The Scary Big City

I have a mostly rural background. I grew up on a farm at the end of nowhere (that’s half again as remote as the middle of nowhere), I graduated from a small town high school, and I’ve never lived anywhere particularly pedestrian-friendly. My big-city-living experience is limited to the year I lived in Medford, where I pretty much avoided going anywhere except my job right down the road.

I’ve always been fascinated with metropolises; in fact, when I was but a wee sprat I thought I wanted to live in New York City. I’m pretty sure I just wanted to get far away from the delightful farm aromas to which I was accustomed. Then I realized I’d probably just be trading cow shit in the barn for human shit in the alley.

Anyway, I was excited to experience the great! big! city! of Corvallis when I rented a studio downtown. I was also–as Illidan would say–totally not prepared. (That joke probably makes no sense to most of you, but the two readers who play WoW are rolling on the floor.) I’ve rarely been so bewildered by an environment. There are SO MANY people. That may seem obvious, but the sheer number of bodies roaming around didn’t sink in until I was wading through them every day. I felt like I’d just stepped off the train in my straw hat and overalls muttering, “Reckon I’ll make my fortune off these here city slickers just as soon as I find me some heifers to wrangle.” (“Wrangle” is a technical farm term meaning “wander around the field hoping that you are somehow convincing the stupid livestock to go the correct direction.” It is a futile hope.) During the day, my neighborhood is a solid wall of humans in search of coffee. At night, it’s an overwhelming mess of lights and traffic, at least to me when I’m trying to drive home.

I’m very slowly getting used to it. However, I have a few questions for you folks that are comfortable in such places:

1.) Why the fuck do cities need so many one-way streets? Do city people enjoy driving around the block seventy times to find a road going the right way?

2.) On days when I’m feeling particularly antisocial, is there a way to keep people from looking at me? Sometimes I just can’t handle the risk that some friendly stranger might try to interact with me (the poor fools).

3.) What really happens when you accidentally put your trash in the wrong dumpster? Judging by the signs, the world ends in an explosion of cosmic wrath. Ditto with parking.

4.) Is it normal to be easily distracted by window-shopping? Because it takes me 20 minutes to walk one block due to looking at all the pretty colors. Apparently I will admire your broken plumbing if you put it in a front window with an interesting sign.

5.) If a car stops in the middle of a crosswalk I’m trying to use, is it permissible to set them on fire? If not, do you know a good lawyer?

Honestly, I’m really enjoying exploring my new surroundings. I grumble and snark, but my city experiences have been mostly positive. I have been assured that someday I will feel less overwhelmed. In the meantime, feel free to say hi if you see me out and about. You can recognize me by the flamethrower I’ll be carrying.

I’M FUCKING TERRIFIED

I’ve done something crazy. Something I never thought I’d do. Something that scares the shit out of me. Something that might blow up in my face.

I leased my own artist studio in Corvallis.

So why the hell am I doing this? Even though driving long distances can trigger panic attacks, even though I have yet to ever make a profit at this business, even though this is by far the hardest project I’ve ever taken on…

The short answer: It was time for me to take a risk. The long answer: I took an online course that helped me realize that I simply don’t have the right personality to work effectively at home. (I wish SO MUCH that I could. It would save me a fuckton of rent money.) I need a dedicated space to make art and write. The worktable next to my bed wasn’t cutting it, so I decided to make a change instead of giving up. I didn’t expect quite such a drastic change, but looking for a tiny office locally kind of snowballed into leasing a two-room suite downtown in a big city.

My reasons for not giving up in descending order of importance:

1.) Spite. Who am I to tell me I can’t do something? I’ll show me!
2.) Incentives. Now that I’m obligated to fork over rent every month, I’m very motivated. (Read: scared.) Gotta make that dough, y’know.
3.) Opportunity. Downtown Corvallis is really the best possible place for me to be. You can’t move without tripping over an independent gallery. I can just wander around my neighborhood to scope out potential carriers of my goods.
4.) Mental health. You know that theory that you can cure someone of acrophobia by taking them skydiving? I choose to believe that regularly driving 40 minutes each way will help me get over my fear of driving. Or I’ll spend the first hour at work every day curled up in a shivering ball. Whichever.
5.) Pride. I’ve dedicated too much of my life to being an artist/writer to give up now. Do you have any idea how many types of glue I own?? I can’t let that shit go to waste.

I’m not going to bother to give you the address of my studio because there are generally three locked doors between me and the street, I work extremely odd hours, and it’s not really pretty enough to receive visitors in yet. It’s very rough right now. (The paint is seeking a divorce from the walls. They’re fighting over custody of all the random nails.) Once it’s presentable, I’ll post pictures.

This development doesn’t affect you a whole hell of a lot, really. Just know that I’ll be writing and arting a LOT more, so check back here and on my Etsy site often for new stuff. Eventually, someday, I plan to have a Skirkbucket Studio dedicated YouTube channel. Please let me know in the comments what kind of content you’re interested in seeing. I live to serve.

ArtSnacks: October 2016

Hold on to your panties, boys and girls, it’s ArtSnacks time again! October’s box was a home run.

Ink BottleSpecial Release Muted Collection: Liquitex Professional Ink
$8.95 retail

This month is #Inktober. So, naturally, October’s box includes a bottle of Liquitex acrylic ink.

I gotta say, I am SOLD on Liquitex’s new muted collection. The muted violet color they sent me is fucking gorgeous. I actually already own a set of their basic colors–which are fine but not outstanding–but this shade is so good I’m tempted to use acrylic ink a lot more often just so I can justify buying the whole damn collection.

Downsides: For my purposes, the ink dries a little too quickly, which means you have to move fast if you want to do any blending. Also the cap is a bitch to get off if you close it too tightly. (Nice built-in eye dropper, though.)

Uni-Ball Signo White Gel PenWhite Gel Pen
$3.75 retail

My current favorite writing pen is a black Uni-Ball Signo (bold tip), so I was excited to try out this white version.

White ink seems to be hard to get right. I’ve got a bunch of white gel pens I’ve acquired in my search for one that doesn’t piss me off, but they always seem to be too watery or transparent or unreliable or inside a porcupine or something. This one is my favorite by far. I stress-tested this bad boy by using it to color an entire ghost (see project), and it performed admirably. Nice and opaque, stayed where I put it and fast-drying.

Note: Don’t try this at home, folks. A ball-point pen is not the right tool to fill in a large area. It worked, but I used a LOT of ink and it took forever to fill in all the little gaps. I still feel bad about abusing a pen that never did anything to deserve it…unlike micron pens, which need to be taught a lesson. Seriously, I hate those little bastards. The many, many artists who swear by microns clearly need treatment for Stockholm syndrome.

Copic Brush PenCopic Gasenfude Brush Pen
$7.49 retail

I have never gotten the hang of using brush pens properly, but now I want to learn. This pen is just that awesome. It reminds me of a really good eyeliner. It’s easy to control, and it only takes the lightest touch to get a smooth line–perfect for a hesitant sketcher like myself. This pen will be a lot more useful to me than Copic’s intimidating line of markers.

Lauren Series 4350 Watercolor Brush by Princeton Brushbrush
$5.75 retail

I really like this brush. It’s very precise and holds a lot of ink. It’s not very good for washes, but the springy bristles come to an effortless point for getting color down into stubborn nooks and crannies.

The Project

I had a hankering to use one of the little canvas boxes I have lying around. I dripped the ink some places, brushed it on others, layered it, and blotted to get a nice mottled background. I drew a goofy ghost with the Copic pen and filled it in with the Signo. The white gel pen was great for cleaning up any stray marks around the edges of the lid. (Yes, I make mistakes. Try to act shocked.)

Click the first picture below to see a slide show (with commentary!) of my Halloween treat box. It’s a treat box because I say it is. Work with me, okay? Imagine it full of candy and the souls of your enemies.

Fave Craft Books: Oct. 2016

I don’t know about you, but I have a buttload of craft books lying around. It’s a problem. Let me justify my collection by telling you about a random handful of my favorites.

Stitch Alchemy

Stitch Alchemy
Combining Fabric & Paper for Mixed-Media Art
Kelli Perkins

There is a miraculous substance called “paper-cloth,” and you need it in your life. Paper-cloth is exactly what it sounds like: a combination of muslin, glue, and tissue paper make a surface that is the perfect compromise between the durability of fabric and the versatility of paper. You can do damn near anything with it that you would normally do with paper or cloth alone. A material that can make cards AND pillows? Yes, please!

This book was my introduction to mixed-media. To be honest, I almost never make paper-cloth anymore (although I keep meaning to), but Stitch Alchemy is also a great quick reference to a wide variety of mixed-media techniques. The featured art has a grungy, colorful aesthetic that I find inspirational. I was enchanted with its philosophy of pursuing serendipity–I much prefer to experiment randomly all over a substrate and figure out what to do with the outcome later, as opposed to this “planning” bullshit I keep hearing about.

Photo CraftPhoto Craft
Creative Mixed-Media and Digital Approaches to Transforming Your Photographs
Susan Tuttle and Christy Hydeck

What I love about this book is that it refuses to pick sides. It will tell you how to digitally edit a photograph to get a certain effect, then turns around and shows you how to get a similar effect without using a computer. Photo Craft emphasizes techniques that combine mixed-media and photography rather than segregating them. The downside is that the rapid pace at which software evolves made the Photoshop Elements instructions (and the recommended phone apps) a bit obsolete before the book even hit the shelves. Still, it gives you a general idea of what to look for and where. Bonus: Tips for improving photography and prompts to get projects started.

Print & Stamp LabPrint & Stamp Lab
52 Ideas for Handmade, Upcycled Print Tools
Traci Bunkers

I fucking love this book. With the knowledge it contains, you can go into a dollar store, spend five bucks, and walk out with the materials for making dozens of unique patterns. The concept is simple: one can stamp with almost ANYTHING, and if it won’t stamp it will make an excellent stencil.

 

Beading BasicsBeading Basics
Carole Rodgers

These days, I mainly use this book as a refresher course for beadwork techniques that I haven’t done in a while. But when I first started making jewelry it was a good, solid grounding in commonly-used techniques I could build on. I also recommend the sequel, Beyond Beading Basics by the same author.

Unexpected Knitting

 

 

 

Unexpected Knitting
Debbie New

I knit very seldom, and when I do it’s the most simple stuff I can get away with. That doesn’t stop me from appreciating the genius of Debbie New. This is a woman who can knit teacups, and she is constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with yarn and knitting needles. And she’s willing to share all her secrets with us!

I will most likely never use any of the patterns in this book, but I flip through it all the time to remind myself that art doesn’t have to follow rules. It’s pure inspiration. For example, the first section of instructions is titled “Swatchless Knitting,” which made my eyes drop out of my head and roll across the floor when I first read it. There just aren’t many knitting books that encourage you to take risks. Unexpected Knitting is unexpectedly refreshing.

What books do YOU think I need? Please tell me about them in the comments to help convince my husband to allow me in bookstores again.

ArtSnacks: August 2016

August 2016 ArtSnacks

Please excuse the shitty pictures in this post. I’m waiting on the delivery of some decent lights to up my photography game.

ArtSnacks is a monthly mailing service for art supplies. For a fee of $20 per month, ArtSnacks sends four to five full size products, sometimes including exclusive items. (They also put a piece of candy and a horrible art-themed joke in each box.) Visit ArtSnacks.co for more information.
I am not affiliated with ArtSnacks, and I don’t receive any kind of compensation for writing about their stuff. I’m pretty sure they don’t know I exist.

Robert Simmons Acrylic Short Handle Paintbrush
$5.99 retail (all prices as stated by the information card included with the samples)

brushThis synthetic fiber brush is billed as an Exclusive! First! Look! for ArtSnack subscribers. It’s from a new line by Daler-Rowney. ArtSnacks describes the brush as providing “…both the softness and the control that you need in order to get the most out of acrylic painting” and as “…hold[ing] the paint without losing its shape.” Sounds good to me.

I don’t do any set-out-to-depict-something-specific painting, but I do work with acrylic paint to get abstract effects (mostly on random stuff, but occasionally on an actual grown-up painter canvas). I don’t have a lot of fancy brushes, but I was intrigued by the purported precision of this brush. My hands often shake like a shaved chihuahua, so I’m a sucker for anything that offers really good control.

Keeping in mind I’m no expert, I think this is a very nice brush. I like the short handle. It keeps its point well. I’m satisfied with the amount of paint it can carry. It doesn’t shed. I’ve no complaints, except that it doesn’t magically transform me into someone who can draw a straight line. Turns out a fancy brush isn’t much help if you can’t keep your hands steady. Who knew?

Daler-Rowney System 3 Medium Body Acrylic Paint (Process Magenta)
$6.50 retail

I’m devoted to Golden acrylics. (Seriously, I would take a bullet for that brand of paint. You need some.) Therefore, it’s going to be hard to sell me on any other brand. But for your sake, dear reader, I sacrificed my principles and gave this magenta paint a shot. What follows is a comparison between the D-R paint and my golden standard.

See what I did there?paint-tube

Golden heavy-bodied paint in quinacridone magenta (the closest thing I had to the D-R paint) is thicker and more opaque. It also seems to have significantly more pigment. The D-R medium body acrylic doesn’t apply as smoothly, either.  It’s pretty splotchy unless I’m careful about keeping a lot of paint on the brush. Maybe a painting expert would be happy with it, but I find it a bit finicky for my purposes.

On the other hand, Daler-Rowney paint is certainly cheaper. (The Golden magenta I compared it to is $15.99 for a two-ounce tube on Amazon. The sample is $6.50 for 2.5 ounces.) I wouldn’t hesitate to use it to cover a large area in order to save my precious Golden paint for detail work. It’s adequate paint; it just doesn’t compare favorably to my favorite brand.

Copic Classic Marker (Blue Violet – BV08)
$7.99 retail

markerI was pretty damn impressed to find this marker in my box. (In my ARTSNACKS box, you filthy pervert! Lean over here so I can slap you.) Copic markers are no joke. They’re fucking expensive and meant for Serious™ artists. I actually own a couple, but I never use them because my meager sketching skills are unworthy of their fanciness.

I like the color they sent… although it doesn’t seem to be the vivid purple displayed on the cap. To me, it looks more like a navy blue with just enough red in it to make it technically purple.

Anyway, I can tell the marker is awesome, but other than that I’m not really fit to judge. It shades beautifully. You’ll notice on my final project that I was able to make the color darker close to the stars and blend it out to a more transparent effect at the edges. The down side is that the ink bleeds a bit too much to make a really crisp line without effort, as I discovered when I tried to use the fine tip to carefully stencil some letters. (See draft pics below.) Actually, it’s possible that I was doing it wrong, maybe by moving it too slowly while I outlined. This marker is probably just too advanced for me. I take it back! Please accept my repentance, O Holy Copic!

I will seal this offering in a jewel-encrusted reliquary with my other two Copic markers. Then I’ll embark on a sacred journey to the mythical land of Artopia, fight my way past the silent monks—feared for the pain they can inflict with a simple paintbrush—and scale the tallest mountain. After passing the three trials of the manticore who stands guard, I will place the chest on the dazzling altar of Draw-o-met, goddess of intimidating art supplies. May she bless my next ArtSnacks box with something I’m skilled enough to use.

Small 3D Zip by Baggu
$6.50 retail

whole-bag
Blah blah blah…it’s an expanding bag…blah blah blah…kind of transparent…seems well constructed…blah blah blah…no particular use for it, but I’ll think of something… I gots nothing interesting to say about it. Machine washable. Giant loop on one end (for some reason). Meh. I’ll update if it turns out to be super useful or if it falls apart.

The Project

I didn’t have any spectacular ideas, but I owe my great-aunt a letter. I usually decorate the paper when I write letters, so I decided I’d see what I could do to use the supplies to make an interesting pattern. (Except the bag. It makes a lousy paintbrush.) The paint applied really well to a homemade stamp, and I had fun experimenting with the marker. I admit I cheated a bit. As you can see on my experiment page, I couldn’t come up with an attractive way to use the fine-point brush. I finally just used the end of the handle to make dots.

Please click the first picture below to see a project slide show with commentary.

Stand By Me

There’s a non-zero chance you’re reading this because I gave you a business card at the recent Stand By Me art market in Brownsville. First of all, welcome to my world! (You poor sod.) Second, I thought a handy little primer on my craft blog would be appreciated. If you just want to buy my stuff, you can skip this and click straight to my Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/SkirkbucketStudio. I will be posting stuff I was selling at the art show just as soon as I can take product photos and whatnot. If you already know what you want, please contact me and I’ll sell it to you immediately with Square or a reserved listing or something. I’m pathetically eager to please.

Those tablecloth wrinkles are your imagination.

This was my table.

1.) Profanity: I have a fucking filthy vocabulary, okay? You’ve been warned.

2.) WTF is this site?: This is my humorous craft blog. I mouth off in an (I hope) entertaining way about my journey as an artist. I do the occasional tutorial, often walk you through my mistakes and how I fixed/failed to fix them, and detail results of my craft experiments.

3.) Usefulness: My goal is to be funny, but I also like to at least pretend to be helpful. So I do reviews of products, experiment with all forms of art, and sometimes write tutorials. I always welcome questions, either via my comment sections/contact form or email (skirkbucketstudio@gmail.com).

4.) Specialty: We don’t need no steenking specialties! I used to try to confine myself to one craft, but my short attention span and desire to DO ALL THE THINGS makes that impractical. The plan was for me to focus on selling my projects on Etsy and at craft shows. Now I’ve happily settled on doing whatever the hell I want and writing about it. Speaking of which…

5.) Business: This IS my job. If you enjoy my writing, please consider popping over to my Etsy shop or contacting me about a commission. Your support is what keeps me from being forced to have ads on my website or to gate content behind Patreon fees. Also, the more feedback I get, the more I’m encouraged to write. Comments make the world go ’round.

6.) Etcetera: Twitter and Instagram handles are @Skirkbucket…blah blah blah…I take topic suggestions (with a grain of salt…blah blah…I have cats…blah…the sky is green… I can’t think of anything else you would need/want to know about this site. Lemme know if you think of something.

Thanks for giving me a chance,
Skirkbucket