Explaining Pi

One day my wife and I noticed our boy, 6 at the time, repeating something to himself while holding a dollar bill. Suddenly, he says, “I got it!” He then quoted back to us the serial number from the dollar bill without looking. That’s a random 10 digit number that muh boy decided to memorize without any instruction from us. Parental pride beamed forth.

dollar bill serial number

Since then I’ll occasionally give the boy’s hungry brain something to memorize. What better number to memorize than Pi? Pi is the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter. As far as I know its an infinite number. With the first 39 digits of pi (3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197) you can estimate the circumference of all possible circles within the observable universe within a margin of error about the size of a hydrogen atom. Pretty cool.

I set the boy to the task of memorizing as many digits of Pi as he could. He came to my office one day and got to work. I drew this symbol to explain what he was memorizing and we broke it down into chunks.

kid memorizes 14 digits of pi

By the end of our session he memorized the first 14 digits of Pi!

After a mathematician friend complemented what I’d drawn on the board to explain Pi, I decided to digitize the sketch…

pi = c / d

Now you can buy a shirt, and other products, with this symbol on it here: Click here to buy the shirt and other things I’ve designed



May your art never die.

The Xbox cable brushes against the guitar strings. They mutter a cautious chirp from behind the TV. Frightened, the guitar blasts me with guilt and musical memories. Dazed I stagger back. Hesitant.
A deep ache rises from a forgotten place. Sorcery! That old stringed box works strong magic against my soul, begging to be heard again. But alas, my will proves stronger. Silence!
I turn my back on the rusty siren to bow before the mighty rectangle.
May your art never die.

Tribute to the The Great Wave: A color palette based on an old Japanese painting

The Great Wave Color Palette

After years of admiring this print by the legendary Japanese artist, Hokusai, I’ve realized the colors are just as dramatic as the composition. So I decided to extract a few hues and create a color palette.

I chose colors from the boats, the sky and, of course, the waves.

Color Palette based onThe Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Hokusai
For you web designers out there, here is the HTML hex code for each color from top to bottom:
  • #c1a06e – dark tan
  • #d9d1ba – light tan
  • #82b0b2 – light blue
  • #346b84 – medium blue
  • #1a3657 – dark blue

As with all my color palettes you can find this one on ColorLovers.com.

Haunted by a legend


The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Hokusai is probably my favorite piece of fine art. I caught glimpses of it growing up in American culture, but didn’t know anything about the work until I studied it in art school.

Turns out the iconic scene is actually a woodblock print and not a painting, and its part of a series based on that little mountain you can see in the background. For some reason I fell in love with the piece in college when I found a huge poster print version for sale on a table piled with other pop art and cultural icons. From then on, the famous painting followed my through life…

  • I proudly displayed it in my room during college.
  • Then I hung it over my desk when I got an office job.
  • At one point, the image was my desktop background.
  • A coworker and good friend bought me a sketchbook with the painting printed on the front.
  • After getting married I brought it home and managed to hang it over our bed… briefly. Something about the imminent death of those sailors didn’t sit well with the wife as a pre-bedtime meditation.
  • Until I get my home office situated the historic image sulks in my closet. Nevertheless, it lives on as my current desktop background.
  • And finally, I sold my old poster at a garage sale while raising funds to start a business. Someday we’ll meet again Hokusai.

Actions do more than words.


Use words to source actions.

As an independent contractor/freelancer I’ve realized that selling plays a critical role in business. Like it or not, it’s a necessity, but it’s not my strength.

In an effort to learn more about sales I signed up for a sales-related email newsletter filled with quotes, inspiration and advice on sales productivity. Today’s quote applies to business as much as life in general.

One’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results.
Florence Nightingale (1820–1910), English pioneer of modern nursing

What if I created instead of tweeted the next time something inspired me?

I want to post more content on my blog, so I’ve created a new rule for myself. Before I post something on twitter I ask the following question:

Could this work as a blog post?

This idea started by accident when I installed a Twitter plugin on my website and it started creating posts from everything I tweeted. After several posts were out there in the open, I realized that I had broken through a mental block and transformed my publishing cycle.

My old publishing cycle

  1. Get an idea.
  2. Save a draft.
  3. Let it sit for a week, month… year.
  4. Review list of saved drafts every once in a while.
  5. Edit a draft.
  6. Save more drafts, pushing old saved drafts farther down the list.
  7. Edit a draft.
  8. Publish something not even saved as a draft.

New publishing cycle

  1. Get an idea.
  2. Publish it.
  3. Feel the pressure of something being exposed to the public.
  4. Reopen the editor, start tweaking things, adding more photos and editing text.

My goal isn’t to create a life-changing epic piece of literature every time a write a blog post. This new method is more of a personal development exercise. I’m still trying to find my “writing voice”, as they say. Part of that process involves simply writing more.

So lately, every time I feel a tweet coming on, I start writing about it. I get in a flow, and even if it’s not blowing your mind right now, it feels good.

The UA Permanent Collection, 2005

   The first curious steps into Sarah Moody Art Gallery quickly transformed into a journey through some of the most popular names in contemporary art over the last 100 years.  Picasso, Rauschenberg, and Chuck Close hung within inches of each other. This impressive collection only grew more interesting after passing Krasner, Dali, and Richard Long. The word eclectic doesn’t quite capture the diversity of this collection.  Movements and schools of thought represented in the form of their major artists range from Cubism to Post-Modernism with many stops in between.  The works of Robert Rauschenberg, Chuck Close, and Richard Long capture the breadth of artistic expression. Each of them became innovators and true pioneers in their mediums and processes.

   Rauschenberg, born in 1925, nearly invented an entire genre of creative expression:

Rauschenberg’s enthusiasm for popular culture and his rejection of the angst and seriousness of the Abstract Expressionists led him to search for a new way of painting. He found his signature mode by embracing materials traditionally outside of the artist’s reach. (pbs.org 1)

He became known for his unconventional materials and methods. Through much experimentation he found a satifying base of operation within screen-printing.  Strawboss, created in 1970 by Rauschenberg, is a silkscreen print that flowed from a group of works inspired by a visit to NASA in 1968 where he witnessed the Apollo 11 shuttle launch.  NASA actually asked him to include the experience in his artwork (fi.muni.cz 2). From a distance, the canvas looks as though it were scribbled on with a charcoal pencil. However, perfect lines and curves at the edges of the negative space suggest some form of mechanical intervention. In classic Rauschenberg style, the collaged images overlap, intersect, and blend to form visual synergy.  A man in the lower left finds himself over-powered by the sleek industrial spaceship overhead. The viewer’s eye tends to circle back to the clean edges of the ship’s fuselage repeatedly.  No doubt this was the intent of the artist. 

   Not only intentional, but painstakingly calculated are the works of Chuck Close.  Months and years go into each of his works.  The S.P. II, 1997, featured in Sarah Moody is no exception.  This linocut began as a photograph. Close then, through a difficult series of steps, carves the image onto linoleum and prints the image.  S.P. II becomes another one of his legendary centered frontal headshots.  Moving from photorealistic paintings in the 1960’s to his experimental process focused works over the years, Close has kept his subject matter relatively the same.  The moods of expression however, span a variety of emotions: from the very intense Lucas series, to the more subdued S.P. series.  This particular piece challenges the viewer with its soberness.  Peering out with what becomes an invasive stare, Close pulls the viewer in to examine his shameless vasage. The grayscale dots become less and less recognizable as a face when the viewer moves in for a closer look.   This ‘now you see it now you don’t’ style pulls on expressionistic roots, but has been developed by Close into something all his own.

   Another individual who carved a niche for him-self in the art world is Richard Long. Fingerprints Horizontal Circle, 1994, leaped from its frame in the lower Garland hallway.  A simple, visually perfect, circular line marked out by black fingerprints, back-dropped by a rough textured 21.5 x 32” sheet of paper. Consisting of minimal elements, indeed, but a very powerful image.  Each fingerprint appears to be the direct replication of the print on either side.  The repetition of the fingerprint shape creates a unified structure that reads as a single object, although there are no lines connecting one print to another. The circle is an illusion built by the proximity of each fingerprint to the next and the consistent degree of tilt applied unanimously. Surprisingly, few of Longs works are on canvas. The majority of his art takes place outside in the form of walks all over the world.  Along these walks he may lay down a line of stones marking his path through the Peruvian desert, or arrange a circle of rocks on the coast of Ireland.  Wherever Long travels he expresses himself through the same basic philosophy:

“I like simple, practical, emotional, quiet, vigorous art… I like common means given the simple twist of art… I like to use the symmetry of patterns between time… I choose lines and circles because they do the job… My work is visible or invisible. (Long 3)

Apart from photos, videos, or diagrams many of Long’s works are quite invisible. The remote locations where he finds his inspiration keeps the general public from ever seeing his large scale work in person.  To remedy the absence of an audience Long has published books with photographs of the distant works, bringing his art to the people. Armed with stone and square miles, Richard Long, cleared path for land artists.

   Rauschenberg, Close, and Long redefined what the world classified as art.  They pushed the limits of their fields and moved into undiscovered territory.   The University has a treasure of important art by these and many other great men and women who were revolutionary in their ideas and masters of their craft.

Works Cited

1) http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/Rauschenberg_r.html

2) http://www.fi.muni.cz/~toms/PopArt/Biographies/Rauschenberg.html

3) Richard Long, Five six pick up sticks. Seven eight lay them straight, 1980, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London