The Summit

A film about the hardest decision there is in mountaineering.

You can learn more about the making-of over at in the film section.


An old photo manipulation.

I did this when I was thinking up the crescendo step. It was in one of my online photo albums. I always like it. Hmmm....


Digital Paint

After seeing some amazing art that was made on the tablet that I work with, it made me realize what was possible.

After finding some essential color selection tools, which are exceptionally important for this work, and experimenting with ways to make natural feeling brush strokes, I'm on my way to painting digitally.

Here are the first results.  I suspect there is going to be a glut still life painting in the future as I rekindle my abilities with this type of color work.

Sure there is nothing like the feeling of mixing real paint, but the advantages of digital will make themselves apparent once I start towards animating.


A Field

I think I figured some digital painting things out today.


Ballet Adagio

Based off of the film Ballet Adagio by Norman McLaren. I'm warming up my drawing skills for a film based on the circus. This is ballet, but I think this is the type of bodies that I will need to be animating and designing.
 Making these drawings was a test of my digital drawing techniques. I feel like it is a challenge for the future to learn to draw digitally as well as I was able to draw with physical pen and paper.

It is easy to assume that once you have a digital tablet that it is a one to one skill that transfers to digital work.
 From my experience this is not true to a number of reasons.

The first is just that the feeling of drawing on a tablet is different than paper. The glass of the tablet is slick compared to paper. You can't feel the end of your drawing tool vibrate as it move along the surface. This vibration actually tells you a lot about the movement of the pen. Try drag a pencil along glass and than along paper. There is a huge difference. You can actually feel the movement of the pen on the paper.

The next problem is a minor distance lag between the image of the drawing and the physical end of the drawing tool on a tablet. I have found a solution to this by have a very visible cursor icon on the tablet and than paying very close attention to it's actually position. In this way, drawing is much like painting in that you have to track the ever moving bristle of the brush and not just the handle of the brush.

The next problems is software. It is always getting in the way. I am reading a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. The premise of the book is that the right-side of the brain needs to take over for good drawing to occur. This is the non-verbal, non-systematic, non-symbolic part of the brain. It is everything that is opposite of computers. The moment that you need to read something, or choose a folder or open a menu or doing anything to do with language and computer function, you lose the right side of your brain, and you lose much of your ability to draw.

To overcome this, when drawing on the computer, you need to have your software set and well figured out before hand. Learn the shortcuts and buttons that you need and learn them well. If you don't,you will be force back into the left side of your brain and will be unable to tap into the part of your brain that make art.

Getting into the flow of art is difficult on the computer. I'm going to be looking more and more into this topic, and I think it could be a major part of computer development in the future. A company who made computers and software for artists, who understood this concept of getting into the zone could be very successful. Imagine being able to flip a switch and suddenly your computer would be unable to interfere with you right brain. It would turn off all language, all access to technical systems and only give you access to tools that let you create.

And once things were created, you could revert back to the text zone and reorganize everything that you have made.

That might be a great idea.


The Trouble with Doing Good

Thinking about the topic of money, I realized there is a terrible hole in the way that our economic system is designed. In our society, it is generally required that one must earn a living. You need to pay for food, rent and other necessities. A source of income is simply something that you must have.

In general, to get money, you provide a good or service to another person and they trade you for money.

Suppose someone were to go out and do something good.  Like plant trees in a place where all of the biologists agreed that they were needed.

The trees would undoubted make the land richer.

Other people might be willing to give charity to the tree planter.  But that depends on so many factors.  What if the surround area had little money, or there were no people nearby?

In such a situation, it would be irrational for any person to become the tree planter.  It might still happen. People are good.  But it makes no sense economically.

Is there a way to provide the tree planter with money?

Money is ephemeral, it comes from nowhere.  The banking void from which money is brought into existence is no-place.

So could the tree planter be paid?  From nowhere in particular, with money that is suddenly said to exist?

I suspect that there could be a way for that to work.  For good work to be paid for by no one in particular.  I am not yet ready to write about how that could work.


Digital 3d Sculpture

Finally, it finally feels like art is possible in 3d on the computer.  Sure I've made 3d films on the computer.  But the real feeling of making art is hard to achieve digitally.  The tools are always getting in the way.  Drawing is getting pretty good digitally.

But 3d has always been a really difficult problem to crack.  There is so much technical thought that goes into creating the 3d that it is difficult to get into a real flow.

But a new version of the program Z-Brush has really brought 3d into the realm of art.  I was able to bring my windows tablet computer into an art gallery today do 3d sketches of the sculptures right there in the gallery.

The process is a lot like working with real clay. In previous versions of 3d sculpting, anything that felt like 3d clay only felt like 3d clay for a few moments.  It would quickly distort and turn into polygons again.  A new feature of Z-Brush called Dynamesh allows you to overcome this barrier whenever it feels like it is about to impede your progress.

I am still working how to sculpt in the computer, and the type of work flows that I should be using, so the results still are not spot on, but it is just like drawing, in that I will need to do it a lot to get good.

It is really weird compared to life drawing in that it needs to be right from all angles.  This was one of the first times that I actually felt like a 3d display would have been immensely useful to me.



I was at a newstand and all it took was a brief flash of the words "Crypto-Currency" out of the corner of my eye to get me to buy a magazine.

The words just melded into an interesting story in my head about what it could mean for money.  I've written about money before.  It is definitely one of the most interesting aspects of our society.  It's like a weird sort of magic.  Sure we have batteries that you can charge up and store power in, but with money, you can store it up and than do anything you want with it.

You can look at a gorge and think, I really wish there were a dam and a lake here.  And after a few years and a few billion dollars, it could be done.

You can think " I want to be in Japan", and with a few clicks of your mouse, and a few numbers entered into websites, you can be Japan.  You could do it without needing to talk with anyone.  And you could probably do it today... maybe you would have to wait until tomorrow.

Or if you have enough money, you could buy all the advertisement space in a whole subway system.  And put a picture of yourself everywhere with your name.  And than everybody in the city might know your name.

Sure you need a bit pile of money to do all the things I've just talked about, but the point is that it can be done.

So money is magical, but currently it's origin is ugly.  The short story of where money comes from is that the government ( or treasury (or central bank))  just say that it exists, and numbers change in computers, and money gets printed.  There is no elegance or beauty to it.

But here we are faced with something called Bitcoins.  And the special thing I find about Bitcoins is that their creation, and the system that they are used in, are all elegantly intertwined in such a way that their value is held up by math and morality.

I won't attempt to explain exactly how bitcoins work.  A simple search, or reading the article linked above will provide a better outline than I can write myself.

I'm thinking about the implications of this currency, about how it would spread and what that would be like.  Could this be the global currency that everyone will flock to.  In what realm of regulation does a currency like this exist it.  It has no central creator.  Is it something good, or is it something dangerous.  Will it hurt people or will it help people.  Is it better than what we have know, the same, or worse.

Should we be trying it?

Economics seems like a field where there is never a consensus.  It isn't really a science. It works with what people think has value.  What people think changes from day to day.

The feeling I get from Bitcoin is that it is such a huge and confusing step in the monetary system that regular people would have an exceedingly difficult time accepting it.

But the other feeling I get is that it is something that won't be destroyed, and that it will last as long as it has a purpose.  It feels like an organization was created out of the programming of bitcoin that has no head and can't be destroy.  In the same way that all companies have a value attributed to them by the market, Bitcoin too has value invested into it by all the people who thought that it was a good idea, and are able to see the logic and reason that lie in it's code.

Thinking about it now, Bitcoin is just a bit of code that runs on computers all around the world.  And all by itself, this code is running the equivalent of a monetary system.  It spreads because it is a good idea.

Now suppose that instead of just handling money, suppose that a system such as Bitcoin could handle our democracy.

I've never been relaxed with the idea of a true democracy because I don't think there has ever been one.  New things are scary.  Sure we have "democracy", but there are so many layers between what people actually vote, and what happens that it isn't scary. We have leaders who try to take care of us.  I get the feeling that real democracy is scary.

In a real democracy there is a good chance that you won't know how to spread a message and get your voice heard, so no one will hear you.  Majorities can be scary.

But getting back to the Bitcoin as democracy, suppose that suddenly a program popped up that allowed everyone on earth to vote for what they wanted.  Lets assume that it would include advanced biometric data recognition to ensure that each person was only given one vote ( in exactly the same way that you can only spend a bitcoin once).  And that their votes were anonymous, in the same way that Bitcoins are anonymous.

If this program were to spread, the question of what people actually wanted would be answered. How could a government argue with democracy like that.

I guess, I just wrote a post about the Occupy movement, and suddenly I have an idea for something that actually makes sense to me, something that feels like the next step.

Now my problem is that I feel like the ideas are so big that no one would believe me or care to listen.


The Occupation Movement

It feels like a lot of stuff is happening in the world right now.

Big important stuff, and it is easy to feel in awe and very small compared to the stuff that is going.

There is a movement brewing.  The OccupyINSERTPLACENAMEHERE movement is gathering momentum.  The american version, that started in New York didn't make sense to me for the first few weeks that it was going on.

Every idea I heard about the movement at the beginning was about different things. First it was about the financial crisis, and than about the environment, and than about politics, or the prison system.  And than suddenly the point of the protest shifted.  All of those ideas became the result of something else.  The financial crisis, the environmental disasters, and the terrible political system in america were all the result of collusion between the biggests corporations in america and the government.  Everybody was noticing different problems, and than suddenly the whole puzzle fit together.  There was probably one big problem that resulted in all sorts of different little problems.

The method of protest spread.  There was a brand.  You can occupy any place.  Every place has problems.  Everywhere you can find a reason to occupy.

America's problem is big and obvious.  And it's problems reach all around the world into every other country near and far.

In Canada, I have trouble feeling the same urge to occupy somewhere.  Especially in my particular life, at this particular moment, I don't feel burdened by the weight of society.  I hear the news, I read the news.  But I don't often see, with my own eyes, the problems that are being discussed.  And I really don't live the problems that other people have.

I walked by the site of the occupation in Montreal, and I didn't feel any real connection to the issues.  I saw one large printed poster, and it seemed like it was a graph of everything about being a human.  There is so much noise right now that I can't pick up a signal that resonates with me.

Maybe in a few weeks some chord will be struck just the right way in Canada that will get me to act differently.

Cuba - Havana and Varadero

While I was in Cuba I could feel the differences caused by the revolution.  It's easy to read about a society, about communism, or socialism, or facism and understand how they are different, but it is a different experience entirely to visit a country and feel the differences in so many little ways.

On our first taxi ride, between the Varadero airport and Havana I kept noticing how the electrical poles that ran along the high way were not just different from canadian ones, they kept changing as we moved through the country.  Standard wood poles, than twisted wood poles and finally crumbling reinforced concrete.

And some of the insulators were clear glass.

After the revolution there were a lot of problems in Cuba, and seeing all the attempts at solutions made it feel like they were more willing to try things, to at least give them a chance.

Take for example their traffic lights, many of them are equipped with count-downs that let drivers know how long they have till a red light, or how long they have till a green light.  It feels like the decision to use such lights would have to be made in a place where change was acceptable, where you are allowed to try something new because it will probably make things better.

I get the feeling that most of the time, in countries that haven't been radically disturbed by revolution, there is simply no allowance for new good ideas.  Things are generally good enough, and the possibility that something "might" make things better is not enough of a reason to upset the balance of life.

There are definitely examples of how this type of decision making can make life more confusing.  Because of the confusing financial situation of Cuba, cut off from the US and in some ways the rest of the world, they have two types of money: money for the tourist and money for the people. It's a system that makes the country feel segregated.  It makes life more complicated and inefficient, they have four separate types of pay phones.  They have roughly four different types of taxis and probably five different types of buses.

In any case, people are always adaptable.  They find a way to live in the system.  There was very little advertising or signage in the country.  To fill this void, the streets in tourist areas are filled with jineteros, people trying to get you to come to their families restaurant,and or to buy their cigars, or take their taxis.

Coming to Cuba as a tourist makes you feel like a member of high society in a segregated place. Your allowed into hotels when the general population isn't.  Your being constantly asked for your money in any number of ways. And your money feels like it has more power than it did back home.

If you are reading this blog, which would be hard and expensive to do from Cuba, than you probably are part of world that has a higher standard of living than the rest, you have benefits and exclusive rights to things that other people could only dream of.

When you travel, and get right up close to different places, the contrast in society becomes much clearer.

For more pictures of our trip visit this album.
Cuba 2011 - Havana and Varadero

I didn't feel like what I wanted to say about Cuba had much to do with the specifics of our trip.  We saw a lot of sights, and had fun on the beach.  We saw a show at the Tropicana and explored Havana.  We stayed at Casa Particulars, the equivalent of family run bed and breakfasts.  They were fantastic.



 I've gotten some hew software, ZBrush. It's like a whole different medium than 3D. I still  am thinking about how I can use it.


Sculpting Substraction

This was the result of sculpting in a very peculiar way.  All I did was start with a cube and than removed ellipsoid shaped chunks one at a time using Boolean commands.  It is a very different way of working and feels quite natural,  I need experiment a lot more, but it is a start.

Wealth Cap

I heard a news story today about the super rich actually suggesting that they would like to pay more taxes to help society.  And it got me thinking about the implication of wealth, about how wealthy people can actually get and what the alternatives would be like.

Is it a good thing that people can become infinitely wealth?  Is it actually a good thing that there is more than a six order of magnitude difference between the poor and the wealthy?

My instincts about numbers suggests that something is wrong,  people aren't created exactly the same, but one person is not a million times better than anyone else.  They can't work a million times harder.

When a person becomes super wealthy it is because they find a crack in the system of society, or in the earth, and out gushes money, whether it is from the ground or wallets it doesn't really matter.

I don't think I would want a system where there were no chances of striking it rich, because that is the type of reward that drives people to create great things, the problem is the feedback loop which is caused by money.

Those who have money gain the ability to make more and more of it.  With money comes the power to make more money.  Suddenly the wealthy will become super wealthy and a huge disparity opens up between the rich and the poor.

With enough money, a single person can be more influential than a million others.  A single person can become a ruler, a king or a god with enough money.  Is that what we really want?

What type of solution is there to this?  Taxes.  Curently taxes level off at a specified level of income, and after that it is smooth sailing to make more and more money because it gets easier and easier to come by.

But what if taxes got harsher and harsher, what if taxes increased super linearly, exponentially, so that super-rich meant a much lower number.

Once you are really rich I don't think your goal should be to make any more money.  The more you have the less other people will have.

If you are still very concerned with money when you are super rich, it is time to reconsider your purpose, and notice that everyone around you is trying to make their way, and you have the power to make it much more difficult, or much easier.

There is no way to be super rich, no way to be bigger than life,  there is always some trick to it.  It's an illusion that casts a powerful spell.  But there is no such thing as magic.



This video just somehow happened to me last year when I was in the parks all summer.

It's the weird me that doesn't come out in public very often.  How very peculiar.


Gel Sight - Something for artists

Gel Sight

I saw this video and realized that there was an incredible powerful application for this technology  that can sense the most minute touch input.

Suppose that you had a one foot square piece of this material on the desk in front of you with a camera underneath capturing the touch sensitivity.  Next there is a projector above projecting a computer image down onto the top surface of the material.   And now you have your fingers and paint brushes and whatever other tools you wish to use to touch the gel sight material with.

The computer can detect the position texture and strength of the slightest touch.  It uses this input for a drawing program that creates a beautiful digital image with 3d texture.  The projector above is calibrated as to project the image directly back onto the working surface, allowing you to see the result.

This would be an entirely new level of digital art, giving it so much more depth and subtlety.

Well another idea to put on the giant pile of ideas.


Most of the Leg

Polygonal Anatomy - Femur

I think I am starting a new project.  For some reason I actually think I started this project once before, but it never got going.

I'm going to go through human anatomy in 3d.  Piece by piece until the whole human figure is complete.  I'll start really easily, with just bones.  But as I get further, I will rig the bones together so that they move as one.  And than model the muscles.  And hopefully rig those as well.

I get the feeling that if I can model the human body in 3d, from the inside out, not just a thin outside shell, I will end up with something.

I am doing it simply in 3d, with polygons.  Nothing smooth.  I will see how much can be said with polygons because they have intention.  If I let things get smoothed, everything I put in will get glossed over by an algorithm.

Magicians should only reveal their tricks when the trick itself is beautiful.  I'm not really sure what parts of the 3d modelling process are beautiful.  I started with a cube and added loops of division.  I pushed and pulled the new points that I had created in space to adhere to the surface of the bone I had in mind.  I spin the model in the computer, and as it moves I am able to see the 3d shape of it even though it is a two dimensional image on the screen.

The 3d shape begins to feel more and more real as I increase the detail and precision of the model.

Here is the first femur.


A New Place on the Web

I've known for quite a while that I would need to build myself a more official place for myself on the internet.  It was only a week and a half ago that suddenly the design took shape in my head.

I wanted to make the design of the website somehow be essential animated.  I ended up needing to teach myself about the entire topic of web design to make it work.

 Like all art, I ended up learning a lot about myself making this site. I think I really represented how I feel about animation with this site.

I hope you enjoy it

 Spread it around. The more places it goes, the more places I might.


The Very Simple Reason that Facial Motion Capture is Terrible

I have seen a lot of different research videos and papers on the topic of facial performance capture.  They put any number of markers on a face, video the markers with cameras  and they create a 3d mesh out of all of this data.

And than usually the results look smooth but ugly.  And not really acting that you would want to spend much time watching.

And often, going through this research, you will find images like this.

I've been drawing faces a lot lately, really simple faces.  Really expressive faces.  And you know what I always make sure to get right, even if everything else isn't great?  I always go for the eyes.  And than the mouth, and then the eye brows and maybe the nose.  And usually after that, the point and emotion of the drawing is pretty obvious.

So I look at these performance capture technologies and the first and most obvious thing that they don't capture is the eye.  And it isn't just the rotational position of the eye that is important to capture, it is the white space around the eye.
It's about the amount of the iris and pupil that is visible, the shape that cuts it off and the white space that surrounds it.

If you are to translate a performance capture onto a digital character, it is not the amount of rotation of the eye in the socket that must be transferred, it is the end result of that rotation that makes an image that we as humans with advanced facial recognition abilities can interpret that must be captured and transferred.

Human facial recognition is good, but it has been tricked by drawings for a long time.  It is just a matter on focusing on the important parts and letting everything else fall to the side.