Friday, November 30, 2007

Post It Sketches - 2

A few notes learned from this batch of post it sketches.

- drawing with an inkball pen really sucks (the Christmas tree). Also, I didn't really figure out how to do the needles until towards the bottom.

- accuracy/realism and speed are necessarily exclusive to one another. With the pine needles, once I figured out the way they grew, it was actually faster to sketch them more realistically.

- it's unforgivable to screw up someone's eyes in a sketch. The key for me turns out to be to draw the entire eyeball first, then draw the skin, eyelids, brows around it. Compare the top left eyeball to the bottom right (self portrait)... I quickly realized that it's the actual ball of the eye that defines the top and bottom lids. Of course, having a live model helps. All the eyes except the bottom right one were done without a reference.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Indiana Jones


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Totally Rad Show

One of my favorite internet shows, The Totally Rad Show. I often do the sketches I post here on Tuesday nights when the show comes out.

Post It Sketches

I've started reading

The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. I'll continue posts as I work through the book and see what kinds of improvements occur.

I've also started doing some sketches on 3 x 5 "Post It" notes. It turns out these are a good size to hold in one hand while sketching, yet still big enough to actually draw on.

There are quite a few areas I need to improve on, but most especially:

  • maintaining symmetry (see how asymmetrical the face is above)
  • proportions and scale (see how the head is out of proportion to the body above).
  • shading overall, but especially maintaining the same level of shading throughout the sketch.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Yoshi, in many Mario games used as a vehicle, takes on more character in Paper Mario. He's kind of like a wiseacre, kid.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Princess Peach

Even though Princess Peach doesn't do much in the Mario games, basically serving as the damsel in distress for Mario to rescue, she's one of the kids favorite characters.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sly Cooper - Bentley

Bentley, the brains of the Sly Cooper gang, although not the leader (?), uses a dart-filled crossbow and a variety of bombs to get his his mission locations. He's a computer hacker (of course) and so is the source of many "mini-games" in the Sly Cooper series. I haven't finished Sly 2 yet, but have read that at the end of that game, he has a tragic accident that puts him in a wheelchair before the game Sly 3 commences.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sly Cooper - "The Murray"

The muscle in Sly Cooper's crew, "the Murray" is gruff and dim-witted, but kind hearted. He's probably the kids favorite character because of the way he talks and he "looks funny when he runs."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sly Cooper

Another of the video games that the kids and I enjoy playing together. Sly Cooper: Band of Thieves.

Sly is a raccoon and and his thieving buddies are a hippo (Murray) and a turtle (Bentley). They are Robin Hood-esque figures, stealing from bad guys for profit and to save the world.

The game has a distinctive art style and is made up of numerous missions that follow a straight-forward story line: find the bad guy, scope out his operations, plan a heist and steal the goods without getting caught. Sly is the sneaker, Murray is the brawler and Bentley is the gadgeteer.

We haven't finished the game yet, but we're enjoying it enough that I will probably buy Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Paper Mario

I've been playing a lot of Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door with the kids lately. Every night, after dinner, it's "Can we go play Mario?"

Paper Mario a Gamecube game, but we have a Wii, which plays old Gamecube titles. Of course, I had to go and by a Gamecube controller and a Gamecube save card, but it's really been worth it. The kids really root on in the battles... they are still too small to play by themselves, so their participation is still mostly cheering or booing.

I imagine that some day, they'll have some good memories of cheering Dad (and Mario) on.

Friday, November 09, 2007

White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

I don't know where you're from, but around the midwest, the whitetail is the center of a near-religion (... or near-cult?) The week before Thanksgiving, about every other person outside the urban city limits is going to be wearing blaze orange. For those who don't know this means, state hunting regulations require that hunters wear a certain percentage of blaze orange while deer hunting.

Why blaze orange? Deer are somewhat color blind. Researchers have found that deer's color vision in the longer wavelengths of color (yellow, orange red) is weak and in the shorter wavelengths (blue, purple) it is very strong. So blaze orange is likely seen as dark yellow, where greens would be perceived as lighter yellow. So blaze orange, while it stands out for humans, blends into the forest background for deer.

The whitetail itself changes colors over the year, being a reddish brown in the spring and moving toward a grey brown throughout winter.

White tailed deer survive on grasses, roots, corn, roots, shoots, leaves, acorns and fruits. They are ruminants, which means they have four chambered stomachs, each chamber specialized for a certain kind of food.

Male deer, older than one year old have antlers, which they shed once all females have been bred, usually around late winter. The antlers are used as weapons in dominance battles between males and marking territory (by rubbing bark off trees).

From Wikipedia:

White tailed deer are the state animals of Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, South Carolina, and Wisconsin [which gives you some indication of the popularity of hunting in these states].

White-tailed deer were introduced to Finland in 1935 . The introduction was successful, and the deer have recently begun spreading through northern Scandinavia and southern Karelia, competing with, and sometimes displacing, native fauna. The current population of some 30,000 deer originate from four animals provided by Finnish Americans from Minnesota.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

R2-D2's Dream

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Benny's Portrait

Woodpile Sketches - Benny

So now, the last post (maybe) in this theme.... Benny and the woodpile. There's no observer of the woodpile and its various creatures more committed than Benny. It would be impossible for there to be a new denizen or visitor without Benny noticing him and bringing him to my attention.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Woodpile Sketches - The Raccoon (Procyon lotor)

Raccoons are one of the most intelligent and adaptable species in North America. Raccoons can be found just about anywhere in the United States, Mexico and Canada. In the 1800s, raccoons were taken to Germany because their fur was highly prized there for use in coats. Since then, their population in central Europe has exploded and they are seen as pests that should be eliminated.

Raccoons are omnivorous and eat berries, insects, fruit, mice, fish, shellfish, dog food, and any food it can find in a trash can. Raccoons are curious, and have been known to go into houses via "pet doors" to eat the pet food found inside. But most raccoons avoid contact with humans or their pets whenever they can. Raccoons are known carriers of rabies and so it is wise to avoid getting too close to them.

The raccoon is almost entirely nocturnal. It will sleep most of the day, usually in a cool, dark place such as a drainage pipe, sewer, under a building or in a natural cave. It will come out at night, sometimes in groups, to forage for food. Raccoons are not instinctively aggressive, and so will sometimes be seen sharing food from a trash can with opossums or skunks.

Raccoons can grow to be quite large, with adult males typically weighing up to 30 pounds. The largest raccoon on record was 61 pounds.

Raccoons have a habit of "washing" their food before they eat it. It was once thought that this was because raccoons lack salivary glands. It's now believed that the raccoon is simply removing any foreign objects from the food before it is eaten.

Some people take baby raccoons as pets. While they are extremely intelligent and trainable, raccoons are wild animals. And so, like any other wild animal taken as a pet, they can be very unpredictable and even dangerous.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Woodpile Sketches - Eastern Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

Once rare in suburban areas of Minnesota, the wild turkey is now quite a common site. They are, however, more often heard than seen. Turkeys have a large variety of "gobbles," "clucks," "putts," "purrs," and "yelps"that they use to declare territory, state dominance, find mates, etc. Especially in summer and fall, you can stand at the edge of the woodpile and hear turkeys calling to each other.

Male turkeys grow to be about twice the size of females. It is common for a male turkey to be around 20 or 30 lbs. The male turkey can be over three feet tall. This makes it the largest game bird in the United States.

Male turkeys have a red throat and modified "beard"of feathers that come from their chest. Both male and female have long reddish-orange to grayish-blue legs, a bluish neck and head and a dark-brown body with 5000-6000 feathers. The turkey is a surprisingly colorful bird, but most people think it is very unattractive.

Males form territories that will contain about 5 or 6 hens within them. Male turkeys display to win mates by puffing out their feathers, spreading their tail feathers and dragging their wings. This is called "strutting." When strutting, a male turkey will scratch and drum on the ground with his feet.

Some people think that the wild turkey is a ground-bound bird, but in fact, it is a very good flier. They can fly up to 50 miles per hour but usually choose to fly close to the ground for no more than about 1000 feet at a time.

Turkeys are omnivorous, and enjoy nuts, seeds, insects, worms, and grubs. They enjoy coming into suburban back yards to get birdseed that has fallen around bird feeders. However about 80% of the turkey's diet is made up of a variety of grasses.

A story commonly told about the U.S. founding fathers states that Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national symbol instead of the bald eagle. That doesn't appear to be entirely accurate. Franklin, a bit of a prankster, was genuinely upset about the choice of the bald eagle for our national bird, and did mention that the turkey would be a better choice. But that appears to have only been meant as a joke, and not a serious proposal.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Woodpile Sketches - Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

The red fox is one of the most widespread carnivores in the entire world. It can be found in Canada, Alaska, almost all of United States, Europe, North Africa and almost all of Asia, including Japan... and at our woodpile!

A red fox, despite its name, may not be strictly red. In fact, in Minnesota, it can be nearly solid black, silver-black or red with dark bands across the back and shoulders, which is also called a "cross fox". During winter, the fox will grow "winter fur", a much thicker fur coat that will help it keep warm during the cold weather.

Foxes may grow to be the size of a small dog (15 to 20 pounds) and they belong to the dog (canid) family; but in the way it behaves, it is more like a cat. The fox prefers to hunt alone. Foxes have excellent hearing and can locate prey in the grass and in their underground burrows. They wait silently until the mouse or vole comes above ground, then the fox jumps high in the air and pounces on its prey like a cat. Foxes tend to be extremely possessive of their food and will not share it with others. Also like cats, foxes have vertically slit eyes, that are usually bright gold, orange or yellow.

Unlike other members of the dog family, foxes lack the facial muscles necessary to bare their teeth. This inability to display aggression the way that other dog like creatures do may be one of the reasons the fox has a reputation of being a cool character. It is also extremely intelligent and clever, so it is represented in literature as a trickster.

A fox can run up to 45 miles per hour and covers a lot of area in its daily routine. Foxes establish their own territories and, depending how abundant food is, that territory can be up to 15 or 20 square miles. Within this territory, a fox will have several food caches (hiding spots) and a few burrows or "dens". These dens are usually taken over from woodchucks or badgers and can be very deep (up to 30 or 40 feet deep). Despite having a number of locations to live, however, the fox prefers to be outside and most often sleeps out in the open.

Woodpile Sketches - Opossum (Didelphis virginiana)

Without question, the opossum (or just "possum") is the most fascinating creature that frequents the woodpile. It grows to the size of a large house-cat. It has opposable "thumbs" on its feet, so its tracks look like tiny human hand prints.

The possum is the only marsupial found north of Mexico. A "marsupial" is an animal that has a pouch that its babies live in until they are large enough to be independent. The babies are born only two weeks after they are conceived, when they must crawl from the birth canal to the pouch. They spend about two months in the mother's pouch. They will spend another month or two close to their mother, sometimes riding on her back, before they move off on their own.

Possums are solitary animals after leaving their mothers, and spend most of their short lives (they only live 2 to 4 years) constant moving at night, looking for food. They are "omnivores", which means they will eat just about anything: snails, mice, bugs, fruit, leaves and garbage from household trash cans. They have a large mouth of 50 sharp pointy teeth, which can make them appear ferocious, but in fact, they are very gentle creatures, and they avoid confrontation whenever possible.

One of the most fascinating facts about possums is their ability to "play dead". When threatened, they will fall in to a near coma, foam at the mouth, stick their tongues out and emit a terrible odor. This happens involuntarily and it can take hours for an opossum to wake up from this state.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Woodpile Sketches - Least Weasel

The least weasel is the smallest living carnivore.

These little creatures don't get more than about 6 inches long and only weigh a few ounces. The male is slightly larger than the female.

In spite of being barely larger than some mice, it is a very effective mouse hunter, and so it spends a lot of time in places like our woodpile. It has perfected a method of killing mice that is instant and always effective: it pierces the base of the mouse skull with its needle-like teeth. It then often lives in the nests of mice that it has killed.

The least weasel is the smallest of the weasel family and perhaps the easiest to identify because of its size. In addition, least weasels do not have a black tip on the end of their tails, as do its larger cousins: short-tailed and long-tailed weasels. Weasels go by other names, including "ermine" and "stoat" - which is the commonly used name for them in British countries.

There are a number of literary references to weasels and stoats, including those in the Wind in the Willows and Watership Down... and also the "woozles" in Winnie the Pooh.

Like other weasels, the least weasel turns completely white in winter (referred as "moulting" into white or becoming "ermine").

The least weasel has a reputation for being a vicious fighter and an effective carnivore. It is able to kill creatures as large as wild rabbits by using a skull bite, in spite of the fact that the prey may be up to ten times its own size.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Woodpile Sketches - Gray Squirrel

The gray squirrel is one of the most common animals in the midwestern United States.

Unlike the chimpmunk, the gray squirrel is a "scatter-hoarder". That means, instead of stashing it's food in a central burrow (like a chimpmunk), it hides the nuts and seeds it finds in a variety of hiding places all over it's territory. It's estimated that a single squirrel will have up to a thousand different hiding sites each year.

The gray squirrel might also be seen in entirely white (an albino) or entirely black (melanistic) colors.

Gray squirrels live in nests that they build at the tops of trees. These nests are easily visible from the ground (especially in winter). They are made of leaves and sticks and can be quite large. A squirrel will also make a nest in the attic or eaves of a house (if it can find a way in). Because of this destructive behavior, and because they raid feeders intended for birds, they are quite often seen as household pests.

The gray squirrel lives in most of North America and recently (within the last 100 years) has made its way to the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. There, they are seen as unwanted invaders as they are displacing the native (and less pesky) red squirrels.