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amreading architecture Art Commonplace Book Drawings

Drawing Lessons from Architect Matthew Frederick pt.3 Architectural Hand-Lettering


Handwriting, penmanship, this is all drawing. Hand-lettering can be another artistic tool to add to your kit.

Matthew Frederick shares 6 architectural hand-lettering principals to follow:

1. Honor legibility and consistency above all else.

2. Use guide lines (actual or imagined) to ensure uniformity.

3. Emphasize the beginning and end of all strokes, and overlap them slightly where they meet – just as in drawing lines.

4. Give your horizontal strokes a slight upward tilt. If they slope downward, your letters will look tired.

5. Give curved strokes a balloon-like fullness.

6. Give careful attention to the amount of white space between letters. An E, for example, will need more space when following an I than when coming after an S or T.

Matthew Frederick

This week, for fun, find ways to practice your architectural hand-lettering.

Write a thank-you note.

Write a love letter.

Write a haiku.

Then mail it out it to your lover, mother, or bestie.

Be sure to practice your hand-lettering on the to and from address on the envelope as well.

You’ll get some practice in, and they will receive a special gift.

Source: 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, Matthew Frederick, pg 22

Categories
Art Commonplace Book video games

Combat! Combat! Jordan Mechner’s journey creating Prince of Persia


Prince of Persia was hard as…<shout favorite swear word here>.

That’s my lasting memory of it.

The protagonist, we’ll call him Prince, felt so heavy during gameplay. I was accustom to games like Super Mario Brothers. Mario and Luigi were light. They had spring when they jumped. They could don a racoon tail to float and fly past foes.

Prince of Persia? Na man. The Prince had weight. The realm had gravity. And as I learned, this was by design.

The game’s creator – Jordan Mechner explains:

What if we combined that gameplay with a charachter who’s so human feeling that you feel like if you miss the jump and you fall, it’s really going to hurt?

Because in the early platform games charachters were kind of weightless. You know, you would jump, and you’d make it or not, but you’d float down to the bottom. It didn’t feel like you could really get hurt.

Jordan Mechner

This War Stories video is a revealing look at the process behind creating a video game.

Toil and grit man.

Toil and grit.

Have a watch:


Bonus Jam: Jordan’s new book, The Making of Prince of Persia: Journals 1985-1993–Illustrated Edition is out now.

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amreading Commonplace Book Drawings interviews writer's inspiration

Gabriel García Márquez on how drawing led to writing.

INTERVIEWER

How did you start writing?

GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ

By drawing. By drawing cartoons. Before I could read or write I used to draw comics at school and at home. The funny thing is that I now realize that when I was in high school I had the reputation of being a writer, though I never in fact wrote anything. If there was a pamphlet to be written or a letter of petition, I was the one to do it because I was supposedly the writer. When I entered college I happened to have a very good literary background in general, considerably above the average of my friends. At the university in Bogotá, I started making new friends and acquaintances, who introduced me to contemporary writers. One night a friend lent me a book of short stories by Franz Kafka. I went back to the pension where I was staying and began to read The Metamorphosis. The first line almost knocked me off the bed. I was so surprised. The first line reads, “As Gregor Samsa awoke that morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. . . .” When I read the line I thought to myself that I didn’t know anyone was allowed to write things like that. If I had known, I would have started writing a long time ago. So I immediately started writing short stories. They are totally intellectual short stories because I was writing them on the basis of my literary experience and had not yet found the link between literature and life. The stories were published in the literary supplement of the newspaper El Espectador in Bogotá and they did have a certain success at the time—probably because nobody in Colombia was writing intellectual short stories. What was being written then was mostly about life in the countryside and social life. When I wrote my first short stories I was told they had Joycean influences.

Of course, Gabriel García Márquez’s writer’s origin story begins with drawing cartoons.

What is it about drawing that fuels other creative pursuits?

From: The Paris Review Issue 82, Winter 1981

Interview by: Peter Stone

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amreading Commonplace Book interviews Thinkers writer's inspiration

Podcasted: Alan Jacobs and Brett McKay on How to Get More Pleasure and Fulfillment Out of Your Reading.


If you don’t want a guilt trip on reading more than Alan Jacobs is for you.

Few people speak as eloquently on reading as Alan Jacobs.

Few people are less judgmental hoity-toity arses speaking on reading as Alan Jacobs.

So when Brett McKay recently interviewed Alan on how reading should bring pleasure and fulfillment to your life, I listened twice.


Alan admits, it’s OK not to read the great works everyday:

But you don’t read Shakespeare every single day and you certainly don’t read the tragedies every single day. Those are incredibly demanding for the same reason you don’t every night sit down and watch an Ingmar Bergman movie or 12 Years of Slave or something like that. You have to be able to give yourself a break from the demands of really great works of art.

Great works of art ask a lot of us and we’re kidding ourselves if we think we can rise to that occasion every single day. So, sometimes you ought to be reading Harry Potter instead of reading Shakespeare because you need a break. And I think both Bloom and Adler were reluctant to acknowledge that.

On seeing where your W-H-I-M takes you:

Yeah. So, I got this from the poet Randall Jarrell, who ended an essay that way, read at Whim. And Whim with capital W, W-H-I-M is a kind of a principle or a policy. Let me tell you how I came onto this. What would happen is that year after year after year, so I’ve been a college university teacher for 35 years now and I would have students who would come to my office and they would say, “I’m about to graduate, but there’s so many great things I haven’t read yet. Give me a list of things to read. Give me a list of books that every educated person should have read.” And they’re coming in with their notebooks and they’ve got their pins poised over the notebook. Like, “Give me these things.”

And I would think you’re just finishing up four years of school, give yourself a break. You don’t have to do this now. You don’t have to read according to an assignment or according to a list of approved texts. Enjoy your freedom. Go out there and follow your whim. And by that, I mean follow that which really draws your spirit and your soul and see where that takes you. If it turns out that you spend a year reading Stephen King novels or something like that, that’s totally fine. That’s not a problem. Read your Stephen King novels, but there are also really good novels.

But whatever it happens to be, if you’re reading young adult fiction for a year, read young adult fiction for a year. After a while, you probably got to have enough of that. But don’t go around making your reading life a kind of means of authenticating yourself as a serious person. It’s just no way to live. So, I would always tell them, “Give yourself a break. Don’t make a list. See where Whim takes you.”

How to read “upstream”:

Well, what happens is that there is a kind of an emergent structure in a way, things emerge. So, here’s one of the things that I will tell people. I’ll say, “Let’s say you really love Tolkien and you’ve read Lord of the Rings like 10 times and you’re not sure you want to read the Lord of the Rings again.” First of all, I will say, “Rereading is always a good idea. It’s always a good idea. But there may be times when you think, yeah, maybe I don’t need an 11th reading of the Lord of the Rings.”

And so, I’ll say, “Well then, let’s move upstream a little bit. Why don’t you ask yourself what did Tolkien read? What did he love? If you love Tolkien’s writing, what writing did Tolkien love and kind of go upstream of him and find out what he read.” And in that way, you’re doing something that is really substantial. I mean, learning about some new things, some important things, things that are really valuable, but you’re also kind of following whatever it is in your spirit that responded to Lord of the Rings. You’re taking it to that next level.

And Brett McKay shares how reading “upstream” led him to Empire of the Summer Moon:

Brett McKay:

Yeah. So, I’ve done this before, this going upstream, but in a different way. So, my favorite novel of all time, I said this before on the podcast lots of times is Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove.

Alan Jacobs:

Yeah.

Brett McKay:

And then I started reading his like … I’ve read that thing like five times, but then I was like, I’ve got to read the prequels. I started reading like a Dead Man’s Walk and a Comanche Moon. And then I started learning about that. I was like, “These Comanche Indians, I didn’t know about this.” And so, I was like, I went on Amazon and just searched books about Comanche Indians and that’s how I discovered Empire of the Summer Moon, fantastic book. It was some of the best books I’ve read.

Alan Jacobs:

Right. But you wouldn’t have discovered it if you hadn’t been actually reading at Whim. You were not thinking, “Oh, let me see, I’ve read this Larry McMurtry book, now I need to read all the other books that were well-reviewed that year.” Instead you were following up something that was really drawing you on. In a way, you’re just obeying your own curiosity and that’s a much better guide to reading than having a list that somebody else has given you.

And rereading a book can shake your core:

Brett McKay:

Well, what do you think the value of rereading is?

Alan Jacobs:

Well, there’s a lot. I mean, first of all, if it’s a really worthwhile book and books can be worthwhile in a thousand different ways, you’re never going to get everything important out of it on a first reading. But then in addition to that, you go through different stages of life. And in those different stages of life, books speak to you in dramatically different ways.

I remember once I used to teach Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina almost every year. And one year I was reading it and I came across a passage, which totally knocked me out and I couldn’t even remember having read it before. I’d taught the book six or seven times and I had completely passed over this particular passage. And it’s a passage where one of the two protagonists, a man named Konstantin Lëvin, his wife kitty has just given birth to their first child. And he picks up his newborn son and the first thing he thinks is, now the world has so many ways to hurt me. And it’s just an incredibly powerful scene.

Why didn’t I notice it before? Because I hadn’t had children before. It was as soon as my son was born, I saw that passage in a way that it would have been irrelevant to me before because it was so disconnected from my experience. At that point I thought to myself, what’s wrong with you that you didn’t notice this? Did you have to have a child in order to understand how emotionally overwhelming it is to have a child? I guess so. So, I learned something about myself there. I learned about the things that I was paying attention to and not paying attention to.

Read on a W-H-I-M.

Forge your own reading path. You don’t always need someone’s list to guide you.

Listen to the podcast in full below:

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amreading architecture Art Commonplace Book Drawings

Drawing lessons from Architect Matthew Frederick pt.2


Every drawing you undertake has a hierarchy. There are the general elements. And there are the fine details.

Matthew Frederick recommends laying out the entire drawing to start.

How?

By making use of:

Light guide lines.

Geometric alignments.

Visual gut-checks.

These techniques will help ensure the proportions and placement of shapes are accurate.

After that hit the details. But don’t over indulge in one place:

When you achieve some success at this schematic level, move to the next level of detail. If you find yourself focusing on details in a specific area of the drawing, indulge briefly, then move to other areas of the drawing.

Matthew Frederick
Let the light guide lines be your guide.

From: 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School

By: Matthew Frederick

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amreading architecture Art Commonplace Book Drawings

Drawing lessons from Architect Matthew Frederick pt.1


It all begins with the line.

Different lines have different purposes. But remember – begin and end your line with emphasis.

Be bold!

Have the lines overlap where they meet.

Be bold!

Don’t “Feather and Fuzz”.

Be bold!

Start and end your line in one stroke. To build confidence, Matthew Frederick suggests drawing a light guide line before drawing the final line.

From: 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School

By: Matthew Frederick

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amreading Commonplace Book writer's inspiration

Q-Tip, the Sampling Scientist


When laid out this way, it would appear that the art of the sample, in the mind of Q-Tip, was science. He began by laying out pause tapes in his home until 1989, when he had the opportunity to be present for the recording of De La Soul’s iconic album Three Feet High and Rising. It was in those moments when he was shown around the studio by the in-house recording engineers and afterward was allowed to tinker with all the sampling devices. Seeing his potential and interest, the rapper and producer Large Professor taught him how to use other studio equipment to most effectively hone his sound. Not all young producers have a group of welcoming mentors like Q-Tip had, but not all young producers were as uniquely skilled from their teenage years as Q-tip was, and not all were as willing as Q-Tip to “dig deep in the crates” to search for sounds. Q-Tip was, in many ways, an extension of rap’s early DJs, chipping away at a massive block of music and peeling off only what he needed.

Go Ahead in The Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest, pg.26

By Hanif Abdurraquib

THIS BOOK! THIS DUDE!

Hanif’s words giving us the viewfinder close-up of Q-Tip’s musical development.

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amreading Art Commonplace Book Drawings

James Thurber’s Idling


To release some of his jumpy energy and his mind’s ceaseless inventorying and inquisitiveness, Thurber drew. It was as habitual as his smoking. Writing-rewriting, as he often called it- required discipline, focus, research, an amped-up armature of full brain power that included memory, grammar, word and sentence sounds, a dialing in of the humorous of and the heartfelt, the meandering and the meaningful. But drawings? He considered his to be fluid, spontaneous, unhindered, and with rarely a need for erasure, revision, or polish. His daughter Rosemary remembers her father saying that he could even whistle while he drew.

A Mile and a Half of Lines: The Art of James Thurber, by Michael J. Rosen

If you’re looking for some artistic inspiration, or need to smile, pick up A Mile and a Half of Lines. After skimming through five or ten pages you’ll be feening to pick up a pencil and draw.

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Cities Commonplace Book

Dry knuckles and Electric Scooters

January’s winds are merciless, splitting open dry knuckles with blood slivers. 9-to-5ers power-walk the final two blocks to their warm cubicles and electric standing desks.

A few trees down from the office, in-front of Heavy Burger, a strange collection of city trash lies. A toppled lime electric scooter, neck twisted, lays between the road and the side walk. An aluminum silver Baby Ruth candy bar wrapper flaps next to the handlebars. And a nylon purple poncho, a size 8 step away from the wrapper, collects rain in its creases.

A frazzled commuter left it all behind.

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amreading Commonplace Book Football/Soccer

An appreciation of Lionel Messi, from the Paris Review?


You’re standing in one place, one patch of grass on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Seville, playing a game, which is to say doing your job, which is playing a game. A ball floats in the air toward you. You’re in one place and you’re in all possible places. Your name is stamped between your shoulder blades. You turn your back away from the ball. We all know who you are. You balance yourself and focus. What you’re about to do has no name.

From: They Think They Know You, Lionel Messi. By: Rowan Ricardo Phillips. The Paris Review, February 26 2019

I love finding pieces on footballers from outside of traditional football journalism. Especially when a masterful writer can share a new vision.

Rowan Ricardo Phillips accomplishes a rare feat with his Paris Review piece: They Think They Know You, Lionel Messi. He helps us relish, treasure again, this moment where we still have the opportunity to watch Lionel Messi at the peak of his powers.

Rowan reminds us not to take it for granted.