Archive for April, 2010

Dispatch: The Living Deadline and The Sea Of Lonely

Friday, April 23rd, 2010
Lonely Desk

A lonely desk. Ink Drawing.

I had some time to doodle a bit in my sketch book when I got home from work last night.

Work’s been on my mind quite a bit lately. I am working under 3 deadlines for 3 different projects, I’m running at about 12 hour days. There isn’t room for much else in my mind other than work.

The Sea of Lonely

When I have deadlines like this, which isn’t often, my head goes to a certain space. Many things run on autopilot, and I just devote my brain energy to churning out the work. I know there is a lot to do, so it is a slow burn of mental energy.

Anyhow, these are last night’s doodles. When I have time, I draw for an hour or so after I get home from work. Work –> home –> draw –> sleep.

This sequence becomes an isolated process, and that was the inspiration for the drawing on the right. When I am in the office at 8pm, after everyone has left, I am in a sea of stuff, but none of it is relevant, except what is in front of me at the time. It’s a sea of loneliness, and I float through it as I work.

Focus is lonely.

Living Deadline

zombie worker drawing

Night of the Living Deadline, Ink Drawing

As I mentioned, I am working under a few deadlines. Most of my mental energy goes towards meeting these deadlines, except for the few bits I keep in reserve for drawing and typing out these posts.

After a bit of time, I feel like my mind has been sapped, my awareness is down, and I am just lumbering through life, working to meet this deadline.

I started this drawing, not intending any zombie reference, just attempting to capture the worn out look of someone burning on both ends to meet the deadline. It ended up looking fairly zombie-like, and the “living deadline” title presented itself. I was feeling a bit like a zombie when I drew this, it was late and I was tired. I was home from my 4th 12-hour day in a row. The lines are crooked, it’s kind of jacked up. It was drawn by a zombie.

A deadline zombie.

The zombie outbreak is real, and it has been going on for decades. It is the turning of white collar workers into mindless zombies, hell-bent on one task, finishing the project to meet the deadline.

We are all zombies now.


I like this idea, I might flesh this one out.

Ha! Flesh. As in zombie flesh. Get it?

Never mind.

Dispatch: Coloring Ductwork And Understanding Problems

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

I got to work this morning and found this on my desk:

engineering drawings

Ductwork Layout in a building, color coded for clarity

Turns out I made this the day before. By the time I was finishing this, around hour 12, I wasn’t taking a bird’s-eye view of what I had done.

I got to work, saw it all laid out in front of me and thought it looked kinda neat. After all, it is kinda neat. My supervisor walked by this morning and said, “Ooooh, pretty”.

It’s ductwork. Pretty ductwork. Green and blue are supply ducts, Red is return and exhaust ducts.

The color coding helps me wrap my head around what is what. I’m retrofitting an existing building, and what I need to design depends on what is already there. It’s a lot to keep track of, color-coding helps me keep track of it. What you see above is one floor on one half of the building. It’s a big job. Sometimes it feels bigger than my mind.

I get sucked into this type of work. I can do it for hours on end.

It is soothing, in its own way. Each new duct I color in adds to my understanding. I assembled this puzzle in my mind throughout the day, adding piece after piece, until I understood how all the pieces fit together. I know what each piece does, and how the new pieces that I have been tasked with adding have to fit into this overall system.

Understanding calms me down. It helps me focus, and once I have understanding, I know how to proceed to complete the task.

Most problems have simple solutions, once you know what the problem is.

The tricky part, the part that may require days of coloring in ductwork, is fully understanding the problem.

Dispatches from the Spice Mines

Monday, April 19th, 2010
pencil sketch of cubicles

Pencil Sketch, dispatched from the Spice Mines

The best laid paths cannot pass through a brick wall in the way.

I had a path set out for myself. I spent the first weekend in January planning 2010. A painting every week! A new woodblock edition every month!

I had an assumption built into those plans, I would not be too busy at the Spice Mines in 2010. I would be just busy enough to keep on working, but not so busy that I would have to commit an extra amount of focus to the job.

Those plans have flown out the window as this year progressed. The Spice Mines have gotten spicier and spicier over the last few months, and now, after already working plenty of nights and weekends, I see myself spending even more time in Chateau Spice.

I’ve been fighting it and fighting it, regular readers have seen my posts about being behind at work or how to focus after a long day of work.

I’ve been fighting it, trying to figure out how to work hard all day, then come home, shift gears, and make beautiful art at night.

Luckily I have good friends, friends who not only help me sort this stuff out, but that prompt me to sort it out for myself as well. My buddy Dave teaches people stuff, how to blog being what he is publicly known for. He teaches other stuff too, like how to get your head right, but that tends to be in our private conversations.

Yesterday Dave called, “what you up to today?” and I had no idea. My plans had fallen so far behind, that once I got a goodness gracious free day to work on art, I didn’t know what to do with it. He told me to come over later in the day, and we’d set stuff straight. He bought me tacos too, and I very much appreciate those as well.

As I did laundry, cleaned my apartment, read some comics, and took a nap, I got to thinking about my situation, cuz I knew Dave and I would be hashing it out later. Big revelation, fighting my situation is the hardest part. I realized a little emotional jujitsu may be in order, and instead of trying to work against my need to double down on the DayJob, I should use that as the fuel.

I’ll probably do that. You’re probably gonna see a lot of art and drawings about being at work and stuff for the next few months. You probably won’t see much promotion or sales stuff here either. I figured out I have time to make art, or I have time to sell art.

Not both.

I’m opting to make art.

Skater Series Woodblock Carving Videos

Sunday, April 11th, 2010
Land Speed Skater Woodblock Print

Indecision Time, 4x4 Woodblock Print

I filmed myself carving the 4th skater series Woodblock Print, and put together this little video.

The block took about 4 hours to carve, but using the magic of video editing software, I crammed all of this into 15 minutes. The video starts with a pencil drawing on the block, and shows the entire carving process, until it is finished and ready to be inked and printed. The video is in two parts, each part is about 8 minutes long.

I threw in all of the punk rock music that I listened to while carving these blocks, and that inspired the beginning of the skater series.

Want to see more of the prints from this series? Maybe even buy some? Check out the Skater Series Gallery.

This print is the last print in a series of 4 prints inspired by punk rock and skateboards. The prints are all 4″x4″, black and white, most done very quickly, in 5 or 6 hours, from start to completed edition.

Part 1:

Tired of my video? Wanna just look at the art? Check out the Skater Series Gallery.

Part 2

Now you’ve seen the video, check out the final print in the Skater Series Gallery!

What Is The Difference Between Western Woodblock Printmaking and Japanese Woodblock Printmaking (Moku Hanga)?

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Executive summary:

Western Woodblock Printmaking uses oil based inks applied to the block with a brayer (roller), and the blocks are sometimes printed with a press, and Japanese Woodblock Prints (aka Moku Hanga) are made with water-based inks applied with a brush, and are printed by rubbing a pad (baren) across the back of the paper.


Before I go on, I should make a little disclaimer: I’ve never made a Japanese Style woodblock print. Everything I know about it is from research, reading, and viewing Japanese Woodblock Prints. As a result, I might be a little irreverent.

Also, I am going to use the terms “Japanese Woodblock Printmaking” and “Moku Hanga” interchangeably. Moku Hanga translates to something like “wood pictures” or “wood graphics”, and is the Japanese name for printmaking.

Ink, Wood and Paper

Woodblock Printmaking is the art of using wood to mash ink onto paper. By carving the block of wood, you can control where ink is applied to the wood, and as a result, where it is mashed onto the paper. Sure, it gets complicated as you add detail to the image, and as you carve multiple blocks to include more colors in the print. Basically, however, it is the same principle regardless of how much detail you include. Mashing ink against paper is mashing ink against paper no matter how you spice it up.

…and no matter where in the world you do it.

There aren’t really many differences between Moku Hanga and Western Woodblock Printmaking. The biggest difference is that Japanese Woodblock Prints are, well, Japanese.

Moku Hanga

Japanese Woodblock Prints use water based ink. The water-based inks used for Japanese Woodblock prints give them a particular texture and quality that I have trouble describing, other than to say “it looks like a Japanese Woodcut”. The technique used to print in the Japanese method results in a little more texture than western methods, because the ink is applied by hand. This leads to a little variation in the density of ink throughout the print.

Speaking of “method”, it is the methods that really make a Japanese Woodblock Print what it is. Moku Hanga uses specific carving tools, which all have very specific names. Each specific tool (with its specific name) is used for a specific task.

Registration is done in a specific way, by carving very specific notches into the woodblock. Each of those notches has a specific name too (kagi and hikitsuke).

The paint is mixed in a very specific way, and applied to the block with a specific type of brush. You use a baren to press the paper against the block, to transfer the ink to the block. [Note: a “baren” is a handheld pad used to rub the paper against the block to transfer the ink] There are different barens for different uses.

Japanese Woodblock Prints are printed on a particular type of paper, called Washi, made in a particular way. This is sometimes called “rice paper”, even though it is not made of rice. It is very thin and delicate, however.

The emphasis on method and tradition is very Japanese (for lack of a better way to describe it). It reminds me of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, where everything is done in a particular way, with particular tools.

Western Woodblock Printmaking

Compare this to Western Woodblock Printing, where it seems that by comparison, anything goes. Use whatever roller you want to apply the ink. Any registration method will do, as long as it works. Press it by hand or run it through a press. It’s all good.

The ink used in western Woodblock Prints is typically oil based, though there are some modern water based inks that are designed to imitate the look and feel of the traditional oils (makes everything less messy).

Ink is applied with a brayer (ie. a roller), which results in a very even and smooth application of ink.

Washi paper is sometimes used, though other papers are also used. Rice paper is not required.

Not much difference

So, what is the difference, other than some very specific traditional ways to do things, and a difference in ink?

The answer is, “not much”.

I may sound a little irreverent about Moku Hanga, please don’t get me wrong. Japanese Woodblock Prints are some of my favorite art from throughout history, and throughout the world. This is merely my perspective from my point of view as a Western-style printmaker.

The goal of each method is to make beautiful art. The process is pretty much the same: Wood, ink, paper. Apply and transfer. Repeat.

Make beautiful art.

Too Busy To Work (or, why TV is so popular)

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

When the DayJob piles on the work, it doesn’t just eat up on time, it eats up on energy and motivation.

I’ve been wrestling with the DayJob lately, they have been loading me up with work. It hasn’t started to push into my free time yet (though I see that coming), but it has sapped a lot of my energy and focus.

When I started this crazy art venture, I wasn’t overloaded at work. Every now and then I would have to work late to catch up, but it was infrequent. Now, however, I have a constant, heavy, stressful load of work.

By the time I get home from work at 6pm, after stressing about the 3 jobs I have due in the next 2 weeks to 2 months, as well as the “gotta have it now” emergency work that gets thrown my way, I am mentally drained. I am not in a mental position to focus on writing, editing audio or video, and most of all, art, which requires plenty of focus.

I am not one of those crazy powerhouses of energy that can go and go and go.

Is it just me?

I have a feeling that a lot of jobs are like this, and a lot of people’s lives are like this. Fresh in the morning, drained in the evening. I hear this from my coworkers, later in the afternoon, their brain is fried, they can’t focus on stuff anymore, and not much gets done.

By the time work is over, and the commute home is complete, there isn’t much energy left for mush else. Food. Booze. TV. It’s not that I don’t have time to work for a few hours in the evening, it’s that I don’t have the capacity to work in the evening.

Most evenings, when I get home from work, I want a big plate of food, a few beers or glasses of wine, and to sit and blither out watching TV or some movie. I don’t even like TV (except Lost, that show is tha bomb), but it feels good after a long day at work. It feels like I am relaxing and more so, recovering.

I really believe this is why TV is so popular. It’s not what’s on TV, but what everyone does all day before they watch TV. There isn’t much left upstairs for anything else after slaving away.

So… what to do about it?

After all, I want the fire back. I wake up with it, and it is dim by the end of the day.

Honestly, I’m not sure.

I’ve been cranking up my diet, eating healthier foods, that helps.

I give myself my best time, ie. the morning. I just have to teach myself how to wake up early on a consistent basis.

I think that adding physical exercise to the mix will help. I may start doing some sort of physical activity first thing when I get home. I’ll try this out and see how it goes.

What about you? Do you have any secrets about how to recharge after a long stressful day of slaving in the spice mines? I’d like to hear it. I haven’t solved this one yet.

I will solve this one. It is just going to take some work, practice, problem solving, and trial and error.