BeanQuest

February 26, 2006

Careful What You Ask For…

Filed under: beanquest, web-ish stuff — Brian @ 9:36 pm

I just got back from the initial meeting with the webmaster at church, and I think I’m going to be a busy guy, here, for a while.

I don’t want to get into too many details right away, but the things the webmaster has in mind are things I know a lot about, and enjoy doing.

The webmaster has been maintaining the site for quite a few years, and has seen it through several iterations from mostly-placeholder static HTML through the current database-backed site. He’s done a wonderful job, I think.

Part of the current “problem” is that our church has so many ministries (from the nursery folks and the youth group to the men’s group and – my favorite – the pie ministry*) it’s quite a task to make something they all can use on their own. It’s easy to build something where you e-mail stuff to the webmaster and he takes it from there. Easy to build, but hard (for the webmaster) and frustrating (for the users)(…and – let’s be honest here – the webmaster) to operate.

But! I have some ideas and experience that fit very well with the immediate needs. I have to brush up on my PHP, but that’ll be fun. And it’s always easier for me to learn something when I have a concrete and real task that depends on it. (And I think God’s cool and everything, so He’d cut me some slack if I hosed up one of His websites a bit while I learn, but I so don’t want to be that guy.) Apart from that, the needs are of the sort that I work with every day – some of the fun and engaging parts of my real job, and some of the stuff I do just because it’s interesting.

How exciting to be able to help out with something I think is important, and by doing stuff I think is fun. Followup meeting’s in two weeks.

I have homework!

*The pie ministry: they don’t just hand out pies willy-nilly. They make pies as gifts to give throughout the community; fire and police stations are frequent recipients. The only thing that would make it better is if they actually did give out pies willy-nilly.
To me, I mean.

February 19, 2006

I’ve always wanted to do this

Filed under: drawing — Brian @ 7:21 am

In the basement last night was found an old ArtBin – a tackle box for art supplies. In that bin was most of the left half of this photo. About 35 pencils, an x-acto knife, some black and white pastel sticks, a dip pen and nibs, some ink and my original college ID card.

Some of the pencils were drafting pencils, and I used those a lot in school. But most were drawing pencils, and I don’t remember using them much.

I went through everything and cleaned it up (pastels are a mess on a good day), sorted them into bundles of similar grades, and merged the old and new collections of stuff. I shouldn’t have to buy another pencil until … actually, I don’t know how long they last for me. Too long, at this point; I need to draw more.

And I remember now loving art class in high school, but always being afraid I wasn’t good enough. I’ve always loved going to art supply stores, and have had a long-standing fascination with pens. I can get lost in an office supply store just as easily as an art store.

I admire the quality of line some people can get from a simple pen or pencil. I look at the tools imagining what I could do with them, if I were only good enough. I look at comics and wonder at the skill it takes to get a smooth, curving line of varying thickness that looks like it just happened. Mine get jiggly because I have to go too slow, and it shows. I can get the smoothness and variation, but not if I expect the line to go where I want it.

So I realized last night that I’ve always wanted to do this. I just never put any effort into it, and spent a lot of time ignoring the desire.

I’m going to my local art museum on my next free Saturday. My wife and kids will come with, and she’ll take them to a kids class for an hour or so while I sit and draw from what I find in the museum.

I will also be trying to keep up with the Everyday Matters Weekly Drawing Challenge and possibly Illustration Friday.

Everyday Matters is from Danny Gregory (in by blogroll). It’s a loose, no-pressure weekly suggestion of what to draw. There’s a mailing list for related discussion. I’m on it, but rarely read it; I’m a bit burned out on e-mail lately.

Illustration Friday is similar, but rather than the direct “draw a shoe” of Everyday Matters, it’s more interpretive. Their prompts are things like “song,” or “alone,” or “winter.”

I really have always wanted to do this. How wierd to just be figuring that out.

February 15, 2006

Painting Christmas, and David and Goliath

Filed under: drawing, reference — Brian @ 7:44 pm

I found Dennis Jones today, from over at Drawn!.

He paints in gouache – a kind of opaque watercolor that I haven’t used, but would like to try. AFTER I finish the watercolor class and get some of that under my belt. One (or so) thing at a time!

He’s illustrated the story of Christmas, and of David and Goliath, completely in pictures. No words or anything like them. And lots of other stuff in a similar (and fun) visual style. I like the look of his stuff, and that he’s not tied to one genre.

And he seems to be one who won’t drop a “nude figure study” out of nowhere, so one I can comfortably visit from work. (Sorry, guys..)

Gouache: I say, “GOO aaash”, my wife says, “GWASH” – she’s probably right, but mine’s more funner to say. One of the drawbacks of learning from books is that you don’t get to hear the words, so you make up your own pronounciation and look like a dork at the store if you’re not careful. Or if that’s your goal…

More like this, please

Filed under: drawing — Brian @ 6:36 am

A Danish paper publishes a cartoon that mocks Muslims.
An Iranian paper responds with a Holocaust cartoons contest –
– Now a group of Israelis announce their own anti-Semitic cartoons contest!

In my young, naive, why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along days, I used to think it would be good when all military forces were completely mechanized and remote-controlled. Wars would be won by breaking the other guy’s toys, instead of killing the other guy’s people.

I was wrong. (In so many ways…)

This is the way to do it.

A cartoon smackdown. Let’s keep it on paper from here on out…

Did you see that Batman will be taking on the terrorists, too?

February 14, 2006

They upgraded my blog…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brian @ 9:53 pm

I don’t know what they did, but they’re saying it was an upgrade.

Still can’t edit the theme templates – I was actually holding my breath there, for a second – though there are some new themes to choose from.

Poking around the control panel, I can’t tell what’s different. I’d really like to be able to customize the theme. None of the templates are exactly what I’d like, but some are very close…

I’m not complaining. Free’s free.

February 13, 2006

Web Work

Filed under: beanquest — Brian @ 5:00 pm

My church had a “minstry fair” this morning, where all of the (several dozen) ministries had tables set up and a person you could talk with. Like a job fair.

One of the ministries is the Church’s website. The guy who runs it is looking mainly for programmers, but also for content providers. He says a lot of people come to him with ideas about what the site could do, but few come with skills and time to help do the work.

Given my recent wondering about how web design and programming might fit me, I couldn’t not volunteer to try it out.

It doesn’t use any kind of pre-fab content management system. It sounds like it uses a patchwork of static HTML, Javascript, PHP and JSP. I know enough to be dangerous in all of those things. And especially dangerous if they’re all mixed together.

But that means it’ll really be an exercise in design and development, and not just one in learning how to use the software they maintain the site with.

I’m excited to see where this leads.

February 8, 2006

Christian Artists

Filed under: beanquest, drawing — Brian @ 8:31 pm

In another “coincidence,” I learned today that Russ Stutler – a guy whose online sketchbook I visit pretty frequently, and whose style I like quite a lot – has a new online forum for Christian artists.

It’s pretty much brand new (I’m the 8th member) so who knows what it’ll turn into. But if nothing else, it’s a place to hang out with like-minded people.

How cool!

(If you’re visiting from there, you might want to read my post about my drawing)

February 6, 2006

Complementary Interests

Filed under: beanquest — Brian @ 9:22 pm

I’ve been thinking about what’s interesting to me, and what I seem to be good at, and where those things overlap.

I have a bachelor’s degree in fine arts (which I earned, by the way, without having done any drawing that I remember. That I can draw as well as I do was pretty surprising to me). The degree is in lighting design for the theatre (you have to spell it that way or they’ll confiscate the diploma). Looking back on it, I think it wasn’t so much “The Theatre” that I liked as it was just being involved in the creation of something beautiful, and working with dedicated and talented people.

As far as return on investment goes … well, my first job out of college was $6 an hour as an electrician. Add on another $5 an hour as a bookstore clerk at night, and you can almost pretend that you’re not falling behind. On the upside, a summer job in the theatre is where I met my wife – so I’m not complaining.

My current job is computer-related. I started with the company as a temp, taking phone calls responding to an ad campaign. I got myself hired on in tech support pretty soon, and have worked my way up from there.

I’m a passable Perl programmer, I know my way around a database, and I’ve been publishing stuff on the Internet (to keep out-of-town family updated on family things) since 2001 or 2002. I built a ramshackle system of Perl and AppleScript and text files that served as a kind of blog just before I discovered Movable Type.

In college in the early 90’s (before the Web), I spent a lot of time on Unix and text-based Internet things, and had a lot of fun at it. I was thrilled when Mac OS X came out and I could use a real command-line and a Mac at the same time.

I’ve dabbled in Web design – even have a couple of paying jobs – but haven’t seriously considered it as anything more than an occasional and light hobby. I haven’t put in the effort it would take to get really good at it, and have allowed things like browser bugs and incompatibilities to dissuade me. But maybe the overlap of computer geekery and artistry is something I should put more focus into.

Yeah, I know. “If web design was It, this blog wouldn’t be done on the free, non-customizable WordPress site.” Maybe. But this blog isn’t about doing the thing (whatever it is) it’s about figuring out what the thing is.

(I did mention that I’m keeping this blog largely for myself to work things out, right?)

February 5, 2006

Trying a new layout

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brian @ 12:42 pm

The comments font was too small, and the free WordPress service doesn’t allow changes to the templates or CSS yet. This theme seems to be more readable.

February 4, 2006

This is going well

Filed under: beanquest — Brian @ 8:01 pm

What I’ve learned so far:

  • Writing about this stuff is helpful. It keeps it foreward in my mind, and keeps me alert for new discoveries.
  • Writing online, and getting even a little feedback from visitors, is more engaging than just writing in a paper journal.
  • I still use the paper journal as before, and plan to continue with it. The blog is a great addition, but by no means a replacement – each has a different value to me.
  • Getting comments (thanks for the plug, Eric) gives me a feeling that I’m being watched. In the sense that if I don’t stick with it, somebody will start making chicken noises. (I wasn’t sure if I wanted to enable comments in the first place. So far, I’m glad I did)
  • There is no such thing as a “coincidence.” Being alert for patterns is self-reinforcing.
  • I don’t know much about how God does His thing, but it’s clear to me that He’s doing something.

My pastor wrote this in last sunday’s bulletin:

To live in the style and spirit of Jesus Christ is good medecine. Even if there were no resurrection His way is, so often, far, far better.

Trying to follow that way feels right.

I am a kinder person, a more grateful person, and a more humble person when I pay attention. I am open to more possibilities, more apt to see good intentions where I might instead see only incompetence or belligerence – neither of which may even really be there.

Seeing that in other people lets me honestly see it in myself. A mistake can be a chance to improve. An incomplete understanding may be just the understanding I need now.

I am content to have unanswered questions. They’re an incentive to keep looking.

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