Despite the title, these pixels are anything but lazy. This is a site of my own photos, my own art, my own written text and more. There are no memes. This is not a portal to someone else’s brain. It is an outlet for my own creative soul. I plan to post words and pictures about things that interest me and all the projects I'm exploring in multiple formats: long, short, deep, and shallow. Share and enjoy.

Four Dozens

Posted
1 year ago

Sourdough has become routine.

As routine as Saturday pancake breakfast. As routine as birthday cakes. As routine as washing up after a meal.

I pulled pandemic loaves numbers 47 and 48 from a hot oven yesterday evening and set them to cool on the counter. The bread for the next couple days. No ceremony (not that there ever really was) and no fuss. Just supplies.

As I write this the world is cautiously toeing the waters of the great "reopening" but my employer has settled into a comfortable reality that bringing people back too early will result in more harm than good. So, my life is in a state of "work from home" for another three months.

Which means I'm half way through (optimistically) the great pandemic sourdough experiment of 2020.

Which means my loaf count could conceivably ... realistically ... legitimately reach the triple digits before I see my work-from-not-home office again.

I'm counting quarantine in loaves of bread. Who'da thunk?

All that said, the flour situation is looking to be somewhat critical.

I've been pretty loyal to Robin Hood Flour products through the duration of my baking adventures. No particular reason besides maybe the dominant brand effect. It's the bold yellow bag that stands out on the store shelves, the brand we've always bought.

But flour is a rare commodity these days. I have maybe three batches worth of Robin Hood flour left in my pantry, including some dregs of whole wheat and multigrain, and my bleached bread flour is down to a few cups... of that brand.

A couple months back I picked up a 10kg bag of store-branded flour, and my wife came home with a small sack of organic whole wheat flour that she found on a shopping trip, so... we're stocked. But... disloyal?

Flour is flour is flour, right?

At least a dozen soon-to-be-baked loaves will give me a clear indication of the answer to that question.

Week 1, Underbridge

Posted
1 year ago

I was lamenting two frustrations and ultimately solved them with one short drive.

Feeling a little trapped in the neighbourhood, both my efforts to run more frequently and sketch things beyond my backyard, finding motivation to push myself outside my comfort zones has been a roadblock. Then it occurred to me that sketching in place, the foundational pillar of so-called urban sketching, was not necessitated by either walking somewhere or being — strictly speaking — outside. I could, say, drive somewhere and if it were, say, raining and thus risking my delicate notebook with getting drenched I could just sit in my truck and draw.

Couple this alongside the repetitive monotony of running from my front door day after day after day ... literally ... after day, and a solution presented itself in the form of a ten minute drive.

I dressed for a run and grabbed my sketching supplies and drove down to the ski hill.

Yeah. This city has a ski hill nestled in a creekside valley, seventy-five meters of decent if a foot, and transformed into a quiet recreational area with running trails in the summer. The nearby freeway dips into the valley and spans the gap with a short, utilitarian bridge through a ribbon of urban greenspace.

Pencils do not do it justice.

I sketched from the drivers seat, watched a dozen or so people wander by in the drizzly rain, dropped my eraser under the seat once, and after about 20 minutes of freehand sketching the contrast of grey concrete with dense foliage suited up and went for a run through the drizzle — and eventually pouring — rain.

Urban sketching for the week: complete. I thought.

What was bugging me was that contrast between the green and the greys which I was not equipped to capture with my limited artistic experience. I assume that will come with time and practice, but for the moment it was a rough, abstract impression that I could not quite hit the mark upon.

Then, as these things do, another epiphany occurred to me while I was running through the lush, wet natural trails.

I snapped one photo when I returned to my truck after my run, hopped in the vehicle and drove home.

That photo was a bit of a colour reference. I snapped a picture of the sketch from my book and imported it into the art software on my iPad.

Using a photograph as a reference for a sketch, tracing the initial shapes is — admittedly — a bit like cheating. I like to think of it as a style, just like animators might lean on rotoscoping to capture lifelike movement, artists can put some of the heavy lifting on capturing lifelike shapes from photos before adding details and abstractions through their own colours and textures.

But using your own freehand sketch as a starting point? Not cheating at all. I started by tracing the lines and shapes from my freehand sketch, then as the image took shape digitally, ditched the sketch and filled in the colours and textures looking at the photo I took to jog my memory and some creative interpretation through the hundreds of varieties of brushes and infinite colours available on the software reproduction.

And sure, maybe under a grey bridge is an odd place to sit and draw, but having run under it, past it, over it, and on it countless times, used it as a landmark for distances, and driven it sometimes daily, it’s a bit of my local life that is more than some grey concrete spans. Which is kinda the whole point of art isn’t it?

Drawing on Dublin

Posted
1 year ago

There are a moment one Saturday afternoon last August while I was wandering, literally aimlessly, through the streets of Dublin when I was inspired to draw something.

The question readers may want answered before I explain the drawing is “why were you wandering aimlessly through the streets of Dublin?” To which the simplest answer is simply that I was there alone and early to do one thing I needed to do on Saturday, and with no reason to do anything but explore a place I’d never been I wandered. Aimlessly.

In fact, I had walked for two hours from Chapelizod to Trinity College, which on the map seemed a lot shorter than it actually was, and having scored a bus pass only after I’d reached the downtown core I was free to catch a fast ride back to the hotel but was not inclined to do so knowing that all which awaited me was some television and pondering the race I was scheduled to run the next morning.

Instead, wandering aimlessly through the streets of an old Irish city filled with life and culture, streets lined with countless variety and ages of architecture, and nothing but free time for myself, I bought a sketchbook and some inking pens from a bookshop and found a nearby place to sit.

I remember a few things about the hour while I sat in a small square on a concrete bench sketching what I saw:

  • there were pigeons bustling about the place, doing what pigeons do, which is to look extremely busy while accomplishing very little
  • virtually no one had spoke with me since arriving in the country, but a man with a sketchbook in a park might seem more approachable so I had a brief conversation with two people, first about a pair of shoes that had been abandoned in the middle of the square, and second with a young lady who seemed to think I’d let her tether her phone to mine so she could borrow my mobile data
  • there was a cafe built into an old rail car of some kind, and we returned there later in the week and had coffee — well, I had coffee

Not having sketched in public in over a decade, my rendition of the square was weak, and lacked a lot of details, and wouldn’t be much to brag about, but it was the first in a series of a dozen I composed while we spent the following week in the city and spurred me to become a prolific, regular urban sketch artist upon our return to Canada.

Only that never happened.

I got home, went back to work. Heck, I even bought a nice new sketchbook (not wanting to “spoil” the travel edition that I’d started) and went to the middle of our city square and drew exactly one picture.

To be fair, life got really crazy and busy for a while after we returned from three weeks in Europe, and sketching in the street was not a priority, but something else was going on.

Inspiration.

Dublin was simply that: inspiring. But more than being a beautiful old city, full of life, people, buildings, colour, shapes, texture, culture, everything, it was also a new place for me. It was the same sort of reason that I don’t take many snapshot while I’m on my lunchbreak from work even though I might be sitting in a similarly simple city square, engaging with similar random people, and watching Canadian pigeons behave virtually identically to their Irish cousins. Novelty, opportunity, and purpose might just be a thing one finds on vacation. Or not?

I’ve got it in my head to do more sketching during the pandemic, cracking open the art tools I own to draw the world in which I now find myself temporarily trapped: sheltering, holding ground, and staying healthy. I penned some nature art on the sketching app on my iPad during May and as June hits its stride I’m going to try and post at least one proper “urban sketch“ per week — analog, pencil and paper, a moment in space drawn in place.

I’ll be in my own neighbourhood, like as not, but I’ll be thinking of and drawing on Dublin.

Garden Update, Part 3

Posted
1 year ago

Two weeks after getting all the seeds into the ground, two weeks filled with a balanced mix of sun, rain, and spring warmth, most of the crops are now poking their heads from the soil.

There isn’t much to say about that, yet. Germination takes it’s sweet time no matter how may long evenings we spend at home tending to the scattering of aggressive weed seedlings and tending to the watering and hoeing and everything else that goes along with it.

The most excitement of the week was Wednesday morning. I’d ambled out onto the deck with my coffee and laptop, settled into the moderately cool shade of the pergola, logged into my work email and... found myself distracted by a fluttering, anxious chirping from the garden.

Each year I have a small problem wherein the many birds we attract to our yard with feeders and trees and a pleasant suburban, mostly bird-friendly yard, those birds tend to eat indiscriminately of whatever they can find in that yard, be it the bugs or the food I leave out for them or — about this time each year — the vegetable seeds I’ve hidden in the soil of my garden like a little game for them. Yum!

The solution has been to use a bit of taut netting around the main garden bed where I put the smaller, more delicate seed like lettuce, carrots, etc, and to also protect the peas in a similar way.

They can’t get in, so they give up.

But on Wednesday morning, barely a sip into my coffee, there was a small finch inside the netting, loose but distraught at its inability to escape.

It took me a few minutes, but I loosened one corner of the netting and pulled it back into a gaping opening, then motivated the bird to fly towards that opening by approaching the box from the opposite corner. It was quickly free, and flew off with a few chirps of protest. But it did leave me wondering how determined it must have been to have got inside in the first place.

I mentioned in a previous post that I kept the garden pretty simple this year, aiming to plant less “experimental” crops and more stuff I knew we’d use. That said, I planted a lot of those few crops and planted them thick. The next step over the next few weeks will be to aggressively thin the weaker sprouts from the rows and plots to leave room and resources for the stronger ones.

For example, my cucumbers have at least five plants per mound... which is four more than required.

All that said, one of the saddest developments in the garden is the apple tree. Last year it was white with blossoms, covered to the point that we debated culling some of them to reduce the apple crop. And to our detriment left it alone and wound up with a heap of unused apples rotting in the garden last fall because we simply could not keep up.

This year?

If there are more than three clusters of blossoms on my tree they are hiding where I cannot see them.

Figures. The one year when buckets of apples might come in useful and the tree decides to take a holiday. I’m not sure if it’s a weather thing, an over-pruning thing, or if the tree is just grumpy because we let her crop go unused in a nearby pile.

I don’t think trees have hurt feelings, but at this point I’m not ruling it out.

Lazy Pixels Creamery, Banana Sherbet

Posted
1 year ago

Banana flavoured anything is a non-starter around my house. This is sad, because banana flavoured everything is my go-to. Ah, well... every family has their disagreements.

This is how we got to the fact that the second task for the ice cream maker was an on-the-sly banana sherbet concoction of my own design. No one else wanted it but me. I was on my own, hijacking the machine which (given the freeze time required) is good for at most 2 or 3 batches per week.

Sherbet is generally a more-fruitier, less-creamier frozen treat, but finding a consistent recipe for banana sherbet that (a) looked like my end-goal and (b) was approachable during the pandemic grocery restrictions we're currently dealing with -- that was not as easy as I thought.

The first recipe I attempted for my holy grail of ice cream was as follows:

Recipe: Banana Sherbet

2 cups, water
1 cup, white sugar
3 ripe bananas
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 cup, heavy cream
1 tsp, banana flavouring

I heated the water and sugar to make a simple syrup. The bananas were thoroughly mashed, the lemon was vigorously zested and juiced. And all the ingredients were combined in a blender and spun until it was a creamy, frothy liquid.

That's it. Chilled for a few hours and then churned in the frozen ice cream bowl.

It was a warm day -- not hot, but definitely not the deep of winter anymore. I mention it because I'm not 100% clear if the longer churning time was a result of me needing to chill the banana slurry another hour or so, or if the ambient kitchen temperature warmed the bowl too much. The risk of having a pre-freeze bowl versus a self-freezing bowl is that the clock starts ticking on the churn the moment you pull the bowl from the freezer. Any energy input into the system ultimately degrades the final depth of frozen reached by the ice cream itself: too much heat in the base, too hot of a room, too much touchy-touch with the bowl as one fiddles to get it set up, and maybe even having a room temperature beater. These are all things I need to adjust for future attempts. It could also be that the mix was less amenable to freezing in general. Ultimately, after 45 minutes (15 minutes longer than the previous ice cream batch) the blend was the texture of a thick slushie and not the whipped blend I was probably expecting. (And to be honest, I don't know what I expected...)

I scooped it out and into a freezer container. A day later, the result was close, but not spot on. I'd give it a 75%... which is important, because I'll be the only one eating it at my house.