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Category Archives: Black and White Art

Being Thankful and Reviewing the 2012 “To Do” List

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving for those of us who live in the United States. I’m not sure the history of the holiday ever really mattered to me. We were told stories of the pilgrims and native people celebrating together, and I know I really got into the crafts and plays. I just always saw Thanksgiving as two things… one was the holiday I was told everyone was celebrating, and the other was what was actually going on at our house. The latter was the real Thanksgiving for me.

It hasn’t been the real Thanksgiving for me since my grandmother died, which was about eight years ago by now. She wasn’t a big eater, but she cooked and loved to feed her loved ones. I guess it’s because she grew up in a family with a lot of kids during the Great Depression. It seemed to make her someone who showed she loved you by doing things like feeding you, or buying you a book you wanted. She didn’t shower us with gifts non-stop, but she did a lot to quietly “take care of us” maybe a little more than we really needed. Thanksgiving and Christmas were something of a month-long celebration in my mind, and she and my mom were the driving forces.

My grandmother died just a few days before Thanksgiving the year we lost my grandfather in the spring.

Things change with time. My sister has children now. I’ve divorced and remarried. Pets have gone out of our lives, and different pets have come in. We still celebrate Thanksgiving. Christmas is different, too, but it does feel like a real Christmas. I’m trying to accept the new Thanksgiving.

In some ways, it’s not really a new Thanksgiving. It was always about family for me, right? My family may have changed some, but this is still a family holiday. And it is still a time to think about all the things I’m thankful for. I try to do that a little each day, but Thanksgiving reminds me to sit down and look at the bigger picture.

I’m thankful for my family. I am especially thankful for my sister’s kids. They are all still very young, but I am not exaggerating to say they are some of my favorite people.

I’m thankful for friends, even if they do tend to live way too far away. The Internet keeps us connected and makes being close while far apart possible in a way other generations would have been very thankful for. I have to remember not to take that for granted.

I’m thankful for the friends and family members who have supported my husband and me in getting  Craftypodes  started. It’s been difficult for me to make the change in my work, but I do believe it was the right decision.

I’m thankful for finally having a doctor who took my complaints about pain seriously, did the tests, diagnosed the arthritis, and is treating me. I still have more bad days than I want, but not as many as I was having… and not as bad! We’ve made some adjustments at home, and I don’t feel as knocked out by this as I did earlier in the year.

When life gets really frustrating and unhappy for me, I try to think of one thing I’m thankful for to balance one thing I’m aggravated about. I can’t erase all the pain in my life, but I choose not to let it dominate my life. I can at least look at it, acknowledge that it exists, and say, “But good still exists, too.”

Boris the Turkey

It is also time to look at my “To Do” list for this year. I’ll be writing next year’s list next month, and it’s late enough in 2012 that my remaining projects for the year are already in progress. If it’s on the list and hasn’t been done by now, it’s just not happening this year.

Do a fabric design on Spoonflower.

I did this! In fact, I did two designs. There is a feathery fabric and floral fabric Both are black and white fabric designs.
Find out more about how Storybird works.

I did this and found out it wasn’t really for me. I still think it looks like a great idea… just not for what I had in mind at the time.

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.

The exact way I wanted to do this wasn’t possible, but I did link all the front pages to each other, as well as getting the designs categorized better by adding Positive Space.

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

I’m still not revealing yet what this collaboration is, but progress was made! When I said “fairly long-term”, that means “a couple of years”.

Finish any three things on my Ideas and Inspiration list.

This did not happen. I’m not unhappy about it, though. Making the switch from drawing to crochet as my work meant making a lot of other changes, too. The Ideas and Inspiration list has been going through some revisions. I’ll talk about that more when I write the 2013 “To Do” list.

Put together a calender in time for 2013.

This is the only thing on the list that did not happen and I’m not okay with it. Even with all the other changes this year, I still wanted to do this. While I’ve been able to make adjustments to keep crocheting even when I’m in mild pain, I couldn’t make similar adjustments to my workspace and tools for drawing. It’s very frustrating to feel the arthritis took this away from me. With the treatment I’m getting, though, I’m not giving up on this. I will be carrying it over to my list for next year.

Not everything on the list worked out the way I wanted it to, but I can look at it now and see that I accomplished more of my goals for the year than I thought! I’m glad I made the list. I’m thankful for being able to share it with all of you to keep myself accountable. I’m thankful for your support  through this year.

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Skulls, Zombies, Witches, and Monsters!

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

— H.P. Lovecraft

It’s almost time for Halloween! Some folks enjoy playing dress-up. Others enjoy the wild feel of Halloween night. Some people just love to decorate their house, going from haunted graveyards at Halloween to the biggest light show on the block at Christmas.

Some part of us still recognizes that this is when the year truly ends… not when the calender runs out, but when the Earth settles down for a long nap. Unless, of course, you live in a climate where winter never really comes or the seasons run the other way.

Collectively, this is when we drag our fears out of the shadows, give them form and name the demons, band together against what might be a creaky board or might be an angry ghost, and try to banish as many of them as we can for another year.

I admit to asserting dominance over my fears by taking all the “scary” out of them once I’ve given them form. Cuddly monsters can’t do much harm.

Pretty Little Monster, by Craftypodes

Pretty Little Monster is part whatever Brobee from “Yo Gabba Gabba” is, and part Little Miss and Mr. Men from the books for children. She’s currently available from the Craftypodes shop.

Knitted Kitties

Also available in the shop – Have you seen the knitted kitties Mr. Knitter is making? They are adorable! I’ve made my fair share of dolls, and even I get excited when he finishes one of these. I’m trying to talk him into kitting a full battalion of them once Christmas projects are finished. The orange and black cats are sold separately in the shop, but they do look fantastic together. They’re stuffed with soft stuffing, but the bottoms are weighted a bit so you can set them on a desk or shelf and they won’t fall over.

While I have been focused on getting Craftypodes going for a good chunk of this year, I have not taken any of my other work down. Pieces that were available in the past are still available for purchase.
Zombie Portrait Poster / Print

The portrait of Annabelle the Zombie is available on a variety of products from my Everyday Myth store.

Witches Stitches MugWitches Stitches H.A.G. Mug
Everyday Myth is also where you’ll find the Witches Stitches goodies. They are available on a variety of products, and there are two designs to choose from. One advertises the services of the fictional Witches Stitches – poppets, curse-stitching, and quilt binding. The other proudly proclaims that Witches Stitches is part of the H.A.G. Guild (Handmade Arcane Goods). Just a bit of crafting humor.

I’ve never actually done any Halloween skull pieces, but the Day of the Dead – Día de los Muertos – does follow Halloween, and the sugar skulls I’ve done become very popular around this time.
Sugar Skull Poster

This bright, colorful sugar skull has been available for a few years now, but I’m seeing more sales this year for my black and white skulls.
La Bella Muerte Poster La Bella Muerte II Print

Black on white, or white on black, “La Bella Muerte” is one of my favorite pieces. It’s diffuclt to describe what the process of creating it was like for me emotionally, but there was something beautiful about getting lost in the details of the work and then stepping back to see what I had created. Both versions are available from Positive Space. You can find the black on white options here. Or go here if white on black is your preference.

Whether it’s a mug from a witches’ shop to drink something hot from on chilly mornings, or a cuddly monster to help you fight back whatever is going bump in the night, make sure you’ve got what you need before the end of October. It’s a long night, even if all you face is an endless stream of trick-or-treaters at your door.

Broken Tools

Very often, my hands hurt.

Not just a little stiffness or ache that a little rest and hand massage will fix. No, this is a pain deep inside my hands. Or maybe on the surface. Perhaps both. That’s the trouble… it reaches a point where I can’t tell you exactly where it hurts, just that it does and I want it to stop! It’s a warm pain in the joints, like if you go for an MRI and they tell you the contrast may cause a warm sensation. That warm feeling can feel like a wave passing over and through you. I get a very similar warmth just lingering in my painful joints of my hands. That’s not even counting the feeling of hot needles stabbing at the joints.

None of that helps me get my work done. And there has been some trouble with doctors. Back and forth with general practitioners and specialists… a lot of boring, frustrating details. The good news is that some progress is being made! The bad news is that’s only been true for one day. Not much progress gets made in one day.

My hands are my tools. It’s likely my tools are broken. We’re looking at arthritis, but the question is which type. It’ll take some time to find that out, and possibly to get me to another doctor if it’s not a type my current doctor can treat. And even treatment can take some time to work. But I’m not ready to throw my broken tools out, or say I can’t do the job with them anymore.

I may work slower. On days that I can work, I may choose not to draw or crochet at all. There’s a life to be lived that is my source of inspiration for my creations! I don’t want to get so focused on the bucket I carry that I forget to go back to the well where I fill it.

I’m in the middle of crocheting things for Craftypodes, the Etsy shop my husband and I have opened together. (You can find Craftypodes on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter.)

I have mushrooms to finish painting.

I’ve added some work to Positive Space. The above picture is one of the Kindle cases I’ve added. You can find more of those at Everyday Myth, including my Alice in Wonderland-inspired work.

The Kindle cases make me think of drawing on book covers.

There’s also a section in Positive Space now for products with the art from my black and white floral fabric There’s a part of me that really wants to take one of the notebooks and color the cover with markers.

I have not forgotten that I have a request to fill for some new gift tag designs this year, but one of the people who requested that has also requested a crocheted gift for her birthday and I need to fill that request first. Whether I can get around to everything else I want to do or not, requests from my sister’s children make me very happy!

Maybe my tools aren’t really broken, but they are worn down to the point where I need to be careful with them until they can be repaired. If only hands could be replaced like pencils and yarn! I know there’s something of value for me to carry out of this experience. I just haven’t found it yet. It may be something I don’t realize until years down the road when I say, “Remember when my hands hurt so much for a while…”

Enjoy what’s available now. I promise there will be more. I just can’t promise when.

 

Black and White Fabric now available through Spoonflower!

Updated with pictures of fabric swatches!

One of the bigger projects on my 2012 “To Do” list is done!

I shared this picture through social networks just as the Easter holiday weekend was starting and said I’d have an announcement about it this week:

Sneak peek of the floral fabric design.

That’s a sample view of the black and white floral fabric, and there’s also an abstract design inspired by feathers.

Yes, I said I would do a (singular) design this year, but it turned into two before I was finished.

Spoonflower has quite a few options for fabric with varying prices. If you’d like to test a piece for quality before committing to a larger purchase, you can order a small test swatch for $5.00. I’ve ordered a test swatch from them before. It’s an 8 inch X 8 inch swatch, which isn’t big enough to make much from but does allow you to see how things print and even run it through the wash and put it under an iron.

Both designs were done with quilters in mind, and one of the fabric options is Kona brand cotton. I can imagine a lot of uses for the floral design, though, and I’m sure someone more creative with fabric than I am could come up with a whole list of projects for the feathery design!

You can find the black and white flowers here, and the abstract feathery fabric here on Spoonflower.

Update!

My fabric swatches arrived in the mail today, so I’m updating this post to add pictures of the designs printed on fabric. I chose the Kona brand Premium Quilting Weight Cotton for my swatches. I think the photos give a decent view of how smooth the lines print, but the lighting and my camera make the color just a little off.  The fabric is pure white. The black lines aren’t jet black, but they do not look what I would call “faded” at all. It’s more like a soft black that doesn’t jump out at you too much but is definitely black. I’d say you could put this fabric in a project with other fabrics without it dominating everything, nor would it look faded and “blah”. As the artist, I am very pleased with the results!  The feathery design especially looks even better on the fabric than on the website.


Black and White Flowers on Spoonflower

Feathery fabric on Spoonflower

 

Positive Space

Life can be really hard. Sometimes it’s filled with seemingly insurmountable challenges and crushing pain, physically and mentally. For some people, it’s a series of problems that would be annoyances individually, but they all pile up on top of each other and become a heavier load than the person can carry. And some people just aren’t able to handle the occasional challenge very well because they generally have a smooth road to travel and aren’t prepared when a challenge pops up. (It may be difficult to feel sympathy for those people at times, but think of it as the mental and emotional equivalent to having never developed a resistance to common germs.) Life can seem like all the space has been filled with negativity.

Creating positive space in our lives is an important part of our physical, mental, and emotional health. If we can’t create enough positive space to push all the negativity out then we at least need to create enough to have a safe harbor for ourselves. That’s part of what my art does for me. It’s a way to create pockets of positive space in my life. The winter has not been kind to my health. We’ve had a string of things going wrong since the new year started. It’s normal for me to face issues with depression in the winter. Somehow, I seem to have handled it all better this winter than I have before. I think it’s because my reaction to all these problems has been, “I need to go draw something.”

This post on Keitharsis really struck a chord with me.

I can’t name one perfectly content Creative who is producing major work.  Can you?

Most of us are running away from something.

Or running to something.

Or needing to prove something.

We’re incomplete.

We’re complicated.

We’re hypocrites.

We doubt.

We care.

And I don’t think this is something we can (or should) purge from our lives.

Quite the opposite.

I think it’s what makes us real and human.

As an artist, I’m not just creating visual images. I’m creating positive space in my own life and, hopefully, the lives of others.

In art, “positive space” and “negative space” aren’t emotional concepts. Positive space is where there are “things” in a piece. Something fills this area. Negative space is the empty space between things. Both are important, and how one balances the two has a major impact on the finished work. They may not be emotional concepts, but in some ways they are very much like the positive and negative space in our lives.

I’ve talked before about how important my black and white work has become at this point in my life, and how much I feel I have to learn from it. It creates positive space in my life. I also get more feedback on those pieces than the other work I do. (I appreciate all the feedback. I just can’t help noticing when some things get more response than others.) I’ve moved the products with black and white work on them out of the store they were in and put them in their own place.

Welcome to Positive Space!

I’ll try not to change the storefront too much as I clean it up. The categories under “Browse this Store” on the right hand side of the page are very handy for narrowing down what you’re looking at.

Since this post is about creating positive space in life, I’d like to point something out about the pillows like the one pictured above. You can find them at Positive Space, and also at Everyday Myth. I will also be adding cloth napkins, placemats, and kitchen towels. These products are manufactured by a company called American Mojo. You can read their mission statement by clicking on that link.

They are helping single mothers hold a job to support themselves and their children. I have personally known women (not always single moms, but also mothers in households that desperately needed two incomes) who have faced the problem of finding a job that would pay for more than just the childcare needed so they could go to work. American Mojo understands how the childcare costs hurdle can make it almost impossible for a lot of single mothers to provide for their children.

By creating a place where mothers can take home more of their pay, they are creating positive space in the lives of these families and giving these mothers the tools they need to create positive space in their own homes and the lives of their children. I’m really happy to be able to put my work on products made by them.

A Little Love

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Many people don’t like the holiday. It’s not much fun to see everyone else gushing on and on about how in love they are when you’re not in a relationship, even if you’re generally happy that way the rest of the year. Love isn’t just about romantic love, though, and Valentine’s Day cards and gifts are often given to a variety of people in our lives who are so near and dear to us that we consider them “someone I love”.

My Patchwork Heart is available mostly on small gifts. Things like stickers, keychains, magnets, and mugs.  These aren’t particularly romantic gifts, and are appropriate for giving to everyone from your mother to a teacher.

This is a design won in Zazzle necklace design contest last year, and it is available as a necklace, but between you and me I’ve always liked it more as a shirt and a mug.

The Many Languages of Love design is available on a variety of products, including tote bags, aprons, and keepsake gift boxes.

This postcard has been one of my more popular products for the past few years. I made the piece available on a few other products, but only when it would fit well. You can get it as a necklace, postage stamp, magnet, or mousepad, as well still being available as a postcard. It can be a romantic gift, but also makes an appropriate gift for a mother or grandmother.

And if you do want to tell a special someone just how much they mean to you, but you’re not really a “flowers and teddy bears” couple…

The mug has “You fill my life meter” written on it. I suggest the “morphing mug” option (which is what I’ve set the default to, but you can certainly change it before ordering if you’d rather not have it)  so that the design appears and your life meter fills as the mug is filled with a hot drink.

 

Don’t give in to the idea that Valentine’s Day is either a holiday full of chocolate and roses, or a day you avoid all human contact. Spread a little love in your own way!

Lessons from the Sketchbook

I am slowly filling pages in my sketchbook. I never really know what a page will look like before it is finished. That’s part of what I enjoy about doing it. I lose myself in drawing each line, not worrying about the one before it or the next to come. It’s so relaxing that it can be like taking a nap without falling asleep.

Some pages turn out better than others. I’ve given myself permission to experiment within the pages of the book with things that I have no clue if it’ll work out well or not.  There is a page I did with purple, red, green, and blue ink. The rainbow effect wasn’t quite what I had hoped for, and I’m not very happy with it. I didn’t tear the page out, though. It is part of my ink and paper experiment and belongs in the book.

I think this one turned out better. I decided to try again with splashes of color added to a finished drawing.

Sketchbook piece with splashes of color.

I do wish I had a yellow pen. I would have traded brown for yellow.

I’m learning that I can be a lot more patient than I ever thought I could be. Several people have commented on the level of detail in a recently completed drawing that spans two pages of the book. It wasn’t particularly difficult to draw, but it was a big time investment.

Sketchbook piece spanning two pages.

There are at least two errors in that one, and quite a few lines I wish I’d drawn smoother or angled better. Learning to make mistakes is part of the process, though. Eliminating errors to improve the quality of one’s work is important. If the fear of mistakes stops a person from trying anything new, however, learning to make mistakes has to come before learning to eliminate them. You don’t get better at something by not doing it.

I have a few black and white projects to work on this year outside of the sketchbook. I am looking forward to each and every one of them. As much as I love color, I think a lot of my growth – as an artist and a person – is happening in black and white right now.

Pen and Ink – A New Experience

I work with digital tools. In some ways, it’s the same skills artists who work in traditional media use. In other ways, it’s a very different skillset. I couldn’t tell you anything about mixing paints or prepping a canvas, but I can tell you about RGB vs CMYK and working in layers.

Ah… layers! I use them as a bit of a crutch. When I’m unsure about something, I simply draw it on a new layer in Photoshop. If it doesn’t look right, I can erase it without disturbing the work I’ve already done. That may sound like a very sensible thing to do. It is, really. But it has also become a crutch for me. I haven’t been pushing myself to improve (an artist should always be growing and improving) because I know I can just erase things if I need to.

I recently started reading Sustainably Creative, the website of Michael Nobbs. I’ve found a lot of inspiration there, and started thinking about sketchbooks. I had a Moleskine  several years ago that I used for writing. They are very good quality books, and there’s something very comforting about them. The outside is so ordinary… anything could be between those plain, black covers! The inside becomes something of a treasure box because that’s where all the good stuff is.

I got a Moleskine sketchbook and started looking at what other artists do with their sketchbooks. I started following a few more artists on Twitter to keep up with new sketchbook pieces they do. I’m very interested in The Sketchbook Project and hoping to commit myself to participating in the next one!

So what am I doing with my sketchbook? I’m using it in those moments when I only have two or three minutes to draw. I’m also finding myself wanting to set aside a block of time to do more drawing in it. I’m enjoying the feel of working with ink and paper. There are no second chances. I either need to take the time to draw the line correctly, or I have to make the result work no matter what it looks like.

First drawing in my sketchbook.
It’s a bit like life. If a line doesn’t curve exactly as I meant it to, or the angle isn’t quite what I wanted, I don’t get to undo and redo it. I can take the time to draw the best line possible, but other things may get in the way. The cat may jump up where I am suddenly, throwing off my focus or knocking my hand to the side. A knock at the door or ring of the phone may startle me. I can go back and do something to “fix” it. I can make the mistake blend in, or I can change what I’m drawing in that area so that it’s no longer a mistake and just becomes part of the pattern. But I can’t go back in time and undo what happened. I can’t change the fact that it is no longer what I originally intended for it to be. Sometimes, I wouldn’t want to change it. Some accidents might just be the universe turning you around when you were headed the wrong way and didn’t know it.

I think this is an experience I need. It’s smaller scale work than I usually do. It puts my focus on the basics… line weight, shape, positive and negative space. Even I’m not sure how a page will look until it is finished, and I look forward to having a book filled with these drawings one day.

Second drawing in my sketchbook.

La Bella Muerte

I declared the start of Zombie Season several weeks ago. Oh, sure… zombies are there all year long, just waiting until you relax so they can eat your brain. The closer it gets to Halloween, though, the more I think about zombies.

I’ve been working on a zombie portrait. I needed to take a break from it, but I didn’t want to let my focus stray too far from the Halloween season. No problem! I’d just draw a nice, creepy skull. Like zombies, I think about them more around Halloween but they stay popular year-round with some folks. What I ended up with isn’t exactly a creepy Halloween skull.

La Bella Muerte by K. Martinez

I love working in this style! It’s very relaxing. My usual way of working is to either have the house quiet or put on instrumental music. I have trouble focusing on words that I’m hearing as well as the piece I’m working on. When I work in this style, I can let my mind rest. It’s a good time to put on some music with vocals or listen to a podcast. I get lost in the repetitive patterns and nearly always end up surprised by just how things turn out in the end.

I saw early on with this piece that it could be a bit like the sugar skulls for Día de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead. It’s an observance that has never played a significant role in my life, but I see a lot of beauty in the traditions. I can also see this piece as being something like a tribal mask, but it’s the sugar skull inspiration that really resonates with me so I’ve titled the piece La Bella Muerte – the beautiful death.

The “black on white” isn’t going to work for everyone. I know some of you will insist that a skull should be white. I was thinking of you! This piece is available as either “black on white” or “white on dark”. I say “dark” because the backgrounds can be customized in many cases, so you might choose navy blue or a rich dark green. You won’t find all the same options in both cases, but most things are available with either choice. I try not to judge what people may or may not want to buy my work on. At the same time, I don’t want to put it on something where it just doesn’t fit well.

La Bella Muerte is available as prints from both Society6 and Fine Art America. I encourage folks to look at pieces on Fine Art America even if you’re not looking to buy or if the prices there are a bit high for you. I like the square-by-square full resolution previews they have. It’s fun to get a close view of different areas in a piece.

You can also find this piece in my Black and White Art gallery on RedBubble. Both versions are available as prints, cards, and on shirts. The “black on white” option is also available as a die-cut sticker

Both versions of La Bella Muerte are availble from Graphic Content by Rosa Amarilla on a variety of items. Mugs, postage stamps, cards, shirts, iPhone cases, necklaces, keychains… there are a lot of choices! If nothing else, stop by to see the picture of my cat at the top of the page. She’s investigating the mug with art she was the model for on it.

Patchwork Heart Art now on Heart Shaped Sticker

Zazzle has added stickers in some new shapes. They’ve had basic round stickers for quite some time now, but the heart shape is one of the new options. That means my Patchwork Heart doodle art is now available on a heart shaped sticker! Just click the picture to go directly to the sticker.