Ballpoint Pen Drawings for Memory

I first put up some ballpoint pen drawings on this site back in 2009, a whole two years after I started the site at this domain, but I had dabbled with sketching in pen before. I had forgotten how seriously I’d tried my hand at it until a few days ago, when I was flipping through some of my old notebooks. I came across a book from 8 years ago, just before I started this site, and in its pages between scribbled notes about story and illustration ideas, I found that I’d done a ballpoint pen drawing every day for a whole week at some point.

 - Ballpoint pen drawing

The quality varied, as it does when sketching with a pen and corrections are near impossible, but some of these, like the tiger here, were quite good. I thought I should put these up here and look at them with a bit of a critical eye because my entire series of experiments with pen drawings has been all about improving my skills, and seeing what works and doesn’t as my technique changes. Seeing so many carefully done pen sketches after a long gap teaches you many lessons.
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What’s Better About Good Photos?

There are tomes of advice on how to take better photos. I’ve written some photography tips myself over time, and while I will continue to share those and do think they are helpful, for truly improving your photography, you need to know how to think about photography beyond simple recipes. To think on this subject and make your own creative decisions with your camera in hand, you first need to know the basics of what makes a good photo better than the rest. So let’s try to recognise the elements that make good photographs tick.

Palomino pony in front of a stone wall

The simple formulas for taking more interesting pictures stop you from making the basic errors that ruin thoughtless snapshots, but that’s technique and mechanics, for the most part. Good photos are not only good because of how you take them, but more so because of what they show and how they look. We mostly judge good photos on pure aesthetics and content. The one big gap in our understanding, to take us from boring images to ones that hold people’s attention, is an ignorance of what features a good photograph has.
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Filling in the Gaps

We have come to live in a world of screens. They exist in every size and for every purpose, televisions, computers, phones, games, tablets. Little windows into another world, or more accurately, an infinite number of other worlds ever vying for our attention. Attend to them we do, with pleasure and curiosity, faith and obsession, boredom and questions, seeking.

This windowed-world is a strange thing. We’ve all grown accustomed to using it to fill in the gaps of our regular world, to the point where it’s sometimes difficult to tell which world is filling in the gaps of which. Those who grew up with all these windows and screens being an obvious part of life will think differently, but I’ve seen black and white TV sets and rotary-dial telephones. As a kid I never actually thought I’d be in a world where the ‘virtual’ would start competing with the real, and would become so real to so many. That was the stuff of science fiction. It’s great that in some ways the science fiction writers didn’t foresee how deeply it would change day-to-day urban life. The cell phone, who ever thought that would happen quite this way and so quickly? Who even imagined there would be an imminent time when every one would require a phone on them all the time, or even more than one phone! Bizarre, to those who knew the times before.
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Cool Paper Airplanes and Warm Afternoons

I remember two books from my childhood very distinctly, both unusual for a child barely learning the mechanics of reading. One was my Mother’s college biology book with exquisite transparencies of the insides of frogs. The other was a glossy book with photographs, specifications, technical schematics and the history of Japanese war planes from the Second World War, picked up by my Father because it was beautiful. The second one I would never truly read beyond the pictures because it was all laid out in intricate Japanese text, but I pored over those boldly painted airplanes with inordinate interest as a child, and aircraft would become a fascination, both absorbed and inherited.

Paper plane on a patterned fabric

Part of the inheritance came from my Mother, who was so fascinated by all things aeronautical, that when she was in her teens, she famously took a dozen younger kids from her neighbourhood for a little picnic to the airport, so that they could all look at the planes. When I’m in the old neighbourhood, I still hear of that trip from the now not-so-young benefactors of that airport adventure, many decades ago. From my Father, who had lived most of his childhood at various spots along the flight-path of the Bombay airport, I received the inheritance of identifying aircraft. What my Mother did in walking down side lanes pointing out trees and shrubs to me by their Latin genus names, my Father did in introducing names such as Fokker Friendship, Comet, DC-10, Boing, Antonov, and Gnat into my vocabulary, whenever there was a droning sound above and an aircraft darted through the blue strip of sky between the rooftops.
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How to Write a Well-Crafted Tweet

Old cigarette card of a Japanese woman writing with a brush

Writing isn’t as much a matter of blind, unconscious expression, as most readers like to think. The best writing is considered, crafted and the result of much hard work and editing after the initial expression of ideas has passed and been found wanting. There are the lucky breaks of good first-drafts and the even more common phenomenon of writers honing the words in their mind for long period before ever putting them down, but most wiring involves many rewritings and adjustments for style and substance to make the lines really sing. Strangely, the forced brevity of Twitter is a good way to practice this process of sculpting words.
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Your Greatest Strength is Your Fiercest Foible

Strongman hefting two young girls

I have bad news. It’s in the title but it bears repeating; Your greatest strength may be your fiercest foible. In fact, it’s almost surely one of your foibles, if you haven’t kept it in check, and so few of us manage that feat.

Your foibles are the little quirks that make you who you are. While your weaknesses are usually glaring enough to be not too much of a surprise, your foibles sneak in through your defences and are what often need attending to. They might give you character, but it’s always good to ask questions of your self and make sure these traits aren’t dragging you down. Knowing how they can do that, how your strengths can be negative influences, is the first step to asking yourself the hard questions.
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