Hot Air Balloons

Posted: 6th June 2013 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
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Hot Air Balloons after tornado revolve in illustrator

Balloons by Alex


White undersides of clouds suggest no shadows from above. Ballooners loosed the ties and drifted up, showing defiance to the ruins below. If there must be shadows, let us control them.
Life is peaceful on clear days. From my basket I wonder how life would be different if there were more of it on the ground. The breeze against my balloon knows nothing of the breeze that took my home.
Tornadoes. I don’t understand.

Simple Tessellations

Posted: 6th June 2013 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
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Palm Tree Leaves Tessellation

Palm by Alex


Palm: Add a center point to the top and bottom horizontal lines of a hexagon. Slide the points down or up. Copy the object or transform copies of the object to interlock them across the artboard.


Jet Pack Tessellation Super Hero

Jet Pack by Alex

Jet Pack: Add points at ¼ and ¾ along each side of a square. Nudge opposing points equally. Copy or transform copies of the object across the artboard.

shield tessellation from illustrator

Shield by Alex

Shield: I don’t remember how this came together. I started with a hexagon.

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Vector Helicopter propeller illustrator clouds gradient MASH M*A*S*H

Cloud-piercing Copter – By Alex Amiot


Thank you, Brush Tool

Helicopters these days are unnecessarily bulky, overly detailed, and too heavily weaponized.

Especially if you’re trying to draw one.

I set out to draw a helicopter for my son. The M*A*S*H series came to mind as I drew a bubble below and to the right of a couple sets of propellers.

My faint memory of the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital’s helicopter was closer to reality than I would have guessed. After finishing the illustration of the helicopter, complete with color gradients and a cloud-piercing runner, I googled the M*A*S*H copter and felt rather impressed with myself.


O Crookston school district, you must have thought yourself successful in thwarting my creativity and innate artistic abilities by cutting art class before I reached 7th grade. Well, perhaps you were, but at least I can draw a helicopter.

Little Spots of Polka Dots

Posted: 28th September 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator, Parenthood
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Baby boy polka dots vector circle sphere 3D Revolve Illustrator

Polka Spheres – By Alex Amiot

In pursuit of a colorful wall hanging to adorn the wood panels in my little boy’s room, I applied a few dots to a blank “Artboard” in Illustrator. Polka dots are good, but mine were not appealing.  I made some adjustments.

By revolving a half circle, like the letter “D”, I happened upon what looked like a polka sphere. I then extruded a completed circle, making the letter “o” into a pipe-like figure. Bingo. I had the makings of a rudimentary planetary system.  You know? Like the old solar systems made of Styrofoam balls and wooden dowels.  #classicsciencefairproject

I extruded a few letters, adjusted the 3D angle for each of them, and moved the letters to the ends of the pipes.

Polka spheres are the new polka dots.

Baby Pee and Apple Tree

Posted: 24th September 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator, Parenthood
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Vector Apple Tree Mushrooms Revolve Illustrator Nature

I pump when I swing – by Alex Amiot

My little boy peed on me twice in one diaper change. Speaking of the 16th letter, by drawing a shape with some semblance to the letter “P” and applying Illustrator’s 3D Revolve effect, you’ll get what almost looks like a tree.

After “expanding” the shape’s appearance like my son expands his diaper, I selected the trunk and gave it a couple shades of brown, leaving the treetop green.

A smaller “p,” something my son has not yet discovered, yielded a mushroom-like shape. When decreased in scale, it was quite convincing next to the towering Oak.

The Oak became an Apple Tree when I revolved a red shape similar to the letter “C,” and threw a few of them into the branches.

Hills, sky, and clouds, being the easiest landscape features to draw in the history of world art, were applied to the back and foreground. A few more mushrooms and a river left only one item outstanding.

Inspired by my Uncle David and his progeny, I hung a swing among the apples. I forgot how to turn the image into a GIF, as I had previously learned and demonstrated, so it took an exorbitant amount of snooping around Photoshop’s menus and options before I rediscovered the process. Such is life without an internet connection.

Super Nephew

Posted: 20th June 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
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three years old vector

Happy to be three.

Being an uncle is great. My nephew turned three last weekend and we enjoyed celebrating with him and family.
super hero kid dog
The nephew doesn’t like dogs up close, but it’s okay because he’s a superhero.

super hero kid kicking ball
Even superheroes have time to kick a ball around with uncle.
super hero cape kid mask
Super Nephew.

Fargo Skyline Fail

Posted: 22nd May 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator, Fargo
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The view from Dakota Drive - Made in Adobe Illustrator by Alex Amiot

My attempt to draw a skyline is at a standstill.  I spliced together 10 pictures that I took while standing on the shoulder of Dakota Drive, just south of 19th avenue north.

After a minute of tracing the outline of the buildings in Illustrator I realized I wasn’t going to get much of a skyline.

I stopped “illustrating” when I had a more colorful take on the Stop and Go apartments, the Technology Incubator, and Candlewood Suites.

From where I stood, The Radisson, the FargoDome, steeples, watertowers, and high-rise housing rose above the fray, but besides NDSU’s smoke stack, there weren’t many other structures of unusual size.

Below is a compilation of the ten pictures after applying the “live-trace” function in Illustrator.  So it’s basically a computer-generated version of what I was shooting for.  It’ll have to do for now.


Fargo Skyline via Live Trace (To view it larger, click the image a couple times, then click to zoom) - Alex Amiot


Not a real eclipse - Made in Adobe Illustrator by Alex Amiot

Heads up Fargo, here comes a solar eclipse.

If you’re in town (that is, anywhere west of the Appalachians) this weekend, grab your solar-filter glasses and look to the west.

No one gets a total eclipse this time, not even the folks within the blue lines on the map below.  The moon’s elliptical orbit has taken it pretty far from earth, making this Sunday’s eclipse is an annular one, with the moon appearing to be 6% smaller than Sun.

If you want to read a pleasing piece about this event from someone who actually knows about extraterrestrial astronomic happenings, read this post from Astro Bob.

Fargo/Moorhead will see the moon covering two-thirds of the sun shortly after 8pm on Sunday, May 21, 2012.  The date on the NASA/Google map indicates May 21 because the eclipse will occur after midnight, Universal Time (UT).

–>  Astro Bob tells it like it is
–>  Eclipse Calculator and image from
–>  AccuWeather’s article and simplified USA eclipse map (Eastern Seaboard = No Eclipse)
–> talks about May and June eclipses and the upcoming Venus transit
–>  NASA is the eclipse predicting over-achiever


5/20/12 Annular Eclipse Info with Fargo, ND specifics (66% max eclipse). I added the Fargo sidebar on the left. Credit: NASA

Alley Allure

Posted: 9th May 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
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An alley in Detroit Lakes meets Adobe Illustrator - by Alex Amiot

I wish I could smile like an alley. They look good every time.

An alley’s desirability increases with its level of decrepitude. Impressive. If each new white hair on my head made me look that much more awesome in the background of pictures, I’d be photo-bombing celebrities like nobody’s business.

The architects that designed these alley-boundary buildings must have had incredible foresight.  How else could they have predicted that alleys would become such picturesque locales? Their placement of useless doorways was perfect for the keen eye of today’s brightest photographers.


Double-hung. By Alex Amiot

Andersen, a single window pane, looked out from his frame on the sixth day of construction, thankful to have found his place in the blueprint.  He (a man window) let out a melancholy creak as the thoughts of loneliness returned.

Other household objects their mates.  Andersen’s 3rd cousins once removed, the double-casement windows, came in pairs.  There was the french door duo.  The construction worker looking through Andersen’s argon-filled panes had headphones that came in a pair.

Andersen was alone.  With hope fleeting, he felt his frame jostle slightly as Owen the earbud’d construction worker snapped something above him in the frame.

Andersen was not alone.  The mighty construction worker had provided a mate.


By Andersen’s replacement in the year 2082, his mate had only come to visit him six times.  He, on the other hand, had visited her (a woman window) every sunny summer day until the era of air conditioning dawned in 2015.  In the years of air conditioning he still made visits when the high was 75, but they were never as special as when she would come down to his level.

When the food would be in the oven too long, the smoke detector would have his (a man smoke detector) say.  The father (a man human) would holler to his children to go to their rooms and open the windows from the top.  It was rare, but it sure was neat.

Blessed occurrence, top pane is mine.  Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.


Give your top pane a good tug downward. Your window might be twice as awesome as you think.

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Almost as long as it took to draw it.

For years I’ve seen annoying animated sidebar ads on the web that repeated the same 10 frames over and over and over. But how do they work?

I can’t explain it, but I’ve finally figured out how to do it.

When I saw the animated kid-to-car-transformer GIF below on Facebook I began to wonder if creating an animated was as difficult as it was mysterious. Nope, it’s not.

Google was kind enough to introduce me to a site that explained how to take a layered image and turn it into an animated GIF using Illustrator and Photoshop.

The images I make in Illustrator for this blog are made up of layers, so I grabbed an illustration from a few weeks ago of a couple of my favorite people. Movie frames, multiple pictures, and probably a bunch of other types of images work as GIF frames too.

transformer kid car GIF

From explained the process step by step for me with lots of screenshots and a googly eyed monster.



Look Mom, Mountains! - Made in Adobe Illustrator by Alex Amiot

Andrew is my friend.

When I meet someone for the first time, I like to find out if we know the same people.  With Andrew, this process started when I asked where he was from.  Oh, Cavalier you say?  I went to Romania with a girl from there.  What’s that?  You took that same girl to prom?  Ahh, so you’re telling me she only went with you for your car?

Andrew is much too old for prom now.  Since losing his hair in a bet with genetics, he’s consoled himself with a shiny motorcycle and a roadtrip or two.

This picture of Andrew was either taken by Spencer or by my cousin Owen during a Beartooth Pass roadtrip.

One of the travelers told me that riding through the pass was far more impressive than riding through Yellowstone.  I’ve heard good things about Yellowstone, so there must be something special about that winding strip of concrete.


Original Photo - Used with Andrew's permission

The thought occurred to me as the breeze calmed from the passing longboarding hipster that he probably thinks he’s cool.  Maybe he is cool, but I didn’t know it.  It takes a bit of personal information about someone before he or she is labeled ‘cool’.  In contrast, no personal information at all is necessary for many of us to assign the monikers punk, hipster, stuck-up, cliquey, you-fill-in-the-blank.  One only needs a first impression.

Because of my own perception of hipster longboarders, it was with some hesitation that I first stepped on one of those elongated skateboards.  Of course, for me it was different.  This was an exercise in the name of science.  Was longboarding actually that different than what they say skateboarding is like?  Did the longer, wider board really add enough weight to the contraption to make those wider and softer wheels grip the ground more for a smoother ride?  Sure, the small, hard skateboard wheels get those skaters to top speed faster, but longboarder’s butts don’t risk the jiggle as much with the smoother ride.  Not that I’ve looked.  I haven’t looked.

So for purely scientific reasons I wobbled down the sidewalk on four wheels with a few onlookers.  Thank goodness this was after dark.  In the daylight I would have risked more crowd exposure, and the distant chance that my high school professor might drive through campus and berate me for never taking a single physics course in my life and reveal that this wasn’t a science experiment at all.

It may be self-righteous retrospection, but as I look back on my decision to learn to longboard, I don’t remember being too concerned with my image.  My wife is aware of my tendency to get excited about odd things, and as I am happily married, I had no one to impress.  Or should I say no one to let down?

Within a few weeks I bought a used longboard that I could call my own.  Not long after I began using the device as my primary means of transportation to, from, and on campus, a trusted friend let me know that even from beyond Alexandria, Minnesota, I looked like a punk.  He heard it from his cousin, one of my fellow Bison.  The cousin saw a longboarder on campus and inwardly experienced his usually gut-wrenching disdain for the longboarding type before he noticed that the punk was me.

I was not the least bit surprised to hear that the cousin put two and two together to determine that because I was riding a longboard, I must be a punk.

The cousin’s reaction wasn’t surprising, but while it may be common, it’s hardly ideal.  What if two plus two didn’t equal “Alex is a punk”, and instead the sum was that not all longboarders must be punks?

We make a mistake when we assign a label based on our perception of a person’s appearance, not based on their inherent value.

We do it all the time.  Because a person’s appearance reminds us of a subgroup in society that we associate negative characteristics with, those characteristics are automatically assigned to this individual that we have not yet.  Maybe you’ve only seen them from a distance.  Maybe the distance decreased quickly before increasing again because the person with inherent value that hasn’t done anything to deserve a condescending label was cruising on a longboard.

Series II 1981 Z28 Camaro

Posted: 25th April 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
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1981 Z28 Camaro - Made in Adobe Illustrator by Alex Amiot

Springtime held the promises of new life and the reactivation of the Camaro’s insurance.

The 1981 Z28 Camaro would come out of the garage after the last of the spring snow subliminated and the firmament held no immediate threat of precipitation.

The needle climbed the speedometer faster than Sammy the cat could climb the carpet wall that leads to the basement.

Dad sold his Series II toy a few years ago.  Using the Chevy as a wedding getaway car was my last hurrah.


As far as the eye can see – the tree row

Posted: 19th April 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
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Vector tree rows and stars

Tree rows at night - Created in Adobe Illustrator by Alex Amiot

The calendar was open to a cold month. Hanging years ago near the kitchen in my parent’s undersized main-floor bathroom for small people, the picture of the month was mostly white. Only a tree or two stood in the foreground of a snow-covered red-river-valley-like field.

The calendar creators used the word ‘austere’ to describe the landscape; my mother didn’t like it.

The Red River valley is indeed flat, but hardly austere. The calendar people somehow missed the expansive sky stretching from the tree rows in the east to the tree rows in the west, so too from north to south. The undisturbed snow adorning the lone foreground trees was overlooked, along with the appreciation for the peace that fills such a scene.

Who doesn’t love a good tree row?

[Today’s illustration was made by drawing one evergreen and one star with a calligraphic brush.  I turned the tree and the star themselves into scatter brushes by following directions in this comprehensive guide to illustrator brushes.  Simply by clicking once and dragging using the star brush across the sky filled it with stars.  That’s one click compared the hundreds of clicks I made for the space shuttle Discovery.  Thank the Lord for scatter brushes.]

Goodnight, Space Shuttle Discovery

Posted: 18th April 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
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vector space shuttle stars and moon

Goodnight, Discovery - Made in Adobe Illustrator by Alex Amiot

Space shuttle Discovery is headed to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

I remember scoffing when I first heard that people returned from space at an airport. That’s ridiculous. Everyone knows the first thing the astronauts do upon their return is take a dip in the ocean. I was sure that whoever told me about the runway landing was mistaken.

A runway it is.

Many years later, I still marvel at the beefed up airplanes strapped onto a mountain of fuel that send people to space and back.

And now the closed book is being slid into its place on the bookshelf.

Two years after the space shuttle Challenger tragedy in 1986, Discovery’s successful 1988 mission restored our confidence. Again after the 2003 loss of the Columbia, Discovery returned to space in 2005.

Putting a lid on 27 years of service and 39 missions in space, space shuttle Discovery is spending its retirement in Virginia.

Revolving Chess Pieces

Posted: 15th April 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
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Vector Revolved Chess pieces

Revolve. A handy 3D Illustrator effect. Made in Adobe Illustrator by Alex Amiot


Revolve this.


Let’s illustrate some chess pieces.  You can do this.  Forget that you’ve never used Adobe Illustrator before.

It’s a simple matter of drawing the curvy shape to the left.  This half-outline of a chess piece (queen, maybe?) turns into the upright white chess piece above when you apply Illustrator’s 3D effect: Revolve.

I followed a tutorial called Create a Checkered 3D Chess Figure Scene to produce my illustration.

Take that Bobby Fischer.


College Graduation Reception Announcement Invitation

Come Hungry. Made in Adobe Illustrator by Alex Amiot. Photo credit: Ben Nash Photography

It’s mid-April. If you’re late in the game, you’re doing your taxes. If you’re on top of your game, you’re planning a graduation reception.

I’m doing both. Game on.

Because of my aversion to paying others to do what I can do myself, and because of the fun I’ve been having with Adobe Illustrator lately, I tried my hand at crafting my own graduation announcement.  With the use of a picture from Ben Nash Photography and four newly downloaded fonts from, the process was rather straightforward.

What I am also hoping will be straightforward is the reception.  I’ve never had utopic ideas of how my college graduation reception should turn out, so little should be required to satisfy.  Just some food, family, and friends.  All I need is a friendly gathering to celebrate the cessation of homework.

Vector engaged couple plaid beard and vest

All smiles. And a beard. Made in Adobe Illustrator by Alex Amiot

Last Thursday I had a paper due and a test to take. On Wednesday night I wrote my paper and took a few generous Adobe Illustrator study breaks, so studying for the test was delayed until the next morning. Productive studying probably isn’t realistic after 3:00 a.m. anyway. As a result of the study breaks, Tim and Emily now have faces. Previously the engaged duo only had torsos, and before that they only had legs.

Tim’s beard and the hair at the back of his head (which he trimmed on his own for a photo shoot with Studio A Photo) were fun to illustrate, as I tried my hand at applying the effects I learned from the grass tutorial to give his facial follicles more prickle.

After spending hours drawing my first people, it’s clear to me that illustrating snowmen takes only a fraction of the time while still providing adequate blog fodder. But the snow is long gone, and illustrating friends has a rewarding element that doesn’t readily melt. Hopefully more people are vectorized in the weeks and months to come as I work to show some signs of improvement.

Plaid and Opacity

Posted: 6th April 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
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Vector Plaid Shirt Tan Vest Engaged Silhouette

Engaged With Plaid - Made in Adobe Illustrator by Alex Amiot

If you’re not a perfectionist, drawing plaid is simply a matter of opacity.

To draw the plaid on Tim’s blue shirt, I made his vertical plaid stripes white and 30% opaque. When the vertical stripes cross the 15% opaque horizontal stripes, the intersection is 45% opaque, giving it enough of a plaid look to please an Illustrator beginner like me.

I used similar opacity levels to add the dark red stripes. Now, how do you illustrate a face?


Legs to stand on - Made in Adobe Illustrator by Alex amiot

As a child I wanted to be an artist. I wasn’t that great, so I drew boxing gloves for hands and shoes instead of feet. I have yet to see improvement.

I started experimenting with Adobe Illustrator when I started this blog in January. Most of what I’ve learned has come from YouTube tutorials and various blogs.

The other day my friend Ian Black showed me an Illustrator image he created by tracing a picture of the statue of liberty. It was pretty impressive, and he said it didn’t take that long to do. I’m going to try something similar.

Even though it’s largely simple tracing and filling, it’s different than the cartoonish images I have created up to this point. I’ll be using Illustrator’s pen tool for all the lines and curves, and I’ll try to match colors to resemble my photograph.  Here goes nothing.

Comments Off on Cetero Research is bankrupt, and the pizza delivery guy is worried

When my friend needs cash more than he needs a weekend, he visits Cetero, which I grew up knowing as PRACS. I gather that the folks at Cetero poke my friend with fun (or needles) and make observations in exchange for his cash prize. In his effort to pick up some easy pizza money, science advances and some of that pharmaceutical money lands in Fargo.

But what now? PRACS Institute (Cetero Research since 2006) is under water to the tune of $43 million and has declared bankruptcy. For the sake of Cetero’s 400 employees in Fargo, and for the sake of the pizza delivery man that relies on my friend’s tips, let’s hope for the best.


March 26, 2012 REUTERS story on Cetero’s bankruptcy filing
March 26, 2012 INFORUM story on Cetero’s bankruptcy declaration
2008 Minnesota Public Radio story on PRACS

March 27, 2012 INFORUM:  Research firm Cetero says filing for Chapter 11 merely strategic move


Comments Off on Getting Kids To Eat Healthy

As a former dependent, pet owner, and after-school-snack eater, I have some advice to share with parents on how to raise their children.

First, mealtime.  You may be shocked to learn that you’ve been missing the secret pancake ingredient this whole time.  Ask yourself, “Do I make pancakes that will make my kids big and strong?”  Well, is there tofu in your pancakes?  I didn’t think so.

On to drinks.  Forget apple juice and grape drink.  Cool parents everywhere are making the hip and oh-so-medicinal kombucha mushroom tea.  It’s not nasty like the twerps your kids bring over are claiming.  What are they doing in your pantry anyway?

And guess what ‘you have a sweet tooth’ means.  It doesn’t mean that you like candy.  It means that you want some.

Green Grass and Gray Hair

Posted: 23rd March 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
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Vector Grass Spells Spring Notepad Effect

Grass Spells Spring - Made in Adobe Illustrator by Alex Amiot

As I turned to lock the door on my way to class yesterday it occurred to me that I won’t be doing this much longer.  Soon I’ll be done with classes altogether.  Then what?

Without waiting to answer myself I headed down the stairs and out the door, stepping into a beautiful spring afternoon.  The longboard dropped to the sidewalk and I kicked off toward campus for the day’s second round of classes.

As a Minnesotan I used to say that sunny days like this were a primary reason I loved the state.  After crossing the border and changing residencies, I am pleased to say that North Dakota’s climate is pretty much the same.  Go figure.  I now use a less state-specific descriptor to express my regional pleasure with days like today.  The Red River Valley – the valley of my birth, rearing, and graying.

I’m not sure what to think about my gray hair.  They show up most distinctly after a haircut.  Out of maybe 100,000 hairs I find one or two gray ones each week – that’s .000015 percent of my head coverage.  My wife finds more of my light locks than I do.  She  might suggest a higher percentage.

While my hair is getting grayer the grass is getting greener.  I’ll take that deal.

[I made today’s illustration by following this sweet tutorial.  The spikey grass comes from an oddly named effect called pucker and bloat.  That effect turned out to be extremely RAM intensive and Illustrator crashed several times.  Make a change save a change.]

Captain’s Log: Let History Judge Me

Posted: 17th March 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
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Viking Ship Celebration Jump Ship Overboard

Not Lake Sakakawea - Made in Adobe Illustrator by Alex Amiot

Captain’s Log:  Day 86, The cook tried goulash again today.  The name isn’t very fitting as the dish is quite delicious.  Well, not really.  It’s not really delicious.

Captain’s Log:  Day 87, We’re almost to Winnipeg.  I can’t wait for Celebrations.  I hope the dinner theatre has a swashbuckling theme.  All this sailing makes me feel downright piratey.

Captain’s Log:  Day 89, I can’t believe I didn’t write an entry in the Captain’s Log yesterday.

Captain’s Log:  Day 90, Today my skipper jumped ship with his fiancée.  I think they might be swimming back to Pembina.  Their loss.  I’ll be eating their ration of Mackintosh’s Mack Toffee for my second breakfast.

Captain’s Log:  Day 91, I can see Winnipeg on the horizon.  Lord Roberts regretfully informed me just a moment ago that the crew’s theme party host jumped ship at the very same moment the engaged couple mentioned in yesterday’s log took the plunge.  I didn’t even see it happen – my back was to the reckless theme party host.  I was tending to important business.  That is, I was smooching it up with my wife on the mast’s crossbeam.  That’s a pretty good excuse.  History will be my judge.

Curled Hjemkomst In Rain Red River Atlantic Ocean Viking Ship Moorhead

Hjemkomst in Rain, Bow and Stem Curled from Captivity - Made in Adobe Illustrator by Alex Amiot

Dear Fargo/Moorhead Authorities:

Please update our bridges.

Cyclists, pedestrians, trains, and automobiles successfully cross the bridges connecting Fargo and Moorhead daily.  But what if Moorhead’s Viking ship, the Hjemkomst (pronounced Yem-komst), escapes from its lair at the Hjemkomst Center and fancies a vacation to Winnipeg?  A ship like that deserves a fair amount of autonomy, and Fargo/Moorhead’s waterways just aren’t prepared for such a getaway.

Please consider aerial lift bridges.

If the Scandinavian vessel enters the Red just north of 1st Avenue and meanders past Viking Ship Park, it will encounter Amtrak’s track just around the river bend.  The only path I see around the track for the Viking Ship is for it to claim its Viking Ship rights and bypass the bridge using the Moorhead Viking Ship Park Bike Trail.

I bet the Hjemkomst would sail just fine under Stillwater’s new bridge.

I’m sure the late marine architect Bob Asp would have agreed that a bike trail is no place for a proud Viking ship.  Once returning to the Red from the bike trail, the walking bridge at Oak Grove is the Hjemkomst’s next obstacle.  My advice for the ship at this point would be to wait until the flood of 2013 when the water is high enough to sail above the bridge.

A successful voyage of the Hjemkomst on Fargo/Moorhead’s stretch of the Red River will require five awesome bridges.  Please get on that.

By using the bike path and taking advantage of inevitably high water, the Hjemkomst can hope to conquer its first two obstacles.  I shudder to think of the trials the ship would undergo to pass the bridges of 12th-15th Avenue, North Broadway, and Wall Street Avenue.  Not to mention the bridges north of Fargo/Moorhead.

And don’t even suggest lowering the mast for every bridge.  That’s ridiculous.



Laughing Snowman – Haiku

Posted: 11th March 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
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Vector Snowman Carrot

"Made to Laugh" - made in Adobe Illustrator by Alex Amiot

Start with a snow ball
Gather friends, it takes a team
Roll, stack, make it laugh

He wears my red scarf
I don’t need it anyway
We’re warm from rolling

I think he’s melting
Not much winter in Fargo
We’ll see you next year

Alex Amiot

Anyone But Obama. Really?

Posted: 6th March 2012 by Alex Amiot in Politics
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Anyone but Obama Gas Pump Sticky Note

“Hey There Voter! Do you remember that on Inauguration Day (Jan 20th) 2009, the national average for a gallon of gasoline was about $1.78? How’s that “Hope & Change” working out for you? Anyone But Obama Nov. 2012″

Image swiped from a friend's Facebook wall


Consider Hugo Chavez.  Would it really benefit the nation to replace Obama with a man who takes medical advice from Cuba? #overreachingabsolutestatement

DISCLAIMER:  This is not a political blog.  The sticky note message just reminded me of paragraphs 14 and 15 of this report that seem to suggest sticky note campaigns such as this one would benefit from adjusting their focus.

For the record, I wouldn’t vote for Hugo Chavez.

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Buttered Toast Bread and Butter Vector

Buttered Toast - Created in Adobe Illustrator by Alex Amiot

Her:    [Buttering her toast]

Him:    Wow, that’s a lot of butter.

Her:    [Looks at him with contempt]

Him:    I mean… [searches for a way out] I thought you were just using that much butter on one piece of bread.

Her:    You’re a lot of butter!

Him:    Is that a fat joke?


Her:    No, I love butter. Now what do you think about yourself?

Him:    [Realizes two days later that she was saying that she loves him]

True story.  I’m glad she loves me in spite of everything.

Guilty of Neglect

Posted: 28th February 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
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Vector cello head tenor clef

"Love of my youth" or "Object of neglect"

Picking up where you left off is easy.

Unless you’re talking about broken trust.

But I’m not.  I’m talking about relearning a musical instrument or touching base with an old friend.  Let’s keep it simple.

It doesn’t take long for it to come back.  When the thick low sounds return I feel silly for not picking the cello back up a long time ago.  I tend to regain a vestige of my former comfort level with the cello when I’m asked to play in a wedding.  After not touching the thing for months, it can take a good hour or two before I feel comfortable again.  But what’s an hour?

It’s the same with friends.  For all of the days and weeks spent building friendships it’s too easy to let them fade when miles come between people.  You might be guilty of similar neglect.

Maybe we should all aspire to be like Rick Astley.  If we never give it up, let it down, run around and desert it, there will be that much less relearning to do.

[I made the cello head illustration in Adobe Illustrator using mostly the pen tool.]

No Money for Groceries

Posted: 25th February 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
Tags: , , , ,
Vector water drops and ripples

A dollar here, a dollar there. Just another drop in the budget bucket.

We don’t have money for groceries.

For the first time in our marriage, Julia and I have started living on a budget.  A week into February, after tracking our spending for a few months we finally nailed down the amount we wanted to budget for food, clothing, gasoline, utilities, entertainment, savings, etc.

Unfortunately for us, we had already gone on a grocery run in February.  Since we weren’t on our budget at that point, we bought extra things and spent more than we needed to spend.

While our first grocery run in February was financed by freely spending from the checking account, I’m pretty sure that all subsequent purchases in February were based on our budget.  But now that February is nearing its end, that first trip to the grocery store has come back to haunt us.  The budgeted grocery line has been depleted.

Live and learn I guess.

The wonderful thing about budgeting is that even if money runs out in one category, it may still be available somewhere else.  That’s not to say you should spend grocery money on entertainment, but even a zero in the grocery fund doesn’t mean you are destined to starve until March.

So what can we do?  We don’t have grocery money left in the budget and we are running low on refrigerator reserves.  I suppose we could abandon the budget and just go buy some bread, but where is the principle in that?  As I see it we only have one option:  Eat out.

It just so happens that some cash remains in the entertainment fund.  So for the rest of February we can’t afford milk and bread, but we can certainly handle pizza and root beer.  Budgeting CAN be fun!

[I made today’s image in Adobe Illustrator, following step by step a Vector Tuts Plus tutorial.]

Motley Challenge - Vector Wheat Stock

Immature Bread

*Child: Where does wheat come from?
Adult: Fields.
Child:  Why not gardens?
Adult: Gardens are to fields as Ben Franklin is to Sam’s Club.
Child:  What’s wrong with Ben Franklin?
Adult: It closed.
Child:  Why?
Adult: Pamida won.
Child:  Who is going to do something about Pamida?
Adult: Walmart.
Child:  Where does wheat come from?
Adult: A seed.
Child:  Where does the seed come from?
Adult: Wheat.
Child:  Where does wheat… oh.
Child:  Where does Wheat come from?
Adult: The bottom of a Wheaties box.
Child:  How does it get there?
Adult: Famous Athletes.
Child:  How do you know they are famous?
Adult: Didn’t you see them on the box?
Child:  Why would famous people want to associate with Walmart and circular reasoning?
Adult: Are you for real? Ask your mother.

*Names and dialog have been changed to protect fictional characters.  Not based on actual events – except the Ben Franklin bit. — Wheat stock image inspired by Pipe Dream.

Silhouette in Field of Stubble

Wheat Stubble and Friends to be Wed - Near Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

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Barbershop Pole Motley Challenge Vector

Barber Shop Pole

Besides the sports card trader, the coolest thing on Crookston’s Main Street was the barber shop.

I remember as a youngster riding in our talking 1980’s Chrysler New Yorker and seeing the red and white barber’s pole that spun forever upwards.  I never went inside, but it must have been a fine establishment for it to have such a magical contraption attached to its storefront.

The barber pole is a lot like Mary Poppin’s carpet bag.  How does that red and white pole keep rising out of nowhere?

This being part 2 of the Motley Challenge , it should be noted that the pole’s red and white helical stripes were made from the same strokes as my dad’s mustache  and the foundation of Pipe Dream.

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Pipe Dream - vector wire spin

Pipe Dream

Take two pipe cleaners side by side.  Hold them by the ends and twist in opposite directions.  That spiral look is what I was going for in the image to the left.

Motley Challenge - Foundation

The foundation of Pipe Dream

My Motley friend Matthew and I were appreciating some metal work based on this pipe cleaner concept just the other day.  The remark was made that it might be difficult to achieve such an effect in Illustrator.

I call it the Motley Challenge.

After achieving some success with the rudimentary black and grey pipe cleaner spiral, I wondered what else I could make using the basic curves that I built the twisted pipes from.

By horizontally stretching an element from the foundation of Pipe Dream and copying it across the vertical axis, I discovered a mustache.  A little more doodling and it began to resemble my dad’s 1970’s senior picture.

Motley Challenge - My dad

My dad - circa 1973

Gears of Love

Posted: 12th February 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
Tags: , , , , , ,
Spinning the gears of my heart.
Gears of Love Vector Heart Adobe Illustrator Valentine's Day

Gears of Love - I hope to animate it someday.

We’re different, but it’s fun when Julia enjoys things that I enjoy.  Things like Waterdeep, Rhett and Link, Julian Smith, Aaron Espe, North Dakota, Minnesota, and loons.

Tonight she broiled T-bone steak , made baked potatoes, and prepared some incredible asparagus topped with shredded parmesan.  Dear, feel free to make that again anytime.

She joined me for lunch twice this weekend, effectively brightening an otherwise dreary Saturday and Sunday on the job.

She has been indispensible in our effort to learn to budget and spend wisely.

She awakened my taste buds to the joys of fried onions, spicy food, and some German dishes like fleischkuekle and others that I can’t pronounce or spell.

Happy Couple Winter Frost

Photo Credit: Ben Nash Photography -

She makes me smile.  She makes me proud.  She makes me who I am (that is, at least the better half of me).

Happy Valentines Week.  Te iubesc.

Puppy Chow? Yes Please.

Posted: 9th February 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Live Trace Chex before becoming Puppy Chow with chocolate chip

Chex and Chocolate - Using Adobe Illustrator's Live Trace tool

Chex Cereal Live Trace Illustrator

Live Trace turns a pixel-based image into a vector-based image. Zoom in forever - no pixels!

Hello, I am Super Uncle.

While on vacation in illustrious Fargo, my disheartened toddler niece was settling for chips and dip in the absence of her auntie’s nummy nummies (puppy chow).  The day before had been filled with euphoric bliss:  A hotel stay, learning to swim, watersliding, and puppy chow.  This day was distressing.  Only a hotel stay with swimming and watersliding.  No puppy chow.

Enter Uncle.

[Slowly revealing a covered bowl from within the bag] “Look what Uncle brought back with him today!”

[Niecer looking] *Silent anticipation*

[Niecer seeing the glory bowl] “Yippee!  Nummy nummies!”

Clumps.  Large, powdery, glorious clumps of cereal, chocolate, butter, peanut butter, and powdered sugar make the world go ’round.

And they make Uncle a super hero.

People appreciate their fathers for many reasons.  So do I.

Me hammering nails into a 2x4

Katie and I working hard. Wait for it...


Hammer hits finger

Hammer the nail, not your fingernail!

The first time I shingled a roof, the tools my dad handed me were not air-powered or pneumatic.  He gave me a hammer and nails.  By the time we finished that roughly 800 square foot roof, I had a pretty decent grasp of both the hammer and how to swing it.


Then around the age of 14 or 15, my dad conveyed appreciation for the excursions I had taken with Teen Mania Ministries, but he made it clear that summers were also a good opportunity to learn some work ethic.  I began working for carpenters when I was 14 or 15 years old and sporadically continued to wear work boots until I was 22.

My dad has this saying, “Do the next thing and the right thing.”  He is quick to acknowledge that it can be terribly difficult to determine what the right thing is sometimes, but the man upstairs is aware, and that is sufficient.  When my dad was teaching me dry walling techniques with a putty knife and mud hawk, the “next” thing I did was not always the right thing.  I found myself redoing my work, fixing air bubbles, and sanding, sanding, sanding.

Vector saw blade hammer stairs and ruler

Do the next thing.

If given enough time, I can build stairs.  If given a saw, I’ll cut a hole in the side of the house to access the attic.  If given green paint, I might just toss it.  We spent too many years in a peeling green house with 100 year-old wood siding that barely held on to the green.  Then dad taught me how to side a house.

1 year old helps wash the car

Where would I be without my dad?

Father son camping guitar

Making Minneapolis – Easier Than You Think

Posted: 2nd February 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
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Minneapolis Skyline Outline

Good Morning Minneapolis

Minneapolis Skyline Outline

Joined Vertical Lines

Minneapolis Skyline Outline sketch only vertical lines

Vertical Lines

For the minimal effort that went into this creation I kind of like it.  I learned about joining endpoints recently so I thought I would give it a try.  As it turns out, making a sharp-looking skyline is pretty simple.  Just draw a bunch of vertical lines, select them all, and hit Ctrl+j on a PC or Cmd+j on a Mac to join all of the nearest endpoints.  How does that even work?

I googled a picture of the Minneapolis skyline and used it as a template to create the weird-looking bottom image.  After joining the lines to make the middle image, I swapped the stroke color for the fill color, making the skyline black.  I extruded some text, rotated a copy of a triangle a bunch of times, and applied a couple gradients.  And there you have it.

The thought just occurred to me that you can probably do this just as well with horizontal lines.  Who knew?

Comments Off on Just Go With It (in moderation)

Good old brush, gradient, gaussian blur, and live paint tool.

I could have benefited from a to-do or will-do list yesterday.  Instead I just went with it.  The result:  A relaxing but much less productive Saturday than I had hoped for.

I’m sure I would’ve made better use yesterday’s time if I had resisted the urge to just go with it, but I’m also very thankful for some past decisions I’ve made while armed with the “just go with it” type of optimism and flexibility.  In August 2008, with four years of college left, I didn’t have a permanent college job, I didn’t have post-college career plans, and I was nervous as anything, but I asked Julia to marry me.  She went with it.

Do you see the sock-puppet-like image in the sky below and to the left of the pelican flock?  After some experimenting with noses and beaks on Mr. Sock, I came upon something that vaguely resembled the head of a pelican.  I went with it.

The resulting flock is far from a masterpiece, but isn’t it also far from Mr. Sock?  So I say just go with it, but do so in moderation.

Easy? Fail. Score!

Posted: 26th January 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
Tags: , , , , , ,

Sometimes easy is hard

If you start your vehicle and go back in the house, you should either return to your vehicle and travel someplace, or just shut the thing off.  Easy.

For the second time in three weeks, I let the pickup run through the night.  Fail.

But despite my inadequacies and mishaps, good is still possible.  This morning the pickup was still running, which means I wasted gas, but the tank wasn’t empty, and rather than the battery being dead like it was two posts below, the battery was fully charged and as happy as it had ever been.  Score.

While the forgotten pickup was burning through fossil fuels last night, I was at the computer.  I figured that if you want to color the vine shape that this guy showed me how to create in Adobe Illustrator, you should be able to use a tool like the old MS Paint fill-with-color paint bucket.  Easy.

It turns out that selecting all the objects in the vine shape to the right and applying a color gradient to them gave each branch its own awkward gradient, rather than one gradient running nicely through the whole vine.  Fail.

As it turns out, this other guy on YouTube knows more illustrator tricks than a noob like me, and he clued me in on what’s called the Shape Builder tool.  The tool let me make one object from many, which took away my ability to adjust the position of the branches, but at least it allowed me to apply one gradient to the whole vine.  Score.

An Uncle’s Perspective

Posted: 23rd January 2012 by Alex Amiot in Adobe Illustrator
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Someday when I have a kid, a well-meaning but inexperienced relative is going to make my infant get all bothered.  I’ll swoop in to save the day, super daddy coming to soothe the squirming ball of angst.

Up until this weekend, whenever I would hold a niece or nephew and they got the slightest bit disgruntled, it was game over for me.  I either handed the child off to more capable hands, or those hands voluntarily relieved me of my post.

At that point a sense of relief and a twinge of disappointment would tend to surface.  The cute kid had become upset in uncle’s arms, uncle couldn’t soothe the child, and uncle can’t redeem himself, as the wailer is now off with the mother, aunt, or grandma on a happy-baby recovery mission.

It’s a bit discouraging being inexperienced at something that you want to be good at.

Our three-month-old niecer held court with us this weekend while her mama was reunited with some high school friends from yester-year.  From Friday to Sunday it was all auntie and uncle, which meant that uncle was responsible for some soothing, as auntie shouldn’t be expected to bear the weight of the wails, whimpers, and poopy diapers all by herself.  Fortunately for me, this meant that I could fully bask in the glory of the baby gurgles, coos, and smiles that followed the more character-building vocalizations.

I’m a baby-watching noob, so it took me a few tries to successfully soothe the little girl.  I feel like an incongruous blogging nerd talking about Adobe now, but my juvenile Adobe skills rate me at a similar level in the graphics-editing column of life’s Likert rookie-to-expert scale.

Youtube has thus far been my sole source of tutelage regarding Adobe Illustrator.  One of the video-making crazies was really excited about Illustrator’s Perspective drawing tool, so I thought it would be fun to give it a go.

I worked on the blue-building image above for longer than I should have, but not longer than necessary.  I just don’t know much about the software yet, so I continue to learn slowly, every step of the way.  The undo button has become my greatest ally.

But if I can make a 3-month-old, over tired, wailing baby pipe down and smile at her uncle, there’s got to be hope for me in a piddly program like Illustrator.  Adobe, you’ve got nothing on my niece.

Comments Off on The first application of yesterday’s revelations

Ever find yourself making the same mistake twice?  You learned something yesterday that you were unable to apply to life today?

I recently left a gallon of milk on the counter overnight.  My wife discovered it in the morning.  The milk had gone bad.

Not too long after that, I woke to find that I had done it again, but this time I slid the milk back into the fridge before Julia discovered the repetition of my error.  It was 2% milk, so I figured its hardiness might give it some counter-staying power that the skim milk previously lacked.  Sure enough, by supper the milk was just fine.  Thus it was safe to report the experience to Julia.

I am beginning to wonder if leaving things overnight is my curse.  This morning I woke to the realization that I had left the pickup running all night long in our parking lot.  It had of course run dry and dead.  I only meant to run it for a few minutes to juice up the battery after a couple sub-zero days of not running.  Will I ever learn?

This blog is about applying yesterday’s discoveries to today’s difficulties.  What good is it if we learn something new every day only to forget it tomorrow?  I have recently begun working with some Adobe products and I have been trying my hand at a few techniques.  I figure the stakes are low when fiddling with design and production software, so it is a good testing ground for improving my waning ability to relate yesterday’s experiences to today.

Here is an example of some superb art that I have already produced

I made this in Adobe Illustrator.  I’m painfully new to art, so it didn’t take long to break some of my own records.  First came the outline of the distant mountain slope.  It was an accident.  After jerkily clicking and dragging my mouse across the screen, I had a mountain.  And I saw that it was good.  The snow covered slopes were smooth, and I noticed a bit of surprise and ambition begin to creep up in my subconscious.  Ahh, that’s what it feels like when you’re awesome.  It was like getting an “A” on a test you hardly studied for.  Somehow I need to save that feeling for a rainy day.

I refuse to give away my secret method for creating pine trees, but I’m not opposed to hints.  It has something to do with the brush tool, clicking and dragging, and seeing beauty in sub-amateur ability.

I made the orangish orb using a simple the live-paint tool and a two-color-radial gradient – some basic tools that I discovered yesterday.