So many ideas, a sketchnote

This past monday I was fortunate to catch a talk at VPL from the authors of the new book “We Have No Idea” from Jorge Cham ( artist of PHD comics ) and Daniel Whiteson (Physicist). Had some interest on twitter about this sessions so decided to share my sketchnote (below) and use it as springboard to get a few blog posts going. Some big things coming up in October and I could definitely use a warm up.

sketchnote from a talk about the new book “We Have No Idea”

“Every cartoon is mostly blank space, it’s only the lines that are there.” ~ D. Whiteson

The book is fantastic, tackling some of the biggest questions you can imagine (How large is the universe, What is dark energy? etc) and the audience seemed ready to dive into them. For myself however I was more interested in the work itself, particularly its development and the collaboration between “artist” and scientician. This is the crossover I am seeking out. How do academics themselves enter this world, if they are not able to collaborate with an “artist” them selves? If you have been reading PHD comics  as I have you know Jorge has a knack for for capturing the tribulations of academic life in a fun and accessible way.  One of the unexpected surprises of this talk was also how they used Jorges’ drawings on the powerpoint slides, but also live annoted (or “scribed”) on top of them. Very powerful technique I may steal in the future! 😉

I’m still reflecting on this work, and hope to incorporate these ideas into some of my own teaching soon.



My dads sketchbook from 1967

David Toal 1945-1978. This wasn’t the photo I was looking for when I decided to post something for fathers day. Of course that was this time last year, and this post has been sitting in ‘draft’ form since then so here goes.

David Toal 1967
David Toal 1967

The picture I intended to share was a *classic* of my dad smiling in a somewhat festive spirit, in the kitchen of our small Armstrong house, stubby empties and ashtrays strewn about.  He was holding a hand written sign, not unlike Bob Dylans’ Subterranean Homesick Blues video from 1967, which was both whimsical and poetic. At least it seemed so to me.  The text on the sign read, “Reality is a crutch“.

He wasn’t an artist, but this (now missing) picture is etched into the list of very few memories I have about the guy.

Few memories, and fewer artifacts. Among the collection of items that comprise my inheritance are; a bobcat skin rug from the animal he hunted, a burl from a tree he felled, and a couple of vinyl bins for the records he spun. In addition, and more appropriate considering this weeks upcoming sketching symposium, I hold his only known sketchbook, also from 1967 when he would have been 22. In recent years, I have been trying to declutter my life, and stop carrying many of these so-called treasures unless they filled a very specific need. The drawings are difficult to part with though because they take up so little space and I hoard paper and art enough as it is. That said, I felt that by scanning and sharing them here, I could part with yet another item from my past. I can’t say that my father inspired me to become an artist, but I do look on these fondly as a glimpse into his perception of life as a young man.


Bad Moon Rising

Animation study. Slow transition 5 frames. Wolfman
Animation study. Slow transition 5 frames. Jackie

I see it.

There are many back-logged posts and sketches to get out, (remember #inktober ?!) but tonight, I’m motivated share these early animation studies I drew back in my college days. These have been part of a collection of old drawings I have been hanging onto since I made them, but in an ongoing effort to decrease my worldly possessions they are on deck for destruction. I’ve taken it upon myself as I’m culling my final portfolios, to digitize and blog these artifacts to somehow ensure they have more longevity than the paper and ink they were rendered on. We’ll see how that goes.

The study here, if I remember correctly was simply to show some action, over 5 frames. These were to be rendered in ink, in a 3×4 format, and turned in on a clean card stock, with no eraser lines, no torn edges and no coffee stains. It was about telling a compelling story in combination with meticulous craftsmanship. And now they are animated GIFs.

My energy over the next couple of weeks is turning to both Halloween, drawing, and much more, which in part have inspired this post. I hope to share more drawings here, as I pick up on #inktober, and further ‘art decluttering’. There is no space for fear, as much as conditions may call for it, best to just dive in.