Monday, January 28, 2013

DIY Art Tools: A Glass Palette

Taking part-time classes at school when I'm not eligible for any form of grant is a costly scenario. Add on the fact my income scenario is rather unique, the amount of usable revenue I have is severely constrained. It means a tight budget and creative improvisation are mandatory in my scenario. Tuition is the real beast but school supplies are a constant trickle of expenditures. My current priority is to obtain a palette to mix paints upon and I will need it within the next few weeks.

Okay, so no big deal you'd think. Run out and buy a decent paint palette. Since cash is a problem, purchasing one of the ready-made quality palettes isn't likely the best option for me. How about buying a cheap plastic palette? I could, but the recommendation from the instructor is to use a glass palette. The reason being is because of cleaning and mixing issues. We'll be using acrylic paints in my class so a wood palette is pretty much a no-go due to the fact wood is porous and will be hard to clean. Plastic, while cheap, light and mostly unbreakable if dropped, does not hold up against the business end of a scrapping razor. And since acrylics dry quickly, expect to be doing some serious scrapping on the palette. So, ash-can the idea of a cheap plastic palette. That leaves us with glass. Non-porous and inert, glass is a real street-fighter capable of standing up against a  razor blade. But most everything has an Achilles heel and for glass, it's breakage. If a glass palette is dropped, unlike plastic or wood, expect some jagged-edged clean up on aisle three. Still, it's the best choice considering the circumstances.

With the choices whittled down to glass, I started looking at the available options. The instructor had mentioned a way to construct our own which I will dive into in a moment. Nonetheless, I wanted to look at what the art supply stores offered. A trip to the local art watering hole yielded rough costs ranging anywhere from 25 to 40 dollars for a glass palette. Not exactly my idea of cheap. So I decided to pursue the DIY angle. The instructor mentioned using a pane of glass with several layers of masking tap around the border to limit the sharpness of the edges. A workable idea. But never satisfied with a single option, I took a deep dive mission into the ether of the Internet looking for more ideas. Someone suggested adding a layer of Styrofoam backer beneath the glass. The advantage being the white background helps a person see the paints easier. Yep, that's s step in the right direction but I don't like the idea of using standard glass for two reasons: even with the tape, those edges are still sharp enough to cut through while my other concern is the fact the glass isn't tempered nor is it safety glass. Time for more digging. There has to be something out there I can re-purpose.

Eventually, I turned up a viable option: a kitchen cutting board made from glass. Formed out of tempered glass, it is fairly strong. Of course, it isn't safety glass, but it's a step above a regular glass pane which will crack relatively easily. Tempered glass is about ten times stronger so it should stand up to a few minor bumps so long as it doesn't fall to the floor or experience a similar catastrophic incident. A few more minutes searching turned up details about a glass cutting board carried at one of the local Bed, Bath & Beyond stores which is a couple miles from my house.

Measuring in at 12 x 15 inches (30.5 x 38.1 cm), the board is manageable for transporting to and from class. It's not huge, but it has enough surface to allow mixing a number of paints before running out of space. It's functionally comparable to the other rectangular glass palettes I found locally and online. There are some glass palettes that have a thumb hole. Some people claim it is best to avoid palettes you grasp with your hand because a brush and a palette knife are more important to hold. Personally, I don't have enough experience yet to declare my opinion one way or another so I'll go with the hands-free palette choice for now.

Looking for more details, I checked the website data on the cutting board which noted it was tempered, unbreakable glass. Unbreakable? Well, that's debatable advertising hype in my opinion and is non-relevant as such. The board having rounded edges is a given because of the nature of a cutting board so I won't need to tape the edges. Additionally, one side of the glass is smooth while the other is rougher. Not a problem, I can use the smooth side. One last thing to think about was the fact this board had the feet on the smooth side. But since the glue is usually easy to remove, I'll simply peel off the feet and place them on the rough side. And best of all, instead of a thirty dollar price tag, the board cost seven dollars and sixty five cents with tax included. Satisfied with the details, I ran up and grabbed one this afternoon.

Removing the feet is a straight forward task. A razor blade can be slid between the rubber and the glass so long as a person is careful. To reattach the feet to the other side, I'm going to try Dap Strongstik simply because I have a tube on hand that I used for an earlier repair project. It's says it bonds to glass but there is no indication about plastics or rubber. I'll have to exercise care because some substances can fundamentally melt plastics or rubber. Either way, if the feet don't stick or become causalities of hungry adhesive, it's only a minor inconvenience. Mostly, I want the feet to act as a cushion for the glass when I set it down on a surface.

One other thing, when I reattach the feet, I will leave enough space to place a piece of paper in between. That will allow me to tape different types of backgrounds below to help with visualizing how a color will look when applied to a given surface. Of course, the rough side of the glass will have an impact on this but I'm not going for visual perfection on being able to see the background. It's mostly a convenience factor.

In the end, it simply reinforces the fact that problems can be resolved in many different ways. Buying an item expressly manufactured for the task at hand isn't always necessary and can be more costly at times. A little research on the Internet can provide detailed accounts of how other people have approached the same problem. And if that fails, you can usually find how a similar problem in a different domain was solved. Ultimately, DIY is about problem solving: recognize the form of the problem, search out something similar that has already been solved, then apply the relevant aspects of a technique to solve the problem by making adaptions and changes as necessary. In this case, a cutting board solves the problem with little work other than research and a bit of gluing.

Update: and here's a picture of the art palette in active service. The paints scrape off the surface nicely and it's about the right size to work with. I have a fair mount of room to mix different colors on before I have to stop and clean off space.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Urban Art

Every time I turn around, I hear about a war on this or a war on that in America. And graffiti is no exception to the rule. While it's understandable that the vandalism from tagging is problematic, there are forms of unsanctioned graffiti and urban street art which are quite fascinating to me. It's fluid in nature. It springs up from nothing and can return back into nothing equally as quickly. Yet it has an impact, even if only to incite people to curse youth without realizing there are potentially more forces at work when it comes to street art. Mind you, when I say street art, I'm talking about creative works meant to cause people to stop and think, not the tags done for the sake of vandalism. The vandalism-style scrawled tags are done for different reasons. While both forms are a statement to society: true street art seeks to make the viewer question and challenge the boundaries, while the hastily done tags are vandals testing boundaries. The latter not seeking to use visual appealing content to make us question something deeper, but rather a means of expressing an internal anger by the perpetrator using a recognizable, antagonizing form.

Let's take a look at several different walls from a parking lot in the University district. I snapped this photos with my cellphone so don't expect high quality. Nor did I seek out anything specific. I merely found some works I believe were  planned. At least to me, this is an organized scenario. Although I'm still puzzling my brain to determine if the spelling of "die" was used rather than "dye" intentionally. Nonetheless, this is a unique artwork. Even if a person views the subject matter as creepy or lacking in color, it says something. One aspect I would like to point out is the section of concrete and curb beneath the wall. Notice how grungy it is? Now think about the wall remaining untouched. Do you think it would be even remotely clean? Or would it be covered in greenish grunge like the curb? The artist(s) certainly couldn't work on a surface that hadn't been properly prepped, and prepping means cleaning. In the least, the wall received some maintenance it might never have received otherwise.

Let's take a look at another one of the walls. This one is a combination of artwork along with vandalism. The vandalism detracts from the obvious humor of booze and smokes being hand in hand, waving to those passing by. We can also see a definite change in style from the shaded, dimensional work of the joined duo to the scrawling style of haste defacing the sign. Note the tow sign which is being defaced. Half warning, half advertisement, it is a seemingly ubiquitous presence whether we like it or not. More specifically, how are billboards that radically different from graffiti? Both serve to make us think about something but one is legal due to rental agreements providing a sound reason for its existence, while the other is considered unacceptable by the general community even though they may both the be within close proximity of each other. Not that my argument is defend-able, but it seems interesting that an advertising company can bombard us with materials, while street art is considered a rogue. Let me ask a simple question. Think about this for a moment and try not to slip into a it's the way things are mindset when pondering. Try thinking about it in a abstract sense, as if you were living in a world that does not let money dictate everything. Would you rather see billboards for auto insurance and towing company notices adorning this wall? Or does a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of booze fit in here? Even with the detracting scribbles present, I know which one I prefer hands down. We live in a world of reality where money seems to be the one universal language everyone understands. Because I pay my mortgage just like everyone else who wants to own a house, it provides some proof I'm not living in some fantasy world. Yet I can easily see value in non-commissioned street art. How about you?

While it is easy to argue we live in a world that must be based on money, I think it does us well to leave room for the child within our mind a chance to play. Letting urban artists have backdrops they can use, including walls and the occasional building wall for larger murals, serves to inspire fringe parts of the community. If we go all Scrooge-like and have squat, four sided buildings painted with the cheapest possible paint, where is the joy? Yes, it's efficient. No, it is not a pleasure to behold. It's the Guggenheim museums and the Space Needles make us pause and think there is more to life than just letting some cost cutting principles dictate our way of life until we're too old to be of value. Okay, I'll reel myself back in here. But I think there is room for playfulness in our communities.

I do not condone destructive tagging nor do I think well of it. But carefully planned street art can be a wonderful addition to an otherwise mundane setting. In the case of graffiti with a more intricate design such as the photo I've shown here, while it's open to debate by many about its value, I think it adds something of value to a dull setting that would otherwise be unnoticed. Were it not for the graffiti, the cement wall would have been a wasted opportunity of weather-worn grey conformity.

To that end, it's interesting how the echelons of city government declare a unilateral war upon what they consider decay and a crime against society. All the while, urban guerrillas fight back with their spray cans and nozzles showing how people have something to say. Sometimes surprisingly complex forms of expressions such as sculptors or large scale coordinated placement of propaganda-like posters appear, clever works of the urban art guerrillas. It's easy to say, "All graffiti is vandalism. Arrest the perpetrators and fine them.” But let's stop and think about this from the other side of the fence. If someone creates an artistic form and installs it somewhere without permission, why would they do that? The more involved the piece, the more effort, cost and time it takes for someone to plan and execute. Why would a person squander their own money and time to do such a thing if there wasn't something they wanted the local community to think about? Again, let me stress, I'm talking about carefully thought out works of art, not unplanned sprawling threads of paint that fundamentally say, "Don't ignore me you chumps."

Most of us realize how precious time is. For many, there is a sense of slaving throughout the day. At times, there is a sense of having our bones ground to dust in some moldy office where people bicker and engage in power struggles. Throughout my working career, I've watched people express their unhappiness with their work. How many people do you think would come home and with their few precious free hours, plan a campaign to post fake political posters throughout key parts of the city with the intent of observing the reaction from passers-by? Or take time to sketch out an idea for a project that will enhance a storm drain grate with painted teeth, eyes and a cigar meant to make people laugh? Or does apathy make some come home, sit down, have a beer or six only to say, “I don't care, just leave me alone while I escape my thoughts of the daily grind for a few hours”?

Basically, what I'm saying is a well thought out artwork installation, regardless of whether it is sanctioned or not, indicates something of deeper value is involved. It's not defacing for the sake of defacing. For that matter, I find tastefully done creations aesthetically pleasing when they pop up in a residential neighborhood – even if that neighborhood is my own. Why? Because consistency and drab surroundings drain the life from me much in the same way a 9 to 5 job can grind my bones into that dry, lifeless dust I mentioned earlier. Of course I'm not talking about waking up one morning to find a mural painted on my garage or a tag on my truck door (the latter has happened so I know about vandalism). But I wouldn't object if I stepped outside and found the storm drain grate on my corner painted with something humorous. Clearly there is some level of caution involved. I realize not everyone likes “different”. It's the reason covenants and home owners associations exist. Nonetheless, my radical line of thinking accepts small, temporary and tastefully done art installations that appear with or without official sanctioning. Of course, the installation must not interfere with the primary functions of the make-shift canvas.

What it comes down to is the not crossing the fine line where a work becomes something that angers people by being too invasive in nature. It's about making them stop, look and pull out their cameras to say, “Look at this, isn't it kind of funky?” when they post the shot on Facebook. It's a fine line which is all too easy to cross into the wrong territory with. But I do not relent on my stance. Breaking the rules at very specific times has value. Personally, I gain value in those scenarios when someone steps out side the conventional box in the way urban guerrilla artists do it.

So what's my point? I think art can and should invade more aspects of our life. I enjoy having it challenge my ways of thinking as well as making me question my day to day routines.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Inhumanity: What Warrants Death?

My typical morning starts with a quick browse through the international news. It's not always a pleasant experience because the news is frequently focused on troubling matters. This morning was no different as I read through an article about a middle aged woman who is being sentenced to death for transporting drugs. Even after I factored out the issue of foreign relations strains (one country executing a person who is a citizen of another country), I find the situation troubling. This quote from the article in The Independent bothered me excessively:
A judge on the Indonesian island of Bali, said June Sandiford, a 56-year-old woman, originally from Teeside, had cared little for the ramifications of her actions and that she had damaged the island’s reputation as a tourist idyl.
The bolded text is my doing as it is a point I would like to elaborate upon. Is a damaged reputation a worthy reason to execute a fellow human being? I understand that Indonesia is predominantly Muslim and as such, blasphemy can and will be punishable by death. But the statement seems to indicate the Island of Bali had its reputation tarnished as a tourist attraction. There is no indication any issue of blasphemy was being raised. This implies to me it is about finances, not about religion.

And before any accuses me of saying, "She's a grandmother so she deserves less punishment," that is far from the case. I don't believe traffickers should receive a death sentence regardless of age, gender or culture. She broke the law and needs to go through a form of correction. But I don't agree that death is appropriate correction. It may serve as deterrent but I sharply disagree with that methodology.

My thoughts in regards to a foreign situation are moot since I'm an outsider. Regardless, it won't stop me from stating my opinion about what I consider as an unreasonable action. Inhumanity should be called out whenever a person sees it, regardless of whether others agree or even if retribution is a possibility. Furthermore, we should take action to prevent inhumanity when possible. We should think beyond our desire to enforce our principles. Clearly, principle is important but there are times to take other factors into consideration, especially when human life is involved. Rigidity breeds intolerance and intolerance is typically not a beneficial attribute in a modern globally-connected society.

Of course, speaking up and taking action does have it's consequences and we should be prepared. Making any form of commentary in public always has a remote chance it could create a controversy. And controversy can lead to a premature end of one's life as it is quite clear death threats are more than empty words when staunch supporters of a belief become involved. I realize my ability to impact the situation is highly unlikely. A blog post from an unknown in a sea of information will likely vanish but at least I have taken some form of action. Remaining silent when I shouldn't is one of the biggest regrets I carry within me.

My last observation revolves around the commentary the article received. I felt equally as troubled watching the threads degrade into “She's a criminal, criminals must be punished. She deserves whatever she gets because she broke the law.” This very same sentiment bubbles to the surface in the Aaron Swartz/MIT/JSTOR tragedy where people were declaring Swartz as deserving the outcome because he was a criminal. The lack of willingness to examine the circumstances surrounding his suicide are appalling to me. Why do we become so mired down in our need to triumph (even with our opinions) such that we call people bleeding hearts if they feel sympathy towards someone who committed a crime? Using that approach, no one other than oneself is allowed to have a voice. 

In my opinion, there's a deeper problem at the core of this scenario other than deciding the level punishment required for a 56 year old woman who was caught transporting drugs. Fighting about who is right and who is wrong is hollow in comparison when I think about June Sandiford sitting on death row. Rather, I believe we should look beyond our pride and into the more important issue of humanity: we should strive to resolve problems without extinguishing human life.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Setting up a Studio for Creating Art

When it comes to studio work areas, I'm always curious about how other people have outfitted their own arrangement. What type of tools do they keep on hand? How is everything organized. What kinds of optimizations have they introduced to help them work?

For that matter, I stumbled upon a book about some well-known (and not so well known) artists that describes their studios in detail. Since I only leafed through its pages in the bookstore, I don't recall the name but will track down the information and include it in this article at a later date.

Today, I'd like to talk about my work area. As a beginner, I'm sitting at ground-zero and can arrange my setup any way I see fit. Of course, without a lot of experience, I don't always know what is necessary and will have to learn as I go. No problem there as I'm handy and rework scenarios without to much grief. In fact, the main topic for this post is about reworking an existing layout in my re-purposed spare bedroom that is functioning as a studio. Specifically, the lighting had to be revisited.

Now before I dive into talking about the rework, one thing I'd like to mention a valuable tool I can't live without: an adjustable arm lamp. Being middle aged, my eyes don't quite work the way they did in the past. Around age forty, I started to become far-sighted. And by age 50, I see get the “fuzzies” when things are up close. I don't need that type of warm fuzzies but nature has its own pattern. Hooray for age! Not! My cursing of nature aside, effective lighting makes a huge difference on how well I can see. That means the right type of lights. While overhead lights provide light everywhere, they don't easily handle the need for intense light in a localized area. But an adjustable arm lamp provides it in just the right place when you need to work on different areas of a piece. In my case, I bought a quality quartz halogen around that magical 40 years time frame when my eyes only needed a little help. I'm glad I did because this little beast of a light is perfect. It isn't so big as to block the way, yet it has enough adjustable axis points to serve multiple purposes. Heck, it even functions as a light table when I need to check alignments between several sheets of paper.

In regards to the overhead lights, I'm a firm believer in overkill. Wire in more than you need because you can always turn them off. For my scenario, I had one center light which was augmented by a set of track lighting. The tracks formed a C-shape and were about half the distance from the center of the room to the edge of the walls. That configuration worked nicely before when the area was mostly used for computer contracting work. But now, I found the track lighting was working against me. Being positioned too far from the wall, it meant the lights shot over my back and cast a shadow onto my work tables. Not good. 

So I took the two free hours I had on Sunday night and rearranged the tracks into an L-shape that hugged closer to the wall. The results were much better. I was initially concerned I might have issues with the lights shining in my eyes. But after I fired up a pair of CFL flood lights, I was quite satisfied. No more shadow theater. As you can see in the photos, the lights cast down from slightly in front of me now and light up the work surface better. Well worth the effort.

I'll include more details as I begin to outfit my work area for things like an airbrush and other tools. Ultimately, I'll move the studio into my utility room in the back but there are constraints preventing that for now. Still, I don't mind needing to move everything later as the utility room has more natural light from a set of double glass sliding doors that lead to my deck. The setting in the utility feels more relaxed too simply because of the ability to see outside easier. More details to come. I also realize what I'm currently calling a studio is really only a space to work in. With the progression of time, I'll outfit it with the necessary materials and tools to paint, draw and do sculpting work. In other words, I will wisely use my time now to set up a studio so that when I move beyond the introductory art classes at school I can focus my energy on the creation of art.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Reaching Beyond Mediocrity

Why are introductory classes frequently considered boring? The rote processes certainly contribute to the tedious nature. Repetition, repetition, repetition: is it getting old yet? Well, keep going: repetition, repetition, repetition... Okay so we all understand how difficult it is to slog through.

Many claim value in the need for the repetition. It's only through doing that we learn and what better way? Well, that is true to some extent. Repetition and rigidity teaches the student about the workplace and its requirements. We aren't always allowed full freedom in how we carry out a task. Most often, a strict set of constraints are in place, be they financially driven or simply resource related. But even though there are rules we must follow, creativity doesn't have to be excluded from the process. Keeping the student's mind engaged is critical, otherwise one of the most exploitable opportunities available will be squandered: the ability to leverage the students curiosity.

As adults, we enroll in classes not because we have to, but because we want to learn. There is something we wish to achieve and we realize a class or group can help us grow in ways we can't as an individual. Having a student who is eager to learn is something I would hope an instructor latches onto and ends up pushing the student to their limits. Setting a high bar truly important. And there in lies two of my greatest concerns about taking class: the loss of motivation as well as succumbing to mediocrity.

The seed idea for an artistic garden bench 

Motivation can dwindle because of the limits placed upon the work. No usage of this and no usage of that. As I pointed out earlier, I understand the logic behind this as well as appreciate it. But it doesn't make it any easier when you want to spray cool graffiti images (legally) or make composite material benches from scratch. Yet it's the only way I will be able to make those creations so I must persevere. How? I try to think about that poured resin bench; how how I'll create the initial sculpture to make a casting-mold (pulling forth skills gained those horribly repetitive exercises). And how I'll creatively solve inserting the bent rebar inside the mold to give the bench rigidity. And let's not forget any form of glazing or coating it will need to protect it from the elements (knowledge gained while studying the composition and qualities of materials and how they interact in various situations).

Well, okay, so I've convinced myself that the bench is my carrot stick that will make me work with squares today. But what about tomorrow when I think about mediocrity. If we look at a typical classroom, many students are there because it is a core requirement for a degree. Simply put, they don't care about the subject and merely need to pass with sufficient grade to meet said requirement. As such, they only involved themselves to the extent that it is required. Few will take chances. Few will go for the stretch goals of achieving something above and beyond the class requirements. And what happens when you put people together? They establish a competitive bar. If a person is surrounded by others who are slacking, there is less motivation to work harder.

So how do we infect others with excitement to achieve when the material is anything but exciting? I don't know but I still try. One technique I use is to interactively speak my mind. I'll blurt things out about my opinion on some piece of art we are examining as well as ask the instructor detailed questions to help gain an understanding of why something is aesthetically pleasing. There are times I come off looking like a fool. I'll say what's on my mind and others will laugh or look at me with that, “Are you crazy?” look. It isn't easy, but still I try.

Without a doubt, there is a cost to being a risk taker in this manner. I earn my share of negative criticism. By stepping outside of the box and doing something different, people will question intensely, trying to provide reason why something should be unacceptable or disqualified. Sometimes it happens because people think we are bending the rules in unacceptable ways. It's not easy to defend against, but it's part of the criticism process so I deal with it the best I can. And yes, I have already encountered this by week two of my class. My choices for sketches earned at least one strong “Hey, wait, why can he do that?” response. I had to defend my reasoning as a result. I succeeded in that case, but it won't always be the case. There will be times my grades suffer from my reaching outside the rules. Still, it's something I think we should do to maximize our creativity as well as push others to think outside the box.

All in all, I don't have any answers to how to crawl through the mundane. I guess we simply do the best we can. By sharing my thoughts, hopefully others will gain something too as well as share how they approach the problems of coping with motivational loss as well as fighting urges of simply creating mediocrity rather than pushing higher, overcoming exhaustion or lethargic feelings.

Note: I would like to provide proper attribution for the photo but don't know who took it. Hopefully the original photographer understands and appreciates the fact I am using this to show the potential we create when we look at objects such as this pre-Colombian grain grinding stone in new ways.

Gun Map: Journalism or Propaganda?

Journalism and propaganda can appear as one and the same: a means to inform the public. The difference being, unbiased journalism presents information and allows the reader to decide their own interpretation while propaganda manipulates people into accepting a specific point of view. 

The gun map published by The Journal News stirred up a controversy. Recently, the dynamic gun map was taken down and replaced with a static image that no longer provided details about permit holders. 

Having seen the recent leaked raw data of NY pistol permit owners as well as examining the associated wording accompanying the document on pastebin, it's pretty clear the pastebin author is providing a hostile response to the gun map take-down.

Both of these scenarios motivate me to ask the question: which side of the journalism/propaganda divide do you think the gun map from "The Journal News" falls upon?

Or for that matter, does journalism have a responsibility to report without bias or is it acceptable to intentionally introduce wording or imagery to influence the reader?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Extracting Value From Negative Experiences

I was conversing with several friends on Facebook about how one of my articles that talks about the NGOKC blogger on Tumblr receives more search references than any other post. To be technically correct, the keywords associated with the article are the hot commodity, not the article. Specifically, it's the keywords related to a Tumblr blog that goes by the name “Nice Guys Of OkCupid”. While it is the most searched for related group of keywords on my blog and turns up in more than fifty percent of the entire range of queries, very few people click through to read the article. The most likely reason being they are looking for the actual NGOKC Tumblr blog rather than a post about the blogger.

During my grump session, er, conversation with my friends, I mentioned how negative as well as positive experience bring value to my life but I did not elaborate. And there in lies a problem. When we communicate informally, we don't always include sufficient context. It's the nature of casual conversation. We simply speak off the cuff and assume people will understand what we are thinking in our head. And as is to be expected, people will ask questions about what our mind filled in but didn't come out in words. It's a good reminder for me that when people don't understand what we are saying, in almost all cases, it isn't that they “don't get it,” but is the fact I didn't explain my internalized thinking adequately. Basically, it's far too easy to lay blame on everyone but ourselves.

My friend asked about my reasoning trying to clarify their understanding of what it was I was saying. I replied with a moderately lengthy comment, at least sizable for Facebook comments. My friend thought it would be good to share this in a more permanent location because the clarified response is an interesting read by itself. So here's my thoughts on how both positive and negative experiences in life impact us:

“Isabelle, am I taking shortcuts? My answer is an emphatic “No”. It's about perspective. We need more than one reference point to understand the bigger picture. By experiencing things "we" view as good or bad, it provides us with an ability to not only better appreciate what is good in our life, but to understand how other people might think or feel. Even our enemies have a reason for why they do what they do. It isn't until we experience hardship in its various forms that we began to see that. I'm not saying we will enjoy rough times but they do give us something to take away if we listen and pay attention.

Think about it this way, in my younger days, I would not have had enough experience to look at the NGOKC situation with anything other than what my mind would see as a clear cut situation: the NGOKC being evil, the men being victims. Today, I see it as a far more complex soup-mix. Most likely the NGOKC blogger has experienced something traumatic enough to make them express their pain. The men being targeted are not so different either. It's highly likely they have are frustrated with life because they don't understand why they feel powerless in the situation. Neither side is innocent, yet they aren't inherently evil either.

I also understand I can't get inside their [the NGOKC blogger or the men's] heads. I can speculate, but only they know the reasons why they act as they do. Since I don't know what has shaped their perspective, I have to rely on my life experiences to help me to see the situation in a more open minded way. Having had what I perceive as good and bad experiences leads to a form of empathy (not necessarily compassion, but understanding at least). Even experiences perceived as bad frequently have value because they help us understand the hardships of life—hardships shared with our fellow human beings.

Ultimately, to me, it's about realizing we're all struggling in a difficult world where competition is a part of survival. We are surrounded by chaos and we try to make sense of it. There can be organization, reason and even hope but we must expend effort to consciously work towards finding it. It won't come to us. I'm like everyone else, I'm simply trying to put myself into perspective in a picture so big I can't comprehend it all. I work my way through the cycle of life. I try, fail, live, love, lose and sometimes, I realize something that helps me become a better person.”

Essentially, the driving motivation for this emerged from my desire to allow others to disagree with my beliefs when it is done in a constructive manner. It isn't necessarily an attack on my beliefs. Rather, it's someone stating an alternate way of viewing something. Unfortunately, it's hard to not engage in a point-counterpoint approach because not only are we driven by a competitive nature, but society tends to train us to extinguish any opposition otherwise we are considered weak or non-confident. Not true. Confidence is knowing when to let someone else voice an argument. And hopefully, by allowing them to voice their opinion, we increase the possibility of learning something new ourselves.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A BAR in Every Bedroom

I'm going to say what I think regardless of whether it makes others happy or flies in the face of public opinion. It's a key part of what being an artist is about... saying what we think through our works. I'll be using the power of words today rather than images, but eventually I'll work this into some of my visual presentations so be prepared. Before anyone starts yelling at me for being an extremist or runs the other direction because this is considered an overly discussed topic, grant me the favor of a few minutes to develop a point. I'll  provide something beyond the surface topic that hopefully offers a way to think about controversial subjects differently. Keep in mind, the litmus-test technique I'm suggesting isn't pleasant or easy to do. Personally, I find the approach useful to test if I am being one track minded and refusing to think from the opposition's perspective about a given subject. I would ask that people don't become mired down in the political issue I bring up here. Try to think in an abstract and objective manner, at least for the moment. Okay, ready for the hammer to drop? Good. Let's dive in.

The latest flare up in the US is about banning weapons with the Sandy Hook incident being a tripping point for many. Going straight to the my concern, the reactions I'm observing from various political figures as well from individuals make me wonder if a mob-mentality is prevailing.

Take for instance New York's fast track passing of stricter regulations on weapons. The fact the regulation changes did not go through the required constitutional three day review process is deeply concerning to me. Reactions will be strong obviously such as Assemblyman Steve Katz's response: “Why are we being bullied into voting on this bill without our proper, responsible due diligence?” A fair question indeed.

Are we succumbing to seize the moment tactics where politicians push agendas by capitalizing upon emotional upheaval? Some will say it is necessary to make hard decisions because of lost lives. I agree that loss of life is horrible and there is no easy answer. Everyone will or has lost something regardless of the final outcome. It is scenarios like these where a sort of object litmus test might be valuable to help determine if a rational approach is being used. I say might because objectivity when death is involved is fundamentally impossible and it isn't always the appropriate choice. Sometimes urgency overrides the need for objectivity. But we're talking about the passing of law so maintaining objectivity isn't a detrimental factor in this situation.

Before we move on to discuss how I apply the litmus test, while I may seem like mild mannered Clark Kent, my beliefs can be quite fierce. As a result, I struggle to remain open-minded when I face hot-button topics. The belief I am about to present--which is about the possession of guns on the surface but more about using regulation to band-aid fix to manifestations of a problem rather than seek out the source--is contradictory to most everyone in that I am very “wild west” in regards to weapons. For that matter, I have no problem with a BAR (the Browning Automatic Rifle M1918, 30-06 which is pictured and was first built in 1917) being in every bedroom of every household. I've even looked into acquiring a modernized (but neutered) version of the venerable BAR since Ohio Oridinance Works, Inc has a semi-automatic version of the 1918A3 carries a replica. But between the high price and the high probability that it too, even as a semiautomatic, will become banned before long. Certainly it's clip will. Why would I want a BAR? It has nostalgic value to me because my father used one of these during World War II. Yes, World War II was a horrible event but since my father has passed away, I feel a need to connect with him, even if only through his discussions about military weaponry. I also realize he had no love for guns after his stint in the Army so it's my quirk to identify with the BAR, not his. Don't underestimate the impact of nostalgia when it is connected with the absence of someone we care about. Back on topic, fundamentally, my interpretation of the second amendment is that the ability to oust an unreasonable governing body can't be carried out with single-shot rifles or hobbled semi-automatics. As you can tell, I am very close-minded and dogmatic in my approach. It's a good reason to apply the litmus test to my thinking.

And now to the point. When controversy arises that strikes a nerve or rings excessively true, I begin to question whether or not it is touching upon beliefs that I hold more as dogma. At that point, it becomes wise for me to step back and rephrase the controversy so to speak. The example at hand is Mr. Cuomo's decision to bypass the constitutional requirements of a three day period to review the changes for the NY law change.

I'll give an absurd example of a litmus test. Why am I using something absurd? Because it removes the charged emotional connection I might have to an issue. This in turn improves the odds that I will be more objective in my evaluation of the charged situation when I think about it using the decoupled scenario. So let's replace the main subject of a weapons ban and replace it with something common. Hmm? How about cell phones. I can hear people already, “What the...? Why cell phones?” Well, they are a big part of many people's lives just like weapons have been and they are disconnected from the topic too which is helpful.

Let's say people are texting while driving. Truth be told, we know people do this and the outcome can result in accidents where innocent people suffer from a driver's lack of proper attention to the road. Again, remember, I'm setting up something that won't necessarily kick off a dogmatic reaction in myself which is partly why I settled upon a cellphone as the topic. Okay, now let's say insurance companies are angry because of rising costs so they demand action. Mr Cuomo reacts and enacts a fictitious and immediate ban on cell phone sales in NY. No one with a driver's license is allowed to purchase or possess a cellphone with texting capabilities. What do I think about the ban now? I look at my existing cellphone and it can text. Does it seem reasonable Mr. Cuomo has bypassed normal procedure to establish the law? To me, the answer is no but it isn't an intolerable action because even if I lose some rights, it might have a long term possibility of reducing our focus on weapons. Nonetheless, I will point out that review periods are in place for a reason: to allow hot topics to be discussed and considered rationally. I think Mr. Cuomo could have been tolerant of accepting the normal process. Bypassing constitutional procedures because of emotional anguish is a dangerous road to travel. If he ever does run for President or any office I have say about with a vote, I will take his current action of constitutional violation into deep consideration.

Clearly I'm comparing apples and oranges with my example of cellphones to guns, but it does demonstrate how we can step out of our existing way of thinking and look at something with an opposing viewpoint via substitution.

I'm not going to delve deeply into the right or wrong of Mr. Cuomo's or even the potential actions President Obama's might enact in regards to guns. I respect Mr. Cuomo for doing what he believes is right and taking bold action at that. Same goes true for President Obama, regardless of whether I agree with their stance on the matter. Equally as important, I hope I have made at least one person pause and think about the topic in a different light. If I have, my efforts to write this post were worthwhile. If not, at least I gave it the old college try.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Project Weasel: The Sliding Frame

It may have been a lost weekend doing homework, but I still managed to squeeze in time to work on my art easel. Late in the afternoon, I stepped outside and promptly shouted “brrr”. After expressing my dislike at the below freezing temperature, I grabbed my circular saw. Within minutes, I had the sliding parts for the frame cut out. Needless to say, I quickly returned back inside to put it together as well as warm up.

I managed to fabricate a sliding frame which is what you see in the picture. This is the part that will allow re-positioning the work area. Hey, who wants to bend over or stretch to reach the edges when you're working on a larger piece like a 36 x 48 inch canvas? Certainly not me. So I made this little contraption to move the art rather than force the artist to be Stretch Armstrong (any kid who grew up in the 70's can appreciate that reference). :D

The frame is made of 5/4 x 4 cedar. Sandwiched between the sections of cedar are a pair of heavy duty drawer sliders capable of 100 pound capacity and extendable to 24 inches. The front side of the frame is 3 feet for the vertical direction and is 2 feet in width for the horizontal direction. The back, which consists of the two extended pieces of cedar are 3 feet in length. The back pieces will either mount to the wall or another frame if I decide to include the ability to tilt the work surface.

There's a lot more to do so this is only the start. But at least it's progress.

Ready to read more about project weasel? The next post for the easel construction project can be found here.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Forty-Eight Shades of Grey

Express six words with four squares and what do you get? Forty-eight shades of grey that ain't sexy.

For my 2 dimensional design class, our assignment this week is to express the following words using four squares of various shades from white to black:
  • Congested
  • Playful
  • Increasing
  • Tension
  • Ordered
  • Bold
It's a tougher job than you might think. Especially if you don't fall back to using trivial first thoughts. Even if you kept up a blazing rate of one sketch every five minutes, it would take over four hours to complete this exercise. I hate to admit it, but I've already used four hours and I'm a little over half way through. Here's a picture of the mess I've made so far.

Another time around the block for me. Eighteen more sketches to go. Sigh. Shades of grey squares await. No sex-kittens with whips in these shades of grey either.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Give 'Em The Boot

Give 'em the boot... the reboot that is. Hooray for Microsoft--NOT! They, or rather the business rules Microsoft utilizes within Windows Update, rebooted my machine for the second time this week by pushing an update that popped up the “respond in 20 minutes or we'll force reboot” dialog.

I'd left my machine running over night to finish processing something. I assumed I was safe since a “Reboot Tuesday” already happened earlier this week. Boy was I wrong as I woke up and discovered my computer rebooting. This time I lost a sketch I had sitting in my drawing program (GIMP 2). I had gone to bed last night, tired from a hectic day and hadn't save it. I started my morning to: Grr!

Forget all those funky names like Windows 7 or Windows RT. None of them fit appropriately. Let's just call it what it is: Windows Rebooted (and rebooted ad infinitum).

Making a decision for a user is usually a huge no-no in the software design world but Microsoft knows better now don't they. Microsoft is using a mantra comparable to “Think of the children! If we don't apply patches, think of what they will be exposed to.”  That kind of ploy only goes so far with me and is overly abused to achieve an ulterior (benign or malicious) motivation. Look no further than the recent news with the furor over violence in the US. It seems we are more than happy to blame guns, video games and even "subversive" art rather than admit to our own flaws. Okay, I'll say no more about my beef with entities capitalizing on a tragedy and will return to the topic of forced reboots.

Speaking about the topic of making decisions for end-users, about five years ago, I had the opportunity to voice my opinion with one of the developers involved with the implementation of the forced reboot (as per default Update settings). It became clear the choice wasn't easy as the discussion stopped the moment I brought it up with a response something along the lines of "Don't even go there!" Obviously many others had voice similar complaints. Regardless, it was a controversial choice and one which I do not agree with.

Back on track again, my motto is save early, save often, otherwise accept the fact things will be lost if you allow Windows updates to download and apply automatically. As for me, I changed my Update settings to automatically download but prompt me for installation. For anyone with Windows who would like to modify their Update settings:

1) From the Start menu, select "Control Panel".
2) Click "System and Security"
3) Click "Windows Update"
4) In the left hand side of the window beneath the text "Control Panel Home", click "Change Settings".
5) Make changes as you see fit. I clicked on the "Important Updates" checkbox and selected "" in order to control when the patches are applied explicitly. The advantage is you will still receive the updates and Windows will notify you they are waiting. That allows applying them in a more controlled manner such that you are far less likely to experience an unplanned reboot.
6) Click the "OK" button to save your changes.
7) Feel some level of satisfaction knowing you re-exerted more of your right to have control.

Use care with your selection. Turning off automatic application of updates will expose you to risk if you don't apply the patches in a timely manner. Good judgement always applies.

At least this should limit my attack surface from unexpected Microsoft-driven reboots.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Project Weasel

Project Weasel : A Wall Easel

One of the things I've been thinking about is how to set up a backing surface to sketch, draw, as well as spray graffiti doodles onto. The room I am working in, the laundry room, does not have large amounts of open horizontal space so a drafting table can't be used. To compound the issue, of the two free spaces available, one is next to a doorway while the other is in front of the washer and dryer. I can't have a table edge protruding in either scenario we all know how something like that has a habit of hitting below the belt if we make a wrong turn. That leaves the option of a vertical-style easel. Typically, a traditional three-legged easel would be workable for most people. But considering my feet tend to kick things at the most inopportune times, I'd say a modification is in order. Time to think for a while.

After tossing a few ideas around in my head, I decided upon a wall mounted easel since it meets most of my requirements. The one drawback being I can't pull up close with a chair and work easily in front of it. But it's a trade-off I'm willing to accept. Besides, I can condense the name from wall easel to Weasel(C), making a clever association—at least in my opinion.

What I'm going to do with the upcoming series of posts is detail the process of building the Weasel. I realize wall easels are nothing new and there are models available for purchase. So am I doing this because I think I can build it cheaper? In the case of high-end models, yes if we only consider the raw materials costs. Some high-end models cost in excess of one thousand dollars. My costs would likely be around the one hundred dollar range give or take a little. A do-it-yourself rig provides a flexibility in tailoring the design to my own personal needs. And most importantly, it provides a sense of satisfaction from creating rather than buying.

Now that I have that issue out of the way, let's cover the major design goals. Some of my specifications will change as I discover what is or isn't feasible because of cost or time required for construction. But before we dive into basic requirements, here's a picture to serve as a reminder to everyone that when it comes to the tools I create, I focus on functionality over form.

The portable shower I made when the shower in the bathroom had major problems.

To me, tools serve as a means to achieve something and as such, I'll save the aesthetics for my art. Time to dive into the requirements.

The Details: (ZZZ time)

The basic design will allow adjustable movement of the painting surface in the vertical plane. This will allow for an easel board to be repositioned to a higher or lower position. A clamping mechanism will need to secure the position of the painting surface.

To make the device usable, the ability to adjust the vertical position of the artwork must be done with reasonable ease so as not to be more trouble than its worth. This implies a need to have all clamps adjustable without the use of special tools. Additionally, the artwork should retain its registration position and not require removal of the piece to change its vertical position.

Another feature I will consider is the ability to tilt the work surface forward or backward a small amount (20 degrees perhaps). Tilting allows flexibility with different media. For example, when an artist works with acrylic or oil based paints, the work surface is tilted backward (the bottom is closer the artist). If pastels or chalk based media is used, the work surface is tilted forward to allow the dust to fall away and not smudge across surface in an unwanted manner. For watercolors, which are a thinner media, the surface is placed closer to horizontal. While I might be able to allow for a forward or backward tilt, the horizontal surface might be a stretch. I'll consider it in my design though.

If time permits (which is not likely), I would also like the easel to incorporate a mechanism for positioning objects over the painting surface functioning independent of the easel's vertical movement plane (layer). The upper plane of movement (via a control arm) is for positioning an item over the painting surface and can serve as an armrest to prevent smearing the work. The control arm must have enough travel to be raised above the work surface to prevent obstruction when it is not needed.

Tilt requirements for different media:
Oil/Acrylic – tilt to the back
Watercolor (thin mediums) – require tilts closer to horizontal
Pastel – tilt to the front (to allow chalk dust to fall away).

End of the ZZZ nap.

With the core requirements in place, time to start creating my monster. My next post will provide details about the basic framework for attaching the unit to the wall. Expect a number of changes too as I learn what does and doesn't work. Considering I'm burning the candle at both ends currently, progress may be slow. Regardless, this should prove to be an entertaining exercise.

Ready to read more about project weasel? The next post for the easel construction project can be found here.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Girls Best Friend

Note: this article is associated to "Burn Nice Guys, Burn" and would probably be evidence used by the NGOKC blogger as well as Jezebel to flag me as not so nice. It is a two-part article I wrote on a dating site several years ago.

Part One: A Girls Best Friend

Sweet! It's lunch time at last! It's the second best time of the day right behind quittin' time as lunch time allows for an opportunity to mingle with the female wildlife at the ol' watering hole, er, cafeteria. Striding into the chow-hall, I twist and turn my thin physique as I work my way through the sea of bodies towards the microwave ovens. Feeling a bit like a salmon swimming upstream, I realize the only thing I truly share in common with those delicious fishies is that I'll eventually kick the bucket. As for finding a mate... well only the dice know that outcome and snake eyes seem to be my luck. “Hey, maybe today will be different” is what I tell myself.

As I round the corner to microwave alley, I notice an interesting looking girl idly waiting for her food to warm. She looks up briefly and makes eye contact with me. Instinctively, I tilt my head and hold eye contact. She senses danger as I see that look of fear in her eyes. Quickly, she reaches into her pocket and pulls out her Personal Defense System ™. No, I'm not talking about pepper spray or mace. I'm talking about the ubiquitous smartphone. In a flash, she buries her face in the screen as her expression says, "For God's sake, I have to find something to browse! Anything!" Her peripheral vision keeps a close watch to the side I'm on. While the watering hole has rules, wild animals are cautious none-the-less when around the opposite sex. As I pop my food in the oven, she swipes away at the screen, probably browsing for “101 Ways to Tell a Man Off With Style.”

Several minutes tick by as our food cooks. A number of other people pass by until one particular fella steps into the area, I see the girls eyes flit upwards. A look of relief appears on her face as she blatantly calls out to him in the “Hey, help me out here and just talk with me about anything!” way. Sigh! I've just experienced for the Nth+infinity time something the locals call the “Seattle Freeze”. Yes folks, it has a name. It's what some might call the cold shoulder. And it's a common occurrence here in the center of the “You ain't gonna date the likes of me!” universe.

Mind you, I understand that no one wants unwanted advances. But there's a big difference between unwanted advances and simply trying to see if there might be a possibility of coaxing a smile with benefits out of the opposite sex. And by benefits, I mean the, “Hey, you look interesting. Wanna get to know each other?” type of benny. But when a city has a name for the phenomenon such as the “Seattle Freeze”, it makes one question why it's even worth continuing to try. Human nature I guess. Still, those snake eyes turn up consistently. Not to mention all those annoying Personal Defense Systems ™. Sorry diamonds, looks like you've taken a backseat as a girl's best friend to the smartphone. And with that, I shall retire to bed alone as usual. Hah! At least there's a constant I can predict! :D

Part Two: In Case of Emergency, pull out Smartphone!

Doomed to repeat history as usual, I wander back to the ol' watering hole for another day of chasing wild critters. Rather than learning my lesson and eating at my desk, I continue to play with those six sided set of bones that have nothing but snake eyes on every side. Lunch time rolls around as I pick up my dice, er, lunch and head on over to Building A. I slide into the cafeteria and head on over to microwave alley.

A small herd of male and female zebras are clustered around the microwaves Safety in numbers ya know. The zebras glare before re-positioning themselves to ensure I can't approach the microwave. I kick back and lean against the wall as I wait. The herd clicks their tongues in a non-understandable dialect until a lone jaguar pads her way into the area. The herd shoots more glares at both her and I. Seems the zebras want to show the cat she's no more welcome at the pond than a spindly male lion. She and I patiently waits our turn as the zebras continue to pull food out of what must be magical sacks that are endlessly filled with containers of food. Bzzzzz go the microwaves as numerous containers continue to find their way into the ovens. Beep beep beep goes the ovens as the next course of food completes. Swap, bzzz, beep, glare! The swap and glare process continues as I lean over to the jaguar. I throw my dice by quietly saying,

“I'm half tempted to go up a floor and use the microwaves in the break area instead.”

The jaguar laughs and nods her head in agreement. Hah, maybe dem old bones turned up something other than snake eyes today. As time passes, the zebras complete cooking their ninety three course meals and the herd moves away. The jaguar and I quickly place our food in the ovens lest another herd of zebras arrive and block access to the microwaves again. Beep beep beep go the ovens as we set the time and power levels. Back to the wall for more waiting.

I think about making more idle conversation but she darts around the corner before I can. Must be going off to get eating utensils I speculate. A few minutes tick by as I wait for the food. Beep beep beep goes my microwave as my food completes first. Zing, the jaguar darts back around the corner. An expression of “Oh sh..! I made a mistake!” fills her face as she realizes her food is still cooking. She looks at me sheepishly as she stops, takes a step backward before pausing to think. Seems this female jaguar forgot to bring her Personal Protection Device ™, er, smartphone so it was fallback to plan number two... run and hide.

Snake eyes again!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Dog House of Doctor Parnassus

If I had a girlfriend right now, she'd be all like,

GF: “You're not starting another one of your Rube Goldberg projects again are you?”
Dale: “I am.”
GF: “You aren't going to make a huge mess again are you?”
Dale: “I will.”
GF: “If you start building that contraption, it's the dog house for you.”
Dale: “Woof woof.”

And so the madness begins. While what I'm building won't be interesting to anyone other than myself, the build process should prove entertaining enough. To kick off the project, I'm going to post a picture of its humble beginning.

I'll provide descriptive details in my next post and will continue to chronicle my progress as time passes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

You Art What You Eat

You art what you eat, er, I mean, you are what you eat. At least that's how an old saying goes. Well, if that's the case, I think I'll have a big bite of art. 

Sometimes it's useful to explore and look at what other artists are making rather than focus solely on creating our own works. Perhaps our creativity needs a kick in the pants. Or maybe we've just completed a major project and need to decompress.

Either way, browsing through the works shared by others is a great way to start our own mind thinking about new ideas. And so begins the hunt for Red October, er, for a pool of artistic sites to dive into.

Finding online galleries is fairly easy with the Internet. But sometimes simply due to the quantity of material available, its easy for a site to slip past our radar and go unnoticed.

With the thought of sharing in mind, I'm going to list a few of the sites I've discovered. While my link descriptions are terse and leave much to be desired in lavish wording, the sites I've listed are anything but. So don't judge a link by it's description, dive in and have some fun exploring.

Redbubble has a variety of content ranging from photography to paintings and sketches.

d'Art global arts community with considerable content available for purchase.

Artspan Contemporary Art  contains links to individual galleries.

artist|rising artworks for sale.

WetCanvas - focuses on the art of painting.

1x – a site with a focus on photography.

20X200 – Art for sale.

Imagekind – a site filled with content for sale from original artists.

Etsy – contains a wide variety of content such as paintings, jewelry and glass works.

Artspace – colorful, bright and full of content from worldwide.

TheWholeNine – community for artists to share more than content.

Pixdaus - a site where individuals can submit photos for voting review.

DeviantArt – artwork from a broad cross-section including works for beginners to more advanced artists.

DrawnShadows -Rick Moore has a unique style that touches upon deeper emotions such as the expression of fear.

Fine Art Amercia - beautiful art for sale. The first piece I looked at on FAA had a gorgeous palette.

Hopefully you found this list interesting or helpful. And if I have missed a site you think is pivotal to the arts society, let me know and I'll check into adding a link. Now let's get out there and enjoy exploring as well as creating.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Year of the Phoenix

We unleash the potential to be creative visionaries when we move beyond the boundaries of our own fears.
With the arrival of a new year, we have the opportunity to plan goals to improve our life in positive ways. Setting major and minor goals helps us break free from the stagnation of complacency and provides the opportunity to grow. Don't just think about goals, take action to move toward them even if it means facing uncertainty. And equally as important, let's be supportive to our inner circle of family and friends. We can help each other move forward toward our goals. As an individual we're strong, but as a team we can be unstoppable. Just remember, each and every new year we transition into is a winner in the making.

Looking back at last year, I experienced many changes including a chaotic and unexpected exit from my previous job. On the surface, unexpected changes like a loss of income appear to offer nothing of value. But like the phoenix bird, in every fiery ending is the makings of a new beginning. And something new has arisen from the ashes in the form of an independent contract. While my ability to sustain myself financially will require extreme resourcefulness, the flexibility of the scenario opened a door I've been trying to unlock for the last few years. The change opened up the opportunity to enroll at one of the local community colleges. I've already mapped out a long-term goal which is to complete a transfer degree in Fine Arts to use as a springboard to enter UW. For me, social collaboration in the artistic field is equally as important as working alone. School provides that opportunity so I'm taking it. Change is not only on the horizon, it's here and I'm charging straight into its core.

So here's to the ups and downs the new year will brings us. It isn't always easy so let's face it together. And I, for one, am grateful to have the opportunity to tackle those ups and downs with a wonderful circle of friends. Happy New Year!