Monthly archive for March 2008

Illustration Friday: Homage


Click for detail.

I hastily painted this portrait today in response to Illustration Friday’s topic of the week: Homage. I have been wanting to depict Nelson Mandela for some time and he is as deserving of homage as any of us for his self sacrifice and humanitarian deeds. Respect.

Portfolio Redesign

Earlier this year, I meticulously cataloged my entire project history in web development from the beginning of time. I created data tables to hold all relevant attributes and composed project descriptions detailing the bits and pieces that I could remember from software authored as long as eight years ago. Then I crossed linked and published all the information on my website.

My considerable efforts left my portfolio website a cluttered mess. The design for the site was rather hastily assembled in 2005 and I had not done much to improve the layout since, just tacking items on as they came to mind. Generally I have been too busy to market myself which is both a blessing and a curse. Last night I worked into the wee hours of the morning in order to create a more accessible layout. When the birds outside my window started to sing, I got some sleep and finished up this morning.

The results are online at


Illustration Friday: Pet Peeves

The city of Prague has the most obedient and well trained dogs I have ever seen. Many dogs remain unleashed during their walks and can be seen waiting impatiently for their masters outside the entrances to grocers and cafes.


Unfortunately, many owners are not so well trained in civic responsibility. Despite the abundance of courtesy bags pictured below, the cobblestone sidewalks are a minefield of fragrant hazards.



portrait of Jimmy Carter

My father went to a book signing event in North Carolina to meet President Jimmy Carter shortly after he released “Our Endangered Values”. He related the brief meeting with the former President, who asked my kid brother, “What’s your name?”


“Hi Jack, my name’s Jimmy!” He said his name with the enthusiasm and cheer of schoolboy.

Like many people, my father did not like Jimmy Carter as President, but could not help but become wooed by Jimmy’s affable nature.

I became a Jimmy Carter fan after reading his courageous book “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid”.

Detail of Jimmy Carter’s face. Click to enlarge.

Jimmy Carter face detail

Detail of coat. Click to enlarge.

Jimmy Carter coat detail

Illustration Friday: Heavy

This is my first Illustration Friday submission. Feedback is appreciated.


please click image for larger view

Digital media as a prototyping tool for fine art

My latest portrait was created using Corel Painter. I used Flickr to find a reference photo for this piece; the subject is a homeless man living on the streets of San Francisco. Using the computer to paint has been a learning experience for me and I have been considering the virtues and shortcomings of this approach. Many detractors will point out that digital media is inferior to classic mediums in a number of ways, the foremost being that the resulting art in not tangible and therefore not “real”. I can identify with this sentiment and I think there is validity in this definition of fine art.


On the other hand, I believe such a rigid approach to fine art can limit the artist from exploring an approach that serves to benefit their painting techniques. Using digital mediums to create a portrait, for example, is significantly quicker than a portrait rendered using traditional methods. Applying color digitally is a simple matter of selecting the hue from the spectrum without the time intensive process of mixing pigments. There is no delay spent waiting for paint to dry before applying a fresh layer. As a result, a portrait that may take twenty hours to render in oil can be rendered in around two or three hours using a program such as Painter or Illustrator. The digital product becomes a worthwhile undertaking in the context of fine art when one considers its virtue as a prototyping tool in the process of creating a traditional painted portrait.


For example, if I were to paint a portrait using oil and brush, I would certainly create a number of pencil or charcoal studies of my subject before even selecting a canvas. In doing so I am both planning my layout and training my hand and eye to recognize the regions of my subject. The use of pencil allows the same flexibility for revision as the digital method, though generally it provides a monochromatic tonal study without provision for exploring color. By incorporating digital tools into the planning process of a painting, an artist can render a full color study with attention to brush strokes and size in the amount of time it would take to generate a series of monochromatic studies using pencil. The advantage of exploring a suitable color palette in the planning stage of a painting is tremendous. The final palette can be evaluated and revised again and again without the temporal costs associated with such trial and error in a wet medium.

To proceed by replicating the digital study in paint would be a tedious undertaking, and the spirit of this approach is not to create a rigid plan for the oil painting, but a prototype that is open to revision and interpretation. While it may be counterintuitive to consider the process of art in terms of time efficiency, time management is as much of a reality for professional artists as in many other professional pursuits.


I discovered Corel Painter two days ago which has a great assortment of brushes from oils to watercolors. The Painter program is complex, but it is designed specifically for tablet use and appears to have more potential than Photoshop for this application.

Anyway, here is my second portrait that is created with a Wacom tablet and an airbrush in Photoshop.


Painting with Bits

After years of debating with myself, I finally broke down and bought a Wacom Intuous 3 graphics tablet. At one point in the past I decided to buy a cheaper off-brand graphics tablet and ended up greatly disappointed with the results. It was never used and served to discourage me from using a tablet. The Intuos 3, on the other hand, provides a tremendous level of control and a very natural pen feel. I bought the 6×8 inch pad, and in hindsight, the 4×6 would have provided ample space in a more portable size to suit my Macbook.

On one hand I am thrilled with my new tool, but on the other I am a little concerned that it might serve to distract me from more pressing matters. Here is the first portrait that I created using the tablet and Photoshop.


Color Palette Generation Tool

February has been a busy month and has kept me away from my blog. Between client work and personal projects, I have had little opportunity to keep up with my reading and writing.

A bit of exciting news is that I have just launched a new color tool that creates palettes from photos. I have been working on this idea for some time, and the initial version was a Windows application that I created almost two years ago. After switching to Mac in 2007, I shelved the project to focus on open-source technologies.

A couple of weeks ago I got a wild hair to port the code to the web and the result is Palette FX. I have several useful additions that are in the queue currently, but as it stands, the application will generate a beautiful color palette and return color values in hex, rgb, and named color formats.