Saturday, January 27, 2007

Guinness Extra Stout and Digital Art Blues

Guinness Extra Stout is the lesser known relative of Guinness. You know, if Guinness were a tall, fit, handsome movie star, Extra Stout would be his short, stocky, non-famous overlooked brother. Most grocery stores around here have it. It'll be the dark-glassed, yellow bottle-capped six pack next to the Guinness. It is a short beer - the bottles are smaller. It doesn't have that fancy doohicky in the bottle to create the head, either. But it packs a punch.

It tastes just like Guinness (really, big surprise, that), but there is more of that taste in each sip. As if its flavor is denser. It's a bit stoutier, with a tang. I can't access the stupid Guinness website without getting cookies, so I haven't checked, but I think it has more alcohol than regular Guinness. A good beer to go with a meal, especially pizza. Mmmmm, pizza.

M: 6
N: 7.5

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After my in-your-face experience with pastels last week, I was ready for a break. Pastels are a very hands-on medium. After each session, I had beautifully colored dust on my hands, arms, elbows, fingers, face, and under my fingernails. I wore the same sweatshirt each time, and it'll never be the same. My nose-blowing was multicolored. There was dust all over my art table, supplies, lamps, and floor. I'm not sure if it bothered me or not; the jury's still out on whether I like using pastels. But it was enough for one week.

So, I got out my trusty tablet with intent to work on the winoctopus. Then I remembered that I promised to do new stationery for my dad's business for Christmas, which, you'll notice, was a month ago. So I began working on that. The biggest thing I've learned from it (painfully, I'll add): the GIMP is not a good tool for drawing straight lines.

I'm not sure whether Photoshop or some other non-open-source program for Mac or Windows could do it better; no experience with those. I'm a Linux girl all the way. But oy, this project had me wishing for the days when I had access to AutoCAD and Unigraphics. I would have had it done in 1/10th the time.

I could press shift to make the paintbrush tool do a straight line, but there were no detents and the line was faint, more pixels wide than the brush, and would change thickness halfway through. It was so annoying. If I didn't have my tablet, I would have given up long ago to go find new wrists, since mine would have fallen off.

Lesson: Anything with geometry will be done with good old-fashioned pencil, paper, and ruler, then scanned. My wrists will thank me.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Butte Creek Organic Porter and Artistic Courage

Butte Creek Organic Porter is this week's beer. It hails from California, and reminds me of all the good things about the state - sunshine, rolling hills, and warm evenings. It is, of course, organic, which means they use no pesticides or chemicals to grow the ingredients. Its flavor is sweet, smooth, and crisp, with a light tang and aftertaste. It just goes to show that wholesome ingredients = good beer. It also proves that just because something is organic doesn't mean it has to cost an arm and a leg - it is very reasonably priced, and cheaper than a lot of the beers we've reviewed.
M: 8.5
N: 9

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I'm still working on that pastel piece from last week, but I have no new insights or complaints. So this week I'll wax philosophical.

Artistic courage is a many-faceted part of being an artist that few people discuss. I thought I had a good handle on it, until yesterday, when I made my first sales call. Oy.

The courage I do have, I apply to the works of art themselves. I'm not afraid to waste film, paint, paper, etc. I'm not afraid of an empty piece of paper - in fact, I look at it as a challenge. When something is going through an "ugly" stage, I never for a moment fear that it won't work itself out. And if it doesn't... no big deal. I've learned from the experience and improved myself as an artist.

But then there's the other part of arting - selling stuff. I'm excellent at posting things on the Internets, but lousy at promoting. And having a bunch of people you don't know "favorite" your art or photos is great, but gets you zero dollars. So I must sell myself, and that, I'm afraid of. Yesterday I called up a small store in Laurens, IA, where my family lives and the subject of many of my photos. I asked the owner if she'd be interested in selling photos of local scenes... and she was wonderful, helpful, and a joy to work with. It turned out well, as I told myself it would. But it took a long time and a lot of courage for me to make that call. This part of artistic courage is something I need to practice, and although it probably doesn't come naturally to many artists, I haven't seen much written about it. Anyone have any insights?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Left Hand Milk Stout and Pastels

Left Hand Milk Stout is a delicious delicious beer. It tastes like liquid milk chocolate. Like chocolate milk, but with alcohol. Like that time we made shakes with chocolate ice cream and Kahlua, only better. Like ordering a tasty chocolate treat at the soda fountain, but beer. Oh so good.

We've tried a couple beers from Left Hand Brewing, and they're all good. My only complaint is that their website requires Flash. Bad web design practice. But this beer could atone for so many wrongs. It's like a get-out-of-jail-free card. And it came with a sticker!


M: 10
N: 9 (Stingy, no? He has given a few 10s... one is on another Left Hand beer)

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I have never before tried soft pastels (I did oil pastels once when I was, like, 8). But after seeing many great pastel works in the WetCanvas wildlife board, I picked up a cheap set of 24 and two giant toned pastel papers. I chose one of my many to-do art projects and got started with my new supplies. And I can't say that I'm enjoying it too much.

Getting used to a new medium takes time. But my main problem with pastels is their chunkiness. I can't sharpen them to a point like a pencil or a paintbrush. The end is a huge square hunk. You *can* sharpen them, sure, but then half the stick has become a pile of dust that you may or may not manage to use before your cat sneezes on it.

I've finished the background by blending (pastels blend very nicely) with tissue paper, q-tips, and a sponge brush. All the dust is either worked into the paper or I've tapped it off. The subject, however, needs detail that's hard to get with a chunky tip. They say you can use Colour Shapers to push the dust into fine lines, so I'll try that... but there's always dust left over. Blow it? Tap the paper? Whatever you do, don't touch it or it comes off on your fingers.

I used the rough side of the paper because some genius put an indelible price tag on the fine side. I think the fine side would have been easier to work with. Also, pastels require a dedicated shirt. I don't think the pigment dust will ever come out of the sweatshirt I'm using. I look like a chimney sweep.

After all that, though, I can think of one good thing to say about pastels - their colors are so very bright if you don't dilute the dust. Just don't breathe on it, ever.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Guinness and Gouache Portrait WIP

How could I keep a blog about dark beer and not include Guinness? When I was first introducing myself to beer in general, Guinness was the only dark beer I knew. My first pint was an entirely new experience. I won't go into the Guinness details, since most people are likely to know them already, and if not, go here.

Guinness will always have a place in my heart, but after having tasted so many other dark beers, it doesn't stand out. It's smooth, and actually quite bland compared to some. It's a drinkable beer - you can have it with dinner - as opposed to some that are an experience, or a dessert, by themselves. Rating:

M: 7
N: 7

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Gouache Portrait WIP - the last installment, I promise

This is simply a visual step-by-step of my portrait of Grandpa. Other than the toning wash, all the steps show opaque application with very little blending. The background was done with layered washes, dabbing, and a sponge. The illo board I worked on curled up after the first wash, so the photos are a bit distorted. It is also why the first picture includes a beer bottle.

And the final result: link