Nov 272015

Friday in the window.
My pretty cat Friday loves windows. She gets what Slick calls “sky crazed” and I can think of no better way to describe it. Sometimes she runs through the house and throws herself at the window. She stands on her hind legs and reaches up into the window frame as far as she can. Sometimes she actually climbs the windows, using the muntins (window pane separators) as claw grips. There is nothing outside the window – no leaves dancing or taunting squirrels. She is simply staring up into the vast blue sky, tail whipping side to side. Sky crazed.

Nov 262015

Soft, fluffy Thanksgiving snow.
This morning I awoke to the most perfect snowfall. Large, flocculent puffs of snow falling in almost straight lines to gently land on the already piled up hills of snow.

Soft, fluffy Thanksgiving snow.
Those prickly juniper bushes look like giant sized pillow beds.

Soft, fluffy Thanksgiving snow.
There is no wind at all so the snow is creating stacks even on thin branches.

Soft, fluffy Thanksgiving snow.
It is still coming down. So that’s what we’ll be doing today. Staying cozy inside under fuzzy blankets with snuggly cats and hot drinks.

Nov 252015

Mylar park panorama.
Our weather is fairly dramatic here, but we have a lot of nice days. I took this while waiting atop a hill in one of our many parks. There is still snow on the ground, but the sun makes it perfect for a long stroll. These mild days help break up the freak snow and ice stretches that come along – as long as you can take advantage of the pleasant days.

Looking at this panorama shot now makes me realize most of the park is obscured, while the surrounding neighborhood and air base is more visible. Well, you know what parks look like. The view from this hill is far reaching.

Nov 242015

Moxie is obsessed with a toy Slick created for her. The other cats like playing with the circular rims that come from larger plastic bottles, like milk jugs and Gatorades. Slick collects them on a string for future use. Moxie doesn’t care about them, individually, but Slick got her attention one night by swinging all the rings on the string around over his head. He swings them very fast and they make a sound vortex which Moxie is immediately drawn to.
Moxie and her obsession with a string toy.
He twirls it high so she won’t hurt herself trying to catch it, but that doesn’t stop her from rising up on her hind legs as she stares at her fascinating prey. Her head begins moving in tiny twitches as she watches it whip in a circle above her.

Moxie and her obsession with a string toy.
Wait, why’d you stop?!

Nov 192015

Please hold.
I’m overbooked with work this week, so you’ll have to hold on a bit for fresh content. I haven’t even gotten the prize bag together and delivered yet!
Wish me luck and patience!

Nov 102015

A couple weeks ago, I got a bit of a shopping itch and had some bonus points on Amazon. I stumbled across this product, Scratch-Art Printmaking Scratch-A-Print 2 and decided to try it out. It was interesting and cheap – both things I like. There were no useful reviews I could find online and the description of the product didn’t give me enough information to satisfy my curiosity.

Screen printing can be an intimidating process for folks who are new to it. There is a comparatively steep monetary investment, there are sensitive emulsion chemicals to mix up and deploy/install/adhere/spread/coat, there are specific timing and light guidelines/restrictions/requirements that can change based on a variety of factors. I’ve had my own difficulties with old, poorly-stored materials.

The Scratch A Print package, front.

The Scratch A Print is a paper frame with a tissue screen. The screen tissue is embedded with pressure sensitive material in it – this is the equivalent of your emulsion. The stencil is created by mere pressure. This means you write or draw what you want with a pointy thing, through the clear plastic and you’re ready. I don’t think it gets much easier or simpler than that. Very little time investment and the product is the only resource investment to get to stencil ready status.

The tissue in my pack was blue, not red as shown in their package picture. I think the picture is of the larger size, the 6.75 x 5 inch printing area, but I have the smaller ones, which are 3 x 4 inch printing area.

The Scratch A Print package, back.

The frame exterior is made of a thick, coated paper, which increases its water and ink resistance and general durability. The core of the paper is still merely a foamy, paper nothing. This means that as soon as the frame edge gets wet, the moisture spreads. The stability degrades with any water or even wetness, as you’ll see below. The screen is like a carbon copy layer. If you’ve every used a carbon copy layer, you will recall how your writing or typing would leave translucent sections on the layer where the blue was transferred to the paper below. This is exactly the same principle. I want to call the screen carbon tissue, but that term defines something specific and different, so I’m going with carbon paper tissue. The carbon paper tissue is delicate, but plenty sturdy to get through the job, as you’ll also see below.

Paper already cut to the tissue window size is included in the kit, so if you’re creating your image from scratch, you can get right to it. Otherwise, make sure you have a correctly sized frame around your art so you can line it up with the tissue window.

I drew a quick outline of this photo of Moxie and wrote a few words to see how they’d look.

The first tests were done using a foam roller – aka brayer. Mine was a closed cell foam (meaning it was smooth) instead of the brand advertised open cell foam (meaning it had sponge texture). I was concerned the brayer, even with the soft foam rubber, would be too harsh on the tissue, but it was fine. In fact, I think my smooth foam roller made the prints better.
Test of Scratch A Print on plain paper with Sargent's washable tempura using a foam roller.
Test on plain paper with Sargent’s washable tempura paint. Not great. This is not paint I normally use, but I wanted to try it since success would mean a low monetary investment (this whole bottle was $1.50) and easy cleanup. The paint was too runny out of the bottle, so there was little I could do to increase the viscosity without breaking out my paint additives, which defeats the purpose of using cheap tempura paint to begin with.

Test of Scratch A Print on plain paper with Versatex fabric screen printing ink using a foam roller.
Purple Versatex fabric screen printing paint onto white cotton using a smooth foam roller. Good consistency out of the jar, good push through the tissue stencil. Half of these prints are acceptable. Maybe I’ll make some zip pouches from them.

Test of Scratch A Print on plain paper with Speedball block printing ink using a foam roller.
Speedball block printing ink in red on plain paper using a smooth foam roller. Had to add water to the ink to get a usable consistency, but the push through the stencil was okay after that.

Between each color and material, I gently rinsed the screen and blotted it dry with soft towels.

The next tests were done using a foam brush.
Test of Scratch A Print on plain paper with Sargent's washable tempura and Versatex using a foam brush.
On the left in blue, Sargent’s washable tempura onto plain paper and on the right, Versatex fabric screen printing paint onto white cotton using a foam brush. Yes, I also did a partial of the purple onto paper – almost okay! The blue tempura was worse than before, with the brush – the brayer forced a good layer through the tissue stencil, whereas the foam brush was most useful for sticking unhelpfully to the tissue itself. Even worse than that was the purple Versatex on fabric! The force required to make the brush get the paint through the tissue also squished too much paint onto the other side on the fabric. All bad.

Test of Scratch A Print on plain paper with Speedball block printing ink using a foam brush.
Red Speedball block printing ink on plain paper using a foam brush. This was the worst! All bad. The only print that turned out on this set is the cleanup one, upper left, where I placed the screen on the paper and used a damp paper towel to remove as much excess ink as I could. That cleaning gave a decent print!

Scratch A Print frame and tissue after six print runs and rinses.
After six rinses, the paper frame has lost enough integrity that the red ink has seeped into the center of it and isn’t coming out. I recommend against full water cleansing of the frame if you can help it at all. The tissue itself is surprisingly resilient, but the paper frame getting wet and dry causes it to warp and shrink, which makes the tissue screen increasingly useless as it loses vital tension.

For most screen printing, I use Golden Acrylics (fluid or heavy body) with fabric medium and I love them. I also use Speedball fabric screen printing inks/paints and they’re almost as good. For relief printing from blocks, I use Golden Open Acrylics. I would suggest any of those mediums for this Scratch-A-Print product. If you have a slightly thicker tempura, try it. You might be able to get the Speedball block printing inks to a good consistency, but I can’t speak to it only because I didn’t try very hard.

The stencil can be gently cleaned with a damp paper towel or rinsed in a container of water and blot-dried in order to change colors or mediums. If you allow the paint to dry in the stencil, it will become unusable. Given the paper frame delicacy, I would instead suggest transitioning to an acceptable mix color to change instead of rinsing. For instance, going from a blue to a purple, which would give you a print or two with in-between colors before the new color saturated the tissue completely. Damp paper towel the edges of excess paint to clean them up. Reasonably, I wouldn’t expect much reuse from this; I would consider it a one or two run product. If you’re kinder and gentler than me, you may get three uses. Jainists may get four uses.

This is a good product, if it will fulfill your project needs. I will certainly be using it in the future. As an occasional home-screen-printer, it is a bit of fuss to clear spaces and gather and process materials to expose an emulsion screen. This Scratch-A-Print product requires none of that – just take it out and write or draw on it. It doesn’t last very long, but if I only need to make two or three dozen prints ever, this would trump a traditional emulsion stencil screen. The Scratch-A-Print will never give me exacting and crisp details, like printed text or anything fine, but it would be excellent for more simple designs, of shapes with some details and shading, but not much. The small size is restrictive, true, but I don’t think this Scratch-A-Print material could hold up at a larger size. For how cheap and easy this is, I think many crafters would benefit from having it on hand. The only additional tool I would strongly suggest would be a smooth foam roller, if you don’t already have one. They’re maybe three or four dollars at the craft store, so it isn’t too big a deal.
This would be a good product to make some holiday cards, or invitations. With each screen running a mite under a dollar, you could do some color layers, too. The Scratch-A-Print would be ideal for some quick design additions to fabric, which I think I’ll be trying out in the future when I need just a little extra personal touch to a piece.

Nov 092015

We have a winner!
Our giveaway winner!

Congratulations to Ymabean!
As part of your gift bag, please choose one of the Bitty Kitties below to come live with you.
Bitty Kitty choice for the prize ba,!
(more details on what these are later in the week)
They’re not in their final form yet, three of them don’t even have hearts at this point. But, the one you choose will get finished up and be part of your gift bag.

Thank you all for your participation. The more people that play along, the more I want to do future contests and giveaways.

Now, time to get cracking on year 13!

Nov 042015

Today, Too Lazy To Be Evil has existed in reality for 12 years. 4383 days of my website.
To celebrate this occasion, I think we should do a prize bag. So, for a chance to win the 12 Year Anniversary Prize bag, leave a comment below congratulating me for still being on the internet.

Summary: Enter a congratulatory comment on this post before 0900 MT on 09 Nov 2015, which is next Monday morning.

The Standard Fine Print:
You must be a registered user for this blog – because that is how you can make comments! You may have only one entry into this contest. You must either live in a place I commonly drive to or past or be willing to submit a mailing address to me to receive the prize if you win. I’m happy to mail the prize anywhere in the world where it is legal to do so. The prize bag contains items I’ve gathered or created which may be desirable, useful, useless, offensive, sublime, or merely silly to you; I make no guarantees to the value, usability or likability of the prize, although they have been historically well received.

See this link for past contests, giveaways, winners, prize and gift bags.

Nov 032015

These are some crappy photos, but here they are. Better this than nothing, I think.
Pair of collages, front.
Collages, “No One Knew” and “Why not?”
I thought about making these a diptych, but I also feel that they can both stand on their own. Their interdependence is mostly interpreted by me, how I made them, but as I often remind myself, once your art is out in the world, it isn’t entirely yours anymore. My meaning and purpose is not relevant to the viewer. Hence, no diptych – merely a complimentary pair.

Pair of collages, backs.
The backs have some interest pieces as well. I wanted them to be worth looking at, but they’re brief and simple compared to the fronts. The titles, my (actual) name, and the year are in gold paint at the bottom.

Painting, acrylic + mixed media.
Automatic Core
You’ll have to ignore the swipe of color on the right; I needed to edit my face reflection out and that’s how I did it. The hand and camera will stay – just ignore them.
This is a mixed media piece, mostly acrylic. The texture, which doesn’t show up here much at all, is pretty dramatic and thick, hence the shadowbox frame. It looks much better in person. I should have left myself time to take proper photos of the work, but these ended up as another “done is better than perfect” project.

These three pieces have been delivered to the CAG for the Members Only winter show. All the pieces in the show are for sale and will stay in the gallery until the end of the year. I’d be pleased if they sold – frankly, I don’t have room for anything anymore. If they don’t, I’ll squeeze them onto a wall somewhere, the painting at least. If you’re local and looking for some gift ideas, swing by the CAG to see the show. There were many, many entries and there is likely something affordable for a difficult-to-shop-for person to be found.

Nov 012015

Last week I mentioned that I’d be revamping a previous costume for this year, and here it is!
Salem Witch costume, 2015.
Of course I have my eyes closed for the photo that best captures the entire costume. Can you tell what it is? Honestly, I thought it was fairly clear, but it seems it is a bewildering costume. I was a Salem witch. So, yes, technically the women wouldn’t have worn hats like this; they’d have worn hair covers like plain bonnets or such. I think the hat really placed the costume in time though, so I bent the gender a bit for the effect. The basket takes the place of a purse, since I didn’t want my digital camera, cell phone, keys, and wallet to be seen and detract from the costume. They were all in the bottom under a square of muslin. Besides some generic flowers, there is a plain poppet in there as well – appropriate for the tales.

Everyone really liked the shoes. One lady told me she liked my pilgrim costume. Perhaps the noose with frayed ends wasn’t obvious enough. Maybe the face paint threw people off. I also had ligature marks around my neck, but most people didn’t notice those either. Whether it was too esoteric or not, I very much enjoyed it. Now it will be packed away in a labeled box, maybe to see light another year.

Oct 302015

Moxie is our smallest cat. Not our lightest, but still the smallest. She is all dense muscle, dense fur, and dense personality. Lots of cat packed into a tiny body. This can be very fortunate for her.
Moxie, stuck betwixt doors.
Here, Moxie was peacefully enjoying the fall sunshine when a breeze, or another cat, shut the interior door on her. Don’t worry, she was perfectly fine, physically and safe – the outer screen door latches well. She was inconvenienced and displeased to be stuck this way, however, until Slick came back around from the other side of the yard to free her. A down event in her book, I think.

Moxie, sound asleep and sliding down the chair onto Slick's shoulder.
This is the night before. After napping in the sunshine, she fell soundly asleep and began to slowly slide down the back of the fat chair, onto Slick’s shoulder. In case you didn’t notice, Moxie is completely Slick’s cat. She only allows me to exist because I give her shoulder rubs and bacon, both of which she is fiend for. So, I guess I’ll continue to earn my keep with Moxie.

Oct 282015

Then there is the downside of the coming winter. The darkness. Now when I get up, I have to turn on lights in the house.
Moon, at beginning of constitutional.
My autumn morning constitutional begins in darkness.

Moon, at end of constitutional.
But it ends with sunrise. This means I have to drive into the sunrise to work. Ugh.

It was frosted outside today, which was pretty – the leaves and blades of grass sparkling with ice crystals. The walking in darkness thing isn’t such a big deal, because it won’t happen too many times. I will be dusting off the treadmill tonight for the season. It is difficult enough to get up early to exercise, but freezing weather is challenging to use my willpower to overcome when I’m in a warm bed. The treadmill is always ready with fine weather.

Oct 232015

I like autumn.
Autumn leaves in Cheyenne.
I dislike summer; I like winter. I imagine that people who feel differently about those two probably don’t like autumn so much as I. The heat is broken, the sun is less painful and obnoxious, the breeze is crisp, and the leaves burn out like stars.

Autumn leaves in Cheyenne.
Oz, watching leaves from the front door.
I like shuffling my feet through piles of leaves. I like the sound as they tumble down the street in the wind. I like watching them gently fall with gravity in the stillness. I like the cool nights and mornings; I like wearing sweaters, hoodies, and my many pretty scarves – and the occasional fine hat. The cats like the leaf activity outside, as viewed through the screened windows. They are more snuggle-prone in this weather, too.

Winter means more workshop time, more cat snuggling, more sleeping in under a pile of blankets, the well-timed cup of cocoa and a piece of buttered toast while snow falls into fluffy stacks on a silent morning.