Painting the Blue Sky Crimson

With the warm Cote d’Azur late afternoon sun on my neck, I looked out on the deep blue cloudless sky of Nice and I knew right there that when I painted the blue sky it must be a bright crimson melting to yellow. Capturing the past two weeks in watercolors and sketches was my way of chronicling my family vacation from Spain to France. I have been doing a type of art/travel of journaling for thirty years now, punctuating my travels into individual pages in a leather-bound journal filled with watercolor paper. Now I was taking the scene in front of me and reconstructing it on one of those pages.  To explain how I constructed this specific painting I’d like to give you a bit of the story on how my style developed. Since I started watercoloring 30 years ago, I had learned and perfected a conservative wet-on-dry watercoloring technique perfect for portable watercolors and journals but now I was experimenting with a much more random whatever-may-come wet-on-wet vibrant-color method. I was trying something new and it was exhilarating.

To give a bit of a background, I learned watercoloring when studying architecture and always strived for accurately representing the colors that I saw. I used a travel watercolor set with nine mixing pans which allowed me to mix and develop a color off the page, and when it was just right, I filled my brush with it, and stroked on the page of the journal composing a colorful painting. The synthesis of color adjacent to the white of the paper gave the watercolor it’s unique feel. It’s a very safe method and the interplay of chroma was found in the intersection of opposites, mixing the red with the green, the blue with the orange.

Tarangire Safari Lodge, Tanzania, 2001
Tarangire Safari Lodge, Tanzania, 2001

The funny thing is that my drawing technique is the opposite of safe. My preferred drawing tool is an ultra-fine-point Sharpie pen with a deep black waterproof ink whose marks are indelible, definite, undoable. I always liked deep, dark, marks, never erasable graphite. My affinity towards pens over pencils started also in architecture school when I tried publishing my work with the common tool of the time, a Xerox photocopier. Back then, the photocopier reproduced the subtle shading of pencil drawings horribly so I gravitated towards the crisp, dark, blackness of fountain pens which flowed an opaque contrast onto the white paper. My favorite was the Lamy Safari, which unlike many I’ve used was extremely reliable. The black music of ink flowed from the nib with ease and fluidity keeping up with my ambition to chronicle places.

With that fountain pen, I honed my forgiving

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, 1992
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, 1992

sketching style living up to Mike Lin‘s mantra “be loose.” I developed my
poché styles of stippling, crosshatching, and controlled scribbling, understanding that the texture and tone mattered more than the color. Put together with a mastery of freehand perspective taught by the late Kirby Lockard at the University of Arizona, my style started to develop. I combined accurate perspective with a loose sketch style to quickly capture places, moods, ideas, notions, and the shapes that inhabited my vision. Nothing was out of bounds, musicians, animals, street scenes, doodles, all inhabiting the page along with the ephemera of my travels documenting my journey.

Always wanting to try new tools, I purchased a new travel watercolor kit online with an interesting array of 18 vibrant colors but with only two mixing pans. This forced me to try developing my colors on the page. I used a wet-on-wet on wet technique where I first wet the are that I wanted to color with clean water and then added dabs of color to parts of the water puddle on the page. The pigment particles suspended in the water spidered out across the puddle blending with other colors dispersing with their entropy. The flexibility of my journal meant more difficulty controlling the water as it inched towards the edges of the page aided by gravity and limited by the evaporating water. This was the challenge that I jumped at. A few months earlier, I had met up with some Urban Sketchers in London to spend the afternoon sketching and saw firsthand in Homephoenix Wong a watercolorist who purposefully painted in the wrong colors. It was marvelous seeing yellows, vermillion, and purples in a London overwhelmed by grays and browns. I had to try this.

Girona, Spain, 2018
Girona, Spain, 2018

What draws me to a scene asking me to sketch it is typically a combination of interesting geometry, depth, and contrast. Odd angles, hard and soft edges, and dramatic curves make the interesting geometry. A foreground that draws you into to a midground, in front of a background gives me the depth. Having the darkest points in the scene adjacent to the brightest points introduces the contrast that sets the mood. I then can interleave the colors through the composition to develop the personality of the sketch. The sketch is a scaffolding for the colors.

That gets me a back to the color of the sky. Color affects me. As I walk through a field of sunflowers in Provence, as I touch the red stones of hilltop Roussillon, The colors imprint on me begging my hand and eye to use them to chronicle the journey. By the time I had traveled from Gaudi’s Barcelona to the medieval city of Girona, to Provence and finally to the sundrenched Nice that a striking red and deep yellow had to get out onto my page. That’s why I painted the blue sky of Nice crimson and yellow.

Nice, France, 2018
Nice, France, 2018

My Story

Since a young age I was always good with computers. I spent many years of my adolescence tinkering on a personal computer: first TRS-80s at school, and then an IBM PCjr at home. It was a logical progression from building cities with Lego blocks to building programs in BASIC on a computer. At the time, no one understood what I was doing, and I had a difficult time explaining it to my family.

Education

When I was in high school, I kept my interest in computers but also developed an interest in architecture and design. I attended the Career Discovery program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and found that I would love architecture school. Based on that experience, I enrolled in the College of Architecture at the University of Arizona. I did well academically, always keeping in tune with computer technology by working as computer lab monitor and as a computer salesperson at the university bookstore. I loved design. I designed everything from airports to houses to chairs to transportation systems. Each summer while I was at Arizona, I worked for Donald Wexler, AIA, first as an office assistant and later as a junior draftsman. I was able to see first-hand how an architecture office worked. The only computers in that office were used for word processing. As school, I used the computers available to me as tools to help with my tasks but I found then hopelessly rigid and underpowered to replace my simple sketchbook.

When it came time to select a topic for my thesis project, I decided to build Charette a prototype for a pen-based portable architectural design tool based on the architect’s sketchbook. The idea was to take the flexibility and informality of a sketchbook and combine it with a computer. Using tools like Fractal Design Sketcher and AutoCAD on a GRiD Convertible computer, I was able to demonstrate a vision of a portable design tool for architects. In my final year of architecture school, I saw two things: there were better building designers in my class than me and that I was better at computers than anyone else in my class. My mentor and thesis professor, Charles Albanese, AIA gave me this wonderful piece of advice: find what you’re good at and what you like and become the best at that. From that advice, I decided to go to graduate school to combine my aptitude for computers with my love of architecture.

I found the perfect program: UCLA’s School of Arts & Architecture had a Master’s of Architecture program specializing in Computer Aided Design Tool Development. I was accepted to the program and under the guidance of Charles Eastman, Robin Ligget, George Stiny, and Murray Milne, I learned about CAD Software Development. I learned the basics of C and C++ programming as well as how to use programs like WaveFront, SGI Performer, AutoCAD, and Photoshop in the context of architectural design. While at UCLA, I was employed in a work-study program at the UCLA Medical Center Computing Services as a network technician. The CTO of the Medical Center, Dr. Mike McCoy was interested in my research with pen computers from Arizona and I was able to work with him investigating the use of a pen computer as a digital patient record tool for medical professionals. For my graduate thesis project I built a CAD tool for constructing quadrilateral meshes for curtain wall design based on OpenGL and MFC.

CAD Software

Having received my Masters of Architecture Degree, I found a job with Tartus Development, Inc., a consulting firm in San Rafael, California which specializes in building CAD software for the A/E/C industry. I have been with Tartus since January 1995 and have grown to the role of Lead Software Architect. I have worked on various projects, but my main focus has been developing BC Framer for Boise Cascade Corp., a tool for automating the production of working drawings for floor and roof framing. Throughout my time at Tartus Development, I have investigated and used many technologies including MFC, the Standard C++ Library, OpenGL, Open Inventor, Ricoh DesignBase, AutoCAD, OLE for Design and Modeling, Microsoft XSG, XML, XSLT, BeOS, and Microsoft .Net.

Mind Mapping Software

In January of 2003, I started at Mindjet LLC in Larkspur, California as the Software Development Manager, leading a team of software professionals to develop MindManager 2002 for Tablet PC, released in April 2003 and MindManager X5 Pro, released in October 2003. I then moved to the new Business Solutions Group at Mindjet, where I will be working to design and develop new and innovative uses of MindManager X5 Pro. That role evolved into evangelism of the solution platform where I created the popular Mindjet Labs website.

Media Experience Evangelist

In April 2007, I joined Microsoft as an evangelist focusing on media and entertainment scenarios.  I focus on explaining and demonstrating technologies like Windows Azure, Xbox, WPF, Silverlight, Windows, Windows Phone, and most recently the Kinect Sensor.  In this role, I have worked with some of the largest media companies in the world, including Adobe, Disney, 20st Century Fox, Time Warner, CBS, Netflix, Sony, and Hulu and even had the opportunity to work with Ice Cube and interview him.

Principal Technical Evangelist

Throughout my time at Microsoft, I have had roughly the same role, one of a technical evangelist, explaining and demonstrating software development technologies.  At Microsoft, the evangelism group has changed over time with the technology landscape:

  1. Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE): Communications Sector
  2. Developer and Platform Evangelism: US West Region
  3. Developer Experience (DX Corp)
  4. Technical Evangelism and Development (TED)
  5. Commercial Software Engineering (Strategic cross-industry partners)

Over the past 10 years, I have had the pleasure to work with top Microsoft partners, helping them build apps and solutions using the various Microsoft developer technologies: Disney, Fox, CBS, NBC, Netflix, Hulu, Time Warner, HBO, MTV, Turner, AT&T, Verizon, New York Times, Associated Press, DirecTV, Dish Networks,  Twitter, LinkedIn, Sony, Starz, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, FlashForge, Dremel, BeeVeryCreative, Technicolor, THX, Ultimaker, Fitbit, and Adobe.

3D Printing

Another project that I have been engaged with at Microsoft is working with the Windows 3D printing team to help hardware manufacturers make their printers work better on Windows and help software developers build 3D printing apps that work great on Windows.  As part of this, I presented about Universal 3D Printing for the Microsoft Build conference in 2016.

My Career

In my career in software, I found the three elements of any job that I need to keep me satisfied, engaged, and doing amazing work:

  1. The role must be customer-facing in a domain that interests me: this keeps me grounded in reality – as I hear from customers and partners directly what they are trying to accomplish.
  2. I need to play with technology and code: For me, playing with software and code is the best way that I can learn how to explain technology to others.
  3. I need to be creative: I look at code as a creative tool that sits right beside my sketchbook, watercolors, pens, and pencils.  When I get an idea, I need to build it.

App Development

As an evangelist I’ve built a number of apps to better learn and explain the Microsoft developer platform:

Journalist App Journalist A journaling app for Windows
Architecture for Windows Phone Browse architecture from around the world and nearby.
Logo Architecture for Windows 8 Browse architecture from around the world and nearby.
image Tile Charts for Windows 8 Turn your Windows 8 start screen into a dashboard of charts that automatically update
image Authentic for Windows 8 Player for Connected Media Experience media packages.
Zoetrope Stop-motion animation app that turns images from the webcam, scanner, files, or drawings into video animations.
Logo Time-Lapse for Windows 8 and http://timelapseapp.com/ Simplifies the task of creating time-lapse photographs by crowdsourcing the task.
Kinetic Typography Design tool for Kinetic Typography experiences which animate lyrics, poems, or speeches.
Topographic Create 3D-printable topographic maps from anywhere in the world
OpenJSCAD Use JavaScript or block proramming to make models to 3D Print
Transcoder Transcode audio and video files from one format to another
Animated GIF Creator Create animated GIF images from videos

Last Updated 9/25/2017