Digital-IRL Balance

At this point, I’m not entirely sure what to do with my online presence. There is something both deceptive and addictive about social media, including blogging. To be honest, outside of very close relationships, extended family, a couple of themed social groups, and work, my primary social interactions are online.

I know this is double-edged: it’s possible to find people who support you across the world, but at the same time, that information you put out is available to anyone and everyone with a reasonably functional internet connection. Unfortunately, that leaves one open to judgment, drama, harassment, and exploitation, also from anyone around the world…not to mention gaining a high from being friended by a computer program.

I spoke with family today about this. The issue I can see is that meeting online gives people too much information, too early; before they’ve proven themselves a worthy recipient of that information, or more to the point, without requiring they do so.

Also, dealing with making things — In Real Life — and dealing with digital surrogates of reality, often unnecessary digital surrogates…it contributes to an awareness of a sense of artificiality. There is the question of why a person would play a cross-stitch game when they could actually cross-stitch, and have something at the end of it, for example. In this particular instance, I would see the game as clearly inferior, unless there are issues of accessibility remedied by the game (for example, enlarged graphs which eliminate the need for magnifying gear).

I was also talking with someone about the difference between using a digital tablet to make art, and actually doing so without the computer as an intermediary. It’s evident to me that if one is not making professional illustrations, it may not be desirable — in my case, isn’t desirable — to go completely digital. However, I wouldn’t know this without having had the experience of both making art IRL, and making digital compositions.

Also, having studied online, and having primarily aimed for a Technical Services position, the underlying digital architecture of the systems I use has become clearer to me, even if I’ve only seen just the beginning of it. There are restrictions in a digital environment (the exceptions to which are called affordances), which do not necessarily exist, off of the computer.

So the question is one of digital/IRL: how do we retain the benefits of the reach a digital presence allows, and the sophistication of information provision it affords; at the same time as we balance our life so that the necessary restrictions of a digital environment do not dominate and restrict our creativity, and so we are still able to live a life of the quality that existed prior to ARPANET?

It’s a question I’ve been dealing with, recently. As I’ve begun to get some distance from my studies, I find myself experimenting with — and using — tools to practice arts and crafts, which I have not prior had the free time to use. It’s nice, I mean, to be able to do things and not be tracked or observed while doing them. It’s like an extension of the realization that I don’t have to worry if a paper book is watching me back, as I read it.

Over the years, I’ve put a lot of information about myself online, not all of it reliable. 😉 The truth of the matter seems to be, though, that people only know as much information about me as I allow them to know. However: for me, the main issue is being known as versus being unknown.

I went through the first part of my life believing — perhaps falsely — that I was unknown. If no one knows anything about you, that is, it’s much harder for them to accurately and specifically target you. (Of course, though, then; as humans are wont to do, they tend to make up information about why they [and others] should hate you so that they can feel justified in doing so.) The major problem with checking out of the game this way, though, is that your impact on the world, as regards your thoughts and perspective, is minimized. You stop being a participant, that is.

Is it possible to make things better while not engaging with problems? The answer I immediately jump to is, “no,” but I’m not sure that’s accurate. If I am being a good person and quietly living my best life given the circumstances, am I making the world better, just by existing? By setting an example? I (truly) don’t know.

For about the last decade, I’ve been out in the world more than I had been at any time prior. I’ve gotten to the point of actually being able to feel like I have a voice and place in society, and that it doesn’t have to be what other people say — or think — it should be. This is primarily because I have a private life and a public one, and people from the latter (IRL) often do not (and should not) make it into the sphere of the former.

With social media, and even with Web search, the public and private spheres tend to collapse. At least that is so, with me. (Or should online be considered a hybrid environment?) At some point, I become irritated that I can’t say what I actually want to say; I question why it is that I am stopping myself from saying it; and sometimes, I just go ahead and break that barrier. Anonymity, although illusory, lowers the threshold of that barrier.

The problem is that once something is said (or done), it tends to stick around for a while, and can follow one for a while — even if it is obvious that saying or doing it was a mistake. I’m going to be gracious here and say that I don’t think anyone really would want to make mistakes (and then be held responsible for those mistakes, at least; there often is the lure of doing something “wrong”, at the time).

The problem is that there are still people who are shocked that other people are different or fallible. If we all expected that there are going to be things we don’t like on virtually any person we select — that no one is 100% morally guarded, ideal, and superior at all times — we wouldn’t be surprised when evidence to the contrary comes up, and maybe we would be able to stop living in fear of it coming up.

That is in no way to condone shaming, but that is to say that everyone makes mistakes; in the Digital Age, however, those mistakes tend to be recorded and replayable.

But do we check out because of the possibility that we may one day be seen by others as imperfect?

Right now I am taking a needed break from pushing myself to write, here. But you see, something still got written. When I was training to be a writer, the mantra was basically to write every day, even if I didn’t think I had anything to write about.

I think I can stop doing that, now — at least, in public. There’s more to life than reading and writing, that is…


Mild breakthrough

Tonight, I harnessed the supernal power of my inner color daemon, to accomplish something not attempted for months.

I used my watercolors. 😛 Haa ha ha. (Okay, you probably won’t get the joke if you weren’t around for my magic phase [or have never tried to read works out of the Western Mystery Tradition])

More to the point, I actually identified the source of every color that’s in my palette, and removed five blocks of color which I had identified as inferior-quality. Because I have a Mijello palette without standard removable full- or half-pans, but simply wells, this meant that I had to soak and then wedge out blocks of dried color, using an acrylic paintbrush handle.

But, it’s done. It needed to be done a long time ago. The fact that it wasn’t done, had been discouraging me from using my colors.

I’ve also identified five other major pigments I could put into their place, but I should probably let the palette dry out first, yes?


“What they expect us to want”

Maybe I’ll have to keep better daily records about what I’m doing. It would have helped if I had been cognizant enough this afternoon to realize that I could have read, or worked on in-process jewelry, or something, instead of ignoring these at first and messing around with Derwent Drawing Pencils (capitalized because “Drawing” apparently means something special to Derwent; these aren’t regular pencils; more like really soft, really waxy colored pencils) on top of tinted paper.

I’ve also been looking for books on what I would presently call the process or psychology of art (what we’re doing on a cognitive level, when we make art; not just the physical motions). However, I don’t know the key terms to search (on top of my normal OPAC [Online Public Access Catalog] being notoriously difficult to navigate), and will probably need a librarian’s help.

I found one book yesterday and realized upon trying to read it tonight that it focuses on portraits…which is REALLY not what I need to know about. I have a strong urge not to do portraits, though I can make them well enough. The aversion even has begun to extend to disliking making cartoon faces; I don’t know why, unless it seems too “basic” for me.

Not to disparage people who do make portraits; I understand that it takes a lot of practice to make faces look right and to make expressions look as intended. It’s just not my thing. My thoughts go to the place where you can see a circle and put two dots and a mouth on it (I’m thinking of, “Annoying Orange,” a kids’ Graphic Novel series, or the Ed Emberley “Funprint” books) and then suddenly it’s imbued with, “humanity,” and people feel empathy toward it. WHY.

For one thing, what makes “humanity” so especially important, and what is this thing about faces? (Then again, you’re listening to someone who takes into account the way a person physically conducts themselves, behaves, sounds, and smells, before noting the finer details of their faces or hair or clothes.)

It doesn’t help that the Derwent Drawing Pencil range, and Strathmore tan paper, seem to be primarily made for portraits. It’s like, “hey, if I wanted to draw people’s faces, this would be great…not like I particularly do, but hey.”

I guess it’s kind of like women’s underwear always being available in pink. (“Hey, if I wanted to wear pink underwear…”) Not to mention that I have had an aversion to the Barbie aisle for years. Kind of parallels it, I guess.

Or it could be like my aversion to taking photos of displays in Las Vegas because it’s so obviously human-centered (“what they expect us to want”) and artificial. Or my more recent aversion to drawing cut flowers, as versus living ones (even though the latter means getting out of the house). Or the aversion to department-store jewelry (though that’s probably because all my favorite pieces are by craftspeople).

Yeah, maybe I just have a lot of aversions (no, I don’t expect you to agree with me, I’m just trying to figure out what’s behind all this).

Maybe I’ll work on a “portrait” of one of my plants, as I intended when I first got them. I don’t have an aversion to them. The reason I haven’t done it is that they have weathered…my overwatering them. Or not watering them, in one case. (Maidenhair Ferns always sound good, in theory…until the SOIL WON’T HOLD ANY WATER…okay, I’m going to stop there.)

On top of that, my succulents (I’m pretty sure) need more light than they’re getting. The little one in the front yard (from a leaf that dropped off a different one and fell into a crack from which I couldn’t recover it) still has its maroon color; I can’t say the same for the indoor ones, which were variously maroon and violet and blue and yellow, as babies. They’re pretty much, “green,” and leggy, now.

I didn’t really become alert today until about 4:30 PM. I think it’s likely due to taking medication too late. I had hoped to work on cleaning up my stuff…there are three areas which need to be helped: the craft area, my bedroom, and my office. All of these have needed it since before Winter Break. But…well, looking forward to cleaning things doesn’t really encourage me to get out of bed…

Anyhow. I’m thinking of restarting the rose-colored bracelet I was working on (now that I know and have graphed the pattern repeats). And I’m thinking of wholly disassembling the pearl necklace. I can do something better than just stringing and knotting them…but I’ve got to get some modular components (e.g. Quadra Lentils) to figure out, how.

In the meantime, I’ve got fine-gauge copper wire and now some gold-fill wire. (28 gauge!) I can do something with these, especially if I want to make that drop necklace…unstringing the pearls will free up the grey AB firepolished glass beads.

I should take some photos first, though…

Non-digital media.

I’m going to be art journaling more. I was cleaning my craft area and had the strong urge to rearrange things, which led, of course, to playing with art tools: those less familiar (Poscas) and those well worn-in (a range of graphite and carbon pencils).

In the process I realized that, having intended and neglected to post here all night, I have been spending so much time on the computer that I’ve begun to lose touch with living…or at least, what life must have been like before the computer.

Really…there was life before the computer?

I actually wrote out something that I now realize was a poem that related the above. I’m not posting it, because there has to be some part of my life that I’m not putting online. I’m just surprised it came out of me, though. I don’t generally expect this brain to generate poems. It really sounded more like a notation, though…combined with paying attention to my lettering and spacing, on unlined paper. So…like a mixture of art and writing, in which I relax the rules of writing.

I should really mention that some of what I was messing around with in my art journal was another design for a linocut (cut linoleum block for printing)…which is something both unusual for me to do at this point in time (though I’ve both wanted and prepared for it), and something I was introduced to at least 20 years ago.

For some reason I like the idea of doing activities in which I can accidentally wound myself: linocuts obviously involve the use of ultra-sharp knives, like sewing and beadwork involve sharp pointed objects. At one time I intended to try woodcuts, but…linocuts are a bit more familiar…even if I did get the rice-starch glue, and I have the gouache.

And I still need to test out the Sennelier Prussian Blue watercolor I got, however long ago. I’ve wanted to view the quality and lightfastness next to Daniel Smith Prussian Blue, which I know fades slightly in color intensity after months in direct sunlight (it was at least six months; checking now would require untaping the thing from the window).

I did get discouraged after seeing the performance of some of my watercolor paints over time in direct sunlight…but dealing with brushes is a logical extension of my skills, where I could grow. (I can see the point now that some of my Art teachers emphasized, in never becoming stagnant in one’s practice.) Because I think I’m getting a little closer to even-keeled at this point, I’m thinking that I probably shouldn’t hold to, “sewing and beading only,” as a guide toward further art or craft practice, as I put forth recently.

Intimidation at the toxicity of pigments and paints (ironic); the trouble of finding well-performing quality brushes in large sizes and at reasonable prices; the cost of large sheets of watercolor paper; and the fact that I normally have trouble discerning subject matter for paintings; have all contributed to my being held up in progress with watercolor.

But: if I did want to be a subject specialist in an Academic setting…would I really want to take Art classes at the Master’s level? If I got the opportunity to focus not only on art production, but on what I’m actually mentally doing? I can see that.

Japanese-language skills.

They grow, they do.

One thing I can say about having been to Oahu recently is that it gave me ample opportunities to read Japanese language — and overhear conversation, which isn’t of much use at this point, except for distinguishing regional dialect.

I read the name of what is likely my family’s dialect [chugoku-ben] in one of my books (Okamura, 2014), based on the region my ancestors came from, combined with the historical context (that is, why and when they came). It’s fairly clear to D and I that there are some speakers (mostly older, at this point) who are easier for us to understand; this likely has to do with both dialect and generation. That is, if it is chugoku-ben that we recognize and understand, it’s likely the chugoku-ben of older generations, not as it is moving on (as many things continue to do) in Japan.

I can only read nihongo partially right now, due to the fact that I don’t know a lot of kanji as things stand. However…if we do move to Oahu, it’s a pretty sure bet that I will have the resources and immersion necessary to actually learn the language. That, in turn, should give me greater access to one of the cultures which has been likely key in my formation. (Most of my adult life has been spent seeking out my own identity; so to be able to recognize the influences on me, would help.)

As stated prior, there are a good number of kanji that I see and recognize, but of which, I just don’t know the corresponding meaning or reading. I was reading through the Table of Contents of a Genki textbook the other day, and found a bunch of these. Because I have so many resources, I’m thinking of hacking it and taking bits and pieces from multiple sources to hasten my learning.

Right now I’m trying to figure out if and where to get rid of my old Japanese-language manga (these are tankoubon, not like an issue of Shounen Jump [I don’t know the technical term for one of these: zasshi?], which would be more akin to a large phone book with multiple individual installments of various running manga published by Jump Comics).

I’ll probably end up taking them to a comic-book store or a used-book store. The thing is…I would give them to the library, but I suspect they’ll be sold at $1 a piece in the bookstore, which is far below their value. I also am not certain they would sell Japanese-language books. However, I’m not sure they’re worth packing up and taking to Oahu (especially given that these series are so old).

Not that I think I’d ever really get back to these, but for the sake of records:

  1. Bastard!! #5 (this is the actual title, I’m not randomly cursing)
  2. Inu Yasha #22
  3. Last Final Election, The (a collection of YYH slash doujinshi)
  4. Rurouni Kenshin #1
  5. Tenshi Kinryoku (Angel Sanctuary) #1
  6. Yuu Yuu Hakusho #7
  7. Yuu Yuu Hakusho #14

When I got these, I was so young that I may have colored in some of the graphics, but I honestly can’t remember in which of my manga I may have done this…

And yeah…my Japanese instructor from college told me that it’s best not to learn Japanese entirely from manga and anime, or your frame of reference gets distorted (that is, you end up talking weird, and thinking it’s normal).

Nevertheless, these (like my Sailor Moon books which compiled screenshots of the multiple series that never made it into official English translation) did provide me translation fodder when I was a kid.

Now if I found something like Urusei Yatsura, or another classic, that would be different…(come to think of it, a lot of the anime we had [like Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer] was on VHS, and is thus unreadable without a working VHS player…HELLO OBSOLESCENCE).

Then again, it’s what — seven books?

And holy…I just opened to a random page of Inu Yasha and knew what point the story was at, because I could read most of the words with the help of furigana. I also knew who the characters were, and what the time period was, in which the story was taking place.

I still don’t want Rurouni Kenshin or Tenshi Kinryoku, though. That latter one is super depressing, and the former…just too silly. Though Samurai X (the movie), which was the precursor to Rurouni Kenshin, was good.

So now I’m down to what — five? (I’ll just have to cut something else out.)

I picked up Bastard!! because I liked the drawing style, though seriously, that manga is basically adult, for the U.S. I have one of the videos, too, which is kinda soft-core. Not kidding. Don’t try to watch that one with your parents in the room. Not even if you’re an adult. Just don’t.

And…yes, I actually would be okay with giving away Tenshi Kinryoku and Rurouni Kenshin to the Friends of the Library…

…but not the other ones.


I’ve also found that letting go of the desire to create a graphic novel has paradoxically made it easier to play around with paper, pens (I’ve recently discovered [non-desiccated] Posca markers), and Washi tape, and make some interesting stuff.

I’m thinking of trying to write letters (physical ones) to family on the island, now. It would give me motivation and an aim in getting back into Art Practice, though it would likely be Art Letters or something, where I’m doing something that’s between an art journal and a letter. I’m thinking back to Van Gogh here, but I’m sure that illustrated/designed letters have existed elsewhere in the past.

Anyhow…I’ve got way too much to read, especially if I’m going to be dumping a lot of this stuff. I won’t be able to tell what’s worth keeping without looking at it, that is.

Maybe I should set aside things that are on my shelf which I have never read…

Works Cited:

Okamura, J. Y. (2014). From race to ethnicity: Interpreting Japanese American experiences in Hawai’i. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.

Getting back around to art.

Apologies for the lack of images: today was the first time I really allowed myself to explore with art materials for over two years (or that’s what it feels like, anyway). As such, I’m not entirely to the point of displaying what I made, though I like it well enough to continue.

So…this started out with an outing today. D and I went to a small Asian knickknack store (Japanese-branded stuff, but the name of the store doesn’t sound Japanese) to try and find a replacement for the pouch that got littered full of shredded foam (as I mentioned in my last post). I guess there’s something to be said for the creativity of a culture which routinely uses gifts to show goodwill…the new pouch has a good-luck cat face on it. It was the only thing in the store that came close to what I needed.

As it turns out, it was easy enough to rinse and hand-wash out the pouch that used to hold my jump drives. The cat-face pouch is holding all of my jump drives now, so if the other one gets ruined, I still have an option.

It’s kind of weird that these little purses are my go-to for holding jump drives, but whatever. (They’re padded, and nice.) I could imagine, though, being a little kid and getting this as a present, with stuff inside…it would actually be really cute, and a nice gift.

The major trouble I’ve had in the past with Christmas is that it perennially seemed to be a day where people showed me how much they didn’t know who I was (with the exception of my nuclear family). This is the reason why as an adult, I am purchasing the stuff I really want, on my own. I don’t think that’s the way it’s supposed to work (buying oneself Christmas gifts), but it’s a way I could see things going in the future. Anyhow…

What began with cleaning up my craft table eventually turned into prioritizing and shifting storage (I got the 30 half-stick set of Rembrandt pastels, which needed some place to live), which turned into playing with charcoal and huge flat pencils (which I had to sharpen with a knife), and coming up with a design I liked.

The design itself looks like a red lantern, but it’s basically a back-and-forth motion that I surrounded with strategic areas of darkness, indicating a glow. In turn…I’m thinking I can expand this and make it a motif of a larger drawing.

The major drawback to using marker (as I used on my 4th and 5th iterations of this sketch) is that I can’t get that real subtle shading from dark to light which is so easy to attain with charcoal, unless I use a large number of markers. (Markers also have the drawback of fading, which is just something of which to be aware.)

I also then scribbled in some color, first with a red (Scarlet?) LYRA Color-Giant pencil; then on another working, with red Tombows. The black marker I used was a Pitt Big Brush Pen, which is good for mimicking the mark of a broad piece of round willow charcoal.

After I had done this, it was really apparent that my drawing was very, very “graphic” looking. By that I mean, it’s really bold. At that point I realized that maybe I shouldn’t be fighting the fact that my art looks bold, and got out my dip pen nibs and inks.

I actually have too many inks; this is from a time before I knew how to use decent graphics programs and scanners, so I had been on a quest to find the “blackest” black ink. I used Speedball Super Black tonight, which was fairly nice…I just didn’t realize that I had never opened the bottle!

So it was me and this big pad of drawing paper, and a nib and nib holder (I forget what the nib was called, but it was the Hunt Ex-Fine Bowl, I think: it looks like the Speedball #512. For an “Extra Fine” pen, though…it didn’t really make fine lines).

And to answer that question: no, I still haven’t gotten a replacement lighter to burn off the anti-rust coating of most of these nibs. What I did today was use a nib that my sister gifted to me. Since it was already used, I knew it would hold ink. I did read that the anti-rust coating could be removed with alcohol — or pen cleaner — which is what I may try with my newer nibs (before singeing them as a last resort).

What’s weird is how easily illustration (particularly, with people) is coming to me, now. Maybe I need to stop calling it, “weird,” though. If I’ve been doodling characters for 20 years and have taken multiple life-drawing classes, it’s no longer, “weird,” if it’s easy. I should rather expect that.

It’s also really easy now for me to control a stiff pen point. I think I can thank my Pilot Metropolitan for giving me practice with that…

I also have a sheet of extra Bristol Board that I’ve been screwing around on with my fountain pens, and gave it a go with the dip pen. Other than needing to steady my hand, the Bristol presented no problems with feathering, unlike the drawing paper I was messing around with. I also have DELETER paper, which is basically ultra-smooth, but I’d have to look around a bit to source it again!

I would ideally want to plan out a composition (and, you know, get a script) before I went to Bristol and pen-and-ink, but practice has to start, sometime.

I still have to test out those Princeton Neptune brushes — as I was reminded of by reading backposts, the other night. I’m pretty sure Bristol can handle light washes; I’m not sure about the DELETER paper (as I don’t think I’ve ever tried it with washes).

Of course, then, there’s the option of filling with hatching…hmm. But I’d have to think carefully about that. Unless, that is, I used the Microns, Copic fineliners, and Copic markers (in addition to dip pen?!). I don’t think I ever did try using the Copic markers on Deleter paper…

Expanding life.

Today has been kind of interesting. I’ve made inroads to inhabiting my office, again (it used to be a kind of third space between the kitchen/main living area, and the bedroom). Amazingly, not a lot of dust has accumulated in here.

D and I braved the rain so I could pick up a set of 30 half-sticks of the Rembrandt soft pastels, though I haven’t yet been gutsy enough to open them and see how fresh they are. (If they are ancient, I may need to take them back.) It was about $45 for 30 half-sticks, which amazingly enough is a good price for this brand. I intend on using this as a basis from which to branch out.

In addition, I’ve been installing some stuff on my machine. It took some effort to get around to it, because as is obvious to me, my anxiety pushes me away from installing anything…but if followed to an extreme, this kind of leads me to a place where I’m just running basic programs, and not really using the computer’s entire potential.

In any case…the laptop is now basically my primary computer. This is especially as I’ve reduced my time on the smartphone: I’ve started not to feel comfortable browsing the web with it — even my own stuff, here.

I’m also trying to figure out whether I should take pictures with my phone rather than my camera, given that my phone is much newer, and with it, I can actually select what to focus on, even if it isn’t in the middle of the frame. This isn’t really an option with my digital camera, which means essentially that my camera is training/forcing me to take naive pictures.

The thing is that I’ll need to have my transfer cable at the ready, because I only have about 5 gigs of space on my phone. Although…I did take a ton of photos about a week ago, and they take up less than four megs — but this is from the digital camera, which records in JPEG by default.

Unfortunately for this post, I think I’m going to have to get to bed sooner, rather than later. There’s still a lot to do. I am going to need to clean the office, the bedroom, and the bathroom. But, not tonight.