F I N K B U I L T

Scale model cockpit FPV

fpv
cool scale cockpit video

Funny Zoo Snap

man enjoys elephant My wife noticed this in the family archives.

RC Nitro motorcycle racing

rc motorcycle Motorcycle racing in Lilliput.

Manned RC Multicopter

manned multicopter
Here’s an RC multicopter big enough to ride on!

Make: Talk 004

make: Talk 004
I had a fun time talking to Mark Frauenfelder in episode 4 of his new podcast, Make: Talk!

One Man Basement Band

one man band
I feel like I could be getting more mileage out of my right foot.

Liberty

liberty vintage motorcycles An Etsy portrait. Thanks, Danny.

Tequila Sleeve

tequila the champs
Champs sleeve

Wolf-Stelzer Book Lamp

Book Lamp
My friend Tess just made the cover of ReadyMade with her cool lamp design.

Tree Stump Bug

null
Can this be for real? The design is so awesomely Thunderbirds. Via

The Nothing Box

nothing box

Thunderbirds

Thunderbirds are go
Are Go!

Command Center

command center
Sweet assemblage spaceship’s bridge.

Four Drano’s

drano
Watch the sink slowly, all but disappear from the design .

Toothpaste Aerosol

toothpaste aerosol
Aerosol toothpaste




Paint by numbers

painting

Have you made your concrete lightbulb yet? Once you do, you’re going to find that you need a 5 foot tall lightbulb oil painting to go with it. I know I did.

Now let me just make one thing clear, I am not a real artist, I just pretend to be one while I am at work. I mean, I’m horrible. I can’t draw for shit.

But I remembered a technique for rendering a somewhat reasonable scale image that I first learned of when I was 7 years old. I used to do those little scrambled picture puzzles in the saturday paper, where you start with a bunch of seemingly unrelated blobs, each with a number on it. you then draw each one in the appropriate square in a numbered grid and when you are done, you have a silhouette of Abe Lincoln or a kitten or something.

You can employ the same technique while resolving your own lack of giant oil painting dillemas.

painting

I took a picture of a lightbulb, printed it out and drew a grid on it. Then I drew a grid of the same frequency onto my canvas. Index 2 sides of both your refernce and your canvas grids. From there its just like playing a game of Battleship. Sketch out each box at a time, and when you are done, you will have a nice scale proportional framework on which to start painting. You dont have to strive for Chuck Close style realism with your rendering, just draw what you see in each box, do some shading, add some paint. You’ll be surprised how well it turns out.

60 Responses to “Paint by numbers”


  1. zombie Says:

    i had the same idea – but i think i overdid the frequecy and never got the grid out on canvas =)

    Really nice painting – and I want to disagree with you and say that the reflections and colours still require an artists eye =)

  2. Steve Says:

    Thanks Zombie.

  3. Matt Zink Says:

    yeah i’m with zombie – don’t shortchange yourself, steve. the idea is simple, but the attention to color and the control with which you have painted is pretty dang cool.

    i use similar methods at times with similar results. usually, my ideas involve tracing an image using a pc projector. i haven’t found the guts to try oil painting though! the idea of having an original oil painting done by me hanging in this house is appealing, though. . .

    good work, steve! great site!

  4. stendhalismo Says:

    try and track down an image of one of gerhard richter’s paintings of candles if you’d like to see a modern master’s approach to painting translucent objects – they’re absolutely amazing in person, warm on one lateral edge and cool on the other, which adds dimension. damien loeb is good to look at if you’re interested in hyperrealism – I think he also grids and enlarges photos, and is self taught. nice use of a tint of the shadowed object in the plant shadow at right, very effective.

  5. Stannous Says:

    From Da Vinci to Michelangelo to Warhol, artists throughout history have used ‘crutches’ such as pantographs or camera obscurae and modern projectors to enlarge, transfer, and otherwise create their art.
    Sorry Matt but the inabilty to ‘draw for shit’ has nothing to do with being an artist.
    As a friend once said, “An artist makes art because they can’t hold it in…”

  6. bre Says:

    Nice Painting. You painted what you saw rather than what you imagined a light bulb to look like. Even though you planned it out, it still looks fresh.

  7. Steve Dekorte Says:

    Another trick is to use a either a projector (a transparencies projector, a slide projector, or a modern DLP or LCD projector) to project the image onto the canvas where it can be quickly traced. Many artists also use light tables for this purpose when working with more transparent media (such as paper).

  8. julien Says:

    no seriously, do artists cheat like that? not that it’s cheating, but i always thought it was just total genius/mad skills.

  9. abe Says:

    This has been done alot in the past 400 years. Nothing new here but he’s right you can mystify a lot of the painting by using the grid technique. It is great for copying photos.

  10. christabel Says:

    I’m curious about julien’s comment. I have no illusions about the mysteries of art – it’s just something I do. Why is there such a myth around art?

  11. CHAKA Says:

    FYI, this is a common technique used by graffiti artists.

    Walls, trains, signs, buildings, etc all have a grid to them if you see it.

    so you can take your previsualised drawing and put it to a wall fairly easily. After years of painting it comes fairly natural.

    Like playing the guitar without looking for the frets.

    anyone can be a artist
    just go to any musuem and look at the crap they call fine art.

  12. cathy Says:

    it’s not cheating! this technique is very common with photo-realist painters. Vermeer developed an optical device, the camera obscura, that actually projected the scene in the room onto his canvas. People still do this…or grid out the canvas the way you have. It’s perfectly legal artistic practice. It’s a great painting, I wish it was hanging on my wall.

  13. seth Says:

    If I’m not mistaken, it isn’t unusual for sculptors to make miniatures, and then medium-sized versions of an object before moving on to the real thing. Similiarly, lots of artists sketch and sketch until they get the image right and then go ahead with the painting.

    Not all great art is a one-time, one-off strike of mad genius. This is not to say that those that aren’t are not as good, but just created in a different way.

  14. JRae Says:

    If it’s good enough for Albrecht Durer and Vincent Van Gogh, I figure it’s good enough for the rest of us. One of Durer’s more famous woodcuts is of an artist sketching a reclining nude using a grid (the artist, not the nude :-).

  15. Steve Says:

    This is definitely notcheating” in any way, shape, or form. As others have pointed out, this sort of thing is done by professional, fine artists every day. Some even use projectors and trace images onto canvas — and I’m not talking about just Sunday painters but artists who show in major galleries and command major prices.

    The painter and photographer David Hockney wrote a somewhat controversial book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Techniques of the Old Masters that “reveals” the tricks of the Old Masters.

    What you’re doing is perfectly “valid”. Keep on making art!

  16. Drew Says:

    this is what we did in middle school art class

  17. David Says:

    Above, Cathy wrote that Johannes Vermeer developed the camera obscura. I would like to clarify that. He did not invent the camera obscura. They have been around since the 5th century BC.

    Furthermore, many people will argue that there is no proof that Vermeer even used one. While it’s true that no one has found his camera obscura nor written record of him using such a device, the circumstantial evidence is nearly overwhelming. Here is a good description of SOME of the things that lead people to believe he used a camera obscura.

    But whether Vermeer used a camera obscura does not change the greatness of his works. It’s one thing to trace what you see, but it is quite another to be able to give it life (reflections, texture, translucence, warmth, etc). In my opinion the best part of your lightbulb painting is NOT its exactness in shape, but rather the colors which make the screw really look metalic, and the bulb really look like glass.

  18. Unxmaal Says:

    ProTip: Use light blue chalk to make your grid lines and your tracing. Blue chalk will disappear more completely than any other color once painted over.

  19. charliemcdougal Says:

    Is it for sale?!?

  20. Anonymous Says:

    Ooh, if you warp the grid when you lay it down on the canvas, you can make groovy warped-yet-realistic paintings, i bet…

  21. dave Says:

    There is speculation that Vermeer used a camera obscura. However, there is definite evidence that he used tricks to get perspective. A number of his paintings have pin holes at the vanishing points of the lines in the pictures. This suggests that he used a thread attached to a pin or nail to generate perspective grid lines on his paintings. Neat eh!

  22. Barbara Says:

    can i have it?

  23. Andy Says:

    Protip: light blue chalk might be fine and well, but there are other alternatives…

    Oil paint: Buy some cheap oil pastels. Purists will cringe since it’s totally low grade material, but it’ll melt into the paint you lay down and percentage wise it’ll be trivial. You can also get oil paint sticks, but typically these are too chunky for guidelines. Use a light grey or something that will be neutral in the color scheme of your painting.

    Acrylic paint: Caran D’ache Neocolor II Aquarelle Water Soluble Painting Crayons rock the house. Water soluble and melt readily into your paint. A cool bonus with these is you can draw on dried acrylic paintings to try out compositional stuff then wipe it back off with a damp rag. Comes off really cleanly.

  24. Matt Zink Says:

    I feel the need to clarify a something:
    - I didn’t use the word “cheat” anywhere in my response. Nor did I imply anyone was “cheating”. I even admitting to using similar methods! I have even made pin hole cameras (camera obscura) and gotten some cool things back.

    This is in reference to stannous’s entry. I hope I’m not being defensive!

    Anyways, this site is one of the coolest things out there, and I really enjoy reading these comments, esp. considering the amount of drivel I have to sift through at other sites I like.

  25. Matt Zink Says:

    Sorry to load down this section with my b.s. opinions, but I loved David’s comments, listed above:
    “It’s one thing to trace what you see, but it is quite another to be able to give it life (reflections, texture, translucence, warmth, etc). In my opinion the best part of your lightbulb painting is NOT its exactness in shape, but rather the colors which make the screw really look metalic, and the bulb really look like glass.”

    Art in my opinion is not the ability to reproduce an image, but art is the ability to interpret what the artist sees using any ability, techniques, and meduim available. Therefore, using grids, PC projectors, overhead projectors, camera obscuras, or any of that stuff is not cheating.

    I think the project listed above is wonderful because it removes the myth that art is done by someone else for someone else – it makes art accessable to everyone.

    So again, back to the original intent of all my comments:
    Awesome project, awesome site!

  26. annieidson Says:

    First of all, there is no such thing as cheating in art. All that matters is the finished piece. There is, however such a thing as archivalness, or will the finished piece survive the test of the years. But this is probably more important to the artist who wishes to sell his/her work.

    Ooh, if you warp the grid when you lay it down on the canvas, you can make groovy warped-yet-realistic paintings, i bet…

    You’re right, one of the most famous uses of this technique is Hans Holein’s The Ambassadors. You’ll notice that oddly shaped object at the very front. This is actually an anamorphic drawing of a skull produced by gridding out a skull drawing and then redrawing on a distorted grid. If you look at the image at an oblique angle from the left hand side, you will see an un (or at least far less) distorted skull. This, of course is just one possible use of a distorted grid.

    Is it Art? Is Steve an artist? Who cares? Do you like the work and does Steve find painting a fulfilling activity. These are the important questions to ask.

  27. Gill Says:

    I like it. It looks real nice.

  28. Flerqy Says:

    Yay, I love this painting! So sparkly (in a metaphorical sense since it isn’t sparkly at all).

  29. Lilredkim1 Says:

    I enjoyed reading everyone’s comments. I was looking for a site talking about the professional use of “projectors”. A portrait of my niece is in progress and for the first time I’m using a projector. I’ve painted many portraits and suffered doing the drawing portion while in college learning and I’m truly out of practice since 98′.

    Learning how to draw “realistically” in college was my challange and I have done portraits in the past totally without the aid of a projector but I am really kind of ashamed of doing it in a way. My professors always looked down on it from what I remember and I was even a “snob” about drawing it freehand and being “above” projecting and griding. However, I suffered hours of painful drawing to get a person to look LIKE that person. It was hard and this alleviates the stress. I know if I want to I can DRAW without a projector. BUT WHY HAVE THE STRESS????

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  31. Robert Says:

    Years ago, I remember a contraption made out of thin sticks grumetted together in some manner whereby you would trace the subject (say on the left side of your table) using a pointer on that stick(stick “A”), and that stick would move another stick (stick “B”)that was grummeted to it that would move simultaneous to your tracing, and produce a larger image on the paper/canvas to your right. You could proportion the newly created copy by adjusting the grummets to different grummet holes on stick “B”. Does anyone remember this gadget?

  32. Anna Says:

    My dad says your a neo-post luddite. Its a pantagraph!

  33. Heather Says:

    Anna, anyone can make a pantagraph but NOT anyone can turn a gridded outline of a lightbulb into a work of art. If you don’t know anything about shading and color your finished product will look nothing like Steve’s rendering which in my opinion is a beautiful work of ART.

  34. Raiph Says:

    Hello… I came onto your site purely by chance. I was looking for the name of the device, which Anna provided for me, and that was a pantagraph. Thank you Anna and say hello to your dad for me, he sounds like a laugh. Thoroughly enjoyed the whole site and found it incredibly refreshing. Thank you

  35. http://www.vividads.com.au/ Says:

    This is in reference to stannous’s entry. I hope someone would not being defensive!

  36. LikeSoy Says:

    A quick way to practice the grid technique is to open up a picture you’d like to sketch/paint in photoshop and choose “show grid” from the “view” menu (I may be paraphrasing, don’t have it open right now).

    If you use a gridded notepad (or moleskine) … that much more handy.

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