So firefly has come and gone. My two art installations survived and made it home. I am excited about the next range of upgrades. I’m still processing, but one of my favorite things about coming back from the woods is I feel free to share my ticket art with all of you. I love this super cute guy. Enjoy!
It’s that time of year again, Somerville Open Studios. I always think of this as a chance to revisit what I’d managed to make over the course of a year.
I started this as a pencil and ink piece, and painted it on screen. I’ve had a lot of fun this year figuring out how to integrate my own joy of pencil and ink with the flexibility that the screen has to offer. It’s a fun journey.
I’ve been really satisfied with my bats of late, and 3 of the 5 I have are off to new homes. Hooray for bats. I also recently had a commission for a frog, and I figured I’d share my process of making a custom plushie here. Fabric is a whole fun set of problems that I don’t deal with on a piece of paper.
I started with some references.
Essentially I made myself a couple “best of frogs” sheets to get ideas and think about what body features I really like. I did not realize until I did this just how much variability there are in frog eyes. Go amphibians!
From here I took a large piece of paper to quickly draft my pattern.
I draft by hand on paper and cut it out, and use that to trace onto fabric because fabric never plays nice to drawing on it directly, and when I want to figure out a problem later it’s easier to have a reference of what I cut out. It also means I can re-cut a piece if something happens to the fabric I cut, and heck, it means I could make another frog later if I wanted.
After making some test pieces I realized that my feet were FAR too small, so I had to redraft anything with toes.
I quickly sewed up a foot to make sure it worked, and it was much easier to turn inside out.
I poked around WhileSheNaps and found a great pointer in there for making eyes, and I decided to use that idea since this frog is destined for a child too small for button eyes.
This frog was momentarily confused and thought it was a snake. Once I got the mouth seated correctly I had fun stuffing things in it.
That’s better. Legs properly attached, toes ready and eyes all bulbous… the only trick here was I wanted to add irises.
Cut up some felt, sewed in the irises, and this not-so-little frog is all done. This amphibian is about a foot long and 16 inches wide. You could probably hide a remote in his mouth. I like how he looks I still might tweak the legs again. I have a few other fabrics around that might make for some fun frogs, so we’ll see if I have a few more this year for Somerville Open Studios.
Sometimes I make things, and then I forget to talk about it. Here’s a belated valentine just for you.
I was playing with some plain old crayons on a piece of corrugated cardboard. The corrugated part makes the whole venture a little frustrating, to be honest. I learned that I like paint more on cardboard, so that might be a thing I play with (since I have a huge pile of cardboard I reclaimed). Crayons are awesome on brown, so i have some flat pieces and brown paper bags that I’ll use for that. I don’t know why but I feel a little more freedom from being overly meticulous, which is great for playing. I love working on pencils, but sometimes I feel like my brain gets in my way there.
This month I took a sculptural metalworking class at Artisan’s Asylum with Ecco, and I had a pretty good time with it. I’m excited to brainstorm up some more things to make, and come up with some additions on my final piece for class.
I learned how to play with MIG welding, spot welding, and cold forming, as well as general ways to cut things up. Look, I can even show you my baby welds from day one!
It’s such a different beast to try to think of work in 3D, and it’s not my forte, but I think there’s a lot of room to feedback into drawing work. Also, it’s nice to have another medium to explore ideas. Our final project was pretty fun: first we had to draw an animal, then go through the process of building its skeleton using what we learned in class. I drew a few different things, but I am never very far from sea creatures, but goodness gracious, it’s not a cephalopod!
Things that were difficult: figuring out and deciding on angles and curves, deciding sizes of things, not poking myself in the eye while working, and occasionally throwing off the whole sculpture from the table because the welding mask didn’t clear whatever part was in the air when i tried to flip it down. I kept doing that last one over and over again.
I definitely like the idea of balance challenges in work. I’ll definitely be thinking of that moving forward. I can definitely say my enthusiasm for handbalances is informing a lot of this. I also think that some fun figure frames to place on or in references could be a great tool for some illustration stuff I want to work on, and having some 3D pieces that play on book-type stuff sounds like a pretty rad thing.
It’s been almost a year since I broke my ankle, and I’ve been reminded of it the last few days since it’s an icy time of year. On Friday i made my way to an early morning yoga class, felt all blissed out and relaxed, and even happy to see a dusting of snow on the ground afterwards.
On my walk home I listened to music and enjoyed the surroundings. In my contentment I totally forgot about the large patch of ice, now hidden under a thin powder of snow, in front of my neighbor’s house. I remembered as soon as I was airborne. Some people manage to fall where they just teeter over and hit the ground. Some folks manage to collapse to their knees, or try to brace themselves with their arms. This is not what i did. My right leg shot forward and I managed to rock back on my left leg with enough momentum to give my whole body plenty of hang-time as I rotated parallel to the ground, and still managed an upper body twist (trying not to land on my back and failing) before I hit the ground.
My upper right butt took the brunt of it, and it hurt enough that I just lie there for three minutes letting my hip chill through the throbbing. I believe it was a good show for at least one commuter on my street. After whatever EDM song I was listening to was done I picked myself up and went in the house and got on with my day. I am a little sore for the whole experience, but feel some pride in my ability to bite it like a champ. Some things never change.
This morning’s walk to work reminded me of my break last year because it’s going to be warm-ish today, and it’s sunny and nice, but (as I discovered once I made it to Highland) everything is coated in a thin film of black ice. I ended up walking the rest of the way very cautious of my balance and my ankle is a little more sore for that, but I’m otherwise unscathed.
I’ve mentioned here before my epic downstairs fall in New York where I smashed my leg and face. I also did a great job the year before biting it while just walking down the street in New York. That one had no precursor, no uneven sidewalk, nothing but my own legs/feet getting in my own way and sending me face first to the ground (and shoulder into a building).
At least at this point I don’t try to catch myself. In high school I amazed people in the foyer after school having a conversation and joking around where I tripped over myself and started to fall forward. I could have hit the ground and ended it there, but instead i tried to catch myself by run-lunging forward. i tried this for about 50 feet before giving up and landing on my face.
As a child I probably fell more often. i was so excited about my first day of kindergarten that I literally ran off the top stair like a cartoon character running off a cliff, no concept of the subsequent down slope and no real plan for engaging those stairs, and instead fell face over feet down to land at the bottom with my back on the ground and my feet up the door. Like many kids in accidents, I bounced up and made it out the door and made it onto the bus. Thankfully I don’t find any of this particularly ego bruising? I mostly find it funny and I’m rather shocked that for a fairly regular occurrence this has only resulted in 1 break. We’ll see if I can keep it up. I know my balance has improved over the last 9 months, but I’m pretty sure if I ever lose focus one of these days I’ll be doing triangle pose and I’ll just epically fall backwards and not know why I’m on the ground.
I covered myself in acrylics this week in order to properly celebrate mustaches and a friend’s birthday. I have rekindled a habit of sketching during band practice, and when I doodled a cute dragon/dog inspired monster portrait I knew immediately who this was for and what I needed to do with it. I sometimes neglect the ideas in my sketchbooks, but now that I’m working part time at the day job, I’m hoping to take a lot more pieces from step one to step two. I will probably work an iteration of this painting into prints, but I need to get in there and compensate for the metallic copper paint in the final piece.
I’ve managed to walk through some of my coloring process on this, if that interests folks. I took a primed piece of wood and laid down the image in pencil, then did some outlines with super thin sharpies, and then started with flat colors.
Next I laid in a dark brown background, and started getting into some shading. This meant bringing in a tiny bit of dark brown around the nose, and and darkening the edges of the eye design. I had also put in a little dark around the right eyeball here but not the left. I also realized once I did the background that i missed a tiny patch of blue hair.
So I got that hair in the image, and shaped out the hair. Once I had that all done I decided the ‘stache needed some pretty light whispies. Then I got into the darker browns around the nose, and tried to make those lips behave. Added in some white highlights, and actually laid in white on the eyeballs and fangs.
At this point I could have done more cleanup or laid in more shade, but I opted to “get it done” rather than dwell. Next up was digging into that lettering. Here was my first pass with some nice copper acrylic.
Metallics are a pain in the butt to photograph, but there you go. I decided that I didn’t quite like what this did when I walked around the painting from different angles, so to finish up I went in with a sharpie around the lettering to call it done.
This was a super fun project. I’m not going to get into metallics for print, but if folks out there have strong feelings on colors for the lettering, let me know.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Creative Times Summit in NYC. The whole event inspired so many ideas and thoughts that I need time to unpack it all and share. While there I took some time to sketch, and particularly liked one of the things I did. I figured I’d share it by taking it from pencil to color. I’ve been obsessed with handstands of late, and that might be some of the inspiration going on here.
In case you don’t keep up with me on any of the social networks, I had surgery on Sept 4, and I am sort of laid up until my body and I feel up to being up and about. This means I have some time to dig through some pictures I’ve made and color them up and give you some eye candy.
This was a doodle done during our house D&D game. I tend to sit around and draw in between turns. I think of this guy as The Pineapple King. He’s sort of grumpy, has unmanageable hair, and is associated with a fruit whose name makes no sense whatsoever to me. Maybe that’s why he’s grumpy.
I definitely throw the gauntlet if anyone wants to explore this character I would love to draw him in more situations.
There are a couple of other little nuggets of images digging around in my head that i might give some work time this week. Additionally I’ve picked up another Coursera class “Creativity, Innovation, and Change,” and I may turn that into a jumping pad for a mollusk book that has been sitting on the backburner for ages for me (but I have a hefty handful of nice pencil illustrations).
I did not actually make it to Firefly this year. There’s been too much going on, and i seriously just needed time in my own head, and time to spend with my family. I still designed a ticket this year. The design prospectus changed from previous years and I had fun playing with the new size dimension. I also made a conscious decision not to line everything in black, though that is my comfort zone, and I decided to use a lot of color. Essentially this is about as far out of my comfort zone as I could go and still be me. I feel like I learned a lot from it and I had fun with it.
For giggles I’m including the other tickets I’ve done over the years. I’ve been going to the event since 2007, and started participating with ticket art once I knew designs were open to the community.
I’ve been squirreled away under a rock and a marching band and a broken leg this year, but if you manage to run into me, you’d notice that there’s a lot less of me to run into. I’ve been pretty aggressively working out and working on building a better understanding of health and nutrition since the new year. I’ve been trying to avoid the bullshit by seeing a nutritionist, and in terms of the exercise stuff the slow healing process from the broken leg means I can’t overdo it.
Someone asked me this weekend what I’ve been doing. To be fair, I’ve cut back my caloric intake to 1600-1700 calories per day (less when I couldn’t exercise at all), and tried to instill a good balance of foods. This means I stick to lean protein sources (fish, chicken, tofu), red meat only once a week if that, and a huge portion of vegetables. I have to say, this isn’t some crazy diet fad. My overall intake is less than where it should be (my maintenance level is somewhere around 2700 calories/day), but the balance of foods is something I will be practicing for the rest of my life.
Remember the food pyramid? I grew up with that model as my nutritional education as a kid. That model was retired a few years ago as it was seen to give some incorrect emphasis to some foods. It’s been replaced by a plate graphic that shows how much of your plate should be what.
So for my own personal eating practice thus far, fruit is limited to 2-3 servings of fruit per day, and that vegetable portion takes over half the plate. It’s easy for me to remember because it’s very visual, and my 3-4oz meat or tofu or whatever is roughly the same size as half the palm of my hand. I also only have 1 or less servings of dairy per day because I’m not a huge dairy fan, and it’s an easy way to reduce fat intake. I do love really good cheese, but if you saw what one oz of cheese looks like (a “serving”), you’d give up too. If you want some more info and good ideas about meal balance and what a meal might look like, I highly recommend digging around in the USDA’s myplate site because it’s a great resource and can help in terms of building a shopping list and thinking of what a good meal might look like.
The hard part has been falling into line with the grain intake, because rice, bread, potatoes all taste so good to me. Also I’ve been avoiding heavily processed foods like the plague. The hardest parts are these: not mixing beans and tofu (too high in calories and it’s a doubling up on the protein portion of the plate and i hate having less than a half cup of anything), and drinking maybe 3 beers a week. For the most part I skip the beer because I’d rather eat. That is something I never ever thought I’d say in my life.
This has been backed up by working out 5-7 days a week, at first just stationary bike stuff, then adding in weight training, now also adding yoga twice a week, and in June adding belly dance back into the mix. I have become an absolute pro at sweating. I haven’t been this small since I lived in China, which is the last time I actually felt energetic and healthy. Granted, Chinese folks still considered me plump if not downright fat, but more in an admirable way than in a “what a shame” kind of way. Actually my current state would be 健康 (healthy). I suppose that might seem judgemental or terrible, but i really miss a social environment where talking about body shape/composition was not a big deal. It was just factual. Now I get to watch people be preciously awkward trying not to imply that i looked like crap months ago.
Give me the opportunity to geek about something and I will. I am currently taking a coursera class on Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles through Vanderbilt University. I’ve learned that Americans generally think they’re doing better in terms of nutrition than they actually are. Also this is a huge time and socioeconomic issue. Aside from the plate divisions, the other main issue is to eat as many whole foods as possible. This means avoiding the middle of the supermarket as much as possible. This middle of the average supermarket is not very nutrient dense, it’s just calorie dense. There are good choices and options in there, but it takes a good amount of label reading. Maybe I’ll start posting things I’ve learned because all my hours of label reading should not go to waste.
The other problem with packaged foods is that they tend to come with a ton of salt, partly because it tastes good, it helps you want to eat more, and it often helps with preservation. When I was talking to my nutritionist and coming up with frozen meals to stockpile in my office she suggested meals under 500 calories, with less than 10% from fat, and under 500mg salt. I ended up settling on Healthy Choice because I had the most options, but less than half their meals fit my criteria.
It doesn’t help to think about foods as bad, it’s more helpful to think of foods in terms of overall balance. I can have a slice of cake, but it shouldn’t be bigger than my hand, and i certainly shouldn’t precede it with a bowl of potato chips or follow it with 3 beers. If I did, I’d managed to eat my entire daily needs in a 2 hour span, and those calories came with comparatively little nutritional value.
None of this nutritional stuff is set in stone. The more studies are done the more the ideas change. Harvard School of Public Health recommends a different plate than the USDA. I personally think either is pretty great, though it’s mostly a matter of portion. You can still have a plate with way too much food on it and still fit that diagram. I still think folks have to start somewhere. It also takes some work to know what it is to feel full (and it normally doesn’t set in until 5 minutes after you’re done eating). Lack of “conclusive” science is no reason to throw up my hands though. I think being healthy is important, and figuring out what that means for the individual is important.
It’s worth considering what you eat, and what other people eat, and try and try to think about balance. Peter Menzel’s book Hungry Planet is a great visualization guide. Time has a slideshow of some of his photos of families with their week’s intake of food, along with how much it cost.