Thursday, September 29, 2005

Knitting in Autumn

These are my two latest knitting projects. The hat is cabled, even though it's hard to tell because of the striping. I was looking for a pattern that is for a hat knit in the round, but without cables. I wanted to make one with Noro Silk Garden, because I really like that yarn. It's self striping and the yarn is really soft. I guess I could use this pattern and just not do the cables. The other project is going to be a vest, using all my leftover yarn. So far it's working, but I really changed the pattern, so I hope it'll fit. The colors might not work that well, though. Maybe if I made the stripes thinner, it wouldn't look like it's from the seventies. I really want to try a different kind of yarn, but I can't for a while. I can't get any more until I use up what I have, and for some reason, I seem to have a lot of yellow and pink wool yarn. There's not much I can make with those two colors, since they are my least favorite.

Friday, September 23, 2005

No Graphic Novel

I used pastels on this drawing. It was meant to be a flat, mosaic-like picture of a cornucopia. I think it turned out like I planned. I've been trying to work on a graphic novel, but it's harder than I expected. I'm not that good at drawing completely from memory and making it look professional. I noticed that especially when I draw people from memory, I tend to fall back on my preconcieved ideas from junior high. I know that's a common thing. You draw the face or body as how you think it looks, without paying attention to how it actually is. One example is putting the eyes at the top of the head, because that's where our attention usually goes. But they are in the center of the head in reality. So, the people I'm drawing look cartoonish and odd, but when I draw from life, they look more or less realistic. So it's kind of frustrating trying to draw specific scenes totally from my imagination. I guess that's good, though, because it's challenging.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

New York Graffiti Art

I saw this movie recently, 'Style Wars'. It's about the graffiti movement that started in the early eighties in New York. It documents people who go down into the subways at night and create these huge murals. After a while the city, the mayor, and the subway system owners get really upset, and see it as a serious crime. The documentary interviews all these people who ride the subway, and they all are outraged and feel the artwork is horrible. They don't see it as artwork, but as the same as someone just randomly spraying all over, like a squiggly line or something. In fact one guy says that if these kids who do the graffiti have so much energy, they ought to be given a mop, and they can just go mop up the city. As if they are just randomly spraying all over, like a nervous tic or something. I thought that was one of the most insulting things in the whole movie.
These are a few examples of the New York subway art. The one on the upper left is from 1981 and is done by one of the best known graffiti artists during that beginning time period. You can really see how wrong it was for the public to hate it so much. Some people truly preferred a blank, gray concrete wall. I just have to wonder at what is wrong with them, that they don't appreciate art or beauty. I feel as strongly about the ads that are everywhere now. They seem more offensive and dangerous than this does. People are definately not outraged at ads appearing everywhere, because that's approved and institutionalized. I think it's the idea that people are doing something on their own that's creating a noticable difference, because everyone can see the murals, and that's the problem. The businesses who create ads have to right to cover everything with ads, because they are the leaders of this country. But marginalized, poor kids who aren't paying into the system, or getting approved by the authorities should never have a public space to say anything they want. The seems to be the reason why the city and those average people are so outraged by the graffiti.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Dreams in our Brains

I have been thinking about dreams lately. It’s strange how there are complete stories that go on every night, if you can only remember them. Something I’ve noticed is how the feelings in dreams seemed tied to body position, while you’re sleeping. You can sometimes remember your dream, if you can get into the same body position as when you were sleeping. I’ve heard that some people never remember their dreams, and are unaware of even having any. There does seem to be a prevaling attitude that they are new age nonsense, and are not important. But then that’s like saying most art is nonsense, since dreams seem to be untapped or unfocused creativity. Of course, a lot of people do believe all art is basically worthless, except maybe to profit off of.

I also think it’s odd that dreams usually are ordered into a coherent story, with all these parts generally fitting together. If the main purpose of dreams is to process information you saw during the day, wouldn’t it just be random bits of pictures or thoughts? I’ve heard that we organize dreams into stories because our brains are wired to arrange incoherent events or ideas into a coherent form, and that’s why dreams seem to be complete stories. It’s still interesting that we even dream at all. Maybe it’s because our brains are active all the time, even during sleep. They are almost as active during sleep as when we’re awake. I used to think that they shut down, or sleep, like our bodies, with almost no activity. But if they did do that, I guess we wouldn’t be alive. I guess I’ve been thinking about brains a lot lately, mainly because it’s so interesting, and that so much of it is still unknown.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Brain & All That

I was listening to this audio book about the brain, and I thought a few things were interesting. One was how the fear response starts, or how a phobia can start. It is a part of the brain that isn’t in the frontal lobe, but I don’t remember exactly what it’s called. It’s a smaller, more primitive part. It takes a broader look at a situation, and creates a fear response for everything similar to the feared object or situation. If being in a car accident was a fearful, traumatic event, then afterwards, hearing a car, when you aren’t in one, or seeing a car that looks similar to the one you were driving, triggers fear. It helps you avoid anything like a car accident in the future, even though it gets connected to all these other details. You can’t rationalize the fear response, because it’s in a different part of the brain, and is mainly an involuntary reaction. I think that’s interesting because it’s like two parts of your mind are struggling against each other, because you want to override the fear towards the general triggers that start the phobia. And there isn’t a way to do that.

Another interesting part was about autistics and how they are unable to read people and their emotional states. Most people can pick up on subtle variations in facial expressions, and know basically what the person’s emotional state is. Autistics aren’t focused on reading those subtle cues. Other people read those cues without really being aware of it. I guess the cues are coming so fast or they are processed on a different level than our conscious mind, so we aren’t deliberately trying to read the person’s emotional state most of the time. If autistics were to function more normally, they would have to learn to read people consciously, by memorizing what the facial expressions of a certain emotion look like. It makes me aware of how many things are going on in the brain that we aren’t conscious of, which seems to be the majority.

I’ve heard from people that even driving becomes like that, they are just going through the motions, like it’s happening in an automatic part of their brain. I’ve had that with walking, when I suddenly realize that I’m home already, without necessarily remembering how I got there. All the automatic functions our body does normally to keep us alive happen unconsciously, and even ones I wouldn’t have thought of like fear and social interactions. It surprises me sometimes that it all works so effectively and we usually don’t see any of these background processes working badly or sporadically.

Fantastically New Knitting Projects

I’ve started a couple of new knitting projects. One is a vest using up some of my leftover yarn, and the other is a basic cabled hat. The vest is one where I have to significantly change the pattern, so hopefully it will turn out okay. One thing I realized is that I like listening to audio books while I knit. Before, I was watching TV, but I can’t stand watching it most of the time, because it's so annoying. So, the audio books are much better. Another thing I’m trying is brioche knitting with two colors. It looks like one color is woven into the other, but the finished result looks different than just changing colors every other stitch. So far, I can make it look like it’s supposed to on one side, but the colors are supposed to be reversed on the opposite side, and that hasn’t worked yet. I’m glad it’ll be fall soon, so I can wear my knitted stuff!

Monday, September 12, 2005

New Improved Artistic Idea

I decided to start a graphic novel, but I have to come up with the story. I’ve done some drawings about my dreams, so I thought maybe I could illustrate some of my more intense dreams. Some of them seem almost like an action movie, where I’m quickly trying to figure out or find something, while bloodthirsty people are chasing me. I think some of the stories could be interesting, if I develop the plots more. I want to make a change in my artwork, because it just isn’t working for me. I feel like I’m redoing the same ideas, and this might break me out of the routine. I was thinking about Robert Crumb’s comic books, and how he used his drawing to define the psychedelic era. I also like how he used humor to work through some of his own issues. I never really thought of graphic novels too much before, because I’d only seen those fantasy and sci-fi type comics, and I don’t like those. But they can be about anything, and don’t even have to look like a cartoon. I thought it might help with composition, because I would want the layout to look different than a regular cartoon, with white word bubbles and regular panels.
This is a picture of the nearby river at sunset, with trees in the background. It's done in crayon, so it was difficult to blend the reflected light of the sun into the water. I do like how bright crayons can be, and how cheap. I like them a lot better than pencils, even though it sometimes feels strange using kid's crayons. Anyway, I think I might sketch out some of the pages of the graphic novel in crayon, to see how the composition is. But first, I have to write the actual story.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Thoughts on Media Images

I noticed some discussions of the Dove advertising campaign. I think the ads started this summer, and although I haven't really seen them around in my city, I've heard more about the reactions to them.

I am surprised by how upset some people got because of the models. One was Roeper, from Ebert & Roeper, and the others seemed to be mostly male journalists. They were largely disgusted by the models, and said they were fat and promoted obesity. For one thing, I don’t know what his definition of obesity is; it must include everyone except those extremely thin models. Also, I’m surprised by how angry some of the reactions are, with people spray painting insults on billboards of the models. I didn’t think people took these ad campaigns so seriously. I would think everyone is so sick of seeing models and all the airbrushed media people, that they would be glad to see something slightly different for a change. For me, all those people start to blur together, and are so airbrushed and perfected, that they don’t even seem beautiful anymore. They seem like what they are, fake-looking products used to promote other products. So I was surprised that people, mainly men, seem outraged that the women aren’t ultra thin airbrushed models of perfection. They can’t seem to let go of the idea of women as the ultimate commodities. If a woman isn’t absolutely perfect, she must be worthless, because she has only her looks to compete with and the men can have the highest standards possible. I’m sure most of the men complaining were nowhere near as good looking as the women they claim are ugly. If they, mainly Roeper, were solely judged on looks, they’d never get a date with any of the “obese” women, much less with some supermodel.

Another thing about the campaign from the other side, that is the women who support seeing larger models, is that having normal size models is just another way to sell the product. Even though they claim it’s groundbreaking, it just shows how the industry changes based only on what sells. If everyone were suddenly attracted to models who weighed 250 pounds, that’s who would sell the product. They use super thin beautiful women because both men and women respond to them the most. Women have a template they can aspire to be like, and men are attracted to them. The company is uses women’s insecurities against them to sell products, and in this case, makes it seem like a campaign for the good of society. I assumed no one really believes that Dove has any other reason for the ads, except to sell products. But so many people acted like the ads infringed on their rights to see unnaturally thin, beautiful women, that I thought they must really like ads, and like the negative affect they have on our society.

I think the all of the ads are insidious, because they turn our desires and fears against us, and brainwash us into the corporate culture. The journalists complaining about the ads, and the women supporting them, are announcing that they are completely dominated by the ad culture. After all, most everyone in the media has to be, or they couldn’t be there. Roeper and the journalists make their living responding to the media, which is basically driven by the advertising industry. I, for one, would prefer to see plain, ugly, or fat people than any model. I’m so sick of having the image of the perfected beautiful woman, or man, forced into my mind in every media outlet. Even the overly perfected men are obnoxious. The media holds the standards of beauty so strictly, that the people don’t even seem perfect anymore, and start to just look weird, because they all look the same. I think it’s that syndrome where if you meet a good looking person who you start to dislike, they seem less and less attractive. And a plain person with a much better personality starts to look better to you. That’s a big part of the problem, that the models and media people mostly have really annoying personalities. Even the models, because you know their only purpose in ads is to either make you feel bad about yourself, or tease you into buying some product.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Blue Jellyfish

Originally uploaded by deborah lattimore.
I saw this picture, and thought it was really well done. I especially like the colors of the jellyfish. It's so strange to think that there are millions of them in the ocean, since they look so other-worldly.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Swimming at Night

I recently took some swimming lessons, as a beginner. I never learned how to swim as a kid, even though it seemed like I went to the pool all the time. I guess I was just hanging out in the pool. I always wanted to learn, but never did. So, I decided to learn as an adult and swim for the exercise. The first thing I realized is that it would take more than six lessons to get good. Another thing is that it is much harder than I expected, and I mean more strenuous. I felt like I could hardly breathe, and that was mostly from the exercise. The other hard part was being comfortable breathing in a rhythm and having my face in the water. It felt so unnatural, like I couldn't get enough air. Part of it was because it felt so strenuous. It is odd taking lessons, because there were usually kids classes at the same time as mine. The kids were more advanced swimmers than I was, which is kind of embarrasing.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

A Problematic Sweater

I just finished this. It turned out a little too big, but I don't want to redo it. The neckline and shoulder area are supposed to be more fitted. Instead the shoulders seem to stiffly hang off my arms, and won't contour to my arm. It doesn't necessarily look like that, but I can feel it fitting wrong. So, I'll just live with it. Once I try a pattern, I don't normally like to knit it again. I figure I learned what I could from it. The whole design of the sweater seems less interesting, because I know how the finished product is. With this sweater's pattern, it didn't turn out how it should, so I'd benefit from redoing the pattern. The original pattern called for a felted flower to be sewn onto the front, which I might do for another sweater, or a bag. One thing I discovered is that I've used the same type of yarn for every sweater I'd knit, Brown Sheep wool & mohair. I don't even like that yarn all that much, it is just the cheapest one available at the yarn store. The sweaters always turn out too bulky and seem stiff, and I think maybe it's because of the yarn. On my next sweater, I want to try either cotton or alpaca yarn. They might drape better, and would be a change.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Surreal Scene

Originally uploaded by sphilange.
This is an example of sketches in crayon that I've been doing. I like using them, because they are really bright, and cover a lot of area. Pencils get really tedious, and I prefer working with color.

Thomas Kinkade & Recycled Art

I have been doing sketches in crayon, just to put less pressure on the sketches. Sometimes I get too caught up in making my artwork look a certain way, like a preconceived notion, that I end redoing the same idea. It is difficult to completely break out of your current way of creating artwork, and find a new idea. I think that is the hardest part actually, and it shows the difference between true artists and graphic designers, or someone who just uses the same template for a painting. Thomas Kinkade is like that, and I really don’t like his work. But he isn’t an artist, he‘s a commercial designer, or businessman, who counts on using the same American flag, misty forests, porch swings, and other stereotypical themes in every painting. In a way, that is good, since he makes money, and I know it’s much harder to make money selling cutting edge, completely original work.
I notice there’s a lot of artwork and designers who are focused on using recycled materials in their work. That seems really interesting to me, because it’s using creativity in a raw form, to find new ways to look at the materials and find an innovative use for them. One idea I saw is using a laundry detergent bottle and turning it into a lamp. Another is using those plywood pallets, which you see in alleys, and turning them into lawn chairs, picnic baskets, and beds. There is already so much stuff that’s been made there will have to come a point where it becomes cheaper to recycle something that already exists, than to manufacture something from scratch. I want to get into doing more artwork with recycling materials, because it is so open. Painting a regular painting is limited, because all it can do is hang on the wall, but if I made sculpture or something more interactive or useful, it would be a way to break out of my usual way of creating art.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Food Addictions

I have been exercising regularly now for about 2 years now, and have gotten in a lot better shape and lost weight. Before that I was just doing the bare minimum, because I didn’t think it was that important. But, now I realize how vigilant I have to be just to stay healthy. Nothing is more important, since the quality of our lives is the basis of everything else. I feel wrong now if I don’t exercise, just like eating too much junk food. I was going to the gym, but haven’t for a while. I miss going though, because it felt psychologically as if I exercised correctly. When I exercise on my own, it doesn’t seem as valid, because I’m not using machines, I guess.

One thing I read in an Oprah magazine, for some unknown reason, was some secrets of hers to not gain weight. It was eating jello or nonfat yogurt, or something else equally unappetizing, and pretending to herself that it was as good as a sundae. That whole way of dieting seems really sad, because it’s denying yourself something that really isn’t that bad. Unless you eat one every day, it seems like a minor thing. The effort to keep yourself away from sundaes seems greater than the damage they do. It made me think that a lot of other women have an uncontrollable desire for the sundae or other food, so much so, that they have to go to extreme lengths to convince themselves that replacement food tastes good or is satisfying, when it isn’t. But I guess it is stronger than some people can control, since we are biologically programmed to crave fat, and to store it in case of a famine.


     I’ve been reading about Hurricane Katrina and had no idea it was so huge. I saw somewhere that it’s the worst storm ever to hit this country, and is creating the biggest emergency state. I hear about the hurricanes off and on, during the summer, but I never thought that much about how bad it really is. I’ve never lived anywhere that had such extreme weather, so it doesn’t seem as real to me. That’s not an excuse, but proximity does make a difference. It’s easy to distance yourself from a lot of the things you hear about in the news, since the news is mostly a bunch of crises. But now, hearing about how New Orleans and other areas are destroyed, I can see how terrible it must be. Now there are all these refugees trying to get out of the area, food and water shortages, and all the continuing problems. It’s a huge emergency, and it seems like it happened so suddenly.
     It shows how society and our lives seem stable and predictable, and then something uncontrollable happens, and everything changes. Everyone who owned houses, had a job, and was stable is now a refugee with nothing. It shows how tenuous our lives are, and it makes me appreciate that I haven’t been in any real emergency situations. Of course, I feel bad for those people who have to deal with that situation. It sounds like a war zone, almost. There’s looting, people are dead, and everything’s destroyed. I can’t really comprehend what it must be like.