posts tagged with the keyword ‘art’


Click Whir Squee

Occasionally I show up at Milwaukee Makerspace with no clear idea of what might happen when I’m there. This piece, titled “Click Whir Squee” is the result of one such visit. Another member brought in a box of old computer hardware, including a Hewlett Packard Colorado T100E Tape Backup Drive. Being a fan of old technology (1997 is old, right?) I opened up the drive to take a look inside. I also powered it on and stuck a tape in it. The drive came to life and unspooled the tape and made a lot of spinning motor and tape loading sounds. Not everyone knows what these things sound like. It brought back some memories. (At my first job in the tech industry I had to load daily backup tapes into two tape drives. I remember the sound fondly.)

I somehow decided I should mount the tape drive to a piece of wood for display, so I went to the Wood Shop and started cutting up some scrap wood I found. Steve showed up to do some training, so I sat in on that for a bit so I could use the compound miter saw and the band saw. I had all the pieces cut by the end of the evening and knew how I was going to mount it.

I ended up taking all the pieces home and assembling it in my basement workshop. I manage to only split one piece of wood. Just a minor split, but a reminder to slow down when working with wood. The rest of the assembly went very smooth.

Click Whir Squee

Since the majority of fun with this drive is the startup sequence, I decided it should continually turn on, do its thing, then turn off, and keep repeating that. I’ve been playing with ATtiny85 chips lately, so I put one into service to trigger a 5 volt relay (which I also grabbed from Milwaukee Makerspace) and put the following Arduino code on it.

 * TapeDriver.ino

int relayPin = 3;
int onTime = 70000;
int offTime = 15000;

void setup() {
  pinMode(relayPin, OUTPUT);

void loop() {
   digitalWrite(relayPin, LOW);
   digitalWrite(relayPin, HIGH);

Yes, this is pretty much a glorified blink sketch. Sometimes the simplest things are exactly what you need. (Astute readers will see that the device will be on for 70 seconds, and then off for 15 seconds, and repeat indefinitely.)

Click Whir Squee

To power the ATtiny85 and the relay I found a Samsung phone charger on the Hack Rack at Milwaukee Makerspace. It even had a long cord, which was quite useful. You can also see one of the tapes that this machine uses. Now, if you really want to find some contrasts, consider that the modern day phone charger pictured here was used to charge a phone that probably had 8GB (or more) of solid state storage. The tape next to it could store 400MB of data (or 800MB of compressed data.) I should have included a MicroSD card which can store 8GB of data that I routinely buy for about $6 USD.

Click Whir Squee

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Since I removed the case there was no indication of what this thing was. I felt I should have something that told a bit of the story. I chose to mount the beige power pack, with “Hewlett Packard” emblazoned on it prominently.

Click Whir Squee

Oh, and while the whir of the motor is quite satisfying, we can do better. There is a wooden arm to which you can affix a small piece of material with a binder clip, which will then be activated when the primary motor spins. Fans of baseball cards and bicycle spokes, this one is for you! I call the “Annoy-o-tron” mode. (Look, if you’re going to use an ATtiny in an Annoy-o-tron, at least be original, right?) I’ve experimented with paper, vinyl, and plastic, but finally settled on a piece from an anti-static bag which some electronics were shipped to me in. It seemed fitting.

Click Whir Squee

Click Whir Squee

Click Whir Squee

Gallery owners and curators take note! This piece is ready to be mounted to a wall, and needs just two outlets to power it. It’s pretty much guaranteed to amuse some visitors while annoying other visitors. Art isn’t always about being pretty.

Enjoy the video below which allows you to experience this wonderful piece over the Internet while in the comfort of your own home (probably while wearing pajamas.)


Emerging Artist

I’m excited to announce I’ll be taking part in the Hidden River Art Festival at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts on September 19th & 20th, 2015.

I decided to make it an interactive experiential thing, and if you stop by you’ll get a chance to operate the Turndrawble, a turntable-based drawing machine I completed earlier this year. (You can also ask such questions as “Is the Turndrawble itself art, or is it the engine that makes the art?”)

You’ll be able to to create a piece of art and take it home with you, or donate it to the growing collection of pieces created by the Turndrawble.

I hope to see you there, help you make a unique piece of art, and talk endlessly about drawing machines and digital fabrication!


Yeahs! Pi!

I presented A Life Time of Yeahs! at Bay View Gallery Night but I didn’t really post much about how it was made, so I’ll do that now, as well as talk about the shortcomings. Above you can see the front and the back. The front piece is actually from an IKEA picture frame I found in the trash. It was a nice smooth MDF-like surface, so I figured it would take the vinyl and paint pretty well.

For the illustration of Mr. Rollins I did a few searches and didn’t find anything that was perfect, so I grabbed a few images as reference and traced/drew my own in Inkscape. I then created a stencil by cutting vinyl on the Silhouette Cameo (including the lettering) and stuck it all down to the IKEA board which I had already painted white.

With the vinyl in place I then painted it all flat black. I didn’t leave it all smooth as it sort of looked too polished, so I smeared some paint around with a brush and then with my fingers so it gave it some texture. I’m still not sure that was the right thing to do, but I did it, and there’s no going back.

Once I had the front piece done I found some scrap wood for the frame in my garage and cut it on the table saw. I made sure the wood was wide enough to fit the speakers into. It was, but as I’ll get to in a bit, wider would have been better…


The back of the piece contains a Raspberry Pi, a set of speakers, and a Teensy 3.0 with a few buttons connected to it. It’s all powered by a power bank from Brown Dog Gadgets.)

The speakers are USB powered so they, along with the Raspberry Pi, connect to the power bank. Turning on the power bank boots up the Pi and starts a script called “” which is a Perl script that starts running and waits for keyboard input to do something. That “something” is playing an audio file if you press the red button on the front of the piece. There’s also a small button on the back of the piece that safely shuts down the Pi if you want to turn it all off.

Yeahs! Pi!

It’s been suggested that the Teensy in addition to the Raspberry Pi is overkill, and… it is! I originally had a separate project that used some of this code and hardware and ended up just grabbing what I had lying around because it was quick and easy. Sometimes it works out that way, and that’s fine…

I should have gone with the more powerful speakers I had, because as I learned last time, if you’re doing something with audio in a public space, make it much louder than you think it should be. I had a louder pair of speakers, but they would have required AC power, so I compromised. Oh well. (You can’t tell from the photo, but there are speaker hole drilled in the side of the frame.)

I’ll probably clean up the code and publish it eventually, but essentially it gets kicked off by /etc/rc.local and runs it a continual loop waiting for a key to be pressed. If you press “a” (the button on the front) it randomly selects a WAV file and plays it. If you press the button on the back the script sees a “r” and shuts down. Why an “r” instead of an “s”? I don’t know… There’s another button that was taped up that types a “q” for quit, which quits the script, and is handy for debugging or troubleshooting if you have a monitor and keyboard attached.

That’s the summary of my Raspberry Pi based interactive painting titled “A Life Time of Yeahs!”

I hope you enjoyed it… As always, let me know if you have any questions.



In 1987 the Rollins Band released the album Life Time, which was produced by Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat, Fugazi, The Teen Idols, and of course, Egg Hunt.

The album Life Time was groundbreaking, not just in showcasing the talents of Mr. Rollins as one of the greatest screamers of all time, but in cementing into our popular culture the use of the word “Yeah!” for emphasis. You may remain unconvinced that Mr. Rollins accomplished such a thing, so I listened to the album Life Time over and over and over again. Yeah! I! Did! I then fired up my audio editing software and collected all of the best “Yeah!” moments.

Obviously you know the opening of “Burned Beyond Recognition” (the first track) starts with five consecutive “Yeahs!” and you also know that “Turned Out” ends with a massive, some would say bone-chilling “Yeah!”, but there are so many more great “Yeah!” moments. After collecting the best “Yeahs!” I culled the list to just under 50 (it was not easy!) and I’ve provided them at the push of a button for the interactive piece titled “A Life Time of Yeahs!”

Yeah! Button

I believe “A Life Time of Yeahs!” stands as a testament to the positivity that Henry Rollins exudes in everything he does. From his position as a lead vocalist to a spoken word performer, and from his portrayal as an actor to his role as a talk show host, you can expect nothing but positive “Yeah!-ness” from Mr. Rollins. If you’re feeling down, maybe you’ve got the “gun in mouth blues” or you just need someone to agree with you… Mr. Rollins and “A Life Time of Yeahs!” has got you covered.


Imperator Furiosa

By now I have to assume you’ve seen Mad Max: Fury Road, and you’ve probably said to yourself “Damn, Imperator Furiosa is pretty badass!” and then you remember that sweet skeleton arm on the door of the war rig and thought “I want one of those!” (Okay, maybe it’s just me…)

Imperator Furiosa's Skeleton Arm

Well, since I was unable to attain a high resolution image of the door of the war rig, I made do with a low-res version I found on the Internet, because that’s where you find pictures of things…

Imperator Furiosa's Skeleton Arm

Anyway, I traced the arm in Inkscape and made a nice vector image suitable for vinyl cutting. It’s about 18 inches long, so if you’ve got a Silhouette Cameo like we have at Milwaukee Makerspace you can use the 12″x24″ cutting mat, or just cut without a mat. The DXF file below should import into Silhouette Studio easily.

Or maybe you want to use a laser cutter or some other CNC machine to make an arm. There’s a vector PDF file, and the original SVG file you can easily edit.

Some people assume I drive an orange Honda Element, but really it’s a Honda War Rig. Special model, they only made a handful of them. (My old car was a V8 Interceptor. It was totaled in an accident.)

Honda War Rig

Honda War Rig (Close-up)

Maybe you don’t drive a Honda War Rig. Well, you can still get in on the fun with your Mad MacBook Pro. Just size the vinyl appropriately and stick it on the lid. Can you handle the “BADASS OS X Word Documents and Excel Spreadsheet” editing that’s about to happen!? I don’t think you can!

Mad MacBook Pro

Download the files and have a good time.

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