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.

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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 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. 🙂

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.

Finding Direction

It’s a big crazy world.  The more experience in the world that I have, the bigger and stranger the world gets.  We live in an age of technological magic where the lines between science-fiction and reality are mostly just a matter of time.  One thousand years ago the human world was much simpler.  It wasn’t a very fun time to live, by our modern day measures of fun.  Children of the distant past were not burdened with silly day to day choices like “What do I want to be when I grow up?”  That was an easy one, “I want to live that long.”

Identity crisis is a sign of the times.  The huge number of possibilities that people can chase for life fulfillment is staggering.  Each and every year new occupations and hobbies are created or reinvented, new paths on the trail of life that already seems to have infinite paths.  It seems rare that someone actually knows what they want to do, what would fulfill them. Our modern lives are becoming a hunt for that one path, that one that is best suited to our skills, interests, and desires. What signs people are looking for on these paths differ greatly, but we all really want the same thing.  We all want to be on the path that makes us happier to walk down.  Limited by our short-sighted human wiring, not many people can really see more than a few years down a path, and even what we can see before we start on the path is not the same as feeling the path under your feet.

Most people don’t just try one path in life. They start a few paths and take a few turns, and often end up back where they started, with the wisdom and experience they collected walking in their circle.  A mile walked should never be thought of as a mile wasted.  We are the sum of our experiences. Each day we are forging ourselves, or allowing ourselves to be forged, into the person we will be tomorrow.  Ultimately it is up to us to weigh our experiences and glean what we can from our failures and successes.  The golden path that promises easy riches is probably a trap. People that don’t see that the first time, will usually recognize it the second time, but dang if it doesn’t look shiny still.

I often marvel at the amazing things that technology has given us.  Humanity has created a second world, a digital world. Children of today are growing up in two worlds, and inherently accept the digital world as just as real as the real physical world.  In many ways, it is just as real as the real world, and is becoming increasingly indistinguishable. People have “friends” they’ve never actually met and “followers” that live on the other side of the world.  People seldom have a firm grasp on who they are themselves and the confusion of multiple identities only compounds this.  This whole new world is full of brand new paths that are ever changing, and you need a digital identity to walk those paths.

Finding direction is the most important part of doing anything. Without direction, you’re left to be carried down whatever path the wind blows you down.  Direction sounds easy, just pick a path that you want to walk before one is picked for you.  It’s so easy, just look as far as you can see down these infinity paths and choose the one with the cheese at the end, but hurry up the timer is ticking. The paths people take tend to be following someone they trust or admire, watching the back of their mentor and not seeing the path ahead of them. Some team up to walk a path together side by side sharing the difficulties and rewards, good company can make a difficult trail seem easy.  Some stomp forward with enough determination that it destroys any obstacles in their path. Most of us don’t have that super power, but the path behind those people can seem pretty clear.  The best of us forge a path and plant flowers in our wake, making the path more pleasant for those that follow.

Obviously none of this applies to me as I have everything figured out and am walking the gem encrusted trail of happy warm times, with unicorns prancing by my sides, the sun on my face, and the wind at my back.

The Beginning Artist

I’m really enjoying the journaly feeling of blogging.  I’ve never really been good at keeping a journal, but I will crank out a few pages when I need to.  I want to continue to share these feelings with the world of people who find me interesting, because I find these things from other people helpful.  I usually walk away with a feeling a belonging, because of something I resonated with, or I get a new perspective I hadn’t considered before.  So, thank you for being here, and feel free to comment if anything here speaks to you!

I used to think I was an aspiring artist.  I don’t know what I thought the line was for whether or not one was a “real” artist.  I’m certainly aspiring to be a professional artist, but I’m definitely an artist.

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So fancy.

A chef is a person who went to culinary school.  You can be a darn fine cook without having gone to school (talking to you, husband.) But without the education, you don’t get the title.  Artist doesn’t work that way. It’s more of a who you are thing than a line you cross with education.  An artist can’t not art.  If they don’t do it actively, the people around them will still see their creativity in everything else they do. And in my case, I see it looking back now.

20131012_013209For about 5 years I didn’t draw anything. Not even doodling in my margins on work notes. I can’t say much about why other than to say I filled my time with other things. I created 2 children within that time, but I’d quit drawing before my oldest was born.  The most artistic things I did in this time were custom birthday cakes for the kids in my life.  There were a lot of artistic challenges in some of those cakes.  My mom used to do them, but I sort of took over one year in my zeal to be helpful.

My husband got to tinkering in his garage and making little electronic gadgets.  Laser lights and LED lights.  He made a really awesome wand, too.  One night while I was hanging out with him while he was tinkering, I thought to grab a sketchbook.  I don’t remember what I drew.  That summer I drew a really sweet sketch of my daughter, and the car, and a tree, and just a bunch of random stuff.  Between summer and winter I filled a couple of sketchbooks and was on a roll. I got a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 for Christmas, and did a goodly handful of digital drawings. Before my break, I did sketching, but my final pieces were all digital.

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So cool.

Then I pulled out my colored pencils for something.  Don’t remember what.  They are Prismacolor pencils, and I had so badly given up on art that I’d been letting my children use them.  I must have really enjoyed whatever I colored, because I went nuts going back to traditional media.  So much so, that I have done only one digital art piece in the last year.  If I got that assignment now, I’d probably use watercolor :).  In fact, Husband told me last night that I should redo that one in watercolor because it would awesome.  I got an Artsnacks subscription for my birthday last year, and it has been AWESOME.  A few art supplies every month to tinker with, and then a challenge to do a piece with just what’s in the box each month.  Some of my challenges were rather uninspired, but I really enjoyed some of the other ones I did.  And lots of the supplies have been adopted into my stash of usual suspects.

I love this thing!

It must have been around February of last year that I pulled out a student travel watercolor set that my mother in law gave me.  I pulled it out after I painted a rainbow with my daughter and her Crayola watercolors. Watercolor is a great fast way to add some color to a sketch to make it just a little more.  I’ve since pretty much gone nuts with watercolor.  It helped that I won a drawing  from The Artist’s Network to get a huge pile of watercolor things, including a travel watercolor palette, and a great big porcelain Stephen Quiller palette.

It was also in February that someone said something to me that sank in really deep, and I didn’t realize until now, over a year later.  I was coloring with my niece (who was 7), and she was dictating where I would color, and
what color it would be.  She handed me a blue crayon, and I also grabbed a slightly darker crayon.  She gave me a look, and then said “You’re an artist, so I’ll trust you.” I had wanted to add shadow to 20160217_184259the area I was coloring, and she loved it when I was done, and did her section similarly.

“You’re an artist, so I’ll trust you.” I realized today (today being the day I’m working on the first draft of this post) that she is the first person who called me “artist” that I actually believed.  My neighbor had called me that earlier in the same month and I shrugged it off with an “I’m trying.” Trying is all it takes to be an artist.

And I AM an artist.  When I was a kid, I was a beginning artist, not an aspiring artist.  Now I’m probably square in the grey middle of Intermediate.  I thought I had quit, but now I understand better that there are seasons in life, and even an artist has seasons where they might not art much.  But it’s still there, and you might find it in a funny place. Just do yourself a huge favor and don’t deny it when it comes to visit again.

Where to begin…

So there I was, planting apple seeds throughout the frontier, and out of nowhere comes this funny guy named John Jacob Jingle-Heimer Schmidt.  He’s going around singing his name like some kind of idiot, so I seized the opportunity to copyright his song, just so I could collect the royalties from him.


Seeing as how the song was only five seconds long, I could charge him quite often.  Then inspiration hit me, so I strolled down to the local tavern and listened carefully to the drunken renditions of different songs, and I realized that they were different enough to copyright without infringing on the original copyright.  So I go about copyright’n all of these slurred songs, and as it turns out, each drunk slurs a little bit differently. So here I am, tryin’ my hardest to write every possible drunken rendition of every song.  That’s when it hit me:  I need a huge blue ox. I can’t quite remember why it hit me; it might’ve been the booze.  I was trying to write drunken renditions after all.

That’s a big ox.

And so I find this huge ox, and I realize that I am easily no match for it.  This is when I turned around and began running. Luckily for me, a crowd of innocent bystanders meandered into the ox’s path. The next thing I know, the ox is lying on the ground whimpering like some kind of baby.  So I approached the mighty beast, only to realize the reason for the ox’s pain:  It had a farmer stuck in its hoof.  So I kindly help the poor ox out.  I took a 2×4 and pried the poor farmer loose (what was left of him, anyway) and the next thing you know, this ox is my best friend.




That’s when the $’s sprung up in my eyes:  I realized this ox could easily feed a whole town for a year.  “Now to find a town with a big enough gun to put this creature down with,” I thought to myself, “seein as ordinary bullets just bounced off of it.”.  Well after tryin a few dozen cannons to no avail, I realized I needed someone with tremendous strength, and not much brains, so I started auditioning.  I finally end up with this meat-head named Hercules, and when I say meat-head, I mean it. This guy didn’t even know which end of a tree you’re supposed to chop.  This kid kept telling these crazy tales about his dad being some kind of omnipotent being and whatnot, that’s when I pegged him as a loony, I convinced him that he had to help me slay this giant beast, in order to get a golden fleece, I couldn’t believe he fell for it.  Eventually I got the basic plan into his head, all he had to do, is chop the head off the big ox, this is when the trouble began.

I never really considered how much blood a huge ox like Babe (the pet name I’d given him) could hold, and well, the nearby towns didn’t much appreciate my lack of foresight, especially when the tsunami of blood was headed their way.  Quickly I blew a breath of frozen air at it, a trait passed down through the Frost family, and froze this giant wave of blood solid.


He was nice.

While, I’m not really a member of the Frost family, But Jack used to deliver the milk when I was a child, so I figured the ice breath sort of rubbed off on me.  Once again, my lack of foresight was my downfall.  Now, instead of demolishing the nearby towns, I ended up nearly encasing them in ice. The three survivors were very angry about this:  You know “you killed my family” this, and “you’ve ruined my life” that.  I ended up settling the score with ox meat.  Now, I had planned to sell this meat to the nearby towns, but since we were in the middle of a “population crisis”, they didn’t exactly have much interest, besides the original bribe, er, tribute.

So I convinced Hercules that we needed to bring the beast’s carcass to the nearest “populated” town to collect the fleece.  He kept trying to convince me that proof of its demise should be enough, but I kindly reminded him that he was an idiot.  Now this guy was a tough guy, but no matter how tough he was, there was no way to avoid half-dragging this giant, blue, headless ox.  This wouldn’t have been a problem, if the nearest town was within 50 miles.  Now lets pretend the ground is sand paper, and Babe’s headless corpse was a piece of balsa wood; yeah, it wasn’t pretty.  When we got to the nearest town, only about half of babe was left, and there was a huge red path behind us.  Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been a problem, but it seems this town had some odd organization protecting the endangered giant blue oxen, and seeing as how Babe was, well, the only giant blue ox, there was hell to pay.


Now normally in this situation, I’d high-tail it outta there, but seeing as how I was in the middle of town, and surrounded by angry citizens carrying torches and pitchforks, that didn’t seem like it’d work.  Now the second idea that came to me seemed a little more likely to work.  I decided to play blind, color blind that is.  I fell to my knees and covered my face in my hands, I hadn’t intended to use the waterworks, but the sharp rock I just slammed my knee down on changed my mind.  “I didn’t know he was blue!” I let out between sobs, “I thought he was an ordinary giant brown ox!” This seemed to take them aback for a moment:  Now all I had to do is convince them I was the victim.  This wasn’t as hard as you’d have thought.

So there I was surrounded by angry villagers that didn’t seem to be buying my “colorblind” excuse.  Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, the pygmy cannibals arrived. Sure, they couldn’t have been more than 3 ft tall at the best, but when a people eats human flesh, other people tend to fear them. I on the other hand, found this to be the perfect diversion:  Now was my chance to escape, or so I would have thought, if the entire town wasn’t surrounded by half-pint human-eaters

But, I remembered something about common enemies, and friends and stuff, so I realized, all I have to do is kill a few innocent people, and that should scare the little people away…  I quickly grabbed a pitchfork from the nearest civilian, who happened to be frozen with fear, then I stabbed him with it.  Hercules seemed to think that everyone was waiting to be saved by him or something, and rushed out into the middle of the pygmies’ group and started stomping like crazy. I pretty much ignored him from this point out, trying to make like I didn’t know him and such.  


Now, generally you’d expect people to attempt to defend themselves, especially when charging them with a pitchfork in your hands, these people must’ve been as dumb as rocks.  The biggest effort I saw of self-defense was one guy who yelled at me when I was charging him; everyone else just stood there with their backs turned to me, like they wanted to be killed or something.  Now, in the fray I spotted the leader of the pygmies.  He had a patch over one of his eyes, and one of his ears looks as though his wife gnawed it off. I assumed he was the leader, at least:  He was nearly 3ft 2in, so among them he was a giant.  And everyone knows that the one guy that you can tell apart from the rest of the crowd has to be the leader.

This is when my plan came to me:  All I have to do is take out this guy, and the rest of the pygmies will worship me as a god. Unfortunately, my pitchfork was a little too inbedded in my last victim, and it was not coming out. So I turned to “plan B.” Plan B was to trick him into killing himself, all I needed was a raw human heart, and I had no trouble finding one of those…  After I cleaned off my pocket knife, I began stomping my way through the pygmies towards their leader. Now, I probably could have just kept stomping and went right on by, but once I make a plan, I got to see the results of it.

pygmy_bossI stopped my stomping right in front of the leader of the pygmies, and as he opened his mouth to bite me, I stuffed the whole heart down his throat.  The whole crowd went silent and looked at me and the one-eyed, one-eared, pint-sized, purple, people-eater.  He grabbed at his throat for a few minutes as I stood there patiently waiting for him to keel over.  He kept giving me this weird look with his eye that intrigued me at the same time as it disgusted me.  Now, I was expecting the pygmies to bow down and grovel, or at the very least retreat, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Almost at the second he finally croaked, the entire horde of pygmies came rushing at me with their teeth bared.  It kinda looked like an ant hill after being stepped on, from my angle at least.  Now, one of my faults is my complete and utter lack of “correct” foresight, which you may have noticed; my other major fault is my bad habit of blaming others when I make a mistake.  The latter came in quite handy as I pointed at Hercules and yelled “He Made Me Do It!”   Now, I was unable to pull a fast one on the villagers, but these pygmies were something else, even though they all just witnessed me laughing at their leaders last moments of life, for some reason they actually believed me.

The horde turned around almost in one fluid motion and began charging directly at Hercules. I almost felt sorry for the guy, when I realized he was just a waste of good meat anyway, at least he could feed some pygmy children for a few days. A little too late I realized my folly, for Hercules was carrying my backpack, and in my backpack was my wallet…

So there I was, knee deep in pygmies, not a dime to my name….


Colored Pencil Blending Techniques

Welcome the Legion of Teddy Bears

I don’t mind admitting that quite some time ago I believed more in the supplies I bought than I believed in myself.  I also believed more in the supplies than the idea of techniques, I guess.  Techniques are actually something I’ve recently come to respect, and learn for all sorts of things.

Green blue, and blue green

Colored pencil was my thing in high school.  I didn’t have any supplies for digital coloring, and Copics were WAY out of my price range.  It’s a good thing, too, because I’d have killed those beautiful markers *cringe*.  I used layering back in the day, but it was more in the form of “smash a color into an area, and then smash a 2nd done to make a new color”.  Blending is not a word I would use here, LOL.  I remember coloring quite hard back in the day.

After high school I went more digital with  my coloring and quit ruining my colored pencils.  About a year or so ago, I dug them back up again and really learned to appreciate them!  I now have a few different kinds of colored pencils that I love for different reasons, which always seems to be the way of art supplies.

I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite colored pencil techniques.  Many of these can be used on coloring books, though you’ll need to check the quality of your paper first for some of them!  There are a couple of specific products that I have linked in here to Amazon through their affiliates program.

Blending with Colors


toothy paper

The different techniques all have to do with blending, so we’ll start with the one that doesn’t require anything extra.   Blending just with your colored pencils :).  It’s really more like layering than blending.  Try to remember to use a light touch with your colored pencils.  If you need more/brighter color, color longer, not harder!  As far as blending effects go, it doesn’t much give you one, because you’re not smashing your pigment into the tooth of the paper.  This works better on smoother paper so that you have less area without color in it.  I should have remembered that when I did my first bear.



Blending with the Colorless Blender

My main colored pencils are my Prismacolors.  Prismacolor makes a colorless blending pencil that is pretty nifty.  I find that blending in any way other than the color layering mentioned above does something to make the color pop a bit.  It can also smush your color around to cover a large area, or maybe the strokes weren’t even when you initially laid own the color.  The core is waxy, and softer than a normal colored pencil.  They are sold for finishing your piece, which makes the colors pop and makes the drawing shiny/glossy.

So smooth and pretty when it’s done.

Blending with Paper

Blending stumps (or stomps, depending on who’s talking)  and tortillons are a fun way to mash around your pigments.  Basically that is what you are doing, smushing your pigments into each other, and into the tooth of the paper.  Blending this way seems to work best when you layer your colors, and then use the stump or the tortillon last, or almost last.  Each time you blend this way it works less well with the next layer of color.  The next color doesn’t lay on as well, in addition to not blending as well.

Blending with Solvents

I’ve tried a few different methods of solvent blending.  I experimented with these more before I got my colorless blender for Christmas, but I still go to them. I have used rubbing alcohol, baby oil, and mineral oil.  Fun fact for folks like me who don’t pay much attention: baby oil is scented mineral oil.

Blending with Mineral/Baby Oil

The back of my oil bear

To do this I get my colors down on the paper.  You can lay color on top of the oil, but you should do that on scrap paper first to see if it’s going to give you the texture and effect that you want. I did do that here with the shadows.  After I am done coloring the area I want to work on, I barely tap my blending stump into the mineral oil.  The blending effect is very quick and doesn’t require too much pressure.  I push a bit hard with this blending method.  I find the oil spreads farther this way and and I don’t need to use quite as much.  Using less is good, because the oil makes the paper greasy.

The bear below got pretty smudgy, but if I paint a background around her it won’t be a problem at all.

Blending with Rubbing Alcohol

Blending with Rubbing Alcohol is quite a bit different than the oil.  It evaporates away, which is always nice, no splotches.  I want to practice this more myself, because I’ve seen some folks do some very cool things with it.  In additional to blending the colors the way I’ve been doing, you can also put down just a bit of color in the shady areas of your picture, and pull it toward the lighter areas.  I will do a video of this at some point, because it’s a pretty neat subtle color effect.  Oh, and I use a cotton swab for this one.  I tried my blending stump but it didn’t work any better than the stump with no alcohol on it.

I think one of the most amazing things with all of these methods, is that I used the same pencils of all of the above bears.  There’s a pretty wide range of end results, considering that.

Bonus Bear: Watercolor Pencilswaterccolorbear

I mentioned multiple kinds of colored pencils earlier.  These are my watercolor pencils, blended with a water brush.

I enjoyed sharing my bears with you today!




The Warning of Briney Jack

They call me Briney Jack, and I’ve seen the end.


My spirit animal, the mortal enemy of the invaders, has warned me of what is coming. I’ve tried to tell the world to no avail. We’re not prepared and we will fall. Any moment, the invaders will arrive, and they wont be coming from across the ocean or across space. Hollywood has done nothing to prepare us for the true invaders. They will burrow up from the silty depths. The molluscs have had enough, they wont let us walk on them any more. The Clam People are coming.

A nartist’s representation

They are biding their time, building their strength by leeching our precious plastics from the environment and sucking up our treasured radiation to use against us in the coming clampocalypse. As humanity litters, we’re only arming our greatest enemies, playing right into their dastardly schemes. Every pound of radioactive waste, to them is sixteen ounces of death and destruction to rain down upon humanity. Filter feeding is natures great big joke, until you’re the one being filter-fed upon.

Artist’s representation

I have been shown a vision of the destruction, the streets littered with bodies and shells. I have seen the streams of salty destruction blasting from giant clam-tanks, that make our most prized weapon advancements look like toys. Our cities rusting away, and being washed to sea with the ever rising tide of clam people.  Their immense floating clam-blimps blotting out the sun, as they rinse us to sea like used motor oil.

Fear the clam tanks

The few human survivors only being allowed to live, to massage the fleshy foot of the giant clam-queen.

clam_spy_smOf course their existence is being covered up. In the face of their insurmountable power, people can do nothing but cower and live in denial. They have spies among us, working to subvert humanity from the inside. Brilliantly disguised with expert camouflage, cardigans and mittens to cover their moist mitten-hands. For generations they have been convincing us of the coolness of littering and smoking, weakening us while we’re simply throwing our most precious resources into the oceans for them to gather and use against us.


They have nothing but time, for every year brings them another layer of calcium armor. Gloves wont be enough to save your fingers from the rage of the bivalves. Prepare yourselves, when the time comes, if you don’t shuck them, they will shuck you, and everyone you love.


-Briney Jack

Art and Engineering


Engineering some art.

Is an architect an artist?  Is a building art?  Does art require an artist?

I’m a software developer by day and I firmly stand by my belief that art is not my job.  But in a strange way, the results of my non-art (henceforth known as nart), could very well be a work of art.

Most of the time, my mind is living in the world of logic and math. A nice solid place that always make sense and can be relied upon, even if the answers shift sometimes, it always makes sense why.  There’s no room in logic and math for being all willy-nilly.  You’d get the wrong answers!  Math and logic can be beautiful, and most definitely can produce amazing works of art, but that’s just a byproduct of the “right” answers.  It’s my belief that intention doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with whether or not a result is a work of art.

Say one day, the necessity arose for me to have a painting or sketch of a cat.  I’m not sure what’s going on that day, it’s apparently a strange future.  An artist might draw or paint a cat.  I would google it.  Obviously that’s more efficient, and I’ll most certainly get a better cat than if I attempted to make it myself.  Let’s pretend I could actually draw a cat.  I’d still google it.  It’s been done, drawing yet another cat would just be repeating a work that humanity should have already perfected!

I don’t see the value in drawing another sunset.  I’ve seen the sunset.  I could take a picture of the sunset. I could look at someone else’s much better picture of a sunset.  I will never be able to draw or paint a sunset that is as good as a picture.  It’s not that I don’t get it, it’s just not for me.  I would never be satisfied with my results, because the results would always remain imperfect, and i’m not sure I’m capable of letting that go.

And that is why I’m a nart.

I’ve been dabbling in this game lately, a fun little sandbox named Creativerse.  I’ve not played Minecraft in depth, but this game is something like that; Dig holes, find materials, build stuff.  This game is most certainly a creative outlet.  When I make a hole, is that a work of art?  What about a palace?  I believe somewhere between those extremes, there’s a line.

When I make a design, based on utility, but it happens to be fancy.. is it art?  I designed a teleporter station, designed around ease of use, maximizing use of space, while being well organized and compartmental.  I even used graph paper.

WP_20160129_10_53_09_Pro (2)
Actual graph paper.

I would say, it didn’t start as a work of art…  but it ended as one.

Maybe I added a few shinies

Then there’s art.  The world of willy-nilly, where anything goes, as long as you say that’s what you meant to do.

Sarah says:

art on graph paper

Willy-nilly he says.  You don’t even have to have done the thing on purpose, if you like it in the end. As Bob Ross said “happy little accidents”.  I need to do a paint along with one of his episodes sometime.  I’ve not done much with oil paints.

I don’t know what exactly makes a person think like an artist or an engineer (or any other number of ways to think, that’s just what we have in our house, so far).  I do know that I don’t think like an engineer, but I might have good input to one who was stuck on something.  

I’ve painted a few sunsets.  I did it to see if I could get the colors I wanted into the gradient I wanted.  I did better than I thought I could, which made me happy.  They were kind of cartoony, nothing realistic, but I was still pleased, and I had fun doing it.  I turned them into backgrounds for my cell phone.


I also painted a picture of a cat, because my niece asked me to.  She had come across a Photoshopped picture of a cat surfing on a mouse, and when I asked her what she wanted me to draw for her for Christmas, that was what she said.  


Also, I’ve seen Mike draw a very pretty daffodil ^_^. Even a nart can’t say no when his little girl asks him to draw her a flower.  And maybe I’ll really understand complicated science someday.

ColorCoder 1.0!

Hi!  This is Mike, the other partner in TeamDrake.

We’ve polished up ColorCoder a bit and think it’s ready for the REAL WORLD!  There’s an updated FREE version, and we’ve launched a PRO version as well for the modest price of $3.

We hope that the FREE version will do everything that most people want, with palettes limited to 16 colors, with 2 open at once, it fits our personal needs almost entirely 🙂

For those interested in supporting ColorCoder (or those that want bigger palettes and more of them!) please consider the PRO version.

All details are on the ColorCoder page.