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Updating my website

It’s weird to be updating WordPress about updating my website. Huh.

My current website is about 8 years old. In its day it was cool. And it still works, but is not reponsive.

I’ve got two fully responsive pages working on the prototype design for my remodeled website.

 

I’m planning to combine the interactive thumbnails on the home page with the scrolling full size images on the landscapes page. It will be  a great exercise in CSS and Jquery. And it will all be custom work, not someone elses WordPress plugin.

I recently learned about Flexbox. It’s amazing how efficient, and easy it is as compared to the positioned floats and divs we have been using over the last 10 years. It’s been fun updating the textbook I wrote for my students.

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Writing technical manuals

In the fourteen years I’ve been teaching web design I’ve rarely found a book that works for long. The web changes at a rate that exceeds the publishing industrys ability to create content. There are always a few books that are ok, not great, but useable for a couple years. The challenge I face as an instructor is tailoring someones technical manual into a textbook fit for my classroom.

From my first year, I’ve had better results writing my own curriculum. That is assuming I can stay current with the rapid changes in web design. Once I get some good content written, I focus on polishing it up so that it works for my students. But a couple years later I poke my head up and look around and the web has left me behind. Like a rabbit watching a train disappear in the distance, I realize  I’ve got some sprinting ahead of me.

The latest change is that someone found a nice solution to the http://alistapart.com/article/holygrail problem. First we used tables for our interface design structure, then we switched to floating divs with absolute or relative positioning, and finally flexbox came on the scene. Display: flex; was expressly designed to solve the “holy grail of web design” problem. Without further ado, here is a link to the newest 10 pages in my classroom textbook on web design.

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Programming again

Well it’s been a year of only teaching two days a week. I had hoped that I would be a good painter by now. You would think that having 5 days a week to paint would have made a huge difference. I did do some nice work but my oils are still not ready for a gallery.

This week I decided to spend at least one of those days working on my back up plan: programming. I’m still going to paint a lot, but it’s time to brush up my skills in web development. In my classes  I’ve been using the textbook I wrote 3 years ago. It works great, but in the meantime web languages have continued to rocket forward and I need to catch up.

The latest, and biggest change to my corner of front end design is something called “display: flex;” There used to be display: none; – display: block; and display: inline-block;

What display: flex does is solve the problem of equal height columns as it pertains to interface design. I’ve been solving that problem with Photoshop background images and nested divs. For the columns I’ve been using the classic float property.

Flex makes that all go away. Now you can align elements in a similar fashion to how we used to do it with tables last century. With flex the divs stay where you put them, and they are fully responsive.

I can tell I’m going to have to re-write my book all over again. I am so not looking forward to that.

Part of the reason I’ve not been writing here in this 18 year old online journal is that I’ve been climbing a lot. It’s been a month since my vacation ended and I’m still climbing well. It’s been pouring rain, a lot, so I can see the writing on the wall that presages the end of climbing season. We will still get a few trips in, but it won’t be a regular thing. Winter can be a cool season though. I have lots of hobbies (music, art, ping pong) to develop, plus programming, and we may do some backcountry skiing.

I do love the sound of a hard rain on the roof. There is something very nice about that sound.

 

 

 

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Web Animation for iPhones

I have taught Flash since last century. I’ve been gradually phasing out Flash in favor of it’s replacement: javascript.

Here is a new banner I taught to my animation class this quarter:

http://www.websterart.com/html/due-next-class-day/banner-vert.html

The animation is a loose copy of this one on the Greensock website.

He has built his own javascript library. It runs parallel to the open source jquery movement, and even mixes with it, if needed. Making things move can be a fun way to earn money.

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Painting dad’s shoes

Over two months have passed since my last entry. I’ve been doing my usual blend of climbing, painting and teaching. We lost another of the family elders a few weeks ago at age 90. A week later, his grandaughter had a baby. My brother coined a nice phrase: “The grand circle of life goes on.”

Dad's Shoes
Dad’s Shoes

I have a Facebook business page now:

https://www.facebook.com/websterart2

And I started an instagram account:

https://instagram.com/markhwebster/

My most recent art can always be found at the root of my website:

http://websterart.com/ 

I wonder at times why I bother with this blog. One lasting reason is because it is so easy to forget huge chunks of time. Reading back over this blog reminds me of what I did. I can go back to 1997 via this online journal, and as far back as 1971 via my paper sketchbooks. My sketchbooks are places where I draw, and write down my thoughts. They can be fun to look at, like an old family album.

Yesterday I picked up some art supplies in Seattle, as well as some epoxy resin to make a foot mold for the shoemaker who is going to build me a pair of custom rockclimbing shoes.

Making the foot molds works very well, though expect to blow at least $150 on two feet. Especially if you make  a mistake, as I did. I didn’t mix enough Alja-safe and was only able to cover part of my foot. One thing that did work well was I bought some clay along with the Aljasafe and sculpted a “dry dock” one inch larger than my foot into which I could mix the Aljasafe.

I’ve been custom modifying my rock shoes for the last 10 years to fit my wide feet. But my last pair blew out in two months. I destroy the engineering of the shoe when I cut them down, and the quality of materials in commercial shoes varies widely. My usual problem is blowing through the sides of the shoe above the rand.

I’m hoping this custom pair will last at least a year. At work we’ve been building an animated banner. I used to do those in Flash, but needed to teach animation that works on smartphones. Make stuff move has alway been fun, and doing it using cutting edge programing code is especially nice.

Here is some of the code we’ve been developing:

.from(“#webster”, 0.9, {opacity:0, y:50, ease:Elastic.easeOut, delay:0.5})
.to(“#wrapper”, 1.5, {opacity:0, scale:0.5, ease:Back.easeIn, delay: 0.5})
.to(“#banner”, 0.1, {backgroundColor:”#dadada”, delay: 0.3})
.from(“#diagonal”, 0.5, {x:-600, ease:Cubic.easeOut, delay:0.3})
.from(“#callUs”, 0.5, {x:-350, ease:Cubic.easeOut, delay:0.5})
.from(“#phoneNumber”, 0.5, {x:-300, ease:Cubic.easeOut, delay:0.1})
.from(“#showTime”, 1, {x:-900, ease:Cubic.easeOut, delay:1})
.from(“#sentenceOne”, 1, {x:-900, ease:Cubic.easeOut, delay:0.2})
.from(“#sentenceTwo”, 1, {x:-900, ease:Cubic.easeOut}, “-=0.5”)
.to(“#banner”, 1, {backgroundColor:”#666″, delay: 1})

Programming in Javascript is a lot harder than Flash. You don’t get the friendly timeline on which to visualize your movement. With scripted movement you have to do a lot more guessing. I suspect there will soon be something that does it all for you, so the designers can have fun too, and not write any code. I’ve heard that Adobe Edge does some of that, but I’ve never tried it. I’m soured on Adobe in general after they stiffed me for $120 when I canceled my account.

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Tacoma Old City Hall painting

I finished my painting of Tacoma’s Old City Hall. Simultaneously there was a community push to save the old building from neglect and abandonment. I posted my painting on the “save old city hall” page, and the guy who runs it liked it so much he made it his profile image. A week later Tacoma bought the building priced at $4,000,000.  That got me thinking that I need to start an open artist Facebook account to promote my art. My current Facebook account is just for climbing friends…people I know and like personally. I have it locked down tightly for privacy. As a teacher (part time), I try to be careful about my professional image. But that does not serve me well as an artist. I will work on that.

Here is the painting. It took me three Friday afternoons to finish it. Below it is my latest Nisqually painting. This is the first time I’ve painted down there in oils.

Tacoma's Old City Hall
Tacoma’s Old City Hall
Nisqually Delta, 9 x 12 oil on board
Nisqually Delta, 9 x 12 oil on board

I’ve got 3 hours in a new painting of Stadium High School, which I will post later.

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Mother’s Day bouquet

Mothers day bouquet
Mothers day bouquet

I have a long standing tradition dating back to my high school years: whenever a bouquet of flowers appears in my home, it gets painted. Doesn’t matter where it came from, or who bought them for what occasion…they end up in front of my easel.

So when Lisa bought her mom a nice bouquet for mothers day, it took me about 2 days to realize I needed to paint them. Simultaneously I’ve been getting more comfortable with oil paints due to all my recent plein air work, and I decided this was a perfect opportunity to step up to the larger canvas size of 16 x 20.

I promised myself that I would approach some galleries in Tacoma or Seattle as soon as I mastered oil paints. After nine months of constant painting I think my skill with oils has matched or maybe even exceeded my skill with pastels. It’s been a long road. There were weeks when everything I did was terrible and I dispaired of painting anything beautiful ever again. But something in me refused to give up. When a painting failed to fly, I plugged in my belt sander and ground it back to masonite. Three coats of gesso later, I was ready to try again…and again.

Each time I finished one I’d show it to Sue, my best critic, and carefully watch her face as she examined the work. She knows beauty when she sees it, but I think she may be biased by her desire for me to return to computer programming, with it’s more reliable paychecks. Getting a favorable review from her is challenging. I think she sort of liked this one, or at least thought it wasn’t too bad.

Here are a few more of my recent plein air paintings. Painting outside taught me to work quickly.

I have a lot of memories here. Dad worked for the Supreme Court for 25 years. I wasn’t sure they would let me stand on the lawn and paint here on a work day. I was literally 100 feet from the governors mansion and security was tight. Fortunately the State Police seemed to like my painting, as did a bunch of people in very expensive suits.

Olympia State Capital
Olympia State Capital

We drove up to Pt. Townsend where there is good access to boats.

Pt. Townsend boatyard
Pt. Townsend boatyard

I’ve also spent 3 Fridays working on a painting of Tacoma’s Old City hall. That was fun. I spent so much time there I started to make friends with the homeless people who hang out in the park, and the nearby restaurant offered to let me hang my paintings. Last Sunday I painted the West Point Lighthouse in Seattle. They need a few tweaks before I can show them. Mixed in with all this painting I’ve done a little climbing…but my main focus this spring has been painting.

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Painted Old City Hall today

I got back to Old City Hall today. I last painted there in 1997. Building is still there, though it’s closed up for repairs. Who knows if it will ever re-open. Fortunately it’s still as much fun to paint as ever. I had a number of people tell me my painting was going well. Even the postman walking by on his rounds made some encouraging comments. People seem want to root for an artist. We are so thin on the ground…I guess they know how hard it can be. I will need to go back at least once more. I got about 25% done, though that does include the hardest drawing, which I did in vine charcoal. Vine is way better than pencil. It wipes off, and mixes in with the oil much better than pencil. I have the top fully painted, it looks great actually. I’m working out the shadowed side color scheme. Not sure how that will play out, but looking forward to round two. It’s about time I had an oil painting go well outside. I had a bunch of them go badly…but I knew I just needed practice to get better.

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If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly

I painted 5 bad paintings in a row. I couldn’t figure out why they kept bombing. I spent an entire day on the last still life. When Sue got home I carried it out to show her, exclaiming: “I’m a smart guy, how could I paint something this bad?”

It was as if someone had sucked all my brains out and I was incapable of seeing the train wrecks I was creating. I told my buddy Fletch about it. We were at the gym for a little rock climbing exercise. Climbing is a dangerous and totally pointless activity. It has no redeeming qualities at all…other than being fun.

Fletch told me that any activity worth doing is worth doing badly. He was referring to writing, but it also applies to painting. The theory is that you have to practice to get better and you shouldn’t let your perfectionism get in the way of practice. So do it badly, and believe in the process. If it helps, you can tack on other euphemisms like “believe in yourself” and “the darkest hour is right before the dawn”.

That’s all fine, and sounds great over a drink at the bar. But the reality of getting up in the morning and knowing in your bones that you will spend the day creating more bad paintings…well, let’s just say that computer programming is starting to look better as a career option.

Having said all that…I painted today, and it was ok, not awesome, but ok. Perhaps it was the bicycle. I like to put the bike in the car when I go painting. It helps to get my blood flowing, and it’s easier to scout locations outside the car. I pedaled down to the Gig Harbor waterfront where they moor the police boat. I love saying that. How many towns can boast a police boat? That must be the coolest police job ever.

Anyway I found a couple cool sailboats and painted them from the dock. At least a dozen people walked by and told me they liked the painting. The owner of the boat walked past me, then walked back and apologized for taking his boat out while I was painting it. He asked me where I sold my work. I could tell he sort of wanted the painting. If it had been more finished I would have offered it to him.

The policeman walked by on the way to his patrol boat and stopped to talk about the boatyard nearby that built the sailboats. When he stopped by later and saw me packing up, he asked why I was leaving. “They took my models…they sailed away,” I replied.

Update, a week later: The water was difficult to paint that day. The wind was blowing, and the tight ripples prevented paintable reflections. The sun was rolling across the sky, changing the boats sides from shade to bright white. I need to arrive either earlier or later. Noon is not a good time to paint boats. I recycled the painting and plan to paint something better over the top. Some of my boards have had 4 paintings on them now.

I want to learn to paint like this guy. His style feels very do-able and genuine. I can feel the paintings I want to do in my head. But I don’t have the skill to move them from my mind to the canvas. I know the skill will come in time, I simply need to keep working.

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Painting Mom’s roses

In 1970 I was a typical troubled teen full of angst. There was marching and protests in the streets over the Vietnam war. With all the turmoil, not to mention the draft, I was confused about what I wanted to do in life. But mom had a garden full of roses and knew I loved to draw. She would pick roses and set them on the coffee table in the living room where I would see them.  I drew her roses, repeatedly in a variety of mediums. I still have those old drawings.

Fast forward 45 years and I’m still painting roses, or trying to. I bought a $15 bouquet on the weekend and got two paintings out of it before they wilted too badly. I read a lot on www.wetcanvas.com about painting. They have a FAQ page for beginning oil painters. One of the top 5 common mistakes is called “Licking”. This is where you brush the canvas, then re-brush the same spot repeatedly trying to make the brush stroke perfect. It’s called “licking” in reference to a cat licking it’s fur.

When I read that a light went on in my head. In the roses paintings below I am practicing my new “no licking” policy.

Three recent paintings from the last week:

roses palette knife
roses palette knife
roses
roses
roses
peppers and teapot