Monday, April 21, 2008

Five things... may not know about me. Courtney made me do it. :)

1) I had dark brown hair when I was born.
2) Once, during recess when I was in elementary school, one of my friends (who was also the class clown), fell off the swings and broke his arm. I stood there laughing at him for at least five minutes before realizing that something was actually wrong. I thought he was joking.
3) On the hours-long bus ride to the state XC meet my freshman year of high school, "a friend"* and I read through the entire Monty Python and the Holy Grail script, complete with British accents.
4) At summer camp one year, somewhere during middle school, my friends dared me to see how many pieces of buttered white bread I could eat during lunch. Eight slices, I believe. Looking back, I think they were just trying to fatten me up...
5) I've always loved to collect things (and yet I also hate clutter and "stuff"), including: rocks, shells, buttons, stamps, coins, little pewter animals, cool magazine pictures, wrappers from chocolate bars, ben&jerry's pint-size ice cream containers (empty, of course!), and for a little while (before I made myself throw them away- but only after I'd shipped them 3000 miles), the reflector-things in the roads here, which I was fascinated by when I first moved to CA.

Wow, that took a really long time.
I'm supposed to "tag" people now, so I tag anyone who wants to do this. C'mon...we all secretly love talking about ourselves...and learning goofy things about each other :)

*aka, Marli :)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Art break

‘Bout time for another blogpost, eh, chaps and chapettes? Righto, then.

Yesterday I went to Kinkos and Econoprint, which are both down on Colorado, about 4.5 miles away. Disney Consumer Products has been patiently waiting for about a month while I scramble to get my portfolio across the country, and then make prints of all of my work (because if I interview with them, I have to take my portfolio and then *gasp* leave it there with them). Making fancy art prints is expensive, but fortunately, making copies is not. I wanted to try out the local shop (Econoprint) as well as Kinkos for this project. I have to say- I have been incredibly impressed with the new Kinkos down near Pasadena City College. The service is excellent, and there’s usually only one guy behind the counter, juggling five people’s copy needs, faxes, passport photos, business cards that need to be resized on the computer, answering the phone, etc., while never forgetting to address customers as “sir” and “ma’am”. They can also print on the paper I bring in (even if it isn’t compatible with laser printers…oops), rather than forcing me to use whatever paper they have available. The guys at Econoprint were also very pleasant, but less polished, and…unfortunately, I wasn’t as pleased with their print quality, which is pretty much the most important thing. A bunch of them (middle-aged dudes) gathered around as flipped through my work explaining what I wanted. That was encouraging :) They, as well as the guy at Kinkos, see a lot of artwork I’m sure, but at both places I received some really nice compliments.

For some reason the idea of going through with this whole trip really made me nervous. There’s a certain amount of being proactive involved, which is something I struggle with. I mean, I had to measure each piece in my portfolio, cut paper for it to be printed on, put some digital images on a cd (after checking their sizes and making pdfs of all of them), figure out which bus I was going to take, and where and when, haul my portfolio two and a half miles, ride the bus, interact with people for two hours (feeling vulnerable while they saw my work and nervous while they handled it), catch the bus back, and walk two and a half miles back home. And now I have to email the guy at Disney to let him know that I am ready for my interview. Maybe it doesn’t sound like much, but it was tiring!

This morning I walked to Whole Foods and back. It was a weird experience. Good weird, definitely. I was “confronted” by three people, all within WF’s little plaza. First, a man sitting at a table right outside the store raising money for something relating to children’s health…I actually don’t remember what the cause was, exactly. He asked if I’d like to donate…I shook my head and said “no thanks”. Then there was an elderly woman who, as I was walking by, asked if I would give her some money so she could find a place to sleep that night. She was in her eighties, I’m sure. She wasn’t dressed in rags, and her pale blue eyes gazed into mine as I mumbled an apology and walked past. They looked frightened. I headed over to Trader Joe’s in a daze, probing the wounds in my conscience, testing the hurt I’d caused it by passing those people by. The woman struck me the most, and I resolved to return to Whole Foods on my way, and give her some of my money, and maybe some food, too. In addition to the couple other things I got from TJ’s, I grabbed a few bananas. Then I walked back. I had $7 in my pocket- 5 for the woman and 2 for the guy at the table. I started thinking seriously now.

The first thoughts to enter my mind were “what would Jesus do?” Seriously. This poor little phrase has been over-used and abused into oblivion, but it is always an excellent question to ask yourself in whatever you do or think about doing. In this case, I have no doubt that Jesus would have taken her to get a sandwich, then called a cab to take her to his home, offering that she could stay as long as she needed. Not to mention providing for her spiritual needs as well. My five bucks and a banana were hardly an offering, by comparison. I felt bad for the guy sitting at the little table outside of WF as well- I don’t know why, and maybe I’m quite mistaken, but it seems like that would be a horrible way to spend an afternoon. WF emits this aura of help for the community, and a lot of people shop there because they think that they’re helping little families in Nicaragua and saving the planet’s resources. You don’t even have to change any of your daily habits; no effort whatsoever is required. And then you walk outside and brush off the man asking for donations to a charity and glide by the elderly lady asking for a few dollars as though she doesn’t even exist. We get really excited about helping those families thousands of miles away, even feel a little tug at our heartstrings when we see a picture of smiling faces accompanying the product we buy…and then in nearly the same stride push away the poor on our own doorstep. I almost did that exact thing today. I felt good about buying flour from the bulk bins because I learned from The Omnivore’s Dilemma that the less processed a food is, the more profit the farmer who produced its wheat/corn/etc. components will see. And then I almost ignored the plea for help from someone in my own town.

Ignoring my conscience would have only strangled it of power in future scenarios, and that is the last thing I want. I want my conscience to bleed and my heart to break when I see someone in need. I don’t care how they spend the couple of dollars I hand them- even if they use it to buy alcohol, their sin would not be as great as mine if I judge them and deny them a mere few dollars’ assistance.

So I returned to WF after going to TJ’s, and she was still there. She recognized me as I walked toward her down the sidewalk, and I waved shyly. Handed her the money, and offered a banana. She refused the banana, but accepted the cash gratefully. "God bless you," she said. "Done," I thought to myself. I quickly handed the guy at his table the two dollars. On my way back up toward home, a man I had passed on the way down was still sitting at the bus stop with a cart of his belongings(?) next to him. He asked me if I’d buy him a soda. I told him I had some bananas, did he want one? “Yeah,” he replied. I gave him two.

I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that several people would jump to my assistance if I needed help paying rent or loans. I am well taken care of. I don’t know if they have anyone to take care of them. It would have been easy for me to ignore them all and forget about them. But they’re real, actual people, and they don’t vanish from existence as soon as they pass from my field of vision. In a way, that scares me- the man at the bus stop and the elderly lady in front of WF- where will they sleep tonight? The elderly lady- will she be safe? Will she be cold? It’s hard thinking about these things, which is probably why I’ve never really let myself do so before. But still, I’ll probably mull over these things for the rest of the day, before going to sleep and then forget about them in the business and activity of my weekend. They won’t forget their situation- they have to live it every second of every day.

I wrestled with the idea of posting all of this. But…I dunno. I guess I was hoping to make it an exhortation to care about the people around you who have nothing, at least as far as finances go. Whatever we do, we shouldn’t judge them. It’s like that story about the hundreds of starfish that were washed up onto shore, and even though it was hopeless to save all of them, to the ones that were saved and lived, it meant life. How much more so with our fellow (wo)man! And though a couple of dollars probably won’t make much of a difference in their lives overall, at least it might ease the sting of poverty for one day. Right now, I think that’s enough.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I sorta feel as though I should apologize for my rant on art in the previous entry. It would be terrible if I offended someone else's art tastes; I really don't want to do that. It would have been better to give an actual argument for why those styles drive me nuts, rather than just exclaiming that they're ugly and I hate them. I do have reasons, so I'll try to lay them out clearly and calmly :)

These faux-retro, faux-folksy/rustic, faux-arts-and-crafts, kitschy elements (deer, squirrels, owls, horses, etc) are often paired with or incorporated into intricate patterns. For those of you who checked out printpattern, you know that it is possible to have a career in surface design, and that is a career I intend to have. I do feel threatened by these patterns, because they often contain elements that I seek to create, and the artists who have created them are ridiculously successful artists. When I see people working in a style very close to mine, but worse (in my humble opinion) and being ridiculously successful at it, I kind of get panicky and annoyed.

There’s something about this style of art that is incredibly trendy, and everyone (in the blogs I read) is gobbling it up like there’s no tomorrow. But there’s the feeling that they (the blog authors) feel so unique and eclectic in their sense of style, especially when it comes to the “bad” art. Maybe we’re trying so hard to stand out in our global village of giant corporations and mass-mass-produced products that we’ll grasp ahold of anything that will make us different, including terrible (sorry) paintings of a human and a bear dancing. It’s as if they secretly do know the work is awful, but want to have that “unique and eclectic” taste that sets them apart from their artsy friends, because they can see the genius in the work and nobody else can because their appreciation for art is not as wide or deep or visionary. But we all want to be that visionary person in our circle of friends, so we compete to be obsessed and in love with the ugliest piece of “art” we can find. (Now I feel like I’m writing an entry for “Stuff White People Like”.)

So there’s another thing I don’t like: the “bad” drawing/painting - the image that looks as though it were painted by an eight year old or doodled by a highschooler during chemistry class. The quickest example I can think of is Napoleon Dynamite’s drawings, or Raymond Pettibon actually, which would be a better example. With the latter especially- and this is why I dislike that style so much. Pettibon’s drawings have a juvenile/amateurish look to them for sure, which to me denotes a sense of innocence and naïveté, since they look like kid drawings. But his art is definitely not for children, and that mixing of external innocence (the appearance of the image) and internal darkness (the actual message of the work) has caused me to dislike anything that resembles it. Also, I grew up in systems where you had to display technical ability as well as the ability to create work with meaning. I am not impressed with art that is drawn to look bad. It just hinders the message, I think. And artists who challenge that notion in their art are brats. :)

Another thing that bothers me: the “faux-retro, faux-folksy/rustic, faux-arts-and-crafts, kitsch” often looks like cheap art, and looks like it intends to look like cheap art- like cheap art that actually came from the 70s and you found it for fifteen cents at a garage sale. It’s the same thing as people buying faux-retro t-shirts of a pixely Mario. That stuff was made using 21st century machines and technology two months ago to be sold to look like you dug it out of the attic, where it’d been sitting in the dust for the past twenty years. What a strange market- we aren’t clamoring for new and innovative products (well, not in this specific example), but rather for things that look old and worn. Brand-new items from the past. With deer on them.

I could go on and on about this for a long time, but a lot of my thoughts are still in the process of being translated in to coherent sentences and cohesive paragraphs. I welcome the thoughts of others! Please share :) Bye for now.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Totoro Blogpost

AKA monster blogpost. So, it’s been a while since I’ve last posted. Here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to in the past few days…

Skirt-making. I’ve been wanting to sew a skirt for some time now, oddly enough. I have only one skirt here, and it’s an ankle-length denim one, and with the coming of doom- I mean, summer, I thought it’d be really, really nice to have something a bit more airy to wear to church. I’ve been wearing jeans lately, and even though I don’t stick out at church, I don’t feel right about it, for some reason. So I found a free pattern online (here), and then went to Target to buy fabric. Target has fabric, you ask? Well…yes and no. It has linens, and last week some of them were on sale, so I bought a blue flat sheet and a brown flat sheet. Except that the brown flat sheet actually turned out to be a fitted sheet, but that was most excellent because I needed elastic for the skirt! So my first attempt was on Saturday. The pattern is incredibly simple, though obviously I altered it A LOT. Basically I ditched the drawstring and “contrast fabric” and made it as long and as wide as I wanted. Well, it turned out to be too wide- boofy, in fact, and the elastic was too long, too (so the waistband felt a little too loose). So I made notes on the proposed alterations, cut some new fabric as well as muslin for lining, and then finished this second skirt this morning. It turned out pretty well; I’m happy with it.

In the past two weeks I have had the pleasure of baking three batches of black bean brownies. I mentioned seeing a recipe for them a while ago, and then had two events to make them for. I used a blend of the recipe I cited earlier and some decidedly less preppy recipes (and no butter, unless you count peanut butter). It was fun comparing the former with the latter: from light agave nectar, parchment paper lining for the pan, and fancy drizzling techniques to buying a box of brownie mix and adding pureed canned black beans.

Here’s about what my recipe is:
(group 1)
1 can black beans
1 cup sucanat/honey
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup cocoa powder
½ cup peanut butter
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons soy flour mixed in 1/4 cup cold water
2 teaspoons vanilla

(group 2)
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rinse and drain the beans in a colander, but save the can. Put the beans back in the can and then fill the cracks with milk. Puree the beans in the milk using your choice of puree device. In a large bowl, combine (group 1) and blend well. Sift together (group 2) in a smaller bowl, and then stir slowly into the wet mixture.
Grease a 9 x 13” pan. Pour batter into the pan and sprinkle the chocolate chips on top.
Bake 40 minutes or until done.

They. Are. Yummy - no- scrumtulescent. And I promise they don’t taste like beans. At least ten people were quizzed to see if they could guess the secret ingredient, and didn’t figure it out until they were pretty much told. This is definitely going on the list of recipes to calligraphize and illustrate. But I’d like to figure out how to make them denser/fudgier because I’m not a fan of chocolate cake and so far these have turned out to be pretty cakey.

For some reason, doing things that are good for me and that I even enjoy doing can be incredibly difficult. One good example of this is exercising. I didn’t have any errands to do today, so I kept putting off going for a walk. I love walking, and it’s good for me, and it’s been so nice out…but still, getting myself out the door can be an incredible pain. But I always get myself there, and I never regret it. It’s been pretty warm out these past few days, and we haven’t had rain in a while, but things look wonderful. Lawns and gardens aren’t really affected by rainfall or lack thereof, but the hills are still green, and along with the heat of the sun and dryness of the air, it’s been very clear and smogless, at least in this neck of the woods.

Oh yeah- speaking of “ woods”…a few nights ago I was awakened to sounds coming from around the side of the house. I have this stupid window in my room that’s sort of a cross between blinds and a window and it opens and “closes” with a little lever. It’s nice for air flow (I guess…), but terrible for everything else, like keeping out sounds. So anyway, I was pretty irritated when I figured out the noise was probably some raccoons that had gotten in the trash cans, and I had half a mind to get a flashlight and go yell at them. But I don’t know where to find a flashlight here, so I went back to sleep. In the morning, I went right outside to make sure the critters hadn’t strewn trash all over our front yard or the neighbor’s front yard. They had. On my way over there, I noticed that they had broken the wooden gate dividing the side/back yard (where the trashcans are stored) and the front yard. As I busied myself picking up trash, the neighbor’s wife came outside. I apologized for the mess and explained that I thought raccoons had gotten into our garbage last night. She replied that she and her husband had heard the noise, too, but their theory was that it had actually been a bear. Oh. Whoa. After picking up the scattered garbage, I examined the gate. It wasn’t just broken. One of the hinges had been snapped off, and the post it was mounted to, which was also mounted to the side of the house, had been pushed so hard forward that it had separated from the house. I’m sure this makes no sense, so as soon as I can get pictures off my phone, I’ll post them. At any rate, the extent of the damage is pretty convincing evidence that a black bear had “graced” these premises. (Don’t worry, Courtney, if you come visit, I won’t let any get you :) ) So maybe it was good that I didn’t march out into the front yard that night…although, given black bears’ reputation for skittishness and raccoons’ reputation for downright unpleasantness, maybe I would have been ok. Just really, really freaked out. It was probably a big’un. Certainly a determined one, at least. I have to admit- I’m kinda bummed I didn’t see it. I’d tried peering out my window in the direction of the noise when it woke me up, but of course it was pitch black outside and black bears are pretty hard to see in pitch blackness.

Ok…longest blogpost ever. Here’s a couple more things- I’ve been working on a commissioned drawing, may have another drawing commissioned soon, am in the process of getting selections from my portfolio made into prints (expensive! Bah!), and may be doing calligraphy addresses for a friend’s save-the-dates (and maybe the actual invitations as well?).

And a nice bit of whine, for a conclusion: etsy is awesome, but things like this really, really irritate me-

I cannot tell you how sick I am of kitschy, retro 70s art that kind of looks like it was made by an eight year old, except that the artist is actually thirty. Especially when it features deer. Deer with antlers and deer that look like bambi are everywhere and I hate it! Squirrels are pretty over-used, too, as are those tacky decorative elements. And owls.* What makes this example worse is 1) this seller on etsy has sold almost ONE THOUSAND items. Presumably, not all of them look like this, but still. And 2) this print costs $32. It’s a black and white print and then she colored it in using watercolors. It probably took ten minutes. Oh, but the black frame- it’s vintage, so you get added cool points there, I guess. Ugh!

Here is the second most-hated thing I’ve seen today on my artsy blog journeys:

And the accompanying text: “I came home last night to find this painting hanging above our bed! We have both been obsessing over it since we saw it on display at [x] a little while back, and then boom, here it is... my Valentine's day gift from the best husband ever.” Ummm…question: do you have eyes?!!?! Gah!

Ok, whew- that’s all for now, folks.

*if you don’t believe me, scroll your way through the many pages of this blog-
printpattern, which is pretty cool, but I do find myself wanting to bang my head on the desk a lot of the time…

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

I just finished a custom-made journal for my good, good friend Marli- it's on reserve for her at my etsy shop, but you may all feel free to take a look at it :) ...and then think about friends and/or family (and/or yourself!) who have birthdays, unbirthdays, etc., coming up and need awesome gifts! I really like doing custom work...

I also spent some time drawing a few new cards, and they're on etsy as well. They are very, very stripy. Wheeee :)

Thursday, April 3, 2008


So the thing I mentioned a while ago, the one that I'd said I'd finished but couldn't talk about other than that-- well, it arrived at it's destination today and was opened by my mum a mere two and a half weeks after her birthday. Psalm 71 is her favorite, so I designed and executed this drawing for her (it's up in my gallery, too, if you want a closer look). Yay :) I like it, though doing the calligraphy on that paper (which is more like a towel than paper) was...a challenge.

I had the most pleasant walk this afternoon. It's extremely grey and green outside, and I found some new places to explore, including a wilderness area in Arcadia that I didn't know existed. It took considerable effort to get myself out the door in the first place, but I did need that walk in the fresh air. I'm pretty lucky to have this luxury. It's going to be sad to see it go, once someone actually gives me a job (assuming that actually happens...ok, I hope that actually happens...).

For the record, I really, really like Southern California on days like today.


Yippee skippy! Here is a set of five, and they are for sale at etsy.

By the way...If there are designs that you like more than others, I would allow my blog readers (because there aren't thaaat many of you :) ) to pick out certain cards and create custom sets. They're $2.50 each, unless you get ten, in which case your total would be $22. Also, and maybe I should have mentioned this earlier (because it has come up)- if I know you and can physically hand the item to you, you don't have to pay shipping on anything....but you DO have to tell my what you plan to buy beforehand.

Courtney- I really liked your comment about the "dream" journal looking muddy and bloody...That thought has crossed my mind before :) Hopefully it won't gross people out too much. It's not actually blood and mud...

So, it looks like I might have a job! It wouldn't be until the end of May (but hey, what's another two months?), and it's freelance, and it would be on a trial basis...but that's the most promising possibility I've had at all. Oh, and I have to learn for all the suggestions for reading material, but I'm going to be studying the intimate details of InDesign for the next two months (unless something else incredibly promising turns up...but really, I should learn InDesign anyway). In fact, I'm off to the library now.

PS- I have no idea what is up with the stupid inconsistent paragraph formatting. Except I do know that it is stupid.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

More new things (and stuff!)

OK- I have a new journal posted on etsy! I like it very much, and hope you do, too :) Chinese characters are a little over-done, it's true, but I think my design is pretty innovative and original. This one means "dream" (yume), and, ok as far as over-done Chinese characters's probably in the top five, but hey- on the cover of a journal, it's applicable and it looks nice. There are six or seven or so sets of cards on the way (with some new designs!), as well, and another journal also. Actually, the other journal isn't's the sparkly blue journal currently on my etsy page, but it is in the process of getting a major facelift. Mmmm...exciting!

I'm working on a small commissioned drawing for a friend of my mom's. It's fun to work on something geared toward one specific person, as opposed to trying to make something with universal appeal that some stranger may end up buying. And I love doing special things for people. I hope that someday commissions make up a significant portion of my work as an artist.

Let's see...I don't think I really have any other news at all. Today has been a fairly productive day so far, though, and it's only just past noon. It will be a very good day if I can get myself to act like a Responsible Adult and make a phone call this afternoon.