Monday, March 31, 2008

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla, an ethnic Serb born in Croatia, eventually became an American citizen and died in New York in 1943 at the age of 86. Despite a long and brilliant career, having several patents for inventing AC current, he's perhaps best known for getting screwed over by Thomas Edison, and dying heavily in debt.

In the early 1900s, he was in line for the Nobel prize at least twice. It is speculated that he refused the prize at least once because Edison and Westinghouse were also nominated; and they all had such dislike for another that they refused to share the prize. Tesla was also the original inventor of the radio, but the US Patent Office decided to rescind his patent and instead grant it to Marconi, who is now generally recognized as the inventor of the radio.

Recently Tesla has gotten the recognition he certainly deserves, being referred to as the "Father of the 20th Century".

Tesla is ultimately responsible for radio, radar, microwaves and electricity, all as we know them today.

As to the Edison screw-over, you should read the article "7 Great Men of History, and Why you should Hate Them" If you have more time and interest, you should read "Tesla: Man Out of Time" by by Margaret Cheney.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Albert Einstein

A physics giant and great man of history - Albert Einstein.

Born in Germany, Einstein won the Nobel prize for physics in 1921. There are a couple interesting facts about him that don't typically come up in conversations about his life.

His first wife, Mileva Marić was a Serb and was herself a physicist. He had three children with Mileva, one of whom (his son) had severe schizophrenia. His second wife, Elsa Löwenthal, was his first cousin on his mother's side. Even odder was that Elsa was ALSO his second cousin on his father's side of the family. They had no children together.

Einstein died in 1955 at the age of 76. Before being cremated, a pathologist removed Einstein's brain in hopes that future science might discover what made Einstein so intelligent. Controversy surrounds Einstein's brain because it is believed that it was removed without permission.

Einstein's brain is somewhat different than "average" brains, slightly smaller in some areas, but over all 15% wider. To this day, Einstein's brain is preserved for study.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Abraham Lincoln

Great men of history - Abraham Lincoln.

It's pretty hard to screw up a sketch of Abraham Lincoln, let's face it, he's a pretty unattractive individual. So if there is some asymmetry or proportion problems, it just fades in with the rest.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Great-Grampa and Lex on a Train

Last fall, we took a train ride in Osceola, Wis. with my grandfather and his wife. Fun was had by all.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sir Winston Churchill

.... from Lawrence of Arabia to Winston Churchill.

I had a minor in history in my undergraduate degree. One of the most fascinating parts of history to me was the "Great Man" period... the two World Wars. Winston Churchill was perhaps the greatest of great men from that period.

He had a fascinating life... son of a lord, war correspondent, more or less a political exile over his support for the king during the abdication crisis of 1936. (King Edward abdicated the throne for a twice divorced commoner... Mrs. Wallis Simpson, an American no less!)

Churchill returned to political life in triumph, became Britain's most well known Prime Minister. He is perhaps best known for his refusal to back down or in anyway appease the German war machine. At the dawn of WWII, he is quoted saying to the House of Commons (whom he saw as notorious spineless appeasers), " were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have war."

In his post political life, he was a prolific artist, painting landscapes in oils; as well as a writer. He won a Nobel prize for a six volume history on the Second World War. He also wrote a four volume set named "The History of the English Speaking Peoples."

In days when our leaders bend to the will of influential friends, party politics and weekly opinion polls; they don't come like Winston Churchill anymore.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lawrence of Arabia

Maybe it's a white guy in a turban mood I'm in. But here's Lawrence of Arabia.

The 1960s movie was good (it did win like 7 Oscars), and led me to read "A Touch of Genius the Life of T.E. Lawrence" by Brown and then "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph" by T.E. Lawrence himself. He was a highly literate and well spoken individual and his writing, even though nearly a century old, is highly entertaining.

Indy in a Turban

Ah... major disappointment here. Indy in a Turban, but I didn't capture Indy well. The eyes are the worst.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Self Portrait - March 2008

A little less grizzled than Clint Eastwood perhaps. Then again, give me a couple more years.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Clint Eastwood - Unforgiven

Clint Eastwood in the greatest western ever - Unforgiven.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Natalie - Halloween Witch

Such a somber witch...

Horse's Mouth

My main problem? I lack patience. These sketches always start out clean and detailed, but halfway through, I'm scratching away like a chicken in the barnyard.

And that's the word straight from the horse's mouth.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Como Zoo Crane

Como Zoo crane... at least I think it's a crane. This is a picture that I took at the zoo with the kids without really paying attention to what it was.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Como Zoo Snow Leopard - Uncia uncia

The snow leopard is an interesting cat. It's native to Central Asia (Tibet) and lives above the treeline. Unlike larger cats, it cannot roar because it lacks the necessary structures in its throat.

There was a nature special on this year where the camera caught, for the first time ever, a snow leopard in its natural habitat, on the hunt.

While snow leopards may be hard to catch on camera in the wild, they are fairly common in zoos.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Benny in the Backyard

Benny in the backyard. Done with a ballpoint pen.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Grizzly Bear - Ursus arctos horribilis

Back to ballpoint pens with this sketch. This one again from a photo reference, with a grid used for reference..

The grizzly is a subspecies of brown bear and has a real bad reputation. It is a solitary bear, somewhat territorial and there's not much it is afraid of. This leads to a interactions with humans being less than pleasant (for the human).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Como Zoo - Capuchin Monkey

Back to pencils here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Como Zoo Lion

OK.. so I realize I got way too dark with the shading here. The top of his mane is cool but the bottom is not. He does have a two layer, light/dark mane, but I didn't represent that well. Maybe because I was trying a different ink pen... excuses...

In any event, this drawing did reinforce for me that I need to be more disciplined with proportions. I used a sketch grid here, which was very helpful in that regard. And I'll definitely use it as a tool for any sketches from photo references.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Drawspace - Claudette

This exercise reinforced the point of using drawing grids for drawing faces. I felt the results were good and I guess the challenge is how to do grids on face sketches. I suppose, if you're sketching from photos, you can do just about anything in an image layer over the top of your subject.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Como Zoo Gorilla

About 15 years ago (1994), Casey the Gorilla escaped from his pit in the Como Zoo and wandered around the zoo grounds for about an hour. He didn't really do much or threaten anyone. We was just out wandering around.

I can imagine, though, that it would have been pretty terrifying to come around a corner with your cotton candy and come face to face with a 400 lb gorilla.

Casey has since been transferred to another zoo. Como plans a gorilla exhibit makeover in the next four or five years.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Como Zoo Timber Wolf - Canis Lupis (#2)

My second go at a Timber Wolf.

I just finished reading Hungry for Home: A Wolf Odyssey
It's definitely not a Disney story, so don't read it if you demand happy endings. But do read it if you love wolves and you're looking for a look at the way they live their lives.

Oh, and by the way, they have wolves at Como Zoo too.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Como Zoo - Sparky the Sea Lion

Sigh... I'm completely unhappy with this sketch of Sparky the Sea Lion and his handler, but I guess they can't all be winners, right? Or for that matter, they can't all even be average.

Sparky is a Como Zoo fixture and recently celebrated a 50 year anniversary. Of course, since sea lions typically only live to be about twenty years old, there have been several Sparkys. I'm sure I'm wrong on this, as I'm recalling from the last Sparky show I saw with the kids, but I think the current Sparky is the seventh and also, a lady sea lion.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Como Zoo Orangutan

Another Como animal, the Orangutan, always seems the happiest to me. The orangutans, probably because they are a family, seem the least stressed and mental. The seem social, curious and even engaged with the people looking at them. Having said all that... it's still depressing seeing them in the zoo.

The orangutan is native to southeast Asia. It gets it's name from a combination of Malaysian and Indonesian names - "Orang" for "person" and "Hutan" for "forest" ... thus orangutan = "person of the forest.

Como Zoo Polar bear - Ursus maritimus

The last post with the giraffe from Como Zoo got me thinking it might be fun to do a bunch of Como Zoo animals. So here is the Polar Bear, the world's largest land based carnivore. The adult male can be up to 1,400 lbs and ten feet in length.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Giraffe - Giraffa camelopardalis

The tallest living land animal, the giraffe can be up to 18 feet tall.

At least once a year, we take the kids to Como Zoo here in St. Paul. The giraffes are a favorite. Of course, its always depressing to visit them, because they have no where to wander & they spend entire winters in an indoor cage that's about 100 feet square. But the kids don't get that aspect of it quite yet.

Cottontail Rabbit - Sylvilagus Floridanus (#3)

My third go at a Cottontail Rabbit. I'm really liking drawing with a ballpoint pen. All this experimentation with different pencils, leads, etc. Who would have thought that the cheapest, commonest writing instrument would appeal to me the most?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Drawing Fur - Annoyed Looking Housecat

I ran across this picture of a cat with an annoyed look on his face and thought it would give me good fur sketching practice.

Drawing Fur

In this lesson, it's about drawing fur. Knowing which way the fur grows and the influence of light is most important here. Also, in this sketch I'm using a ballpoint pen instead of a pencil.