Tag Archives: sketches

Egyptian water clocks

Sundials tell time during the day, when it’s sunny. How did the Egyptians tell time at night?

Way back around 1500 bc (over 3,500 years ago) some clever Egyptian invented the water clock so they could tell time at night. A water clock is a jar with sides that taper from a wide brim to a small base. Almost at the bottom is a small hole. The idea is: you fill the jar with water and water leaks out the hole. There are marks on the inside of the jar for every hour. As the water level slowly sinks, it reaches each mark and that’s how you know what time it is.

It sounds like a swell idea, but I have a few problems with it. Number One: I don’t know exactly how big these jars were, but it doesn’t seem like there’d be nearly enough water inside them to last all night long. Even if the hole at the bottom were a mere pinhole, I think the water would run out in an hour. Did they wake up every hour to refill the water clock? That seems like a pain in the neck.

Number Two: to function as an accurate time-measurer, that jar would need to be filled precisely on the hour. You’d need to coordinate with a friend outside looking at a sundial so he could tell you the moment to fill it up.

Number Three: where did the water go after it leaked out? Did they just let it run all over the floor; did they collect it in another jar?

Number Four: Did their dogs see puddles of water on the floor and think, “What the heck, it must be okay to pee in the house now?”

Number Five: Didn’t the sound of dripping water keep them from sleeping?

This one has a cute little baboon sculpture. But how much water could you put in the reservoir? What is it, an egg-timer?

Dots on the inside walls mark the time as the water level sinks.

Base Sixty

Today we count using Base Ten (1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10, then 11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-20, 21 to 30, 31 to 40, 41 to 50 and so on). Here’s something really interesting about the Sumerians. They counted numbers using Base Sixty! Fractions hadn’t been invented yet, so 60 was actually a handy base for counting. Sixty can be divided by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 30, and 60. Try it!

Base Sixty is natural, it occurs in the world around us. By watching the sky, the Sumerians saw the Moon make a complete cycle 12 times a year. Each cycle (month) takes about 30 days (one day = the time it takes Earth to completely revolve around her axis). That’s about 360 days per year (one year = the time it takes Earth to travel around the Sun). These numbers fit neatly into the Base Sixty way of counting.

Do we still use Base Sixty? You betcha! A ruler is 12 inches long—12 x 5 = 60. We buy eggs and doughnuts by the dozen. Can you think of any other examples?

How about a clock? There are 12 hours on the face of an analogue clock—12 x 5 = 60. Sixty minutes in an hour; sixty seconds in a minute. What about 24 hours in the day—does that work? Nope, sixty doesn’t evenly divide by 24. But a protractor uses Base Sixty—a circle is divided into 360 degrees. If you were to mark 24 hours around a protractor, each hour would use 15 degrees (hang onto that thought—it will become important later on in the show).

I bought this one at Protractor Supply.

I can hear you saying, “Hold on, Manders. Years aren’t 360 days long. They’re 365 days and six hours!” Okay, I have to admit, that’s a good point. Sumerian astronomers were fantastic at math and did mostly everything right—but they got one really important piece of information wrong. They thought the Earth was the center of the universe with the Sun, Moon and planets revolving around her. It’s impossible to make the lunar year (12 cycles of the Moon) agree exactly with the solar year (Earth’s trip around the Sun), so we had to add 5 extra days, plus one day every fourth year, to make it work on a calendar. That’s not really the best solution, as we will see.

Oh, that Samson

samson.model050

So I’m trying to work up a character design for a project. It’s Samson, from the Bible—you know, Samson and Delilah, one of the judges of Israel, gets all his strength from his hair—and I want to show how he looks before he gets a haircut, and after. Here’s the problem: in the ‘before’ sketches hardly any of his face shows, right? Samson took a Nazarite vow never to let a razor touch his head. Between his hair and beard, only his eyes and nose can be seen. Below his beard, of course, is Samson’s magnificent physique. Get a load of those delts and pecs!

Now I want to show the same character after Delilah shaved him. No more beard, no more hair. You can see Samson’s face, but since you never saw much of it before, how do you recognize him after? That’s okay—everyone can still recognize his muscles. Except Samson lost all his strength when he lost his hair. His physique has to sag a bit. Kind of tough to see who it is. Hey, what about those eyes? Eyes are the windows to the soul—we’ll be able to tell it’s our boy from his eyes. Er, no. Those rotten Philistines blinded Samson as soon as they knew he was too weak to fight back. I put sunglasses on him. I can’t even let you know who it is with his eyes. What’s left? Samson’s NOSE. That’s it. That’s pretty much all I can give you to clue you in that it’s the same guy, before and after.

You can read Samson’s story if you have a Bible handy. It’s Judges Chapters 13 – 16. Samson is a not-so-bright lunk with a weakness for pretty girls. Maybe better you should click on this link. It’s G rated.

A Funny Thing Happened…

Another fantastic and fun project for the Pittsburgh Public Theater—create an image for A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum! My talented pal Paul Schifino art directed. He asked for something with a cornucopia and spectacularly oomphy slave-girls. I generated a bunch of rough ideas—we lost the cornucopia along the way. Harem pants looked too ‘I Dream of Jeanie’, so they got replaced with skimpy versions of ancient Roman fashion. Not a job for the faint-hearted.

A side note: this 2017/2018 season will be the finale for Ted Pappas, the Public’s Producing Artistic Director. I’m grateful to have seen many of his fabulous productions over the years. Best wishes for a well-deserved retirement!

Some old sketches

I don’t think I posted these earlier. They’re from Peter Spit a Seed at Sue by Jackie French Koller.

Sorry about the lack of posts recently. I’ve been busy developing one or two new projects and they must be kept secret until the publisher gives the go-ahead.

Q is for Queen

Here is one of my favorites from P is for Pirate, the notorious Grace O’Malley—Irish queen & pirate captain. She was a contemporary of Queen Elizabeth I and reportedly had an interview with Gloriana (who, after all, had a soft spot for buccaneers).

Queen Grace has been the subject of songs, at least one play and even a musical. So far as I know the swashbuckling Maureen O’Hara never played her in a movie, but what perfect casting that would have been!

I show Queen Grace in an Errol Flynn pose with her ruffians behind her. In the sketch I thoughtlessly drew a baroque-looking ship like we’re used to seeing from piracy’s golden age. In the final painting I used the Mayflower—much closer in style to a ship from Queen Grace’s time—as reference. Same deal with the costumes: they’re Elizabethan. I first drew her in men’s clothes but thought she looks much cuter in a dress.

Another Pete cover

Here are rough sketches for the jacket of Jenny Tripp’s Pete & Fremont. This is a wonderful circus tale told from the point-of-view of the animals.

Cover ideas for Pete’s Disappearing Act

Back when Jenny Tripp’s fabulous sequel to Pete and Fremont was still in production, the story—in which Pete leaves the circus in search of a new life—didn’t yet have a title.  Things were becoming so desperate AD Samantha McFerrin was reduced to asking me for ideas.  Here are rough sketches for the cover with title possibilities scribbled in:

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Nothing very workable here.  What about something more show-bizzy?  At this point Pete’s Disappearing Act had become the working title, so I thought I’d do something that looked like a vanishing act. Here are some ideas as tight sketches:

Too Houdini.  Here’s a dramatic scene where Pete and his friends are almost run over by a riverboat:

Still not quite there.  But this one was the winner—Pete caught up in a twister:

Festival in Venice

There’s a scene in The Famous Nini when the king declares National Nini Day and everyone celebrates.

Kerry Martin, the senior design editor, wasn’t happy with the scene as I’d depicted it in the thumbnail sketch with crowds on a bridge over a canal (p 17).  I worked up 3 rough alternative sketches—where we see Nonna & Nini through the crowd, where the crowd is seen from inside the caffè, where Nonna & Nini are out among the crowd—and then did a tight version of the winner.

Sam

Model sheet for a character from a canceled project.