Today I witnessed a terrible thing.

Standing in line at the Walmart pharmacy, waiting to get my antibiotics prescription filled, I heard a horrible sound. A rip. A tearing, a rending of board and paper. I turned my head and saw a Walmart employee, cart before her, hands cradling a paperback romance. Rrrriiippp. The cover came off, topping a stack of similar ones in the baby seat of her cart. The depleted corpse was tossed into the cart's belly, where it splayed among dozens of its fellows. Rrrriiippp.
I stood watching, horror turning my stomach and shock freezing my gaze. I contemplated walking over there, shouting at the employee, demanding she stop. But of course she wouldn't. Of course, that would only cause a scene. No good. I turned my head and stared resolutely forward, studying the pink woolen hat of the old woman in front of me, willing her to complete her business quickly so I could drop off my prescription and be away. Rrrriiippp. My stomach clenched and twisted. The sound made me feel ill.

Stripping paperbacks. Of course I've heard of it before, from an author at a Dragon*con panel, most likely. Regular paperbacks are incredibly cheap to produce. The paper is cheaply harvested, the labor is paid nil, they're perfect bound and with glue of very low quality. The advantage of this is that book publishers can put a great deal of them out very cheaply, making them relatively affordable to the average person. The bad news is, when a company like Walmart (or Barnes and Noble, or Borders) buys a whole shipment of them and the bulk don't sell... it's far, far cheaper for them to strip the books and toss them in the dumpster out back, rather than ship them back to the company for their piddling refund. The refund wouldn't even cover shipping. This is the whole reason for the 'stripped book' statement you'll find inside most paperbacks from the 70's through the 90's, and even today. It's not because the publisher is really that sold on the cover art. It's because that front-coverless book you're holding was probably refuse, saved from a dumpster, and no big-time re-sale company made a profit off of it.
That's one of the advantages of trade paperbacks. Yes, compared to regular paperbacks they're very expensive. They're oversized. But they're made of decent materials, and they're far too valuable to be treated in the same way as a standard paperback. They're shipped back to the publisher for a refund if they don't sell successfully. What happens to them from there, however, I can only guess at.
I mean, just think of the waste! Because paperbacks are manufactured cheaply, they're made out of the cheapest and easiest paper material--wood, usually freshly cut, and with no guarantee of sustainability. That's bad enough, though if the book's being kept and used at least it's to a purpose. But thousands upon thousands of books are simply tossed in a dumpster every year. Not even recycled, that would be too much extra expense and work.
And me, I can't look at the mass destruction of books without my stomach clenching. I love books too much, no matter how trashy the contents. It's a terrible emblem for our wasteful, disposable consumerism. Look how much we have, we can just throw it away. But we really don't have that much. Really.

What can be done about this? I'm not really sure. Petitioning publishers and stores to act more responsibly is a thought. Notifying the public at large of this travesty is an idea, too. But movements are hard to begin, and I'd understand if you don't want to. But ordering books online from responsible sources, or buying from independent small booksellers instead of places like Walmart and Barnes and Noble.... that's a start. An ideal future would see books produced in very small batches, or even made-to-order rather than made-in-excess to anticipate the possibility of order. But then they'd be more expensive, wouldn't they? Our system just isn't set up to sustain that idea. But if anyone wants to venture that business, that green publishing company with made-to-order books printed on recycled cotton and wood paper...
You've got an instant customer right here.


Some art, and where I'm going for now.

Next week is SGC (Southern Graphics Conference), the largest printmaking convention...probably in North America. Big deal. Lots of neat artists, lecturers, panels, demos... very excited, me. This will be the second one I've attended. The last was held at the University of Madison, Wisconsin. This one will be at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) in Richmond. Very close to home for me, and also close to my little sister, who's going to William & Mary, and whom I hope to see while I'm down there.
In any case, I'll be gone from Wednesday morning (early) through Saturday night (veryvery late.) What I'm going to is probably much more interesting than the fact that I'll be gone, so I'll be sure to make an account of what I found there when I get back. For one, I'm looking forward to a little springlike weather, in counter to the wintery deadlock that Cleveland has had to offer thus far this year.
Before I go, here are a few items I've been working on. The one up top is a sketch of a little hybrid critter that's part squid, part goat and part thorn bush. Just something I doodled in my notebook whilst awaiting the arrival of Nancy Stahl, the lecturing illustrator I went to see last Wednesday night, during the snowstorm. It was very informative, she is very famous, and more about that at another time, as well.
At the bottom are some sample enamels I've been working on, just to practice technique. The larger ones are photo transfer, done in different colours and baked at different lengths. The little ones are just experiments with flux and opaque enamels.

That is all. Happy Easter and Purim and Vernal Equinox (belated) everyone.


Getting to know Bitstrip

It's still pretty awesome, though.
And my roomie Lin is on there too.

More random personal comics to come in the future. Effortless creativity is fun sometimes.


no gnomes

Yes, I know, the Argentinian gnome is a hoax.
But just because it's not real doesn't mean I don't have to believe in it, so there :P

Yay gnomes!


Of enameled thickets and chimaeric hybrids

A little bit of mine own art on mine own art blog, eh?
Five of these are of a series of enamels I completed for midterm. 'Completed' being used loosely, here, because I feel like at least three of them need a tad more work. Hint: the green ones are overfired (how I like it) and the red ones are way underfired (they also need sanding.) I believe they will enlarge if you click on them.
Also, a sketch of a night jar chimeric plant hybrid. Because right now I'm all about the combination of animals+minerals+plants+machines. Reading too much damn Michael Maier, that's what it is. Yes.
Maybe just reading too much in general.
To come: some several-year-old ballpoint pen watercolours that I never scanned for some reason, and a four-plate drypoint print on the aforementioned chimeric obsession.

This is the world I want to live in

A gnome is terrorizing a small Argentinian town. A tiny person, with a pointy hat, who is seen shuffling sideways along the street at night, scaring the bajeezies out of children.
A group of Argentinian youths managed to get a little videophone footage of it. Holy crap.
Yes, it is the sort of thing that would send me running if I saw it on a dark street at night. Just watching this video, imagining it out there, is frightening. So why am I so happy that is exists?
Obviously, there are no known little people inhabiting the town, so this is either a nocturnal vagrant midget hobo, or something even more bizarre.
Reported on BoingBoing.

And from Ectoplasmosis, I just had to post this here. Including the work of Richard Kirk and Raf Veulemans. It's a gallery exhibition called "Labyrinth...And we shall all die trying" taking place in Berlin right now.
This show is so achingly beautiful that it almost makes me question continuing to make art. Never had that happen before, but seeing that something so close to what I want to make exists already in the world.... amazingly beautiful. Go look.

The pictured image is "Searching for the Breadcrumb Navigator" by Richard Kirk.

I'm going to post some of my own artwork later tonight. This is just too inspiring for words.


And I do love critters.

The Japanese Culture blog Pink Tentacle just posted a fascinating array taken from a 16th century book of Japanese medicine. Apparently, while we Westerners were whining and aching about vampires and bad humors in our body, the Japanese were a little bit closer to the truth of the matter, blaming a whole bestiary of bizarre tiny monsters for their illnesses.
Read the article here.
Some of the very illnesses are astounding! Is dizziness and the sound of clashing rocks in one's ears such a problem for people that a whole disease is ascribed to it? Is a dark complection and the want of oily foods?
Very interesting. Very adorable critters. I mean frightening.
No, adorable. Giant Microbes have changed my views on disease forever.

Indicative somewhat?

Yesterday, I managed to drag myself all the way up to Coventry.  Normally it's an easy mile or so uphill, not so bad.  Post-blizzard, however, it was a different story.  The sidewalks were shoveled only as far as the Mayfield entrance to Lakeview cemetary.  After that, a well-trodden path quickly gave way to occasional footprints sunk into snow more than knee deep, with drifts well past my shoulder.  I ended things walking down the shoulder of the road, which--though perilous--was at least plowed.

The point of the post, however, is not the hierarchy that becomes fairly evident when Cleveland gets snowed under.
While I was up at the library, dropping off my packfull of tomes, I noticed a booksale in full swing over near the children's section.
Besides some very old guides to hostels in France, and a few out-dated issues of the farmer's almanac, almost every book in that bin was by L. Ron Hubbard.  Probably every copy that the Cleveland Public Library system owned.
I do believe in coincidences.  That, however, is far too timely to be simply a coincidence.

Which of course makes me happy.  :)


Illustrator ahoy

Via Drawn!, I've stumbled across the amazing, Gorey-esque artworks of Julie Collins Rousseau. Beautiful pen and ink drawings, with subtle and effective colour, and deliciously bizarre creatures.
Another SCAD graduate, as well. When I was applying for schools, I remember hearing that SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design, for the uninitiated) was a very poor program. My art teacher, Mrs. Monroe, practically shot steam out of her ears when I mentioned that I was considering it. Anymore, though, it seems that I've been coming across some pretty impressive talents among its graduates. I know its sequential art program is its prime (if only) draw... is it possible that all of the bad press I'd been hearing was prejudice on the part of 'fine artists' asked to review a school mostly concerned with illustration? Has the program just suddenly made a drastic improvement in the last five years? Or have the artists I've been looking at just been such great talents that even a crummy school could not corrupt their work?
I'd love to hear an account from one of them.



For anyone who's interested, I'm slowly building a small presence over on Etsy.
There are only two items in the shop at the moment, both digital prints, both actually impossible for me to make/ship at the moment, considering that Cleveland is currently under several feet of snow.
But check it out anyway. Future plans are big, as I hope to work on jump-starting myself by drawing little hour, or half-hour vignettes every day and posting them up there for cheap (like, $15-20 dollars for a handmade piece cheap.) So keep an eye out for that.
Also working more on getting the banner up on this site, as well as that one.
You'll know when I finally drag my butt through the motions of making one.


Photos of my roommate's car half buried under a snowdrift. Blizzards during spring break = hilarity!


Free short fiction on the web

I recently stumbled across a very interesting publication called McSweeney's. Now, I'm probably the last person in the world to hear about it. I'm sure. But I was pleasantly enchanted by it, and even submitted a short story to their web edition (the one entitled 'changeling' on this blog, from back in 2004.) We'll see how that goes.
But check it out, take a read.
Also, I really want their circus journal and their 4-issue bundle. Much willpower is going into the fact that I haven't already spent money on them. Willpower! Yaaarrgh.

I also just found out about Ficlets from Joe Scalzi's blog.
It's a collaborative story engine, essentially. Much like telling a story around a camp fire.
You write a little story fragment, and someone picks it up and appends a sequel or prequel, then someone else... then someone else....
Or you do the prequel/sequeling.
It looks like a great deal of fun, and the community seems very open.
I haven't submitted anything yet, but I'm definitely of a mind to.

Some tips for artists dealing with digital files

It seems like I see this a lot, even with very skilled and experienced artists.
Most art schools have digital production programs nowadays, but these might not necessarily be very comprehensive. Nor do all artists attend art school, of course.
So here are a few tips for artists scanning their work to manipulate digitally.

-Standard print resolution is either 150 or 300dpi. The higher the dpi, the better the quality of the print but also the larger the file. In Adobe Photoshop, resolution can be adjusted under image>size. Always start your images at 150-300 dpi, and work on them at that size.

-I'd recommend scanning everything at a minimum of 300dpi. You can always reduce the size later.
The basic formula is: something at a high resolution gets reduced, it looks even better. Vice versa looks terrible.

-Standard web resolution is 72dpi. That's just the optimum number for display. Posting something at a higher resolution won't make it look crisper, it will only make your image really large and make it easier for people to steal your work (72dpi is, obviously, far too small to achieve a decent print.)

-Keep a backup of your file, with all of the layers, saved at full resolution. Even if you never plan on printing your image.

-Save everything as a tiff or psd while working on it. Tiffs and psds are loss-less files. This means, they don't discard any information when they're saved in order to compress themselves. They're the most flexible of the loss-less files. Jpegs and gifs are not loss-less, which means that every time you open one to edit and then save it again, information is discarded again. Your image will get pixel-y and crappy looking every time, the colours will be off. They're the perfect format if you're just saving something for the web, because at that point you never plan on opening and editing it again, and if someone steals it they'll run into the same problems you would.

-If you're working on an image to submit to a client or for a competition, always send in a 72dpi image without layers for the previews. If you win/they pay you, then send the full resolution file (though again, unless it's in the contract they don't need the layers, just a flattened tiff, pdf or jpeg.)

-If you're trying to save an image with a transparent background, save for web>save as a png is the way to go.

-Images don't generally like being enlarged. If you want to enlarge something, scan it at 1200 dpi, run a threshold on it in photoshop (under filters) then go into image size and bump the resolution down to 300 or 150, while increasing the size (preferably by 4x or less, the less you enlarge it the crisper it will look.)
Another way to do this is by opening it up in Illustrator and vectorizing it, by going to object>live trace>options. I'd preview everything before finalizing it. Vectors can be enlarged endlessly, but the very process of vectorizing will screw with your image a bit, and totally mess up gradients. Be sure to play with it and see how close you can get to the original. Especially good for line drawings, though.

-Scanning in some line art, and want to clean it up really well? Not have to deal with that haze of white around your lines? An easy way to do this (that I discovered by accident).
1.) Bump up the black levels, to get rid of any grey that might have shown up in your lines during scanning. (another thing: brightness/contrast also discards information. It's better to adjust those settings by going into levels.)
2.) Make your background layer into layer 0. Make two new layers underneath it. Fill one with white, and the other with black (or whatever other colour you'd prefer your linework to be.)
3.) Go to Select>select colour range. Click on the white in your picture, and bump the fuzziness all the way up.
4.) Click on your black layer. Hit delete.

You now have your linework. It's a surprisingly clean looking method, far far better than the magic wand tool. Now you can clean your lines up further by vectorizing them in Illustrator, or just use them as is.

That's all. If you already knew this, yay! If not, I hope it helps.
I only learned the danger of jpegs just this past September. Boy am I kicking myself about that!


Slideshows, like miniature automated museums

The very prodigious Anuj has created a slideshow of the works I've posted here on my blog. You can view it on his blog, 'Cool Slideshows'.
While you're over there, be sure to browse some of his other work. It's very engaging, completely open to the consumer (he encourages appreciative audiences to post his work on their blogs) and represents what, in my mind, is a fascinating new curatorial trend in creativity exclusive to the internet.

If this blog weren't already overloading my poor old Mac when I view it, there would certainly be some on here!


The bizarre and wonderul anatomies of Walmor Correa

I first read of this fellow in a book about modern Cryptozoological art. His work is so wonderful I have trouble forming the words to describe it. He creates great, medical anatomy charts for various mythological and cryptozoological beasts, showcasing various peculiar vascular, skeletal or reproductive features for each. He make little Wunderkammern-esque domed cases containing dancing bird skeletons of improbable structure. He paints invented beetles, and then traps the drawings beneath collectors' pins: as if fearing their escape.
And more. I seriously suggest devoting a bit of time to browsing his personal website.

The art of Walmor Correa



If I don't post this now, I will forget. A two-and-a-half month dry spell, then four in one day. I'm afraid this is what I do.
This is the third state of a print I have been working on for a while. I might have posted the first state here... I'm really not sure. In any case, it is a drypoint print, on arches cover cream, 9 x 12". The title is 'Avia Sophia'. It is, as I implied, still in progress, but I am fairly happy with where it is right now.
Refer to the title of this post for purposes of interpretation.


Or email, in German. I'm taking a class called 'The printed image in enamel', my first involvement with the medium. It is highly enjoyable. I particularly love the different variations achievable through the manipulation of flux. The accompanying pieces were created using a liquid hard flux, a powdered flux, liquid white, opaque grey and just a touch of a pale translucent blue.

And by the by...

I've also been wasting a bit of time lately. Not really wasting... it does relate some benefit. I found this website called Mac Freeware . Yes, I have a lovely PowerBook G4. It is old. I gave it a gig of RAM this summer, but it's still old and it still has some issues when I ask too much of it.
That said, I downloaded a hell of a lot onto it this past week, and it's now working better than ever.

Just a few of the most useful programs I've found:

Frostwire (like Limewire, but without the bs),
(know how Linux Ubuntu has that awesome multi-desktop interface, that spins like a cube? Yeah, that's what this is),
(lets me run maintenance from my desktop),
(a productivity program that lets me call applications out from the depths of my harddrive and tell them to run or print or whatever, just with a few keystrokes. It has many, many other uses even I don't know yet.),
Sidedrawer (a note-taking program that hides on the side of my screen at all times, until I call it out),
(when my computer crashed, they installed Tiger on it for free, which was awesome. Unfortunately, while Panther came with iPhoto, Tiger makes you pay for the feature. Thus, all of this time I have been without a photo organizing program.)
Cooliris (lets you preview the content of a webpage before going there, quick and easy time saver).
Infinite canvas (I actually already had this, but the site has it and it's awesome. It's a very neat little tool for creating interactive, 'infinite' webcomics. Easy and intuitive. I haven't done much with it yet myself, but it's a small and fascinating tool to just have.)

If you have a Mac, take some of these suggestions. I'm amazed by how well my computer is performing. It's even convinced me to keep going with Mac (I was thinking of getting a Linux box next). Good stuff.
Open source software= yay.
I plan on getting a new iMac when I graduate. I'm even thinking of not shelling out for Adobe, but using freeware like Gimp and Inkscapes instead.
We'll see how they work.

Also, check out Splashup. It's like a limited version of photoshop, for free, operating directly through your browser. You can use it on Flikr and Picassa images, or just upload through it to them. Neat stuff.

I am a terrible blogger.

No wonder nobody reads this.
I'm trying to get back on track, but my BFA coming that might take a while. In the meantime, here is a piece I did for my expanded print final last semester. The idea was an 8 x 11 image that could be printed out on any standard desktop printer. The challenge was to make it somehow user friendly, interactive, to give people a reason to print it out. So mine is stationary, though as anartist I have trouble surrendering complete control to my audience. Therefore I have already begun the letter for you. Y'know, to help you along.
Troy (the teacher) was going to make a multi-page pdf out of the class' finals, and send it to everyone he knows. I believe he did. So this is totally, 100% open-source. It's only a 72 dpi image here, but if you want a full resolution copy of your own for printing, leave a comment. We'll talk it out.