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Seeing the same thing from a different angle.

Category Archives: Art is a Broad Term

The Long Road Through August

Whew! Are we really almost done with the month? FINALLY?! August always seems like an agonizingly long month for me. “Way too busy” and “too hot and humid to move” tend to collide in August, and I have a personal emotional investment in breaking through to September. The month drags on forever.

Maybe that contributes to my feeling that I’ve done a lot of work and nothing at all this month. The truth is more that I have done a lot of work, but not all of it has been the kind I can show a finished result from. I’ve made minor tweaks to things like outgoing links on this blog, but haven’t had the time I’d like to write full posts. I also write a couple of gaming-related blogs that have been suffering from this posting drought, as well.  I’ve learned that I can’t draw with a pen for very long at a time anymore. I’ve made changes to my crochet hooks and how I hold them so that I can continue to crochet in spite of my arthritis.

As I’ve been adjusting my mindset to living with arthritis (as opposed to believing the doctor can “fix whatever is wrong with me”) I’ve also been trying to change the way I look at my work. I’ll get an idea for something and think, “Oh! I should draw this!” Then I start to ask myself what it would take for me to crochet it instead. Mostly, though, I’ve found I have a real passion for hats. I think there’s a perfect hat for each head, but I can’t seem to find mine. I’ll just keep making them until I figure it out. I hope to match a lot of other people up with their perfect hat along the way! My hat obsession is even mentioned on the Craftypodes “about” page.

I finished a very special request in time for my neice’s birthday. I finished and shipped a custom order so that a baby boy will have an octopus friend to greet him when he makes his way into the world later this year.

I’ve experimented with crocheting with thread, which is something my grandmother did, though I’m not exactly doing it her way. I don’t remember her crocheting around stones and using them as paperweights.

I’m currently working on a baby blanket for the shop, a few personal projects on the side, and doing my best to manage day to day. I still do some of my best thinking while mowing the yard. I guess I’ll have to find some other way to do my best thinking for a while once autumn gets here. Well… there’s always losing myself in my crochet!

I still want this blog to be a place for discussing art. Visual art, fiber art, music, storytelling… that won’t change. You can see from the links on the right that my visual art is still available for purchase. Some things are absolutely staying the same here as I move forward.  If you miss frequent posts, though, I suggest following my crochet tumblr.

Here’s to the end of August, and hopefully a September that brings the completion of that post on storytelling.


Improvise, Adapt, Crochet

I said I was going to make an effort to keep my crochet work divided from my other work, didn’t I? I even set up a tumblr for when I just want to babble about yarn crafting. I was determined to manage my drawing and painting in one area of my life, and the yarn crafting with my husband in another area of my life.
There’s only so much of me to go around, though, and those things all qualify as “art”. I’m finding that I can’t just set aside time to crochet and then time to draw. I get my need to create satisfied when working with yarn and there’s just nothing left by the time I’m ready to draw. I could draw one of the things on my list, but then I start thinking how much fun it would be to crochet them in addition to drawing them. I start running through how to do that in my mind, making sure I really could do it, and all the energy gets poured into the yarn crafting idea.

I need to create. I don’t actually need to draw. This shouldn’t surprise me, considering I turned to drawing when my illness made it very difficult for me to write.

I have to consider other things going on in my life, and I’ve discussed this at length with my husband and gotten some advice from a friend. If I don’t care that much which medium I’m working with as long as I’m creating, then what about other things I’m facing? How are they impacted by a change in my artistic pursuits? The truth is that crocheting is a much better choice for me at this point in my life when I consider my health problems. Everything from the physical toll from how I sit while working to the mental cost of doing this as a business changes.

Does this mean I’m giving up drawing completely? Absolutely not! I still have a few projects that are very important to me and must be drawn. I can’t imagine a time when I put down pens and Wacom stylus and think to myself, “The last one is done.” I will be keeping my stores with my artwork open. I just won’t add to them as often. I won’t aggressively pursue creative satisfaction and financial benefit through drawing.  Hooks and yarn are a better choice for me at this point in my life.

Some of you may not have an interest in my work anymore with this change. I understand that. I understand that sometimes the focus is the medium. Thank you for supporting my drawing and painting.

Anyone who wants to come along for the ride on the Yarn Train, that’s where the action will be now! There’s a Craftypodes Twitter account for it, Facebook, and Google+. My husband (fondly referred to on Craftypodes accounts as “Mr. Knitter”) also posts on the Facebook and Google+ accounts. I mostly do the Twitter thing myself, and the tumblr is all mine.

A lot of my Twitter friends are gamers. I recently crocheted a Brann Bronzebeard (from World of Warcraft) doll, wearing the Tabard of the Explorer that the character sends to you in the game.

Gamer buddies, help me get my mind focused on the good things about making this change in my life! Talk to me about dolls. I’d like to know how interested people might be in being able to commission a doll of their character. It would mean sending me screenshots, front and back, of your character. Hunters could have a pet, warlocks could have a demon, etc. I’d say SWTOR characters are possible, too. Not lore characters like Brann there, but a doll of your character. If there’s a reasonable amount of interest in this, I can work out details for pricing and how to handle a waiting list for commissions and make another post specifically about that.

Fan Fiction, Literary Elitism, and Fifty Shades of Grey

I made the comment on Twitter that I wonder what it says about me that I know people who are feeling shocked and getting hot and bothered over reading Fifty Shades of Grey, but I just didn’t see anything that exciting when I looked through it in the store recently. My Twitter feed has been full of talk about it since. Most of that has ranged from “I hated it” to “I wouldn’t even both reading it”.

One of the biggest reasons I’ve seen cited for being opposed to the very existence of Fifty Shades of Grey is that it started out as Twilight fan fiction. There are two camps of  This Is Bad… the FanFic Is Bad camp, and the Twilight Is Bad camp. I can’t put myself in either camp.

I read all the books in the Twilight series and enjoyed them. I read them at a time when my medical condition was making it increasingly difficult for me to read at all. As a child, my reading and comprehension was on the college level while I was still in elementary school. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to find books both on my reading level and with age appropriate content. Even as an adult, I just had to accept that books were something I would easily devour and not have to think very much about. Right up until I became ill, anyway. That made my brain take a sudden leap from being able to read a novel with half my attention on something else and still get the whole story (including remembering dialogue) all the way down to wondering why I couldn’t read the book. Why I just couldn’t make sense of all the words when I knew for a fact that I knew what each of them meant.

Twilight isn’t great literature. It was what I needed at the time, though. There are plenty of people who have never climbed above that level of reading, and they are often intimidated by books targeted at them because, whether they should be able to easily comphrehend those books or not, the reality is that they can’t. So they don’t read. Because they don’t read, they don’t get better at reading. Pat the Bunny is no Chronicles of Narnia, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say it never should have been published. There’s a group of children it is appropriate for.

I didn’t get preachy anti-sex lessons out of Twilight, but I often don’t get the lessons other people do from things. I almost always see the opposite of whatever people are outraged about in Disney movies, and I think everyone’s missed the biggest lesson in the story of the birth of Jesus… Don’t travel so close to your due date. Honestly, I just accepted that these are fictional problems that may arise when humans and vampires try to mate. I never read it as Edward being a symbol for any kind of real boyfriend/partner. I read it as a human and a vampire. Buffy and Angel had strange relationship problems, too, but I never thought Joss Whedon was trying to preach to me through them.

Fan fiction. That’s a big one. Lots of people hate fan fiction. I’m not a big fan of it, myself. (No pun intended.) Now, I flipped through and read a few pages here, a few pages there of Fifty Shades of Grey. (Yes, I was going for the naughty bits.) I cannot comment on how much it may or may not still resemble Twilight fan fiction without reading the whole thing. I wouldn’t judge it based on the fact that it started as fan fiction, though. Not if it’s been rewritten enough to be its own story since then.

I don’t like having to sort through a lot of badly written fanfiction to find the good stuff, and I don’t care for the drama I hear about in fan fiction communities. I read good stuff when it’s recommended to me. (There was one some years back in which John Constantine ends up in the Harry Potter universe and becomes the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts. It was very true to the spirits of the originals. If you’re familiar with both, let that sink in for a moment.) I don’t have a problem with the existence of fan fiction, though.  Mercedes Lackey explains the benefits of fan fiction much better than I ever could.

I enjoy roleplaying my characters when I play roleplaying games, and that’s a form of fan fiction. And I’ve enjoyed reading Peter David’s Star Trek: TNG novels. Especially the ones about Q! And, as Mercedes Lackey points out…

Well just as an example, go have a look at all the Star Trek, Star Wars, and game-based books there are out there. If you reduce things to principles, most of those are fanfiction—fanfiction commissioned by and given the blessing of the publisher, and produced by professionals, yes, but still fanfiction.

You don’t have to enjoy fan fiction, or the Twilight books, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exist. I think they have their place. It may not be a place that’s relevent in your life, and that’s fine. I can’t help, though, but think it’s an elitist attitude when I see and hear people say certain books should have never been written or published.

I’ve been known to argue that I don’t think certain works should have been done in a certain way, especially when it comes to adaptations in another medium. Even that depends on just how much was changed and why. I do not believe that anyone really can make an adequate movie adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, but I’m able to enjoy the movie for what it is. The movie version of Starship Troopers, though? The actual approach to making the movie was so dismissive of Heinlein’s novel that I just don’t think it was fair to use his work at all. I think it would have been better to build something else on top of the basic idea and then say in interviews, “We drew some inspiration from guys like Heinlein when we wrote this story.” I do not actually fault the director for not wanting to finish the novel or thinking it was depressing, nor for wanting to take his movie in a a different direction because he couldn’t muster up enough “give a damn” for the book. I only fault him for passing the movie off as an adaptation of the book instead of really going his own way with it.

So what is my problem with Fifty Shades of Grey ? I don’t have a problem with it. The situation is exactly what I said it was… I’m kind of confused about myself when I compare my reaction to it to the reactions of other people I know. People I don’t think of as having poor reading skills, or being particularly naive about sex and relationships. Certainly not overly-religious, sheltered people. Admittedly, I don’t think any of them are part of the BDSM lifestyle, but neither am I. I’ve had friends who are, though, and so I’m not completely ignorant of it just because I’m not experienced with it.

A book has me taking a look at myself, wondering about my place among other people… about how and why we’re different and whether or not that has any significant bearing on how I relate to those people. (And I didn’t even really read the book!) I’m not arguing that it’s great literature, but isn’t this what books are supposed to do?

Craftypodes Knitting and Crochet

I’ve written a couple of times before about my crochet projects, and if you follow me on Twitter you may have seen me mention “yarn mangling” before. I often get requests from people who are more than willing to pay if I’ll squeeze some time in to crochet for them. I’ve politely declined these requests except in a couple of cases. My mind has been set on the idea that I don’t have time to add crochet to my work.

The problem with that line of reasoning is that I’ve already been spending plenty of time crocheting! I make things for the joy of making them and then wonder what I should do with them. Obviously, I do have time for this!

Add to that my husband finding his own creative niche in knitting. Being a disabled Marine has taken a lot away from him and been a physically and mentally painful adjustment. I’m glad he’s found something he enjoys doing that we can share an interest in without stepping on each other’s toes. (He doesn’t really understand crochet, nor am I a knitter. We can share the general yarn crafting interest, but we don’t try to manage each other’s projects.) This is a situation just asking for us to start an Etsy shop, isn’t it?

So that’s what we did!

As of the end of last week, Craftypodes is open! We’re both working to get more into the shop, but it’s exciting to be able to make the announcement.

Why “Craftypodes”? This is a story for word geeks. I favor “octopodes” as the plural of “octopus”. (I did not make that up, I promise.) I also favor “platypodes” as a plural for “platypus”.  My husband, being a bit amused by the terms, has embraced them and it’s become something of a joke in our house. Things often get the “-podes” ending to pluralize them here at home when it makes the word fun to say. When every store name we could think up was already taken, we resorted to trying Craftypodes as a plural for “crafty people”.

The desperate silly name was, of course, the one that was not taken.

Teachable Moments in Art

“Teachable moments” are often the moments where something happens that makes a perfect illustration of the point you want to get across. If you want to teach people that wearing seat belts saves lives, a “teachable moment” is when a car wreck is reported on the news where the car is totaled but everyone in it was wearing a seat belt and survived with minor bruises and cuts.

I believe teachable moments happen every day. I also believe art can provide us with many teachable moments. It can sometimes be difficult to get people to think about an issue or idea until there’s an illustration right in front of them. Especially when the issue or idea relates to horrible things that happen or are done to people, it doesn’t really make anyone feel better to have a real case on hand to use as an illustration in their teaching. Art can provide us with fictional cases that still make excellent examples or icebreakers to begin a conversation about an issue.

A few months, I found out about the From Enchantment to Down photo series by Thomas Czarnecki. The photos are shown in this article, but I’ve chosen not to show even one of them here in this post. The reason is I’ve looked them all over carefully before and would rather not do so again. They are upsetting to me.

But why are they upsetting to me? Mr. Czarnecki has created a series of pictures showing the “Disney Princesses” all grown up and meeting very depressing, perhaps even violent, ends. Is it the depictions of such things happening to beloved characters that bothers me? Is it that it makes me think of violence against women in the real world? I asked myself those questions when I looked at the pictures before, especially since I didn’t interpret them the way the people who brought them to my attention did.

I became aware of the photo series because of a tweet going around on Twitter claiming that someone had tried to be “edgy” by showing all the Disney Princesses as rape victims. There was a lot of talking about how sickening that is when an artist thinks they’re “cool” for doing something like that, and how the media has too much violence against women as entertainment already, but I didn’t see any discussion of other interpretations of the work. I wasn’t even seeing real discussion of the work, but simply of the idea stated in the original tweet… that someone had depicted them all as rape victims.

It was weeks later, when the story about the photos was run in several big internet news outlets and online versions of a few newspapers, that I finally saw discussion of the work. Not everyone cared for it. Some people found it to be disgusting and senseless. Some people thought it was brilliant. Every website reporting on it seemed to interpret the pictures different ways, and even commenters had different interpretations. According to the article I’ve linked here:

Mr. Czarnecki admits his aim was pure culture shock.

The photographer was inspired to create a clash between what he calls ‘the naive universe and the innocence of the fairy tales’ and a ‘much darker reality that is as much part of our common culture’ provided through imagery we see in entertainment and media.

‘So many Disney characters embedded in the collective culture as sweet and innocent creatures that I decided to get out of their recognized fairy-tale frame and universe,’ he said.

I’d tried looking for a statement from the artist about what his motivation was when I first saw the work but hadn’t found one then. What I did find was an interesting split in feminist discussions of the work. Most of the feminist discussions I saw on Twitter focused on that idea that he was depicting them as rape victims, and that somehow this was to be “entertaining” or “edgy”. I saw feminist discussions in other places, such as Tumblr, that seemed more in line with what his eventual statement said. Many of the women I saw discussing the photos are not fans of the Disney Princesses, seeing them as bad role models for girls, and were talking about these photos as a warning about what can happen if you deny your true self and live for fashion and pleasing a man. Interpretations of individual photos included seeing them as rape victims, drug and alcohol abusers, suffering from depression, and I saw at least one case of the photo of Ariel being interpreted as a warning about ocean pollution.

The wonderful thing is that the work was being discussed as having value and lessons to be learned from it, rather than judging the artist’s possible reasons for doing it.

This has been on my mind again because of a recent post on The Stories of O. I don’t play the card game she’s talking about (Magic: The Gathering), but the issue isn’t about the game. It’s about the art on one of the cards.

O explains the uproar about the art more fully, and there’s at least one commenter who gave some additional information on the context of the card, but the short version is this :

There’s a story that goes with the game. The woman is a powerful necromancer who cursed the man, and he’s gone after her to try to force her to lift the curse. Another card shows the continuation of their fight, in which the woman wins. There are some people who seem to have reacted to the art without taking context into account. They see the woman as helpless and pinned down by a large violent man, and there have been statements that they understand there is no sexual assault happening, but that the scene calls such events to mind.

Those speaking out against judging the art out of context, like O, have pointed to how the card makes it clear the woman is not helpless and “unarmed”  (she’s casting a fireball spell) and that this is a fight not just between a man and a woman, but between a man who is rightfully enraged because he was cursed by a woman who is a powerful necromancer. I’d like to step away from that argument for a moment and look at how this could become a teachable moment.

This art provides opportunities to discuss a number of issues. It can be used to show that being smaller doesn’t make you helpless. (She is casting a fireball spell, and she does win the fight.) Discussions of fictional worlds where women can be even more powerful than many men can open doors for discussions about how women can be empowered in our own world by simply getting people to think about the subject. There are still people who think rape is about sex, and this art could be used in an educational context to correct that misguided idea. Yes, it is clear from the context that sexual assault is not what’s happening here. However, the fact that people are able to see it so easily out of context means it would make it easier to show people the paralells and educate them about assault being about power and dominance over another person, no matter what kind of assault it is.

If you’re fighting a war against ignorance and outdated societal attitudes, use weapons of opportunity. Turn the tools of the masters against them.

I did figure out why Mr. Czarnecki’s photos upset me, by the way. They pushed me to think about things I usually avoid thinking about. I learned quite a bit about myself from the experience.  I had to make myself look at them and ask myself some uncomfortable questions to get there, though.

Note: These are very hot-button issues, and intense discussions about them have happened more recently in some social circles than others. I will open comments on Monday, but would rather not spend my weekend moderating them.

Do You Need Talent to be An Artist?

What is “talent”?

Dictionary.com lists as the first definition “a special natural ability or aptitude” and uses art as an example – ” a talent for drawing”.

It is a word that is often used to compliment an artist for their work. “She’s a very talented artist.” “You have so much talent!”

It is also a word often used to express one’s lack of ability. “I wish I could draw like that, but I just don’t have any talent for it.”

To understand what’s wrong with this idea, let’s look a little more at the word “aptitude”.

An aptitude is a component of a competency to do a certain kind of work at a certain level, which can also be considered “talent”. Aptitudes may be physical or mental. Aptitude is not knowledge, understanding, learned or acquired abilities (skills) or attitude. The innate nature of aptitude is in contrast to achievement, which represents knowledge or ability that is gained

(from the Wikipedia entry for “aptitude”, emphasis is my own)

This is why I rarely describe an artist as being “talented”. I even shudder a little when I catch myself saying it without meaning to. It’s not an easy habit to break, but I’d like to ask everyone to make that effort to break it with me. Consider the implications of what you’re saying when you call someone “talented”.

Many artists have no artistic talent at all. They are highly skilled and create beautiful work, but it all comes from years of working hard to learn and perfect their craft. Try using those words instead. “He’s an amazingly skilled artist!” “She’s an artist who creates beautiful pieces!”

I know, I know… I just argued that talent is different from skill. So if you can’t look at someone’s work and know if they were born with artistic talent or not, how can you know it’s skill instead?

Even talented artists have to develop their skills. Talent doesn’t do the job for you… it just makes getting started a bit easier. A talented artist who doesn’t develop their skills will become mediocre rather quickly.

And don’t sell yourself short if you’re not an artist! Ask yourself what your mental dependence on talent is doing for you. Is it holding you back because your belief that an artist must be talented sabotages your own efforts? Or is it your excuse for not making the time to develop skills?

I joked a couple of days ago on Twitter that my buddy Brad Stover has “a magic camera that makes people look good”. I can’t take photographs the way he does, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the camera isn’t at fault. I’ve seen photographers talk to each other about their work. “Which camera are you using?” is only one of the questions they ask, often followed by questions about lenses, lights, time of day, film processing, etc. There’s a lot of talk about equipment, but also about how the equipment was used. About knowledge and skill.

I can’t take pictures like that because I’ve never put serious effort into mastering that craft. Not because I lack talent with a camera in my hand, but because I have not done the work to develop the skill.

The next time you’re tempted to say, “I wish I could draw/paint/take photos/bake like that, but…” ask yourself something. Do you really wish you could do it? So much that you’re willing to devote your time and energy to learning, practicing, and mastering it? Or do you simply wish you could get those results without having to learn the craft?

If you really want to do it, don’t hold yourself back with a misguided dependence on “talent”. It’s not a requirement.

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.

Speaking Out Against Art Theft

World of Warcraft is a game with 11 million subscribers.  It attracts people from all walks of life. In fact, WoWInsider has an entire column called “15 Minutes of Fame” devoted to highlighting notable players. Sometimes they are people notable within the gaming industry. Sometimes it’s someone who is an inspiration to others because they’re living with (and fighting) Alzheimer’s. Sometimes it’s a well-known actor, or a physicist who works at CERN.

The game attracts a large number of artists, which shouldn’t be surprising when you consider the role art plays in building a virtual world. There is a ton of fan art out there! It ranges from quick, unskilled doodles of someone’s favorite character to professional quality pieces that were not done to be licensed by Blizzard (the company behind the game), but simply out of the artist’s love for the game. DiscoPriest has done some beautiful work that can be seen on Disciplinary Action.

Mage art from disciplinaryaction.wordpress.com

One of my favorites from the Stained Class series at disciplinaryaction.wordpress.com.

I said this a few days ago on Twitter, and I’ll say it again here – fan art is art. In some ways, all art is fan art. Artists are inspired by something and moved to show the world not just what it looks like, but what it looks like through that artist’s eyes. Art comes from passion. Someone who puts the time and effort into doing a series of stained glass style pieces based on a video game is creating art just as much as someone who paints landscapes or illustrates stories.

DiscoPriest’s art has been stolen and used in some YouTube videos recently. This isn’t a case of some relatively unknown individual putting a piece in the background for a homemade music video, or something of the sort. You can see how her art was used in this video. The original video was made private and many comments deleted once people called TGN.tv out on the art theft, but Rades was kind enough to make a back-up of the video. He also added commentary that points out how this is art theft, and links to relevant information in the video notes.

TGN.tv promotes itself as being a step toward making money from doing YouTube videos. From their website:

Do you want to do this *full-time* if it can pay your bills? If yes, and are serious about treating YouTube as a career, then follow the WAY movement.

TGN personally trains motivated and talented YouTubers so they start earning $1,500-$2,000 a month solely from revenue share on video views in 6-12 months, more if you learn faster, less if you learn slower. This is a goal, not a guarantee.


ETA: I’ve changed the mentions of “TGN” to “TGN.tv” because that is the full name of their YouTube channel and, as Julia points out in the comments, TGN is recognizable as Total Gaming Network. They have a good reputation with the same audience that is TGN.tv’s target audience and were around well before TGN.tv. However, the quotes above are from TGN.tv’s website and have been reproduced here exactly as they are on the site.

One would assume videos that are part of the TGN.tv YouTube channel are intended to help reach this goal. Taking someone else’s art and putting it out there as your own is theft, whether you do it for money or not. Doing it so that you can build a following that you’re hoping to make money from is even worse.

DiscoPriest has a rather large community supporting her right now. The blogging community within the WoW population is rather vocal when they’re passionate about something. That’s what led them to start blogging in the first place. I doubt there’s any way TGN.tv can come out of this looking okay in the eyes of a large portion of their target audience. The original theft has now been compounded by deleting comments and staying quiet, rather than removing the video and trying to make ammends with the artist.

I love the support artists on the internet give each other. I have met some wonderful artists who have been a true inspiration to me through Twitter and communities like RedBubble. None of us want to be the person who has their art stolen and feels like all that time and work means nothing now that someone else is using it. We may not be able to put an end to art theft completely, but we can speak up and support each other to make sure it is not the thief who profits.

DiscoPriest has an online shop, and her website also says she takes commissions. You can also find her on Twitter. Consider showing her some support.

Update! It looks like the videos have been taken down now, as opposed to how they were simply made private earlier. Update on Twitter by @DiscoPriest.

Graphic Novels Keep a Disabled Marine Reading

I remember my ninth grade English Literature teacher. I remember her well. We didn’t see eye-to-eye on much of anything. She had some very firm ideas about what was literature, as well as what was not. She was rather cold and emotionless in the classroom, and wrote on our papers with a green pen. We usually called this “bleeding on our papers” because most teachers wrote with red ink. I insisted my English teacher was a Vulcan, and that explained why she “bled” green.

I understand as an adult that she may have felt she needed to be picky about what we “should” and “should not” read for book reports because she was trying to open students up to reading things they wouldn’t have chosen on their own. That wasn’t a very good tactic to take with me. I’d read just about anything printed on paper, with the exception of biographies and romance novels (I have since learned to enjoy biographies), and I was almost sure to read something I’d been told not to read. I do think, though, that some of her ideas were personal. She wasn’t someone who would have accepted comics/graphic novels as “literature”, regardless of the story.

The funny thing about that is there was one project I very much enjoyed that year. We were to split ourselves into pairs and work together on a project of our choosing to create a piece of art based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. I grabbed the best artist in my class to be my partner, and he agreed to my idea. While everyone else was making shadow boxes and dioramas, I rewrote the story so that it would be easier for small children to read while my project partner drew the illustrations.

We adapted it into a comic book. I wish I’d realized at the time what we were doing. I could have enjoyed feeling like we were “getting back” at the teacher in some way.

Recently, my husband has started re-reading the graphic novels in our house. Neither of us is a huge comic fan, but we love good stories wherever they are found. There are some stories I can’t imagine being told as well any other way.  The most interesting thing, to me, about my husband doing this is that he’s managing to read books at a reasonable pace this way.

My husband, you see, is a disabled Marine. He is in constant pain, and the medications he’s been prescribed only make the pain more tolerable. He has to lay down for a half hour or more several times throughout a day, and the medication makes it very easy for him to fall asleep within a few minutes of laying down. He loves to read! We sometimes joke about how marrying me means he got all my books, too. He can’t read if he can’t stay awake, though.

The graphic novel format is making it easier for him to stay awake while he’s laying down. Instead of a page full of print, he’s seeing the words in shorter blocks that are positioned in different places on a page, and there’s all those pictures! Any comic reader can tell you the pictures aren’t there just to look pretty. You’ll miss parts of the story if you don’t pay attention to the art. This seems to be keeping my husband’s brain more active and alert than reading pages of nothing other than text.

Let me be clear about this: My husband is not an unintelligent man. He is, without the pain and medication, perfectly capable of reading and comprehending works that even my ninth grade English teacher would have recognized as “real literature”. He’s disabled. Comics and graphic novels are allowing him to keep reading.

This is part of why organizations like the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund are important. Comics and graphic novels, and those who sell them, still get treated different than volumes of pure text. The genre is still treated like these works aren’t “real literature”, and therefore aren’t given the same protections in many cases. I have personally heard some people talk about mature comics and graphic novels as if there’s no reason for them to exist because they’re “inappropriate for children”, implying that only children should read comics.

I want this art protected from people who have closed their minds and want to force other’s minds shut, as well. I want the work of writers and artists to be respected as an important part of our culture. How much history would have been lost to us if it had not been for the stories and works of art that outlasted the cultures that gave birth to them? If we want future generations to see us as people who valued ideas and creativity, we have to give comics as much respect as we give other works.

I also want my husband to have books to read. And others like him. I don’t know if there are any organizations that focus getting comics and graphic novels for the disabled and hospitalized. If you know of any, please leave a comment. If there aren’t any, maybe there should be.