Pitch Sketchs

I'm going to try something new with my sketches. Instead of simply letting them float. I am going to annotate them with some comments. It will make me consider them more than if I simply post them as I am required to really take some time in Photoshop doing this.

These drawings are from my character animation course. The assignment is to animate a baseball pitch. These are the drawings from warming up.

What did you think about this new format?


Rediscovery of Sculpture

Well, it has happen again. I have rediscovered that I can sculpt. I discovered this once before in the post Fundamentally a Sculptor. But for some reason the lesson never seems to stick. I think it is because I have never really challenged myself to stick with it very long. But now I am going to get some plasticine, some armature wire and really start sculpting stuff in the same way that I would sketch things. Maybe I will even be able to animate some of them. That would be pretty cool.

What really got me to figure out how to sculpt with plasticine was when I figured out that I can't sculpt by primarily pushing the material around with my fingers. I needed to cut the material away. I have been using an Ulfa knife for the time being, until I get a few more tools.

This first image is almost the first thing I made after discovering to use a knife to carve. All of my anatomy and drawing abilities immediately became apparent. I knew exactly what I needed to do. I felt limited by my dexterity and my tools.

This little SUV was made because I have modeled it before in a 3d program, so it just seemed like a natural thing to try to make.

This was when my break through really happened. I just decided to attempt to make a female figure from my knowledge of anatomy. I didn't have wire for an armature, or enough plasticine, thus I couldn't complete it. What astonished me was the speed and ease with which I made it. It couldn't have been more than ten minutes, likely it was less, I don't know.

Anyways, I am going to keep this up, get more materials and tools as it will prove infinitely useful for my puppet animation class, my 3d animation class, and as a great skill to have.


How to focus

In the comments of the last post, the question of how to get into a state of deep focus was brought up. There is a way to do everything and I think that this video shows the very extreme of what is necessary to focus.

Meet the Amazing Microsculptor

There are a few key elements that I think are important to extreme focus.

You need to determine exactly what you need to work on. If your working on a big project this means precisely identifying the work that needs the focus. In my example of the animation, I knew I needed the focus for the actual act of animation, of drawing. That is only one small step of a much larger set of things that needed to be done. I would suggest excluding all things are extraneous to the extreme focus work. Exclude preparation and finishing work. Reduce this segment of work to it's most dense form. If this means breaking up a larger project into many smaller sections, than by all means do that.

With a specific piece of work segmented from the rest as requiring extreme focus, start to develop a plan to do it. Schedule a time to do it, make all of the arrangements to be ready to do the work. This can mean cleaning your work space. Getting all of your tools prepared. Writing out detailed outlines. Doing some practice runs. All of these things need to get your mind ready for the work ahead. Allow the work to stew in your head for a few days before you do it.

I don't think this next advice is as obvious as you think once you hear it. Know your body and your brain, and prepare them as well. If this means getting enough sleep, get it. If this means eating good food, eat it. If this means drinking coffee, or not drink coffee, take the correct course of action (I can't focus well after drinking coffee, I think of hundreds of ideas, but I can't work). Take the time to warm up your brain with something before you start your work. Read over all of you outlines and really get prepared. In the video he makes it clear that he knows what works for him, that is why he can do things that are seemingly impossible. You need to figure out what will work for you.

Now just do the work. Turn off the music, turn off the web browsers, shut the door, turn down the lights, get everyone out of the room, tell them to stay away. Get to work. You may need to stay some willpower to stay on track, but as I said in the previous post, this gets stronger overtime, so start with realistic amounts of serious focus.

After you've done your work, make sure to take note of what worked, what didn't and then next time improve upon it.

You can't just jump into deep focused work, the key is preparation. When I shoot my film last year, that was eight intense hours in a camera room, but I had prepared for roughly 4 months for that moment, it made it really easy to focus, even if it still was a strain.

Hopefully this is useful to some. If you have other tips, please leave them in the comments.



I'm sure not everybody has the same outlook on the world, but as a student the undercurrent of all of my life is how do I make myself better. At drawing. At studying. At math. At technology. At learning. At animation. At videogames. At relationships. At thinking. At focusing.

Along with this background goal is a belief that it is achievable by minute progress after thousands of days. Today the test was focus. I had to animate a large quantity of animation today. I find somethings very easy to focus on, exceptionally easy. But animation is hard. You have to look at your dope sheet, your timing sheet, think of character action, draw stuff, organize papers, organized numbers in your head, write down numbers, look at charts, move papers, flip papers, draw, erase, compare, think, draw, erase, write, think, listen, look, listen, look, draw, erase, move paper, organize paper, draw, erase.

If you don't get the idea of the animation, and the timing, through your head, onto papers, and then into drawings, it just doesn't work. If your not organized it doesn't work. So in the end, the fact is it requires extreme concentration. It is almost a painful amount of concentration because you know exactly how much work you have left to do and it seems immense.

But today, through what I would call sheer power of will, I managed to intensely focus on my work for first a two and a half hour stretch and then another one hour stretch. When I say intense focus, I mean there was nothing else going on, no music, no talking, no anything. Just animating and drinking water. After large sections of animation were complete I would just sit in my chair and take a break, but not get distracted with anything else.

Now how this ties in with what I was saying before is that I believe that not only was this an exercised in animation, it was an exercised in focus. Every time I am able to enter that state, I will get better and better at it. Over years it will hopefully become one of my most potent assets. A deadly unyielding ability to put my mind to things that are hard.

It's like moving a mountain with a soup spoon. You just need to be patient.


Quality, Cooking, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I'm currently reading the book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" with an unusual ferocity. This is because I can tell the book might help me answer questions about everything that I have been dealing with. It might help me understand my art better, and my life better and everything better.

I'm halfway through and one enormously important thing has been made clear. The book delves deeply into the question of quality. What is "quality"? Now the answer is drawn out over a lot of reading, but the part that I just read really struck me because of how I had an example in my life that fit exactly into what I just read.

What I just read was the distinction between "Quality is just what you like" and "Quality is what you like". The word "just" presupposes that your feelings are of no worth while value, when in truth they are all that matters in judgments of quality.

How this relates to me is my new found ability to make food that I really enjoy. I can actually cook. And it is really easy. I go to the store, buy food that I like, but in pots how I like, cook it how I like and it turns out wonderfully. I pay careful attention to what I'm doing because I care about how it turns out, and I care about the things I like, but it is the easiest thing in the world. Recipes act only as suggestions of what I can make, of how the chemistry works, of what might work. But it really just works when I cook.

Having the reason why my cooking works, while other parts of my creative experience feel like hard drawn out battles against myself is important. It means I know what to do know. I don't have to think hard about things in terms of are they good. I have to think hard about making up lots of ideas an then checking to see if I like them.


Tam Tams

Montreal really is a great city.

I watched the film "Man On Wire" in remembrance of September 11th. I'm so glad that he succeeded with his dream when he had a chance.

My friend inherited the accordion. I think I want one. I immediately understood how to play it, it's like a piano and a harmonica. Really I need to get my hands on one.


Remembering to Draw

As always the drawing starts out rough in the year. I went to the library and got a bunch of anatomy books to copy, and I got a old fashion dip pen to draw with. It sure is fun, I'm considering bringing it to math class just to be ridiculous.

One of the anatomy books I got from the library suggested buying a leg of lamb as a means of trying out a dissection. It included a recipe to cook it after.

The full album of sketches is available here.

Here are my favorites. In reverse chronological order.


Why I am in Animation?

In my first animation class today, we went around the class introducing ourselves and explaining why we are in animation. At first this seemed like a little bit of a ridiculous exercise because I know nearly everyone in the class, and I’ve heard this stuff all before. But of course it proved enlightening.

What I noticed was that the majority of the class had got into animation for the underlying reason that they simply love drawing. They did it as a kid and have never stopped, thus animation is the perfect extension of that as they get to draw a lot. But I didn’t get into animation because of the drawing.

Now we make a quick jump back in time to last week. I got to see Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, at a question and answer session here at our university. I did a bunch of research into his life before attending and watched this video.

Steve Wozniak

He is a very interesting person and I found a great parallel with him. He got into electronics because as a kid he taught himself to build his own computer. At a young age he was designing circuits, reading chip manuals and figuring out the workings of computers. It really is incredible. And he decided to be a computer engineer so that he could do that for the rest of his life.

This relates to me because I taught myself how to make 3d graphics. I was interested and figured it out all by myself. I figured it out because I really, truly was interested in it. I simply needed to know how it worked. Seeing this parallel with Steve Wozniak was a great reinforcement that I am in the right field.

But to get back to the reason I am in animation, it is not because I draw, it is because I love the technical aspects of it. I love learning how cameras work, learning how programs work, learning how computers work. I would consider animation to be the art form that has the greatest latitude of technological influence. You can use mechanical systems like a camera, projector, flip book, but you can also look into the most advanced forms of computer simulation. It covers the entire gamut.

But further than that, animation delves into a deeper understanding of the mechanics that lie in the brain that allow us to perceive everything that we do. And when I think about video games, I see them as truly a medium which requires an understanding of how we think.

So a little question at the beginning of class actually caused me a big revelation.

I must say, I sure am excited about this year.



Beowulf is probably the first mainstream CGI film made solely for adults. They use the R rating to include copious amounts of gore and nudity. I'm not really sure what I think of the movie. I'm certain it isn't a great movie, but it is a stepping stone for others, and should be looked at carefully.

I'm fairly certain that the intention of the filmmakers was to recreate human figures in computer graphics to the highest degree possible, except of course they were held back by technological and financial limitation. This film showed a wide variety of quality levels, all depending on different factors.

Most objects in the people that were made of metal looked extremely realistic: crowns, spears, swords. Except of course some of them looked too perfect, and again did not fit in.

The character models for the most part looked pretty good. The old king in the movie was especially good, with great facial details. Some of the woman however certainly did not look very good. They lacked a feminine quality which I suspect was the result of trying to build a woman from a male model that had already been built. There are certain details which I suspect were overlooked, such as the fact that womans joints generally can hyper extend more than men's based on the formation of the bones.

In terms of facial animation, most of it was very stiff, which is most likely caused by the insensitivity of the motion capture system that was used. These systems have become much more powerful even in the last few years, so this issue may soon be a thing of the past. The only way they may have overcome this would have been through the work of skilled animators, but skilled animators are expensive.

The other sore point of animation was the hands. The biggest culprit was the hands of many of the background characters, they often would have completely stiff hands that wouldn't move throughout a scene. This lack of quality creeped into the main characters as well in certain scenes.

Another technical limitation was the clothing simulations that were used. While they did look like cloth, they didn't have the necessary resolution in the simulations to form any realistic looking wrinkles. This resulted in very boring looking clothing that was completely unrealistic.

The most successful character in the film was probably Grendel. I really cannot imagine a more horrible creature ever created for film. There were so many layers to his grotesque anatomy. I could barely even comprehend how the modelers would go about creating such a character.

The camera in the film was a little bit weird. Because they have complete freedom of the camera movement, they often used it to it's fullest, but in doing so made many scenes in the film appear more fake. Some particularly fast camera pans made me flinch with how awkward they seemed.

One less noticeable failure of the movie was the foley. Foley is the practice of making sound effects for a movie. It simply was not well done in this film. It was not convincing.

I guess the main point that I can draw from this film is the importance of consistency. Some parts of this movie were extremely well done, other parts pulled those down into the realm of lame 3d animation. I am however excited that such a film can open doors for more films to come. I'm enrolled in 3d animation course this year, so I hopefully have my own work to show.



I went for a walk today up Mont-Royal, through the cemetery behind it, and over to l'Oratoire Saint-Joseph. I was caught off guard by the thoughts I ended up having when I got to the cemetery.

I had assumed the cemetery would be a tranquil place. I thought I would have interesting thoughts there. I was however overwhelmed with thoughts that all raged around a single theme: it's sheer uselessness and extravagance.

The first issue is the size of the cemetery. It is easily bigger than the actual Mont-Royal park. Row upon row of headstones and monuments scatter the land. It is a beautiful park with majestic trees and filled with the sounds of insects and birds.

In spite of beauty all I can see there is row upon row of dead persons egos attempting to use up space in the world. The more money they had at death, the more space they take up now. It was easy to see that thousands of dollars had been spent on each and every headstone, meaning that millions of dollars of work were lining the area. But it is a futile attempt at attention. There is such a cacophony of headstone that there no rest, they all beg to be seen, but together they negate each others purpose.

And than I think of the value of the land. While I wouldn't suggest building on the land, I would hope it could be put to a more redeeming purpose. The whole enterprise seems like a horrible trick to take the money of those who die by renting them out a little plot of land.

In a world with six billion people, it would be insane to allow everyone such a luxury as to be buried. It feels like a last, selfish act which serves no one any purpose. What finally makes me most frustrated about the cemetery is that it is protect by the mystical forces of being "sacred" land. Any attempt to get rid of them will be thwarted.

The living should have precedence over the dead. Be thoughtful when you die. Donate your body to those who can use it. Donate your money to a worthy cause. If you want yourself to live on past your life, allow your work to live on. Allow your children to live on. Allow your influence to live on. But whatever you do, don't leave the world with another useless plot of land and another headstone.


P.S. I wish not to anger the living who use the cemetery as a place for remembrance and to grieve. These are definite needs that need to be filled, but I don't think cemeteries need to be the only option. A creative mind can think up thousands of more personal and effective alternatives.

New Design

I finally just had to sort of mash a new blog design together. I find blogger extremely confusing to start from scratch, so I had to just mess with a template until I got what I wanted.

I am still going to be working on it in the future, but I hope it works for now.

My intentions are first of all to make my blog easier to read. I'm trying to make the text as legible as possible by making it black on white, with an easy to read font that is fairly large.

I've gotten rid of all of the extraneous design because I didn't make it. I dislike having had used a template that had someone else's aesthetic in it. So I'm starting from scratch.

This new template of extreme simplicity also represents how I like to type on the computer. I use a full screen text editor that actually looks a lot like how the blog looks now.

And finally I wanted to make sure the posts were central to my design. The title of the newest post is now at the top, and the blog title has been put to the side.

Any comments about the design will be useful as I am still working on it. Does it work in your browser? Does it work with your screen size? Is it actually easier to read?


Love is not Chess

After my varied experience with girls and relationships, I think I have been able to distill all of my thinking and knowledge into one fairly simple bit of understanding:

Love is not chess.

You can’t use logic to win at love. You can’t use a strategy to win at love. You can’t play a few steps ahead. You can’t predict what is going to happen. Never let yourself fall into any habits that you might associate with playing chess and you will do better with relationships and love.

I suspect that this advice might have little meaning if you don’t play much chess, or simply if you have a different outlook on things than me. It has to do with how your mind works, everyone’s will be different.

So I guess you will have to figure out your own strategy (except of course I mean the strategy is actually to relinquish all strategy).


Summerhill Apartment

I tidied up the apartment and took a whole bunch of photos and than fed those into the computer and here is a photosynth of our apartment. Works on both Mac and Windows now.

You can actually travel between all of the rooms and look out the windows. It's a little bit annoying to move around, and I took a lot of pictures to ensure that it would work more accurately. Please enjoy.


Video Game Asthetics

After having watched a very interesting video about video game physics, I’ve been hit with a deeper understanding of the video game aesthetic. When I speak of aesthetics I’m talking about what is particular about an art form. What makes a movie a movie? What makes it different than a book? What an a movie do that other arts can’t? When I speak of video game aesthetics it means I am asking similar questions about it.

In many video games, skill is a very important factor. This is fairly apparent in many racing games, where how you drive is the focal point of the game. It was amazing to see in the video how very mathematical this can become. The physicist in the video explain how the cars slipping physics is able to be explain by a complex 3d curvature of space, and it is the players ability to stay within some of the limits of this 3d shape that will help them drive well to maximize there speed.

Now after seeing the 3d curve, it seems rather simple, but the fact is that video games require the user to infer the system that is behind the game. By playing the game, the player is creating a model of the game in there head which they then use to win the game. A skilled player will make a highly detailed model, and thus they will be better at the game.

I find this interaction between player and game to be central to my understanding of video game aesthetics. Video games are really about figuring out the system behind what you see and than being able to take advantage of it.

What comes after this system is the fact that a player needs to be motivated to learn the system. Are you going to lure them in with points, high score, story, exploration, adventure, human competition. Is there some underlying truth to the background system that is actually valuable enough to be a motivation? Perhaps a driving simulation is so effective that you actually learn to drive from it?

A game is truly effective when it has both it’s hidden system and motivation well worked out. If the system is not fully fleshed out, and not complex enough, there is no interest in it. If there is no motivation to learn the system, no one ever will.

I’m sure Mory will probably have a response to this. I feel like I might be reiterating things I said before, but I feel I am being a little bit more precise with what I am saying.


In Montreal

Well I have been in Montreal for almost two weeks now. Most of that time has consisted of outfitting the apartment which I have moved in to. I don't really want to post pictures until we actually finish setting everything up. I'm still trying to find some couches for the living room. After that, I will be pretty much satisfied.

I have also been starting to warm up my brain for school. Reading books, doing math, drawing, looking over old stuff. I'm fairly certain that this will be one of the years that I work the most in school. I'm excited for every class.

To comment on living in the city, my favorite part about it is that I can leave home on foot and get everything I could possibly need without the use of a car. It is incredible that I have at the very least, 4 grocery stores which I would consider in walking distance.

I'm living with my friend Stuart, and as far as roommate situations, I don't think it could be any better. We are both fairly inexperienced when it comes to living alone, and I feel completely comfortable experimenting with things. Take for instance my first week here, I sleep on the floor on some blankets and a jackets. It may not have been very comfortable, but it wasn't that bad. I'm happy to know that really, beds are a luxury that I wouldn't want to live without. It feels like I am starting to develop a better first hand knowledge of what it means to live.

The other great thing about living with Stuart is that there is a never ending stream of games we play. It started last year with chess, but has moved through many different games. Some boards games, some video games. There is competition, but we also play somethings cooperatively, and it becomes more an exercise in improvement for both of us.

I am going to continued posting about the trip, but I will also keep up with new posts like this one.