Yes, something happened.

One good thing:  I restarted reading What’s the Alternative?:  Career Options for Library and Info Pros by Rachel S. Gordon.  This…helps.  Having options outside of working in a library is a good thing, even though I get the sense that this is a political issue with some.  That is, I get the sense that some would feel “betrayed” if I decided to take a different path.  But the Library world is weird like that.

For me, though, the “outsourcing” of library work to other specialized groups, means that I can work for some other specialized group, as versus working directly for, say, a Public Library:  the work in which, I’m not sure is a recipe for happiness, for me.

Also, the track I’m on (Digital Services), includes most of the path of Web Design/Info Architecture plus more.  All of the core courses are covered, and some of the “Recommended” courses in the Web Design path that aren’t in the Digital Services path, aren’t even given.  So it’s a good bet, if I do want to go into Web Design, to hold steady.  (I doubt that Design will be as Computer-Science-centric as Web Development…)

I will, though, have to educate myself on the aesthetic dimensions:  a lot of my work so far has dealt with usability, coding, and organization.  Which are all fine…but as someone who is into Art, too, I might want to look into visual elements of Design.

And — ha!  I have some books on Design that I haven’t read, on my bookshelf right now.

Wow…a lot of them, actually.

I also came up with the idea of interactive textbooks, but did a little research, and Pearson already has started working on this.  (Maybe I can work for Pearson?)  In addition, there seems to be a lot of work on this as regards Apple (another possibility), on mobile and tablet devices.  The interlacing here of technology, creating teaching programs, writing the textbook, and gamifying is interesting.  For the first time we have the option of making our “textbooks” into interactive multimedia computer programs…that might be able to be either downloaded or carried on a MicroSD card, or similar.

I doubt I would have come up with the idea, if it were not for my Nintendo DS…yes, probably a bit outdated by this time, but The Legend of Zelda:  Phantom Hourglass was the first time a game ever asked me to write an answer to a puzzle (I’m wondering if it used anything related to “Least Squares” in sensing what my answer was)…would it be that different, say, if you were watching a language-learning video or reading a passage of text and could practice writing in the textbook?  With scores or something to show you how well you did, and without using up physical space with blank paper on which to write?  And what about voice recording and recognition?

What else has been happening…I’ve been slowly getting my reading for User Experience done, though I’m not certain if I’ll have to work on anything due this weekend (I’ve kind of been having a tough time for the last several days, and haven’t even checked the message boards).  I know I have one thing due in one more week, but it shouldn’t be hard.  Though I will have to drag myself back over there and see what’s due.

Anyway.  I just think that I’m not a very social person.  But I’m being graded on my engagement, so there’s that.  Whatever.

Oh, right:  the art and craft storage area has again been rearranged.  There’s…a lot more room, now…

And I think that it’s best to ignore my sibling’s insistence that I write a story before attempting the artwork for it.  The time I came closest to actually having a story and a graphic novel, that story developed out of my drawings.  And I’m going to have **** drawings if I wait until after I’ve written a story before I try to draw anything.

That makes sense, right?

I should get some rest…


Trying to work out the logistics of copyright RE: crafting. This is not legal advice…

…rather, it is me trying to figure out, out loud, what is meant by the differentiation of “technique” and “pattern.”  (Writing helps me get my thoughts in order.)

I should note that I am not an authority on copyright law; I’m just a crafter who has been struggling with the question of what is “right” and “wrong” in regard to the ethics of making jewelry to sell, for years.

I did go to work today, and it wasn’t bad — amazingly, it seems to help me.  Even though I do still struggle with shyness, the social contact seems to benefit me, and I often feel better after I leave than I did before arriving.  At work, one of my co-workers (who had noticed my new collar) asked me if there was a reason I wasn’t selling on Etsy.  I couldn’t…quite…give her a good response!  Though I realize that a lot of it has to do with being a little wigged out over the possibility of unintentional copyright infringement.

Now that I realize more clearly, though, what goes into creating a specific design, the difference between technique and design becomes clearer.  With my last collar design, I realized what in fact was my work (that is, my design), and what I had help in doing…which was just a basic knowledge of sinnets which I had to know (or be taught) in order to construct the beaded straps which helped complete it.  However, the overall message and feel and content of the piece was not contained in that sinnet.

This is not legal advice, but just my current understanding:  Design seems to be something that I create for a specific purpose, with a specific message in mind, with specific materials.  Technique (also possibly more helpfully considered “construction technique”), includes the elements (like beadweaving stitches; parallel this to embroidery stitches [and yes, those two can cross over]) which are used to substantiate the design.  Technique cannot be copyrighted.  Design can.

Design is something difficult to put a finger on before you do it, but after you’ve done it…especially after you’ve done it for years without realizing it — and then you face the possibility of publishing it, and start wondering if someone will mimic your work with no knowledge or understanding of its underlying logic, for monetary gain…it’s perfectly clear.

Generally speaking, designs are sold for personal use:  that is, it may be OK with me if you follow my design to make yourself a collar, but it is not OK with me if you use it for commercial purposes without asking, or thinking of reimbursing, me.  With me, this is largely because I struggled to put that design together, and because a part of myself is invested in that design.  When you follow a pattern, a large part of the work is already done for you.  It would be best to consider them tutorials, though:  a step on the way to gaining the knowledge and skill you need to design your own work (which is, even when simple, immensely more satisfying).

There’s effort that’s gone to in order to choose and combine elements and materials, to fit them to each other, to choose and execute construction techniques, to build a feel and aura and message or concept behind the finished piece, to translate one’s process into words and images that others can understand.  The finished piece is, thus, the result of a set combination of decisions.  If these decisions are replicated without question (sin making the instructions; I doubt anyone would replicate that and think it was all right), the finished product is substantially similar to the original — even if its deeper significance is not grasped.

The more decisions diverge, the less like the original design the piece happens to be; however, if the design is based on an original design by someone else (say, like online Buffy fanfiction is based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer; is not Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but substantially profits from Buffy’s name recognition and branding, and still follows Buffy’s groundwork — especially if it competes with Buffy for viewers), then the best route to take before entering into an enterprise where substantial profit may be gained from its sale is to consult with the original designer (whom one might helpfully consider a partner for this one item, as they may ask for a cut of your sales in exchange for their labor, which in turn saved you labor) for permission to move ahead.

And I ask myself if it’s clear enough for me, now.  The reason why this isn’t legal advice is that it’s just what I seem to have figured out by myself in the absence of substantial trustworthy help.  Most work I’ve seen has been how to avoid having others replicate one’s own designs, not how to avoid inadvertently replicating the designs of others.  (And yes, two or more people can hold copyrights to the same design, if they originated independently.)

The clearest thing I’ve found is that judgment as to whether penalties apply for the supposed violation of copyright law is a subjective (and complex) human decision and often based on a matter of degree and (possibly) intentionality (such as one case where even a photograph was ripped from someone’s website and used to advertise an off-brand’s goods)…and so the easiest way to avoid violating copyright is to learn a number of basic techniques (and I will say it’s hard to learn these without following instructions, at first:  which then gets confusing [“is this a pattern or just a technique?”]), then with the skills learned and the principles behind why they work becoming clearer, just play around with the beads, cords, threads, wires, etc., as versus following a pattern.

Trust me, it’s much, much more satisfying to build a thing yourself, when you get to the point where you can stand on your own two feet.  But the vast majority of us have to crawl before we can stand.

“Patterns” are usually visible because they make at least one large diversion from popularly disseminated technique instructions (which are visible in a number of places — particularly online, and in print).  They are easy to see after you’ve been around the scene for about 10-15 years, because if you look in a number of beadweaving, wireweaving, bead embroidery, chainmaille, macrame, etc., books and magazines, you’ll see the same basic foundations repeated over and over again (within each craft category, of course; although at times some work, such as micromacrame and wireweaving, do cross over with each other where it comes to aesthetics).

These basic foundations, distilled out of ten or so, “recipes,” I’d say are generally safe to use (I really don’t think anyone can be said to own Brick or Peyote Stitch at this point:  although they do originate with multiple Aboriginal groups…as far as I know, they did originate in different places at different times, not necessarily with contact between those groups, and are part of the basic core of a beadweaver’s repertoire.  The sad fact is, though, that a lot of techniques were transferred long ago from people who didn’t, and don’t, have the power to demand compensation).  The, “recipes,” themselves, though, used in their entirety and without derivation, are something I’d try to keep my own hands off of, where it comes to sales.

An example of a “technique” would be RAW (Right-Angle Weave), Spiral Stitch, or Russian Spiral Stitch, as recently showed up in my Reader.  (Thank you, Sam!  And if you see this, can you tell me if you feel I’m correct or off?  [Granted, I know we’re all finding our own way, but as you do design professionally, I’m thinking you might know more than I do.])  Specific variations, such as CRAW (Cubic Right-Angle Weave), I am uncertain of the legality of using, because the variation (or this variation of it, at least) originated at one specific (recent) time in history.  However, going by the “technique is okay to copy/use” and “design is not okay to copy” rule, I would believe it would be safe to use CRAW in your own designs.  The absolute safest route, would be to write to the person who originated CRAW and ask, though the technique is so widespread now that I wouldn’t think it necessary.

Patterns are fine to play with and learn (particularly technique) from — and by, “pattern,” I mean some kind of set of instructions which differentiates itself in a major way from the techniques which are so known and widespread as to be basically public domain.  But it’s best to get permission before selling items made fully or partially based on or from patterns, for profit — especially if you end up making a lot of money off of a design which didn’t originate with you.  (Of course, some pattern designers will say it’s OK to use their designs for profit, and if they say that, it’s OK, too.)

This can creep up on you, though:  be careful, particularly if someone says, “I want you to make me one like that,” referring to something you’re wearing which you can construct from instructions, but did not design.  Being a beadworker who is trying to be ethical, you let them know you did not design the piece and let them know where they can find the instructions for it.  They don’t want to make it themselves.  They then pay you for your labor (uh oh) and wear it, and other people again want you to make them “one like that.”

I’m not a lawyer, but I believe this is where you can get into trouble, particularly if you end up making a lot of items with very little brainpower exerted in design.  But “design” (and the difference between “design” and “technique”) can be a hard thing to wrap your head around, especially if you haven’t had a lot of art training!  And really especially, if you haven’t been around long enough to know what the basic techniques are, and how to deduce them from the sea of instructions around you.

Using a half-hitch or a petal stitch (embroidery term creeping in there) or Cavandoli knotting (macrame term) is not forbidden, just because you had to learn from someone.  You don’t have to go it alone.  You do, however, have something of an obligation to at least ask the people who taught you if they would like compensation, if you sell something they designed for profit.  If you just used what they taught you but didn’t use it in the exact method of their tutorial, though — and this is not legal advice, but — I’d say you’re probably OK.

And again, this is just what I’ve puzzled out over the period of time during which I’ve been trying to figure out what is safe to sell as my own work.

Helpful commentary, not destructive commentary, is welcome.

A craft jeweler’s stock management

Two things that have happened recently are having obtained supplies for jewelry making; and then, storage solutions for the same supplies.  I was able to visit the Japanese dollar store yesterday and pick up a few sets of small clear polystyrene boxes with drawers.  These cost about $3 each.  Then I stopped by the plastics store and picked up more clear polystyrene vials than necessary…I ended up using about $9 worth of vials (the extra small size of vial was $0.20 each), whereas I bought many more than I needed because of not knowing how many I did need.  I should note to myself that the variant of vial I have termed “extra small” (out of XS, S, M, and L) is the one I used the most of, by far (I wonder if they would let me exchange the bigger ones for more tiny ones?).

I specify “polystyrene” because it’s something I’d want to remember; it struck me as odd but logical that I would find two instances of the more optically clear plastics and that both would be the same material.  These aren’t white polystyrene foam (a.k.a. Styrofoam); they seem to be made of the same material CD jewel case covers are made of, according to Wikipedia and some conjecture.

The largest benefit to using these is that it makes it very apparent what my stock consists of, enabling me to forego using multiple tiny plastic bags (which I usually have used until they fogged up and shredded apart, or no longer zipped shut).  With the system I have now, it’s very clear what I have to work with…and the vials are reusable.  The only drawback is that they don’t cushion the beads from knocking against the inner walls.

I also have been kind of torturing myself with looking over beads…I have the either fortune or misfortune of knowing several reputable bead suppliers online, which have been in business for years.  Since my regular two bead stores closed down, it’s been kind of a pain to get access to quality, low-cost (or unique) beads and components (I don’t assume craft or fabric stores to have quality beading supplies, though these are the materials I started out with as a child); right now it is apparent that the prices of designer beads are also…not cheap.

However, I’m seeing that most places sell these in small quantities (10g, which is not a lot; I’d say this is a 3″ vial?…or in multiples of 30 or 50, if I’m recalling correctly).  The benefit of this is that it’s possible to buy very small quantities of beads in large color ranges, and not, say, have to buy an entire hank or half-hank of Czech seed beads or 30 grams of Japanese seed beads, if you only need a little.  The great advantage of this is that you aren’t stuck with an entire 30 gram vial of a color you’re never going to use, if you get home and realize under natural lighting that the colors you’ve chosen for a project don’t actually coordinate.

The brick-and-mortar bead store that used to be closest to me used to unbind hanks of the Czech seed beads (I think there are 12 strands per hank?) and sell them by the strand — which was super convenient, and probably saved me a lot of money, in the short term (while still allowing the store owner to make a sizable profit — though I am not certain it was sizable enough to keep her in business).

Of course, do I need six entire strands of size 13º gold Charlotte beads when I’m just trying out a button pattern I found in a magazine, or is that overkill?  (Size 13º is very small, a little bigger than a poppyseed; the designation “Charlotte” indicates that there is one facet ground into one side of the bead.)  Gold, by the way, is one of the more expensive finishes…half a hank is an investment!  I wouldn’t want to work with anything smaller than 15º beads, which are smaller than 13ºs…at that size, it’s easy to split a bead with a needle that’s too wide.  Then, also, the thread and/or wire has to be really fine to go through beads this size…and at that diameter, things can be really fragile; both the beads, and what they’re strung on.  I’ve also broken needles — fine needles, even! — trying to pull them through beads.  Size 15ºs should probably be strung or woven with an ultrafine steel twisted wire needle…which won’t break just because it’s bent.

The bead sizes go smaller, but it’s hard enough to see the 11ºs (larger than 13ºs), which are basically the standard size you would be most likely to encounter, followed closely by size 8ºs, and more rarely, size 6ºs — the latter of which I think are also called “E” Beads.  I have very rarely seen 3ºs, which appear like plastic pony beads (except I think they’re usually glass if they’re given an “aught” size — that little “º” reads as “aught,” so 11º reads as “eleven-aught”), and are large enough to be strung onto braids (hence, the term “pony bead.”).

I wouldn’t put these onto a kid’s hair, though:  the plastic beads are much safer and lighter.  There’s the danger of glass chips (even flying glass chips) from the beads knocking together, and stress on the scalp, if a lot of the glass ones are used to decorate braids.  Of course, though, when I was a kid and had braids, I wanted this.  I don’t think we ever did it.  (Of course, though, now I know how to add wrapped ends to the ends of my braids!…though that doesn’t really help the bead angle.  I wonder how they would stay on…?  I’d probably need a seam ripper to remove the wraps, as well…)

Anyway, I started out this post thinking about the two-hole beads I bought, recently.  I only got very small amounts, but it’s really made me want to get more; the design possibilities are just…something I hadn’t thought of.  In addition, the designer Czech beads (which I personally prefer to most of the more angular, Art-Deco-looking Miyuki two-hole beads; the exceptions being the Magatama lines) are going on and off of the market all of the time.  There are some beads that are not easy to find, now, which were common a year ago, and new ones are out now that I don’t believe I’ve ever seen in-person.

On the other hand, from looking up a lot of this stuff just briefly, I think that the real issue is that each individual online outlet only carries a specific range of beads; so to get a diversity of them, it’s necessary to target a number of different outlets.  I think the companies that make the beads (as versus the ones that sell them) are trying to drum up new business and interest in beadwork, but the sudden introduction of new beads all the time can be disorienting.  It used to be that we were just working with bicones and rounds and ovals and drops and cubes, and now it’s really…it can get overwhelming.

That’s not to say that it isn’t nice:  new bead shapes and bead hole placements, and creative use of multiple holes, are a goldmine where it comes to designing — especially with the finishes available now (especially if I compare them to my fabric-store beads in sixth grade which had colors which obviously rubbed off).  It’s just really a challenging process to be given what basically amount to new Lego blocks every few months, and be competing with published and accomplished designers to find excellent uses of them.

Actually, I did kind of withdraw from the beading scene after my magazines started putting out designs which relied upon the two-hole and specially shaped beads, many of which were only available online.  I’m not an early adopter…I already know this.  🙂  And I’m really cautious online, which is probably the biggest pain about any of this.  I kind of just don’t trust the Internet in the first place, though it’s relatively easy to see why this is:  my formative online years were not sheltered.

Another reason why I almost permanently Withdrew from my online program…

Last night’s work:

Last night, I had basically had it with technology.  Between not being able to have full functionality at my main station and my mobile device constantly, randomly losing time, I decided to work on something which did not depend on high technology to get a good result.

I’m drafting this out before the fact.  Right now I’ve been awoken by a really strong skunk smell, and the resulting commotion; it is just before dawn, here.  Thus, I need to wait for good lighting, but if I play my cards right, maybe I can get this posted before I have to go.

Pencil sketch.  Needs adjustment -- will do soon.
Pencil sketch. Needs adjustment — will do soon.

This piece really…surprised me.  I had been encouraged by my Professor in Creative Process to keep working at the “flower” angle, especially after I told him what flowers meant to me.  What I did was intended as a mandala, but also works fairly well as an abstracted floral design.

This is done, so far, nearly entirely in HB pencil.  The work to this point took about an hour and a half…but was really calming.  I can, after all, do things independent of computers!  (It just requires getting a bit dirty.)  There was a slip-up near the beginning where I picked up an 8B pencil, thinking it was a 2B, though; I’m not sure that mark will come out, fully.  Right now, for me, the question is which media to proceed with.

I’ve realized that I can do a value-rich underdrawing, coat it in clear gesso, and paint on top of it…but I’m not sure how gouache (or transparent watercolor) will perform on top of gesso.  Plus, I have heard that my Scarlet Lake color (in gouache) may also be fugitive (which means it may fade if I display this piece without a UV protectant)…

I’m fairly certain that I don’t want to use acrylics on this.

I did the linework on a 6″x6″ watercolor paper block…not canvas; and the texture of my heavy body paints is such that I may lose detail if I use them.  Transparent watercolor would be an ideal medium…if it weren’t for the messiness of the underlying drawing.  I have a tendency to smudge my marks in pencil with my hand, so basically everything has at least a thin coating of graphite on it — not to mention the guidelines which I used to keep things close to even.

I have realized that I don’t want to just use the lineart, though.  I want to have some guide as to values (value = the lightness or darkness of a tone), because I don’t want this to be completely flat.  I could…go in with heavily diluted acrylics (using Glazing Medium), if I put clear gesso over the whole thing; then I could keep the underdrawing.

Or, I could erase as much unnecessary pencil as I could, then work at this with transparent watercolor, colored pencil, and use gouache for highlights.

Or I could go over the underdrawing with clear gesso and work with gouache on top, which is what I had initially planned.  I’m not sure whether this will work, though.  I’ve never used gouache on top of gesso, before; let alone clear gesso on top of watercolor paper.

I do have a throwaway piece of watercolor paper, though (it was flawed, so I cut it off the block before drawing this piece), with which I can test out my media.  That seems like the logical next step, before deciding what media to use on the final piece…

Or, hey, I could just use graphite and other pencils over the whole thing.  Maybe including watercolor pencil…

Box modifications?

Today has been rather uneventful, other than dim sum in the morning and heading out to pick up more “gift card tins” at Michael’s.  They have rather corny sayings on their lids — only two of which (out of four total designs), I would support — but they fit certain art supplies pretty well.  I recall seeing a post some time back which was talking about adding an acrylic ground to the lid of a tin so it could be painted over…but I can’t remember on which blog I saw it.

I was at Michael’s yesterday and saw some little tins by the cashier that were meant to hold gift cards (!? why one needs a tin for a card, I don’t know).  But I picked up two of them, thinking that they were the perfect size for full sticks of soft pastels. I believe they were $1.39 each.

After getting home from dim sum today, I actually was able to fit my entire collection of Neocolor II crayons into two tins.  Each tin holds about 17 crayons.  (nine on the bottom, eight nestled on top.)  The only drawback is that they slide up and down a bit without added cushioning — I’m still thinking up ideas to solve that.  The most obvious one is to go to the plastics store and see if they sell small bits of foam which I can place in there.  The other one I can think of is to just wrap everything up in a paper towel:  the Altoids tin that is holding my charcoals is like this (though the paper needs to be changed out).

It’s kind of hard to find carriers for Neocolors, because they’re an odd size — about 1 cm longer than Crayola crayons, when new (though just as slippery…be warned [I almost broke a display trying to catch some that jumped out of my grip])…and to get a tin for them, I’d have to buy a set.  On top of that, most of the tins in the larger sets seem like they’re trying to take up as much space as possible.

It is possible to get discarded cardboard boxes for pastels from art stores…but in reality, I don’t know how many stores do this.  Utrecht used to do it, my other nearby art store other than Blick does it, and Blick will do it, though you might have to ask.  Even then, though, you get mystery pastel dust from whatever had been in there before:  and with pastels…it may not be anything you want to touch.

Prior to this, I had been using one of those “Very Useful Boxes” (it’s the brand name) to hold my Neocolors, but this is kind of bulky:  the one I had was deep, in addition to being long enough for the crayons…which kind of discourages use.

The lack of a hinge on these tins is not something that bothers me, because I always carry tins and lidded boxes of pastels and charcoal with a thick rubber band around them (except for the white pastel tin, which I really need to switch out — they rub against each other in travel, and produce an excess amount of pastel dust).

After I fit all the Neocolors into the tins, I took the smaller number (the earth tones) out, put in a tissue liner (who wants to clean pastel dust out of a new tin…), and tested whether they really would fit my soft pastels.  What I have in open stock soft pastels is not very exciting:  it’s a grayscale set that I used on that “Rain” composition I showed a while back.  But pastels come in a bunch of really nice colors, aside from just white, black, and mixes of the two (though why one would use a black pastel if one had charcoal, I’m not sure — unless there is a texture issue going on, one needed to use the Gum Arabic binder to try and seal something down, or something similar).

I have about seven full sticks of greyscale soft pastels (mostly Rembrandt brand:  they are known to be produced without lead, cobalt, or cadmium pigments…these are heavy metals which I suspect can be transdermally absorbed if they are in soluble form)* which I haven’t broken in half yet…set in widthwise, they fit in there perfectly.  I haven’t been able to see just how many could fit, because I haven’t broken out my Blick half-stick set yet to try and see.  (The Blick soft pastel set that I have came in a foam-padded box…it’s kind of cumbersome and way bigger than necessary.  On the bright side, I don’t have to worry about friction making nuisance pastel dust, or any color contamination from being stored next to a different color.)

What I can say is that the gift-card tin will fit at least nine full sticks; possibly ten.  I’m not sure, because of the curvature of the edges of the tin — and because I haven’t hardcore tried to shove as many in there as I could.  🙂  If I think about my half-stick habit (it enables drawing with the broad side of the pastel as well as the edges), one tin might fit 20 half-sticks (if I set in the smaller of the halves…theoretically).

I think that’s pretty awesome.

The drawback to this is that I use these unwrapped, so the colors are probably going to rub up against each other and contaminate each other.  In reality, when I have to carry, say, any white pastel, I usually wrap it up in a facial tissue and put it inside a small plastic bag of the type that is used to hold jewelry parts (this contains any dust or spontaneous unwrapping).  (These are also available at Michael’s — and no, they aren’t paying me.  You might also be able to find them at bead stores, though I wouldn’t expect those to be something people-in-general know about.)

The issue comes when I might need to access multiple different colors of pastel, and they need to be separated.  I’m fairly certain I can tool out a solution utilizing folded cardstock, an X-acto knife, a ruler, a butter knife (for creasing), a pencil, and some scissors…and maybe some rubber cement.  It shouldn’t be too hard.  The major difficulty I’ve found is that I have seen no inexpensive way to carry soft pastels, other than the “discarded box” solution at the art stores — or buying a set primarily for the box, which is just…too much.

Right now I’m thinking of a storage setup…glassine paper or paper towels on the bottom and folded over the top, and a bunch of individual cardstock compartments for half-sticks of soft pastel.

I should also get on reworking my charcoal storage, though, too…or at least wipe off the white pastel that contaminated my set…because I really want to use all of this stuff again.

I’m just not certain whether I should use large paper…and if so, do I want to try and find that hemp stuff again…

*I should mention that Blick’s website has a lot of Prop 65 warnings about Rembrandt pastels.  I am thinking that a lot of these may be due to the presence of nano-scale Titanium Dioxide pigments (which, through dust inhalation or skin contact, can be an issue at occupational exposure levels).  The Caution Label notifications may be there because the pigments used may contain Lamp Black, which can be toxic — at the least, if it’s contaminated — but the website says it should be considered slightly toxic by skin contact and inhalation.

State Fair treasure trove

Today was actually a really fun day.  We went to the State Fair, and I came away with somewhere around 150 photos.  Most of them, to my untrained eye, I’m fairly pleased with.  Sorting through these, I was looking for photos which I would not mind sharing with the world.  (There are some which would make really nice paintings — or which, in general, are really nice compositions.)

Source for abstracted composition?

I…truly have little idea of what kind of plant this is, but the composition of the original photograph struck me.  I cropped it to a square format, for some reason (probably because I have a 30″x30″ canvas that…might look good with this).  As I was processing it to prepare it for the Web, I actually got a little inspired by this one, too!

I’m thinking of abstracting this so that I have a good value range, and can focus on the play of light and shadow.  Though, I suppose anything except photorealism is abstracted, a bit?

Hmm.  No one has ever really taught me how to work abstractly.  I have a book on it, but I think that probably the best thing to do is just try, and see what comes out.  After all, no one is making me work abstractly; and on top of that, I have no one convenient to teach me what abstraction even is, so maybe I should just set it as a goal to…not become a slave to the photograph.

In any case…I have a lot of photos to look through.  I know that one in particular would look great as a large acrylic or oil painting, and I’m fairly aware of which one of those I would try first!  😉  But because of that, I’m hesitant to post it here before the painting is done.  Although…I do suppose I could watermark it.

It is nice to have the time and finances to do this.  Unless I become a Professor, times like these are probably not going to be all too frequent, once I begin to support myself.

Or unless I do become an Artist…

Testing the water(colors?)

I think that I am beginning to come out of my slump.

Having reached the point where I’ve realized that doing any art at all, no matter how small that effort is, will benefit me…I have moved some of my art materials back into my bedroom.  Easy access from my bed means I’m more likely to get out of bed (which is where I hang out when I’m depressed) and work with them.


Last night, I was playing around with some pens…as they’re one of the most attractive (although not the easiest) media for me to go to.  I also started playing around with something I had been experimenting with in the Art program — spirals within other shapes.

This little bug was the result.  🙂  Apologies for the blurriness — this must be at least 5x as big as the drawing is, IRL.

I don’t really know what a firefly looks like, in reality, but again, this was just me playing around.  Research tends to come after rough drafts (at least for those developing ideas only loosely based on truth), and rough drafts are generally not very good — but they often contain or point to the essence of what is trying to come out.

And, then…well…last night I also started to work again in vine charcoal.  What I was doing seems silly, now, so I have hesitated in posting about it.  I’ve decided to include it anyway, though, for my own records.

Vine charcoal

The experience of working in vine, again, did get me thinking on going outside and using my charcoals and Conté crayons to sketch…as these media are relatively nontoxic and simple to use.

I had noticed when trying to express myself with pencil, I was having a difficult time breaking out of linework.  Which is, of course, something a pencil is ideally designed for, but if you don’t want to do that anymore, switching media isn’t a bad idea.  (When I was a youth, I would draw with mechanical pencil.  Talk about precision!  But that’s not something that’s always desired.)

I did try and “color” with the vine, which is something that vine charcoal isn’t suited for — but I’m not in classes, anymore, so I get to do what I want to do.  😉

I was also using a charcoal paper by Strathmore — I think it’s 25% hemp fiber content.  It just feels really nice to use, in a tactile sense, but there is a grid texture to it which can be unwanted, depending on personal preference or the project at hand.  You can see the pattern in the image I’ve posted, above.

Last night, I also started on another mandala, utilizing the paper-folding technique that I had used for my last large attempt at making mandalas.  It’s too faint to photograph, though.

Today, I got out my compass (first I had to remember that I had one, and where it was), and I think that using the compass will be a really good first step for me in most mandala work.  When I use the paper-folding technique on its own, I tend to get mandalas which are more square than round.  This can be useful at times, but there’s something about a circle which is more attractive to me.  I don’t have to base my work on the bounds of a square format, after all.

Practice with watercolors.

In any case, I drew a simple pattern out today with my compass, in my AquaBee journal.  The paper is heavy enough to take wet media, but it still warps.  I did, though, try playing around with watercolors on top of it…and this, this was fun!

I didn’t realize when I was drawing out this very simple form, how many different areas it would give me to play with colors.  TBH, the only reason it is this form is that I didn’t want to go find my protractor.  ^_^;;  I know where it is, I’m fairly certain; but one thing I’ve learned from my job is that most people are relatively lazy.  😉

(So I’m not the only one!)

In the process of working with the watercolors, I tried to stick back down the areas in my palette where the paint separated from the wells.  In the center blossom there, too, I started using desaturated and earth tones, whereas most of the rest of the mandala has areas which are one to three colors of paint, mixed — I think the only straight pigment is Magenta Permanent on the far left; the most complex is probably Phthalo Green + Permanent Rose + Phthalo Blue (GS).

I did get some interesting effects when I laid down a color (in both cases, a yellow) and then layered other colors on top of them while they were still wet (Sap Green, and likely, Cadmium Orange Hue).  I also got a little bit of a bleed on the right side, of an orange into Burnt Sienna + Deep Vermilion, but I think that this really only adds to the “magic” of what happened in the painting.  That is, randomness added to what happened, there, as versus screwing it up.  😉

And, just to let you know, there was little to no prior planning of what color would go where, which is why I’m kind of amazed that this doesn’t look like a mess.  I’m also really surprised that the underlying drawing fades back so much, and that it’s OK-to-good that it does this.  Most of my prior work in watercolors, aside from Watercolor class, has had a hard-edged look because of using fineliners…but maybe I don’t want to block myself into that route.

I’m thinking that my paper should be dry now, so I can go and play more in my sketchbook…

There is one more point, though, that is at the back of my mind.  This is the idea that when I don’t do art, I’m unwell…or when I do work at art, I am well?  Maybe the latter is more true.  It’s something to revisit, soon — but it’s the reason I’m going through all of this with Library School; so that I can have time and money to do this, so that I can be healthy.  I should remember, though, that becoming a Librarian is not the only route to a secure living…it’s just the one in front of me, at the moment.