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Pollock and the Structure-Mess Spectrum

The feel of a wad of strings and yarn in a kitchen drawer as I press my hand upon it. Being at the Seeger’s house next door when I was 4, 5, 6 or so, the toys, the smells, the color of daylight as it shone on furniture and carpet. What looks like a yellow gear at the left side with a glimpse of a metal bar like on a lock, like the parts of toys and appliances taken apart to satisfy my curiosity and enjoy colors and shapes.  Part of a broken plastic ruler.

Something about the dark green and dull greens and bright greens, especially, makes me remember the Seegers and their house.

A typical Pollock painting. Untitled,  1949

A typical Pollock painting. Untitled, 1949

I was thinking of Pollock earlier to today, thinking of structures and messes and chaos (in the the mathematical sense.)   At one end of the spectrum you have the detail-oriented perfectionist artists who are careful about fine detail, perhaps tending toward photorealistic, perhaps not being looser and letting brushwork show, representational, realistic or surrealistic, highly structured with much for a student to analyze.   But it can bore someone with an active, creative mind, being based on familiar entities, or parts thereof, though possibly in unconventional arrangements or depicted in unusual light.  Mostly the visual is based on physical side of sense, not the consciouse impression side.

At the other end, I think of those idiots who say “what, he just poured paint all over a board? Heck, my kid can do that!”  What if someone DID just throw paint at random on a canvas or board, with no desire to guide it, no sense of rhythm or color “flavor” or interactions of parts? It would be a random mess.   White noise, static on an old analog TV (remember Poltergeist?) which after the immediate recognition by us that it’s noise, has nothing to offer the senses or mind.  High entropy, no information content.

Between the low entropy, high detail end of the spectrum and the high entropy, zero meaning end, lies a range where noise and meaningless intermingle with structure.  Apparent objects fading into grainy mist, hints of beings in random squiggles, a realm where Pareidolia has a field day. Enough structure, edge, realistic color to suggest something in memory, with enough uncorrelatable gibberish to allow loose pattern-matching.

Intermediate entropy maximizes _something_, related to what I would call “interest” of a painting, but I’m not sure what it maximizes in mathematical terms.  Our minds become bored with the familiar, don’t care about pure randomness, but get to work on perceptions of the mid-regions of the structure-mess spectrum.

Credit for image: I found this on Pinterest, in a post by  Image is from


Wooden Toy Car from a Real-Life Santa

This toy is not from my childhood, but for a future child’s playtime. I volunteer with several others in woodworking. Our leader, Joe, is a real-life Santa complete with toymaking shop. We are the elves!


With donated wood, starting in June or July, we saw and drill and hammer and glue, then sand and paint and shellac, until we have a few hundred wooden cars, airplanes, baby doll cradles, buses with little wooden people, and so forth. These are donated in December to needy children in Escondido and area through Interfaith Community Services.

Side view of wooden toy car

Side view of wooden toy car

These toys often come out so beautiful, I’m sure many adults find them attractive to keep on display at home. “No Junior, don’t finger up that beautiful wood sculpture!”

This car is one of the simpler items. I’ve borrowed one (oops, I should remember to return it) to make a 3D mesh and texture. The finished 3D model is available on TurboSquid


Trinity Toymakers has been in the local news:

The Gray Mechanical Counter

Someone, an uncle or grandparent, gave me this mechanical counter to play with when I was young. I’d click it just for mindless fun. I figured out ways to click it real fast, to get it up to 9999 and then click it once more.

I noticed how much slower each digit wheel turned compared to the one to it right. I learned at an early age about powers of ten, orders of magnitude, even if I was too young to have the vocabulary to explain my insight.

Later, as I grew older and accumulated tools and workspace, I took it apart and put it back together again several times. This is one of the ways I became familiar with gears, springs, many types of sliding and spinning parts. The tactile memory of such parts is one source of material feeding my abstract art style.

The larger lever was for resetting it to all zeros.  The smaller one, which appeared to be designed to have a thick wire or some mechanical part activate it, would increment the number by one.  The metal plate on top had holes for screws.  I never knew what this kind of counter was meant to be used for, other than probably for some kind of industrial machinery.  Overall the whole thing was about three inches side to side.   I may have gotten the levers swapped in this rendering.

This 3D image was modeled and rendered in Blender 2.65. With a goal of getting it done from a cold start in only two evenings, it has some minor imperfections, but fairly well captures the look and feel of the device.

Mechanical box with two levers at sides and four digits visible in glass window

Gray mechanical counter of unknown origin

The Push-Popper

Fisher-Price calls it a “Corn Popper” but I never saw any connection with corn.  I never actually had this toy, but according to my mom, I wanted one when I was about three or four.  Some relative or friends had one.  

Today, if I had one of these in my hand, I’d probably get bored with it in less than a minute, but for the intended demographic, the Corn Popper is an object of great fascination.   My friend’s son, who married in the Navy, has a one year old and a three year old.  They play intensely with a toy, or garden hose, or a piece of food, for a while then drop it.  It’s a big world full of novelties for them.   

The picture shown here were made in Blender.  I used Inkscape and GIMP to create texture maps and the label wrapped around the base of the unit.    If I have a good chunk of free time later on, I may try animating this.




The Wheel, Humpty, and my Bed

The Baby Wheel, in extreme perspective!

This plastic wheel made jangling noises, and is probably my earliest memory ever, not counting the time my head came off and my parents took me to the doctor to have it reinstalled.  The wheel had four colored spheres embedded in its decorative network of struts or clown faces or whatever it was.  These sphere held object that rattled or jingled.  I was so curious to know what is inside that could make those sounds, I wanted to peek inside.  These were magic mystery orbs, and I wanted to know what made them work.

How to see inside?  I stood on my bed and held the wheel up high.  Then I let it drop, hoping for it to break and the mysterious contents, probably magic gems from another planet, would be revealed.

As I was dropping it for third time, Mom walks by the door and notices my investigation.  I am requested to stop, and so my research went on hold until I was old enough to take things apart carfully and use glue to reassemble them.  By then, though, I was no longer interested in that toy.

So there’s one of my earliest memories ever: Taking something apart out of curiosity and getting busted for it!

The most exquisitely beautiful object in the known universe!

From the same early time I also remember this Humpty Dumpty doll with red yarn hair.   Perhaps my mom made it, or some aunt, or perhaps it came from a store.  For some reason, I didn’t like it that much, at least that’s wrote I wrote in my notes back when I was in grad school.  Did it have a tie, or was it buttons?  That detail is fuzzy, but much of this doll is clear in memory.

Providing a place to rest for both those ancient toys is my bed, designed and built by my Dad.  It had openings on three sides for storage.  The side opening visible in the image had a shelf, and held my clothes.  The big opening at the foot of the bed held larger toys, or maybe more clothes.  As far as I know that bed continued to exist well past grad school, into the 21st Century.  Maybe my mom took it when she moved into her new house in 2003.

Very early toys and my bed

These images were created in Blender 2.61, with Humpty’s cheesy artwork created in Inkscape.  This work was quite educational, as I found the best way, or at least a not-so-bad way, to make dimples in the mattress, and to make realistic shapes for the wheel’s decorative structures.  I don’t think it was really all circles stuck together, but maybe there were animal shapes or circus clowns embedded in there.

Humpty was especially tricky to make look like it’s cloth.  It would help to have small wrinkles along where the seam would be, but alas my 3D modeling and UV texture mapping skills are not yet refined enough to do that well.  As it is, it looks too tensed up, like a balloon full of air. A few wrinkles and broad shallow dimples will help that.

The bed went together quite easily.  Just a rectangle, add a few loop cuts to allow a rectangular opening to be punched out, and adding elements for the curved opening and posts. The carpet is not like it really was; it’s just a photo of where I lived in Socorro NM last year.

But I must stop modeling and lighting, since life pulls on me to do other things.  Someday I’ll refine this scene, but it could be several weeks before I get to it.

Mountain-Turning Game

This probably belonged to my sister, if it wasn’t in the generic family games collection.   We had several board games.  This one was more fun than average, due to the central plastic “mountain” that the players could turn under certain conditions, thereby messing up the travel plans of everyone’s pieces.  A pair of dice determined the number of step a player could take, as in most board games.  I don’t recall whether or not there were cards with oddball instructions like some other games had.

We had two transparent die, one red and one green, which found plenty of use for all games that didn’t have their own dice in the box.  I remember them clearly.

I couldn’t find any information about this game online.  Maker = unknown, title = unknown, what exactly was written along the paths = unknown.  I’m quite sure “Psycho Leprechaun” wasn’t actually a part of the game, but lacking sufficient good memory for a more accurate replication of the game, I had to fill the space with something 😀   Anyway, if you, my blog visitor, remember this game, please leave a comment to enlighten the ignorant.

There was some kind of cartoony artwork filling the non-path spaces of the playing board.  Seems like it was nature-oriented, had fantasy people such as  elves or  leprechauns, maybe a castle, horses… or maybe I’m way off.  This was back in the 1960s and early 1970s.  The details aren’t exactly fresh in my mind, although I do remember the look and feel of the green plastic mountain, the dice, and some other physical details.
These images were created using the Blender 2.61 modeler, Inkscape for the board artwork, and GIMP for various image processing tasks such as making the white paths more scruffy and painterly looking.   By no means was the actual game as clean and pure, bright and shiny as this 3D looks.  We played it often.  If I weren’t busy with other things like studying semiconductor physics and writing math and physics articles, I’d spend more time dirtying up this scene.  Fray the cardboard box corners, add subtle fingerprints and scruffy marks to everything, a bit of crud in some of the dice pips, and hints of CMYK halftoning  in the playing board image.

Yow, making the dice in 3D was an adventure!  I found several tutorials online, of which this <; (there’s a video at ) was best, but before doing things the obviously most productive by following one of those toots, I had a go at it by making it up as I went along.  I thought that maybe the mirror modifier would speed the mesh modeling process.  Perhaps it would be best to create nine pips on every side initially, by making one pip all by itself, duplicating it 3×3 to be the central part of a face, and then duplicating that six times with 90 degree rotations.  Finally I’d delete the unneeded pips and replace the hole with a simple flat fill-in mesh face.  Well, long story short, that was tedious, slow, error prone, and looked bad in the end.  While following the tutorial, I learned a few techniques that I didn’t know or had forgotten from two years ago.  Especially quicker, easier edge loop selection and removal.  More skill, more 3D power… more and better 3D toy images for future posts!

A view of the game in its entirety



Overhead view shows poorly remembered details of playing board. Well, not poorly rememered - just plain made up!

“Toys I Had” Begins!

This blog is where I’ll be posting 3D renderings, 2D artwork and information about toys I remember from when I was a kid.

Modeling toys with 3DCG is fun, and a good starting point for interesting artwork.  Since my childhood years were long ago, my memory may not be entirely accurate in all details.  We will see how close I can come. I will tell fun stories about things that happened involving these toys.   In the 3D artwork, I’ll sometimes attempt to capture the style and look of things in the 1960s.  Sometimes I won’t.  Expect variety.   This is an art projects and limited autobiography, not journalism or decent reference material.

In some cases, the “toys” aren’t exactly toys, but something of interest to me in my single-digit or teen years.  (Or maybe yesterday.)   Some of these toys are of interest to collectors.   Some have been long forgotten, or for all I know, figments of my imagination.  In fact, I may put up a fake toy now and then just for fun, hee hee.  There might be an occasional post about some toy I didn’t have, perhaps even a guest post with someone else’s toy story.

In any case, I am not myself a collector or pay attention to that world, but certainly there is the possibility of exchange of information and images.

The crude first draft of this series started when I started the PhD program in Physics at Indiana University.  After classwork was done, I’d spend a half hour each evening making up a page with fast crude sketches of two or three toys and typewritten text describing them and any incidents of note.  Just for fun.   It was interesting to recall what toys I had, what I had forgotten all about but recalled after seeing a cousin’s kid receive an xmas present, or seeing something somewhere that reminded me.

After a while I put the dozen or so pages into a cheap binder and shelved it.  Now with the internet and blogging, combined with my lackitude of working on my personal website, I’d like to put some of this online, new and improved, for the entertainment and interest of others, and to show off my 3D skills.

This blog will link to, and I hope from, other blogs and sites about toys from all decades, and show ads to toy companies and related sites.  I invite links to pages and blogs by others with more information, photos, and artwork about the toys I show here.