Dropped into a studio to do a bit of drawing to “keep my hand in”, late last week. It meant a lovely early evening out there after a full day’s work, enjoying the low sun and warm sky.

The drawing was fun, with a reasonably good model present. I decided at some point to listen to some Hendrix blues pieces on my headphones, and things went really well – maybe partly as a result. At the left is a sketch* that lasted a little over 20 minutes (was supposed to be 25 but, oddly, the […] Click to continue reading this post


The characters in the story (“The Arena”) that I’m currently working on for the graphic novel are firmly mid-conversation here… (See more on The Project here.) Been away from it for some weeks now. Need to re-engage and push this one to the end. For those interested in the process, here’s a series of illustrative clips of: (4) rough pencils and layout (done on a bus ride back from Westside one day), (3) tight pencils (done that second morning of the retreat between breakfast and lunch), (2) inks, (1) inks, flat colours and letters (bubbles present, but letters hidden):


(2) […] Click to continue reading this post

Maneuvers in the Dark

fay_wolf_hotel_cafe_14_4_2011_smallBefore getting up in the wee hours to prepare to jump onto a plane on Friday morning, I was out seeing some live music at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. I find that I need to go and get some of that from time to time, and the Hotel Cafe is a favourite of mine for that…

I had my notebook and a nice vantage point for grabbing a quick sketch or two of people at the piano. It was a nice challenge to do a couple of fast sketches – in almost darkness – to see if my hand and eyes were still “in”.

As usual (I’ve discussed this earlier here) my goal on fast sketches is not photo-realism (!) but a […] Click to continue reading this post


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


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


figure_study_17th_jan_11_smallLast Friday, I went to the luncheon of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and as usual there was a fascinating short talk to accompany lunch and coffee. (As I mentioned before, the membership of this group is a rather wonderful mixture of people mostly from USC, UCLA, and the city of Los Angeles in general, mostly prominent writers, artists, and other people from the humanities, film, theatre, and… they let one or two dabbler-type scientists like yours truly on the list, bless them.)

The talk was by Bram Dijkstra, and was entitled “The Nude in American Art”. As with most of the talks here (and in many similar venues), it seems to be associated with a book the speaker has out recently, and this one is a sumptuous-looking tome called “Naked: The Nude in America”. It was a nice talk, although he did not get very much into the modern America part because he spent time on the European connections and background and then ran out of time (they try to keep the luncheon talks short and to the point, leaving you wanting more, and leaving time for questions, which is indeed a good thing). However, one of the things that kept coming up was the whole business of an early prudishness or puritanicalism (still persisting in some places today) that meant that the naked physical form should somehow be hidden away. You get examples even today of art galleries’ major donors creating problems for an exhibit that contains nudes, etc., etc. He discussed various changing (and not changing) attitudes to this issue on both sides of the Atlantic through the years, which I found interesting. Aspects of this were not just tied to things like religion, but also the changing status of women in the various societies, to various degrees, since a lot of nudes feature the female form.

This is all very interesting to me in view of The Project for, I hope, obvious reasons. I found myself wondering (and indeed asked a question at the end about it) about […] 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