Life drawing at ARCSOC. It was hard for me to render my own perspective as I was busy trying to capture the individuality of the model and the pose. I often feel similar trade-off between the artist’s style and the uniqueness of the object. (Compare, for example, Picasso’s early, realistic paintings vs. his late cubist paintings.) I wish I could find a way to capture both. Do you feel such tension when you draw? If so, how do you deal with it?
Last year, I drew with dip pens and sketched more on site. I also tried weaving in stories, be it on science or others.
Next year, I’d like to try one-cut cartoons, starting from re-drawing classics, and hopefully at some point weaving in more from my day job, neuroscience and cognitive science. I know this part of my resolution is the same as last year’s. I found it difficult to start from vacuum, and that’s why I want to start from reinterpreting existing works.
This time, I received answers from four people, and while some names matched mine, no one got everything matched!
The original names that inspired me and the reasons were, in order:
Flissil: sounds fluid and at a loss (1/4 matched this name)
Horgous: sounds hollow and lonely (2/4 matched this name)
Axittic: sounds like an axis + excited (0/4 matched this name)
All in all, this week’s results showed that there are cases when it’s difficult to tell the names (3/12 answers matched the original), unlike last week’s (all 12/12 answers matched the original).
Here are some observations on individual responses:
It was interesting to note that when you focused on features similar to me, you also guessed the same word. For example, there was an answer that said Flissig is like “Flüssig, can’t stand, erect, define”, which was very similar to my original intention.
Also, when you focused on different features of either the word or the drawing, you guessed different words. For example, while the second drawing was also said to be “Horgous” because it was a “male name”, it was also named “Axittic” by some of you because it has a stick – an axis.
Finally, there were times that the drawing itself felt different to you than to me, like the last one. I was thinking of a whirling axis with flickering lights, and while one of you suggested it looks “proud and gorgeous”, many of you instead suggested it looked “watery”, “impermanent, changing being, like flowers wilting in a pot”.
In the original study, participants chose among 4 names. The original name was chosen ~31% of the times, which was higher than the opposite (~21%), unrelated (~24%) or similar (~24%) names. So the difference was statistically significant but not huge (~1.3x to 1.5x more likely to choose the original name than others), which was consistent with what we have seen in our two surveys.
What connects the nonword names to made-up drawings at all? The study suggests that certain properties, like
round vs. spiky
large vs. small
masculine vs. feminine
are inferred consistently across participants from either a word or a drawing, and those properties may have helped people identify the original name that inspired a drawing. For example, words like “heonia” were rated feminine, and elicited drawings that looked feminine. Also, in other studies,
Not every language has such associations, but those are found more often than by chance, even across different language families.
Also, many languages use characteristics of sounds to convey relative meanings, which is called “relative iconicity“. To list some in the paper:
“p” vs “b” and “t” vs “d”: mass (Siwu: tsaratsa, “a light person walking quickly” vs. dzradzra, “a heavy person walking quickly”)
“ε” vs “o”: size (Ewe: lεgεε, “slim” vs. logoo, “fat” )
I imagine it would be nice if there were a systematic map showing the relative iconicity found across the world. That would not only be fascinating to behold, but also be useful for naming and drawing new characters for a picture book!
If you are reading a picture book with creatures named Axittic, Flissil, and Horgous, would you be able to recognize the creatures just from the names? Let’s see if you can: Pick a name for each creature in the picture among Axittic, Flissil, and Horgous, and let me know a short reason why!
As I did last week, I drew each of these creatures for one of the names. As mentioned, this activity is inspired by a recent study which showed that drawings from made-up names can be matched with the original names better than chance. So you may as well be able to read my mind here!
Last week’s answers showed that you indeed could. All 6 answers about Heonia and Cruckwic I got (on WordPress and Instagram) were correct. So again, this is not impossible as some linguists suggested. Maybe matching two names was even too easy, so let’s try matching three!
How can names be connected to creatures? The study suggests that certain sounds (such as “k”) in the name evoke certain attributes (sharpness), which in turn are reflected in the drawing based on the name. Intriguingly, some of such associations are found across cultures. I will summarize the associations next week.
Until then, please pick a name for each creature in the picture among Axittic, Flissil, and Horgous, and let me know a short reason why!