Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

What You Should Know About Martial Arts
October 8, 2017

There are many myths, misconceptions and downright bizarre attitudes and behaviors that many people have about martial arts. The purpose of this blog entry, is to dispel that nonsense and at the same time, be educational.

Let’s start with the weird behaviors:

  • Don’t laugh. While people who study martial arts typically enjoy it, we also take it seriously. We train in public or private because like most things, you use it or you lose it. It’s not cute, and it’s not funny. This is both a sport and an art form, and it’s intense. Martial arts can and will inflict serious bodily harm upon someone, and in many cases permanently injure or kill a person. The history of the majority of martial arts styles across Asia are rooted in monasteries and the military, and that’s not the kind of thing you joke about.
  • Don’t mimic us. You should never try to do something you see a martial artist do without proper training, no matter how easy you may think it is. Secondly, mimicking us makes you look like a fool, and it’s extremely rude. A couple of years ago, I mentioned to my Japanese language teacher that I had studied Kenpo, and she actually mimicked what she thought was Kenpo… I just sat there staring at her and eventually said to her, “What are you doing?” It was upsetting enough that I never talked about Kenpo or any martial arts during class ever again.
  • Don’t ask us to show off. Unless you are going to give me a huge wad of cash for showing off, don’t ask me to “show you some moves”. They aren’t moves, they are techniques and skills, and they aren’t for your entertainment. If you want to watch martial arts that badly, go watch Bruce Lee, or Jackie Chan, or some other dude who made money off of making us look silly.
  • Don’t ask us if we can do things that aren’t humanly possible. Like spinning around in the air ten times, bending or breaking steel, or any other superhuman thing you saw in the movies. Those things aren’t real, they will never be real, and I personally don’t wish they were real. As much respect as I had for Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid films, there’s a moment where he rubs his hands together vigorously and touches Daniel’s injured leg to “heal” it with his “energy”, and physics says a big fat NO to stuff like that.

Myths and Misconceptions:

  • Martial arts are not about fighting. Setting aside the military history, martial arts in both technique and culture are not about fighting. Most people who study this don’t get into fights. We don’t seek out fights, and we go out of our way to avoid them. Not just for our own safety, but because we know our own strength, and would rather not have to hurt another person unless we have no choice.
  • What happens in the movies is not legitimate martial arts. Creative at times, based on martial arts, but not martial arts. The Thai film “Chocolate” is one of a select few martial art movies I actually like, because it’s the most realistic looking one I’ve ever seen. But the superhuman behaviors of those enormously high jump kicks, or wall climbing, are usually CGI or performed by stunt workers with special effects assistance (Jackie Chan does his own stunts though). The star martial artist in the real world would not get attacked by each enemy one by one. They’d get swarmed by the pack and probably die. If a group of people who intended to hurt me ever approached me on the street, I’d run like hell, because I cannot fight off a group and even the most skilled martial artists can’t either.
  • Most of us aren’t very talented. Anyone who is not trained in or knowledgeable about something will say a more skilled person is talented. That’s a nice compliment, but with some rare exceptions, we aren’t talented. I don’t see myself as talented. Martial arts at its core, can be learned by just about anybody. It’s a rare few who take it to the next level and create their own style from it. I was always a fast learner and the form came relatively easy for me, but that’s actually how I am with most things. When it comes to creating my own style, I’m at a serious loss. Martial arts weren’t intended to be tweaked and mixed up, they are passed down from teacher to student in the same way over and over again to preserve the core of that style, so mixing things up is a bit strange.
  • We aren’t a bunch of badass mofos. I’m definitely a badass mofo when it comes to creative writing, but in regard to martial arts, definitely not! We aren’t these macho men and women walking around in full leather and firing death glares at everything that moves. I wear dresses and make-up.
  • Weapon usage and defense against them. Some styles use weapons like swords, short swords, double sticks, bo staffs, and others. Some styles are strictly focused on body techniques and nothing else. A lot of American teachers like to show young students ways to disarm attackers, basically take away a knife or gun and use it against your enemy. If a teacher ever tries to show you stuff like that, find a new school immediately. That nonsense will get you killed. Knife attacks are lightning quick, and you won’t have time to pull off those fancy moves when a knife is flying at you, or into you repeatedly. Same goes for guns. If you take someone’s gun away from them, you will break or possibly tear off their trigger finger, and if you shoot them, you be wounding or killing an unarmed person. We cannot always run when confronted by someone with a weapon, but running is always your best option. There’s no shame in running, because that’s how you stay alive. I do own a pair of 30 inch wooden sticks, and I enjoy training with them, but they are a dangerous weapon, which is something I always keep in the back of my mind.

 

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Hypnotic Eyes
May 9, 2017

Chris and I didn’t get along perfectly. It would have been nice if things turned out differently, but one thing I’ve learned in my 30 years of life, is that the world throws a lot of things at us that we cannot change after they happen. All we can do is accept our mistakes, decide to do better, and then move on.

In 2010, I attended an event at Silver Sands Beach called “Hands Across the Sand.” I was introduced to Chris there. Right off the bat, he made me nervous. Everything he asked me about myself was normal – what art I liked, what my education was, what I did for a living… all the usual things you ask people when you first meet them. All of his body language, his tone of voice, it was all as normal as normal could be. But you see, he had this intense gaze that was like a knife just jabbing right into my chest and refusing to budge. And I have this problem where I can’t hold eye contact with people because it’s too uncomfortable and at times painful for me. No matter how much I wanted to, I could not look away from Chris and I was frozen in place. This scared the hell out of me, but at the same time, I was fine with it.

Suddenly my mother needed help with something, so I had to end our conversation. I did not speak to Chris again for the rest of that event. I look back on that now and wonder to myself, what if I had spoken to him again? Would we have become acquaintances, or even friends? Would the dynamic between him and I, have been totally different, or was it doomed to fail all along?

Fast forward to 2012, when my mom and I opened our own thrift store. While we were cleaning around the store’s front entrance, this guy came strolling up to us with a mild limp. He had a big smile and bright eyes, but more importantly, he was confident. He inquired about our store, and I admit we both immediately noticed his thick, deep voice. I didn’t care to ask why, because I had known this guy for all of 30 seconds and it wasn’t my business. Not to mention one of my uncles had the same kind of voice, and every time I saw him when I was a kid, he was in a bed or in a wheelchair. Eventually, my mom asked this guy why he had his voice and his limp, and he explained he had recently been diagnosed with ALS, or what some people refer to as “Lou Gehrig’s disease”. Sooner or later while the three of us were talking, he looked over at me and our eyes locked. A nervous feeling swept over me and I asked him, “Haven’t I met you before?” He had no recollection of who I was, and I didn’t immediately remember ever meeting him in the past. Our conversation pretty much ended there with him introducing himself as Chris, telling us his apartment was right above our store, and that if we needed anything we could ask him. Like I said before, confident.

I never told him this but right then and there he left me with not only a feeling of nervousness but also feeling happy to have met him.

So I ask myself again, if I had become friends with Chris back in 2010, how devastated would I have been in 2012 when he was diagnosed? There’s a part of me that believes for my own sake, it was better for me not to have had any sort of bond with him before then. But another part of wishes I had had that bond, because then maybe I could have understood better and been more comforting toward him than I was.

I think about two moments in particular that are so memorable for me, for many reasons. The first is when Chris needed help reattaching the door to his medicine cabinet. Of course I’m dexterously challenged in my own way, but I was glad to help. When I walked into his apartment with him, one of his cats was there staring at me. He warned me that she didn’t like people but I called her over to me, and she let me pet her. Chris gave me a big speech about how strange this was because this cat only liked him, and as soon as he finished talking, she turned around and swatted me. He smiled for a moment and I think he might have been jealous. That’s okay, because we cat lovers are like that. In any case, Chris showed me to the bathroom, and after swearing up a storm in there for a good 15 minutes, I was able to get the door reattached. I remember Chris wanting to assist, but knowing that he wasn’t able to, even though he was standing there and would seem “able-bodied” to anyone who didn’t know him. That’s the crushing reality of ALS – it takes your body but leaves your mind intact. After that ordeal, we went outside and chatted for a while. What was interesting was he asked almost the exact same questions he had the first time we had met, and I probably gave him the exact same answers. I recall him smiling at me when I talked about my art and my education, and even though in that moment I still didn’t remember meeting him the first time, I think he may have remembered me. Now, I mentioned before that making eye contact is difficult for me. But having any kind of physical contact with people, even shaking hands, is difficult for me too. Chris thanked me for helping him and reached out to give me a hug. I didn’t feel like going into my speech about why I don’t hug people, so I let the hug happen. That was the first time in my life that I had hugged someone, and it felt normal. Here’s a man who had a terminal illness, and yet he had the power to hug me and make me feel normal. I challenge you to find another soul who can do the same thing.

My mom has a condition called multiple sclerosis, so she had an extra walking cane lying around, and asked me to bring it to Chris because he had mentioned having more difficulty with walking. Chris was in a frantic, agitated mood. He had been working on a huge drawing, but when it came to the finer details, he didn’t have the fine motor function to draw them. After trying to find his glue-gun to no avail so we could rig together a tool for him to use to make things easier, we got on the subject of the drawing itself. The drawing was morbid, but my perception of death is not the same as the average population, so my reaction to it was positive. Chris just smiled and put up with me. We had known each other for a couple of months up to this point, so I think he was getting a sense of the sort of person I am. He then mentioned that he had to get ready for a doctor appointment, and mentioned he was nervous. I asked why, and he said it was because he had to have blood drawn. I told him I understood because of my issue with my arms, and how I don’t like it when people touch my arms because I’m afraid I’ll lose them. He told me that one thing about having ALS that frightened him was losing the use of his arms. I had a similar conversation with my mom after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I told Chris something like what I told her, but speaking to him and what he was going through: “I want you to know that no matter what people say to you, that there are many people who have lived with ALS for a long time and have lived real lives. This does not define you. No matter what happens, you will always be Chris.” He cried and so did I.

I don’t want to talk about the negative things. Maybe far off in the future I will write about why Chris and I didn’t always get along and why we had to stop being friends. But right now, I just cannot do that. His friends and family are grieving, I am grieving. Yes, I stopped talking to him over 3 years ago, and still, I grieve. I grieve because despite all that happened, I think of his art and how alive it is. He was more than talented, he had a way of drawing and painting that could suck us in and never let us go. Just like his eyes, he could hypnotize us with his art. He had a profound effect on me during the time I was friends with him, and I will always cherish that. Not because of anything he did for me, but because of what made him who he was. One important lesson I have learned from life, is that the body can die, but what a person does for you will remain forever.

Don’t Call Geisha Prostitutes
February 1, 2015

The word geisha most likely comes from a Japanese dialect that isn’t used anymore. Nowadays, if you look up the word for art in standard Japanese, you will get びじゅつ、 (bijutsu; but it really means fine art). For person, you will get ひと. I’m going to operate under the assumption that geisha was from the “Old Tokyo dialect”, and it literally translates to “art person”, not “prostitute”. There are many things that are considered art forms, from classical music to calligraphy to poetry and even conversation. The most important aspect of the geisha is that they are entertainers. Even sex in it’s own way can be considered an art form, in the correct context.

I often refer to Japan as the art capital of the world. Art is so deeply rooted in Japan’s history that it pretty much is Japan’s history. All of my experiences with Japanese culture while growing up, were artistic. From studying Kenpo to the stories from Shintoism to the incredible souvenirs my god-mother brought back for me when I was little.

I won’t sit here and say that geisha were not, at times, exploited, because women have been exploited in every corner of the globe. But I won’t sit here and act like geisha are somehow worse-off than American women, or any other woman in any other part of the world. It’s been my experience that if a cultural behavior is different than what we’ve grown up with, we label it as wrong. Well it’s not wrong for a woman to be a geisha, who lives, eats, breathes and performs art. By your logic, the starving artist down the street would also be a prostitute because he sells his paintings. If you think selling your body and selling your paintings are not the same thing, there are thousands of artists lined up around the block to tell you otherwise. Art is, and always will be, an extension of the human form.

The original purpose of the geisha was to entertain men. A woman entertaining men for far too long has been associated with exploitation. It is automatically assumed that any sort of entertainment performed by a woman, for a man, is sexual. But if I sing to a man, or play an instrument for him, am I really being exploited? The disturbing part about this is that if a man were to do the exact same type of entertaining, we’d see it as courting, romantic, and call him a really nice man. But a woman has to be forced to be nice to other people, making her a beast… I’d say you were fighting the wrong fight, but, this isn’t a fight.

Unfortunately, Americans are obsessed with Japan’s culture, which they define as ramen noodles, manga and anime. In my Japanese 100 course last semester, a classmate admitted that she was taking the class so that she could understand what characters say in the anime porn she watches. There is much more to Japan than that.

Memoirs of a Geisha was a huge hit because of this obsession with Japan. The film is beautifully done, and historically accurate, though some societal attitudes miss the mark. Even so, the movie still made geisha look like these exploited prostitutes, rather than woman making a living as artists. It starts with the lead character, Sakamoto Chiyo, being sold to a house with まいこ (maiko) who are training to become geisha. Sakamoto also has blue eyes, and is often criticized for it. A heavy amount of emphasis is also placed on when Sakamoto is sexually assaulted, and the bidding for the geisha’s virginity. To most Americans, that portrayal looks like an exploited girl sold into sex slavery. If you watched the film and saw it as positive, then I’m concerned for you. But in the real world, things didn’t happen that way. Or if they did, it was extremely rare.

The Japanese people believe very strongly in a right way, and wrong way to do things. There are certain things you just don’t do in Japan, and one of those things is prostitution. There were serious limits on what parts of the country could have brothels, and by the turn of the 20th century, prostitution was illegal. There are also restrictions on how much male genitalia can be shown in literary/manga porn.

I felt a little silly for doing this, because for the longest time I assumed my Japanese language teacher wasn’t married because she never wears a wedding ring. Most people from her generation and older, don’t wear wedding rings. In addition, the marital restrictions we have in America are very different in comparison to Japan. Men, AND women, were allowed to seek out the attention of courtesans. While there are clear expectations of how women and men should be in a marriage and home, they are a lot more equal than you thought they were.

Sakamoto’s blue eyes gain much disrespect, but in real world Japan this would not be the case. The sea which surrounds the country is precious, and a young girl with watery eyes would be special. The Japanese pay attention to facial features and appearance, and have more words to describe appearance than Americans do. This is not vanity, because talking about different physical features is casual. Asking someone what their weight is, or how tall they are, is a normal question. When people, especially those in the military, try to convince me Japan is sexist and racist, I get very irritated. The concept of ethnicity and race in Japan is relatively new. When the Japanese first encountered people from America and Europe, they referred to them as あおいめのひと (aoi me no hito), ‘blue-eyed people’, because they were people who had blue eyes.

I’m not entirely sure why a geisha needed to look bad in this film, or why the exploitation of a fictional character was needed to make a statement about feminism. I especially don’t understand, out of all the women in this world who are actually victims, the author chose the geisha to make his point.

So Remember That Book I’ve been Working On?
December 10, 2014

I am horrifyingly bad at updating folks on this book. That’s partly due to the writing process not being much of a process… it’s in my head mostly, then I write, then I think some more, then I write some more… you get the idea. I did a huge amount of writing over the summer, along with editing and proofreading. But this semester at SCSU has been a busy one! Here’s the deal, my Japanese 100 course was three days a week and every class began with a short quiz. That means I had to study every single day. Combine that with forging metal in my Jewelry/Metals course, and utilizing most of the studio time to paint for my Painting II course, I didn’t have much free time to write. Actually, I didn’t have any free time to write. I think during this whole semester I proofread ONE TIME. And that’s not even writing, that’s fixing typing errors.

So for some asinine reason I had it in my head that First Earth would be published back in October. I don’t know why I thought I could finish a book in a few months. I’m not exactly known for being speedy in this sort of thing. In the bright side of things, I did start the illustrations, and actually finished one, and have others nearly done or halfway done. Hey, they’ll be inside the book, they count for something!

In the spirit of apologies, I’ve decided to give all of you a treat that you deserve. You have been asking for this book, received very few updates from me, and you have given me more patience than I would ever give myself. So I am grateful for your dedication to what I am putting so much effort into, for you to read. The writing process is about me because it’s my story, my book, but it’s about you, the reader, and your intelligent decision to read it. Without further ado, feel free to scroll down and click on “Read the rest of this entry” to read the very first completed chapter of First Earth.

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Frustrated Painter
April 24, 2014

I dove into art, specifically painting, sculpting and drawing when I was three years old. I am 27 now, which means I have been studying art on my own time and in school for 24 years. I picked up oils when I was 16. I don’t believe I am the best, but I do know where I am as an artist and where I need to go.

I majored in Studio Art at Gateway Community College (New Haven). I received an Associates, however I studied four years worth of classes in art and other subjects. GWCC’s art department is incredibly skilled for a two-year school. A couple of professors could do better as teachers, but they are easily avoided. Most of the things I know about oils I learned from Vincent Baldassano, who is both a wonderful painter and a wonderful person. (His art is so unique and worth checking out).

I also took 2D Design with Prof. Baldassano, which was a new subject for me. I am studying at Southern CT State University now, and I took 2D Design again with Prof. Guagliumi (interestingly enough, both teachers know each other). They each had different approaches, and Prof. Guagliumi’s class was just as challenging as the first time I had explored the subject. In other words, it shouldn’t matter if you took the same class previously with a different teacher, you should still learn a few things.

I was supposed to be in ART 320 this semester, but the time slot was too late in the day and conflicted with the city bus schedule, the one I need to get back to my apartment. Even though my credits from GWCC filled my requirement for ART 220, I decided to take it anyways. The class is titled “Painting and Media Techniques”, so I had hoped to picked up a new technique or two. I had heard great things about Mia Brownell, so I decided to take the class with her.

Unfortunately, my financial aid refund took too long so I was low on art supplies for the first third of semester. This was embarrassing for me enough as it is. I shared supplies with students, something which Mia had encouraged in the beginning of the semester. Then all of the sudden I would get snotty comments from her like “You have to pay her back”. I’m not sure how to calculate the cost of a blob of paint, first off, and secondly, if that student wants to be compensated for said blob she can ask me. Given her status as a painter, her decent paying job as a college teacher and her light skin and blonde hair, I’d say Mia thinks I’m beneath her.

It doesn’t stop there. Many oil painters alternate between thin and thick layers of paint. The layering of washes is a very traditional technique for oils, and it is also used for watercolors. However, watercolors need to remain transparent to a degree, so painting thick with them isn’t appropriate. Mia told us about thin on thick technique was for oils during one of the first classes, then proceeded to tell us that technique was only for watercolors. The only things we’ve done are still-lifes, no landscapes or human forms. For our fourth painting we did a reproduction. During my rendering of Van Gogh’s sunflowers, Mia told me to “watch out for the greens”. I had that part of the painting finished and the color was the exact same as the original. I guess the greens were going to jump out of the painting and attack me or something…

I don’t crave attention in art classes – in fact, most art teachers can tell it’s not my first time at the rodeo so they kind of leave me alone. Mia is constantly up my ass about everything. She went on and on about how much I “improved” during the first half of the semester during our midterm meeting. But if I’ve “improved” so much, why does she keep telling me the same things over and over again? I know how to start a fucking painting, I know I have to do an under drawing. It drives her crazy when I do my background color first to cover up the gesso. Nobody with any kind of sense fills in the background color(s) after they’ve painted everything else. What was especially ridiculous was Mia didn’t have the sense that she’s taller than me, so if she’s critiquing my under drawing she needs to be at my eye level, not her own. I had to tell her several times that she was seeing it from her angle, not mine, before she got a clue.

For our final exam, we could choose objects to make our own still-life with items that are important to us. I chose to paint a stack of three books. When I told her this was what I wanted to do, she shot it down because she believed it was too challenging. At first I just let it roll off my back. But in the days following, I thought about her recommendation to find things which represented those books. There really isn’t anything in my house or in the world that can represent Uncle Tom’s Cabin other than the book itself. Combine that with My Bondage and My Freedom by Fredrick Douglass, and a birthday book from the mid-1800’s, and the effect is pretty clear. I have the birthday book open to May 11th, because that is the birthday of my best friend, and my favorite painter, Salvador Dali. I generally don’t choose square, angular and straight-edged things. Those require an enormous amount of concentration from me, since I have issues with my motor development. I needed that challenge.

Her response to bringing the still-life and setting it up regardless of her disapproval, was naturally more disapproval. Then followed by a five minute rant about how this was too hard for me and wouldn’t challenge me in the right way. In addition to that, she said that books are boring. So after this whole semester, after seeing all of my paintings, she honestly believes a stack of books is too difficult for me and too boring for me to do. Her personal opinion doesn’t influence my reasoning. Part of way I wanted books is also because they are classy and classic. Have you seen Cezanne’s still-lifes of books? Cezanne is another favorite of mine, and his work is partially inspiration for choosing these books. (BTW, “books are boring” is an insult to readers and writers everywhere).

Most of the students in the class are white. Myself, and one of the male students are the only ones who are black. We have another student who is Iranian/Persian. She ignores these two male students, and clearly thinks very little of them. The young man who’s Iranian, he’s can be abrasive at times but if the class can be patient with him, why can’t she? And the other male student, he’s a sweet, quiet man and very new to painting, but she rarely acknowledges his presence. During our critique of the reproductions, she didn’t address him directly, she spoke to everyone else instead. She didn’t address me much either. I can’t say for sure if there is a racist undertone here or not, but the non-white students are the only ones being singled out.

Some things are just odd… For example, she demonstrated stretching canvas at the end of the semester. Shouldn’t that be the first thing a painter learns; how to start a painting? And our first painting was on a primed piece of bristol paper. We were encouraged to buy pre-stretched and primed canvas for the first four assignments, so when we got to actually stretching canvas, most people didn’t want to do it and they all whined. Just as a test, I asked her if a painting can be taken off of the stretcher bars after it’s dry, and she said you could do it. No you cannot. Well, you can, but you risk tearing your canvas, your painting shrinking unevenly and putting it back on stretcher bars later can stretch it the wrong way and cause cracking in the paint. It may be cheaper to reuse stretcher bars, but ruining your paintings isn’t worth it. Besides, the thinner stretcher bars average around 15 dollars a set, even at the most expensive art store in New Haven.

So below I have included some photos of two of my paintings. The first is the reproduction of Van Gogh’s sunflowers. Yellow and yellow-orange inevitably dry darker, and I plan to continue working on this painting in the future.

DSCN0439

This is the book painting. Clearly it’s in the beginning stages. I plan to add more shadows, lettering, contrast, etc. It’s not “easy”, but it’s not impossible either.

Books

So, at this point I am frustrated. I achieved these paintings without Mia. She does not get credit for input, because her input never makes sense or is ridiculous. I feel like, although I love these paintings, the class was a waste educationally. I’m not growing like I should be and that isn’t fair.

Art Supplies – The Best and the Worst
April 20, 2014

Every artist no doubt has their preference, but some things are just mandatory, and others should never be used. Let’s talk about paint bases first.

Egg tempura: Don’t go with the cheap tempura that they give preschoolers. Egg tempura is a combination of egg yolk (white discarded), pigment, and vinegar. The amount of pigment used depends on how intense you want the color to be. Obviously a small amount of yolk and a giant amount of pigment won’t produce good results. Therefore your pigment should be approximately equal to or one third the size of the yolk. Yolk and vinegar when mixed should be equal amounts, and they should be combined before adding the pigment. Egg tempura is a very old media, and easy to work with.

Oil base: Oil can be mixed at home or store bought. Winton/Winsor and Newton are less expensive than other store bought oil paints. Oil base is not as easy to work with as tempura, but it is more versatile than any other media. Oil can be used with any technique, even techniques meant for other paint bases. Oil takes a long time to dry, which means you can work with wet oils long after they are applied. However, you may need to wait several hours, or days even, before doing finishing touches, because wet oils don’t allow fine details without corrupting the colors. In truth, you may find yourself more smitten with studying oil painting rather than using it on your own time. Oil requires quite the cleanup; it’s messy and it gets in places without you realizing until it is too late. But you know someone is an experienced oil painter when they get it everywhere – on clothes, furniture, the easel, brush stems, the ceiling, the walls… it’s a sign of enthusiasm.

Water base: Water base comes in two ways: Watercolor, which is water and pigment mixed together. The other is water and linseed oil mixed with pigment. Water base and water mixable oils are not as blasphemous as some master painters make them out to be. It means you can thin your oils with water, to an extent, thus eliminating unnatural paint thinners altogether (trust me, we will discuss paint thinners next). Watercolors must be studied carefully. It often involves building up many layers of washes, basically a thin layer of paint. After it dries sufficiently, thicker coats can be applied. Watercolor does not have to be completely opaque, you can keep even your final layers transparent and achieve a very skilled effect.

Animal skin: Knowing how to make animal skin based paints will make you feel like an accomplished painter. Animal skins need to be boiled at specific temperatures, and then mixed with pigment as quickly as possible. This is also a base for making your own gesso (primer). Here’s a recipe for it:

Plastic base: Also called acrylic, this is the paint that gives most painters hell. Acrylic dries super fast, faster than watercolor even. So you need to paint fast, because you don’t have a lot of time to stand around like you do with oils. It also dries shiny, rather than matte, which some artists prefer. A shiny surface makes it difficult to photograph paintings without a really great camera. This also means that brush strokes will be very noticeable based on how the light hits them. Acrylic needs to be applied to canvas in the same direction, otherwise it looks sloppy. Acrylic serves one purpose in my paintings – to be a background that I will completely paint over with oils later. I consider acrylic a poor paint media, and unworthy of its existence.

Thinning paint is essential to painting. There’s little point in taking paint straight from the tube to cover a background. On a 36″x36″ canvas, you really wouldn’t want to use half of your tube of burnt sienna or yellow ochre to cover it. Applying any thinner to a small dab of your paint and putting down a few layers over time is faster. If you use oil to cover large areas without thinning it you will exhaust yourself. “Dry” oils, in other words straight from the tube don’t spread evenly or nicely and they take on a crayon look. Unless you are reproducing a painting by Van Gogh, you don’t want the crayon look.

Turpentine: The infamous paint thinner that smells horrible but breaks down any paint extremely well. It is toxic if ingested or inhaled, and might cause skin irritation. Turpentine, odorless or not, MUST be used in a well ventilated space. A room with a ceiling higher than 15 feet, and wider than 10 feet, is open enough to prevent serious harm from fumes, even if no windows are present (though the door should be left open). Turpentine is hazardous, so it needs to be stored in an empty oil drum after use. It CANNOT go down the sink. If you paint outdoors, you should not use turpentine. When used properly, turpentine is safe, but not beneficial to the environment.

Turpenoid: This supposedly safer version of turpentine isn’t actually safer. It cannot go down the sink either, and must also be stored in an oil drum. Turpenoid quantities larger than one drop will irritate your skin. It can also be absorbed moreso than turpentine into your skin, which is not good. Smaller containers of turpenoid natural do not provide ingredients lists on their labeling. Anything that doesn’t give you ingredients is questionable. The teacher I have for my painting course this semester requires us to use it, and she doesn’t even know what’s in it. Turpenoid doesn’t need as much ventilation, but it does smell, and inhaling it will give you a nasty headache. All I know is it contains some level of pine tree oil. I also know pine tree oil is toxic for reptiles, especially snakes (I own a boa), therefore it is not environmentally friendly or biodegradable in my book.

Mineral spirits: It has a lower toxicity than the first two on this list. I’ve never used it personally. It will irritate the skin, and it is known to cause damage to the central nervous system just like turpentine and turpenoid (and most chemicals for that matter). Can’t go down the drain, therefore it’s a hazard.

Liquin: Technically speaking, it’s a paint thinner, with a perk. It helps oils dry faster (24 to 48 hours usually). It contains petroleum, but unless your skin is super sensitive it won’t bother it. Don’t eat it obviously, and don’t put it down the sink. However, it can be wiped off with a paper towel and go in your trash barrel. Liquin works like most thinners and thins paint without using a lot of it. Liquin Original is for basic thinning of paint, and Liquin Detail is for thinning paint but giving it a “thick” apparance when you are doing finishing touches. Liquin is flammable, so DO NOT use a hair dryer to dry your paint. You’ll set your canvas on fire and that’ll be embarrassing. I recommend Liquin more than any other paint thinner.

Brushes are a strange thing. Regardless of what people think, any brush can be used with any paint. All brushes shed their bristles, natural bristles more than synthetic obviously. You can use oil with a horse hair brush (sumi brush) for washes and just make sure you clean it very well. Some painters have every kind of brush imaginable, others use only a select few. Van Gogh used mostly small pointed brushes. Salvador Dali used “round” tipped brushes for soft and smooth surfaces. I use everything. Fan brushes are also really annoying, because you can’t have one size, you need at least a small, medium and large. Some fan brushes come with thicker bristles, some with fewer bristles. A large fan brush in a small area will get you a big blob. A small fan brush in a large area won’t do anything but make a baby blob. And then there is my weird favorite that most painters kind of hate: That giant fluffy brush that looks like it can apply makeup. Ya know, this one: Fluffy brush.

The fluffy brush is the most wonderful brush ever. Sweep it over multiple colors and they blend together perfectly. If you want soft clouds, use this brush. Sunset, use this brush.

Cleaning off brushes can be a very involved process. Water base cleans off with water even when dry. Acrylic won’t, so you need to soak your brushes and rinse them repeatedly while painting. Oil can be washed off with Liquin, turpentine, turpenoid and mineral spirits. I find the safest approach is dish soaps, like Palmolive and Dawn. Dish soap is supposed to go down the sink, and it chemically breaks down oil paint. Dish soap should not be used as a thinner during painting though, since it does its job too well. Dish soap also removes that oily or sticky feeling from brushes after use, and removes most stains. It will take the fluff out of your fluffy brush, but the brush will do what it’s supposed to do just as well.

I hope this is helpful to anyone who was curious about these items, or is new to painting (or even not new).

Artists are Ruthless
April 7, 2014

I am a student at Southern CT State University. In the time I’ve spent in their art program, I’ve met some wonderful people and made friends who I think are the types of people I want to surround myself with. I’ve also formed great professional relationships to many professors, teachers of art and other subjects. Unfortunately, I’ve also run into a few individuals who are cut-throat monsters.

I enjoy sharing my art on facebook, because that is where my friends are and my page is private. I usually have a story related to each painting I do, and I like to share that story. I just unfriended a student fro my painting class because I can’t trust her. Here’s why:

Throughout this Spring semester she has repeatedly tried to undermine my intelligence. I am not five years old. I’ve been painting, drawing, sculpting, etc for over 20 years and I know a few things. I’m self taught to an extent; most of what I know I learned in art programs and college. When you start comparing yourself to other artists, you stop growing as an artist.

I think she is insecure, because otherwise she wouldn’t need to copy my ideas. For example, our final assignment is to create a still life with objects that have a meaning to us (in other words a self portrait). I said I wanted to paint books and knick-knacks, and now that’s what she wants to do. There are other things she has copied, this isn’t the only instance. It’s one thing to be inspired by an artist, and it’s another thing to be so ruthlessly competitive. I get it – you’re grade is suffering, because of the choices you made and now you are desperate. Well too bad sweetheart, because it’s time to be a grown-up, and college is where the big kids play.

Art can be a multitude of things. A hobby/craft, lifestyle and/or a business. If you treat other artists like your enemies, like they are your competition for success, then you aren’t ready to make art your career choice. You won’t sell your art by pissing off everyone around you, you’ll just ruin your reputation and ruin other opportunities, like collaboration. Granted, I’m not nice to people because I see other artists as business opportunities; I do it because people deserve to be treated nice. But I damn sure won’t shoot myself in the foot.

Ideas should only be shared with people you trust, plain and simple.

First Earth
February 1, 2014

All worlds are made of the balance of nature. In the human world, individuals make up species which work together to create a network. But in another world, the balance is maintained by four governors. Their existence and willpower ensures that the parts of the world they govern will remain intact. But take a governor away, and the continuous circle breaks, then the world slowly crumbles into chaos.

This world has a deep connection with Earth so powerful that four human souls continuously live generation after generation. These humans aren’t aware that they are the human equivalents to the four governors of this other world. When Seria, the governor born of fire, is murdered, her human equivalent is summoned by her best friend, Melly. Without Ethne, the balance cannot be maintained, Seria will remain dead, and since this is a one-way trip, he has no choice but to help.

Ethne picks up a group of damaged and lovable characters to embark on a journey with him across the world. Melly acts as a guide. Arake, a fire-spitting snake takes on a maternal role. Seef, a new woman trapped in an old society, and her estranged sister Koo share their struggles. They stay together because they know without them, the world cannot exist.

October 3rd, 2014.

Writing is how I grieve.
August 30, 2013

When all else fails, writing is the only way I can grieve.

On August 25th, I lost a family member. To others she might be nothing more than a cat. To me, Jenny was my child. Not someone who amplified my maternal instincts but someone who had an identity. She came to me with our eyes locked, and she left me with our eyes locked. She would always look to me for reassurance if she was afraid. When she wanted breakfast, she would wake me by shoving her foot up my nose. She was appreciative of flowers, and would stuff her face in them. She had this bizarre thread radar. We could never leave thread around, or she would eat it in mass quantities. To greet me, she would rub her forehead on my fist. I took many photographs of her during my art studies years ago, all of which my professor praised. Jenny was loved by us, but more importantly, by my friends, and anyone else who met her. On Sunday, the veterinarian almost cried for her. Jenny is very captivating.

We wrapped her in one of my baby blankets, and I held her the entire drive to the clinic. She spent most of that time staring at me. Our neighbor had given us a flower to give to her, which she happily smelled. My mother gave her a dream-catcher, for sweet dreams. The veterinarian was very gentle and kind. After she died, I sat in my best friend’s car and howled. In almost fourteen years, Christina has never seen me shed so much as a tear. She did not come into the clinic with us, but I promised her that I would never ask something like this of her again.

I am not upset for Jenny. She is safe. I was not going to let failing kidneys destroy her body, any more than they already had. It must be understood that nature is beautiful, and death is a part of nature. Think about that. The obvious conclusion is that death is beautiful, but that is so hard for many people to realize and say confidently. On a psychological level, we as humans fear death because we are self-aware. We cannot easily accept the idea of no longer existing. I have watched Jenny examine herself in mirrors. She comforted herself with food whenever she was upset, not due to hunger or sustenance but because things were not going the way she wanted them to. As aware of herself as she was, she knew she was going to die, long before we brought her to the veterinary clinic. She accepted this, because unlike humans, she understands that this is what nature intended.

I’m not trying to teach anyone anything or proclaim that people could learn a thing or two from a precious animal who has more sense than most humans. I want people to understand that this was easy for Jenny, but it was hard as hell for me. It is only going to get harder.

Normally I am very good at holding it together on my own. I’ve done that most of my life because it is what I had to do. I love my best friend, but I have asked enough of her. There is a friend of mine, who understands this feeling on Jenny’s side, and my side. I cannot get to that person because of the reasons behind why he understands. I am fragile and I am not safe. Some of the other people I know care about that. A lot of them don’t.

I didn’t figure all of this out in less than five days. These are things I have known most of my life. I want to remind my friend, based on how I feel now and conversations that we had last year, that the emotions are normal. You are loved by me unconditionally the same way that I love Jenny, for who you are. Both of you captivate me because you are works of art.

I did not write this because I felt like it. Writing is art. This was in my head, and I have to write it.