December ’05 Installment: Pixies

Beware! Pixies were spotted flying around somewhere in Sweden! Pixies are nasty little green fairies that like to dance in the shadows of stones.

About "Pixies"

While green is among my favourite colors, I find the dark hue hard to work with. Forcing myself to do so anyway was the primary drive for "Pixies". This was a success in the sense that this is probably the first installment where all 5 parts of the whole are in the same hue—usually I drift on to other colours.

The photos are from Sweden, and while not online, there are a few other pictures in my photo gallery that are from the same place/period.

The light streaks were made by waving a flash light in front of a tripod mounted camera with prolonged exposure. These streaks are actually from early 2004 as well. I guess you could call this a left-over mashup. But hey, don't we all love that?

P.S. Pixies concept generously donated by Chris.

View installment

November ’05 Installment: Landscapes

That vague silhuette of your memory.

About "Landscapes"

In this autumnal time of year, I find myself always returning to the same type of imagery. Just like my Autumn installment November last year, "Landscapes" is a mix of various pictures portraying the autumn/winter period of Scandinavia.

Yet, the memory of a place is different in your minds eye from what it'll look like when you return to it one day. Sometimes, your minds eye memory is better, having basked in the warming fire that is a good memory. Sometimes, it's quite the opposite; the real place is not as bad as you remember it to be.

In both cases, the picture in your minds eye is garbled. You'll remember silhuettes, colours, tastes and smells. Like a radio that doesn't quite tune in on the right channel, elements will be taken out of context and put together to form something entirely different.

View installment

October ’05 Installment: Undergrowth

Explorations in controlled randomness.

About "Undergrowth"

I had ambitions with Undergrowth, that are greater than the end result you see.

The plan was to create Nintendo'ish graphics, shown in a random and changing context. I had several design attempts, but ultimately a bad case of the colds made me scrap them and seek back to simplicity.

That's how it goes with these monthly installments. Sometimes things don't quite work out the way you want them to. It's not that I'm not satisfied with the result, it's just that I feel I failed my own personal challenge and sought back to the type of graphics I'm comfortable/always doing. So with the big challenge scrapped, I instead tried an easier challenge – using colours I wasn't too comfortable with. Browns and purples aren't easy to work with, I'll tell you that.

The new Flash, however, is surprisingly great! I have actually been using Flash MX (6) until now. I entirely skipped MX 2004 (7) because it simply annoyed me. But Flash 8 fixes a myriad of nuisances introduced in MX 2004 and even improves some of things I liked about MX. Add to that a buckload of truly useful filters and features. Flash 8 is a positive surprise.

For Undergrowth, I've used layer blend modes (just like Photoshop's blend modes) in the background illustrations, and motion blur on the initial preloader. It's too bad that only a few people have the new Flash Player, because I'll be requiring it from now on. This is still my place, and I set the rules. The rule of the day is: go grab the player now or miss out!

Next thing has to be finding a way to save configurations to wallpapers. It should be possible. Stay Tuned™

View installment

September 05 Installment: Flora

Customizable, flowery illustrations. Flora is a step back to my vectory roots, and an overdue re-born interest in what Flash can do.

About "Flora"

Flora was based on a single sketch inspired during my recent holiday. I was visiting my aunt and uncle in Langeland (just like last year), and a tiny image got stuck in my mind. I remember it as being either an illustration, or a painting on some wall. Whether I saw this image on the television in the evenings or elsewhere, I do not remember, and it doesn't matter. The tiny sketch I made displayed some highly stylized flowers, interconnected by thin lines.

Building the first mockup from this sketch was just like the "old days". Back then, we didn't care about usability or accessability. Back then I didn't even know the difference know what those words meant. But we did create some crazy things, and the community was great.

It seems I got too caught up in the patterns of the Old Ways, because the first mockup nicely illustrated one of the problems I wouldn't have cared about back then. People thought it was just a still image. The quick resolution was to add an animated introduction, displaying just how things work. How delicious to be able to do that; an animated introduction would be all but impossible in HTML. But this is not about Flash vs. HTML, that's discussed more interestingly elsewhere.

This is about rediscovering your roots, and I must say for the first time since awaiting Flash 6 (or MX), I'm now eagerly awaiting Flash 8, the Last of the Clan Macromedia. (Stay tuned for a 6th of September release!)

Next

Time is not my ally these days, and I do not know when I will get more of it. On the horizon, however, are wallpapers from Flora, and an source code release of the draggable dots used. It was based on code by Robert Penner anyway, so it only makes sense.

View installment

August ’05 Installment: C-Beams

What's more inspiring than deep space images of nebulae and space fog?

How about a single quote from Blade Runner?

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

Yep, that's all it takes.

About "C-Beams"

I too want to see C-beams glitter in the dark. Unfortunately, it's not likely this will happen any time soon, so all I could do was imagine what that looked like. So that's what I did this month.

Painting home-made nebulae has been on my to-do list for quite a while. I even had some early mockups that weren't worth using. Since I am in a bit of a hurry this month (I'm leaving for Sweden in 45 minutes, although that'll be 3 days ago when you read this), I picked up this mockup and did some things to it.

Those things involved using that Photoshop filter no-one uses (Render > Clouds) on a selection in a channel. The end result actually somewhat resembles space fog. Add to that a scattebrush that paints stars, and you have this months installment.

I want to write more about this, but time is of the essence. Enjoy, and leave me a comment or two and I'll get back to you when I get home.

P.S. The images are fairly high-res. To zoom, Right-click the images and select "Zoom In".

View installment

July 05 Installment: Gasoline Rainbow

[…] In summer, gasoline rainbow in the gutter, […]

– From "Impossible to Tell", by Robert Pinsky

Sometimes, it doesn't take more than a single spoken line to inspire me. In this case, it was a line from a poem: "gasoline rainbow in the gutter".

About "Gasoline Rainbow"

Having been caught up with work, I wanted to not only do something simple for this months installment, but something close to my roots. I remember some of my first creative juices flowing around beautiful music by Björk, and accompanying graphics for the Homogenic album by MeCompany.

That's when I stumbled upon the "gasoline rainbow" from Robert Pinsky's jokingly aching and roughly urban poem "Impossible to Tell". Immediately, I thought back to bicycle rides in the Copenhagen evening, small puddles of water splashing, the lights of huge advertisements reflecting in the water. Not to mention the gasoline leaks under the cars, sparkling with the eerie but beautiful colours that are quintessentially urban.

It was a relief to paint these reflections. I've been without internet at home for 2 weeks, so there were no distractions. In those situations, it happens from time to time that I get that very special feeling that initially made me want to be a graphic designer. With hard times at work, such a feeling is very reaffirming.

During the while, it also became clear to me that 5 has been a magic number. Painting 5 pictures every month forces me to 1) come up with a concept, 2) paint that concept in the first picture, 3) stretch and try that concept in the 4 remaining pictures. Having done this for 4 years, it's almost routine. The first picture is the most difficult, and picture 4 or 5 is where I start mastering the concept. As such, it's more often than not that the last picture of the bunch is the best one. I'm undecided in this case, but I did feel I had a greater understanding of the material I was trying to work with—that is, an understanding that's hard to communicate with words. Those are the times when I'm reminded why I started doing this, and why I kept going.

Hi-Res

Since my "Recut" last month, I've chosen to paint the pictures in high resolution. That means european A4 (unless I have a good reason for another format), in 300 dpi. That comes up to more than 3000 pixels in width, which is obviously unfit for the monitor. But it does seem a waste not to allow you all to see the detail, so I built some functions that allow you to switch between a quarter-scale version, and the fullscale version. Quite simply, you view the installment, and click the picture. Update: It didn't work well for Mac, so instead I just enabled default Flash zooming. Right-click and "zoom in".

I would have wanted to make a magnifying icon, but being lazy got the better of me. Maybe next month. Add to that, some improvements to the way the size-switcher works—for instance I'd like to build that fantastic Mickey Mouse-hand that's available in any graphic application worth using (press space!).

Have a great Summer!

I'll be taking some vacation in the near future, much needed I might add. Here's my wish that we'll all have a great summer, and that we'll enjoy those special urban evenings where the gasoline rainbow is pretty to look at.

View installment

June ’05 Installment: Surrealisme, Recut

Surréalisme Recut is a revisited version of the previous installment, Surréalisme. Building on a past idea rather than re-inventing it, Recut features a few cosmetic improvements, some creative changes and much higher resolution than previous version, but otherwise doesn't replace the past piece.

About "Surrealisme, Recut"

While I can't say I'm inventing creative masterpieces every month, coming up with new ideas for themes can be quite exhausting. Additionally, I've been wanting to slow things down for a while. Combine that with my wish for making some prints one day and the result is this "Recut" concept: re-render past imagery in higher resolution so that it is fit for prints.

The past "Surréalisme" came out very well and I was very satisfied. Revisiting it, I noticed some shortcuts, blunders and plain lazy aspects. Additionally, re-rendering in hi-res is not as easy as one might think. As such, I've made some changes—some necessary to achieve the double resolution (1280×500 » 2560×1000)—some to fix these minor flaws. The end result is 5 new pictures. Pictures 1 and 5 are very much the same as before, while 2-5 are somewhat different.

For those comparing the new version with the past version, here are some of the biggest changes:

  • Double resolution: 2560×1000 px.
  • New texture: cracked dried paint, rather than scratched stone as before.
  • All pictures are slightly more saturated.
  • Picture 1 features a small tree in the left side.
  • Picture 2 simplified and more brown in colours.
  • Picture 3 is quite different. It's now a dark brown starry night, and there's a different forest silhuette.
  • Picture 4 features more chalky colours, and a stopsign instead of a tree.
  • Picture 5 was difficult, because the forest tile was a pretty low res picture. Otherwise not much different.

The Significance of a Stopsign

Ever since I saw Twin Peaks, I've always wanted to use a stop sign in something I did. I can't say my reasons are any different than those of David Lynch—or at least how I interpret them.

When David Lynch shows a stopsign, it means exactly what it does when you see it in traffic. One direction is stopped, allowing a new direction to move. In Twin Peaks, this usually meant changing scenes from Dale's musings of damn good Cherry Pie, to disturbing imagery of some sort. In short: the stop sign meant something was about to change, rapidly.

Music

This is the same music I used for the past Surr?alisme installment. As with all other music on Noscope, Kate Durkes is the master composer. Her CD is available for purchase, and it's worth the small price tag.

Revisiting, Recutting, Changing Past Artwork

It is always a topic of discussion. The question of whether it is okay to revisit past artwork to "improve" or change it surfaces from time to time. Mostly regarding heavyweights such as George Lucas changing his Star Wars films. My personal opinion is that as long as the new artwork does not replace the old piece, but both versions are readily available, it is up to each and every artist. Seeing as this is what I've just done, I'd love to hear your opinion.

Is it okay to revisit past artwork to change or improve? When is it okay? When is it not okay?

View installment

May ’05 Installment: Stagecraft

Directly inspired by, "Stagecraft" is an homage to the excellent film: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Or more specifically, the end-credits…

About "Stagecraft"

I was lucky enough to catch the Lemony Snicket movie while it was still in theatres in Denmark. Not only is this an excellently entertaining movie which you absolutely must see, but it is also a work of art—from the start to the very end, and even after the end. If you haven't yet seen the movie, I recommend you rent it or purchase it right away.

Noscope May is directly influenced by, and inspired by the end credits of Snicket. Heck, it's almost derived from it. As such, let there be no doubt that this effort is a tribute to the talented graphic designers who spent hard work in creating such inspiring end-credits.

With that said, I have tried giving it my own twist. Obviously the concept of the images is based on digitally visualizing old-tyme puppetry. That means elaborate textures, stylized shapes and drop shadows resulting from the front spotlight.

All in all I'm satisfied with the end result. I particularly like how pictures #2 and #5 came out. Images #1 and #4 I consider the weakest of the bunch, probably because they partially break with the concept of cardboard cutouts and instead rely on silhuettes in the wrong places.

View installment

April ’05 Installment: Pointless

Totally pointless, but kinda cool looking 3d images with light streaks coming out of the wazoo, that make little or no sense.

About "Pointless"

I've always been impressed with the Photoshop skills of graphic designers Jens Karlsson & James Widegren. I'm referring to their skillfully cut together composite images containing 3d shapes and light streaks. I've found these images intriguing, impressive: how were they put together? As for the actual content of these types of images, I never gave them much thought. In fact, I always found them to be utterly pointless.

Perfect for Noscope.

So for April, I decided to explore how this was done, using what Photoshop knowledge I have accumulated over my 4 years of doing Noscope. The recipe was this:

  1. Extrapolate flat 3d shapes in a 3d app
  2. Add a light additive material
  3. Render as best possible
  4. Add colours and gradients in Photoshop
  5. Grab a lumakey such as a picture of smoke, and use that as a channel in Photoshop
  6. Use that channel as selection, and scale the smoke to fit as though it was light

Ultimately, I only made 1 picture. The big secret (except for using lumakeys, which I'll probably go in to at another time), is to spend A LOT of time just painting and nudging. This was time I didn't have this month. So I made one picture, and tinted it in 5 colours.

Yeah, so sue me. Atleast you can now pick your favourite and do some colour psychology:

  • If you pick #1, you're the serious type.
  • Number 2 is for energetic people who might like money and/or just sunlight
  • Number 3 gets picked by people who like to relax and/or need to
  • 4 is kinda like 2, but less
  • If you pick #5, you're the passionate type

Yep, I learned that in school.

Now that April is launched, I'm going to celebrate. Noscope works again (including photography) and best of all, spring is here!

View installment