beading, beadwork, fiber arts, glass beads, jewelry design, macrame, seed beads, tatting

Adventures in neckpiece design

I was kick-started back into beading recently by someone asking me to make them a blue necklace of a certain length.  :)  This got me thinking on design — my tentative instinct is to go with Oglala (Butterfly) Stitch, a basic form of which I can see between the two versions I’ve seen in books.  Butterfly Stitch is just basically working one or more ruffles off of a center chain.  I’ll have to add at least 3/4″-1″ in length to account for the girth of the thing, but I’m still working on pattern ideas (particularly color placement).

I do have a more interesting project (to me, right now, anyway) where I’m basically using two needles to make a netted collar — I’m not sure if it is even possible to make it with one needle.  Because I’m not working off of a pattern, other than a concept drawing of my own (which didn’t work out the way I’d planned), I’m thinking this is the way I’d design something to sell.  (And then make over and over and over?  ;P)  I mean, I didn’t even start out knowing that the piece would be netted, as versus using chevron stitch, for example.  It just kind of evolved that way.

In fact, I didn’t have much at all in the way of expectations when I started this project.  To me, it was play and a chance to get back into my seed beads.  What’s come of it is a pink/peach/red-violet netted thing with tiny daggers I got somewhere between two and five years ago (a specialty buy — they’re made of a mix of peach and cream glass) and never used.  I also ended up with peanut beads in the “base” row (if you can call it that — it’s woven widthwise, not lengthwise) for texture.  Amazingly, they all tend to orient in one direction.  Plus, the curve caused by the shortness of the “base” row is about right for a collar.  I think I’ve finally got the color scheme down now, unless I want to switch out cranberry for baby pink in the “base” row.

The reason for using the peach beads?  I thought it was a color I’d never use.  And then I started to use them, and realized that what I was making looked a lot like lace.  (See recent blog entries on wanting to make lace.)  At almost the same time I recognized one of my practice pieces from an online pattern (“Picot Delight”) to look like tatted lace (I think this is the time when I’d checked out nearly all of my library’s tatting books, so I had plenty of photos to get an idea of how these things typically looked).

And I mean, originally I started out with a lot of colors which just vaguely and probably coincidentally worked together — the focal point used to be a row of ruby AB teardrop beads (“ruby”-colored glass, not actual ruby).  Then I went through a number of reds, only to come out on the other side with a relatively desaturated red/violet as the focus (4mm Czech “fuchsia” fire-polished rounds), as versus ruby.

Well, let me say that they’re desaturated for this season’s color profile.  In others they would simply be a bit muted — but we have a lot of super-saturated and neon tones out this year.

Anyhow, I basically now have a few swatches — those that haven’t been recycled — which show different points in the design process.  I haven’t been sure how to record the different stages in the design process — through notes?  Photographs?  Drawings? Memory?  I have cut apart and reused the beads in at least 3 samples.  I’ve needed to — I have finite amounts of these beads, a lot of which I can’t depend on finding replacements for, should I run out.  Plus, it takes a lot of pressure off of me when I’m experimenting, to know that if I don’t like it I can just cut it apart, and the only loss will be a short length of thread (and some time — but it’s not time wasted if I learned something).

It’s very clear that my initial concept design isn’t identical to the piece as it will be made.  I could probably go on experimenting with color combinations forever, but the way it looked in the second-to-last trial appears good enough to make.

Speaking of thread, though…I got the idea last night of attaching the clasp with fiber instead of with a beaded loop.  Usually, there’s a loop at the end to catch a toggle or button, and it most often is covered in seed beads to protect a number of different lines of thread.

I was thinking about how to do this better.  I’ve never really liked putting clasps on things, because they take a while to figure out, not to mention that most toggles are beaded beads made of peyote or herringbone stitch.  (Yes! I did find a herringbone beaded-bead pattern, not that I can remember it now, though.)  This is almost always a headache for me, because I don’t like weaving in ends — or odd-count peyote.  And if I use something like one of the very common, very fine, super-strong polythylene threads — it’s known for not holding knots well.  So I have felt obligated to weave in over and over to hold the bead together through friction on the line.

I hate this.

Not only have I broken seed beads within larger beaded beads doing this (causing the entire beaded bead to be a wash), but also a beaded bead’s weave can be distorted depending on the path one takes with one’s needle while one is weaving in.  This is why I recently have taken to collecting buttons with which to finish off necklaces and bracelets.  The plastic ones are probably the ones to get — they’re inexpensive and they aren’t going to scratch the beadwork.  Not to say that I haven’t collected some nice shell and metal buttons.  But sometimes you don’t want metal; and shell can abrade glass.  Or glass can abrade shell.  I know something’s going on; I can hear it scraping.  ;)

But!  Guess what I realized last night?

I can use my skills with knotting to slide a C-Lon cord through a larger bead hole or set of bead holes, then use macrame to secure the ends of the cord.  This way, the beadwoven piece can stand on its own.  There will be two loops of macrame holding on the button and the buttonhole, but if they stretch or break, just cut them off and make new loops; don’t worry about remaking the entire bracelet or necklace.

I actually got the idea from having used wire connections through seed bead holes to finish the ends of ropes before.  If you can put thread through it, you might be able to put cord or wire through it.  The hole just has to be big enough and the bead wall strong and smooth enough to take the pressure.  Also, the thread connecting that bead to the rest of the beads has to be strong enough, so it will probably need reinforcing.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems very promising.  Just don’t do it poorly and make the rest of us look bad!  ;D  *laughs*  (Oh my, I’m not going to go there, am I?  [I’m being cynical.  If you knew me and my posture on elitism, you’d know why.])

I did get a digital camera a while ago, so I might be eventually able to post a tutorial on here or something.  I figure the more of us who do it and do it well, maybe the better buttons will be made.  :D  And that would be totally awesome!

creative writing, graphic design, illustration, sequential art

underlying components of good character design vs. good writing

This is just a note to myself as regards the graphic novel issue.

I’m not entirely certain how deeply I should get into this, but I happened to check out a copy of X-Men:  Eternals a while ago.  Attempting to read this made it clear to me why the X-Men movie series was so heavy-handed and apparently one-sided.

I don’t have a great amount of literacy in graphic novels — I can recall reading Bone and Blade of the Immortal; and Generation X before the franchise-wide reboot of the X-Men series (which really ticked me off), plus a couple of more mainstream Japanese things like Fushigi Yugi (which I didn’t particularly enjoy, much as I didn’t enjoy Tenchi Muyo! [though I only saw the latter in anime]) and Neon Genesis Evangelion (which I got into because of the anime).

Then there are the series which I picked up even though I was at the time fairly illiterate in Japanese, like Inu Yasha and Bastard!, along with Yuu Yuu Hakusho (the flame-like banter in which I was not entirely aware of, until I happened to read some of it in English translation), and which I incidentally only got into because of the doujinshi (and because I was at the time learning to read Japanese).

What I’m thinking is that the same traits which can make a person a great character designer can also cripple them when it comes to good writing.  I’m not saying this is true across the board — it’s just something which has come up in specific regard to my own trials with trying to script establishing scenes in “graphic novel” formats, and I see it reflected in what I read going on with X-Men:  Eternals.

If you’re designing a character so that all elements of the character attempt to describe that character in a visual manner, that is fine.  But reality doesn’t work that way.  In reality, the way people look does not always (I would say often does not) relate to who they are.  This may not be quite as easy to see when the makeup of society is more or less homogeneous.

But when you have multiple minority categories in a society, and these minorities have strength in numbers and voices in regard to their own portrayal, it makes it clear that the thoughts which come to someone’s mind because of the way people look is not equivalent to who those people actually are.  This is especially clear if you happen to be one of those minorities and you happen to see how people constantly misread you (in addition to misreading your family).

This is a way in which my own philosophy diverges from what I’ve seen…whether we are looking at older American comics or whether we are looking at the less-complex graphic novel material coming out of Japan.  What people look like is not equivalent to who they are.  Of course there are materials coming out of Japan which acknowledge this (for example, in Legend of Zelda:  The Windwaker, in which the fairy who accompanies you acts like someone who would ordinarily be drawn as a big, tough male character who had the burliness to back up his language — but this is used to [actually, quite delightful] comic effect).

What I’m trying to get across is that in a good piece of writing, it’s very often the case that characters are not one-sided.  Characters are complex and have many different layers.  They’re often not surface-readable — you don’t immediately know what their role is just because you can see what they look like.  In graphic design, and I believe likely in character design, the goal is the opposite:  to be able to look at an image and glean a more or less solid idea of the intended communication fairly immediately, just from the visual elements of the composition.

I am not certain how to reconcile these two perspectives, but I wanted to make a note of the conflict.

creative writing, fine arts, painting, spirituality

watercolor experimentation

I experimented with the Talens Angora watercolors today, as well as with a new set of someone else’s Reeves tube watercolors, and what I found of leftover Winsor and Newton (I think) Cotman watercolors.  I could be wrong though, and at least some of the latter watercolors could have been straight W&N (not the student-grade Cotmans).

EDIT:  All of the W&N colors I was using besides Winsor Blue and Winsor Yellow were Cotmans.

Let me say right here that the difference is drastic.  Working from a wetted dry pan (not a wetted semi-moist pan), as I did with the Angora watercolors…it really makes the hue of the color one can pick up very light.  A deep shade is just not what I’m going to get out of them, at least with a single application, because I don’t feel like digging the pigment up with the tip of my brush.  Basically, the tablets don’t want to release the pigment into the water — which I suppose is an argument for semi-moist pans (but most of all for tubes).

The Reeves were better in terms of pigment density and ease of use, but I wouldn’t use them for deep shades if I could help it, because their pigment density is less than the W&N.  More comes in a tube, but the value is effectively reduced because most of that extra space seems to be taken up by things that aren’t pigment.

On the other hand, I did try the Reeves Lemon Yellow, which produced a very bright, clean blue-leaning yellow, which faded very brilliantly and seemingly seamlessly to white as the paint ran out on my brush.  I can definitely see the value in getting a pigment which is very light in value in a less-expensive formulation — if you want that gradual fade-to-white and don’t mind a lower concentration of pigment.

With the W&N, I was basically dealing with a very old (as in probably at least a decade old) Winsor Yellow which looked dirty in the tube and basically was quite dark and “muddy” in comparison, when it was applied.  I don’t know if this is because I needed to dilute it a lot more with cleaner water, or if it’s because it’s old and had started to decompose, or if it’s because Winsor Yellow is aiming for a “typical” yellow…but the effect wasn’t all that appealing.

But then with Winsor Red, Blue, and Yellow, I find that the hues seem to be aiming for a “typical”, recognizable red, blue, or yellow which is neutral in its leaning toward color overtones.  The colors which come out of this process are not very appealing to me…and I’m not sure of their practical use in color mixing.

It seems that because (at least, as best I can recall — I couldn’t get the screw-cap off of the Winsor Red) the Winsor primaries are overtone-neutral, this means that they would make a duller shade no matter what they were mixed with.  For example, the Winsor Blue is a little green, a little violet; combined, the two overtones make the color duller (that is, there is the addition of a chromatic grey), and you have that extra overtone in whatever you’re mixing the blue with.  If you want to make green with it, you’ve still got that little bit of violet; and if you want violet out of it, you’ve still got a little bit of green.  So some bit of chromatic grey is unavoidable.

But then, I’m not a professional, so if you’re going to accept this at all, take it with a bit of salt.

I think I’m going to try out the Reeves again when I can — I believe I only used Phthalocyanine Blue (I hope I spelled that correctly) and Lemon Yellow — as when I tried the Phthalo Blue, the color was much less dense than the W&N Ultramarine (anything, you say, would look pale next to Ultramarine).  I didn’t try out the Reeves Ultramarine; at the point that I saw the drastic difference in color density, I backed off and started trying to mix colors with the W&N more.

After I got a bit of the tube paint onto my palette, things seemed to go pretty smoothly, so far as remembering how to use the stuff went.  I just wish I knew how to use less of it and still be effective with it.

So far as brushes went — there are a number of round brushes I have access to, a couple of which I used.  But probably my favorite from this last practice round would have been a 1/2″ flat synthetic brush — I think a very old Jack Richeson — because it allowed me to make a calligraphic line (which the round brushes did not, though I did not try my hardest to vary line width with them, and my hand and arm are still used to drawing [firm pressure], not painting [hovering hand]).  Second favorite would have been my liner, which I picked up a long time ago just because its price was drastically cut and I had visions of using it for inking comics.

I don’t think I’m going to be going the comic route, though.  Not at the moment.  I’m feeling much more fulfilled playing around with colors, and I’ve heard it can be a tricky thing to reproduce colors which one can see in paints or otherwise in the “real world”, in print or on the computer screen.  From my (few) days in Graphic Design, I seem to recall this as well.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t illustrate and paint and draw for personal fulfillment.

And besides — by now I know that doing the visual arts does something in my mind — it helps me connect ideas that I wouldn’t have connected (at least, as quickly) on my own, and it stimulates the drive to write.  There is nothing which says I cannot have a story in my mind and illustrate it (using the term “illustrate” very loosely), and gain personal development from it.  And I suppose I should state to myself that this is not a waste of time, even if I don’t do a graphic novel.  And — it would be a lot of work to both write and illustrate a graphic novel.

There’s got to be some way that the narratives, and the personal development, and the art, are connected.  I just haven’t figured it out, yet.  I suppose that’s where faith helps; when you know there’s something more going on, but your mind isn’t powerful enough to work out just what, yet.

creative writing, drawing, graphic design, spirituality

Torn between the two brains

The other day I saw a friend I haven’t seen in a long time.  Long story short, I ended up drawing a number of elements with some colored pens which look very much like they have a strong Graphic Design influence.  I like how this is going.

It started me thinking on whether I wanted to really do the design — specifically Web Design — as a career, I mean; but …well, I was thinking about this earlier today.  Not so much the design aspect of things, but the tension between what I’ve experienced as my creative side and my practical side.  I realized that, at least metaphorically, a lot of what I’m going through is tension between the two sides of my brain.  What was odd was to realize that…well, that may be more literally true than not.  Right-brain, left-brain stuff.  It could also be a big part of the reason I’ve been interested in one faith-based philosophy and one rationality-based philosophy, both seriously enough.  They speak to different sides of my brain.

I’m already familiarized with the concept of having relatively independently-acting matrices within my own neurology, but I’m moving past the time where I’d consider this anything more than just an awareness of difference (or awareness of awareness).  I’ve started reading in The Artist’s Way again, which could be part of the reason I’ve been more aware of the rational-versus-creative tension.  I haven’t started the exercises yet — I’d have to devote a significant amount of time and energy to this, time which I could use to be creative.  I also realized something significant…trust and play are key to successful creativity.

By that I mean that I believe that to be, specifically, a successful writer or a successful artist, you have to trust yourself enough to even begin.  And then you have to trust yourself enough to continue, and trust yourself enough to carry it through to the end.  You have to trust that what is coming out of you has some good in it.  Elsewhere I’ve said that the path to creativity, from my current perspective, very much seems like something — control — must be surrendered.  You have to trust yourself and just ride with it.  At least, in my experience.

When I was younger I would write as though a story were being dictated to me.  As I got older, I gradually lost my faith.  But I also learned to fear my own creativity.  I didn’t know where my stories were coming from, and this frightened me.  In this sense, it’s somewhat comforting to be reading _The Artist’s Way_, where the author explains that the key to being creative is to be able to become an open channel for creativity.  In my own experience, this is true enough.  I don’t think taking classes in it helped, actually.  It helped me develop my voice, but it also inserted rules that my creativity needed to conform to, which eventually obstructed my creative flow.

Now that I’m older, I have the knowledge that I don’t have to work exclusively within any one art or craft form.  I’ve also been feeding my creativity via relatively low-risk things like knitting and crochet and sewing.  Then we get into coloring, which gets into drawing, which gets into writing.  I’m old enough now to see that belief in a personal Deity is not necessarily a bad thing, or an impossible thing.  Studying Hinduism, paired with studying Buddhism (especially Tibetan Buddhism) has helped me very much in this regard.

I have a Deity-form that I’ve been tailing since my early college days, and although I am a bit cautious now to attribute a name and culture to my Deity, it is apparent that possibly the best way to give myself something to guide me, even in those moments when I am at a loss as to my own identity, is to live a creative life.  That is, to embrace who I am and use my gifts — live the life that has been provided for me.  Being creative could be my own form of devotion.  Something to regulate my life, and to keep me from not knowing what to do with myself.

calligraphy, creative writing, writing

Wanting to write and not type right now…

Hmm.  I’m sitting here at the computer and thinking that maybe what I want to actually be doing is writing out my thoughts in hard copy.  By that I mean I’m wanting to get a blank book and just start writing in it.  I think I may have one set aside for that purpose.  I know I have a mostly-blank notebook.  Of course, knowing myself, I notice the desire to want to use a special (pigment-based) pen for this so I know it won’t fade.  I just wish it didn’t make me sound so snobby.  ;)

There’s just something about writing things out by hand which appeals to me more than typing.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s related to my drive to create art.  I know that it’s related to my wanting to learn Japanese and be able to use kanji in addition to the phonetic kana.  And it’s probably related to wanting to learn calligraphy.  When you write by hand, it does seem like a work of art itself.  And of course when you write on the computer, it’s faster and more efficient; but when your computer fails, it’s gone, unless you backed it up.  There just seems to be something evanescent about writing done on a computer.  Maybe it’s the way the letters appear out of nowhere and are gone just as fast.  I don’t know.  Maybe I just need to get a better set of fonts or something.

I don’t have a lot of time to write here tonight; there are too many other things competing for my attention, like the copy of The Artist’s Way I found earlier.  But I should probably note this down.  Maybe I should use the unlined book I have so that I can draw and write in the same book?  Heh — I’ll go and look through my blank books now and see which one I dedicated to creative writing…

drawing, illustration, sequential art, writing

minor update — overall, trying to work out how to express creativity

The initial reason I wanted to post here was to remind myself that the Pantone markers don’t smudge the Staedtler Duo brush marker I’d been using.  I didn’t try marking with a very light Pantone on top of a black Duo — not yet.  Major reason is that I don’t want to ruin my lightest Pantone.  But the Pantones are alcohol-based.  The Duos are water-based.  So it doesn’t seem to especially matter whether I ink first and then color, or color and then ink, as the solvents are different.  But I still have to really test that out fully.  I did also try using a (waterproof) Pitt brush marker for inking, and it isn’t as effective when it comes to variation in line width — or maybe I’m just too heavy-handed with it.

I did produce another image of a character I came up with a while ago; I was in the headspace of thinking about Sanatana Dharma while producing her image.  I have a working name for her now, though I probably shouldn’t share it, in case I start using it in anything that eventually goes public.  Before I get into anything else, I should say that I’ve had to hold the brush pens vertically to ink hair and to use the Duo for outlines.

I’m wondering how to balance out my creativity…to what extent I express what is going on in my mind — to what extent I draw and to what extent I write.  If I keep the story in my mind or if I draw it out or write it down.

I did find a copy of The Artist’s Way which I started looking over, though that is more of a course in reviving one’s creativity.  Apparently I got to the second section and stopped.

The other things I’ve been doing — I’ve designed an image for use as a stamp, and tried cutting it out of something which feels like a gum eraser.  I think it’s actually too soft to make a good stamp, as its surface rubs away too easily.  I can try with a larger image and my carving set from high school on something more like linoleum.

Then there was the drawing with the colored brush pens that I did while playing around on the phone, which more vividly resembles Graphic Design work.  But I’ve really got to go now — I can continue this later.

drawing, fine arts, writing

So there is a point to drawing from life…

I’m thinking now, after having looked back over an old sketchbook that I used while taking art classes — that there *is* a point to drawing from life.  It helps encourage one to pay attention to what is around oneself, to organic forms and other forms which would be difficult to conceptualize.  I mean, so that you’re not limited to the basic forms of what you can think of.  I suppose drawing without drawing from life is kind of like writing and not reading anything.  The extent of what one can imagine, for most, without being exposed to what others have thought, or noticing what others have seen; but beyond that, without teaching yourself to see for yourself — without making the effort to go out and be exposed to ideas other than what is generated in one’s own mind — one’s range is limited, and growth is more difficult than it has to be.

I had the dubious blessing today of attempting to draw in the back seat of a vibrating car with a brush pen.  *laughs*  It does something to your lines when your hand is bouncing up and down as regards the sketchbook…kind of reminds me of some fonts I’ve seen.

I haven’t been working in the coloring xeroxes today, yet.  And yes, I know they’re not on paper with a good tooth; but some of these mandalas are so complex that it would not seem enjoyable to trace them onto better stock.

M produced a number of books on deities that I can look over…this is spurred on by my having said something yesterday which related to the mandalas in one of the coloring books I xeroxed, particularly the ones in the Mahavidya section.  I need to go more into depth with understanding Kali before I can grasp the weight of completing a Kali yantra, even from a “spiritual, not religious” angle.  I wouldn’t want to be brazenly disrespectful, after all.  And Kali seems like one of the deity forms who takes some work to come to comfort with.  But knowing that she is related to Time…helps me understand her better.

I should get out of here and study or color or something…