Sunday, May 31, 2009

Reebok Grand Prix

Some people like baseball. Some like football. Most people like some sport that ends in "ball." Sure, I'll watch whatever's on TV. But I don't claim to know anything about popular sports. I do, however, love track. And though you may not believe me, if you know something about track, watching a good meet is pretty darn exciting.

Unlike going to a Major League Baseball game, the athletes enter the field with the spectators, walk through the stands, and are sometimes willing to stop and talk with you. Add to that a knowledgeable crowd, and it feels like one big family. In an atmosphere like that, great performances are bound to happen.

The Reebok Grand Prix, at Icahn Staudium in NYC, is that kind of event. So when my sister got us tickets to this year's meet, I was definitely looking forward to it. We had great seats, right on the finish line, three rows from the front.
Beautiful weather, too. And sitting behind us was a crowd of 5,000 enthusiastic Jamaican track fans with green and yellow thunder sticks. Reebok handed out free cowbells to everyone in attendance. You can imagine the noise.
Some of the highlights: Tyson Gay (America's fastest man) ran the 200m in the third-fastest time ever (19.58), behind only Usain Bolt and Michael Johnson. With all the focus on Bolt last year, people forget that Gay ran 9.68 in the 100m last year, ahead of Bolt's 9.69. But Gay's time was discounted because of a tailwind in the stadium. So the fastest man in all weather conditions? Tyson Gay. He also has cooler spikes than Usain. His retro red and white Adidas sprint spikes were pretty fresh.

In the 1500m, Leonel Manzano, formerly of University of Texas and now running for Nike, got his first win in a major meet. Shaking off a sub-par performance two weeks ago, he beat a very solid field, including American Record-Holder in the mile, Alan Webb. (Leo is the short guy in orange on the right side of the picture below.)

NBC only covered about 2 hrs of the meet. So unfortunately, anyone watching the broadcast would have missed what my sister and I considered 3 of the best races of the day. In the men's 800, our favorite runner/inspirational speaker, Khadevis Robinson, ran a smart race. He stayed off the early fast pace in the first lap, made up some ground on the last lap, and kicked past Gary Reed of Canada and Boaz Lalang of Kenya. In the women's 800, Anna Willard, the American steeple chaser, dropped down in distance and took on America's best two-lappers. Over the last 100m, her strength in the longer distances came through as she kicked past everyone for the victory. The meet ended with an American Record attempt in the 5,000m by Bernard Lagat. He came up a few seconds short of the AR and a few inches short of the victory, but still ran the fastest 5K on US soil by an American. (13:03)

You can watch those races (m800, w800, m5000) on Universal Sports. Click this link, and you can use the navigation bar to speed through the event (make sure your Internet connection is pretty fast). If you missed the TV broadcast, you can catch the Prefontaine Classic from Eugene, OR next weekend.

Next year, buy your own tickets to this event. There's really nothing like watching a crowd rise to its feet in sync with sprinters running down the track. And if the winner is Jamaican, plug your ears.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

More Cards

New commission! Two more cards for the 2010 Expansion set. Wizards of the Coast sent along another style guide so the artists know how to handle the look of the new set. It looks really cool, so fans should be pleasantly surprised.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Shipping & Handling

About two years ago, I had no idea how to reproduce my work. I did work in college that was usually fit for a scanner, but the large oil paintings I was creating in the professional world were not. Frustrated and desperate, I wrote to Roberto Parada, a successful and famous illustrator who paints with oils. I wanted to know a) if he photographed his own work, and b) if so, how he did it.

Shockingly, he wrote back. He listed all his supplies and described his entire process. It was a long e-mail, and must have taken a long time to write. With that act of generosity, he solved all my photography problems. I will always be thankful for Mr. Parada's help, and he is on my short list of people who have made it possible for me to be an illustrator.

So here's the photo setup. I've got the Canon EOS with a Macro Lens on the tripod. The four Lowel Tota lamps with 500W halogen bulbs at clamped to the lamp stands. They are tilted as much as I can so that the light shines across the canvas from each of the four corners. When I only had two lamps, I used 750W bulbs shining from either side. Four lamps work much better.

Once the lights are on, I can adjust them to reduce glare on the painting. I set the camera aperture to 2.8, and usually shoot a range of shutter speeds from 1/50 to 1/25.

In order the get the highest resolution in the digital image, I have to take photos of the top and bottom half of the painting, then merge the two halves in Adobe Photoshop (a pain in the butt). As a result, I have make sure the camera is the same distance from the painting in both the top and bottom shots. I made a cheap pendulum out of string and a Sharpie which I tied below the camera. I mark the spot where the pendulum hangs when I take the top photo, then I adjust the legs of the tripod and match the pendulum to the spot on the floor before taking the bottom photo. If my tripod was better, I could make the vertical adjustments without moving the tripod legs. One day I'll make that investment.

Once the photos are taken, I can send the originals to the client. I wrap it up in tracing paper first. Then I cut up a cardboard box to fit the 18"x 24" format, which usually doesn't make the box look great, but with enough tape it works fine. After a layer of bubble wrap around the pieces, I close up the box and it's set to go to FedEx.

Then I cross my fingers and hope it gets all the way to Washington with no problems.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Update 2

I'll be setting up the lights and camera today so I can photograph work. I use a Canon EOS 20D and a set of 4 Lowel Tota lamps with reflective umbrella. If I had enough space, I'd have a permanent setup. But as it is, I usually have to block out the windows in my studio and set up everything each time I want to record my work. It's a hassle, but it's necessary. I go to FedEx tomorrow to ship the canvases out to the west coast.

Yesterday, my track team won our conference championship. A little shaky halfway through, but in the end we pulled it off. The article doesn't mention it, but our winner in the 800m also set a new SWC meet record.

Alright, time to take some photos.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Nothing really new has been happening on the artistic front. I've just been putting in long hours on the most recent project. Since part of my day is spent coaching, I take supplies home and work at night when things get busy like this.

Time for me to get started this morning. In the meantime, check out our high jumper clearing a school record 6'8" at the Hartford Public Invitational last weekend.

Friday, May 8, 2009

AoNE @ Silvermine

Well, I have no idea how I got into that show. I didn't really expect it to be so exclusive. For the amount of entries I saw when I dropped off the work, a pretty select group made it. Mine was one of the only realistic works; the other paintings were largely abstract. So who knows what the juror was seeing, but I guess I can count myself fortunate.

Silvermine was nice enough to send all the artists a video of the juror going over the work, so everyone could hear why their piece was accepted, or why it wasn't. Part 3 of the video includes my work. Skip to 6:20.

I guess the guy didn't like my Home Depot door-moulding-and-gold-spray-paint frame, but whatever. I can't afford to actually frame my work.

Go see the show if you're in the area. Support your local artists.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Good day to be a coach

It's been a long few weeks of coaching, offering up skull beads as prizes for great workouts, but we're finally seeing the results of all the hard work.

Today I offered up skulls for hitting a certain split time within each race: 600m into the 800m, 1200m into the 1600m and 2400m into the 3200m. I was trying to get them in "uncharted waters" by running faster than normal in the middle parts of the race.

The results: They broke my 4x800m school record of 8:33, running 8:24 (2:08, 2:07, 2:08, 2:01), our miler PR'd in the 1600 (4:45), our 800m guy PR'd (2:00.9), and our 2-miler PR'd (10:19 - giving my friend John Tomac's record a little scare halfway through the race).

Bunnell HS is still undefeated. An excellent afternoon.