Mary and Gate of Light, Amharic - 20th century.
for the night hours, incomplete - 16th and 18th centuries (composite)
An editorial in a college newspaper recently suggested that college faculty join Facebook as a way to show their desire “to connect with” students. The editors gamely suggest academic benefits: chances to create assignments that focus on what students are “already interested in” and to find “examples” (of what?) that students will recognize.
I’m always interested in showing the relevance of the works I teach, but it’s a professor’s responsibility to enlarge a student’s understanding of…
Talk to the face
“Before you can draw a human figure with clothing, muscles, shading, etc., it is necessary to understand the basic proportions of the human figure. Proportions on a figure are simply how long the major anatomical parts of the body are, in relation to each other.
Let’s examine the proportions of a healthy male human figure. Proportions change based on body type, age, sex and activity level. Our example healthy male figure will be seven heads tall. As a foundation, let’s start with these lengths…
How To Use Proportions When Drawing People
One of the disadvantages I felt coming back to school is that I’m ignorant of a whole body of knowledge (library science, library processes, library history) that I think many of the younger grads around me have already ingested. The more I hear about catalogers, indexers, and archivers, the more I feel I’m missing out on a deeper conversation. Because I’m not a specialist, I have to survive as a generalist.
But. An advantage to being a forty-odder is that I can bring a wider range of associations to bear on certain topics, or at least a perspective that wouldn’t occur to many of my peers, and that can give me an advantage. Many of my oddball interests of the last 20 years are for whatever reason surfacing now and then in my studies, and I’m able to use them in class discussions or papers.
Rebecca says the best scholars are specialists in one area but generalists in others. Certainly, if we’re going to make our careers matter in the few decades left to us, it’s up to us to see the associations our work can have in other areas of life: the community, the family, social institutions, and so on. That may mean specializing in what we study and research, but finding ways we can apply it generally to the world.
I see myself as a jack-of-some-trades and have always withheld part of myself from becoming too specialist, but I think now is a good time for me to explore how deeply I can go into a topic and really own it intellectually.
This reminds me two oddball thoughts, just to show where these ramblings can lead:
- The writer Arnold Bennett once observed, on the issue of free will, that life worked out best for him if he assumed that he alone possessed free will, while everyone around him was predetermined to act as if they couldn’t help themselves. He said it took a lot of stress out of life. So: how would I act differently if I saw everyone around me as specialists but myself as a generalist?
- The psychologist/philosopher William James, in discussing memory, used the analogy of a bowl full of fishing hooks. You could not pick up only one hook, he said, because they were attached to each other such that lifting up one lifted up a cluster. In the same way, memory is associative: the more things you know, the more connections you can make to new knowledge, and so the more you can remember. In a way, that’s how I see generalists and specialists; generalists can call up a cluster of associations, some useful, some not, and it’s this trait that I’m able to call on as a student. We’re highly distractable, us generalists, but it keeps life interesting.
(originally posted in 2007-11-10, updated for micro.blog)
If a mythical Tyler asked you that question “What have you been reading lately that you learned from?” what would be your answer?
The distinction is between “reading edifying works, rather than works that challenged me and taught,” the key is the latter, so answer the question!
“Happiness is doing it rotten your own way.” …
Asimov On Happiness
Designer name to come
Sent in by our friend Philippe (whom we met back in August), who wrote “You need to see this cover…” I’ll go a step farther: if you teach, you need to show this to your students when you discuss the basics of graphic design. Repetition, balance, contrast, etc…they’re all here. The type is somewhat shoe-horned in – I’ll grant you that – but this is a great number of classes rolled into one book jacket.
UPDATE: A reader points out the similarity to this…
The Secret Pulse of Time
But in the movie, as always in the movies, writing flows easily and life is hard, when in reality life is hard and writing is harder.
Designer names to come
Two Very Different Approaches to the 21st Century Baby
In my youth, I was easily impressed by drawings with fine linework.
It feels undeniably cool to make such lines. Artists like Norman Lindsay (above), Virgil Finlay, Frank Frazetta and Berni Wrightson enjoyed it so much, they sometimes got carried away drawing delicate little lines.
As I matured, I noticed how some artists added a lower note to the harmony, combining light and elegant lines with heavier lines for emphasis. Below, the great Alex Raymond draws an entire figure using a…
THE LOW NOTE IN THE HARMONY
On actual Halloween night I didn’t even dress up, me and a group of friends just went to Keagan’s where my sister bartends. … Earlier that night I forgot to buy candy so all these little kids were coming to the door looking for candy. All I had handy were airplane bottles of Captain Morgan and some birth control pills — but hey, at least it’s something. I don’t see you giving back to the community.
Bonus: Kelly Link recommends Lynda Barry’s Cruddy for the holiday, a book I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read, even though my wife recommended it to me years ago when we first started dating. I might give it a try tonight. Why am I more willing to take advice from a stranger on the Internet than from someone whose tastes I know and trust? That is a recurring thing with me, and it is seriously messed up.
This beautiful drawing was done in 1915 by Rudolph Schindler, an architect in Taos, New Mexico. It was part of a proposal for an adobe home for a local doctor, Paul Martin.
This is a museum quality drawing, but it was far too useful to hang in a museum.
ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part 14
For book design geeks like us, it doesn’t get any better than the recently published Seven Hundred Penguins.
I won’t turn this into the Seven Hundred Penguins blog, but I will occasionally take some photos and post them here (yes, scans would be nicer, but this book is not getting smushed onto my scanner). I needed a good laugh today, and all of these brought a smile to my face.
Photograph by Tony Palladino (1968)
Photograph by Brian Worth
Design by Brian E. Rockett (1967)
Design by Erwin Fabian (1960)
3 from Seven Hundred Penguins