Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wacom Tablet fun!

I treated myself to a Wacom Bamboo Create tablet. I'm getting the hang of using the pen and drawing on a surface where there is no image -- it takes some getting used to.  
Ladies at the cafe was going to be my St. Petersburg "Virtual Paintout" picture but I forgot
that he doesn't accept digital art. Oh well, it was good practice (this was the second picture using my new
Wacom tablet) and I always love drawing a Google Streetview scene.
These ladies were at the Caffe Centrale, according to the words on the awning, but I accidentally lost
the streetview link so I can't send you there to see it "in person." I haven't abandoned my
physical pens and pencils, so next month my VP will be with the rest of the gang!

What I like about the tablet is that I'm not a filthy mess by the time my faux pastel picture is finished. Also, if I'm trying to draw a portrait (which I am only so-so good at), it's nice to be able to erase and try again if an eye or whatever isn't quite right. Nothing is worse than spending hours on a drawing when the end result doesn't look like the person I was trying to draw. One wrong angle, and you've haven't drawn Sue -- it's now Sue's imaginary sister!

I know digital illustration may not be considered "real", and I can see the point somewhat. I'm not regarding it as a replacement for real pencils and brushes, it's simply a different tool in the box. And in that one tool is a universe of tools -- it's like a Kindle for artists.

Using the tablet is drawing...there's a tool in my hand that I use to apply marks to a blank surface. I'm not simply applying effects to an image. However, even if I later decide to take it one step further and use the filters or color correction features on my completed drawing, my choices are unique to me (out of literally thousands of options). If someone else used the same image as reference, their strokes and color choices wouldn't end up at the same final point as mine -- just like with real pastels, pencils, brushes, or whatever.

What do you think?

The tablet offers useful capabilities over physical utensils that I appreciate. Photoshop's layers allow me to test out if I want to add line work on top of a pastel-style image without messing up the work done so far. The various wet brush tools will allow me to create a watercolor-look without requiring me to invest in another expensive hobby (different paints, brushes, and paper than I already own.) And I don't have to frame the completed pieces so they don't get ruined (as with a pastel painting)!

Now look at this or this or's the talent, not the utensil, that makes the art. Whatever the tool, I still need more talent!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

New Paint in the Bathroom

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, My parents have the best kids. (Or in this case, kid. Joe gets no credit for this one.) I painted the downstairs bathroom for my mom yesterday.
(Ignore the weird ceiling line due to bad photo compositing.)

The existing state was a previous paint job I did for her...pale warm gray on the bottom half with the same colored vertical stripes above a mid-horizontal border of white. The stripes were done with a small roller and I kept the raggedy edges for a casual hand-drawn look.

Recently they got a new black vanity in the bathroom and we wanted to freshen up the look. We chose a medium charcoal gray (True Value's "Undeniable" #36D5).

After I painted the medicine cabinet and the bottom wall in the dark gray, the top portion seemed to be crying out for a touch of the dark as well. I did a free-hand vertical line in the center of each pale gray stripe, varying the pressure on the brush to create a thin-thick rough-edged effect.

I added a horizontal wiggly line across the bottom of the top stripes to it all together. At that point the hard edge of the charcoal gray against the white border seemed too harsh. I tried to use the hand-drawn technique on the edge of the gray, but that just looked messy. I finally decided to make a wiggly line in the paler gray to soften the break between the gray and white and that was the perfect final touch.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tutorial: Easy Method to Make Faux Rice Paper Effect

Start with a pale color -- I mixed pearl with gold. Roll out a sheet on the thickest setting.

Hold an unconditioned block of clay above the sheet.
Quickly flick your blade down the vertical side of the block to chip little shavings onto the sheet.

Add one or two more colors. Turn the block as you flick to randomize the direction of the chips.
Run the sheet through the pasta machine to press the chips into the sheet.

Apply the sheet to a log of clay (a sheet rolled into a log).
You can use a solid color or scrap. It won't show so it doesn't matter what you use.
Cut the log into equal pieces.
Pinch the ends together slowly to merge the sides together and hide the center core.
Roll the beads to smooth the ends in and make it round.

Make some more shavings and pick up a few slices to cover any of the core that might be showing or
to fill in empty spaces.

Roll again to smooth the surface. Use an awl to create a hole. Bake, sand, and you're finished.
Other options...Here's an example of black with pearl and gold. Instead of using a sheet to cover the bead core, in this case I started with a solid black core, cut it into equal parts, and rolled them into round beads.
I rolled the black beads through shavings spread out on my work surface.
You could opt to roll the shavings completely smooth or leave them as shown above for more texture.
You could also use a pearl base covered with white and gold flecks for a more traditional rice paper look.
Examples of faux rice paper patterns

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Microsoft Outlook + Dropbox = Self-Serve Information Dispenser...and a few polymer pics

First, a few new clay pictures, since that’s why you come here! But then I’ll describe a system I set up at work that is going to prevent hours of irritation for me! It’s a magical self-serve system using Microsoft Outlook and Dropbox. If you have to answer the same questions day after day, and email jpgs, PowerPoints, and other documents frequently, you will find this useful.*
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  
I made this Purple and Pink flower brooch a few weeks ago. I like the shape and the design; what I don't like is the lack of shimmer. I forgot to add a little metallic pearl or gold in the mix for shimmer. Oh well, next time.

The Magical Answer Dispenser -- how it works:
At work, I am frequently asked for the same information by my co-workers and any number of our 7,000 employees. My first solution* for responding to these frequently asked questions was to create an answer to each one as a separate signature file in Outlook. You can set up as many as you wish and they can contain text, images, tables, or links – they’re very versatile. When a question landed in my inbox, I clicked reply, then inserted the appropriate signature, and sent it off.
Sometimes, however, the requestor might need a PDF file or JPG. An attachment can’t be part of an Outlook signature so I still had to browse for the file, attach, and email the file to them. To end this poor use of my time, I got the idea to store the files in my Dropbox public folder where they could be easily accessible by anyone with a link.

Next, I created an Outlook signature consisting of a simple menu list of links, each of which links back to an item in the Dropbox folder. The "sharing link" provided in the menu allows a user to open the file or download it, but they cannot edit my original or accidentally delete it.

Now I send out one email at regular intervals to key contacts so it's always handy. And when I get one-off questions from other people, it's very easy to insert my "Marketing Menu" signature and mail it off.
This new system will eliminate a ton of repetitious, non-productive activity that took too many 10-minute chunks out of my day, every day. Updates to the files are easy and as long as I keep the file name the same, I don’t even have to edit the menu. It’s extremely simple, but I really think it’s going to prove invaluable. I used it several times the first day I set it up!
(*The true first solution is our company intranet but it’s behind the firewall so it's very difficult to reach for those outside of headquarters. It's also cumbersome to upload, search and download. Not user-friendly at all!) 


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