April Fools!

birdunderpants

Several prototypes

I have some exciting news…I’ve decided to focus all my attentions on my true passion. I’m going to be opening up an etsy shop called Polly Wants Panties: Artisanal Underpants for Discerning Birds. I’m so excited to embark on this new chapter of my life!

Abstract Christmas Photography Fun!

xmaswater21

I have been having a shameful and ridiculous amount of fun recently taking pictures of my Christmas tree! As you can see above. No, that’s not a color wheel; it’s a Christmas tree! How did I do it?

xmaswater3 xmaswater12

It started when I was drinking water in front of the Christmas tree. I had the empty glass up to my face and realized it created a kaleidoscope effect with the lights. So I put the glass over my camera lens and started taking pictures, experimenting with focus and the distance between the glass and the lens.

The results span from the very abstract (usually achieved by putting the bottom of the glass very close to the lens):

xmaswater28

xmaswater15

xmaswater16

xmaswater24

xmaswater26

xmaswater17

Pulling the glass farther from the lens achieves a color wheel effect:

xmaswater5

xmaswater4

Adjusting the focus so the lens was focused on the bottom of the glass created a different looking type of color wheel:

xmaswater19

xmaswater20

Going less abstract, I also played around with various concepts…

starontree2
Putting the star on the tree…

xmaswater31

 xmaswater32

xmaswater33 

Glowing magical orb! You can see the focal difference between the three as it progresses and the effect it has on the reflections in the glass.

I really liked the magic looking orb concept…

xmaswater29

xmaswater30

Again, playing around with focus and concentrating the bottom of the glass on a green light on the tree this time.

magicorb2

I may or may have not played around with this idea to the point of hand cramps. (I did.)

So if you’re bored and have a water glass and some Christmas (or whatever) lights around, give it a go! It’s a lot of abstract kaleidoscope fun and everyone loves bokeh!

Adventure Time!

I have become mildly obsessed with the show Adventure Time. So I decided to give myself the Adventure Time treatment!

adventuretimeme
The bushy unmanageable hair is so accurate…

I really love reading and have an actually unreasonable amount of books right now (my workplace gets sent tons of advance reader copies and employees are allowed to take them), so I thought it was only appropriate to draw myself on a pile of books. The books I drew are actually some of my favorite books, except for two made-up books (Hamlet is my favorite Shakespeare play, but to my knowledge, there is no such book as “Hamlet the Pig”) and, of course, a shout out to Adventure Time (first book). I also included my favorite animal, the jellyfish, on my shirt, holding a little balloon (how sweet!). I colored it with watercolor pencils, because…that’s basically all I have right now.

Here’s the line art (because why not):

adventuretimemelineart

Painting: Fitzroy, the King of Goldfish

fitzroy
Heavy is the head that wears the fancy crown.

So after a long break from painting, I jumped back in. Kind of. I oh-so-smartly left almost all of my watercolors behind while moving back (except for white and van dyke brown– good thinking, me!) so I had to crack into some watercolor pencils I’ve had lying around for a while. 

coloredpencilsTa-da!

You see how the top part has some words on it? Those would be the instructions. Which, in my excitement and haste, I neglected to read. So of course I dipped one of the pencils into the water and then wondered why it wasn’t working. Yeah, I know. Anyway, I still prefer watercolor paints to these pencils, but they’re a nice substitute for now. 

As for the fish up there, I think I might put in a background, but I think otherwise he’s done. 

Being Sick

Illustration of how my coughing evolved into bronchitis:

bronchitis
Well…I think I’m hilarious. 

I am sooooo super sick right now (seriously, the Dayquil does nothing!). I decided to channel all my sick-y horribleness into a funny little drawing about how my illness evolved. I will never not make Pokemon jokes. It is my right as an American.

The coloring isn’t terrific, but I left most of my art stuff back in New York, so I had to go to Walmart to buy some Crayola colored pencils (along with the aforementioned useless Dayquil). And Koffing and Weezing are the strangest shades of purple I’ve ever seen.

On Instagram and Photography

Image
Some of my first photos on Instagram.

So I finally gave in and joined Instagram (I know. I’m, what, five years late to the party?). For a long time, I balked at the idea. Being limited to a square composition and the quality of a camera phone was baffling; after all this technological advancement, why would people purposely choose a medium with low image quality, filters that emulate old technology, and a limiting composition? 

Then I tried to stop thinking like a snob. When I worked at the International Center of Photography, we put on an exhibit of a man who built cameras out of cardboard boxes and took pictures of women’s legs on the street without their knowledge. So, really, who am I to judge what photography should be or how it should be accomplished? And as someone interested in photography, shouldn’t I try to expand my repertoire and try new methods? So I signed up for Instagram and began taking more photos with my camera phone. 

Image

And I actually like it!  I think Instagram highlights the best thing about photography: it is the most democratic art form. Unlike painting or sculpture, which can require years of practice and expensive materials, photography is accessible to most of society. Almost anyone is capable of being a photographer and capturing a moment in their history. 

Image
Me with a young photography enthusiast in Jordan. Yes, that’s my camera he has (and wanted to keep)!

Photography, however, can quickly become inaccessible with its expensive DSLR cameras and proliferation of high-powered lenses. Instagram sets us all back on a level playing field and gives everyone the tools necessary to be a photographer. Almost everyone has a phone with a camera, access to the internet to download a free app, and their own sensibility of what makes a good photograph. It enables more people to be art-creators and chroniclers of their own existence in the world. With a smart phone, the little boy I met in Petra (above) can share with everyone what the world is and means from his visual perspective. 

What Instagram is, at least for me, is a way of looking at the world in a different way. While sitting on a bus, it allows me to ask the question “what is the most interesting photograph I could take right now?” It makes me notice shapes and moments that I might otherwise pass by. It allows for experimentation and failures without the constant nagging question of “will this be a good photograph?” It’s just fun. 

My Instagram. Feel free to add me!

Making Alchemy Earrings Using Lost-Wax Casting

So, I made a pair of huge asymmetrical earrings:

Image
Clearly they go well with bright red lipstick. 

Okay, so I’m not going to go into the whole blow-by-blow of how to make something using lost-wax casting again. If you want to read about that, go here.

I did, however, chronicle making these earrings, so I’m just going to picture dump BECAUSE I CAN!

DESIGN PHASE

Image
Initial rough drawing.

I had the idea to make something with alchemy symbols for a while. I was going to somehow do a ring of it, but it was impractical. So here is the fruition of my alchemy idea! I first chose my symbols based on meaning and design appeal. I didn’t want them to be just random symbols with no connection to anything, so I chose the symbols for silver, silver spirit, the torrefaction of silver, and wax. I’m So Meta Even This Acroynm (thank you, XKCD). I had to redesign the alchemy symbol for silver spirit just slightly as you can see by adding a top part for the post/symmetrical reasons. I also added arrows to it so that it would better connect to the other earring and not look totally unrelated.

Image
Final to-scale drawings. 

Straight lines are not my friends. I am terrible at drawing straight lines, as evidenced above. I was also super careful to make sure that the earrings were of the same length. Asymmetrical is one thing, but different lengths is annoying (at least to me).

WAX PHASE

Image

I used wax sheets (seen above).  Using the master drawings of the earrings, I traced copies and then laid the drawing over the wax sheet. I used a knife to cut the outline of the symbol in wax.

Image
Taken with my phone, hence the weird color.

This was a good deal more difficult than it sounds. I initially tried to use an x-acto knife, but the shape of the blade resulted in strange pressure issues on the sheet of wax and instead of cutting cleanly, it more or less tore it. The curved blade (above) was perfect (although in a moment of idiocy, I cut my thumb open with it…).

Image

Here we see a bunch of paper cut-outs and a reject silver spirit made of wax. Oddly, it was the less-complicated silver spirit symbol that gave me the most trouble.

CASTING IN METAL PHASE 

Image

By some miracle, I managed to cast all the pieces together in one cylinder. As you can see in this picture, I ran out of time (as usual) and didn’t fully clean off the investment from casting. I also hadn’t dipped it in the acid, so that’s why it’s not white. I made the holes for the jump rings (the ring that holds the two pieces together) in wax using the tip of a jewelry blade because it was much easier than drilling into metal.

FINISHING PHASE

Image

Here are the pieces detached from the sprues, dipped in acid, but before being filed down.

Image

Here are the sprues. I used a pair of shears to cut some of them off because, as mentioned in another post, it’s less accurate but much faster. I did use a saw for a few of the sprues, though, because they were attached the back of the piece and filing down the nubs left over from the shears would have taken me forevvveeerr.

So after filing down the pieces (which took a while), I polished them up using a polishing machine. Let me just say, you need to have a very firm grasp on your piece while polishing it or it will fly out of your hands. That obviously happened to me…and those moon points and arrows are sharp. Needless to say, I gave myself a few stab marks trying to polish the pieces.

Finding jump rings that fit the small holes I made was a bit tricky but after some trial and error at AC Moore and Michaels, I managed to find some that fit (it also involved using a jewelry saw blade to widen the holes slightly). And in my most controversial decision– it made every jewelry-maker I talked to make a very judgy, disgusted face– I glued (yes, glued) the posts to the back of the earrings. (Shhh, don’t tell.) I basically ran out of time and soldering is not my strong point. In my defense, the posts are holding very well.

And finally, in what was the most distasteful part of the process, I slapped on bright red lipstick and took about 500 selfies of myself wearing the earrings. Taking close ups of my face/skin is definitely not on my Favorite Things list (it’s just after talking about feelings and eating glass), but I don’t have a model available.

BONUS PICTURES:

Image

THEY ARE SO SHINY. No really, they are super shiny and catch the light when you move your head. And I adore them.

Image

I felt like the shininess didn’t show as well in the picture with a black background.

Image

Mugshot wearing them to prove I have a top-half of a face.

All in all, I really, really, really like them a lot and will actually probably wear them in public. Which is progress, considering I almost never wear anything I make. They are huge and shiny, and that is all I want in anything (but especially earrings).

Snow Birds

Image
I love how his white markings line up with the snow.

Another snow day! This time, I decided to go out and take pictures of the birds that come to our feeder. Because it is winter, there were tons of juncos (above) around. All I wanted was a picture of a cardinal in the snow. Unfortunately, our cardinals are chickens and fly away if you so much as cough quietly within 500 feet of them. So, no cardinal. But I did get some other birds:

Image
Clockwise from left: American Blue Jay, dark eyed junco, tufted titmouse, sparrow(?).

If you know what type of sparrow(?) that is, let me know! I love being able to identify my birds.

Image
Titmouse with some snow on his face.

Image
Caught a junco mid-takeoff. 

Making Peace with the Enemy: Knitting

I’m really a crocheter at heart. I “learned” how to knit years and years ago. And I was terrible at it. Truly horrid. We’re talking giant needles and scarves that didn’t advance beyond stockinette stitch in chunky heinous yarns. I didn’t even know how to bind off. Recently, I took up the needles again, determined to not be awful.

scarfwipbg
Work in progress!

My real goal was to learn the fair isle knitting with which I had become mildly obsessed. I bought this book, which I found really helpful. I went through a few different patterns and techniques in that book in order to practice. The first actual pattern that I mastered was:

Image
I call it fishscale. Shhh, it makes sense in my wee little brain.

And then set my eye on fair isle. It was less difficult than I anticipated! So far I’ve been working off patterns found online, but I hope to create my own soon!

My first actual knit work (that I don’t plan to unravel…I’m a serial unraveler) is in the first picture. It is going to be a sampler scarf, with a little bit of everything mixed into one scarf. I think it’s much less boring for me to work on and also allows me to get practice working a bunch of different patterns. Of course, it’s been pushed to the backburner with the holidays coming up…

Anyway, after a long and contentious relationship, I am happy that knitting and I are finally friends.