Confessions of a Ballerunner

Essays on Sports, Arts, Culture, and Life

Cartoon: Health messaging is all around us

Crowded subway screening messages cartoon_color2

Everywhere we look, we are bombarded with health messages, usually across a variety of media platforms. How to prevent disease. How to treat disease. These days, a person has to be able to think critically not just about the message being transmitted (i.e., Is it credible? Does it apply to my personal circumstances?), but also about the messenger transmitting the message (i.e., Is the information from a trusted source? Are there any conflicts of interest or external motivations that may be influencing the message?). In an age of such complexity, it has never been more important to educate ourselves about health and healthy living. We need to become critical thinkers, so that we can appraise the messages and the messengers. There’s a lot of health information out there – too much to stay on top of by ourselves. That’s why we also need to identify trusted curators of health information, who can help us sort through all the noise to find the signal.

An excellent, plain language resource to start educating oneself about health messages is the free, open-source book by Woloshin, Schwartz, and Welch called Know Your Chances.

Words Matter: The Importance of Choosing One’s Words Carefully

This week, I was asked by a friend if I could come up with a cartoon that she could use in a presentation that she would be delivering at an international conference on communication later this month. She wanted a humorous illustration that would help make the point that the words we use matter in ensuring that our ideas are understood as we intended. By contrast, when we choose the wrong words, misunderstanding can often occur, sometimes with comic effect.

This cartoon was drawn by hand using a black Pitt pen on glossy (finger paint) paper, which I then scanned and colorized in Photoshop. It shows a Catholic school student having to explain her unfortunate choice of words in class to the priest.

This cartoon was drawn by hand using a black Pitt pen on glossy (finger paint) paper, which was then scanned and colorized in Photoshop. It shows a Catholic school student having to explain her unfortunate choice of words in class to the priest.

What if we made taking the stairs the more desirable choice versus the elevator?

My (boring) workplace stairwell…

Before_staircase3

If I got my hands on some paint (and permission from the building owners), oh what the possibilities could be…

I could paint a huge tree of brightly-colored autumn leaves with a bluebird perched on a branch…

Before_staircase3.1

Or a thrilling ride down a ski hill…

Before_staircase3_Ski Lift

Seven flights of staring at boring, bare walls while walking up drab concrete steps is otherwise not a very inspiring way to start one’s work day. I wish developers and architects (and companies) would do more with stairwell and stair design. Stairs are sculptural and are functional public art just waiting to happen. Maybe if we had more visually interesting stairwells, more people would actually want to take the stairs at work – instead of always opting for the elevator.

Collection of hand-drawn sketches from Illustration course

This fishbowl sketch was based on the class’s theme of surrealism. We had to pick an object – in this case, a vase with flowers – and give it a surrealism spin. I decided to turn one of the leaves into a fish trying to escape the fishbowl – a metaphor for how employees can sometimes feel trapped working in a corporate office 9 to 5, day in and day out. The hands represent ‘working for the man (or ‘woman’, as the situation may be)’. A classmate – a florist by day – later remarked that the drawing made her think of Little Shop of Horrors. The sketch was done using watercolor pencils and wash.

Fishbowl sketch

The sketch below was a very quick fashion sketch I did on a break. It was my modern interpretation of Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer. The sketch was done using a combination of graphite and color pencils,and wash.

Girl with a Pearl Earring sketch

The sketch below arose out of a themed exercise the instructor assigned to the class. We had to incorporate black beans and a ‘found object’ of our choice – in my case, a broken candelabra – into a drawing. I decided to do mash-up of the classic children’s books, The Little Engine that Could and Jack and the Beanstalk. The drawing is done entirely in graphite pencil.

Beans exercise_sketch

Illustration: ‘Afternoon at the beach’

Inspired by a photo I took earlier this week of a multi-colored parasol at Parlee Beach at dusk and the artistic style of Maud Lewis. Drawing and colorization done entirely in Photoshop using my laptop’s touchpad.

Beach art

Whimsical fish and bicycle mixed-media illustration

seafood bike_collage_med.res

This was an illustration I did for my 3-1/2 year old nephew based on a trip I made to London, England in September of 2012, where I happened upon a lovely green delivery bike complete with wicker basket for Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill off Regents Street.

The bike and cat were hand-drawn using a black pitt pen; the fish and newspaper were photographs I had taken and cropped, while the boy, cartoon fish, and background were all drawn using Photoshop. Colorization was completed in Photoshop. My nephew loved it! :-)

Misty Copeland – first black principal ballerina at American Ballet Theatre: illustration

Misty Copeland_ballerina_lines

This sketch was originally drawn by hand using a black Pitt pen then scanned into Photoshop for colorization. The patterns in the tutu are individual pieces of fabric that were scanned and incorporated into the image.

‘The Hare and the Elephant’ fable: illustration of a passage

“As he passed, all the villagers exclaimed: “Look at his paws! And those ears! That’s the biggest hare we’ve ever
seen!”
When he heard this, the hare turned to his friend, saying, “We can go home now! That’s settled! I’m huge and you’re tiny!”

The hare and the elephant fable

This is a passage I illustrated from the fable, ‘The Hare and the Elephant’. During the first class of an introductory illustration course at the Ottawa School of Art, our instructor had asked each student to select and illustrate a passage from this fable. All of the illustrations – some more elaborate or imaginative than others – were then collected and scanned into a single keepsake digital book, which was given to us as a souvenir at the end of the course.

My drawing was sketched and colored by hand using india ink and a quill pen initially and then watercolor paint.

‘Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain’: digital cartoon

Amélie

After taking an introductory illustration course at the Ottawa School of Art and learning a few new tricks in Photoshop, I have been re-inspired to draw and colorize digitally. This sketch was inspired by a trip to Montmartre in Paris that I took in the fall of 2012 and the endless charm of the 2001 ‘Amélie’ film. The drawing was originally done by black pitt pen, scanned, and then colorized digitally. I think I might look into getting a Wacom stylus soon, though; I’ve heard it makes colorizing – and eventually drawing – much easier than using a mouse (or in my case, the laptop’s touch pad).

The Four Seasons living in Ottawa: Winter

Well, it was a winter that won’t soon be forgotten. A truly Canadian winter from the days of our youth when the snowsuits were hauled out in November and didn’t come off until April. Even the hardiest, most winter-loving among us have to admit to wondering when that meteorological villain dubbed The Polar Vortex would finally release us from its icy, unyielding grip.

On the positive side, with all that extreme cold, we almost broke a record in Ottawa for longest number of skate days on the Rideau Canal. The protracted deep-freeze also ensured that the ice surface was in pristine condition for just about the whole skating season. The ice was so smooth at times that you could be forgiven for thinking you were skating inside a hockey arena on synthetic ice and not outdoors on a natural rink. What a pleasure it is to skate to work in the morning, get out for some fresh air during your lunch hour, or enjoy a romantic pas de deux with your significant other under the stars at night – especially if there is light snow falling…

There was also plenty of snow to be had this past winter, too, much to the delight of skiers and snowboarders. The cross-country ski season started in December and went right through to April. We are so lucky in Ottawa to live so near Gatineau Park. It’s only a 20-minute drive from downtown Ottawa. Although it is but one of many outdoor recreational sports I engage in, skiing in Gatineau Park is easily my favorite winter activity. There’s nothing like leaving the city behind and winding your way up through the heavily wooded Gatineau Hills for some unparalled aerobic exercise and mental relaxation. No matter how I feel when I leave the city, I always feel amazing after an afternoon of skiing in Gatineau Park.

The photos below were taken this past winter while out skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway or cross-country skiing in Gatineau Park. They were all taken on my iPhone and then edited later in Photoshop. Normally, I would use my SLR camera for photoshoots, but it’s too bulky to carry around when you’re doing sports! Although it is no substitute for a good SLR camera (which you can do so much more with when shooting in manual mode), I was impressed by the quality of the images I was able to get from the iPhone’s camera.

Winter may be harsh at times, but it is truly a beautiful, magical, contemplative season, as eloquently and convincingly argued by Adam Gopnik in his 2011 CBC Massey Lectures series, “Winter: Five Windows on the Season”. I highly recommend listening to the podcast or reading the book. You will gain a new appreciation and perhaps affection for winter.

At the National Arts Centre looking northwest towards Parliament

At the National Arts Centre looking northwest toward Parliament

Skating under the bridge at Patterson Creek to the Rideau Canal

Skating under the bridge at Patterson Creek to the Rideau Canal

Skating after a fresh snowstorm on the canal near Dow's Lake

Skating after a fresh snowstorm on the Rideau Canal near Dow’s Lake

The natural skating oval of Patterson Creek

The natural skating oval of Patterson Creek

Skating near the Bank Street Bridge with Southminster United Church in background

Skating near the Bank Street Bridge with Southminster United Church in the background

Taking a break under the bridge

Skating under Bank Street Bridge

Cross-country skiing through the mist along Ridge Road in Gatineau Park

Cross-country skiing through the mist along Ridge Road in Gatineau Park

The impending storm: descent from Huron Look-out

The impending storm: descent from Huron Look-out

Climbing the Fortune Parkway in Gatineau Park

Climbing the Fortune Parkway in Gatineau Park

The serpentine ascent up the Fortune Parkway to the Lake

The 1.5-km serpentine ascent up the Fortune Parkway to  Fortune Lake

Tough slog up Fortune Parkway

My sister taking a break from the tough slog up an icy Fortune Parkway

The bench at Huron Shelter where skiers take a break from an ascent up Ridge Road or collect the courage for the ride down!

The bench at Huron Shelter where skiers can take a break from the ascent up Ridge Road or summon their courage for the wild ride down!

Last skier out of the park

Nightfall: the parking lot at P9 was abandoned and in almost complete darkness (save for the glow from my headlamp and the lights in the distance from the ski hill at Camp Fortune) after I finished my late afternoon ski in Gatineau Park.

 

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