Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Generative design resembles Art Nouveau

Computer modeling tools such as ZBrush and Maya have made it easier to visualize whatever form that a human designer imagines. And 3D printing has made it possible to translate that design into physical form.

"The three structural elements shown are all designed to
carry the same structural loads and forces." Source for image
We human designers, acting on our own intuition, tend to solve engineering problems with straight lines and simple geometric shapes, such as the object above, left.

What if we let the computer be the designer? You can bring artificial intelligence and machine learning into the design process. All you give to the computer are the basic design goals and parameters, such as cargo capacity, strength, material type, cost constraints, and manufacturing method.

The computer will take those parameters and come up with something radically different from what you imagined as the most elegant solution. 

The generative process yields dozens or even hundreds of options, and the human can select which one to produce. 

This new enterprise is variously called "deep-learning generative design," "intuitive AI design," and "algorithmic design." New plugins for Maya have already made such technology available.

The designs generated by this process look like something out of Art Nouveau.

They look biological, resembling skeletal architecture, with curving shapes. As with biological forms there are no straight lines and no right angles. There's no consideration of style. They're not made to look beautiful but rather to be efficient. Generative designs are vastly lighter and stronger than human designs.

The forms are often surprisingly complex, apparently more intricate than they need to be. They're not necessarily easy to produce without a 3D printer.

Automobile chassis, designed by generative design.

But the process doesn't have to end there. By installing a lot of sensors into a working prototype, engineers can harvest data about stresses, wind resistance, and track speed, and input that information back into the computer's design algorithm.

This allows the object to continue to evolve or "design itself" at a rapid pace through field-tested iterations.

In this Ted talk, Maurice Conti introduces the concept, describes the process, and shows some outcomes. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Meissonier's Maquettes

A fellow artist eyewitnessed the way Ernest Meissonier (French, 1815-1891) made reference maquettes for his famous equestrian paintings.

"He made a beautifully finished little wax model of a horse and a rider."
"Every detail was carefully reproduced from the real materials—the rider's cloak, hat, and spurred boots were miniature masterpieces—and in order to get the exact folds of the cloak it was dipped into thin glue and then placed in the wind so that it stiffened as it blew." 

"He did these for studying compositions and light and shade. He used to place figures on a shadow box and paint the basic shadow and light shapes from them sometimes, instead of going to landscape and doing the same."

When these mixed-media maquettes came to light after Meissonier's death, they were so popular that collectors demanded bronze castings be made, so that they could be appreciated as sculptures on their own merit.
Quote comes from Inspirational Artworks blog, which has more examples
More at
New sketch easel video now available from Sellfy. Buy now

Monday, May 29, 2017

Your Sketch Easel Designs

Today I'm pleased to share your design innovations for the Sketch Easel. Thanks to each of you who contributed photos and descriptions.

Rob Anglin

"As suggested by James, I used 1/4 inch oak plywood and I added solid-dimensional ¼-inch oak at key reinforcement locations. 

"I used torsion hinges as suggested by James. I “special ordered” the Sugatsune HG-TS15 Stainless Steel 304 Torque Hinge [links go to Amazon. For a complete list of materials, click here for a previous post "Sketch Easel Materials."]. These tiny hinges are the key to success for this tiny, light-weight and hyper-functional easel, since they hold sufficient weight to keep the easel steady during use."
[Note the white corrugated plastic diffuser. --JG]

"The base is an old Manfrotto tripod. The quick-release plate was lost for a long time, but I molded a replacement from my daughter's clay stuff, and it fits exactly. [Note, you could use Magic Sculpt or a piece of hard wood such as oak to create a missing quick release plate --JG]

"The sun shield was a basic car window sunshade. I just unsewed it to make an oval shape. That way, I have the perfect size to fit into the clamp. 

The clamp is a cheap support for iPad and iPhone. You can change the size as you like and it clamp it to your liking on the camera tripod. The slope is also adjustable. 

At the end of my painting session, I can just roll it into itself so it can fit in a pocket. I also added a folding lid support bracket, which allows me to set the angle between the palette board and the paper board. I fixed also a extruded aluminum edging on the tray so that I can put my most useful pencils here while working. 

I always have one or two clamps around the feet of the tripod, if I paint on moleskine book to keep it open. If I paint on a single piece of paper, I like to fix it with some mini adhesive tape. My palette attaches to the palette with a neodymium magnet.

I also made myself a pouch that I put around my waist with a common leather belt. I wear it all the time: to go fetch my daughter at the end of the school, for going to the restaurant. It is not bigger than a women purse, but I made it exactly for what I want to have on hand.

So it contains a lot of stuff:
Some watercolors pencils, a large range of travel brushes, water brush, ink brush, mini adhesive tape, a little water bottle on the side, erasers, a little wooden board on the back pocket to support the paper if I have not got my tripod, some pieces of watercolor paper, a regular ballpoint pen, pencils, and of course, my little round palette with watercolors. There is even a pocket for my phone on the front (which is not on the picture because I used it for the photo). 

On the belt itself, I put my collapsible bucket. It doesn't take up much space, but when put in shape, it is large enough to contain plenty of water and I can hang it on the tripod's neck.

Mark Fiske

The cigar box measures 6.5" x 11".

I added some hardware to support the lid when it is opened.

On the bottom of the cigar box, I have added a 1/4-20 t-nut for a standard tripod mount and some rubber feet when sitting on a table top.

On the inside, I created a custom watercolor block to fit inside the lid and an extra panel of wood that serves as another support for a palette and brushes.

The inside of the box will hold a number of travel size palettes.

Here are a few different set ups.

Here is the rig all set up, "in the wild."

Amanda Williams

"You may remember my steering wheel easel? This is one of my other ones - a lightweight sketch easel based on your design.

More pictures and details are on Amanda's web page.

Robb Gibbs

"Here's some shots of my homemade easel. 

"The pencil tray on the bottom is meant to fold inward while the easel is folded up since the hinges don't allow the two sides to fold flat. So it's a support. 

"I can't wait for your new video to get some ideas for a new version to build!"
Judy Palermo

"I used pegboard because it is lightweight, and little wooden pegs fit in the holes at any height to hold the canvas panel. This pegboard open is only 15", so it's only good for 8x10 panels at most. Home Depot cut the pegboard for me, because I don't have many tools.

"I first made this because I like a vertical paper palette, and that is held on by clips. I have a little plastic paint holder to squeeze paints underneath, that's secured with Velcro; nothing falls off, and it has a cover, so leftover paint can be stored for a couple of days. With clips I hang a plastic condiment jar, for a nice lightweight brush cup. A couple of minutes to setup, and I'm painting!

"But the main gem is the little shelf I made, from a metal whisky tin. I attached 2 small clothing hooks to the back, and it hangs on the easel legs, handy for a medium cup, some tubes of paint etc.

"This is pretty bare-bones, but the low cost of it suits me for traveling. Everything is on a common aluminum travel easel. This one is a cheapie, I only got this because it collapses down to 14", so it doesn't stick out of the backpack so much. The other ones, like Winsor Newton, are built much better but they only pack down to 22". 

"I'm 5'4", and this gets to the height I need, but if you are taller you will probably have to go with the bigger aluminum frames."

Dmitry Kharitonov

"Well this was definitely a new experience for me.

"At first the project started as just two pieces of plywood connected with piano hinge but it starts to evolve quite fast, certainly not without help of already created content by people all around the world and especially you James, in the next year i'll try to improve it even more.

"I think there are still a large amount of things and upgrades that we can make.

A few things that I noted - everything was built around hinges, their size, type and reliability, and nothing should be in the way of your hand and tools, even hinges."

Al Granberg
"I built this sketch easel based on the info from your blog. I plan to make a few more, so I look forward to getting your new DVD.

"I used 3/8 plywood, 12” wide by 8” deep. I added a lip to keep pencils from rolling off. Holes are cut for magnets and a T-nut mounting flange that will accept the threaded screw from a quick-release tripod mounting plate.

"I used Forstner bits to cut clean, precise and flat holes. The Spade bit (on left) can tear and splinter the edges of the holes.

"The 3/4 inch ceramic disc magnets and 1/4" x 20 Pronged Tee Nut come in packages. The magnets I used are 3/4” wide x 3/16” thick and worked fine with 3/8” plywood. However, there might be a problem using these on 1/4” plywood, since you would have to drill a hole precisely 3/16” deep, leaving about 1/16” left, before drilling completely through the plywood. This might be difficult even for those using a drill press. So, your magnets, at 1/16” thick, are a much better choice for 1/4” plywood.

"The magnets are glued into the holes with a few drops of super glue. The slightly countersunk hole is ready for the T-nut that will driven in with a hammer and wood dowel.

"Here’s the finished easel after a few seasons of use. Two T-nuts are used for additional mounting options.

"Here’s the easel on location. Discarded applesauce cups with glued washers are used for water containers. A plastic watercolor palette fits snugly between the hinges and lip.

"Here’s the easel set up for casein. The extra height of the easel allows the use of Pentalic 7" x 10" watercolor field book. I use an ancient Grumbacher metal watercolor palette. The magnets hold well, but the lip does not allow the palette to lay flat. I’m looking for a metal lid as a palette that will fit the space."

Edit: Petra Baltrusch shared her version. She says: "The metal palette is a pencil box lid, just like yours. I bought 3 of your DVDs and am just trying out casein paints. I am also testing a sunshade out of lightweight foamboard."
Thanks again, everybody. I hope I have included everything you sent me. If I overlooked your email, my apologies. Send me a reminder, and I'll include yours in the next post.

Don't miss the previous GurneyJourney posts: "Your DIY Pochade Easel Designs" and "Sketch Easel Materials."

UPDATE: I have released a video showing how to make the sketch easel plus four different diffuser designs. It explains what tools and materials you'll need, and demonstrates all the steps.
The HD download of "How to Make a Sketch Easel" is more than an hour long and costs only $14.95.

It's available now from Gumroad and SellfyThe DVD version is available for $24.50, and it includes a slide show. The DVD is also available on Amazon.

There is also a Facebook group called "Sketch Easel Builders" where you can share your build or ask questions of fellow builders. It's free to join.