Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Dried Out Leaf (IV)

(With Defi)

First up, here's a little affront to your visual perception:

There's not much to say about the production of that one - I GIMPed it out quickly this morning, as a sop to the left side of my brain - the half that went into a screaming hissy-fit yesterday morning because "I can't do that stuff and it's not fair - you're giving all your time to right half ..." etc, etc, etc. That moment was a long time coming but it was inevitable - I shouldn't have been so dismissive of the frequent remarks in the teach yourself drawing book that sometimes the process would be emotionally disturbing. One thing I'm sure of, after yesterday's experience - at $100 (or 100 francs) a two minute drawing by Picasso was dirt cheap.

There is quite a bit to say about what the image does to your visual perceptions - and how that's achieved - but I'm setting that aside for later. There's at least one more illustration to produce first. For now I'll content myself with stating, quite emphatically, that the one thing the image is not is an optical illusion. Quite the reverse - it combines three standard techniques for producing the impression of depth in a two dimensional image to produce a result that is quite simply, irreconcilable as a whole image. You'll see what I mean if you sit and look at it and let it jangle your brain for a bit. Don't spent too long - it's very discordant and might upset you. Seriously. It's complete visual nonsense, so there's no point working yourself into a tizzy trying to make sense of it.

Today's teach yourself drawing exercise is to flog off the original drawing for the princely sum of $200 (AU). I have several good reasons for doing this. At the more respectable end of the list - the justification and rationalisation end - getting rid of the original is a good way to detach from it (it's only a piece of paper with ink and pencil markings on it), so I can concentrate on its uses - partly play, and partly to illustrate and drive home the occasional point about visual perception and the veracity, authority or integrity of images. Not as a souvenir of a fraught day where I got far too upset over the fact that I'd just botched a drawing of a leaf, then came home after a visit to my one and only friendly ex-wife (as in, I only have one ex-wife, we're still friendly, and she's a very unique individual) to knock off the drawing in a few minutes.

Why $200? Well, it's a nice round figure but it comprises 3 components - eight hours work at or around the minimum wage ($132.00), Workcover compensation for the self-inflicted emotional trauma and, finally, postage and handling (all up, the other $70). What you get - in the unlikely event that you take up the offer, is an A4 sheet of graphic artist's tracing paper, with the drawing rendered in ink and pencil. And that's it, so we'll move on to the less respectable end of my list of reasons - sheer emotional and financial desparation, of which I've had a gutful.

Buy the Drawing

I'm quite sure at this stage, that I've delivered a second affront to a few readers - those of you who're scrolling down the post to hit the comments link so that you can denounce this as nothing more than on-line begging - a blatant bleg. Don't waste your time - comments is gone. You might, however, be interested in the alternative, which I'll describe later.


Begging my arse. It's an open, and honest free market transaction. The merchandise, as described, exists. It will be despatched to the first purchaser to stump up the $200 through that PayPal button that's been sitting idle over on the left-hand side of the page. If anybody does buy the drawing, I'm not interested in their motivations for doing so. I don't expect them to be to interested, respectful, or sympathetic to my motivations for selling. You want the drawing - it's yours, for $200, take it or leave it. You'll get more for your money than Helga got for the $4000 she spent ordering a Hewlett-Packard computer, from a "reputable" major retailer (the story's probably hit the business news by now, but I haven't been tracking it). The day after she ordered the computer, the company went into receivership. As an unsecured creditor, the most she can realistically expect out of the transaction is a dividend of 10 cents in the dollar - $3600 down the tubes in 24 hours. That's reputable Australian business practice.

Still got some abuse to vent? Well, here's the deal - the replacement for the comments facility I mentioned earlier. Use the "Flame Gummo" button - for a mere $5.00 donation via PayPal, you can vent your spleen, your gall bladder and your flatus-bloated bowels in an e-mail to me. I'm not kidding.

Flame Gummo

Now that's really affronted you, hasn't it? I can hear the huffing and puffing already - what have we come to, when someone is prepared to cop online abuse for $5.00 a throw. What sort of debased individual would demean himself that way?

Still not prepared to part with your money? Well, that leaves two last options.

If you're really so sickened by this post as you profess, put your vote where your mouth is. It won't cost you a cent. In the coming election, cast your vote so that it ends up - via whatever circuitous perambulation through our system of preference allocation suits you - so that it ends up with the ALP.

I'm not entirely rapt with Kevin Rudd either, but I'll still be casting my vote for the ALP. Because I want to live in a civil society again - I'm bloody desperate to live in a civil society again. Because I'm sick of the Liberal Party's Theatre of Cruelty - the ongoing soap opera of Work for the Dole (with the new spin off show, Welfare to Work) the big spectacles like Tampa and the Northern Territory intervention, the little kitchen-sink dramas like Federal Police raids on the homes of Australian Muslims that turn up nothing, the trashing of Mamdouh Habib's reputation, the Haneef Affair. This is a government that has repeatedly, and routinely, victimised private citizens for no better purpose than to give all you nice people out there someone you can despise.

As Ziggy Stellenstaub, my head-care specialist, said at our last get-together, if the Liberal Party win this one, they'll believe they can get away with anything. As someone who can confidently expect to be on the debasing and demeaning end of whatever "anything" succeeds Welfare to Work, whose next change of residence if something isn't done about providing affordable rental accomodation is going to be from an almost, but not quite affordable suburban house to the street, with all the asset losses that entails, I've got a very strong vested interest in seeing that "anything" forestalled.

Don't think much of that option either? Well, you can always don the mantle of sanctimonious hypocrite and denounce me in whatever public forum - be it a blog or a newspaper column - you can use. Just don't come around here expecting to kick Trotsky unless you're prepared to pay for the privilege. Your bigotted, "one-dream-fits-all and if it doesn't we'll bloody well make you fit it", idea of what this country should be doesn't interest me. It never really did.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Dried Out Leaf (III)

Nailed the twisted little sucker! Now maybe I can move onto some more interesting stuff (in both the drawing, and the writing).

Harry Nails It.

It being his own metatarsus:
Howard closes in on the riff-raff.
Everything that's wrong with, and wrong about, conservative commentary on this election and the conservative attitude generally in just seven words.

There's more too, but nothing that you couldn't find elsewhere, no less ill-considered, and no less shitty-livered.

Thanks for the "Cheerful Friday thought" Harry - it's brightened my day up a lot. Which it needed.

A Dried Out Leaf (II)

I recently heard, or read, an amusing little anecdote about Picasso. I've forgotten where.

Picasso was asked - no doubt by somebody equally famous - for a drawing. He took a table napkin, drew on it for a couple of minutes, handed the napkin over and asked for a hundred dollars. Or francs maybe.

"A hundred dollars for that? But it only took you two minutes to draw!" was the aghast response.

"Plus fifty years of learning how to do it."

Today's teach myself how to draw exercise was to render the pencil sketch of the leaf in ink. It didn't work out very well as you'll see from the scan of the result: 13 pen strokes on a carefully drawn grid before I decided that I'd botched the job and gave up.

The exercise wasn't an attempt to outdo Picasso: my aim was to attack a problem that's stuffed up other drawings I've produced: the problem of hand tremor. You can see the effect of hand tremor in the image below, a detail of a panel from a new comic strip I've started working on. And stopped again, for this week at least.

Despite a generous application of blurring (using the GIMP's Gaussian blur feature) the lines of the Parliament House flag-pole are noticeably wobbly. That's because they were traced slowly, giving the Trotsky nervous system too much time to fret about the fact that I was working with real, indelible ink on an expensive piece of quality tracing paper (well, more expensive than the crap, picked it up cheap at the newsagent, paper I usually use for drawings that are going to end up digitised).

Three simple mistakes killed today's drawing.

First up, I left the diagonal in the 6x6 grid of rectangles I drew as a guide for the copying. The diagonal was only there as a guide in the grid construction. But, because I neglected to erase it, as soon as I started drawing strokes that crossed it, it became attractive as an additional guide. The inevitable result - confusion, and misplaced strokes.

Second, I bottled out. Instead of pushing through that "OMG I'm actually going to use 110 gsm cartridge this time" barrier, I went the cheap crappy paper option.

I've forgotten the third. Whatever it was, it seems to have been fixed by taping the pencil drawing on a clean kitchen chopping board, and then over that a sheet of that tracing paper, so that I can work on a firm surface that I can tilt to any angle. That's a gunna do solution until I've got budget for a drawing board.

And with those mistakes identified and out of the way, what did I get right?

Well, first up, taking it slowly, visualising each stroke - even practising it in the air above the paper - before actually touching pen to paper worked well. That technique is a keeper.

Bizarre as it sounds, consciously putting white space between strokes works better - at this stage at least - than trying to connect them. The aim was to get used to drawing ink strokes quickly and cleanly - worrying about whether they connect just gets in the way.

Third, I stopped when as soon as it became obvious that it wasn't working. I'll tackle the job again later, under better conditions. There's a whole can of worms hidden in the previous sentence but I'm not going to open it today. Let's just say that some days, and for some purposes, it makes a lot more sense not to get back on the bicycle straight away. You need to take a little time to rub your sore bum first.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Dried Out Leaf

Partly it's the season and partly it's the prospect that the Howard years really are ending on November the 24th that has me in a good mood today. The seasonal part is that whole
Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyn in swich licour
Of which virtu engendered is the flour;
thing. I don't think my attitude to the election needs much explanation - once again, we've been given the chance to get rid of Australia's worst Prime Minister this century - probably the worst since Federation, for the meiosis challenged - and this time it looks like the electorate is finally going to take the opportunity.

There's one other major contributor to my good mood - I've found a new skill to learn. This time it's drawing. Looking back now, I realise that I was doomed to start teaching myself - or re-teaching myself - how to draw from the very first time I used The GIMP to doctor a photograph. Another major steps along the road to this new perdition was producing that first picture of The Indefatigable Wingnut (Episode 6 currently in production).

So now, every day starts with me running up the blinds in my study/den/home office and sitting down at the desk for a drawimg warm up. Today's warm up was drawing a dried out leaf I found in the back yard - the one in the picture (my HP OfficeJet LX lost a lot of the pencilled shading, so I've colorised it to bring out some of the contrast that was lost).

Drawing the leaf was a two stage process (just in case anyone's thinking of trying it at home). The first stage was to draw the leaf with the desk set up so that I couldn't see the drawing paper (a portable file holder works quite well for this if you're using A4 paper). The second was to draw it with the paper visible, but with my attention on the leaf, not the drawing. The only times I look at the drawing are when I've lost my way a bit, and need to reposition the pencil.

One interesting side effect of this new avocation is that I'm looking at the world around me with a new set of interests. A similar thing happened in my shutterbugging days - I would spend a lot of time thinking about how ordinary everyday scenes would look through a camera viewfinder and a lot more alert to the part light and shade play in our visual perception of our everyday world.

A second interesting side effect is that when I'm writing things in my head, they're more likely to be about the imaged world - the world as depicted in photographs, drawings and paintings - and how that imaged world can be manipulated. One form of digital image manipulation I serendipitously discovered yesterday gives me the willies - it's a dangerous little genie indeed and one day I'd like to thoroughly anethematise the idiots who decided to open its bottle.

But not today. I'd rather sit and look at the original drawing behind that scan and mentally rehearse the process of converting it to a line drawing in ink. I reckon the first stage will be to copy it with a 2H pencil to reduce it to a set of pen strokes that can be produced quickly and smoothly, with neither hand tremor or smudging from supporting the pen on the paper. Then a couple of rehearsals on scrap paper before I tackle it on 110 gsm cartridge.

To finish, I'll just throw out a couple of quick remarks that would otherwise nag at me, demanding to be written about, so that I can keep my head clear for what's important to me right now.

First, at the end of the nineteenth century, the French Third Republic was riven by The Dreyfus Affair. it divided the nation into two bitterly opposed factions - Dreyfussards and anti-Dreyfussards. According to the Wikipedia article cited (which prima facie is not to be trusted):
... The right-wing Vichy Regime was composed to some extent of old anti-Dreyfusards and their descendants. The Vichy Regime would later deport Dreyfus' grand-daughter to her death at Nazi extermination camps.
Any historians out there looking for a topic for a blog post? A quick compare and contrast might while away an otherwise boring afternoon.

I'll conclude this not so quick remark by noting that since the turn of the century this government has managed to produce quite a few scandals of its own: the Tampa incident, the Habib case, the cases of Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon, the Haneef Affair and Kevin Andrew's stupid remarks on Sudanese immigrants. Any would-be Zolas out there? Hello?

That wasn't so quick, really, was it? Let's see if I can get number two out of the way with a little more dispatch.

It's pretty bloody ludicrous when a soi-dissant iconoclast derides an artist for producing works with obvious iconoclastic intent as his (said blogger's) Lameass of the Month. Still, the blog's name is apt.

Yep, that did it. Just the right balance of pith and vinegar.