#Artober 2: Hydrangea!

I’ve wanted to paint a hydrangea for a while now, but they intimidated me because I had no idea how to paint so many tiny flowers to make up the whole. I spent most of yesterday resting after the first Revel weekend on my sofa with the dogs, watching art tutorials on Youtube, and I saw this one by Shibasaki (everyone’s lovely Japanese grandpa) and decided that I just might finally be able to pull off a hydrangea.

I’ll let you judge my success for yourself, but I’m happy with it. It’s 4×6 watercolor on 140 lb paper. The trick appears to be to use a palette knife to scratch the surface of the paper and remove paint for the highlights. I want to try again because it seems like I had to damage the paper excessively to get the paint off. It probably had something to do with the fact that I used a pre-cut Strathmore watercolor postcard instead of my usual Arches.

Two days down, twenty-nine to go! That’s actually a lot…

It’s #Artober 1!

Yeah, it’s technically Inktober 1, but as I’m not particularly a fan of ink (or drawing), I try to create one piece of art every day in the medium of my choice. We’ll see how it goes, as this is terrible timing: the Red River Revel started last Saturday and goes through next Sunday, so I’m super duper busy and exhausted when I’m not working. I’ll write a post about that soon.

Here’s my painting for today. 4×6 acrylic gouache on 140 lb watercolor paper. It’s loosely based on this photo I took a couple of weeks ago:

I’m okay with it. I’m trying to stay realistic by keeping my sessions under an hour. This one took about 45 minutes.

Wish me luck!

And now for something completely different

I made this glorious little machine at work today. It’s an arduino with a game shield and a speaker attached, and it plays ocarina songs from one of the best games ever, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but only if you remember the right buttons to push. (Here’s a list of right buttons to push.) I made this quick video after I finished it.

It was super easy. I just ordered the parts and followed this excellent tutorial on one of my favorite techie sites, Hackster.io. I did have to learn how to install libraries on the Arduino IDE so they’ll download to the arduino along with the program. That was easy, too, with the help of a board on another one of my favorite sites, Stack Exchange.

There are a couple issues I need to look into. One is that after a few seconds of music, the speaker seems to spaz out. That, and it’s super hard to hit the buttons perfectly enough for the arduino to decide to play the music in the first place. I’m not sure how to fix the speaker, but a thorough look for the code will probably help me solve the second problem.

If you want to see this thing in action, you have a few opportunities coming up: I’ll be at the library table at the Shreveport Bossier-Mini Maker Faire on September 22, Digifest at the Bossier Civic Center on September 26-27, and I’ll be doing a series of programs at various branches called Microcontroller Mania soon. Those dates are TBA, so keep an eye on the library’s calendar for those.

I have lots of other stuff in my office waiting to be put together, too…

I don’t like it either

I’m calling this one done. Abandoned might be a better term.


Aside from the sky, which I really like, there’s so much I don’t like about this one that it’ll end up stacked against a few others on the floor of my library until it’s eventually thrown away. Here’s a photo from the end of my first session with this one:


I was more hopeful at that point. I really like that, even an hour or two after I paint a section, I can just wipe it off if it doesn’t look right. Hence the light brown next to the planted field. I’d made it far too wide.

My main issues are the trees and field. With all the paint I added, the trees are an opaque mess. The field has the opposite problem, and you can see the gesso underneath. I just got frustrated and wasn’t having fun messing with it anymore.

But I learned something! Part of the reason I think the cloud worked out so well was that I had an acrylic underpainting underneath. Here, it’s just white gesso. If I had used that technique here, I think I’d be much happier with the result. I’ll definitely be making that underpainting next time.

Another problem could be that my oil paints are student grade Soho. I know from experience with acrylics and watercolor that there’s a huge difference between student and artist grade paints, so maybe I was wrong to try student grade first. I’m seriously considering ordering a set of Gamblin and seeing if I like those better. I’m pretty sure I would.

Hello (again) World!

Sooo I’m finally back. You might remember my old, long-running book blog. I’ve finally tossed it out. (Not really. It’s archived. I might post that archive somewhere at some point, but for now, it’s essentially gone.) I stopped blogging a few years ago because it started to feel like a job: I was in a hurry to finish books so I could review them, and I got tired of that cycle. So I took a roughly 3-year break with a few posts on and off.

No, the book blog isn’t back. Sure, I might talk about books from time to time, but my new focus is more generally Stuff I Like to Do. It’ll mostly include art and tech and, of course, dog photos. Part of my reasoning is that I have a new job where I basically get to go to work and practice my hobbies, then teach other people how to do them.

I’m the Programming Specialist for a 21-branch library system. Until May, I had a super boring back office records job, but now I get to have more fun, and I have more time to explore my interests. I hope you’ll enjoy sharing those interests with me.

One of said interests is new, and it’s oil painting. I’ve been painting in general for about a year (my first time was at a library program!), but I just picked up oils for the first time this past weekend. They’re sooooo different from anything I’ve tried before (if you’re wondering: acrylic, watercolor, and gouache), and they’re a big challenge. Here’s my first oil painting, based on a Youtube tutorial by Robin Sealark:


I am soooooooo happy with how it turned out. I fell in love with oils immediately. They blend beautifully! One thing I’m having to adjust to, though, is that I can’t seem to get the level of detail I can get with any of those other mediums, which is driving me crazy. It seems like oil paint brushes are plain ol’ bigger, and the paint tends to goop up on them. I have some linseed oil to thin it, but I don’t want to use too much because I started out with cheapish (Soho) paints to see if this iteration of my art hobby sticks. Here’s a photo of the painting in action, including the ton of brushes required:


That’s another thing I’m having to adjust to: with acrylics, you have to be careful to clean each brush as you stop using it so the paint doesn’t dry on it and ruin it. With oil paint, you have several brushes going at once – and I’m quickly finding that I don’t have enough! I’ll be ordering a bunch more soon.

I’ll call that it for the first post on my refreshed blog. I have some others planned that have nothing to do with art (and everything to do with art), so stay tuned.