45 degrees off

Seeing the same thing from a different angle.

Monthly Archives: December 2011

My 2012 “To Do” List

I’m not big on making resolutions for the new year. They just don’t work for me. I get caught up in the excitement of the cultural ritual, but later I feel like I’ve come up with a list of things I feel obligated to do even if it’s not as good an idea as it sounded at the time. Or worse, life throws me for a loop and makes sticking to the resolution nearly impossible, yet I feel like I failed because I’ve broken this promise I made. The act of publicly making those promises to myself means I feel like I’ve broken a promise to other people even though I haven’t.

So no resolutions this year! Instead, I’ve put together a list of the things on my art list that, today, seem most important for me to accomplish over the next year. It’s not a list of promises. It’s a list of priorities. Priorities may change as life changes. I’ll look back at the list a year from now and see how many I can mark off and why I can’t mark off any of the things left undone. They aren’t the only things I intend to accomplish in 2012, but a handful of checkpoints to help me keep track of where I’m going.

Do a fabric design on Spoonflower.

Find out more about how Storybird works.

Make my Zazzle stores connect to each other better visually. There are many good things about not having everything in one store, but I’d really like it to be easier for people who want to see all my stores.

Make progress on a fairly long-term collaborative project that was recently proposed to me.

Finish any three things on my Ideas and Inspiration list.

Put together a calender in time for 2013.

It’s a short list. Nothing on it is something I can sit down and whip out in half an hour, though. I’ve tried to focus on things I have a fair amount of control over… things I can do without being too dependent on luck. It would be easy to say things like “Get 500 more Twitter followers” or “Make 50% more money in art sales than I did in 2011”. When it comes right down to it, though, those aren’t really things I can control. I can’t force people to follow me on Twitter, nor can I force them to buy more of my work. I wouldn’t want to force anyone even if I could. The things on this list are things I can be responsible for. In the case of the collaborative project, I can be responsible for my part in it.

Keep that in mind when you make your own list. (I suspect that, to some degree, we all make a list whether we make it public or not.) Plan for the things you can do. Not the things you just have to hope turn out the way you want them to.

I’ll see you next year!

Finding a Place in The Future for Paper and Ink

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!  One of the gifts I was given made me think about art, how it is delivered to us, and whether or not that’s part of the overall piece.

Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered just a couple of years before I started middle school, and one of the coolest things about it was the little pads they read things on. Going back and watching the original series, I think those pads existed there, as well. We often saw them being handed off. Yoeman Rand and Her Hair (the basketweave beehive on her head is the most memorable thing about her to me) would pass one to Captain Kirk, he’d glance at it and hit a button, then hand it back. But it was in the new series where we often saw characters sitting back and relaxing to read from one of those gadgets, or doing their own writing on one. I couldn’t wait for the real present to catch up to that fictional future so I could have one!

I’m being forcefully dragged, with a bit of kicking and screaming, toward that place where the real present and fictional future meet. Adult Me sometimes wants to sit Child Me down and say, “I know it looks really cool when you’re just looking at the one thing, but it’s different when the whole world is plugged in like that. You have to look at the bigger picture.” But I’m pretty sure my parents said things like that to Child Me, so I know the response would be something along the lines of, “No, you don’t understand! You can put all your books in it and carry a whole library in your pocket!”

Maybe that’s why we experience time in a linear fashion. It prevents us from wasting so much time and energy on not listening to ourselves.

I was given a Kindle for Christmas. It’s not a gift I would have chosen for myself. It is, in fact, something I would have avoided getting for myself.  My mother, having the benefit of 30+ years of being a mother in general and my mother specifically, bought me exactly what I did ask for… a Stephen King book. It’s being held hostage on the Kindle, though.  She didn’t get me the newest model with all kinds of strange bells and whistles. She got me one of the first models. It doesn’t have too many buttons. It doesn’t have a backlit screen. She did this because she knows I’m not as quick to adjust to a wagonload of features shoved in front of me as I once was, and that I’ve complained about the idea of spending even more hours a day with my eyeballs glued to a screen than I already do. I’m not just being stubborn. I have some medical issues that make things like this very intimidating for me, for one thing.  And with my work and entertainment happening on a computer, I really should give my eyes and brain a break now and then.  I am being at least a little stubborn, though.

I did say I’d give the Infernal Machine (my husband laughs every time I call it that) an honest try, though, and I am. Twitter buddies helped by pointing me toward the free books and making some suggestions. I also have a Kindle gift card and remembered that Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orlando is something I’ve been intending to get a copy of.  It is on my Kindle right now, and the first couple of chapters have been every bit as helpful and encouraging as I hoped. I highly suggest that every artist read it, and possibly let some of the people closest to you read it, as well. The ones who are part of your support system, but aren’t artists themselves.

My mother has good reasons for pushing me toward the Kindle. I have good reasons for running away from it. These can all be reconciled and I can learn to enjoy the Infernal Machine. This isn’t just about books, though.

One of the books she gave me on the Kindle is Ur, also by Stephen King, though not the one I asked for and was given. This is an example of something I think really should be read on a device like the Kindle, if not the Kindle itself.  It reminded me of a Halloween article written by Neil Gaiman that has the greatest impact if you read it yourself, rather than having it read to you.

There are times when the delivery system matters very much. It becomes part of the completed piece.

That’s actually part of my problem with the Kindle, Ur being an exception. Books aren’t just stories to me. They’re an experience. I love the covers. I love the paper and ink. I love the binding.  A physical book becomes something of a character itself to me. Is a very old book in pristine condition because it was loved and cared for? Was it treated like an object to be collected rather than a story to be enjoyed? Or was it left alone on a shelf where no one opened it because no one cared? Is the binding on a book broken and it’s cover worn because it was carelessly abused? Or was it a friend, carried everywhere and re-read many times? New paper with fresh ink has a certain scent. Old paper has a scent just as distinct, though it’s a very different scent.

I’ve thought about this sort of thing before. I work with digital tools in creating my art. I’ve written before about depending too much on my eraser and Undo button. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to see Van Gogh’s The Starry Night when it was temporarily on display in my area. It’s my favorite painting, and seeing the actual piece was an amazing experience! It’s quite a bit smaller than I always imagined it being, and there are places where the paint doesn’t completely cover the canvas and sketched lines show through that aren’t noticeable in prints. It’s the same piece, but so different. You haven’t really seen it unless you’ve seen the original. Things that would often be recognized as flaws in the work are part of what makes it so amazing.  What are we losing when we distance ourselves from the physical object?

I’m not going to get rid of my Wacom tablet and buy paints and canvases to work with. It is a question that turns over in my head now and then, though.

I’m not worried that digital books will replace physical copies. Some of the Twitter buddies who have been helping me adjust to my Kindle agree that some books are worth buying as paper and ink. My mother has also said she wouldn’t want to see physical books be replaced, but that something like the Kindle is a useful tool when you just can’t have a physical copy of every book you want to read. I think we could reach a point where physical books become a nostalgic luxury. I’m not sure that people are quite as happy with the speed technology moves at as we often think we are. We cling to the old things. We spend a lot of money to sew clothes in a time when mass production is cheap, whereas sewing clothes used to be something people did because they couldn’t afford clothes from a store. We customize new gadgets to look like clunky, outdated gadgets. Maybe we’re on a quest to prove that “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too” is just another stupid rule that should be broken.

After all, even in the future world of Star Treka book made of paper and ink is a treasured gift.

Finding Joy in Christmas Crafting

Crocheting gifts for my sister’s children has become something of a tradition for me over the past few years.  Whatever gift-giving holiday you celebrate at this time of the year is probably supposed to be about just that… giving. Not necessarily buying. If buying the gifts works for you, go forth and shop! Sometimes we all just get too caught up in the buying.

I suffer from Chronic Grinch Syndrome. I hate Christmas every year. Hate it with a passion. Not because I hate what the holiday should be, but because I hate what we’ve turned it into. My heart shrivels up somewhere between Halloween and Thanksgiving and I start to resent everyone who is looking forward to Christmas. I force myself not to make rude gestures at bell ringers. I’m disgusted by other people simply because they are enjoying the holiday.

I call it “Chronic Grinch Syndrome” because, like a chronic illness, it gets better and then comes back the next year.  And my turning point comes when I remember what the Grinch learned.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

— Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

I was blessed with grandparents who lived until I was almost thirty years old. After more than fifty years together, I guess they just couldn’t be apart. We lost my grandmother the week of Thanksgiving in the same year that we lost my grandfather on Memorial Day weekend. I’m sure that’s part of how my Chronic Grinch Syndrome developed. The holidays just haven’t been the same without them. It was never the presents that made it Christmas. Just as Christmas can come without packages, boxes, and bags, it didn’t feel like Christmas was really coming anymore even with them.

The holidays really never will be the same in my family, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a joyful time again. My sister’s children have added a lot of joy! I get to experience the other side of things now. Instead of being one of the kids, I get to see their faces light up! Christmas comes because they giggle it into being. The presents are just something we adults use to trigger it.

They don’t exactly get “normal” gifts from me. Pictured above is Chubi the Cuddly Chupacabra. You won’t find a pattern for him. I put together and modified a couple of basic doll patterns for Chubi, then modified a pattern for a mouse to make the goat. Unlike others of his kind, Chubi loves his goat friends and would never hurt them!

I sometimes worry that the gifts I give don’t match up to the toys they have that come from stores. That’s an adult worry, though. It’s about trying to “keep up” and has nothing to do with what Christmas is about. My sister tells me they love the toys. I crocheted toy food for them last year (How is anyone supposed to have a decent tea party with no food?) and loved watching my nephew run around using one of the carrots to tickle people.

Cookies from the set of crocheted food.

You can find the patterns for the food. They came from the book Tasty Crochet by Rose Langlitz. This year, I’m making a stacking toy for the newest member of our family, and his older brother and sister are getting crocheted versions of the plants from the game Plants vs Zombies. The plant patterns came from Deadcraft, and I recommend her patterns for beginners who want to make some awesomely geeky stuff! The instructions are well written and have very helpful pictures.

It’s not really about not spending money. Many patterns cost money. Materials cost money. When it comes down to it, though, I get more joy out of spending my time purposefully creating a gift with the kid I know is going to get it in mind than racing around town to grab things off shelves and stand in long lines.

If your inner Grinch has taken over and made the way you approach the holidays something you hate, maybe it’s time for a different approach.