A use, a frame, a narrative

A family member once told me that when they were in art classes, they could copy what they saw, but when they tried to draw from imagination, it was very hard for them.

I was thinking about this last night, as the image of an Artist Trading Card featuring the Golden Gate Bridge came to my mind. Some of the details of the insight that came along with this have been lost to…well, melatonin, let’s say…but I realized that having a use for my art would be one thing to motivate me to do it.

As well, the image was at least setting up a narrative, if it were not a narrative itself. That narrative framed the scope of the project. I did see the use of the bounds of the image as in some way a metaphor for the frame of the message it was intending to get across (even though I envisioned the interior of the design extending beyond the literal frame).

On top of that, the narrative takes precedence over realism, meaning that I don’t have to copy reality in order to get my narrative across.

I’m not sure if I’m making sense, here, but the idea for the image came from questioning if I had hot-press or plate watercolor paper on which to draw comic illustrations. (If not, I know I have Bristol board.) I think I need to lighten up on myself about whether I’m doing things “right,” and just start to do them. Then I can see where it goes, instead of stopping before I start because I don’t think I’m doing it correctly.

But I think having a use, a frame, and a narrative will help me narrow down the scope of what I do. I remember now that I had been considering using my steel-nib dip pens and black ink, and I thought that maybe having a constraint in my technique (such as: no pushing the nib forward to make lines, unless using a cartooning or calligraphy nib) would cut down on my creative options enough so that my content would be easier to express.

I’ve also wanted to get back into calligraphy. Not Japanese calligraphy, but English-language. There is one beautiful red-orange calligraphy ink I saw the other day, which piqued my interest (it looks as though it will contrast well with black).

I had one calligraphy book I was working through, which actually did improve my regular handwriting, as well as my decorative handwriting. And I can practice on top of translucent Layout paper, which will likely be a good solution (I used to send out letters to friends, written on translucent papers — it was just my style).

I also have an Ames Lettering Guide, from the time I wanted to work on comics.

I think I am just wanting to combine text and image, and text and narrative, again. The major thing that has stopped me in my studies of comics, and graphic novels, have been the dispositions of the comic authors I’d likely have to study to learn the craft. There’s a lot of politics, there.

Though I generally consider myself open-minded, sometimes things are just offensive to me — particularly historical work made for a nationalistic, non-minority audience (if you get my drift). I’m not entirely sure what to do about that, except limit my exposure to more recent works and international works, to which I’m not so emotionally tied.

Anyhow, I have a thought of where to start.

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I knew this blog was good for something.

Over the turning of the new year, I realized a couple of things. One, I have gotten out of the habit of writing regularly, because schoolwork demanded so much of my time — not least, my time at the computer (which is limited due to repetitive-stress concerns: I have had severe pain in my upper back from sitting at my terminal for too long before, and don’t want to repeat it). Two, I have also gotten out of the habit of making art. When starting is the hardest part, that’s not good.

So over about the last week, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with my time. Right now I have three weeks to go before school starts up again. It’s fairly evident that I’ve gotten into a sewing kick, but I didn’t realize how to link that and another of my projects — this being the mandala project that I started towards the end of my Art AA and which carried on a bit further after that — until last night. Check the mandalas tag on my blog to see some of this work.

I’ve realized that the paper-folding technique with which I’ve attempted to create mandala art, may be more useful in plotting quilt squares, than I’ve thought. It may even be more useful this way than in its original form, as paper-folding from a square base tends to make four-sided (or “gated”) designs. It was because of this that I eventually migrated away from paper-folding, to utilizing a compass system. However…it seems to lend itself to this.

I’ve been looking around for books on appliqué. I was only able to find one today, but the quilt book I checked out before also has a section on this. Although it wouldn’t necessarily be easy to work on a pieced quilt with geometric designs stemming from origami forms (though I could be wrong: I haven’t tried it, yet), appliqué can basically take any form. M was thinking that I might be really good at it because I work best in tiny, delicate stitches.

Right now, the biggest question is what construction method to use, as a rigid approach would be fine for something I’d hang on my wall; not so much, though, for something I might eventually use. For example, I wouldn’t want to use glue (as one of the books I found today, recommended), for anything I wanted to cuddle up under. I did find a book which was more laid-back than this, though, which also used hand-stitching as versus machine-stitching (the former of which is basically one of the key reasons for me to be in sewing at all).

I’ve got to return some of these library books.

I have, also, gotten through one chapter on the couture sewing book I checked out, and it’s fairly clear that the entire chapter will be useful.

Anyhow, looking over the blog, the other night, was what tipped me off as to what I had enjoyed before, and directions I might want to go in as regards quilting, now…

I also suppose I am working content into my work!

These dreams will draw you in…

What a difference not-writing makes, eh?

I’m becoming much more aware of what happens when I don’t write every day.  I still have my Random Thoughts journal…which is in the blue book I meant to begin a larger project within (the “how to survive when you have a brain like mine,” project).  The major issue with this is that I have been feeling it is a large risk for me to put those latter thoughts to paper (or keyboard)…at least in a place where they may be seen (as when I may take this book and write within it, in public).

The positive thing is that, without the grounding of writing something related to hard reality each day, my thoughts are actually breaking free of the limitations of what I see as the physicality of my situation.  I am not sure if this means that I’m breaking further from reality or not…

In particular, I slept for quite a while today.  I’m trying to keep my immunity up, as yesterday was particularly weird where it came to trying to keep hydrated (I had a sore throat, and trouble speaking, for no discernible reason except dehydration…but I ended up drinking at least 36 ounces of water at work).

While I was asleep, I found a…recurrence of a bit of a story I had been thinking about for years as a teen and young adult.  It started out as a response to vampire fiction (I was that young), then moved into urban paranormal fantasy.  At this point, I’m seriously considering making it about aliens — because it is, basically, about aliens and alienation, hidden worlds, etc.

I have two lead characters…one of whom is human, one who is not.  (In my Creative Writing program, we were given a quote which said that writing a book was a disease that you’re only cured of once the piece is finished…but I can’t remember who it was attributed to, or the exact wording.)  The second started out as a strong side character, but that…led into more.  He had the ability to enter and determine the environment of dreams…and in this, his character design was clearly non-human; his reach and interactions, fairly intimate.

It would be interesting to write this.  There is that thing about Proxima Centauri b being within the habitable zone for life, though at this point in our technological development, it would take until 2060 to hear back from any probes.  Meaning, obviously, that by the time we hear back, most of us who are presently cogent enough to understand the significance of this, will be either old or dead.  But something like that could be used as an excuse to write a story which may actually not be sci-fi (as to be sci-fi, I’ve heard, it has to actually be possible), but rather paranormal urban fiction involving aliens.

I find it very, very interesting, the way my thoughts have turned when I’ve had to keep them inside, and have not been presenting them to anyone.  Because of the lack of fear of judgment, I’m able to do certain things like fundamentally question key foundational tenets of belief systems which I had previously held without question.  Like the idea that actions taken in the past determine the future; that time is linear and only flows in one direction.  That everything in the universe is built upon and explainable via rationality and logic.  Or, and I was working on this one before — that the Universe is inherently moral.

I was having a conversation with M the other day where I said that it doesn’t matter if every decision made in a philosophical system is completely on it and accurate, if the fundamental tenets of the stance (or “canon”) are flawed.  If the fundamental givens aren’t accurate to reality, everything that unfolds from that point is also not accurate to reality, and the philosophical system may cease to apply to reality in any beneficial way.

I’m thinking that fiction writing might actually be a good place to work some of these issues out.  Once I start breaking fundamental rules of thinking, it helps to be able to work at this from several different angles (as I am not entirely certain that any one of them is correct, nor should I be).

So…maybe I’m migrating back to fiction as my art or craft of choice?  I’m not certain.  What I do know is that the dream I had impacted me fairly severely, in a beneficial manner.  …And hey, maybe I want to start work again on character designs.

I should also try and work some of this out in my head, so I can try and parse what the story is actually about…not to mention its optimal length, and format…

…and I should consider giving at least one of my characters the trait of being impacted by mental illness.  Guess which one…

Career Planning?

I’ve just finished skimming all 10 pages of this blog which are tagged, “Career Planning.”  This is partially in anticipation of heading back out to my Vocational program next week…and not knowing what to expect.

As things are right now, I am curious about the Solo Librarian option as it applies to Special Libraries.  I could do this even if my technical course turns out to be a bit difficult for me.  I have just checked, and there is also a Special Libraries specialization at my school that I had heretofore completely overlooked — but if I take this, I will either have to take 12 units per semester for a few semesters, or run over the time limit I have left; meaning I would have to take my first three core courses, again.

I’ve been thinking more and more about doing Special Library work for an organization that reflects my interests.  That is, instead of knowing a little about everything, it could be interesting to delve into a specific topic or specialization.  This would also leave open the option for a Master’s in Art History, and the possibility of working in a Museum…which honestly sounds fabulous.

In the meantime, I could try and apply for a Library Assistant position, work my way through the MLIS, and then possibly move up into a Librarian position.  (I also might be able to work as a Special Librarian, though this would be a supervisory position.  Not something I’ve wanted, but I am getting experience in directing and teaching people.  [Not that I’ve wanted it.])

I can pay off my loans here and then try for a Master’s in Art History, once I can gather the finances.  This will take a while, but I’m not planning on retiring at 60:  more like 75, if I make it that long and my health endures.  (Even then, I’d probably volunteer unless homebound; there are benefits to working that go beyond being paid.)  It would also give me a good chance to verse myself in what I might have learned in a BA in Art History, plus more.

At that point, I should be an experienced Librarian…and hey, maybe I wouldn’t even need the MA in Art History at that point.

People say I look too far ahead and should just concentrate on what’s in front of me…but it’s hard to just watch my feet taking steps, without knowing where I’m going.

So…the initial intake session for my Vocational program is late next week.  I don’t totally want to just leave off of the Library stuff; but both my counselor and doctor have recommended that I take another look at this program.  This is particularly so because I seem to be at a crossroads to them, and need the career counseling.  Right now, I just don’t know what to expect — from anything.  Not the LIS program, not the Vocational program.  It’s possible that the latter may back me where it comes to funding the LIS degree…or they may recommend that I take a different specialization or a different career path, entirely.

Once my technical class is over, I will be able to tell whether Web Programming, Cataloging, or Digital Services are options as regards specializations.  If they are not, I’m looking at Management or Special Librarianship.

It is kind of nice to work at a library where people are generally decent (generally); but the politics are kind of grating, and it doesn’t help that I’m in one of the lowest-powered positions and have been for over five years, now.

I think I will jump for the LA position when it comes up, next.  I’ll probably want to spruce up my resumé and go retake my typing test in light of that…though the latter probably applies to Clerks, not LAs.  Still, can’t hurt.

Buddhism, anatman, and spirit

I actually need to get organized.  There has been progress on some fronts — I called my old Vocational program and set up a time to initiate the process of having my case re-opened.  I have also cleared off some work space on the craft table, and set aside some books to be returned to the library.

Yesterday, I took back some fiction which I wasn’t really highly interested in (though I was trying to be interested), and some other stuff, the topics of which, I can’t recall.  Ah, right:  it was the mandala and Buddhist stuff.  I’d realized that I had at a prior time read entirely through the mandala book (I think it was Coloring Mandalas 1), and the Buddhist stuff…there was some Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron stuff in there, which I totally didn’t even look at once I got it home.

Speaking generally…the Buddhist works I’ve read which are intended for a general audience, seem to try to gently inform one that things are not right.  Somehow, I did break into reading books intended for a more specialized audience (Essentials of Buddhism by Mizuno Kogen being one [Mizuno is their surname]), and that kind of context is less…like sweets and hugs to calm a crying child.  It’s more along the lines of, “this is how we got to this point,” which implies that nothing is really immutable about the Dharma; or rather, it changes to suit times and cultures.

I’m not totally sure what my opinion or stance is as regards Buddhism, at this point.  On one hand, it does make sense to the part of my mind which is pessimistic and depressive; it also assists in dealing with everyday dissatisfactions and illusions.  The drawback is that, while the goal of Buddhist practice may be to attain nirvana (or satori as the case may be in Zen), nirvana has never been clearly defined to me.  This is likely because it would take more than one lifetime to examine Buddhism from a generalist standpoint, and not all schools agree with one another…obviously, or there would not be different schools.

Generally speaking, the ideas of spirits, demons, and gods are…not necessary to the practice of Buddhism.  Neither is the idea of a personal soul; and actually, Buddhist thought in some (many? most?) streams has argued against the idea of a personal soul (this is the doctrine of anatta or anatman), stating that the being which we experience ourselves to be is constructed and not essential.

Theoretically, I don’t have a problem with that, but there is also the fact that my state in this life seems to be of either a translucent (if it were clear, I would know what was going on), or generative nature…and arguing against the concept of spirit is something that doesn’t make sense to me.  I kind of flow in Spirit (though granted I do not primarily believe in “individual” spirits); so a philosophy that states that what I experience firsthand is illusion would not be…conducive to living my life as wholly myself.

There’s also the fact that Buddhism as I’ve read it does not address the particular problems that I face in this life where it comes to having or building some kind of framework to explain the paranormal.  Buddha never addressed this.  While it does give the practitioner free reign to do what they please as regards their belief or lack of belief in something beyond materialism (though materialism is a recent and perhaps foreign introduction — though there was at least one materialist school in India around the time of Buddhism’s inception), it just generally does not help when you’re dealing with things that I’m dealing with.

That said, I can accept that Mindfulness does help mental (and probably physical) health.  But the point of Mindfulness meditation is to show that there is nothing permanent about any internal states, thus there isn’t anything permanent about the self; therefore the concept of the self is illusory; therefore we can release the concept of the self and if there is no “I” to suffer, there is the possibility of breaking the chain of suffering and freeing the adherent into the possibility of nirvana, which I have only heard described as “bliss.”  It’s possibly also (depending on the school) the only chance at immortality where it comes to this particular life…though perhaps my lack of knowing Chinese and Pali or Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit is showing, here.

I’m thinking maybe I know too much about this?  Or not enough.  Maybe both.

Beyond that, Mindfulness seems to be a recent “discovery” by Western psychiatry; as such, I’m not sure they know how it works (they don’t even really exactly know how the mind itself works, on that point; psychiatry is a young science), and because of that, psychiatry has a tendency to take everything whole-cloth and promote Mindfulness as a healing practice.  The down side of this is that there is probably a lot that is unnecessary to the practice which is being promoted as part and parcel of it (although it may be more religiously oriented — metta [lovingkindness] meditations being an example).

If I wanted to be Buddhist, I would be Buddhist (and as things go, I still may be Buddhist and unaware of it, given that Bodhisattva vows seem to carry on from life to life).  What I want is to be healthy, not to be converted.  I have concepts which I have developed on my own which have value to me in this lifetime, which are missing in the greater scheme of things.

I am hoping there is some way to mesh the idea of the lack of a personal self (or the idea of a personal self constructed over eons) with the idea of a spirit of life.  (After all, I’ve heard it argued that all gender is socially constructed, but that this doesn’t mean that gender isn’t real…something one learns in Gender Studies — or in transgender and feminist community interactions.)  I think there is a way to reconcile these two ideas, but I haven’t been able to formulate it, yet.  Probably, noting down the problem is the first step to working on it.

I should make these into a freakin’ series.

Two or three major points:

One, which was brought up earlier tonight:  instead of attempting to avoid human contact, consider that what I’m dealing with is clinically-significant anxiety over unwanted interpersonal interactions (that is, I remain anxious even when the stimulus isn’t there).  What I need to do is learn how to deal with these interactions, not avoid them.  As long as I continue to avoid them, my fear of them will remain in place.

Two:  I still need to look over the profiles I have of working as an Academic Librarian — this position and Teacher Librarian positions differ (Teacher Librarian is K-12 and is something I plainly don’t want; Academic is Post-Secondary and may or may not include teaching as a co-requisite).  I meant to do this today, but because of various factors, ended up not getting out of bed.  Also, M states that I shouldn’t need an MA in Art History to teach Art History, even at a University — but I can see from my end that if I want to teach Art History, I better get on studying Art History.  (It isn’t like I’m lacking sources!)

Three:  If I thought I could make a decent, stable living at writing or at art, I would be putting more effort into working at one or both.  However, most of these jobs seem to be in freelancing (or project-based commitments), which is not stable.  If I didn’t need to maintain my health insurance, this might be feasible, but health insurance is a requirement for me because of my disability.

I’ll try and work on #2 now.  #1 would be good to revisit next time I see my health care providers.  #3 is something I can’t do much about.

In completion the new seed is born

I have actually managed to finish this mandala.  I’m fortunate that I have time available to devote to this.  But recently, I’ve been thinking on how lucky I am to have my family still with me, and along with that goes my own aging, along with the career setup.  I’ve got to remember, though, that the hard part is to keep going (the message that came along with this mandala was along these lines).

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Pencils done, no ink yet.

The first image here is from having finally gotten the bravery to finish drawing in my pencils.  I’m including these first two images for my own records…

It was actually kind of a bit of a decision to make, as to whether to ink this, or paint directly on top of the pencils (I could have blotted up some of the darkness of the graphite with a kneaded eraser).

I should probably mention, as well, that the graphite here never came fully out of the paper.  There are some lines that were incised into the paper…even lines that I thought were light.  The only thing I can think of to do about this is to use a more erasable pencil, like a Pentel mechanical pencil, which has leads designed to be easy to erase.  Either this, or I’ll have to be careful of the thickness/lushness of the paper I use, if I ever want to color these with dry media.  (Incised lines show up under colored and regular pencils as whitish lines, as the later leads can’t penetrate into them to color them.)

Eventually, what I ended up doing was using a set of light grey Copic fineliners to go over the pencils.  These weren’t the finest nibs — but the 0.1, 0.3, and 0.5 mm are the ones I think I used.  I need to learn to press more lightly on these, as well — I could have wrecked the 0.1 and 0.3 by using too much hand pressure.  The tips are just delicate.

For those of you who are interested, these are from the Warm Grey set, as I intended to work with warm colors, and wanted the lines to recede (otherwise, I would have used black).

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Inking done with warm grey Copic fineliners

Something, to me, seemed to have been lost when I erased the pencil guidelines (as much as I could, anyway), and was left with the bare linework.  It seems like there was kind of a dimensionality to the pencils that went flat once the graphite was (mostly) erased and I was left with just this two-color skeleton.

Now that I’m looking at these together, I can see that there was some form of an advancing trumpet shape in the pencils, which I somehow lost in the inking plus cleanup.

Completed...relatively.
Completed…relatively.

I’m not totally satisfied with how the coloring went.

From thinking on this last night, I knew that I wanted to do something with orange, yellow, pink, and blue.  I also knew that I wanted the angular shapes around the outside rim to be darker in value than the background.  The flame shapes around the outside needed to be yellow.  But that’s as far as I had gotten, in regard to what colors or values went, where.

The base of the outer orange of this set of colors was a deep Hansa yellow, plus Cadmium Orange Hue, which I later glazed over with a warm red-orange mixture (I used four colors and can’t remember exactly which they were — except I used Vermilion Deep [high tinting power!] with at least one or two yellows to cancel the intense red) which seemed to help it, a lot.

And, yeah, Winsor Yellow is probably one of my weakest colors, despite the fact that it could fight off Vermilion Deep…I’m thinking of trying a different brand when I have to replace my tube (or get a large tube instead of a tiny one).

Right now I’m wondering whether to work wet-into-wet with Ultramarine, around the base of the pink petals.  The trumpeting effect is not something I saw up close, but now that I see these photos (akin to seeing things from a distance), I can kind of sense where I could have enhanced the image.

The teal is Phthalo Blue (GS) with Sap Green (a chance I took; Sap Green has a yellow overtone which I wasn’t sure would work out); the purple, Magenta Permanent with Dioxazine Violet.  The pink petals are Permanent Rose, which also forms the base of the red circle at the center, though in the latter I glazed over the area with Winsor Red.

As for anything inside that center…I used mostly Ultramarine there, with some kind of cool yellow plus water, scrubbing, and a relatively clean brush, to create the greens in the very center.

I was trying to keep relatively clean colors, which is why there wasn’t any mixing across the color wheel — and why I went in with some pure pigments.

I’m fairly certain that my color scheme doesn’t lend itself well to a traditional reading of what the mandala may signify.  😉  Four-petaled lotus and Ultramarine Blue don’t necessarily mesh, iconographically…but yeah, I was just trying to get this out some way similar to how it wanted to come out.

I’m still wanting to add more red around the outer ring; though in what form, I’m not sure.  It was kind of a pain to paint those arrowhead-looking things, including the areas inside them — though I think I got a balance of positive and negative space going there, fairly well.  Maybe if I painted Vermilion around the outer edges of the circle, edging in toward the shapes (to break up that negative space), keeping an ovoid halo around the flames, and added Ultramarine to the center of the pink flower?

That could work…the question now, though, is whether I draw in guidelines or just try to wing it…

And, right:  the title of this post simply means that I can see other ways that I could have worked out what I did.  This, then, gives me the inspiration to try again, and try something different.  🙂  So many more ways of doing things present themselves than are able to be expressed, that it takes multiple additional iterations to try and answer the questions of, “what if I did things differently”…and those later iterations raise even more questions, so this becomes an ongoing process.

When I met my Art teacher at work the other day, I almost felt apologetic to tell her that I was simply working with mandalas, but even this will give one a taste of creative process…and that’s invaluable.