New Art Signature

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For the longest time, I’ve been using a terrible scribble version of my actual signature as my ‘art signature’. It’s not the same as the signature I use for my cheques and visa receipts, but there’s a similarity there. The problem with that is, while I would recognize my particular scribble if it ever came up in a document signing, it’s not something that might resonate with other people.

This might sound a bit big headed – but if my work is ever worth anything, or if my name starts to mean something in the illustration world, I’d like people to know it’s my hand. I’d also like to remember when I did it – I’ve never been super good at dating pieces of artwork.

So, I decided to come up with a ‘symbol’ – a new art signature. Something that’s reminiscent of my actual signature, but takes on qualities of an icon that I can reference as ‘mine’. A rebranding of sorts.

This comes from a couple different sources of inspiration. The first and geekiest, of course is Tolkien’s Dwarven alphabet. I didn’t take directly from the alphabet, but I like the blocky, contained look of the Dwarven writings. It does bear a similarity with Hebrew, as well.

If I could find the particular artists that use the same technique, I’d cite them as well. It’s something I’ve seen a couple of artists do in comics and fantasy art – the block around a letter or a name. I’ve always really liked that. If anyone knows of which artists do it, or have a jpg, feel free to let me know in the comments below.

And, from here on out, everything will be dated, right below.

It’s a Dogs World Mug

416109194258182772_13975539 This mug came into the collection as a present to Heather. Heather doesn’t tend to drink hot drinks (Tea or Hot Chocolate, rarely), so by default it ends up in my collection.

But it’s one of the few mugs that has a story to it, and it’s a story worth telling. Because it’s about Heather, and the kind of woman she is. And that’s a story I want to tell. The first part of this story is tragic and sad, and will be mildly inaccurate as I only have the information third hand. I’m prone to embellishment in my stories, and I’ll fill in what I don’t remember or know with what I think it might have been. That’s not to say it’s not true, just that it’s the version of things as I recall them.

Heather has become a neighborhood icon of sorts. Since starting her dog walking business (of which I am now happily an employee), Heather’s natural charisma and friendliness draws people to her, and with a varying pack of dogs in tow, she has made friends and clients throughout the neighborhood. She’s always quick with a good morning, and almost always good for a bit of small talk about the dogs, and people just naturally gravitate towards that. Especially the ones with dogs of their own.

An adorable boxer pup named Marlee appeared in the building next door to us. Heather was quick to befriend the owners, a single mother and her son, as she does. This beautiful pup, Marlee, joined our pack as an occasional client and fast friend. From puppy visits to beginning on some group walks, we got to watch Marlee grow and play, and enjoyed every opportunity we had to take her with us to the park to play with our regular clients.

Recently when playing at a nearby park that Marlee uncharacteristically bolted from her mom. The park borders on some rather busy streets, and Marlee bolted out in front of a car, and was struck solidly. When her owner caught up to the dog, she was on her feet, but bleeding and unsteady. She managed to get her to the VEC, but Marlee was too badly injured to recover. Marlee was just over a year old. Still a pup.

It’s hard to put into the words the tragedy of losing a dog too early. Having just lost our own dog this past week, the feelings are acute – but to lose one so young, and so violently is always fraught with guilt, heartbreak and sorrow. It’s becoming more and more true that our dogs (and cats) are more than just pets – they are furry friends. They are family. They leave a hole in your heart when they pass.

Heather and I are no strangers to the costs of medical care for an animal. Places like the VEC have a not insignificant ’emergency fee’ that, along with the uninsured costs of veterinary time, medication and supplies can mean any visit reaches the thousands very quickly.

Instead of a token of grief (Which is always appreciated. There is something about the sentiments of sympathy expressed in words or gifts has an uplifting effect.) Heather set out to do something special. She began collecting up money to help offset the costs of the VEC visit and final arrangements. She spoke to neighbors and our local vet, and others around the neighborhood. Practically anyone with a dog that might have met Marlee.

All told, Heather raised nearly a thousand dollars in a short few days for Marlee’s family. Some people gave a little, and others, like an anonymous donor from the clientele of the Yonge Street Animal Hospital, gave a lot. They all signed short messages of sympathy in a card. We don’t know what the final bill was for Marlee, but we understand the money raised put a significant dent in the costs.

Heather didn’t have to cajole anyone. She didn’t have to pressure anyone. She just went out and told them what happened, and what she was doing, and people gave. That’s the kind of woman she is. She doesn’t ask for a lot, and when she does, it’s not even for herself. She saw suffering, and sought a way to ease it as best she could.

In this day and age, it’s difficult to believe – this is the first neighborhood I’ve lived in since moving to Toronto over ten years ago that I’ve felt like it’s more than just a collection of buildings to house people. People here still seem to care about the people around them, and not in a gossipy way. In a genuine, friendly, community way. The numerous dogs in the neighborhood probably helps this – you see the same faces in the ravine near our house, out on the streets around and about. It’s nearly impossible to go and get a coffee or yoga pants without running into someone with a dog we know.

Maybe it’s the dogs. Maybe it’s Heather.

The family was overwhelmed with the generosity of the little dog owner community in the neighborhood, and as a thank-you, gave Heather a small gift of baked goods and the mug. This mug.

So this mug is a reminder of how selfless and giving Heather is, and of how she helps bring people together. It’s a reminder of a lost friend, and the comfort we find in those around us, and how a little bit, just a little bit from everyone can help a lot.

No Reason Comics Mug

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If anything, this was more fan art than merchandise. Jeff Moss‘s dad, Dave requested a couple of high resolution jpgs from me at one point. He was pretty vague on the details, but it’s not like I asked a lot of questions. When Dave asks, Dave gets.

At the time, it was when No Reason Comics was on the upswing. My drawings were still rough, the writing was starting to coalesce, and we were starting to hit a solid step. I don’t think anyone was prouder of our little webcomicing than Dave. I know my own Dad read only a few, before abandoning trying to follow it with a ‘I just don’t get it.’

Dave had a few of these mugs made up, and I thought it was pretty great. I really like this mug, even though it’s pretty small. It reminds me to keep trying to make time for the stuff I want to do.

I had some pretty high ambitions about creating more merchandise and making some money off of No Reason. And one of the most disappointing times in my life so far has been having to give up doing the comic. I have hopes of returning to comicing in the near future, but as long as it can’t be my primary source of income, and I’m as slow as I am at drawing… well, it’s still on ‘hiatus’ in my mind.

One day.

Oscar the Poodle

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June 2, 2005 – March 18, 2013

Oscar, also known as ‘Poodles’, ‘Poodlepants’, ‘Poodle Man’, and a host of other nicknames that all invariable involved the word ‘poodle’, was a dog of unparticularly particular tastes. There may not have been rhyme nor reason for the peculiar set of rules by which he applied his affection, but they were strictly enforced by equal measures of exuberance and grumpiness.

Oscar first came to Heather as a puppy, when she worked at a boarding school. He might have been the runt of the litter, physically, but he had an undeniable personality. He was a happy little scamp, who had a tail wag for everyone. Oscar loves people, and being in a boarding school with lots of cooing girls gave him a ton of confidence. What Poodle wanted to do, Poodle did.

Oscar travelled with Heather across the country, from Toronto to the East Coast (where he gained a sister, Gemma, our other scruffy little mutt), and back across the country to Fort Mac, all in the back of an Echo, stuffed with Heather’s belongings. Oscar braved the journeys with his own brand of stoicism, settling himself comfortably in – as long as he was near his people, he could be comfortable.

When I first met Oscar a little over four years ago, I was not a dog lover. Oscar helped change that. It might have been the constant wiping of his food and water greased chin on my leg, or the hours we played his version of fetch in the nearby field, but somewhere along the line, this spindly, curly-fuzz face turned me right around on my attitudes towards dogs.

He’s hard not to love. Oscar greets every person over the age of five with an enthusiasm and affection that does not go unnoticed. He has his own move – not curiously dubbed ‘poodling’ – by which he ingratiates himself with every person he meets. And I do mean every person. It starts with a rarified tail wag – usually little more than a few twitches. He might bounce with a certain fanciness only a poodle can muster, right up to his intended target, and with a quick sniff for a treat, he’ll begin to press himself against his new found friend. He leans into it, as he rubs himself along the side, back, or front of available legs, with enough gusto to force the recipient of his affection to have to steady themselves. Unsuspecting parties are often knocked a step over, but are quick to remark with a smile at it. I have yet to witness someone whose day was not immediately improved upon by a solid poodling. I think it’s about the closest a dog can come to a hearty bear-hug, the kind that’s tight enough to shut the world out, but not so tight you can’t breathe. It’s the kind of hug that makes you feel loved.

Toddlers and babies he has little time for. There’s an age restriction for good reason. Behaviorists and other scholars of the canine will attribute it to some kind of distaste for the animations of the youths, their directionless ambulations, but let me tell you this: It’s a deference of qualified age restrictions: You must be of a certain age to both fully appreciate and fully withstand the force of a poodling. He loves children, just not those that might fall over when he shows them how much.

But just because he greets every stranger without prejudice, and with equal parts enthusiasm and affection, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t hold a lucky few in high regard. The greeting for those in his inner circle, especially those he has not seen in more than an hour (you should see it if it’s been more than a year!) is a sight best seen. Like Tiggers, Poodles are made of rubber and springs, and Oscar is no exception. For those he holds dear, nothing short of repetitive leaping in the air with unbridled joy will do. Many of us could take a cue from Oscar on how to show our friends and family how much they mean to us – there’s no mistake when the Poodlepants has adopted you as one of his special friends.

His exuberance was not just reserved for his human friends, however. Oscar never stopped playing like a puppy. It’s been marked often, with surprise that even at seven, his play is so young at heart. He bounced with anticipation when a ball was presented, and given the chance to have a few moments alone with a choice ball (Wilson or Dunlop were his preferred brands), he would create a little homage for each ball by tearing up all the grass around it and flinging the grass all about, before ripping the felt flesh from the rubber inside. It’s all very ceremonial.

One of his favorite past times was utilizing his ability to imitate a human burp in mixed company. Out for a walk, at family gatherings, Oscar would find the opportune time with the most people around to belch loudly, and in a manner where Heather or I were the most likely culprits of the social faux pas. It never stopped being funny for him.

Though Oscar’s youthful demeanor was present in his play and his affections for his human counterparts, he was a mature and patriarchal figure among his peers. He was selective about those he would consider allowing to ‘fetch’ with him, often keeping the ball for himself when too many others threatened to interfere with both the integrity and sanctity of his preferred sport. Though many were faster than him, he competed with a genuine lust for tennis balls that often dissuaded his faster companions from actually picking up the ball, leaving it for him to retrieve.

It was that kind of respect that Oscar received from many a dog. He may have been small for his breed, and perhaps a bit on the skinny side because of his ongoing struggles with Addison’s disease, but he exuded a toughness, an authority that most dogs respected immediately, with minimal communication. A car full of rowdy pups became quiet and orderly in his presence. Dogs visiting our home made sure to leave him his spaces for rest, where ever he chose that to be. Oscar preferred the company of people, but made his presence felt with dogs. He was not a tyrant though – good clean fun was fine with him, so long as it didn’t disturb him.

Time and again, Oscar proved to be a tougher dog than he appeared to be, and more loyal and protective than he let on in the day to day. In September of 2009, he was spooked by daylight fireworks on a Labour day weekend. Oscar bolted out of our sight and disappeared. Though we will never know what truly happened that night, we do know that he was most likely struck by a vehicle. He found shelter for the night, and despite having a fractured pelvis in two places, managed to limp his way home the next morning, only to collapse into our arms. True to form, he still challenges any vehicle that comes too close to him. He fears nothing on the road. That tough.

Oscar fears only those he deems his equals: The sky gods and their thunder and lightning.

When Gemma was bit by a German Shepherd, Oscar was first on scene, getting himself between his little sister and two much larger dogs – and stood his ground. Though he only rarely showed affections for her, he proved to be of deep character that day. He was there for his family, and would always protect them from dogs, cars, doorbells and unannounced visitors.

Oscar was also the inspiration of a local musical revolution of sorts, spearheaded by Heather. Hits like ‘A Poodle and You Know it’ by LMFAO and ‘Poodle Ninja’ by Classified. Classics like ‘Poodle Me Softly’ by Roberta Flack or the holiday classic ‘Poodle Pants’ (sung to the tune of Jingle Bells), almost every song known has a Poodle version now. Though largely unknown outside of our house, within these walls he was a veritable music factory. He has also changed the lexicon of language here, as ‘Poodle’ became a substitute noun, verb or adjective capable of a versatility that few other words can manage in the english language.

Oscar loved the little things: Balls (tennis preferred), sticks, peeing where other dogs peed, having his name said, getting a chin scratch, or scoring a rotisserie chicken on an unprotected countertop. He was a dog of simple tastes.

Two years ago, Oscar was diagnosed with Addison‘s disease, a rare-ish disease that affects his adrenal gland. The basiscs of Addison’s is that when Oscar was stressed out, his body attacked itself. This meant it was hard to keep weight on him, managing his diet and the disease with medications. But that wasn’t going to slow down Oscar. Once the worst of the symptoms had passed, and the medication had kicked in, Oscar was back to bouncing and fetching with the best of them.

A few months ago, our attentive vets detected a heart murmur. This quickly digressed into Congestive Heart Failure, which is an irreversible condition. Medication for this only slows the progress of this. However, the medications for Addisons and his heart didn’t seem to line up for very long. Three weeks after his diagnosis, Oscar stopped eating, and drinking, and started vomiting.

When we knew that we could no longer give him the quality of life where he could rest comfortably and easily, made the hard choice. We couldn’t watch him suffer, and we couldn’t bear to go through more stressful vet visits, more medications. Trying to manage his decline just seemed to cause him more discomfort.

We said our goodbyes in our home, and tried to make his passing as peaceful as possible. His passing was eased by the gentle touch of our Vet, Dr. Micheal Belovich, and his assistant / our wonderful neighbor, Ali Soloman.

He went quietly to sleep, surrounded by his family.

Our time with him was less than we wanted, and more than we expected, but it was all time we will cherish. We did what we could to make his life comfortable and full, and let him know all the time that he was loved.

Rest easy, Poodle buddy. We miss you.

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Stonethrow Pottery Mug

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There’s something about pottery mugs that sets them apart from the other mugs in my collection. It’s not to say that they’re better, or that I love them more, but there’s something about the hand-crafted artistry of these mugs that makes them special. Each one, in it’s own way is unique, with it’s own litte imperfections, and yet so masterfully done that they fit within a set.

That to me, is craftsmanship. And in the industrialized age, something I feel like we’re losing a bit – that ability to create something so well that it is nearly indistinguishable from the previous one, or the next. To be able to shape that with one’s hands, to pick a shape and recreate it, or to mold materials so expertly, is something that I always admire. It’s something easily done with machines, but there is an authenticity, and sometimes a durability that is lost with the ability to mass produce.

I haven’t been to the Stonethrow Pottery Studio yet. But I can tell there’s a certain level of professionalism and attention to aesthetic details that really impresses me. The name is stamped into the bottom. The mixture of textures between the rough bottom and the smooth top is something I haven’t seen before. And it may sound hokey, but there’s something about this mug that feels like it says things; the way art should. It talks about the earth, about something solid and growing.

This was a gift from my (as of the writing of this post) future mother-in-law, Judy.

Thanks Judy!

Starbucks Copper Band Mug

409635430376960900_13975539-1If for some reason you’re reading through all of these #mugcollection posts, you’re going to find a lot of my collection come from Starbucks. This is because of three things:

  1. I am an impulse shopper.
  2. I frequent Starbucks.
  3. Starbucks has neat mugs.

It’s not to say that I particularly *want* Starbucks mugs, but when I’m wandering around looking for stuff, I often just happen into a Starbucks, and they’re pretty good about not slapping their logo on a readily available mug. They slap it on things that look awesome. This mug is no exception. It’s simplistic, but elegant. I don’t know what it is about the colors, but it just feels like warmth and comfort. It’s a beautiful mug.

Huge drawback: Cannot put this mug in the microwave.

I purchased this sometime late in 2012, for no other reason than it was pretty.

Game of Thrones // Stark // Mug

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I’m generally not a collecter of things that involve my nerdish interests, but every so often I’ll come across something that merchandises my love of something nerdy in a way that I find appealing or useful (and sometimes both appealing and useful!) and I’ll pick it up. Or ask for it for Christmas. That’s the great thing about being an adult. Generally, if I want something, I can buy it. The downside is that I have to go through at least five or so minutes of justification and rationalization for purchasing it if it’s not a necessity like food or toilet paper.

Our friends, Jeffrey and Paul picked us up tickets to the HBO/Movie Network Game of Thrones Exhibit at the Design Exchange in Toronto. And it was pretty neat – it was free, so expectations weren’t high. It’s not like there were cast members on hand or anything, but it was fascinating to see the costumes up close (apparently unwashed from their last use, according to some reports), and the sheer volume of ‘artifacts’ they had created just for the show – and with a level of authenticity you don’t typically expect from a television show. Full suits of armor (or half suits, in the case of Tyrion’s), weapons, broaches, even a doll. It’s pretty incredible. The best part was being able to sit on the Iron throne and have your picture taken.

My one gripe with the exhibition is this: If you’re going to hire some people to take pictures, then hire some professionals, or at least students that are in photography and give them a decent camera. Maybe throw in a cloak or something people can throw on. The cadre of event kids using ipads to snap photos in poor lighting as fast as possible meant getting a pretty shoddy photograph, with a watermark on it. The photos we took on our phones were better. But sitting on the throne. Wow. Felt awesome.

Game of Thrones is one of those things where I would say that the books and the show are on equal footing. The books, in my opinion are better, simply because the depth and breadth of information that is covered in the book is on par with what Tolkien writes. I love the books, but I get that it can be a little overwhelming for some. There’s an entire world history, dozens of families and several kingdoms that are being followed, and it’s difficult to keep track of. The trade off with the show, which pares the story down to it’s essentia, is that it’s visually stunning, and the details and histories that aren’t explored as deeply as the books are brought out in the costumes, the set design, and all the little details like the map markers for the battle maps that Robb uses – something that could have been done simply and less interestingly, but someone took the time to carve out animal heads to represent the houses. That, to me is a commitment to the show that most networks lack.

The one thing I’ve noted though is: Those that read the books before watching the show get more out of it. Those that try and read the books after watching the show struggle immensely to get through, as the story moves a lot slower when you’re reading it through.

I picked up this mug on the way out both as a way to commemorate the experience, but also because I genuinely like the heraldry designs they’ve put together for the show.

Large Leishman Pottery Mug

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There’s a little pottery place on our route from Toronto to Collingwood that Heather and I like to stop in at whenever we’re travelling through there during daylight hours. Leishman Pottery is probably where we’ll get our ‘good’ dishes from when Heather and I get hitched. We’re not into china patterns. The idea of having ‘fine china’ as a wedding thing is totally foreign to us. It just doesn’t make sense. Pottery, however? Absolutely nuts for the stuff.

And this is one of our favorite little spots.

Maybe because you’re never really sure if they’re open. In one of those weird highway intersections, in the middle of nothing and next to some fields, is a little schoolhouse converted into a home with some additional buildings built around it. During the summer, the doors are usually open, but there’s never anyone just in the store area. But if you wander in, inevitably someone will appear. They might have a dog with them, they might not. They’re always happy to talk about the pottery, even if they were in the middle of something else.

I can’t remember what the motif is about. It’s a tree in the wind. I think.

I like this mug, but it might be a bit too big. I can nearly fit the entire pot of coffee that I normally brew in there, which is great. Less trips to the kitchen. But keeping the coffee warm and drink it at a leisurely pace? Nope. That last bit is going to be ice cold, even on a summers day.

Starbucks Montréal Mug

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My latest addition to the collection comes to me via Jeff Moss, my Hetero Life Mate/Best Friend/No Reason Comics collaborator and general all round good-guy.

I decided for my birthday I wanted some ‘bro time’ so I headed out to Montreal to impose myself upon him, and we did what we always did: watched some movies, hung out, ate some food, played some games… and went to a baby shower. Which wasn’t weird at all. NOT AT ALL.

Umbriaverde Ceramiche Mug

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I tried to find some information about this mug, and despite having a ‘Made in Italy’ mark underneath what looks like a logo fo Ubriaverde Cermiche, I can’t find anything more than some bizarre pottery listing sites, someone trying to auction another mug like this off, and an article about factory closings in Italy. I think. Google translate isn’t perfect.

I bought this mug at Starbucks a few years ago. It was probably the mug that I actually realized ‘Hey, I’m starting a collection.’ I already had several mugs at this point, but this was the tipping point. I remember really liking this mug, because of the reverse of the bowing of the lip from my Partridge Mug. It was much easier to drink from, even though it didn’t hold *as much* coffee. Which isn’t a terrible thing.

I also had the intention of going back to buy more, to offset the collection by buying a set’s worth, but by the time I got back to ‘bucks, they were all gone, and I wasn’t able to find out anything more about them.

I’m also favorable to deep reds, so this mug is one of my favorites.