I have decided I want a t-shirt that says, "The world is badly written, and I just need to edit it!" Seriously, I am so tired of supposedly professional materials that are misspelled, ungrammatical, and poorly phrased. Not to mention grad students and profs who can't construct a decent paragraph.
tummy rub


For most of this year, my cat Spot has had some kind of mystery IBD-like problem that makes him get very skinny, have explosions at both ends, and have trouble subsisting on anything but a hideously expensive hypo-allergenic prescription-only catfood. However, his favorite food is still chicken and turkey, and it is one food he was still interested in on a few occasions when he got worse and refused to eat anything else. For some reason he really likes the lunchmeat version, even over meat taken directly from a cooked bird. REALLY likes. To the point that I usually have to shut him out of the room if I want to eat a chicken sandwich. Otherwise, what I see is this:

Give me the sammitch, human. You are getting sleeepy...

Plus there's a lot of frantic mewling.

He's also really helpful with paperwork. Here he is on hold with Moda for me.

Helpful cat is helping

He's a really sweet boy. One way or another, I am doing my best to make sure he sticks around as long as possible.

Further tangles

After all the previous doodles, in December I decided I wanted to do some that were a little more complex/ challenging (something I hadn't been able to handle for a while). I also wanted to do something different with the background. Me and my bright ideas... The contorted clouds in this one seemed to take forever. But I like the result very much.
I'm amused that this one, an attempt to vary the curvy and flowy tendencies, ended up looking a lot like heavy metal album art. I had a hard time keeping the dark pigment dust out of the light areas and vice versa, and the paper began to get overworked from all that 'scrubbing'. Turns out this paper does have an eventual limit of how much pressure it can handle, though it takes a while to get there.
This one is a bit different, and I love its exuberance: a Scythian-esque fish, amid Celtic-esque waves. I was stumped for a long time on what to do in the background that wouldn't get overly busy and compete with the waves. Finally I found a color scheme that was muted enough to work, partly inspired by rediscovering pre-Raphaelite/ symbolist artist John Duncan. I atypically kept the strokes in the sky loose, not fully blended, to make it more energetic and ethereal. Although the waves are mostly saturated, there too I avoided taking it to the ultimate polish, because I didn't want to lose the vigor and spontaneity of the colors. It's also a good break from my default color scheme.

All these were done with mostly Prismacolor brand pencils, on Stillman and Burn gamma series paper.

(In general, this medium photographs really poorly. I get truer color using flash, but then I end up with unwanted shine on the glossy surface. The fish photo is unsatisfactory in that regard, but still the best image I have, and the edging of the top one should be a darker blue.)

Every time I use this technique, I find myself wondering why I do it--why spend so much time building up layer after layer to achieve full color saturation, when I could just squeeze brilliant red or deep blue right out of a paint tube? Plus it's MUCH easier to cover mistakes and restore highlights in acrylics than in colored pencil, which requires more strategic forethought, reserving the lightest areas and laying in the darkest ones cautiously. But working with a pencil or pen has always seemed much more intuitive to me than working with a brush. Sure, I can do good stuff with a brush, but the color rendering just seems to take more mental translation. Also, pencils are extremely consistent: x pencil used at x pressure gives the same color every time. Paint has a lot more variables: how thick or dilute, ambient temp/humidity affecting drying time, proportions used in mixtures, amount of paint on the brush, shape and material of the brush, how absorbent the surface is, whether the layers and strokes blend or stay distinct, etc.

Above all, what I have finally realized is that I use this technique because I enjoy it, even when it seems to take forever and makes my hand hurt. The very fact of going over and over an area is part of what I like about it... getting the enjoyment of creating a shape not just once but repeatedly, making it emerge almost sculpturally from the page. It allows me to savor the creation, like slowly unwrapping a present or sipping a delicious drink instead of gulping it. Because it goes gradually, it is also less likely to abruptly go wrong. And although pencils are predictable, there is still a certain amount of mystery in determining what layers to lightly apply so that the right color and texture will emerge when the final burnishing blends them all together. It's the kind of enjoyment many people get from a crossword or sudoku, except at the end, I get a drawing!

Still, I do have a tendency to lose interest at the very end, when the discovery is past and it's just a matter of filling in all the last unwanted spots of white paper. These were all started in the winter and then ignored for a while, so when I got fired up about drawing again in March and April, I decided I should finish them before I started something new.

A network of lines that enlace

My creative output in the past three years has been woefully low, for reasons which boil down to 'chronic pain and depression suck'. However, at one point in 2013 when I wanted to play with color but didn't feel up to drawing something representational or meaningful, I started playing with my colored pencils and created a sort of dimensionally rendered knotwork. It has become my equivalent of the 'coloring books for grownups' craze that's sweeping the nation right now. It works on a nonverbal, hand-mind level that I find pleasing and soothing, and there's no expectations, so it's completely unpressured. I make the initial shapes in a very improv, unplanned way, because the whole point is not to be perfectionist about it.

It started with this page, where I was also testing out a new sketchbook, the Stillman & Birn Gamma series. They're pricey, but luckily I got a free one through work. Of all the MANY sketchbooks I've owned over the years, this has the most superb paper! It's cushy, strong, with just the right amount of texture to hold a lot of colored pencil layers but not break up the color, and handles my heavy-pressure burnishing technique like a dream. In the 'chinese amoeba' (lower right), I also tested out a new miniscule stick eraser by Tombow--truly the smallest eraser out there, and I love it! I used it to 'carve out' the outlines, then went over the lightened areas with a lighter blue.

That was fun, so I did another one with the erased-outline technique:

Later I did a bit of acanthus (lighter pressure)...

...And so on.

I just kept doing them when the occasional urge struck. The next batch is from 2014. This is one of my favorites for some reason... a more Renaissance feel.

This knot got a bit awkward... it seems like the strands are fighting rather than interlacing! I also experimented with a less uniform background, but as ever, I prefer a more evenly saturated look.

These are from 2015...

Left to my own devices, I gravitate to the same color schemes of fire colors (red/orange/yellow) or warm earth colors + intense blues, so here I tried to push myself in different directions...

...I loathe the color combo in this, and yet, in a kind of psychedelic way, it works!

Happily, this year has already been going a LOT better artistically (and in other ways), and I will post the more recent stuff as soon as I get some decent photos.

Library Snapshots

Having dropped off my car for new tires and adjustments, I had a couple hours to kill downtown, so I went to peruse the library. There I encountered the following:

1. A Tyrolean hiker, or at least someone in that outfit, definitely travel-worn: green felt hat with floral band, peasant blouse, suspenders, lederhosen, white stockings, obviously well-used pack. Also a slightly non-Tyrolean collapsible shopping cart in tow.

2. A black-haired woman in full "pirate wench" costume: very low-cut black and magenta bustier, puffy white blouse, rucked-up black lace skirt over pantaloons and boots, feathered tricorne, etc. Just going about her downtown pirate affairs, like you do...

3. As I was looking at a display window, a very small girl dashed up to me and said, "Haven't I seen you here before?" I didn't recognize her, but was so bemused by the off the wall question and adult phrasing that I simply said, "Maybe!" Her mom called her, and she dashed off.

Oh Eugene, how you do amuse me...

Alternate alternate realities

Wow, is this thing dusty... words still escape me (where is that butterfly net?), so let's start with some pictures from the latest Oregon Country Fair...

Having accessioned several former parking lots, the ever-evolving Fair amoeba (you certainly can't call it an '8' anymore) oozed into a lovely new area with lots of open space and many delights devoted purely to fun, beauty, and relaxation...

Giant prayer wheels made from metal storage drums, attractively housed...

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How 'bout them kumquats?

Sing it, sister!

Michele A. Roberts, a lawyer in Washington, will become the first woman to lead a major North American professional sports union (the NBA). Some inspiring quotes:

“I bet you can tell I’m a woman, and I suspect the rest of the world can, too. My past is littered with the bones of men who were foolish enough to think I was someone they could sleep on.”

“I don’t live my life saying, ‘What ceiling am I going to crack tomorrow?’ What I have done, and what I tell my nieces to do, is not to worry about whether you’re the only one, but worry about whether you’re the best one.”