Hibernation inspiration

I’ve lived my entire life with midwest winters. Record snowfall, record low temps but this year has already had one of the worst low temps I (or just about anyone at this latitude) can remember.

It’s downright dangerous to go outside right now and being that I’m not much for “adventure photography” I’m laying low. But there is a benefit to forcing oneself to just stay home for a little while. It’s not the same as a sick day, because your brain is fully functional and you don’t feel the same drain of whatever cold or flu is working through your body.

I didn’t set much of an agenda, but I did quietly plan for some downtime activities. My two key features during this cold snap of epic proportions have been to watch movies and draw.

Drawing is not something I’m particularly good at, but I know enough to get where I’m going. I won’t sully the blog with my scratchings, but it helps my mind to relax. I like to draw quickly, I don’t really bother too much with detail. As soon as I start to overly focus on depicting, the drawing starts to fall apart.

While I’m a big fan of Andrew Loomis’ books, one aspect that i think he doesn’t do a good job on is explaining the importance of gesture drawing. There’s plenty of information about basic shapes and “building up” from simple forms to more complex shapes and contours. But he seems to gloss over those initial gestures- the strokes that inform the whole flow and feel of the piece. Especially when drawing the human figure, you aren’t going to portray an actual person without giving the drawing some life.

A crash course in drawing

So if you’ve thought about drawing or think you’re not good, start with this video and then try drawing a reference pose. Start with a piece of scratch paper and just draw that first line a bunch of times. It’ll be an S or C curve most likely, just do it a bunch. Use teh side of the pencil, they very tip, use heavy pressure and light pressure. This page is just to get your hand and arm used to the various ways to draw that line. Then on the next piece of paper start drawing the form using this force method. It’ll look ‘sloppy’ but it will probably look like a person within 5 or 6 strokes. I was surprised with the almost immediate improvement in the speed of my drawing and it helps to adjust your conception of “seeing” when drawing which really relaxes the mind.

Movie sign

I did not get through as many movies as I expected, but I was glad I got to sit through Seven Samurai for the first time in a few years. Part of the fun for me for just being able to sit down and watch a movie like that is to pull up a commentary track. While the soundtrack to Seven Samurai is great, it’s a movie that is fairly easy to follow along reading the subtitles while you listen to really smart people talk about all the aspects of what make that movie great.

Plus, with the benefit of the commentary it helps you appreciate all the amazing cinematography. As someone who really loves using wide angle lenses, Seven Samurai has some excellent wide angle and hyperfocal/deep focus composition.

It’s a sublime film, the characters are all so clearly defined and the movie set a template for hundreds of films that would come after.


I still don’t know if I could ever call a film that is almost 4 hours long “lean” but it does move along quite nicely and the film does not overstay it’s welcome. It is deliberate, I’ll give it that. That’s what makes it a great movie to watch on a day when you’d be better off staying home.

Looking forward

So that was my “me time” recharging for this week. I also bought my ticket to C2E2, the highlight of my early convention season. I’m still hoping to go to some more, and I’m debating which ones I want to attend/how much driving I feel capable of doing.

I’ve also got a couple of rolls of film that are nearing completion so I should have more film shots to share soon.

My Mind Salon

Around November of last year, I built a little workspace for myself. It didn't cost me anything and took me very little time. I barely even realized what I had when I created it but it feels really good that I have it now, and I feel like it's something that a lot of creative people might have but don't even realize it.

I call it a mind salon. I'm still working on the name, but it's a nice companion to things like a zibaldone. Whereas the zibaldone is your collection of thoughts and things and discoveries, the mind salon is where you put them to work.

The fact that "mind" is in the name also tells you that this is not a physical space- though I would love if it were. It's just a place I go to in my own mind that is quiet and calm and full of light and art. Some of it may be photos I've taken. Some of it may be work from other photographers. Some of it might not even be photographs: it's music and paintings and drawings and all of those other pieces of human expression.

To be honest, this is daydreaming but it's daydreaming with an element of intentionality to it. While I could conceivably access this room at any time, I find that it's best to visit it in the evening or during some other idle time, usually on the weekend.

Physically, I'm reclined, looking at the ceiling. But mentally, I'm in another place entirely. Thinking and reviewing and imagining. It's a nice place to review the large amounts of input I take in from simply existing, and it's also secluded from other things. I don't bring my dayjob into that space. I don't generally even bring other people into it.

Instead, it's a place to be alone and creative and appreciative. It's also got an element of fantasy because I can create without consuming any film or spending any money. It breaks me away from thinking about those physical expenses. And I can hang the art in my mind salon right alongside my favorite Eggleston images.

If you haven't taken time out of your more grounded living to sit back and play with a creative talent in your own mind salon. This weekend may be a good opportunity to give it a try.