Copying a style

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This Easter, I wanted to make a card for my Mom.  She loves Beatrix Potter so I decided to at least approximate her art style.  Trying to copy another artist’s style, especially one that is very different from your own, can actually teach you a lot about process and even improve your normal work.

I began by choosing an image and analyzing the materials.

In this case, the painting was made with watercolor and fine ink pen.  The strokes were delicate and the effect pleasingly mottled.

I thought about using watercolor, but decided to use colored pencils instead so I could get a similar effect with less room for failure.  I used a combination of a brush pen and a very fine manga pen to at least partially approximate the original work.

I looked at how the lines were laid down, the weights, the way the shading was done.  I then decided which elements were important to keep and which weren’t.  I tried to copy the shapes, the line style, in what I did.

I also decided I didn’t want to deal with a background.  Even though I didn’t end up with a perfect copy, I still had fun – you may too if you try this.  It’s a great way to explore new techniques and materials.

 

 

Responsibility vs. helplessness – “It’s not my fault!”

 

So many people now are being taught to be helpless.  If you are unsure of what I’m talking about, consider this:  How many times do you hear people blaming others for anything and everything?  Whether it’s job loss, lack of a boyfriend or girlfriend, bad health, bad grades, being late to work, or whatever, it’s never anyone’s fault.  If you, like me, are immediately thinking of exceptions and reasons why, then this idea really deserves some thought.

When you think about it, it’s unhealthy to blame the rest of the world for things.  Not only that, but it leads to continued failure.  Have you seen the kids who get a participation prize whether they win or lose?  As the sting is taken away from the losers, the sting is taken away from the winners.  I know a girl who won a foot race.  She told her dad “it doesn’t matter, everyone got a trophy.”  It’s the same thing with life.  If we blame the world for our failures, who do we credit for our successes?

It’s a lot healthier to find the places we can take charge of our lives.  Instead of blaming traffic for being late to work, we leave earlier or check the traffic online.  Instead of blaming circumstance for our health, we exercise and eat better. What we can control, we do.  When we are in a bad relationship, we managed our own responses so we can deal with the other partner with a clear head.   Even though modern society seems to reject personal responsibility, we embrace it so we don’t have to be so storm-tossed and rudderless as everyone else.

The benefits of personal responsibility can be seen in all aspects of life – love, work, play, finance, health, relationships.  I think it’s useful to think about why personal responsibility is subtly undervalued.  Why would people want us to be so dependent on outside forces?  Could it be because we make better consumers when we feel helpless?  I know I have a lot of thinking to do in that direction.  I’m not perfect, but I have myself to thank for that, and myself to improve.  Even if the media keeps teaching me to blame others, and schooling, and my upbringing, I am a thinking being and I have a choice!

What shall I pass to the future?

 

I wrote this a couple years ago but it’s still very true.

My grandmother is ninety-three, and I am thirty-five, and my mother’s age is one I’ll not reveal, or she may thump me. As I get nearer to my thirty-sixth year I start to wonder what virtues, and habits, and passions will I pass down to future generations? Will I be yet another forgotten worker bee, part of the landscape? Or if I am remembered at all, will there be some bright spark that others might find good to see?

My grandmother still writes in a fine classical Palmer hand, in a style that predates the current D’Nealian version and was popularized in the late 1900s.  Until a week ago, I wrote in a not so fine and brutally pragmatic print hand. It was readable, but never had a pretense of elegance. Is this what I want to have when I am ninety-three? Or sixty, even? Will I rather have eighty or ninety years of practice writing in something that is not fair to look on, or fifty five years of practice in lovely penmanship? I know the choice I am making now.

The same goes for books. Will I tell future generations of the works of Shelley, and Tennyson, and Kipling, and Lafcadio Hearn, and Robert Heinlein, and Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle, and Shakespeare, and Samuel Clemens, and Miyamoto Musashi?  Or will the only books I know be Harry Potter, Star Trek or Star Wars novels, and modern fantasy? The website Project Gutenberg is a priceless portal to many immortal works from all around the world. It’s also free, which is rather important as well.

Will I start a Work of Noble Note? Will the others, in my generation, do the same? What will their choices be?

And what of you? I’ve covered two things I’d like to take to the future. What things from the past would you like to pass forward? What’s worthwhile to you? I’d love to hear it.

Funny and Strange Animal Names

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When I was little, maybe five or so, my folks wanted to get me a kitten. We found a nice little tortoise shell cat. When we were naming her, I had heard about a cat someone had named Ketchup. Wanting to be TOTALLY original, I decided to name her Mustard. I really liked Yoda too at the time (having only seen him on a library poster and heard of him from Star Wars books and the Star Wars radio program) so I decided to give her that name as a middle name. So it was that this cat was named Mustard Yoda Plassman. Shortly, her name was changed to Tractor Breath for her loud purr.

Then there’s the guinea pig (from the previous post) named Cosima Kix Butts Wagner.

And then there’s the cat who was named Will Tweedy but his nick name eventually morphed into Goozit.

And my floofy calico, named Cassiopeia Dawn, who is now either called Mouse or Nezumi (Japanese for Mouse). Oddly enough, she responds better to the Japanese version.

I named my first real pet, a goldfish, “Otis Spoffard.” Only I called it “Otis Spotford” because I didn’t read the name right. I named my green vine snake “Egon Spengler.” And my first guinea pig was “Amelia Earhart.”

Orion Midnight, my inimitable black furred buddy, was called Rat for his odd “raa” meow.

Usually we start with a fairly nice name but end up with all kinds of crazy nicknames. I think that’s fairly common.

Oddly enough, when Orion died, Mouse would sometimes meow like he did. She knew what happened to him as she was there, but it was plain she missed him. It was like she was using his signature meow as his name.

What kind of odd names have you found for your animal friends?

Cover Painting – Avatar

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I just completed this cover painting for the eBook I mentioned before.  I did this mostly with watercolors but also some supplemental colored pencil.  If anyone wants to know about the book, they can just go to the main Subversive Art site and there’s a dedicated page, or here’s a link to the blog entry.

Apparently, I’m a daredevil.

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I didn’t know this before, but apparently I’m incredibly brave!  I throw myself in the face of danger all the time.  Yes, it’s true.  I knowingly, and willingly, eat uncooked sprouts!

I’ll give you a minute for your heartrate to drop.  I don’t want to cause an MI, here.  But there’s more.  I also… eat eggs with runny yolks.  And I drive a car without side impact airbags so it’s not built a mile off the ground and still has decent visibility.

Not only that… but for my next death-defying act, I do all my own braking and shifting.  Every last bit!  By all the propaganda, I should be dead by now.

I think I’m going to need to be fitted for a spandex outfit.  What color do you think my cape should be?

Living at the Airport

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I lived at a regional airport for a year. A nice little place, two runways, some hangars, a terminal that saw only partial use, and only one regular commercial flight going in and out of it. I lived at the flight school where I’d had my first lesson. Why? I needed a place to stay after a stormy breakup with a roommate, and I was friends with the owner.

But what was it like? To me, it was heaven. The Department of Natural Resources Hueys spooling up every morning, the sound of turbines going by, the Fire Patrol birds going out in the morning, the fuel trucks driving by. Watching the flight museum’s P-51 Mustang roar by on Saturdays. I loved walking through the hangar in the morning and saying hi to the three mechanics. I could get up and take a flight in the mornings, using the time I earned working the Hertz desk on the weekends. I also did a lot of volunteer work at the flight museum nearby, helping with events and such. In fact, I soloed a plane before I ever soloed a car!

It was a good life, for a time, where I could just work and live and bank my rent money and spend time with flight students and mechanics.  Eventually I had to really learn to drive, and I bought a house, and I got all responsible and stuff.  I broke away from the owner of the flight school because of some serious irreconcilable differences.  I still treasure those airport memories even though they are bittersweet.