Tuesday, January 31, 2012

February is Sketch A Day Month...

...except that's totally arbitrary and just because I decided it would be.
Nothing ever gets done unless I set goals and make lists for myself. I literally cannot function unless I make a To Do list every few days to remind myself of what's going on.
I've also experimented with long term projects, like last year's Do a Good Deed a Week deal. So far this year's long term project of working outside my comfort zones is making me miserable and nervous, but I've survived everything so far. Oh, and there was the "Hey, let's try meditating for 5 minutes a day" I did for 6 months, which became the gateway to a MUCH calmer and more compassionate me.
So, yes, I love projects. I love projects of all lengths and sizes. And while I failed miserably at Project 365 (couldn't find anything meaningful to take a photo of that many days in a row.) and my self-imposed Story a Day project last year, I think I've come up with one that will not only help me improve my skills, but also prove a really awesome challenge.

And yeah, the hand was tipped with the title of the post, so you already know - it's going to be Sketch-A-Day month in February. Yes, I'm cheating, only 29 days (leap year, y'all) BUT... I think it's needed to build my confidence up for other things this year. And I can't pass up the opportunity to try and spread my wings and work on my skills with such an endeavor.

A few rules I've decided on:
~One sketch a day. Duh.
~No multi-day drawings! It must be started and ended on the same calendar date.
~No repeating of subjects, no matter how tempting. 29 original ideas.
~Anything that can make a line is fair game. Digital, ink, pencil, charcoal, colored pencil, are all legal. Not allowed are paints, paper or sculpture and things of a 3-D nature. The only reason for this is so that I have more constraints to operate within if inspiration strikes. Do I think it would look better rendered in watercolors? Then I need to figure out how to mimic that look in a digital format, or with other physical tools.
~experimenting with different styles is heavily encouraged
~A record of the project's progress will be made and posted publicly for feedback, scrutiny, internet trolling and that lovely pressure that comes from friends knowing you're in a project so you don't want to ditch on it 'cuz they'll give you crap.

I am actually quite excited by this idea, and bought a new general sketchbook anticipating the filling of my current general sketchbook. (to be clear, I have a "general" one for testing supplies, ideas and styles, and then I have the one where I do in-depth images in as a sort of portable portfolio). I was, in fact, so excited that when I realized it was the 31st today instead of February 1st, I was actually gravely disappointed. But not to worry! Time marches on! It shall arrive anon!

No idea what I'll be starting out with, and there is a sort of freedom in chaos and leaping in to the fray that is at stark contrast with my usual "OMG I MUST LIST ALL THE THINGS!" that goes on in my brain. But then, as we all know on some level creativity does not live by chains. It rather adores to bounce off the median and careen down the road at its own speed, taking the stop signs as suggestions more than solid rules.

I'll see you at the end of the ride!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn...)

After a bit of talking this weekend with a friend who Knows Her Stuff when it comes to the internetz and looking good online, I decided the flat boring black would no longer do. Initially I'd had it set up to emphasize the thoughts I was putting down, thinking anything else would make it far too distracting. More like an obnoxious MySpace profile than a web page. But the more I looked, the more "stuck" the setup seemed. Minimalist? Yes. But also lacking flow or energy of any kind. So now you'll see that I've completely redesigned it.
I like this better than the black. It feels far more engaging and far more "me" than it did before. I hope everyone else can enjoy the change in style as much as I am, and gets a bit of this visual movement I was striving for.
Change, after all, is good. Last year's theme was Doing Good, which was accomplished. This year's theme shall be Living Outside the Comfort Zone. And we started small, updating a blog.
Thanks to all who stop by to laugh at my attempts to expand the personal envelope coming up. Trust me, I'll be laughing, too.

~“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Actual Conversation #105 - Where we get back on track and are reminded of why we left retail.

*yours truly is browsing the Valetine's Day cards in a display at the front of Five Below, searching for the perfect set of v-day school cards from when we were kids to hand out to coworkers. No reason, just for a little fun. Upon selecting the Scooby Doo ones (c'mon, it's Scooby Doo!) yours truly proceeds to the counter where a salesperson who looks every bit the roadie for AC/DC is waiting*

Salesdude: Hey, how's it going?
Me: Not too bad! Yourself?
Salesdude: *pause* *heavy sigh* I fucking hate setting up floor displays.
Me: Well alrighty then.

I enjoy when people are honest in response to that question and don't answer out of habit. I do not enjoy when they are OVERLY honest.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Super Smash Journals

I should be asleep but you know what? I am being a rebel and staying up after my totally artificial, self-imposed bedtime.
And why, you ask? (or don't, I'm sure some of you don't care, but hey, you're here so let's be thorough) Because I want to talk about something. Something that has been bugging me.
The house? Oh yeah. I moved in. We have blue walls in one part. It's awesome. I'll talk about that later, probably in a post talking about how my life used to suck and how now it totally DOES NOT.
Smash Journals.
For anybody not familiar with them, a video. I'll wait. This is important to understand before we continue.

Okay, now this was produced by the company that decided to make smash journals a "thing". It's cheesy, but it explains it well enough. It's the paper equivalent of your junk drawer, or the bottom of your purse, or that shoebox with all the crap in it you swore you'd remember forever, then look at 5 years later unable to remember why you have 3 ticket stubs to Oingo Boingo.
Now, I have ALWAYS been a fan of journaling, but I have always had a few rules with mine... first off, fuck ruled journals. I hate them. They make you write a certain size when you might be upset or happy and so your letters are a bit loopier than normal, or more crunched than normal... and ruled pages don't allow you to see that. They don't allow for that text-tilting-toward-the-right-hand-corner thing. They also interrupt things that would be awesome like random oddly-staged poems and sketches, or anything else where you might not want to write in the usual oddly imposed 12 pt. font, perfectly aligned.
I personally think the more your writing wanders around, the more enriched your brain. That whole thing about building new pathways by discovering a means to do something differently than before, extra wrinkles in the brain, the whole nine yard. But I have utterly no science to back that up, just some stuff I read in high school.
Let's set the scene here. I was walking through AC Moore to get yarn because, yes as you all know I am a fiend for the knitting and the crocheting and the making of the arts with the fibers. Actually, it was to get purple and pink yarn to crochet a sweater for my cat who just went through surgery and is now shaved nearly bare in order to keep him warm. Those colors are supposed to make him look like the Cheshire cat, a most excellent suggestion from a friend of mine. BUT.... I digress. So I'm walking through AC Moore headed for the yarn section when I see an entire display of these Smash Journals. Or rather... SMASH* journals, as they are branded.
It was basically a standard 4-sided display with hooks and baskets for the goodies. I smirked as I picked up the different branded ones, "Doodle" journals, "Retro" journals, "style" journals, "Eco" journals.... in my haze of smug superiority I thought to myself "Shit, just go buy a blank journal and decide what you want, you don't have to have a pre-made book for this stuff..."
But what was fascinating to me was the accessories surrounding these special journals. Things like pre-made pockets you could glue on (I guess cuz a regular piece of paper wouldn't do?). Special paperclips (Bitch, please, I have penguin-shaped paperclips from Japan. I have the market cornered on funky damn office supplies!) and smaller things to mark stuff, basically post it notes and page markets specially created for these journals. All stuff I had, in SPADES, because I LOVE PAPER THINGS.
And then I blinked. and I stared at the stuff before me. And I realized.... shit, I had been doing stuff this way all along, because I am horribly disorganized and why the hell shouldn't I stick recipes in to my moleskine next to a to-do list and another list of things I'd like to cook some day? It was all just a brain-dump to me, really. And it went beyond scrap-booking to just be a place to store EVERYTHING I wanted to remember, in no particular order.
So yeah. For once I was actually ahead of a trend, and it was entirely unintentional. Not only that, this "creative processing" that they were advocating? Yeah. They're trying to teach regular brains how to process the way an ADD brain does... that is to say ALL THE THINGS. ALL THE TIME.
It was fascinating to me to see this. That the idea was to give a pedestrian method to journal, that wasn't an "art" journal, that wasn't some fancy thing scripted with a fountain pen (guilty) or needed to be filled with terribly wonderful things a la Jane Austen.... that the average everyday person could just put their crap down in there, and if someone were to go back through it you could get a fair approximation of that person's life and thought process. I enjoyed the idea. That although maybe you went to shows like everybody else, and you paid bills and showered and packed a lunch like everybody else.But in between was the uniqueness, like going to see only 40's Jazz shows, and making your sandwiches with Vegemite. The stuff that made you YOU could be folded in to the pages and glued and stapled and whatnot, and you could be content that it didn't have to be special, or fancy, or artsy. Just being John or Jane Doe is enough for this thing. And as someone who has seen what elitism can do to the flow of energy among people, I embrace that concept STRONGLY.
The world lives and dies by the flow of ideas, and of love. Love, you say? Just watch when a meme or video or product gets popular. The flow of energy, the tides of people, are what will make everything go from now on. And while we may really resent the fact that people who can't spell migrated off of AOL to the rest of the internet, it also meant they brought their energy and their enthusiasm with them. People are a powerful tidal wave, and don't even really recognize it yet.
Yes, very deep thoughts coming from a simple display of yuppie paper products. And while yes, it is entirely a dollar grab, the concept behind it, the original thought that made it attractive to even want to produce a line of Smash journals, introducing the idea to the main populace, is in there.
I just wish there was a way to tell people look, you didn't need to buy this special journal. A blank book from B&N would've done you, and some regular post its, and a few sharpies.... you don't need all this specialty stuff. But then if that's how they come in to it and it benefits them, awesome. Maybe they'll discover later that they can just screw around with scrap paper and regular paper clips.
I do find it amusing that the idea of pure chaos breeding creativity and excellent ideas is becoming so mainstream these days... that regimented rituals inhibit instead of accelerate. Lined paper, for instance. Or scrap booking kits.
By the way, for the record.... I hate scrapbooking. I have often found it to be the refuge sport of bored housewives, and I'm really glad they've moved on to cupcakes. Maybe we can get them in to Polaroid photography next and provide impetus for more and cheaper sources of Polaroid film!! Yay!
Or not.
And as I've mentioned, I truly love this idea. I love that finally it is acceptable to just throw anything and everything under a cover and slam it shut and boom, you're done. I have a poetry collection that looks like it's about to burst its seams that follows this sort of thing, full of stickers and post cards and images and done entirely in gel pens. I'm really proud of it. And when I remember that, well....
Okay, I bought my own Smash journal too. I am mildly ashamed. But isn't it pretty?

Yes, it's red. Of COURSE it's red. If it hadn't been that one, it would've been the lime green and I couldn't stand the lime green because it said "eco" on the cover and the only thing inside were a bunch of pictures of leaves and trees. Yeah. I'm sorry, but nature pictures do not an eco journal make.
I've already filled out a few things in there, including a little blurb about how baseball is probably the easiest of the sports to transpose in to coding terminology because every single action within the game relies upon the pitcher's processes..... I should probably flesh it out better in a "regular" journal where I can actually whip up some pseudo code and I'm not dodging their pre-printed crap on the pages.
Which brings me to my single complaint about these (besides putting themselves as "specialized" when it's pretty much artificial). They printed words all over my front page. A giant blurb talking about how hard it is to start a journal, so they would take up the front page. Really? Did I just drop money so you could take up the beautiful promise of my front page? Nuh-uh. I will be covering up the majority of that page in stickers and words that are mine. Because you know what? I know how to rock a chaos journal and damnit that is MY front page! Plus it needs dinosaurs in there.
Actually, my plan is to put dinosaur and unicorn stickers all over any place they have pre-printed words. Cuz I really hate being told what to do and that's my impetuous 3rd grade self coming out.
I'm looking forward to this little experiment, to see what happens now that I've been given "permission" to journal in it with my usual style. It's a mini-experiment along with all the others I'm running in my other blank books.
And if you're still reading, WOW, thank you. This was long winded but I haven't had a good brain dump in a while -as you can probably see. So the smash journal maybe will be two-fold in its creation, which is awesome.
Now if you'll excuse me... I need to go find my dinosaur stickers.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Actual Conversation X^3.145

I am growing to love the source of amusement that is my coworkers...
Joe [15:41] : I am to ADHD for soduku
Helen [15:42] : I can do the ones with 3 of the numbers missing!
Joe [15:45] : I can do it but I have to leave and come back
Helen [15:45] : Yeah. on the more complicated ones, same here.
Joe [15:46] : I mean on all of them
Joe [15:46] : I'm like look something else shiny to play with
Helen [15:46] : *LAUGH*
Helen [15:47] : So that's why they've hidden all the tinfoil...
Joe [15:47] : funny story I hate tin foil
Helen [15:48] : ....if that's all there is to it, I have to argue with your definition of funny.
Joe [15:48] : there is more I hate tin foil because I once saw someone eat it and it freaked me out
Helen [15:49] : EW
Helen [15:49] : Okay, that's legit.

As an aside, I watched someone eat tinfoil once, too... the sound of it scraping on the person's teeth still makes me want to wretch.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Actual Conversation #nth to the tenth

*coworker leans in with an air of conspiracy. I lean in to meet her*

Coworker: "You got a minute?"
Me: "Sure, what's up?"
Coworker: "Okay... I'm only gonna tell this to you. Cuz, well, you're you."
Me: "....um, thanks?..."

I am the Switzerland of my workplace... neutral for everybody.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rolling in the Gutters

I am pretty thoroughly ensconced in the world of the written word coupled with the active image. And when I sat down to think of which comic books I would turn around and recommend to friends ,I realized to my surprise that I've actually read enough that I could hold forth on quite a few. So what started out as a Facebook post is moving over here because it kept going... and going... and going....
So here's a more-than-lengthy rundown of a few series I've enjoyed, and I'll end it with a few I dislike with ample explanation. Perhaps the ample explanation will be what leads you to try them out on your own and conversely like what I hate, making things awkward in future conversations. Life is awesome that way.

~Justice League~ It's pretty funny, the story's compelling, the art is FANTASTIC, and you watched all of these guys as a kid so you know the group dynamic. I don't want to give out too many spoilers, so I'll just say that Green Lantern spends a lot of time heckling Batman (well, everybody, but especially Batman) and it's pretty amusing. I get antsy waiting for this to come out.
~Batwoman~ The artwork is AMAZING in this. No, I'm not talking your typical comic book artwork. They have some of the most abstract yet amazing stuff around the edges, touching on hispanic artwork as well as amazing interplay of images... there are gutters without being gutters in this thing and it's amazing. The storyline borrows accurately from Hispanic culture and is an interesting interplay in and of itself, worth the read. Word of warning... you need to be okay with lesbians to enjoy the story line. Homophobes are probably not going to enjoy the implied sex in #4.
‎~Invincible Iron Man ~ Rolling in to issue #512 next month, this is one of the more morally and emotionally intricate stories I've followed. They just finished the Fear Itself arc, and while it was quite kitschy and an excuse to get everyone together in the Marvel Universe (think Marvel zombies except it didn't suck) it laid out some awesome groundwork for future problems everybody needs to deal with. VERY smooth segue in to Tony Stark being harassed by the Mandarin after the worst day of his life. If you want to catch up you can read Omnibus #1 and #2, and pick up Extremis. It's just a nice little read.
~LI'L DEPRESSED BOY!~ It will remind you of everything you hated about high school, and some of you in to college and beyond (ahem...) with all the awkwardness, the longing, and those brief awesome shiny moments of life when things are perfect. Reading it makes me ache in recognition and smile in understanding, cuz somebody else "gets it" and managed to craft a beautiful story out of such strung-out differences in living.
~The Unwritten~ is awesome. Start with the trade paperbacks, Vol. 1. It starts out making fun of the cult following around things like Harry Potter and how the media can explode around the smallest thing (and how the internet can kill) and it just goes from there in to something purely awesome about the creativity of humanity and how we can form realities with mere words. A quick spoiler? Frankenstein helps the protagonist hijack Moby Dick with a doorknob. Yes, I'm serious.
~A God Somewhere~ for people who are okay with their superheroes not being so super. An ordinary man gains super powers and starts out helping the world... and you watch through the eyes of his friends as he slowly goes insane and destroys everything that made him human. Also a good commentary on social strata and race and expectations. I loved this one.
‎~Nightmares and Fairytales~ for a weird take on all those old fairytales, the many, many stories are told through the eyes of poor Annabelle, a doll who gets passed from one little girl to another as something horrible happens to each owner in a fairytale-themed way. Despite this somewhat macabre outline, there is a lot in the story about love and hope and innocence that tugs at my heart. The art style is also very unusual, sitting somewhere between something Jhonen Vasquez would render and your average shojo manga.
~The Unknown~ The story of a woman dying from a fatal disease solving the case of a body missing from a closed room... I'm not finished with the series yet (there are only 4) but so far I am really enjoying the writing and the storyline. It's very Sherlock Holmes in the execution, and the heroine does not pull the "look at me, I have boobs yet I manage to be both smart AND sexy" bullshit at all. I must respect that.

There is something to be said for my old favorites, the ones that got me in to comic books in the first place... but considering that was Sandman and The Crow, I think I'll leave those out there as a "not a bad way to spend an afternoon" thing. I would honestly recommend you go read Neil Gaiman's American Gods over the Sandman, despite that being the thing that got him to super rock-star-dom in the first place. If you really want to get a taste for The Endless and Sandman's universe, though, I would highly recommend just snagging Preludes and Nocturnes and seeing if you're in to that. The series just gets more abstract from there. As far as the Crow? Well, my favorite was actually the one where a DEA agent came back after she was killed while pregnant with a child she hadn't told anyone about. It's a very dark storyline. Read it if you need a good downer. Or if you're a goth and that's your normal start to a day.

Another surprise thing to read? Swamp Thing. Seriously. The reboot has a rather complex story, and the artwork has a beautiful retro touch to it as well as some really creative framing of the panels that make it an interesting read. It's not my absolute fave, but I do get excited when I know another one is coming out.

Guilty pleasure right now? Aquaman. Yes, seriously. And all for the single phrase in the very first one - "What is it like to be NOBODY'S favorite superhero?" That sort of self-awareness not only made me chuckle, it told me that they were trying to make a concerted effort to make the story interesting.

Things to avoid? oh my, do I have things for you to avoid.

~Justice League Dark~ Wow, did I want to like this one. It has Constantine, Zatanna (remember Zatanna? She was the one always flirting with Batman) Deadman... and nobody else you've heard of. In fact, you probably haven't heard of Deadman if you're reading this post hoping to learn something. The story is weird, it's dragging, the artwork isn't all that fantastic, and it just feels like they can't get it together. A more accurate description? Remember the Justice League cartoons where Superman, Batman, Wonderwoman and, well, anybody else useful is gone and it's just the Wondertwins and freakin' Gleek to save the day? That's what it feels like. Not even the B team, we're on to the C team. it's harsh, but I'm going to drop it from my pull list after it has bored me for the fourth time.
~The Walking Dead~ okay, don't crucify me. But the story is repetitive, going on and on about the evil of mankind and the hopelessness of life and I swear to god if I'd read the word "dogrape" one more time I was going to scream. Resorting to sexual assault - REPEATEDLY - as part of your storyline doesn't make you edgy. It means you're possibly pushing the buttons of one third of your female readership. Which is what happened with me, I'll admit. That aside, let me go back to the repetitiveness. The characters are all petty and not just flawed to make the story interesting, but fatally flawed to the point of seeming to be beating it in to the reader's consciousness like an ogre wielding a club. I just got tired of what had seemed promising turning in to a story of caricatures. Oh, and dogrape.
~Suicide Squad~ Ugh... I only read the first one and it was so boring I couldn't get past it. They basically collect up a bunch of super-villians (from what I can tell, mostly out of Gotham) and send them out on impossible missions. I did not like the writing on this at all, just trying to be too cool, too edgy, and too "cashing in on the success of Arkham Asylum video games".
~Animal Man~ the artwork makes me squirm. Which is unfortunate, cuz it had a promising story. I just can NOT look at that artwork anymore, and that makes me sad.

I'm sure I'll think of others, and this doesn't even touch on the manga I've been trolling through (May I recommend Dogs vol. 0??? Because I seriously would!) but this is a good start. This is not, by the way, the least of what I am reading or have read. It's just the stuff that is more than mildly amusing or that made me physically laugh out loud. I hope somebody finds their way in to the wide world of all of this with the help of this info. Oh, and I take questions, feel free to post below if you have one!