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Category Archives: The Sketching Mechanism

Manky and Matted

September 24th, 2012  |   The Sketching Mechanism

What a lovely time of year. The sun still shines yet a cool breeze plays across the tree tops. It is, in effect, sweater weather; that most charming intersection between Summer and Fall. Yet it is also the sign of the cold to come and precautions must be taken. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is beard season and some of histories most distinguished men sported honorable beards. Perhaps its service as a prime stroking location during deep thought is what makes beards so inspiring.

A quick doodle from this morning in Invader Zim style. Sadly the sketch I wanted to use seems to have gone missing.

A scratchy warm face muff is a wondrous thing to have upon your muzzle in the depths of winter’s cold. A good one takes time to grow so getting an early start is key. I’ve already begun in anticipation of my Halloween costume (no spoilers). And though you may think I have excluded half my audience with this subject, fear not my fair female readers. With the modern marvels of Photoshop, you too can enjoy at least the look of hair upon chin. Davide Tremolada recently explored this concept in his series Upside Down, taking the backs of subjects heads and stitching them to their jowels for some interesting beardy effects.

There’s no denying however that beards look funny. I particularly love how they’re just as diverse as their wearers if not more so as they’re so easy to style, grow or simply–sadly–shave. Some take their facial hair quite seriously though I just enjoy the fashion options it allows me. A Book of Beards by Justin James Muir celebrates every man’s favorite chin accessory along with it’s accompanying website. The page is simple and slick, no mousse necessary. I particularly enjoy the way the background moves incrementally from section to section, giving the singular page a feeling of depth. Lastly the subtle use of a monochrome palette has only a hint of color to emphasize the good cause the book supports.

Today the beard is largely associated with the hipster community. Yet the beard does not belong to any one group. It stands for something greater than any ideology, something truly ancient. In Amish, Sikh, Hassid, and many other religious communities, the beard represents devotion to the faith. In modern times, they tend to define their owner as counter-culture, from hippies to hipsters. In this way, beards are a universal sign of branding oneself apart from the crowd much like tattoos. Inversely beards take time to earn but have a delicate existence, while tattoos can be given quickly but last forever. They show two different types of commitment, the former temporal the latter binding. The fact that beards require care make them, in my opinion, of greater value to personal identity. An interesting current event recently reflected this in an intra-Amish hate crime case in Ohio.

For all they are and continue to represent, Long Live Beards!

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.

Más Mexico

September 17th, 2012  |   The Sketching Mechanism

Sorry for the silent week but I was on vacation in Mexico with my sister. It was my first vacation since starting work here at the Mechanism. My first vacation in my real life. And even though it was on the short side in comparison to some of my other trips, those new stakes made it one of the best trips of my life. There are many ways to travel but I prefer to try and throw myself into the culture, both local and backpacker alike. Doing so, every person you meet and thing you do becomes richer. Each experience, each personality, slowly changes who you are as a person. It is an additive and subtractive process that is wholly inspirational.

Taking a dip in on the perfect beaches of Isla Mujeres.

We live in a blessed age where jetting around the world is a affordable possibility for most people. Such traveling gives you an appreciation for other peoples cultural differences and similarities. There’s something very special about sharing a moment with someone with whom you must rely on your common humanity for communication via a smile, a gaze. Before such travel reached the masses however, people had to use the only tool available to them to try and grasp the greater world: mail. Molly Rausch‘s series of stamp paintings are a pen pal’s dream come true, opening up the small window of the stamp into a full blown world.

There are many other ways to travel over shorter distances such as by car. We typically cross many bridges when abroad, some over water, others over presumptions. One of the most famous bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge, recently celebrated its 75th anniversary and to commemorate the event Goodby Silverstein & Partners created a fun tribute project called Band of Bridges with the help of Google Maps and Famous Interactive. In it, users can add any satellite image of a bridge to a long continuous chain. The slick design uses elements of the Golden Gate while the slick design melds form and function seamlessly.

There are many things we expect to find abroad including good food and souvenirs. But something quite unique and even more exquisite can occasionally be found. Story Corps has created a series of heart-felt animations in classic cartoon style about true stories, narrated by those involved. In this episode, two people separated by an ocean find each other by accident only to fall in love. The idea of such a long-distance relationship can be daunting but their commitment to each other is so romantic one feels that anything is possible, especially in our modern connected age.

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.

Moving Mess

September 04th, 2012  |   The Sketching Mechanism

Hope you had a delightful holiday weekend. I spent mine changing apartments from Park Slope to Prospect/Crown Heights area. Living in New York City adds many unique obstacles and concerns to moving but I think my roommates and I made out okay. Ah the glories of moving house. There’s nothing like it to make you appreciate how much useless crap you own while also providing a therapeutic cleansing of junk, fully owning your inner consumerist nature. Moving is like any creative process as it consists of three acts: packing, moving, and unpacking. Each requires a bit of inspiration.

We now live in apartment 4A. For some reason none of the doors have numbers and everyone makes their own so I thought I’d use this opportunity to make ours.

The first step of any move is to organize your sprawl of useful, useless, and, arbitrary stuff. Thus it turns into an orderly boxed tower of stuff. I’ve always found a strange pleasure in packing. On trips as a kid I always enjoyed packing our stuff in the trunk of the car. It’s like a real-life game of Tetris and a great way to practice your spacial thinking skills. Photographer Sannah Kvist seems to share my twisted passion as shown in her photo series “All I Own.” Each photo shows the subject alongside all their belongings. Scarily I think my pile would be a bit bigger than these. There is something eerily fascinating about seeing such a pithy summary of an individual within a single frame.

The actual move is probably the least enjoyable part of any relocation. Even with movers it can be a long and frustrating process. But such is life, especially on the web where sites are constantly on the move. But what do you show while the guys are loading up the digital truck so to speak? (By their very nature such sites don’t, or shouldn’t, last long so forgive me my time-traveling reader if these links now lead to a full site). “Coming Soon” sites demand a mix a radical minimalism and clarity to capture the visitor while clearly articulating the soon-to-be product. Carbonmade, provider of easy online portfolio sites, does just this with this adorable site promoting a new talent sourcing website called Talent Pool that is on its way.

My new room is much cozier than before, requiring some ingenuity in making everything fit. Getting the feng shui of your new place just right is an art form, every unpacking a canvas upon which to rearrange your life. How your room is arrayed can have massive consequences on your lifestyle and productivity. For instance my new layout allows me to easily lay in bed and watch TV a.k.a. ultimate procrastination. Yet there are some places I could never imagine living comfortably–like inside a cat for instance. Yet the little fellow in this week’s video seems to pull if off (though it doesn’t seem to help him win over the ladies).

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.

In order to understand any complex system, it becomes vital to understand its most basic components. Theoretically, anything can be broken down into a set of discrete smaller parts. The predictable behavior of these bits will then help inform us as to the nature of the whole. This idea is the foundation of Western thought and most, if not all, progress since the ancient Greeks. In the physical sciences, these parts are particles and forces. In the social sciences they are ideas and people. And lastly, and perhaps most strangely, in math and art they are the point and line. These two fields have only recently begun a beautiful courtship empowered by technology. Both rely on collections of points forming lines and shapes, numbers and functions being interchangeably writing or represented as geometry. Likewise in both, the simple components are recombined and elaborated upon to create new works. The simplest component to have shape is the polygon, making them the fundamental building brick of all art (pointillism aside) but also truly inspiring.

This week’s sketch was inspired by “The Moor’s Last Sigh” by Salman Rushdie

The beauty of such simple shapes is endless. They’re abstract form allows for infinite possibilities; complexity or simplicity. Andy Gilmore leverages this unique ability in his kaleidoscopic works. It’s easy to simply appreciate them as wonderful pieces in and of themselves but the more I stare the more I begin to see shapes appear, like cloud watching. His sketches are even more fascinating as they reveal a pointillist nature to his method and a very precise control of symmetry.

They say you can draw anything if you can draw a box, cylinder and cone correctly in perspective. That’s because nearly every surface imaginable is some combination of basic geometric shapes. This knowledge is key to becoming a great artist as it allows one to break down the complex into its fundamental parts. This commonality is what allows works of all sorts to be displayed side by side in spaces such as Goverdose, a design zine. The neon color scheme and scintillating hover states give this geometric site a truly electric feel.

Of course polygons have become most important in the world of 3D and computer animation. Looking back at Pixar’s first efforts, it’s incredible how far the technology has come. While I can’t wait to see the levels of realism that will soon be possible, what interests me most is the creation of new worlds rather than the imitation of the one we know already. This video for the band C2C gives us a peak into just such a world, where everything runs on music and the beat.

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.


It was inevitable. I ride it every day and every night. It’s lines are my city’s arteries, it’s trains the blood. Wherever one exists, metro systems are an essential part of their city and the people who live there. This is reflected in their myriad names: Metro, L, Underground, Subway and many more. But in every case, the reliable high speed transit offered by subway systems is part of what makes the bustle of modern life possible. What fascinates me most about metro systems is not only the unique character of each city’s, but also the qualities of each line therein. Whether it’s hipsters on the G train or gangsters on the A, each car is a unique environment every time. Its often the rule that I fall in love at least once per ride, only to have my heart broken at the next stop. This strange enclosed space is equal parts bus and elevator. Strange and intimate. Such a unique environment must be this week’s inspiration.

I find my time in the subway to be very important. If it weren’t for that hour under ground every day I wouldn’t read or draw half as much as I do. Occasionally I’ll even draw my fellow passengers if I feel I can be discrete enough. We are all aware of the subtle rules that govern subway behavior, as strange as they may be. Clearly collecting discraded metrocards does not unnerve artist Nina Boesch as illustrated in her collages depicting classic New York sights and people–made of chopped up metrocards.

While many metros cater to all crowds, modern extensions have begun to specialize in purpose. The Gatwick express is a quick way for Londoners to get to Gatwick airpot. Such trains are particularly curious since their passengers tend to be as specialized as the train itself. Anxious businessmen sit across from backpackers in a peculiar societal collage. This recent site aims to provide riders with a 30 minute track inspired by the journey to Gatwick facilitated by the new line. The site is a lovely short story artistically illustrating the trains journey.

Subways are always changing. Whether its the latest extension, closure, opening or renovation. Through time, few systems have seen as much change as New York City. What was once a dangerous and scarily beautiful place has now become a lifeline for tourists and commuters alike. As graffiti has given way to advertisement, one simultaneously yearns for that wondrous grimy past while cherishing the comforts of the aseptic and commercialized present. However through it all, art has always been a part of the NYC subway. From the beautiful old stops to the modern art adorning others. These dark tunnels beneath the city will always be a bright spot for me.

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.

There are many things that pass us by unnoticed. And while technology has greatly improved our ability to suss out the forgotten or unknown, the more we consume the more we miss, summarize and abbreviate. Science tells us that everything we experience, whether consciously or not, can and often does have an effect on us. Such subliminal stimuli are probably as old as language itself. Every time we talk to one another, we are in a way imprinting an idea on our listeners. If there is a conscious intention to keep part of that impact a secret as there often is, it becomes subliminal. We are constantly manipulating and being manipulated by ideas from people, governments and religions. It is this communication of ideas that plants the seeds of inspiration, the most fruitful of which we are often never aware.

We often, and perhaps mistakenly, associate the subliminal with the noisy and busy. We have a bias which assumes that the more junk there is, the more likely part of that junk is meant to stealthily lodge itself in our brain. Yet there is something magical about a message arising from such noise. Danny O’Connor does just this with his pieces that border on the abstract. While the figures in his pieces are clear and anything but hidden, one begins to wonder what else may be concealed between the lines.

Subliminal messages have found new life on the web. I suppose the dreaded pop-up was created with the intention of manipulating users into buying a product by bombarding them with ad windows they’d have to view and close. Yet not all has been for ill. The portfolio site for young interaction designer Pierre Georges teems with information. Interaction design is the very definition of subliminal: done correctly it should never be noticed by the user though it unarguably leaves an impact. Pierre’s site, and especially his portfolio, is a wonderful example of intuitive subliminal interaction.

Hidden messages are probably most famously found in film. The idea of hidden frames has been popularized by films such as Fight Club. Though now largely illegal, there are still occasional examples that seem to push the line by attempting to associate ideas by showing them together in film. Video artists such as Nam June Paik used a barrage of frames to create texture, motion and emotion. Such pieces often feel like there’s many subliminal elements lurking behind them. The following video for Brooklyn band MS MR echoes Paik’s work with its montage of pop culture clips edited to the music. I love the way the rough cuts imitate the stream of consciousness and catchy chorus: “welcome to the inner workings of my mind.”

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.

Good news everyone! We’ve landed on Mars! Again! Think about that. We shot a sizable and expensive package through outer space and hit a target crater on a planet millions of miles away–multiple times. What could we accomplish if all the world’s nations worked together, Sagan willing. Mars has been the seed of many interesting ideas over centuries. The need to explain its retrograde, or apparent backwards, motion in the night sky was one of the greatest observational pieces of evidence against geocentric models of our solar system. On the other, less scientific, hand the signs of dried out watery canals discovered in the 19th century lead to the idea of alien societies living on the once water-filled planet composed of resident martians, a word now synonymous with aliens at large. Thus the idea of life on Mars was launched the popular imagination and has since continued to be an unearthly inspiration.

Nothing epitomizes our space age fascination with the void more than the pulp era. Sergey Kolesov adds a sharp modern edge to the classic space opera style within his greater portfolio of stunning work. His work uses depth and perspective to great effect, creating epic scenes within each still image. This is strongly complimented by his skill in color and composition which leave the viewer feeling as if they’ve just gained a peak into a magical world unto its own.

Going to Mars would never be possible if it weren’t for the corporations getting us there. Weyland megacorp, last seen undermining poor Sigourney Weaver, has an exquisite site that any fictional 23rd century company could be proud of. Clearly the marketing department for this film did not suffer for lack of budget, disappointing as the actual product was. Though this page is in essence a glorified index of their marketing strategy, the strong design stands out, crappy mini-games aside, as a prominent showcase of the capabilities of HTML5.

There are some obvious choices for Mars in video form but I rather prefer this short animation which depicts how I imagine NASA is currently corresponding with their newly landed probe. And though I can’t post it here, I’d like to give an honorable mention to Insterstella 5555, the album length music video for Daft Punk’s discovery. This animation in an incredible tale of alien abduction with a twist, all in anime form. Please seek it out especially if you’re at all fond of Daft Punk (the low resolution versions online just don’t hold up).

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.

What an exhausting weekend at the beach. This past weekend I participated in my first ever Wildwood beach ultimate tournament, being the hipster that I am. Wildwood is the largest beach tournament in the world and with hundreds of teams competing it was awash with chaotic fun. On the trip back to the big city, slightly burnt and sore all over, I reflected on how lovely the beach truly is. As evidenced in this blog, I am obsessed with the ocean and the beach is the ultimate stage upon which the waves play. Though the sand may be an annoyance at times, beaches are a great inspiration.

Beach trips are a de facto part of life for most people who live near coastal regions. The sands are so loved in fact that many lakes have beaches largely thanks to human contributions. Sand creates a wonderful surface upon which to lay, play, or even sculpt. JOOheng Tan is an impressive sand sculptor who has participated in competitions around the world. This recent collaboration he did with Lowe advertising for OMO detergent is fantastic. Lowe is responsible for many familiar ads including the hit Superbowl Volkswagen ad starring a miniature Darth Vader. The youthful theme continues in this still series. Children, so often associated with playing in the sand, are here transported into a world made of the stuff allowing their imaginations to run rampant, with OMO’s cleaning products allowing their parents to easily clean up the mess I suppose.

The beach is not just a local destination but very often the highlight of trips abroad. The most beautiful beaches attract tourists from far and wide who come to bask in the sun and enjoy the water. I plan to do just that when I visit the Yucatan this September but Southeast Asia has also been on my list for quite some time. The region is home to many lovely coastal areas and recently digital agency Fi helped Google create an interactive telling of the local story of Ramayana, a Sanskrit epic of the Hindu faith. The project itself is quite amazing but the case study for the project almost eclipses the work it documents. The creative design boldly expresses the region’s character while clearly showing the detailed process behind the work. The study manages to even make blocks of code pretty and approachable. Be sure the check out the project itself, a modern browser and quick registration are required.

While the beach is a great medium for sculptors it can also be used a canvas. Some artists choose to create large-scale sand drawings that are as ephemeral as they are beautiful. Or others, as in this Nokia ad called “Gulp”, use that impermanent quality to their advantage to facilitate huge animations. This short was shot from a crane with a cell phone camera by Aardman, the studio behind Wallace and Gromit (a personal childhood favorite). I highly suggest checking out the behind the scenes to get a sense of scale for what you’re seeing.

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.

Olympic season is upon us once again. Time to watch that opening ceremony, a few interesting events, and then tune out till the medal count comes out! All snark aside, I have fond memories of watching the Olympics with my family. As an event that only happens every four years, it’s incredible to think there have only been a handful of games, winter and summer, since my birth. Yet as a celebration of the limits of the human body and how it can bring us together all politics aside, the Olympics are definitely inspiring.

Watching the opening procession of the games can turn into quite the geography lesson. Sometimes to the point where one swears some of the more obscure countries don’t even exist. You wouldn’t be wrong in the case of the country Vodkovia, a fictional Stalinist country in Eastern Europe that has a penchant for genetic modification. Oli Kellett did a series of interesting photo manipulations to illustrate the bizarre team the country has assembled for London this month. Whether this is a strange art project or viral marketing campaign is unclear, regardless it is a wacky parody of the effort spent to approach perfection in athletics.



 One of my greatest annoyances about this year’s Olympics is the London 2012 logo. While undeniably unique, something about its 80′s retro stylings and harsh abstract appearance have turned me off since its premiere years ago. Yet such aesthetic can work in certain situations as the site for art director and graphic designer Jimmy Raheriarisoa attests. The sharp abstract angles and shapes are much more in balance in this stylish one page site. While it still possesses much of the distracted energy of such a style, it is honed here to communicate the singular vision of artist.


The Olympics is an invitation for advertising and media gluttony. With so many eyes focused on a single city and event, content providers go into overdrive, often producing tons of generic and unoriginal material to feast our sport-hungry eyes. However the following television intro for BBC’s coverage of the Beijing games is a stunning exception (sadly, BBC didn’t manage an equal level of vision for the event now happening in their own capital this year). Created by the powerhouse duo behind the Gorillaz, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, and borrowing music from their London opera of the time, Monkey: Journey to the West, this short is incredible. The thrumming bass accompanies a summarized version of the classic Chinese tale Journey to the West while the main characters subtly reenact many of the Olympics’ most famous events. How many can you spot?

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.