Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Afraid to Make Art

Rachel and I each have a talent.  She is a wordsmith extraordinaire, and I paint.  For some reason, neither of us seem to want to put our craft - our love, what we want to make into our lives, the one thing we would go crazy without - to any use, or not very often.  Part of the problem is that we've been under a considerable amount of stress from life in general, and the other part I think is fear.

Making art of any kind is risky.  It isn't just something you've made and put up for auction.  No, it's part of yourself.  Though a person's work may not be autobiographical, or revealing in the gossipy sense of the word, it exposes everything that artist is.  It shows you our thoughts, our beliefs, our skill -or lack thereof.  It can tell you our place in society, and whether we care about it.

For visual artists, it is terrifying to pour yourself into a piece that your average viewer will spend three seconds on.  Yes people, count them, three.  Three seconds for your entire being to be absorbed, chewed up, and spit out like a bite of stale bread.  I wish this was an exaggeration, but it is not.  If your work does not get someone's attention in this time, it is staying home with you, forever.

For a writer, and I am only speculating, the fear is whether people will even pick the book up.  It seems like very few people read for pleasure anymore, or are unable to finish any book they begin.  And even if they do purchase, read, and enjoy what you have to say, will your readers understand it?  These are daunting concerns, and we have no choice but to pretend they don't bother us, and press on.

So we must remember this:

Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything
-Eugene Delacroix

Let go, and dive in!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Update in the Art World

My paintings are coming along nicely.  I have yet to add to the completed first damask background, because I have been so focused on the second background.  It turns out my "eyeballed" measurements were not quite accurate to the original, so I had to improvise a bit, or start over, and we all know that was not about to happen!

I finished drawing the pattern, and had to choose colors for it.  In order to do that, I had to choose what animal I was going to paint.  The wonderful thing about sea creatures is that a great number of them have unique and specific instinctive behaviors, so I really can't go wrong.  I thought of a creature that would stand out against my pattern, and I thought the mass of the clown fish would be nice to balance out the fine line work in the damask.  The clown fish also provides an opportunity for the subject matter to interact with the background.  I am beginning to think that will be necessary of each piece.

I want to reflect the natural environment of the animal portrayed.  For the seahorse, I pulled background colors directly from the reference photo, so I chose to do the same for the clown fish.  After digging through pages and pages of photos on the web, I found one that struck me.  The fish were in their anemone homes, but the light was cool, and set off the orange of their scales beautifully.  There is my color palette!  The background is a lovely indigo, the foliage designs a warm medium value lilac, and the flowers are a light bright blue with peach centers.  I just could not choose between the two colors for the flowers, so I had to use both.    It is hard to pay attention to the piece for very long, but given its requirements, I got quite a bit accomplished yesterday.  I will have to work on an animal and a background at the same time to make good use of my time.

Also in the artistic world, my dad and I made some screen printing stations so that I can make shirts.  These will be commissioned, and will also appear on my Etsy account! (Coming soon!)  I have not set up shop yet, but I intend to sell prints, sewing projects, and anything else I have, really.  The fact is I have a way of collecting supplies, making stuff, and it piling up in my home. Hopefully other people will invite them into their homes!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Organic Skin Care and Beauty in the Midwest

Living in the Midwest is not perfect, by any means.  While the general perception of it is skewed in some ways, it is slow to catch on to the latest trends in... well, anything.  For this reason, we miss out on movies that come to select cities, we get fashion seasons too late, and organic and natural skin care and makeup is very difficult to find!  I went looking for some chemical free sunscreen, and could only find Burt's Bees.  It's a fine sunscreen, but does not wear very well under makeup.  All we have in the way of natural makeup is Bare Escentuals.  Some of the high end stores carry more, but not much.  Because of this, I think I am going to start trying to make my own.

Last week, I met a friend of a friend who is now my hero.  She and her husband make their own soap, toothpaste, shampoo, laundry detergent, grow their own food, raise rabbits to use their manure as compost (this was fascinating!), even brew their own beer - and let me tell you, it's good!  Not to mention that they are super geeks, like myself.  I was inspired, and started looking for different recipes for making your own beauty supplies.

One of my favorite sites, I found some years ago.  It is called MakeYourOwnCosmetics.com. Their focus is not so much on organic product, but a great deal of the ingredients (sweet almond oil, for example) is easier to find in an organic produce store anyway.  I found some wonderful scrubs here.  Try the Vanilla Honey Sugar Scrub or the Coffee Sugar Scrub for cellulite.  It is no cure, but it does help, surprisingly enough.

For hair care, you might also try the Long Locks Hair Care Cookbook.  I have yet to try these things, but I am planning on getting supplies very soon.  Most of it is simple as can be.  For example, to treat dry ends, rub a little olive oil on them and let it soak in before you shampoo.  Sounds too easy, doesn't it?  Long Locks also has plenty of hair jewelry, and tips for growing your hair and keeping it healthy.

Other than that, it seems like the best option is to order online.  There are any number of products, but the trouble is that you can't talk to someone about them, or test anything when you order it online.  However, if in making the cosmetics, you spend a lot of money on gathering all the supplies and don't care for the end result, you're no better off.  It's a tricky situation, for sure.  In any case, this weekend I believe I'm going to try the deep conditioner from long locks, and I shall let you all know how it turns out.  Avocado and mayo!  Yum! I hope my head doesn't smell weird...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Pen is Mightier

Rachel and I had a discussion this morning about learning fun new words.  The word she provided was "antepenultimate."  It sounds rather impressive, but simply means "third to last."  And when I read that, it became abundantly clear that the common use of "penultimate" is completely incorrect.  Now I hate to be the person to make someone else feel bad by correcting them.  I spent a lot of time in my younger years doing that, and all it does is make people intimidated by you, and does not get you dates.  However, I think there is a serious problem with a person not only pretending understand a word (and admittedly I do this from time to time), but then repeating it the way they think it is used. 

It is my not-so-humble believe that we should own up to our ignorance, and take advantage of the chance to learn something new!  That doesn't mean do the word of the day thing.  I have tried that, and those words would neither come up in conversation, nor be understood if you used them.  Not that I am against it, because I did earlier hunt down this glossary of fun words.  Rather, when you're reading or in conversation with someone and a word or concept that you are unfamiliar with surfaces, ask about it.  It does not make you stupid.  More often than not, people will appreciate that you didn't just try to pretend you understood.  Not to mention, it will save you the embarrassment of getting caught faking your knowledge. 

So here are my fun words for the day:

absquatulate: to flee, make off
callipygian: having a shapely buttocks.

Seriously, people.  If we have a word to describe someone who has a nice rear, shouldn't we use it?!  Goodness knows we have plenty of opportunity!

I've also been a long-time advocate of bringing back penmanship.  I have argued this with a number of people, but the fact of the matter is if your handwriting is illegible, it's rather hard to communicate.  Having a firm grasp of the language and knowing how to project it via your own hand are each an art in their own right.  I think I am going to join IAMPETH.  It's basically a society that loves calligraphy, the teaching thereof, and wants to reinstate this sort of education in the classroom.  Think of the discipline and skill to be gained!  I was just excited to find that I am not the only person out there trying to preserve this dying art.  One day, maybe I'll be an expert penman like these people.   

Sunday, June 13, 2010

No wait, the other thing: tedious.

Since moving back up, my art making unfortunately took a back seat to everything else going on in my life.  And now, more than ever, I know it is a very important part of my life.  I simply can't survive without it.  Recently, my muse has returned and I am making the time to create.  I have missed it so.  I thought I would just give you a small glimpse of what I'm working on.

This is going to be a series that will serve almost as a study for my other pieces.  However, I do believe they will make a strong body of work on their own.  I am hand drawing damask (a stylized version of something organic, which is usually mechanically reproduced), and I will find some way to make creatures with some sort of unique and specific instinct interact with it. 

This is the background for some seahorses:

It was my first attempt, so I tried to keep it simple.  I made a stencil, but it did not yield the results I was hoping for.  Then I realized that it would only support my concept to hand draw it, which is what I am now doing.  This however, takes a long time and is very tedious.  Plus, the second pattern is much more complex. 

I first mapped out my design with a grid, and some basic visual guides.  Then I drew in the central flower motif throughout the panel.  This pattern's size worked better with the size of the panel, so it is not square with any of the sides.  Rather, it seems to continue off the piece.  I am debating on whether I will attempt to continue the pattern to the sides.

I am now in the process of elaborating on the flowers.  This is the main part of the pattern.  Next, there are a few more things to be added to connect the motifs to each other and make the design more fluid.  This is the current state of the piece:

I'm certainly learning patience and more focus working on this series.  Oy! 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Car Camping

I believe it's time to tell you about our weekend mini adventure.

Saturday night (at apparently 11:04) we made the decision to drive on down to Rachel's homeland.  It has been a haven for us, in times when life gets too hectic.  Most would think it's crazy to leave for a long drive at such an hour, and it's certainly not in my nature to do such things.  However, I appreciate spontaneity, and so we set off.  We made a road trip music compilation, grabbed the few things we'd need (pajamas, dog food and leash, bedding, caffiene.)

While the ride is beautiful, there's not much to see but darkness driving at night.  That's part of the charm though.  There are few places where there isn't any light pollution, and to be able to see the stars whizzing by from the car is soothing.

When we got there, we parked out at one of our favorite spots on the lake.  There happens to be a big parking lot, so that's where we made our camp.  Now, we've learned a few things since the last (only other) time we tried to sleep in the car.  Our creation was fairly comfortable, although cramped.  Maybe that's why we only slept for about three hours.  Poor Hazel didn't sleep much either.  Either way, here it is:

We took the head rests off the front seats, and reclined them as far as they would go, while moving the seat part up as far as it would go.  We draped our legs over the front seat, and it was the best sleep in a car I've ever had! 

We left the windows open, and it was a perfect evening for such a thing.  And not a bug bite to speak of! 

We rose early, to this beautiful scene:

It's a large lake, but this is the first glimpse you get coming down the hill from the parking lot. 

We came down here at night once, and sitting on the dock, under the full moon, it was not hard to imagine there were strange creatures just under the surface of the water, waiting for the right moment to attack!

Did I mention I have an overactive imagination?

This is the view from the dock.  Serene doesn't begin to describe it.

After a quick stop at the local grocery for some world-class hot dog sauce (that makes it so even I can eat one), we headed back home.  Rachel spotted this guy on the road as we drove by, so I told her to turn around, and we'd help him out.  Thankfully there's not a lot of traffic at 6 am on Sunday morning on this stretch of road.

He might have been scared, but it was better than squished!  This was the first time I have ever seen an orange turtle!

We were confident that he was trying to get to the pond, so we set him down here. It's funny how good a simple thing like that can make you feel.

And so, though it was a brief visit, we got ourselves re-attuned to nature, and returned feeling much more centered, and recharged, and very, very sleepy.  Poor Hazel was so happy to be home that she started HOWLING when we pulled into the apartment complex.  I love my family, and our little adventures.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Miscellaneous Madness

Things have been a bit crazy since last we spoke, dear readers.  Saturday night involved a spontaneous trip to the little town of Grayson.  There, we parked at the lake, and slept in the car.  With about three hours of sleep, we drove back up.  Even a small visit like that has a way of recharging a person. 

Then Tuesday, I drove to UC for the annual senior art show, and they're continually raising the bar.  It was a great show, and I'm so very proud of everyone who participated this year.  I don't know very many students there anymore, but that's ok.  I still enjoy seeing all the work, and I know how difficult it is to get there. 

Yesterday, at the traditional First Watch breakfast with my friends, I learned that one of my painting teachers passed away last winter.  I can't say I'm surprised, as he was a ridiculous chain smoker and it was lung cancer that finally beat him.  Still, I hate to hear that he won't be sharing his knowledge anymore.  He was tough, opinionated, and never sugar coated anything, but he would push you.  When you got it right, he would let you know.  TC, we'll always remember your "color modulations" and strive never to "swim in a sea of mediocrity."  Every time someone says my work is "off the hook," we'll think of you. 

Slowly, oh so slowly, I'm finding art is seeping back in to my life, and that is fantastic.  Indescribably wonderful, in fact.  I've got some new pieces in the works and I will be posting progress pictures soon.  I'm hoping to open an Etsy account to sell some of my older stuff.  And once I have some solid pieces in the vein that I'd like to work in, I think I'll be joining Blue Canvas.  I found the magazine not long ago, and I simply love the variety of work you'll find in there.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Healthy and Not-So-Healthy

Finally, the garden is planted!  I've got the few seedlings I kept here planted, along with the last of the seeds.  Now, we have only to see what comes of it.

First, I have to apologize for the quality of the photos.  I don't have the most awesome of cameras, and the light was really funky today.  It was super overcast all day, and I think the camera just couldn't figure out what to make of it.  In any case, you can see the box, the size of it, the way it is constructed and so forth.  My cucumbers are already flowering.  I imagine they're supposed to be a great deal larger before that happens, so we'll see what  becomes of them.  Either way, look how cheery the little yellow flowers are!  I love them.

Sadly, they don't really glow like this.  Also, I drilled a few drainage holes around the bottom of the box, to let out extra water.  On the other box, I drilled them on the bottom.  On this, I drilled them on the sides.  Time will tell which works better, or if there is a difference at all.  Next summer, I'll just plug up the ones that I don't like.

Then, there was this.  It's not looking so good, is it? 

Ok, so it's not really a nastily infected human bite.  It's just makeup, and I must say, I'm pretty proud of it.  I got started on it, because tonight is not only the monthly (at least I think it's monthly) showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but it is zombie night there.  Rachel said that she would only go if she could be a good zombie, and told me what she wanted.  I thought to myself "self, I think we have all the stuff we need for this.  Let's play!"  And this is the result.

I was thinking about the point of infection, and what it might look like to spread throughout the body.  I only chose my hand because it's easy to experiment on.  Plus, there are numerous visible veins in the backs of my hands.  Tracing them helps it to be convincing, and gives it natural dimension.  I drew from not only zombie/virus movies that I've seen, but an event in my history.  I forget exactly what happened to her, whether she was bitten by a dog or what, but my mom got some mean kind of blood infection.  She had nasty redness creeping up her veins, and was reaching her upper arm by early morning of the next day.  Since it was getting dangerously close to her heart, she was whisked away to the doctor's for a dose of heavy antibiotics.  To which she had a horrible allergic reaction.  Or maybe I'm mixing events.  In any case, I think the memories helped me make a believable makeup job.  Other opinions?  Criticisms?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Planter Box Plans

Constructed from a sheet of cheap quality sheathing, 3/4" thick, and a standard 4x8'.  This ran me about $20, which is really not bad.  I had them cut it into 2 foot strips, across the short side.  So I ended up with 4 pieces, each 4'x2'.  Then, cut them like this:

The handles were a little tricky.  We didn't have an oval, so we used a large socket to trace the sides, and left the top and bottom straight.  It's not quite as pretty as the drawing, but it works.

Each box has two handled sides which are across from each other, and two of the handle-less sides.  We used no fancy joining, just butted the sides together and hammered in a few nails.  Four, to be specific.  That is, one more than is probably necessary.  We nailed all the sides together first, traced the bottom and cut it to fit.  (It's not perfectly square.)  Then flipped the sides upside down, and nailed on the bottom.  All in all, though it may look a bit... rustic... it's sturdy, and should work quite well.  Still don't have it planted, as I went on a run and it's HOT!  But soon.  Tomorrow, hopefully. Until then!

The Boxes Live - And They're Better Than Expected!

The planter boxes are finally built!  I went to my dad's last night, and he helped me out a bunch.  He even gave me the oh-so-brilliant idea of adding handles to the boxes for easy transport.  This is why I ask him about this stuff.  It is largely thanks to him that I have this love of creating, though some would say it's in the stars.  There's nothing quite like quality time with pops.

However, last night had a scary moment, too.  We were working outside in the driveway, and the neighbor came over to tell us "you might finish before the storm."  I thought "storm?  What storm?"  Looking westward, I could see some dark rain clouds in the distance.  About five minutes later, the air cools, the wind picks up, and the sirens sound.  Now, I've been places where that doesn't mean anything.  But around here, you listen to the sirens.  So we packed up the operation and headed inside.  I tucked my car in as close to the house as possible to avoid any possible hail damage, and we grabbed Dad's GIGANTIC flashlight.  We were determined to finish the job, hell or high water.  And, when the storm blew over ~like it always has before~ the planters were finally complete!

I may do two additional things with them:  drill drainage holes in the bottom, and line them with weed-block fabric, which I already purchased.  The point of these would be to keep the dirt in, and let the extra water out.  I have no intention of painting them at this point.  If my apartment manager says I need to, then I'll think about it.  But since we're moving soon anyway, I'm not concerned.  I was not really concerned with the aesthetics of this project, just strength.  Dad said that 3/4 inch plywood was a very "German" choice to make.  He also insisted on using 4 nails per side, after noting that three would do.  I come by it honestly. 

I'll post pictures and plans of the boxes soon!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Gardening is like flying. There's always some kind of delay.

It's June 2, and I STILL haven't made my planter boxes. The many setbacks include:

Indecision about construction materials
Lack of funds to buy proper construction materials
Tools not assembled
Tools not working properly
Incorrect tools for the job
Time constraints
Bad weather

However, I was finally able to get out to Rachel's mom's and plant my garden there.  I fared pretty well for the first sun exposure all year!  Just a slightly burned back.  I'm still sore from the whole affair.  Our clay soil here isn't very easy to hack up with a hoe, even after it's been tilled in with better soil.  This year, we get what we get.  We're already hatching plans to make things go more smoothly next year.

Among reasons for time constraints was the celebration of my birthday!  Friday morning, from the moment I got up, to the moment my tired-from-drunk-bowling body gave up on me, was amazing.  All weekend was nothing but fun.  Thanks to everyone who made it that way!

Tonight, I go out to my dad's, to see if he can help me adjust my saw, and to borrow his table saw.  With any luck, I'll have my plants moved into the boxes by the end of the evening, and pictures posted soon.  *sigh*  I'm going to be glad when I finally get this done.