Day 15



Started a bit late this morning, but got everything done that I wanted to do.  For business study, I watched more podcasts from the Art of Photography.  The first one was on handheld light metering.  I don't have a light meter but I can see that it might be a good investment in the future.  A light meter helps you decide how to arrange your aperture and shutter speed.  My camera has a built-in light meter in it, as probably does yours.  When this is the case, the camera "decides" automatically on the shutter speed and aperture.  Again, that's not something I have control over in my point-and-shoot but it is something to be aware of.  The other two podcasts I watched were about lenses.  All cameras have lenses, and most actually have more than one inside. On an SLR you can change the lenses to suit your needs.  My camera doesn't have this option, but it does have settings that simulate different lenses.  I don't know if these have problems with distortion or not, but I expect they would because all lenses cause some type of distortion.  The trick is to get the distortion you want for your particular photo.  These podcasts make me really want an SLR!  But that is not an option at the moment and I can live with what I have.  I haven't always been lucky enough to have any camera at all, so I can't really complain.

In my design book, I studied space.  I actually started studying the chapter a couple of days ago but didn't finish it until now.  There is a lot of wordiness that I didn't understand in this chapter, but I understood as soon as I saw the picture illustrating it.  Unfortunately, I can't show you the pictures from the book, so my words will have to do.  There are two major types of space in two-dimensional art: decorative space (flat-looking surface) and plastic space (looks like it has depth).  Plastic space is further divided by shallow space and deep or infinite space.  Shallow space looks like the picture has some depth, but not very much. The artist might have manipulated some tricks to make the image look flat.  Deep space looks like how we would actually see something in the real world (again, the artist uses tricks to make us think that it is as we would see it) and infinite space is just what it sounds like.  There are spacial indicators.  Sharp detail looks close to us, and diminishing detail looks far away.  Larger items appear closer than smaller items.  The position of a shape can make it appear closer: the horizon line is usually at eye level, so shapes below that on the canvas appear closer than shapes above it.  If an item is overlapping another item, it appears closer.  Transparency can be used with overlapping items to make them appear closer.  Interpenetration is when planes or objects pass through each other, and depending on what is pictured, can create shallow or deep space.  Fractional representation, which is seen in ancient Egyptian art, is when we picture a subject using those parts that best represent it in our heads.  For example, in Egyptian paintings the head is a side view while the eye is full on, the torso faces forward but the hips and legs face the side.  Converging parallels is when two sides of an object, which we know to be parallel, have sight lines pointing toward the same vanishing point.  Linear perspective is a way of representing sizes  and distances of objects in space.  There are three major types of linear perspective: one-point, two-point, and three-point.  One-point perspective has a single vanishing point in the picture, and was used frequently in Renaissance art.  Two-point perspective has two vanishing points, usually located off the canvas.  A view of a city might be a good example of two-point perspective.  Three-point perspective is used when an exaggerated view is pictured.  This can either be bird's-eye view or worm's-eye view.  There are formulas for making sure that shapes in the picture will be spaced in a way that seems to suggest distance to our eyes, which I won't get into because there are so many of them.  There are some disadvantages to linear perspective: it does not actually show things as we see them, you can only see things from one position in space, it can be monotonous, and the items pictured are distorted.  There are other projection systems as well.  Oblique projection does not have vanishing points, but does show a the side as well as the front of a shape, with the side at a 45 degree angle.  It is used by engineers and architects.  Isometric projection shows two sides of the object, both at 30 degree angles, as well as the top.  Again, there are no vanishing points.  It is used by drafters.  Orthographic drawing, all objects are drawn perpendicular to a base line.  It is used in engineering and industrial settings.  Reverse perspective is seen in traditional East Asian art, in which the back of objects are wider than the front of them.  Intuitive space is the creation of space without rules or guidelines.  Lines can create space, appearing to recede or advance.  Shapes can create space through overlapping.  Value can create space as well: usually the lighter something is, the closer it appears, and the darker it is, the further away it seems, although this can be reversed.  Texture can influence space: sharp, clear, and bold indicate closeness, and fuzzy, dull, and small textures usually suggest distance.  Color can also indicate space: analogous colors create limited space, while contrasting colors create a lot of space.  There is a way to create space called structured ambiguity, in which the shapes in the foreground and background seem to switch depending on what colors are around it.  For this reason, beginning artists are usually encouraged not to frame their work with a black mat.  Space is also crucial in three-dimensional work.  Sculptures could be flat, or they could have open voids.  They can be spaced apart enough that the viewer has to walk around or through them.  Instillations are works that the viewer has to walk through to experience, and they use space as part of the art.

I worked some more on my commissions and items for my online store.  I had a lot of fairly boring work to do, involving prepping the fabric.  However, I did get to do a bit of dyeing, all immersion this time.  I am doing some pole-wrapped bookmarks and some tie-dyed ones.  I also did a pole-wrap of a sample for the commission I am doing for my brother and his wife.  They want green and brown natural-looking placemats and napkins, but they wanted to see a sample first.  Fair enough: this gives me a chance to work out any kinks (like, how do I make brown?) before I start working on their actual project.  I also washed out a cloth I dyed yesterday, using pleating, but it currently looks so unimpressive that I didn't bother to take a photo.  I will use it to figure out how to create layers when the background color is dark.
I am back in Portland for the time being, so I have access to all my stuff here.  It's really nice to be around my supplies and my husband again.  I had a grueling time getting back--what was supposed to be an eight hour trip (by land) became 15 1/2 hours.  I spent the next couple of days recovering from that.  But I am back in the swing of things now.  We have decided that I will spend half my working day in study, and half in production and business.  I am also happy to announce that I have made my first large sum of money!  This was on the commission I had told you about earlier, for my friend Melanie.  Here are the pictures of my work:
Long view. It's a table runner.
The middle.
The table runner was made with a number of steps.  First, I had to wash the fabric with a special soap to get all the oils and imperfections out (it was sort of a natural beige when I started).  Next, I painted the fabric with liquid dye.  I let it rest a couple of days and then rinsed the excess dye out (this process usually takes me about an hour).  Then, I pinned the cloth to my work surface and put a flour paste over top.  I wrote words and squiggles in the paste with a skewer.  I let that dry for a few days and squished the hardened surface to make it crackle.  I then applied a thickened dark purple dye over top with a brush, really working the dye into the cracks. After another couple of days I soaked it in warm water to remove the flour paste, and then washed it to remove the excess dye.  I had to do this flour paste and dye step four times because my work surface was only so big.  Next I carved out a bird stamp with safety cut lino, and used that to print the birds with textile paint.  After that dried and 24 hours had passed, I heat set it with an iron.  Then I sewed the white stitching on with my sewing machine and a free-motion darning foot.  It took me quite a while because I spent as much time unjamming my machine as I did sewing!  Then I pulled and pulled on the fabric to straighten it out (it bunched a bit when I embroidered it) and ironed it to make it flatter.  Finally, I sewed all the edges so they wouldn't fray.  And that, my friends, is what goes into my work!

Today I started with a little warm-up.  It was very similar to a warm up I had done before, in which I thought about my artistic "DNA" and why I was attracted to surface design in particular.  I'm still not sure I can explain--I understand why I am into fiber arts (my mother did it, her mother did it, her mother did it, etc.) but when I tried surface design, it just felt right.  It felt like what I was supposed to be doing.  I can't really explain it any other way.

Next, I listened to two podcast.  I had heard them both before.  The first  one was the second part of the round-table discussion I was listening to earlier.  I listened to it on the train originally but I had such an awful day that I forgot it all.  It was actually still difficult to remember, because people were mostly talking about what they felt like talking about rather than having an organized topic.  There was some discussion on the commercialization of textile traditions, whether it be that a peasant ask for money to be photographed in her traditional costume, or from outside companies who market a traditional craft for a little while until it ceases to be trendy.  They talked a bit about going to remote locations to find crafts, and the excitement and danger that could be involved.  They talked about the tragedy of collectors buying up all the crafts in one area until there were none left and no one knew how to make them anymore, and how the public sometimes doesn't understand the textiles that they are viewing.  One of the panelists had to sell most of her collection of textiles in an auction because she didn't have the space to store them anymore, and not one of the people who bought the work has contacted her to find out about her research on that particular textile.  She also collected many pieces for the Victoria and Albert Museum, and by the time she was finished, they were no longer interested.  There have, however, been some interest by the national archives, so that is positive.

The other podcast I listened to was about a clothing company called Ocelot.  I had heard this podcast before but the website had pictures to go with it so I listened again.  The podcast explained how the artist got into dyeing and making clothing: she was exposed to dyeing as a child, and got into costume design after college.  Eventually, she became fascinated with natural dyeing and clothing construction, and seeks to create clothing that is timeless and beautiful.  In her dyeing, she uses wooden blocks as physical resists.  You should really check out her work because it's absolutely beautiful.

Then, I drew.  I drew a bowl.  It was a white bowl, but that doesn't really show from the shading I did.  Need to work on that shading.  I was quite successful with shading in my last drawing, but it was much more difficult to depict a smooth surface.  I will have to draw more white ceramic.
For surface design, I am trying a glue resist with dye.  It worked very well with fabric paint and now I will see how well it works for dye.  I also learned how to get dye out of the carpet!  Dropcloth it is then.  I had loads of leftover dye so I painted dye on one piece of cloth and tried a pleated resist with another.  Those will take a day or two to do their thing, so I don't know how they will all turn out yet.

My husband did some research on my behalf to investigate how to reach Canadian customers.  I am focusing on Canadians right now due to my immigration status.  I don't want to say too much about it, but it is possible that there may be some disruptions in the next few months, which would affect my unschooling and my business.  But we don't know for sure yet.  My husband also contacted customers for me and arranged deposits and such.  I am very excited to have him as my business partner.  He is much better at promoting me than I am, and at settling deals!

For production today, I had the rather boring task of cutting out and scouring fabric for bookmarks.  I am hoping to make bookmarks an affordable way for people to buy my art.  Most of my stuff isn't cheap, and I have friends who don't have a lot of money who would like to partake.  I thought this would be a good way, since I can't lower my prices.  I just pay myself a little over minimum wage, so I don't listen to any complaints about the prices being too high!

That's it for the day.  I'm off to eat dinner and meditate.

Day 13


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I suppose the way to hell is paved with good intentions, and I had the best intentions to study while on my trip.  Perhaps not surprisingly, it didn't work out that great.  But at least I have done some studying.

I listened to a podcast that was the first part of a roundtable discussion of prominent people in the worldwide fiber arts field.  There was a woman who was an expert on fibers and the animals who supplied them; another who was the expert on worldwide embroidery; one who had a weaving cooperative; one who ran the store and foundation that supplied these podcasts, as well as doing a million other things to support traditional fiber artists in India; and another fellow whose area of expertise escapes me at the moment.  They talked about what it was like to be working travellers: none of them traveled for enjoyment, particularly, or to take a vacation.  They all traveled for their work.  They were all trying to figure out how to balance intervention in the craft making process.  For those who sold traditional work, they tended to encourage people to do the work native to their area, in a high-quality manner.  Without these kinds of controls, some craftspeople might do low quality work to sell the craft, leading to its devaluation and the eroding of the skills necessary to produce it.  Other craftspeople might be contracted to do work that is not traditional to that region, again leading to the erosion of skill, but also exposing people to the vicissitudes of the worldwide market (that is, if Indian embroiderers are doing Danish style embroidery, and Danish style embroidery goes out of fashion, they will lose their livelihoods.  If they do the work that is native to their region, they will always appeal to collectors and those interested in quality regional work.)  Some of the panelists were interested in keeping work exactly as it was, never changing.  There woman who studied embroidery was dismayed because there was a certain area in India where young women would embroider elaborate pieces for their dowries.  Now they embroider pillows for sale.  The gentleman whose profession I can't remember pointed out that he had been criticized in India for wanting to "play God", or tell people what they could or could not produce.  In the example of the dowry work, he said that many girls no longer bring dowries to the marriage, and if they have such incredible embroidery skills they don't want to use them on something that only their families will see, but on something they could make money on.  If they made that money, they could spend it on their children's education and health care for the family and better food.  All the presenters said that they don't like interfering, but when crafts are being produced for markets sometimes they have to enforce quality control.  Sometimes, these businesses keep the crafts from dying out completely, as the children of many artisans want to be professionals instead.

In my design book, I studied the chapter on color.  It was a long and technical chapter and I had a lot of trouble with it.  It will be difficult to transfer the information to dyes, as dyes have different properties than pigment or light.  We see color because of how light reflects off of objects.  Colored light is referred to as additive color.  The primary additive colors are red, blue (which is close to violet) and green.  Combined, they create the additive secondaries of cyan, magenta, and yellow, and when all colors are combined together, they make white.  TVs and computers use additive color.  Subtractive color is that which comes from pigments.  It is called subtractive because pigments absorb some colors from sunlight and reflect others.  For example, a green leaf reflects green and absorbs all other colors.  There are color systems that drove me crazy.  In the triadic color system, the primary colors are yellow, red, and blue.  The secondary colors are orange, green, and violet (each one of these sets is a triad) Then there are intermediate colors: red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet.  An intermediate triad would either be yellow-orange, blue-green, and red-violet, or red-orange, yellow-green, and blue-violet.  When all these colors are put in order in a circle, they form the 12-point color wheel (go play with the palette at the bottom of this page).  The colors directly opposite each other on the color wheel are known as complimentary colors.  For example, the complimentary color of red is green.  When a color is mixed with its complement, it grays and creates what is known as a tertiary color.  For example, green mixed with a little red creates olive.  Tertiary colors can also be created by mixing any two intermediate colors, so long as they are not next to each other on the color wheel (analogous colors).  They are found on the inner ring of the color wheel.  In the center of the color wheel is complete neutralization, which is a muddy grey.   There are also neutrals, not on the color wheel.  These are black, which is the absence of color, white, which is all colors, and grays, which are impure whites.  Hue refers to the generic color name of the color, i.e. red, blue, green, etc.  Colors vary in value, with the highest value color (yellow) at the top of the color wheel and the lowest value (violet) at the bottom.  It is difficult to see the relative values just by looking at a picture, and it helps to photocopy the picture in black and white to be able to see the values.  You can also lighten or darken hues.  By adding white to a hue, you create a tint, and when adding black, you create a shade.  Intensity refers to the brightness of a color.  A bright red and a grayed red are the same hue, but the bright red has greater intensity.  You can also increase the appearance of intensity by putting a color with it's complement, like green with red (maybe that's why Christmastime is so colorful?)  Color relationships drove me a bit crazy too.  There are complements (opposite on the color wheel), split complements (immediately on either side of the opposite color on the color wheel), triads, which we talked about previously, tetrads, which form a square or a rectangle on the color wheel (for example orange, yellow-green, blue, and red-violet), analogous, which are all the colors next to each other in a small range on the color wheel (say yellow to blue-green), monochromatic colors, which are the same hue but different values, warm colors (reds, oranges, yellows), cool colors (blues, greens, violets), plastic colors (red pops out on a page, blue recedes), simultaneous contrast (colors placed next to each other that make them look different), the emotional impact of color, and psychological impacts of color (i.e. red for anger, green for calm, etc).  Color can be used in composition to create contrasts and depth, create mood and emotions, attract attention to something, describe objects, and create aesthetic appeal.  In color balance, artists have to find an appropriate balance between harmony and contrast.  There is more material in this chapter but I won't go into it, partly because it's about how printing works and I don't think that's applicable to me, and partly because I've been blogging for more than an hour and I'm getting tired! 

For business study, I read some entries from the Etsy blogs about how to make a living at Etsy.  They emphasized good photos (something I have to work on), many product descriptions, and a good shop name.  My previous shop name, Penthisilea, isn't great because it's hard to spell (it's actually spelled wrong in my shop) and if you don't know the legend, hard to remember.  So I will be choosing a new shop name for my products.  Also, banners are important, and you can hire an Etsy seller who does banners to create a better banner for you.  They also remind you that photography, site maintenance, and packaging all take time, and this time should be accounted for in the cost of the item.  Many people make their living off of Etsy (some even make six figure salaries) so good products and working at it appropriately, I should be able to make my living at it too.

No drawing to report for today.

Good night!

Day 12



Well, my trip is getting in the way of schooling, as you can imagine.  Between all the tasks I have to do and all the people I want to visit, this has been my first full day that I could do any schoolwork.

I should backtrack and let you know about a podcast I listened to last week.  It was about a couple who grew and dyed with woad.  Woad is a flowering plant whose leaves give off a pale blue dye.  The couple had no background in dyeing, but they had bought a house in rural France and found a windowpane that had been painted a pale blue colour.  They wanted to learn about this blue, and found out that it was woad.  They have been in love ever since.  Woad is paler and harder to work with than indigo, so it is not used much anymore.  It has a long history of use, however, before indigo was common in Europe.  Like most natural dyes, the dye had to be “fixed” using a mordant.  In the middle ages and the renaissance, the mordant that was used was stale urine.  The woad dyers would pay the townspeople to go drink beer for a whole weekend and then come back and pee into a barrel.  A man who did this was called a pisser.  I’m not joking!  Anyway, the smell was bad enough that woad had to be prepared far from any houses or inhabited areas.  Woad was also used in paint, and the first pastel crayons were made of woad suspended in other materials.  The word “pastel” comes from the French for woad, pastel.

I should also show you some photos of some of the stuff I have been working on in the past few weeks that I had to conceal because it was destined for another person.  Here are two of those things: first, the lace scarf that I knit for my stepmom:

Tied view.
The second one is the (rather short) scarf I wove for my mom:
Full view
Close-up with fringe.
Today, I started off listening to another podcast.  Unfortunately, it wasn't fantastically edited.  It was exerts from a lecture about the textiles found on some mummies in China.  I was really looking forward to it because the lecturer was the author of a book I'd really like to read, Women's Work: the First 20,000 years (her name is Elizabeth Wayland Barber).  I heard her speak a little about the mummies, and about how well preserved their clothes were, but not much about the clothes themselves.  She talked a little about how weaving spread from Mesopotamia to China, and then the lecture cut to a rather amusing tale about trying to chase down a rare sheep at a zoo for a fiber sample, and how she learned that the first wool for textiles could not have come from the sheep because the fiber was too delicate to spin.  It sounds like it would have been a great lecture to attend but there must have been some time constraints for the length of the podcast and unfortunately, I didn't really get anything that I think would add to my education.  It is a good reminder that I should look up the book though, which is as much a part of art history for me as a book about Manet would be.

Next I read my design book.  The chapter I was reading was on texture, which wasn't something I had really considered before.  Some texture is implied, as on a two-dimensional surface, but it is very real on a three-dimensional surface.  Sometimes paint can be used to create actual texture by layering with thick paint and using tools such as palette knives.  Also, sand can be added to paint to make it more textured.  Early in the 20th century, paper was added to paintings, a technique called paper colle (there should be an accent on the last e of colle).  This led to collage, in which all sorts of items were added to paintings, such as rope or chair caning.  Today, artists may use materials such as nails or other unlikely subjects.  Simulated texture is texture that looks real but cannot be felt with the hand.  These are imitations of actual texture.  Abstract texture is artificial texture that does not imitate real life, but is symbolic of something we would see, such as simplified woodgrain.  Invented texture does not look like anything known; instead, it comes from the artist's imagination.  Texture can be combined with pattern to create a pattern on a three-dimensional surface, such as a rug with raised tufts where polka-dots are, or engraved swirls on a sculpture.  Texture needs careful consideration in composition because texture can be so distracting that it can take away from the rest of the composition, so it needs to be carefully balanced.  The composition needs to have rests, or places where the eyes don't need to look too hard, or the composition will look cluttered.  Textures can imply space too: blurred, low contrast texture suggests distance, and sharp, strong contrast texture suggests closeness.  Textures can have psychological implications.  Texture is especially important in three-dimensional work such as sculpture.  There is a type of sculpture called an assemblage, which is sort of like collage except that it is usually viewed in the center of the floor rather than on a wall, and can be viewed from many angles.  It usually involves some found and some made materials.  When assemblage is in a painting format, it tends to project from the wall.  Texture can be used to trick the viewer into thinking that they are looking at another material, such as a realistic ceramic sculpture of a leather jacket hanging on a wall.

I also discovered that my textbook has a corresponding interactive website:  It's not quite as instructional as I would like, but I suppose if it was, there would be no reason to buy the textbook!  However, I look forward to using the site to review once I am finished the book.

Next, I finished off a drawing I have been working on since I arrived.  I am quite pleased with it.  I did it after I read the chapter on value.  Although I did not use a value finder, the study helped me immensely.  I look forward to making the value finder and improving my drawing even more. I should note that I used my blending stump as much as I used my pencil for this one.
The subject. It was a cardigan that I fluffed and plopped down. Then the cat sat on it and I had to fluff it very carefully again.
Finally, I worked on business study.  My dad is an Excel genius and he helped me create a spreadsheet with my business plan.  This is very handy, as I can tweak numbers here and there and the entire thing will recalculate itself for me.  It's going to save me a lot of time!  I asked my dad to create the spreadsheet for me but I suppose he took the "teach a man to fish" approach.  I'm glad he did because it's not that difficult and now I can create any kind of spreadsheet I want.

Looks like tomorrow will be another free day.  More studying then!

Day 11


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Sorry for the delay in posting this week.  It’s been a crazy week so far and I haven’t been able to blog so far.

Monday, I wasn’t feeling well so I took a day off.

Tuesday was a bit nuts because I was preparing for my trip.  The trip I am on now.  I started out with business study, in which I watched several little podcasts on photography.  I hope this improves my sucky product photos.  So far, most of the podcasts have been about different cameras (none of which I possess) and the history of cameras.  This is all interesting background info, but hasn’t really helped me yet. One podcast that did help me was about the rule of thirds in composition.  I had heard of the rule of thirds but didn’t really understand it, so this was a great explanation.  Basically, on a picture frame, things look really good when you divide the surface area into equal thirds and base your subject(s) in one or two of those areas.  You can divide the surface horizontally, vertically, or even diagonally.  The spots where horizontal and vertical thirds intersect are especially interesting points onto which you can place an important feature (such as eyes in the case of a portrait).  I am not yet sure how this knowledge will affect my product photos, but I hope it will in the future.

In design, I finished the chapter about shape.  I looked at proportions and economy.  Sometimes artist will break a work down into planar shapes, perfecting each layer of work before moving onto the next.  This helps the artist understand the relationship of all the shapes to each other.  Shape can also be used for expressive content.  Viewers react with different emotions to different shapes.  Sometimes these reactions are shared with other viewers, and sometimes they are more personal. The meaning of shapes can be altered by the shapes themselves, by their colours, or by their values.  In three-dimensional work, shape not only means the actual shape of the object, but also the shapes of the negative areas that are left by the work.  Shapes can depend on the shadows they cast.  The shapes also depend on the viewer’s position.  A shape to take into consideration is the silhouette of the work.

Wednesday, I was in transit for most of the day so my studies were limited by that.  I listened to a podcast about a French gardener who has a sort of dyestuff demonstration garden.  He works with a botanist to try to grow every kind of plant that is used for dyeing, or at least as many as possible (henna, for example, doesn’t do very well in his climate in Provence).  His garden is the main tourist attraction in his tiny village.  A lot of his work with the public is about educating people on the uses of his plants.  Different dyes can be used in different ways, and artists are always coming up with new and innovative ways to use the plants.  Often, the traditional recipes can’t be used anymore because that is no longer the way dyes are used (he didn’t explain what he meant by that, but it could have something to do with increased safety practices over time, or the availability of different products that have to do with dyeing).  His garden receives some funds from the government in the form of grants, and also from the dyeing association he belongs to.  In this part of the podcast, he was looking for additional ways to raise money, and he was pretty sure he didn’t want to open a gift shop and sell traditional Provencal gift shop items such as lavender and goat cheese!

In design, I studied the chapter on value.  I was excited about this chapter, as I am only sort of familiar with the concept of values.  Value means, basically, relative degrees of lightness and darkness.  The chapter mostly looked at black and white (and infinite shades of grey) values, also called achromatic values.  The chapter includes a value scale that I can photocopy and use to help with my drawing.  The lighter shades, from white to middle grey, are known as high-key values, and the darker shades, from middle grey to black, are low-key values.  It will probably take me a little while to remember which is which.  Some works use a limited range of values for dramatic effect, such as using only low-key values to create a somber mood.  Different values can be achieved with different media, such as pencil, charcoal, or chalk, wet or dry, direct or blended, with lines or with shapes.  Etchings can create strong contrasts between light and dark, as can woodcuts and screenprinting.  The use of different values on a two-dimensional work can create the appearance of three-dimensionality.  These are referred to as plastic values.  Cast shadows are an important part of the composition of a work, as cast shadows in the wrong places can create a mess out of the image.  Similarly, when there are not enough cast shadows, the image looks flat (which may or may not be a desired effect).  The technique of gradually blending contrasting lights and darks is called chiaroscuro.  This effect creates spaces that recede in the works.  Tenebrism is extreme or exaggerated chiaroscuro, such as in the works of Rembrandt.  Some art deliberately uses different values in such a way that they create a shallow space, as you can see in many traditional Asian artworks.  Value pattern is a way of using dark and light values to create a pattern on the surface of the work, and can be used as a compositional element.  Sometimes it is difficult for artists to see what kind of values they are using in colour, and when the work is translated to black and white, the values can be too similar (although that might also be a deliberate decision.)  A closed-value composition means that values are contained within shapes which are used to contrast with one another.  An open-value composition means that values cross over one another.  Values are used in three-dimensional works in the shadows that they cast, or by the paint on the surface of the work.

I will not be able to do any surface design while I am on my trip.  I have brought up some drawing tools, as well as my business book, my podcasts, my design book, and a little knitting.  I hope to keep working on these subjects while I spend time in Canada trying to keep my status as a visitor in the United States legal.  I can’t yet afford the fees for a spousal Greencard but I am chomping at the bit to get one so I can stop pissing myself every time I cross the border.  I really hope I get back in again, as my husband and my stuff are stateside!


Day 10


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I started my day by checking out some photos on Etsy to try to figure out how I can take better photos.  I have some tips: photos look best when taken in sunlight (although not directly in a sunbeam) and on a natural surface.  I have a little space in my dining room that will do the trick.  I hope to work on those photos again soon.

I finished working on my stepmom's scarf last night.  I will take photos soon but I probably won't post them until she has received it.  I have started to work on another one in the same pattern for sale on Etsy.

I also finished weaving my second-ever woven scarf!  It is very short, and will probably be more of a neck decoration than something that keeps the neck warm.  It was a bit of a challenge to finish this, as my loom fell apart as I was almost finished and I had to get out the hammer, nails and pliers in order to finish the job.  This scarf is also going to be a present, this time to my mom, so I can't show you the whole thing yet.  But here is a sneak preview:

I heat-set and removed the glue from two small glue resist pieces I did.  They are drying and are not ready to be photographed yet.  I also ironed the resists that I washed out yesterday.  I am pretty pleased how they turned out.
Based on henna designs. I learned not to scrub at the glue with a nail brush: this fades the fabric paint, which is why there are some faded bits around the leaves on the vine.
Cherry blossoms, a favorite motif of mine.
Pole wrap resist. This is apparently a type of shibori dyeing.
I also did worked on some more glue resists to try with the textile paint, and I took one of the pole wrap cloths and tried a resist on that.  Tomorrow I will put dye on top of it.  I'm excited to see how it works.  I also did a bit of snooping around last night (because with unschooling school is never in and school is never out) and found out that some of the physical resists I have been doing are shibori.  I think I will take a shibori book out of the library, as there are many techniques I would like to try that I couldn't figure out from the internet.

I finished my yarn drawing.  It looks a little better now that I've finished it.  I have learned that I need to work on my negative space and my shading.  I will probably do this by drawing more.
Yesterday,  I started out with my new resolution of doing half as much in a day.  In fact I did just as much as usual, but much of it included screwing around on my computer trying to download podcasts and photos.  I had a look at my product photos.  They are a little better than the last ones (you can actually see the shirts) but not very good.  Master photographer I am not.  I am limited by my point-and-shoot camera, but I have managed to take decent photos with it before, so I think it might be my skill that's the problem.  I will need to work on that.
Non-Etsy quality product photo.
For my warm-up I was to choose a motif to explore over and over again in my work.  I think there is a motif that has found me: leaves.  I don't know what it is about leaves, but I keep using them.  They all look different, of course.  At least most of them.  I would have liked for my motif to be trees (which are very symbolic for me) but my trees never really turn out.  So leaves it is.

For my podcast, I listened to the conclusion of the lecture that I was previously listening to, about craft and social movements in India.  Today, there is a lot going on in the world of Indian crafts.  Crafts are considered to be part of the heritage of India, but they are generally being replaced with mass-market goods, often from China.  Sometimes Chinese mass-market goods are even made to look like Indian crafts!  There are special stores, including government stores, who sell Indian crafts, and the growing middle class in India, who want quality products, is a new market for the crafts, as are craft collectors overseas.  Some Indian crafts are of exceptional quality, as are the blockprints in this link.  Notice how many steps are involved in creating the beadspread.  However, some Indian crafts are not of such high quality, and the presenter didn't believe that people should buy the products just because they were handmade.  He wanted to work with artisans and his design students to develop better products that would appeal to a larger audience, especially those who want something high-quality and don't care if it's handmade or not.  There have been many problems with the artisan community in India.  Most live below the poverty line, and people sometimes steal their ideas.  The concept of intellectual property rights often a new idea to these people.  There have been a number of suicides as people have watched their livelihoods become unviable.  Often the artisans are women, who face additional social, economic, and political hurdles.  However, artisanship is the second-largest employer in India (the first being agriculture) so it is essential to the economic development of the country.  The speaker wanted to help the artisans use crafts to lift themselves out of their poverty and experience dignity.

I continued to work on my yarn-ball drawing.  It is coming along, albeit slowly.  I'm still not very happy with it.  Unfortunately, it is the ball of yarn I've been weaving with, and I've run out of yarn on my shuttle, so I can't continue to weave until I've finished the drawing.  I don't want any more scenes changing on me before I've finished them!
That weird grey thing is a kneaded eraser.
The subject.
For surface design, I tried two new techniques: Elmer's school glue resist with watered-down textile paint, and pole-wrap immersion dyeing.  I have washed both out now and will post photos when they are dry and ironed.

Today, I started out with business study.  I have now estimated all of my start-up costs and most of my monthly costs.  The start-up costs are reassuring: I probably won't need a bank loan.  However, my monthly costs are scaring me.  I have no idea how many transactions to expect in a given day, and there are only two days of sales, and my products will be priced pretty high so I don't know if I'll be selling lots of them.  I certainly hope I do!  But there's no guarantee.  But I suppose I will really only have to make about $200 a day to make those costs, which is one or two sales.  If I could make two sales a day at that silly Catholic Church craft fair I attended last year, I could probably make more than that at the Portland Saturday Market!

Design.  Oh, design.  I wish this book had assignments because I am sucky at coming up with them on my own.  Today's chapter was about shape.  Shapes can imitate natural forms or they can be imaginary and abstract.  There are geometric shapes, which we are all familiar with from elementary school, as well as biomorphic shapes, which suggest natural forms or forces (you could have a shape like a human body, or what you thought the wind looked like).  Shapes do not have to have distinct boundaries: they can be suggested through closure, or implied shape.  There is also amorphous shape, which is a blurry image which suggests a shape.  Shapes can either be two- or three-dimensional, whether in sculpture or a 2-D picture plane.  Mass refers to shapes on the picture plane and volume is the empty spaces.  Shapes can appear 3-D while on a 2-D surface (plastic).  This can be achieved by tilting the shapes in space, foershortening them, overlapping them, or grading the color, value, or texture.  This is especially important when representing shapes like spheres or ovoids that do not have any flat surfaces.  Use of perspective is one way of making shapes appear 3-D.  A weird and cool effect can be created when the perspective lines tilt toward the viewer: it looks like you are looking through the shape.  Some artists use 3-D effects without using perspective: medieval artists did not know about perspective, and more modern artists sometimes find it too constricting. Shapes can be used for the same compositional aspects that we previously studied: harmony and variety, either in the shape itself (a repeating motif) or the lines or interior shapes of the image; dominance, or making one shape more dominant than the rest of the image; movement, or the interior lines of viewing the shapes within the image; balance, in which we consider the visual weight of the shape, the negative area around it, the placement, size, and emphasis of the shape.  I will continue with the shape composition in my next study.

I hope to continue to work on my stepmom's scarf today as part of my personal projects.  I also might go over and review things in my design book to see how well they are actually sticking.  The point of all this is to improve my design, after all.
I have a new resolution: I will not try to do everything every day.

I could do it fine for the first few days, but I was getting increasingly tired and less motivated.  Also, I didn't have enough time to work on site development, networking, and all that kind of thing.  So I am going to give myself shorter studying days with more time for non-studying projects.  I also resolve not to be working nine or ten hour days.  To some people, it might not seem like a lot, but with my disability, it really is too much.

Yesterday, however, I did do a full day.  I didn't intend to, it just kind of happened.

I started out with my podcast.  I had some errands to do and listened while I did them.  The presentation was by a very distinguished professor in India who talked about how craft has been essential to the Indian identity.  He said that in the various Indian languages, the word for "craft" also means "art", "architecture", and various other similar things.  This is an idea I can get behind!  I am very interested in blurring the lines between art and craft, as I think it's a bit of a false dichotomy, and in some cases it offends my feminist leanings (often, things that men have traditionally done are considered art, and things that women have traditionally done are considered craft.  It's not a hard and fast rule, but it is a trend.)  He talked about craft from the earliest known times of settlement of the Indus Valley region--of course, evidence of craft is one of the first evidences of civilization.  He also discussed how the Mughal Empire brought Islamic-style art to India, as evidenced in the Taj Mahal.   Most interesting to me was the association of craft with independence from the British.  Early on in British rule, the British cut off the thumbs of weavers so that they would not be able to weave, and Indians would thus have to purchase British cloth.  When Gandhi began to envision a free India, he wanted to make sure that British oppression would not be replaced by Indian oppression.  He believed that increased self-sufficiency was the answer to that.  In order to achieve that increased self-sufficiency, Indians needed to re-learn to produce their own crafts.  Gandhi focused on spinning, and taught spinning to his disciples at his ashram and even to Jawaharlal Nehru.  He designed his own portable spinning wheel that he could take with him on his travels and even to jail, where he spent a fair amount of time.  This is why there is a spinning wheel on the Indian flag today.  The flag also has to be spun with the same kind of hand-spun Indian cloth that Gandhi made, as I have just learned from Wikipedia.

Next I decided to experiment with doing an Elmer's school glue resist on cloth.  I applied the resist (and used half the bottle, so good thing it's cheap!) and had to wait for it to dry.  I also prepared several small pieces of cloth for continued experimentation. But that was all.

I continued drawing my ball of yarn.  It continued to drive me crazy.  When I look at it with fresh eyes, it's not so bad, but when I work on it for a while, I am acutely aware of how far my drawing has to go.  My biggest problems are that I am not very good at estimating negative space, so things always end up in the wrong spot and I don't realize it until I try to fill in the detail, which doesn't match up; and that I don't have a good grasp of shading and value.  I do shading, but it never quite looks right.  I don't yet have the tools to identify what it is that I am doing wrong.

In design, I finished the chapter on line.  Line also possesses character, that is, what type of line is made with the medium at hand, and how it is applied.  It could be blurry or sharp, thick or fine, dotted or smudged, etc.  There are other elements having to do with line as well.  Line and shape involved contours, the outermost limits of a figure, and cross-contour, like what you see on a contoured map.  Line and value has to do with types of shading that can be achieved with line.  You can do this by controlling how close together the lines are, or by varying the thicknesses of the lines.  Putting parallel lines together to create different values is called hatching, and you can achieve darker values by making those lines perpendicular, called cross-hatching.  There is also line and texture, which is how the line appears on the surface.  This is created by the different media that can be used.  Additionally, there is line and color.  The color used will change the impact of the line.  There are spacial characteristics of line: thick lines appear to be closer and thinner lines seem to be further away. Lines can modulate from thick to thin and have an impact.  Line can also represent emotions or states.  Gestural drawings are based on an artist's initial impression of something and tend to have loose, flowing lines.  There are also calligraphic lines, or lines that imitate calligraphy (but can be used in any typer of art).  Additionally, there is implied line, or lines that are suggested by the lines and shapes around them (remember closure?)  Finally, there are three-dimensional applications of line: we tend to see lines where there are edges in three-dimensional work.  Sometimes lines are incised in clay to bring a certain image out.

Finally, I worked on my business study.  My husband and I discussed getting my online shop back up.  One of the problems with my shop is that I have horrible pictures, so I re-took pictures of my products.  I'm not sure they're any better, however.  Master photographer I am not.

Today I endeavor to do half of what I did yesterday.  So shorter blog posts, hopefully.

Also, my camera situation has been resolved, and the camera is charged.  At the moment, I am loading those photos onto my computer and it is taking a long time, so I will have some new photos later today or tomorrow.
Yesterday was Labour Day, so I did roughly half a day of schooling.  I would have done a full day but I wanted to spend some time with my husband, who doesn't get a lot of days off.  So there was some decidedly not-working going on.

I started with the warm-up, as usual.  It didn't go anywhere, which is becoming more frequent.  The assignment was to get some sort of a box and put my "collection" in there, as a field journal.  The problem was that I a) didn't have the type of box mentioned and b) that I don't have a collection.  So that was that.

Next, I listened to my podcast as I wove.  On the weaving front, my project is nearly finished!  It will probably be a very short scarf as I don't think I factored in loom waste when I did my calculations.  I may have mentioned that calculations are not my strong point.  Anyway, the podcast was a continuation of the previous two day's podcasts, talking about Indian fabrics (mostly cotton) and their impact around the world).  Eventually chintz got passe, because everyone had it, so no person of fashion would wear it.  The next big thing in Indian cotton was Bengali muslin.  At the time, Europeans could not make muslin, because they couldn't replicate the very finely spun thread used in muslin.  It was apparently very difficult to weave because the thread was so fine.  Muslin appeared in dresses with high waists (now known as Empire waists), because it looked like the clothes that ancient Grecian women wore in the art from that period.  Since muslin is very fine, critics said that women were trying to replicate Grecian undress.  Also fashionable at that time were cashmere shawls, with very beautiful patterns.  In the beginning they tended to have a large plain field in the center and a decorated edge.  Over time, the decoration came to take up most of the shawl.  These could be draped around the shoulders in such a way that complemented the folds in the muslin dresses.  These shawls were very expensive and it took a long time for them to go out of fashion.  They were still fashionable in the Victorian period, where they became very long to coordinate with the silhouette of the day.

For my drawing assignment, I decided to draw a ball of fine yarn.  Holy cow.  When I try to draw stuff like this, it reminds me how far my drawing actually has to go.  It was very frustrating and so far, looks nothing like a ball of yarn.  It didn't help that I was looking at art magazines over the weekend with photorealistic drawings in them.  I have to keep in mind that drawing isn't my ultimate medium and photorealism isn't my means of expression.  That being said, I don't want to be an artist that can't draw so that's why I choose challenging projects like this.  My last project was too easy and I finished it in 15 minutes.  I suppose I could have made it more detailed, but I think I actually hit my limit of what I can currently do with my drawing.  Drawing will be my next major subject after design, I think.

After that, I did surface design.  Well, "did" is a relative term.  I spent a lot of my time looking at the projects of the past few days trying to figure out what's next.  I still haven't figured it out.  Maybe they are finished.  They are currently hanging in my dining room, where I can look at them and try to decide things.  I also spent a fair amount of time flipping through my book, reading about different techniques that I might try.  I decided to avoid discharges for the time being because you need a respirator, and I just don't feel like doing art that requires a respirator right now!  I decided to do a resist with Elmer's school glue on some new pieces of cloth.  However, when I got out my Elmer's glue, I saw that it was not school glue, and that it in fact would not work as a resist because it wouldn't wash out of the fabric.  So I'll keep my eyes peeled for some cheap school glue when I go out today.

I skipped business study, although my husband and I discussed how I might do some more internet sales, and that I should think about what I want to sell online.  I have a few items in my Etsy shop (none of them currently listed) and I think I will try to sell those again, but they need better photos and it's not the kind of stuff I want to spend the rest of my life making.  I might start a new shop in conjunction with my current one.  But first I have to find my camera parts!

My design study was a bit all over the place.  I started by finishing the previous chapter on form.  I actually didn't have much left in that chapter, so now I think it's odd that I stopped what I did.  I read about form in three dimensional design, much of which is the same as two-dimensional design.  Balance is a little different because things have to look balanced from all different directions.  Asymmetrical balance is most common.  The scale of 3-D work is important-- it could be a tiny thing that could be held in the palm of the hand, or it could be large enough to be walked on, or so incredibly huge it can be seen from far away.  Movement can be quite different because kinetic sculpture is possible.  The next section that I started on (but didn't get very far in) was about line.  I am quite excited about this chapter, as I am really interested in how line can be used in surface design.  The characteristics of line are measure (the length and width of the line), type (straight, curved, or angular), direction (which way the line moves on the surface; for example, you could have a zig-zag line that curved over the surface of the work), and location (where on the surface the line is, and how that affects our perception of space, perspective, and so on.)  That's as far as I have gotten.

In my personal projects, I have started to knit a scarf for a birthday present for my stepmom.  I had a pattern, tried it, scrunched it up and threw it away, and made my own pattern.  It's my first lace pattern, and I am pretty impressed with myself considering that I have only made 1 1/2 lace projects before.  I can't post the photos yet because my stepmom might be reading this, but after she receives it I will post them.
Today might have been one of those days that people would point to as an example of why unCollege doesn't work.  Which is silly, because I remember quite a bit more noodling around from my traditional college days.  It would take three hours to write a paragraph for a paper because I was screwing around on Facebook and Youtube most of the time.  So I was actually quite a bit more productive today than I would have been back in my undergrad days, even though I was feeling really lazy and didn't accomplish much compared to the other days.

Today's warm-up was a complete bust, as the assignment was to go through your best friend's stash.  This would not be possible for me today, and even if it was I would feel pretty uncomfortable about it.  I don't like it when people go through my things, so why would it be okay for me to do it to someone else?  So I knitted instead.  Being super-unproductive, I knitted about 4 rows before I quit.

I worked on my weaving while I listened to today's podcast.  It was a continuation of yesterday's and talked about the rage for chintz (in the traditional sense of painted cotton) in Europe.  It was crazy-popular in England, although it was relatively inexpensive so people who were trying to show off how rich they were would wear silk underneath.  It was also very popular in Holland.  It didn't make much of a splash in Italy or France.  In England, rich women would give chintz clothes to their servants, so people complained that they couldn't tell what class people were by looking at them (the horror!).  It started out being popular for bedspreads and that sort of thing, but then made its way to fashion, which led some to gripe about people wearing their bedsheets.  Because it was so popular and relatively inexpensive, local cloth manufacturers were having a difficult time.  Most cloth manufacturers in England were producing wool and linen cloth, which are much more difficult to clean than cotton.  So the importation of chintz was outlawed.  People were very creative in finding ways around the laws so chintz continued to be worn.  Eventually European importers began to request certain themes or motifs on their chintz, which the Indian manufacturers would carry out.  For example, trees were very popular in Holland.

My weaving, which is not chintz.
Note the herringbone pattern. I should also mention that I actually taught myself how to read a weaving pattern today. Mostly.
Next I worked on drawing.  This was one of the assignments where I felt I was the laziest.  I set up a very simple still life.  Very simple.  I think it took me 20 minutes to draw it.  My last drawing took about five hours.
I promise I will take better photos one day. I want to scan this, but the scanner isn't talking to my computer. This should be indicative of my general technology-savviness.
I studied my design book after that.  This unit was about other principles in 2-D design (harmony being the one that I looked at yesterday).  I looked at variety, the counterpart to harmony.  This could involve contrast, meaning opposition or dissimilarity.  Contrast could be in color, value, or placement.  Elaboration of an area that lacked visual interest is another way of achieving variety.  Finally, one must take into account the dualism of harmony and variety.  You could, for example, achieve harmony by repeating shapes, and variety by making those shapes different colors.  Another principle is balance, which is what we perceive should happen with the objects in the work.  For example, a picture of a ball at the top of a painting gives a sense of tension, as we expect the ball to fall down.  Additionally, the way we perceive things, it doesn't look right when the mat around the painting is equal on all sides.  Usually the bottom part will be a bit larger, which makes things seem more balanced.  There are different kinds of balance: symmetrical balance, in which the two halves of the work mirror each other; approximate symmetrical balance, where equal visual weights are on both halves of the work, even though those halves aren't identical; and radial balance, where the visuals radiate out from a certain point on the work; asymmetrical balance, in which colors, shapes, lines, and negative area balance each other out (this I know when I see but don't know how to reproduce it myself).  Next I looked at proportion, which is the relationship in placement in a work.  The golden mean is a part of that, although I must admit that I don't really understand the golden mean and how it works.  I understand that there is some sort of ratio that the shapes have to each other, but that's the extent of what I understand.  Proportion could also mean the proportion of the work itself to the surrounding areas, or how much room the subject(s) of the painting take up within the picture frame.  In ancient art, the most important figure would be the largest, with other figures smaller.  Dominance is another principle.  Dominance occurs when a figure or shape dominates the surrounding space, whether through size, color, value, or something else.  Movement is the direction of the viewers eyes to different parts of the work.  Artists can manipulate what order the viewer looks at the image in by placing points of interest in different places on the work.  Economy is another principle of design, where the artist seeks to eliminate that which is unnecessary or confusing.  Finally, there is the problem of space: what sort of visual plane the artist wants to appear on the work.  A 2-D work with a flat plane is referred to as decorative and one with a deep plane is called three-dimensional or plastic.

Next, I worked on the dreaded task of removing the dye from my sample cloths.  Some of the overdyes ended up being quite interesting.
Tie-dye without stones
Tie-dye with stones
Folded. I like that this one kind of looks like ikat.
Finally, I worked on my business study.  I am still trying to come up with numbers for my start-up costs.  It is hard to get some straight answers about how much something will cost me.  I'm also trying to figure out if I need a business license.  I apparently don't need to be a citizen to sell at the Saturday market, but if I make over $15,000 a year I need a business license, and I don't know the legalities of that.  I guess it's a good thing that I have to figure all that stuff out before I can get started and cost myself a pile of money or accidently break rules.  But I've decided to figure out start-up and ongoing costs before I move to the next thing in the book.  Otherwise I will get too confused.  I really hate trying to figure money out but I also hate working for other people so I guess I'd better get over that!

I have filled in an application to volunteer at the Museum of Contemporary Craft.  I will most likely be handling transactions or directing customers, but it will give me the chance to see how a gallery works.  Besides, it's my favorite gallery in town.  So I will keep you posted on my progress.

Yesterday, I forgot to mention that I got my very own unCollege student ID card!  My wonderful friend Melanie Wallace, who has a laminator, made it for me.  Thanks Mel!