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You slacker, we were supposed to do three in that class(well, you probably spend more time than me actually).
To be fair, I've recently found that a measurer's mindset is actually somewhat useful in figure invention. Sometimes, memorizing the true shapes of different foreshortening of the figure helps tremendously, because some foreshortening is just to damn hard to construct.
But yeah, the problem is, 80 hours spent on copying anything is just way too neurotic to be that useful, unless you intend to be a figurative fine artist of course.
Wow, thanks everyone. I didn't expect to get so much insight on the topic. Great to hear all the different opinions and observe the passion.
My original intention with this post was to find out if anyone ever copied all 160+ or even 10, for that matter. From what I gather, it's not common practice to do bargues outside an atelier and 3 or 4 seems to be the limit for most.
My question has been answered. Thank you everyone for your time and input.
You learn a lot from cast drawing. I also applied the bargue method to figure drawing. You can find some of them in my sketchbook. I never drew bargue copies, but cast drawing is part of the traditional atelier method, which I did, and got bored of.
Yes it is boring, and it reminds me of the mindless activities that the French Legionnaires would go through during their training, such as picking up pebbles and organizing them for no particular reason or cutting a straight line, with a scissor, 60 meters long. But in the end of the day, these activities are for a reason, much like the mindless tiny dots you make on a cast drawing.
The traditional atelier method involves filling in blotches and dots of white spaces. It can be said to be an extreme form of impressionism, because everything we draw is impressionism, with the ultimate difference only mattering in the categorization as the difference between the sizes of the dots you make on the paper. In smooth and slick drawings, such as the atelier method, the dots and marks you make to shade are so tiny, that it blends the whole image together.
I spent evenings filling in white spaces to harmonize a continuous flow of shades. It is analogous to making large value scales, but better in terms of the fact that you applied it to a still life white plaster cast. It was an evening 4 week day class for 3 hours. I learned a lot of techniques which I would probably not have discovered for some time.
It is important to know what you want to do before you go into this tedious method. It can help you filter certain advices that might not be necessary for you. It is to ensure that you are not brainwashed into thinking there is only a certain way of doing it. For me, I had been drawing long before I signed up for atelier and I am glad I did sign up. Furthermore, I knew what I wanted to do, and I had the insight of what advices would pertain to my goal.
Another advice I might add is that there is a certain mind set you get into when you approach shading by filling in tiny dots. You would also do a lot of measurements, and my advice is to measure just a little bit less than the amount of measuring your teacher forces on you, that is if you are going into concept/imagination art. This mindset is also inadequate for quick sketches; this you would have to learn else where. I knew how to sketch before I signed up, and I was able to finish a figure in a month of classes before most of the class began shading, which they did not begin until the NEXT month.
I am sure you can find atelier method artists in the concept art field, but not a lot of them may be interested in doing concept art, hence the reason why they chose to the traditional atelier method, and do figure paintings or landscapes.
But some do go into concept art. I read about Karla Ortiz in ImagineFX who went to the atelier. She is an example of someone who took the illustration or imagination drawing route. You can see from her style the heavy stylization from the traditional atelier practice; light things are glowy, dark things are very very dark. This approach is not adequate for bright daylight plein air, where things are not glowy and not very very dark. So like I said, you need to know what you want to do and know what advices are important to what you want to do.
Personally, it is more admirable if someone who went through atelier training, use these knowledge not as a means to an end, but to incorporate some of the useful things that they learned, which are useful for them, into their works. It is important to have integrity; you don't want to do something because it is all you know and are taught, such that you begin unknowingly apply traditional atelier method as a habit. You want to do it like you want it; it should be of your vision. You need to be aware of what you are doing and do it for a reason, your reason.
But you might like the atelier method so as to follow all of its rules, which is up to you, because your vision for a painting is that it looks like the traditional atelier method. If your vision for a painting feels like Sargent or Fechin, then don't use the traditional atelier method. For you to know what your vision correlates with, it requires you to know a lot of styles. You might even come up with your own style that doesn't fit the atelier method, which then means you shouldn't fully incorporate the atelier method into your drawing, but maybe few relevant advices you have learned.
You might also not want to apply the traditional atelier method to water colors. Traditional atelier method is all about control, and for watercolor, you are not very much in control. You need a different mind set for watercolor.
This should keep out the barbarians.
Last edited by Vay; April 28th, 2012 at 11:52 PM.
Twinkle, twinkle little star
I don't wonder what you are
For by spectroscopic ken
I know that you are hydrogen - Ian D.
I did 6: 3 in pencil, 3 in charcoal, over the course of 6 months. I was very slow on the uptake, sttruggled while all my classmates progressed effortlessly, and many a time I was on the verge of tears. today I look back on it as both one of my proudest achievements and the most useful training I have ever had. If I could retire on ten million quid tomorrow, I would probably spend a good part of my remaining life on copying Bargue drawings, just to enjoy and absorb the endless wealth of knowledge they impart.
my two cents..
I've always wanted to learn how to draw. I'm a beginner, I'm an amateur, I'm trying to teach myself. I read every single "how to draw for beginners" book out there. I tried the great classics, such as Loomis. I honestly didn't know what to do with them. I tried to "just copy" the images, they came out awful. I tried "The Natural Way to draw"... Hours spent at drawing blind.. it was excruciatingly boring, the outcome was horrible, and you guys call that "natural"?
Every advice I sought led me to the same old, trite remark "JUST DRAW!".. yeah sure, but what? everything seemed overwhelmingly hard to copy. I tried copying comics, line drawings, pictures, and even simple 3D objects. There was so much confusion out there: "copy images!" "copy from life!""Use the grid, it's great for beginners!", "Don't use the grid, it's awful!" "Just copy the shapes and line you see, without thinking!" "Just learn how to draw a cube and a sphere!" "Learn perspective!" "Use your right brain!" "Use your left brain!"... Man...
I tried to seek tutoring: I'm italian, I live in Italy.. so I guess you would say I'm in the right country to learn art, right? WRONG! here it's either you learn when you are in high school, and you go to special art-oriented high schools, called "liceo artistico", or you're on your own. I thought about taking some classes at art colleges (Accademia delle belle arti), but everybody who went there told me that there you don't study drawing and paint the classical way anymore. Everything is soaked with abstract modernism. Every drawing and every painting is good, as long as "expresses what you have inside" or things like that. It's not what I was looking for, honestly. I want to lear how to draw the classical way..
The few private art schools we have in Italy (except for the famous Ateliers in Florence, such as Angel, which are NOT italian schools, but American schools in Italy), are comics oriented (Scuole del Fumetto) and they don't really teach you how to draw from scratch, you have to be able to draw before even applying. Other private schools, which claim to use the "traditional teaching method from the Old Renaissance masters", actually use THE GRID SYSTEM, so you do produce a good drawing, but you don't actually learn.
After giving some though, I came up to the conclusion that the first thing a beginner needs is learning how to see proportions, angles, distances. even if you start just simply copying the Loomis books, or if you wanna copy a simple box from life, if you don't have the basic skills you need to copy whats in front of you (again, distances between points, angles between lines, and proportions), the outcome will be poor, and the beginner will probably get discouraged.
I found that the Bargue plates are giving me exactly that basic knowledge a beginner needs, and are exactly what I was looking for: a gradual process that provides a solid framework where I'm able to slowly build my seeing skills, and where I'm able to check myself, and self-correct.
The human brain learns with repetition (I know about this stuff, I'm a neuroscientist).. but what kind of repetition? the CORRECT ONE:if you keep practicing a mistake, your brain is gonna learn that mistake. if you draw the same image 1000 times, and you keep making the same mistake, you won't "just magically get it right" at some point, if you don't have some sort of feedback on what you're doing wrong. You need feedback, to know where to correct, and then you have to repeat the correct version of your "practice" (you have to practice the correct thing a few times to "unlearn" the mistake").
If you go to art school, your teacher is your feedback. If you do Bargues, your measuring tool is your feedback.
So, to me, Bargue copies are excellent to learn how to see correctly, because they start from a 2D image (maybe you guys forgot how daunting a 3D object can be for a total beginner), the plates are organized in a gradual path of difficulty, and they provide a safe method of checking for errors, which is absolutely necessary if you want your brain to "unlearn" the mistakes in seeing that every beginner makes.
I would say, the most important thing is to learn the correct way to do the Bargues (and regarding that, there are some excellent posts on Conceptart), and to understand that copying the plates are NOT an ending point, but a starting point. You do them to learn how to correct the misjudgments in eyeballing distances, angles, and measurement that haunt every beginner. After you hone these skills, you move on to something else.
Sorry for the long post!
Thanks for the long post, Boraz. For years, I have been dealing with the same issues you are describing. That old "just draw" directive led me nowhere. Trust me, I've been seriously trying to improve for the last 15 years. I guess I'm not gifted enough to start learning by drawing from life: my images to come out awful no matter how many times I try.
I live in a remote area with no access to museums, classical art instruction or live models. All I had to draw from was old shoes and pine cones.
Although I appear to be quite un-gifted at art, I have been blessed with extreme, almost self-destructive stubbornness. Over the years I've learned that it takes an average human being between five and ten thousand hours to acquire mastery over a complex set of skills and that our brain learns through re-enforcement by feedback (positive is more productive than negative, yet the result through positive takes longer to acquire). I was very fortunate to find a teacher who agreed to teach me remotely and I started drawing bargues under the guidance of the very best: Jonathan Hardesty. and in the first 2 months of training I've made more progress than in the last 6 years.
The reason I posted the original question was NOT to find out if bargue drawing was a good learning tool: for me it proved to be the best training tool to get started and also to gain some confidence in my future ability to draw anything meaningful.
I wanted to know if it would be useful to continue practising with bargues once I moved past that stage of my training. I started doing cast drawings now, but I'm sure I will continue making bargue copies from time to time between my other studies.
Thanks again for your post, Boraz. It was great to hear your story and get your input on the matter. I know I'm not alone in my pursuit and it's always great to hear from a kindred spirit. Whatever you do, don't give up. Ours appears to be a painfully frustrating process, but not without its rewards. The frustration is normal, from what I understand, so keep pushing.
I'm really glad to know my post was useful somehow. I just wanna add something regarding "gift" and "talent", but I have to call "nerd-alert" on this one and add a little disclaimer: the next few lines are gonna be a little scientific and nerdy.. Feel free to skip it if you don't care about how the brain learns to do things.
My background in neuroscience taught me that every human brain can learn the same things. Some of us seem more "talented" because they started practicing their skills at a very young age, when the brain is more "moldable", and the changes that occur with practice happen faster, and are permanent. There are physiological reasons for that (which I'm not gonna delve into, since this is an art forum, not a science one.. but basically a kid growing up is full of hormones and such that affect the brain, and make it more prone to be changed by external stimuli), but trust me, the same biological mechanisms that cause a young brain to learn and improve are active in the adult brain as well, it's just a matter of practice, feedback, and "unlearning" the mistakes.
Then there are some other people who inherit a particular physiological profile from their parents (this means: they inherit brain cells that are quicker at starting those changes that result in learning a skill, and the hormones and stuff that help the change are more abundant), so basically they learn faster. I guess we could call this inherited trait "talent", but it's actually a matter of biochemicals and genes, like the color of your eyes and such. That doesn't mean that one without that biological profile would not learn the skill. It's just a slower process.
I'm not talking about "art" though.. I'm just referring to the pure technical aspects of drawing and painting, such as the ability to discern fine details, to judge proportions and distances, the ability to "see" values and colors, and obviously the ability to control your drawing instrument.These skills are all learnable.. On the other hand, the ability to produce a great work of Art is not learnable through practice.. So maybe you won't became the next Michelangelo, he was an Artist, but you can became an excellent draftsman, if you want. It's just a matter of good practice.
sorry again for the long post, and for the technical details.
Last edited by boraz; May 11th, 2012 at 05:25 PM.
Actually, boraz, I've learned it's far more optimistic than that!
The human mind can learn anything that can be learned.
But our previous knowledge will influence what knowledge we can learn next, it creates a bias. A bias is like an accent. If you are not a native of a language, you will learn to speak it with an accent. This can be fixed, but it's very hard! While a baby learning English has it very easy. Not because of the brain, but because he has no previous language creating a bias. He has no other ideas of what sounds make words getting in the way. That's why he's much faster and more effective. As a bonus, he hasn't learned to be pessimistic yet. Pessimistic ideas are bad ideas on how we learn that get in the way of learning because we believe them and act as if they were true.
Would be nice to be as good as Michelangelo, but I'll definitely settle for excellent draftsman, if I have to. And speaking of Michelangelo, I believe he once said:
What one has most to work and struggle for in painting is to do the work with a great amount of labour and sweat in such a way that it may afterward appear, however much it was laboured upon, to have been done almost quickly and almost without any labour, and very easily, although it was not.
If people knew how hard I worked to achieve my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful after all.
Yeah, I totally agree. in my previous post I was just talking about the biological side of the matter.
But neuroscientists have known for decades that the environment (meaning: everything that happens outside the person) plays a role as important as the genes or biology.
Especially, the "external reinforcements" have a key role. What's an external reinforcement? Simply put, are "things" and "situations" that push the kid (or the adult) to keep doing something.
Here an example: a little kid starts drawing. The parents encourage him/her to keep doing that, saying they are proud of him. The kid feels rewarded by those praises, and keeps practicing. The more the practice, the better. The kid improves, and that leads to more praises, that lead to the kid being more motivated to keep pushing. He or She is bound to become skilled.
Now there is another kid: he or she starts drawing. The parents don't say anything about it, maybe because they think "it's just a kid's drawing, nothing to fuss about!".. Maybe the kid keeps doing it, but it doesn't give him the same "rewarding feeling". Maybe someone along the way(a teacher for example) starts criticizing his drawing ability (this leads to bad feelings such as shame), while some other topic (such as science) leads to praises from teachers and parents... the kid will simply drop the activity that led to the bad feelings and will pursue the activity that led to the praises.
Sadly that's what happened to me... I used to draw a lot when I was a kid, enjoying it a great deal. Then, in middle school my art teacher openly made fun of my drawings multiple times.. I became "the one who can't draw", while my math and science grades were great. Add that my father is an engineer who thinks that science it's all that matters and drawing is a "kid activity" and you'll get the whole picture.
Regarding your discussion about "biases", that's what I was talking about when I mentioned "unlearning the mistakes", in my previous post. Regarding accents, that's funny because that's the other thing I've been doing for many years. My first language is Italian, but I've been practicing english for 5 years. The accent is my main focus right now. During this time I managed to completely change my accent, and I'm pretty close to the American one. I'm still not perfect, and I still have hours of practice in front of me, but I feel I'm on the right track. Technically speaking a foreign accent is a "mistake", because you pronounce words in the wrong way, using the wrong basic sounds (the ones from your native language).
You are right when you say that it's because of previous knowledge: a baby doesn't know how to pronounce any sound, so he acquires the ones that are all around him. An adult learning a second language has already acquired a full system of sounds (his first language system), so "it's easier" for his brain to use "what's already there". Unfortunately for us, the brain tends to work through "shortcuts" and symbols, and tends to use what it already knows.. it's a strategy to conserve energy.
When you practice something (drawing, or accents, or a playing the piano) you are actually pushing your brain cells to do something they have never done before. The brain cells are connected in very complicated networks by their branches. Basically, when you learn to do something new, the brain cells have to build new connections between each other. This is relatively easy for a very young brain because, as I said before, the baby's body is full with hormones and other stuff that helps this "branching" process. The adult brain already has a great deal of connections (let's say, it already has the connections for the person's first language), but it doesn't have connection for the foreign accent, so it's easier for the brain to use the ones that are already there, instead of building new ones. Add that the adult doesn't have all those hormones and stuff that helps the cells to branch out, and you'll get why it's much harder to learn something when you are an adult.
Regular practice can change that, because if you push you brain cells hard enough, they develop new branches. But you have to be motivated to keep practicing. Usually adults are not that motivated. They have preconceived notions about themselves such as "I can't draw, I don't have the talent. You have to be born with it", or "it's impossible to learn a new accent", and things like that. Obviously this mindset will lead the person to stop practicing, and hence his brain cell won't get the "work out" they need to actually learn the activity. More over, in order to learn something new, you have to be ready to admit you DON'T KNOW how to do something, and you have to be really open to the idea that you know little or nothing about something and have to be willing to accept someone else's ideas and/or tutoring. Most of the time this very first step is the hardest one: adults tend to eschew the idea that they don't know something, or how to perform a task, because, as adults, they "are supposed" to know.
@Blackbridge: Unfortunately for us, to be a great artist you don't just need practice, you need something else that's not been explained by science. You can learn to be as technically skilled as Michelangelo. You can learn how to reproduce the Sistine chapel but the hardest thing is to come up with the original idea. You can learn how to play the piano faster and faster, you can became technically perfect, but that doesn't mean you'll become Mozart.
What I'm trying to say is: we can perfect our technique, we can became photocopy machines, but unfortunately that doesn't mean we are gonna come up with ideas for a great work of art. look at students at the Florence academy or at Angel's , they are very skilled, and they can reproduce things almost with a camera-like quality, but how many of them are able to invent a new Sistine Chapel?
Anyway, I think you are on the right track to became really skilled at drawing and painting. You obviously have the drive to push yourself to the limit (so you'll brain cells can get the work out they need), and you are finally channelling this motivation on the right practice, since you are following Jonathan Hardesty teaching. He has been there before you, so he knows how hard it is.
Keep pushing man!
Again: sorry for the (very) long post and for the ultra-technical discussion.. I'll try to stop being a nerd
Last edited by boraz; May 12th, 2012 at 11:11 AM.
boraz: Thanks for the thorough explanation. I've been doing my own research over the years on the topic of learning; and it's nice to see my layman understanding of the main concepts being confirmed by a professional.
My current formula for success is hours of practice + ample supply of glutamine. Hope it will eventually equal good art :)
I like the way Bougie explains it.
"Sight size is very useful in many ways but it has it's limitations. It's a good teaching tool and we insist that everyone use it because it sharpens the beginner's eye for proportion relatively quickly and provides an objective context in which to work. It's good for use int he studio in a controlled setting, but it's impractical for landscape painting or making studies from life on the fly. I've also noticed that for some students who are naïve (in their drawing experience) or of a strong logical mindset, sight size gets in the way of seeing when they reach a certain point in their development. They will use the plumb line too much and their eye not enough."
"You're right about the shortcomings of sight-size, it's strictly for working in controlled situations, and it does breed a dependence on the model. I'm going to try having students do more work from flat copy of expressive figures, figures in motion, and so on, to try to bridge the gap between the study of nature and its application to making pictures."¹ "
Sight-size really helps people who have issues with either proportions or rendering of form, what it doesn't do is teach you anatomy or teach you how to fill in the gaps of a living and moving scene, it's purely a method of forcibly getting people to see what's actually there and teaching them how to render dark and light. It's studio practice, it works as long as there is a model, and part of that carries over to work from life or concept work, but do not expect to do lots of bargues and then be able to render concept art like that, it's purely for still life and a stepping stone to concept art.
I think also that most schools don't seem to really know why they teach people bargues, they just do it because they believe such and such, it's striking how some people are able to make amazing bargues but this doesn't translate to their other work at all. Maybe they rely too much on bargues or maybe the schools don't know how to get the most out of the method or don't understand what the actual point of them is. I'm kinda torn on if it's really useful in it's current form.
Last edited by Bastioni; May 14th, 2012 at 02:18 AM.
Bastioni: Good input on sight-size. Thank you for that. The conversation though is not about sight size. In fact, it is not necessary to do bargues sight-size nor was it the original method. Judging by the original bargue plates, they were intended as an exercise in blocking in and understanding simple value, while training the beginner to analyse and simplify with precision and control.
For example, I only did my first bargue with plumb lines. The second one I did sight size, but without the plumb lines, and the third was done completely without sight-size: the 2 images weren't even vertically aligned.
However, the requirement for all 3 was that my drawings were supposed to be reasonably accurate copies of their respective bargue plates.
The thread's purpose is to get everyone's input on how many bargues they've done during their training and if they kept drawing bargues after the moved on to more advanced practice. Sorry about the confusion.
Blackbridge, I thought more about your original question, and I think you are supposed to do bargue copies until you feel comfortable applying the skills you were practicing with the bargues, to "harder" situations. Let me explain:
Let's say you are practicing the bargues to improve your ability to judge distances between points, or angles between lines (let me leave out value from the argument for a sec). So you practice these skills copying a 2D image, where everything is already flat, and you can focus on the skill you wanna practice without adding to it.
When you switch to cast drawing you'll basically train the same skills (distances between points, angles, tilts, and so on), but it's gonna be harder, because you don't have a 2D picture in front of you, you have a 3D object. You won't have actual lines to copy, you'll have hard (and not-so hard) edges, you won't have points, you'll have to memorize landmarks on the cast, and so on. As you can imagine, it's gonna be harder, but you'll basically train the same skills, only on a harder level. So I don't think you'll have to do more Bargues once you switch to casts; it's like going to the gym: the very first day you go, maybe you're too weak to do bench presses, so they have you do push ups, that work the same muscles, but are easier. When you get stronger, you do bench presses, with heavier weight as you get stronger. Once you get to be able to bench press 220 lbs, you won't even think about doing push ups.
Regarding the sight size argument, I think that copying the plates the same size is easier for your brain, because you just have to judge the actual distance between 2 points and reproduce that. If you want to enlarge the plate, your brain not only has to judge distances, but it has to "convert" the judge distance to the scale you wanna draw, so it's a more complicated process.Besides, copying the plate the same size makes the correction process so much easier.
I would say, when you switch to cast drawing, you'll probably start copying the cast the same size as the original. So if you want keep doing bargues while you are practicing on casts, you could copy the plates not using the same scale, so you could practice proportional sighting as well, while the cast drawing practice is taking care of improving the skills you already got with the first bargues (distance, angles,and so on).
Last edited by boraz; May 14th, 2012 at 12:16 PM.
boraz: Thank you for the insight. It totally makes sense. Whenever one learns something, it's best to isolate the more complicated parts and practice them over and over. In this case, we are isolating the procedure of judging and reproducing angles and distances.
I definitely like your idea of drawing scaled bargues. I haven't heard of anyone doing that; it sounds like a good exercise.
What I meant by saying that I was not drawing the bargues sight-size, was that the original plate and my drawing were not perfectly side by side; although, the final output was still an exact copy of the original (to the best of my abilities): same size, same values, same everything. It's just that the placement was not according to the sight-size procedure.
"isolating the difficulties" is a learning method used in music practice all the time.. let's say you want to learn a very difficult guitar solo, there will be parts you already know how to play, and some passages that are still too fast or too difficult. Guitarists just "isolate" the 3-4 note passage that's difficult for them and practice it over and over, until it becomes easy. Repeating the whole solo every time would be a "waste of time", because they would have spend time repeating stuff they already know.
I think it's a good idea to isolate difficulties in drawing too: if your problem is gauging angles or judging distances, you wanna focus on those, without being overwhelmed by value, color, scaling the distances, or "converting" a 3D object in 2D. If we can't even judge the distance between 2 points on a piece of paper, it's no use trying to copy from life. it's like trying to play a piece from Bach without knowing how to put your hand on the keyboard.
Anyway, I suggest you read this post, there's a lot of useful information : http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=264765
And I also suggest you read "the complete artist's guide to figure drawing" by Anthony Ryder.. it's the best explanation of every skill we are prancing with the Bargues.. proportions, angles, point to point measuring..
I just started my first ever bargue copy yesterday. So far I'm "done" with the simplified outline and fairly close to finishing the internal (simplified) lines. I have about 4 hours on it thus far. It's more or less my first time doing sight/size (in the true sense, at least) and I've actually been really impressed by how accurate it is. Sometimes I'll make a dot using the sight/size method and then go and measure it with a ruler and find that it's right on the money. It's pretty amazing, because doing it that way doesn't seem like it'd be too accurate.
The reason I decided to do one is because I feel like I still need a lot more work on the very basics of seeing, drawing, and construction and, also, because I saw that Picasso did one when he was young. I'm not a fan of Picasso's work but I found it inspiring that you can do these universally-applicable exercises and not necessarily end up doing very academic work (which I don't really want to do.)
I'm copying plate 49, which I think is a portrait of the young Julius Caesar.
Jacob: Way to go, man. Congrats on starting your bargue!
It's pretty amazing when you get the placement of a dot just right without much reference on the image, isn't it? Bargues are a strange exercise to me: I'm glad I did them and I learned a lot in the process, but it's slightly discouraging how after hundreds of hours of practice all you get to show is a picture that has been already done by someone else and now you have a copy of it which you can't even put into your portfolio. That being said, I think that working on that copy will pay off handsomely later on.
Btw, love your work, especially 'The Poet': that guy looks like he's going to yell at me in a second or two - so cool!