Apr 24 2015

Poetics in Architecture Collage

By Max

So I’ve been taking a class at CCSF, History and Theory of Modern Architecture.  I didn’t major in architecture, and actually I’ve been kind of making this whole fucking career thing up as I go along, all these years, and with the more flexible schedule now (oh also I left the firm I was with to start my own lighting design practice, Minuscule Lighting Design, more about that later.  Changes!) I took the opportunity to fill in some holes in my education.  For one of our assignments we had to make a collage expressing ideas of poetics in architecture, and, well, here look:

Poetics in Architecture Collage


By the way the class is taught by Monica Tiulescu, who makes amazing/grotesque procedurally generated organic… things.

Apr 17 2014

Artwork for Craggin’s Lament, a Dungeons and Dragons campaign

By Max


Some of you may know I run a Sunday night Dungeons and Dragons campaign (specifically Pathfinder, with Roll20 for our virtual table top).  If that’s not your thing, move along, nothing to see here.What follows is artwork I’ve created for the dungeons that the party has explored over the last two years or so.  Mostly made on my tablet with Sketchbook Pro.


“Wading through cold, knee-deep water, you come upon a multi-story circular room, with a staircase winding around the perimeter.  From the ruined openings on each floor, water pours into the open space at the center with a deafening roar.  Cold mist lands on your face continually, and lichens and fungi line the walls.  Everything below the top three floors is filled with cold, turbulent water, and you can’t see how deep the chamber goes.”

The party needs to use the stairs to move from floor to floor.  But waiting in hiding are flying will-o-wisps, which can stun and enchant the party members, causing them to step off the stairs and fall into the water below.  They don’t take any damage from the fall per se, but the Hook Horror Darkfiends that live in the pool will try to pull them under.  Symbiosis!  Once someone fails their save, the remainder of the party has to think fast to save their wayward member.

This encounter was very nearly the last of the party’s stalwart mage, Baden Switch.

necromancer lair 4F1

“At the end of a long narrow tunnel you see a wan glow and have a sense that the corridor opens up to a sizable room.  As you creep closer, you see that the room is four stories, and contains an enormous brass machine that goes from the floor almost to the ceiling.  Pipes, manifolds, valves, and dials of obscure purpose branch out of it at every part, and there are bridges that connect to the pathway that runs around the center of the room at each of the upper levels.  As you get nearer, more of the lower structure of the machine comes into view, and you see that many of the pipes disappear into a rough-hewn opening in the wall, which is the source of the green glow that throws the room into relief.  The wall around the opening appears to have partially collapsed, and the machine itself seems to have undergone heavy damage at some point, and then repaired with clumsy haste.  It is dark, and silent in the chamber.  You don’t see any sign of the lich, although on the ground floor there are long wooden worktables covered with glass vials, oil burners, and papers.”

The first run-in with the lich, the party got bottled up in one of the small tunnels that lead into the room.  The lich cast Wall of Fire, filling the tunnel completely with opaque fire that does damage when you try and move through it, and the party had to retreat without landing a hit.  The second time, they were prepared and executed good tactics, prepping spells and buffs, entering from multiple tunnels at once, using surprise to good advantage, and engaging with melee fighters immediately.  On his first round, the lich cast Obscuring Mist, Quickened (minor action, effective spell level 4th), ran to the machine (move action), pulled a lever on it, and with scream of triumph, snapped the lever off completely. (standard, strength check DC 15).

“As everything in the chamber is shrouded in a dense white fog, you hear the machine roar to life, filling the echoing chamber with noise and making spoken communication difficult or impossible.”

It went badly for the party for a few rounds, but they still managed to unload a lot of damage, and at the end of the day liches just don’t have a lot of hit points.  The rift that the glow was coming out of was an open portal to another dimension, and on a high roll every round the machine would summon undead through the portal.   Which the lich could control (fun fact, they get Control Undead a certain number of times per day the way clerics get Channel Divinity).  But, as it happened, the machine never hit its numbers and the party cast Chill Metal (2nd level) on the pipes going into the rift, mostly neutralizing it.

UntitledHaving dispatched the lich, the party had the option to solve a puzzle to unlock the library, the room in blue behind the blue magical barrier on the first floor.  Shown is a screenshot from our virtual tabletop, Roll20.

Valley-Map-Parchment-WebFive years ago, gold was discovered at a sawmill near the hamlet of Craggin’s Lament.  The entire valley is now in the grips of a full scale gold rush, and prospectors, outlaws, gamblers, and merchants have transformed the town into a bustling jumping-off point for any who seek their fortune in the hills.  Hired to locate a missing merchant in a bandit-infested alpine pass, our heroes come into possession of an ancient map, showing the location of settlements of a dwarven empire forgotten by all but scholars of antiquity.  Exploring the ruins, the party soon becomes the focus of forces powerful and mysterious…

One of the very first handouts I made for the session.  Map drawn on paper, then scanned and the folds and paper background were added digitally.


Dungeon map for a low-level side quest published by Paizo, “The Forgotten King’s Tomb.”   Texture brush FTW.

Nov 27 2013

My Conduit Bending Machine

By Max
Concept image for the fixture

Concept image for the fixture

Oh hey there.  As part of the theater show I’m working on I’ve been making these industrial gooseneck type things for the bar lighting.  As you can see, a big part of it is the loop of conduit that goes up and around to support the fixture.  I figured, no problem, I’ll just get a conduit bender from Home Despot and bend it to suit.

You get some odd looks when you ride BART with a conduit bender.

You get some odd looks when you ride BART with a conduit bender.

So that was a disaster.  I could get bends up to 90 degrees just fine, but after that the bender would start to slip on the conduit and I would get squircles rather than a continuous loop like I wanted.   My results could be summarized thusly:

conduit diagram1

As I am nothing if not persistent, I went to the idea store and came up with this:



There’s a circle cut from MDF on the inside radius of the conduit.  As the handle is turned, it pulls the conduit in, and it’s forced to bend around the circle.  I had to ask a dancer stand on it while I was bending it to get enough torque (thanks, Cici!) and it has a tendency to pulverize the MDF at the working surfaces, but heyo it works!



Conduit being pulled into the break

Here’s a sneak peek work-in-progress picture of the fixtures I’m building:


I am aiming to be America’s #1 blog on improvised conduit bending machines, so more on this topic soon!

Oct 29 2013

Happy Birthday Mom and Dad!

By Max
Happy Birthday Dad!

Happy Birthday Dad!

Happy Birthday Mom!

Aug 23 2013

In Appreciation: J. Robert Anderson

By Max

J. Robert Anderson, Uncle Bob to me

Regular service will resume shortly: I want to say a few words about my Uncle Bob, who passed away a few weeks ago.  At the funeral, the priest asked us to reflect on what his life meant to us, the gifts he gave us by his presence in our life.  I’ve been turning that question over and over in my mind, trying to process it.

Aunt Carole and Uncle Bob, in Chicago, 1988 or so

Every summer, my parents would send both of us to visit my aunt Carole and uncle Bob for a month or so, while they took off and had an adult-person vacation.  At the time lived in a high-rise condo in Chicago, and we also took their sailboat out on Lake Michigan, and camped in the Chicago Harbor, and watched the fireworks from their windows.


View from their boat, in the Chicago Marina

I was really into science, and they indulged me, spending two whole days at the Chicago Museum of Natural History (because we didn’t see everything the first day!), and detailed discussions of dinosaurs or spaceflight or sharks or god knows what else.


My sister and I on the boat, Chicago, 1988 or so

In later years, we caught fish from their dock in Akron, OH, and we tried our first lobster when they moved to Long Island, NY.  They retired in Lake Tahoe, NV.  Always, near the water.

Lake Tahoe, NV

But more than the memories of the experiences, I feel like I’m a different person for the time we spent together, and I’ve been struggling to find the words to explain this.  I think that the simple act of being an extended guest with adults that aren’t your parents was formative for me— never mind in such wonderful and exotic locales.  I grew up (until the age of 13) in Minneapolis, MN, which, while being a great place to raise kids, can be a little bit of a monoculture.  Staying with my Aunt Carole and Uncle Bob gave me the idea that there were other ways of being, other rulesets to live by.  That intellectual flexibility, the ability to see the-way-things-are as a somewhat arbitrary construct of expectation, has served me well as an artist.

2009-11-26 14.39.18

The other gift my uncle gave me was to engage me as an intellectual peer.  I didn’t particularly get along with kids my own age, and adults tended to treat me like, well, a kid.  My uncle was a salty old Navy guy, just full of piss and vinegar.  He had a pretty wicked sense of humor, and he didn’t particularly spare me any of his barbs.

I guess I should here mention that he was a Stanford graduate, and rose to #2 at Ford under Lee Iacocca before becoming CFO and vice-chairman at Firestone and CEO and vice-chairman at Grumman Corporation, makers of the Apollo Lunar Module and F-14 fighter jet.

Bob in a jet simulator

Bob in a jet simulator

I’ll miss his wry smile and sharp wit.

2009-11-25 17.06.18