Friday, September 30, 2016

Head Shot

You know how it's done - first you just slap something down that's approximately right - or maybe way off.

Then you look at it and start refining.

... and refining...

... and refining...

And so on...

And so on...

Ugh. I'm done fussing with this one - it keeps turning into more and more of an unfixable mess. I don't know why every time I paint on it it gets increasingly bland and lower contrast, then I have to keep punching up contrast artificially and adjusting saturation. It's pushed past the limits now, looking completely unnatural. Well, it's been a great learning experience.

Actually, I think I do know why this is happening. It's doubtless because t's a 'pretty girl' picture, with soft lighting. So when I work in either the highlight areas or the low light areas I keep dabbing and blending away, trying to smooth everything out. That always results in anaemic, airbrushy looking art. Time to do something less pretty, in a stronger, more definite technique.

Also, to remind myself of old advice I used to know but keep forgetting; right in the beginning, put down a light color and a really dark one - maybe solid black, so you can estimate contrasts. Cause otherwise, you paint in super low contrast and can't tell, then you need to keep punching it up artificially..

*  *  *

And in a case of "the artist says one thing and does another" ---

Looks like I couldn't stop messing with it after all.

And now we're rollin'!

*  *  *

... And the saga continues...

My control has increased quite a bit on this piece. I used to not drop below 33% opacity, but toward the later stages of this one I'm working frequently at 12%. Getting subtleties I couldn't do before. Probably the most important thing I've used is an organization principle for the lighting - the Asaro approach (deciding which planes face the light most directly and lighting them the strongest, and working outward from there dropping light levels accordingly as you go).

Ok, I've signed it, but it wants a bit more work done on't. They usually evolve a bit after the signature is appended.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Latest Book Report -- Updated

Latest arrivals in the DarkLibrary -- Some of these you've seen before, but this is the latest configuration. I've now separated my Shakespeare books from the reference shelf, which is just around the corner. My entire house is becoming one big sprawling library - shelves cabinets and carts loaded with books in just about every room now.

Note there are NO BRICKS!! That was a disaster! Even after thoroughly scrubbing them and letting them dry for several days, wherever they made contact with a surface (such as the cover of a book for instance) dampness seemed to be drawn out from inside, and along with it all manner of insidious fungaloid or bacterial growth, causing a grotesque constellation of whitish stains to sprout on the boards of the two endmost books, which I have twice now scrubbed with Clorox disinfecting wipes. It seems to have eliminated the offending discoloration. Fortunately here in my Shakespeare collection the end books are massive enough to serve as self-standing bookends themselves.

I've stopped referring to the No Fear Shakespeare series from Sparknotes - I found I disliked it because it's too easy to just read the modern - decidedly non-poetic - version and just skip even looking at the Bard's actual words - not how I want to learn my Shakespeare! So after a bit of research I've settled on the Folger paperback editions, which feature the play on the right-hand pages and brief explanatory notes opposite. Vastly preferable, because it forces you to actually read the poetry and then wrestle with the terms until you reach some hard-won glimmer of understanding. It still occasionally leaves you foxed and flummoxed on certain terms though, which is why I have Shakespeare's Words - a concordance of the difficult terms from all his work. Between this and the Asimov's Guide, which gives a wealth of historical and other information, I'm developing a decent understanding of Macbeth, the first of the plays I'm diving into. Fun factoid - getting the Folger paperbacks used, you often get notes - occasionally legible even - from former readers; sometimes illuminating, frequently confounding.

Freeing Shakespeare's Voice is a guide for actors - teaching how Shakespeare must be acted. Our current speech patterns are rational, materialistic, and utilitarian to such an extent that we tend to choke off any hint of powerful emotion or passion, which in Elizabethan days people decidedly did NOT do! Also body language must be powerful - unlike the very minimal movement we tend to use today.

And here's the reference shelf in its latest configuration. All traces of brickish contamination hopefully scrubbed away! After buying a concise Webster's dictionary I became disgusted with how small and stripped-down it was. Nothing like the massive desktop volumes I remember on my parent's bookshelves - finger-grooved with imprinted letters for easy flipping to exactly the right section. So I haunted Amazon and studied the various types of available dictionaries until I decided on the Compact Oxford, and made sure I bought one that included the original slipcase with a little drawer on top for the magnifier that you need in order to actually read it! The original magnifier was not included - I've ordered a 3x page magnifier with LED lights built in that will fit the drawer and hopefully is powerful enough. Even with reading glasses on I can't make out the words at all! 

Origins is an etymological dictionary - tracing the origins of words and the ways the meanings have changed over time to what we know today. Fascinating stuff! As for The Great Books, The Great Ideas and The Western Canon - I'll do an in-depth post on them quite soon. If you're interested and don't want to wait, google something called the Syntopicon

Nestled on this innocuous little shelf underneath the reference library is my homeschooling material. You can't see the 2 fully loaded cardboard boxes stacked behind it, imprinted with the Memoria Press logo - those hold the books I've already completed and that I have yet to delve into. It seems apropos that Logic and Critical Thinking (seen in the last 2 pictures) are - at least visually - beneath the reference books (including the Encyclopedia of Philosophy) because logic and critical thinking are the basis and prerequisite for philosophy. 

I'm also currently working my way through a book called An Introduction to Philosophy by one George Stuart Fullerton, which I got from Archive.Org - originally published I believe in 1901.

I didn't intend this phase of my life to be quite so - bookish - but that's what it's become! And I love it!

P.S. --
I've just now  bought the Kindle editions of The Dream of Reason: a History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance and its sequel The Dream of Enlightenment: the Rise of Modern Philosophy by Anthony Gottlieb. These seem to be exactly what I've been seeking - entertaining and informative accounts of these important periods in the history of rational thought (or the attempt at it anyway) done in narrative form rather than as a listing of events and dates. Make it FUN! I think a subject so potentially mind-numbing needs to be made fun. The second volume ends just before Kant, who will begin the upcoming third volume. Looking forward to that one!

Here's a good review of both books on The New York Times' website.

P.P.S. --
I was quite surprised to find that each of these periods of unfettered philosophical activity - sparked at times when rational thought managed to briefly throw off the manacles of proscribed religious and political repression - only lasted about 150 years! With centuries of the Sleep of Reason lying in between!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Finished first semester of Logic and Composition - just over 20 days!!

I did a weeks' worth of work each day - reducing the 20 week courses to just about 20 DAYS!! That's a semester of schoolwork folks -- in THREE WEEKS!!! And I took almost no days off during that time - when you're going for a short defined period like 3 weeks you can go really hard and take time off after the work is done, making for much greater productivity and focused work.

I'm surprised at how well I remembered the early parts of the Logic course - I thought those would escape my memory after so much time. But I was able to remember the functional parts pretty well - though I didn't fare so well on the pure memorization of non-essentials like the names of all the various Rules, Laws, Dictums, and descriptions. I don't really see the importance of remembering what all those things are called though, as long as you can perform them properly - THAT'S the important part.

Ultimately it doesn't matter if I can remember all that stuff, because I'm going to make myself a pocket-sized Logic Handbook, consisting of those parts I couldn't memorize. Armed with my Logic Handbook nestled under my wallet, I'll be able to do logic anytime, anywhere, until eventually I'll have it committed to memory well enough I won't need the book anymore.

I feel like doing all 20 lessons of the Progymnasmata (the Composition course) was overkill - I only needed about half as much, so going forward I'm planning to only do every other lesson, reducing it to 10 days per semester. If my math holds true, at this rate I should be able to finish the remaining 8 books of the Progymnasmata - 4 years' worth of lessons - in 3 months. If all goes according to plan, that's by the end of the year! Though including some time off and possible setbacks, most likely early 2017. By which time I'll also be done with the rest of the Logic courses, Rhetoric and all the other homeschooling material I ordered alongside it - the grammar and poetry.

Taking the rest of September off as a well deserved reward/vacation!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

WHY am I studying the Trivium?

By following the same course of eduction that produced the great thinkers of history and all my favorite writers up until the 20th century, I put down my roots in the same soil they grew from - drink deep of the same nutritional matrix. All those writers I've been rhapsodizing about - with all their eloquence, power and clarity - I now walk the same paths they did.  But mine is an abbreviated version of the full classical curriculum - without Latin or Greek, and of necessity I'm not absorbing all the same literature they did. Though I will be getting quite a bit of that (and most of it free thanks to Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, and Google Books!)

My reading into the classical Liberal Arts has convinced me that it was their education that forged the common links between all those thinkers - the artists, the authors, the natural scientists and philosophers, the poets, the statesmen and the critics. They all received the same training, all read the same classic works of the great Western tradition. And really that might be the main key to it all - the literature.

Reading the greatest works of the Western canon is not at all like reading the majority of today's books - much of it documents the authors' very honest struggles with the deepest and most profound ideas to ever grace human thought. And no, they didn't always get it right, but sometimes their failures make for some great comic relief. It seems authors and artists of all stripes have stopped even attempting to navigate those hallowed waters over the last century or so, doesn't it? Today instead we get an endless parade of very minor issues, and a whole lot of extremely divisive political posturing that actually blocks any real attempt to deal with the issues themselves. As a culture we seem to have grown too small to deal with the great ideas and the great problems. Too small, too self-fixated, too materialistic. And make no mistake - WE'VE BEEN TRAINED INTO IT!

And trained out of dealing with the big ideas. Out of the ability to understand ideas without passing premature judgement on them - to consider them critically and with great clarity, and then to formulate an intelligent response and deliver it powerfully and persuasively. Aka Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric.

Pre 20th century rhetoric is at the same time more rational and more poetic than our own stripped-down plainspeak, which is materialistic and utilitarian and for many of us is on about a valley girl level or a Bill & Ted level.

I want to tune in to the Great Conversation of the classical Western tradition! Ponder the deep thoughts of Homer, Aristotle, Plato - Shakespeare, Leibniz and Spinoza. Spending some time immersed in those deep waters, if you've prepared yourself to understand what's being said, you can't help but emerge wiser or at least thinking intelligently about much more important issues. 

More Bookses (my precious!)

New arrivals.

The new reference library. I got tired of buying expensive bookends that were never quite heavy enough and also very fragile if dropped. That problem is easily remedied by the simple expedient of bricks! This will make a very solid foundation for my expanding knowledge-base and worldview.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Halfway through Logic 1 already!!!

I realized it with a bit of a shock this morning - I'm just about halfway there! And it's been - without checking (and considering my notorious inability to estimate time-chunks) slightly over a week? Need to check back on that. Yeppers. Saturday - August 27th - was my first Trivium post, with a pic of my newly-arrived homeschooling books all laid out. I think that was the day they came in and I launched into my studies.

And here I was, afraid this was going to take a couple of years or something! Well, other parts of it still might, though I'm making some massive progress through Composition (the Progymnasmata) as well - 1/2way through book 1 - Fables (but the Progymnasmata consists of 9 books, and some of the others are much thicker).

This is the first day I've taken off from studying - well, sort of. First I reviewed yesterday's lesson and realized it needs a little more time to settle in before I move on - there's danger of it coming apart if I try to nail anything new onto it just now. So rather than do the next lesson I read the rest of the book - just an initial read-through to develop a little familiarity with the concepts. This is an extremely helpful practice - makes it clear exactly why you need to learn each part along the way. You can see how it all fits together.

And how it's all fitting together is brilliant!!! It's apparent already this will develop ultimate clarity of thought and expression. Which in fact is precisely the goal of Aristotle's logic.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Stinky Boot

This is just about making me sick right now. WHY is my approach always to start indiscriminately scribbling all over really fast, hoping to see things come together - and then when they don't I just keep on scribbling, sort of with my eyes unfocused or something, like the way I used to draw. The difference - it works in drawing, I guess because of long familiarity. And the worst part - even when I stop and get a grip and say "Ok, I need to get this clearly blocked out in terms of lights and darks, create some definite form to organize it" -- then I go right back in and start scribbling like a madman on speed again. It would work for surface details and blending - after establishing a good crisp value design. I need to force myself to do that part. And I should probably start in greyscale. I really need to get it together dammit - I guess this is the price for not having painted in so long.

Ok, it's coming together sloooowly. So frustrating - doing this reminded me that just abut every time I've done a painting, I went through this same thing. It usually starts off a total mess, and then I have to spend countless hours trying to fix it until eventually I start to hammer out something salvageable. The only time it isn't like this is when I'm working from a photo and I pretty much copy it exactly, almost creating a paint by numbers kit - literally outlining the areas for shadows or different colors. It's supposed to start with a simple, foolproof method that blocks things out neatly (and doesn't involve endless, mindless scribbling!) And there's something in me that rebels against the highly methodical, almost assembly line method that suggests. But then, flailing around desperately like a drowning man is hardly an artistic triumph, is it? I need to start methodically and simply, and leave the artistic flourishes for later.

Well, maybe by the time I'm done making something decent of this boot, I'll be back in the swing and ready to get into some serious painting!
* * * 
Damn -- looking back and forth between both images, I see all I've done is smooth some things out and blend out any character it had, as well as that spontaneous and powerful look of an early render. 

Flailing... flailing..