Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Inflection Point

I know, you were thinking, what this art blog needs is more math. Well, I've got ya covered. Let's talk about what I was thinking about during calculus class, when I should have been thinking about calculus.

A little terminology for you. This isn't tough stuff, trust me. You may think you're bad at math, but you're not. I'm not going to get into the underlying equations and whatnot, which, sure, that's tough. We're just going to look at the visual part here, which is the math equivalent of eating your pudding without eating your meat.

Here's a line (mathematicians call it "the graph of a function", not a "line"):

As you can see, on the left it is called decreasing, because as you travel right along the line, you also move down. On the right, it is called increasing, because as you travel right, you move up. The minimum is called a minimum because it's the lowest vertical point on the graph. It separates the decreasing and increasing regions.

Overall, this kind of line is called a convex function.

Now, let's look at another line:

This is called a concave function. Instead of having a minimum in the middle, it has a maximum.

Now, let's say you have a function with convex and concave regions:

That point in the middle where one kind of curve turns into another kind is called an inflection point.

That's all the terminology we need. Let's sum it up:

Perhaps you are objecting, Hey Maidman, that big middle part, the "increasing" part? What the hell is the difference between "convex" and "concave" in that part?

Good question. It took me ages to keep this straight in my head. To the left of the inflection point, it's "convex increasing." To the right it's "concave increasing." This is the difference between convex and concave:

If you draw a straight line between any two points in a convex function, that straight line will be above the curve. If you draw it between any two points in a concave function, the straight line will be below the curve.

I'm glad I could help you out there.

Anyway, what I was thinking in calculus class was this - that this is a good simple model of the complexity of lines in artwork. And this helped me to make quantitative sense of something I liked about Picasso - his marvelously complex and fluid line. I'm not going to show you a good Picasso, because that would be distracting. Let's look at a crappy Picasso - in fact, a dashed-off picture of an ass:

Really look at that outline on the right. It would have been so simple to produce a single curve, a unified sweep of the hand. But Picasso cannot do that; his hand has fidelity to his eye, and he represents the separation of anatomical structures. Or, in our current framework, he does this:

The single curve is represented by means of five and a half complete convex and concave regions separated by five inflection points.

Maybe you're wondering, Uh, wouldn't *anyone*'s art look like that if you were anal enough to analyze it that way? The answer is no. Let's look at a drawing we've studied before, by Matisse, whom I also like very much:

Look at the line of the right side of the back. You can do it mentally by now - one inflection point separating one convex region from one concave region. We both know backs are much more complicated than that. There is a huge distance between Matisse's complexity here and Picasso's complexity in a similarly simple drawing.

There are only three artists I think of as having "perfect line": Da Vinci, Ingres, and Picasso. When I bring up this bizarre classification, the idea of "the perfect line," people usually bring up their own favorite draughtsmen, and say, well, what about so-and-so?

I'm not discounting so-and-so. So-and-so is really very talented, and has a strong personal style and vision. All I'm saying is that I, personally, have a sense that there is some quality, unique to these three draughtsmen in the history of art. This decomposition of line into functional categories helps to narrow down what I'm talking about, but it does not define it. Math is only one facet of the perfect line - it's just the part I happen to be thinking about today. Let's look at a couple more drawings, both by super-talented and worthwhile artists. Here's a man sketched by Seurat:

Notice that upper arm. It is a single concave region. Its complexity comes not from shifts in convexity/concavity, but rather from a breaking of the curve into a number of short nearly straight line segments:

For me, this is not as satisfying a degree of complexity as we find in the Picasso.

Now let's look at Annibale Carracci:

Examining the same region of the arm as we did in the Seurat, we find five inflection points - the same number we saw in the Picasso, but in a much smaller length of line:

This, to my eye, is too dense - too much variation in this particular system of analysis. It may be accurate, but it is not perfect - it does not have that scent of truth that I see in the middle-ground of complexity taken by Da Vinci, Ingres, and Picasso. Is it fair that we looked at a soft female outline with Picasso and a muscly dude with Carracci? Absolutely not. Life isn't fair.

So this perfection I am describing, when analyzed through a strictly mathematical lens, can be described as having a quality of "some, but not too many, inflection points." Does this refined description define the perfect line? It still doesn't. I tend to think that it is undefinable.

Here's an aside - all this science and math I throw at art on this blog isn't an attempt to demystify art: it's an attempt to carve away ignorance, mostly my own. If ignorance is a state of lacking knowledge, and mystification is a state of beholding mystery - then I want to distinguish between the knowable and the unknowable. The science and math doesn't take away the mystery - it helps light our way to the boundary of the real mystery.

So our refined description of line doesn't tell us what the perfect line is, but it isn't useless either - it brings us closer to understanding a category for which neither a word nor a definition exists. That's not nothing.

What does it buy us? Well, I can tell you what it bought me. It was 1994 when I sat in calculus class, doodling the arm of the girl in front of me while thinking about the mathematical description of complex line.

In 1998, I started to draw seriously. And I marched in armed with this conception of the mechanical underpinning of the complex line. I would look at the edge of the model, and say, "Aha - here is a maximum! Here a minimum! Here is an inflection point, and this is the character of the curve between these two points."

This is something I did with metal-nib pen and an inkwell around that time (a very fun medium which I highly recommend):
I thought it was pretty neat. But I also thought I was able to make rapid progress, because I had this one useful way of looking at a complex phenomenon and breaking it down into simple enough phenomena that I could hope to grasp and represent each one with fidelity. Better still, perceiving the complicated, I could decide what to keep and what to throw away, consciously. I simplified nature by choice and not by being overwhelmed.

So - this is a system of analysis which is probably most useful to somebody with a bit of a geometer's edge, like me. But it demonstrates, I think, the general idea that deeply unromantic tools furnish the art student with the means to struggle toward those depictions of beauty and grace they may hope to reach.

Do I think this way anymore? Of course not. The entire tool has become automatized; it is a subliminal process which I don't need to consciously check on to benefit from. Stanislavsky says that the actor should learn all his fussy techniques, and get soaked in them to the bone, so that when he hits the stage, he can forget all of it, and simply act - but act in the context of continuing to be informed by the technique he has absorbed.

When I was absorbing these basic techniques, I called myself an art student. When I had them licked, I called myself an artist. I am still learning techniques, of course, but not the very foundational ones that you need in order to make a picture at all. This doesn't mean I know all of them - I'm excited to find other fundamental techniques I've overlooked. But, you know, at some point you have to either stop making pictures, or call yourself an artist, I guess. For me, learning those techniques was the dividing line.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Preliminary Notes on Male Nudes

Well, here's a bit of a format switch-up for you. I bumbled my way (with the generous help of Fedele Spadafora) into a group show of male nudes at Gitana Rosa Gallery in Brooklyn on September 10th, and the show opened last Friday, the 17th, at 7 p.m. I've somehow gotten a reputation as that one guy who can write words, so the gallery owner, Vanessa Liberati, asked if I would write a page of text about the show for the thing in the lobby where galleries tend to put a page of text about shows.

So this post, also at the request of the extremely clever, attractive, effective, charming, and well-dressed Vanessa, is that page of text. The show opened, as I said, at 7 p.m. on Friday. When did I get to see the pieces and sit down and write the text? 6:35 p.m. This bit of writing amounts to about 10 minutes; it doesn't have the extravagant 45 minutes I usually lavish on my well-thought-through blog posts, and I'm worried it might not be up to my standards. It's definitely more art-speaky.

Let me make a deal with you - if you can scrape off the art-speak and find there's something worthwhile in there, let me know, and I'll feel free to post this kind of thing once in a while if it comes up in the future. If, on the other hand, you feel I'm abusing, for self-promotion, the time you give this blog, let me know that too, and I will apologize to future gallery-owners under the heading the readers have spoken.

So here's the text, with the amusing name of the show first:
Daniel Maidman

Let’s agree, for a minute, that we can see a point to the nude as a subject for art. Straight out of the gate, then, we will be biased toward the female nude. Naked, or nearly-naked, women surround us: in our advertising, our television, our Internet. Our perception of women and their bodies is extraordinarily integrated – or fragmented, depending on your point of view. Either way, this perception reflects constant exposure.

The male nude still produces a shock of the forbidden, of the unknown; in fact, it produces the same shock that the female nude produced a century ago. This is a surprising effect, but as you browse around HUNG: Checking Out the Contemporary Male, odds are better than even that you will find yourself thinking – Holy crap, this is a lot of penis in one room.

And this brings up an interesting question: just what is it that makes the male nude special and distinct, that makes it different from the female nude?

I would offer you two loci of difference, one physical and one pertaining to gender and the spirit. The physical difference is the penis and the hair. Hips and waists, asses and faces – all of these can make a transit between the sexes with their forms more or less intact. But when you spot the penis and the hairy chest, you can only be looking at a man. Body hair and penises dominate this show, denoting the specificity of male nudity and producing the initial sense of shock. They define the playing field – they piss on the tree, so to speak.

More subtly, the second locus of difference is the concept of masculinity. This is more elusive, more difficult to define. We know more or less what we mean by the feminine, but we have lost that clear sense of the masculine, the unselfconscious, swaggering, strong masculine, which characterizes, for instance, the men of Rubens and Velazquez.

It is in respect to identifying and expressing this sense of masculinity that I think that HUNG goes beyond being merely a stunt-show, a concept-album, and enters into the realm of artistic synthesis and progression. A variety of ideas and approaches to the problem is expressed here.

We have visions of girlish waifs, of S&M musclemen, of ambivalent hipsters. Several pieces ironically regurgitate old ideas of the overpowering masculine, and it seems the artists have surprised themselves with the sympathy they found with these ideas once they tried them on for size. Other pieces identify masculinity and homoeroticism, both as a lived experience and as a fantasy ideal. Some pieces see masculinity as a threat, others as a joke. And some of the pieces see masculinity as simply one part of a personality, a kind of background condition out of which individuality emerges.

All of these pieces, in tackling a subject that still makes us cringe, work hard to reclaim a lost territory, a part of our humanity which has gone wanting on the contemporary American scene. I hope that in exploring the show, you will find yourself reawakened to slumbering resonances, enriched in your appreciation of yourself and the people around you, men and women alike, without whose differences from one another, life would be much poorer and more boring.
These are, to me, preliminary notes, because I think there's a lot to be said about the category of the male nude, and also, I didn't really think this through when I wrote it.

Here are a few pieces from the show, mine first, because who's in charge here? That's right.

The Rest, Daniel Maidman, 2010, oil on canvas, 48"x36"

Mad Max, Melissa Carroll, 2010, oil on canvas, 60"x48"

Self-portrait as Satyr, Adam Miller, graphite and chalk on paper, dimensions unknown by me

I can't seem to find Fedele's painting anywhere on the Web.

Here are a couple of really mediocre snaps of the opening:

the whole room

your humble narrator

And finally, a happy ending to this little story - my piece sold! A couple came in, sat themselves down on a sofa facing my painting, looked at it for a good long while, chatted with me for a bit, and left. They seemed like pleasant folks, and I thought, "Well, you know, at least they're thinking about it." Then Vanessa came over and told me they had bought it. I had a chance to chat with the couple again - they came in at the end of the evening, and were very enthusiastic about the painting.

Let me tell you what this is like, a bit, from the perspective of an artist who is interested in selling work.

First of all, money is nice. My work is terribly expensive to make, and I'm glad to have it start to pay for itself. Getting the attention of Vanessa and my painter friends is nice too.

But what's really nice is to make something, out of nothing, which people you do not know would vote to make a part of their lives. And not with a vote that costs nothing; they had to work to make the money they are trading for my painting, and they like the painting enough that that's worth it for them. I kind of got teared up about it, as I do about all of my art sales. I think my work is beautiful, but who cares what I think? To have other people think it's beautiful enough (in whatever broad way you want to define beautiful) to live with, is very rewarding for me. This is why I am grateful to all of my collectors.

So those are my feelings.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Subsurface Scattering

I was washing my paintbrushes this afternoon, and I realized that I didn't remember having finished a couple of brushes that were sitting clean to one side. This used to happen when I drove across Los Angeles: suddenly I'd be closing in on Santa Monica, and I would have no memory of going through Beverly Hills. I guess I've gotten that good at cleaning paintbrushes.

What I was thinking about, rather than the brushes, was subsurface scattering. Subsurface scattering is a real nightmare for computer generated imagery programmers, but it's not an unproblem for painters.

Subsurface scattering is a significant property of how objects reflect light. Most objects, metals excepted, are at least a little bit translucent. Look at this glass of milk here:

Disclaimer: this is the first example *everyone* gives when talking about this.

The milk overall looks opaque. But if you look carefully at the meniscus - that's the little bit at the top where it touches the glass and curves up with the surface tension - you'll see it's not just white. The milk is very thin there, and some light is passing through it, because it's translucent. It transmits light:

But it's not like clear glass. That light bounces around a bit as it passes through the milk. The meniscus looks a little bluish, because milk likes to scatter blue light the most. That is, light is shining down on that milk. The light scatters in the milk. Where the overall whiteness is not intense enough to deplete your impression of color, you see the preferential scattering of blue light - the other waves move in straighter lines, so fewer of them come leaping out at you.

So much for the meniscus. But consider the body of the milk. You shine some light at some milk, and the milk looks white. Remember - the milk is translucent. Not all of the light that hits it bounces off its surface. Some of it will pass into the milk, get scattered, and keep on going. But some of it will also pass into the milk, get scattered, and come out the same side it went in:

Graphic source:

When you get a lot of light waves going into an object, and some of them come back out the same side after bouncing around a little, they come out jumbled up. We see this jumble as a kind of diffuse glowing quality to the object. Although it is almost universal, this quality is particularly pronounced in a few familiar kinds of thing: milk, quartz, seashells, plastic. And, of course, human skin.

Let's take a look at the structure of human skin:

Graphic source:

The epidermis is the outermost layer (you know, the one you can see). It has relatively low blood content. Apparently only about 6% of light striking skin bounces right off the epidermis. The skin is translucent, and the rest of the light that you see coming back at you from a lit human has undergone subsurface scattering. It has gone into the epidermis or the dermis, bounced around, and popped back out. The dermis is where the blood is - all those little squiggles in the illustration are capillaries. A Caucasian human is not pink. A Caucasian human is a combination of zero-bias translucent material, some skin pigments, and bloody red. You are not seeing pink when you see a pinkish white person. You are seeing a complex phenomenon that includes white, pigments, and rich dark red. And this person seems to glow. Light is not as hard on them as you might think it would be. Because it has become diffused and softened with its transit through their flesh.

So, this is a huge problem for computer effects people. The first movie to make an honest attempt at photorealistic digital characters was Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001). Which is not a very good movie, so don't worry about renting it, please. But let's take a look at some of the characters:

That's the lead hottie, Dr. Aki Ross.

That's Dr. Sid.

And that's Ryan.

Now who's the least convincing? The one with the thick dermis and low-pigment epidermis - Aki. Because computers do not do subsurface scattering very well yet. Subsurface scattering is a complex and not completely understood phenomenon, and it even involves quantum mechanical effects. Which is always exciting. Overall, it's nowhere near as easy as simulating light bouncing off copper.

Interestingly, CG is much better at handling old people and black people. Why? Because their appearances are more strongly characterized by reflection:

In the case of old people, this is because the dermis has thinned. The skin has lost much of its translucency, so the impact of subsurface scattering on light reaching you from an old person is strongly diminished.

In the case of black people, the high concentration of melanin pigment in the skin absorbs a great deal of incoming light:

So a correspondingly larger proportion of light you see coming off of a black person is light reflected at the surface of the skin.

Another good example of the difference between a computer simulating a reflective light situation and a subsurface scattering situation is found in Jurassic Park from, oh my god it was 17 years ago, 1993. The tyrannosaurus rex is pretty convincing here, where hard side-light produces a reflection-dominated scenario:

The brontosaurus is less convincing here, in full light:

This problem still persists. James Cameron, who has a good eye and a pretty strong respect for the limits of his technology, simply decided in the design process that his Na'vi (or whatever they're called) were going to have relatively opaque skin. But this decision simply stylizes, rather than preventing, the inevitable clayish feeling they have:

Notice how much more human-seeming the eyes are, where the simulation involves an opaque surface beneath a transparent lens.

OK, so, finally we're on the same page about subsurface scattering. Maybe you'd like to know how all this relates to painting, the alleged subject of this blog.

Well, painting a person involves painting this phenomenon of subsurface scattering. And we return to something that came up before: a pink person is not pink. A yellow person is not yellow. A black person is not black. Etc. We do not have a color. We have a complex composite phenomenon which we intuitively think of as color. But it is not a color, and no color can represent it.

So how do we make a picture that reads like a person?

Back in the day, they painted in layers. Take this painting of Mars, by Velazquez:

I think I might smite you.

Or this St. Sebastian, by Rubens:

Homoerotic since at least 1618

What is this painting in layers of which I speak? Let me tell you about it! A first layer of paint is applied, generally in a darkish color or set of colors - dark grey, burnt umber, burnt sienna, red.

Once this has dried, you go back over it with a lighter set of colors: your yellow ochres, your oranges and peaches, lighter reds, some white.

Once that's dried, you go back a third time, and put in the highlights: whites, naples yellows...

Or, to phrase it in terms of our discussion here: layer 1, the darks, is the bloody part of the dermis. Layer 2, the medium lights, is the translucent epidermis. And layer 3, the highlights, is the 6% of light that bounces right off the surface of the skin.

These paintings are convincingly fleshy not only because they have these layers that parallel the real structures they represent, but because paint itself is translucent. Oil paint is a mixture of oil and pigment particles. Light scatters inside of it. You can see through it a bit. So that all-important layer 2, the epidermis layer of paint, allows you to see the underlying darkness using precisely the quantum mechanical/physical mechanism which the epidermis does. The layered painting partakes of the same mechanism, and this is why it intuitively reads as having true human structure. The person in the painting has no color, just as a real human has no color. They both have a complex mix of colors that revises itself according to a complex and ongoing process of interaction of light and deep matter.

I did a lot of painting this way when I started painting, because I learned to paint by looking closely at paintings like the ones above and imitating their method of construction. I first thought explicitly about the role of subsurface scattering when I was trying to figure out why this painting of Vadim, done in layers... so much better than this painting of Vadim, done with the exact same colors but without layers:

Aside from that this painting just isn't as good.

Now, this layering technique came before the realism of the mid-19th century. You remember how we talked one time about how the academics and the impressionists were actually very similar, with regard to their treatment of color? Well, they both made the same mistake about color, the excited over-generalization of a new scientific principle. The "true colors" that we see in the impressionist French garden, or the academic Roman bath, both involve color only in terms of reflection from surfaces. And the paint handling itself partakes of this. It is single-layered, called sometimes alla prima, essentially "in one go." The ideal of both movements is to look at a thing - to take the measure of its color - and to lay that color onto the canvas.

Well, you can do some dazzling things with that technique, but you cannot make the viewer feel in their bones that they are looking at a person:

That's the mighty John Singer Sargent, in one of his few nudes. What can you do? The man liked clothes. Anyhow, we see here everything we expect from Sargent: the stunning sense of structure, the adept brushwork, the subtle transitions, the marvelous colors. But the colors are all on the surface. He is representing the glow of flesh without replicating the mechanism of the glow. His glow is not deep, as this glow, for instance, is deep:

Funny story - I was in the Vatican this one time, and I came upon this painting, and I thought, "Holy crap is this good! Who painted this?" Then I looked at the label and I thought, "Well, that figures, it's Caravaggio." Did I tell you that one already?

Anyhow, the alla prima technique, which depends primarily on an opaque application of paint, has this one deep flaw, that the paint is applied thickly enough to suppress its own subsurface scattering, and thus to prevent any use of that scattering as a means of representation. It fails at the ambiguity of the translucent, a failure which is most pronounced in depictions of flesh, because it is the flesh we humans know best.

Where am I as a painter these days? Well, I don't layer anymore the way that the painters of the baroque layered, for the same reason the academics and impressionists gave up on it: it takes for freaking ever. But I have not pursued the solution the alla prima school has pursued. My oil paint is very, very thin, and I build it up in layers while it is wet. There is a trade-off involved in this approach: on the one hand, I am able to produce the fleshiness of the subsurface scattering - fast. On the other hand, I lose the tactility of the baroque painters and the alla prima painters alike. When you build layers properly, or you skip them altogether, you can really slather on the paint, and this builds up a sculptural surface which has its own sensuality. My work lacks that, but I've chosen to live with it, for now. As you know, I am not necessarily consistent in my attitude, and reserve the right to argue tomorrow the exact opposite of the point I am making today.

Here's something I'm working on right now, with the delightful Alley, who could hardly be more translucent of epidermis:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Drawing Like a Child

Piera is a model I've worked with for a few years - Lorenzo is her newborn son. I did a few drawings the other day of Piera breastfeeding Lorenzo.

Friend, artist, and blog reader Ed Felker compared them with a drawing I did last night:

He said something interesting about the newer portrait in comparison with the Piera drawings:
I like it more but probably for a weird reason. I can't imagine drawing - or seeing someone else drawing - the previous set. I like, and relate to, the bit of exploring that comes with this type of drawing, finding the line, moving it a bit, committing in some areas with a bolder, simpler stroke. I don't know, I just like the thought of all of it, the discovery of the shape through the feedback between your eyes and hands, and I like seeing the artifacts of that discovery in the faint lines you moved away from.
The difference Ed is describing is something that we could describe as the difference between adult drawing and childlike drawing. I use these terms in light of Picasso's famous comment, "As a child I drew like Raphael, it took the rest of my life to draw like a child." The reason I would call the Piera drawings childlike is because - to solve the mystery for you, Ed - I drew them as a child draws.

A child does not seek the right line, revising, expressing subtlety and differentiation, comparing the minutae of the drawing and the thing drawn. A child puts a line on the paper and moves on. To draw like a child is difficult to do, because it is scary to do. You must abandon your fear of error. There will certainly be errors.

To draw without hesitation is very hard to do. You must draw quickly, you must not go back, you must surf forward and then when you are done you must not fiddle around, but rather say, "Now it's done - next!"

When I draw this way, I reduce the number of lines I make on the paper. I also hold the pencil differently. I usually hold it softly and gently. When I draw this way, I hold the pencil the way a child holds a crayon, with a stiff and unfeeling hand, jamming it down onto the paper so that the point is rapidly worn away. But I draw each line more slowly, in the dull, deliberate way a child makes a straight line between two points.

I think that drawing this way is a good way to break up the choking ice floes of the visual mind. You work for ages to master a technique, and then you sink into the technique as you would sink into a large and comfortable chair; you can't get out of it, your ass goes to sleep, your blood begins to thicken and slow. It is good to strip yourself of everything you have, sometimes, and make do with little or nothing. When it works, you produce work that looks miraculous, that looks uncreated. When it doesn't work, you get a good slap in the face to remind you that most of what you do is trash anyway, no matter how much technique is backing it up.

I have several more posts to write on this and related subjects:

-the maximum surface area of the field of visual comprehension
-some thoughts on Hokusai, Matisse, and line, which thoughts I cannot remember just now, but I know I thought them
-the long-delayed Edges and Edge Detection, part IV
-the Piera Pregnancy Project

I'm just going to leave this little list here so that (a) I remember it and (b) if I don't get to it, you can remind me if you like.


I notice we have a few visitors from New Zealand. Thank you for reading, and I hope that if you have family or friends in the Christchurch area, they're doing alright.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Seeing and Being Seen

This blog is often fairly impersonal. I'm sure something of my personality comes through, but we're usually talking about art in a kind of a detached way. That's how an observer or an analyst can choose to look at art. But making art is a personal thing. Who you are as a human being becomes implicated in your work. You lose your ability to say, "This will be so - that will not be so." If, one day, somebody had to make a determination of who and what you were, your work could be fairly cited as evidence. I'd like to talk about a few tiny facets of that implication.

First of all, Claudia wrote a lovely post about working with me on her blog. I'm very proud to be featured over there - it's a wonderful blog by a person I like a whole lot. Check it out. She posted a really nice picture of the painting we're working on too...

Second thing, also about working with models. You are in the room to observe them. But they will observe you too, and your work. This can feel very much like being naked sometimes. In fact, I don't think it is possible to commit strongly to rendering what makes a model a living individual, without becoming vulnerable to the model catching sight of who you are.

Two examples, one of them one of the nicest things a model has ever said to me, and the other one of the kindest.

Model A: I was doing a preparatory sketch of her, seen from behind. She was trying to describe the drawing to a friend at a party we were both at later in the day. She said, "He drew in all the cellulite that I hate so much on my butt and the backs of my legs. But because he thinks it's beautiful, it looks beautiful in the drawing." I participate in this idea that the artist is trying to tell you that everything is beautiful. Hearing this evaluation, unprompted, from somebody, about a feature that people have a really hard time with in themselves - it made me very happy.

Model B: We were talking about an online quiz on personality type that I had taken, which had come back, "You're kind of a hardass." She said, "Well, you know, you come across very friendly, but there's barbed wire underneath." This is true. Not obvious, but true. And this model, who does not know me very well, had watched me closely enough to figure that out. To say so was the kind thing - we all want to be known. I am not afraid to be imperfect. I am afraid of creating an illusion of who I am so compelling that I become unknowable.

And finally, there is Claudia. The goodness of each person is different in kind. Claudia is generous. But there's generous, and there's generous. Some generosities are those that are offered when the giver has more than enough of whatever is needed. Other generosities are offered regardless. My wife, Charlotte, is generous in this second way. I don't know Claudia well enough to say, but I think she is generous this way too, generous by deep nature. You'd be lucky to work with her, and I'm honored to be on her blog. Thank you Claudia!