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

M and M

Mozart and Mahler. An interesting combination, for sure. In any case, it made for a lovely evening on Friday night, with Jeffrey Kahane directing from the piano on Mozart’s 25th piano concerto, and then conducting (after the interval) the slightly enlarged orchestra in a performance of Mahler’s 4th Symphony. The latter was a surprise to me in that I enjoyed parts of it a lot. I’d forgotten it, not having heard it in a long time, and in fact I must say I usually don’t go out of my way to listen to performances of Mahler’s symphonic works… so either I’m getting old and more forgiving, or this one has fewer of those elements I usually am not overly fond of from the composer. Hmmm….

Anyway, there it is. A good evening. One other excellent aspect is that Kahane is a fan of big dramatic gestures, and so this means great shapes of his body and clothing as he stands on the podium. He had a jacket with stiff shoulders, and pants […] Click to continue reading this post

Prokofiev Women

Sunday afternoon. I was doing a bit of work down at the music tent (the Aspen Music Festival is on), sitting outside on the grass like so many other people do on the Festival Sundays.

At some point I became distracted from my scribblings in my notebook when I realized that suddenly I had all these people around me sitting helpfully rather still (relatively speaking) as they listened to the music. (Prokofiev’s delightful 5th Symphony was on at the time.) Perfect quick-sketch subjects! And as it is a target-rich environment, you can pretend to be looking at someone else which drawing someone, so as to not make them suspicious… (I’m not interested in spoiling people’s enjoyment of the concert, after all…)

It worked rather well until this guy who was near me, who I’d noticed looking at […] Click to continue reading this post


Been back on The Project a bit more in recent days, mixing it in with various physics thoughts, projects, physics related duties, and so forth. More on some of that later. I’ve been writing some new pieces for the work, and have been flowing nicely at times. I write both in words (scribbling in my notebook in H pencil) and images, this being the point of some of what I’m up to. (See my discussion about the nature and intent of the whole business in earlier posts collected here.) So I write words, but also think about how the reader’s eye will move around the page, communicating intent, story, emotion, and concept, and so the words are supplemented by -and often guided by- little “thumbnail” images I scribble as well. (Actually, this is not so different from how I do my physics research, and I know that this is quite common. We think and reason using a mixture of words, images, equations, and so forth, and looking in my notebooks on physics will show a lot of commonality with my notebooks for The Project. Part of what I hope The Project will achieve is to help the general reader learn that this happens, while also benefiting from it by reading the form/medium they are reading…)

In the more familiar language of film, in my job as writer and “artist” at this stage, I’m directing the action as I write, and sort of doing the first pass at editing too, keeping in mind also things that will be taken over by my director of photography, costumer, editor, set designer, and so forth. Oh, those are also me in this case, since […] Click to continue reading this post

Head Start

This was sort of a quick doodle in Brushes while waiting*, as an exercise in just starting at a random feature and building (rather than the global construction approach seen in the previous post on this subject), using simple lines to hold and suggest form… but I liked the person who emerged, so I decided to finish her up a bit more and throw on some colour.

I actually think I sort of know her a bit. Something about the look in her eye, the tilt of her head, and the willful set of the mouth.

You know, I think I may use her as a character in The Project. She’d kick a few doors down, and not take any nonsense, don’t you think? (Scientist, or non-scientist? Must decide later.)

Watch her being built from blank page to finish by clicking:
[…] Click to continue reading this post

Heads Up

The last day or two I’ve paused from various things due to various other things intervening and competing for time. For work toward the project in the in-betweens, I’ve decided to do a bit of study (really, re-study and move things forward a bit) of head construction… mostly working on two key things: (1) Variety of types and (2) more solidity and, er, sculptedness…. This will help with improved production and character design and so forth later on, for The Project.

All while still keeping speed at a good clip. At the right is a quick study I did toward the end of the day today. It is rough, and I am focusing on overall structure, so forgive the crudity. I’d been working entirely with pencil earlier in the day, so this was a change of medium, and a change of pace, that is often useful for getting nice flow. The medium? I used the app Brushes on the iPad. So there’s the one thin stroke of black, using a stylus. I’d done a rough framework of blue underneath first, for layout and bulk.

Just for fun, I’ve included something else you might find interesting. I have […] Click to continue reading this post