Market Inks

Well, to be accurate, I did the inking later on. I liked a quick pencil sketch I did at the Hollywood farmer’s market on Sunday. Not far from when I did that previous market scene.

There was a woman who’d set up a stand to do painting of children’s faces with clown-type makeup. Seemed like easy prey to get some interesting sketches.

As it happens I only got one because people had the unfortunate habit of standing […] Click to continue reading this post

Markets and Musings

I’m back in Los Angeles from my visit to the workshop (see earlier), have a bit of a cold, and am tired. I’ve been thinking a lot about various issues in quantum field theory, surrounding quantum entanglement, non-equilibrium processes, Fermi surfaces, and a lot more like that. I’ve also been teaching about real QED processes in the class today – they are now able (I hope) to compute real cross-sections for things like electron-electron scattering, and electron-positron scattering! Very rewarding actually.

Anyway, I’m tired, so I decided to spend a little time relaxing by experimenting with watercolours of a sort. The digital kind. This is a sketch I did in my little square notebook at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market last week, and back then I’d started to use colour pencils to do some colour on it and got a bit bored… So I did a bit more […] Click to continue reading this post

Breakfast Guy

I’ve no idea who he was, but he made for an interesting subject for several minutes*, sitting eating his breakfast with his (I think) wife. I was staying at a hotel and having breakfast, just North of Santa Barbara. The person I set out wanting to draw (very interesting face) was sitting right opposite me, at the same table as me, looking over regularly, and so it seemed a bad idea to try to sketch him. Also, he turned out to be a physicist also visiting at the KITP for a workshop, and so it could have ended up quite awkward.

It was a pretty good week at the workshop. I had a number of interesting conversations with young people trying out ideas and calculations, who’ve actually read (!) various papers of mine, and so had questions and […] Click to continue reading this post

Head Lines

Well, here I am, almost at the end of Saturday, and rather behind on where I wanted to be. Somehow, a half-day shoot for a TV show turned into an all day marathon, due to a series of mishaps and so forth. The first part of the shoot was fun (it involved me in a pool hall, occasionally potting balls and so forth), but not the second. But I soldiered on, managing to explain a bunch of concepts about quantum mechanics, spacetime, and quantum gravity. We’ll see what comes of it. It’s all for science, and for you…

So much of the afternoon had been set aside of writing, and for maybe a little drawing, and it’s all mostly gone now and the only thing I feel left in the mood for is […] Click to continue reading this post

Categorically Not! – Food

The new season of Categorically Not! gatherings started last Sunday night. It went very well. You may recall that it is held at the Santa Monica Art Studios. It’s a series – started and run by science writer K. C. Cole – of fun and informative conversations deliberately ignoring the traditional boundaries between art, science, humanities, and other subjects. Here is the website that describes past ones, and upcoming ones.

This one was about food, and had musings on food and bringing people together at New York’s Cornelia Street Cafe, by the founder Robin Hirsch. He talked about the history of the place, read some extract from his writings about it, and also described the beginnings of the “Entertaining Science” series that got going when K C Cole, Roald Hoffman, and Oliver Sacks did a performance there many years ago. The Categorically Not! series, now five years or so in age, was a spiritual outgrowth of that series, and so it was great to see Robin speak at it. He was very pleasant and interesting to talk to before and after the event too. (I did a quick, rough, sketch during his 20 minute segment – with some tidying up later – and have included it for you to see. Click for slightly larger view.)

Robin was followed by Amy Rowat, of UCLA. Amy gave us a nice overview of what’s going on in her lab. She’s a physicist, and spends a lot of her time looking at food through that lens. The concerns she described were largely ones of structural, […] Click to continue reading this post

That Was the Week that Was

I might be losing my stamina, or have simply taken on more than I usually do, but it sure seems more tiring and hectic than it usually does this early in the semester.

It was a busy week, but I managed to get a few things done here and there that seem worthwhile, so I count my blessings, as they say. (Or used to say – maybe that’s somehow too loaded a phrase to use now? Not sure.)

To attempt to wind down yesterday after a tightly wound day and found myself walking with large sketchbook in hand in the warm evening sunlight to a studio to […] Click to continue reading this post

Swings and Roundabouts


On Monday evening, I could not draw a thing correctly. Seriously, if you had put a cylinder in front of me square on, I’d have not been able to draw a recognizable representation of it.

This morning, on the bus, I noticed this interesting face inviting me to draw it (the gentleman currently in possession of it was dozing for some of the trip), and in a short time this sketch (click to enlarge) popped out from under my pencil. Funny old world…

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Laying Down the Lines

Yesterday was very busy for me, and a tiring day overall. It started with me getting up at 5:45am again, which was not so great this time since I went to sleep at 1:00am. The plan was to get to campus at 8:00am and continue writing my 10:00am lecture. This almost worked (I got delayed by half an hour due to sending more emails and so forth about the film competition) and I was at my desk at 8:30am, so only half an hour late. I’d been building most of the elements I needed for the class the night before, and in my head on the way, and so I had plenty of time.

Plenty of time for preparing fun since the lecture was the highlight of the day! I know it sounds odd, but I had a blast in that lecture! It was, as the cool kids say, Awesome! Now don’t get me wrong… I am not patting myself on the back about my lecturing skills… it is the material that was the star here, and if you put it together the right way, it simply shines. It did so yesterday. I’m teaching the introduction to quantum field theory, among the most powerful computational tools ever devised to study Nature. (The famous example brought up is this: What else allows you to compute a number to twelve significant figures, and check it against experiment to about the same accuracy? As Feynman said in his little book “QED”, it is like specifying the distance from New York to Los Angeles to the accuracy of the thickness of a human hair… (The number represents a property of an electron, and the computation is done in Quantum Electrodynamics, a form of quantum field theory.))

We’re starting to do self-interactions now, which require the development of […] Click to continue reading this post


I made a bit of time last night to drop into a studio (where there’s a model doing various poses) and do a bit of drawing to get my hand back in. She’s a great model who understands her body and uses the light well, so one sees forms quite readily through her work. I decided to try something I’d not tried before, given the strong subject matter. (It is a known technique I’d read about before, but I’d yet to deploy it.) I took a soft pencil and darkened the paper first (rubbing with a tissue to smooth a bit) and then did my sketch on top of that. (In future I’ll use those graphite sticks I have sitting in my desk and never use.) I built the layout as I usually do, needing to use a softer pencil this time to see the lines, leading to a lot more fluidity in my strokes… Then I began to refine shapes and form in two ways…. darkening a bit here and there with a slightly softer pencil and -most importantly- lightening shade by using an eraser (sharpened pink mostly… blue kneaded more rarely).

The point here is that I do a lot of subtraction in the later parts of my sketches anyway, but in the 25 minutes of the pose, especially when I am rusty (as I am now) I […] Click to continue reading this post

Grabbing Faces

One of the other things I love about public transport is that you get to look at a range of people, and do quick (and preferably discrete) sketches of them. sometimes you only get a few minutes before things change, and you’ve got to deal with the bumping bus or train messing with your line choices. Fun!

Today I felt in the mood, and had two pages left in my current moleskine to fill, and so I decided to go for the subway instead of the bus, in search of prey. (Er, prey=faces/bodies/gestures/poses.) I’m careful to try not to make people aware I’m staring at them, and so pick a good distances, and preferably hide the book and pen, or try to pretend to be writing a shopping list, and looking off into space…

It does not always work, and certainly is sort of hit and miss and depends upon my mood. Most results are awful, since I either don’t have time, or get jogged, or am too chicken to take a good look to get a line right. But it’s good practice for holding things in my head… Anyway, guess what? I got on the train and – hey! There was a […] Click to continue reading this post

Colour Face Study

Been a long time since I did a face study of a real face. I mean one that exists out there in the world. This is not a live portrait, but instead a face from a magazine. I just thought it’d be a nice change from the face studies I’ve been doing (see several recent posts) that involve making them up completely, or turning them through various angles…skills I’ve been interested in a lot for The Project… A passable copy from a photo propped up in front of one is not so hard, with a little practice, since (among other reasons) the subject is very still and most of the 2D translation is already done. These are different skills from portraiture, I think, or pure expression of a face from the imagination, but useful and instructive to keep sharp, all the same. A close study of a real face from whatever source helps one remember what real faces look like when designing them from the […] Click to continue reading this post