The Moon is a Marble

Discourses Relating to Art and Science

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Loomis planehead model

I was inspired by another blog to consider Loomis’s head planes again.  Other head-plane methodologies exist.  James Gurney’s Imaginative Realism tantalizingly referenced (p.69) Bridgman’s plane head, but I was unimpressed when I researched it.  Bridgman’s planes look good, but his method seems too haphazard to me.  It seems like he is endorsing a style, rather than a specific method, but maybe I missed it.  I appreciate the style, but what I want is a method that helps me to learn quicker from practice.  The Asaro plane head seems pretty good, but I haven’t experimented too much with it.  It would be nice to get a small model that did not cost $100. I thought that this post was a very good read on the subject.

This is my attempt at sculpting Loomis’s plane head.  It was made by trying to mimic the “primary planes” in Plate 9, Drawing the Head and Hands, p. 33.   The planes seemed incomplete, and I am not completely satisfied with my interpretation of them.

Super Sculpey and Sculpey Firm mixed together, plus aluminum wire and foil base


Thursday, September 30, 2010


Warm up dice

Do you ever sit down to sketch, but you don't know what to draw?  I have been working on drawing faces and heads lately using the Andrew Loomis method for head construction and I  wanted a good way to challenge myself and my friends.  I finally figured out how to draw the head facing in any orientation, so I was thinking about a way to randomize a view to get me to practice.  At the same time, a friend of mine showed me Scott McCloud’s 6 basic emotions and 36 compound expressions, from Making Comics, p. 85. He argues that there are 6 basic emotions that can be combined to show the range of human expression.

So, I came up with Warm-up Dice to generate both a random face orientation and expression for a pose. You can play with regular dice, or make your own with blank dice.  Roll a six-sided die five times.  Three times for position, twice for emotion.  Click here for a roll.
On the first roll:
  • 1-2 = Low angle
  • 3-4 = Nothing
  • 5-6 = High angle
On the second roll:
  • 1-2 = Left
  • 3-4 = Nothing
  • 5-6 = Right
On the third roll:
  • 1-3 = Front
  • 4-6 = Nothing
For example, if the roll is [Low, Left, Front] then the head position is a low angle shot so you are looking up at the character, from the left and front (I use my left rather than the character’s left). If it comes up [__, Left, Front] then it is a level shot, 3/4 view.   [__, __, Front] would be a nice, easy front view.   [Low, Left, __] would be a side view.

For the emotions, the fourth and fifth roll are the same:
  • 1 = Anger
  • 2 = Disgust
  • 3 = Fear
  • 4 = Joy
  • 5 = Sadness
  • 6 = Surprise
Add the two emotions together as in Scott McCloud, Making Comics.  Fear + Sadness = devastation.  Anger + Disgust = outrage, etc.

Table pinched from the summary here.

There you go.  Start sketching!

Other options
Add a face
This method of randomization seems particularly suited to people who want to be sure that they can draw a particular character in any pose.  Animators and comic artists will already have a character in mind.
If you need a face for your sketch, try these options:
IMDB’s fresh faces gallery
This skews toward pretty and young faces, and there is no convenient link.  The faces refresh every week.  Or, use the Whose Birthday is Today feature on the front page.
They have portrait photos.  Hit shuffle.  The content seemed very pretty-girl-heavy.
Or, I just grabbed a magazine from the rack at the coffee shop where I was and used the girl on the cover, Lea Michele, ever heard of her?

If the position roll comes up [ ___, ___, ___ ] then re-roll.  [ High, ___, ___ ] and [ Low, ___, ___ ] are also re-rolls, because they would just be top or bottom views.

If the same emotion is rolled twice, then roll again for the intensity of the emotion   Joy + Joy = roll again.  I use a 4-sided die to match the intensities in Making Comics, p. 84.  1 = heh, 2 = lol, 4 = omgroflmao.

Other sketch idea generators
Paul Greveson’s SpeedPaint script:
Paul’s script has characters, scenarios, vehicles and structures.  I usually reserve the option to delete one of the descriptors, maybe I am satisfied with a “wrinkled, small troll” and don’t need a “wrinkled, small troll with wheels,” okay?

Andrew Bosley’s brainstormer:
Includes a ‘story conflict’ section, some kickass adjectives and (..clicks ‘random’..) Tim Burton-ish nouns.
Grab the old game of Pictionary and draw a card from the deck, pick the item that you like best and think of the most clever way to show it. It is a different sort of experience when the 1 minute timer isn't dropping sand.


Saturday, September 18, 2010


How to align a centrolinead

How to align a Centrolinead

James Gurney and Craig Elliot had posts about this tool from the by-gone days of board-drawing.  The centrolinead is a sort of adjustable T-square ruler that you can use to make tapered perspective lines to a vanishing point that may be dozens of feet off of the edge of the paper.

from, Mathematical Instruments: Drawing and measuring instruments, John Fry Heather, p. 10

How does it work?
The geometry of the Centrolinead is based on the Inscribed Angle Theorem.  A proof of the method can be found in the volume excerpted below, Geometry, plane, solid, and spherical, in six books, whose subtitle rambles to include, to which is added, in an appendix, the theory of projection, so far as it is auxiliary to geometry; with an account of the Plane sections of the cone and cylinder, in which certain general properties of the conic sections are demonstrated by help of the foregoing theory.

The proof.  (It is okay to skip this part)

This is fine and edifying reading material, to be sure, but the main idea is that four points remain on the line that describes a fixed circle:  the vanishing point, the two studs, and the intersection of the ruler's edges (the edges that slide on the studs).

How do you set the centrolinead to line up with your vanishing point?

I found several sources that simply say, "Adjust the centrolinead by trial and error."  If that answer is sufficient for you, good day to you and happy drawing!

If not, here is one explanation, including an example.  Note that they expect you to know the measurement of the distance between the studs and your vanishing point.  Start at "To set the centrolinead..."

A numerical method for setting your centrolinead
from, Mathematical Instruments: Drawing and measuring instruments, John Fry Heather, p. 10

Unless you are a master draftsman, you may not know precisely where your vanishing point is.  If you just have an existing line, and a pre-existing horizon, you can use this method:

Setting the ruler using a pre-existing line
from, Mathematical Instruments: Drawing and measuring instruments, John Fry Heather, p. 10-11

Finally, there is this method of setting the centrolinead first, and then varying where the second pin goes:

Setting the centrolinead first and then putting the lines in

A Descriptive Treatise on Mathematical Drawing Instruments, William Ford Stanley, p. 171

And if all these things don't work or don't make sense, you can always just work at a really long table, with a really long ruler.


Saturday, January 02, 2010


Pop Quiz



in the

(page numbers from Vintage International May 1982 printing)

Some surrounding context is given below, and that is usually enough for you to pretend like you know what the word means. But let's be honest.

Under no circumstances should you ever use any of these words to verbally communicate with another human being.

* * *

"He sees a parricide hanged in a crossroads hamlet and the man's friends run forward and pull his legs and he hangs dead from his rope while urine darkens his trousers."

Shellalegh [sic, dictionary fail as spelled]
"He was carrying a huge shellalegh."

"He found the mule and unstalled it and bridled it with the rawhide hackamore and led it to the fence."

"The night sky lies so sprent with stars that there is scarcely space of black at all and they fall all night in bitter arcs and it is so that their numbers are no less."

Pilotbread [dictionary fail]
"That night he sat in the herders' camp and ate beans and pilotbread and heard of life on the trail."

* * *

"The mission occupied eight or ten ares of enclosed land, a barren purlieu that held a few goatsand burros."

*bonus word: I didn't even notice "ares" on the first read through.

Awap [dictionary fail]
"The huge carved and paneled doors hung awap on their hinges and a carved stone Virgin held in her arms a headless child."

"The boy pulled at the halms of grass."

Settle (n.)
"They eased themselves into a kind of settlemade from some dark wood.

"A thin man in a leather weskit, a black and straightbrim hat set square on his head, a thin rim of whiskers."

* * *

"By full dark the blackened ribracks leaned steaming at the fires and there was a jousting over the coals with shaven sticks whereon were skewered gobs of meat and a clank of canteens and endless raillery."

"The dust of the party raised was quickly dispersed and lost in the immensity of that landscape and there was no dust other for the pale sutler who pursued them drives unseen and his lean horse and his lean cart leave no track upon such ground or any ground.

Felloes, duledge pegs
"The wheels shrank and the spokes reeled in their hubs and clattered like loomshafts and at night they'd drive false spokes ino the mortices and tie them down with strips of green hide and they'd drive wedges between the iron of the tires and the suncracked felloes. ... The duledge pegs worked loose and dropped behind.

Anareta [dictionary fail]
"Or slept with their alien hearts beating in the sand like pilgrims exhausted upon the face of the planet Anareta, clutched to a namelessness wheeling in the night.

... "rode up off the desert through a gap in the low stone hills and down upon a solitary jacal, crude hut of mud and wattles and a rudimentary stable and corrals."

* * *

"The corrugated forms of the riders passed jingling across the dry bistre land and across the mud facade of the jacal, the horses trembling, smelling water."

"There were buzzards squatting among the old carved wooden corbels and he picked up a stone and squailed it at them but they never moved."

*bonus word: I didn't notice "squailed" on the first read either. Apparently it means "threw awkwardly."

... "idlers reclined on carven seats of white porphyry and past the governor's palace and past the" ... ... ... ... ... "hides clapping against the stones." (14 line, one sentence paragraph.)

... "and flayings of meat in great red sheets now darkened with the advancing day and the flensed and naked skulls of cows and sheep with their dull" ...

... "riding half drunk through the streets, bearded, barbarous, clad in the skins of animals stitched up with thews and armed with weapons of every description" ...
... "decorated with human teeth and" ...
... (5 lines later, same sentence) "and the riders wearing scapulars or necklaces of dried and blackened human" ...

* * *

... "a Jew named Speyer pried open the box with a pritchel and a shoeing hammer" ...

Shoddy (n.)
... "and then turned and made his way to the trove of shoddy partly offloaded from the burros."

"The advent of the riders bruited by scurvid curs that howled woundedly and slank among the crumbling walls."

mare imbrium
... "and in the middle distance the glazed bed of a dry lake lay shimmering like the mare imbrium and herds of deer were moving north in the last of the twilight" ...

"It also held a madstone from the inward parts of some beast and the judge examined and pocketed."
(synonym: bezoar)

* * *

"That night they sat at the fire like ghosts in their dusty beards and clothing, rapt, pyrolatrous."

diligence (object)
"As they entered the foothills they came upon a dusty old diligence with six horses in the traces grazing the dry grass in a fold among the barren scrag.

"They rode through marl and terracotta and rifts of copper shale and they rode through a wooded swag and out upon a promontory" ...

"The squatters emerged and stood about the cantonment blinking like birds."

ignus fatuus
"Like some ignus fatuus belated upon the road behind them which all could see and of which none spoke."

* * *

"I said that it was a merestone for to mark him out of nothing at all."

recruit (verb used with horse)
... "and we halted to regroup and to recruit the horses."

"But it was the nitre. The nitre, you see."

... "his bag over his shoulder and his rifle for alpenstock."

"In the blue coulees on the north slopes narrow tailings of old snow."

* * *

"They rode in narrow enfilade along a trail strewn with the dry round turds of goats" ...

... "for there was no sound of them or wind or bird in the place but only the light rill of water running over the sand in the dark below their fires."

"It crouched against the rear wall of the hogan and bared its teeth" ...

Under a gibbous moon horse and rider spanceled to their shadows on the snowblue ground and in each flare of lightning as the storm advanced those selfsame forms rearing with a terrible redundancy behind them like some third aspect of their presence hammered out black and wild upon the naked grounds."

"They rode like men invested with a purpose whose origins were antecedent to them, like blood legatees of an order both imperative and remote."

starsprent (see sprent)

* * *

whang [interesting - etymologic of wang (slang)?]
"The men were stringing up scalps on strips of leather whang and some of the dead lay with broad slices of hide cut from their backs" ...

"They watched the passing of that bloodstained argosy through their streets with dark and solemn eyes."

"What's a suzerain?
A keeper. A keeper or overlord."

"Glanton wandered through the tall and dusty rooms with their withy ceilings" ...

"A skin of pulque hung from a tripod in the center of the yard" ...

* * *

frog (n. relating to hoof)
"The frog of the hoof was split and bloody" ...

... "until toward dawn he was stumbling among the whinstones of the uttermost ridge to heaven, a barren range of rock so enfolded in that gaudy house that stars lay awash at his feet and migratory spalls of burning matter crossed constantly about him on their chartless reckonings."

"When the sun rose he was asleep under the smoldering skeleton of a blackened scrog."

... "he carried a sword and he carried in a torn and gaudy baldric one of the Whitneyville Colts that had belonged to the scouts."

urstone [definition ur- number 3, with -stone)
... "yet he usurped to contain within him all that he would ever be in the world and all that the world would be to him and be his charter written in the urstone itself he claimed agency and" ...

* * *

"The bones of cholla that glowed there in their incandescent basketry pulsed like burning holothurians in the phosphorous dark of the sea's deeps."

"They spent the afternoon drinking in a lazarous bodega run by a Mexican."

* * *

And the rest. It looks like I gave up and wrote down nonsense words, but these all appear in the book.





















* * *

To be honest, once you get done researching what the word means, the sentence in which it appears is a precise and beautiful creation. But without being familiar with the word, it sounds like you are reading from Dr. Seuss or L. Ron Hubbard.

__ If you knew more than 5 of these you have a pretty wide vocabulary.
__ If you knew more than half of these, you are some sort of time-travelling 19th-century genius Apache doctor of metallurgy and classical literature.



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