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Today’s Portrait Painting Class

Portraits are definitely my most difficult subject so I attend as many painting classes as I can. Here’s today’s class progress shots:


Just a simple drawing and then basic painting of the head, did this in the first two settings. Next shot:


Color and exposure isn’t very good on that but shows the progress.


The final painting at the end of class. Actually I was done last session but then decided to goof off with the tattoos and background for no real reason.

The End Of Coder Influence

I get an email from someone who tells me that Reddit has decided to remove my book from their list of suggested readings for Python until I update the book to Python 3.  They made this decision about two weeks prior to when I received the email, so I went to look at my traffic and sales to see if there was an impact.  Weirdly, my sales were up and my traffic was about the same.  It had no impact.

Once a year I go through my Python book and I try to convert all the code to Python 3 as a test.  I do this with the eye of a total beginner, looking for things that will trip them up and cause problems.  Bad error messages, confusing syntax, broken libraries, and inconsistencies.  Every year I run into nearly the same problems:  strings are difficult to use, error messages don’t have variable names, libraries don’t really help with strings, and there’s too many inconsistent string formatting systems.  So I decided to see again what it would take to make my book Python 3 and ran into the same issues all over again.

To put it bluntly, the reddit community responsible for teaching beginners to code censored my book as a power play to get me to force Python 3 on unsuspecting beginners.  The language does not work for them, and they were attempting to use their influence to enact change in my books, rather than use that influence to improve Python for beginners.

And it didn’t work.  I still had the same sales and the same traffic.  I actually think if all Programming Reddit rose up and demanded Python 3 have better error messages regarding strings (a minimum usability bar) they would be ignored too.  In fact, I kept seeing over and over people pointing out blog posts, reddit threads, HN threads, and tweet storms as if these were highly influential which then did nothing.

A few days ago I went through another test of Python 3 and ran into the same problems.  I get enough people emailing me about Python 3 that I decided I needed to work out a list of reasons why Python 3 is broken for beginners as of today.  Originally I was going to write it fairly simply and not worry about appeasing the coders, out of fear they would retaliate like they always do and boycott my book even more.  But, I remembered that after countless blog posts about how terrible of a person I am and how terrible my books are, I still end up helping millions of people a year and still have the same sales.

I decided to just write what I felt and fuck whatever programmers think.  I wrote it, put in a couple of jokes and trolls, and then posted it.  Fuck it, I have a cold and don’t give a fuck.

Immediately people started insulting me, telling me I’m wrong (yet not reading the post, LOL). Then the HN posts start, then Reddit.  I don’t read those so people shove them into my email and Twitter stream.  I was tired and not into defending myself so I just deleted Twitter off my phone and go sleep some more.  Enjoy the sun.  Did some painting.  Hung out with friends.  Who gives a fuck about what a bunch of angry lonely coders think about my thoughts?

Yet, here’s where everyone I know becomes deathly afraid of the coders.  These groups of programmers used to have large sway over what was successful and chosen, but at the same time were horribly uninformed about basic computer science.  They ran to Node.js because of “events are better than threads” and had no idea Hoare or coroutines existed.  They manually went to hand convert all Python 2 code to Python 3 code, rather than just asking why the Python 3 VM can’t just…run Python 2 code too.  Then they believe the mega load of bullshit that this is impossible despite all proofs and evidence stating otherwise.  For all their claims of superiority for having once bought a copy of The Art of Computer Programming the previous generation of programmers are sadly uninformed about basic shit.

We all feared them, because their incredibly uninformed opinions and complete lack of humor or human decency could sink or swim entire companies.  Get slagged on HN and you’re done for.  I’ve heard of VCs actually threatening to strip away funding over bad HN reactions like HN is on the same level as the food critic of the NYT.  So what was going to happen to me?

Honestly, I’ve been trying to get out of the technology industry since 2008.  This industry sucks, and largely because of the abusive previous generation of programmers.  My goal has been to just make their influence on my life as small as possible so I can go on doing things I love like painting.  Fuck them.  But, a man’s gotta eat so I keep doing my work so I can make enough of a living to keep helping folks and doing what I love.

What are the results of their insane hatred of my latest stance against Python 3?  Am I doomed to never have any more sales again?

Nope.  Same traffic.  Same sales.

I believe that the influence of the previous generation of programmers is largely gone.  I can’t exactly say why, but I think it’s because they consistently back terrible ideas over and over.   They also tend to have no idea what will be successful or not.  The reason is they base their opinion of a technology on superficial things related more to whether the tech fits their tribe than its actual merits.  When my book first came out the HN crowd and other “professionals” said it wouldn’t work.  Same for many successful startups, technology, and ideas.  Meanwhile, the things they do back end up being terrible and we all regret following their hive mind.  Can anyone say OpenSSL?

I also believe the newer generation of programmers are more well rounded and have a general distaste of this kind of tribal fascist bullshit we have in open source.  I can’t really prove that, but it’s a feeling I’ve been having for a couple years now.  This next generation is different. I just can’t quite say how other than they seem to not believe the same things as the previous generations.

About a year ago I stopped reading HN and Programming Reddit because of this.  I don’t worry about the vindictive assholes out there who feel any questioning of their tribal beliefs is an affront to their person.  I now think the actual influence of the hive mind on anything outside of the tiny little set of Silicon Valley Programmers Who Read HN bubble is nothing.  If you think their influence matters then either you’re working on something as insignificant as they are, or it really doesn’t matter and you should just ignore them and move on.

Keep making cool stuff and speaking your mind counter to the hive.  I think that’s the future generation’s take on programming, and I fully endorse that message.

A Day at The SF MOMA

I’ve been into using the features in my camera to take photos and directly post them to the internet. To do this I set up the buttons to make transferring easier. Then I made it easy to access all the buitl-in effects.  I have a Sony camera so it comes with most of the Instagram effects.


This is with B&W but allowing green through. 

While doing this I found I can use a couple settings to take better photos for paintings.  I can use the High Contrast B&W filter to look for interesting high contrast shapes and composition, then take a RAW image with high vibrance to get color and detail reference.

I can then load it into Lightroom Mobile or one of the Photoshop apps to alter it real quick if I want. 

I decided I wanted to use the HCB&W filter to practice composing shapes. I went to the SF MOMA to take photos. 


All I’m doing is finding interesting shapes. The high contrast makes it easier to see them.

Modern art museums are great for this.


People standing around mixed with art sculptures and piles of garbage have great shapes.


No idea if I’m violating copyright but whatever.


I was actually suffering from a throat infection that kept me from talking so I got tired.


I try to make it difficult to identify the object I’m photographing. When it’s a random metal wall that’s not hard.


Playing with depth of field.


The time of day was perfect for contrasting shapes on buildings.


I used people to alter the shapes in the scene.


Love Chuck Close.


Neon looks great in B&W.


The shapes can come from anywhere:


Neon tends to just be pure white.


Done at the Museum.

Morning Foggy Pastels

I haven’t been able to paint outside in a while, and the fog was looking great this morning, so I decided to go do something small and quick. I hit Fort Mason and took some photos:


And the same guy in color:


I need to get my sensor cleaned I guess. 


I settled on this little scene to practixe things fading into the fog. In pastels this is a little hard.


First I did a little valur study to figure out what I wanted.


Then this tiny little pastel. I didn’t want to be out there forever so kept it tiny. Here it is up close:


Just a simple impressionist study.

Watercolor Creme Brulee

I was doing more watercolor practice copying paintings out of books and I burned this one:


Burned it?! That’s right. Rather than use a hair dryer to dry watercolor I use a creme brulee torch. Since the paper is wet you can run a torch over it rapidly and it’ll dry really quick. But, obviously if you don’t pay attention or do it for too long or get too close, well, you burn the paper.

Here’s one I didn’t burn, but it had too much sizing so the color wouldn’t stick:


Sizing is a glue or sealer on the paper that lets the color soak in some, but not too much, preventing the paper from buckling. Here’s my final one for the night:


Just a simple painting with not too much color.

Practicing Watercolor and Ink

I really like sketching with watercolor but damn is it hard. Watercolor is the inverse of other paints because it’s transparent so you build paintings from light to dark, using the paper as your white “pigment”. In other paint it’s easier to go from dark to light because the pigment is opaque.  The other thing making watercolor difficult is you have to controp the amount of water on thr paper vs. in your brush. If you don’t it will run and bleed around.

The easiest way to get used to this is to paint with just ink and water or any transparent black paint. To get back into it I did a copy of a painting from a watercolor book:


I just used an ink that’s fairly transparent and water soluble. I have a brush pen that makes it easy to paint, and then some little water brushes to change edges.

The way to think about these paintings is like this:

  1. Identify every shape that’s whitest white. Paint everything else with a very wash of light gray.
  2. Identify the shapes that stay lighy gray, paint everything else mid gray. Now you have your whites, light gray, mid-gray. It might be done here.
  3. Now identify all the dark shapes, paint those in. You should be done at this point.

The advantage of watercolor is you can control the edges on these shapes if you dry the paper or not between each layer of paint. If you have more water then the edges will be soft and out of focus. If you dry it then the edges will be hard and in focus.

Do these kind of monochrome paintings for a while and you’ll get the hang of water as an edge control and using layers of watercolor to build the painting. 

Next I tried a few with color, using mostly the same process. But, one thing I always never really figured out how work pen and ink into my watercolors so I tried that too. First try:


It’s like, some rocks and stuff. I don’t know.  Let’s try that again:


It’s some more rocks and an orange bush. Sure. That’s…close enough. Ok something with dark black so I can use the pen and ink without it being weird:


Nothing beats backlight on trees for dark silhouette shapes. Those are birds or mosquitos or something annoying and tiny.

I really like ink for drawing and a brush pen to do monochrome paintings, but still not sure about it in watercolors.

Bob Ross Light at The Summit

Painting along with Bob Ross again I did this:


When you see the progress shots you’ll notice I added that one tree right over the top of the best part. I knew I should have stopped but like Bob I love doing the trees. I started off with a silhouette of sky and mountains.


This time I used water soluble oil paints. These work mostly like oil paint but you clean up using water instead of solvents. The reason I used them is I wanted to speed up my painting the way he does with big buckets to clean the brush and then banging it on another bucket to dry it. If you watch Bob’s painting, he does this many times, laughing about coating the studio with paint thinner and wiping it on his pants.


During his life he probably washed brushes like this hundreds of thousands of times. No gloves, solvent everywhere, soaking his skin, clothes, and studio with dangerous chemicals. People scoff at this, but he was using massive amounts of solvent and spraying it everywhere. This is different from a painter with a tiny jar and drying a small brush with a paper towel.


I believe Bob Ross died of lymphoma at 52 because of repeated and prolonged exposure to large amounts of solvents. Others will point at painters who don’t get cancer and say it’s not possible, but again Bob was exposed to crazy amounts of it, and early solvents that were not very refined.


When I try his methods even with just water it’s a mess. I’m trying to be careful too so I don’t have to clean paint off my floor. I have two buckets with water and another plastic can for banging. The water still gets on my gloves, floor, and legs in small quantities.  Just based on my experience painting like him with water and being careful I can see he was soaked in it.


It’s too bad that painters are told these solvents are as harmless as water. They are definitely not, and there’s nothing macho or painterly about soaking your skin with toxic chemicals. Numerous painters eventually have to stop because constant exposure gives them rashes, allergic reactions, and breathing problems. The few who say they’re fine after 30 years are just falling for survivor bias.


I try to always wear gloves. It makes cleanup easier and protects my skin. Other painters make fun of me, but then I just grab my paper towels, invert my gloves over the garbage like bags, and walk away all cleaned up while they’re washing their hands and dealing with irritated skin or worse. It’s even more important with pastels as the binder and pigments are an irritant too.


Sometimes painters will claim gloves ruin their sensitivity but I just point out how doctors all wear gloves and operate on delicate organs. I’m pretty sure if a doctor can operate on an eye or a heart while wearing gloves you can fling your shoulder around a shitty oil landscape.

Bob Ross’s Misty Foothills

I did another Bob Ross last night, mistly using the knife but not entirely:


I love using the palette knife to paint like this but I don’t get much opportunity to use it with the classical realism I do. I think my next Ross will be all knife.

Here’s the progression:









Mastercopy of Bob Ross’s “Camper’s Haven”

I love following along with Bob Ross so tonight I spent a few hours doing Camper’s Haven and here’s the results. Keep in mind I’m in the heat of battle and just used my phone real quick for all but the final shot. That shot uses my nice camera so looks correct. Here it is:


Now the progression:




Had to do those damn trees twice. Just couldn’t get them dark enough.

And then finally:


I’ll let it dry and the do something about those violently green bushes and water in the bottom right. Fucking Pthalo green.

Lady Agnew Day 2

Starting with my wash from yesterday:

I went in and tried to get basic big flat shapes in the background:


Then the chair and the cloth on her legs:


And using the same colors to do the blouse and then basic shapes for the sash and skin:


The final color for the skin is just a simple “dead color” that makes her look like a zombie. 

I now let this dry and I’ll do another layer adding what details I can and spend most of the time on the face.

While doing this I finally noticed that one eyebrow was raised.