Father of the Year

October 29th, 2018

Pizza, baby cage, grenade … the stuff of childhood. When my son saw this he shrugged and said “This is normal”. I think he was kidding.

There’s also a cup of coffee and a doglike creature, two elements which keep finding their way into my work over and over again. One might begin to suspect that I like coffee and dogs of all types.

I’m amused at the notion that a palpably evil creature, a Prince of Darkness type, can’t keep his kids in line. However, I’m a little disturbed that the violence of the outside world is creeping into my work. There are some horrifying things going on in the United States.

I live in a comparatively pleasant section of Silicon Valley. In the main, people in my neighborhood are more focussed on changing the world and making things than attacking each other over cultural or philosophical differences. But once the violence and hatred escalate, nowhere is safe. Fear and suspicion inexorably creep into everyone’s lives.

Journalists, sometimes risking their own safety to share truth with the rest of us, are reviled by the current regime. “The Fake News Media, the True Enemy of the People,” caws the regime’s leader, a man who is apparently unclear on when and how to use capitalization. Assassination attempts have made against public figures. People have been slaughtered at their places of worship, murdered or abused for being the “wrong” color, and school children have had orange-sized holes blown through their bodies with assault weapons.

Meanwhile, the person at the head of the regime preaches the religion of violence. And boy, do some people love that doctrine. I’ve seen people I used to love and respect become instruments of hatred. I’ve watched them turn their heads and pretend not to see. Some of the worst I know are the old white men who served in the armed forces during the Cold War. They really should know better when confronted with the reality of Russian collusion and propaganda concocted in Macedonian boiler rooms. But they don’t. They refuse to see it. Gosh, no; they could never be taken in by disinformation. And by the way, keep your hands off their Social Security and keep those filthy, murdering “illegals” out of their country, the one given to Christian white people by God.

Are others waking up? I don’t know. I used to believe the best about people, in the main. I thought most differences were a matter of people having diverging notions about how to improve the country. Even if I disagreed with them, I could at least respect them for having principles of some type.

Now I believe there’s a core group that lives in denial, or is so filled with hatred that setting the world on fire is just fine as long as brown people and liberals go down with it. They’ll lose their businesses due to trade wars, have crops rot in fields due to lack of immigrant labor, die due to lack of health insurance, and maybe have their children or grandchildren cut down in school by an evil, deranged gunman. But it will have been totally worth it.

The father in this image is inept and overwhelmed. But evil as he is, at least he has the decency to find the mayhem around him disturbing and not incite more of it.

It’s tragic when a man-eating demon is more humane and ethical than a prominent world leader.

Excursions 2

October 25th, 2018

This is one of my 3D renders which I edited extensively, trying to give it a painterly quality.

I spent last night trying to do that with Procreate on my iPad. It didn’t go well. Today I beat on it a different way. I’m happier with this result. Mind you, I may change my mind in a couple of days when I look at it again – that often happens – but for now I’m happy.

Why is the lady hanging out stark naked around flower bushes? Uh, I don’t know. Maybe it’s a classical image in the style of ______? Her washing machine broke and she ran out of clothes?

When I was posing the figure, I just liked the the play of light against her bare skin. If my extended family can spend their hours shooting up derelict cars with machine guns and crashing airplanes into power lines, I can jolly well pose naked women next to flowers.

 

Closeup showing the brush strokes on the flowers. I did considerably less brush work on the woman, since I want her to “pop” against the background.

Feet. Again, the feet themselves aren’t as heavily modified as the plants around them.

 

For the sake of contrast, here’s what the same area looked like before editing it.

Stuff I’ve been listening to while working:

Enjoyed the song and the visual homage to Raymond Pettibon. Also appreciate the way Anthony Kiedis has that mildly stern look that comes with parenting, the “I was up at six a.m. throwing damned eggs in a frying pan, trying to find clean underwear for my kid, and extracting chewed-up homework from the mouth of a dog” look.

 

Thank you, Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The subject matter of those songs has nothing to do with my digital painting, but I’ve been enjoying catching up on their music. I particularly admire the creativity of their videos.

Excursions

October 23rd, 2018

Placing this here for posterity. Not sure whether I’ll take it any further.

“Oh, how sweet,” some might say. No. That dachshund may look as though he has a friendly grin on his face, but this is a scene of unparalleled viciousness and peril. The dog is part of the neighborhood doggie mafia. At night he shakes down the locals for protection bones. Anyone who fails to hand them over risks having their pumpkin rolled – or worse.

A couple of weeks back, I went to a quilt show with a mutual friend of Kathy Nida’s. She isn’t fond of social media (or, as I prefer to describe it, antisocial media, since using it means I don’t have to interact with people face-to-face) so I’ll just call her “V” to preserve her anonymity. That works. James Bond had an M and a Q, so I can jolly well have a V.

“Your work is too nice,” she said, or words to that effect. Maybe she described it as sweet. She was referring to the distinct lack of angst or strong themes of any type in the work I had on display, as opposed to Kathy’s work, which tackles all manner of social, environmental, and other ills.

I tried to explain to her that Kathy is a machine and I’m not. I don’t mean that as an insult to Kathy, but it’s true. She can knock out a drawing, enlarge it, trace it onto Wonder Under, cut out five jillion pieces of fabric, and make a piece of fiber art in the amount of time it takes me to stroll to the bathroom and inspect the blackheads in the creases of my nose. If I create an art quilt, I’m usually with it for at least a couple of months, depending on its size and complexity.

I do create more serious work, but it usually isn’t related to me, personally. I function better when there’s some distance between me and serious topics, particularly if I’m going to spend much time with them. A couple of such pieces will be public in a couple of weeks.

 

An experiment. Sometimes I muck around with facial simulation. I’ve found that I can make someone who’s interesting-looking fairly easily, but I find simulating a specific person much more challenging.

I haven’t posted any of the experiments with my son’s face. That’s probably for the best. Imagine coming home from a rough day at school and there’s this thing on your mother’s computer screen, something that looks as though your skin and your features were removed from your skull and laid out flat.

“Hi sweetie! How was your day?” I sing out. “Say, I’m about to wrap this skin texture around a model I made of your head. Do you want to see?”

No. The answer is no. No one wants to see that.

 

My friend V mixes liqueurs, which she donates to various fundraising efforts. Sometimes she lets me sample her efforts. I may have been doing some, um, sampling when I worked on this.

No, I don’t know why a guy in leather underwear is hanging out on an alien planet. He should just be happy that I didn’t decapitate him, plunk him in front of a star field, or pair him with a woman who’s in mid-swoon/experiencing severe gas pains. Such is the state of certain genre book covers, which I’ve created a few too many of.

 

No, I don’t know why his monster is so unhappy. Hungry, maybe? Doesn’t like the color of his human’s wig? Or perhaps his self-respect is suffering because he’s been plunked in this scene.

It’s fantasy. Anything is possible.

Pacific International Quilt Festival, 2018

October 16th, 2018

 

 

Last week I went to the PIQF, which is a grueling 6.5 mile drive from my house. My piece Do Dragons Like Cookies? received this award, which I very much appreciate.

I’ve had pieces with 3D/CGI surface designs sell, be published, and tour. However, this is the first time one of them has received an award. That’s a welcome milestone.

 

Unless I mount an exhibit of 3D/CGI surface design or enter an exhibit for quilts featuring hungry dragons, I imagine PIQF will have been its last public viewing. I don’t much enjoy shipping things out to different shows – I prefer having work in exhibits that travel and stay gone for a year or so. I hope that those who saw it enjoyed it.

I always enjoy PIQF; since it’s so close, it’s a relaxed, fun show. Getting everyone’s work together so it can be studied at a size larger than that of a computer screen is a lovely, communal activity. It always drives home the vast range of aesthetics and skill levels out there.

One exhibit I greatly admired was provided by the Social Justice Sewing Academy. Quoting from their website,

“Through a series of hands-on workshops in schools, prisons and community centers across the country, SJSA empowers youth to use textile art as a vehicle for personal transformation and community cohesion and become agents of social change. Many of our young artists make art that explores issues such as gender discrimination, mass incarceration, gun violence and gentrification.”

The pieces are powerful, with quite a lot of heart. It’s incredibly sad that not only are adults having to face the issues depicted, but youth are too. They literally can’t escape them and, unlike adults, are powerless to vote or politic for different policies. However, they can engage in peaceful protest and statements of their concerns by creating artwork. They’re following a noble tradition utilized by, among others, women who wanted to vote, citizens concerned about the Vietnam war, auto and mine workers, Quakers who found the slave trade abhorrent, and the original colonists who didn’t appreciate taxation without representation.

Twitter Tantrum, Carina Cabriales

The words on the quilt weren’t invented by this artist. They’re quotes or messages from a sitting elected official. Given the hate-filled, foul-mouthed, bigoted, misogynistic messages this person spouts on a daily basis, this quilt is extremely restrained.

Learn more about the quilt and read the artist’s statement on the SJSA site.

 

One block from Activist ABCs, Bianca Mercado

See the entire quilt and read the artist’s statement on the SJSA site.

 

Exit Wound, Audrey Bernier

A portion of the artist’s statement:

“Did you know that the exit wounds from an AR-15 are the size of an orange? That means regardless of the shooter’s aim, if he hits anything he’s going to do severe damage – more often than not, fatal damage. I titled my quilt “Exit Wound” as a reminder that gun control in all communities is a social justice issue that deserves action and conversation.”

The Atlantic published an excellent article on the topic of AR-15 wounds. It’s written by a radiologist who dealt with victims of a school shooting.

 

One block from Agency.

Learn more about the quilt and read the artist’s statement on the SJSA site.

 

Protect & Serve: EVERYONE, Chloe Gorski

This piece concerns the disproportionate killing of African Americans and invites viewers to add the name of someone who was a victim of police lethal force.

“As of the summer of 2018, 38% of unarmed citizens killed were African Americans.” This is about three times the percentage of blacks in the U.S. population. No, not all cops are trigger-happy bigots. Just enough that if the outer 1 mm of your body is a different color from that of a white person, you live in fear.

To see more quilts, view an exhibition schedule, or find out how to help, visit the Social Justice Sewing Academy website.

Dani California

October 10th, 2018

Lately I’ve been taking some trips down memory lane. My kid turned fourteen this summer. Fourteen. That’s only 2 1/2 years younger than I was when I dated his dad the first time and 4 1/2 years younger than I was when I left home for good. The cake is all but baked. He’s on the verge of driving, dating, voting, and making decisions about schools and professions. All he really wants from us at this point is the occasional hug, a steady supply of pizza and Red Bull, fresh laundry, and no embarrassing questions about which websites he’s visiting.

It’s thought-provoking and mildly terrifying. Have his father and I done a decent enough job of preparing him? Is he going to have a good foundation for an ethical, productive, satisfying life? I hope so. He’s living in a much different world than the one his grandparents or his father and I came up in. It’s a better world in some ways and a much harsher, more challenging place in others.

When I was not too much older than my son, I moved from east Texas to the Bay Area. It was a move regarded with much suspicion and, in some cases, thinly veiled hostility on the part of family and friends. My father in particular had nothing good to say about California or the Bay Area. “I’ve been to Oakland,” he told me. “I’ve seen all I need to of the Bay Area.” I saw him one last time before I left Texas, a chance encounter in a Walmart. I smiled and said hello. He looked through me as though I didn’t exist. I wish I had realized then what that meant. Sometimes life presents lessons before we’re ready to absorb them, though.

 

The exquisite environs of east Texas, near the ancestral homestead.

Happily, the Bay Area was nothing but good to me. Unlike east Texas, the weather was congenial, without wintertime icicles worthy of murder weapon status or summers so hot that cracks formed in the ground. Yes, housing was on the dense side – “wall to wall people,” as my father groused. Bizarre as it seems now, at first I was confused by the lack of visible boundaries between cities. I was used to seeing open land with grazing cattle.

However, the roads were paved, not mud masquerading as limestone gravel. Power and water outages were almost nonexistent. The places I lived, while not luxurious, all had toilets that worked consistently, painted walls, and floors of tile or wood or linoleum rather than plywood floors, unpainted sheetrock walls, and rain blowing in around the edges of homemade windows.

There was public transportation. The locals complained about it in endless screeds to the newspaper, but I was grateful. If you had the price of a day pass for the bus and were healthy enough to make up the difference between the bus route and your destination with your legs, you could get around a good many places. You could get by without a car, for at least awhile.

People seemed happier out here. Education was valued and people were congenial, busily pursuing matters they found interesting or important. If you hadn’t formed dreams of your own or didn’t yet have the means to pursue them, you could help out with someone else’s for awhile. For years I did just that.

There were libraries. Not just one library, with a building erected by Andrew Carnegie and a paltry two books allowed out for a period of a couple of weeks. No, there were libraries everywhere, at universities and in the cities. People used them, piling bags high with books. There were also museums, art, music, gorgeous places to hike, and people out smiling and waving as they walked their dogs. It was a paradise.

Alas, my personal life was a wreck. On weekends I’d try to escape it by walking from Escondido Village at Stanford, where I lived, down to California Avenue in Palo Alto. I’d walk and walk and walk and stay gone as long as I could. California Avenue had a thrift store, a bookstore, a photography store, and tons of windows to peer in. There was also a club; I think it was called the Keystone. I dimly remember seeing concert posters, low budget things run off on colored paper on a copier. Those were fun to look at. One of them mentioned a band called the Red Hot Chili Peppers. 

Huh. The Red Hot Chili Peppers. That was an interesting name. I wondered who and what they were.

Happily, the Stanford Daily ran some lovely stories about them, such as this article about a concert in 1985:

“The Red Hot Chili Peppers appeared last, and it was soon apparent they Were out to prove that punk’s not dead but has merely absorbed other musical styles and undergone a slight transformation in the process. The band was visually pleasing — lead singer Anthony Kiedis tied an American flag around his waist, and drummer Cliff Martinez wore some sort of bizarre headdress. Unfortunately their performance was not so pleasing. Flea’s funky bass and Jack Sherman’s hardcore/heavy metal guitar riffs completely overwhelmed Kiedis’ voice, so I couldn’t hear what he was singing. Kiedis spat a lot, and he and Flea wasted time with their stupid shouting between songs. His posturing and posing during songs lacked Fishbone’s humor; he looked like an attention-hungry brat. Most of their songs sounded essentially alike. An exception was “Mommy, Where’s Daddy,” primarily because it wasn’t as fast as their other songs and allowed a clearer sound to come through. They are all proficient musicians, but they are entirely predictable; combined with Kiedis’ obnoxious behavior, The Peppers’ show was less than what I had hoped to see. However, they did possess a raw energy that is truly what rock is all about and seeing Fishbone’s crazed stage spectacle made the evening memorable. The Chili Peppers were not “red hot” at the Keystone last Saturday.”

Bizarre headdress! Spitting! Stupid shouting! Now that’s journalism. It also sounds like quite a spectacle. I’m sorry I missed it.

Later I read about their wearing the infamous socks. They will never be allowed to forget about that; it’s a cruel reality of being a celebrity. They’ll be 105 years old, kept alive only by a drip of opiodes and pulverized kale, and somebody will ask them if they’re going to do another performance while wearing only socks. That or they’ll be asked, once again, why they began performing that way.

“Why did you perform with only socks over your privates?”

“Uhhh … take your pick:”

  1. “It was an existential protest against the brevity of human life.” 
  2. “It was a clever bit of stagecraft.”
  3. “We hadn’t done laundry lately.” 
  4. “We didn’t want to be arrested for performing naked.” 
  5. “We were young, we were doing a lot of drugs, and we wanted to play loud music and attract a bunch of girls.”

For me, it was wonderful. Rock musicians wearing socks! Only socks! That confirmed every stereotype my stepmother had tried to pound into me about rock musicians – debauchery, womanizing, poor dental hygiene, rampant sock-wearing. I was mildly scandalized (just socks!) and secretly delighted (just socks! in public!). What can I say? I was clinically depressed but I wasn’t dead.

I never did get to a Chili Peppers concert, although I did go to other concerts at Stanford – Joan Baez, Shadowfax, Ravi Shankar. They were all chosen by my ex, who supervised my music consumption and many other aspects of my life. I was braced for debauchery each time but there was none, unless one includes wearing socks with Birkenstocks.

I spent the following years doing the things one does: going to endless counseling sessions, getting out of one messed up relationship and sprawling into another, shoving electrons and positrons around and around a giant ring, shoving electrons and positrons down a two mile long pipe, doing that and going to school, griping at people while shoving electrons and positrons down a two mile long pipe, studying graphic design, running a business, working at a startup, divorcing, marrying, having a baby, adopting a couple of dogs, and whining about putting on weight while simultaneously baking batches of cookies.

I didn’t get back to the Chili Peppers until a few weeks ago. Sorry, guys. Not that you missed me.

I may be late to the party, but I’ve found that their videos – and there are quite a few – are a delight. I missed the golden age when MTV was in vogue, so it’s lovely catching up now. I’m guessing that we’re in a second golden age and that making videos is once again necessary if you want your songs to be commercially viable. People my son’s age aren’t watching broadcast TV or browsing record stores for LPs or CDs. They’re watching YouTube or listening to stuff on Pandora or Apple Music.

Here’s one of my current favorites, Dani California, which was released back in 2006.

The video does a lovely, entertaining job of chronicling the eras of rock history via a series of set pieces, complete with changes in costume, dance style, and persona.

 

Screencap from Dani California

We get to see Flea’s hilarious, adorable mugging (5 seconds, 26 seconds, and elsewhere) and the antics of the other people in the band.

 

Screencap from Dani California

Oh yes. We’ve all been there.

 

Screencap from Otherside

As usual, Anthony Kiedis is charismatic and has beautiful abs and bone structure. I suspect that he has painting that resembles a morph between himself and Keith Richards tucked away in an attic, or perhaps he just has new bodies cloned every couple of years.

 

I kind of want to make a 3D mesh of his face, much like the one I’m making here. Yeah. Having total strangers make digital 3D models of your face isn’t creepy at all.

There’s a nice writeup about the song on Wikipedia. I’m not going to repeat all of it, except for this part: “Kiedis has commented that the character of Dani is a composite of all the women with whom he has had relationships.”

Anthony, sweetie, that statement worries me. Do all of your relationships end with the girl getting shot to death in North Dakota? That just doesn’t sound healthy. You have enough going for you that you could date women who are a little smarter and less prone to getting shot. Next time, maybe look for somebody with a Ph.D. in anthropology or a nice school teacher type. Somebody you could actually talk to, who won’t go fleeing to another state.

I kid. Who knows why anybody gives the answers they do during interviews? If it was me on the spot and I’d been asked the same thing for the 5,000th time, I’d probably make stuff up for my own entertainment.

The video is great but it becomes even better after viewing the three-part documentary. (The entire thing takes about half an hour to watch.)

It shows some of the moving parts necessary to make the video: costumes, makeup, sets, cameras, camera angles, instrument techs. It soon becomes clear that what looks like a film of a bunch of guys messing around, singing, and having fun is actually intense, repetitive work.

I have no idea how many days of prep were involved or how much work was required in post. The fact that they did the filming in only two days, with ten costume and set changes, amazes me. It’s a testament to the preparation and maturity of everyone involved. They went in, they got to work, and they made it look fun.

Part 1:

Some personal favorites:

3:23 Flea goes on a screed about the British Invasion. My kid found this delightful. I’ll refrain from getting concerned until he decides to buy a pair of pointy-toed shoes.

5:14 Anthony kicks it fifties style. That footwork! I’m not sure how he wiggles back and forth so efficiently. My son and I have tried to reproduce his movements, with much clumsiness and laughter. So far we haven’t injured ourselves, but it’s been a close thing. What can I say? We live in Silicon Valley. We do nerd stuff. Even our dancing is kind of nerdy.

 

Part 2:

1:54 Flea is downed by an errant microphone. Here we get a little sense of the affection between him and Anthony. I suspect that’s what has kept the band glued together over the years: friendships, forgiveness, and fundamental respect for the different members’ abilities. People grow, change, and conflicts happen. It’s inevitable. It’s how people cope with such changes that makes the difference between enduring and parting ways.

2:24 Anthony hospital war story. Amusing.

4:58 Flea’s pompoudor wig. It’s big enough to cause an eclipse!

6:12 Chad Smith doing some hair metal mugging. Once you have lipstick and a tiger print body suit on, how can you resist?

8:26 Photo-sonics tech John Wagner describing a Cold War military-grade camera used capture Flea’s jumps. Military grade!

9:15 Flea’s kicks. The man has ups! He’s darned near making it out of Earth orbit. I’m sure the camera is positioned so as to make his jumps look more dramatic, but they’re still very impressive.

 

Part 3:

3:22 Flea’s screed about his less-than-functional bass. There’s just something about seeing a man who’s wearing a net shirt, black lipstick, and a spiked collar grin and say “Maybe I should come over there and beat the **** out of you” that makes me sick with laughter. Another household favorite.

4:14 Chad being deliciously sour. That isn’t meant as criticism. He does it very nicely. Anyone would feel sour and weary by then, really.

7:20 Anthony’s facial gyrations during the punk segment, with a camera darned near shoved up his nostrils. Great stuff. Those are the kinds of faces I secretly make in the bathroom mirror. Yes, I stick out my tongue, too.

Good for these guys. 

These days I view all sorts of things as celebrations of life – badly made art quilts that make somebody’s grandkid look like he has leprosy, the tree behind the ice cream parlor that’s covered with thousands of blobs of used chewing gum, and going to the dog park to throw balls. A music video falls in that category, albeit a more sophisticated one. It’s a carefully crafted celebration of life. The guys in that band have gotten up to heaven knows what over the years, but they’ve also put a lot of joy in people’s lives including mine. Their music has kept me from going nuts at times, when I’m shambling along on a treadmill or folding yet another brain-numbing, idiotic stack of towels. I’m glad to get to celebrate that creativity.

Back in the mid-eighties, I was near the beginning of my arc as an adult. I was a scrawny young woman with bad hair, a couple of thousand miles away from friends and family, taking long walks and trying to figure out how to straighten out my life. The Chili Peppers were similarly starting out, doing whatever was necessary to launch their careers – couch surfing, grabbing concert dates, and indulging in antics that scandalized and delighted onlookers.

We’re all now further along in parallel, non-intersecting arcs. They’re creative and productive. I like to think I am too. Much of the turbulence of early adulthood has settled out for everyone. Hopefully we’re all putting more good into the world than bad.

It’s none too soon. In my household, the next generation is on its way to getting launched. I hope my son’s launch will go quite a bit better than mine did. We’re going to try to help that happen.

Eos and the Anemoi

September 29th, 2018

My latest, Eos and the Anemoi, is named for characters from Greek mythology. Eos is the goddess of the dawn and the Anemoi are wind gods.

I have my friend Susan in Central Victoria, AU to think for that title. When I’m creating an image, it usually has a descriptive working title such as Fairy Puffing Cigar or Demon With Coffee. Once the picture is done, I try to devise a title that’s more thoughtful. I didn’t know what to call this one until Susan came to the rescue, mentioning Eos and the Anemoi. I owe her. It came dangerously close to being titled Dame Hanging Out With Weird Dog While Knocking Back Coffee.

I created the bulk of this picture in a 3D program. Texture creation, compositing, and edits were done in Photoshop. I don’t know if that’s it for this image or whether I’ll have it printed on fabric and turn it into a stitched piece. Either way, I’m glad for the adventure.

Here are some production notes.

 

Composition

Eos and the Anemoi had its genesis in an exhibit I saw over the summer, Truth and Beauty: The Pre-Raphaelites and the Old Masters.

That exhibit made me remember the works of Lawrence Alma-Tadema, a 19th century painter. I don’t know how historically accurate his paintings are – I’m guessing not very – but I find his use of detail and texture very satisfying. His pictures often have a romantic flair, depicting the likes of sheet-clad women lounging around on marble lawn furniture while nursing headaches or counting pomegranate seeds.

Rounding up the Sushi  Silver Favorites, by Lawrence Alma-Tadema

Naturally, when I came home from the exhibit I had to rip off Alma-Tadema’s sheet-clad dames, marble columns, and blue Mediterranean sea and sky. To those I added some touches of my own, thus creating my own warped take on Greek mythology. No doubt he’s spinning in his grave.

 

Cerberus

One of the first additions to my scene was a cerberus, a three-headed dog. These creatures are a staple of Greek mythology. They’re supposed to be the gatekeepers of Hades and are usually depicted as fierce, snarling creatures. I thought it would be a nice change of pace to have one which is a peaceful yet alert-looking puppy, complete with an octopus chew toy.

Each time I work with a 3D program, I have to choose between making the models myself or finding some readymade. Making them from scratch is more satisfying in many ways. It may also be necessary if my vision is so peculiar or unique that a model doesn’t exist. However, it can be very time consuming.

I didn’t see a commercially available cerberus model I liked, so I overlapped three dogs, posed them, and selectively hid any components I didn’t want. I did end up with some ugly seam lines and bumps in the render, but removed them with Photoshop.

The image above shows the three dogs with all of their limbs visible, the view we would’ve had if I hadn’t hidden most of them.

 

Coffee

Coffee didn’t appear in Greece until the Ottoman empire, so it isn’t a feature of Greek mythology. Nevertheless, I felt that my goddess deserved steaming hot cup of the stuff.

The cup is based on the Anthora to-go cups used in New York City. It’s just a simple lathe object made in Blender with a custom texture applied. Alas, the render of the cup is distorted, a result of my camera setting. If I was a good person I’d go back and fix that.

The steam is the same steam texture I put in every one of my 3D pictures, available from textures.com.

 

Airship

Fun fact: the airship is staffed by a crew of tiny naked men. I could have clothed them, but I didn’t bother. They’re the size of gnats in the picture and every piece of geometry I put in chews up memory and increases render times. Those with delicate sensibilities needn’t fret, though; the tiny men are every bit as anatomically correct as Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken.

I created the ship with some kit-bashing, much the way one would take pieces of plastic from two different car or airplane models and glue them together.

Here’s the way the airship originally appeared. It’s a commercially available steampunk dirigible, the Spirit of Punk Airship. I deleted or hid the cabin and some other details. I also created textures more in keeping with my theme.

The new “cabin” is the hull from a model of an ancient Greek boat. At first I didn’t know which end of the hull was the prow; I had the hull turned the wrong way with respect to the airship.

Of course, when your ship is powered by a group of naked men rowing through air, perhaps accuracy isn’t that essential.

 

Wind simulation

Eos’s gown is pretty but too static. It’s time to put a little physics to work and do a wind simulation.

 

Here’s a simulation with settings of one Earth gravity and a breeze of one mile per hour. I thought those sounded quite moderate and … um, yeah. That’s exactly the look I was going for. Just like that, with her breasts and one of her hips popping out.

This is typical when I run simulations, whether they’re cloth or fluid or particles. I read the documentation, if there is any, set things up in what seems a reasonable fashion, and whee! There goes her dress! That’s when I laugh, take some notes, and try some different settings.

Some of the simulations were hilariously awful. I ended up with the dress on the opposite side of her body at one point, and at other times it drooped off and tried to slither down her body.

 

Here’s the setting I ended up with, zero gravity and 1 mph wind. I also duplicated her body, increased its size, and made it invisible so the wind could interact with that instead of her “real” body. That helped eliminate an issue with her breasts and hip poking through.

Sometimes it isn’t a matter of one adjustment fixing things. Often I have to tweak several things.

 

Lighting

I used a couple of different light sources in this image. One was an artificial “sun” whose intensity and position I adjusted. I also used an HDRI projected inside a gigantic dome, surrounding the scene. The images above show the “sun” turned off and the dome rotated in a couple of different ways. This lets us see how the dome environment affects the lighting.

 

Geometry issues

There’s always something wrong in one of these renders. No matter how much I inspect the scene in the 3D program, when I look at the resulting render on a pixel by pixel basis, I find problems. The question then is whether to address it in the 3D program and do another render or fix it with Photoshop.

Here’s a typical surprise. This commercially available model of a flower had its blossoms floating above its stems. That might not matter for a picture the size of a postcard, but for something several feet across it’s unacceptable. Should I go back, edit the 3D model, and do another render? That could take several hours. Or should I simply splice in some more stem in Photoshop, a matter of about five minutes? I opted for the latter.

 

Another unwelcome surprise, the woman’s hair going right through her arm. Her arm was supposed to act as a collision object and have the hair wrap around it, but that obviously didn’t work out. Once again, Photoshop to the rescue.

 

Lovely. Her chain is going right through her dress. Yet another Photoshop edit.

 

The final version, with edits listed above. On to the next adventure.

My newest preciousssss.

September 22nd, 2018

During the past few months, this blog has read like a chronicle of broken machinery. Fortunately, most of it was easy to repair, a matter of getting in the appropriate devil-may-care mood and shoving in new parts or cackling madly while waving around a soldering iron.

Then came the most recent issue, the death of my beloved 17” Macbook Pro. After seven years, a chronically busted 4 key, a logic board replacement, and several RAM and hard drive upgrades, it embarked on an ugly series of hardware problems. One night the end came in a technicolor crescendo of crashes and screens of death.

“Oooh! Can I look at it?” my husband squealed happily. “Sure,” I said, having backed up all of the data on the machine a couple of other places. (Not that the drive was likely to be impacted.) He caressed the sickly machine, cooed to it, and began pressing keys. It faded into eternal blackness while in his arms.

“Hey, you finally killed it!” he crowed, ignoring the fact that technically it had died while he was touching it, not me. “Well, you’ll just have to march down to the Apple Store and get a new one. You can even have some coffee while you wait.” (Our closest Apple Store is at the spaceship campus’s visitor’s center. They have coffee there as well as high dollar nutrition bars with frightening names. I still haven’t had the guts to find out what a Manuka is.)

 

Happy happy consumers fingering I-devices.

The barrista drew a panda head on my coffee. Despite that, I was bitter. It isn’t often a machine bests me. I’d known that the computer was near the end of its life but I’d hoped that could be delayed a bit and handled on a non-emergency basis.

As I thought about the price of the new machine, I could hear my father’s voice ringing in my ears. He eternally had contempt for my using Macs, which he always seemed to regard as a personal failing. “Just think of all the Amiga 500s you could have bought instead!” I could hear him rant.

 

 

However, once I hooked the new computer up, I liked it a lot. The 5k display was large and gorgeous, and it was able to tackle 3D and graphics tasks a jillion times faster than before.

Alas, in short order I’d made the workspace a mess again.  I hate to draw comparisons that would make a pig feel bad but yes, when I’m working I tend to toss things around and wallow in them.

I briefly considered hauling everything non-electronic out to driveway and throwing a can of gasoline and a lit match on it. However, that seemed like a waste of good fossil fuel. Perhaps what I needed was a computer stand.

I stumbled across a review for Understands, a series of wood computer stands. They were elegantly designed and showed a great affection for wood. Some were one-of-a-kind designs, highlighting the unique characteristics of a particular piece of wood. Others featured dovetail joints, drawers, and access slots for cables. They were beautiful and quite a bit nicer than anything I could make myself. I also liked the company’s story, using urban reclaimed wood to create things of beauty and practicality.

I ordered one, the Planet 6 Walnut. Yes, I could have stacked my computer up on some of the thousands of books I have in the house or even employed the concrete brick I removed from the bottom of my washing machine last month. However, I believe there’s value in investing in the things I use and touch each day.

 

The new stand arrived a week later and promptly was inspected by the house wolf/Siberian Tube Dog. He tried to tell me what the UPS driver had eaten for breakfast and report on conditions in the shop in Rockford, Illinois, where the stand was created. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to understand.

 

 

Nice packaging.

 

Oh, beautiful. Look at that grain. Look at those dovetails.

 

Cork-lined drawers. Sweet.

 

The back of the stand has a slot for the base of one’s iMac or iMac Pro, so that the base will disappear into the top of the stand. It also has slots for cables, so that peripherals can be tucked away yet remain plugged in.

 

What’s this? A little surprise in one of the drawers? That’s a thoughtful touch.

 

The “surprise” proved to be a sliding dovetail box embellished with a laser cut heart. The tolerances of the dovetail are so tight, so snug, that one almost can’t find the slide unless one inspects the box with a magnifying glass.

 

The story behind the box. I like that and I’m glad they included it. Everything around us has a story, whether it’s about the people who designed and created it or where its source materials grew and were harvested.

In the case of the box and the computer stand, part of the story is about gorgeous wood, which otherwise might have gone to waste, being reclaimed and used to create items of practicality and beauty.

 

The new computer mounted on the computer stand.

Today’s celebrity monitor appearance is Anthony Kiedis. Hi, Mr. Kiedis. Thank you for visiting my studio, not that you had any choice in the matter.

 

And yep, I’m glad I ordered the stand with six drawers. In the top drawers there’s room for my external drive, backup drive, a track pad, and a remote control I’m hiding from my family. Thanks to the cable slots in the back of drawers and the fact that I’m running drives which don’t generate much heat, I can leave them plugged in while they’re tucked away in the drawers. (I wouldn’t feel as comfortable doing that with a “spinning rust” drive.)

 

The bottom drawers are large enough to hold a numeric keypad, Wacom tablet, and a three button mouse. These are items I like close at hand but don’t use every day. The numeric keypad and the mouse are primarily used with Blender, where I flail away with both hands while working.

 

The top right and left drawers have secret compartments for things one would like to keep hidden away. Not that I have any anything like that, heh heh heh. At least, not anything I’ll admit to.

 

A peek behind the computer. There’s room for cable and headphone storage. The wood artist’s manikin is holding earplugs. Yeah. About those. I have earplugs in my purse, in my nightstand, and all over the rest of the house. You see, a few years ago we adopted a terrier from one of the neighbors. The neighbor was going through some changes in her life and our other dog – the package inspector at the top of this blog entry – adored the terrier.

The terrier is a sweet dog and is usually fairly calm. Unfortunately, he can spin up wilder than an F-5 tornado, with yapping so sharp I want to jam an ice pick through my ears. He makes sounds that no living creature should be able to generate, noises which make me think that whoever engineered terriers was deranged. If they weren’t crazy before breeding the dogs, they would have been in short order after hearing the yapping. It drives me nuts. I also don’t think the dog can help it. Efforts to train him out of it have been unsuccessful. So yeah, when he starts to get excited before a walk or whatever, out come the earplugs.

 

Cables and flotsam behind the other side of the computer. There’s a little story behind those earrings. I keep remembrances of people around my work space, things that probably look like pieces of junk to other people but have meaning to me.

Years ago, I had a T-shirt that matched those earrings, with a large version of those creatures screen printed on the front. Burt Richter – yes, the same Burt Richter who won the Nobel Prize for  co-discovery of the J/ψ meson – referred to the creature as my “radioactive kitty cat”. I never thought to ask him whether that description was inspired by the feral cats at SLAC who had, alas, found their ways into places that weren’t healthy for them.

Richter passed away recently but his vision and his work persist. The earrings are a reminder of that, even though they’re a tad silly.

 

Much better. The computer stand has done wonders as far as cleaning up that part of the room. I really admire the design and workmanship of the Understands computer stands. Mine is worth every penny I paid for it.

Did you know there’s a chunk of concrete in your washing machine?

September 21st, 2018

Back in May, I wrote a blog entry in which I stated that having my dishwasher or my sewing machine break was a “good” problem, ever so much better than having my clothes washer break.

HA HA HA HA HA! (Wiping tears out of my eyes.) What an idiot. I didn’t realize it at the time, but writing those words was tantamount to daring the machine to break. I might as well have yanked my clothes washer out of the laundry room, drawn a pentagram around it, lit some candles, and begged old man Beelzebub to come down and do his worst.

So, yeah. August came. One morning I was hanging out, working on some art stuff and downing coffee so maybe my face would look less like a character drawn by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. “Huh. I wonder if everybody has clean underwear,” I thought. “Maybe I should throw a load in the washer. After all, who doesn’t like clean underwear?”

 

The art stuff I was working on.

Half an hour or so later: BAM BAM BAM BAM! 

What the …? 

A hideous racket was coming from the laundry room. I went to investigate. The source of the racket was the washing machine attempting to rattle itself to death during high speed spin. Ugh. I went through the usual troubleshooting stuff, such as rebalancing the load and simply running the machine empty. Same issue. It was clear that something had broken.

Fortunately, there are helpful diagnostic sites on the web such as fix.com. I headed over there, entered in the model number of my washer, and was soon puzzling over parts diagrams.

Based on my extensive knowledge of washing machines, which is to say none, I decided that the problem was probably a broken tub dampening strap. It made sense; if a strap had broken, maybe the tub was ricocheting around the enclosure during the spin cycle. I smiled to myself. That would be an easy fix, just a matter of popping off some covers and installing a new strap.

I went over to YouTube, found a video where a nice helpful person was dissassembling a GE Top Loader, and got to work.

 

And … no. All of the straps were intact. What could the problem be?

 

This. This was the problem. When I looked in the bottom of the machine, opposite the drive motor, I found a loose concrete brick, a couple of metal straps, and two long, unsecured screws. At first I didn’t understand what I was looking at; why was there a concrete brick in the bottom of the machine? Was one of my family members playing a prank on me?

It was, admittedly, a silly thought. Tempting as it may be, nobody in my household has enough energy to take apart a washing machine and shove a brick in the bottom just so they can hear me yell. No, the brick was the counterweight, positioned so as to balance out the weight of the drive motor. It turns out that all or most top loading washing machines have them, although some of them have a more refined appearance. (Do a Google image search on “washing machine counter weight” if you’re skeptical.)

It turned out that the metal straps and long screws I’d found were part of the (poorly engineered) mounting mechanism for the brick. Over the years, vibration from the machine had caused them to hog out the threads in the plate they screwed into, meaning that some lucky soul – me – would have the life scared out of her one morning while she was innocently downing her coffee.

After some soul-searching – could I just go down to the hardware store and kludge a new mount together? – I purchased a replacement brick with improved mount for $80.

 

“Well there’s your problem right there. You got a big ole rock stickin’ out the bottom of your washing machine. See, normal people, they don’t let their rocks rattle around like that.”

Fortunately, once the part came in, the repair itself was trivial. The worst parts were getting the tub out of the washing machine enclosure and putting the drive belt back on afterward.

 

A test run after installing the new brick and putting the tub back in the machine enclosure. I like to leave devices somewhat open until I verify that they’re working properly. This shot is fun; we can see the level of the water through the tub, as well as mildew I failed to remove while the machine was disassembled. I’m just that good.

 

Taking a peek to see if the drain is leaking (nope: good) and whether the drive belt is tracking properly on the pulley. The latter was a bit of a worry while the machine was disassembled, as the pulley has some wobble. Unlike with, say, a band saw, there isn’t a nice way to adjust the tracking of the pulley. Fortunately, it has proven to be a non-issue thus far.

Lessons learned:

  • Most or all top-loader washing machines have bricks or concrete slabs in them.
  • Washing machines are fairly simple devices.
  • Provided one is just swapping out parts and knows what the problem is, repairing a washer is fairly straightforward.
  • I like my washer better now that I’ve worked on it. I feel like we’re friends now.

Now we have clean underwear again. Now I’m back to making art. Unfortunately, I still resemble a character drawn by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth before I’ve had coffee in the morning.

Current Exhibits

July 15th, 2018

It’s probably a marketing mistake, but I don’t pay much attention to where my work is at any given time. I’m happiest when I can ship stuff off to an exhibit which travels the country for a few years, forms the basis of a book, then gets sold and never comes home.

Occasionally, though, it’s fun to look and see where stuff is and where it’s going. Many thanks to the exhibit organizers and others who handle the marketing, shipping, and coordination of these exhibits! They provide fascinating exhibits for viewers and make it possible for me to hide in my studio and focus on creating.

 

May 10 – August 20, 2018
Webster Presbyterian; Webster, TX (aka “The NASA church”)
HerStory: Mary Blair

June 29 – July 27, 2018
Floris UMC Art Gallery; Herndon, VA
HerStory: Maria Goeppert-Mayer

July 19-21, 2018
Original Sewing & Quilt Expo; Raleigh, NC
Threads of Resistance: Game Over, Gusher

August 9-12, 2018
Birmingham Festival of Quilts, Birmingham, England
Fly Me to The Moon: Leaving Home: Launch of the Apollo 8

August 17-25, 2018
Experience Fiber Art; Rochester, NY
Threads of Resistance: Game Over, Gusher

September 13-16, 2018
Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza; Oaks, PA
Threads of Resistance: Game Over, Gusher

October 10 – December 13, 2018
Apollo 7 & 8 50th Anniversary Exhibit; NASA Johnson Space Center; Houston, TX
Fly Me to The Moon: Leaving Home: Launch of the Apollo 8

October 15 – November 4, 2018
Charlton Sewing Center; Charlton, MA
Threads of Resistance: Game Over, Gusher

November 6-11, 2018
International Quilt Festival, Houston
Judged show: Cranky Claus
OurStory: It Happened, Seeds of Hatred

December 7, 2018 – April 10, 2019
National Quilt Museum, Paducah, KY
HerStory: Mary Blair, Maria Goeppert-Mayer

It’s quiz time!

May 25th, 2018

It’s time for some fun! I’ve posted eighteen pictures below. I want you to go through them and assign each to one of the following categories:

  • Abstract
  • Animals
  • Digitally created
  • Fantasy/Whimsy
  • Naturescape
  • Painted
  • People, portraits, and figures
  • Pictorial (objects, still life, wildlife, cityscapes)

Is there a point to this exercise? Yes, there is. We’ll get to that in a moment. But first, let’s go through the images.

 

Image 1

 

Image 2

 

Image 3

 

Image 4

 

Image 5

 

Image 6

 

Image 7

 

Image 8

 

Image 9

 

Image 10

 

Image 11

 

Image 12

 

Image 13

 

Image 14

 

Image 15

 

Image 16

 

Image 17

 

Image 18

 

DING! DING! DING! Time’s up!

What did you decide? Did you put any of these in the people or portraits category? How about abstract or animals? Did you see any still lives or anything that struck you as whimsical?

Well, it doesn’t matter what you or I think, or what the style or subject matter of these images is because every one of them was digitally created or modified. (More on that in a minute.)

As far as the International Quilt Association’s rules are concerned, if any of these are printed on fabric and made into quilts (actually, three of them already have been), if they’re submitted to one of the IQA shows, they have to be submitted under the Surface Design category.

That’s right. No matter how little these individual images may have in common, they’re alllllll going to be slopped together in the same category because a computer was used to create them. The same thing goes if you’re submitting a quilt that is more than 50% painted; it gets put in a painted surface category regardless of its style or subject matter.

Why?

Why is the instrument or technique used to create a design more important than its style or subject matter?

Why are quilts with painted or digitally designed fabric being stuck in a ghetto where completely unrelated works will be competing against each other?

What is the goal? To focus on works which use more quilting supplies, thus making vendors happy? To return to the traditional roots of quilting and reduce the focus on art?

Regardless of the intention, I know one probable outcome: to reduce experimentation and fossilize the art form. Fewer available categories for one’s work implies that there are fewer available slots and less work will be accepted. A few people I spoke with said that because of this rule change, they aren’t going to submit work this year. They’re excellent artists, but they find the rule change discouraging and ominous, so we won’t be seeing their work. I only submitted one piece.

***

About the images:

I made every one of them on the computer. Notice how little they have in common other than that. Then imagine them turned into quilts (if the image is suitable for that) and hanging on a wall together in one category. Why do that?

 

Image 1 – Apples. A digital painting I made in Procreate for iPad, using someone else’s photo as a reference. Apologies to the person for not crediting them, whoever they are. The painting may be mine, but the composition is all theirs.

Image 2 – Clouds. Rendered in a 3D program.

Image 3 – Eye. A digital painting I made in Procreate.

Image 4 – Odalisque with Squeak Toy. A digital composite of 3D CGI and a photo of my dog.

Image 5 – Dude with Fish. A digital painting I made in Procreate. I vaguely remember that I’d had a glass of wine and wished I was Joan Miro.

Image 6 – Succulent. A photo heavily, heavily edited then modified with filters.

Image 7 – Fractal something-or-other. From Filterforge.

Image 8 – Why Knot? – A digital composite of typography, images, and a photo of my son.

Image 9 – Handsome shirtless guy. Rendered in a 3D program.

Image 10 – Landscape. From Filterforge.

Image 11 – Dame with white hair. I rendered the woman in a 3D program, then composited her against a background I made in Filterforge.

Image 12 – Map. More Filterforge work.

Image 13 – Abstract. Again, Filterforge.

Image 14 – Abstract “painting”. Filterforge.

Image 15 – Pears. A digital painting I made in Procreate, using someone else’s photo as a reference.

Image 16 – Rock texture. Filterforge.

Image 17 – Snail ride. A digital painting I made in Procreate, using one of my own photos (for a change) as a reference.

Image 18 – a 3D rendering.