Purépecha

purepecha_woman_28_07_10_smallHere’s a sketch I did either in the airport or on the plane back from Morelia last June. Well, it was certainly finished on the plane, I think. You will recall that I was in Mexico to give some lectures on string theory at a quantum gravity school (see here and here and the related posts links below). As part of the practice and experimentation I was doing at the time (for The Project), I was drawing interesting faces, sometimes from photographs, like for this one. You just hold the photo in one hand (this one on the screen of my camera) and sketch it. I was working on a 8.5inx11in sketchpad with a charcoal pencil, I think. (I was trying to be quick, and I think it was about 15 or 20 minutes work.) The photo was taken a day or two before in the village of Pátzcuaro. I think I’d mentioned my visit there to you in an earlier post, but had showed you no images except some clocks.

Well, a funny/nice thing happened. The guy sitting next to me two seats over spoke […] Click to continue reading this post

Heroic

character_a_inkedStruggling for a post title, I went for a slight critique of the work I did on the character you’ve seen earlier*. She’s been grabbed from a panel showing her looking for a seat in a cafe where a conversation (about a physics issue) is to continue.

It is a large panel showing the layout of the cafe with all the people sitting and reading and talking and so forth, and she’s one of several small figures in it, so it is probably not that big a deal that she has somewhat heroic proportions here as compared to her more ordinary proportions in other panels.

Heroic here refers to the various choices of proportions you can give to figures, usually based on how many heads tall they are. You might have heard of people talking about how many heads tall a figure should be.

Well, there really is no “should be”, and different practitioners use different […] Click to continue reading this post

Nine Points

Although the planning of a panel on a page is entirely freehand pencil or pen work, it is indeed the case that sooner or later I start detailed placing of subjects, and I often use perspective to do the layouts. Not just for skyscrapers and so forth, but for down to earth things too. I do it the old-fashioned way, which is repetitive and time-consuming, but I must admit – It is fun! Take some time to look at everything around you – real or represented in drawings, photos, etc – and you’ll likely see perspective cues that help give sense of depth and placing. It is all about geometry, which our universe seems to like a lot, and which we use to navigate in it. Learning a bit of this geometry, and how to build it in projection in two dimensions on the page (and it is much easier than this sentence makes it sound!) allows one to make reasonably convincing recreations of the universe (or simulacra of your choosing) and how we perceive it. Real artists (not hacks like yours truly) use geometry a lot, in one way or another, to interpret, represent, or distill aspects of the world, and so in a sense, they are companions on the same road as those of us in (especially) the physical sciences.

Babble aside, here you can see parts of the interior of a cafe taking shape. I did it using three-point perspective*:

construction_lines

This will be the skeleton upon which I build the flesh of the rest of the piece. It is based on my knowledge of a real cafe that I location-scouted (well, I happen to drink coffee there from time to time), but you’d never get this view without (a) perhaps being able to fly, and (b) removing the ceiling. Trying to be somewhat discreet in this […] Click to continue reading this post

Leaving Home Ain’t Easy

coffee_group_sketchMum’s upstairs packing to leave after her lovely visit of a month and I’m already upset by this. It was such a great time, and I’m so very sad to see her go*. But I can’t keep her all to myself. My sister and brother will no doubt be expecting her back by now, and so I must give her up. 🙂 This blog post is a lame attempt to distract myself from her packing activity, which is a bit sad for me. On the other hand, a rather sweet aspect of it is that I can hear her in the distance singing along to songs from Queen’s A Night At The Opera** and other albums while doing her packing. This makes me smile from ear to ear.

The last few days had lots of activities, including more picnics by the seaside, walks, cooking, shopping, visits to some old favourite haunts (including a surprise Sunday […] Click to continue reading this post

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 […] Click to continue reading this post

Inkin’

working_photoRemember the skyline in an earlier post? Well, I forgot that I’d taken a snap of myself doing the inks for it last month, knowing that I’d ultimately be sharing it with those of you curious about the process. So there you can see me about half way, inking with a cartridge ink pen on the 11 in. x 17 in. Bristol artboard where it sits as a sort […] Click to continue reading this post

Paints

building_construction_paintedOh, I finished the painting of the page that, perhaps annoyingly, I’m showing you only a corner of. Now you’ve seen three stages of development in the production process, from pencils to inks to painting. See the other two pages (here and here) for comparison.

I digitally paint for this work, using a variety of techniques. This is a big silent single-panel splash page early on in the story, and I’m using it to root the reader in reality, the location, and the principal character, and so I’ve broken out the special effects a touch. Yes, I am a traditionalist, as I’ve explained before, with most of the final look of my work not being so different from what could be done in the pre-digital era, but I am not pig-headedly so, and from time to time I use (lightly, […] Click to continue reading this post

Black Lines

building_construction_inkedOk, I have inked the pencils I constructed earlier, showing parts of two real buildings that form the background to the opening pages of one of my stories.

In the end I did the curves freehand instead of fiddling with French curves*. Now for these objects, the inking (done freehand with ink drawing pens – I sometimes use brushes or brush pens too) is actually pretty much just networks of black lines since they are background details and, moreover, very simple skyscrapers. There are some others in this page that are more […] Click to continue reading this post

Constructing

building_constructionBut before we left on the trip (see previous post) I did get a little bit of work done on The Project for the first time in about three weeks, by making an early start in the morning. There’s this big single-panel splash page with lots of tall buildings on it that I’ve been meaning to finish for a while.

Tall buildings mean… windows. Lots of them. For this piece, this means lots of drawing of construction lines to place the windows. So I’ve been messing around with a T-square, rulers, vanishing points, diagonal vanishing points, a bit of free hand winging it (will enhance with French curves […] Click to continue reading this post

Go! Now! Get a Galileoscope!

I just learned from Phil’s blog that the Galileoscopes I mentioned to you some months back (remember? International Year of Astronomy? Not just Darwin year?) are ready for shipping. There were issues with production at first, but now they are ready. The key issue right now seems to be that they are in danger of having to stop production of these lovely things if they don’t get lots of orders by May 31st. Ack!

So please please consider sending in a order for one or a few. Imagine what a delightfully unusual gift it would make for someone. Either someone you know, or someone you don’t know like a neighbour, your local school, church (yes!) or community center, or… even that special someone who you’d like to get to know – what an icebreaker, eh? Here’s a picture from the site of what a happy owner’ll have after assembling it:

galileoscope_kit_box

It is easy to put together, gives a new window onto the world above your head, and […] Click to continue reading this post

Red, Yellow, Blue, Green…

red yellow green blue…among other colours.

View of the day from the garden. (Winter. Number x in a limited series of y.) (Click for larger view.) The rains have gone for a while. The sun is back, with clear blue skies to close out the year.

I’m trying to rest. Well, I’m working on various projects at home, mostly. Colours are on my mind a bit in one of these projects, actually. Later today I’m going to be down in the (only slightly mad-scientist) workshop making a portable screen on which to project films.

Projecting onto the wall is good, but I want to make a silver-grey screen with a dark border that will really pop the colours out. Some of this is about not projecting onto […] Click to continue reading this post

Summer Reading: Fresh Air From Pollan

I’ve been meaning to tell you more about Michael Pollan. I’ve been planning a post or two about Summer reading, and was going to discuss the books of Michael Pollan to kick off a possible series. That plan was hatched in the late Summer of 2007… then the Fall came, and then the Winter and Spring… then Summer of 2008… never got around to it. Drat. (Checking back, I see that I started the series by talking about Haruki Murakami, here. So I’ll call this part of the series too, even though it is not really Summer.)

Anyway, the good news is that Pollan was on Fresh Air (NPR) yesterday, and as usual he was excellent:

In an open letter to the next president, author Michael Pollan writes about the waning health of America’s food systems — and warns that “the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close.”

The future president’s food policies, says Pollan, will have a large impact on a wide range of issues, including national security, climate change, energy independence and health care.

Here’s the link to the audio. Before you rush off to that, let me continue what I was going to say, at least in brief.

Pollan has risen to prominence, justifiably, mostly as a result of his excellent book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History Of Four Meals”. It is a delightful examination of the food industry, charting the route of much of the food that you eat […] Click to continue reading this post

Monsters, Etc

Well, it was quite a fascinating and fun Sunday afternoon, all in the spirit of art and community. And the story has a twist or two before the end.

Where do I start? Well, it was the second LA area Monster Drawing Rally (organized on LA by the Outpost for Contemporary Art), held over in Altadena. A friend of mine, artist and playwright Nancy Keystone, told me about it. Over four hours, many artists (Nancy included) would draw, in hour-long shifts, and then the results would be sold at $75 each. There’d be people looking on, general fun, food, beer, wine, and so forth. Of course I’d go! (As a bonus, there was even belly-dancing at one point. Go figure.)

It was rather excellent. There were artists of all sorts, doing a wide variety of things under the banner “drawing”, and lots of people to chat with and things to chat about. Nancy drew faces in brushed ink on pages of the phone book, which I thought was a lovely idea (unfortunately, I missed getting a shot of her in action), and there were people cutting up bits of paper and gluing, blowing things, measuring and calculating things. More on that latter later. (Click for larger views.)

scenes from the monster drawing rally 2008 scenes from the monster drawing rally 2008

It was another great community event, and I recognized faces of friends and strangers from other things I go to around the city, such as the farmer’s market, Categorically Not! events like this recent one, and the wonderful Urban Homestead Speakeasy organized by Christine Louise Berry that I reported on not long ago. My friends Marc Kamionkowski (Caltech) and Robert Caldwell (Dartmouth) (cosmologists/astrophysicists) showed up at some point, and it was great to see them and catch up a bit.

Every hour the artists changed over, finishing their work and another set of artists seat themselves and get to work. So it was quite a dynamic event. As the 5:00pm session […] Click to continue reading this post

Saturday Calm

october rosesWell, another super-busy week has gone by. Work has been crazy, life has been crazy, and so forth. It is so good to be able to sit here for a while on a sunny Saturday morning and reflect. I thought I’d take you with me on some of the reflections.

The Nobel prizes seemed to come up so much faster this year, and go by even more quickly. I’ve not had as much time to contemplate them as I’d have liked. It was certainly really good to see that the physics one was a celebration of some of the key ideas in my field (see here), of course, but I’d have liked to have had more chatter about all of them, as I usually try to do. It is good to learn more about other things – get out of one’s comfort zone. Two years ago while I was departmental colloquium organizer, I set aside one date to be a colloquium where the three science prizes were highlighted – “Who, What, Why?” There’s always going to be local faculty who can […] Click to continue reading this post