Snow Day Earrings

We (the royal we) have something of a tradition here at Inksplot Studios: When there's a snowday, it's time to take pictures of earrings.

This time around, I just happened to have a mess of freshly-finished earrings to share with you.

Here are a few of my favorites:

 These are an extra-bright variation on my dendrite-style earrings: This time with green glass!

These are an extra-bright variation on my dendrite-style earrings: This time with green glass!

 So classic, I just had to: 4-in-1 trapezoid drapes in aluminum.

So classic, I just had to: 4-in-1 trapezoid drapes in aluminum.

These byzantine weave earrings have alternating copper and aluminum, as well as a bright amber glass bead.

For more angles and tons more pieces, pop on over to my etsy page!

Steampunk Character Creation Walkthrough

corset1.jpg

I had never used a character generator before, and it seemed to me that it was past time. This painting brought to you by:

 https://www.tumblr.com/tagged/character-generator

https://www.tumblr.com/tagged/character-generator

When I ran it, I rolled:

A selfish mechanic hmm? Also, how am I supposed to have a mechanic with a rifle, I need those hands to be holding tools to indicate she's a mechanic! Although I like that this doesn't specify gender anywhere.  I could have drawn a men's corset.

But I didn't. I like the trope of the female mechanic too much. Two tries at sketching resulted in this. It's not bad, but there are several 'I'll have to look this up later' items: I know skirts can be hiked up with little rings on straps, but I'm not quite sure how that works. And I know that little victorian shoulder-shawls exist, but I can't really remember how they fasten. Ditto those high boots with the little buttons. And I know I'm going to need some reference for that shoulder/arm position, and for the cat. 

Behold, reference. Two interesting things: the good trigger safety on the arm reference, and the stark difference in modesty in women's steampunk attire. Both of these things are good little details to use to add specificity and depth to a character.

First, I drew the parts I absolutely needed the references for, and then rotated and tweaked what I'd inked until I thought it fit reasonably on the vague idea I'd sketched.

These heavily reference lines were then desaturated to the same level as my original sketch, so I could see them all together at the same intensity, creating a franken-sketch. Over the top of that  I re-sketched everything with an eye towards adding detail and making design decisions. For example, the shawl has been nixed in favor of a collared shirt, mainly because I had the idea to give her a mechanical arm, and work out how to show it well under a shawl. 

Once the 'ink' is done, it is desaturated to become the new sketched layer, and the old sketched layers are removed. Ahh. Now I can see what I'm doing.

Then, we do it again. This is the actual ink layer, or the beginnings of it anyway.

Flip, and finish inking. If I had one general 'pro tip' for drawing, the horizontal flip would be it. It's an extremely simple and easy way to instantly see your mistakes in proportion, balance, and flow. This one actually had very little in need of adjustment, although I (as always) had to reduce the legs to some kind of reasonable proportion. I'm not sure where this conviction that legs are 2/3rds of a person's height came from, but I know I'm not the only one with this kind of consistent WTF when it comes to proportion.

Now to the fun part: color. On a layer under the lines, use a basic palette (three or four colors arranged from darkest to lightest is a good limit. For a good mix of color, I like to pull my values from reference ) and lay out the most basic of color areas; highlights and shadows. This is your underpainting.

Put another layer on top. Using the eyedropper tool and a 50% paintbrush, soften the edges between your basic colors, and do some detail of highlights and shadows.

More layer, more detail. See the difference in the blunderbuss and mechanical arm from the last progress image to this one?

Once you're happy with your color distribution, erase everything outside the lines. You can still modify past this point if you like, but I've found that tends to be needlessly fussy rather than helpful.

And if you've read through this far, thanks for sticking with me. I know, it was a long one. Which is why I'm stopping here, and not going into how I did the background! :D (Hint: It was basically the same process, but much less interesting, because it was mostly pipes.)

Last Castleberry Fair: Shriner's Auditorium in Wilmington

The last Castleberry Faire of the year (for me at least) was this last weekend, starting on Black Friday.

Clearly I only have an n of 1, but the crowd volume on the weekend after Thanksgiving is weird. Friday and Saturday were steady, with perhaps a little swell toward noon on Friday. And Sunday was just dead... I spent more time trying out the food that was on sale nearby than selling. Very odd.

Usually, traffic is pretty predictable. There will be the early birds on opening day–these people are on a mission, and you've got to be ready, because they will buy. Saturday will have a small lull in the afternoon, and Sunday will be very slow until noon, but then will be steady.

If you're wondering why I send so much time thinking about traffic, there's a good and simple reason- bathroom breaks when you're by yourself are a tricky business.

Show This Weekend!

The last of this year's Castleberry Fairs and Festivals is happening this weekend!

Three day show, starting on Black Friday: I suggest you stop by sometime Friday, rather than sometime Sunday. This isn't because my inventory will be denuded by Sunday (although this is true) it's because I will have subsisted entirely on sugar and caffeine for the last two days, and so my conversational skills may be... unique.

Details!

 November 28, 29 & 30                       Wilmington, MA

The 19th Annual Castleberry Faire

Location: Shriner’s Auditorium, 99 Fordham Rd , Wilmington, MA

Show Hours: Friday 9-5 /Saturday 10-5 / Sunday 10-5

Admission $8.00 Adult / Under 12 Free/ One Admission Good for All 3 Days.

Directions: From I-93 take Exit 39 onto Concord Street

This is an indoor show, and that is a lot more fun than waiting in Black Friday lines! I'll be there with a ten-foot frontage of chainmail jewelry and purses. 

Villains

My first NaNoWriMo isn't going well exactly, but my story is absolutely progressing.

One of the most encouraging developments has been the fleshing-out of my villains. When I started I had some idea of what they wanted, but very little of the why, and even less of what they looked like. As my eventual plan is probably to draw this story up into a graphic novel, the visual vagueness of these two very important characters was a serious problem. 

Interestingly, I found that as I gave these characters a history and a setting their appearance developed quite naturally. (This is a bit of an inversion for me- historically I'd come up with a cool looking character, and then have to make up reasons that they looked that way. Which maybe had something to do with why, historically, my plots were underdeveloped.)

Her name (at least until I decide to change it) is Ethelinda. He is Ofure. This is a picture of them in younger, happier days. At this point they are the heroes of their own story, not the villains in someone else's.

 

Conclusions on Chainmail Jewelry Presentation

This post is an official followup to my lightbox tutorial, because as soon as I finished my awesome box, I realized it was very... stark.

Stark is my natural inclination, because that is exactly how I was taught to photograph fine art. But it turns out that if you photograph grey/silver jewelry with no added color, it looks like you took a greyscale photograph. I'm artsy, but I'm not that artsy.

Plus, taking a photograph on an endless white background takes away all sense of proportion. Giving the viewer a sense of the size of the object is really important, particularly with decorative items where an object of the same basic shape can range in size from tiny to titanic.

For jewelry the obvious fix is to put it on a model. Unfortunately models don't fit in lightboxes, and have an inconvenient tendency to either want to be paid or to assume that being the prop in professional photography is fun and will only take a few minutes. (Pro tip: It isn't, and it won't.)

So for the up-and-coming jewelry photographer, options are limited. Many people opt to try to put their pieces in realistic settings: on a jewelry rack or over a hanging dress for example. Others go the comparison route, and show the piece next to a coin or ruler. I find the first option distractingly busy and the second option soullessly utilitarian, so I had to come up with something else.

Something with some consistency, but that won't look the same in every shot. That was classic, charismatic, colorful. Something that wouldn't break the bank, would stand out from other similar photos, and would be consistent with my geek-all-grown-up friendly branding.

Clearly, I'm talking about booze.

  Sterling Silver Odd-Angles Byzantine Earrings , shown with a wet martini with extra olives.

Sterling Silver Odd-Angles Byzantine Earrings, shown with a wet martini with extra olives.

Martini glasses are particularly useful for earrings. Earrings, by their nature, hang. When I see a series of photos of a pair of earrings and not one of them shows them hanging, I start to worry that that photo isn't being shown for a reason. Like maybe the earrings only look good when held in place. Sure, it's a bit of a pain to get them to stop swinging, but it's worth it.

  Copper Persian Bracelet with Tigerseye Bead.  Shown with a large Manhattan.

Copper Persian Bracelet with Tigerseye Bead. Shown with a large Manhattan.

Also, a glass can give shape to the essentially shapeless. This bracelet looks good on a wrist, but on a tabletop it looses all grace. Propping it up on a bracelet gives it a bit of redeeming drape. (Note: careful if you are using a liquid about the leveling of your work surface. Several of my photos are pretty irredeemably screwed up by this little oversight.)

  Sterling Silver Byzantine Chain with a Large Agate , presented by a glass of small-batch raspberry mead.

Sterling Silver Byzantine Chain with a Large Agate, presented by a glass of small-batch raspberry mead.

And finally, a glass is a lovely excuse for an off-center closeup. Not being centered is a great way to get attention in a pageful of jewelry photos.

So, what are you guys doing with your lightboxes?

Photoshop Painting Catchup #10 Hecuba

A return to one of my old favorite subjects: A sexy lady.

Now, a nearly naked female spellcaster isn't exactly a rare subject in a fantasy setting, but there was one little detail in the description which nabbed my attention: She's barefoot. This is wildly unusual. Sexy women of any genre are practically always depicted in high heels* whether it fits the character or not. Hecuba's barefootedness says something about her personality, and makes a hell of a lot more sense than heels would.

Prompt:

I would really like to see one of my favorite characters brought to life! She's been in play for almost ten years and has reached legendary status.
Hecuba... [is] a beautiful, voluptuous, mostly semi-naked and self-assured woman in her early twenties. Absolutely stunning and captures everyone's attention - she's got 32 in charisma. She's barefoot and graceful. Ice blue eyes, long flowing black hair and wearing only a very skimpy bronze bikini taken from a succubus. A thin and exquisite waist chain gives her extra strength. A small but deadly looking dagger is at her hip. Her favorite spells are fireballs and Meteor Swarm.

I've spent a long time pushing myself to learn my way around color, detail, and realism. Returning to this flowing black and white style which is so much more intuitive to me is unbelievably relaxing. Not only is it loads faster, it allows me to pull clever tricks to avoid hard bits. For example, by making the boundary between her hair and cape indefinite, I've saved myself the trouble of actually deciding exactly how her cape attaches and exactly how her hair falls. 

Of course, the style also causes some problems- it's particularly bad at depicting a lightsource, or any kind of transparency. So my wonderful plan of showing off Hecuba's casting ability by holding a ball of shining power in her hand is a bit of a dodgy proposition. I pulled it off by using a few conceptual tricks I learned from watching anime: first, explosions are typically shown with radial spikes on the outside, but a smooth inside edge. This seems to convey force, expanding energy. Second, if something is backlit by a very strong light, it's slimmed down- or in the case of this hand, made to look almost skeletal. Which has the added benefit of making Hecuba look just a bit scary.

* An exception to this rule is Salma Hayek's character in the movie 'From Dusk 'till Dawn.'  Quentin Tarantino's got a teeny bit of a foot fetish.

Lightbox Build

I make jewelry, but usually when I apply to be shown in galleries and shops, it's not the jewelry that's being judged. It's the photographs of my jewelry, which is another thing entirely.

These images of my work are more than just my first impression– they're often my only impression. So taking my jewelry-making seriously means getting serious about my photos.

A lightbox is sort of like the object photography cheat-code. To take good photos, you need to have a solid understanding of light. A lightbox gives me reliable basic lighting without having to understand much of anything. Which is good, because the 'lighting for photography' rabbit hole goes all the way down.

Lightbox Supply list:

- A cardboard box. I got mine for free from a booze store.

- Tracing paper

- Clear packing tape

- Ruler

- Boxcutter

- Pen

- Foam Sheet. You'll find these things in the kid's craft sections of a store like Michaels. Serves the same role as a long sheet of paper, but you can use a lint-roller on it to clean it up and it won't be ruined by a drop of water.

- Two worklamps, clamplights, or other direct positionable lightsource.  Make sure they have full spectrum or 'daylight' bulbs in them, or you'll spend forever in post correcting your colors.

With your high quality artisanal ruler, measure the center of one side of the box, and cut it out. I'm leaving 1.5 inches of edge, because I know this thing is going to get knocked around, and I want it to be reasonably durable. For the same reason, I'm leaving the flaps of the box folded in, and I'm cutting through those at the same time.

You don't need to be very precise about this. The hole doesn't need to be perfectly square, and doesn't need to have neat corners. 

Do all the sides. You can see here how the flaps work.

Take sheets of the tracing paper, and tape them over the sides of the box to cover the holes you just cut. If the holes are way bigger than the paper, do what I did: Tape the sheets of paper together carefully so that the edges of the tracing paper touch but don't overlap. An overlap will cast a shadow, and a gap will cause a 'beam' of light on the inside of the box.

Go a little hog-wild with the tape. Not only is it holding the tracing paper in place, it's reinforcing it, and reinforcing the cardboard as well. Mine is basically mummified.

Slide your foam-paper in like so. Make sure your sheet is long enough to have a height that fits your needs (in my case, slightly taller than my existing necklace display) and still have a protruding 'tongue'. Cut to fit for width- a tight fit means the paper will hold in place on its own, which means less fussing with positioning it during your shooting time.

My extremely fancy setup. Center your object on your backdrop, and put your two lights (you remembered to get full-spectrum bulbs, right?) pretty close on either side. Play with the angles to best light your specific object. Because I had a big window behind, I didn't feel the need for light coming from above as well, but it's an option.

Sounds like a lot of work? Not sure it's worth the effort? Here's a little before and after for you:

My previous best effort. Pretty darn good for an non-professional... but clearly non-professional.

Same necklace, this time with a lightbox. I'm not sure, but I think this might be mistaken for professional.

On the left, the best I could do relying on natural light. It looks okay at a tiny size, but breaks down pretty quickly close up: lint, weird slightly yellow light, too shiny in places, and imperfect focus. On the right, the lightbox shot: Better focus, more interesting and not too harsh light, and the yellow tinge went away. The only downside is there's no context- no way to tell scale, and no color.

Clearly, the solution is scotch. And this shot really shows off a technique that I couldn't possibly have used without a lightbox: the endless, seamless background.

If you think this necklace is pretty, there are more pictures.

Peacock Scalemaille Purse Build

I wouldn't go so far as to call this a tutorial, because I'm not going to give you a step by step of how to assemble this piece. There's a lot of material to cover as is! However, if you've made scalemail before and know the common byzantine and japanese chainmail weaves, this design walkthrough will show you how to put it together to make a peacock styled evening bag.

First up, you'll need supplies. In this case, I made my own smaller bright aluminum links, and purchased the larger green aluminum ones. Both sets of links should be 18 gauge. The smaller ones should have an interior diameter close to 4.5mm, the larger links need an ID of close to 6mm. (.5 mm or less variation is okay.) You'll need 1500 or so of each of green links and bright links, about half that if you don't plan on making the strap. (The strap is technically optional- you could attach a pre-made strap instead to save yourself some time.) You can technically make all the links, but unless you're way more awesome than I am, you'll need to buy the scales. You'll need four colors of scales: purple, blue, brown, and green. I get them in bags of 100, so you'll need 3 bags of green and one of each other color.  Lastly, you'll need one sewing purse frame: the kind with holes pre-drilled in them. And of course the usual maille-making flatmouth pliers.

Gettin' Started: Begin putting the design together starting with the middle of the 'eye' of the peacock feather- which means four violet scales.

The first diamond. This diamond is the basic shape that scalemaille is built from, like the four links through one link of four-in-one.

Here is the finished basic shape of the 'eye'. All the other scales will be added around the edges. 

Blue added- following the contour of the purple, just a single layer.

Brown is next. This should be a double layer on top and bottom, because a single row will look jagged- the way scales fall, the bottom edge is fine with one layer.

And the view from the back. A bunch of little diamonds.

Add a whole bunch of green. The width and shape of the top of the sheet is determined by the shape of purse frame you are working with, in this case the V shape makes it easy. You'll need two identical sheets.

And attach it to the purse frame using the colored aluminum links. (IMO, it looks better if you connect the last of the edging with a double link of green, and lay one flat over the hole in the scale for good measure.) Start by linking in the middle of the frame and then on the edges- it'll be more even and easier to fill in rather than to go from one end to the other, and easier to keep it a mirror image. On the edges where the frame stops but the fabric of the purse continues, you should add one more column of scales. Make sure to leave the last hole on each side of the purse frame free to attach the first scale of this new column to- otherwise it'll flop around too much.

The beginning of the bottom of the purse. This needs to hold its own shape a bit, so japanese weave is the best choice. Three rows is wide enough, and tapers to a point quickly on the ends, which makes it easier to attach to the body of the purse.

Purse strap. This is a pretty straightforward byzantine weave, just alternate pairs of green and bright aluminum. But buckle up: it takes a while to do one that's long enough- 40 inches is standard for a cross-body strap.

Put it all together. For the bottom panel, use the smaller links to attach large links on the edge of the panel to that last row of large links in the scale pattern.  On the sides, put one more column of scales between the two sheets to stitch them together. The strap attaches easily to the big ring on this frame.

All done! And it's big enough for a smart phone, which is crucial in this day and age.

This one's sold, but you can find more purses and scalemaille pieces in my etsy store!

Photoshop Painting Catchup #8

There was a nice complete prompt on this one:

Entropoly (Also known as Polly) is an Unseelie Fae bard. She's 4' 6" with dark red butterfly wings, a black corset, red pants, and a large red jacket over it. Her ears are pointed and pierced, her eyes are black without pupils, iris, or whites, and she is a fan of outlandish make up. She'll often glamour herself to have a gaping, toothy maw to scare others and other things like that. She plays a violin (she has numerous, from simple ones, to blue ones, to ones made of living wood and spider silk strings). Her hair is a blue and black mohawk that hangs over her eyes and is tied in a ponytail on the back.

I love everything about this. A classical musician punk fairy? Oh yeah.

Nothing too new in the figure painting here, although I did play with brush settings a bit, making the stroke edges much less clean and obvious. The pose is the most interesting part of the figure. I chose a very difficult pose because: I wanted to showcase the wings, and I really, really didn't want to try to draw a foreshortened violin.

The new thing is the background. I wanted something that was reminiscent of casting a spell, without being too obvious. This tutorial produced excellent results. I'll definitely be looking for an excuse to play with this more. 

Photoshop Painting Catchup #7

The seed for this post was actually a direct request- someone saw my work, and was hoping that if they asked nicely, I might do something for them.

So, of course, I did. (I'm a sucker for good manners on the internet.) This character's name is Settaja, and he has a fairly serious case of orc-related PTSD.

As you can see, something important has happened between the last painting and this. I did two things differently.

First, I allowed myself to have lines this time, but I did them in a very specific way. Using the darkest and lightest colors from the immediate area, I outlined the bright and shadowed sides of forms I wanted to pop out. For the arms, this means a pale pink is on the most brightly lit side, and a dark brown is on the shaded side. I like this technique a lot, and I suspect you will see it again.

Second, I've actually figured out what 'contrast' means in practice. I think somehow trying to make him obviously mentally unbalanced made it easier to have a major range from light to dark.

Other aspects of this painting I want to make note of:

Composition. Again, because of the unbalanced and dangerous nature of the character, I stepped outside of my comfort zone to take a low viewing angle. This also allowed me to have an easy background, and I am pretty much ecstatic that my experimental tree technique turned out so well.

Scars: There are scars all over his forearms from self-harm. Scars are hard– these are too subtle, but they don't look fake or drawn-on, which is a victory.

Border: Technically, this picture didn't need a border. But somehow it looks a lot better with one. I'm going to have to ruminate a while on why that is. 

Photoshop Painting Catchup #6

Inattentive-Drow.jpg

The title for the request which sparked this piece was 'An Inattentive Drow Factotum', which caught my eye. Mostly because I had no idea what that was supposed to mean.

Turns out, a factotum is basically a geek. As for inattentive, the poster intended his character to be naive, wildly intellectually curious, and completely unfamiliar with the above-ground world. 

Regarding painting technique, for once my blank-box background is fairly character-appropriate. I assume that for this guy, the rest of the world greys-out when something grabs his attention.

The pose is acceptable, but only just that. I'm still pleased though because I chose a pose that made sense rather than one that was easy. And doing 'okay' on a difficult pose is still something to be happy about.

The colors in general are a bit too fuzzy and non-specific. It does have enough of a range from light to dark, but the transition is too smooth. It could really use more hard edges, more like the hair and face. Although I rather do like the effect on the sleeve, it doesn't quite come across as maille, which was the intent.

Photoshop Painting Catchup #5.

After the serious investment of my previous drawing, I wanted something a little faster and less complicated. So we're back to 'isolated character on an inoffensive background, with essentially no composition' for the moment.

Here's what I was working from:

She is tiny sized with blue skin that alternates from dark blue on her back to a lighter shade on her belly and stripes of yellow down her back, tail, and limbs. Her skin is similar in texture and looks to that of a salamander along with having a tail such as one as well. She stands primarily on her hind-legs when not flying and has a similar body type to that of western(not Chinese shrug) style dragons. Her front claws can be used to carry items such as her staff, scrolls, or longspear.
She has a much shorter snout to that of full blooded dragons and has writhing long tentacles sprouting from her scalp. Eyes are as yellow as her stripes. She has long claws and talons and only wears a loincloth as clothing as she has no chest. She also wears various amulets, decorative armbands, and rings.

Welp, I screwed up the lighting pretty hard on this one. Usually for shadows, I duplicate the 'finished product' layer, darken it the one on top, and erase away so that the light bits show through. But with the color distribution this time (light color belly which is supposed to be in the shadowed area) everything just wound up a bit muted. The shadows on the items like the gold are fine, but the skin shadows result in a sort of weird interior glow, rather than an exterior light source. I should have made the shadow layer darker but also a slightly different color- maybe green/brown.

This was also an important learning experience for chilling out and letting my brushstrokes show. The absolute best part of this drawing is the stripes- which show brushstrokes. So I need to really internalize it's okay if people saw you drew it. It doesn't have to have appeared there magically.

On a subject matter scale, I did several little things I think are worth sharing-

Her 'spear' is an arrow. She's about two feet tall, so for her it's a convenient size. Her large gold amulet and bracelet were originally made for humanoids. That's a regular size pendant and ring. She had to make her belt and loincloth herself, because there just isn't much familiar-sized clothing out there. And she's a bit pissed about it, because she's a crap seamstress.

Photoshop Painting Catchup #4

Larger version.

Okay, so before we talk painting technique, clearly I need to give you some context for this... silliness.

A pack of Orcs were captured by the fallen angel Bwana, the one responsible for minotaurs and owlbears. Using the corpse of a captured rabbit, he twisted the orcs, making them somehow more grotesque than they were previously. They thanked their maker, and dubbed themselves "rabi-tork".

That, plus a few details from the poster about weaponry and faces, and this is what happens. It's not my fault. 

Now then, on to business: If you go back and look, something changed since my last painting.

It doesn't have much to do with the nitty gritty of painting. My brushwork is basically unchanged. (Although I did do a little texture experiment with the fur on the legs, it wasn't really worth the amount of effort it took for how it turned out.) I think the real difference is composition. This is a full, of-a-whole piece: Not a figure by itself, and not a subject on a consistent but essentially irrelevant background. Here, things flow together, so the eye makes the rounds of the whole thing.

Part of that is the placement of the components– the mountains and the Rabi-tork themselves. But this is the first time I've really done anything resembling lighting. I try from time to time, but rarely do I actually make myself to a full range from almost white to almost black... While I'm working in color, at least. (Looking back on it now, I do wish I'd been more bold with the highlights on the bodies, but it's not bad.) When working in black and white I have no problem, which is possibly why I haven't been paying enough attention to it in color. 

A Retraction

An emergency has come up, and I in fact won't be doing Art on the Rocks this year- apologies to my Michigan fans! I'll be back next year. 

Art on the Rocks is Coming!

It's that time again- the shipping, hauling, lifting, swearing, polishing, (did I say swearing?) time.

But that's all just setup- the payoff is the show itself: reliable crowds, beautiful setting, and for once I feel like I have enough inventory! 

July 26th and 27th. If you're in the area, I'm sure I'll see you there!

Green Necklace: Design Walk-Through

Pretty! But how did I get here?

It started with these beads. Picked up from my new favorite bead store, I was intrigued by the complicated palette. Essentially green, but in a very naturalistic way. 'Green' in nature is hardly ever just one color- it's usually a welter of browns, blues, yellows and reds... as are these beads.

Now, what metal shall I put them with. Aluminum? Eh...

Copper is good...

but better with brass as well!

From the shape of these beads I have two basic options: a necklace where the beads run end to end with some kind of chain in-between, or a bracelet where the beads are side-by-side,  connected with chain on both sides. I'm going for necklace. From experience, I know that about a 3mm diameter size attachment will work with 18 gauge wire. But copper by itself looks a little sparse, so I'm adding a simple tiny brass link under the attachments to ease the transition between the metal and beads.

My first thought was to use a single knot of barrel weave to divide the stones. But its not moving as freely as i would like, and more importantly the math doesn't work out- if I use this for the whole necklace, it will come out under 16 inches... too short.

Byzantine. I do it all the time, but that's 'cause it works. In this case I get to play with colors, which helps this necklace stand out from its siblings.

So I prep every stone with the links to make a single knot of byzantine.

And then I can easily just connect the knots. Note the adjustment 'tail', which will be on the back of the finished necklace.

Put it all together, make a hook clasp, and we're all done!

Piece is for sale on my Etsy Page!

Booth Backdrop Build Tutorial

After the Harvard Square Holiday Fair last winter, I decided I needed to up my interior booth display game.  While my outdoor tent display has progressed nicely, my indoor version was still kind of just stuff on tables.

Freestanding fabric walls are of course the classic solution to dressing up a booth,  but given that A) really what I need was a visual divider between my booth and the next rather than something sturdy to hang inventory from (my tabletop displays do a pretty good job of being vertical all on their own) B) those fabric walls aren't nearly as portable as I would like- I rarely have minions, I need something I can set up quickly and on my own and C) my god man, the *price*. Maybe I'll get these after I purchase my own pony.

So after googling around, I decided the solution to my problem is PVC pipe. Otherwise known as Tinker Toys for grownups. 

I documented my build to share with you guys: it's a combo of this photography backdrop tutorial and this PVC cleaning tutorial, with a little improvisation. I'm pretty happy with the result for the price, so let's see if I can talk you through it!

backdrop1.jpg

Always put your thoughts on paper. It's immensely helpful not only for working through your design, but also as a way to communicate with the hardware store staff who may or may not have any concept of what it is you're trying to make. 

Because I didn't need the fabric to be easily swapped out, I modified the original photography backdrop build to directly incorporate the fabric part, rather than having it draped over the top. I really liked the idea of being able to take it off and roll it up though as that seemed super portable, so I intended to preserve that ability.

I also made one on-the-fly change in the store which isn't drawn here- I raised the crossbar, so that some of the height was part of the 'feet'. So the total vertical height is split into one long piece and one shorter piece. (later in the build I also figured out that I'm too short to actually grab both sides of a 6ft wide panel at the same time, which is kind of necessary to setting it up. So I had to cut the horizontal pieces again. To save you time, I'm going to pretend I got that right from the beginning. )

One Freestanding Visual Divider:

2 5ft lengths of 1in PVC pipe for crosspiece

2 6ft lengths of 1in PVC pipe for vertical

6 1ft lengths of 1 in PVC pipe, four for floor support, two for height

4 1 in PVC endcaps

4 3-way 1 in PVC joints

2 45 degree turn 1 in PCV joints

PVC cement is optional. (Because I want mine to be able to be disassembled, I didn't use it.)

1 long bolt of heavy-duty cloth, 5+ feet wide, and at least 7ft long. (Later there will be a visual aid and more explanation of this, but suffice it to say that it will look better if the cloth is significantly wider than the crosspiece. If you're at all unsure, remember you can always cut down the PVC with a handsaw. Cutting the cloth and giving it finished edge again is much harder. If your chosen fabric does not already have finished edges, make sure you account for the width that will be taken up by folding them over when making your measurements.)

If this costs you more than $100, you've been had.

Here is all the pipe, all laid out. I bought enough to make two dividers a the same time, so don't be intimidated by the sheer amount of piping. What's the hand-sander and particulate mask for you ask?

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Unfortunately, PVC comes with icky pink writing on it. Also various scuffs and marks from transit. Because the pipe will be visible in the final version of this build, this stuff has got to go. The most thorough, easiest, and fastest way to get rid of this crap is by sanding it off. If you don't have access to a palm sander a sanding pad/block from the hardware store will also work, and I think would still be faster than mucking about with acetone.

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All done! Wiping down with a damp shop cloth is a good idea, PVC dust is not your friend.

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I started by assembling the feet. I'd never worked with PVC before, so this was a nice confidence-building 'hey, maybe this will work' step. If you're only making one stand, you'll only need two feet. 

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The two feet connected. This step uses all six of the 1ft lengths, one of the 5ft lengths, all the endcaps, and all the three-way joints.

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Connect the two longer vertical lengths together using the remaining 5ft length and the two elbow joints. If you hold each vertical with one hand, you can slot it in to the connected feet pretty easily.

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Crucial step: Even without using cement, the upright is strong enough to hold an elbow-lamp.

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Now for the hard part, at least for those of us without a sewing machine: If your fabric doesn't have finished edges, finish them. If it does, go to step 2: roll the top edge over, and sew it to the body of the fabric, making a tube for the top crossbar to go through, as in many simple curtains. You'll need to fold over enough to cover the circumference of the pipe (remember, C = 2πr) plus some wiggle room. For a 1 inch pipe, 3.5 inches works pretty well, although if you aren't sure, err on the side of too much room. A running stitch will work just fine for this if you use a sturdy thread. When you sew it on, make sure to leave a two-inch margin of unsewed area on either edge. This is so that the fabric can lay on top of the verticals instead of next to it. You'll also want to iron the edges when you've finished. If you skip these two steps, you'll get something that looks like this:

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You don't want that, right? So make sure your fabric is wide enough to cover your vertical bars, don't sew all the way to the edge, and iron that sucker. Then you'll get something that looks like this:

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If, like I initially did, you screw up and by fabric that is too narrow: Take your PVC apart and cut the two horizontal bars so that they're shorter than the width of your fabric. Remember the fabric has to cover the vertical bar and the join, which adds a little more than the bar alone. If the fabric completely covers the PVC, that's fine, so err on the side of cutting shorter.

My initial plan had been to make another tube to thread the bottom horizontal bar through, but I ran out of time. Instead, I dashed out and bought some rivets and string.

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I put the rivet just to the inside of the vertical bar.

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And just above the bottom horizontal bar. Tied firmly with the string, it makes the canvas hang nice and taut, and adds a bit of stability to the whole piece.

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One vertical, disassembled. Fits under a bed or in a closet for storage, and easily in a regular size car. Plus, one person can carry and assemble it. 

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And here it is in action, creating a nice visual barrier between my booth and the blanket-seller next door. It was sturdy enough that my neighbor asked if she could hang a blanket from it! While I wouldn't want to trust it with much more weight than a lamp and a blanket, this divider does the job of defining my booth space for a price i can actually afford.

PS: I have plans to try connecting the two uprights I made into a single corner piece at an upcoming show. Because of PVC's Tinker-Toy qualities, this be as easy as picking up a couple new joints. I'll let you know how it goes!

Photoshop Painting Catchup #3

I'd don't draw a lot of straight-up humans, but for some reason when I read this prompt, I had a full composition spring to mind.

I have a character, her name is Thunder Hallen, she's Hufflepuff quddich seeker. But I can't draw people for the life of me!

Description of her: Shoulder length brown/red hair, blind, blue-green eyes, Quddich number "52."

Request: Can you draw her in the quddich field, on a broom, during winter, with the snitch in the background.

Feel free to ask me if you need more details! :)

I did indeed need to ask for a few more details (mainly her age, build, and whether cloudiness in the eyes would make sense as a way to show she's blind) but for the most part my original idea is what I what ahead and executed. 

Developmental notes:

Background: Oh dear. This was I think my first attempt at a full background in quite some time- Which means I'd changed the techniques of how I paint enough that it was essentially like doing a full background for the first time. For things on the ground I did a very preliminary sketch, and then basically just did the edges in detail. Very useful, saves a lot of time!

The clouds were... well, my first attempt at realistic cumulous clouds. Pretty good for a first try, but it's more the idea of clouds than how they actually look.

The bleachers were a stretch, and it didn't go well. My attempt at canvas texture sort of backfired, and I was handicapped by not looking at any actual bleachers. 

Composition: Better than usual! Totally accidental though, so I can't take too much credit for it.