Saturday, November 27, 2010

Linoleum - Not Just For Floors

I had initially thought that I'd do a water color painting for the one holiday card that I'm sure to send (thanks again to Susie at Useless Beauty Designs for hosting the swap!) but I made the mistake of telling people that I'd be making this card for my swap partner.

And now other people want one.  People that like to think that I care about them and think that a small little something in the mail would be such a lovely way of expressing that, don't you think, and really if you're already making one....


The thing is, despite my whining, I would very much like to be the with-it, have my stuff together sort of adult who can manage to send out a few holiday cards.  After all, these people are my friends and I really do like them, and enjoy making things for them.  It really shouldn't be such a burden.  And yet every year I put it off again and again until I realize that it's January and hey, maybe I should make a resolution of it.  Not that I ever keep the rest of them.*

This year I'm determined.  I will make holiday cards, I will send them out before the end of December and I will be a with-it, have my stuff together sort of adult.  In this one aspect, at least.

But I'm certainly not doing an individual painting on each of them, because if being an adult means giving up on being completely lazy then I want no part of it.

Having prints done would be the obvious solution, but that's one more step between making the cards and sending the cards which ups the chances that I'll be sitting here January 3rd, look over and see the painting and then hit my head repeatedly on the table for once again being a failure.  As this would likely cause brain damage and I really don't need that I've opted to go the linoleum print route.  Print making in the comfort of my stretch pants!  I really couldn't ask for anything better.

Of course, I haven't done linoleum carving in about ten years but really.  It's like riding a bike, I'm sure.**

Firstly, the image.  For this one, I chose a simple armadillo motif and copied him (a wee bit smaller) onto a piece of paper.  Through the magic of technology you can of course re-size your chosen image (if you're not winging it) as you see fit but again with the lazy, so I didn't.


I feel I should point out that he is rather tiny and not for the cards so much as an attempt to remember how the hell this works.

Onward.  I've gone over my pencil lines to make sure they're nice and dark so that they'll transfer.  Image goes onto the linoleum block and with a good rub there should now be an armadillo on the block.  Now, I've never been able to have a nice clean transfer though I hear some people can manage it.  But even if it comes out like this:

A little less armadillo-y.

Never fear.  Filling in the gaps is quick work.

Much better.

And now the carving.  I usually do the big bits, then come in with my smallest blade to do the detail work. Also, slowly and gently, cutting away a little bit at a time because like with a lot of things taking away is easier than adding.  Since I want the background white here, I spent an extra bit of time with the largest blade cutting away the block until the background was well below the central image.

Not pictured: the fit I had when I nicked his ear.

Note to self: dots are way harder than you remembered.  Should probably avoid those in the future.

And now I give it a test run.  Ink up the brayer (thinner is better, here.  Gloopy brayers are no one's friend) and give it a roll onto the carving.  I've never been good at placing the paper down on the block, so I cheat and put the block onto the paper and flip it over.  This has ended badly before, but it didn't this time so I think I'll continue with my bad habits.

This time around, since Mr. Armadillo is about an inch and a half square and I was using a spare bit of rice paper for extra absorbency I was able to get away with just using my thumb to rub the paper onto the block.  Sometimes this will work, most of the time it won't.  There's a fancy tool for this called a baren, but I usually use the bottom of a glass.  Fancy tools are for sissies!  Or possibly professionals. 

Lift up the paper to check it out:

Two!  Two armadillos, ahahaha.

Some of the detail work was lost (spots!  Damn you for being difficult) and I missed a few ridges on the back ground.  So, the stamp gets rinsed off, and I get back to carving.

Round two:

Spots, why you gotta hate?

He could be better, but for a first run I think I'm satisfied.  I've learned my lesson about spots and I think when I'm working on a larger scale it'll be a little easier.  At the very least I'll worry less about slipping with the cutter and taking a gouge of finger instead of linoleum.  Of course now that I've said that....

*  'Become coy sex kitten' has been on the top of my resolution list for about 7 years now.  Mater, don't make that face, it really means cut back on the excessive flailing and not talk at length about Doctor Who at fancy grown-up parties.  Possibly learn ballroom dance and brush my hair on a regular basis.

**  I've never managed to learn how to ride a bike, all attempts have ended in tragedy and bodily harm.  So, I rather hope it's not anything like that.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Science, A Word Please.

I love living in the future, don't get me wrong.  But not gonna lie, there have been some disappointments.  I mean, jet packs aren't widely available nor are flying cars.  I may be able to have a Roomba to vacuum for me, but I'd rather have Rosie from the Jetsons.  This is only marginally assuaged by being able to carry the internet in my pocket and rarely getting lost because the car knows where it's going (for the most part) now.

But I think I've come up with a way for Science to make it up to me that I'm not currently writing this from Moon Base 37.

Penny and Bianca, two of our fosters, are in the full swing of the 3 AM crazies.  Every night.  Every night they entertain themselves by thundering around the bedroom and are really making way too much noise given their actual mass.  I compared them to tiny elephants.  And then it struck me: tiny elephants!

I want a tiny elephant. If we can make goats that produce spider silk in their milk and if I could manage to make glow in the dark bacteria in my 'Biology for Non-Science Majors' course when I was 19 surely we can get on making exotic pocket pets.

I rather imagine it would go something like this:

Walks are very important for your elephant's health.

Once you start thinking about tiny exotic animals your mind will reel at the possibilities.  Can you imagine having a whale small enough to keep in a fish tank?  Sign me up for that, please.

You can already buy brine shrimp at the pet store.

When telling Pater of my cunning plan he said that he'd rather have saber tooth house cats.  I can see the appeal, and it would probably be more feasible than my dream tiny elephant.

Tuxedo markings - the classiest cat coloring.

So just a heads up, Science.  You're on notice.  Start making my dreams come true.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Heh, filled.

I was once having a conversation with a good friend about our respective cases of ennui.  Unfortunately, another person was a part of this conversation.  I know that sounds awful but the meaning of that statement will become clear, I promise.

So, we're riffing off of each other, adding various activities to the list of things for which we can simply find no inspiration.

Painting (her)
Drawing (me.  I've always been absolutely crap at painting.)
School work (her.  As you can see this conversation took place a few years ago.)
Making supposedly clever comics about my life (me.  I was never a very good student.)
Writing (her)

Yes, writing!  I agreed.  I so enjoy the physical act of writing- I'm not so much an author as I am a graphomaniac.  I couldn't care less what it is that I'm actually writing on the page, there is a profound joy in putting a well-balanced pen to well-made paper for me.  She didn't agree with this notion, being an actual Proper Writer, she didn't care if she was using a ten cent Bic on a napkin, but we could both commiserate on the drying up of the well of inspiration in regards to a mutual hobby.  Even if we came at it from very different viewpoints.

It was at this point that the third party made a rather lovely statement about not waiting for inspiration, about seeking new experiences to defeat this languishing boredom that was more than boredom.  Unfortunately, he ended his point with the statement, "If you're not fulfilled now then you just need to go out and get filled."

Personality tidbit:  I have the sense of humor of a twelve year old boy.  It's one of those things I was hoping I'd grow out of, but I think at this point it's safe to say that if I haven't by now I won't.  So, of course, the only thing I took away from the conversation was, 'heeeee, need to get filled.  That could possibly be referring to sex and that titillates me.  Heeeee, titillate.'

The point of this story is to talk about NaNoWriMo.  I've been participating in NaNo for seven years now with varied success, if you measure it by the usual metric of writing 50,000 words.  And I have to admit, I feel a bit like an impostor.  Because I still throw my hat into the novel in a month ring for two reasons: 1) the physical act of writing is so satisfying 2) my local group is comprised of lovely people and I enjoy seeing them.  The majority of people I know who participate are actual Proper Writers that have a story to tell.  I have long since let go of the delusion that I am a Proper Writer.

If I were saying this in front of my parents Pater would interject at this point to say that I'm a very good writer (despite not reading any of my fiction since I was about twelve) and Mater would say, 'I think your blog is funny.'  Bless.

NaNo's been a bit different for me this year (as much of it as there's been.)  I'm returning to a world I established in a previous NaNo novel.  I would call it a sequel, but I think I ought to finish the first one before I go saying it's a series.  And while I've struggled in years past to come up with something to fill the page, this year is like coming home.  I've been able to produce more words (not readable words, mind you, refer to the part where I said I was a pretty crap author.) than ever in the amount of time that I've had.  Writing this story is like coming home.  I already know who everyone is and what it is they're meant to be doing.  It's a bit like fanfic.  Yeah, I said it.

I wish that someone who made it a habit of writing stories that spanned multiple novels had told me how fun this is.  Of course, maybe Proper Writers don't think that continuing the story they have to tell is at all easy.  I don't know.  But I hope the momentum keeps up.  At this rate I may actually have a completed story by the end of the month as opposed to hitting my word count and saying 'well, fuck off then,' to the plot that had been sustaining me through thirty glorious days of writing*.  Maybe then I might have a work of fiction that, with a serious amount of editing, might be called decent.  It's been a while.  Since I was, oh, about twelve.

So this post isn't all ramblings about the ~creative process~ have a picture of the notebook I've been using this month.  I think it's super cute, even if they are Royal typewriters.  My Underwood would be so offended if it were, you know, sentient and capable of caring.

Color capture fail!

 While I'm at it, I cannot recommend the Lamy Al-Star enough, even if you aren't a fountain pen enthusiast.  It's all right if you aren't, I may not understand but I've come to realize that not getting giddy every time a new pen catalog comes in the mail is the normal state of being.  I bought one a few years ago to use as an everyday knockabout pen that I could keep in my purse without worrying about it being damaged and I haven't been disappointed.  It's an easy and reliable writer, though the medium nib can be a bit wet with some inks.  Currently using the fine nib with Private Reserves' Chocolat and it's delightful.  A combination I come back to again and again.

Right.  I'd better get back to the so-called novel.  I want to hit 18k before heading to bed.

*It feels strange saying this because November is generally a month of endless whining.  My story isn't going anywhere.  My characters are stupid and I want them to die, but then I won't hit my word count.  I say I don't care about the plot, but maybe if I cared a little less I wouldn't be plagued with writers' block nearly as often.