It's supposed to snow on Sunday.

Friday, February 16, 2018

That's her pillow next behind her.  She's like a big, lazy bird.

Bella is ready.

I, on the other hand, am not.

I have to drive J (the husbeast) to the airport in Portland at buttcrack-o'clock on Sunday night for work.  In the snow.  Possibly on icy roads.  With drivers who lose their minds if there's solid precipitation.

I'm just hoping the weatherpeople are on the wacky cigarettes again.

And then, today, more pencil-mail arrived.

It was my present to myself for finally finishing up on all the tornado pouches from the other day.  (By the way, I put up more stuff.  Less than half of that is still left, so if you want some, hop to it. :D)

I'm pretty sure this summer's going to be all about the drawing.  I signed up for that Craftsy Unlimited thing, and there are roughly four billion classes I want to take.  They're way more in-depth than the Skillshare ones usually are, and on more of the topics I generally like.  I'll keep you posted on how they pan out, and how they add new ones or whatever.  There's 1300+, supposedly.  I should be busy. 

Here's a free 7 day trial link.  I'm pretty sure I get a free week or something if you sign up with it.  Disclosure, blah blah blah.

ANYWAY...before I digressed, I was saying it might be a summer of drawing.  And probably sewing.  I have a lot of fabric already, and I'm totally enjoying using it up with needlecases and junk.  Like, I made this yesterday:

It just feels spring-like, doesn't it?

It's a needlebook, scribblestitched obviously, with felt in the middle, and a matching zipperpouch.  Not bad for a prototype set.

The reason I brought up Craftsy to begin with (I managed to digress AGAIN) is that I'm taking a pen and ink course as my first one, and it's making me want to draw all the things.  So between new instruction and new pencils, I'm pretty sure I'm going to be up to my nosehairs in graphite and ink and watercolor soon.

Not that I mind that at all.

It feels like Spring is finally springing in my head, after a long and dull winter full of mindless living. 

Even if the weathermen are being buttheads about this snow thing.

when the levy breaks.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

First, business.

This happened today.

Last week, I posted what could only be called a metric ton of new artstuffs.

Most of it was fabric related.  Tons of traveller's notebook covers and inserts, hand-bound journals, and I turned all the old art that I've been slavishly holding onto since the tornadoes in 2014, hoping to repair it, into canvas zipper-topped pouches.

Those are just about gone, by the way.  I made like 65 of them, and I think I have around six left.  They did look like this:

There were a few.  Ahem.

This week, I'm really digging into my finished art storage in an attempt to find out what's left and what I can list.  Apparently, during this past year, when I've been a little disconnected and out of it (that anxiety thing again), I put a lot of things away "to be listed later", and "later" turned into "what was that thing again?".  Tons of stuff I thought was long-ago-sold.

Yeah.  Not so much.

So I'm putting those up over the next few weeks, while making roughly enough pouches and needle books and who knows what else to fill up all the spaces again.  I'm trying to list them all now.

I also cut all the artwork pricing, because it's almost spring, and I need a good closet-fluffing.  Spring Clean sale, prettymuch.

So if you're interested...

Check it all out here.

A Couple of Things I Know: Nature Journal Edition

Monday, February 5, 2018

In the past three weeks, there's been a trend.

Three different times, the opportunity to teach a class on nature journaling has dropped in my lap.   Four, if you count an accidental click on a website I like that's -- surprise, surprise -- looking for a teacher for this kind of class, too.   A couple for adults, a couple for kids.  

Mind you, I haven't taught an in-person class since 2003, so to say I'm rusty is an understatement, and I kinda brushed these opportunities off a little, in my head, thinking that clearly, these people have no idea what a bumbling idiot I really am.

(Yeah.  Thanks, brain. Goober.)

But here's the thing:

One opportunity, and I could ignore it, thinking it's just a fluke.

Two, and I start getting brow-quirky and sensing a trend.


(Clearly, in my head, the Universe is from Brooklyn.)


I really kind of feel like I only know a few things about keeping a nature-specific journal, and some of them aren't exactly nature journal specific.

I've been keeping one, off and on, since roughly forever.  I was that kid, in grade school, with a notebook full of observations about the world.  Who did experiments and wrote them down.  Who read field guides and studied waterstriders in puddles because the nearest park was just outside the boundaries of where I was allowed to ride my bike unattended.

In other words, I was a giant nerd.  I'm okay with that.

(And then I discovered boys, and my nature study was more about making out than making sketches.  Ahem.  Not the point.)

1.  I know that it's not about the art.
No art has to be pretty, but with most kinds of nature journaling, that's doubly-so.  It's about information.  What color is it?  How big is it?  What are its unique properties or behaviors?  Things don't have to be pretty to be functional in this way, unless you're Sibley or someone and want to publish them someday.  (And even then, rough drafts are fine.)

2.  But it IS about the drawing.
Not entirely, but drawing the thing is pretty important.  It slows down your brain, helps you focus on what you're doing, and allows you to absorb/notice details that you might not otherwise notice in the rush and haste to be onto the next thing.  (As is our modern society's way, it seems.)  As a tool to aid observation, it's kind of irreplaceable, IMHO.

3.  Information is king.
Aim for learning.  The more you write down/draw, the more raw material you have for later identification/study/observation.

4.  On-location's only about half the battle.
Especially if you're new, half your pages will come from the research you do when you get home.  Field guides, the internet, expert friends -- this is when you do your positive identification and add in all the good stuff that explain your earlier observations.  Was that animal behavior normal?  What is that plant?  What grows/lives on/near that environment?  Here's where you dive deep, and find out just how miraculous that thing -- and our whole world -- actually is.

5.  Organization is key for ongoing study and practice.
It's why I don't keep my nature-specific journaling in a book, most of the time.  I keep my individual pages on individual sheets (or multiple sheets), so I can put them in a binder for easy rearranging when I have new information or related species, etc..  It makes finding things I've already done, or things to which I want to refer back MUCH easier.  MUCH.  Sometimes, I'll even cut things out of bound sketchbooks later, and put them into the binders, or color copy them for the binders, because it's worth it for the ease of info retrieval.

6. Cycles are okay.
Life's busy.  It's okay if you're not doing this practice every day.  Nature herself has cycles; it only figures that your interest/energy/time would wax and wane, too.  If you go into it with an all-or-nothing approach (i.e. I'm going to do a page every day and complete them all on Saturdays when I'll take eight full hours to research all the things I've seen this week.), you'll likely burn right out like a shooting star.  There are lots of ways to motivate yourself, but rigidity usually isn't one of them. It's okay to play when you can.

I think there are probably more, roaming around in my head.  Things like know your area's toxic and poisonous plants and leave no trace...yes, that means you and don't get eaten by bears, but as far as practice goes, those are the biggies, I think.

Now I just have to figure out how to synthesize all that information, make it accessible and interesting, and try to short-circuit the part of my brain that is already actively rebelling against the thought of wearing pants and people-ing.

(Yikes.  No biggie, there, right?  Eep.)

This should be fun. :)

courting controversy

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Photo by Philip Marsh on Unsplash

Dear Artists,

I'm going to say something here that might get your dander in a tizzy.  (Beyond this mixed-metaphor, which will probably make my grammar friends' heads explode already.)  Understand, I mean this with love.

Most people are not trying to steal your stuff.

Intellectual property theft happens online.  It does.  I'm not denying that there are at least two common kinds of people out to hork all your work and claim it as their own.

The first kind is technological.  Mostly Chinese/Russian/African folks who literally don't care about you.  It's not personal.  They use technology like scrapers which are just like they sound -- bits of code that go out and literally scrape across your websites and accounts, taking your content and republishing it.  They do it because your content is easier to steal than it is to create some of their own, and they publish it not because they're trying to literally steal your work itself, they're trying to steal your pageviews and your google street cred.  They don't care what you've made.  You could be making giant penises made out of popsicle sticks that look like a particularly perverted twelve-year-old's art project.

They just need something that people search for, so they can get people to look at their purloined pages, because they've got ads on it.  Thus, they make a few cents off it.  And since they do this to literally hundreds of thousands of sites a day, that few cents adds up.

Again, it's not personal.  They don't care if it's art or recipes or blog rambling.

You'll see a similar thing with published books.  There are certain little bits of code they can put in their headers (the backside of the web pages) that fools Google by repeating back whatever you searched for, making it look like your book's on their free Napster-style pages.  They don't, most of the time.  It's just there to fool people into signing up for the service they're hawking, which, most of the time, steals your credit card info and gives it to the crooks.  It's not personal; they don't really have your book.  (Though, I will almost guarantee that it's out there somewhere for free, because that's how people are.)

The second kind will piss you off, and for good reason.  

These are the ones who not only scrape your images, but then put those images on their own sites or their own products, without compensating you, or claiming those images are their own.

These people deserve a kick in the balls.  And before you think that it's just hacky Russian sites doing this, there have been numerous incidents with certain huge retailers (Urban Outfitters, I'm looking at you...) stealing designs off artists' websites and etsy shops and mass producing crappy knockoffs that don't even bother, sometimes, to remove the original artist's signature from the design.

Those people also exist.  And if that ever happens to you, by all means, lawyer up and call down an internet firestorm that will flambe' them from the eyeballs down, because that stuff sucks when it happens.

Those are not what I'm talking about, though.

Those (and variations of those) are relatively rare.  You could go a whole lifetime without either of those affecting you.

But some people don't seem to have received the memo that the vast majority of people are not out to steal from you.

I've seen so many people in a froth because OMG I draw eyes with six eyelashes and now this other person has a painting with an eye with six eyelashes and SHE IS SO STEALING FROM ME GET THEM, INTERNETS.  Or I take a class, and I can barely read the handouts because the PDFs are completely covered with watermarks and copyright notices (and in one notable case, a whole page notice that if you share this info with anyone, ever, they will sue you so hard that your children will be paying for this egregious error in judgement). 

Excessive much?

Or people who go on inSANE rants about Pinterest "stealing" from them.  Seriously.

Folks, my friends, my compatriots, again...I say this with love:

Lighten the eff up.

Have a nice cup of tea and a little walk.  Take a few deep breaths.  Try to get a little perspective, because clearly, some of y'all don't have enough of it currently.

And once you've managed to calm down and realize that said person probably either a) doesn't realize she's stepped on your toes, or, b) isn't one of those two types I mentioned at the beginning, or c) is not some catburglar with a cable modem tenting her fingers and tee-hee-heeing and how she got away with buying your class/work/publication just so she could put your work out there for free....THEN talk to the person.

To the person.

Not to your facebook friends' list (for example).  Not to your mailing list or your fan pages or your Instagram horde.  If you are asking them to go after someone for a perceived slight, you're being a jerk, and in some cases, a paranoid jerk.

(Now, if someone really does take your images and make a whole Society 6 page selling your work, that's another story.  Send S6 a takedown request and then rampage away, because there's no way that's innocent.  Same if you see your work on UO's new arrivals page.  Lawyer up.  Or if someone takes your class and tries to offer their own class using your handouts.  Call foul, then.  You're justified.)

Otherwise, stop assuming that everything is about you.

No, really.  

If someone makes something similar to yours, there is a very real possibility that it was independent creation, or that you were inspired by the same things.  There are trends in art just like there are trends in everything else.  (Back in 1999, we were all making vintage-looking collageythings.  None of us were copying each other, but things tended to look similar, because they were on-trend.  Recently, it's been big-eyed female faces with poochy little lips.  I can, off the top of my head, name about seven prominently-known artists who make faces that would probably be virtually indistinguishable to those not in the proverbial know.  I doubt any of them copy each other directly...but if I was paranoid, it could look that way.)

Acting like everyone's out to steal your stuff makes you look paranoid.  Because, let's be frank here,  you are at that point, being paranoid.  It's a turn off, as a buyer.  (That notable exception with the full page WE WILL SUE YOU notice class that I mentioned earlier?  I haven't bought anything else from them, because it's insulting that this person just assumes that I'm part of some kind of steal-your-sh*t army that's just lying in wait to steal that class.  And the class wasn't the best one I've ever taken, either, just for the record.  Not that lower quality equates to being worthy of theft, but seriously...the ego it takes to just assume your stuff is so good that people won't be able to help themselves from sharing is totally off the charts.)

And before I go too much further, let me just mention this about sharing.

If someone does like your stuff enough to pin it or link to you in a blog post or to show her friends your class and say You should totally take this, I bet you'd love it, that's A GOOD THING.

It means you're making stuff that resonates.  That people want to share, or to save for later, or to remember.  As independent artists, that interest is gold.  You should be emailing them and inviting them to your mailing list, or saying hey, thanks for liking my stuff, did you see I have an etsy shop?, not ranting in a blog post about how much people suck for "stealing" your stuff for a pinterest board of stuff they want to buy.

(Yes, I realize the irony of mentioning ranting in a blog rant like this one.  Hush.)

You are shooting yourself in the foot, y'all.

All that time you're spending fretting about your "stolen" property (especially when it either hasn't happened yet or isn't happening at all) is time you are stealing from yourself.  THAT's the theft that's happening.

You're stealing the time you could be using to make more of your incredible work, or writing classes that will change people's lives and how they work, or putting your stuff out there for people to see (and maybe buy).

I don't know about you, but I don't have time to waste, much less wasting it on something that isn't even happening.

(Again, there are lawyer-worthy exceptions, and it's okay to police your brand.  Natch.)

Lose the ego and make some work you're proud of, instead.

And celebrate every person who likes it.

Those are your people.


p.s.  Nobody has accused me of stealing, for the record.  Probably because my stuff tends to come out of my hands looking like I made it.  Even when I'm taking a class and TRYING ACTIVELY to copy a style for instructional/experimental purposes, it ends up looking like me.  It's kind of annoying, because I don't feel like I'm learning sometimes, as a result.  (I am, but that's not always obvious to me.)

This is inspired more by a few incidents I've witnessed over the past few years, as recently as last week, where someone whose ability I admire goes all ape-shit about copying, when, if the other work is viewed, there's only the most tenuous of connections/similarities.

In short, I'm just sayin'.

still my heart

Sunday, January 21, 2018

I'm still unabashedly in love with her face.

Who wouldn't be?

(Also, some artistic license here.  By the time I wake up in the morning, er...lately, afternoon, the bed looks like it's been exploded by tiny gnomish minions set against linens.  Both Bella and J are active sleepers.)

what irrational fear is like

Saturday, January 20, 2018

(This is my internal drama queen, anxiety right now.)
Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

It's been a day.

Not a good one, either.  

The dryer broke.  Not even with an impressive sort of sparks-and-flames display, but a I'm on strike and refuse to dry your ridiculous laundry anymore kind of thing.  That, I could handle.

Then, my body decided to slowly lose the war with a cold/flu virus around noonish.  I was fine when I woke up.  By noon, I was at that phase where your face goes all hot and cold, and your bones start to ache, and your nose feels like you're breathing in very cold air despite it being warm in the room.  That precursor to Yep, I'm Sick time.  It could go either way, depending on your immune system, but your white blood cells are all we're dying for this war.

That, I could handle, even.  Not without some whining, because I'm a horrible sick patient.  But I could handle it.

Then, J came home, and while I whined about being sick, he wordlessly called the unemployment office.

His job -- his supposedly stable, not-laying-anyone-off direct-hire job -- laid off everyone who wasn't essential.  (So, the muckity-mucks and office people.)  This is the fifth time in a year that he's started a job, and literally within weeks, has been laid off through no fault of his own.  His employers literally tell him all about how much they like having him there and how well he's doing, but...budget/contracts/corporate closings.  All those people who like to spout off about how well the economy's doing?  They can suck it.

Let us just say that at this point in the day, I was not handling things as well.

Most of you know that I've got a lovely combination of generalized anxiety and depression that's about as much fun as hitting yourself in the head with a hammer a few times an hour.  I've been pretty open about it in the past few years, after decades of putting on a happy face and pretending's nothing wrong while my brain slowly eats itself.  Before I got smart about it (and got medicated for it), it manifested in weird ways, too -- everything from not being able to get out of bed to not being able to leave the house without severe physical symptoms, all the way to irrational bouts of anger and even more irrational thinking for those few days when it became unmanageable.

In short, it was not fun before.  It's also not fun now, but at least I don't yell at strangers and loved ones or, y'know, turn into a human slime mold for days at a time.

Ah, the wisdom of age and experience.  And a lot of medication.

However, all the little pink pills in the world won't help when blindsided by a group of things that could probably be handled, individually, but end up being a giant Wall Of Suck(tm) that I slammed into today with the force of a mack truck.

So now, I'm fighting the waves.

They're annoyingly frequent.  

I'll be sitting there between them, panting and grasping at the sand under my fingers, and just about the time I have strength in my arms again, the next wave smashes into my back and grinds my face into the shore.  My heartbeat goes all crazy.  My mind tilts sideways and thinks it's dying, and consequently forgets how to make words happen, and sometimes, forgets to make my lungs do that whole breathing thing for a second.  The depressed part of my brain, which loses all tether to reality when I'm mid-attack, starts interjecting fun commentary like, it's just going to keep happening.  You should die now., as if THAT's at all helpful.

(For the record, and because I know there are people who will read into that:  I'm not suicidal.  I don't really get suicidal anymore.  I get passively suicidal thoughts, which I've done a lot of work to be able to identify, isolate, and dismiss as unhelpful.  I know who to call if things ever get scary, and when to admit that things are in the scary zone.  I'm fine.  It's just one of those things I get to live with every day of my life.  Yay.  Yay for that.  Thank you for caring, though.)

The annoying part is how it siphons out my energy like a sponge made of suck.

One minute, I'm planning my day and all the cool things I want to get done for that day, and the next minute, I'm on my back on the office floor, vaguely breathless, and trying to be all Warrior Princess on my own brain.  If you've never had an anxiety attack, you won't understand this, but it is exhaustingIt's like every fight you've ever had on the internet with a faceless opponent over things very important to you, all at once, but coming from your own head.  You can't turn it off.  You can't walk away.  You can't stop the panic.  It's an unstoppable, overwhelming force.

And you're in the middle of it.

Good luck with that.

(Did I mention that it's also a very dramatic feeling?  There's no half-way with anxiety.  It's on, or it's off.  Stark contrast, and everything goes from normal to fifty shades of menacing in about three seconds.  You feel like a drama queen, because anxiety is a giant drama queen.  Which then makes you feel bad for being "dramatic", when it's literally not your fault, but it kind of is anyway, and that just adds a nice little layer of shame frosting on your cake made of suck and irrational fear.  There's no winning with it.)

So, anyway, that's been my day.

Not gonna lie.  I'm not digging today.

I'm distracting myself with bad television and worse books and trying to keep moving while the anxiety burns itself out from banging on the drums of war in my head.  I'm not to a point where I can think about rational solutions to the issues that triggered all this yet.  I will be, soon.  But for now, I just need to ride the waves and take deep breaths between them.

It'll be better soon enough.

p.s. Did I mention?

Friday, January 19, 2018

I totally made this.

It's a quilt.

Made with a sewing machine.

By me.

And no one was maimed or seriously injured in the process.  My fingers are all intact and unmarred.  Nobody's eyeball was put out.  (By me, at least.  J did manage to take a piece of hot metal in his eyeball at work, but that had nothing to do with me, unless it was karma, about which I'm not willing to think.)

It's intuitively cut and pieced.  Finding out that I would work without a pattern was like some kind of holy religious experience for me.  It's about the doing, not about being technically perfect.  The feeling and expression more than making all your little points match up in some kind of mathematical supernova.

And I totally loved doing it.

I'm hacking into the other side of the plain triangles next, adding a little bloop of color in those big inbetween areas, but's kinda done.

I will have made something with a sewing machine that doesn't suck or try to kill me.

(The kicker is that it awakened a deep love of fabric that's trying to take over my shelves.  Thus, my realization that I need to use what I have.  See yesterday.)

But but but....I made this.

(insert little squealy back-of-the-throat excited noises here.)
© G O * E X P L O R I N G Maira Gall.