How Did I Make The Stem On My Gradient Mesh Pepper?

Jalapeño pepper drawn with the Gradient Mesh Tool in Adobe Illustrator I drew this pepper in Adobe Illustrator using the Gradient Mesh tool. I made a YouTube video of the Gradient Mesh process and it is one of my most viewed videos. When I look at the views (more 10,000 at this writing) I feel like a superstar.

YouTube viewer, Sarah Marquez, asked, “How did you do the stem?” First, let me say, I owe my Gradient Mesh prowess to the Red Pepper Gradient Mesh Tutorial by Brooke Nunez of LifeinVector.com

A half-done gradient mesh of a red pepper

The Gradient Mesh Tutoria from Lifeinvector.com

So, how did I do the stem?

It is a bunch of long, thin shapes filled with green and brown linear gradients—not gradient meshes, but the good old Gradient Tool. Drawing all those shapes and filling them with linear gradients is not a quick process, but I think it makes a good “wooden” texture.

The stem showing a gradient

I drew the entire stem shape and filled it with a linear gradient from dark green to light green.

The stem with a smaller shape filled with a linear gradient

I drew many long, thin shapes filled with linear gradients.

The stem with many gradient annotators

This shows all the little linear gradients that make up the stem.

Below are my YouTube videos showing the gradient mesh part of the pepper. I don’t show my work on the stem in the videos. I just mention it at the end.

Let me know if you have any Gradient Mesh questions. (You could be one of the first to comment on one of my posts.)

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Why I Am The Best Dad Ever

12 Reasons I am the best dad.

  1. I was not angry when three little girls woke me up way too early and invited me to breakfast with them. (Mother and teenagers are gone for the day.)
  2. painted-eggsI helped the little girls blow out eggs, so that later we might paint them for Easter decorations. Poking holes and blowing out the contents of an egg takes much more time than cracking the shell on the side of the pan. But I endured. After all, I am the best dad.
  3. I let the girls pour syrup on their scrambled eggs.
  4. I let the girls bring another girl child into my house for the day, because “it has been so long since we have had a play date.”
  5. I made cheese quesadillas. (Even though an evil doctor has prohibited me from eating cheese, I will make you cheese filled delicacies and watch you eat them.)
  6. After lunch, I taught a session on drawing the human face in profile.

    Four pencil drawings of a girl's profiles

    A spectrum or illustration stretching from youngest to oldest student (except for the instructor’s example on the left). Claire wants me to tell you that the drawing on the right is by 10-year-old Ruthie.

  7. Later, I let my Bethany realize her dream of teaching me how to make marbled paper using shaving cream and food coloring. Because there were four students in her class, I was obliged to donate my last can of shaving cream. I don’t mind growing a beard. Many good dads have beards.
    Girls making marbled paper

    Four girls wasting one man’s shaving cream

    Marbled Paper

    The fruits of our labor

  8. I could have started my homework. I could have worked out. But instead, I took the girls to the library. We checked out picture books.
  9. When we got home, I vowed I would get to my homework. But we had new books. I just had to try a few out to see if they were any good. We sat on the couch and read books.
  10. In the evening, Bethany and Lydia made “mailboxes.” A mailbox is a handmade envelope, taped to the wall. (I envision a 24 inch circle of plaster falling off the wall when those mailboxes are pulled down someday.) Into this mailbox a sibling might tuck little notes of appreciation. As soon as the mailboxes were hung, I was waylaid by Lydia. “Dad, how do you spell ‘best’?”
    “How to you spell ‘sister’?”
    “How do you spell ‘ever’?”
    “Thanks, Dad, now I’m going to draw a picture on this side.”
  11. When they had finally gone to bed, I had my chance to get to work. But, I was drawn to the mailboxes. I found scrap paper and made little cards. Of course a card needs a hand-drawn illustration on the cover. I wrote notes thanking my two youngest for the fun day. (I left out the part about keeping from my work and fitness goals.)
  12. It was 11pm. The day was done, but I set up my indoor bike trainer and readied some reading material. As I was about to mount my bike, my son came down the stairs and said, “Dad, did you forget you were going to come up and read to me?” No. Of course not. The book was very exciting. We had to read two chapters.

So here I am at midnight. I should give up and climb in bed. But, in stubbornness, I insist on doing one thing for me. I will write a blog post so that all my selfless acts today may be turned selfish and scream, check me out! Best dad ever.

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Helen’s High School Acting Debut

Drawing of Helen in a maid's outfit

The beautiful Helen Hale before she was famous

Last week, Helen’s High School put on their spring play — The Miracle Worker, the Story of Helen Keller. It was excellent. I cried through several Kleenexes.

Helen, my eldest daughter, was a wordless servant and manager of stage and props. The play would have been a total flop without her work. The part where my Helen swept up the food after the breakfast fight scene was very touching. She took the audience through the range of emotions. We laughed when she flinched at the mess. We cried when she missed a big piece of fake scrambled eggs.

Claire, my second daughter, was in charge of Helen Keller’s hair. It was a mystery how Claire could rebuild the actress’s hair after every episode of great struggle. Every time Helen Keller came back on stage, the audience would gasp and whisper, “Oh, look at those braids. How many hair dressers are behind that curtain?”

If you are on facebook, you can see a photo of Helen subtly controlling the play from behind the action here:

https://www.facebook.com/something-something

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I Forgive You

Portrait of Jack the Dog
A post by guest author, Jacko Nagurski

Reflections of a beautiful dog

Drawing of an angry dog

I know you don’t hate me because you are evil. You hate me because you have no other way of coping with my great beauty. You look at your reflection in the water dish and see a dogface. Then you look out the front window and see me walking by, and you feel rage. You see a dog whose lips hang down and cover his teeth, as is the fashion these days. You see hair that has the decency to grow around, rather than over, my eyes. Every morning, I climb out of bed ready for the cover of Field and Stream Magazine. While you… even after hours of expensive grooming, you could elude the dogcatcher indefinitely by laying next to a mop bucket. But your scrub brush appearance is not your fault any more than my super model body is my own doing. So, I will not judge you. I will not return your scorn, for I know it comes from a broken heart. But take heart, my friend. Someday in Dog Heaven, you will live for eternity with a perfect body — one like mine.

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A Saturday With Wet Feet

The YMCA Frostbite Swim Meet

Drawing of ed on the edge of the pool with a stopwatch

Drawing of a nervous man. Is he holding a bucket and a piece of cake? Or a stopwatch and a clipboard? It depends on which of my kids you ask.

I volunteered to do timing at my kids’ swim meet this weekend. It was -2° outside. But after entering the Y in my Inuit costume, I changed into shorts and a t-shirt to brave the tropical pool room. I wish the kids could learn to swim without splashing. I’m like, “Hey kid. I’m giving up my Saturday to help out at your race and you thank me by launching eight ounces of pool water onto my foot? You’re lucky I brought a change of socks.”

Timing for the prestigious Frostbite Swim Meet is tense. I kept saying in my head things like, “Okay, this is a 200 meter race. That’s eight lengths. Okay, he’s on his sixth length, I think. Oh crud, my lane is in the lead! I can’t look at the other timers to see if they are getting ready to hit the stop button. Okay, okay, I will try to discern if he is setting up for a flip turn or a reach for the wall. I HOPE THIS TWERP DOES FLIP TURNS!” I needed muscle relaxants by the time my morning shift was over.

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The Hale Family Christmas Letter 2015

Six Annoying Children, A Good Looking Man, and A Woman on the Edge

This summer, we drove to Colorado for a Hale family reunion. We picked up some old guy hitch-hiking just outside La Crosse, and he turned out to be my dad. He enjoyed a long, loud ride out west with his grandkids. After we got back home, we didn’t see him for a month.

The Hale family in front of the Rocky Mountain National Park sign

The Hales in Colorado, in front of the Rocky Mountain National Park sign.

Hale Family in front of Rocky Mountain National Park sign

There were a lot of Hales in Colorado this summer. And some Maedkes, Haases, Henrys and Wardens

Chicken Man

I realized a lifelong goal this summer, when I raised chickens from eggs. I told the kids the chickens would like us, if we were the first thing they saw after they hatched. They are grown now. They hate us…  and run when we approach.

Nikole holding a yellow chick

Nikole with one of my homegrown baby chicks before said chick understood he should hate humans.

Helen with several teen-aged chicks in her hands

Teen-aged chicks are not pretty. This was about the last time they thought we were okay.

The end of home school (for the big ones)

Home school was so lame, we decided to send our kids to a brick and mortar school. The kids were so distressed to leave home (except for sane Helen) that we feared they might have a cumulative nervous breakdown. But after three months at Aquinas Catholic Schools, they find they enjoy being socialized.

Four kids on the first day of school. Claire looks grumpy

Some members of the family were less than enthusiastic about going to school this year.

Lydia

Lydia (5) is cute. She mostly lays on the dog and sucks her thumb. She will play the piano, when forced. She is home schooled. This year, Lydia learned to swim – like really swim with her face in the water and turning her head to the side to breathe. She also learned to ride a bike, which you can do anywhere, unlike swimming which requires a pool.

Lydia laying on Jack the dog

This is the scene every day, at least once a day.

Bethany

Bethany dressed as a witch

My photo curator, Claire, promises this is the best photo of Bethany from 2015

Bethany (7) is cute. She mostly does crafts and lays on the dog. She likes Barbies. She is home schooled. Bethany enjoys crying on the piano bench, just like her older siblings did. Bethany likes swimming on the swim team, and looks forward to the competitive meets.

Ruthie

Ruthie holding pumpkins

Ruthie purchasing two Halloween pumpkins when most kids are satisfied with one.

Ruthie (9) is cute. She mostly likes to read books. It is all she does. She mostly reads when she should be doing something else like clearing the table. She is in 4th grade at Blessed Sacrament School where she has fooled the teachers into thinking she is a good kid. We regularly get reports of her angelic behavior, hard work and attention to detail. At home, the mask comes off. Her countenance glazes over when we give her a directive. I am convinced that when she is told to do anything, her soul leaves her body and reads on the couch. If I say, “Ruthie, clear the table.” She looks off into the distance, moves toward the table as if to obey, then turns and joins her soul on the couch.

Edward

Edward in a cowboy hat looking serious

I told Edward, “Look serious off into the distance.” Nailed it.

Edward (12) is not cute. He mostly dribbles basketballs — in the house — when we have decent folks over. He also does tricks on his scooter (outside) and rides his bike. He can only do homework between the hours of 10pm and midnight. Edward is in the 7th grade at Aquinas Middle School. He also has fooled his teachers into thinking he is a good kid, to the point that he was named student of the month in November. Edward was recruited onto the middle school basketball team by a coach with very poor judgment. He dominates the floor the way Michael Phelps might dominate Kobe Bryant. Yeah, he plays like his dad. Marble runs and Legos are still big with Edward. In nice weather, he rides with the middle school all-city mountain bike team. I would say he rides for the mountain bike team, but that would require his father to fill out forms, make deadlines and leave the house and drive places.

Claire

Claire at Riverside Park

One of the many trials Claire was forced to endure at her “real” school was the Homecoming dance.

Claire is 14 years old. She mostly swims. I mean she is really into it. She would miss parties, meals and family fun time, to go swim back and forth in a cold pool. She is sort of fast. She was the big holdout on going to an out-of-home school. Now she is the one rushing the others out the door to get to school on time. (For Claire, “on time” means 30 minutes early.) She enjoys gym class games that involve throwing balls at other kids’ heads. She nails the other kids in the head and looks innocent to avoid doing punitive push-ups. She shows no signs of success in high school. Claire gets good grades, but is only on the lame honor roll. She is not on the high honor roll, which vexes her greatly. She is on the all-academic team. Claire was also named Rookie of the Year on the high school swim team, and, she lettered in swimming. (We’re praying she adjusts to school.)

The Eldest Child

Helen at La Crosse Community Theater

The famous actress, Helen Hale, back when she was a nobody in the Missoula Children’s Theater.

Helen is 16 years old. She mostly does social. She acted in the Missoula Children’s Theater play this fall. She attended Christian camps this summer. She joined the Art Club and the Journalism Club at school. When she is not social, she is doing homework. She loves to read and draw. Helen is also a swimmer who won all her events at the prestigious Winona Invitational International Swimming Championships Preseason Opener. This summer, Helen water skied to please her mother. To the astonishment of everyone, she dropped a ski and slalom skied, just like her mom at 16.

The Matriarch

Nikole is beautiful. She mostly does family maintenance. She teaches elementary home school. She is constantly (no exaggeration) driving one of the kids somewhere. She somehow finds time to cook gourmet meals, because no one else in the family can cook, as they are too busy swimming and reading books. This summer, the formerly broken Nikole chose to tempt fate by water skiing again. Fate lost and Nikole won, returning to shore every time with nothing broken and all her joints in-place. Nikole just keeps getting fitter and fitter. She gets up early and goes to the Y to exercise with the other Catholic school parents. We all laugh at Nikole, because if any of us say, “I met a kid named such-n-such today.” She will say brightly, “Oh, I workout with his/her mom!” She works out with everyone’s mom. Nikole continues to be the glue that holds us all together.

Zellmanns, Rouxs and Hales by the Zellmann cabin

Some of the Zellmann clan at West MacDonald Lake. The lake that tried to break Nikole, but failed.

Pa

I am a pile of worthless. I mostly avoid work. Not when I go to work… then I work fairly steadily. But at all other times I try to stay far away from anything that might make me think, struggle or sweat. If not for dog walks and an occasional kid-taxi mission, I might never get out of bed. I help kids with homework. I would enjoy doing other things, like working-out with Catholic cyclists, but I am up too late doing my children’s homework. While my wife gets more chiseled, I get softer. My artist muscles are weakening too. I can barely draw a stick figure anymore.

The Dog

Jack running and looking crazy

I searched to find the most flattering photo of Jack.

Jack the dog is dopey. If Nikole is the glue that holds the family together, Jack is the Valium that holds my sanity together. Every morning when I want to roll over and cry, “What’s the point?” Jack is there to tell me how much he loves me and that I am the best thing that ever happened to him. He insists I take him on a long, morning walk. As we walk he goes on and on about how beautiful are the leaves, the trees and the sky. His favorite verse is “The heavens declare the glory of God.” He repeats it over and over again as we walk. Outside, I am forced to say positive things like “Good morning” to neighbors, and soon I may begin to think it is good. When I leave for work, my dog pretends to be sad. When I come home from work and am about to curl up on the floor and cry, “What’s the point?” Jack is there, telling me that his day was a black pit of despair without me there. He reminds me again, that I am the light that makes life worth living. He insists I take him on another long walk, during which he barks at children, little old ladies and anyone else who appears to be completely innocent. And when I go to bed, he tells me, “Dad, I love you, and I promise I will not go upstairs and sleep on one of the human kid’s beds.” He is a liar.

Jack the dog in the yard

Jack the dog looking fairly normal for a change.

As I proofread this, I thought, “All my friends are going to wonder why he hates everything and gets joy only from his dog.” Rest easy, my friends. My kids also do a fairly good “Welcome to the Morning” and “Welcome home from Work” greeting. And a kid who wants me to read a book can get me out of the fetal position. The Hope of Heaven also gives me great peace, as do Christmas movies, bicycles and my supermodel wife.

We hope you have a good year with kids less weird than ours, a house cleaner than ours, and a dog who sleeps in the dog-bed you bought him. Merry Christmas.

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Villain Illustration

A drawing of 5-year-old Lydia looking cute and happy, but with tiny fangs

My rendition of “Villain” for IllustrationFriday.com

I swore I would never interact with illustrationFriday.com again. Last week I made an illustration for the theme “Work.” It was late Thursday evening, and just as I was uploading the drawing to my blog, some jerk at IF changed the word to “Villain!” It was way before midnight!

Tonight I was working on my drawing when my 16-year-old, Helen, said, “It’s 10:15, Dad. You have to upload that thing in the next few minutes.” She was cheering me on as I rushed to scan it, upload it to my blog, and submit it to IF.

I made it! We cheered. Now I am so worked up, I cannot sleep.

You were good to me this week, IF. I might hang out with you again sometime.

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People Illustration

Many kids hugging a dog and each other with a bike in the background

My rushed, unaltered sketch of “people”

It was Thursday night at 11:58pm and I was about to scan and upload my “People” themed illustration to the illustrationfriday.com web site, when my daughter came to me and said, “I have to do these math problems before tomorrow.” I turned away from my goals and my dreams and helped my daughter with her geometry. Someone was asleep at illustrationfriday.com, because the word of the week was still “people” after mid-night, and I was able to rush my drawing into the ether.

Today, I did some of the shading I didn’t have time to do before uploading yesterday. Which do you think is better, the one above, or the one below?

Little kids with a dog. The figures are shaded with cross hatching

My people illustration with a little shading.

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My Exciting Birthday 2015

Ed with his cake and very many kids

By late evening, the guest list had swelled to include neighbor kids and kids I don’t even recognize. Look closely. My kids are in there somewhere.

My birthday started like any birthday. I was ignored and forgotten. When, later in the day, my family could avoid me no longer, they condescended to a family bicycle ride. We rode through town being sure to find the busiest streets with uncontrolled crossings. Then we had a pleasant time riding through the traffic-free bicycle trails. My tough little kids and my lazy older kids rode seven long miles.

I spent the evening grumbling in front to iMovie, trying to splice a little video together. I spoke threats as I tried, unsuccessfully, to legally add copyrighted music to my movie. I had to settle for the least lame, free music I could find. At about midnight, following the direction of my teen-aged daughters, I made final revisions, and I published the video.

Thank you, Nikole and kids for going on a ride with me while I careened dangerously all over the trails looking into the LCD of my point-and-shoot camera. Thank you, Dad for hanging out with me and drinking coffee while I made this silly video and gave you half of my attention.

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