Chewing my keyboard

Monday, February 28, 2005

Vivienne likes...

"Vivienne likes to be taken to movies and bars.... she has some skimpy outfits for the gym, and is a tease... She can converse on 35,000 topics, from philosophy to movies to sculpture."

But would anyone want me on their mobile phone given I think I'm one of these...

"Partly to prevent anyone from becoming addicted to Vivienne's charms, the program will limit users to an hour of play time a day." [SHAME! RESIGN!]

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Give me alpha; give me omega...

I'm having a real time with myself at the moment. I'm supposed to be preparing a poster to give at a conference in Rome and I'm flying out a week today and I was just completely stumped last week, my mind distracted. It's the first time in years my emotions have affected my work (possibly nothing to be proud of). I initially had a sense of loss, then I fretted about the superficially puritan appearance of my lifestyle (yet I deny myself nothing. I have a very long Period 3 gene and I was raised on vegetables, in part because I was hyper as a child). Now, an entirely irrational fear I've been forgotten is creeping across my mind like breeze-blown cobwebs brushing against a wall.

I'm now writing the poster, eating smoked salmon sandwiches with added vanilla lipbalm and trying to disguise myself as a toothpick for no apparent reason. Black is a slimming colour so if you're a pallid, slender woman with badly chapped hands and lips then the effect is striking for all the wrong reasons (especially if you also have a very BIG hat). I'm doing the usual fretting that since I'm trained as a Geographer but doing the work of an Applied Physicist I've probably missed something a first year physics undergraduate could have picked up and am going to look like an unmitigated idiot.

Friday, February 25, 2005


Another sketch on the site; this one pastel and charcoal. It's a very rough sketch done in the space of minutes and designed to convey a sense of emotional agony. The lower legs are grossly extended but this doesn't look too bad. I think it makes the figure appear to be stretched out across the dust or being blown away and melded into it. The left hand and arm of the figure melds into the ground.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

In the absence of the forums, another test...

This one's about the sex of your brain.

Despite often quibbing that I'm actually a gay transvestite trapped in a woman's body (and thus I'm perfectly happy being there :D), I come out as being an absolutely average woman with a score of exactly 50% female. The breakdown of topics is more interesting (although not entirely unexpected).

I got 11/12 in the manipulation of 3D shapes test, 6/10 in recognising facial expressions (which is apparently pretty high), poor on word association (about 4-5 words only) and low on recognising the positioning of objects (below male and female average). Proper breakdown of scores possibly later. Apparently I'm attracted to men with more feminine faces (again, no surprise to me).

I wonder if I'd get different scores if I do this in a few months time... The self is a philosophical problem because biologically, we shed all our cells and replace them about every 6 months (or is it 6 years) IIRC. We regard ourself as being the same person despite the fact that if we replaced all the timbers of a ship, kept the original timbers and built a new ship, which is the 'real' ship? I've started to question seeing myself as the same person. I have the same broad characteristics but I seem to have these periods of rapid mental and personality development in which all my perceptions, interpretations and objectives change. At the end despite the fact to the casual observer, I probably seem pretty much the same, I don't recognise myself in the memories I have of a few months previously.

I've been going through one of these periods since around November and it's challenging all my beliefs, my priorities and what I believe my future holds. I don't recognise myself in conversations I had as late as last November. I can almost sense people reacting differently to the subtle differences from 'past me' and I feel I'm moving into synchronisation with some of them and out of synchronisation with others. One or two friends, I'm really not in the same mental place anymore. Others I've moved into a different place and the nature of our interactions have changed. Some I seem to have slid into phase with and I'm really having to think very carefully about where I want to be in a year's time or what I really want out of our friendship - it's sending me into existential spasms and somersaults right now. I think I want to stop changing for a while so I can get my breath back...

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Veni Vidi Bidet...

How to be an intellectual.

Remember, the line between intellectual and pretentious bore is measured in picometres...

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Why I love myself

I got about 2/3 of these correct first time. There were one or two about which I had no clue but otherwise I was pretty spot-on.

I've known about this effect for sometime. In fact, I enjoy studying it and have been right in a couple of cases where the people in question look, to me at least, like long-lost brother and sister. It really does show that beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder.

Noticing a resemblance is very holistic and intuitive because 'resemblance' is something intangible. Out of people who I've liked who've liked me back that I've been very aware of, all have my sharp nose (but it's not that obvious on me because the spectacles cover mine up). One has exactly the same sandy/earth colouring that I have (sandy hair, freckles, green or brown eyes) and another has a very similar face shape to me (face wide and square at the cheekbones with a point at the chin).

When I was new to university, shy and more introverted and brooding, I was attracted to introverted, brooding men. Now I'm lighter and my animated nature is not just surface, I appear to be attracted to openly intelligent/informed men who are very lively and animated. Further, I don't find introverted, brooding men instantly attractive anymore.

All terribly interesting, especially since it's extremely rare I have *chemistry* for anyone. I'm 'vaguely interested' more frequently but it's all rather 'cold fish'. Evidently, there aren't that many people I intuitively feel are *like me* around - I'm not sure whether I should be happy or worried by that... Not that I'm claiming this to be an all encompassing theory or anything; I've never been quite sure the resemblance my parents are supposed to have.

Monday, February 14, 2005

It's a plug...

On Saturday I went to the Tate Modern... Or rather, I went to the Tate Modern briefly and then walked to the Tate Britain and spent a somewhat longer time there.

The Tate Modern has a very non-intuitive entrance leading into the cavernous turbine hall. It's spectacular - a huge cathedral-like industrial space... with a speaker mounted somewhere in the roof constantly looping a voice which was how I imagine a guy faking a female orgasm whilst hiccuping would sound (no idea what it was supposed to be).

The ground floor has a large bookshop/shop, cafe and cloakroom behind glass doors. We began on the first floor where my first remark was:

"What's that supposed to be?"

My companion, formerly known as The Squire but who now looks rather more like a smart-casual goth computer programmer (no offence :D ), stood under it, looked exasperated and said "A plug". Yep, that's right, a 6ft long 2-pinned plug made out of wood. After the scattered broken wooden furniture in the shape of an axe, the large object that looked like an oversized metal fan heater and the canvas with a slash in it... my companion's eye-rolling and general frustration had increased to the point where he informed me he was leaving. I was curious to know what was on floors 3-6 but he said that life was too short to wander about the Tate Modern. Thus, we went to the Tate Britain instead.

Due to their Turner, Whistler and Monet exhibition (which we didn't visit), they had put out a lot of Turner. Thus, I've seen probably more Turner paintings than... insert frequency of choice. I especially enjoyed the paintings by Watts especially these . More Watts here.

Although Turner did a lot of [repetitive IMO] traditional scenes (rooms of them), Francis informs me that as he got older he focused on his strengths and did a lot of background and far less foreground (his backgrounds were far superior to the figures he did at the front). This is an example and the painting I liked the most out of the whole exhibition. His work with light and the forces of nature, etc. was stunning. Francis kept pointing to his images of natural disaster and saying "Doesn't this say more about the nature of human suffering than anything produced by the Young British Artists?"... After a while, he won the argument :)

He pointed out that past painters had real craftmanship out of necessity and that the only merit of modern art was originality yet if something had never been done in the past, there was probably a good reason. The contrast between the two galleries was profound. I can look at a scene like this and feel moved by the use of light and colour, the power of the image and the force of nature it represents... I can look at Julian Opie's air vent (check first floor Tate Modern site under 'After Duchamp' - lots of prize examples) and feel precisely nothing. It's just dead, vapid, passionless. It's disposability might be the point but TBH I don't care about it enough to really give it any thought. It says nothing -it may as well actually *be* an airvent for all I care.

The Squire has converted me to his point of view (from my ambivalence or general 'ha, ha look at that' mentality to dubious modern art) - if you want to make a point about colonialist oppression or AIDs or feminism then at least do it properly, with some degree of skill, power and intelligence! I guess that theoretically makes me elitist but actually, I think a fair bit of 'sensationalist' modern art is elitist. It hides the fact it's unadulterated pap that the artist thought up one morning on the toilet and then paid someone to hammer together by pretending that if you 'understand' it, it will all make perfect sense. You shouldn't *need* to understand it - that's why it's art and not a book. If it requires an essay on post-colonialism, you're missing the point. The fact is that non-elitist art is generally well-crafted, powerful and often attractive. That's why people like it.

As an aside, I had a long argument over whether Dali was better than Matisse, i.e. whether being weird for the sake of looking pretty without anything to say was appropriate (I keep thinking he must have meant Magritte because Matisse was modern but not a surrealist AFAIK) and I'd say yes. Francis says "No". He thinks that Matisse knew what he was doing and was saying something, whereas Dali was just being weird in the interests of aesthetism and this didn't make him as good an artist [or maybe I'm misrepresenting the argument here :( ].

Sunday, February 13, 2005

New picture on site

I have added my first pastel painting/drawing.

It's an imperfectly remembered scene I saw at a demonstration of Bob Ross classes/paints whilst visiting Hobbycraft at Cribbs Causeway last week. Something vaguely like this, although it wasn't this painting. I personally think that going to a class where you follow step-by-step brushstroke instructions to produce exactly the same as everyone painting as everyone else from a set series of proscribed paintings is slightly soul-destroying and pointless. This guy kinda agrees with me but I don't think he'd be wild about my choice of subject matter.

On the other hand, utopian landscapes at least look nice - a huge improvement on the sh*te in the Tate Modern (more on that later).

This is the original picture - my memory ain't great, huh?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

More political flash animations:

Backing Blair
The London Underground

I've now sketched out another version of the landscape but this time put in all the trees first (in various shades of brown and orange pastel pencil since I don't have any other colours at the moment). Now, I just have to colour it in... I see trouble ahead...

Getting your priorities wrong...

There's a discussion on the LDYS open forums here about whether Ellen MacArthur deserved front page news, even temporarily, for her solo circumnavigation of the world given the Israel/Palestine ceasefire occurring on the same day.

The topic has now navigated onto the priority of sport in the news. I personally think that Ellen MacArthur's achievement was somewhat rarer and of a different magnitude of significance from the World Series. However, it does raise an interesting issue of what is 'important' and worthy of news attention.

Radio Humberside, being a local radio station, evidently has a remit that anything 'local' is more newsworthy than something more significant happening further away giving rise to circumstances like my parody:

'And today's main news headlines - man from Grimsby narrowly escapes death after choking on a Wotnot. Mr Bloggs of 3 Rose Crescent, Grimsby was rushed into Grimsby General Hospital yesterday afternoon after choking on a Wotnot whilst watching football on the television. He was saved in the nick of time by paramedics slapping him vigorously on the back. Our Grimsby correspondent, Lara Johnson is now live with his family as he recuperates at home and we go to her now for an exclusive 25 minute interview. "Mrs Bloggs, your husband choked whilst watching the game on the television yesterday. Which club was it? Was it the superb performance by Grimsby Rangers against Bognor Regis United? How do you feel about the 3:1 result?".......

... And in other news. WW3 started today with a pre-emptive nuclear strike by the United States against China'.

Seriously, though, they are happy to stop the news headlines (including items like people having their limbs blown off in Iraq - if that's mentioned at all) to report 'important' items of news like "We stop this program to announce - the Chairman of Hull Kingston Rovers has resigned".

In terms of getting your life priorities wrong though, you can't beat these people... I mean, not only did they INJURE EACH OTHER trying to get into a furniture superstore but they DUMPED THEIR CARS and it was AT MIDNIGHT! Don't they have anything more important to do than buy a cheap sofa! GET A GRIP PEOPLE (apologies to anyone at the Edmonton IKEA opening). It makes you wonder the pointless lives some people must lead:

"Darling, what should we do this evening? We have a choice between staring at the wall, cleaning out our nostrils with a fork or going to IKEA at midnight to buy a Sundnes bed frame"

"You've forgotten watching prime time television."

"I excluded that deliberately because that might actually be remotely interesting."

"Ah, well, given that's not an option - IKEA it is. I'm so dull that buying a new bed takes on the significance of a life and death experience; I'm prepared to trample people in my bedroom furniture-induced purchasing frenzy."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Pastel light

I have now worked out how to use the pastels (I think). I carried out an abortive attempt the day before yesterday to draw a mountain landscape. The distant mountains, a patch of sky and the water had real promise but I left the front of the picture covered in brown squiggles (mud) for later work with some gorse bushes.

My brown was somewhat terracotta so I bought a few green and brown Unison (nothing to do with the trade union) and Sennelier pastels yesterday.

Last night I came back and drew a really crummy tree. I realised that I'd overworked the front of the picture with soil, and the mountains/snow too early so I was unable to add the trees and gorse bushes out front. However, it was a definitely an improvement over the powdery first attempts.

I probably should stick with a medium I'm good with to start off (watercolours and/or oils) but it's a challenge to see if I can get it to work (esp. since pastels are supposed to be easier to work than oils/watercolours [and presumably silk])! Also, pastels can be taken pretty much anywhere and worked directly, and are colourful (I'm really bad at monochrome and esp. monochrome shadows).

I've worked out, like fashion, the trick seems to be that less is more, i.e. produce an outline in fine pastel pencil (colour irrelevent), begin with a faint suggestion of colour/shading in harder pastels (my Faber Castell student half-sticks) and aim for the suggestion of reality whilst covering as little as the paper as possible with pastel. This leaves a soft, luminescent image rather than a muggy brown smudge.

Apologies to anyone who reads this for the insufferable focus upon the use of varying art materials...

Links for the day are this and this (insulting Veritas/Kilroy-Silk songs).

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A series of interesting events...

After several weeks of just me and a sketchpad, everything is getting more lively in the next month or so.

On Saturday I'm going to the Tate Modern with a tall, dark and handsome stranger... Ok, it's not a tall, dark and handsome stranger; it's a tall, dark-blond and freckly friend who I've known for about 5 years (although he's not exactly bad looking). I've been wanting to go and stare at twisted bits of metal purporting to say something about the intensity of human experience for several months but didn't have anyone to go with. As a result, I'm exceedingly excited and this morning I got up and was promptly completely paranoid that fate was going to prevent me going and I will have Norwalk virus/flu/severe insomnia/broken limbs by Saturday. Although I have tackled my existential pessimism quite a lot since it was driving me to distraction, it occasionally rises and just grabs me by the throat and I have to just quietly reason with myself until it dies a death.

The week after, I'm going up to Leeds for LDYS conference and am staying with my parents. I promised mum I'd show her how to draw figures using conte crayon but I've had zero success with the pastels so far. I think I press too hard and fill the 'tooth' of my paper with the first layer. I'll have another go tonight and use very light strokes to 'build up' a picture.

Then I have about a week and then I'm going to Rome (or rather, Frascati which is a suburb of Rome) to present a poster at a CryoSat workshop at ESA (European Space Agency). However, before then, I need to have somewhat more research and a poster which is worrying me rather and was brought home by having a meeting with my supervisor yesterday afternoon. This is possibly driving this morning's paranoia that I'm going to lose days through sudden illness. One of the organisers is from the Space Science department at UCL and although I don't want to live in London, that's somewhere I might consider for a job so I really need to impress them. I'm going to have to dust off my 'Learning Italian' CD and get a city guide to Rome. I'm hoping to fly up a day early so that I can get some photos and maybe a carefully selected museum/art gallery in whilst I'm there.

Monday, February 07, 2005

I'm off to see Tony, Tooonnnyyyy Benn...

First, I'd like to share these links with anyone not on the LDYS forums. The first is hysterical, the second is mildly entertaining but mostly for the music.

Yesterday, Tony Benn spoke at the Bristol Council House to a Stop the War meeting. Everyone commented on how everyone was so fired up by the cause that they'd filled an extra room with 200 people they didn't expect. However, I think many of the attendees were probably there for the reason I was - to see Tony Benn. That said, I agreed with almost everything they said about the reason for the Iraq elections, Iran, erosion of British civil liberties... We do need to be careful how and how quickly we withdraw troops though; after all, I'm sure American capitalism is better than a result in which Tony Blair suddenly took all the troops out to appease the domestic voter and then our TV screens were full of starving Iraqis who didn't have replacement infrastructure and the country fell apart into civil war. We just need to be sure that the long-term aim is that they ARE going to pull out, and in such a way that they don't generate resentment that boils over into sudden civil war (like a sensitive and non-messed-up withdrawal is likely to happen under Bush)...

I don't agree with Tony Benn necessarily that the US foreign policy is being driven by big business - apparently their environmental policy isn't. A US academic who came to lecture at the Geog department last term told us that most big businesses realise that if the environment f**ks up, it will affect their profits and they need to adapt to a changing business situation (e.g. some of the big oil companies switching to selling 'energy' not just fossil fuels). However, the neo-con government is driving forwards a prolifigate environmental policy anyway. As an aside, for those of you who still remember the US presidentials with a furrow in your brow and a tear in your eye, This Land is our Land is quite entertaining (although now dated).

Humorous moments - running the gauntlet of sellers of 'The Socialist', 'Socialist Worker', etc. on the concourse to the council building, and the Bristol Socialist Choir singing The Internationale before the event started (they were very good).

Best quote - "When you first say a sensible thing, people ignore you. If you carry on saying it then they say you're crazy. If you persist on saying it after that then you become 'dangerous'. Then there's a pause. And then you can't find anyone higher up who doesn't claim they agreed with you all along" Tony Benn 2004 (taking off Ghandi IIRC).

Friday, February 04, 2005

Is there anything these people *can* watch?

Never expect to see any of these chaps/ladies at the cinema...

Tentative online gallery

Is here.

There are three folders - one of general bits of artwork I've photographed, one of the Liberty Belle cartoons and another one in which I'm going to put any bits of life drawing practice (so that anyone who doesn't want to look at it doesn't have to).

Nope, I'm not the next Michelangelo... :( But it's fun, relaxing, creative and it keeps me out of trouble.

More art tutorial stuff here.

I'm going to start putting my various practices (mostly crummy) and compositions online.

My main project currently is the illustrations for 'The Little Yellow Book: A young person's guide to Liberal Democracy' for which I'm drawing a character called Liberty Belle who is a sorta manga-looking little girl in a voluminous yellow cowl necked jumper, large orange sneakers and sticking up ginger plaits (inspired by a character called 'Winnie Lucy Atwell' who used to appear on calendars in my mum's childhood. Never seen 'Winnie Lucy Atwell' and I can't find a link for her on Google [can anyone help?] but apparently she had plaits that stuck up vertically). Liberty Belle was originally created as the sprite for a flash game I've never got around to writing called "Liberty Belle goes leafletting" in which you had to avoid homocidal letterboxes, mad placard-wielding Tory farmers (ok, I've never met any of those), vicious dogs, etc...

I did buy some willow charcoal yesterday in 2 different sizes (charcoal = very cheap) and have done a vaguely passable life drawing of myself (in lieu of another subject) on WHsmith sketch paper using some of the techniques in the book mum bought me (part of a set) on 'Introducing Drawing the Nude' and on one of the sites I put down last time. It's amazing how using reference points and cylinders can produce a passable approximation to the human form completely painlessly. My only problem was I got the proportions wrong and overextended the torso. The photo I was using for the drawing (drawing one's back is difficult otherwise) was also completely washed out (poor lighting and bad colour capture by digital camera) so I couldn't use the photo to practice shading. I'm going to have to borrow the desk lamp out of my office to practice capturing lighting effects using pastels and conte crayon since I'm pretty good at outlines now but very bad at knowing how to shade properly.

Apparently if you can draw the human form you can draw anything so if I can produce an appropriately shaded person in more complex posture (lying or poised for dancing, for example) then I'm sorted for stuff like oranges, flowers, dragons, aliens, spacecraft, fractals...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Various drawing links

I've noticed that a fair few of my pictures feature nude moving or stationary slim female figures (indeed, I painted a 'futurist' style running female nude on an LSE blackboard during a break in an LDYS meeting). Unfortunately, due to a lack of people who would either pose naked for me (or I would want them to pose naked - volunteers may have unwanted intent) I'm pretty stumped for some life models at the moment for anything but slim females (of which I have much experience - being one myself).

If you're interested in drawing the human form, there's a good tutorial here. There are more online art lessons on various things here. And more tips on drawing the human form here.

I've just got some soft pastels in a sale at a local stationary shop. I got 12 full stubs of various loud, contrasting colours and 48 half-stubs. Since you can't blend pastels 'on the palette', it's useful to get a set with graduated colours (think gradient function on PC paint programs). The 48 half-stubs give a limited set of white through yellow/orange/red, blue through purple/pink, green into aqua/grey and brown through sand/pink. The latter is a good set for portraiture or life drawing (if I had someone to life draw) although soft pastels aren't good for holding outlines/hard shapes. I may be better with some portraiture conte crayons which are harder and can be bought in a specified portraiture range of earth colours. Charcoal is also a popular medium for drawing the human form.

Wikipedia says this about pastels. More on pastels, including common mistakes. This is the main page about pastels from that site.

I do have some oil pastels that I bought on holiday in Chamonix about 2 years ago (I have a poorly executed picture of the campsite). Again, these are in a series of foul colours and, generally look like they were carried out by a pre-school group using wax crayons. I may have more success if I either smoothed/mixed the oil pastels with turpentine or combined them with the soft pastels.

Ten things

Courtesy or no-one but the BBC website:

The best one:

Britain: Ideal for visiting France