Taking Stock

2011 was a good year, marked with many milestones. One of the most significant is that I got my green card. I'm writing this on the eve of new year's eve at my cousin Anjing's place in Canada. Having a green card means I don't have to get a Canadian visa to visit her. But the benefits of conveniences like this pale in comparison to the peace of mind that it brings. I can stay in the US for as long as I want!

This year, I also bought my first home. It's scary to be spending all that money and be in this much debt. But also, it is nice to have a place to call your own. I believe in being comfortable, so I am enjoying my new place.

I should mention having the hobby of painting and drawing. For hobbies, I tend to start getting obsessed with one thing, then quickly throw it out. But this painting and drawing thing, it seems to have lasted the year. I started by taking an intro to painting class, earlier in the year, and been doing sketches, drawings, and paintings ever since. I think I'm getting better, but mostly it is great fun. I hope to do more next year.

Career wise, I got a promotion. And I got to do a few interesting things like build a performance testing system, and played around with grammar-based test case generation. Actually for 2011, I would have liked to do more, but organizational changes hampered some of that. Hopefully, things become stable in 2012 that I can sink my teeth into something good, technologically.

My parents came to visit in the spring, and I got to go to Glacier National park near the fall. And all over Washington state in between. It was not all roses, of course, but let's not dwell on the negative. All in all it's been a great year, and I'm grateful for it. Let's hope next year brings as many blessings.

Last minute Christmas tree

I think it's becoming somewhat of a tradition that I put up my little Christmas tree at the last minute. I almost didn't do it this year, but I figured I should put it up now that I have my own place. Now all I need to do is wrap some presents.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Last minute Christmas tree, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

New adventure: home ownership

Ok, so I bit the bullet and bought a house. A 2 bedroom townhouse just a a couple houses away from my good friends Joel and Julie. So far I'm enjoying having a place of my own, and trying really hard not to spend too much on additional furnishings and whatnot.

My house

I keep wanting to buy things for the house. Furniture, art, shelving, cabinets, countertops, etc., etc. ... though I'm pretty sure the newness and the excitement will wear off in time; so I'm trying to hold out on the major purchases until I've settled in for a few months.

In the meantime I'm learning to be a handyman! I re-caulked my bath tub--it's uneven and messy, but it works. I learned too late that the way to make even caulking is to use painter's tape. I bought this "as seen on TV" thing that wasn't all that effective at all. Oh well, lesson learned for next time.

I'm sure many more things will come up that needs fixing and repairing... but that's part of the fun of owning your place, I think.

Glacier National Park

I've been remiss in not blogging about my trip to Glacier National Park in Montana with Pooja and Vishal. It's got the most awesome views. Around, and driving there from Seattle was also a great adventure.

Well, Pooja and Vishal drove there, I merely sat around taking in the views, since to my shame, I can't drive a stick shift; and they wanted to take their M3. No arguments from me. :)

There's really no words to describe the grand scale of the mountains that rise up and soon surround you. And even the pictures only give a sense of their majesty. If you ever have the opportunity to go here, I highly recommend going.

Glacier National Park, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Some thoughts on my new Kindle

So far, my experience with Amazon's kindle is reading a book on the kindle ipad app. But since Amazon unveiled their new Kindle devices, I went and ordered their entry level device simply called Kindle. I got it yesterday, and while the directional pad is somewhat frustrating, the reading experience is great! I downloaded a sample of the new Stephenson book Reamde (no that's not a misspelling) and I'm totally hooked.

I can see why people who have Kindles totally love them. When people read a satisfying book, the transfer some of that good feeling to the device they use to read it. It's not a perfect device by a long shot, the $80 one does not have a touch screen, and typing in using the directional pad is not ideal. I think I sometimes see some faint ghosting of the previous page when I turn the page. I'd like for it to have better contrast. But all those issues just melt away when you're deeply engrossed in a good story, and by the time you're done reading, you associate that warm fuzzy feeling with your Kindle.

As for me, I think the weight of the Kindle is going to be quite helpful for reading really long novels or long plane trips. I'm sure I'm gonna be spending some quality reading time as Seattle's rainy season commences.

Space Needle

The Space Needle is the structure that people associate with Seattle, and so every time friends from out of town come, we inevitably go there.

This time I begged off actually going up to the top. It's now $18 for general admission, yikes! I stayed down and sketched this iconic Seattle landmark instead. I should go down to Seattle Center a few more times, to get a more accurate depiction.

Space Needle, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Camping on Diablo Lake

Rob and August brought me and a bunch of others camping at Diablo Lake in the North Cascades. It was my first time to go camping in the "woods". The campsite had real toilets and running water, so it wasn't exactly roughing it, hehe.

Sleeping on the ground was uncomfortable enough, however, that I woke up early. And got to sketch the scenery as the sun rose from behind the mountains.

Sunrise at Diablo Lake, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Fun with pens

I've been doing a lot of sketching with these Pitt pens lately, it's a lot of fun.


And who says you can't erase with an ink drawing, there's always wite-out!


Art I like: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

This is Thomas Moran's Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. I saw it at the Seattle Art Museum's current exhibit of landscape paintings called Beauty and Bounty. The image does not do justice to the subtlety of colors in this painting. If you're in the Seattle area, it's really worth your time to go see them.

Pike Place Market

This is a sketch from a photo that I took. Pike Place market is so much sensory overload, I don't know if I can draw it from life!

Sometimes the market feels like one giant tourist trap, but it's still one of my favorite places in Seattle.

Pike place market, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Brushes and paint

Seems to me that my blog is turning into an art blog. I didn't really mean it to be that way, but if it's not obvious already, art's been what's on my mind lately.

Brushes and paint, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Hands and feet

I'm tying to depict light and shadow using a pen. Ignore the brown blotches, they are from previous sketches on the sketchbook :). Ink is very black, so in theory you should be able to make really dramatic high contrast drawings with them. Somehow, thumbing through my sketchbooks, my pen drawings don't reflect that.

My hand is somewhat cramped...

I used to use just a regular pen from the office, but last week I bought these Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens. I don't think it's that much more different in terms of what you can draw out of them. But the Pitt pens sure feels nice to hold and to make a mark on paper. Which makes me want to draw more. Which, I suppose, is the point. 

Can't sleep, so I drew my feet

Painting with Gouache and an Altoids tin

I've seen a bunch of people online that have made their own watercolor travel palette with an altoids tin. Since I wanted to try out gouache (a kind of opaque water-soluble paint), I decided to make one of my own, and fill them with gouache!

Altoids painting system

Cool huh. This is what the trees looked like when finished:

Downtown Bellevue park

In case you're wondering, here are the colors in my palette:

My gouache palette

Here's another sketch in my sketchbook:

Bellevue Arts Museum

I really like how you can layer light over dark with gouache, I don't have to plan ahead as much.

At the Bellevue Arts Fair

Our little sketching group was at downtown Bellevue this weekend, sketching at the art fair. The art fair is huge, I wasn't able to see it all. Of the small number of booths I saw though, I think Ron Stocke stood out with really outstanding urban landscapes in watercolor.

I has a short conversation with another guy who was displaying California landscapes. When he found out that I painted as a hobby, he said it was good to find a pastime that was different from your job. He said since his job was painting, his hobby was playing tennis. I imagine painting all day then playing tennis is a fun way to live your life!

Lady with hat, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Portrait of Matt

Matt is one of the models in the portraiture class I'm taking. It's a drawing class, but I asked to take a picture of him, and then painted from the picture.

I used a grid here instead of freehand to get more accuracy on the proportions of his face.

Matt, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Art I Like: Braids

Andrew Wyeth is best known for the painting Christina's World. But he made many other paintings, of course. This painting "Braids" is part of a suite of art collectively known as the Helga pictures. It's remerkable that Wyeth painted and this lady in various poses and settings over the course of 15 years.

Lemon and cherries

Summer is cherry season! I loved being able to paint bright primary colors, even though I think the picture is a little bit brighter that it is in real life.

Lemon and cherries, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Art I like: Lady Agnew of Lochnaw

So a book I've been reading tells me to keep track of art that I like, so that I can more easily track what things I respond to visually. So I decided to do that, but in addition share with you the art that I like. First up is John Singer Sargent's Lady Agnew of Lochnaw. I decided to pick a portrait, since I'm taking portraiture class. I think Sargent is one of the best portrait artists that ever lived, and this was the painting that launched his career as a portraitist. I'm sure you can see why.

File:Sargent Lady Agnew of Lochnaw.jpg

I really should be updating more often

I had hoped to put some pictures of my parents, Marion, and aunt Helen's visit to Seattle here, but I am now going to admit that this is unlikely to happen.

Anyway, Marion is a much better documenter of trips than me. So mosey along to her blog about the trip instead!

Figure drawing class

So first figure drawing class. We basically just went into it. First a few quick gesture drawings then a 10 minute pose, a 20 minute pose, and then a 30 minute pose. This one was the last one, probably about 20 minutes.

I feel I got better even within just this one class!

David pose

Weekend shenanigans

Went out last night with Joel to watch Filipino-American comedian Rex Navarrete do a show at the Parlor Live in Bellevue. He was hilarious! Also, downtown Bellevue on a Saturday night is filled with beautiful people, lol.

Several times that night, I started wishing I brought a sketchbook with me. I guess I really caught the art bug. So it was great that Cindy and Pooja and I got to do some drawing today, sitting in a coffee shop.

Coffee and cheesecake, originally uploaded by flyingroc.


It's officially spring, I guess. It's the spring equinox, we finally have a warmish and sunny weekend, and the flowers are blooming. These ones I got from Trader Joe's though. Probably comes from California or something.

Flowers, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Painting progress so far

Sometime in mid-January, I started taking a painting class at Bellevue College. Little did I know what sort of obsession it would bring. On our second session I was struggling with my first painting:

Work in progress

It just wasn't looking like what I wanted it to be. As I was trying to figure out what to do, our instructor Cecilia Cooney-Wickett asked "are you having fun?" And to my surprise, I was! Despite all the frustration and the struggle, I really get a "high" out of the painting process. And no, I wasn't sniffing the paint.

Since then, I've been painting a *lot*. I've done 35 mostly small acrylic paintings so far, and I think I've been improving since my first paintings. At least I hope I am, because while I enjoy the process a lot, I'd like to get at least somewhat proficient at it. Or else y'all will be subjected to looking at bad paintings for the foreseeable future.

From what I've been reading though, you do get better at painting with practice. In fact it seems that "easel time" and not talent is the biggest factor in getting good. Which is great, since I don't really see myself as talented.

Last Friday was the last painting class, and I've enjoyed it so much, I'm taking Cecilia's figure drawing class next. I expect to be able to draw like this after the class. ;)

Oh, and here's my latest painting:


Self Portrait

I thought I'd leave this picture up to populate your dreams.

Self Portrait, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

White Egg

I swear I didn't drink a whole bottle of cough syrup when I did this! I put a white egg one a white plate, and this was the result. Hehehe

I'm feeling better now :).

White Egg, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Cough cough

Maybe it's the change in weather (we just had the Seattle version of a snow storm), but I've been coughing a lot. Decided to skip work today, since I don't want to spread my germs around.

Thursday is no painting day, so I drew a couple of Ricola cough drops. Hehe, I think I need to also get better at drawing to get better at painting.

Ricola, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Aquarium field trip

Today's art activity was to go to the Seattle Aquarium, and paint there. This is one of the watercolor sketches that I did. It was hard to paint standing up in dim light, haha.

fish, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Painting glass

I was kind of nervous to paint glass, it looks so difficult. So I'm pretty happy with the result here. It wasn't as bad as I thought, you dont have to paint much at all to get it to look like glass.

Glass and Plastic, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Sunday Group Art

More painting! Mine is on the left, Pooja's on the right. Cindy was here too, but she left earlier, she drew the skate park outside my window.

This is so much fun. I've started painting on paper instead of canvas board. I like the texture of paper a lot.

Sunday Group Art, originally uploaded by flyingroc.

Painting mania!

In the couple of weeks since my last post, I've painted just over a dozen paintings. It seems like I got the painting bug. I've been reserving a couple of hours before bed on most days for painting something. Today, though, I spent some time with Cindy and Pooja to draw/paint something together. We chose to do Pooja's stuffed monkey toy.

It was so much fun, I hope we'll be able to do this more regularly.

Stuffed monkey, originally uploaded by flyingroc.


So if you've been paying attention to my flickr feed, you'd know that I started taking a painting class. It's extremely fun, mixing paint, applying it to canvas, it's almost meditative. Right now, they are a little on the rough side, hehe. I'm not Van Gogh, and even he had to start somewhere :).

On the theory that it's all a matter of practice, I'm gonna try to document my paintings on Flickr, and you can tell me if I'm improving or not. Here's my latest one: