Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Postcard Project

Late last month I decided I wasn't going to show my paintings online so I could reclaim the joy of painting. That is mostly still true, although a friend of mine launched a 50 State Postcards in 50 Weeks project and I just feel compelled to join in. Obviously, it's more fun to be a part of a project like this when you are sharing. It feels almost like a collaboration, which I think I've needed far more than I realized.

I've really been enjoying dusting off my old graphic design skills with this project. Coming up with compositions that best represent each state has been a fun challenge. I've also enjoyed trying to have the occasional easter egg appear in the cards, like having the Hawaiian Islands dot the i's in Hawaii as well as represent the stigma in the hibiscus flower.

What makes this project a bit more challenging is that I'm choosing to do it all in watercolor. There isn't much room for error with watercolors, so sometimes when I'm stuck on a color decision, I'll make little color studies. I didn't know what color to make the words, "California" so I took a picture of the unfinished postcard and made a sheet of them so I could color in different possibilities.
I texted this picture to a bunch of people and everyone like a different option. I went with #4.

I've had real fun with this project and I've looked forward to seeing Heather's postcards each week. We are both posting on instagram under the hashtag "#5050postcards". Heather is also posting her postcards on her blog.

I've realized with this project that there are a bunch of states I know nothing about. If anyone has any ideas of what symbols make you think of a particular state, I'd love to hear about it. I'm particularly at a disadvantage with East Coast and Midwestern states. I'm embarrassed to admit that some of those states seem so similar to me that I'm worried I won't make a distinct enough postcard for them. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Stitching States And Socks

It was another busy week with school and other commitments, but I still have found a little time in the evenings to work on my crafty pursuits. My Hylestad socks are finally done, for one.
Hylestad socks in Plucky Knitter Primo Fingering's En Garde and Baah! La Jolla's La Perla

Truth be told, I had finished them a week or two ago, but only finally sat down and wove in the ends. We've been watching Man In The High Castle and it is too interesting to weave ends to.

I've also be knitting away at my Rose By Any Other Name socks. I was hoping to have them done in time to wear for Valentine's Day, but in the last week the temperature has gone up significantly and now it is too hot to wear hand knit socks. I'll try to get them done anyways, just in case it decided to cool down.
Vanilla Socks in Canon Hand Dye's Rose By Any Other Name

Then there are the socks I cast on while we were in Hawaii. Or rather, I cast them on while we were in the airport to leave Hawaii. Still counts as Hawaii socks, right?
Groovy socks in White Birch Fiber Art's Wile Thai Ryder

There was also a night this last week where I was overcome with the need to work on my USA quilt. First I was just going to stitch a bit of Oregon. Then I was just going to stitch the California coast. But before I knew it, it was past midnight and I had finished all of Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. I got to move the hoop and now I only have the gulf states and a bit of the east coast left.
The quilt is still far from being done, but at least a major potion will be complete.

Has anyone else found solace in their projects this week? Are there any projects that you've felt compelled to work on?

Thursday, February 1, 2018

To O'ahu We Must Go

Connor and I just got back from a quick getaway in O'ahu. It was very spur of the moment, but there was a good deal on plane tickets, so there you go. As usual, we really packed it in, but because we took time to sit and enjoy ourselves, we came away feeling well rested and relaxed.
On our first day in O'ahu, we hiked up Diamond Head to watch the sun rise. Or we almost saw the sun rise... more like we saw the sun rising. I sat and painted this scene while Connor listened in on the many Japanese tourists to see if he could recognize any words.

The hike wasn't too hard, but it was humid, so we came away rather sweaty and tired. After a nap, we headed out to see the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. You see a film, which is sobering, before you board a boat to visit the actual memorial. I think the film allowed everyone to be much more respectful as we were all on the same page about the gravity of the bombing in Pearl Harbor. We came away with a better sense of the loss that happens during war.

After Pearl Harbor we stopped by a beach to snorkel. It was the beginning of our snorkel adventures as the next day we got up to snorkel at Hanauma Bay. We arrived about mid-morning and we relieved to get a parking spot. After watching the required movie, we were allowed to go down to the beach and reef. There was a huge variety of fish in the reef. I must have seen 3-4 varieties of parrotfish alone. I got a kick out of seeing both the largest and smallest rainbow parrotfish I'd ever seen. We also saw a few Humuhumunukunukuapua'a (Hawaii's state fish) swimming around.
After two rounds of snorkeling, I was ready to warm up, so I did something I don't think I've ever done in my life: I sat on the beach and did nothing. Connor went back in for a bit longer before we left.

Eventually we left and drove to the east side of O'ahu to see what we could see. We might have chosen the best time to leave because soon we were driving through a giant cloudburst. After exploring a few places we found ourselves on Lanikai beach. It was pretty quiet and as advertised: beautiful. We decided that if we ever made it back to O'ahu, we'd have to spend a little more time here.
It was here that we decided that we could live in O'ahu quite happily

On our last full day in O'ahu, we headed north to see the Dole Plantation. The first order of business was to get lost in the biggest botanical maze in the world. We spent nearly 50 minutes looking for the 8 stations throughout the maze.

Afterwards we jumped aboard the train to see some of the pineapple fields. I've decided that pineapples are a weird fruit. They grow at such odd angles on the mother plant. We also learned that pineapples aren't even native to Hawaii, but because of Dole's success, we associate them with Hawaii. After our train ride we stopped for some Dole Whip, which is as good as they say, before going to the north shore.

In winter, the north shore if famous for its large waves and the surfers that follow them. We decided to go to Banzai Pipeline to see if anyone was there. As it turned out, there was going to be a competition the next day. We saw quite a few great surfers. Connor decided he wanted to frolic in the waves and did so while I painted. When I finished, he talked me into joining him. It was fun until the second time I got a mouth full of seawater. 
If you look carefully, you can see a surfer riding the wave

After exhausting ourselves, we found a bar/grill that served Loco Moco past breakfast. (Loco Moco is a rice/egg/beef patty/ gravy dish that is rather tasty) While waiting for our meal, we spotted some of these guys. Unfortunately, these geckos are not native, but they were sure fun to watch. One stalked a fly and another one tried to sell me car insurance. We also saw a brown one that had two tails! He was too quick for a picture.

We came away with two patches and a magnet, which was much more restrained than the last time we were in Hawaii.

All in all, we had a great time. I only wish we had a few more days to snorkel and eat a ton more tasty food. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Shaking Off Perfectionism

I've had a really rough time reclaiming my creativity lately, especially when it comes to painting. I look at different artist's sketchbooks on various social media and they all seem so perfect. Intellectually I know that it is unlikely that every page they have produced is perfection, but it's left me being too afraid to lay paintbrush to paper.
Filling some new pans with paint

But what could I do? You only get better by practicing and I am now afraid of practicing.
Empty Meeden watercolor tins

Eventually I realized that what I was most afraid of was not having any masterpieces to share. So I've taken a new approach.
Holbein, M. Graham, and Grumbacher tubes. Not shown is Daniel Smith. I'm most fond of M. Graham at the moment.

Even if I paint a masterpiece, I am not going to share any paintings online for a while.
Moleskine Art Plus sketchbook

I think it will be much healthier for me to reclaim painting as something I do for myself rather than something I do to earn accolades.
I got an adhesive magnet tape, cut it into little rectangles and adhered it to the bottom of the pans so they would magnetically stick to my tin.

In the meantime, I'd like to share some artists I greatly admire.
Missy Dunaway paints the most beautiful journal entries. Even she will tell you that she paints over some of her paintings repeatedly before she has something she likes.
Chandler O Leary has some awesome travel sketchbooks. She was kind enough to share what materials she uses. It helped me get a better idea of what I could use that would hold up to heavy use.
James Gurney regularly shares his plein air paintings. And still one better, he often releases videos showing how he did it.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

One Tree Short Of A Forest

I have some good knitting news and some bad knitting news. Let's start with the good. I finished my Joyeux Noel socks early for next Christmas! Ok... so I didn't finish in time for this past Christmas, but that's ok. They came out great and now I get to look forward to wearing them during the next holiday season.
Stray Cat Socks in Joyeux Noel and a special-ordered contrasting brown

The bad news... well... I made a big boo boo. It might be hard to see in the picture, but last night as I was doing the decreases for the second sock to go from 72 to 64 stitches, I couldn't get the stitch count to come out right. Finally I counted out my stitches... and I already had 64 stitches. I turned a little grey. There are 9 repeats of the tree pattern on the first sock; there are only 8 on the second one. Sigh. I held off ripping until today.
It's probably better not to rip when you are angry

Of course with no knitting to work on, I cheered myself up with casting on something new. I've been meaning to knit my skein of Canon Hand Dyes in "A Rose By Any Other Name" for a while now. Every time I get to it Valentine's Day has passed and I lose my motivation. Not this year though! Maybe with enough of a head start I'll be able to wear these puppies in time for the pinkest holiday of the year.

What kinds of things have you all had to rip out lately? Has anyone else been one tree short of a forest?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Three To Kentucky

We've been back from Kentucky for more than a week. Christopher came along and the three of us enjoyed spending Christmas together right before we all banded together to help Annabel (Connor's sister) get married. But in between all the business of the season we had some fun. We did things like...

Chop wood.

Christopher had his first Waffle House experience. He ordered the peanut butter waffle, expecting there to be real peanut butter. The fool. They put peanut butter chips on peanut butter waffles at Waffle House!

The three of us hiked up to Natural Bridge.
Natural Bridge is in the background as we stand at Lover's Leap.

We did a tour at Buffalo Trace Distillery.

I tried to make friends with the chickens. 
Only one was brave enough to eat from my hand.

It got so cold that the creek began to freeze over and we had to keep the wood stove burning.
Before we left, a thin sheet of ice developed across the whole creek

Christopher chopped more wood.

It was all this and more. It was a good trip, but we were all tired by the end. I'm still glad that Christopher got to have a taste of Kentucky.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Annual Goal List 2017-2018

2017 has been the year of self realization. I feel like I've been able to better name things that have happened, describe feelings I've had, and understand why I've been discontent when I am. I've found with better being able to describe the feelings I have, the better I've been at being calm about them. There is just something about being able to put a name to a feeling or situation that makes it less scary.

I also decided to go back to school. This time I'm learning about accounting and real estate. I you had told me at the beginning of the year that I was going to want to learn about accounting and real estate, I would have laughed at you. It's funny that every year I seem to be doing something completely different than what I expected. This coming year, I think I will try to have no expectations and just go along for the ride.

There were some real twists and turns this year. Here are some of the highlights.

I think traveling is going to be a highlight every year. We were able to see many amazing places this year. Places like the Pinnacles, Hawaii, the Northern California Coast, Kentucky, the Smoky Mountains, Blue Ridge Parkway, Nashville, Tucson, the Oregon Caves, the Channel Islands, Morro Bay, and Kentucky a second time for my sister-in-law's wedding.
Saguaro National Park

There's no pictures of this, but I taught the little boy next door how to knit before he moved away.

I learned how to weave and embroider.

I am now a part-time shark.

Goals for 2017:
1. Make a google map to share that has the locations of where I've found my travel patches. I've occasionally been asked where I've found various patches and I've noticed that the information for finding them, let alone knowing that a place has them, is sparse. I'd like to help change that.
Status: Complete. I made up the map and have been continuing to update it with each new patch.
2. Make a quilt to display all the patches. The plan is to embroider the United States, then place the patches around the outside of the embroidery. I'm still working out some details, but I bought a map from Haptic Labs, got my fabric, and have bought a few books on embroidery to help move me forward.
Status: In the process. My aunt helped me get the quilt sandwiched together and I've embroidered a large amount of the United States. There is still a lot of embroidering to go.
3. Go to one National Park I haven't been to yet. I think that we might manage more than one, but I'd like to see at least one this year.
Status: Complete. I need up seeing 5 new-to-me national parks: Haleakala, Volcanos, Mammoth Caves, Smoky Mountains, and Channel Islands. I didn't know I'd get so lucky this year.
4. Knit a sweater out of stash. I haven't knit a sweater in two years. I think it is about time to change that. I also have a habit of buying new yarn for sweaters because I "have plans" for all of my stash yarn. It's time to just knit with it. I can replace it if I need to.
Complete: I knit three sweaters this year! Of course only one of them was out of stash...
5. It seems like an annual tradition, but I'm going to keep it on the list until it is done: put up the comic site. Connor and my father have sorted out the complicated calendar that I wanted and the site is largely put together. I just have the intimidating job of scanning and formatting all the comics. Although, the most intimidating part is getting over the feeling that the comics aren't "good enough". I keep thinking that the writing could be neater and the comics could be cleaner, but if they are ever to be put up, they will have to remain as they are.
Status: Complete. The site is up and updating daily. Behind the scenes, the comics from from July of 2015 to May of 2017 have been edited and are scheduled to be posted. That's a lot of comics! There are still a bunch to go and my resolve is much lower. I'm going to try to keep going even though this project has pooped me out.

Goals for 2018:
1. Even though I'm making good progress, the United States quilt is a big job. I'd like to make a goal of having the embroidery in it finished this year. I'll consider it a bonus if I can get the patches on too.
2. Connor and I would like to buy a house this year. I'm not sure where that house will end up being, but hopefully the real estate classes I'm taking will help us in making that decision.
3. I've realized that I find most of my validation in the praise I get for what I do. It's become clear how unhealthy that is for me. I'd like to be able to find healthier ways to feel validated that aren't so heavily based in comments and "likes." (I don't know what that will look like yet)
4. Visit a new-to-me state. There's a chance I might be seeing Louisiana, Virginia, and/or Texas this year. I hope at least one works out.
5. Submit the Audry Without An E comic for an Ignatz award. I think it could be eligible for the Outstanding Online Comic Award. I don't think there is a chance I'd win, but it's hard to win at anything if you don't put yourself in the race.

This years list is the 9th one I've written. I don't think I ever thought I'd be blogging this long. When I started, blogging was the thing to do; it was a great way to be a part of a community. Now it seems like many people have quit blogging and the community has been fractured by the many social platforms that exist. Sometimes it feels rather lonely, so I'm not sure how much longer I'll be at it. But, it's still been fun to see how each year changes.
For those who would like to see what other years have been like, here are past post links: 2010201120122013201420152016, 2017.
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