Kind of Blue

The weblog of Bill Turner

Start by starting

It’s been a long, long time since I updated the site, and I often think of posting something, but then I’ll find some excuse not to. But then today I read this inspiring post from Danny Gregory:


If you haven’t written a blog post in a long time …. how do you start again?

You start by starting. By picking up a pen, a dumbbell, and getting to work. There is no magic trick, there is no massive process for preparation. There is simply the active of sitting down at the computer, opening a new document, and starting to type.


So, here is me sitting (well, standing) at the computer and starting. I’ve still been keeping up with my sketching – although not something I do every day – and I’ve been posting the ones that look decent to my Flickr account. I’m going to start scanning more, and then using the blog to post the better ones.

Danny’s post also reminds me of a great quote from William Zinsser’s book On Writing Well:

Decide what you want to do. Then decide to do it. Then do it.

Sketching for programmers

A couple of days ago, I came across this blog post called “Drawing as a Programmer” and it struck a chord with me, both as a programmer, and as someone trying to draw and sketch more. The author talks about how taking short breaks for drawing can help with refocusing:

I started sketching again. At first I did it after job hours, in my spare time, but then I noticed that, after acquiring some basic knack, I can draw simple sketches quickly, so I tried to have drawing breaks when I got stuck with a new coding problem in my head. And to my surprise, my productivity rose.

Every software engineer worth a dime knows that programming is more about thinking, than typing code (and if you do not agree, you should probably go do copywriting or something). When you work on a hard problem, you think, think, think, read an article on your current topic, think, maybe do some tinkering here and there, think again, get an ‘AHA’ moment, and then, only then do typing.

That’s so very true. Many times I need some time to think out a problem; I need to focus on something else while my mind clears so perhaps I can think of another approach. I’m going to give this a shot and see if it works in those times I’m stuck.

A few days in January

Sketchbook - Jan 4 & 5th, 2014

I started out this year sketching every day, even if it was just something simple and around the house. That lasted just over a week. Sigh. But, I have picked it up a few times since then, and I do plan on being a little better about sketching this year. I’d like to experiment a bit more with watercolors as well.

One thing that should hopefully help with this task is Danny Gregory and friends’ Sketchbook Skool. I’ve signed up for the first “semester,” and I’m quite looking forward to it. I’m familiar with the work of all of the instructors he has lined up. Here’s hoping it’ll go well.

The two pages from the sketchbook at the top of the post were from that initial week-long bout of sketching in January. The painting was inspired from looking out the back window at a particularly colorful sunset.

I’m in a book called Playing with Sketches

A new art instruction book by Whitney Sherman called Playing with Sketches contains a couple of quotes of mine, and references The Tools Artists Use. I knew the site would be mentioned, but not to what extent. I also wasn’t sure if there was going to be any mention of me at all. I had assumed a small mention of the site and that was it. I’m quite happily surprised!

Here’s a (blurry) screenshot of the page:


You can see a little more of the inside of the book at, and I go into a little more detail in a post over on The Tools Artist Use.

Welcome to my new old home

If you’re reading this post, then you’re at my weblog’s new home. I’ve owned the domain since 1997, but haven’t really used it for anything since the early 2000s. So, I’m bringing it back to life as the new home for my weblog. In a few weeks, I’ll explain where is going. But that will have to wait.

Now, that we’ve changed domains, I’ll probably give the styling of the site a bit of a refresh, but for now, it’ll still look like the old one.

Here’s to something new in a new year!

Sketching Uptown Mt. Lebanon

There is a local “plein air” group that’s starting to meet the first Saturday of every month, and this morning was the first get together. While the other two artists that showed up and painted pulled out big easels and paint sets, I had only my Moleskine notebook, a few pencils, my favorite pen, and a small watercolor set.

I’m glad the someone has started up the group, and if we keep meeting in the Uptown part of Mt. Lebanon, I’ll definitely continue going. I’m quite please with the resulting sketch (with a few touches of watercolor):

The Stevenson Williams Co. in Uptown Mt. Lebanon

Cars in the parking lot

Waiting for my daughter and her friends to get out of middle school gives me some time to get a little sketching in. Although there’s a lack of variety in the cars, vans, and SUVs in the library parking lot, they still make for patient subjects.

Here are a few collages of car sketches from the last few months:

Sketching cars

Sketching cars #2

Now, while these aren’t all that great, Lapin reminds us that car portraits can be something awesome.

EDM challenge: draw something with spots

Everyday Matters challenge #288 (draw something with spots)

I thought I’d try this Everyday Matters challenge a couple of ways: once with watercolor, and again with colored pencil. I definitely need a bit of work on my color mixing skills. But this was a fun exercise in any case.

FYI, here’s the original photo I used for reference.

Bob Flynn’s thoughts on doodling

Cartoonist Bob Flynn posted some of his thoughts on how important doodling (and sketching) is for development as an artist. The mantra to “keep practicing” is there, but he definitely goes a little deeper than that:

Where I think doodling is important has more to do with discovery. Trying things. Messing around. The more you do it, the more familiar you are with how you draw in general. The more spontaneous your ideas will be. It puts you in touch with your imagination. And it frees you up from that pressure of making mistakes. Because who cares if you make a mistake? Work with it! And if you make a bad drawing, there’s still plenty more room in your sketchbook to make good drawings.

And then he talks about why he uses a pen or other permanent medium to sketch:

You don’t have to doodle with a pen, brush, or marker, but I do think the permanence of ink switches that planning thing off in your brain.

I’m not sure if that’s the same reason I mainly stick to sketching directly in pen or not, but I do think using a pen has helped me improve. I must subconsciously realize how permanent the marks will be, so I’ll be a little more careful while sketching. I also like the feel of a pen (either my fountain pen, or something else) in my hand, more so than a pencil.

As a side note, I interviewed Bob several years ago for The Tools Artists Use. And he puts out a great comic (called Heeby Jeeby Comix) with some friends. I highly recommend it!

A few recent sketches

I’ve been doing quite a bit better about finding a bit of time here and there for sketching or painting. My last Moleskine sketchbook took about four years to fill; my current one will be filled within a single year.

I’ve also been trying to add a bit of color with some watercolor paints. I’m still learning how best to handle the color, but I’ll get there. Here are the sketches:

Sketch (with a bit of paint) of a Chinese food takeout box

Sketch while waiting at SFO airport

Everyday Matters challenge #120 (draw a flashlight)

And I’ve uploaded a few other sketches, and should continue to do so, up on Flickr.

« Older posts

© 2015 Kind of Blue

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑