A Planter Box!

Making stuff is our motto, but the focus of our blog isn’t always that direction. Sarah has taken our motto to heart more so than me thus far, with her many artistic projects.  Well, this time I made something, and it turned out awesome! I built a very nice planter box, and I thought I’d share my tips for anyone wanting to make a nice back yard fixture that will last for years to come. This is not your standard fence board box with piddly planters sitting inside it. No this is a flush to the ground 6 foot square beast, 20 inches deep, made from true cedar 2×10 boards, not those puny 1.5 x 9.5 scraps they pass off for 2×10’s.


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I purchased the 2×10’s from a local lumber place, these are pretty rough wood but they are straight and have no splits.  And most importantly for outdoor use, they’re thick, heavy, and cedar.  These were available in numerous lengths, lucky for me 6 feet long was an option. This saved me some heavy lifting and potential waste if I needed to cut them.

I set out my square on the level pavement in my garage, and secured the boards with 2.5 inch outdoor screws.  I used a counter-sink for each screw hole, and drilled a pilot hole deeper as I was screwing into the end of the boards.  After the holes that I sank the screws into, there was at least an inch of each screw secured deep into the end of the next board.  I secured each corner with 3 of these screws.  After I had the first tier put together and knew everything fit nice and securely, I moved it into the backyard and set it out on my prepared square.

After placing the first layer on the ground, I prepared the first layer frame to place the second layer on. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to move this after both layers were connected, so the rest of the work I completed in the planter box’s final resting place. To prepare this, I attached 1×2 and 1×3 cedar boards to the outside, spaced evenly with 2 boards attached to each side.

This made the second layer exceptionally easy to attach and line up, as pictured above. When attaching the second layer 2x10s to each other, I made a point to offset the attachments to be opposite of the bottom layer.  With these 2 layers firmly attached, the resistance pushing against these boards is both shearing and pulling on the screws. If these were not offset, then the wood would eventually weaken, and the screws would loosen. I’ve pictured one of the corners below, to better illustrate how these were connected.

After attaching the second layer of 2x10s to the framing 1×2 & 1x3s, I added another layer of those supporting boards to the inside of the box. This further secured the 2 layers to each other, adding strength to the entire construction.

Once the 2 layers were solidly connected, I started to fill the box. Lucky for me I have piles of rocky dirt on the other side of my property that I’ve been dying to get rid of. Using my trusty wheel-barrow I filled the box roughly halfway with this rocky fill. Having the gravely layer in the box will help to provide good drainage. I placed larger rocks against the sides from the inside, as the box isn’t actually staked or attached to the ground I wanted to give it a bit of an anchor while filling it. I concentrated the rocks that I used to fill the box against the outside walls, to try to discourage roots from heading towards the wood.

After filling to the desired level with gravel, then soil, I cut and attached deck boards to make a nice bench around the outside edge.  To do this, I set my trusty buzz saw to 45 degrees, and measured 3 times.  When I was complete, the boards fit just right, and made for an attractive and secure top edge.  This also has the added benefit of protecting the less treated wood underneath from water soaking directly through the board edge.

Sarah did the finishing touches with some waterproof/lightproof ink to decorate the benches with assorted flowers and fruits, set on a variety of beautiful vines.

20160508_171307 20160508_171256 20160508_164531 20160508_164516 20160508_164510

We’ve already transplanted blueberries and strawberries, however our back yard friends have made it difficult to keep seeds in the ground. Squirrels are cute, and fun to feed, but they are not friendly to dirt, seeds, and young tasty plants.

The making of a mascot – Part 1

So, you have probably realized at this point that our last name is Drake.  What a cool last name, huh?

Naturally if we’re going to have a mascot, it’s going to be a dragon. I suppose that some Drakes might go for a duck, but not these Drakes.

I started with the little dragon that goes with the D in the logo that I made.  And then eventually I wanted to get back to working on developing him more. I hadn’t come back to it, and then I heard of the #100dayproject. It’s a fun artist thing where you pick a theme and do that thing for 100 days. I decided that I would do #100daysofdragons. They haven’t all been along the lines of this mascot, but I’ve done quite a few that I am happy with.  I thought I would share them here, with the occasional comment thrown in.

These were my first 3.  The big guy there became my starting point for our mascot.


This guys was done in watercolor pencil without an under-sketch.

He’s kind of funky but it was something new to try.




I did an entire post about my Rock Dragon-saurus.  The initial drawing and the painting I let count for 2 days.

Fun stuff :).dragon9-100

This guy was supposed to look more sea-dragon like, but I forgot a couple of details I had penciled in.  My mom loved it enough to swipe it.









I feel like I called it in most on these.  They were super quick unfinished sketches.


This is one I did from the contents of my Sketchbox for the month.  I started with a purple shape and went from there, so I am quite happy with him.

A couple more freehand images.


I drew a really rough sketch for him, and then filled it in with some new Sharpies that I got.  I’d never made art with Sharpies before.


Some more sketches. I should ink the sleeping dragon.


A fun Mother’s Day poster 🙂

I decided to do some illuminated letters.  The blue didn’t stand out against the black all that well.


I did a bunch of stuff with my Bombay Inks on this day, so I did a big flame and a little dragon.  The colors didn’t bleed the way I thought they would.dragon23-100

I was inspired by my tea for this one. I love his little face.dragon24-100

Trying to explore another angle.  I don’t quite have the full anatomy of this guy figured out yet.





I did this guy after I spend some time painting some watercolor roses. Rawr.




I LOVE this guy.  I couldn’t help but add the color to him, but I loved him just as much only in ink. He’s like the mascot dragon, but older. I eventually want drawing this guy however I want to be second nature.  That’s going to take a lot of dragon drawing :).

I really love this style.  The watercolor sat weird on my Moleskine watercolor book though.  I’ve never seen paper absorb watercolor in quite that way.dragon28-100

The kids were at swim lessons when I dreamed this guy up.  It’s rather difficult to draw a dragon doing a cannonball.








Funky shaped head there…

These are a couple of freehand watercolor experiments. The orange one was on that funky Moleskine paper again.  Not every page in the book does that thing, but it’s irritating.  Probably I won’t buy another one of their watercolor books. The green dragon was done with a shiny

Isabelle gave me the idea for the dragon in the tree. The other was me trying to draw a Chinese style dragon that could live in the other dragon’s world.

I’ve learned that I don’t really like the anatomy of dragons.  Not if I am trying to draw anything “realistic”.  I like my little cross between a balloon animal and a stuffy. It has been interesting to study different types of dragons. I’m going to have another go at my seahorse dragon, because I think it could be cooler.

So that’s a third the way through my 100 days project of drawing dragons. I will compile another post when I’ve done the next 33. You can watch me on Instagram to watch in real time throughout the project.


When I was young, probably too young for such aspirations, I wanted to grow up and write software. I still want to write software, and it turns out that’s what I do for a living. I have trouble wanting to write “apps” though. Somehow they’re just too “hip to the scene”. Something just inherently seems less professional about calling software an app. App is just short for application, which I think is even nerdier sounding than “software.” But alas, that word fell victim to what I will henceforth call “English rot” – vowels, syllables, whole words are rotting away until only a handful of consonants and maybe a few numerals will remain.

It’s weird having lived through both sides of computing skills being necessary and socially embraced. When I was young you were a nerd for being able to use a pc, now it seems to be going full circle. Tablets and smartphones are not computers, they are appliances that have computers in them. The computer portion of these devices is buried beneath the glossy touchscreens and one-size-fits-all user interfaces. Sure you can change your backgrounds and colors, but what makes a computer a computer is the freedom to control it however you like. A computer is a canvas that you can paint however you want. These appliances are pre-painted canvases and changing the paint voids your warranty.

As usual I’m rambling like an old man. I’m not afraid of change, I swear!

I’ve put together a few little applications I’m not sure I want to call them apps.  They’re not on phones, so that makes them not apps, right? In case you’re curious, you can feel free to grab a copy of what I’ve made and put out there so far: ColorCoder and Passworder. I’ve got a few concepts in the work that will probably make their way to phones and tablets, computers are obviously on the verge of extinction for the 10th year in a row now. Seriously though, focusing on any one platform today is just not a good idea for future movement.

Making desktop software is what I enjoy creating. I know the medium isn’t the biggest growing market. But there’s functionality capable and expected on desktop and laptop computers that thus far has not been replicated well on tablets or phones. I’m no rocket surgeon, but I’d bet that the vast majority of phone apps are written using real computers. If there’s anyone out there that’s looking for a custom solution for desktop software, business or personal, feel free to send us a message to see if we’re a good fit.

I do have a few more little utilities that I’m planning to shore up soon to share with the world. You can expect a few more freebies in the future, and for everything we’re planning so far there’ll at the very least be a free (and ad-free) version. These are mainly tools that’ll help developers more than anyone else, but I make what I need, and it turns out I’m a developer 🙂

The worst that can happen is nothing

If you’re anything like me, your list of projects is endless. The ones you want to do. The ones you have supplies for but haven’t started. The ones you have started but haven’t finished, and maybe won’t.  Then there’s ones you do finish.

Two Christmas’ ago I got patterns and enough fabric to make 2 skirts and a shawl.  I kept saying “I need to make my skirts.” Finally I tell Husband I am afraid to screw them up because I haven’t done much sewing and he says “the worst thing that can happen to that fabric is nothing.” I think I had the fabric cut and pinned  for 1 skirt 2 days later. I got it finished and it’s not perfect, but it has been a nice addition to my pile of skirts.  I still need to finish the other one, but it’s not so much fear that has that lower down on my to do list.

The hardest for me are the ones I get really excited about in the beginning, and then my motivation for them just gets stuck somewhere. I haven’t quite learned how to press forward and make a specific piece of art even though I feel uninspired. That’s kind of a problem.  I’m currently behind on a calendar project that is like this. I’ve convinced myself it won’t probably go anywhere, so I haven’t been able to get motivated to do the next month’s image.  I had a plan to do them all as kind of a rough draft, but I still haven’t pushed forward.  My Honey Bee Stakes image is part of that project. That’s a struggle that I have for personal projects.


There’s also not working on something because it’s a “waste of time.” I struggle with this one a lot.  It has been hard to convince myself that doing art is not wasting time. I Probably have trouble with this one because when I was a teenager procrastinating was done by drawing, and therefore drawing was wasting time. Husband has been helping me with this one a lot lately.  It’s always easy to find something that is more urgent to do than art.  At least, almost always.

I have quite a few unfinished projects around the house.  Not as many that have not been started though, these days.  When I find that I am hesitating because I am afraid to screw it up, I remember what Husband said about that being better than nothing :).

A few words from Mike:  It’s so easy to say something clever like that! Not so easy to live it. The anxiety that surrounds the fear of failure is the worse enemy of success. Being too afraid to start, only ensures the very failure that’s so scary. So many projects, plans, ideas end up dying before they can ever come to fruition just because someone was afraid to “mess it up.”  In the world of technology, waiting all but ensures that someone else out there is going to have the same idea you had. I’ve started countless projects in my youth, that died with the change of the world. It’s hard to find motivation to finish a game for DOS. 🙂

App Crap

matchthethingsNot so long ago phones were not so smart, and tablets were from star trek. Then a social technological revolution happened. You’d have a hard time finding a phone today that was not a smart phone, bundled with one flavor or another of a walled app selection. With each of the platforms advertising heavily the number of apps available, as we all know the apps make the phone.

The word “free” has all but lost meaning. There’s a lot of variety of what they call free today, very little of it is not for profit. If someone has made money from giving you something for “free”, it just somehow seems less than free. I’m not rallying against companies turning a profit. I’m no moral crusader that’s boycotting apps, I use lots of free apps and services. My issues lie mostly with the sheer quantity of the apps being pushed out there, most of them are labeled as free, and most of them are garbage.

I’m not picking on any specific app stores or brands, every one I’ve used has the same issue. In the rush to beat the competition, the number of apps available was a pivotal marketing point for app stores. Who cares if piles of apps are just non-functional, duplicitous, plagiarized, pay-to-win, or just plain crap. It’s all about the number of apps. This deluge has all but ruined the experience for me. I once looked upon my smartphone screen with wonder and curiosity, and now I look at my smart phone when I need to know what time it is.

RPGcardI scroll these markets far more often than I actually download or purchase anything. Not so long back, the “New” section of the store would actually seem to change. Sure the titles change now, but to me it just seems like the same things over and over again, with very little originality floating to the surface. I want to find something, some treasure that I might have overlooked, but I’ve done the download-and-try dance so many times now, it just doesn’t seem to be worth the effort.

Figuring out what the catch is from the store page isn’t always so easy either.  Do I need DLC? Is it possible to actually win? If so, how much real world money will it take? If I can win a game for free but it will take 1000 years, I’m not sure that actually counts as being able to “win for free.” The popular mantra seems to be to monetize in as many directions as possible.  Apps today that cost money still often contain ads, have additional DLC content to buy, and have special in-app items or features to buy.  And of course there’s the matter of your privacy, which is seldom not profitable in some form or another.

I’m sure I’ll be making and publishing an app or two in the future, so it’s somewhat disheartening to watch how things are going. Even if I make a glorious gem of an app, with novel functionality and use, that is the best app ever…  I’d still need to throw it into the pile of crap and pray that someone will see a glint of it’s shiny.  I still try to look for those that other people have made, but it’s getting harder and harder as the pile grows.

Maybe I should just get a dumb phone, lol.

Rock Dragon-saurus

So, I’ve been taking a number of classes on Skillshare recently.  Because of the connections I made there, I learned of something called #the100daysproject.  The idea is to do something, whatever it is, for 100 days and post it on Instagram (or not, but it’s supposed to be a social project). We’re wanting to explore our little mascot dragon some more, so I decided to do #100daysofdragons.  I’ve got 6 dragons under my belt after today’s rendition.

I drew this guy yesterday, and I am painting him today.  It’s not technically a new dragon today, I suppose, but I am spending a goodly amount of time on this guy for both days, so I have decided it counts.  So there.20160423_212121

My inspiration for this creation is fun.  Firstly there are my watercolors.  I got a set of QOR Earth watercolors which are really beautiful and I haven’t really used them for a project yet.  My husband has been finding really pretty rocks in our backyard, and they are all basically made of colors that came in that set.  So I have been wanting to figure out how to paint some rock patterns.  Additionally, when I was looking at dragon inspiration, my husband plopped down in front of me my daughter’s stuffed stegosaurus.

She wanted a dinosaur stuffy for her birthday last year.
The beauties that Husband collected for me.







Thus the rock dragon saurus was born.

I began with the the plates on his back, trying to make each one look like a pretty individual rock.

Doing the belly was interesting.  The stripy effect on the under part of the neck happened on it’s own.  I laid down some naples yellow, and dotted in some indigo and sap green.  It decided to stripe up while it dried, it seems.  I thought it was pretty cool.  I now have a mission on my list to figure out how exactly to make that happen on purpose, heh.

I used the wet on wet technique for most of this project. I get more even washes that way.  I’m discovering that maybe I don’t use enough water when I paint, and that may be why my washes aren’t as even as I want them to be.  Practice practice practice.


I like the nubby bits at the tips of his wings.  It seems like a rock dragon would have something like that, rather than spikes or spines.  I did 4 layers of color on the wings.  The first was a light grey that I made and then I dotted in some of all of the component colors I used for the gray.  You can see the speckling through the red for a neat effect.  The venetian red is a color I am seeing in a lot of my husband’s rocks.  There are so many pretty colors in rocks.  I did a light wash of the venetian red, followed by a darker wash for the shadowy areas.  I also dropped just a tiny bit of prussian blue into the shadows.

I have 3 yellows, 3 greens, 3 blues, 3 reds, and 4 browns.  When I do my upcoming post on the magnetic travel watercolor palettes that I am building, I’ll talk a bit about how far I went to not have to give up any of them (and have room for more colors later).

So cute.

I do want to work toward being able to finish a painting without inking it.  My edges just aren’t smooth enough without it, and I haven’t defined the details enough.  There is some nice contrast between the different parts of the wings though.


Inking is when I feel like it all comes together.

Playing with watercolor crayons

It’s been a hectic week at Team Drake headquarters.  Work is crazy, plus parent/teacher conferences and 2 days of no school for my kindergartener.  I will take this opportunity to brag on her for reading at a 2nd grade level :). My kids are amazing.

I got to take some time today to play with my watercolor crayons and practice some different techniques with them. I have a 12 set of Staedtler Karat Aquarell Premium Watercolor Crayons

watercolorcrayons1They pretty much lay down like regular crayons, especially on textured paper.

On the left I laid down some red, and on the right is red and cobalt blue. On their own, the colors layer, but don’t blend.

watercolorcrayons2If you lay down the color lightly, it’s easier to mix the pigment with the water, meaning you don’t see the crayon marks.  Having spots where the crayon marks show up more in some places than others is a fun way to get texture into a drawing. If you don’t want the texture and you want bright color, you probably want to do something other than put the crayon straight to the paper.

watercolorcrayons3Here I put down some red on half of the block on the left side, and then went over it with water.  Only a couple of layers makes a much bolder color.  On the other side I put a layer of cobalt blue on top of a dried glaze of the red.  I went over half with water.  Even layered the colors blend really well.


On the left of my 2 boxes here, I got my brush wet and pulled the color from the crayons to lay it down on the paper.  You would not want to do a large area this way, but it’s a good trick for small details.  On the right side of each box, I did a water wash before putting the color down.  I’ve used the lid of my crayon tin as a palette before to mix colors, or to get a bit more paint for a wash before.  It works pretty nicely.


I’ve also dipped the crayons directly in the water.  This gives you a really bold color, but the wet doesn’t sink down very far, so if you’re doing this be prepared to dip your crayon a lot.  Another fun effect is to do a water wash on the paper, and then draw on the wet paper. If you’re layering color, use the lighter color as the 2nd color, and you can use it to mix your pigments a bit.  It makes for a nice splotchy effect.


Here I put down a dark line of color and pulled it out with my wet brush.  You can get quite a lot of color to move, but as I said before, it will leave a mark behind.  If you scrub the paper too hard with your paintbrush to try to get it to blend, you’lwatercolorcrayontreel start to muck up your paper.  Not that I would know anything about that.  Ever.

And just for fun, I pulled out my greens, blues, and sienna and made a cute little tree.  The eyes were Husband’s idea.  I think they are a nice touch.

If you like watercolor, you should also check these out.  There are ways to use them just like other watercolors, and ways to use them that are unique to the medium.  Have fun!