December 12th

These blog posts are thinning out to say the least, partly because I'm busy, and partly because I've already said a lot of things I wanted to. Which is better, repeating yourself endlessly, or staying silent once you've said your piece?

Quote of the Week

  • "This house has been far out at sea all night, |The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills, |Winds stampeding the fields under the window |Floundering black astride and blinding wet |Till day rose; then under an orange sky |The hills had new places, and wind wielded |Blade-light, luminous black and emerald, |Flexing like the lens of a mad eye." - Ted Hughes, Wind

Friday, 12 February 2010

Sketch Art

Sketch art, as some of you may know, is a pretty big hobby of mine, and since a friend has asked me about techniques, I thought I'd share a few here. I'm not a great artist and don't pretend to be, so this advice is really just about the more straightforward concepts.

Right, so we start off with structuring - this is possibly the most important part of the sketch, since without an outline, your sketch won't look like whomever you're drawing. I'll post a focused set of drawings indicating structure in a while, but in the meantime, if you compare them side by side, my character's head is a little bit wider than the original's. This gives my sketch a broader face, which means that the features are spread wider apart (note the distance between the eye and nose). Poor placement has potential to completely mess up a picture, so be careful with where you place your features - the nose is particularly annoying because there's no good measure of where it is in relation with the rest of the face.

In this picture, the nose is the right length, but separated from the right eye by too far a distance, giving our Spartan queen a much broader face than she really has. Another good measure to place the nose is the distance between the eyes and between the eyebrows. The eyebrows maintain the right distance, but the eyes aren't the right distance apart. One way to make sure you have the right structuring is to draw just the outline of the picture, then compare it against the original until you get the exact proportions right.

Right, moving on to shading. Shading is what gives the picture depth, and without it your drawing won't stand out as being any good at all. I generally use two kinds of shading - hatching (using the tip of the pencil) and blending (using the flat end of the pencil, then rubbing it smooth with tissue paper or a finger). Other variants of shading are listed here, and I'm fairly certain that there are more out there.

Here, the majority of the shading is done by blending hatched lines, for example in the forehead. Combining these techniques gives the control of hatching and the convenience of blending, and to further darken the picture I simply added another layer of hatching over the first and blended them together, for example the neck. This allowed me to control the transition from light to dark, and just how bright or dark I wanted my picture to be.

An equally important concept in shading is that of negative space - space that is so light that you don't shade it, but instead the area around it. Note the hair and shoulder on the right side of the picture - instead of shading in the light parts of the hair, I shaded around it. The same applied for the bridge of the nose, the ball of the chin, the shoulder, and the edge of the face further away from the viewer. Filling those spaces in required that I left them alone.

Compare the Batmen. See how much difference a bit of shading makes? Note especially the shoulder and chest on the right. In the first drawing, it looks flat, with little to distinguish what's near from what's far. In the second, the pencil creates two layers - a darker part closer to the viewer, and a lighter part (negative space again) further away.

Shading adds the perception of light and shadow, for example the shadow of the second Batman's head on his chest creates the impression that the light is coming from behind.

Note the hatching above the eyebrows and above the cheeks in both pictures, used to make the face appear closer to the viewer. In the second picture, blending has been added to further distinguish the face from the rest of the head. The blending below the nose, mouth and chin add more layers of depth and shadow to create the illusion of distance, and negative space again applies for the back and sides of the head, the area above the lips, and the shoulder on the right side of the picture.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Development FTW?

Readapting to being in your home country again on holiday is a slow, torturous process involving progress, setbacks, withdrawal symptoms and overcoming dependence. And that's just for my parents. As I leave behind the last of the drowsiness and realise it's 3 in the afternoon, I realise how much of a pain I've been to my family, who've rebuilt their schedule around NOT having to babysit me 24-7. Oh well, I'm only here for two more weeks.

Penang hasn't changed, despite the new politicians in charge, the church arsonry in KL, and the fact that I've been away from it all for so long. Part of me demands an explanation why the island hasn't fallen apart without my leadership, but the rest of me knows that I'm not actually Batman despite whatever childhood fantasies I may have had.

But despite the apparent similarities, Penang has changed for me - the good shops aren't where I remember anymore, I'm still not used to to now-massive (and soulless) Gurney Plaza, and they're renovating the shops at the bottom of the hill. In fact, they seem to be tearing down everything. Housing complexes are growing like mushrooms on the Batu Feringghi hills, as well as pretty much everywhere else in the state. Marinas stick into the sea like pseudopodia. Penang is multiplying, and sooner or later I swear the island is going to split in two to accomodate the population.

Which begs the question, when people talk about development, what do they really mean? For the businessmen development means new roads, new factories, new workplaces. But speak to the everymen and their answers differ. They want an end to the traffic jams, the dirty streets. The youth want more (but cheaper) nightlife and shopping complexes. In uni I learned that development wasn't just about building things - it was about providing opportunities to people. Things like having an art gallery for artists, or better schools for children. Penang, however, disagrees with me - everywhere I go, I realise just how lacking the island is in public, government-provided amenities.

In Leicester, there are two massive parks within 20 minutes walk of my house. Public toilets are fairly common. There's a museum in New Walk, a public footpath which has little gardens built into it. Even some of the shops (the co-operative) are publicly owned, and the hospital has a really decent cafeteria which gives you good value for money. If you're broke or intend not to splurge any money, you can spend your time in a field just enjoying nature or playing frisbee, or pop into the free museum to dabble in a bit of culture. There are so many free art galleries and museums in the London city centre that you can spend more than a week exploring them. Penang is rather different. Our public amenities seem to be places where builders haven't reached, like Penang Hill, or Keracut (although i'm sure they're trying). Even the public beaches seem are the ones which they can't build hotels around. How many public places are there in town? Along any one street, how many buildings can you casually walk into without intending to spend money? Government amenities simply don't seem to exist, or are aimed to serve certain groups in particular (such as businessmen) instead of the public.

I'm not aware of how we intend to address this, or even whether we intend to. But something feels wrong about where we're heading, and the least we could do is to stop calling it development.