Traveler Art

One of my attempts at collage, this piece includes preprinted elements, brads, and wings made with a stencil and stucco acrylic medium.

I’ve been in the mood to do some artwork recently. I signed up for a Craftsy class on working with colored pencils and so now — you guessed it — I have even more art supplies on my desk than I did before I started watching the course. But honestly, is there such a thing as too many pens or pencils? I’ll only consider it to be a waste of money if I put the pencils away without using them.

And I haven’t used them much so far, but I am pulling out papers and other art supplies and creating something. I’ve done a few minor sketches with the pencils but nothing that I want to share. This small piece was done on a 4- by 6-inch card. I sprayed the card with Ranger’s Distressed stain in Tumbled Glass but it beaded up on the surface, so I blotted it with a paper towel. That left behind the impression of the paper towel, so I rubbed at the card until that design was gone and ended up with a nice mottled background. For the edges of the card I just dabbed at the paper with an ink pad.

The wings were done with a stencil and Liquitex ceramic stucco acrylic gel, which I later drew on with a pencil to give them a bit more definition. The color of the stucco blended in too much with the background and I thought it needed a bit more of a distressed look to carry through with the rest of the design.

I’m continuing to work on writing projects but I think there’s a fair amount of burn-out going on. I’m hoping the art projects will help keep me moving forward with a little bit of creative cross-training.

Writing Goals and Refilling the Well

I’m sadly behind in my writing goals, but I’m not really surprised since I set the bar so high for myself. At this point I’m about 5900 words behind schedule. The problem with falling behind goals is that you get to a point where you just want to give up on the goal instead of doubling down and trying harder to get the work done. For me, a lot of the nonfiction articles I write require a lot of research and that takes time, but I can’t justify counting that toward my writing goals. Instead, I create a rough draft of the article and count those words, then when I revise it’s just a matter of calculating my editing time as an equivalent word-count, which admittedly is a bit tricky to do.

The best course of action is to get back on track with my average daily writing goal. I’m only counting five days a week for that because I’ve found that it is unrealistic if I expect to write every day. Sometimes I just need to get away from the keyboard. I work full time and spending fourteen hours a day sitting here and being productive is just not going to happen.

I spent some time this weekend indulging in what Julia Cameron calls “filling the well.” That’s basically recharging your artistic batteries by doing something different and not beating yourself over the head for not getting your entire NaNoWriMo word count done in one afternoon. I’ve signed up for a Craftsy course on working with colored pencils and right now fighting the urge to buy excessively large collections of colored pencils just because — Oooh! All the colors! I have colored pencils but of course I want different ones, because as it turns out there is a difference between them. There are wax-based and oil-based pencils, and the oil-based ones are much smoother and have more pigment so they are a higher-quality artist tool than the cheap ones you get at the local mega-mart.

My writing goals this week are to finish revising and editing a bio for an encyclopedia and start working on a presentation that I’m giving the beginning of April. I’ll probably spend time trawling my notes so it may not be much actual writing for that, but I also have been putting off doing the final revision of my novel as other projects have just swept it off my desk. Time to pull it out and get started, I think.

And one more thing: my backspace key just fell off my keyboard, so I have to type perfectly! Have a productive writing week, and may all your words be typo free.


A Busy Spring

I’m behind in my ambitious writing goal for the year, which is no huge surprise given that I set the bar very high at 240,000 words. I’m counting editing and revision at 750 words an hour, which is three-quarters of what the NaNoWriMo site recommends, but it jives with the amount of work I usually get done in an hour when I edit/revise my work.

It’s a busy spring for me so far. I have nine writing-related projects on my desk this quarter, including encyclopedia articles on the Scott Antarctic Expedition and the Indian Howdah for ABC-Clio’s The British Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia; a biography and a cultural and historical context article on Ray Bradbury for Salem Press’s Critical Insights: Ray Bradbury encyclopedia; my first draft for Corrugated Sky’s second anthology.

I’m also going to present a paper at the Mid-Atlantic Conference on British Studies annual meeting, which is coming up the beginning of April, so I need to delve back into my research for that. Which brings me to another project, which is turning my master’s thesis (about 100 pages) into a full-length book. But for that, I need a lot more research, so it’s a time-intensive project.

And the last two items on my list (so far this year) are my novel, Seacombe Island, and a book on writer’s prompts. I’ve spent quite a bit of time organizing my calendar and to-do list so I’m not having all the deadlines at once, but it means working ahead and I find that soft deadlines (ones I impose on myself) are easier to let slide by than hard deadlines (drop-dead dates, or dates imposed by the publisher). I pride myself on not missing hard deadlines, although I’ve had to ask for two- or three-day extensions in the past when an article has proven to be troublesome, or when holidays muck up my scheduling.

And so I’m avoiding working on articles right now by, well, writing about my writing. I guess that counts as words toward my yearly goal, so I’ll gloat on that for a moment and then clear my desk and get cracking on today’s list of things to work on.

Getting the Right Slant

This tree at Great Falls, Virginia, shows great visual texture. The angle of the tree matches the angle of the rock formation across the river.

This tree at Great Falls, Virginia, shows great visual texture. The angle of the tree matches the angle of the rock formation across the river.

I spent an hour or two today fussing with my new light setup, but I haven’t found a good place to put my photo tent yet and I still need to get the wrinkles out of the nylon background fabric. I’ve already ironed it once and frankly that sort of thing just isn’t my cup of tea: one nickname that I’ll never aspire to is “domestic goddess.”

I’m setting up some materials for a post on lighting but that’s for another day. Tonight I sorted through some older photos to see what would be a good inspiration for a blog post.

This tree at Great Falls, Virginia, caught my interest when I visited there a few years back and I was trying to get the texture of the bark and the rocks in the foreground. What I didn’t notice until I was going through the photographs later was that the angle of the tree matches the rocks on the other side of the river.

If you look you can see cracks through the rocks where geological and weathering forces have worked on them. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that the tree branch is nearly the exact same angle as the rocks, but it makes for an interesting composition.

This photo was taken while I was on a hike and I hand-held the camera, so the focus isn’t very sharp. The colors in the image are pretty bland, but that’s the way they were in real life, too. And that’s the problem with photos of subjects like this — they tend to be so monochromatic that they might as well be black and white photographs.

And actually this one might be better as a B&W image, so pardon me while I go off to Photoshop and try a few variations to see if I can make this image any more interesting.

So here we are. I’ve made two quick variations on the original image, both using the Topaz Black and White Effects filters, to see how they will change the image. The one on the left is a cyanotype version. It’s very moody but I would like to have more brilliance in the white caps on the water. There’s not enough variation in the tones to make the image really good, but this reminds me of some of the duotone images that I’ve seen in old textbooks and encyclopedias. The image on the right is called eggplant, and it does have a slight purplish overtone. Again, the water is muddy and there aren’t enough bright spots to make the water sparkle.

The original photo isn’t very appealing, despite the interesting lines in the composition, and the two images below could use more work to bring out some highlights. But it’s interesting to see how the color difference changes the feel of the images. The blue one is almost sinister, but the brown one shows off the texture of the wood much better.

Same tree and rocks, but with Topaz B&W Effects Teal Dynamic filter applied.

Same tree and rocks, but with Topaz B&W Effects Teal Dynamic filter applied.

And here it is with the Topaz B&W Effects Eggplant Dynamic filter applied.

And here it is with the Topaz B&W Effects Eggplant Dynamic filter applied and a black border added.