posts tagged with the keyword ‘art’



Recently I was working with an artist, I mean a real artist. Someone who can work on a giant canvas and create something from nothing. Well, from nothing but ideas, and maybe some imagery. There’s gesso, and pencils, and paint and brushes, and a heck of a lot of time involved, and at the end is this amazing piece of artwork that just makes you happy when you look at it.

Art is pretty amazing when it’s done by talented people…

I was busy shooting photographs and I mentioned to the artist that I really liked her work, and admired the talent and skill it takes to create it. She then said “Well, I wish I was technical” and by this she was referring to my skill set. It weird to hear that, because even though I’ve been using computers for over three decades, I tend to forget the amount of technical knowledge I have. I think there’s a few reasons why.

First, everyone uses a computer nowadays. Well, not everyone, but chances are everyone reading this does. I was using computers at home when most people were using Sony Walkmans because CD players weren’t around yet. Of course the vast majority of people just use computers, but don’t really know how they work, or how to program them, etc.

Second, since everyone uses computers, everyone uses the web. I helped build the World Wide Web. Nowadays every jackass with a Facebook account and a blog is a “Social Media Consultant” or something. Oh, and everyone can build a web site. I wrote all the code for a large corporate web site nearly 20 years ago. That seems weird, but it’s true.

Third, I tend to hang out with people who are like me, meaning, people who know a lot about computers, and who know how to build the web. I like most of these people, they’re awesome, but you tend to forget that you know stuff 90% of the population does know when you hang out with that other 10% of the people who also know the things you know. That’s a strange dilemma.

Maybe I’m just a frustrated artist? I have all these technical skills, and on occasion I can be creative, but I often feel that I’m lacking in artistic focus. It’s all very strange, but I’m finding ways to deal with it.


The Art of Tinkering

I recently got my copy of The Art of Tinkering and I must say, it is a beautiful book. It just looks amazing. It’s full of ideas and images and makers and artists.

I’ve only read bits and pieces so far, though I’ve spent a lot of time pouring over the images and admiring the layout.

And yes, I know you kids with your “e-books” don’t care about “dead tree editions” but I still love books made with ink and paper. They just have a certain quality a digital copy will never have. (And yes, you can hack the book! It’s got conductive ink right on the cover which you can build a circuit with.)

The Art of Tinkering

Oh, I should also mention that one of my photos is in the book! On page 183 is a photo of the MaKey MaKey Banana Pong I created last year.

If you’re at all interested in creating things, or perhaps you just need some inspiration from others grab a copy of The Art of Tinkering.


At Milwaukee Makerspace we have two very important rules. Rule #1 is “Be excellent to each other.” and Rule #2 is “Don’t be a dick.”

These rules are common among hackerspaces, and in an ideal world those would be the only two rules you need. Unfortunately, people need to be reminded of these rules every now and then, so when I saw Brant in the Wood Shop making a beautiful “Don’t Be A Dick” sign on the CNC Router, I figured I too should make one using the skills I possess.

Don't be a Dick!

I present to you “Don’t be a Dick!” – by Pete Prodoehl – enamel on canvas – 8″ x 8″.

Nixon Times Two!

I started with this photo of Richard Nixon (aka “Tricky Dick”) and pulled it into Photoshop where I ran a few filters to knock down the number of colors used and basically posterize it down to two colors. It’s still pretty recognizable. Typically at this point I’d do some manual cleanup, but I did very little with this one. Some pieces require more than others, YMMV, etc.

You’ll see I also added registration marks. (Those little crosses.) They worked, but I’ll probably go back to the old registration mark method I used for my annular series.

Nixon Separated

The Photoshop file has two layers, one for black and one for gray. This made it easy to create separations, since I wanted to save each color out to its own file. At this point it would have been helpful to turn the gray artwork into black artwork for the next step, but it wasn’t needed this time. The next step? Oh yes, after I exported the two images to PNG files I then imported them into Inkscape so I could create vector files.

Lines for Cutting!

The art imported into Inkscape, I did a ‘Trace Bitmap’ operation, and our raster file gets converted to vector outlines. These are what we need for the Silhouette Cameo to cut the stencils. (I typically save the files in SVG format, which is the default for Inkscape, but then export as DXF files, as that’s what can be imported into Silhouette Studio, the controlling software for the Cameo.)

Paper Stencils

For the stencils I used thick glossy paper that was originally from a calendar. (Pro-tip: grab all the free calendars people offer you, the paper is quite useful!) As a special treat, the calendars I used had images of concrete walls printed on them, which, when put in contrast with spray-painted stencils, looks almost as cool as the final artwork!

So remember, friends… Don’t be a Dick!


Snowflake Designers

For the Holiday Make-A-Thon at Milwaukee Makerspace we came up with the idea of using Snowflake 2.0 so people could design their own snowflake ornament that we would then laser cut for them.

We had two computers running and instructed people how to use the app. We had to make sure people didn’t overlap the lines, as each line would be seen by the laser cutter as a place to cut, and people would end up with a pile of little wood pieces instead of a snowflake. We also found a bug where you could drag a node off the screen and then not be able to reach it to drag it back. Besides those little issues, the app was great, and lots of makers had interest in download it and playing with it.

Oh, Lance did all the laser cutting, and he was kind enough to add the person’s name, along with “Christmas 2013″ to the back of each ornament, and a hole to hang them. Since it was a minimal amount of etching, and then just two vector cuts, things went pretty fast, which is good, because I think we made over 80 snowflakes!

Here’s a few of the designs people came up with during the event.








I’m tempted to dig into the code a bit and see if I can tweak things with Snowflake 2.0. Not surprising, but it’s been a year since I played around with snowflakes.

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