Woman And Circles

August 1st, 2011

I was at San Diego Comic-Con last week, and it got the illustration juices flowing again.

One of the best parts about Comic-Con for me is being able to talk to the creators about their work, their process, etc.

Whipped this out yesterday.

Woman and Circles

Woman and Circles

I picked up some colored pens at San Diego Comic-Con last week, this is my first time putting them through the ringer.

I’m messing around with using the pens for the drawing outline, and the colored pencils for the color.

Five Facts

April 19th, 2011
Watercolor Pencil Pear Drawing

Watercolor Pencil Drawing of a habit-forming Pear. Click on the image to see the bigger, better version.

  • A pear and yogurt is the best breakfast that an artist can eat. Eat this daily, and it will increase your energy, motivation, and creativity. The yogurt must be plain, unsweetened, and unflavored.
  • I am both untrained and unpracticed in any medium resembling watercolors. They are unwieldy and unpredictable (at least with my current abilities of prediction)
  • You must click on the image above to enlarge it to see the more interesting details about this drawing of mine. The texture of the paper, blending of the water colors, and way the pencil fell on the paper are more interesting than the image taken as a whole. This image is better enjoyed sliced into pieces, just as pears are better enjoyed cut into slices.
  • Humans are creatures of habit. The best way for a person to change their life is to change their habits.
  • Pears can be habit forming. And life changing. To the extent pears can change lives, that is.

Dispatch: Death to the Unregistered

April 15th, 2011
PE Warrior

He signs his stamp... in BLOOD

I design things that get built.

Buildings. Pipes. Stuff like that.

I have a stamp, a special stamp, that shows I am licensed to do just this. All Engineer’s in my industry need to get this stamp.

There are many like it, but this one is mine.

This is all a matter of public record, and in fact, that is the point. I took a test (a rather difficult test, mind you), and my performance indicated to the great State of California that I can indeed design things, and that it is ok for people to build the things I design. I know enough that it probably won’t break.

So… I stamp my, uh, stamp on drawings when they are all done, just before they are sent out to a bunch of Contractors, who will all bid for the privilege of building the things I design.

Somehow, with all this jumbling in my head, I ended up drawing this little guy, fully licensed to engineer mayhem.

Engineer's Stamp

His stamp is cooler than mine, he is registered under the “Warrior” discipline, while I am registered under the “Mechanical” discipline. He seems to be registered in the State of Despair, while I am registered in the State of California.

In reality, there are no swords involved with my job, and would probably get fired if I tried to involve them in some way. Or at least, I’d get a stern warning, like when I showed up to work with a green Mohawk (it was Halloween). A sword, like my Mohawk, wouldn’t be welcome back in the office the next Monday.

Regardless, I have this doodle, which I painstakingly posted here for you to peruse.

Also, it is nice to know, in this day of electronic this and that, that my stamp is actually still an honest-to-goodness press-it-against-an-inkpad-then-press-it-against-paper stamp, like back in the good old days.

Christmas Happens

December 25th, 2010
Pencil Drawing Christmas Tree

Merry Christmas with graphite and color

Merry Christmas.

Certainly this is the time of year that only comes once a year.

I’m down at my folks house for Christmas, and as visions of sugar plums dance in my head, and my parents bicker about how to do the dishes, I took some of the new Graphitint Pencils out for a spin.

I like ’em. Kind of halfway between graphite and colored pencils. A miracle of modern art technology.

There’s definitely a learning curve to using them, I can’t use them quite like pencil, can’t use them quite like colored pencil. A nice addition to the arsenal.

So here’s a Christmas tree. Or a drawing of one, or whatever.

My nephews are here now, hopped up on good cheer, and the fact that they got tons of presents. Time to go hang with the family.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

When the Going Gets Tough

December 20th, 2010

The tough doodle in lunchtime meetings.

Engineer looking at BIM model

The future is now

Today’s meeting was about Building Information Management (BIM) software. It is the hip new thing to do in the engineering design profession.

BIM is a digital “smart” model of a building. The walls act like walls in the model, the lights act like lights, plumbing acts like plumbing, and all this info can be used to see how the building works. It’s a lot like when Tony Stark uses his neat 3-D computer to design his new Iron Man suit, except it’s not nearly as cool, there are no special effects, and we’re not billionaires.

The industry seems to be both awestruck and frightened at the amazing power of BIM. Some people think it will be amazing, some people are hesitant of the added liability and the increase of the adversarial relationship with contractors that BIM will create, and others think it is kind of silly to spend a lot of time building a 3-D model of something to then create a bunch of 2-D drawings of that thing. No matter what, it’s coming, whether we like it or not.

So my little doodle is Mr. Engineer with his building model. Here are a few things to think about as you ponder this drawing:

  • Note the look of shock and awe on his face as he gazes on his building model!
  • The building model is blue, and since we know from Tron that blue computer constructs are good, and red computer constructs are bad, this model must be good.
  • Boring haircut and pleated pants. Engineers are a pretty square lot with no fashion sense, after all. He might make a good husband though! (meme credit Dave)

When you doodle a goofy little drawing in a sketch pad all through the meeting, everyone wants to see what you drew when the meeting ends. That totally doesn’t add any pressure to make my doodles of the highest quality, or wonder how people will judge me and my art.

The mines have had precedence the last several months. Time to dust off the chops, or whatever.

Go Read Hansi’s Blog, Hallucinations Optional

November 30th, 2010

Little Hansi has started his own website to share Hansi’s Hallucinations.

Hansi is better known as frequent BDD commenter “Your Dad”, which he comments as because he is, actually, my dad. As in, he supplied me with the Y-Chromosome that I appreciate so much.

I set him up with a shiny new WordPress blog while down in SoCal for Thanksgiving, so he can share his random thoughts about random things (why he loves Sarah Palin, his disdain of stoopid english, how diapers have kept the Chinese from converting to Christianity, and the more-than-I-ever-wanted-to-know-about-my-dad Reptile Dysfunction ).

He also draws real neat pictures, and those are neat and fun to look at, and I think you would think it is neat to look at them too.

Goodness gracious, what have I released upon the world?

Why, yes, I have been hiding from the internet under a rock

August 12th, 2010




hiding under rock drawing

The internet is rather tricky

Engineer vs. Artist Smackdown for Control of My Mind

July 20th, 2010

The more work I do as an engineer, the less work I do as an artist.

I do, essentially, have two jobs.

From 8-5, Monday through Friday, I am a Mechanical Engineer, licensed by the State of California and everything.

I design very practical things in practical ways. If you ever go to the bathroom in Yosemite Valley, your waste most likely leaves the valley through my pump station. A few of you might drink tap water from plants I helped design and build.

Right now I’m busy designing the replacement heating, cooling, and ventilation systems for a large helicopter repair hangar. Last time I was at the hangar it was full of partially disassembled Blackhawk helicopters. Cool!

When I say “busy”, I really mean “really busy”. I took Saturday off last weekend, but was in the office for 13 hours on Sunday. The weekend before I put in about 25 hours between Saturday morning and Sunday night.

Deadlines are keeping me this busy, I have a lot to get done, and not quite enough time to do it all. Still, It needs to get done. Not doing it isn’t really an option.

For the last few weeks, my mind has been calculating pressure losses, looking up electrical load data, sizing ducts, and drafting equipment details.

It is left brain work, and when I get home, I have nothing left, and nothing goes right.

There’s a painting I started 3 weeks ago sitting on my work bench next to my desk. The paint on my pallette has grown a thick skin that I will have to eventually scrape off.

Every day, I look at this painting, and then think about how I should work on it, and I am neglecting it. I just can’t wrap my head around it though.

I can’t wrap my head around how to apply paint to the canvas right now, I can’t think about the risks I take with presentation when I paint, or the emotional resonance I may be trying to capture.

It’s a good thing, that I’m stuck in my left brain right now. I need my left brain, at least until the end of the day when this project submittal goes out.

I don’t just get stuck in left field though. The same thing happens on the right.

When I start digging into art, and get deep into my right brain activities, I have a hard time switching gears to crank out some rough and dirty engineering work. My job suffers when I am productive at night making art.

It’s quite a conundrum!

I think that the answer is to focus on the more “left-brained” stuff during the week. I can prepare paper, edition prints, even print during the week, keeping it nice and left. No creative stuff though. No image development, no painting, no “artsy” stuff. Keep it analytical.

Friday night, switch gears and swing out to the right for the weekend, and let myself hang out in that mode for two and a half days.

I think I have been trying to switch gears too fast, faster than I am naturally capable of.

Anyway, I’ll test this out, and see how it works for me.

Three Insights about Deliberate Practice and Art

July 8th, 2010

This is a rather “practical” blog post, just an update on what I’ve been doing. No mushy gushy fun stuff today, just practical nuts and bolts about improving drawing skillz. I’ve been doubling down on this Deliberate Practice thing, spending an hour drawing most nights, this is an update.

I don’t exactly know how Deliberate Practice works, and I’m not going to pretend that I do. I’m not going to write about it with authority when I’m not really an authority on the subject (despite the rules of Blogistan). Eventually, if I keep up my practice, I will have authority on this subject matter, at least with regard to the practice of Fine Art creation.

I’ve said before, and I still believe, drawing is the most important creative skill for an artist. Artistic skill begins with drawing skill, and is capped by drawing skill.

So I want more drawing skillz, please.

While before I just drew, with no plan other than to draw, now I am following a plan. I bought a drawing instruction book, Keys to Drawing to work through. The book has 50 or so exercises meant to develop certain skills. I have worked through the first 6 in the last week, all of which have focused on observation, and recreating what I see into lines and shapes.

So far, I can’t say whether I recommend the book or not, but having a list of exercises has been helpful. I don’t have to think about what to draw, I just have to do the work.

I’ve had some realizations about Deliberate Practice, I have some tips, observations, etc.

First, having a plan works. Well. The first guideline of Deliberate Practice is that it is specifically designed to improve performance. I bought the drawing book mentioned above to fill this requirement. The book is, after all, specifically designed to improve performance. It may not be the best course for me specifically, but it is, in general, designed to improve skill. If I had a drawing instructor, I might get a better program, but I’m pretty sure that any program is more important than no program.

Second, I have to set a timer. If I plan to draw for one hour, I have to set a timer for one hour and work until the timer goes off. Watching a clock doesn’t work, setting the timer does. The process of setting the timer commits me to what I am doing for the time I commit to doing it. Something about it just works. Timers may be the most valuable productivity tool on the planet.

Third, I’m getting worse. This one was unexpected. As I’ve been working through this book, I feel like I’ve been getting worse and worse at drawing. For example:

two sketches of vegetables, side by side

The tomatos on the left were drawn months ago, before I was following any course of practice. The pepper on the right was drawn last weekend, as a drawing exercise from Keys to Drawing

The drawing on the left was done a few months ago, before I implemented any structure to my drawing practice. The drawing on the right was done last weekend as part of my structured practice. I think the tomato on the left “looks better” than than the pepper on the right.

The tomato on the left, however, was drawn the way I usually draw, and have drawn for years. I just applied the skills I already had as best I could. When I drew the pepper on the right, I was looking at the pepper differently, because I was instructed to, and attempted to depict different things about the pepper, and in different ways. In other words, I was using different skills, and different ways to draw, that aren’t as well developed as my “usual” way of drawing.

The big realization for me is that by getting a little worse, I probably am actually getting better. The new skills that I learn,and work to implement into my skill set, aren’t as developed as other skills, so when I use them, it seems like I am worse.

Follow My Progress

I created a set in my flickr.com account, check out Sean’s Deliberate Practice Flickr Set, and follow along as I update it. I include a short description of each exercise with each of the drawings I upload.

Are you implementing Deliberate Practice into your routine? What are you doing? How are you doing it?

A Short, Irreverent Art History, Part 5

July 7th, 2010


Things Come Back Together

Our story so far: Impressionists revolted against realistic art that was little more than an excuse to make soft core porn, then a bunch of artists got more and more abstract, until subject matter was gone entirely. Artists hit a brick wall, because art couldn’t be any more abstract, so artists started to deconstruct the subject matter and just about everything else about art by making and doing weird stuff.

That brings us to today. Or, maybe a few years ago. Or a decade ago. Or somethin’.

And I’ll be honest. I don’t really know what I’m talking about. The only reason I think this is OK is nobody knows what they are talking about.

I haven’t come across any good theory explaining what the “story” of art is right now.

Modernism is over. They successfully deconstructed subject matter. Post-modernism is over, they successfully deconstructed everything else. (If you don’t know how, read my last two entries)

Things are all deconstructed, so maybe art today is about reconstruction. Maybe the job of the artist is to figure out what pieces and fragments of this “art thing” are important to them, and to reconstruct them into something all their own.

When artists find out how they want to reconstruct things from this mess, they will be use these pieces and fragments to make art that is personal, and universal (the secret recipe of relevancy).

A dab of abstract, a bit of impressionism, with some performance and some reflections of our culture. Artists can take the most meaningful bits and methods from all of art history as we see fit, to make whatever is most fitting.

The tricky thing: there are so many bits, that no single artist will be able to pick up all of them. There are so many methods available now, so many ways to make art that have been proven valid, and some of them even contradict each other. Each artist is picking a few different approaches, those that are the most important to them, and doing what they will with them. Reconstructing them in their own personal way.

Is there a linear narrative to describe what is going on now? We probably won’t know for 50 years or so, when someone writes the new irreverent art history to talk about what they think the 21st century has been all about.

Because, I don’t think we really know. And that makes things pretty darn cool.

In the meantime, I’m gonna be reconstructing things.