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 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  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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To Bigotry No Sanction

And so the wheel turns again

I’ve mentioned before that my focus goes in cycles.  I seem to have cycled back to both trees and text-based designs at the same time, which gives me something completely different to do when I need to take a step back from a piece to come at it fresh later.

The trees aren’t ready to post quite yet (for one, I’ve been working in physical media which requires time to take photos), but I do have a text-based design that I think is fairly timely.

To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance

Recently a friend shared on social media the text of a letter from George Washington in 1790 to the Hebrew Congregations of Newport, and a part of it poked me right in the brain (it is, assuredly a not infrequently quoted piece of his).

The paragraph goes like this:  “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

In these times, this sentiment of giving no sanction to bigotry nor assistance to persecution seems particularly relevant. Thus this design:

Black text on white background: To Bigotry No Sanction, To Persecution No Assistance

This design available on RedBubble (and in white on dark) and on Zazzle (and in white on dark, as a button, on a mug, on a totebag because Zazzle is being stupid about showing all the products on a single page for Ineffable Reasons).

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Sunset on the Rockies Mandala

On going back and going on

At the beginning of December, I traveled out to the Denver metro area to visit with my grandparents and some good friends (though not as many as I always would want to see).  It was cold and brisk and dry and I both had missed it all and not missed it all (brrrrr).

It struck me particularly hard this trip that I hadn’t been back in nearly 7 years and that, for me, everyone else there is still stuck in 7 years ago but that seven years is a long long time and time doesn’t actually stop for them either.   So, it now would be as strange to move back as it was to move here; all one can do is keep going on.

The castles built in memory fall not into ruin

I was also reminded that I miss places nearly as much as I miss people, and I’ve missed the tall mountains by my side as I drive up and down the freeway.  I miss the crispness of the air.  I miss uncrowded roads (and oh, I miss having enough lanes).  I miss the familiarity of the routes I have driven so many times.

Not long after starting what would become the World on Fire Mandala, I started a new design on some of the same principles with a spiky heart surrounded by lotus petals, some wire twisted around itself, all within sharp peaks pointing out.

It wasn’t until I put in the orange fading to dark deep red that I realized I was recreating memories of sunsets in the Rockies, where the shadows fall on the high desert foothills while the peaks are lit up.

Sunset on the Rockies Mandala

You can find it on RedBubble (as is typical) and on Zazzle (which is not).

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