Painting and Modding Nerf Blasters for our Halloween Costumes

Sarah and I have been working on our Halloween costumes for this year and things are coming along nicely. Earlier in the year we decided to be Gotham City Impostors since the costumes would be easy to make and super fun. Since it’s a first person shooter our costumes needed weaponry and it just so happens that Nerf makes a great line of toy “blasters” that can be easily painted and modified.

While searching around on Amazon I started noticing mod kits from a company called Orange Mod Works that were custom made for certain Nerf models that effectively doubled the power and range. Being an awesome adult I decided that I must have one of these modded “blasters” since “one never knows when or where they may need to “blast” someone.” Dr. Dre said that I think.

Of course if you’re going to open a Nerf gun you might as well paint it and it might as well resemble a paint job from the game. Sarah’s is the Coveted “Snowflake” pattern that’s only unlocked through community challenges.

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Album Covers in Cheap Marker

I’m all about technique building; from cooking, to gardening, to art there’s always new skills to learn and build upon. That being said my current interest has been in markers, specifically really cheap markers that you’d send an eighth grader to school with.

Marker set purchased in Taiwan

I believe I paid less than $5 for this whole set.

I purchased said cheap markers in Taiwan with my good friend Alan Openshaw

Alan Openshaw sitting on a concrete fish in Taiwan

I love the look on Alan’s face in this picture.

Here we find Alan sitting atop a fish in the Port of Kaohsiung (gow-shung) when we traveled to Taiwan in 2010. It was a fantastic trip and I can not thank the Openshaw family enough for allowing me to go with Alan.

Let’s take a moment to talk about Alan and I’s friendship. It runs deep ladies and gentlemen, you’d do well to remember that.

Alan Openshaw and Devin Gustafson preparing to skydive

Long before Felix decided to come along and break our record Alan and I went sky diving for our birthdays (We’re only 12 days apart). Alan look thrilled while I’m trying to look hard to hide the fact that I’m terrified. #Tru-facts.

You see that photo? That was from the day Alan and I celebrated our births and our lives by jumping out of an airplane (Thanks Openshaw family ((again)) and getting the whole thing on video. If you ever want to see my video I’ll gladly let you watch it at my house, it’s only 8 minutes long.

Taichi Sato and Alan Openshaw in Tokyo Japan

What a great night that was.

Here we find Alan with another of my good friends, Taichi Sato. He lives in Tokyo and is just finishing up his schooling to be a seamen. Fishing is really big in Japan, which makes sense for a country that’s a large chain of islands.

As usual I set myself a few rules to abide by as I worked on this project. The first being that I had to listen to the album I wanted to draw as I drew it. Sometimes I finished the album before the drawing was complete and had to listen to it again. This happened with Abandoned Luncheonette: I did not mind in the least.
Second parameter, rule, what-have-you was that each album had to be a 3″x3″ square. This made getting any amount of detail into the picture almost impossible. This is where stylization comes into play and as you’ll see some styles worked much better than others.

I made 12 when I originally planned on 15, which I guess would have been the third rule but I filled up a full page with ink and this way I can keep it all together.

Here we go!


Cross hatching for black. Disappointing results.


Jamiroquai “Dynamite”

I tried using cross hatching here and there on this project and found that for large flat colors the best rendered with patience and in solid blocks.

Tennis, Young and Old markers

Yay for bands from Denver.


The cross hatching here came out nicely since it’s in isolated pockets.

stVincent_actor in marker

I made her face too wide. Scaling mistakes pop up periodically in this project. 


Skinny face is skinny.

Scaling issues will ruin a piece.

theymightbeGiants_joinus in markers

This one is pretty close.


Whoop Whoop.


Cross hatching ruined this piece to hell so fast. I’m tempted to just go in and fix it by blocking out the rest of the color.


failing grade.

hallandoates_abandonedLuncheonette in markers

I love this album and this cover.




Scaling issues again. Notice how I realized that markers can be layered to increase opacity on this piece (turtleneck shadows).


The Lonely Island “Turtleneck and Chain”

This album is hilarious.

suckers_candysalad in marker

Proud of this one.


Suckers “Candy Salad”

Good album, well done cover.

drdre_thechronic in markers

This album is incredible from beginning to end.


Dr Dre “The Chronic 2001”

Blaze up some chronic and then go draw with some markers…

rickross_portofMiami in markers



He’s the CEO of Ross stores, btw.

Erreday I’m hustlin’

sleighbells_reignofterror in markers

This may be the best cover in terms of matching the original.


Sleigh Bells “Reign of Terror”

Pump this album through your headphones for brain melting guitar riffs and vocals.

dandeacon_america in markers

I’m pleased with this one as well.


Dan Deacon “America”

So there’s that. I’d like to do this project again on a larger scale and see what the results look like but it will have to wait since I’ve got a bunch of other stuff to create in the meantime.

Now I’ve got to go disassemble Sarah’s nerf gun so I can paint it for her Halloween costume.


Pup sketches, internships, and dinner party menus.

Well hello again everybody! It’s been too long between posts so I’m going to try my damnedest to get two of them up and written today.

I recently started interning at CoPilot Creative and have really been enjoying it. I honestly had to think long and hard about whether or not I wanted to take an unpaid internship, but in the end I decided the experience and free lunches were worth it. The very first day I was doing things that I would have never done on my own, liking making banner ads,editing large brochures in Indesign, and creating Ebooks.

CoPilot Creative logo

I get to look at this as often as I want.

On Tuesday, Austin shot me an email from a lady at the Colorado Springs Independent who was looking for a part time graphic designer to help with ad layout through the end of the month.

Colorado Springs Independent building front

By the end of the day I had myself a job at the newspaper! I’m pretty damn excited to be quite honest.


Look at his Eyebrows!

After seeing a post on Pinterest that Sarah found a while back we randomly add eyebrows to Char god. Doesn’t he look great?

Chargod's brows making him look concerned

I mean come on!

Pad Se Ew

Pad Se Ew. I’m getting pretty good at making Thai food and using my wok.

I’m also getting quite good at making Thai food in the wok, as you can see by the Pad Se Ew pictured above. Protip: The trick to getting authentic tasting Pad Se Ew is to really crisp the noodles. You want to get a nice toasty flavor on everything.

Devin and Sarah menu for lunch with Fixer Creative

We had Fixer Creative at our house for lunch one Sunday. We had New Mexico style green enchiladas and lemon brownies.

We had Fixer Creative over for lunch one Sunday. It was lovely and we’re looking forward having lunch with them again.

Watercolor pug in a kimono performing a Japanese tea ceremony

I painted Theo in a kimono performing a Japanese tea ceremony

I’ve wanted to do an art piece like this for quite some time and I finally got around to doing an early sketch. Looks pretty good eh?

Marker and watercolor pug shooting a lazer beam.

Markers and watercolors!

I’ve been working with markers more as a start for later illustration work. See the following.

Hall and Oates marker drawing

I love Hall & Oates

You seeing those handsome mugs? I’m thinking of doing a series of marker drawings of album covers that I like.

marker drawings and sketches of dogs

Drawing those pups

I’m working on developing a style that I like. It’s always a work in progress.

Vase of flowers drawn on Paper on the iPad

More work on Paper.

Paper is fun/frustrating with its color limitations. You have to mix colors and pens to get the desired colors. Notice how I made two different purples by using the wash with a white pen stroke and a purple pen stroke.

Vase of Flowers on a table

Here are the flowers IRL.

Ok. That’s about it for now. Catch you on the flip side (later)


Watercolor Sunflowers for the CSK Group.

I’ve recently been meeting with designers and showing my portfolio around in the hopes of getting constructive criticism and jobs. After my interviews I always like to send a handwritten postcard of my own design as way to show my skills and stand out from the crowd.

I decided to do some technique building exercises as postcards to knock out two birds with one stone for two of the cards. The exercise was to help me learn how to mix my three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) to make all the other colors I needed. I’ve learned that by using only 3 colors to create the rest of your palette your final result tends to be a much more cohesive painting.

Two color wheels and a color bar

Showing the differences in blending warm and cool colors

I actually mixed up my reds on these wheels which makes makes them incorrect. I will make a new set eventually. The Color bar on top is a proper 12 color palette made from 3 cool color primaries.

Color bars in watercolor

Here we find color bars showing cool/warm reds blending with cool/warm yellows and blue.

Notice the way you can make many, MANY different shades of green by using a cool yellow mixed with a cool/warm blue.

Ink drawing of Texas with the Texas flag

Austin is from Texas so I had to show him some love.

I also added a quick pen drawing on the back of each of my cards just for kicks.

Ink drawing of an eggplant

An eggplant for Greta because why the hell not?

That’s a pretty sweet eggplant right?

I also sat down recently with Keith, Cristi, and Lori of the CSK Group for an interview about freelance design work so I made them a card as well.

Sunflowers from Google Image Search

This was my reference photograph.

The plan was to paint a field of sunflowers using CSK green as one of the main colors.

Sunflower Watercolor, initial sketch

Here’s the initial sketch I made after dividing the image into 4 quadrants.

My first task was dividing the image into a 4 equal rectangles and then sketching those onto the canvas to plan out my painting. I enjoy using a hard pencil to do these sketches to get nice light lines, something in the H4-5 range.

Sunflower Watercolor, first wash of color

First light wash of green to get started with color.

Once I was pleased with the sketch I mixed up a green and diluted it quite a bit to give myself a nice light green wash to put down on the paper. The green looks more brown/yellow here due to the warm light I have in my craft room.

Sunflower Watercolor, stems and leaves first color

Putting the first bit of CSK green down on paper.

At this point I’ve put the first yellow wash on the flower petals and have added the CSK green I mixed up to the stems and leaves of the plants.

Sunflower Watercolor second wash of yellow on the petals

Second wash of yellow on the petals

I then added a second wash of yellow on the petals and a darker green on the stems.

Sunflower Watercolor, petal shadows

A purple grey was mixed and added to the flowers to add a sense of depth.

I’ve learned that adding more of the same color does not result in deep shadows as one might expect. To do proper shadows a grey color made from the opposing color on the color wheel is often best. The sunflowers actually have a very light purple wash across them to create the shadows.

Sunflower Watercolor, seed wash

Adding a brown wash with a green center.

At this point in the painting I’m still very pleased with it. I honestly could have stopped right here and been perfectly content, but I opted to keep going for a more realistic flower, the results sadly are not to my liking. These things happen though and by making the mistakes now you learn not to make them later. Notice how I used a wet in wet wash on the center of the seed to give a grown to green flow without a hard edge.

Sunflower Watercolor, sky wash

Added the wash for the sky, and the shadows below

At this point the painting has taken on a much different feeling. I added the blue wash to the sky and added the light wash of dark green for the under shadows of the leaves(leafs). The paining is suddenly much cooler thanks to that under-shadow wash.

Sunflower Watercolor, seed texture

Seed texture with varied amounts of success.

I was nearing the end of the painting and it was time to add the final details. Details can make or break a painting, especially if it’s a botanical watercolor for documentation purposes. I added the seed detail with a varied level of success. You’ll notice varying levels of paint density on different flowers which unfortunately cause hell on the depth of the painting. Sometimes you have to know when to say enough is enough I suppose.

Sunflower Watercolor, darker shadows

Adding darker shadows

Looking at the reference photo I realized that my darks weren’t nearly dark enough and added a little more to bring it around. The biggest hurdle when painting is determining how much detail to add, this was the same hurdle.

Sunflower Watercolor, complete

Completed painting with a nice photo filter

Here’s the completed Painting after it had been posted to Path and filterized. All in all I’m pretty pleased with the way this painting turned out. I hope they enjoy it (and hire me for some freelance work soon).




Pad Thai Dinner Party

Sarah and I love to cook and we love to have friends over for dinner, so it was starting to bug us that we hadn’t had any guest other than Grant since we moved to the Springs. Luckily we’ve both made friends with Jonathan and his wife Lindsay, who joined us for dinner on Thursday.

Devin with a mouth full of grean onion roots

Cthulu cometh.

That’s what it looks like when I channel Cthulhu using the green onion roots we’d been growing in the windowsill. Since we were having Pad Thai for dinner we needed to make our rounds to the grocery stores for items to make the evening a success.

Our first stop was to the farmers market where we scored all sorts of fresh fruit and veggies for $15. We also had a really great pretzel strudel thing from a small vendor but I can’t seem to find anything about them online. Anthony’s Pretzels maybe?

After that it was off to Lee Hing Inc. to pick up shrimp and tamarind.
Lee HIng Inc. always has the most interesting produce so I can’t help but stop to take photos.

Chinese eggplant at Lee Hing Inc


Chinese eggplant: much smaller than “regular” eggplant.

Thai eggplant at Lee Hing Inc

Thai eggplant looks really good with a filter on it. I want to paint a bowl of these.

Thai Eggplant: even smaller with a green color and white striping.

As usual we made it out of the Asian market for a shockingly low amount of money, which pleased us. We even had lunch at their little cafe. It was worth the $5.95 we paid I’d say.

After a quick trip to Safeway for other groceries we returned home where Sarah immediately got to work baking the crust for our pizza while I started the menu.

Brownie cookie on a stoneware pizza stone

It was a perfect brownie, which meant it was too wet for our fruit pizza. Lesson learned.

The pizza stone worked perfectly for this dish.

Devin's dinner menu wireframe

Quick sketches to get the layout organized

You may be wondering why I made a menu for our dinner? If you’re wondering that, you obviously don’t know me very well, but I will say that the original inspiration was the themed dinners that Laura over at makes for her husband when returns home after being away on what I can only assume is business(she may have mentioned business)).

Devin's dinner menu, top portion.

Here we see the Salad Detail and Logo I made for Sarah and I.

This was a really fun project since I had to complete it quickly and wouldn’t have time to fix any huge errors. See that tassel looking thing on the top left in red? That was me covering up an accident, but if you’re not a painter/designer you’d never have thought second about it. I also really enjoyed creating that letter mark for Sarah and I, I’ll probably continue to use and refine it on future dinner party menus.

Devin's Dinner menu, completed in the leather frame

Completed Menu.

Here’s the completed piece. You may notice that the Pad Thai bowl is excessively deep, that’s just how we roll around here though. Big Bowls, for big appetites. *Cut To Rick Ross Enjoying some Pad Thai*

He’s the bawse, you know?

Lindsay posing with a salad.

The dressing on the salad was light but tasty.

Here we see Lindsay showing off the delish salads that Jonathan helped prepare. I made us a really light dressing and the secret ingredient was ranch. Not a whole lot, mind you, but just enough.

Sarah's Fruit pizza

Look how awesome Sarah made the pizza!

The pad thai was devoured (Jonathan and I put away some solid helpings) before I could snap any photos, but the pizza was captured at least.

Devin's post dinner Thai Tea shots

A perfectly sweet after dinner treat.

I totally forgot about the Thai Tea I’d made until well after the meal was done. We’d been enjoying wine and beer so no one minded. It was late at this point (9:30-ish) so I suggested we just enjoy Thai Tea shots, and of course everyone loved them.


Avery came too!

After that the Cavner family loaded into their car and headed back home, and Sarah and I watched an episode of the Shield Season 6.

Now that I’m done here I’m going to go paint some sunflowers for a thank you card I’m sending out.


Drawing on the iPad

Sarah and I finally paid off our computer a few weeks ago like responsible adults and promptly decided it was time to purchase an iPad. We’d been needing another portable computer for awhile now since my laptop finally died and Sarah’s has been long gone. After looking at the cost and financing options available(18 months no interest) we took a trip to best buy and made our purchase.

The New iPad unboxed

If the iPhone is a super device this is a Super-Duper-Mega device. It’s a big ass toy, but I’m finding more and more ways to increase my productivity with it. My favorite thing to do so far has been to watch Lynda tutorials on the iPad while I’m doing some other task around the house.

Prior to acquiring our iPad I’d seen an article talking about the app “Paper” made by 53 and I could not wait to try it out. Naturally it was the first app I installed on the iPad and it has been incredibly fun and easy to use so far. The ability to quickly switched from pencil to pen to watercolor has allowed me to make a series of really sharp looking sketches in just minutes.
You can see my botanical watercolor kick coming through since most of the drawings have been of plants so far. I find plants to be great subject matter, they don’t move very quickly, have lots of detail, and look fascinating up close. There are a few bonsai trees in the mix as well, I sketched those this weekend when Grant, Sarah, and I went to the Pike’s Peak Bonsai Society’s show downtown. More on that later.

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– Devin