Tag Archives: experiments

Wandering Watercolor

I am not a painter. At least, not an experienced one. The only paints I own are cheapo watercolors in the impulse-buy art sets I’ve picked up on clearance or at garage sales. Today, on a whim, I decided to try out the paints in my 80-piece Creatology Art Set. (This is just the only link I could find, not an endorsement of this retailer. I paid something like $4 for mine at Michael’s.)

A note on this kit: the markers are nothing special, but I haven’t tried out the crayons, colored pencils, or oil pastels yet. Considering I tend to use one medium at a time, an all-in-one carrying case like this actually isn’t all that convenient for me. The paint tray, for example, is part of the case so you can’t remove them. It was a bit of a pain attempting to balance such a large, bulky item on my overstuffed desk.

The Setup

I started by laying down a bunch of scrap paper and wrapping my keyboard in magazine pages. I am a slob with food; why should I be any different when I art? And before you ask, yes, my desk is always at least this cluttered. I feel accomplished to have cleared off enough space to paint.

Cheapo Watercolors

I suppose that watercolors are by nature pretty inexpensive to manufacture, especially since they can’t dry out the way acrylics can and thus have a near-infinite shelf life. I don’t think I’d used watercolors since I was a child, and fully expected to make an utter mess.

I always keep a stash of free/ad postcards around for just this sort of thing. I went through the stack and pulled out a few made from rougher cardstock so the paint wouldn’t bead. I drew a quick pencil sketch on each, then played with color.

A couple sitting out to dry.

Once they dried, I inked them, erased any glaring pencil marks (a little tricky since the eraser also wanted to remove the paint), and got them ready to mail to some folks on my mailing list (and yes, slots are always open). I have no idea how well they’ll mail; there’s a possibility the paint will all flake off and everyone will received mysteriously blank postcards from me. But hey, at least it’s not another bill! :)

The finished product.

September Creative Experiments Recap

As I posted at the beginning of the month, I decided to take part in the Creative Experiments for September over at Daisy Yellow. Let’s see how I did, shall we?

♥ Carry a notebook with you for a month, adding notes, scribblings, to-do’s, sketches, doodles, coffee stains and whatever you wish.

I always drag a beat-up old spiral around with me, but I was only a few pages away from the end so I decided to finish up that one and start a whole new kind of notebook: a National Brand hardcover, quad-ruled Lab Book. It was certainly a new experience, but I felt more free to doodle and otherwise not just write one big, unbroken paragraph of rambling prose. (But I still did that too.) I also felt more compelled to fill the entire page, perhaps due to the lack of defined margins.

♥ One day this month, write a thoughtful description of 5 sounds that you encounter.

I love this prompt. I’ve never encountered anything like it. Unfortunately, I kept forgetting to do it, even during the most perfect time for it (the Celtic Classic), so I just took a few minutes here and there during an ordinary Monday.

  1. My coworker talking on the phone in Persian. It’s so beautiful, and yet I’m so used to hearing him speak in English that it always takes me a second to realize I can’t understand what he’s saying. It reminds me of when I’d listen to another coworker at another job speak Polish on the phone. I swear it sounded like English backwards.
  2. The printer hums and ticks like a vacuum that just sucked up a pebble. It’s a happy noise – printing something out generally signifies completion of a task.
  3. The racket of the locker room at the gym: a child squealing, over and over again. There comes a point in every child’s life when they discover they can produce a high-pitched shriek that makes adult ears bleed and dogs take note. I guess the mother has learned the quickest route to quiet is to ignore the noise. Anything else will just encourage more. I’m not sure I can hear that sound without shutting my eyes and taking a deep breath.
  4. A cell phone ringing (jangling?) from inside a locked locker. Surprisingly clear, not muffled at all. Reminds me of a sound from an old video game, like a laser pistol on an old Atari or Nintendo. I’m positive I’ve heard this specific noise before in some game I used to play as a child, but I can’t place it.
  5. My cat’s strange, creaky greeting. Sort of a “meh-eh?” – like a question. Often she opens her mouth before speaking as if she has to force out the noise. It doesn’t sound especially friendly, but it’s one of her “I love you/pet me” meows. Over the years I’ve come to find it cute, even endearing.

♥ Create an itunes playlist or mix CD with 15 songs that make you feel just right.

This was by far the most difficult. I almost never listen to music anymore: in the car it’s audiobooks, and it’s rare for me to spend enough time in my study for listening to music to even occur to me.

  1. “Time to Start” by Blue Man Group
  2. “Sin” by Pet Shop Boys
  3. “Send Me an Angel” by Real Life
  4. “It’s Good to be Alive” by DJ Rap
  5. “Running in the Family” by Level 42
  6. “Mess” by Ben Folds Five
  7. “Magic” by Ben Folds Five
  8. “Blue” by Eiffel 65
  9. “Asshole” by Jim’s Big Ego
  10. “Lifeline” by Copper Sails
  11. “Ana Ng” by They Might Be Giants
  12. “Never There” by Cake
  13. “Anna Begins” by Counting Crows
  14. “Always” by Erasure
  15. “Puttin’ on the Ritz” by Taco

♥ Read four (4) books this month, fiction or non-fiction.

The books I read (and reviewed) during the month of September:

  1. Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  2. The Immortals by John F. Ferrer
  3. Time of the Twins by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  4. Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson
  5. Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
  6. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

That’s fewer than usual because Crime and Punishment took roughly half the normal human lifespan to get through. Holy crap that’s a long book!

This was lots of fun, but I wish I’d put more concentrated effort into it instead of just signing up and then promptly forgetting all about it. Maybe next month, eh?

Creative Experiments at Daisy Yellow

Daisy Yellow is an excellent blog about art and creativity, especially in terms of your daily life. I’m a fairly new follower but I have found it an invaluable resource for inspiration.

Every month she posts new creative experiments meant to challenge you in new ways. I’ve decided to participate in these for September. I will not be doing all of the challenges, but I think I can commit to these:

♥ Carry a notebook with you for a month, adding notes, scribblings, to-do’s, sketches, doodles, coffee stains and whatever you wish. — This isn’t too different from what I normally do, but I’ll try to be more mindful of actually taking the notebook with me when I go out.

♥ One day this month, write a thoughtful description of 5 sounds that you encounter. — I am fascinated by this idea.

♥ Create an itunes playlist or mix CD with 15 songs that make you feel just right. — This will be the most difficult, as I don’t listen to much music these days.

♥ Read four (4) books this month, fiction or non-fiction. — Not a problem.

I think it’ll be fun. Now to go find a notebook…

ATCs en masse – an experiment

Artist Trading Cards, usually abbreviated ATCs, are 3.5″ x 2.5″ pieces of art, more often traded than sold (hence the name). I first discovered ATCs through my interest in mail art, but didn’t start trading them until I joined Swap-bot, an online, mostly arts’n’crafts trading site. I usually create them as small individual drawings. Then I decided to try something different: ATCs en masse, or creating a bunch of small pieces of art from one larger one. This isn’t a new idea, just one I’ve never tried before.

I started by drawing one big zentangle on a normal 9.75×12″ piece of sketchbook paper. I used a black Koh-I-Noor pen because that’s what I had on hand. That took an extremely long time. Like, many hours. Zentangles are, by their very nature, extremely detailed. But, as their name implies, it can also be somewhat relaxing. This was my first one, and perhaps I was a little overambitious. They say that one cannot fail to make a zentangle, and that it is what it is, but I’ve never been much of a repetitive pattern doodler – I’m not really that type of person. So this was an interesting experience for me, concentrating on pattern and abstraction rather than copying something from life or a photograph. I’m not sure if zentangles are supposed to look quite so…psychadelic, but mine sure does.

Monster zentangle

As this is a trading card, it has to be reasonably stiff: no drawing on a cut-up index card and claiming it’s an ATC. Mine tend to be extra thick because I usually start with a plastic Neopets trading card, put something pretty on the back, put white paper on the front, and then put my art on top of the white paper. The white paper is the ATC’s undershirt: if I leave it off, the original card image shows through the drawing.

To some people, the back of the ATC is half the art, but I don’t see it that way. I like the backing to be somewhat nice, but if it’s just white (or white paper with colored pencil shading), that’s fine too. Recently I acquired a NASA planner from 2009 as a freebie somewhere, so I used a few of the nifty galaxy and nebula photos for my ATC backs. The back also generally includes all the information about the card. I haven’t found any official rules about what to include (indeed, the only “official” rule is the size), but generally I write “Artist Trading Card” at the top, then my name (well, melydia, anyway) and the date and usually my URL. If the art has a title, I’ll put that. If it’s for a swap, I’ll put the swap name. That’s about it. I haven’t quite figured out what an “artist’s signature” is, as I always sign the image on the front of the card.

The card backs attached to the zentangle. I didn't worry too much about "right side up".

The cards' placement on the zentangle.

I decided to add just a little bit of color to the fronts, if only to differentiate them a little bit more. Since the design was already very busy, I used the palest colored pencils I own – Earth Colors Memory Pencils – and used two colors per card. I restricted myself like that because I have a tendency to want to use every single color available to me. I didn’t want these cards to be nauseating.

Anyway, after a bit of coloring they’re ready to go:

The final ATCs

I have mixed feelings about this experiment. I think if I were more comfortable with abstract art I could make some really great ATCs this way. I found making the huge zentangle to be frankly tedious. Maybe I’d enjoy it more with a smaller canvas, like a postcard. Another possibility is to make a big collage and then cut it into cards, but that doesn’t really interest me. As much as I enjoy gluebooking, outright collage is unpleasantly difficult for me.

I’m thinking of bringing these as party favors to an upcoming Swap-bot meet’n’greet. I hope ten people show, or I’ll have no idea what to do with the others.

End note: my husband was very disappointed that I cut up the zentangle without scanning it properly. I hadn’t realized he was such a fan of that sort of art. Huh.

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