Lightning Strike – Digital

While working on these posts during February half term, I tried a new digital drawing application called Autodesk Sketchbook. At first I doodled around on it making a doodle drawing of a dream I had. After a little practice I began to get the hsng of it a little more.

I began with a quick little cartoon sketch of a dog who ended up having very big ears. So I called him Big Ears.

Here he is…

Next I wanted to have a go at doing a more tricky multi-layered digital image. Rather than having a clear picture in my mind I just started playing around with the software. Here are the layers in the order painted them. I began with a tree…

Then after a little finishing on the final image via photoshop – here is the completed painting…

The things I enjoy most about this kind of digital art are:

1. That it is so quick to do, and

2. That the textured brushes can make such beautiful effects!

PS: I also made a gif slideshow of the painting process for this image…

The Jelly Road

At the time of writing I am recovering from flu, and it’s half term! Why do I always get ill during school holidays?

Because my temperature has been high I have had some really vivid dreams. One of these was a dream about a family of small fish who lived in a jelly-fish-campervan and were travelling down the Jelly Fish Road, which was like route 66 but for fish. As I was noodling around with Autodesk SketchBook, a drawing app, I found myself starting to draw a scene from the dream.

Now, this drawing began as a doodle so I wasn’t thinking about my blog and didn’t make any process photos until I had finished the line art. However, being new to Autodesk SketchBook, at some point I must have accidentally switched on a video recording mode. So, although I have no process pictures of the beginning, I do have a short video of part of it…

Here’s the finished line art. I was trying to get it to look like one of those fun, detailed illustrations for children’s books, a bit like a Where’s Wally cartoon but not quite as manically busy…

Next I began to tone it…

There were some super textured brushes I used for some of the jellyfish campervan structure…

Eventually, after some ultra relaxing drawing, I completed the picture. So here is The Jelly Road

And here’s a close up…

It’s not exactly high art, but it was very relaxing and quite fun to do.

The Art of Diagrams #3 – An Idea for the Origin of Consciousness

This is the last post in my series on diagrams. This diagram shows how feedback mechanisms in the brain, in conjunction with the prefrontal cortex generate both our behaviour and our consciousness or sense of self.

My idea

I think consciousness, our sense of self, comes from some simple feedback mechanisms in our brains. It comes in two parts, how we feel about ourselves and how we think about ourselves. I think, evolutionarily speaking, it develops, particularly in predators and in social animals, as a side-effect of the organism making a mental map of the world which includes itself.

Now, while I have a background in neurophysiology and worked as a neuroscientist straight after university, I want to try to explain this idea in a straight forward way. So I made this diagram to show how I think this might work at a very basic level…

Following the diagram

Starting at the bottom (and sides) of the diagram and working upwards, we begin with 4 basic types of brain input:

– Internal body sensations – sensory information which originates inside the body. This includes things like internal pain, gut sensations, bladder fullness, proprioception (awareness of the body’s position relative to itself), etc.

– External sensory input – this includes all sensory information which the body collects from the world around us and includes things like sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste.

– Feedback of thoughts – Processing information is fed back into the brain.

– Feedback of feelings – Information from the limbic system (arousal and emotion) is fed back into the brain.

These inputs come into our brains .

This pattern of information is brought together to make a mental map of ourselves and the world around us .

Various possible responses to this situation are generated . One of these is then chosen by the brain as the action the body will take.

At each stage what is happening is fed back to the cortex , so the brain becomes aware of new sensory information, updates the mental map, generates possible actions and guesses outcomes, chooses which action to take and acts. Then the cycle repeats.

There are some interesting ideas and predictions that come out of this theory:

  1. The sense of self is just another internal “object” in the mental map we create about the world. It feels like walking on shaky ground to think too deeply about this because really all we are is a figment of our own imagination, based on various cortical processing pathways.
  2. We can be wrong about our own selves. We can be unaware of things that we do. Just as our mental map can have errors, so can that part of the map which we call “I”. For instance, when I think hard, according to my son, I scowl. When this is happening though I feel perfectly happy. I love thinking hard and never thought I could have a scowl on my face when doing this but, after my son mentioned it, I checked it with a mirror and he was right! My map of myself was wrong.
  3. It is because we make our own mental map of ourselves and our environment that stories have such power for us. We can use the same processing to enjoy stories as we do to know about ourselves and our world.
  4. This model also predicts that our sense of self will become aware of something mentally after the processing is already done. Our self is part of an “after action report” if you like. So we feel like we make decisions but our brains make them and then it feels like it was us.

How I made the diagram

I began by making the four main assets I needed in my diagram – the picture of a person, the picture of an environment, the picture of a brain and the picture of a mental map.

I made the person and the brain assets by doing ink drawings of each, scanning them in, cleaning them and colouring them. Here are the original ink drawings.

I made the environment image by re-purposing an image from a previous diagram I made about the self…

… and did a similar thing for the mental map picture which I put inside a comic style thought cloud to show it was a thought-based picture…

Once I had these made I just arranged them and drew on a lot of notes and arrows. It was fiddly but fairly easy to do. The hardest part of this was working out my theory of how the brain works!

So here’s the final diagram I came up with…

 

(PS: This post was written in half term but I haven’t been able to do my usual checking and polishing.  I am currently in isolation due to a cough and a temperature.  I think I’ve probably got laryngitis which is causing the cough and temperature rather than coronavirus but I’ve been advised by my GP to isolate anyway so that’s what I’m doing.  Unfortunately I’ve also got a splitting headache so I apologise if there are any mistakes in this post as I haven’t checked it.)

Anubis in Ink

This week, having been incredibly inspired by the wonderful art produced by the children at school, I had a go at drawing the ancient Egyptian god, Anubis. (We are studying the Ancient Egyptians in Year 3.)

I started with a basic sketch of the main shapes…

Then I improved my sketch, making it more detailed and trying out different shapes and patterns…

Once I had all of the main ideas in my head I drew over my pencil in ink and then removed all of the pencil with a putty eraser to make an outline drawing…

At this stage I decided to get rid of the eyebrow as it detracted from the traditional ancient Egyptian eye shape. My next job was to fill in all of the solid black areas. I like to do this for the whole drawing as solid black has a strong effect on the final balance of the picture, so if I do it all at once I can feel something of how it will turn out. Here’s the drawing with the solid black areas added…

You can see where I used different inks. The detail and outer edges of each area were done with my trusty Pigma Microns but I used my Pentel Brush Pen to fill in larger areas. You can’t see the difference by eye but the scanner picks it up. Finally I worked on the details and textures to create my finished drawing…

This was a lovey piece to draw. It was incredibly relaxing and fun!