of animation, and then the whole group of insurgents get wise to your approach with or without it anyway.

I’d give it an 9 for looks, but a 7 for game play, and a 10 for the music selection. If you disagree with me, leave a comment (about the game, not my lack of fps skills as I already know I have none).

The photo’s are all screen captures, and not my property. I should note that I am playing the X-box 360 version.

The Big Show

Here I am in Guelph enjoying the musical stylings of the Good for Naughts at Van Gogh’s Ear.  Led by lead singer Jamie Murray, playing guitar. The fourth member and second guitarist is absent from tonight’s show due to a conflicting CD release party.

The venue, Van Gogh’s Ear is a newly renovated pub in downtown Guelph. New bar, new booths and a brand new outdoor street level patio. The interior is best described as shabby chic, with a real sense of being eclectic. The lighting is dim, and the crowd is around 27 years old on average. There is a decent turn out for the event, busy but not crammed in like sardines. There is room to move about the place, and almost every spot has a good view of the stage.
Now I’m not a music fanatic, and have the musically  descriptive skills of a deaf mute, but to me the music is soothing with a catchy swing to it. It takes its time, and comes out strong when it needs to, and can be reserved & understated at moments.

If you are in the mood for Canadian Indie rock with some tooth to it then I think you should make some night moves and get down here. (I appologize for the poor sound quality, I didn’t check the video before I posted it, call it the problem of immediacy, as I’m posting as it is happening).
Up next is Hey brother and Among Millions.



Enjoy a cold Moosehead Lager while you are at it.



MH Snowboards available through Amazon

Here’s something neat that I didn’t expect to see. Some of the Western Market snowboards I designed with Don Burns are up for sale on I guess that’s a good sign if people are willing to pay $200 – $300 bucks for some of my handiwork. Some elements from the design came from Russell Branding & John.St as well.

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PS. I’m also getting ready for the GFN’s show in Guelph Ontario tonight. It’s going to be a blast so come out if you can. Bands go on at 9:30pm inside Van Gogh’s Ear, on Wyndham St (South End).