New Semester Approaching

I’m feeling strangely cold, although the heating is on and I’ve got a jumper (“sweater” to readers in the States) on. It has been this way all day, so I suspect it is something to do with my frame of mind. I’m feeling a bit reflective with it too, so I’ll think out loud (as it were) a bit before going to bed early.

Well, it is almost time to start another round of teaching. This semester, starting Monday, it is a graduate course that I’ll be teaching, the second part of a year’s sequence of string theory that we teach from time to time. My focus will be non-perturbative issues, focusing on much of what has been forming the foundation of research in various areas of string theory since the 1990s. Should be fun. Some of the material will come from my book, D-branes, that was published back in 2002. It seems so long ago now. I actually looked in it today, as I was discussing a research issue with a colleague, and could not recall some details. Happily there was a chapter with it all in there. That’s rather nice. The book serves me well as a personal reminder of things I used to have at my fingertips all the time back then, and as a bonus, lots of people around the world still use it as a handbook/guide/intro/etc, I hear.

I joke, of course. The cart and the horse are the other way around.

Speaking of books, I’ll be doing my best to continue working on the current book project, with all the excitement and adventure in developing it. (And the occasional drudgery of doing umpteen windows when I do a scene with lots of tall buildings.) I’ll keep posting about it from time to time, and expect I’ll put a page in the sidebar with a collection of all relevant posts for easy access and reference. Must get around to building that.

It’ll be a busy semester, I feel, so I will have to fight hard to ring-fence (as they say in the Old Country) the required time to continue doing enough work on it to move forward, and to keep my skills at a useful level (and of course build on them). There is a lot to drawing, and it is very fulfilling and enjoyable at any level. I recommend it. It is a good way to find a pleasant and enriching stillness, which I find to be beneficial. It also encourages one to look at things differently, more closely, and see the world anew. Even the most seemingly mundane things. Actually, in addition to experiments and studies that I do in devoted sessions from time to time (I’ll tell you more later), over the past year – with skills for the project in mind – I also try to find moments when I can just capture something quickly. Sometimes it is on the bus, or at home, in a waiting room, a bar or cafe, or even during a committee meeting at work. (I keep everything, so some of the results might get recycled, or form the basis for more finished work…)

Important to me is the business of catching a pose, gesture, or attitude in a quick sketch. This is a skill I am trying to improve upon all the time, as well as maintain. I can chip away at a subject that is more or less stationary and get a good interpretation of it given enough time (inanimate objects, a posed model in a studio, things or people captured in photographs, etc). That’s relatively straightforward compared to grabbing from life as it moves along, capturing the essence as it were. I try to keep a small sketchbook with me for when opportunity and mood both come knocking, or I use a random bit of paper, or the iPad or iTouch.

colleague_sketch_1To the right is an example of what I mean. It is a quick sketch of a colleague who was standing a little bit in front of me while we were all (College of Letters, Arts and Sciences faculty) listening to our Dean tell us wonderful things about the year to come and the year that had passed, back at the beginning of last semester. I did it with a ball point pen on a copy of the program. It was quickly done (for me – and I mean the drawing, not the speech 🙂 ), and there are all sorts of things wrong with it (and I can’t believe I’m showing it to you) that I can see -so no need to point them out- but I like the balance of it, which was the main thing that jumped out at me that I wanted to capture. (I cleaned up a few lines, stains and smudges after scanning.) It was quick but not quick enough for what I want: I like it when I capture more, in less time, and with fewer lines. The only way to get there consistently is to do more. It’s good to challenge myself to get better, and it is fun and relaxing, while at the same time being a key part of this work that I’ve chosen to do for this book, so that’s rather good all told.

Now I’m all warm. My mum, still visiting for a few days more, brought me some nice spicy ginger tea as I typed the above. Sipping it has helped a lot. Hurrah for ginger, cloves and cinnamon!

Good Times…


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11 Responses to New Semester Approaching

  1. Yvette says:

    Damn modest people who know how to draw that I’m super jealous of… :-p

  2. Clifford says:

    Thanks. You’re very kind, actually. 🙂


  3. kim says:

    ginger and honey is the one to go for. Have you tried that clifford?

  4. Clifford says:

    It is good, yes.


  5. Ele Munjeli says:

    I like this quite a lot actually. The weight is well distributed. I had a wonderful figure drawing teacher who suggested that when drawing a figure you always start at the point where the most weight is resting: it makes the tension and balance of the figure come out right.

  6. Clifford says:

    You have my colleague to thank for this, really. She always has excellent poise, and this pose just _begged_ to be sketched.

    As for start points and balance. I tend to drop lines and see where they fall and what is on them… in my head. (When I remember…)


  7. Jude says:

    This puts the doodling of stick figures in an entirely different light. My favorite method for surviving meetings–taking the first 5 buzzwords, anagramming them, then writing haiku out of the anagrams–is mundane compared to this. Your dean made her *stand* during his speech?

  8. Carol&Co says:

    Yum – a brilliant concoction, the taste and smell of which I can conjure up quite clearly 6000+ miles away. Thanks for the memory. cmj+

  9. Belizean says:

    That’s fine sketch. When’s the comic version of D-Branes coming out?

  10. Clifford says:

    Wait, I thought I already did that! And they released the trade paperback and everything… 😉


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