Jan 232015

The cats are well aware they are not supposed to be on the dining table.
Oz, misbehaving.
The arrows on the right side of the photo show the TWO motion-activated air bottles protecting our terrarium. They’re not exactly aimed to protect the other stuff. And, Oz is the best at sneaking past the air bottles.

Friday wants more attention.
I interpreted Friday’s look to mean that she wanted more attention. After some petting and chit chat, I promised I’d put her picture up on Feline Friday, too – can’t have Oz taking all the blogspace.

Jan 202015

Now that I’m slowly (very slowly – snails are passing me by with a tentacle flip!) gathering items into my workshop from the many places they’ve been scattered about, I’m noticing I have a thing for zip pouches. They’re practical, they keep like things together, somewhat protected, and they don’t rattle the contents around like pencil boxes do. Usually each one has a specific-purpose set of tools and a specific location to live. I keep sketchbooks everywhere I spend time: my computer desk, the sofa, at work, and the workshop. Some only come out for special trips, like the watercolor pencils that I use solely for onsite sketching. Some are simply to increase privacy, like my daily book. That one that holds chapsticks does so merely to keep The Captain from turning the little sticks into toys. And, frankly, that ugly magenta bag is keeping items from shaking off the nearby sewing machine while working with Gretchen.

So, for those who like this sort of thing, here are all the zip pouches, with contents, that were in my house. I didn’t get the ones from work or my car, but this is plenty to look at for now.

Most of my zip pouches and their contents

  1. Drawing: miniature paintbrushes, tortilions, Pentel GraphGear 500 in .03, eraser, Staedtler pencils, Faber-Castell PITT and Sakura Pigma Micron markers and pens, kneaded eraser (in plastic wrap),snap-off razor.
  2. Ink sketching: Derwent Inktense, General’s sketch & wash pencils, Sharpie, Faber-Castell PITT, sharpener, itsy binding clip, emergency brushes.
  3. Line drawing & paste-ups: Sakura Pigma Micron in many thicknesses, mech pencil, Aleene’s tacky glue stick, itsy binding clip, small scissors, sharpener.
  4. Sewing catch-all: Olfa small wheel rotary cutter (non-fave) pink and black button tins, cotton Madeira thread, two empty spools.
  5. Sketching and paste-ups: ruler, Double point sharpener, Aleene’s tacky glue stick, precision reverse tweezers, eraser, Pentel GraphGear 500 in .03, Xacto knife, Staedtler knife (I don’t know where this came from – maybe a package deal.).
  6. Marker sketching: Faber-Castell PITT brush markers & pen, two Prismacolor liner pens. (Pack of watercolor postcards inside bag.).
  7. Watercolor sketching: Sakura Pigma Micron pens, Derwent watercolor pencils, brushes, miniature tin of brush cleaner.
  8. Miscellaneous sketchbook items: Sharpies (ultra-fine & fine), .03 2B refill, eraser, green mini-Sharpie, mech pencil in .07, Pentel GraphGear 500 in .03, Stanley snap-off razor.
  9. Data: Spare USB sticks, USB retractable extension cord.
  10. Daily Goals: daily year book with Fail (red), Done (green) markers and Sharpie pen.
  11. Miscellaneous sketchbook items: Faber-Castell PITT pens, silver Sharpie, Sharpie ultra-fine, eraser, Pentel GraphGear 500, Pentel GraphGear 500 with roulette grip, Pentel GraphGear 1000 – all in .03, Tombow tape runner, double point sharpener, .03 2B refill, .03 2H refill.
  12. Maximum Marker Permanence!: Sharpie brush markers (regular alcohol ink, not the oil kind).
  13. Personal care: eye drops and chapsticks.
  14. Data: Daily use USB sticks, personal and for sharing.

It isn’t that I have brand loyalty, per se, but when I find a tool that works really well for what I want, I get a few of them so I don’t have to suffer through an inferior product. The decision is made after comprehensive comparison tests, of course. You can see I narrowed the mechanical pencil down to the standard Pentel GraphGear 500 .03 model after a lot of research, and a couple of the final contenders are still worthy enough to keep around a while, as in bags 3 and 11.

All this stuff is laid out on my new cutting board. The board isn’t in place yet because it is slightly too big for its space. This means I have to exscind two outer edges of my self-healing cutting board. I know I can do it, somehow, but I have not tackled that particular challenge yet. It is much like trying to throw away a trash can.

I don’t know what PITT stands for. The company website doesn’t have anything and neither does anything I can find on the internet. Pigment Ink … something something? Irritating.

Jan 192015

Batman symbol on the intersection of 28th and Snyder.
Batman symbol on the intersection of 28th and Snyder.
I don’t drive down Snyder often, but did so last weekend. It was dusk, damp and I was on my way to an event when I saw this on the street. It was truly on the border of “did I just see that” or “is my mind entertaining itself with shapes and reflections”. Thankfully, my brain is keeping its entertaining ways to internal dialogue, fucked-up humor, and spectacular dreams, because this really exists. I don’t know how long it has been there, and I don’t know how much longer it will last in our ungentle winter weather. One more good snow + plow + freeze + salt + melt cycle may fade it away.
I think this graffiti is especially neat because of the location, right in the middle of an intersection.

Jan 142015

Thanks to the Wonderpull machine over at WYO Art Factory on 15th ST, as mentioned previously, some of us local artists have talked about making a run of pieces for the machine. To that end, I’m making a series of tutorials to get us all (including myself) up to speed and practice on the Art-O-Mat requirements for art to go in the machines. The planned tutorial list so far, is this:

1. Making an Art-O-Mat box from a cereal box. (this post)
2. Making an Art-O-Mat block to size, using paper.
3. Making an Art-O-Mat block to size, using plywood.
4. Making identification placards for your art, with design discussion
5. Discussions on ideas for your art and restrictions to content.

Now, the WYO Art Wonderpull lady said she would follow Art-O-Mat guidelines exactly, but you’ll see from the differences that she wasn’t quite accurate. I will be following Art-O-Mat guidelines in the tutorials, but will point out those differences when I can so you may decide for yourself. All of my information comes from the Art-O-Mat guidelines page and their website. If you have $10 to invest in this project, they offer a trial kit so you can have your hands on the official materials with almost no effort. However, for us broke folks economical artists, the materials needed can easily be made at home, with minimal supply budget. On to the tutorial.

Making an Art-O-Mat box from a cereal box

For anyone who doesn’t want to put their 2D art on a wood block, or for any 3D art, a box is the way to go.

You will need:

  • a printout of the template (first pic link)
  • a cereal box
  • Xacto knife and cutting mat -or- precision scissors
  • bone folder or similar folding tool
  • glue
  • shiny tape (like 3m Transparent) or very sticky labels
  • .003 ml acetate

We must start with Art-O-Mat’s official box template:
Art-O-Mat's box template, PDF.
Click to open and then save the PDF. Again, this is Art-O-Mat’s template, I did not make it. If you think is is resplendent, go to their website and lavish praise upon them.
Print out your template; make sure your printer hasn’t done any scaling and that the printout is the right size. The final box size must be 2 1/8in x 3 1/4in x 7/8in (54mm x 82mm x 21mm), this means that those two big rectangles on the template should measure 2 1/8in x 3 1/4in (54mm x 82mm). If they’re off, sort it out with your printer or PDF software until it is right.

making an Art-O-Mat box from their template and a cereal box.
Cut your template out precisely. You could instead rubber cement the whole template to the cereal box directly, although that could be messy later when you get to folding. It might be worth printing the template out on cardstock so it can last a couple times if you want to make more than one box, which you probably will. Trace all the cutlines onto a flat stretch of your cereal box using a sharp pencil, or a .005 Sakura pen. You want exact, slim lines.

making an Art-O-Mat box from their template and a cereal box.
Use an Xacto knife and cutting mat to cut through all cutting lines cleanly. I can’t recommend regular scissors for this, but if you have small precision scissors you might be able to get it accurate. In the photo, my cereal box cut is on the left and my original template is on the right. You can see that I didn’t feel like cutting the curves as shown on the template, so I simply drew a straight line short-cutting the curve and cut it off as an angle. This doesn’t affect the box function at all and saved a few seconds of my time and effort.

making an Art-O-Mat box from their template and a cereal box.
If you have one of these: Martha Stewart Scoring Board; use it because it is perfect for this job. If you don’t have one and don’t want one, use a ruler and bone folder to crease straight over the dotted fold lines. Crease in, creating valleys, on the side you want inside. In my case, I didn’t want my Honey Nut Cheerios box showing, so I creased my folds in towards the printing. I believe official Art-O-Mat boxes are encouraged to obscure any such non-relevant labels or markings, although I don’t know if the WYO Art Wonderpull lady has any similar concerns.

making an Art-O-Mat box from their template and a cereal box.
Go over all your creases with the bone folder or similar tool to make sure your folds are crisp and well defined. Get out your glue; I am using Aleene’s Turbo Tacky, my go-to general purpose glue for papers and mild fibers. It dries faster than the regular style Aleene’s, which is great. Art-O-Mat says DON’T use double sided tape here and I agree. Double sided tape is a wonderful thing, but inappropriate for this project. Most white glues are ideal, and I bet you can use some of those gummy, resin, snot-looking ones, too.

making an Art-O-Mat box from their template and a cereal box.
Fold over the right hand rectangle – the big rectangle that doesn’t have short flaps attached to it. Put a decent amount of glue on the flap part, as in the picture.

making an Art-O-Mat box from their template and a cereal box.
Now, keeping the right and middle flat, fold the left hand, long flap over the glued flap and press them together. Check that you don’t have any glue overflow, especially on the inside or your box won’t open up later. At this point you can clamp the glued area with some clothes pins, or put a book or brick on top of it and let it stay flat, pressed until the glue is totally dry.

making an Art-O-Mat box from their template and a cereal box.
If your glue is dry, fold up the tabs of your box. Trim anything that wasn’t spot on – I had to cut a smidge (1 mm) off both my short ends to get them perfect. This box is now ready to have your art piece put inside it. You may decorate, paint, stamp, write on, or simply leave plain, the box as you wish. Be sure not to add any bulk at this point – no collage or texture on the outside of the box.

All about acetate:
making an Art-O-Mat box from their template and a cereal box.
Official Art-O-Mat guidelines are for .003 ml acetate to be wrapped around ALL art pieces, block or box. Now, the WYO Art Wonderpull lady doesn’t seem to follow these guidelines, but I suggest you do anyway and here’s why. The cigarette vending machines were made to dispense boxes wrapped in cellulose acetate. If your piece doesn’t have the acetate, you increase the chances of your work jamming or double vending in the machine. Sure, it might not happen, but why risk it? The WYO Art Wonderpull did a double vend on me when I used it and NONE of the pieces in the machine have acetate. Lucky for her I am honest person and returned the doubled block, but again, a simple strip of acetate would likely solve the problem. And the strip will protect your hard work from scrapes. Besides, if you decided to become a real, true, echt, Art-O-Mat artist, you will have to follow the rules anyway.
So, now that I’ve talked you into it, you need something like this, .003 ml acetate sheets. I bought mine in an art store, but they all look similar. Plus, if it will fit, it can be printed on! Exciting!! We’ll look into that later. For the moment, cut a strip to nine inches long and two inches wide.

making an Art-O-Mat box from their template and a cereal box.
Here’s the width.

making an Art-O-Mat box from their template and a cereal box.
Get some clear, sticky tape. 3M transparent is perfect. If you have thin and sticky labels (sticky as in high-adhesion, not those removable kinds) you can use those, too. Even more opportunities for customization and fun! Don’t use frosted tape, or anything that is thicker than tape or might have low adhesion. You don’t want these coming off inside the machine and gumming everything up.
Wrap the acetate strip lengthwise around the long line of the box. Put the tape over the edge of the acetate strip, making sure it is snug, tight, and flat.

That’s it! You have completed your own guideline-meeting Art-O-Mat box! Congratulations!
Come back for the tutorial (probably) next week when we’ll look at the blocks for art.

Jan 122015

.. or goat, or sheep.

For a couple years now I’ve wanted to carve and print some Chinese New Year cards. This year, I finally got it together and did so.
Printing up some New Year cards.
Chinese New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice, with a bunch of variations, some of which don’t translate to English well. This year it falls on Feb 19th. Thus, on that day it will become the year of the ram – or goat or sheep. The symbol for the animal includes all three, so I went with ram for my art. You could look at it as a goat, if you prefer – I won’t stop you. The lucky flowers for this year are the carnation and the primrose.

The Chinese New Year of the ram cards.
You can see that this project has interrupted my desk drawer building progress. I’m not terribly motivated to finish the desk, I suppose.

The Chinese New Year of the ram cards.
The print is on the front of the card, it is blank inside for writing a message or posy. The print features a ram, the symbol for ram (and goat and sheep), the year 2015 and a primrose. I put the website name very small on the back. The cards have matching envelopes and I made sticker seals featuring the primrose and 2015 text right underneath. Yes, I put four seals in the pack although there are only three sets – I am afraid the seals might be easily lost, or even mangled trying to get the sticker backing off. And, I made WAY too many seals, so I’ll be slapping these on all my envelopes this year.

I’m keeping a few for myself to send out to friends, but the rest I’ve packaged up into sets of three and listed in my Etsy shop. They’re packaged up and ready to go, so if you want to order some, you should have plenty of time to receive, write and send them out before Feb 19th. If you’re in Cheyenne and want to save a couple bucks on shipping, I will be putting a few packs in the CAG gift shop tomorrow. Swing by and check them out – I’ll have a sample card with the packs in case anyone wants to fondle them.

Jan 112015

Last year we got a new, bigger Christmas Tree, but failed to put it up. This year we did and a couple motion-activated air bottles kept it safe from curious cats. You can see one in the lower right corner – a bottle, not a cat.
Our new Christmas Tree.
Some non-locals wanted to see it, so here it is. We did take it down this past weekend, but it was pleasant to have up through the new year.

Jan 052015

Continuing the Winter Solstice series this year is Perchta. Over the generations she has been renamed, combined and downgraded so many times her stories are difficult to find or separate. In the end, I went with the ones that were common and seemed to fit best to me, this being my series and all. The flax, the gutting knife, forest animal benefactor, and her higher form changeling swan foot. To be nice, I did her beautiful visage instead of monstrous – we’ll assume that everyone was good enough to deserve it this year.
Printing the Perchta cards.
The first run of prints, drying. As usual, I was running a week or so behind schedule for getting these done and out to people. The print pulling process went quite well; only a handful of misprints. Same with the envelopes, my printer doesn’t like to feed in those things for addressing.

Printing the Perchta cards.
I managed to pull barely enough good prints on this first run to send out a couple to friends who are too far away to make it to the Solstice Party. The rest of the run will fill in for the full sets of the series I’m building. If you’re interested in a complete series set, simply come back at the end of 2017 when the series completes. No rush.

Maker Talk:
Again this year, I did hand coloring for better control and variety, which worked out well. This time around I had gold paint, so her hair got the special treatment it deserves. The white of her shift is precisely what I wanted; noticeable, but not obnoxiously bright. The blue flax flowers barely show up, but that is okay. I wouldn’t want to make them any bigger or mismatch their level of detail compared to the rest of the print. Also, this has been a very bunny year for me.
I am happy with this print and I already have the Legend for next year. Now, if only I can get started on schedule this coming 2015 winter! I have a while to think about it.

And, the Legends of the Winter Solstice #1 print, Krampus.

Dec 312014

The traditional End of Year photo mosaic:
(Click to see larger.)
End of Year Mosaic for 2014.
End of Year Mosaic for 2014.
End of Year Mosaic for 2014.
End of Year Mosaic for 2014.
End of Year Mosaic for 2014.

Overall, I think this has been another fairly average year; nothing too extreme one way or another. So, consider these quotes for the new year; then take your 2014 calendars off the walls, gather them up outside, and cast them into the fire. After that, practice writing and typing 2015 for a while.

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.”
– Marie Curie

“Persistent people begin their success where others end in failures.”
– Edward Eggleston

“Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.”
– Marilyn vos Savant

Happy New Year, all!

Dec 182014

Another Scrappy Cat. This will be the last one for a while; I’m going to work on other things.

I got an idea in my head that this cat could have wings.
Scrappy Cat Five, the spotted cat with wings!
The wings are removable, not stitched on. This one is made entirely from my scrap box, which somehow is not at all less full than when I started. Suspicious.

Dotted heart and collar.
The dotted heart and chain collar. You can see bits of spots all over the stripes.

Zipper stomach and AteMouse.
This AteMouse has little blood red Xs for eyes.

Soft claws.
Soft claws on paw tops.

Soft paw pads.
Puffy flannel paw pads on the undersides of paws.

Back view, without wings.
Back view, without wings. I had a lot of fun layering up all the fabrics and spots.

Back view, with wings.
Back view, with wings. There are ribbon straps so the wings slide on like a backpack, similar to human costume wings.

Signature star on butt.
My signature star on the butt.

Headshot of Scrappy Cat Five, the spotted cat with wings!
Headshot of the spotted cat. The ears are velvet.

If you are in Cheyenne and interested in seeing this cat in person, it will be with AmyKatt at the Universal Space Love Church Winter Craft Sale. Here are those details:

WinterMart Arts & Crafts Sale 2014
Unitarian Universalist Church of Cheyenne
UUCC Social Hall, 3005 Thomes Avenue, Cheyenne, WY 82001
December 19, Friday 4:30 – 6:30 pm
December 20, Saturday 9 am – 4 pm

Frankly, even if you don’t give a fig about the Scrappy Cat, I highly recommend going to the sale anyway. The whole thing is packed full of ideal gift items and you’re supporting local artists. It doesn’t get better than that – so GO! While you’re there, visit AmyKatt and thank her for showing my Scrappy Cat to the public.

Maker talk: I was concerned that after making a few, the Scrappy Cats were becoming less scrappy, so I made special efforts to play loose with the fabric and to make parts less symmetrical. I succeeded and the look is just what I wanted. I tried a new wiring method for the tail so there would be more wire, but somehow it turned out less curly than previous tails. I might experiment with that again one day. I quite like the dark red eyes on this AteMouse – I like the contrast better. I am definitely on a Scrappy Cat break for a while. I have a lot of other projects to do for some time.

Dec 172014

The last Art, Design & Dine of the season was Thursday night. With the Metals class over just in time, AmyKatt and I were able to visit multiple venues to close out the year with art. At WYO Art Factory, on 15th ST, the art vending machine was finally available for use. The idea is not so new, read about the official history here at this link, but the gallery owner (Maura Jacobsen) isn’t an official Art-O-Mat participant. She liked the idea and found an old cigarette machine for her own. Basically, you put in five bucks and pull the knob and a cigarette pack-sized piece of art, or art in a pack-sized box, drops down.
Art Vending machine at local Cheyenne gallery.
If you look at this picture, you can see the top row has little artist squares giving you a hint of what is in their pull column. You don’t know exactly what you’ll get, but the square helps some. Out of the five bucks, $2.50 goes back to the artist (in a standard setup) and $2.50 goes to the gallery. This lady is using her profits as a donation to the Children’s Museum.

Here is the art I got:
Art received from Art Vending machine at local Cheyenne gallery.
The top artist I was already familiar with, Marla Rosa. The bottom two are from Kristy Johnson (I think, let me confirm that name when I get home tonight).
Pretty neat. Maybe one day I will put some work in the Wonderpull!

Dec 142014

Slick on his birthday.
Dim light and all, here is Slick on his latest birthday. Every year is a good one with him in it.

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