Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Drought broken

For the last six months, or more, tracks and paddocks in this region have been turning into streams and lakes. Whilst apparently not record-breaking, it's the most persistent rain we've seen since moving to the area 13 years ago.

But, more importantly, I managed to get out into the studio on Sunday and knock out a painting: my first oil painting in over two years. Yes, the drought has broken.

Studio oil painting of Devils Slide Porongurups, by Andy Dolphin 
Devil's View
25x35cm oil on canvas board.  
© Andy Dolphin

Inspired by recent traverses into the nearby mountain ranges with my son, this scene begged to be painted the first time I saw it.

The large granite peak sits near the top of the walk to the Devil's Slide in the Porongurup Range. The northern view shows the Stirling Range on the horizon.

To give some indication of the size of the central boulder, the large dark green mass below it is a forest of karri, one of the world's tallest tree species.

In short, it's a big lump of rock.

This is a small 10" x 14" painting on commercial canvas board, a surface I haven't painted on for years. I'm going to let it sit around for a while then possibly do a larger version of the same painting.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Frustrated bills

Another comical and somewhat surreal week in the finely-balanced Australian parliament as the government rolls itself on superannuation policy.

turnbull superannuation changes

Saturday, September 10, 2016

3D images from Google Maps

Bluff Knoll 2016 photo by Andy Dolphin

My son and I went up Bluff Knoll last weekend. It was my first trip to the top in about 30 years.

Today, I was  messing around with satellite images of the region on Google Maps and got to thinking that it might be possible to make static 3D images from it.

It is.

So here you go... 3D Bluff Knoll, in the Stirling Range National Park.

Bluff Knoll Stirling Range cross-eyed parallax 3d image
Click the image to view larger.

I've assembled these images to use the cross-eyed method of viewing as I find this works better for larger images. If I could find my old anaglyph (red-blue) glasses, I'd make an anaglyph version too.

To enjoy the 3D effect, stare at both images then slowly go cross-eyed. Relax your eyes and, whilst keeping them crossed, adjust your focus.

I found it easiest to focus by concentrating on the small white area on the path just below and slightly to the right of centre of each image. Try to get the double image to come together so you only see one copy of this spot then allow your eyes to focus. The 3D effect occurs as soon as you focus.

Some people find this easy to do and others, apparently, can never get it to work. Good luck.

If it works for you, then here's a bonus one of Perth CBD.

I've added a small yellow "X" at the bottom of the images to assist with the initial focus.

perth city cross-eyed parallax 3d image

Saturday, August 27, 2016

#nbnFail - fast internet even slower?

My apologies for all the political cartoons lately. If you're not into politics, then please bear with me while I get this out of my system.

It has been announced this week that our already-slow NBN is to be scaled back even further. This is apparently because, at a time when the rest of the world - even New Zealand!!! - is moving toward download speeds of 100Mbps (megabits per second) and higher, Australia, we are told, doesn't even need 25Mbps.

For people who require the internet to do business, this might prove a little bit frustrating. For people who thought this was going to be the "Innovation Nation", I can only assume this must be a little bit confusing.

#nbnbfail Australians to get slower nbn after cost blowouts

Friday, August 12, 2016

#CensusFail - the ABS explains

As the Census fiasco rolls on...


And with somewhere less than half the expected Census forms submitted a week after Census "Night", the saga seems set to continue for quite a while yet...

Hopefully I won't have to make too many more of these things (though there are more in my head).

...and another one...

a confluence of events CensusFail NBNFail cartoon

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

#CensusFail 2016 - hashtag cloud

With the Australian Census now pretty much declared an international embarrassment, a farce, a fiasco and an exercise in unwarranted bravado, the larrikin in me couldn't help itself.

On Tuesday morning the ABS chief blamed the system failure on "an attack". On Tuesday afternoon we were advised by the minister responsible that it "wasn't an attack". On Thursday morning Malcolm Turnbull PM was again describing it as "an attack" and saying it was inevitable.

The graphic-artist-cum-cartoonist-cum-stirrer in me just had to make a hashtag cloud to sum up my view of the situation.

ABS 2016 Census #censusfail hashtag cloud

Maybe they'll have it up and running before the next Census is due in five years.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Bluff Knoll Blizzard

Recently I've been learning a little about how to predict snow falls, especially in southern WA.

Snow is almost unheard of in this state but at 1095m above sea level, Bluff Knoll does enjoy a some light falls a few times a year.

I had been watching the weather charts all week and it was looking good for today and tomorrow. When I checked today's forecast this morning, it had possible snow drifts predicted for the Stirling Range this afternoon and evening.

My wife and I headed out to Bluff Knoll around 3pm. The sun was shining, the wind was light and there were clouds drifting across the top of Bluff Knoll. There was a definite chill in the air, but it was beautiful and serene.

I set my DSLR camera up on a tripod right next to my car so I could sit in relative warmth. I attached a timer cable and when I was done taking a few test shots, I looked up and there no more sunlight anywhere.

I set the timer to take one picture every five seconds and left it to shoot until the memory card was full.

Janet had "gone for a walk" and sent me a text message warning of some approaching dark clouds. The storm was soon with me and it hit with a vengeance. I was busy trying to tie the tripod down so it wouldn't blow over, as sleet whipped past me, piling up on the back window of the car, and soaking through my jacket and jeans.

Janet was "somewhere" on the walk trail, sheltering beside trees and basically getting soaked. She had a great time watching flurries of snow.

While I could only describe the weather I witnessed in the car park as "sleet" rather than "snow", there were people on top of the mountain and they most definitely enjoyed the real thing, even if it did arrive horizontally and and great speed. We met the brave souls before we packed up and they showed us photos of the snow on the ground. There was enough to make some snow balls.

The worst of the blizzard lasted around 15 minutes and quickly cleared. Soon after, the setting sun cast a warm glow over everything before ducking behind a cloud. Day soon turned to night, the camera's memory card was full and we packed up, dried ourselves off, chucked the heater on in the car and headed home.

Over 1 hour, 40 minutes the camera took just over 1500 photos. I used the images to create a one minute time-lapse video.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Election 2016: Front page caricatures

I forgot to mention this.

As Production Manager at the Great Southern Weekender, I was asked to illustrate the front page of the newspaper for the 2016 federal election.

Unlike my previous election illustrations, which were produced after election day, this one was to be printed two days before Australia voted.

The challenge was how to illustrate some sort of narrative in what was widely considered a safe Liberal seat.

One issue which had surfaced during the election campaign was a preference deal struck between supposed political opponents, Labor and Liberal, arguably to the detriment of the Liberals' coalition partner, the Nationals.

My initial thought was to have the Liberal candidate Rick Wilson with his arm around his coalition colleague, Nationals' John Hassell. I would have Rick holding "Labor Preference Deal" paperwork.

The problem with this approach is that it ignored the other "major" players, specifically Labor and Greens.

So, after a bit of a rethink, I decided to illustrate the Labor and Liberal candidates as election mates with Nationals and Greens lower in the picture, just making up the numbers (and that's pretty much how the primary vote went two days later).

2016 Federal Election, O'Connor
Digital caricature ~3800x5000px
© 2016, Andy Dolphin

The candidates shown are: John Ford (Labor), Rick Wilson (Liberal), John Hassell (Nationals) with Giz Watson (Greens) almost photobombing the group.

As with my 2010 election and 2013 election front pages, all work was produced in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Bob Katter - Digital Caricature

Bob Katter
Original 1200x1400px
Digital Caricature
© Andy Dolphin

As Australia waits to find out the identity of it's next Prime Minister - the 15th in about six years, I think - one man stands out from the crowd.

Bob "Mad Hatter" Katter.

Famed for owning an Akubra for almost any occasion, Bob ventured out today and threw one of those many hats into the ring to help bring an end to the federal election count, some time before Christmas.

While some in the mainstream media have entertained the idea that Bob could become something of a kingmaker in a hung parliament, I think that after today's chat with the press he's looking more like he wants to be King.

With that in mind, I had to try a caricature of a man who is already a life-size caricature of himself.

I recently polished the drawing surface of my Wacom Intuos Pro (because I found it to be unusable with the nib-eating sandpaper surface Wacom gave it) and it is now a beautiful thing to behold... so I used that to draw the caricature on a 27" iMac and captured the action with Quicktime while I was at it.

You can watch the time-lapse caricature drawing on my Youtube channel.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Walking with Drones

Stirling Range, Western Australia.
Photo by Andy Dolphin.

I haven't painted for a while but have been kept busy with other things.

One of those things involves my son who purchased a drone last December. Since then he's been hunting for places to fly it and capture some of our amazing scenery in video and photos.

If you want to see our Great Southern region like you've never seen it before, you really should check out his Drone Video Youtube channel.

The reason I've been busy is because I've accompanied him on several of his trips from Denmark to Albany. For the last three weekends we've also completed a few of the walks in the Porongurup and Stirling ranges.

The first was Devils Slide, which at 650m above sea level is the highest peak in the Porongurup Range.

We took the track which starts near Waddy's Hut on the south side of the range. This is the shorter of two approaches, but it's also steeper. The first section of the walk follows the Wansborough Pass which is a track wide enough to drive a vehicle through. Although it is closed to public traffic, I assume it is still used for maintenance access by the ranger and for fire control when needed.

This track tested our resolve from the very start and reminded me how long it's been since I put my legs under any real pressure. I'm not the fittest person I know.

The end result, however, was worth the effort.

Devils Slide, Porongurup Range, WA. By Andy Dolphin.
Devils Slide, Porongurup Range.
Photo by Andy Dolphin.

The photo above shows the view from near the top of the Devils Slide walk. It is much more impressive than I'd previously thought. I'll be going back as often as time allows, as it only 15-20 minutes from home and I'd like to see it at different times of the day, in all seasons.

Yesterday we visited the Stirling Range and tackled the Talyuberlup walk trail. This is a fairly steep walk and had a few dodgy spots where the track has eroded over the years leaving large steps that pose a small challenge when you have short legs. Plus, there had been rain earlier in the dayso there was a bit of slippery mud to add a little interest. But we made it to the top, some 783m above sea level, and took in one the most spectacular views I have ever seen.

It's funny, no matter how much grumbling my legs, back, lungs and heart do on the way up, it all goes away the moment the interesting bit is reached. Suddenly the next climb, even when it's a near-vertical scramble up a rock-filled crevice, looks trivial compared to the far-less-interesting and energy-sucking track that leads up the side of the mountain.

The Talyuberlup walk starts to get interesting about two-thirds of the way up, as the bush gives way to craggy rock formations.  The last section of the walk takes you around the cliffs that form the peak until finally turning up through a tunnel which requires arms and legs to conquer. The view from the north-facing exit to the tunnel can be seen below. This photo was shot with my DSLR, not with my son's drone.

Mt Mago from Mt Talyuberlup Peak, Stirling Range, WA. By Andy Dolphin.
Magog from Talyuberlup, Stirling Range.
Photo by Andy Dolphin.

Talyuberlup is sublime. I'm advised there are better views in the range, but I think this must be one the best views accessible to the average person not particularly skilled in bush walking and climbing.

I'm not sure where we're going next, but I think that view will take some beating.

When I'm fit enough to do it, I hope to take some paint and brushes up with me, and hopefully capture some of that magic in oils.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Procreate - iPad Plein Air: Anzac Memorial

Digital painting on iPad, Procreate. Anzac, Desert Mounted Corps Memorial Statue Albany.
Desert Mounted Corps Memorial Statue, Albany
iPad Digital Painting
© Andy Dolphin
Ever since getting my hands on Procreate, a very cheap "finger-painting" app for the iPad, I've wanted to sit down outdoors and have a go at digital plein air painting.

I've made a few attempts at it recently, with less-than-spectacular results, but on Wednesday afternoon I ventured up the steps to the Anzac Memorial atop Mt Clarence in Albany and sat myself down to do a painting I've long-wanted to do in oils, but never got around to.

The afternoon was bright and sunny with clear deep-blue skies. It was exactly the sort of light I enjoy painting in because it delivers sharp contrasts on the subject. It works especially well with statues, a subject I've largely ignored in my 17 years of painting, and can create a beautiful, natural notan effect.

Using a cheap pen-stylus I sketched on the iPad for just over an hour and produced something I was happy with.

In doing this, I discovered that painting on a glossy screen on a sunlit afternoon is no easy task. I had to keep turning away from the subject to cast a shadow across the iPad, and then tilt it in various directions to reduce the reflections. After applying a few strokes, I'd turn back toward the subject then repeat the process with each new piece of information. This was made more awkward by a bright white flag pole which had positioned itself rather inconveniently between me and the subject.

This painting could have been completed using only a finger as a brush, but I used a combination pen/stylus/torch which I got as a free gift with something I had mail-ordered. The pen features a soft "rubber" tip on one end to use as a substitute finger.

Touch screens like those used on the iPad, usually work by sensing tiny electrical impulses from the skin. In order to act as a substitute finger, a typical touch-screen stylus is made from materials that will conduct electrical charges from the hand to the writing tip.

There are better stylus options around than the one I've used here but, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for and the better ones cost real money which I'm not yet ready to spend.

Procreate offers the facility to work in layers so I begin with a rough outline which becomes the top layer for a while. Next I build areas of colour delineating light and shadow on a layer beneath the outline. With the tonal map roughed in, I hide the outline layer then build mid-tones and detail on two or three new layers above the tonal layer.

From here, there's a fair bit of back and forth, working in each layer adding and subtracting colour as needed to tidy up the outline and refine details.

The Procreate app usually records every brush stroke and saves a time-lapse video of the painting's progress, but I discovered with this painting that the video is lost if you shut the iPad down without first closing the image and returning to the Procreate gallery. As a result, I don't have anything to show except the final image and the layers I used to build it.

Hopefully this is the start of a new sketching routine for me. I think exercises like this could easily form the basis of a traditional painting.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Overdue: iPad, Procreate painting

Wow, I can't believe I never posted this:

Painting of a ferret using Procreate on an iPad.

I uploaded it to Youtube in January.

My daughter is mad on ferrets so I took a few photos of them one afternoon. They are impossible to photograph, by the way. They never stop moving, and they move fast. Except for the smell, they are quite fascinating creatures.

The video shows a time lapse painting done from one of the blurry photos. It was done in Procreate on an iPad using a cheap pen stylus that I got for free from somewhere. It has a ballpoint pen on one end for writing and a big rubber tip in the removable cap, to use as a substitute for a finger on touch-sensitive devices like smartphones and tablets. It also includes a tiny LED torch in the other end.

The pen is not pressure sensitive but it is marginally better than painting with a finger.

Blogging is somewhat on the backburner as my art life has taken a bit of a left turn. I haven't picked up a paint brush for a very long time but have spent a lot of time restoring 400-day clocks. They are among the most frustrating of timepieces, and are widely despised by professional clock repairers, but my wife loves them and I seem to enjoy bringing them back to life. We now have almost 40 of them running and we really need a lot more.

400-day anniversary glass dome clock collection

If you have one of these clocks, also called dome clocks, torsion clocks or anniversary clocks, and if you don't want it any longer, then please drop me a line. Or if you know where there is one (in WA) that someone is throwing out or selling, then please let me know that too.

My digital art life has also taken a lot of my time. Late last year I delved into motion graphics and worked on a few TV and cinema commercials and this year I have been teaching animation at the local TAFE which has been a blast.

I have had an interest in animation since I was a kid and can remember animating plasticine and Lego in my teens, using a super-8 movie camera. A bit over ten years ago I discovered 3D animation and had some of my work published in guides for Blender, including writing two chapters for the official guide. I was also technical editor on another Blender guide book.

Here's an animation I made of a matchstick stand-up comedian, about eight years ago...

The opportunity to teach animation has been amazing.

Soooo, anyway, that's why I haven't been blogging or making plein air painting videos.

What I do hope to do, one day, is to take the iPad out into the field, and do some digital plein air sketches and paintings.