Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunday Evening Dinner

On Saturday I decided that I wanted to cook. I picked out two recipes that not only sounded good but that would also harmonize well: Baked Chicken with Apple Stuffing from and Rachael Ray's Brussels Sprouts with Bacon from the Food Network. Mary and I went shopping and picked up everything that I would need as well as the normal grocery list. We ended up getting done too late so it got pushed to Sunday.

Last night I was the chef de cuisine and Melody was my sous-chef. She helped me out a bit in the kitchen chopping things up, battering the chicken and what have you. I remembered to get out my camera after we were a few minutes into the recipes.

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
The recipe called for boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Chicken Coating
Milk and egg dips

Italian Bread Crumbs
Italian bread crumbs

Breaded Chicken Breasts
Melody prepared and worked the coating line, dipping the breasts into the milk, egg and bread crumbs.

Chopped Peeled Apple
I cored two red delicious apples, peeled one and chopped them both. Unfortunately I did not get pictures of the one with the peel left on.

Apple Stuffing
I prepared the stuffing using apple juice instead of water and added in the skin-on chopped apples.

Panned Apple Stuffing
I put it in a baking pan.

Panned Apple Stuffing with More Apples
I topped it with the peeled apple pieces.

Chopped Onion
I decided to slightly alter the recipe for increased flavor by chopping up a quarter onion.

Panned Apple Stuffing with Onion
I placed the onion on top of the stuffing.

Chicken and Apple Stuffing Ready to Bake
Then I added the breaded chicken breasts and this is ready to go into a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.

Brussels Sprouts
I cleaned (and sliced the larger) brussels sprouts.

Raw Bacon
I put three pieces of bacon in the pan to cook on medium heat.

Cooking Bacon
Just look at it sizzle. I really like this pan.

We needed one tablespoon of EVOO.

Green Onion
I did not have any shallot so I used a green onion instead.

Chopped Green Onion
I chopped it up a bit.

Fried Bacon
The bacon is done and just look at how crispy it is!

Sauteing Green Onion
I put the one tablespoon of EVOO in with the bacon grease and gave it a turn or two before putting the green onion in. I let it saute for a few minutes.

Brussels Sprouts Coated
Next, I put the brussels sprouts in and tossed them about until the grease coated them evenly.

Chicken Broth
I measured one cup of chicken broth.

Brussels Sprouts in Broth
I added the broth to the pan.

Pepper Mill
What dish is complete without some freshly ground black pepper?

Chopped Bacon
Melody chopped the bacon.

I covered the pan and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. I made another alteration to the dish here, I fried up four more slices of bacon and added the grease to the pan towards the end making sure that everything was nicely stirred up.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
I put it in a bowl and sprinkled some of our bacon bits on it.

Baked Chicken with Apple Stuffing
When the chicken was finished baking, the breading was very moist due to the instructions saying to cover with foil for the entire cooking time. I removed the foil and put it under the boiler for a few minutes to dry and slightly brown the breading.

Baked Chicken with Apple Stuffing and Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Here is my plate. Doesn't that look delicious?

The chicken was very moist and picked up some of the apple and onion flavor. The stuffing was simply awesome. The brussels sprouts tasted great but I think that I might have let them simmer more than the ten minutes the recipe called for because they were a bit on the soft side.

I give both dishes five stars and we will be having both of them again!

More Images Coming Soon!

That's right! I will be posting more images this week.

Melody and I made dinner together Sunday night. I took pictures of almost all of it (I pulled the camera out a little late). I am uploading those now to Flickr and will include them in a blog post tomorrow evening with links to the recipes that we made.

As you might have noticed, I have also been going through my really old photos and seeing if I can't salvage some of them. Only time will tell if I have more of them to post.

I have also started post-processing some shots that I took after I had completed my final drawing project. I will not tell you much about them except that the hot lights were still on and that I like long exposures. ;-)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fun With Lightroom

I think that I may have upset my professor. We had an discussion question about Rome. In a response to another student's answer I tied it in with the sad state of affairs here in the United States. More on that in a later post but because of it, I needed to do something to take my mind off of things.

Initially I had decided to go out and make some art with my camera. Yeah, I said "art" and not "photographs". I take enough photographs but I rarely try to create anything artistic.

Instead I decided that the sun was too high in the sky to even try but that I could go through my older shots and see what I could come up with.

I eventually ran into some night shots that I took way back when with my D40 mounted on a tripod with the 18-55mm kit lens.

I came across this shot of the dock looking over Lake Carolyn in Las Colinas (Irving), Texas.

Dockside (Original)

I created a virtual copy and cropped it in Lightroom's Develop Module.

Dockside (Cropped)

Next I created a virtual copy and clicked the auto control under Tone. I then made two additional virtual copies.

Dockside (Auto Tone)

To the first virtual copy I applied the "Creative - Aged Photo" preset.

Dockside (Creative - Aged Photo)

To the second virtual copy I applied the "Vintagey" user preset.

Dockside (Vintagey)

I do not know what it is about this last one but I really like it. In the process, I had a great time and the best part, I am no longer upset about the situation in the online classroom.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Art History

I am taking ART1020 History of Art in Early Civilization this session. There are only a few days left in the first week. So far it looks like it will be an interesting class, challenging, but very enjoyable. We have had to discuss the culture of man during the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, their cave paintings and sculptures, as well as why we think that they created those works. Last night's assignment was to create a guided tour of eight historic sites from those periods, with descriptions of what we would see and why we should visit, in no less than four hundred words with images.

By the way, I was signed up for this class last session and had already purchased the textbook. It turns out that I need a different textbook for it this session. I ordered the replacement on Friday and it should arrive tomorrow.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thinking About Film

Aside from a few shots made with P&S cameras as a kid, my first real taste of photography came in a high school media class. The teacher loaned us all an SLR. We wound the film into the roll and then loaded the roll in the camera. I was pretty excited about the whole thing. We were even going to develop our own shots. My family moved before we got that far though.

Lately I have been seeing a few blogs talk about shooting with film: Joe Reifer shared some shots from a Holga, Paul Lester wrote about Temptations and The Leica mystique, Paul Butzi had a discussion about being a Camera Collector/Photographer/Both?. Oh, and how could I forget Damien Franco's Wordless Wednesday Holga pic: Kerney Ave.

Each time that I see a post about a film camera (SLR or not), I want a film SLR all the more. The recent increase in Holga posts have even caused to check them out. Did you know that you can get a Holga for under $30? I didn't but that will be my next purchase while I save up for a used Nikon F100. Although, an FM10 would be closer to what I used in high school...

Decisions, decisions.

Oh, and at some point I am going to have to buy or rent a view camera for school. I am leaning towards rental just because they cost so darn much!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Final Project: "Troubled"

Yesterday, I did some yard work to get ready for Week 6 Assignment 1: Final Project. I trimmed the rose bush, cleaned (and moved due to ants) the bench. I set up a chair to sit in and took some test photos to judge the composition. I pulled out my hot lights and set them up as well. I was all set to draw but I was just too tired.

Today, I left work about three hours early so that I would not be up until 3 am. I set everything up again when I got home and started drawing. I took some shots of the work in progress prior to dinner and posted them to Flickr as well as emailing them to the professor.

Final Project in Progress

After dinner I had to pull the lights out again so that I could continue working. I asked Mary to put on some jeans and and t-shirt (scrubs just would not look right for this project). When she came outside, I positioned her on the bench as well as adjusted her leg and arm placement. I quickly started sketching her outline.

After a few minutes, she was on the verge of crying. She had ants crawling up her legs but she stayed still. I told her to sit up but not move her legs. I went over and brushed all the ants away and got back to work. Within a few minutes, I had done enough that she could go back inside.

I put the finishing touches on the drawing around 10:00. I packed up all of my gear and went inside. I quickly posted the image and started working on my artist's statement for the second assignment of the week. Melody was quick to point out that I had forgotten to put the shadows from Mary's legs into my drawing so I went back to work and posted the corrected image soon after.

Final Project: "Troubled"

It has been a fun class and I will miss it (just not the long hours).

Here is my artist's statement as posted for Week 6 Assignment 2.

I really wanted to draw something that would show depression or a sense of distress. I wanted it dark; both tonally and emotionally. In my initial sketch, I had included a bottle of whiskey. When I started drawing on the final project I decided against including the alcohol because I think that it would have sent the wrong message.

I started with the trees and the fence and slowly worked my way forward. I continued to add layer after layer until it was complete. I think that I did a decent job of capturing the proper perspective, textures and shading. I feel that the composition is interesting and the layout suits the subject matter. The picture has a well-established foreground, middle ground and background and there are two well-established light sources if you look carefully.

I misunderstood the directions for the week 5 assignments so I thought that I would have to choose new subject matter. I sought out places and things to draw. It was truly challenging but I think that by forcing myself to draw over and over again last week, that I am a better artist for having done so.

I think that I have met my desired goals for this piece. I believe that you can see the subject suffering. It is dark but not to the extreme. I could have improved this work by utilizing a smaller shading stub to blend the finer details.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Open Letter to American Veterans

If you are eligible for GI Bill benefits and have not applied, you might want to submit your initial application now. When I applied at the end of April, the time required to receive a Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) was "six to eight weeks" according to the Q&A section of their website. Right now, the national average is 10 weeks of processing time.

The Buffalo regional office handles the processing for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (the school I am attending). They are no where near the average. As of tomorrow they will have had my claim for 15 weeks (they downloaded my application on June 5th). According to the operator that I spoke with today, they have no idea when my Certificate of Eligibility will be completed.

Once you have a CoE then they can start working on your tuition claim which again will take "six to eight weeks" but it really depends on the regional office that processes the claim.

I really regret waiting so long to apply. If I'm lucky, I will actually be able to use my benefits before they expire in October, 2010. If you are an eligible veteran and you have not applied for GI Bill benefits yet, do not delay because you may end up in the same boat as me!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Final Project Sketch

This shows the general idea of what I wanted to show in my final project. I did not have a model so I cheated and drew from memory. I really do not know how I came to even come up with this idea other than trying to fuse portrait and environment genres into one composition. It turns out that I misread the assignment. It needs to be two drawings of two different genres and since I still do not have a model, I will not be using this idea.

This one is a quick sketch of the wall in a local coffee shop, Primo Coffee and Tea here in Arlington. I skipped drawing the paintings and two of the chairs to speed it up a bit.

Week 5 Assignment 3 Final Project Sketch 3

I was not able to leave again once I got home from the coffee shop so the trip to the park for some environment drawings was postponed. If you cannot tell, I really did not know what to draw for the final sketch. I had tried some porcelain statuettes, camera equipment, etc but I just could not get anything drawn well. So I just grabbed something simple that we have in abundance around the living room: frogs.

Week 5 Assignment 3 Final Project Sketch 4

I finally made it to River Legacy Park but the Living Science Center was closed. I had to park pretty far away but at least it was not too hot. I sat in the grass outside the fence and drew for probably an hour and a half before I finally had had enough of the ants.

Living Science Center

Friday, August 14, 2009


I found this to be an extremely enjoyable but difficult assignment. I kept erasing and starting over. I spent somewhere between two and a half and three hours working on.

I see some problems around the mouth, eyes, hairline, jaw, etc. I looks much better in person than in the image though. As it stands, I like it but think that had I spent a few more hours that it could have been a masterpiece.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Portrait Sighting Discussion

I am going to do something different with this post. I am going to use my answer to the questions that go along with the assignment.

1. Explain how you used the technique of sighting to draw a face.
2. How will you use proportion and balance to make the face realistic?
3. What was your experience with this exercise?

I used the text of Project 18, Drawing Heads and Faces as well as Figure E from page 105 of "How to Draw What You See" as a guideline for adding the sighting lines. In addition, I used my pencil to grab rough measurements. These lines and sizes allow me to accurately* capture the various facial features in proper proportion and balanced vertically as well as horizontally so that I attain symmetry. The sighting lines and contour lines together make up a rough schemata or armature on which to base a more detailed rendering. While working on this assignment, I discovered two things. First, I found that my face does not conform to the ideal dimensions. Second, I realized that the De Reyna made it look much easier than it really is.

* "accurately", in theory at least.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Environment in Perspective Do Over

My professor gave another chance to add more details so I went back and added in the house that I left out the first time.

I really would have liked to add in a tree on the right side behind the fence but it is going to be another busy day around here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Environment in Perspective

I did a few quick sketches before starting on this one. As usual, I do not like it. I think that it started out well but I ruined it when trying to use my blending stump (the back tree for example looked so much better the first two times I did it). I really like the small bush in the foreground.

Today I went back to the doctor's office and saw my actual doctor. She gave me a stronger antibiotic and told me to start taking Mucinex D as well as Zyrtec. She believes that most of my problems stem from my allergies.

I am also supposed to start keeping a migraine diary. This is something that I have been meaning to do anyway.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Week 4 Assignment 2 Large-Scale Object

Week 4 Assignment 2, originally uploaded by Mr. Muskrat.

This took about two and a half hours. Apparently I should have spent another hour on it because the TV looks terrible.

I could not have lasted another minute though as I have another headache. This is the third one this week and I am out of migraine pills. I am so glad that I have another doctor appointment tomorrow!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Photo Published Online

BluebonnetA few weeks ago, I posted that one of my photos had been short-listed.

Earlier today, I was informed that it had in fact been included in the eighth edition of the Schmap Fort Worth Guide on the Panorama page. The chosen photo, included at right, was taken at River Legacy Park here in Arlington.

Week 3 Assignments

I need to spend a bit of time blending charcoal to get varying levels of shadow. I have used my chamois and blending stumps. Every time I have tried it, I lose any details in the area I am blending.

By the way, I need to go buy a different brand of vine charcoal. I think the ones I bought at Hobby Lobby are terrible.

In assignment two, we had to draw a dozen eggs. I found it challenging in a good way. I really had to work at it. I had fun with this assignment; just look at all the photos I took before I started.

In assignment three, we had to draw a still life with drapery. If the fruits and vegetable were not hard enough to draw on their own, the drapery made it all the more difficult. I did not enjoy this one in the least.