Eppur Si Muove Mandala

My momma says it all goes around

This summer on Habitica I’ve joined a reading challenge, and as part of that I re-read Ann Leckie‘s stellar Ancillary series.  If you haven’t, I cannot recommend them highly enough and I am so looking forward to Provenance, the new book in that universe.

As often happens, I then ended up with Foz Meadow’s version of “It all goes around” (video) in my head as I was coloring this.

Side note: I have finally discovered LivePaint for Illustrator and it is so useful. so! useful! Also highly recommend!

And so it shouldn’t be too surprising that I ended up with a mandala edged in the fires of the sun, with planets swirling in arcs around the green crust and molten core of a planet in a geocentric view of the universe? Or are these the cycles of electrons around their nucleus? Fire, water, air, and earth?

A little of all are to be seen here in stasis, and yet … does it not move?

Upper right quadrant of a mandala mostly blue with an edge of yellow and red and green dots

Eppur Si Muove Mandala

See the full design on RedBubble.

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The Heart Like a Flower Grows Mandala

A minor confession

I need to make a minor confession here … the reason it’s occasionally difficult to write the blog posts for my work is that they’re not always recent.  Sometimes I’ve just finished them, but I started them months (or years) ago.  Sometimes the pace of work and life has become so hectic that I’m writing these well after the work is done and published.  Whatever the reason for the delay, it means that I have sometimes lost the urgency and meaning of the work.

As one might guess, that obtains with the one I’m posting about today.  And yet, there is a thing to be said.

The mystic in the ordinary

Recently, I’ve been reading again The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.  I find it both fascinating and mediocre.  I find the way the plot plays out to be … unconvincing. As a piece of craft, however, I find it fascinating.

In some ways, it reminds me of Lovecraft and his unspeakable horrors. The entire concept of the circus is one of mysteries perfectly executed in part by magic, and that blends with the entire concept of the book.  And like the Lovecraftian horrors, one cannot cannot make them explicit without bringing them into a scope where our minds can put them into scale or comparison to other things.

Yes, there is a lot of glowing semi-detail in the book, but it is all about limited physical details.  That’s just a gloss.  More importantly, there is no explicit building of the relationships between any of the characters (just hints and mysteries). It’s the opposite of “show, don’t tell” … “hint and tell, but don’t show”.

All of which may be to say that I appreciate the author’s ability to pull off a novel’s worth of story in this mystique style, well enough that it was a best-selling novel.  After all, it’s something I have so far only tried in miniature form or in poetry, and for me it takes a certain kind of thing where I hook my brain to the mystery of the universe and let words come out.  I can’t imagine doing that for the length of a book and interweaving past and present and multiple points of view.

Circling to the point

This mandala is one I hadn’t posted yet until I was suddenly ordering prints for my first art show (yes, more on that later), and so I had become detached from the original thinking (let’s all pretend it was deeper than “hey, what if I put leaves on a mandala?”) and needed a title in a hurry.  Nothing was immediately forthcoming, and so I hooked my brain to that associative subconscious mystery generator and thus this became The Heart Like A Flower Grows:

The Heart Like a Flower Grows a mandala with a a blue background, green leaves, striped red/pink hearts, purple petals, and a ring of yellow with orange dots


Available on RedBubble fully colored and as an outline.

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Caution: Contains Multitudes

The other night I ended up getting an e-copy of Austin Kleon‘s Steal Like An Artist [1]. It was worth the $2 (so, if you’re in an unsure of yourself stage in just about anything, go get it).

Near the end are an assortment of text-based illustrations (Kleon does poetry by blacking out parts of newspapers; fascinating) and one is just these two words,: CONTAIN MULTITUDES.[2]

In a flash of inspiration, a new design came to me and I put most of it together in half an hour.

It’s already up on RedBubble and CafePress [3], with Zazzle soon to come.

[1] Because Daniel Abraham RT’d Kleon’s tweet about it being $1.99 (links here, probably not that cheap today maybe).  Daniel is the fellow who got me started on this about 15 years ago by asking for a RiotNrrd shirt, so thanks once again are due to him. :)

[2] It’s a reference to the Walt Whitman poem “Song of Myself“, of which is usually quoted just this:

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

[3] Because I have to post a new design there every three months or I get even worse rates, and I use text-based designs for that.

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Interwoven Trees Redux

Wait, It’s Done?

About five years ago, I sketched out a pair of trees whose branches crossed together, forming a heart between them.  Almost exactly two years ago, I posted it on this blog. Since then, it’s been one of the pieces I get the most emails about, asking to use it for weddings or logos.

But the image I have is … a not-great scan of a pen drawing on a 5×7 piece of paper.  So I didn’t really want to have people pay me money for this thing in this state.  I wanted to make a nice, crisp, clean vector version that I could feel really good about (and, er, clean up some infelicities of my drawing).

This would be the largest vectorization project I’d ever undertaken.  I tried several different ways to do it (most of which were terrible and/or time-consuming), but ultimately I learned SO MUCH about Illustrator by doing it.

Then I got distracted by mandalas and a hundred other things (not all art) and this fell by the wayside.

Just a couple weeks ago I opened it back up to see just how much more work there was to be done.  I was surprised to find that it was … not that much work left.

So I spent most of a week’s work time banging on it (learning even more) and finished it just before going on vacation last week.  IT IS DONE.

The Part You’ve Skimmed To Get To

As you can see, I have also put together a watermark for images that I post on this here blog, to help prevent people from snitching them (which did happen with the old image of these trees).  FINALLY.

At this time, I have not yet posted this to any of the Print on Demand sites.  I may do that soon, and my royalty rate may be a bit higher than than usual for it.

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Apparently This Is A Thing I’m Doing

It All Started When I Got Bored

At some point in the distant past, I picked up a small packet of blank Artist Trading Cards, thinking I’d just draw some micro trees or something. Artist Trading Cards are basically exactly what you think they are – small, slightly bigger than business card size, bits of original art that you as an artist trade with other people.

With a Little Help From a Friend

At some point in the not-entirely-distant past, a friend of mine from Colorado who is also a talented tattoo artist (FB as “Ink by Anna”) decided to start making some paintings and selling them via Art-o-Mat.  I have been fascinated by this concept ever since, but it just never seemed to make sense – I mostly do electronic work, not physical, and mechanically reproduced stuff is frowned on.

Add One Immersive Experience and a Vending Machine

In mid-March, I happened to be in Santa Fe and visited Meow Wolf.  I recommend it highly (unless you have mobility issues; it is not entirely accessible)!  It’s the product of an entire collective of artists and I am incredibly sad that I am not close enough to try to work with them. And in their lobby, they have an Art-o-Mat.

I bought an art!

Part of me wants to tell you all that it was an incredibly beautiful piece that I will treasure forever.  But it wasn’t, and that was possibly the best thing ever.  It’s the kind of art someone can make that will sell for $5 (of which the artist gets only a part) and encourage the buyer to go check out their other art!

That means it’s art I could do!

Circling Back to the Top of this Post

Of course, I needed to do some test pieces even before submitting a prototype for approval, and goodness, these Artist Trading Cards are just about the right size (about 1/2″ too big).  I plunked down the art block I bought, traced around it, and started sketching.

The first ten all took way too long.

Oh, did I forget to mention that, if approved, the minimum number to send them is fifty?  That’s going to take a while to make, so I want to make a lot in advance.  And if I don’t get approved, I guess I’ll sell them directly or use them as business cards or something.

Even if I manage to make them simpler (and thus not take as long), I’m still not sure that the math works out to make them financially worth doing in and of themselves, so I also need to start bumping up production of other things to be bought by people who get my stuff from an Art-o-Mat (if, of course, I’m approved).

And yet, I’m excited about doing this.

So, apparently this is a thing I’m doing.

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A Challenger Has Appeared

A challenger (for my art time) has appeared!

I posted a while ago about trying a new media (in Always Be Pushing Your Art Boundaries) with some new techniques at one of those paint-and-booze places, and that was pretty successful.  I then went back later with a friend and did another painting there, and tried a few extra ideas picked up from watching Bob Ross and they

Side note: Did you know that Bob Ross episodes are streamed regularly on twitch.tv?  I did!  It’s soothing to listen to and kinda fascinating to watch!

So, I picked up the next $5 set of assorted acrylic paints and some brushes and pulled out some of the stack of 8×10 canvasses.  After all, it’s so easy when a professional like Bob does it, surely I can!

About that conviction that I can teach myself anything …

It’s not totally unwarranted, though that doesn’t mean I’ll be good at it any time soon.

On the other hand, I’ve been hearing lately that the whole Ten Thousand Hours thing isn’t necessarily the be-all-end-all of learning, because that’s to mastery, which isn’t what we need or want to do with everything. To get basic competency is only about twenty hours, if the Internet isn’t misleading me.

Side note: as usual, that’s hours of mindful practice, not just a few minutes here and there of dicking around.

I’m getting closer to twenty hours of work on doing backgrounds!  I have figured out that watering down the acrylics for smoother coverage is a legit thing!  I am getting a little better at this blending thing for skies!  I have spent another $50+ on more paint and brushes!

However, I am still having a heck of a time with line thickness.  This is, as you might guess, kind of critical for painting trees.

So, instead I’ll share this photo of one of my first paintings, in which I tried to reproduce from a thumbnail a paint-and-booze take on Manet:

a painted scene of a pond with water lillies and pads in blues, greens, and reds.

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