Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Cards

This year's Christmas cards are finally done. I did a limited edition print (hand printed, not machine printed) based on a drawing I did while at the in-laws for Thanksgiving last year. I posted it last Christmas.

So, last Saturday, I sat down to print this year's cards. After transferring the drawing to the linoleum, I cut away everything I didn't want to print.

Then I mixed my ink. I like to use a brown color that is almost black and very close to the color of dark chocolate.

Then I inked up the linoleum using a brayer or roller and put it in my book press. The book press is for putting books in during the gluing process to keep the boards from warping, but it also works very well as a printing press.

After I have pulled the print and block (which are stuck together) out of the press, I peel them apart.

Here are the first thirteen out of a total of 83 that I printed. 83 is where I ran out of energy and I knew I had enough plus extras to send to our entire list.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

School is done and my widget tells me that it's only 5 days until Christmas. Since we're in the middle of a blizzard, I spent the day getting a few things on my "To Do Before Christmas" list done and now the house is starting to look much more festive.

Every year, we go up to the mountains to cut a tree in the National Forest. Yes, we're legal. The Forestry Service sells tree permits every year for designated areas and has rules about what trees qualify. It's a wonderful way to get out, get some exercise, have a lot of fun, and help the Forestry Service keep our forests healthy. My whole family goes up together and recently we've even added a few friends to our traditional tree hunt.

Here is my husband tucking this year's tree into the back of our truck. It was a wintery, overcast day, and not as crowded since those who didn't have 4-wheel drive vehicles stayed home. As we left we joined a long line of vehicles topped with trees.

Today, I finally got the chance to decorate it.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Quote


"As soon as art objects are presented in a gallery, people get shy. They can't afford it and just don't dare to visit an exhibition. But if the art is a happening or an idea, a concept, an art 'piece' without a financial label, then people are curious and dare to come."
-Rose Kirumira

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Left Brain Right Brain Balance

The one time I went to see my high school guidance councelor, he told me to become a computer programmer. Why? Because he believed, as most did then, that computer programmers were guaranteed high paying, ultra secure jobs for life. Fortunately I didn't listen to him.

The last three or four years have proven my high school guidance councelor wrong. The computer industry has evolved in a way that no one thought it would and job security is just as precarious for computer programmers as it is for the rest of us.

Why did we believe so strongly in the infalebility of the computer industry? Perhaps it can be traced to World War II and the super star mathematicians and scientists who were hired by the government to accelerate technical advances in the United States. Technology and left brained thinking became the most important thing in our culture. It became our mantra of national advancement and survival.

The problem is that we weren't designed to just be left brained, linear thinkers. Those of us who are primarily right brained have always known how to engage our left brains. We have to in order to survive. However, a lot of left brainers are seriously handicapped. They have focused so much on using their left brain to do thier jobs and go through their lives that now they're stuck.

In order to be a better mathematician, programmer, scientist... you've got to get creative; to use the right side of your brain. The "Creating Passionate Users" blog has a post about this. When I read this quote from Alan Kay, I knew they had hit the nail on the head.

"If you want to be a better programmer, take up the violin."

He's right you know although it doesn't necessarily have to be the violin. It could be any instrument, photography, botanical illustration, metalsmithing, pottery, writing fiction, or writing poetry. Anything that gets the right side of your brain charged up and exercised.

If you haven't exercised your right brain since grade school it might be a little atrophied. The way to deal with that is to just start small and work your way up.

Learning to use your intuition and creativity, the right side of your brain, will help you connect things you might not have considered before. It will help you learn to take risks that could have high payoffs. Albert Einstein didn't become the great scientist that he was by playing it safe or always thinking in a straight line.

Think of it as kind of like taking the stairs two or three steps at a time versus one at a time. It's not as safe, but you'll get there faster and that's sometimes a good thing.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Check out my Aunt Margaret

I got a letter from my Aunt Margaret last weekend. She included a clipping from her local newspaper featuring none other than herself.

She volunteers at her local hospital and the mayor decided to give her an award for her years of faithfulness. She's 93 and still going strong. No Country Club membership for her, she wants to continue helping people right up until her days are over. Considering that her aunt lived to be over 100 that could be for quite awhile yet.

My grandmother, her sister, was the same way. Her last days were spent in the final battle against cancer and even though her body lost, her spirit and soul did not. As long as she was mentally able, she continued to care for the people around her. Not just her family, but also her minister, her doctors, and friends. That is a legacy which is priceless.

Aunt Margaret, my hat's off to you. I hope my neices and nephews will feel the same way about me as I do about you.

Monday, October 16, 2006

In the Shadow of Saturn

Here's another photo from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day. WOW!

Helix Nebula

I've always considered nebula as some of the most beautiful things in the universe. It's the incredible shades of color, the subtle depth and transparency, and the mind-blowing sizes that really grab me.

NASA has an Astronomy Picture of the Day site and that's where you can see the following two images of what has become known as "The Eye of God."

Here's a photo of the Helix Nebula from 2003 taken by Nasa.
Here's one taken in 2000.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I Love Abstract Images of Real Things

Moleskine Pen Holder

I've developed a pen holder for my Moleskine. I haven't wanted to "sully" it with the tape versions I've seen and I wanted something more "attached" than the ribbon versions. So I'm testing my idea using card stock and it's worked fairly well and held up a lot better than I anticipated it would.
I took a long narrow strip of card stock and rolled and adhered one end for the pen and folded the other end to tuck into the pocket in the back cover.

Pluses: It sits towards the back of the book and is out of the way when I'm using a pencil. It can be removed if it does get in the way or if I need to transfer it to a new book.
Minuses: I have to hold the book tightly in my left hand to pull the pen out of the holder. This is complicated by the rubber grip on the pen. It is paper and is beginning to tear a little, although not as badly as I thought it would.

Sketches Around Colorado

This is a sketch that I did of the set of a play called "The Foreigner" that played at the Backstage Theatre in Breckenridge, Colorado.


This is the view of Pikes Peak with the Garden of the Gods in the foreground that can be seen from the overlook off of Mesa Road in Colorado Springs, Colorado.


This is the mesa that presides over Trinidad, Colorado.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Plying: Andean and Navajo

I learned how to Andean ply last night. On Saturday when we were at Table Rock Llamas I saw an Andean plying tool and couldn’t figure it out from looking at it. So I went on the Internet and looked it up. What I discovered was a very handy way of plying with a drop spindle. I can see why it was developed since the Native Americans living in the Andes do all their spinning using a drop spindle and often do it while on the go. It is very practical since it wraps the fiber around the wrist and leaves the hands free for spinning.

It intrigues me that people are using it to ply on a spinning wheel. I don’t quite see the practicality there since a center pull ball works very well, but I’ll have to try it and see what the attraction might be.

If I’m doing two ply yarn from the same fiber/color, than I will usually use a center pull ball to do it. If I’m doing three ply yarn from the same fiber/color than I will do a Navajo ply. Since my tendency in spinning is toward fine the Navajo ply helps me to bulk up the yarn when I need it heavier for sweaters or caps.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Spinning a Yarn

One of the creative things that I really enjoy is spinning. It doesn't matter whether I use a spindle or my spinning wheel, it's theraputic and an opportunity to express myself.

Back when I first started, I discovered that I am allergic to sheep's wool, so I mostly spin exotic fibers like alpaca, llama, camel, mohair, silk, and cashmere. However, in a weak moment I succumbed to some churro fleece while at the Two Grey Hills Trading Post. I played with it in the truck while we drove and realized that my eyes weren't itching and my nose wasn't getting stuffed up.

So on Saturday I bought a churro fleece at El Churro. Now we'll find out if it was a fluke or if I'm not allergic to churro sheep.

Churro sheep were brought to the Southwest by the Spanish. They are ideally suited to the hot and arid conditions of the Southwest.


I've also just bought a new spinning wheel. While my old Ashford Scholar is an excellent wheel, it's not the best for spinning some of the exotic fibers that I enjoy. I sold my Ashford to a friend and coworker who wants to learn to spin and bought a Majacraft Little Gem. Wow!!!
Now I can really get down to business. I'm going to spend my very relaxing vacation in the mountain town of Breckenridge spinning anything I can get my hands on between then and now. The churro fleece, some mohair, a silk/cashmere blend, silk, and maybe even some cat hair.

Friday, July 14, 2006

My New Favorite Gel Pen


I like gel pens. My favorite type of pen is a fountain pen, but they aren't always practical. So for everyday use I like gel pens.

I've been searching for the perfect gel pen since they invented them. There have been a few along the way that have been pretty good and many that were pretty bad. But then I found the Uniball Signo 207.

So far, it's wonderful. I like the fine writing of the .5 mm tip (they also come in .7 mm). The ink stroke is clean, sharp, and doesn't bleed through the pages of my Moleskine notebook. Another biggy is the blue. Usually I'm a black ink person for my everyday pens. The blues generally available are uninspiring. The blue ink of the Uniball Signo 207 has just enough yellow in it to brighten and lighten the color.

Here's an interesting thought

What do you think? Does the US suck at design?

Monday, May 22, 2006

New Watercolor Moleskine

They're finally here.

I've been waiting for the new Moleskine Watercolor Notebooks to become available and now you can get them at Dick Blick's. I ordered two, one for me and one for my husband. I did a couple of sketches to test out the paper and am quite satisfied. Not paper for a professional doing a final painting, but great for sketching and those of us who will never be great watercolorists.

Here are my two test sketches.


Back Again

School is over for the semester and so...I'm back! Here's some of the sketching I've been doing.

I enjoy drawing theatre sets while waiting for the show to start. This was the set for The Three Musketeers.

I drew this piano at church.

We took KOA up on an offer of a free night of camping and I drew these rocks along the banks of the Arkansas River.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Home Decorating

All you have to do is watch enough TV to realize that a lot of people are intimidated by home decorating. There are shows of all lengths and types about how to fix up and decorate your home. In fact, there's a whole chanel devoted to it. Home and Garden TV aka HGTV. (I love HGTV.)

But you don't have to have cable or satellite TV to get the benefits of HGTV. Their web site has tips on everything from how to decorate to how to get organized.

They have a great list of tips for picking paint colors. When I read through it I realized that I suggest many of the same things. So, be bold! Don't live in a white box! Personalize your space!

Here's my two favorite color tips:

Throw open your closet and study the color of your clothes: Most people buy clothes in colors they like to wear and think they look good in. Similarly, you should decorate your rooms in colors you look good in.

Follow your own personal style: If you decorate honestly, other people will appreciate it because it’s you, even if they’d never decorate their own house in the same way. That means that if you want to make every room in your house red, white and blue, go for it. You can make any color look good as long as it’s your taste.

Not sure what kind of couch to pick or style to use in decorating your space? They have tips for that, too. Here's a few of my favorite quotes from this link:

Make it personal. Instead of going to Pottery Barn and buying a vase because it’s in good taste and a certain color, poke through your closets and drawers and see what treasures you might unearth – mementos from a family trip, a gift from great-aunt Nellie.

•...you really need to look at whether or not your kitchen serves your life. Sit down and figure out how often you actually cook, eat together as a family, or entertain friends for dinner.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A Few of My Favorite Things

I love fountain pens.

I was introduced to fountain pens in art class in high school. I discovered that I liked the flow of the ink and the flat and even look. So, I bought a cheap Shaeffer pen and kept Peacock Blue ink in it.

I worked at an art store for a year where we sold fine fountain pens. My poor Shaeffer was no longer adequate. Since then I have bought several pens, although nothing too expensive.

I've discovered that each pen I've bought has it's own personality. Its own feel and mark. Even what color ink seems too "match" it. The three in the photo are my favorites.

• The red one, which I'm holding, goes with the red leather sheath to the right of it. The color I put in that one is Waterman's South Seas Blue.
• The one on the far right is a Rotring Core and I usually have black ink in it. Sometimes I try a different color, but I always go back to black.
• The little silver one is my latest acquisition. It's a Speeno and it has a screw on cap and a telescopes to become longer when in use. It only has a bladder which doesn't hold much and so is more for making notes rather than writing or journaling. But because of the size and screw on cap it can go in my pocket. I like to keep brown ink in it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Like I said...

This is just what I've always said. Being creative is good for you. I just didn't realize how much.

Check out the posting on Headrush called "Death by Dull Cubicle".

Monday, February 13, 2006

Be Mine

I love valentines.

My grandmother collected valentines and so one year I made her one. Then I made my new husband one. The glue has aged, but it still works.

I made him another one a few years later when I worked at a frame shop with a computerized matcutter.

This year I made him another one. Here it is. The box is a spring hinged pen box that I covered in nice paper. I hope he likes it.








I love you Sweetheart!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Research

As every person who invests time in creativy knows, sometimes you have to do research in order to create. Writers often do a lot of research before completing a book so that they get the details right. Illustrators do the same thing. Artists have to do reseach as well in order to be able to communicate to their audience. Even movie makers do research. We've all seen movies that ignored the research and got the details wrong.

So how do you go about doing research? The tried and true method of going to the library still works, of coarse. However, for contemporary information that hasn't made it into a book yet, there's the internet. While there are A LOT of ways of finding information on the internet I will only talk about two in this post. The Clusty search engine is the first one.

Clusty is a search engine that groups its finds into categories so that you don't have to sift through information you don't need. I find it very useful in trying to find more complex information that can get buried under a lot of other unrelated information.

Once you find the site you're looking for, you need to save a link to it. While the Bookmark or Favorites feature of your favorite browser is handy, it doesn't do a whole lot of good if it's not on the computer you happen to be using. Thanks to a special friend of mine I discovered my second research hint, del.icio.us. It helps find information by helping collect information.

Del.icio.us is an online database where you can store your links. It even lets you tag and categorize them. Because it's online, it's available to you from any computer with internet access. While being able to save your links online is a huge bonus, the bigger bonus is the fact that you can see the link lists of others, broadening your research ability. Whenever you post a link, it will show you how many other people have that link posted on their del.icio.us site. If you go check out their link lists you will often find sites that interest you and that you may never have found on your own without a lot of additional time.

If you have found some great ways to locate information on the internet share it here by posting a comment.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Creativity Boost

If you want to give your creativity a big boost, take a class.

I've been doing one class a semester for the last five years and it's been great. My husband also decided to get in on the fun last semester and signed up for a metalworking class at our local community college.

There are pros and cons and you'll need to feel that the pros outweigh the cons for it to be worth your while.

Cons
• Working full time means you may have to take a night class. That might mean you'll have one or two nights taken up with class and another night or two for homework.
• It will probably cost money. If you go to a university (like I do) you will pay A LOT of money for one class. My husband's class costs a lot less because he's going to a community college instead of a university.
• It can eat up the time you would use for other creative activities. I don't have time to make art other then sketching and occasionally finishing projects I started a long time ago.
• You may have to take tests, write papers, or hand in final projects.

Pros
• You get to learn instead of sitting around on the couch. Depending on what class you take it will take more or less of your time. If you can take a class at a local museum, art co-op, etc it can be a lot less time consuming. A lot of places offer one time classes or ones that only run for 2 or 3 sessions.
• The classes offered by non-university/college places are generally a lot less expensive. If you are thinking about going back to school, however, it might be worth shelling out the big bucks if you can use it as credit for a degree or to fill in gaps in order to get into graduate school. In that case check out funding.

In the state of Colorado they have what is called The College Opportunity Fund. It helps pay undergraduate tuition. It doesn't help me since I am going to a university and I already have a bachelor's degree (therefore classified as a graduate student). It does help my husband. Even though he also has a bachelor's degree, he is going to an institution that doesn't have a bachelor's degree program and so he gets classified as an undergraduate. The state is paying for half of his tuition. I was bummed when he got it and I didn't.

If you're a senior citizen, local schools might let you audit classes for free.

If it's work related, talk to your boss. Some companies will help pay for classes that their employees take if they believe it will make you a better and more productive employee.

• You meet a lot of interesting people and get exposed to different ideas and ways of thinking. It's cross-cultural, cross-generational, and will challenge your perceptions of the world. Talk about a creativity boost!

So check out your local schools and organizations. Find something that sounds interesting and make it happen.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Sidewalk Chalk Art

This is too cool for words. Check it out for yourself.
Virtual Street Reality

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Crocheted Slipper Pattern

I've been hunting the internet for a crocheted slippers pattern. A free one. I had a particular style in mind, but couldn't find one. I found a few others and tried a couple without success. Both turned out too small. Maybe my gauge was off.

Anyway, I finally made up my own and am quite pleased. So I'm sharing the pattern. I don't mind people using, since I didn't exactly invent the style. However, please respect my copyright and only use this pattern for personal use.

I wear a women's size 9 (U.S.) and my husband wear's a men's size 10 1/2 (U.S.). The pattern is written in my size and his size is in parentheses. I used a size N (9 mm) hook and the yarn I used is Red Heart's Super Saver. I tend to have a firm gauge, not tight or loopy.

1. ch 2.
2. 6 (7) sc in second ch from hook, slst to join row, ch 1.
3. 2 sc in every sc around, slst to join row, ch 1. You should have 12 (14) sc.
4. 1 sc in the first st, 2 sc in next st. (1 sc in next st, 2 sc in next st) around. slst to join row, ch 1. You should have 18 (21) sc.
5. sc in each stitch around, slst to join row, ch 1. Continue 12 (14) more rows.
6. sc around, but don't join. ch 1 and turn.
7. Continue for 13 (15) more rows.
8. sc 9 (10) in stitches. Line up other half and slip stitch back to top edge to form heel. ch 1.
9. sc around top edge, one sc per row adding one sc in space where you began to turn. slst to join row, ch 1. You should have 27 (33) sc.
10. sc around top edge but decrease at point where you began to turn by yoing through sc 14, 15, and 16 (16, 17, and 18). When you reach the end of the row, tie off.

Color and Human Response

I thought this was interesting. It's from the book Color and Human Response by Faber Birren. This is not a word for word quote, but a paraphrase from my notes.

In interiors where muscular work may be done and where hazards exist, a bright environment (yellow, coral, orange) is recommended. Accompanied by plenty of light, the human eye will look at and adjust to its surroundings. If the interior is meant for more sedentary tasks, for severe use of the eye or mind, it will be best to reduce the brightness of the environment as a source of distraction. With walls, floors, equipment in medium tones (green, blue-green, beige, terracotta) and with extra light over tasks, people will be better able to concentrate.

Light blue, yellow-green and orange. IQ goes up twelve points. These colors also stimulate alertness and creativity.
White, black, brown. IQ goes down and they also make you duller.
Orange. Improves social behavior, cheers the spirit, lessens traits of hostility and irritability.
Red and other warm colors. They stimulate and increase blood pressure, pulse, and respiration. There is greater skin response adn brain activity. Attention is directed outward toward the environment.
Green and blue. These tend to have a relaxing effect both physiologically and psychologically. The rate of body functions may be lowered, and there may be a greater ability to concentrate inwardly, with less distraction from the environment.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Taos Trip 2006

We did our annual trip to Taos over the New Year weekend and stayed at our usual hotel, the Adobe Wall Motel. It’s rather rustic, but clean and comfy.

We started Saturday at Michael’s Kitchen. As always there was a line and the food was excellent. While we have a lot of favorite places to visit in Taos there’s never enough time to do everything in one weekend.

This time we paid another visit to the Millicent Rogers Museum. Her Taos home was turned into a museum to display her collection and some recent additions include Rio Grande blankets from the collection of her late son Paul.

I always like to look around in the Nambe shop (someday I’ll buy something) and I always stop in the La Lana Wools shop. This time I bought some silver Cashmere to try spinning. Another favorite shop of mine is Common Threads, an international fabric store. My husband likes to stop in the Six Directions Gallery and look at the turquoise and silver jewelry. This time he looked at belts and almost bought one.

Saturday evening we had dinner at Doc Martin’s, another tradition of ours. It was way beyond our usual budget this time and I don’t think we’ll eat there on a special holiday again. However, no complaints about the food! It was superb as usual.

Sunday morning, January 1st, we went out to Taos Pueblo to watch some of the dancing for the Turtle Festival. When we got there, they had just finished with a dance, so we waited. The sky was overcast and the wind was sharp so it was quite cold. We were bundled up tight.
When we saw the dancers coming out all I could think of was how cold they must be. They walked single file to the first place to dance and they were all bare chested and bare legged. They lined up shoulder to shoulder and began to dance with their skin turning pink from the cold. As they danced an older man walked back and forth in front of them giving the signals for transitions in the dance. They repeated the dance three times in three different parts of the pueblo’s central plaza before retreating back where they came from.

When they were gone we went into the church to look, warm up, pray, and think, then back into town to find something hot to drink and for me to write down what we had just seen. I also did this sketch from memory since sketching and photographing the dance are not allowed.


We went back out to the pueblo again and saw a variation of the same dance with costumes that were more ornate but certainly not warmer. Then we visited a few of the pueblo galleries that were open by then.

On Monday, we briefly visited the San Francisco de Assis church in Rancho de Taos made famous by artist Georgia O’Keeffe. I sketched the back view which is so well known and then we were on our way home.



We saw a lot of art in Taos that we would like to have brought home, but didn’t either because it was beyond our budget or because we simply restrained ourselves. We have a lot of art already and not enough room for it all.