Saturday, January 04, 2014

New Label Alert: Life Cereal

Indeed I'm a big fan of Life's lastest look, tho they have fiddled with it some since the overhaul.  You'll see a new composition here downplaying the name but it's just as nice with that bright blue bowl.

For comparison is the Safeway generic brand, which in and of itself is not bad. It's a cute nod to what you're getting tho, they aren't being shy about it.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Fruits of Kickstarter: Mitch Byrd Sketchbook

There are alot of cool projects on Kickstarter, and when one of my favorite artists planned a sketchbook of rarely seen art, I was in.

Mitch Byrd is a fantastic artist who I wish had more exposure, if only for him to produce more art. This sketchbook covers some of that, but as a follower of his I know it could have (and should have) been more extensive. Still I'm pleased the modest goal was met and a final product was produced. In my Kickstarter experience, it was the fastest any goal was met to the time I had something in my hands.

Here's hoping another volume is in the works.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Peanut Butter Oreo Brownies

Saw these on the 'ol interwebs and thought to give it a go. We're in the middle of a big snowstorm so it's as good a time as any! Altho for brownies the time is usually "any."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My long overdue entry into bookmaking

This was really enjoyable, and I see many more hand-made books in my future!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Denny's menus up again

Denny's is no stranger to refreshing their menus, it happens on an almost seasonal frequency. This time around they go cross-retro, a nod to the past with a presence in the present. There are some pretty random type styles collected inside, cleaving the menu into distinct sections, tho some are pretty crisp in keeping to the mixed theme.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

American Airlines re-brands

Aaaaaw man... In an effort to spur their troubled business, American Airlines has chosen to re-invent themselves, along with re-designing their corporate branding.

This shit happens all the time, but it's notable here (to me at least) since previously American Airlines held court in the Design Monarchy with one of the most perfectly crafted logos ever. That double AA, in blissfuly ubiquitous Helvetica, stood the test of time for 45 god damn years.

Time marches on...

Becoming a New American

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New Label Alert: McCormick Italian Seasoning

It's not like the precursor is a shining example of seasoning labeling, but I do like the tall, narrow family lettering and have always been partial to food illustration. The "value priced" banner is a bit tacky. But overall the simplicity works.

The refresh gives the photo center stage and places a stronger emphasis on the McCormick brand itself. The type, color, and overall layout is a bit on the bland side.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ooo! Oogavé!

A natural soda made from agave nectar instead of cane sugar? Oogavé does just that with several flavors. The taste is distinct and delicious. Key Lime in particular enhances the natural callback to agave's predominant use-- Tequila. It's difficult to describe but the sweet tang it brings while simultaneously oh-so-subtlely recalling an alcoholic beverage is unique to say the least. I happen to adore Tequila, in addition to being a soda aficionado, thus Oogavé combines the best of two worlds.

Props to a modern take on soda pop packaging, and a delicious drink.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Denny's "Tour of America" Menus

A frequenter of diners, I am no stranger to Denny's (in this country and others!). This summer they are promoting a new limited menu, "Tour of America." I've sampled a few of the offerings, which as diner food goes are nothing special, if not serviceable alternatives to the regular menu.

But what caught my eye are the special menus showcasing the new items. They have a distinct WPA approach, channeling the classic posters from the National Parks Service.

Maybe the food is a little too American, if you know what I mean, but the art alongside is just fine.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

New Syrup Alert

If IHOP imagined what the syrup of the future would look like way back in 1958, it might look a lot like the new IHOP syrup of 2012. But woe is me... Gone is my favored Boysenberry, replaced by Butter Pecan!? The syrupy quartet-- and my pancakes-- will never be the same.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Omar Dogan: Girl 7

Girl 7 is a long overdue collection from artist Omar Dogan. Dogan is widely know as one of Udon Studios premier artists, having created a slew of comics and illustrations who's quality rivals or exceeds that of its origins. When those origins tend to be the internationally revered characters and artwork of Capcom, that's no small feat.

Dogan has a large fan following, evidenced in part by his million-page-view presence on deviantArt. There are original works in his gallery, but Girl 7 is the first published work of strictly original content. There's no Chun Li or Sakura illos to be oogled, just page after page of new material. Specifically, the seven titular "girls," through whom Dogan took upon himself to use as a narrative and inspiration for furthering his artistic skills. His goal was to create seven separate personalities through his artwork, and set them each among a series of favored themes. Dogan's own commentary is personal, informative, and often humble as he struggles to "break old habits" and reach new artistic goals.

The art itself reflects this, as it is surprisingly not what a fan of his might expect. It is familiar and lush and expertly rendered, tho it does have a distinctly different feel from his more commercial work. In that sense, mission accomplished. As with many of Udon't art books as of late, the print quality is superb and befitting of the work. If there is to be a criticism it is that which is the bane of today's digital artists: seeing their digital images in print. Some of the colored pieces appear over-saturated, which in this case means ink, and tend to look dark. A comparison of works presented both in the book and those on his deviantArt page do show that while stylistically he has chosen deep and saturated colors, the difference seen in print is verified. 

This does not detract from the work or goals of Girl 7, as there are some truly wonderful pieces across a spectrum of experiments in style and substance. Dogan's work may appeal to a specific base of admirers, tho the effort and skill seen in Girl 7 should make anyone of them, including myself, hope this collection is only the first of more to come.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Art of Amanda Conner

Since its announcement last year, I've eagerly awaited the release of this book, and it has finally arrived! Conner is not only one of my favorite artists all around, but one who has been directly inspiring my own work for many years. I was first enamored with her work when I spied it on Vampirella, and around the same time I happened upon it in Barbie. I often picked up books like Barbie and Archie whenever the art peeks ever so cleverly outside of its studio style. Conner's work on Barbie called to my own sensibilities when (at the time) I was struggling to find my own artistic voice. I've been a follower ever since. Since her beginnings Conner seemed to work sporadically in comics, but over the last decade she seems to have found a deserved mainstream appeal. I dare say her name sells books.

There is no doubt a rise Conner's popularity was cemented by depictions of DC's Power Girl, a character whom could arguably now be most associated with Conner as the definitive artist. It's rare in fandom that this happens, while top-tier characters can be associated with multiple signature artists, the middle ones usually have a brief but notable alignment with an artist who just "got it." With the possible exception of Adam Hughes, Conner pretty much owns Power-Girl.

The Art of Amanda Conner is a colorful collection that covers her artistic career from early on to her most recent projects. Dozens of comics covers, designs, sketches, interior pencils and inks are displayed mostly chronologically, and by character or company. Most surprising is the volume of work you have most likely not seen-- several independent projects and corporate illustration works are presented and are a great look into her work outside of comics. There is alot of art represented, though I would have preferred more showcases in a full page format rather than the collage layout most pages have. Conner's art is razor sharp and full of personality, seeing full pages of inked pieces would certainly have been an additional boon. 

There is accompanying text and several photographs of Conner and cohorts, showcasing her charm and humor that has in no small part grown her fan base over her career. Alongside Conner's own creations and lesser known characters, it is hard to deny that her approaches to Power-Girl, Supergirl, Black Canary, and numerous other heroes and heroines are the ones you want to see all the time.

New Label Alert: Life is good!

OMG! I LOVE the new design for Life Cereal. They stuck with that poor-man's default bevel way too long, and gone are the generic child portraits.

Love the new type. Love the crisp, sharp, properly colored bevel. Love the blue bowl. Love the new Quaker standard, with midpoint centered over the e! That's attention to detail, people. Life is my new cereal box hero!!!

And yes, there is synergy, as the themes match the recent rebranding of the Quaker Oats web site:
Quaker Oats

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The iPhone 4S vs. Nikon D40

While I've been working directly with iOS for a few years now, it's only recently that I've come to own a device for my personal use outside of work. Last fall I broke down and obtained an iPhone 4S, and I have to say it's a wonderful thing to have. 

Much talk has been made of the 4S's improved camera and it was one of the clinchers in finally putting an end to my iPhone procrastination. I use the camera constantly-- on holiday, snapping food, and of course casual candids. On a recent trip to Disneyland I accumulated over 300 photos. On a cross-country road trip with Vicky, even more. I'm no stranger to photography (I once took photos with  film!), and I wholeheartedly support the digital revolution. But I did find phones and point-and-shoots to be a bit lacking, so employing a DSLR scratches my photography itch on many occasions.

I decided to give the iPhone 4S a challenge, and popped around downtown Los Angeles snapping pics to compare it against my meek-but-workable Nikon D40. Now the D40, especially in the speed-of-light technology race, is woefully outdated and very much as "entry" as you can get for an entry level DSLR. Surely I would love to rock out on a D90, but as of yet the expense hasn't totally justified an upgrade (it looms, tho). 

The Nikon D40 is:
  • a trusty workhorse
  • malleable to many situations
  • good 'ol DLSR controls for ISO, F-stop, Aperture, etc.
  • decent white balance settings
  • virtually un-fillable SD cards (we're talking thousands and up)
  • Stock 18-55mm lens is incredibly versatile
  • takes Nikon lenses and a multitude of filters
  • somewhat cumbersome
  • requires patience to set up shot
  • often prefers a tripod when you don't have one
  • needs halfway decent knowledge of photography
  • must be adjusted for even small shifts in environment
  • Auto setting tends to disappoint (of course)
  • Still needs dedicated time to "develop" via Lightroom, iPhoto

The iPhone 4S is:
  • convenient as all get out
  • built for spontaneity 
  • magically automated
  • fantastic apps like Camera+, Hipstamatic, and Photogene
  • great in daylight
  • near-instant sharing capabilities
  • surprising quality more often than not
  • automation can be frustrating for photographers ("that's not what I see!")
  • flash pretty much useless
  • white balance is luck of draw, difficult to adjust if at all
  • all exposure or color correction must be done in post
  • decent in low light but noticeably suffers
  • auto-focus can be annoying
  • can be awkward to hold and use

Above you'll see some examples near and around the LA Public Library. Um, no people tho cause that really isn't my thing. I don't want to cloud these comparisons with tech specs, I just want to present the images as I caught them. Of course I did my best to use the appropriate settings for the D40, which makes the instant shots of the 4S all the more impressive. What you should know is that all of the photos are "as is," meaning no post production for color or exposure. There are differences to the keen eye but likely none to the casual observer. I do notice one usually edges out the other, which comes down to personal preference, I'll let you decide for yourselves.

No no one's saying a 4S is going to replace a DSLR, but I got to be honest with you, in comparison to a D40 it comes pretty damn close in alot of situations. What I've noticed is where the 4S excels-- outdoors in the daylight. And  when you do shoot people, it hits the mark. Perhaps it's largest flaw outdoors is the limitation of the lens, if as a photographer you have something specific in mind. I've done some trickery to force its hand indoors, sometimes as simple as holding up a white piece of paper as an impromptu reflector. Overall it performs great indoors, too. Its main detraction may be the automated exposure and white balance, without any of the cool apps mentioned above photos all start having that even keel, generally ever-so-cool-tinted look. As an artist I sometimes see a group of iPhone pics as , well, "cold."

What a DSLR gives you is control, as long as you're willing to learn that control and have the patience to make use of it. At times I love that control and at others the constant clicking back and forth between settings distracts from getting "that shot." But the patience pays off, and shutterbugs can usually get some of their preferred setting in pretty quickly. Also I'll add that the times I've gotten to use a D70/D90 were awesome, they really up the game.

The main win for the iPhone 4S is that it's always with you, just waiting for photo opportunities. Any time. And believe me I've lugged around that D40 all over this damn country (as recently as this past winter break). But as far as grabbing the moment the 4S takes it, leaving little excuse not to snap or document something that catches your eye. That's the cool part, yea?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thoughts on Digital Comics

Digital Comics. Is there such a thing, or is it just "Comics?"

The comics news sites seem to be abuzz that 2012 will be a make-or-break year for digital delivery. Some going so far as to suggest the make or break will be for the industry as a whole (well we've been hearing that one for a while now). 

There are two interesting reads lately that spell things out. The first is found at Savage Critic, a lengthy and thoughtful dissemination by Brian Hibbs. This primarily takes a retailers' point of view, though I have to say that personally I rarely find retailers espousing anything remotely resembling logic on the subject of their industry. I don't hold that against Hibbs, tho, as he raises several strong concerns about the increasing move to digital distribution. I don't even agree with some of his conclusions, but I respect anyone in his position that is actually thinking and communicating about it in a helpful way. He's not entirely alone, and these steadfast (and smart) businessmen are the ones who can survive.

The second comes from a creator, an Op-Ed over at The Beat by Dave Castelnuovo. In my opinion he's right on the ball here, much more so that I've heard from many a retailer or publisher who are intent to keep the blinders on. There is a new generation of content generators who are embracing digital distribution for one sole purpose: get content to readers that is not only sustainable, but profitable.

Form factor is a terribly hard argument to win on either side. I love printed comics, but comics on an iPad look pretty damn sweet. Comics on Kindle, not so much. There are wonderful advantages and nitpicky drawbacks on both sides. It's hard to look past the technology of the now, but surely if we're in the midst of a Star Trek era of portable devices, the future can only get better. Lighter, thinner, sturdier, tactile. Cheaper. When that price point finds the sweet spot, content providers better be fucking ready or they'll be left in the dust. You think that's happening now? Just wait.

What it comes down to for me has less to do with the creators and the retailers than it does with the publishers whose bloated ways seem to barely grasp the potential on all fronts. This is doubly hampered by publishers' desires to not only reach their audience and hopefully expand it, but contradictorily bow to pressures imposed by physical distribution and retailer angst. By publishers I'm only really inferring the big two, DC and Marvel, as for all intents their stock is the stock and trade of comics retailers. Should one of them choose to grab the future's brass ring and jump into the digital deep end entirely, it effectively puts at least 85% of comics retailers out of business over night. I wish they would do that and get it over with, cruel as it sounds. But for now neither of them have the insight, means, nor the balls to do so.

Publishers seem to be missing the win-win. They have an immense catalog that can be cheaply ported to digital and sold again. There's even some double dipping potential with not only a new audience but an old one who has quit previously and of course the existing one that wants to move to a new format. On the physical distribution side, there's no need to stop. Floppies, yes, there are dozens of reasons to stop the equally dozens of mediocre titles that come out week after week. But prestige titles, original graphic novels, omnibi, Absolute editions, etc., they can all still be the draw in the shops and Amazon. Think about it. Would you really miss a Batman comic every week, if you got the equivalent via digital? Maybe... but what if throughout the year an original Batman graphic novel by some kick-ass team came out that was just dying to be read in that groovy page-flipping format? It can be offered digital, too, but there will be a stronger market for it on both sides. The largest obstacle here is one that Hibbs nails, in that again it's the publishers who can't seem to market themselves in a way to make them accessible.

One last note on something that alot of people seem to refuse to consider. Perhaps 2012 does mark the end of comics distribution in a retail environment, and that's okay. At least, on a national, readily available scale (which is pushing it as it is). There are never ending tales of comics stores struggling, there have been for years and years. If it's done, it's done. A physical retail location will suddenly become much more rare, but it will be for those who's passion remains. This for both customers and owners. That's the way it has to be for any niche market. And here we are on the cusp of printed comics becoming just that-- niche. 

As an extreme example, ask yourself where you can go buy a horse-drawn carriage. Sure everyone loves cars, anyone can get a car. But you want a carriage, with all it's history, tangibility, and craftsmanship. And you know what? You can get one. Sure it may cost more and be harder to find, but when you do find one it will have been made by people who are just like you. And there will be fellow customers who are like you as well, and that's a community you will be glad to belong to. Most people cannot be bothered with this. Most people could care less about the demise of the mass-market carriage building industry that came along with the onslaught of the automobile. And that's why most people have a car, likely including yourself.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Last Bud Plant Catalog?!?

I've received the Bud Plant Catalog for years. Years and years, close to 20, probably. It's been one of my favorite things to browse through and order from when the art book bug bites. Bud Plant-- eventually re-branded to Bud's Art Books-- has probably the largest book catalog of all things art that there is. I've met the man in person at cons, and it's certainly no secret he loves what he does.

There have always been periodic updates and a couple times a year the big "brick" catalog would come. Many a Saturday morning was spent on the couch watching TV and dog-earing my wishlist. So I was more than surprised to see the latest catalog arrive a couple weeks ago branded along the top: "This is the LAST Bud Plant Catalog!"

Fret not, the business is merely moving orders exclusively online. A sign of the times, Bud admits himself in an editorial inside. I'll miss the print edition, tho I have to admit at times I thought it might have come with more frequency than it needed to. I remember more than a few times during spring cleaning finding a literal stack of those things that had built up :-) The website may not be as tactile, but it certainly has its conveniences, not to mention some ripe selections you're not likely to find on Amazon. I encourage all book lovers to stop by and browse-- often!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Disneyland, ORLY?

Here are 11 photos I took at Disneyland that one might not necessarily associate with Disneyland. Can you decipher their origins?