Trip to Tasmania

We just returned from a six-day vacation in Tasmania earlier this week. I honestly thought that it was going to be a bit ho-hum over there but, as it turned out, I actually liked the time we spent there. I usually hate driving long distances but driving all around Tasmania’s highways didn’t bother me one bit. I love the scenery there and the quaintness of it all. If I wasn’t working in IT, I can imagine myself living there and loving it.

Anyway, enough words. Here are the photos grouped by locations, sorted in chronological order.

Launceston

Sheffield

Cradle Mountain

Bicheno

Freycinet

Swansea

Richmond

Hobart

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Published in: on January 31, 2008 at 11:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

A new monitor, some sketches and a request

I love my small Dell XPS m1210 due to its small size. However, its small size is also the problem. My PC’s maximum resolution is only 1280 x 800 pixels which makes for a very cramped screen real estate. Ordinarily, this isn’t such a hassle but when it comes to drawing and colouring digitally, it’s a good thing to be able to see the entire picture all at once while working on it. So, one of the things I had wanted was to buy a large secondary monitor I can connect to my laptop.

I have been shopping around for a new laptop since late last year but I couldn’t find one that is not too expensive but at the same time have a resolution larger than 1440 x 900 which was the maximum resolution of most wide screen monitors I was looking at. One monitor did seem to fit my requirements and was relatively cheap: Hanns.G HG216D 22″ Widescreen HDMI LCD monitor.

A month ago, it was selling at Harvey Norman for about $500+ if my memory serves me right. I guess that’s just about right since it is a 22″ monitor with a maximum resolution of 1680 x 1050 pixels. I also like that it had an HDMI input which would potentially allow me to turn this thing into a monitor for a PS3 when we do decide to get one in the future. My only concern was that this was the first time I’ve heard of the Hanns.G brand.

Well, after I looked up the monitor on the Internet, I was satisfied that it was a pretty safe purchase if ever. However, I found it a bit too expensive at the time since I only mostly wanted it for my digital art needs. Last week though, it was being sold for only $349 at JB Hi-Fi! That’s a big price drop and suddenly the monitor was within our budget.

But instead of buying the monitor at JB, we went to Harvey Norman instead where it was being sold at a discounted price of $397 (slightly more expensive than at JB). Good thing Harvey has this 110% price match policy. That is, they’ll match the lower price of a competitor and reduce it a further 10% of the price difference. I don’t exactly understand the policy completely but the end of it was that we got the monitor for less than JB’s $349 price! Yay!

Of course, I quickly tested it when I got home by doing some sketches.

After connecting the new monitor to my laptop, I quickly sketched this piece using Painter X’s Artist Pastel Chalk brush mainly. I was still feeling a bit nostalgic about my old webcomic after drawing Nadine last time, so I went and drew another Lovarian Adventures character. Helix the rogue this time. He has a different haircut now and he seems a bit younger here than in the comic (according to Raquel).

While at Borders (mega bookstore) yesterday waiting for Raquel do some shopping, I saw this girl across from where I was sitting really intent in reading her magazine. Since I wasn’t really doing much, I whipped out my trusty drawing book and started drawing her expression, face shape and hair. I wasn’t after her likeness but her overall look. I scanned the sketch when I got home and modified the image further in Painter.

In the end, I’m pretty happy with the new monitor. It certainly works the way I expected it to. Watching high definition (HD) videos on it was pretty cool, too!

Just before I end this, I just want to add something that doesn’t warrant its own post, I think. I just got a message from a DeviantArt member who had been looking at my stuff and I think I just got my second commission offer (Rick was asking about commissions first). Here is the message:

Cool art! Would you like to draw some sexy sketches of my wife in your style?

He didn’t send me any photos of his wife for reference yet but I did ask Raquel if this was a bit of a weird request. Draw his wife in sexy poses? Raquel was okay with it as long as we get paid. Cool.

Published in: on January 20, 2008 at 9:57 pm  Comments (2)  

Boggled

Last week, we had some friends over for a game of bowling. It had been a long while since we had played bowling so we thought that was a valid excuse to come together. Unfortunately, the bowling centre was running a tournament that day and didn’t allow for any casual players (even though there were lanes available).

Instead of bowling, we just went back to our house for some snacks and story sharing. We decided to go out for dinner afterwards because we didn’t have any dinner prepared at home. On the way out, we noticed the old box of Boggle sitting on the bookshelf near the front door. I bought this several years ago to keep me amused during those first few years of being alone in Canberra. I love word games so this certainly did its job back then.

After dinner, we got out Boggle and refreshed ourselves with the rules. It all came back to me soon enough. We also established some house rules. One of which is that for challenged words, we would consult the dictionary we have in our library. It’s by no means the official Scrabble dictionary of allowable words so there would be valid words that won’t be in there. So, we agreed that if the word isn’t there, it won’t be counted even if it turned out to be an actual word. It just makes things easier.

At first, our writer friends was taking lead with her long words. In the end though, I was able to catch up to her and eventually take the lead by the time we decided to call it a night. Well, if we had followed the rules and stopped when somebody had reached 50 points, she might’ve been the winner because it took me a while to catch up to her score.

In the end, I quite enjoyed our game of Boggle. I usually played it either with my friend Randolf or with Raquel only. I have never played it with four players since college. It was certainly more fun with more people playing. More people meant that more common words get removed from the list of any player and made the game a bit harder, too.

I hope our guests genuinely enjoyed the game too so that we can invite them for another round of Boggle.

Published in: on January 19, 2008 at 12:19 am  Leave a Comment  

More art experimentation

First of all, I’m glad that Raquel has finally been posting again (and without any prodding from me to boot!). That means posts that aren’t always about my artistic endeavours which seem to be the majority of my most recent posts here.

Speaking of artistic endeavours, I’m still not satisfied with my skill level when it comes to digitally colouring my drawings. To remedy this problem, I’ve been playing around with Painter X a lot lately, trying different brushes to see how each one looked. Here are three results of these experiments in chronological order (click on the thumbnails to enlarge):

Used Cover Pencil for the actual quick sketch and the Artist Pastel Chalk for colouring (this fact is also written in my ugly handwriting on the side of the drawing itself). By the way, he is not meant to be anybody specific in the Harry Potter universe. It just so happened that I decided to give him this dark blue robe-like shirt with an orange tie.

This was something I actually sketched on my physical drawing book on the train ride home from work. But as you can see, the sketch itself is incomplete because we got to our train station before I was done drawing. Anyway, I scanned it in and tried some stuff on it. Had a coloured background and used Soft Airbrush tool for the light colouring and the highlights. I’ll probably come back to this sketch again and finish it properly.

It’s been a while since I’ve drawn my webcomic character Nadine Strange. So when I did another doodling experiment, I decided to make her the subject. Although, I admit she looks a lot different here than how I used to draw her. In Painter X, used Artist Pastel Chalk for the sketch, Wet Detail Brush for the colours overall, Soft Airbrush for highlights and Just Add Water for blending.

For a few weeks, I haven’t been able to submit anything new to my DeviantArt gallery all because I was playing Half-Life 2: Episode Two. Early this week, I finished the game and was finally free to get back to my art hobby.

Speaking of DeviantArt, my Grinch drawing won an honourable mention for the ‘Tis the Season DA contest. That means that should get a one month free subscription on DA as prize. However, I have yet to receive my prize. I wonder what’s the hold up?

Another contest I recently joined is for Caroline Dy’s Draw. Write. Play. webcomic about two girl gaming geeks. My entry is the thumbnail you see on the left showing the two lead characters of her webcomic: Pixie and Cel. There were only five entries and the grand prize gets a one year subscription to DeviantArt (again, I know).

Seems like the last entry is pretty cool and all painterly so that will most likely win. I’ll probably only win on a technicality if ever. But, I rather win on merit than on a technicality. With that said, if I win, I win. If I lose to the last entry, I’m also good with that.

Published in: on January 18, 2008 at 12:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Gift bucket

I recently attended a friend’s baby shower (first one I’ve been to if memory serves). Among the gift suggestions that came with the invitation are practical baby items so hubby and I shopped for some items that we know would be useful. We got some nappies, baby wipes, baby bottles, milk container, rattle, baby oil and a nappy bucket to put it all in.

Since the bucket is a bit odd-shaped and big, I initially thought of not bothering with the wrapping and just sticking a card to it and perhaps a pre-tied ribbon bought from a shop. However as the days passed and I got tired of seeing the bucket without any wrapping, I thought about how good of a challenge it would be to be able to wrap it nicely. On the other hand though, I have a love-hate relationship with gift wrapping. I love a nicely presented, creatively wrapped gift that not only keeps you guessing its contents but could also an art in itself. What I hate though, is the cost associated with the wrapping and trimmings that are meant to be ripped and thrown away afterwards. Why can’t we just invent some cost-effective way to have beautifully wrapped presents without the guilt?

Which is why I love the idea behind Wrap Art with its tag line “How to wrap presents creatively, using fragments of paper and miscellaneous items from around your house”. The site showcases several examples of beautifully wrapped presents which used recycled materials, some traditional trimmings and a lot of creativity.

So taking inspiration from the site, I decided to wrap my gift bucket with some things that I do have lying around the house. I used some drawing paper from Ikea, tape, glue, paper punch, old colourful catalogues, recycled gift wrapping paper and the only thing I bought specifically for wrapping the gift, a roll of white and gold ribbon. I came up with the idea of wrapping the whole thing with drawing paper and then tying it up with the ribbon while hubby had the brilliant idea of using my paper punch to decorate the whole thing with mini-flowers.

I was quite happy with the finished look and didn’t feel as guilty as the paper was ripped away during the party! After all, wrapping paper is meant to be enjoyed then ripped!

Published in: on January 17, 2008 at 7:53 am  Comments (4)  

Still here

First of all, I know it’s later than late but Happy New Year to all!

As you could probably deduce from the title, although I haven’t been posting, I’m still here in the fringes being busy. So what have I been up to?

Sometime last year, I have purchased a Nikon d40x camera which I used while on holiday and promptly forgot about. Recently, I found renewed interest in it and have been reading up on the basics of photography and learning more about the camera. I still got a long way to go before I get satisfactory results on non-Auto mode but everybody’s got to start somewhere.

Another motivation for me to learn about the camera is our upcoming trip to Tasmania. I’ve seen photos of and heard of the great vistas in Tasmania so I’m pretty excited to try my hand at some practice landscape photography while there. In the meantime, I have also been busy planning and booking flights, accommodations, car-hire and of course, the Cadbury chocolate factory tour.

We didn’t go anywhere or do anything special during the Christmas holidays so we’re both looking forward to this opportunity to get away from work. Hubby and I have been crazy busy at work as well and are both in dire need of some rest and relaxation.

Apart from that, we’ve finally found the time to get some furniture (Ikea for now) for our living room. Let me tell you, going to the shop, assembling the thing and setting it up in the room is really hard work. My current project is to get some artwork and photos onto our walls, which are presently conspicuously bare.

So yeah, I’ve been pursuing other interests other than this blog. Not to worry though, I’d try to update more frequently than once every quarter. No promises though.

Published in: on January 14, 2008 at 8:29 pm  Comments (1)  

The mystery of the empty Coke can

I should’ve posted this anecdote a while back but since I’ve been too lazy to update the blog recently, I’ve only written about it today.

After coming home from buying our weekly groceries last Sunday, Raquel decided to rearrange our pantry to make room for the recently bought goods. While clearing out the bottom-most level of the pantry where we kept the stack of soda cans, she noticed a black sticky puddle. It seemed that one of the cans of Coke had sprung a leak!

Although that in itself was weird, what’s weirder was that the Coke can with the leak was now empty but there wasn’t any obvious holes in it. The tab on it seemed intact and there were no puncture holes anywhere on the can’s surface.

We even submerged the whole can in a bucket of water to see where bubbles would appear to locate where the hole was, but there was nothing. I was even squeezing the can to see if I can push the air in it out through the invisible hole but there was nothing again.

So now, we have a completely sealed empty can of Coke and a black-stained pantry floor but with no reasonable explanation as to how the Coke fluid spilled out of its can. If any of you can explain how this could’ve happened, please let us know.

Published in: on January 9, 2008 at 10:07 pm  Comments (7)  

Puffing Billy

First of all, a very Happy New Year to everyone! Now that’s out of the way…

One of the tourist attractions I wanted to go to when we moved to Melbourne was the Puffing Billy steam trains at Belgrave. But what is Puffing Billy? Here’s the answer as quoted from their website:

Puffing Billy is a genuine relic of our more leisurely days. An historic steam train still running regularly in the mountain district it was built to serve at the turn of the century.

The Railway is the sole survivor of four experimental lines used to develop rural areas in the early 1900’s. Puffing Billy is now a major tourist attraction, its operation depending on hundreds of dedicated volunteers.

Puffing Billy runs every day of the year, except Christmas day, so why not take yourself and your family or friends on a sentimental journey along this 24.5 km operating museum. Enjoy the mountain scenery and panoramic views which pass by your carriage window. At Lakeside, the intermediate terminus of the railway is inside the beautiful Emerald Lake Park. You may stop over for a few pleasant hours bushwalking, swimming or just relaxing in the peaceful country setting. The terminus of the line at Gembrook is a delightful country town with much to offer the visitor.

I’ve forgotten about Puffing Billy for a while until an officemate told me about their family trip to the Dandenongs last week. He also mentioned Puffing Billy in passing as it was in the general area. He told me that he had gone there a few times before. Since I was curious about the place/ride to begin with, I asked him about his experience. That got me more interested to go.

So, on my birthday, Raquel and I drove to Belgrave to get on the Puffing Billy steam train. It was great. I wanted to see an actual fully-operational steam engine locomotive up close. What I didn’t realise about these old trains was the amount of polution it generates though. I certainly didn’t expect the large specs of coal falling on our skin and into our hair. Some even fell on my lips and teeth!

Still, I sort of loved it as I felt like I was transported back to the old West. It felt like I was riding a rural steam train into the wildernes back in the late 1800’s.

We were lucky that we have a buy-one-take-one ticket voucher and the ticket prices were cheap that day. So we paid like a quarter of what we would’ve actually paid if we had paid full price without the voucher. I thought it was well worth the drive to Belgrave and the money we spent on the train ride.

We stopped at the half-way point though which was about an hour from Belgrave. We felt that it wasn’t worth going all the way to Gembrook. I was just really after the train ride. We can always just drive to Gembrook in the future if we want and it will probably be faster than taking the train. After all, it was an old train and it didn’t really go that fast.

So, if you havan’t had the chance to ride the Puffing Billy train, I recommend that you give it a go. I think kids will specially love it.

Published in: on January 3, 2008 at 12:58 am  Comments (1)