A few thoughts on The Artist

Natasha Simons, at the new-to-me Mary Sue (“A Guide to Girl Geek Culture”), sheds some light on the context of the end of the silent era.

She seems to see the character of George Valentin as most closely based on William Powell, on the evidence of Jack Russell terriers, which seems off base to me. Valentin is collaged from the lives of several silent stars, including Douglas Fairbanks and Valentino. His character design is fascinating, by the way, not least because the actor who portrays him, Jean Dujardin, bears an occasionally uncanny resemblance to both early 1960s Sean Connery and Clark Gable.

I had thought sections of the film set in the city were shot on the old RKO Pathé backlot, the “40 Acres,” which was used to provide settings for downtown Mayberry and city settings for at least two and I bet more episodes of Star Trek, but that backlot appears to have been torn down. If I come up with a locale I will post it.

UPDATE: here is some info on locations. Warner Bros backlot and, it seems, Pickfair!

reflections on this image making excercise

Just over a week ago I started expecting myself to execute and post a digital drawing or painting every day, using the iPad or my more-capable graphics tablet, a 12-inch Wacom Cintiq. Both offer a direct-display drawing experience. The Cintiq is a more capable tool because it offers gradations of pressure sensitivity and the stylus also delivers information about velocity, tilt, and other factors that comprise the range of data making up a drawing stroke.

However, it is cumbersome and tied to a CPU, in this case a speedy Mac OS X laptop. The iPad, of course, is itself a standalone device.

I have been surprised at the capabilities of the iPad, and how quickly and effectively I have been able to gain and expand my control of marking using the device, considering that there is no actual gradated pressure sensitivity. In general I have been using stylii to craft the images, but in the case of at least one app (Brushes, I think) I noticed that using fingers instantly expands the marking vocabulary (there seems to be some sort of velocity-based interpretive algorith that more effectively creates a varable width mark).

I’m going to press on here, I think. The ease of setup and execution on the iPad really makes it remarkable for this – it’s clearly easier and faster for me to draw on the iPad than in an actual notebook with a pen or pencil, simply because I don’t even have to dig around for the right tool or eraser.

However, of the initial series of drawings, there is one which clearly stands out: the Bacon banjo-neck sketch. This drawing is unquestionably superior in visual impact, fluency, and acuity of observation and execution, as sketchy as it is. The image was entirely created on the Cintiq. I don’t think this is an accident. I look to establish and experiemnt with an iPad-to-Cintiq workflow on an appropriate subject shortly.

Hopeful internet trawling reveals absolutely no trace of Apple looking to license Wacom’s technologies and no clear indication that Apple intends to introduce induction-optional touchscreens, which makes sense in many ways. However, I cannot imagine that Wacom does not see the iPad as a profound threat and I very much look forward to the introduction of a standalone device with all the input capabilities of Wacom’s product line.

Wine glass

wine_glass.jpg Incredibly hurried sketch of a glass on our Halloween tablecloth, literally after finishing cookery and just before serving.

Sawyer's View-Master, Portland ORE


Super quick sketch of an old View-Master. Not entorely successful. I was trying to get after the surface textures of the dark, reflective surface of the device, but the digital emulation of wet oil color mixing led to a loss of control of hue, value, and draftsmanship.

Some limitations of ArtRage’s UI are beginning to crop up for me.

The iPad version does not have drag-reorderable layers. The photoshop-like layer blend settings are only available in the desktop iteration of the app. Only certain settings can be visually controlled via a tap and drag. The layer transparency setting must be entered as a numeric value rather than via tap and drag, which is a bit jarring as it forces the mind out of visual mode and into language and math mode.

Some of the characteristics of the brush are labeled in puzzling ways (for example, there is no clear setting for brush transparency, only for Load, Pressure, Size and a few more. These values are expressed as percentages, which is understandable for all except Size).

Despite this, the app remains far superior for my needs. Brushes, used in the Kirks, was not as goofy to control as I had recalled it being, though. I still don’t get why that app doesn’t implement layers.


kirk_0.jpg On Saturday and Sunday November 5th and 6th I tried a new experiment in my digital drawing and painting exercises. Starting from a photo reference, I created a ‘pencil’ drawing, executed a conte and wash treatment, and reworked the drawings into a painting.

kirk_01.jpg It was important to me that the series take as its’ starting point a very recognizable face and subject, something I have done in the (very distant) past with Elvis Presley. Having been on a bit of a jones for a solid iOS Star Trek game which is not derived from the seventies text-based game (there are none), the iconic mug of James Tiberius Kirk came to mind.

kirk_02.jpg Here are the pics. I have a copy of the initial image but don’t want to post it to avoid the wrath of Paramount. I did look for the original source to link to it but Google’s search results have changed sufficiently from Saturday that I did not find the pic again.

kirk_04.jpg I have also started posting these to my Picasa site.


The end of Google

Andy Baio writes about the rolling changes in Google’s online services with special attention to the discontinuation of the plus operator.

As these changes have rolled out I have noticed that many of my basic intact ions with Google have become broken, in one way or another. The UI changes, for example, inevitably increase latency between click and input-acceptance and privilege secondary UI input elements over direct input – the best example I can think of is the changes in Google Documents to titling or retitling.

Previously, one simply clicked on the area of the displayed page where the title was and entered the new title or changes as needed. There was not a visual cue that this was possible and a submit button never appeared. Simply clicking on the title area changed the title area to a text input box.

Now, when one clicks in the title area, a secondary UI element pops up, in the center of the screen, with a bordered input box and a submit button. This pop up is accompanied by the telltale flickering of way, way too many CSS redraws. When one completes entry one may dismiss the dialog by hitting enter or by clicking on the button. I cannot recall if the dialog instantiates with the cursor active in the input box or not.

At any rate, the effect if the pop up is to lead the user to move the mouse over the new dialog, click, type, and click again. All told the user is now directed to move the cursor to the title area, click, move the cursor to the center of the screen, click, type, click again, and then return the cursor to the location in the document or interface where the next action is to be pursued.

The previous methodology required two motions and one click.

Clearly, Google is finished as a force for innovation and sanity in the world. Their lunch is sitting unattended on the counter. I invite someone to eat it.

Zero History

Finally started Gibson’s Zero History, which I had been putting off for months. I’m happy to report it is entertaining me very much.

The book is about industrial espionage in the global clothing industry. A major supporting character is introduced wearing a ridiculous suit in International Klein Blue, and the hardback’s boards are this color. This little joke make me smile every time I pick up the book and, distressed, note my oily finger stains here and there on the spine.

An aspect of the book I find very peculiar is that it feel tremendously nostalgic to me – Gibson has allowed his futures of the past to merge with ours, and rightly so. Reading his earlier stuff always felt like some sort of message from a prophet as he described various improbable ways of navigating a comprehensively networked world. Well, now we live in that world, albeit without widespread use of wetware jacks and eye-glasses based HUDs.

I have developed a fascination with Japanese pro baseball in the wake of the Tohuku quake, and have been flabbergasted at the ease and accessibility of any given thing to do with it. Mind you, not via completely constructed tollways.

There’s no automated crossposting of NPB team goods from the primary site of the Japanese ecommerce giant (and Tohoku Sendai Golden Eagles team owner) Rakuten, but it’s trivially easy to view any given subsite on Rakuten in English, if machine-translated.

Likewise, only the tiniest amount if imagination and investigation was required to find unofficial internet relays of any given live Japanese (and Taiwanese) baseball game, the largest challenge being staying up lat enough to watch the games. I have mostly been watching them, as I did the tsunami, on my iPhone.

I Dream of Maakies

I awoke on April 23 from a dream, which I felt immediately compelled to share with the artist concerned (Tony Millionaire, of Maakies and more):

I had a detailed dream of a huge, twenty-five-pound signed-and-numbered limited edition Maakies book, 24 x 12 or thereabouts and and two inches thick, indigo dyed upper edging and deckle pages on the opening side. The book’s cover featured a large illustration and the book itself and the printed cover’s primary color was a light fawn brown. The printed cover of the book and the boards themselves felt soft and smooth, something like leather in the case of the boards and an unknown substance for the jacket.

The book came in an even larger box with a separate interior tipped-in ‘tear sheet’ (which appeared to be a signed silksceen). The box itself was possibly square, as the sales display literature referred to the book and box set as ‘Uncle Gabby’s Square Deal.’

The box was made of heavy cardboard wrapped in a kind of faux morocco leather, roughly the color of a 1940s Scrabble box, but the cardboard was much heavier, say 5 to 7mm. I did not see the cover art on the box that I remember but I think it was different from that on the book.

The interior of the box was lined with green baize, and the inner side of the box (the bottom of the box, which separated as does a board game box) was subdivided into several small compartments in addition to a large one for the book. Included in the compartments were at least two small croupier’s rods, apparently made of a fine hardwood and with delicate handwrapped leather grips, and a set of ivory or ivory-colored standard six-sided dice. It’s possible there was more stuff.

I don’t recall if the baize had gaming markings on it or not, but the intent was clearly to present the box as a kind of gambling surface.

The book was not titled ‘Uncle Gabby’s Square Deal’ and featured a large, intricate illo of Drinky Crow and Henrietta, possibly on the high seas, and whatever the title and copy on the cover, they were ensconced in classic, Greg-Irons-by-way-of-Millionaire nineteenth century bannering devices, possibly worked to appear as engaged in the rigging of the ship.

The book was signed and numbered, one of an edition of 550, and tucked behind the book display were three watercolor collage works by none other than you, Mr. Millionaire, only one of which I got a good look at. Apparently the watercolors were swag the proprietor was intended to bestow on purchasers of the tome at whim. They appeared to have careful and sarcastic or insulting instructions and invective to the bookseller on them in your hand, incorporated into the design of the works.

The book-and-box itself was priced at $550.

It seemed incredibly urgent to me that I let you know about this on awakening. I would say that I would be likely to buy such an improbability.

I wanted to get it in here too.



The Airship Ventures Zeppelin NT is in town or thereabouts until September 8 or 9. I booked us in on a morning flight, September 5. Longtime blog readers will understand my insane levels of excitement.

I drove up to Paine Field and back this afternoon on a scouting expedition. You can’t see it in this picture, but the cabin was open on both sides and there was a person inside doing something.


Months later, Viv and I finally got around to seeing the film adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are.” It certainly reduced the expedition of six or seven six or seven year old girls seated a row ahead of us to sodden, weeping mourners at the grave of childhood. This seems possibly to not be a desirable outcome for a children’s film, but I can make no special claim to information concerning aesthetic or market-segment objectives for the film.

On the whole, I was impressed with the film and enjoyed it very much. The monster visualizations are remarkable and the fidelity of their realization to the source material contributed mightily to the dreamlike feeling that pervaded the experience of viewing the work.

The particular element in the adaptation which struck me as brilliant, sensible, and possibly at odds with the original is the clear introduction of neoclassical themes into the work. It seems likely that the story as originally conceived by Mr. Sendak incorporated classical allusions, intended or not, and that he deliberately stripped them away as he refined the material, the better to serve the presumably not-yet-classically-knowledgeable audience for the book. Toddlers and first graders are unlikely to have a clear concept of the Minotaur or Elysium, but liberal-arts majors may reasonably be expected to understand the referents by the time they view the film.