Carl Wiens
April 2011
Get Out!
I love what I do and I'm lucky to have a really great studio. But if I don't get outside I go crazy. Time spent away from the studio, and escaping that feeling of always being 'on' is absolutely essential. It's like a reset button that allows creativity to untangle itself and flow again. It's been a long winter and now it's warm, things are green and it's time to gear up for summer, to get outside!
Summer is always too short and there are too many things to do, but I desperately try to get as much as I can out of it. I usually try to take the month of July off and spend time on the dock at the cottage, exploring trails on the mountain bike and swimming with the kids. This year I'm planning on loading up the car and driving to the Rockies, a la Clark Griswold, on a camping trip.
The perfect campsite, nestled in some trees, with a view of the sunset.

I do a lot of 'how-to' assignments, but this one was sweet because I have done enough wilderness camping to have a first hand experience as well as a real passion about the subject. I've done a number of canoe trips and know enough to pack the essentials and travel lightly. But I also know how important it is to bring along a hammock and espresso maker.
This series was commissioned by Gary Davidson at Explore Magazine, for a feature call 'Camping 101'. I carry a sketchbook along on my canoe trips. I've also worked on a number of personal journal sketches that were used as model for this series. I like the challenge of working with two colors, keeping things simple for the sake of clarity.
Be prepared for anything. Stay dry and make sure you know how to build a good fire. When's the last time you were deliberately out of mobile phone range? It can be done.

Sketch of old-growth pine forests in Temagami, northern Ontario.

The President's Brain is Missing

Not a quote from Donald Trump, but the title of a brilliant and funny sci-fi story by John Scalzi, over at
Working with Irene Gallo is always a treat. I haven't posted this illustration yet, this was initially available only for registered members of the site.
Here are some of the sketches for the assignment.

This is one of those images I've been meaning to post for a while, but today I was given a reason - this piece was 'chosen' by the American Illustration 30  jury. Not sure how many would dig deep enough on the AI website to find it, so here it is!
A question of energy
Lately the word energy brings to mind many more questions and concerns than answers. While I was working on this assignment, the world witnessed the partial meltdown of nuclear reactors at the Fukushima plant in Japan.
This series was developed with Daniel Smith, at the Wall Street Journal, who is always great to work with. Working towards an image that captures the idea of renewable energy proved to be more of a challenge than I originally anticipated. Renewable sources range from biomass to wind power, but ultimately renewable sources originate with the sun.
I tried a number of different approaches before coming up with this design. The green approach wasn't working, I think that green fatigue has set in. I have included a number of different 'sketches' below. I'll put them up to accompany some of my thoughts on the subject.
Finding energy solutions is no simple task. Each method of generation carries with it certain risks and drawbacks. The future looks towards multiple sources, locally generated.
I've been really impressed on my cycling trips this spring by the number of solar panels installed on local farms. I live in a rural area in Canada, I mean, this isn't sunny Arizona!
That is really encouraging.  While solar costs keeps dropping, the efficiency of solar generation keeps going up. Government subsidies are kicking in sweeten the pot.
Wind power, on the other hand is facing hurdles ranging from pricing and competition to organized opposition. Those towers are just so huge and daunting. Prince Edward County, where I live, was slated to be developed by a number of wind projects almost a decade ago. Most of those have been placed on hold, have lost funding or face serious protests from local landowners concerned about the long term impacts of these mechanical giants.

Biomass is another alternative with some serious issues. Whatever happened to switchgrass? Most of the the ethanol we use is derived from corn, which also is an excellent food source. What methods can be used that don't take up valuable farmland and food? Algae is now a leader in development and research as well as Bagasse, the residual waste fiber from sugar cane processing.

I don't know if I can take another oil spill or meltdown anytime soon. I also don't want to be naive enough to think that any of the changes we really need will be easy. However, change is going to come.
In ten years time I hope I can run my computer on sunshine and my car on algae. I will keep pedalling wherever I can and living a low impact lifestyle.
Recent Articles

Portfolio (50)

Mecanismos (26)

Little Big Spots (37)

Op-Ed (6)

Journal comics (6)

Birdhouse City (16)
More work
Birdhouse City
Links to Articles