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Category Archives: The Sketching Mechanism


M’s Maserati

December 10th, 2012  |   The Sketching Mechanism

Well if you haven’t gotten to see Skyfall yet be warned, possible spoilers ahead (and I don’t know what’s wrong with you). The film was spectacular. It was a beautiful piece of cinema and a wonderful homage to the Bond films of old. What exactly makes Ian Fleming’s classic spy so riveting is hard to say. Maybe its killer action, beautiful women, or perhaps just the martinis. Regardless, 007 has undeniably become part of our cultural fabric, inspiring us all with each action-packed outing.

This week’s piece is a fun painting of Daniel Craig as 007. I originally wanted to go with simple line art and a water color approach but I’m as of yet to figure out how to do that digitally.

The best moment of practically every Bond film are the opening titles. When done correctly, they set the mood for the entire film while teasing it’s plot; a perfect portal into the world of Bond. On occasion the movie, song, and credits harmonize with such outstanding perfection, they threaten to eclipse the rest of the show. For instance, the titles from The World is Not Enough stick with me to this day, women of oil abounding like some strange Exxon fueled trip. The man behind this and many similarly epic sequences, Daniel Kleinman, has made an outstanding return in Skyfall. Accompanied by the hauntingly beautiful voice of Adele, these latest opening credits were quite the spectacle. The paintings of Harding Meyer share many of the same themes we see in Bond sequences. Their play on feminine beauty being manipulated and transformed through strange effects calls to mind the projections and distortions of many classic beginnings. In Harding’s case, many of the portraits feel like they’re being viewed through some strange warped lens to marvelous effect.

As much as our favorite super spy loves women, Bond has probably had more one night stands with his cars than his ladies. His autos seem destined to get damaged, dented, and blown up soon after they appear on screen. And he never even leaves an insurance number. I find it particularly fun to go back and watch older Bond films to see what was the hot vehicle of the day. Likewise the assortment of gadgets Q manages to pack inside those svelte metal chassis never ceases to amaze or amuse. Evans Halshaw, a car dealer in the UK, reflected on this illustrious automotive history with this fun micro-site.

We always travel when we accompany James on his adventures, this latest film being no exception. Yet even when he travels to such exotic cities as Hong Kong, the action never approaches the jaw-dropping levels of the local hand-t0-hand awesomeness that is classic film kung-fu. This live action short was made for the release of the game Sleeping Dogs where the player must take on the roll of an undercover cop, not quite a spy but scintillating nonetheless. Somehow this short manages to pack in more action in eight minutes than many 007 films see in two hours. Simply amazing.

Sorry for not posting last week but I was on vacation. Good luck with your holiday shopping and I’ll see you next week.

The Sketching Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Mondays, containing the artistic musings of Mobile Designer/Developer Ben Chirlin from our Monday morning meeting at the NY Creative Bunker as well as his inspiring artistic finds of the week.

I hope you made it through Thanksgiving with your cholesterol levels intact. Personally I went into hibernation mode after my massive meal. I feel refreshed but the holiday season isn’t over yet. In fact it’s just starting in case you haven’t turned on the radio or otherwise been subjected to the now inescapable Christmas music. I’ll be spending this weekend at even more family gatherings to celebrate some big birthdays: my mother’s aunt is turning a whopping 90 years old! Time’s unrelenting passing can seem daunting. But if I’ve taught you anything I hope it’s that restrictions foster creativity. Every obstacle is a chance to overcome. In other words age, the biggest most inescapable obstacle of them all, can be inspiring.

This week’s painting is an idea I had as I drifted off to sleep last night. The sun and moon are good stand-ins for youth and age. I’m glad my painting skills are improving though I could use more time on this. I need to learn how to quick paint like the pros.

 Nothing represents youth in Western culture more than sex. And nothing represents sex in Western culture more than that most famous of magazines: Playboy. We are a culture obsessed with the young and beautiful, having more or less abandoned traditional ideas of honoring our elders. This obsession can be found incarnate in this publication. Now being quite old it’s easy to wonder where are those older models now? This is the inspiration for Robyn Twomey beautiful portraits with older Playboy models. They vary from fitting our expectations, bad plastic surgery and all, to completely undermining what we think we know about age and, more importantly, beauty. These women are still powerful, glamorous, stunning, and more…all while looking like your grandmother.

I can’t look up at the night sky without thinking of age. Each pinprick of light in that vast black canvas represents thousands if not millions of years. It can be a humbling experience to realize how distant and old those twinkles really are. This Chrome experiment, 100 000 Stars, aims to give users a sense of this scale, all wrapped in a wonderful HTML5 powered presentation. I love the many different means of control this project gives you while maintaining solid performance and stunning visuals. Be sure to “Take the Tour” which leads you through the data visualization in a stunning series of transitions.

Thinking of age on such a astronomical scale almost instantly removes humanity from the equation. We’re just too small in that vast expanse. Those great balls of gas take millennia to change while  we change every day. Every day we look in the mirror, every year we see our family we are reminded of this. It’s a beautiful process that helps make our world so dynamic and it can be visualized in many ways. For instance, let’s take a simple idea like counting to one hundred and turn it into a beautiful piece of work that makes us think about childhood, aging, and seniority (all in German, just for kicks). Happy aging all. Enjoy every second of it.

The Sketching Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Mondays, containing the artistic musings of Mobile Designer/Developer Ben Chirlin from our Monday morning meeting at the NY Creative Bunker as well as his inspiring artistic finds of the week.

Happy Thanksgiving all! I hope you’re planning on spending this Thursday with people close to you, or at least with some delicious food. Let us come together with friend, family, and fat alike to say thanks. I’ve become quite fascinated with how such traditions change over time. I fear the day when the reigns will be handed to my generation. Rest assured though, some things will most definitely stay the same. For instance Thanksgiving will always mean pie, which I plan to bring to this year’s feast myself. And whether you prefer pumpkin, apple, or even strawberry-rhubarb we can all burp in agreement that pie is absolutely inspiring.

Drawing an 8-bit pie proved the be quite difficult. However Pieman cannot eat cherries, that would be cannibalistic. Instead he eats plump delicious turkey legs!

Pie can be a simple dessert but optimally it requires two things: cream (of the iced or whipped variety) and a nice warm beverage. Tomoko Shintani had the brilliant idea of using paper coffee cups to extend her canvas for her lovely ink drawings. In each, the simple line work interacts with the cup in clever ways resulting in cute original works. I’d suggest you follow her Instagram feed for your daily dose. The style itself reminds me of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and his famous Petit Prince. Each piece lives in it’s own little world that engulfs the coffee cup.

While I prefer to make my own pies there are definitely times when this is an impossibility. Emporium Pies in Texas looks like a perfect fall back with their wonderful assortment of original flavors I’m dying to try. Till I visit however, I’ll have to be satisfied with their flowery website. The simple design is accentuated by fantastic photography, font treatment, and hover states. Top this slice of goodness off with a great adaptive design and we definitely have a fair winner.

Come Friday of course we’ll all be nice and plump on those lovely family feasts, not to mention leftovers. While many may promise quick simple ways to shed that dreaded Thanksgiving weight, I can provide you with the only guaranteed method. Results in 60 seconds or your money back. Enjoy and eat well!

The Sketching Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Mondays, containing the artistic musings of Mobile Designer/Developer Ben Chirlin from our Monday morning meeting at the NY Creative Bunker as well as his inspiring artistic finds of the week.

Monaco Markers

November 12th, 2012  |   The Sketching Mechanism

If you’re reading these words then you’ll have to admit to the power of type. Since it’s invention, written language has been one of the primary ways we convey ideas. These disembodied ideas allows us to learn and teach to a much larger audience than we normally could. For instance it would be impossible for me to directly tell every reader of this blog everything this post will say, let alone share all the other media therein. And being a visual medium, it was inevitable that the aesthetics of type would become important. From serifs to graffiti, the way words look has now become vital to the message they send. For this and all of its powers, type is typically inspiring.

Type is incredibly important for branding. Here at the Mechanism we’ve stuck with a simple text logo accompanied by our gear icon. I decided to riff on these themes with some custom circle based text designed to evoke blue prints and mechanical objects.

Fay Helfer‘s work is obsessed with the underlying structure of things. Each piece contains lines, patterns, and text that make each piece feel like part of some scientific diagram. Her preferred medium is pyrography, using a heated point like a soldering iron to burn into a wooden canvas, combined with colored pastel and pencil. The results posses stunning color and texture. I especially love her pop culture portraits.

The web is of course dominated by type. Type/Code is a digital design studio based in the nearby Dumbo area of Brooklyn. Clearly from their name and portfolio they too are obsessed with type. Beyond their wonderfully interactive homepage logo, the site conveys an appreciation for the power of text in it’s simple adaptive design. I really enjoy the way the entire site feels like one large sliding page with three sections, subtle yet brilliant. I pray they have recovered from Sandy’s recent abuse of their low lying neighborhood and are back working on more great projects!

Despite our many wonderful digital advances in typesetting, none of it would have been possible without the grand tradition of physical typesetting. You may think a typesetter would have quite an advantage in the romantic arts, being able to print their own charming cards. Yet this seussical short shows that even typesetters sometimes end up blue. The print and paper texture of the animation, along with the clever font jokes, make this an extremely enjoyable short.

The Sketching Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Mondays, containing the artistic musings of Mobile Designer/Developer Ben Chirlin from our Monday morning meeting at the NY Creative Bunker as well as his inspiring artistic finds of the week.

Break out your patriotic buttons and pinstripes, it’s election season again! I trust you’re all planning on getting out there to vote tomorrow. I know I’ll be waking up nice and early to wait in the (hopefully not so long) line to vote before heading into the office. From the ancient Greeks who cast their black and white stones into an urn to hanging chads, democracy has reshaped the world and how we govern ourselves. We must remember that while evolution in technology and culture has increased our individual involvement in government, it is upon us to take part and create the society we want to live in. So how can elections be anything but inspiring.

Sometimes I feel like neither party really has what I’m looking for so I decided to start a little party of my own. Seems the only fitting mascot for third parties these days is the mythical unicorn though.

Were presidents the first celebrities? Unlike most leaders before our democracy, they come to power thanks to popular demand. They only feature largely in our lives for a few years before fizzling away. And their sex lives are of great interest to everyone, especially Bill Clinton’s. No wonder then that artists, from George P.A. Healy to Shepard Fairey , are often inspired to turn them into stunning works of art. Artist Sam Spratt has a wonderfully detailed and textured portrait the current POTUS. His works reminds me of Norman Rockwell and I love the variety of palettes and styles Spratt explores, with an emphasis on pop culture subjects.

Undeniably the greatest change to our election cycle in the past decade has been the impact of the internet and related technologies. In 2008, the Obama campaign proved that internet based support could work wonders for a two party candidate (though third parties like Ron Paul had long help strong web-based support). Today, Obama and Romney both lean heavily on their digital crutch to help get their message out their and rile up support. I imagine a future where elections are determined completely online, like an official political Reddit. Till then, we’ll have to settle for sites like “Who Will Be President.” I like sites where the message is clear and this one couldn’t get any more so. The clean design emphasizes the statistics but also references the poll sources and dates. Well done.

So what do you do if neither donkey nor elephant suits your tastes? I guess you could try eating your greens or something else exotic but why do that when you have Mulvar is Correct Candidate!, he does it all! So please get out there and vote people.

The Sketching Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Mondays, containing the artistic musings of Mobile Designer/Developer Ben Chirlin from our Monday morning meeting at the NY Creative Bunker as well as his inspiring artistic finds of the week.

Welcome ghouls and goblins to my crypt…or should I say apartment. Sandy, now dubbed the Frankenstorm (I see what you did there), has brought much of New York City to a screeching halt. Yet Halloween cannot be stopped. It allows us to dress up and let out part of us we otherwise cover up. I ended up doing a thrift store Halloween for less than $10. Green tshirt, brown pants, goatee and a box of Scooby Snacks made me Shaggy for a night.  The quest for a good costume idea is an exercise in creativity itself, not to mention the challenge of then realizing it. What do you want your costume to say about you? How much time and money are you willing to put into it? From childhood to adulthood, Halloween is frighteningly inspiring!

Decided to make a full comic feature Snake from the Metal Gear Solid series. In these stealth games you can sneak around in boxes. Here Snake uses one as a fill in costume.

Halloween isn’t all candy and costumes though. We mustn’t forget the whole idea behind it: horror. I’ve never been a huge fan of scary films but I enjoy one every now and then. However I’m willing to bet Zdzislaw Beksinski doesn’t mind so much based on his frightening works. Bones and teeth overflow past each piece’s sepia tinged borders. They are immensely stark works that fit the holiday perfectly.

 Say hello to Staggering Beauty. This strange interactive worm-like creature is quite scary. Shake around your mouse and you’ll see what I mean (or maybe we’re just scaring him?).

Dark worlds have always shined on screen. Film is not only immersive but also begs to be watched in the dark. Both contribute to our sens of fear. There’s an undeniable feel to a good horror piece. The unshakable feeling that something lurks around every corner, blotted out by shadow. The recent game Dishonored, highlighted in an illustration a few weeks past, exudes a darkness from every pore with its haunting steampunk dystopian setting. This series of short animations are part of a prequel that sets the scene for the game. Their beauty and noir style makes them worth a watch regardless of your level of interest in the game proper.

The Sketching Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Mondays, containing the artistic musings of Mobile Designer/Developer Ben Chirlin from our Monday morning meeting at the NY Creative Bunker as well as his inspiring artistic finds of the week.

Mantle Mount

October 22nd, 2012  |   The Sketching Mechanism

I guarantee you saw one of these today. In fact, I bet you used one too. Unless you’ve locked yourself away and refuse to go out (as I spent my Friday night) you touched a door today. If you haven’t, go get outside! The fall weather’s lovely. We use these portals every day. They are a key part of how we structure our lives. A door can represent so much. Even it’s position, open or closed, says something intimate. So open the door of your mind and let in the inspiration.

I illustrated the protagonist from one of my favorite games, Psychonauts. Raz used psychic doors to enter into people’s subconscious.

Cities are the mecca of doors. Every block, every wall and even many sidewalks contain doors. Large rolling behemoths hide swinging glass panes. Beaten slabs of metal hang upon rusted hinges next to revolving works of modern electronics. One of my most striking memories from my visit to Barçelona is the striking change the old downtown area exhibits every night. With the setting of the sun, the numerous shops nestled in the city’s winding alleys hide their myriad window displays. The lowered steel shutters that replace them turn the pavement into a open air gallery of beautiful street art. Beware though, the sudden change can easily get you lost. The Doors Project overlays such a transformation wherever it wishes. These projected doors of light shimmer upon whichever surface artist Hwee Chong chooses. There is something magical in the idea, like when Wiley Coyote painted a tunnel on a cliff only to have it come to life.

Many describe the internet as a set of tubes. This layman’s description is not only false but also overlooks the way most people actually relate to the internet. Each webpage is like a room, each link a door. Some rooms, like Google, serve as vast hallways while others may be quaint little dead ends that hold something of splendid beauty. When we click through the space of the web, we are in fact traversing a vast digital house. Now, new technologies make each traversal an informative process that slowly changes the floor plan as we go. This website for Alzheimer Day may not have many doors but the portal effect on scroll is magnificent. As you go down the page you descend through a series of widening circles in a novel fashion.

Finally, enjoy this animation. It is simply fantastic. The quality and style are superbly unique. The number of portals within is overwhelming as it verges on recursion. One of the most palpable associations with doors is the mysteries they may hide. So really, what I want to know is what’s outside this character’s front door?

The Sketching Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Mondays, containing the artistic musings of Mobile Designer/Developer Ben Chirlin from our Monday morning meeting at the NY Creative Bunker as well as his inspiring artistic finds of the week.

Autumn is upon us. Along with its cool breezes comes the ocher beauty of fall leaves and yellow sneeze-inducing pollen. Allergies have long plagued me but thankfully they only strike between seasons. I look forward to them subsiding soon. They can come from nearly anything and they effect us all differently (if we’re so unlucky) yet our pollen-producing friends are surely inspiring.

A doodle of strange flowers turned into probably one of the best digital paintings I’ve done to date. After watching a nifty tutorial online I think I finally have basic color blending down.

In spite of the sinus irritation, my allergies remind me that I still live in a world dominated by nature, even if I rarely see it living in a city. Nick Pedersen wonders in his works what our urban lives would look like if left alone to be taken back by the wild. A sole explorer wanders through the overgrown streets in search of food.

Nothing represents fall more than trees. I have vivid childhood memories of the streets overflowing with the long brown strands of pollen dropped by the various large trees on our street. I’d imagine all of that junk swirling about in the air, getting inhaled and causing my endless sneezes. The Inspire Conference uses wood as an allegory for the craftsmanship involved web design. The cute character crowning the page and rich textures throughout the site reflect the conference’s values of quality and invigoration.

Ok so it might be a bit of a stretch to call pollen-producers inspiring. I’ll admit, they can be real pain. It can be difficult to get much of anything done when the pressure in your skull distracts you from getting even the most menial tasks done. Add to that the constant supply of tissues, cough drops, nose drops and other assorted mucus-related items you may require and one can easily lose most if not all productivity. Yet this week’s video goes to show that at the end of the day anything, even as miserable a thing as all this, can be truly inspiring.

The Sketching Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Mondays, containing the artistic musings of Mobile Designer/Developer Ben Chirlin from our Monday morning meeting at the NY Creative Bunker as well as his inspiring artistic finds of the week.

Sweet sweet revenge. We are obsessed with it. This stems from our inherent sense that there must be some sort of justice in this world. What better form than that met out by dubious heroes and benevolent baddies. The irony of course is while we may root for the vengeful protagonist, we almost always acknowledge that something is not quite right about the scenario. Ultimately the vengeance begets tragedy, from Hamlet to Moby Dick. At best a lot of people die, at worst everyone does–though at least the former makes good fodder for sequels. Yet we can’t help but love our anti-heroes doing whatever it takes to make things right, even if neither we nor they know how to make such vigilante justice into a lasting solution. Such tales, despite their repetition, are evidence of one thing for sure: revenge is inspiring.

Further, terrible, efforts at digital painting. This week: the main character from the new game Dishonored. “Revenge solves everything” is the game’s tagline.

Soldiers are duty bound to protect their masters and honor. As such they’re the center of many revenge stories. In my mind, it is impossible to think of the vengeful soldier without thinking of the Japanese samurai, the paragon of the honorable warrior. One of my favorite graphic series is Lone Wolf and Cub, the story of a samurai with his young child on the run for a crime he didn’t commit. Their goal: to avenge his wife and the disgrace heaped upon his son’s now tarnished family name. Its rich story is perfectly matched with its fantastic art, reminiscent of Japanese block prints. Likewise, the evocative works of Rola Chang speak of traditional sumi-e ink wash painting with a modern twist. Many of her works depict the samurai in action, honor within his grasp.

Today our reprisals match our equally petty grievances. In my case I’m glad to say I’ve completely cut the cord and now get all my media from the web, with much of it originating there as well. Finally–reparations for all those hours spent mindlessly consuming pointless ads or channel surfing for something, anything, of interest. Now I can watch what I want when I want. I have networks of channels and feeds that are intelligently offering me new things to try based on past experience. Even ads, now targeted, are more bearable. Revolver, a site that delivers a curated collection of web videos, is another new celebration of our TV independence. The slick design belies the bloody retribution Revolver and it’s ilk have wrecked upon the traditional media landscape, much to our collective pleasure as audience.

While literature seems to relish a bitter revenge story, film is overly biased towards happy endings for its murderous protagonists. Kill Bill, Taken, The Bourne Identity; the list goes on with each silver screen story ending with at least a glimmer of hope. The revenge drama is an old tale, yet no matter how often it’s repeated it never ceases to consume our imagination. The story of Tarboy below is no exception. Though it’s animation may be simple, the voice acting, music and perfect timing make this short an epic for the ages.

The Sketching Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Mondays, containing the artistic musings of Mobile Designer/Developer Ben Chirlin from our Monday morning meeting at the NY Creative Bunker as well as his inspiring artistic finds of the week.