Category: ramblings

The Secret of the Kneaded Eraser

They’re squishy and funny and oh-so magical! They’re the kneaded eraser (or kneaded rubber, depending on where you’re from). I was first introduced to these little beauties in college, where they were required supplies for all freshmen art students. At first, I was confused by this blob of grey. What good could this vaguely marshmallow smelling glop do? And then, somehow, after erasing with it, the graphite would magically disappear as I pulled and squished the eraser with a baker’s fervor!

The Secret?
Kneaded erasers are a type of rubber which has been left in its uncured (or unvulcanized) state. Rubber as an industrial material is usually cured with pumice or other substances to make it hard and more durable for use as tires, erasers on pencils, etc. And to think, we were once using bread as erasers before smart forest folk came along and discovered the uses of tree rubber!

The Uses of the Kneaded Eraser
A kneaded eraser has a thousand and one different uses. Here are some of the more popular uses.

Erasing – The primary use. Kneaded erasers are great for lifting up charcoal and lightening color pencil and graphite pencil lines. They’re not known for being able to erase heavy lines due to their softness, but they’re great for creating faded lines and soft effects.

Bouncy Balls – You can roll it into a ball and bounce it around when you’re bored! It’s not abnormally good at bouncing in any predictable direction, but hey when you’re bored, anything is entertaining!

Lewd Sculptures – Once the bouncy ball has ceased to be entertaining, you can make two of them to form a silly pair of eyeballs that look like bewbies! Or try your hand at trying to make a tiny person! Only the most awesome of kneaded eraser sculptors have been able to achieve this monument to miniatureism. You can even have a kneaded eraser tea party!

Pranks – Stick it in someone’s chair for a laugh. There’s nothing like an eraser stuck to someone’s bum to tickle your funny bone! Warning!: you should only do this to friends as a stranger that’s bigger than you might take offense!

Stress Relief – Pretend the eraser is the head of someone you are really annoyed by! Stretching, tearing, pulling it apart, and threatening to torture it if it should refuse to tell you the location of the rebel base are great ways to de-stress AND to clean your eraser at the same time!

Warning, however, that these erasers are not immortal (just nearly). Once they become dark and hard, they are too saturated with graphite to work and may actually leave marks instead of erasing them! An article writer on wikipedia suggests washing the eraser in dish-washing liquid, but I have yet to try this myself.

So what have you done with your kneaded erasers, these days?


Sally Forth into the New Year!

After a weekend of new years reverie, I return to this journal with renewed vigor and the usual contemplation this time of change brings about. It started out with a meme on DeviantART:

2009 A Year of Art in Review by =ladydove7 on deviantART

I started off this past year with a lot of uncertainty about where I wanted to go with my art. I knew the kinds of things I wanted to draw, but not how I would be able to get there or where to take my first step. In February, I was just coming off graduation from SCAD and nearly a full year of creative stifling in which I did hardly any creative writing or art. The previous year was not a waste, however, as I learned so much about advertising and the business side of things that I was bursting with ideas for my creative half once I finally got the time to sit down and think things through for myself.

I wanted to go into more narrative works this year, but due to other prospects, ended up venturing into the soothing pastels of angelic territory for an upcoming project. With a year of possibilities ahead of me, I’m full of anticipation to see how current efforts pay off and also to really push Angelic Shades beyond merely a pipe dream and into a successful business venture!

Here’s the short list of my New Years Resolutions:

* Finish the Rapunzel Project

* Start researching for the Archangels Series (and the subsequent Fallen Archangels Series)

* Hit the art fair and convention market HARD! I’m due for more personal appearances

* Make time for exercise before I turn into a giant McNugget

* Read more books, starting with the rest of the Kushiel’s Legacy series

* Start a sketch group (or at least have one night for doodling and research out of the week)

Things I have no intention of changing in the next year (in response to Hayley’s list):

* Drinking green tea and Godiva coffee. This routine has become regular muse bait.

* Chatting with friends online & networking. Some of the most inspiring people in my life live oceans away.

* Being obsessed with the devil in the details, for he is a wily beast I must pursue! My work wouldn’t be the same without him.

* Researching when I should be sleeping (aka. MOAR research!). Let’s face it, I couldn’t stop doing this if I tried.

* Playing video games and watching cartoons. I’ll never grow up! I’m a Toys R Us kid!

*Ignoring the unconstructive naysayers. Creativity & creative businesses cannot survive without constant enthusiasm, positivity, and being willing to face the unknown!

Developing Personal Symbolism

So you’ve gotten pretty good at your medium of choice and have even collected a few good commissions under your belt. Confidence is slowly seeping in as a personal library of images begins to grow from a collection of sketches and half-formed thoughts into a gallery of images that one can truly be proud of.

And…what now?

I feel like I’m at this point lately with my artistic evolution. I’m proud of a select few of my pieces and gaining the confidence to start marketing myself as a ‘professional’ on art show forms, but I still feel like I’m not quite there yet. There’s a key ingredient missing and I’m still in the process of discovering what it is through trial and error. Lately I’ve been turning back to my roots, to the artists that made me want to draw in the past and the artists that keep me inspired to draw each and every day. They show me a glimpse of the worlds I could create and the emotions I could convey if I could just get myself there.

What is it about their art that I enjoy so much? Why am I drawn to them? Why do their pieces feel ‘finished’ to me and why do mine don’t? I turn to artists who are my contemporaries. Meeting them at shows and admiring their work is an extra kick in the butt for inspiration that makes each convention a joy. I see the work of folks like Matt Hughs, Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, and Tom Fleming that strike a deeper chord with me because of the dreamlike, and oftentimes dark ethereal quality of their work. What do they all have in common, I wonder?

And it hits me. Their work has a deep core rooted in symbolism and heavy with emblems reflective of their own stylistic choices. The root that grows from mother to fetus suggesting a piercing tactile bond. Alighting swarms of butterflies indicative of the freed soul. The bleeding apple representative of Eve’s sin. Each artist spins a tapestry of symbols unique to their own choice of colors, emblems, and compositional style.

I won’t say this is key to success for all artists, but I do know that the presence of a system of symbolism really draws me to the work of most of the artists on my favorites list. I’ve seen the embryos of symbols creeping up in my own work. The climbing, barren vines blooming with white roses at the angel’s presence. Candles burning in the dark where forgotten ideas lay undiscovered or discarded. There are so many fragments of symbols I don’t quite understand and haven’t yet fully given birth to yet. If I keep drawing and painting and observing, I’ll find them waiting in nooks and crannies of my perception, some obvious and some not.

But I suppose finding one’s own system of personal symbolism is like finding Enlightment, a fleeting perfect thing that will never last as long as the mind keeps searching for meaning in everything.

And how boring would it be if our symbols never changed or evolved at all?

Why I Wanted to be a Warrior Princess

A virile man with glistening muscles and an impeccable tan wields a gleaming sword over his head that rightly should weigh more than he does. But he can lift it because he’s the hero. At his feet, an equally athletic woman scantily clad in chainmail and still shrugging off the bindings of her rescue appears surprised with one hand lifted to her mouth in a gesture of delicate fear.

This is your classic fantasy. Conan the Barbarian, Heavy Metal, what we might call high fantasy, sword and sorcery, or fantastic realism…and it’s an image that’s become one eternally linked to what makes fantasy Fantasy.

I grew up watching Schwarzenegger’s “Conan the Barbarian” over and over till my parents were sick of it. And yes, I even watched “Red Sonja” and “Super Girl”, all the sparkly spinoffs of the boy fantasy stuff made for girls that was just plain 80’s horrible. But it wasn’t till shows like She-Ra and Xena: Warrior Princess came along that I decided in my pubescent wisdom that I wanted to be a warrior princess.

Why settle myself to pink ruffles (or a chainmail bikini) and waiting to be saved when I could be like Xena and fix my own dislocated shoulder with a quick shove into a nearby wall? Here was a fantasy figure I could latch onto. She was smart, independent, as good a fighter as any Conan, but sensual and caring when she needed to be without ever losing her edge.

There was just something missing from the chainmail bikini-clad women of popular fantasy. They were a plot device, an archetype designed to make the hero whole. But why be a device when you could be the hero? It appealed to that independent streak in me that admired the ability to take action for one’s self. Xena still saw her share of sexy outfits, but through it all, she defined herself as a well-rounded character who took command of a central plot for countless seasons of storytelling. But many people like to watch her only for the outfits and her sexy looks, since we all know sex sells, that’s why many adult sites are really popular now a days, and some people even go to sites as to find the type of adult material they like.

Nowadays, I wonder what we think of when we think of fantasy and the figures we wish we could be. What art comes to mind? Vallejo, Bell, and Frazetta are some of the big few who formed our classic foundations, but who will form the archetypes of our future? What images will strike us and inspire future generations to leap about the living room in raucous games of Pretend? Will we just keep building on these archetypes or will they ever be replaced entirely?

Will it be sparkling vampires? Half-demon antiheroes? Quick-witted thieves with hidden streaks of morality and guilds at their backs?

(While dragons, it seems, are impervious to the passage of time, as far as popularity goes).

Only time will tell, I suppose. Meanwhile, I will enjoy my Xena reruns and sharpen my knives. X-actos will have to do till the time comes that I fulfill my childhood aspirations of being a warrior princess.

How about yourselves? What figures comes to mind for you when people say ‘Fantasy’? What fantastical figure did you want to be like growing up? Those of you with children, who do your kids pretend to be like?

Image by Earl Norem

An Artist’s Thanksgiving

After spending Thanksgiving with family, I settled in to write a post that would be both enlightening and interesting, but thanks to the turkey-induced half coma, I figured I would just list a few things I’m thankful for, as an artist.

I am thankful for…Photoshop. Seriously, I would not have the first clue of how to change the colors of my images, resize them, or scan them in without this program. Sure it sounds silly, but after having reformatted my computer recently, I lived without Photoshop for a week. There was much flailing and hair pulling.

I am thankful for…tube paints. Believe it or not, this is a fairly modern innovation! Artists were mixing their own pigments up until the the 19th century. Though this sounds kind of fun on one level, I am notoriously lazy and give thanks for being able to find the exact hues I need in a handy dandy tight and cute tube of paint that is ready for my gentle squeeze onto the palette.

I am thankful for…illustration board. I love the stuff. It may not be as absorbent as pure cotton Arches, but I love this paper’s mixed media capability and the fact I don’t have to mount it on something because it’s hard enough to stand alone. There’s nothing more annoying than finding a painting you love with creases and dents in it because the paper was too fragile.

I am thankful for…the internet. I wouldn’t be able to talk to so many fine folks nor share my art with the world if it weren’t for the ability to mass communicate beyond word of mouth. I feel like the world is at my fingertips and that I’m more connected with kindred spirits who are many miles away. I would not be able to achieve much of anything as an artist without the internet (or at least not as easily!).

I am thankful for…Crayola. I know, I know! It’s pretty low quality stuff, but who didn’t grow up with the familiar yellow box with big child-friendly font? I need only smell the wax of my old Crayola crayons to get nostalgic. Crayola (and Twinkies) make me think of everything good and pure about my childhood. I can’t imagine a world without them.

There’s much more to be thankful for this season, but this is where I leave off and you take over. Tell me what you’re thankful for, as an artist, a writer, a crafter, or as just a person enjoying the spirit of appreciation.

Vicarious Roguism

With all the temptation to join in the current MMORPG’s and my recent acquisition of Dragon Age: Origins, I’ve been pondering much about something I always find myself doing. For so many years now, I’ve loaded up that stereotypical fantasy game with its promises of epic diversions and crafted an identity from the depths of my imagination confined by pixels and stats. I’ve named the blank sheet of a character some elegant, yet completely impractical name, defined my identity through them with the idealistic traits I find myself drawn to artistically (long hair, fair eyes, athletic build).

When it came down to what job this fantasy personality might be, I’ve almost always settled on the class Rogue (or various incarnations, including but not limited to: Thief, Gambler, Assassin, and Corsair). Sure, I’ve played other classes just to see what they’re like, but this is the one that always felt closest to home.

Why is that? Do I secretly want to sneak into places I’m not allowed to be in? Do I suppress the urge to steal purses when citizens walk by? Better yet, do I somehow want to be an outlaw? Do those of you who play Warriors or Paladins find that this reflects your own personality as far as being honest and straightforward? Mage-players, do you find that this reflects something about your proclivity for intellectual thought and logic? Stereotypically speaking, of course.

While I don’t profess to be an outlaw, I’ve always been intrigued by forbidden places. There’s a house on 18th street in Midtown Atlanta that’s been abandoned for a few years and I can’t resist the urge to peek inside when the door is open. It was once a bonsai studio and I can make out the tall studio windows, broken glass, and husks of hanging plants still inside. I’ve never gone in, however, and I’m ceaselessly intrigued whenever I walk by it.

If anything, it’s the Rogue’s tendency for moral adaptability that encourages me to enjoy them most. I’ve never been one to settle for a black and white view of the world. There’s always a different slant to any debate, a possibility to see between the lines. This also links to my love of characters, particularly villains, who can gain our sympathy because they have strangely logical and sympathetic reasons for doing what they’re doing. By going Rogue, I like the ability to keep people guessing and to play the Trickster. Tack on a healthy dose of cleverness and you have traits I admire and would go so far as to say reflect my own personality (if you subtract two parts air-headedness and one part inability to be stealthy).

Funnily enough, I more often than not play the gentleman thief in most RPG games. What this says about me, I don’t quite know. The fact that I also play Elves/half-Elves almost exclusively is an entirely different debate altogether (elegant, aloof, nature-loving, snobbish? Hmmm…future blog topic, methinks).

Maybe it’s no surprise my favorite superhero is Batman, the most Roguish of superheroes and the definitive figure for that shadowy part of ourselves that does what it takes, even if it takes breaking the rules, to bring justice to the world.

But I’ve gone from D&D to Batman all in one post so I think I’ll end this for now.

What class do you play? What do you think this says about you? What fascinates you about any particular fantasy role? I’m dying to know!

Image from Thief 3: Deadly Shadows

Your Wings Await

A fresh can of Dr. Pepper (or two), comfortable pants, a late night muffin, and a bottle of painkiller for the eyestrain — this was at one time my regimen for playing MMORPGS (Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) back in college. Gone are those days where I could survive on 4 hours sleep and function on chocolate muffins and cheeseburgers alone. (For the curious, I was an Elvaan named Zhele with plans to become a master thief-ranger. I’ll let you figure out the MMO). Nowadays, there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day nor the luxurious income (or excuse) to drop a monthly fee on a game.

And yet, it’s times like these where I miss that finger on the pulse of adventure and fantasy with friends in our own little personal epic. A new MMO called Aion recently released and I can’t help but feel that it was made for me. Extensive character customization, Assassins, crafting, warring angels & demons (of a sort), and your very own wings? I get brain twitches just looking at the beautiful videos and artwork for this game. I am totally sold (and have been since I saw the early concept art). Maybe, just maybe, I’ll work up the extra time and funds to play it? Can I brave being a n00b all over again?? We’ll see what happens once I finish my current huge project.

So why is it that we like MMO’s? Is it that feeling of being part of something larger than ourselves? I always got a warm and fuzzy feeling from saving lower level people from mobs that overwhelmed them or helping out a random stranger. Perhaps it’s the element of surprise? Nothing says ‘surprise’ better than stumbling upon a giant friendly looking sheep, only to learn that it’s actually a Tremor Ram that WILL kill you in one hit. Or how about hanging around and meeting great folks from around the world? I used to enjoy virtual boat rides where I could play virtual craps or telling jokes while we waited. I miss that spontaneity and bonding with others, a very tempting aspect of games, especially when considering the fact so many of us are work-at-home types who rarely get to see the outside world!

There’s always the fear I’ll get sucked in and never see the sunlight, but I’m not getting sunlight now so that might not be too incredibly detrimental as long as I learn to venture out from my hidey hole every now and again. Remembering how to socialize properly with others in real life is key!

So what are your memories of MMO’s? Do you play? What’s your favorite one? Why is it that we love them so much?

Image Source: Aion Aiva Wallpaper

The Eve is Done

Well, Halloween is done and now begins the slow shifting of things to harvest and frost decorations for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m still stubbornly clinging to my jack-o-lantern, who is growing long for the garbage bin. Maybe I can get it to ferment so we can have some drunken squirrels?

I had a howling good time exposing others to Ginger Snaps at our Halloween get-together, where there was more junk food than I’ve had in an entire year. I met my goal to make one of the grossest cakes ever. It’s a small obsession of mine to make the most visually gross food I can for Halloween. Last year it was a fleshworm made from a pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon with spaghetti teeth. What will it be next year? I think I will attempt the ultimate gross cake…the oozing organ cake. The sky is the limit!

Another reason I love Halloween is because I never quite grew out of playing Dress-Up and Pretend. It’s the single day of the year (outside of conventions) that I can dress up in bizarre clothing and go to the grocery store dressed as a Grim Reaper without getting too many odd stares. Would I dress this way normally if I could, year round? I’m beginning to wonder… This year my Halloween costume recycled the Hollow leather mask I made with a velvet robe and bits and pieces of shinies I’ve gathered over the years. It looks more wicked than I ever expected it to look!

And now the weekend is through and it’s back to the regularly scheduled workload. I’m into an exciting new chapter of the book I’m working on that involves my favorite sort of angels, the tattooed edgy kind with bad attitudes. There’s just something about these brand of angels that lend themselves so well to fantasy storytelling and building interesting personalities. Expect some sneaky peeks as my next set of paintings slowly come together.

I’m also pondering joining in on NaNoWriMo, but I am not sure if my workload will permit it! It is sooo very tempting though. If I did it, I’d randomly pick tropes from and try to write a story based on that. I’m itching for that sort of challenge!

So what did you guys do for Halloween? Did you dress up? What holiday really gets you excited?