Creaturiste's Laboratory

Techniques, works in progress, and everything that doesn't fit in the portfolio. Comments and questions are encouraged, custom orders are welcome!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


I'm posting this here for practicality.
It's something I feel the need to share once in a while, so now it will be here.
Hopefully, my reflections may help others find their own freedom.

I believe in a lot of stuff. I also believe religious organisations should be relieved of their power and privilege, mostly by people deciding not to follow their insanity anymore. And laws have to be changed to reflect that. Governments should be non-religious. People should still be free to practice their religion in peace, but without imposing it on others. Religions should not hold people, especially kids, hostage with their doctrine. There should be easier ways for them to get out.  And I'm hoping for people to outgrow religion entirely, eventually. I also believe we should not persecute or force religions out. That increases the damage on the world and spirit.
We must fight this ignorance-based-slavery with knowledge, understanding & empathy.

We need to see past the tricks, so we can see life as it is and how it could be, if we just worked together to build ourselves up, instead of tearing each other down. Some believe we NEED religion to do that, or at LEAST to keep a lot of people in check, preventing from roaming free and destroying everything. That is the kind of fear that keeps Religion in power.
So, I think we can all have different beliefs, but willfully and blindly serving despots in order to feel somehow safer from the threats they actually imagined is a great obstacle to our spiritual evolution.

Don't fall for religious propaganda! It's often clumsy, but still clever enough for many people to fall for it. The Bible is one example I'm more familiar with, because that's what I grew up with.
Despite its contradictions, insanely cruel values, mentality of division, major flaws of logic, and the FACT that it was written and frequently re-edited over centuries by human popes and others to suit their needs and agenda at the time, that bound book of confusion is what an insane number of people are claiming to base their life on, are claiming to be the unaltered WORD of God. WHAT?
I'm pretty an all-powerful being wouldn't need to dictate to humans if he wanted a book of his WORD made. I'm also pretty sure that an all-powerful God would be able to handle it when people insult him/her/they. They wouldn't need mortals to take up a cause, or take up arms to defend that god's honor. I think it's so presumptuous to claim to know what a god wants!
Do the Gods even care? Are we even on their radars anymore? Have we ever been?
Or are we just the equivalent of intestinal bacteria in a much larger organism that was the ACTUAL intended beloved creation? Who knows? Why should it matter?
I think what matters is improving the world we live in, by improving ourselves, for everyone's benefit. Except for games, why would we need to compete and destroy each other, when we can share and be healthier, happier? What we do as a group is often greater than what a single person can accomplish. Does that mean we have to be a group under the control of power-mad control-freaks?  

I used to fall for religious propaganda, so I recognize the flavor when I witness it. In elementary school, they used songs to teach religious values and stories. I still have some of them clearly in memory, even though I wish I could delete them. They are invasive ear worms of stories I don't believe in! Powerful brainwashing! I was emotionally manipulated to participate in the ceremony of Confirmation: "It would please your Grandmother, do it for her!" I  fell into a vicious circle of guilt because I didn't believe enough, didn't pray enough, didn't do enough. I was a child, I should have been show the light and beauty of life, not the darkness of guilt and feeling unworthy!
In my most intense moments of "Faith" I once briefly believed I just might be the next incarnation of Christ, if I proved worthy. If I became a priest. Nobody told me this, but I deducted this from what I was exposed to and how I felt. How screwed up an aspiration is that, for a kid of twelve?

Some more recent religious/spiritual movements/organizations are coming up with strategies to convert the contemporary masses. Video, whole movies (see link below), camps and retreats.
One strategy I see more and more is mixing different religions to claim more legitimacy and inclusiveness. It still doesn't make it the only Truth. Here's a tip to help us resist being manipulated by stuff like this: ANY message claiming to be the TRUTH about existence above all other claims, is arrogant and limiting. Life is so complex in all its forms down here on earth, we only understand a small fraction of it. Why would a human-made story explain all existence during and after life so simply and in just one version? Will we ever understand the nature of the universe? Perhaps in a few thousands of years, or dimensions, but I'm OK with not gaining that in this lifetime, if I can grow and CHOOSE ways for myself to live better and help others live better. BY SHARING. 


Stories can be powerful teaching guides, but they should be able to sustain scrutiny and questioning if they are to become our main or only chosen guides. For example, in the Judeo-Christian story, God is all powerful and can create spirits, PLANETS, species(!), yet is unable or unwilling to save humanity on one planet from the influence of hell without destroying the whole damn place with disasters like floods. WHAT? That makes no sense! It's like burning your whole property in Napalm because you found a few ants in the kitchen, when a bit of corn meal, borax, or diatomaceous earth would have taken care of the problem. I used to be a fervent religious person when I was younger. I was borderline a fanatic, and today I shudder at the thought of what I could have become, had I not been somehow inspired enough in the direction of questioning things, and reading more into them. You can grow spiritually, and hold WILD beliefs, hopefully based on personal experience and observation, and hopefully open to reevaluation, without being TOLD how to do it, and how NOT to do other things, OR ELSE. Promises of rewards and threats if not obeyed, those are the main religious weapons. Belittle the people and train them to keep doing that to themselves and others, so they'll be easier to control.

IS MY RELIGION TRYING TO CONTROL ME?Once you see the manipulation and start deciding for yourself, taking responsibility for your actions and their impacts on the world, it's difficult for them to keep controlling you. Want to know if your religious organisation is trying to control you? Just ask them questions, doubt the established "facts", test their arguments, see if they encourage dialogue, or just resort to calling you an unbeliever, or threaten you with punishment. Blindly following religious groups has caused much destruction on this world. See if they practice what they preach, or if they have one set of rules for others and one for themselves. See if they are arrogant and pretend to be better than others. See if they call their group the Chosen one, and all others are doomed, "and good riddance!". See how much they want to control your thoughts, beliefs, words, actions and ASSETS. See how much they belittle you, and how they get you to belittle yourself: enjoying food is a sin, believing any other system is a sin, sex is dirty, your kind of orientation is an abomination, you should be ashamed for even having those feelings! BOW DOWN and ask God for forgiveness, ask him to CHANGE you into something less foul, you unworthy piece of shit! But remember, God loves you! Just obey blindly. And keep the fear alive. OR ELSE. 

Some religions seem to have a much gentler approach, but I think it can still have a negative and confusing impact, stunting people's growth in this world of tangible and intangible. Why should we deny either, if that's the stuff we are made of, and what we evolve in?  "Oh, it's OK if you don't believe, you'll understand someday. You're just lost and confused right now. We're here to help. Just do as we say and all will be well. Give up your belongings and your attachment, and only then will you be ready to start evolving, according to what we say."
Many so-called scientists still decide to ignore facts or signs of flawed logic JUST because their religion makes them feel better, safer. It's so scary to admit that we do not understand as much as we initially thought we did! To me, it's scarier to see how far they'll go to convince themselves and others of false assumptions, and wild stories. I have a friend who's a member of the Church of Scientology. We cannot have an open conversation about how her religion is a cult, how it ruins people's live's; how the founder himself has declared he founded it for the money and power; how countless people have left that cult and lost so much, trying to warn people. She refuses to see the bad. She loves her community and feels safe in it. I wish her the kind of wisdom that will help her get herself out of there.

POWER. That's what it seems to come down to, after distillation. Those in control in any religious corporation probably don't truly believe in the stuff they preach, they just want your labor and your belongings/money. They want power, plain and simple. And they have armies of true believers to make that happen, and it keeps happening. The majority of their flocks are probably truly good folks who do what they are told and through that, do great good deeds, but that still doesn't take away all the mad manipulation, and disguised spiritual and physical slavery. I wonder how much work it takes for an elite to reprogram a brainwashed believer once they deem them worthy to be part of the inner circle that knows the strategies? We need to stop them controlling us. I'm pointing fingers at ALL religious organisations. For too long, they have TOLD people what to do, using varying dosage of encouragements and all flavors of fear, and when that doesn't work, people disappear, or lynching or crusades or genocides occur. I am not part of that crap. I am part of the change for an ever better life for all. I'm not recruiting for a specific group. I'm hoping you will consider NOT being part of a group that has the symptoms described above. Think and feel for yourself. Act and consume responsibly, for the benefit and alleviation of suffering for all.

That doesn't mean I don't have beliefs. I actually hold CRAZY WEIRD ones. But they are positive, flexible, subject to change from my exposure to life and people. I don't try to force them onto anybody. It's a life more comfortable, more serene, when I don't have to feel guilty and small for whom and what I am; when I can change my mind about who might have created what, and a God won't smite me for daring such a thing; when I don't have an obligation to preach or convince anyone, though I strongly encourage people to question and think for themselves; when the sharing of beliefs with others can teach us much; when I can live with the consequences of my actions, and correct my mistakes, learn from them, and keep growing; when my belief system elps me thing of myself as part of others, instead of "us against them".

Now, it's a MUCH more confusing world at first, when there are no set rules and explanation anymore from a book or doctrine. No more clear set of unchanging, black-and-white rules! The CHAOS of degrees and nuances is your realm now! Life is rich and full of uncertainty! How can a control-freak creature survive???  When I first left Catholicism, I was actively looking for a replacement religion. Typical addiction behavior, trying to find a substitute for the comfort we once knew. Once the withdrawals are over, one can start being energized by that unquenchable thirst for knowledge and understanding that may ultimately doom or save humanity. I'm not going to even try actively to understand the meaning of life at large. I'd rather try to understand my little world, my circles, my self. Some of it will come as I grow. Being Ok with that is one of the things that has set me freer.


Mythic Journey
I recommend this video. It helped me think and reflect on the importance of storytelling as a learning tool, and keeping an open mind. I had originally purchased it only because it featured stop motion puppets made by Brian and Wendy Froud,  but the whole film was fascinating!

The Laws of the Sun (an anime movie)
I'm sharing this as an example of propaganda as used by religious movements to manipulate people. 
I wondered who paid for this to be made, because it feels exactly like other propaganda films (and other media) from different religious groups, including the larger religions.
A short online searched revealed the origin, another cult:
Feel the hype, the manipulation, see the flaws in logic (and the bad storytelling!) See the signs, so you may avoid the influence! 

Jesus Camp
Another scary one, where young kids are turned into fanatics. For some, it's not as scary because it's from kids, but I wonder how many of these kids got worse later in life.

If you need more convincing of how religious organisations try to control people, just study any of them. See what tools they use, and ask yourself and others WHY they do anything you find suspicious.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Artists can be very busy, often working longer hours per day than is reasonable.
This can also mean malnutrition!
How about some quick or time saving recipes, the kind that pack a flavorful punch, and is healthy to boot?

Here are a few of my favorites, tweaked to my tastes and tested for a while before sharing,
I'll keep adding a link to new recipes to this list as I keep adding them in the blog.

Sweet Vegan BBQ Bean Chili

Tahini Dip / Veggie Paté

Rasp Berrymonade!

Quick Healthy Snacks

Deepy Minty Lemony Green Tea



Deepy Minty Lemony Green Tea

I originally published this in July 2011.
4 years later, I make it a bit different, and tonight, I found the NEXT LEVEL of this drink, so I figured I'd update the method!

So refreshing, so smooth and flavorful, you'll likely never be able to enjoy the commercially available iced tea imitations. They usually are way too sweet, the taste is too diluted, and there are many unwanted and unhealthy ingredients.

This drink will impress your guests!

What do you need?
A 2 liter pitcher.
2 tablespoons of loose leaf organic green tea (Sencha type is what I usually get)
2 tablespoons of loose leaf organic Mint  leaves (dry).
Frozen Lemon
Two trays of ice cubes
Natural sweetener of choice

Take a very clean frozen lemon  (rind and all), and grate about two tablespoons (use an organic lemon, scrub-clean very well before freezing!).
Pour 4 cups of almost boiling water over the tea and mint leaves, let infuse for about 15 minutes.

Strain out the leaves,pouring the liquid into a regular sized pitcher.

Add half a cup (or less) of natural sweetener (cane sugar, or maple syrup, or  brown sugar, or honey) while it's still hot, and blend well.  Add the grated lemon.
Add enough ice cubes to fill the rest of the two liter pitcher, and stir until it's all cold.
This means you can drink it immediately!!!

This can be made with only the green tea, same quantities, just replace the mint with more tea.
Grated Lemon is optional, but WOW, it adds depth to the experience, and it adds more vitamins to the body!.

Thrifty: infuse the leaves a second time, for a weaker tea. Still delicious! Use less ice this time, to not dilute the taste as much.   I don,t have two pitchers, but I have a  glass jug to keep the second batch.

•Adding Mint seems to turn this Iced tea into a powerful diuretic, especially for new drinkers of green tea. Prepare to "go" often if you drink more than two glasses.
This seems to have more effect on the new drinkers. I'm used to it, I don't see that unless I take three glasses in a row.

•This stuff is addictive, and not only for taste.
If you're not used to drinking green tea regularly, and fall in love with the taste of this Iced Tea, make sure you don't drink a whole pitcher per day for a few days, then stop drinking it suddenly.
I learned by experience that the withdrawal symptoms are real. Nothing too serious, but annoying nonetheless: a medium headache.

Monday, March 10, 2014


One of the greatest realization/lesson in this lifetime for me can be summed up in only three words: THERE ARE LEVELS. This means so much, in so many fields and situations.
For me, it means I have my place, no matter how insecure I may feel about my work at any point in time.  For the beginner, it means they can begin NOW.

Basic method, but perfect for low budget allowed. LEVELS!
What it means to me about the arts: there are many levels of technical skills and artistic sensibilities, but there is space for all of them, even on the market, from the very bad to the god-like. Some people at a low level of skills can still find an appealing style and occupy a niche, sometimes for their entire career, sometimes even without much discernible improvement. They still get paid, and they still inspire the folks who have not been exposed yet to the top quality stuff, they might even be the spark that inspire a future genius in their field. Find your public, grow with it (or not), and you'll have your place, says this lesson.

Don't get overwhelmed, get excited!
 It also says: get inspired and fueled rather than discouraged by the work of more advanced artists.
At the sight of the works of a "genius", I used to say: "I'll never reach that level, so why should I even bother, sigh...".
Nowadays, I've reached a point where I can think and say aloud: "Wow! Such potential! Imagine if I even reached a fraction of that level! Exciting! Let's study this work and find out what it means to me, and how they achieve this effect!!! Let's write them a letter to thank them and ask for specific advice!"

This is also about humility. Real humility does not mean weakness. It is a strength, to gracefully accept a compliment, and appreciate where we are in the present, compared to others in our fields, based on our own observations.  No matter how much someone(or many) might admire your work and extol your virtues in front of others, there will always be better skilled artists than you, and of course, artists you would not dare call them by that term, according to your own sense of appreciation. Horrible quality works get published, sold, even become popular items for the masses. Some of those successes cannot be explained! Yet you have your place, the other artists have theirs, even though all the places keep changing, adapting with the person at their center.

Being proud of your work is good, even necessary for self promotion. There is too much false modesty in this world. Still, boastfulness is usually bad, for it hurts other people's feelings. "I'm good at what I do, I'm an expert in these aspects, I've done it professionally for 15 years." is completely acceptable, while "I'm the best, I'm a living legend the likes of this person and that person, look at my contributions to this AND that famous piece of work!" just sounds bad. You are name dropping, trying, desperately, to elevate yourself, to prove that you are worth something, when the work itself should be enough to prove it. Even if you are indeed a living legend, it should be up to other people to call you that, and if you truly deserve the title, accept the compliments with heartfelt gratitude and humility. People who care really appreciate down-to-earth folks, since we tend to assume someone of great skill to be snobs. Let's change the face of success, let's encourage honesty and self-awareness!

Virgil, my 1st finished puppet. 
Some people will not take the opinions or the advice of a younger person. Age is too often seen as the automatic bestowal of wisdom. I've met elderly people with the wisdom of intoxicated teenagers.
Give me an experienced teacher of any age, and I'll try my best to learn. I once worked for a company who had this attitude: "We've been doing this for 30 years!" was their justification to keep on doing it the same way and refuse input about improving the quality and safety of their giant puppets.  GIANT puppets. This means heavy, bulky, and potentially dangerous.
 I've met two people so far who admit that they got permanent physical damage (nerves and muscles) from working with that company.   I risked my life TWICE with that company before I decided not to work with them anymore. I love my work, but I have to protect myself so I can keep doing it. Their designs were too heavy, the center of gravity was not respected, everything screamed anti-ergonomics!  One good thing came out of that, besides the paycheck: I learned a lot about what NOT to do.  And when years later, I built giant puppets with a team of people with a large range of skills, I made sure that we were not potentially risking someone's safety.

There is no age to be passionate and obsessive about a topic, to the point of becoming an expert. So, there is no shame in learning from a younger person than you. Indeed, there should be enthusiasm about such a young mind with such potential.  

The dangers of SNOBISM
As one's sense of observation and appreciation for excellent quality work keeps growing, a steep price is often paid: we become a lot more difficult to please.  This seems to go for most things in life, from preparing better food at home than in restaurants, to comparing every show we see with the masterful exceptions that blew our minds and artistic sensibilities.  The sense of dissatisfaction can be such that we may feel betrayed, that our time has been wasted, that we just experienced garbage.
Amateurs, every last one of them!!!
Learning to appreciate something for what it is, deciding to see the potential instead of the current limitations, to get excited about specific successful aspects of the work even when the whole was a dire disappointment.  The snob-in-becoming should try to keep their opinions private until that condition is cured or is at least under control. I'm working on that aspect these days.  THERE ARE LEVELS and ways to express our opinions and advice, so that finding the proper approach can help, instead of hinder and hurt other people's feelings.   Of course, it is best to offer the help and opinion, and wait for permission before we start offering a lecture on how things can be improved.
If they don't want the input, we must respect that.

Most artists have areas of expertise where we know more than the person we are interacting with.  This doesn't automatically mean we are an expert at anything else. Quite often, a genius in one field is a dunce in another.  So again must we apply a healthy does of humility, to learn from those who have better mastery of some knowledge or technique we need.  Some of these experts for the method we need may be amateurs in other aspects of the same field. Let's exchange, let's be each other's teachers, let's all grow together, instead of competing.

People often ask me what I think about their work, or something they admire in another artist's work.
Before I express my own views, I must ask them a few questions and state a warning:
•"Do you want my honest, profesionnal and personal opinions, or do you just want praise and reassuring?"
•Are you ready to hear constructive criticism?"
•I'll be as brutally honest as I need to be to take my point across, but my intention is always to help, not to hurt your feelings. 
•I only offer specific advice when I am comfortable (with experience and skill) with the topic. I may give general directions to other approaches that MIGHT work, but I'll mention that it is not tested.

Even after I preface with the above statements, I occasionally get the reactions I tried to warn against.
Some people become overly defensive and sensitive when their work is the subject of scrutiny.

For the sake of an eventual harmony on this floating ball in space, let's all learn to balance our emotions and intellects!

Opinions/Taste VS Objectivity 
When told about aspects that need improvements, a lot of people will revert to the old: "That's just your opinion" ditty.   Excuse me?  Opinions and tastes are personal of course, but quality work can be evaluated by the objective mind, backed by experience and a sense of appreciation of the skill and subject matter. It is especially easy to demonstrate in the case of figurative work.   Anatomy can be respected or distorted for artistic or fantasy reasons, but anyone who claims that they are doing accurate work based on anatomy while their work demonstrates nothing of the underlying principles of it is simply lying, and not only to themselves.
"What is Art?", is a question that became a debate that may never be resolved.
We can more easily evaluate what is in front of us, observable. And when someone shows me art they consider superior, I better be able to see/feel the work and intentions that went into it, or else I'll just lose interest, and focus on art that really makes me feel or shows me some technical skills.
Again, there are levels, and that is the salvation for a lot of us artists or art lovers, but it does not mean we are ready or willing to appreciate all those levels on an individual basis. We have a right to choose what we love or expose ourselves to, and that doesn't makes us insensitive or culture-less. 
Still, it is good to try to expand our comfort zones. We may learn something, we may FEEL something new!

Two months of work = $$$
I don't care what your level (of skill/notoriety/) is at the moment you do the work, you should be paid FAIRLY(at least), in money, goods or services.  A lot of beginners make the mistake of working for free, fearing they are not good enough yet to be paid, or thinking they'll get "good exposure". Exposure doesn't pay the bills (or you art supplies).  No matter what many artists and members of the general population may think, Art is valuable, and is genuine work. we don't usually ask other service providers to work for free, but artists get such requests constantly.  Let's educate ourselves, and then the masses, leading through example.  Charging less than what the work is worth doesn't only hurt your wallet, your self worth (as a working artist) but also the business at large: the general population customers has come to expect cheap labor from artists, except from those few who "made it".
What distinguishes a super skilled unknown artist with an average-skilled trendy artist who has become a favorite of the Art world?  Many things, but one of the most obvious aspect would be the number of zeros at the end of the check for each piece sold.  This person is not expected to work for free. Why?  They are an artist too!  Maybe their situation has made it clear enough that their work has monetary value.  We need to do something to that effect as well. we need to educate the masses about the value of the work we do. "Without art, a society has no identity." I tried to find the source of this quote, but at the moment, nothing springs forward in searches.
Another tack at it, with my own words: without artists to design every space and every object we use and appreciate in our daily lives, there would be no joy, and even the practical would be less so.

If someone approaches you to work for them, they must have felt something desirable in your work.
THAT has value too. So does your time, your experience, your total focus, the sleepless nights, the emotional roller coaster that often comes with creating something we are passionate about.
Look at what the usual fees for the work (of similar levels) are at the time, and start getting comfortable with charging those amounts. My old fear was that I would lose work opportunities if I "charged too much".  Sure, some customers get surprised at "how expensive" my fees are, but then I try to educate them about the differences between a ready-made toy that has been mass produced, and the unique piece I am custom-building for their needs.  I cannot compete with the cheap prices and assembly lines, but I can offer some things that are hard to beat: originality, rarity, customizations, all adapted to the needs of their project, and their personal tastes.  A lot of them change their minds and hire me, some even going to the extent of finding additional funding for their projects.  Those who are unwilling or unable to hire me at the time, can either go for the mass produced items, or reach someone else at another level, and there is no hard feeling.  Some do business with me in later years.

But, I don't have any talent!
I constantly meet people who ave been brainwashed into thinking less of their own potential.
"I wish I could draw or paint! I couldn't even draw a stick figure to save my life!"
For me, talent is something you are born with, an affinity, a special ease with a technique that most people have to struggle to learn to reach any level of acceptable quality.
I can say right now that I wasn't born with any obvious talent that I can use directly in my work. I had to work very hard, despite the obstacles of having no formal training in sculpture, painting, or drawing. And I still keep working hard, pushed b my constant dissatisfaction.

Skills are honed, nurtured, pushed and sharpened over effort and time. You have one functioning eye, and can write your name clearly enough so that people can read it?  You have what it takes to draw realistically. What, you don't have arms? Use your mouth to hold a paintbrush!
You get the picture, skills take effort! And determination, and patience, and faith, and definitely passion.

Before the age of photography, even scientists had to learn how to draw realistically to represent their findings, so the subject was thought in most schools.  Nowadays, in our world of super specialization, we think of artists as a separate group of people, with almost magical skills (though we often don't respect them, paradoxically.  A scientist who can also draw today seems a strange concept, an admirable rare specimen of a renaissance person. 

Anybody can perform the various techniques of Art, following time and effort. Not everybody has what it takes (but they CAN learn it) to become a full-time Artist though. 

Many artists have it, that feeling that we are not good enough; that we don't DESERVE to work in our field; that there are FAR better artists who don't even have the chance to do what we do;
that our work is not good enough to be sold/published/publicized.
When my mind whispers these doubts again, I just reply:
 Thank you for your opinion, but...
•THERE ARE LEVELS and there is space for all of them in this world.
•I keep getting better and always do my best, so my customers always get my best possible work.
•People appreciate my work or they wouldn't keep hiring me (many repeat customers, some abroad).
Self doubt: NOT good enough (will redesign in clay)
•I contribute to bringing people smiles, stories, reflection, escapism, and life lessons, through the stories that are performed with my performance objects.
•I share my techniques to keep the ball rolling, and that makes me feel amazing as a bonus.

You are good enough! Start NOW, keep at it, and you'll soon reach levels of comfort where you'll feel that you have accomplished something. Then that feeling of dissatisfaction will come back or increase, and you'll be pushed to accomplish even more, or you'll give up if you don't keep working.
 Life is ever expanding, ever changing, so let's embrace that aspect into our work.

Impostors are those who pretend to be what they are not.  I LIVE my work. 

THERE ARE LEVELS, and appreciating what level I am at in the moment, keeps me satisfied and fueled for the project I must finish NOW.  Of course, as a project is over and my mourning of its departure is done, new challenges happen, and I make dang sure I keep stretching my comfort zones, get better in my work, and reach THE NEXT LEVEL.

But we have to start NOW, with what we have NOW, learn along the way, and keep at it!
This work in progress illustration started from a bunch of random doodles. It keeps evolving and changing as I put more time and effort into it.  Then end result will likely look very different in composition and complexity, but the main feeling and story are already present, I think.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Easy Iced Coffee

At home, I just beat the taste of any iced coffee I've ever had in a coffee shop or restaurant.
My approach is super simple, and does not require any fancy piece of equipment.

14 ice cubes
2 tablespoons of instant coffee (I used Mount Hagen Organic Café)
Half a cup of maple syrup (or sugar), or however much you need to reach the bitterness/sweetness relationship you prefer
Pinch of salt
Enough water to reach the level of the ice cubes
A tablespoon of almond butter (this turns the water into almond milk, but it's better tasting, healthier and more economical then store bought).

Blend at high speed (finish on pulse) until you have the texture you want.
I don't have any fancy blender (though I dream of a Vitamix), I've had an Osterizer 12 speed blender
for years.

Tastes even better when served in a mug. Serves two for reasonable portions, or serves one greedy coffee fiend.

After a minute or two, the top of the beverage will be a frothy, luscious coffee slush with ice chunks, and the bottom is the most wonderful refreshing sweet coffee drink I've ever had.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Studio Space Savers

Last October I had a very inspiring visit at the Roro Art studio in Toronto.
My friend Robin's sense of organizing space is the best I've ever seen.  The amount of supplies, tools, final products and resource material that she can fit in a single space is incredible.

Knowing I could improve in my own "studio with a bed in the middle", I started making some tweaks in terms of moving furniture around, decluttering and getting rid of things I no longer needed.
No, REALLY, I had to be stern with myself, and a lot of "my PRECIOUS" and "I'll need that someday" had to go.

Thankfully, the  parting is virtually guilt-free, as a lot of my neighbors are recyclers.
Whatever I put out on the curb that might, even remotely, have some kind of utility left in it, gets appropriated within two or three hours, usually. Weirdest quick disappearances so far: a pair of DESTROYED studio sneakers, and a very uncomfortable mattress.
But I digress. Again. Back on track:

This week, in between steps in two different contracts, I spent a lot of time and effort on that studio makeover.  I LOVE it!

My biggest investment and improvement came as a purchase of a used industrial shelving system (200$).
That beautiful behemoth thing allows me to store most of my supplies in one room, but it does take HALF the room.  Seeing how wonderfully deep and wide that middle shelf was, I decided to use it as a work table. finally, a space big enough to pattern and cut my fabrics, without having to put a board over my bed.  That meant that more than a third of the shelving's storing power would be immediately eliminated!  That wouldn't do!  I figured I could find some shelves I could install on the back wall, between the bottom shelf and the top one. Easier said then done!

But the idea of using milk crates has been floating in my head since my Roroart visit, and today I implemented it.  WOW!  The table space that 7 maskmaking bases used to wastefully occupy, now provides residence to those same bases, and so many more items, including items that were stored elsewhere.  I have better storage, and MORE SPACE!

I love the milk crates so much I'm getting more this week. I want to build an l-shaped  mobile tool station, to hold my tool bucket, a tape dispenser, with a wooden table top to hold my crock pot (for warming my oil-based clay).  The crates are held together with big tie wraps (zip ties), which means they can easily be re purposed in the future. For sturdier assembly, I'd use nuts and bolts with washers.

For those who have not had the pleasure of interacting with milk crates, they are quite common in North America.  They are sturdy plastic square crates that are used for delivery of milk and other items to grocery and convenience stores. Countless artists, handypeople, and cyclists have adopted them for their own uses.  You can get them for free sometimes, but in my area, I have to buy them from the store, as they have a consignation price on them. They have to pay the supplier for each missing crate, so I buy them at that price, which is 4$.  4$ for a magical item that has the convenience of a thousand uses!

Here's my first milk crate shelving, which is only four crates and an old wooden shelf:

I'll update this article with more tips and pictures of what I've done in my studio soon.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

CLAY: Oil VS Water Based

I've a preference for oil-based clay, since it suits my technical needs the most.
Still, water based clay is unbeatable for certain tasks.
Ideally, one would be equipped and have a studio setup to use both clays, but when a choice must be made for one of the two, having the following information is certainly helpful!

18 inch tall WED clay head. VERY SMOOTH.
My design (drawing), main sculpture by Jean-Pierre Busque, detailing and refining by me.

Waterbased Clay can be sculpted FAST, and smoothed even faster.
With water and sponges and brushes. No toxic solvent, no flame required.
It can be re-smoothed later, when it has become firmer. It can be made flawlessly smooth.
My favorite is Earthenware. It's amazing!  It's alive, it's MAGICAL!
Except it has its drawbacks. MAJOR drawbacks for some.
It dries, therefore it can crack, it can fall off the armature, and work has to be redone.
This can be prevented of course, by spraying water as one works (not too much!), and by keeping the sculpture protected by moist towels covered with a plastic bag, until the next work session.
Wash and replace towels every few days.
Waterbased Clay dries our hands as we work with it. Use a good hand cream after every hand washing, and take breaks occasionally.
It produces dust. A lot of dust. The mess goes everywhere as you walk away from your work station.
And, you are breathing it in. Silica is not something you want in your lungs. I got sick from it when I was in College, because I was sculpting in my bedroom. NOT a good idea with dusty materials.
Waterbased clay becomes harder and firmer as it dries, which is a necessity if you want to fire it in a kiln and get a ceramic sculpture.  But this same property becomes the enemy of the worker of fine, thin details.  Small fingers for example, will dry faster than the rest of the sculpture, and provoke a lot of frustration. When you need to sculpt an action figure or a puppet with moving parts to be reproduced later by the use of molds, waterbased clay is not the usual choice.
You can re-use this kind of clay if you keep it clean and moist, but protect it from contamination by products and dust, to prevent mold from forming in it. For long term storage, let it dry, and store in a container. Re-moisten in a large bucket, DAYS before you plan on re-using it.
My favorite type of waterbased clay: WED clay. It dries a bit slower than other clays, thanks to its glycerin content. I don't have any at the moment, as it is not available in a local store, but I plan on getting some again someday. In the meantime, a locally-made earthenware does what I need, which these days is making clay walls for making molds over my oil-based clay models. Because oil repels water, the two clays don't merge, and keeps my sculpt clean during the process.

Oil-Based Clay, aka Plasticene or Plastalina, takes a long time to smooth, but that's the only major disadvantage I can find about it.
A good quality Plastalina is firm at room temperature, and can be left on a shelf for YEARS without damage to it, as long as it suffers no physical attack. Cover to protect from dust, keep way from heat sources and the sunlight, and that's it. No drying, no cracking, as long as it's not on a porous surface or armature.

Because it is both firm and relatively pliable at room temperature, it can be used in very thin applications, without cracking. The firmer plastalinas can be used to make a sculpture in multiple parts, with articulations worked into the model.  This is especially useful for making action figures and even static sculptures meant to be molded in a more practical approach, for easier reproduction and assembly.  Smoothing can be done easily with solvents, but those are toxic and I avoid them whenever possible. My current "solvent" of choice is rubbing alcohol (70%), with a small amount of mineral oil, to prevent the formation of dust when rubbing the sculpture. It's not perfect as a smoothing method, it takes a lot of time and repetition. For the rare times i needa really smooth finish, I'll use a strong solvent, and apply it outdoors.
A tool I cannot sculpt oil-based clay without is the alcohol torch, by Buffalo. And despite some instructions warning us to use only 100% ethyl alcohol, I've always used Methyl Hydrate with success. It is easily found in hardware stores, and is much more affordable.
Because of its wax content, this type of clay can be made temporarily firmer by freezing it. It will retain the cold for a while, and the harder surface can be smoothed and detailed with further fine control. I sue this to detail eyelids and final textures.  My favorite clay these days: Monster Clay , by Monster Makers. It melts easily in the microwave oven and in the crock pot, it shapes wonderfully well, and is not tacky against fingers or tools. The smell is faint and pleasant, and the light brown color reveals details easily, and looks good on photographs.
The clays I used and liked previously: Chavant NSP Soft(tan color), and Prima Plastalina.
An old model made from Monster Clay, melting in a crock pot.

In short:
Waterbased Clay
Advantages: Sculpts fast, smooths fast and perfectly, is reusable, can be fired as a permanent ceramic sculpture.
Disadvantages: messy, dusty, dries and cracks.

Oil-based Clay
Advantages: sculpts relatively fast, does not dry, firm and stable at comfortable room temperature, can be worked in a harder state if frozen, is reusable. Disadvantages: takes more time and effort to smooth, and requires a mold to be made to make a reproduction as a permanent sculpture.

Monster Clay sculpt, with wood eyes and teeth. Teeth will be removed for mold making step.