Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Art of Friendship, Part I

On June 18, Sylvia and I travelled to visit some old friends in Vancouver - Jeff and Susan Shyluk and Steven Neumann, Susan's brother. Though these friends weren't aware of it, there was a special reason for the journey, a reason that connects themes of friendship and art across two decades.

On our first day, Jeff took Sylvia and I to see his painting "Hyde Creek" at the Green Revolution Art Show in Port Coquitlam's Leigh Square Gathering Place. As an art critic I make a pretty good blogger, but I think it's a marvellous piece and I'm thrilled that Jeff secured a place in this show. For more on the Green Revolution, check out Jeff's blog on the subject here. And here's a better view of the painting itself.

Sylvia and I had to pose with Jeff's work, which is available for sale, by the way.

Since taking a graphic design class from Jeff via electronic correspondence last year, I've tried to pay closer attention to the patterns in nature and art - the straight lines, the curves, the play of light and shadow. (If I'm not mistaken, Jeff's frame appears to be a Golden Rectangle...) I'm never going to be a visual artist, but I still find it challenging and fun to stretch the limits of my talent in that regard. While touring the Gathering Place and nearby Hyde Creek, I kept an eye out for interesting shapes and lines, and shot the following:

The ceiling of the Gathering Place.

Stone sphere in Port Coquitlam. If you look at this for a while, it begins to look like the flag of some imaginary nation.

Sylvia and an outdoor art installation made of old mailboxes.

Sometimes art is a happy accident. Jeff had his hands full so I attempted to perform an extended-arm couples portrait - no easy feat with a bulky digital SLR. I caught this image of half a Sylvia.

Tilting the camera over a little created some interesting diagonal lines.

Port Coquitlam is beautiful, but like any industrialized city, it has its share of urban ugliness. From a construction site behind Hyde Creek, I call this "Cyclopean Scream."

An untitled compantion piece.

I met Steven (pictured), Susan and Jeff during my first year at the University of Alberta (1987-88) - we were all members, Geek Alert, of the U of A Star Trek Club. This detail will become important later on!

Jeff and Susan were excellent hosts, making me feel bad about the insidious trap I'd laid for them and would spring upon them the following night.

Sylvia was aware, but sworn to silence.

Aside from his talents in painting and drawing, Jeff is also a student of the culinary arts. I was amazed by this dough-rolly-thingy, which Jeff used to make homemade pasta. I am amazed that such a thing is even possible. And yet, there was Jeff, creating dough with his bare hands, flattening it and shaping it into...I think he called it rota. Whatever it was, it was delicious.

Like Sylvia and me, Jeff, Susan and Steven enjoy board games. I brought along my newest favourite, Last Night on Earth, a very cinematic survival horror game that pits a quartet of heroes against a gaggle of hungry zombies. Afterward, Jeff had me draw, from memory, the layout of the Bleak House of Blahs, a house I shared with three friends for about a year and a half in the early 90s. Jeff is working on a board game adaptation of our Toilet Chase screenplay, which features the Bleak House of Blahs prominently. Creating board games is an art too, and I'm extremely eager to see the fruit of Jeff's labours.
The next day, we walked around Jeff and Susan's immediate neighbourhood. Susan, Sylvia and Jeff were dwarfed by the trees just a few metres away from their doorstep. I was consciously attempting to follow the rule of thirds in several of these photos, with middling results. Clearly having a light pole coming out of Jeff's head is pretty poor composition.

Another attempt at following the rule of thirds, and I've cropped the photograph in an attempt to create a golden rectangle. Rather than properly measure the ratio, I eyeballed it, wanting to test Jeff's assertion during the graphic design course that such estimates are usually closer to correct than one might expect. I'll leave the judgement to others.

This photo is too dark even after my feeble image correction, but I like Susan's gesture and I think it illustrates how the rule of thirds draws the eye of the viewer from one subject to another.

Again, a little dark. But Sylvia was fascinated by the soft, silky texture of this tree's needles.

I'm a pretty terrible macro photographer (I'd probably be better with the right lens), but I'm still pleased with this image of Susan's hand.

Back in the late 90s, I wanted to write a book about the Shadow People. This was my name for those unfortunate souls illustrating the dangers of everyday life in the modern world. Here a hapless Shadow Person is electrocuted, presumably because he decided to play with a transformer. There's a lot going on here; the sticker is upside-down, adding to the drama of the Shadow Person's death pose. And the rusted-out state of the transformer and its arcane logo at upper right remind me of the post-apocalyptic aesthetic of the Fallout video games.

Jeff and Susan urged me to ingest a native berry. I did so, and took the opportunity to ham it up. I used Photoshop to create this dramatic sequence. Probably went a little overboard with the lens flare, but the stroke tool is awesome. Again, what little prowess I possess can be credited to (or blamed on) Jeff.

British Columbians are remarkably conscious of their impact on the environment. This fish symbol indicates that the drain here leads to salmon habitat. It's a warning not to throw crud down there.

Mock me all you like, for you are my puppets as as demonstrate once again the rule of thirds. Sort of. Well, there are three people in the frame...

As our short sojurn came to an end, I was already vibrating with anticipation for what was to come. Soon I would lure my friends and my long-suffering wife into a conflagration of art, angst, pop culture, geekdom, long-lost relatives and public humiliation. Stay tuned for Part II!


Andrea said...

Oooh, I'm hooked, bring on part II!

Anonymous said...

So far,I haven't suffered...yet! I love the photos of Jeff, Susan and my darling Steven!