Monday, January 31, 2011

The End is the Beginning is the End....

I found out on Friday the coffee shop I have worked at since November of 2009 will be closing it's doors for good in less than two weeks. Most of the condolences I have received have been along the lines of "Don't worry; you'll find another job," when, really, that is the least of my concerns.

CoffeeWorks, the place at which I am employed, has been here for twenty years and some of it's customers have been coming here on a consistent basis for most of those two decades.  It is those people I feel most sorry for.  Telling someone who has been coming to the same place two or three times a week for years that they can't do it anymore...well, it's akin to telling them their dog is going to die, and they go through the same stages of grief.  Me, I'll find another job.  Those people will have a hard time finding another second home.

Now that I am going to be unemployed, people seem to have all sorts of ideas of what I should do, the main concept being that I should pursue art as a career.  I don't think most people actually understand what that entails....

What I imagine they imagine is that I will sit in my well-lit studio each day from sunup to sundown painting beautiful and glorious paintings and selling them off  one-by-one with ease.  I think they imagine that I'll have gallery openings every weekend in which all of my paintings sell.  In truth, I will probably never achieve that kind of success in my art, nor am I sure I want to.  Nor can I afford to.

Art, like in any other business, takes money to make money.  The way to be successful with my art would probably be to sell giclee prints of my originals, but it costs a lot of money to manufacture prints.  I could print them myself, but a printer could enough to do it would cost well over a thousand dollars, without the guarantee I would make the money back.   Not that I have that kind of money to begin with. All I can really say at this juncture is, as long as I'm unemployed, I'll be focusing more on my art (and more on cleaning my house).

Another thing is,  I'm not sure I want art to be my career.  Creating when I want to is one thing.  Creating because I have to could very well drive me away from any sort of art-making.  I don't enjoy the pressure of needing to be creative.  Spontaneity in art is one of my most favorite things.  However, going back to the print making, if I could successfully make and sell prints of my work, that might be another story....

So here I stand, at the end of one part of my life and the beginning of another,with a million avenues to go down and no clue as to which path I'll end up on it.  For better or worse, though, art shall always be a part of my life.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Love and Marriage....

Last July, my now-fiance proposed on the beach at sunset at his family's summer home.  Within days, I was poring over wedding magazines and websites, trying to figure out what my wedding's theme was going to be, the colors, the decor, the location....

Very soon after that, I realized something big: I HATE wedding planning. A lot.  There is so much coordination involved, between seating arrangements, timing, who to invite and it's all topped off with a ridiculous amount of etiquette for everything.  It quickly became something I loathed.  Every time I had to look at another contract or think over bridesmaid dresses that would look good and be affordable for everyone in the wedding party, it made me want to cry or punch someone.

Very soon after that, my fiance and I decided an elopement might be more in order, if he wanted to have a sane woman to marry by the time the wedding rolled around.  However, both of us have families we love very much and want to be present, so we're compromising with a tiny wedding in Florida, followed by spending what would have gone for a big, silly reception on a trip to Disneyworld.  

However, in spite of my tiny wedding, there are a few things I would have liked to use (and still might), that I have for you here: 

Hand-calligraphed escort cards from Wet Ink Calligraphy.  Having done some calligraphy in my lifetime, I know that the time it takes to make writing that beautiful is worth every penny.

If I were having a wedding big enough for more than a few tables pushed together, I would get some custom luminaries from The Papery Nook to use as centerpieces (and table numbers), each with a line from my all-time favorite poem ("i carry your heart" by e. e. cummings). 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

If A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words....

I have to admit, I started this blog without entirely thinking through what I was going to write about.  I had a website (still do here) but I rarely if ever updated it because it's in portfolio format and I didn't find any fun in it.  If people really want to look at my art they can find it here and there and, well, right here of course. So for now I'll leave up that portfolio site but, chances are, once the domain expires in a few months, I'll probably just let it go.

In the meantime, though, I have this lovely blog, which I'm terribly excited about, but haven't yet figured out everything I'm going to post or how often.  So while I'm thinking on that, I figured I would share with you theaterclouds!  This is my favorite shop on Etsy (though I have yet to buy anything from it, I plan to snag a few prints next paycheck).

Elly Mackay, the proprietor of this shop, has some of the most original tactics for making art/photography I have ever seen.  She cuts out and paints little images of people and landscapes and put them in a wooden theater, lights them and photographs them.  What results is something like this--a dream, a fairytale, come to life:

It makes me think of Alice in Wonderland, selling seashells by the seashore, Oz (the hot-air balloon) and the ugly ducking all at once.  Here is one of my other favorites, which reminds me of C. S. Lewis's "Voyage of the Dawn Treader": 

Anyone who knows me knows I am an avid reader, but what I devour is mostly fantasy-- Neil Gaiman, Tad Williams-- but even more so, I have an insatiable love of children's literature: P. L. Traver's Mary Poppins, the Chronicles of Narnia, Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials, plus your Hans Christian Andersen, Grimm's fairy tales, and the list goes on.  

I think my enjoyment of Elly Mackay's striking imagery is that the thousand words each photograph reminds me of is yet another of those stories I love so much.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Linocut/Block Printing Tutorial: Part Two: From Carving to Printing

Continued from Part One of the Linocut/Block Printing Tutorial

Step Seven:  Attach the #2 blade to your carving tool (this should be a sharp V shape and the number should be etched on the underside of it).  Carve along all of the lines on your block to define the areas you want to carve.  TIP: Before you begin to carve, blow on the block with a hairdryer on high for a few minutes.  This will make it so much easier to carve.  Repeat as necessary throughout the carving process, to keep the linoleum soft.  Also, always keep your hand behind the blade (it can and will gouge out a chunk of flesh given the chance).  Use a firm but steady forward motion.  If it feels like the block is resisting you a lot, let up on the pressure and you might actually find it gets easier (too deep can mean too difficult).

Step Eight:  Attach a rounder U-blade to your linocut tool (the #3 is what I usually use). Carve out all the space between the lines that you intend to remove, remembering that what you remove will be the negative space of the picture, where the paper shows through.


Random puppy! Luca keeping me company while I edit the rest of the pictures for Part 2 of the Linocut Tutorial, which should be up by tomorrow!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Linocut/Block Printing Tutorial: Part One: Preparing to Carve

What follows is my tutorial for linocut carving, which is basically carving an image into soft linoleum, rolling ink over it and printing it onto a piece of paper.  This is a fairly inexpensive craft as block printing ink can be used on almost any kind of paper, a linoleum block can cost as little as 2$ at your local art store, depending on size (you will NOT find it at a craft store), and a carving tool, with all the requisite blades, can be had for around ten to fifteen dollars.  The ink can be bought for less than five dollars. Almost everything else, you likely have in your house already.

This first part will show all the steps up until just before we carve our print out.  This is the method I follow, and the very most basic things you will need to complete and print a linocut from start to finish are as follows:
  • Soft-lead pencil (for example a B2 or B4 pencil)
  • Permanent drawing pen (I use Micron pens but a fine-line Sharpie would work)
  • Sketchbook that is bigger than your linoleum block
  • Linoleum block (I prefer a mounted block, meaning it's on a wood base and I really like the Speedball blocks or the Dick Blick battleship grey version)
  • Scotch tape
  • Carving/linoleum cut tool (this should come with 5 or 6 blades varying from sharp V's to wide U's; we'll get to the purposes of these in the second part of the tutorial)
  • Paper to print on (I have block printing paper here, but you can print on almost anything and I do, from blank cards to vintage book pages, with the texture of the paper affecting the clarity of the print , often in a cool way, in my opinion)
  • Block printing ink (I prefer the water-based; it clean up much easier, no nasty chemicals required)
  • A brayer (not pictured) which is a hard rubber roller for distributing the ink over the print
Now on to the how-to...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Coming Soon(ish)....

Just wanted to give a heads-up that in the next few weeks (as long as I don't get lazy or tired), you can expect tutorials on how I make my block prints (such as this)...

And how I put together my shadowboxes, from design to completion, such as this:

Both tutorials should be posted here over the next few weeks (probably the linocut first), with each segmented into at least two separate posts.  

Friday, January 14, 2011

Musings on Moustaches and the Sin of Unoriginality

Being an Etsian (and Etsy being one of my favorite sites), besides browing the listings and continually adding hip modern dresses and one-of-a-kind jewelry to my Favorites list, I spend a lot of my time on the forums and on the Storque blog reading up on how to improve my shop, business, photographs, etc.

One of the pieces of advice I saw given a few days ago, to a new shop owner, was "to make things with moustaches on them."  As you may or may not know, moustaches are apparently HUGE. Everywhere there are moustache cards, prints, shirts, and little moustaches on sticks for posing with.

I would post pictures of such items, but I'm sure you, Beloved Reader, are perfectly capable of going to Etsy and searching 'moustache.'  And I'm pretty sure no one wants to be featured in a blog with the theme of "I hate moustaches."

That's right.  I think this moustache trend is ridiculous.  However, that's not what bothers me.  What bothers me is those that cater to the trend.  It's one thing for someone who makes t-shirts or maybe even letterpress prints.  But to tell a new Etsian, one who is just starting out and hoping someone will love their hard-made creation, to make something merely because it's popular?  It kind of goes against the whole point for me.

I love Etsy for it's originality.  I love it because I can find such wonderful things as these:

Arboouricon I from PistolesPress.

Felt donut charm in Eclair from mayene

Beanzilla dog hat from BeanTownHandmade

   Now that's some work.  Someone took hours to carve out all the little trees in Arbouricon.  Another loved eclairs enough to make felt ones (and I understand that love, oh yes I do).  And the dog hat?  Honestly, I'm surprised my fiance hasn't already bought one for our dog and started building little cities in the living room. 

So my message to you, fellow crafters (and those buying said crafts) is this:  There is so much out there that is truly unique.  Be yourself, create what you want to create.  You'll find more success in that way, in the end.  And you won't have a bunch of useless stock when moustaches go out of fashion in a month.

Besides, if you wouldn't put it on your face, should you be putting it on your art? 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three

After much debate between starting up another website to post my blog from, I decided that a free blog was probably the way to go, being a starving artist and all.  So here begins my blog, soon to be updated full of what's going in my studio, pictures of my artwork and links to stuff I love, art-wise mostly, but probably with the occasional super-cute puppy picture.  Here's one now.
Luca, the Cuteness.