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Posts published in “Sketchworks”

Day 061

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josephus sketch

A sketch of Josephus the historian on tracing paper using Sakura Pigma and Micron pens. I started sketching with a Winsor-Newton 2B pencil on Strathmore, but the face wasn't coming out quite right. To correct it, I opened Google Meet - yes! - which mirror-reflects the images it presents of yourself (so you see what you normally see in a mirror and aren't weirded out). I already had Josephus's bust up in a Preview window, so I mirror-reflected that horizontally and compared them, trying to make fixes.

Mirror reflecting a drawing helps you see flaws in it, and that helped, but on the fine details of the face, it's really hard for me to draw things like lips and noses as what is there, rather than what my mind caricatures, so I eventually flipped the drawing back to normal and rotated it 180, so I would not see the stereotypes and instead had to focus on the shapes.

And when I was done with all that, I decided that it was still off, and I needed to start over.

josephus roughs

Since it's late and I'm tired, I pulled out my tracing paper and attempted to correct the drawing by tracing over my own roughs, below. The advantage of this approach is that I can change anything, or even neglect to trace something which was done correctly on the previous level, so, best of both worlds.  I think I did pretty OK, though I had not noticed that I'd exaggerated the vertical height of his nose.

josephus traced

Compared to the original ... well, yeah, Josephus has a heck of a schnoz, but I made it like 10-15 percent too tall, and missed the straight line on the hair on the bottom back of his head.

josephus bust

Otherwise, a ... not completely terrible rendition?

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Day 060

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bayes sketch

It's late, and I'm tired. Here's an alleged sketch of an alleged picture of Thomas Bayes.

thomas bayes

Eyes are off (more visible if you mirror flip the sketch). And I still am making heads too fat.

Still, drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Day 059

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aquinas sketch

A drawing of St. Thomas Aquinas, trying to make faces look like faces. I don't think I made his face quite fat enough (an opposite problem from previously), and while the relative positions of the eyes are OK, they seem tilted in place. Also, I think I can do better on the ink rendering, in part with better technique, in part by taking more time  - though I did deliberately skimp on the time spent on rendering a bit so I could get to bed at an earlier hour tonight - as Saint Aquinas might have said, nothing overmuch!

aquinas painting

Ah well. The fix is ... to keep drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Day 058

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gearhearts sketch

As it says on the tin: trying to get to bed earlier and did a quick sketch. From the cover of a random comic "Gearhearts" in my inspiration pile. The sketch didn't turn out ... terrible ... in fact, the arms almost came out right, and it sort of looks like the cover. But as usual, doing one or two iterations of roughs would have helped the layout of the head and face. My eyes just seem to move around, man.

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Day 057

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Turing Drawing

Alan Turing, rendered over my own roughs using several layers of tracing paper. I started with the below rough, in which I tried to pay careful attention to the layout of the face - note the use of the 'third eye' for spacing and curved contour lines - and the relationship of the body, the shoulders and so on.

Turing Rough 1

I then corrected that into the following drawing, trying to correct the position and angles of the eyes and mouth - since I knew from previous drawings that I tended to straighten things that were angled, I looked for those flaws and attempted to correct them. (Still screwed up the hair and some proportions).

Turing Rough 2

This was close enough for me to get started on the rendering. In the end, I like how it came out, even though I flattened the curves of the hair and slightly squeezed the face and pointed the eyes slightly wrong, as you can see if you compare it to the following image from this New Yorker article:

Turing Photo

-the Centaur

Day 056

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godel drawing

Full drawing of Kurt Gödel from today's Lent entry. Like previous exercises, I traced my own roughs, using a variety of Micron pens. As for whether the face looks like a face ... ehh, mostly? Though I am still apparently inflating noses and cartoonishly exaggerating heads with respect to bodies, making Kurt here look like an extra from Men in Black (thinking of Tommy Lee Jone's comically oversized head).

Where I departed here was throwing out several intermediate roughs, as I did on Day 054. I started off with a normal 2B pencil sketch on Strathmore and quickly decided that it was going nowhere:

godel rough 1

Rather than starting over on Strathmore, I switched to tracing paper and tried the following. In some ways I like this drawing more than some of the later sketches - it captures a bit of Gödel's distinctive face - but I rapidly realized I'd again got the macro-architecture of the sketch wrong, shoulders ending up in the wrong place and such. Also, though you can't tell from this crop, it was too small on the page.

godel rough 2

So I started over, producing the following sketch. The face is a bit off here, too wide, looking something like a cross between Mr. Magoo and Joe Biden (if either wore glasses). But I could tell the overall layout was good this time - things were roughly in the right place, and could be corrected with some effort.

godel rough 3

I traced the following directly over the previous sketch, correcting for the shape of the nose and face, but keeping the parts that seemed like they were a good fit. This sketch wasn't perfect either, but it was close enough for me to get started - I had blogposts to write! - and led to the drawing at the top of the page, which I traced over the below drawing, making a few more corrections and allowances for rendering.

godel pencils

The original? Below, from a Nature article (Credit: Alfred Eisenstaedt/ LIFE Picture Coll./Getty).

godel original

My drawing ... sorta looks like the guy? I still think I can do better, particularly in making faces longer and narrower (a problem I had with the Eleventh Doctor as well). But still ...

Drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Day 055

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momoa sketch

Quick sketch of Jason Momoa, the reference for my Jesus sketch earlier. That sketch I started from scratch and only loosely used Momoa's mug to touch up some details; it still didn't come out great. Also, I sketched it on the Cintiq in Photoshop. This is also a quick sketch, but on Strathmore 9x12 with a Faber- Castell "B" Pitt Artist Pen Brush - and just that. Given that it was pushing 4am, I wanted to try using a simpler technique, to see how much I could extract out of just one pen (well, brush) for the render. As for how much the face looks like a face ...

momoa mug

Not ... terrible, but the proportions are still off, and my sketch gave him way too big a schnoz. Jason Momoa is a good looking guy, and unfortunately my sketch makes him look more like a rejected villain from the Princess Bride. Ah well. Perhaps I'll eventually be able to sketch good looking superheroes ...

... if I keep drawing every day.

-the Centaur

Day 054

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What, did you think I was not going to do Drawing Every Day just because I did a Photoshop graphic for the Lent entry?

steamgoggle sketch

So, today's exercise was something very difficult for me: abandoning a failed rough and starting over.

You see, many artists that I know will get sucked into perfecting a drawing that has some core flaw in its bones - this is something I ran into with my Batman cover page. I know one artist who has worked over a handful of difficult paintings for literally 2-3 years ... but who can produce dozens of new paintings for a show on the drop of a hat. But it's hard emotionally to let go the investment in a partially finished piece.

This is tied up with the Sunken Cost Fallacy Fallacy, the false idea that if you've decided a venture has failed you should cut your losses despite your prior investment in it. This is based on the very real ideas of sunk costs - costs expended that cannot be recovered - which should not be factored into rational decisions the same way that we should prospective costs - costs that can be avoided by taking action. The "Sunken Cost Fallacy" comes in when people don't cut their losses in a failed venture.

The "Fallacy Fallacy" part kicks in because in the real world costs do not become sunk as a result of your decisions. When a self-proclaimed "decider"(1) chooses to proclaim that a project is a failure, the value invested in the project doesn't magically become nonrecoverable based on that decision and the classical Sunken Cost Fallacy does not apply. I have seen a private company literally throw away a two million dollar investment for a dollar because the owner didn't want to deal with it anymore.

Fortunately, most artists are better businessmen than that. Deep down, they know any painting could be the ONE that gets them seen; deeper down, each painting is an expression of their creativity. Even if the painting has flaws, one never knows whether the piece will be fixable, even ultimately excel. I have seen paintings go through years of work and many difficulties, only to finally turn up amazing. Drawings, paintings and novels are like investments in that way, always tantalizing us with their future potential.

But, deep down, I feel like it's possible to do better than that. That by painting or drawing more, and being more ruthless earlier in the process, that it's possible to recognize wrong turns and truly sunken costs and to start over. Once a huge canvas has covered with paint over many months, or a large manuscript has been filled with words over an equal period of time, it represents an investment in images and ideas that can potentially be salvaged ... but a sketch or outline, now, that you can throw out straightaway.

You may not get the thirty minutes doing the sketch back, but at least you'll be starting in a better place.

In my case, I was starting here, the cover for Steampunk Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos I had lying about:

I started what I intended to be a quick sketch, and got partway into the roughs ...

steamgoggle failed rough

... when I decided that the shape of the face was off - and the proportions of the arm were even further off. I started to fix it - you can see a few doubled features like eyes and lips in there - but I decided - ha, decided - no, stop, STOP Anthony, this rough is too far gone.

Start over, and look more closely at what you see this time.

That led to the drawing at the top of the entry. There were still problems with the finished piece - I am continuing to have trouble with tilting heads the wrong way, and something went wrong with the shape of the arm, leading to a too-narrow, too-long wrist - but the bones of the sketch were so much better than the first attempt that it was easy to finish the drawing.

And thus, keep up drawing every day.

-the Centaur

(1) I'm not bitter.

What is Lent?

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Twenty-Twenty, man! A year that sucked, followed by a year that sounds like "Twenty-Twenty Won" (and don't get me started on the third act of the trilogy, "Twenty-Twenty Too" ... not even the Sharknado team could have come up with the plots of the Twenty-Twenty franchise).

As we're recovering from last year - recovering from January of THIS year - the normal rhythms of life have been quietly reasserting themselves. Elections are followed by inaugurations. Winter weather will soon be followed by spring plantings. And Ash Wednesday will soon be followed by Easter.

"Two thousand twenty-one" in our calendar marks two millennia, give or take, since the birth of Jesus, the founder of Christianity, the world's largest religion. Today, "Ash Wednesday" in the Christian calendar marks the beginning of Lent, the solemn observance of Jesus's Crucifixion.

You can follow the links to find out what Lent and Ash Wednesday and Christianity and the Crucifixion mean to other people. But what I want to tell you about what they mean to me. Lent has always been a time for me to reconnect with my own faith, and each year I do that a slightly different way.

Lent celebrates Jesus's Resurrection, when He turned death into new life - and turned failure as a regional preacher into success at creating a world-spanning church. Prior to His death, Jesus went into the wilderness and was tempted for 40 days, which Christians emulate by giving things up for Lent.

Well, the pandemic has knocked a loop for most of the things that I normally give up for Lent: giving up meat (I'm mostly eating vegan), giving up alcohol (I try to avoid drinking at home), giving up soda (long story). While I've been blessed to not be starving this pandemic, it's still been a time of deprivation.

That got me thinking. I once heard someone suggest, "Give up Something Bad for Lent!" (as opposed to the normal giving up something good). Well, what about flipping it on its head entirely? What about, rather than giving up something bad for Lent, why not take on something good for Lent?

Normally I try not to talk about what I've given up for Lent - on the principle Jesus puts forth in Matthew 6:5 that praying for show is its own reward - that is, no reward at all. But again, flipping it on its head entirely, if I've taken on something good for Lent, why not take on something to share with everyone?

So, like my Drawing Every Day series, for the next forty days, I'm going to blog about what Lent means to me. And the key meaning of Lent, for me, is reconnection - dare I say, Resurrection? Christianity is supposed to be a "catholic" religion - catholic, meaning "universal," a religion for everyone.

The universality of Christianity means that it's for everyone. Everyone has free will. Everyone can screw up. Everyone can feel a loss of connection to God. And Jesus's role was to light the way - taking on our screwups in His death, and washing them away in His Resurrection.

SO, in the coming weeks, I hope to show you what I'm trying to connect back to every Lent. For some of you, this will be bread and butter; for others, this will be alien. Regardless, I hope I'm going to be able to leave you with an understanding of why every year I walk the path of Lent towards the Resurrection.

-the Centaur

Day 053

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sketched face

Sketched faces from tonight's Write to the End session. No comparison photos, because my fellow writers deserve their privacy (especially since I used a screen shot which caught one of them in a scowl and the other while speaking), but I know enough to rate this as "meh". The face above expands the hair and squashes the lower face - same mistake from Spock yesterday, so it wasn't just head tilt - and a little of that's going on with the face below, though the biggest problem there is the mouth is too narrow.

sketched face

The ultimate goal of these drawings is to rekindle my love of my art and to sharpen my abilities to the point where I can once again resume f@nu fiku, finish my science fiction comic projects, and move on to other comic ideas I have scattered through my notebooks.

My inspiration for this project comes from a young psychology student who took a drawing class just as he was about to graduate, and, inspired, put off medical school with a crash course to break in to the comics field in just one year. He succeeded, and his name is Jim Lee, now Publisher of DC Comics.

I don't expect success in a year - I have a day job and a novel-writing career, not to mention a family - nor do I want to be Jim Lee. But I do want to be Anthony Francis. And Anthony Francis, by day, builds intelligent machines and emotional robots, and by night writes science fiction and draws comic books.

I've built intelligent machines. I've worked on emotional robots. I've written and published science fiction. But the comic books, other than my short stint on f@nu fiku, have eluded me. Connecting thoughts and images is a huge part of my creative expression, yet I seem to have let it fall by the wayside.

But I'm bringing it back by drawing every day.

-the Centaur