Inktober 2019 – Revenge of the Vectors

Inktober 2019 - Day 1 - Ring

I’m drawing for Inktober again this year, a shared drawing event where you draw a picture from a one-word prompt for every day of October. I’m working on mastering vector drawing, so I’m extending an existing art rule to Inktober. I must draw everything in vector format *first*, then must copy it to paper by hand at some point before the end of the month.

I just about jumped out a window getting this first picture finished. I started with Infinite Design on Android and got about half-way done before having to quit because of crashes. I’ve been working with the developer on fixing bugs, and he’s been very responsive, but the app still needs a lot of work. I then started over on Inkscape on OS X, got nearly finished, and it crashed too. Either I hadn’t saved my work, or the file got eaten in the crash. At that point I had to take a breather for a couple of hours for the sake of public safety. I finally finished it with Inkpad 2 on my obsolete iPad Mini, which is still consistently the best vector drawing experience I’ve had.

I’m already quite behind due to all the work involved in hosting my aunt and uncle right at the beginning of the month. The visit went really well despite my Mom having some minor health issues. My relatives have traveled to almost every National Park in the world, and always have amazing pictures of their journeys. We ate Slavic cabbage rolls, and beef roast with mashed potatoes, both family favorites going back generations. We lucked out with a dog festival in a little park nearby, and my uncle got to try out his new digital SLR.

Now that they’re gone, it’s time to try and catch up!

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The New Drawing Is Here

1) Find image
2) Create vector version
3) Create hand-drawn version using only the vector version

Here I did it on a deadline to contribute to the ComeDrawATX group draw. Other times I take longer to try to get more photo-realistic with gradients, etc. Using deadlines is better, though, because otherwise I tend to obsess and get stuck and frustrated. For now I want to emphasize getting through the entire process rather than the quality of the finished work. That will only come with lots more practice.

I’m using this pipeline in order to improve my hand and digital vector illustration chops. My goal is to have the ability to do this on Android, iOS, Windows, and OS X. I’m restricting myself to common feature of most or all apps. Those are basic curves and shapes, colors and gradients, and simple intersection geometry. I’m avoiding custom features that tie me to one app, at least until I get better at my basic skills.

Right now I’m using Ivy Draw and Infinite Design on Android, Inkpad on iOS, Clip Studio Paint and Affinity Designer on Windows, and Inkscape on OS X. Most of my work so far has been in Ivy Draw and Inkpad.

This time I used Inkpad on my elderly iPad Mini, which is stuck on iOS 9 and can no longer be upgraded. Once I get my resale pipeline moving again, I plan on getting a more modern tablet, probably a newer Mini, to replace it. I’m open to other suggestions, but it looks like the iPad still has the best balance of price and ability.

There’s a fundamental conflict here between the digital vector and hand-drawn steps that is deliberate. I’m trying to get *away*, at least at the moment, from anything digital involving sketching or painting. It’s 100% mechanical assembly, and I want every stroke, shape, and gradient to be fully vectorized and editable. Nothing pixelized or permanent anywhere. Then, obviously, when I do the physical rendering, I’m bringing all the sketchier hand-drawn skills in. This process trains photography, composition, vector design, and hand drawing all at once, and once I master it, will allow me to make high quality illustrations anywhere I go with minimal gear.

In the meantime, there is a *great* deal of swearing.

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Staying Cool in The Heatwave

It's hot as fuck in Austin.

It’s hotter in the yurt than I want right now. High 80s during the day. Fridge temp in the high 40s, and the freezer at 8 o F. Our daytime temps are over 100 o F, and the heat index is in the upper 100s. Worse yet, night time temps are only getting down into the upper 70s with close to 90% humidity overnight. This means that all forms of cooling are less efficient *and* that mold allergies are going crazy as it grows out each night and is then cooked into spore-generating panic during the heat of the day.

I recently removed most of the comforter insulation in the yurt to keep things cleaner. I made a foam gasket to help seal the join between the roof and the walls and improved the seal around the AC ducts. I also re-built the front door which was profoundly warped and allowing a lot of airflow. After I did that, I was able to keep the yurt at a maximum of about 82 o F on days it was getting into the upper 90s. However, since our latest heatwave hit, where it’s going into the 100s ever day and the heat index is in the upper 100s, the yurt temp has been slipping into the upper 80s, which is uncomfortable and unacceptable. I’ve also burned through a few extension cords in line with the AC unit because they were probably 16 or 14 gauge, which isn’t big enough to carry that much power. I rebuild that part of the electrical system using 12 gauge Romex used for house wiring, and now the wires only get mildly warm.

Right now I’ve got Reflectix radiant-barrier bubble-wrap under the billboard vinyl roof. The walls are just the vinyl. Previously all that was also covered with fabric insulation which both improved the air seal and helped keep the heat out. However, it was too hard to keep it clean, especially on the walls where it was really hard to remove. The AC unit I have is supposed to be good for up to 350 sq. ft. The yurt is only 113 sq. ft.

Those fridge temps are supposed to be about 38 o F and 0 o F respectively. I know it doesn’t get enough airflow over the coils, because moisture builds up in the drip tray and then starts to stink. I measured the temp on the surface of compressor, and it’s 118 of F. I’m gonna try putting a fan on the compressor to see if it will improve the internal temperatures. However, I bet that’s going to raise the average temperature in the yurt. One thing I’ve considered is making a vent tunnel just for the fridge where it pulls cooler air from under the yurt, circulates it across the compressor, and then pumps it back out again. If the outside air is at 100 o F in the shade, though, I’m not sure how much that would help. Adding the fan to the compressor is the first thing to try. If that lowers the internal temperature down to where it’s supposed to be, then maybe I can try the vent experiment.

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Drugs and Dirty Pussy

I’ve been reviving my drawing habits and tools recently. In my quest to find a set of vector tools that work across platforms, I’ve been auditioning Inkscape, a free Open Source vector drawing program similar to Adobe Illustrator.

 Screen Shot 2019-07-24 at 5.26.31 PM

I’m too much of a n00b to compare the tools yet, but Inkscape seems to provide a pretty comprehensive set of tools for doing all the normal vector stuff.

In other news, I had my second appointment for my ADHD eval. After dating someone with an adult ADHD diagnosis, I realized that I fit the diagnosis very well. In the past few years I’ve become more frustrated with the big gap between what I’m clearly capable of and what I’m actually getting done. The more I look at it, the more I realize the bottom line is focus. It’s very hard for me to stick with longer-term projects, and when I do, it’s because there’s some external force keeping me focused. I finished the yurt because I had an important relationship with someone I thought it would help with. I’ve made progress on the van because I’ve had a long-term vision of being able to live cheaply and independently on the road. But many other great projects remain unfinished due to my inability to focus. I started the process a few weeks ago, and today I did several written assessments. I get the results next Thursday, which hopefully will open the door for medication and treatment. I was able to do a short trial on Ritalin earlier this year, and the improvement in my productivity was shocking. I can only imagine what I’d get done if I had regular access.

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The Return of the Funky Robot Chicken

After many years in the wilderness, my funky electronic horn experience has returned!


BEHOLD! My Yamaha WX-5 Electronic Wind Instrument and its mate the VL70-M Tone Module!

What’s that, you ask? It’s basically an electronic wind instrument that’s played like a saxophone and can sound like anything! It has hundreds of voices, and contains *no* prerecorded sound. The tones are generated entirely using acoustic math based on a physical model of the instrument. Here’s an example of what it can do:

As fans of my Oboe Hero t-shirt know, I played oboe in junior high. This is like having a magical oboe that can sound like anything from a saxophone to trumpet to heavy metal distortion guitar! It comes with hundreds of instruments, and new ones can be created from scratch. You can say “it’s made of brass, has three reeds, and squeaks badly when you overblow.”

I’m super excited! It’s a little fussy, but I’ve already partially resurrected my Star Wars Medley, a Chuck Mangione piece, and several oboe solos I did in junior high.

Both units have been discontinued by Yamaha, so they’re worth a *lot* of money, but they can also both be repaired if something breaks. I already had the horn apart when it wasn’t working and was able to restore it. Its guts aren’t actually that complicated. Part of me feels like I might be investing in a dead end, but the truth is that these skills are directly transferable to a real instrument, and if I *really* want to buy a replacement, I can. Mainly I’m super happy to be in the horn game again be able to just pick up the instrument and play!

Eventually I’d like to combine this with Kid Beyond-style Ableton loop beatboxing. I was a little misleading when I said that the oboe was the instrument I have the most practice with. I was in choir for *six* years, had professional vocal training, regularly participated in contests, and was even briefly in a singing and dancing group in high school. If I could get those two things working together, the possibilities are endless!

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Reclaiming Van Life!

I’m eating my first gas-stove-cooked meal inside Junior, my Sprinter van conversion!


On Junior’s maiden voyage through Yellowstone all the way to Portland, Oregon, I chose to do all my cooking with electric because I wanted to really push the solar system hard to find out how well it worked. I was able to cook for 30-45 minutes a day most days and still have enough power to run the fridge, lights, and inverter. But it’s hard on the system, and since I also have a Olypmic Wave 6 gas heater, it makes a lot more sense to cook on propane.

After returning from that trip, the prototype interior of the van fell apart, and I’ve mostly been using the cabin as a storage compartment for my resale business. It feels good to be reclaiming the space so I can go back out on the road!

This Ramblewood Green stove was recommended by Tynan in his fabulous van life book The Tiniest Mansion. Eventually I’d like to recess it into the countertop, but for now I build this movable wooden frame for more flexibility. I’m typing this from a Chromebook I rescued from the landfill, and I can picture myself doing computer work here while living in town to sell my big collection of merchandise that’s too big to sell on Ebay.

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Three-Hundred and Fifteen Dollars

IMG_20180205_134602.jpgAfter hitting Calculate, I had to admit that $315 isn’t much money for two months of work.

After not having a “regular” job since 2010, I’ve been formalizing my incurable thrifting addiction into a business. I love the thrill of the hunt and getting great stuff super cheap. My life is full of prestigious, high end devices from Apple, Dyson, Android, Kitchen Aid, etc., and I rarely paid more than $20 each for any of them. I also love fixing broken things, and keeping things out of the landfill, like the $1100 Saeco Intellia superautomatic expresso maker sitting here on the counter that I *also* got for $20.

Although it’s not much money, the fact that I know how much I’ve made shows that my business accounting is solidifying. I’m keeping track of how much profit I think I’ll make vs. how much I actually do. Right now it’s in a spreadsheet, but I want to turn it into a formal database so I can instantly answer questions like “how much is inventory purchased since January is still unsold?”, etc.

That $315 is just the profit from the Ebay part of my resale business, which was the easiest to get off the ground. Just photograph, list, and ship! However, I have a ton of inventory to sell locally, it just requires getting the interior of Junior, my Sprinter van stealth conversion, ready for full-time use again. I’ve lived inside him for two months on the road, he’s simply backslid into junk storage. I’ve wanted to try van camping in town in Austin since I got back, and this is my chance. A big help would be getting my propane stove installed, since this would not only be much better than cooking on electric, but would also allow me to use my propane RV heater for the cold nights we’ll still have for a few more months.

The intention is to go into town in the van full of for-sale merchandise and do deals during the week. The van can be set up as a showroom with full 120V power, potential upsells, etc. I can ride the Brompton to local deliveries to get more exercise and do more thrifting when I don’t have appointments. I’m also turning my thrift store accounting into a mobile game, which will advance my plan of getting back into high tech work. Finally, I’m pushing myself to live as cheaply as I possibly can, just to define my bottom-end. This means living entirely off of what I make with the resale business and still staying in the black. At $174/month, I’m obviously not there yet.

But I’m moving the right direction.

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