Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Carpel Tunnel Woes

Mermaid Umbrella by R A J

If you haven't noticed, I haven't updated this blog in a very long time. In fact, it's been so long, that Google notified me and told me to step up and pay for my domain. Unfortunately, I had changed my credit card, so I had to go back in my info to correct it and then realized...nah. Lets let that domain name slide.

Mostly, the lack of updates and the fact that I've abandoned this blog, is because of a doctor's order that I need to ease up on my hands and set my priorities on what I want them to do in order to prevent severe, life altering, shooting pains I have had with carpel tunnel. It meant choosing between doing the fine art that I want for my career, and doing the crafts I enjoy for my sanity, and that's a pretty hard choice, but I made my decision, and cleared out the mountain of craft supplies from my studio (still am. You wouldn't believe how much yarn I have.)

Occasionally I found myself wandering back, and just last week I was squeezing a ball of yarn all "Aw, this is a nice color" and then I spontaneously wove a scarf with straws and it looked so neat-o but then my hands needed to be iced and it hurt to pick up my stylus. It's really not something I can do anymore, not even as a musing.

I changed my Etsy store name from PthaloAzul to RAJ Illustration, dropped my entire craft supply woodcut line, replaced it with drawings (that I'm slowly uploading, which has been slow since this year has been rough). I put away my guitar, saw my piano gather dust, and threw out the stained glass, and it shattered in a way I can't fully describe, but the way it shattered as it hit the bottom of the trashcan was less like a crash, and more like a turning page.

I started this blog because I loved crafting as much as I loved to write. During college, I made up a title of a book in the back of my head, and it was going to be called "This is Not a Craft" and it wasn't going to have any crafts in it. It was a surprise to me that the book idea turned into a blog...and the greatest surprise was this end. It wasn't the ending that I wanted to happen.

But, that's assuming that it is an end at all.

Because sometimes ends aren't ever ends, but are actually middles, beginnings, and blog posts about crafts.

This might be my last post here on TINAC, but it won't be my last creation or my last written word. You can find me currently posting on Tumblr (3AM-octopus.tumblr.com) twitter (@rajmews) and pinterest (rajillustration) and can still buy my art on my shop, which has been renamed RAJ Illustration in light of it's being all illustration now. Thank you for all your support by reading, commenting, and spreading word about my little blog.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Drafting tips on how to make spiral staircases in 2 pt perspective. AKA, Don't. Also, Pinterest.

The other day I decided to do this, since I used to draft back in my very short architectural period, and youknow what? Computers are great. They make spiral staircases. It used to be architects would make these really laborious staircases all the time. Now, they don't have to anymore. I'm so thankful in a million ways. But, that being said, I still like to do it sometimes. It's a fun puzzle.

However, I had an issue. The explanation was sooo long that the only website that would allow me to upload the image was Pinterest, so here's a linky link.

SEGWAY into my next subject which is the fact that I've been very Pinterest-happy lately. Posting about four or five images a day, boards based on Disney stories, boards with illustration, boards with concept art--I think I'm one of the 8 people on Pinterest without kids so I don't post kids ever, but I seem to use it more than my blog at the moment, so hop along by! Below are links to some of my more popular boards.

La Belle, based on Beauty and the Beast
 Reupholster Heaven: Quirky chair re-upholstery ideas
 Awesome Concept Art of people I stalk on a regular basis
 Flower Pot--a board based on Mulan
 Engagement Rings that aren't diamonds.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Etsy Forum FAQ - how to get a clean white background without using the lasso tool

I like to lurk around Etsy Forums sometimes, it gives me an idea of what other sellers are going through, and there are a few questions that get asked a lot. Like a lot a lot. Especially this one, which leads to quite a bit of confusion.

 "How do I get that white background for my photos?"

and then this question

"Why do colors photographed on white come out so dark--my purple doesn't look anything like purple!"

A user will present their photos, which are often taken in front of a white wall or white environment, but will be frustrated when it comes out, well...tan. Often they'll try using the lasso tool to "erase" the background, which never looks good, especially in shadow. Often they'll be told just to "erase better" and honestly, if you cut and paste an image you not only loose a lot of the vibrant color in the object, but you also loose it's sillhouette, which will always look jagged when lasso-ing.

Once upon a time, photographers had very particular studios and lighting to do product photography--their backgrounds came out white without photoshop. But nowadays, for amateurs shooting in our living room in less than ideal environments with less than ideal cameras, we have photoshop and Gimp (gimp is free and operates a lot of the same as Photoshop, and this tutorial still applies to you if you use it).

The longer you expose the film to light, the more likely you are to bump the camera. So, if you have a quicker shutter speed it will take crisper photos, but the quicker the shutter speed, the darker the image. If you're taking a close up, like I do with all my products, then you have an even bigger problem making the photo white enough since you're changing the size of the aperature. One quick way to solve this problem without photoshop isn't a cheap way, and it's a trigger you attach to your camera, so you don't have to manually click each photo, and won't be bumping the camera for longer exposures. I don't have one of those.
so here's a step by step.
First, you should crop your photo to the size you want it. It took me a while of using photoshop before I realized that when you select "crop" you get the option to input exactly the size and dpi you want it to set to. So, put these three numbers in that I did, and you'll have an image perfectly sized for uploading (make sure you indicate "px" for pixel, or else it will do inches and take 10 years to crop to 1000 inches and crash your computer, I do it all the time).

Now to bring the background to white you can do a few different things, I like to set levels. Under "Adjustments" you select levels and it will pop up this histogram below.  Histograms look like little mountains. They tell you how much of a shade is at each part of the graph. (the lower shades are at the left, the brighter at the right) in this case we have two large peaks at the right. One of those peaks is the tan color of the background. If we move the white arrow left, past that peak, the tan color disappears, and the other shades proportionally change, too. Way quicker and easier than a lasso tool.
Now I have a problem, I shot this indoors, and my white balance was a little off, look how red it is! This is the problem people have shooting colors on white (especially darker colors like green and purple)--but we can adjust that to make the color more accurate. Now see that pull down menu that says "RGB?" That means that this file is in RGB mode--so it follows RGB rules.

RGB color rules are different from CMYK color rules. CMYK refers to printer heads (cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ((which is a "k" so's not to be confused with blue)) ) RGB refers to light (red, green, blue)

If you add Cyan, Magenta, Yellow (and even K) together, you get black, right? Well in light, if you add Red, Green, and Blue together, you'll get white.

This is important to know in RGB because color opposites are different now. The opposite of Red is blue, the opposite green is magenta (purple), and the opposite of blue is yellow.

So when we go into the red channel (the pull down menu you can select red) and pull the middle arrow away from red, it will turn more blue.
So we go into the blue channel and drag the arrow towards yellow.

That feels better.

Now I wanted more contrast, so I added another level. You could probably do it in the same Level1 layer, but I was feeling lazy, so I just added a second one rather than have to start over.

Then, I like to add a pink soft lighting to all my Etsy products. Etsy loves pink soft lighting right now. It's really easy to do, make a new layer, fill it a coral-pink shade with the paint bucket, change the pull down menu above it to "soft light" and then fiddle with the opacity to decide how intense you want the soft lighting. I like my items to look warmer, and since they're wood, it's still accurately representing my object.

I'll also go into my background layer and use the paintbrush to get rid of any dirt on my background.

and voila! I usually do this in large batches (of 30 or so images) to make sure that my images match each other. This isn't the only way to do this, you can use curves, you can use the little eye-dropper on the histogram to declare "white," but this is the way I do it. If you do a different way, I'd love to hear it in the comments, I'm sure there's thousands of different techniques.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bobbin Lace: how to change bobbins when the thread runs out.

From my last bobbin post, I was able to finish a bobbin lace bookmark no problem. But then it got used as a bookmark and it's somewhere in our hundreds of books and I don't know where. I'll find it eventually and post it, I thought it came out good for a first try.

But, I had some hang-ups when it came to changing thread. See, this large piece has been...mm...well it's too large to have enough thread on all of my bobbins, especially the outlier spools that weave left and right and not just down and across. There weren't any resources readily available on changing thread for bobbin weaving, not even in needlework encyclopedias, so, I thought I'd try out a trick and share it with you.

At first I thought you'd need to have two bobbins (my bobbins are pencils, for those that haven't read my other post) and since they would be connected by the same string, can be looped into the piece. Problem was, string would go out on bobbins that weren't right next to each other. So, instead I decided to do it with just one bobbin that has a loose end, and tie the loose end tied onto a needle outside of the piece.
wrapping the almost finished bobbin thread around the new spool, you create one spool that's much easier to work with rather than using two bobbins waiting for the old one to run out. After a few passes with the new bobbin, you can tie back the old thread onto a pin to weave in to your piece later, or wait for it to eventually run out.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Career Block: AKA we've all been here before

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine, who had been a photojournalist who traveled the world, and with the fall of newspapers and magazines, was back at school to start a career in something else although she didn't want to. She mentioned that, in the years ever since it happened, she felt like she was just wandering.

It stroke a chord with me, because I've felt similar wandering pains, although I was never truly 'in' my field. My dreams of being an commercial illustrator for printed stuff telling stories in books felt more like winning the lottery with printed books and the journalism industry in the decline. It's not that I'm giving up on it or anything, I just need to do something art-related on top of my other work to make ends meet that wasn't a part-time minimum wage job or nanny-ing (I will not nanny). I've been trying desperately to pick up other art-related marketable skills since I didn't think that solely illustration could sustain me, especially at this point in my life when I'm doing the best I can, but I really need to pay for my car. 

I decided to become an architect: and then as I was learning technical drafting, had the stark realization that architecture had the same problems as illustration, except was 8 times more boring and didn't let me draw any dinosaurs.

I decided to focus on my paintings: but my illustrations, while cute, are more illustrative than decorative, and luckily sell online (thank goodness for my Etsy store) but in actual stores, my paintings attract lookers but not buyers.

I decided to become a muralist: I painted over a dozen, but realized that there just isn't that much need for a muralist except as a blacklight muralist, and truth is, there's only so many lasertags and they only need to be painted once.

I sold wooden brooches and prints on Etsy, I decided to try out web design and had a very humbling experience I don't need to go into, I decided to become a video game artist to get a salary and health benifits: but, while I have painstakingly developed computer art skills required--Even spent two years learning Maya--unexpected programs and skills keep getting added to the list of what I need to know at every job listing (You wouldn't believe how much computer code they expect an artist to learn. ((And I still apply although not qualified. These are desperate times.)))

So I decided to go back to school: but the top school of my choice cut their whole animation MFA degree--and every other school I've looked at that I would want to go to has had to starve their animation programs because of budget cuts: we're talking $80,000 degrees that can't guarantee me any work other than an internship for a few months maybe possibly at Disney maybe. Maybe. And you probs won't get paid at those internships.

Went into an office with a career councilor who specialized in the game industry, and he looked me square in the face, a little bit perplexed, and said in a very kind way before I even sat down, right after he said hello: "You haven't been hired yet? How? Look at your art. Look at your experience...it's..." He tapered off as he looked at a long list of things I haven't even mentioned above--a lot of which I didn't even take photo reference of because I wasn't proud of it "What is it that you're trying to accomplish with your career?" he asked me. "Why are you here?"

I could not answer him. I had spent so many years trying just whatever random job, that I didn't know my own focus anymore.

There's some study where a scientist took his subjects to the woods, and told them to try and walk north without a compass nor a GPS. As much as they tried, they only ended up walking in circles around the same point.  It's basically how I've been feeling with my career. Round and round I end up back here at freelance illustration, which, while they're short and fleeting, are some of the only jobs I've enjoyed. Then, as I was reading an article by David Farland about writing, he summed up my feelings in two succinct words: "Career Block"

It's been quite the struggle, and also been why I haven't updated anything to this blog in so many months.

It's also something I haven't talked about to too many people other than my friends and my parents, because it's a feeling I have a hard time explaining. A feeling I have a hard time even feeling--not because it's hard (and yes it is a really hard feeling akin to a sinusheadache and lovesickness, and not the anxiety-lovesick you feel when your love is getting married tomorrow to someone else, but that distant-lovesick you feel two years later and you don't remember why and you don't remember what his face even looked like, but you feel this longing and regret that you're ashamed to even feel.) but because I don't quite understand what it is. I spent until about 2 AM thinking about it, unable to register it, keeping me awake, staring at me from the corners of the room and asking for my attention. But I don't know how to pay any attention to it. I don't know how to fix more than I already have. It feels like there's nothing more that I can do.

And I remember something that my Nana said to me at my Grandmother's funeral about a year ago (my Nana is my Grandmother on my other side.) It was really random, we're at Grandma Jones' viewing, and my Nana, who I haven't seen in about 4 years, pulls me to the side of the room and I'm expecting normal extended-family talk, AKA "Why aren't you married yet? I've got a great boy for you! I'm going to pray for you to get married!" etc, etc.

Instead, she pulls me to the side of the room and she says in the direct way a grandmother teaches you things that she needs you to pay attention and listen to her about:

"Rachel, don't even worry. Everything's going to be OK."

I hadn't mentioned anything I was worried about, so I said:

"All this stuff: you don't have to worry about it--when your career starts, when you get married, when you have kids. Don't even worry because in the end it doesn't really matter. See, in the end," Said my Nana, "None of it matters--Just keep going to Church. Stay temple-worthy. Keep good friends. Love your family. That's all that really matters in the end, and in the end everything's going to work out and be OK."

It seemed pretty fatalist and sort of freaked me out at the time, but she had a point to it.

My grandpa said it just prior as well, as he looked out at his wife's wake, and saw all of his children, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren filling up a room. Instead of grandpa being very sad, I remember how he had a bittersweet explanation for what he was feeling in his very short speech (and very much like Grandpa, his speech at his wife's funeral was two sentences long, but encompassed everything).

"There used to be just two of us." He explained. "Now we fill a whole room."

And I've been thinking a lot about it, as I struggle with my own mix of feelings of both failure and success--because I know I've come a long way. And as I accomplish my goals I want to be proud of them, but since I'm not where I wanted to be, instead I don't feel proud of them. As a kid I thought I'd have it figured out by now, but as a kid I didn't expect any of what's happened to me to happen to me, and some of it has been very wonderful--bittersweet in it's own way, which ends up being better than a sacchrine story of having the perfect job all the time and being perfect all the time.

And I realized this is the hard stuff everyone warned me about when I graduated college: It feels like a sinus headache but it also feels like a heartache, where you're desperately trying to remember an old lover that you're ashamed to have ever thought about.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is: Career Block...and I think we all have been there at one point or another, so I'll stop ranting

But yes, this blog is still going, and my dream of reviving dead/old crafts and revamping boring/intricate crafts is still going to happen. Along with the job thing, of course (the thing that actually pays in real dollars) but, that will be a whole other blog for a whole other time.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

My High School Art Teacher

My high School art teacher passed away from a rare form of lung cancer earlier this year at only the age of 47. Since I'm about ten years since graduating, it makes sense that I wouldn't know right away, and so while it happened a few months ago, I just found out. Mr McCue was a great teacher, who didn't have any budget to give us, but always encouraged us, even though all we wanted to paint was cats and Mariah Carey (namely: only mariah carey's eyes). Everyone needs an infinitely patient and infinitely optomistic art teacher like that when they're in high School.

Honestly, I remember one day he saw me painting some cat from a kitchy photograph really poorly, and he told me, "rachel, you're going to be an illustrator." And I said "Ok, Mr McCue." Then painted a little bit more as he wandered away and then realized, "What's an illustrator?"

And while I never followed up, while I never made a portfolio when I was in High school (I was determined not to be an artist for some reason for about half a year. I tend to fight my instincts, I don't know why) I remembered it in college, noticed there was a major labeled "Illustration" and decided to go and stalk the faculty for about 5 more years until I graduated. that might not have happened if it weren't for Mr McCue.

Now I'm kinda sad because I never visited him once I was done with college. I never came by and said "hey, I got an illustration degree, aint that funny?" I never got to say in an interview or in the front page of a book "I had an art teacher named Mr McCue who was like the only person in this area other than my Mother who thought I shouldn't major in Math and Sadness. Thanks."

He was a very funny guy, he let us stretch our creativity, and my teacher (who was a photographer turned painter turned high school art teacher) had certain rules of wisdom:

- His radio station of 80's mix is the best radio station don't touch the radio.
- Good brushes.
- Always scrape the tempora paint for mold before you start painting (because it's 8 years old don't ask where we got it)
- When in doubt: Yellow
- simplify
- Pay attention to your lines

and most importantly:

- Remember kindness and respect for everyone, especially those who don't respect you

To this day as I'm painting, I'll look for areas in my picture that, in his vernacular "need more love." Which, I didn't realize at the time meant so much more than painting. That giving time to things that aren't perfect yet is how you show love. By working with parts of your own art that offend you eventually make the whole peice beautiful, because those are the areas that "need more love" although it's hard to love them.

As a kid I didn't really get it--that he was being patient and forgiving because he understood we were still kids and were full of undeveloped emotions that we couldn't understand yet. That we would make mistakes, and wouldn't understand just how much they hurt other people. He even endured a hate crime from mystery students who left slang across his door, right there on campus my junior year, and yet his reaction was surprisingly patient and forgiving, considering the tense circumstance, and he used it as a chance to teach about tolerance and to teach about respect to the rest of us.

I am so thankful for teachers, and as I get older, I see it wasn't so much about learning to read or write or how to paint or even how to learn. That, in the end, my best and most impacting teachers taught me about how people love and how people live and how people work and how people forgive, which is probably the hardest lessons of all to teach because its one of those things you teach best by example and not by books.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Geometrography, a craft you cannot say ten times fast

my original painting didn't have the mathy part in it. But maybe I should add it in. People really like math here in Silicon Valley.
I had a painting kick the last few days. Maybe because I've been doing so much digital art, when I was inspired to paint with oils on Sunday, I've had dreams about painting; I wake up at like 4:30 in the morning thinking about it. Something about oil paint: it flows, it breathes, it's sharp and it's smooth. To me it's like the blue cheese of painting. Except it doesn't make you fat. It does kinda smell, though.

And I had this square canvas-I had the hardest time composing. First off, it's square so I can't rely on my typical long dimensions I'm used to composing. Also, I wanted to make more decoration-style pieces to add to my portfolio under a "gallery" or "for sale" tab (something to hang in a coffee shop somewhere, youknow?) and it came to me as I was brainstorming that I was at a loss as to what people actually want in their house. So I thought looking at my demographic, either dogs, landscapes, or patterns.

At first I thought I'd stick a bull dog in the middle part, as if it was a framed portrait, but when I started to draw the pattern, I realized how much I love building patterns.  This was such a large painting, I couldn't just print it off and trace it from the computer, instead I opened a pattern book on building classic Arabic patterns and traced it out with a compass and a t-square (and a 30-60 45-45 triangle when I felt like cheating).

It's stuff I haven't done since geometry class in High school (the clinical term for it is geometrography), and this is kinda weird so brace yourself, but I used to be a math person (at least in world standards, not Saratoga standards), up until I decided to focus on art and now I can't do simple addition anymore, but I loved making geometrography stuff then, and I still love it now. It's embracing a craft that artists used for hundreds of years before tracing prints from the computer.

Not only that, but I think my end result was a lot more precise. Maybe it took a little longer, but once I had the pattern down, it helped me understand it a little more. It had it's own little character. I didn't need to put a dog in it or a bird on it to give it a center of focus. The pattern was the center of focus already

Also, I finally know what to put inside stubborn square canvases.

Anyways, I highly recommend pulling out a compass and embracing your math side.  Here's some links to some fun patterns.