Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day 22: Create a bridge

I was saving this book for a special project, because it's one of my absolute favorites. I came across 'Winter's Tale' in my High School library, but fell in love with it immediately and spent years tracking down a copy.
It's a complicated book, and I'll admit it's not the kind that will be a favorite with everyone who reads it. The plot twists and turns through time and place, and pinning down what it's actually about can be tricky. It's about people, and New York from its aristocratic heights to the terrifying depths of slums, and how dreams shape history and what we do echoes down through time. If you're in love with cities, this is well worth reading.
Bridge of light, cast on the wall.
The main character, Peter Lake, has an influence in the course of the city's history in a dozen different ways, although to his perspective he never does anything all that exceptional. He may be one of the few characters in the book who doesn't have big world-changing dreams. One of the dreamers is a man named Jackson Mead, and his grand dream is building bridges. He sees them as eternal rainbows, a kind of heavenly architecture. It's not just the construction he's in love with, but the very concept of what a bridge is, and how it connects people and places.
It's probably important to note that even though this story takes place in New York, it's a kind of mythical New York that isn't quite historically accurate. In a way this New York is even larger than life, and much of the story takes place around the turn of the century.
Brooklyn Bridge, 1896
It's late, and I'm failing at finding the words to adequately describe this complex and moving story.

The bridge I've created is made of light, which is an entire rainbow in itself. I made a stencil using this photo of the Brooklyn Bridge, so with a good light source it can be projected to bridge just about anything you want to connect.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 21: 10-Word Love Story

The bonus for this prompt was to illustrate your 10-word love story, and I guess I was... inspired, this evening. Because I still wanted this prompt to connect to a book, I chose 'The Dream Hunters' by Neil Gaiman. Apparently this story is available in a couple versions, including a graphic novel, but the copy I have is more like a children's storybook, with illustrations by Yoshitaka Amano. If you've never seen his work, you should google him, and while you're at it add 'dreamhunters' so you can see his pictures for this story.
The author wrote the very popular Sandman series of graphic novels, of which I'm also a fan. This is technically a part of that and the Sandman, Morpheus, does play a pivotal role in the tale, but it stands alone beautifully so don't be scared off if you're not familiar with the series.
There's several plots here to give you everything you could want in a classic fairytale: Trickery, love, monsters, a quest, revenge, hard justice and a bittersweet ending. It's not a story for the kids, unless they're the kind of kids who also get to read Grimm's fairy tales the way they were originally written.
At the core, this is a love story, between a fox (possibly a kitsune?) and a Buddhist priest, which takes place in both the waking world and in dreams. The Dream King grants help to them both in turn, while pointing out their love is unlikely to have a happy ending.
It doesn't, I'm warning you now, this is not a cheerful book. At the end it's hinted that they still find love together, in their way.
This is a gorgeous book, both the story and the illustrations, which I tried to mimic the style of in my own work. These paintings are watercolors, a couple of 4x6" pieces on cardstock. This marks the first time I've gotten any success out of using salt with watercolors! I did add some pencil for details on both pictures.

Lives sacrificed for love may yet be joined in dreams.

My own artwork of the lovers reunited against Yoshitaka Amano's illustration of part of their struggle.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 20: Work in a new way with clay

Well this project didn't go off quite how I hoped. I have some paperclay, which I'm really not very familiar with using at all. Initially I wanted to do a kind of flat clay picture, and by flat I mean it would have some dimension and depth, layers of clay for foreground and background, and I found out that paperclay just doesn't do that very well at all.
In fact, I can't get it to do much that looks really good, although the big buttons for the 'Coraline' project came out well. So instead of a 3D picture of the golem from this book on a bridge (with Vimes nearby), I made an actual golem, which is supposed to look patchy and cracked. They're ancient, and have repaired themselves with patches of clay so many times the original shape is blurred into a big humanoid mass without much features.
This golem is named Dorfl, and he's on the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. I should have made him a badge. The top of his head is a separate piece and his head is hollow, ostensibly for a place to put the scroll with the holy words that keep him alive, but Dorfl is unique in that he no longer needs those. Instead, the top of his head comes off so I can shine a LED flashlight in and make his eyes glow like they're supposed to.
Glowing eyes!
'Feet of Clay' is another book in the Discworld series, and the entire book revolves around golems, which are made of clay. Not paperclay, but that's largely wood pulp, which is even closer to something organic and living than dirt, maybe. Either way, the prompt of clay made me think of Dorfl, who is living clay, and who would point out that it actually makes him a lot more like us than we might want to admit.
At the end of the book, the priests band together, outraged that he is alive without holy words to control him and give him life. They tell him that he is not even really alive, to which Dorfl says:

"This Is Fundamentally True, I suggest You Take Me And Smash Me And Grind The Bits Into Fragments And Pound The Fragments Into Powder And Mill Them Again To The Finest Dust There Can Be, And I Believe You Will Not Find A Single Atom Of Life- However, In Order To Test This Fully, One Of You Must Volunteer To Undergo The Same Process."

Needless to say, there are no volunteers.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 19: Something that floats

I almost made a pirate ship, because who could resist the excuse to make a pirate ship? I have lots of books on pirates, after all. Making a boat for something that floats seemed just a little too obvious, though. This, instead, is Louis from E.B. White's 'the Trumpet of the Swan', in his bathtub at the Ritz.
It's an entertaining book, but there's something about the absurdity of the swan's night in a hotel room that's always stuck with me. He orders a dozen watercress sandwiches and sleeps in the bathtub.
If you haven't read it, Louis is a trumpeter swan who is born mute, and to compensate and hopefully win the lady swan of his dreams, he learns to play a trumpet which his father steals for him. His other aim in life is to acquire just enough money to pay back the store his trumpet was stolen from.

I didn't have a trumpet the right size, but I did have a little plastic saxophone, which is an instrument I've always wanted to learn to play. If he can play the trumpet, maybe someday he could move on to other brass. Louis himself is carved from styrofoam, and I ended up pulling out the pumpkin carving kit for the details. His neck/head and body are two separate pieces, with a little indentation carved into the body for it to fit into and a little Grrrip glue. I dabbed on some acrylic paint over his bill and glued on beads for eyes (kind of squished them into his head while the glue set). His bathtub is a stroke of random luck. We think it's a soap dish, and it came out of my girlfriend's old stuff from her parent's house recently, and we kept it thinking she'll make a doll that goes into it. I put down my chess board (which i made in High School) for a floor and a nice piece of scrapbooking paper for the wallpaper. Just so you can see him in real floating action, I made a doofy little video:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 18: What's in your car

Okay, so the book wasn't in my car. The rest was.
It took me some thinking to come up with a book to go with this prompt, which was to work with materials found in your car. I already covered another book from the 'So you want to be a Wizard' series, but this is the very first (and I just gave the full title). In it, the two main characters are young teens who discover wizardy through a manual, and go through a dangerous trial in an alternate dimension New York. This other city is inhabited by all kinds of monsters, including living, predatory cars. One of these actually befriends them, after they help it, and ends up giving them a lot of help.
There is something strangely anthropomorphic about cars. Maybe it's just that the arrangement of headlights and grill-work can trigger that face recognition thing in our brains, or maybe it's that they've taken the role that once belonged to a living animal, the horse. Maybe we're just set up in a way that we anthropomorphisize anything we work so closely with and rely so much on.
Yeah, he's showing his age a little.
I love my car. It's a 1984 Chevy Cavalier, and my registration insists it is two colors; blue and blue (the sides are a shade darker blue, a subtle fashion statement?). My girlfriend's father got the car for us, from a terminally ill relative who had it from new and kept meticulous records. We owe him so much, it's run longer and better than anyone expected and it's worth a lot more to us than the kelly blue book value. We were told the car's name was Baby Blue, which was a little too cutesy, but we got it around the time B.B. King and Eric Clapton came out with the 'Riding with the King' music video and that clicked in my head, so we just call it by the initials B.B.
Along with the car, we inherited the contents of his trunk. This includes a heavy tool chest. The chest contains, of course, tools. It also contains a lot of old screws, nuts and bolts, dozens of those little hex wrenches you get with 'some assembly required' stuff, paperclips, and other odds and ends.
It's the other odds and ends that are really interesting.
I made the model car above with paper bags (I have a bunch I need to take to recycling), a scrap of plastic, and some chopped up water bottles for the tires. The headlights are automotive fuses, but in the picture up above you'll see the car being menaced by monsters, which also came out of the tool box. Yes, that's a plastic dinosaur, and a plastic spider ring like you see around Halloween, and a... well I'm not really sure. The silver thing looks to me like some kind of baking soda capsule submarine. I really don't know. I didn't include the wooden whistle, the bookmark of laminated Swiss coins, broken Tonka truck, or the old 1 cent stamps because they didn't seem very menacing.
There used to be a wooden paddle in the trunk that said 'heat for the seat' and showed somebody with their trousers down about to be spanked, but I gave it away.
The man we inherited this car from, and his wife (who is also now sadly passed on) never had any children. Why their car trunk holds so many things that would lead one to believe otherwise, I don't know, and it's a mystery that will probably never be solved.
Anyway, using junk from the car to make a model of it seemed an appropriate tribute, and I'd like to think if it ever came to life and we were stuck in a nightmare city, he would come to my aid. Also, the fact that the paper car's bumper and my real car's bumper are crooked on the same side is sheer accident. Er, that is, my one and only fender-bender from a skid on the car itself, and lucky chance on the paper model.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day 17: Eyes

This project has defied all attempts to photograph it in action. I've spent literally hours trying to get a good shot, with the aid of my girlfriend, until I can only conclude that either there's something wrong with both our camera-operating skills, or I'm experiencing some kind of malign interference from the Other world.
'Coraline' has probably gained notice mostly from the stop-motion film that came out a while back, but there are a number of differences in the book and I highly recommend reading it even if you've seen the movie. I liked the movie, but I don't think either the book or the movie is better, they're just a little different.
If only Coraline had button glasses like these, perhaps she could have tricked the Other Mother into thinking she'd accepted button eyes? Probably not, but if you want to try it yourself, just let me know and you can borrow these.
If you're not familiar with the story, it's kind of a modern twist on the old myths of faeries abducting children. Coraline takes a door in her new home through to an alternate world, where she has an Other mother and father, and strange duplicates of the other local residents, all of whom try to entice her to stay. Her Other mother is in charge, and makes her favorite foods and gives her pretty things, but all the people in this world have button eyes. The only catch to staying with them is that the Other mother wants Coraline to let them give her button eyes, too.
I couldn't find buttons big enough for this on short notice, so these ones are made of paper clay with a little black paint and clear nail polish over them. The frames are an old pair of not-very-useful sunglasses (the lenses are red and make everything look weird). I popped the lenses out, glued and then masking-taped the 'buttons' on. I had to make the buttons ahead of time to let the clay dry, but it was a pretty simple project, overall.
Now if I could just get a decent photo.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day 16: Potato stamp

I'm not eating that.
I actually can't remember if I've ever done potato stamps, although I must have because I already knew what they were. I feel kind of bad cutting up a nice redskin potato for this, but that's what we have, and this one was starting to grow out of the eyes a little bit...
It's a kid's craft, and that got me thinking of kid's books, so this project is based off one of the Lyle the Crocodile books. Specifically 'Lyle and the Birthday Party'. I no longer own a copy of this book, which is kind of a shame, because this and 'Hop on Pop' were the first books I ever learned to read. I never felt the latter counted for much, because the words were too small. I also recall not being believed when I said I could read the book; my parents felt I'd simply had it read to me enough times that I had it memorized. They were wrong, though, because what excited me enough to tell them was the realization that I didn't just know what it said, but that most of the words on the page actually made sense.
Just the stamps...
It was like I'd unlocked some magical door, and I was ecstatic.
Why the story was one of my favorites, I'm really not sure. This was actually the only Lyle the crocodile book I remember, although we must have read the others, and I'm not quite sure if I owned it or just checked it out from the library repeatedly. My father working there gave me ready access, so I know there were books I had him bring me from work more than once.
This particular book is, in essence, about dealing with jealousy. Specifically Lyle the crocodile is jealous of the little boy of the family because it's his birthday. I imagine that's the kind of thing that happens a lot with siblings, but I was an only child so I'm not sure how that spoke to me.
Is it just me or does this look like children's wallpaper?
I did love birthday parties, though, and thought the most exciting thing about my own birthday was that it's just a week before Halloween. I'm not so big on birthdays, anymore, but I still think Halloween is the best holiday there is.
Maybe some year I should dress up as a crocodile.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day 15: One Dollar Bill

Today's challenge was to work with one dollar bill, and for some reason my mind went to dollar bill origami. How or why I already knew that existed, I'm not sure, but I found an excellent resource site with instructions for making lots of different things. It helps a lot to have a solid background in regular origami... which I really don't anymore. I used to be better at it, but I ended up this one a little. It still turned out looking all right, and I like how the pyramid with the eye ended up dead center.
The book choice to go along with this prompt was almost inevitable, Terry Pratchett's 'Making Money'. No, it's not a how-to guide, but part of the amazing and endless Discworld series. I was slow to catch on to these books, and I have favorite characters that I tend to pick my books around. This is one of his newer books, and I'm not as big on the main character, but some of the concepts were interesting and made it an excellent read anyway.
One of the nice things about the Discworld books is that it's not too hard to pick up with any of them for a starting point (because once you do pick one up, you will want to read the rest).
In this one the main character, a former crook, is pushed into managing a bank. That might sound like a disaster waiting to happen, but when a crook is in charge of the bank funds, what need does he have to go commit crimes anymore?
The details of how banking and money really works are handled with Pratchett's usual cleverly accurate perspective, but this book isn't just about a bank. Golems come into the plot (if I could have found origami instructions for a humanoid figure...). If you're not familiar with what a golem is, they're usually made of clay, living statues in a way, who follow commands and make the perfect slaves. They're not technically alive, so this makes them property rather than people. Of course, it also makes them valuable.
This book isn't really about money, so much as what we place value on and why. I think what I love about Terry Pratchett's writing most is that he gets you laughing, but he also makes you think.

I'm in a tight spot these days, keeping the bills and utilities paid is rough when you're unemployed... but I still can't seem to give up any of my books. I value the books I have more for their contents than for whatever they'd be worth if I sold them.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 14: As Tiny as possible

If you squint, you can see Eurasia and Africa?
I did this while looking through the lens of a magnifier, with a very fine-tip paintbrush. Unfortunately my camera just isn't up to photographing it very well. If you squint, you may be able to see Eurasia and Africa, and part of Australia. The Americas and Greenland are on the other side, but I did it all without looking at a real globe so the landmasses are all a little iffy. Considering the lack of detail at this size, I didn't see the point. I can't duplicate the coastline of Japan, for instance, when it's just a couple of dots. Still, I got some color in there, greens in the more appropriate areas and icecaps. This started as a blue bead, so maybe I'll make some jewelry out of it.

The tiniest thing I know of in a book is in 'A Wind in the Door', where the core of the plot involves mitochondria. I don't think much was known about them at the time the book was written, as the scientific explanation given isn't quite right. Mitochondria are real, though, and they're so tiny they live inside of our cells.
The story in this book hinges on the mitochondria within our cells, and a fictional organism even smaller than that called farandolae living inside the mitochondria. The point is to each of these living organisms, the organism it lives inside of is as big as the world is to us. Worlds within worlds, like nesting dolls, and possibly infinite. Who's to say there aren't so many levels of things bigger than us that we may be microscopic to something, somewhere out there.
Size, like everything else in reality, is relative. It's also important to remember that something so tiny, and organism within an organism within cells, is still vitally important.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day 13: Tea

There are probably different ways to work with tea, artistically, but I've heard of people painting with tea, and I was curious to try it. I'm not all that thrilled with the method, honestly. I made a pretty strong black tea, but it's still a very subtle effect that took a lot of washes. Maybe I'm just not patient enough for the process, but as you can see I gave in and inked the outlines just to make the picture read clearly. It was an interesting experiment, and I might still try painting with coffee, but I'm also not sure what the tannins will do to the paper over time...
For anyone interested, the tea used was Twinings Irish Breakfast. I welcome tips if anybody else has had more success with this technique.

This eccentric illustration is brought to you by the children's book, 'Alexander and the Magic Mouse'. Alexander is the alligator, and the magic mouse really doesn't come into the story much, but my favorite of the characters was always the yak. She doesn't have much of a role, either, but she's described as a lady yak, who gives yak milk every day, which can be made into yak butter, such as the Tibetans use in their tea.

I guess I have this book to thank for that eccentric piece of knowledge, thanks. I have no desire to try yak butter in my tea. It sounds horrible, although that might be partly because I can't divorce in my mind how hairy yaks are, so I picture that in the tea, too.
The remaining animal in the picture is a brindle tom cat, and all these animals live with an elderly lady who's done a lot of traveling and has a weird idea of what constitutes a souvenir, but apparently lives somewhere there's no laws against exotic pets. They all live together in an absolutely gorgeous house full of lush plants and antique furniture, and they spend a lot of time all having tea together.
© Philippe Fix reproduced w/out permission.
The illustrations are gorgeous, especially a two-page spread picture of their house in the rain. At least half of them are in color, but the ones that aren't are done in a kind of sepiatone, which I thought painting with tea might imitate. No such luck, so I'll just go back to wishing I could step into the illustrations in the book.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day 12: Camouflage

There is a leopard on this shelf.
Another way late post, not because this took me all day (took about three hours), but because I got such a late start. If there are typos or anything strange, that's because I'm typing this at 2 AM. Anyway, the prompt to camouflage something to blend in its environment got me thinking about Rudyard Kipling's 'Just So Stories', for both the story of how the leopard got his spots, and the beginning of the armadillos.
I read this book over and over as a child (although I read 'the Jungle Books' even more), but the pictures in it are a little hard to make out. The pictures in how the leopard got his spots are even harder, because in one of them the leopard is supposed to be camouflaged, and when you add this to a smudgy black and white drawing cheaply printed... well, I really had to hunt for him.
See him now?
This isn't actually a leopard, I think it's supposed to be a cheetah, but I decided it was close enough. I started with a solid black base coat, and his natural environment is of course on the bookshelf. We have too many nick-nacks, which means we frequently have to shift them around to get at the book we want. I cleared some space for him, though, and got out the full set of acrylic paints, and went to work disguising him. I spent a lot of time squinting with one eye to narrow down my perspective, and of course he's best camouflaged at a certain angle. Some of the writing got kind of wonky, but it did get late and I have to admit that where I'm sitting now, from across the room, he's really pretty hard to see against the books.
Just for the lulz, I took some in-progress photos and made a craptastic little video of the painting from tailtip to nose. The photos would be a lot better if I had a tripod, sorry.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 11: Wrong hand

It took me a while to come up with a book for this prompt, which was to use your off hand. People who don't know me in person may not be aware I'm left handed, and very dominantly so. Apparently right from infancy I would reach across my body for things, just to use the left hand instead of the right. Of course I've tried things like writing my name with my right hand before, with near-illegible results. I was pretty much resigned to my drawing attempts for this to be disastrous.

Except they're not. I have no idea how I pulled this off, but I drew it during a very slow Farmer's Market this morning and people kept coming by and admiring it, without realizing I was essentially doing it all backwards and having trouble even holding the pencils. Add to that, I did no underlying rough sketch, because I assumed that would be pointless. It took me hours to do what I could have drawn with my left in ten minutes, but it's not bad at all.
Bad scanner. There are no lines on the paper.
'Dragonsong' is just one of the books in Anne McCaffrey's massive Pern series, and the first in the Harper Hall trilogy. I've had to buy all the books of this series I currently own, because my mother wasn't about to give up hers. This was the first of the Pern books I ever read, though, at her recommendation.
The main character, Menolly, is a gifted musician in a very male-dominated society, that forbids her from taking up music as a career. She could still practice it in private, of course, but the real final blow comes when her hand is grievously injured to the point where she never expects to be able to play an instrument again.
Drawing is as much a part of life for me as music is to her, and if my left hand were injured I'd be devastated. On the other hand, as painstaking as this drawing was, it shows me that I would be able to adapt, with effort. Menolly doesn't lose her gift with music, either.

If you're not familiar with the Pern series at all, the major feature that draws most people is the dragons. They're not really dragons, in the traditional sense, but actually psychic alien animals on an alien planet colonized by humans who've forgotten they ever came from another world. In addition to the aliens they call dragons, there's a smaller version called fire lizards. These have usually been feral animals, rarely spotted, but around the time of the story people are just starting to discover they can bond psychically to humans the way the larger dragons do. Menolly is witness to a hatching, and ends up psychically bonding with all nine of the survivors of the litter. That's a lot of fire lizards. I was very careful to draw all nine here, in the correct colors.
'Dragonsong' is not the first book in the Pern series, and I'm not technically sure what is, because there are prequels, but it's an excellent place to dive into their world.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 10: Water

Day ten's assignment is to use water as your medium or inspiration, but why not both? The idea of pure water as a medium sounded interesting, and initially I thought why not draw directly with water on some hard, resistant surface? I have a black sketchbook with plastic still on one cover, so I got a glass of water and a brush, and started pooling the water and trying to draw it into shapes... but I really don't recommend this method.
One pool of water in the lap later, I decided to paint with water on actual paper. Much better results, as you can see. What's even more interesting to me is the way the first-drawn shapes fade and vanish as the water dries.
Water, whales, it all goes together with this book, 'Deep Wizardry', which I first read in my Freshman year of High School, I think. This is actually the second book in a series, and I read them in order, but at the time my school library only had the first three, or possibly that's all that were written then. The series follows two kids (pre-teens?) who discover manuals to becoming wizards, and tumble into a whole hidden network of wizards that way. These people live like anybody else, for the most part, but also use their powers to maintain the balance of the world against the forces of destruction and entropy. The concepts in the book are nicely more complicated than good or evil, and are the kind of shades of grey that still resonate with me as an adult. I'll admit it though, this book struck me just about the time I was also obsessed with whales. The wizards of the world are not, as it turns out, all human. In this story the main characters temporarily take the shapes of whales to join whale wizards in the performing of an important ritual to keep the balance of the forces in their world, and there's some subtle hints at how interconnected the ocean is to everything else on earth. If the balance falters there, it's just the start of a chain reaction that would affect everything and everyone else.
It's a book well worth reading at any age.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 9: Breakfast

This is just one of the books in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (which is five books long, because the author was worse at math than I am), but the prompt to make something out of your breakfast had me thinking of the phrase 'ten impossible things before breakfast' and thus led me to this book.
This past week has been one of those where I feel like I'm doing ten impossible things before breakfast. I guess I'm exaggerating, it's more like one difficult thing before breakfast each day, but still. Breakfast often comes late, or hurried, or today it was both. Monday started with a call that the person we've been caregiving for had another siezure, Tuesday I had a deposition to go to and couldn't eat before due to anxiety. Wednesday I drove a friend to a coffee/social thing, although I got some coffee and fruit there and people were very nice even though I didn't really belong at the gathering. Today we had to run downtown to pay a bill, and got breakfast late between that and going to our friend Heidi's studio to learn wet felting.
The heart of gold starship drive logo? Or not.
We grabbed breakfast/lunch at Shoney's, which means for this project I took my camera along and played with my food in a public restaurant. And took pictures of it. I have no idea what the other customers thought of that.
Obviously I ate some of it first, but how else was I supposed to cut out a little gold heart from the eggs, right? Anyway, this is supposed to be a gold heart with a bacon infinity sign going through it, for the Heart of Gold starship drive logo. Balancing little pieces of bacon into curved shapes is awkward when there are businessmen having lunch in the next booth.
Slice of lemon wrapped around a gold brick.
I also noticed the slice of lemon from my girlfriend's iced tea sitting on the edge of her plate. This is supposed to look like a slice of lemon wrapped around a gold brick, which is supposedly what it feels like you've been hit with when you drink a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. It disturbs me that I didn't need to look any of this up. I used to be absolutely obsessed with this series. Also, the potatoes were pretty brick-like, really. I think I got the last of them left over from the breakfast rush. They're usually pretty good.
As we pulled up at home, we were right behind Heidi, who was there to pick us up and give us a felting workshop. The kids were along, which made things interesting. We started out serenaded by Thea's violin practice and Tegwyn's playing with her toy trains.
I forgot to take a photo of the felt fibers when they were first laid down dry, but here's the wet matted mess I started out with early on. I picked a kind of greenish blend, which Bridgie called 'cthulu green'. I think she's hoping to use it to make more of these guys to sell in our Etsy shop.
There was definitely a change from the mess of loose wool after we'd worked with it a while. Here's the shrunk-up felted mats as they were when we left the studio. Bridgie's is the reddish-brown one on the right, which I guess didn't shrink as much because it was a different type and texture of wool to start with. After we'd gotten them to this stage, Hedi balled them up and slapped them around on the mats, which was a little startling. And sprayed water everywhere, which was kind of awesome.
I'm not sure our felting was quite finished, but the kids had places to go, and this week has been so busy we were both ready to crash for a little while.
Before we left though, I took a photo of this, which is the bathroom right across the hall from Heidi's studio space. She says everyone who sees it comments about the giant gears in the bathroom, but seriously, how awesome is this? What are they from? Who put them there? How did they move them?
Anyway, there's my artistic adventures for the day. The felting lesson stuff is a bonus because what I made with breakfast was so pathetic...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day 8: Altered book

Soothing blues for a restful feeling!
Do you ever find yourself wanting to sit up in bed and read, when your partner just want to sleep? Does the light keep them awake and complaining through all the best parts of the story? Well we have the solution for you!
Just try this handy new sleep aid, the book mask! It looks like a book, and won't be out of place on your nightstand with the stack of books waiting to be read, but just open it to the center and this handy volume transforms into a convenient light-blocking sleep mask! Now they can look like they've fallen asleep reading, without ever considering a single word!
Actual results may vary.

As an added feature, when you do turn out the lamp, the stars on the cover of the book mask will glow in the dark, thereby acting as a useful night-light.

Yeah, okay, it's goofy.
My inner librarian rebels at the idea of defacing a book, even though I like the look of altered books. I got this one out of the ten cents each box at the local used bookstore, and it's the biography of a Shakespearian actor. I think. I didn't actually read it, of course, although it's just possible that would work as a sleep aid too.
I put fabric over the cover, and yes, the stars really do glow in the dark.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 7: Stencils

I wussed out on yesterday, mostly due to the kind of sinus headache that makes it painful just to look at anything, but this is a Tuesday post, I swear. I finished this about midnight, even if it has taken me until 1 AM to get the pictures sorted out and post.

Today's (okay, Monday's) prompt was to make stencils and use them. I've never been good with stencils, no matter the size. I always end up with nothing but a big blotch when I pull them away. So of course I decided to be really insane and make teeny tiny stencils, which were probably doomed to failure.

On the other hand, what I made was supposed to look like an old carnival poster, probably screen-printed and mass produced. Flaws are acceptable. I have plans to color and weather/distress/age this, but not tonight. In fact, I have ideas for a whole big mixed-media painting of which this would only be a piece, so there may be a redux of all this at some future date.
For anyone curious, the stencils themselves were actually made by pasting some fancy decorative font characters, wingdings, and clipart into a document, printing it out on card stock, and cutting them out with an exacto blade. Some designs I had printed turned out to just be impossible to cut out at such small size, others I fudged on to make them work as stencils. I ended up doing the drawing all freehand, without much in the way of any sketch underneath, and it was done with a dip pen and india ink. I actually went through a phase in High School where I drew a whole lot that way, for a year or so, but I'm out of practice and my hand now hurts from the stippling. It took me pretty much all day, and obviously well into the night.

Tiny stencils doomed to failure.
Stencils had me thinking of simple iconic images, and somehow that led me to thinking of this book, 'The Manual of Detection'. There are a number of visual icons, and some of them are hidden in the poster here. It's a fantastically weird and kind of surreal novel, and I'm having trouble describing it at one in the morning. If there were a film made of it, then it would need to be directed by Terry Gilliam.
The setting is very film noir, kind of a bleak-sounding city, and the main character is a clerk who lives a life of dull repetition, although he actually seems very content with that. It's a detective novel, like the title would make you think, but it involves traveling in dreams and a lot of fantastic imagery, and the main threat to the city comes from a once-traveling carnival and its employees.
The character descriptions in the book are actually pretty loose, when it comes to practicals. It's one of those books where you've got no idea what most people's hair or eye color is, and even the central villain of the books is described as, I swear I'm not giving anything away here, 'squarish, dull, bored-looking'. Okay. That's not a lot to go on, for an artist. On the other hand I guess it gives you the freedom to imagine the characters however you want. The character descriptions might be vague, but there's a lot of other detailed imagery that sticks in my head, which is why I really do want to do a full painting. In the meantime, this first draft of the circus poster will have to do.
So. Much. Stippling. My hand hurts.

I owe this post to my friend Mel, who loaned me her copy of the book over a year ago. It took me a while to pick it up, but once I did I was sucked right in from the first few pages. When I asked her if she'd be willing to part with it, she made sad-eyes over the phone at me (don't ask how that works), so I had to return hers and buy my own copy. I'm glad I did. It's going on the shelf in a place of honor among my absolute favorites.
As soon as I'm finished reading it again, anyway...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day 6: Fruits or vegetables

Today's prompt was to work with the fruits or vegetables in your kitchen. Thanks to helping out a local grower we know through the Farmer's Market, we currently have more lettuce than we know what to do with. I wasn't sure how to use it for this, though, but then Bridgie suggested lettuce was for rabbits, and I should do something connected to the book 'Watership Down'.
I admit it, I saw the animated movie before I read the book. That was true for both this and 'Plague Dogs' (also by Richard Adams), but I never could get through the latter even when I tried just a few years ago. I was excited when I realized, after seeing the movie, that the book was already on my parent's shelf, but I struggled with reading it, because certain parts were just so chillingly well-written that I got too scared to read on. It took me several tries, first getting bogged down at the Warren of the Snares, later the Efrafans. I think I was at least 13 before I got all the way through it, and by then of course I was in love and read it all over again.
One of the things that makes the culture of rabbits in the book so amazing is that they have their own mythology, enough that there's even a second book just for stories from it. In the movie, these myths were portrayed in a different art style, stylized and almost aboriginal. Here then, bizarrely stylized out of vegetables, is a kind of origin story of the rabbits.

Long ago, Frith made the world. He made all the stars, too, and the world is one of the stars. He made them by scattering his droppings over the sky and this is why the grass and the trees grow so thick on the world. Frith makes the rivers flow. They follow him as he goes through the sky, and when he leaves the sky they look for him all night. Frith made all the animals and birds, but when he first made them they were all the same. The sparrow and the kestrel were friends and they both ate seeds and flies. And the fox and the rabbit were friends and they both ate grass. And there was plenty of grass and plenty of flies, because the world was new and Frith shone down bright and warm all day.
Nom nom nom...
 Now, El-ahrairah was among the animals in those days and he had many wives. He had so many wives that there was no counting them, and the wives had so many young that even Frith could not count them, and they ate the grass and the dandelions and the lettuces and the clover, and El-ahrairah was the father of them all. And after a time the grass began to grow thin and the rabbits wandered everywhere, multiplying and eating as they went.
Frith speaks to the Prince of Rabbits

     Then Frith said to El-ahrairah, 'Prince Rabbit, if you cannot control your people, I shall find ways to control them. So mark what I say.' But El-ahrairah would not listen and he said to Frith, 'My people are the strongest in the world, for they breed faster and eat more than any of the other people. And this shows how much they love Lord Frith, for of all the animals they are the most responsive to his warmth and brightness. You must realize, my lord, how important they are and not hinder them in their beautiful lives.' 
Raaargh! Nom nom nom...
  Frith could have killed El-ahrairah at once, but he had a mind to keep him in the world, because he needed him to sport and jest and play tricks. So he determined to get the better of him, not by means of his own great power but by means of a trick. He gave out that he would hold a great meeting and that at that meeting he would give a present to every animal and bird, to make each one different from the rest. And all the creatures set out to go to the meeting place. But they all arrived at different times, because Frith made sure that it would happen so. And when the blackbird came, he gave him his beautiful song, and when the cow came, he gave her sharp horns and the strength to be afraid of no other creature. And so in their turn came the fox and the stoat and the weasel. And to each of them Frith gave the cunning and the fierceness and the desire to hunt and slay and eat the children of El-ahrairah. And so they went away from Frith full of nothing but hunger to kill the rabbits.
You can bless my bottom!
 Now, all this time El-ahrairah was dancing and mating and boasting that he was going to Frith's meeting to receive a great gift. And at last he set out for the meeting place. But as he was going there, he stopped to rest on a soft, sandy hillside. And while he was resting, over the hill came flying the dark swift, screaming as he went, 'News! News! News!' For you know, this is what he has said ever since that day. So El-ahrairah called up to him and said, 'What news?' 'Why,' said the swift, 'I would not be you, El-ahrairah. For Frith has given the fox and the weasel cunning hearts and sharp teeth, and to the cat he has given silent feet and eyes that can see in the dark, and they are gone away from Frith's place to kill and devour all that belongs to El-ahrairah.' And he dashed on over the hills. And at that moment El-ahrairah heard the voice of Frith calling, 'Where is El-ahrairah? For all the others have taken their gifts and gone and I have come to look for him.'
      Then El-ahrairah knew that Frith was too clever for him and he was frightened. He thought that the fox and the weasel were coming with Frith and he turned to the face of the hill and begin to dig. He dug a hole, but he had dug only a little of it when Frith came over the hill alone. And he saw El-ahrairah's bottom sticking out of the hole and the sand flying out in showers as the digging went on. When he saw that, he called out, 'My friend, have you seen El-ahrairah, for I am looking for him to give him my gift?' 'No,' answered El-ahrairah, without coming out, 'I have not seen him. He is far away. He could not come.' So Frith said, 'Then come out of that hole and I will bless you instead of him.' 'No, I cannot,' said El-ahrairah, 'I am busy. The fox and the weasel are coming. If you want to bless me you can bless my bottom, for it is sticking out of the hole.'
El-ahrairah, Prince with a thousand enemies
      Then Frith felt himself in friendship with El-ahrairah, who would not give up even when he thought the fox and the weasel were coming. And he said, 'Very well, I will bless your bottom as it sticks out of the hole. Bottom, be strength and warning and speed forever and save the life of your master. Be it so!' And as he spoke, El-ahrairah's tail grew shining white and flashed like a star; and his back legs grew long and powerful and he thumped the hillside until the very beetles fell off the grass stems. He came out of the hole and tore across the hill faster than any creature in the world. And Frith called after him, 'El-ahrairah, your people cannot rule the world, for I will not have it so. All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.' And El-ahrairah knew then that although he would not be mocked, Frith was his friend. And every evening, when Frith has done his day's work and lies calm and easy in the red sky, El-ahrairah and his children and his children's children come out of their holes and feed and play in his sight, for they are his friends and he has promised them that they can never be destroyed. 

If you haven't read the book, you should, and if you have read it I also recommend you track down 'Tales from Watership Down' for more mythology about El-ahrairah, the Black Rabbit of Inle, and a few more adventures of Fiver, Hazel, and their Warren.
Vegetables was a weird medium, but I guess a significant point in the story is how edible the rabbits were... now I'm off to go eat Lord Frith with lunch.