Archive for the art Category

[#art] A Change of Carrier

Posted in art, art as a career, art supplies, creative process, creativity, liff on June 14, 2014 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
I’ve decided to join the messenger-bag generation.

It’s cool. I’m usually a few years late to just about any party, anyway.

If you don’t know if I’m hangin’ around or not, you can usually tell that I’m here if you see my backpack. It’s a habit I picked up never-you-mind how many years ago and I’ve probably kept too long, but in an unfriendly world that don’t love you back no matter how hard you love it, you have to have your security blanket.

We all do, I think. I fancy I’m just a bit more honest about it than some. Then, I care less and less what anyone thinks about what I do as I move through this part of my life; I’ll do what I can to cope.

My backpack has been part of my identity for a long time. It holds a lot of things that are important to me that I want to keep near; the sketchbook I’m not drawing in; the book on creativity I’m not reading or using, the art supplies I’m apparently hoarding up against the apocalypse. But backpacks encourage a sort-of hermit crabbish-ness, in which I carry my notional studio on my back. As long as my right shoulder isn’t killing me (how I’ve avoided tendonitis all these years, I can’t tell you) I figure I can carry anything. Or everything.

Whether or not I can kickstart my own engine, a touch of parsimony is called for, I think. Will it improve my creativity at all if I don’t figure I have everything I need and inspiration will spontaneously combust from inside the recesses of the thing?

I don’t know.  Anything’s worth trying once.

I also have a taijtu (see illo) patch that will simply look stunning on the flap.

And so it goes.


[art] The Desk, Between Ideas

Posted in art, art as a career, arting around, artistry, Samuel John Klein, The Artist's Guide, ZehnKatzen on May 30, 2014 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
Where I try to come up with things. My ‘studio’ is in the basement, in a finished room that is outfitted as an office. It is made with a perma-desk and a bunch of cabinets and is a very fine place to just exist. Happiest place I’ve ever been able to call my own.

The two books open before us are, foreground, the everpresent diary, and background, the book The Artist’s Guide. I’m going to use it to help guide me toward being a working artist, which is what I should have been going for all along.

I’m going to be sharing bits of this journey in days to come, time to time. Some details in the next missive.

We’re going to try to get serious. Not just arting around any more.

[art] The Legend Of The Blackwing 602

Posted in art, art tools, pencils on May 25, 2014 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
Now, I’ll start this out by saying that my jones for art supplies exists on a level second to nobody’s. If I actually created as much art as I know I can with the supplies I have stocked up, I could fuel several musea for rather a few years. And I like what I like, like many aspiring self-made creators; it’s hard to explain, but some things just work where other things … well, not so work. There are some tools and materials that, when I see them, my mind’s all DADDY LIKE!!! and I have to use them somehow.

For writing I’ve always preferred pen (up until now the Pilot Precise V5 but I’m going in on my Cross Classic Century ballpoint in ways that bemuse me) because I like the tightness of the line and I love ink. The last time I used pencil for any extensive writing was during high school. And my compulsive diary-writing knows nothing but ink’s unique benediction.

Still, even someone as preference-oriented as I continues to scratch my head at the religious intensity a certain pencil has inspired amongst literary, musical, and screenwriting titans. That talisman has a name: Blackwing 602.

The shape is the thing that originally gets your attention. The ferrule uniting the eraser with the wood case is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. This is no Ticonderoga, you know this going in.

Above: The Palomino Blackwing.
Below: The Palomino Blackwing 602, a horse of a different color.
The ferrule flares and turns into something of a rectangle to support a uniquely-shaped (for the end of a pencil, anyway) eraser. 
About two weeks ago now, when we stopped by Muse to watch Meredith Dittmar work her mojo, I noticed a new display stocked with small, elastic-band notebooks and these interesting pencils. The ad copy on the side boasted devotion from unnamed screenwriters and Pulitzer winners, opting for the appeal to unknown authority and a flavor not unlike the campaign that got the Moleskine into the mass-market consciousness about a decade or so ago. 
Claiming credentials like those certainly piqued my interest. One shouldn’t throw such support around in vain, so I looked into them, and the names of the people who would use them was simply stunning and as iconic as promised; Stephen Sondheim, Quincy Jones, and Vladimir Nabokov would apparently use nothing else, and John Steinbeck was quoted as exulting I have found a new kind of pencil — the best I have ever had! upon discovering it. 
The general trajectory of its history has it born in the 1930s, produced by Eberhard Faber and then by its successor Faber-Castell until 1998. In 1994, the custom machine that created the unique ferrule was discovered to be broken, and in the merciless bottom-line accounting of the time it was presumably deemed that there was no percentage in repairing it. The backstock of necessary parts lasted another four years until the pencil was discontinued entirely; despite appeals from the creative elite which doted on it, proving that prestige doesn’t always win the day.
Bona-fides established, I was intrigued enough to purchase two of them … the original Palomino Blackwing redux, and the Palomino Blackwing 602. They are available by the each not only at Muse but also at I’ve Been Framed in not only the original and 602 versions but a third version called Blackwing Pearl.

There’s an interesting sensation in picking up a wood-cased pencil after years of using anything but. I felt as back in grade school … I never knew what the year would bring but there’s something about about-to-be-used school supplies that suggests possibility. Smell, sensation, feel (and taste, if you’re so inclined) … there’s a gestalt going on there that’s powerful good.

But I was going for the practical, not the poetic. I sharpened the two pencils and got down to my favorite thing to do in the library; writing in my diary. Here’s the results:

Page one.

Page 2

That was quite an experience, actually. I prefer mechanical pencils, markers, and pens precisely because you don’t have to spend time sharpening them. I like the tightness of line that never lets up. So writing with a pencil you have to sharpen induces a different set of perceptions: awareness of the dulling of the tip, awareness of having to sharpen, the tactile sensation of the graphite transferring to the paper, the visual sensations of the not-always-crisp line.

As far as the quality of the graphite, they are of a decent quality; I found the writing to be smooth and really quite silk. In particular, the redux Blackwing has a very soft lead; it doesn’t stand up for long under pressure, at least my pressure, and I switched over to the 602 much sooner than I anticipated. The 602, on the other hand, was a much better writer than the basic Blackwing, with a firmer lead that still marked nice and darkly. It also required a finesse I didn’t use much. The iconic tagline Half The Pressure, Twice The Speed, sounds a nonsensical as it scans memorably, but once I got on the pencil’s wavelength, I found a bit of truth in that; it did require less pressure to make a satisfying mark, and I was able to write a bit quicker.

The detachable, replacable

The eraser, I found, is replaceable. Funny, no? The eraser itself, a rectangular object reminiscent of a bit of Chiclet gum, is held by a small metal clip which one inserts into that unusual ferrule. They sell extra replacement erasers; the reason I find it funny, I suppose, is because you’re going to be using up that pencil. But then maybe the creators who are fans tend to use erasers faster than they use the pencil up. Seeing as one of the famous Blackwing fans was animator Chuck Jones, there’s a case for that.

The Blackwing 602 was a more exultant writing experience than I thought it would be. It hasn’t dissuaded me completely from my habituation to pen and ink, but it’s a pencil I’d keep around for note-taking and art. The quality is high, and it’s manifest. And, as a funky bit of 20th Century creative America it’s, at the least, most delightful.

For further delectation, here’s an article from The Hollywood Reporter that delves deeper into the legend:, and there’s a whole website devoted to the pencil … The Blackwing Pages … here:

If you can’t get to Muse or IBF to buy some (what a shame that would be) you can, as just about everything short of the human soul these days, buy them online. $20 the box.

[art] The Artist’s Guide, By Jackie Battenfield

Posted in art, art as a career, art how-to, artisting, artists on May 21, 2014 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

The Artist’s Guide is a book by Jackie Battenfield that I’ve just acquired. It’s a book subtitled How to make a living doing what you love, and is one of the many that you can find that claim to be able to show you a path from being a tyro artist to one that lives on what one makes.

This seems to be fine art. I’m looking to become an illustrator of some sort.

If anyone has read of this book or has used it and got any sort of result, I’d like to hear what you have to say. Leave a thumbnail review in the comments and later, when I’m done, I’ll post again with my own thoughts.

[art] Meredith Dittmar At Muse: Creative Process From The Inside Out

Posted in art, Art Is Local, artists, Muse Art and Design, PDX art stores, pdx artists on May 19, 2014 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
On Saturday, 17 May 2014, as the May offering in Muse Art and Design’s Artist-to-Artist talks, Peter and the crew hosted an artist I’d not heard of before: Meredith Dittmar. This is Meredith:

Meredith Dittmar at Muse Art and Design.

She works in polymer clay: Fimo, if I remember correctly. She takes it and assembles it into the most enigmatic ways and shapes; view her website, the picaresquely-named The splash page will give you a big ol’ taste; click through to her homepage and thither to the portfolio. Cute characters cavort amidst abstract confections that are possessed of the hint of a mathematical reverence and resonance that is hard to put a finger on but tickles the imagination.

There’s a reason for that. During her talk, she mentioned that her father was an engineer and her grandfather was a NASA rocket scientist. She didn’t elaborate, but it’s not hard to presume that she fairly swum in scientific verities as a youngster. Another anecdote seemed to suggest that she also has something of a suspicion of authorities; when learning vowels in school she was schooled up on the traditional five plus the sometimes-sixth, her father corrected this by saying that the sometimes-sixth was a full-fledged vowel, no sometimes about it, and furthermore there was a seventh*.

When relating this at school, this lowered the proverbial boom, and her father stuck up for her. I’m not sure of the eventual resolution, but bless that man, right?

Meredith struck me as a brilliant human who appreciated knowledge while at the same time rejecting the ‘it has to be’ structure that knowledge is sometimes unjustly straitjacketed into, at least by way of authority. She worked, by a sort of gestalt way, to cause me to come to the conclusion that while there is a great deal that is knowable, capital-E-Everything is unknowable, or at least not-quite-completely-knowable, which appealed to me on a Tao level. And my impression was that this was a tremendous informative data line on her own work.

She shared with us a lot of images of idea boards that she kept. Patterns, clippings, fractal patters, mathematical formulae scampered about on them in happy semi-anarchy. The genius expressed … the jelly somehow nailed to the wall and not nailed to the wall, all simultaneously, which is a heady experience for any armchair philosopher and aspiring artist trying to find direction.

In retrospect this formed a sort of base stratum for what was happening concurrently. Everytime I think of it, I get a little more impressed and in awe. See, she never showed off much of her work, but she showed off a great deal of her working, or at least her possibility. At the beginning  of the hour-long talk, she distributed small cut pieces of Fimo and invited us to play with them at will, but without taking our attention from her. She did her talk about her life and influences and work, and I kneaded my bit of Fimo about without taking it too seriously.

My bad there. A word on that presently.

At the end of the discussion about her and her work, she asked us to take part in two ‘experiments’. They both involved yet another lump of Fimo, but we were to listen to two recordings of physicists discussing quite abstruse concepts: the first, from its discussion of spin and color was no doubt relating to quarks, and the second was completely beyond me, but I did recognize the word eigenvector, though about the only thing I currently know about that is how to spell it. The important part about working was to simply observe your hands working the clay into whatever shapes the environment moved you to create, to get into that zone, and if we slipped out and got too self-aware, to pause a moment and refocus on the process of molding.

This is the stuff she plays in the background when she creates and the idea, as it seemed, was to see what sorts of things her audience would create. Whether she was compiling any sort of result or even per se looking for one we weren’t clear on, and I suspect that wasn’t the point anyway. All we walked away from the experience with was the experience, left to do its subliminal work on us; photos of past exploits showed spirals, geometric patterns, interesting prettiness.

Just before she left I got the chance to chat for a few minutes and found her intellect quickly drew me into a sort of orbit in which I started actively applying the experience to where I hope my own artistic growth takes me. I know this sounds kind of crazy, but she would say something and it would start this whole intellectual cascade, or at least that’s what it seemed from my point of view. At this point, it’s hard to put it into any specific words (never mind how prolix I’ve gotten here) what effects this is having upon me. Every time I look over the experience, it opens up again like another level of a Matrioshka doll.

She did talk for a moment about fractals, come to think.


The experimental process that she took us through, though, suddenly gelled for what I think it was, and what it will forever mean to me: the most effective look at the fabled creative process that I’ve ever had and probably ever will. She, as nearly as possible, without excess motion, deconstructed her own creative process for us, let us in, then reconstructed it about us so that we were suddenly on the inside looking out. I can draw parallels between the way I create when I’m in the zone and what she does, and see where it’s different, and I can’t put any of that into any less than the most clumsy of ramblings, but it’s there for me. Elegantly and economically, and it continues to have impact after the fact because it worked on so many levels that one can only see when in the rear-view.

She taught me something without actively teaching a thing. How rare is that?

Oh, and the ‘bad’ I was talking of? I realized, on review, that giving us the clay at the beginning was also an experiment, but with different terms. There’s that Matrioshka doll opening, again. And every time I think I’ve come to a conclusion on a thought generated by this, no fewer than two paths shoot out.

Clay isn’t my medium, but she just might be amongst the most important artists I’ll ever sit in on.

And you’ll please forgive the rambling; each time I go over the experience I am once again beMused. It’s hard not to be distracted.

*The classic 5 vowels are, of course, A, E, I, O, and U. The sometimes-sixth would by Y, naturally. The unknown seventh was cited as W. It makes logical sense, when you think of the sound the Y makes, which is fluid like a vowel, not staccato like a consonant, and any Welshman or woman can tell you quite naturally that W is a vowel (consider that the Welsh spelling of the English house name Tudor is Twdwr). 

[writing] I Have A New Cross Pen. Bring On Your Sword.

Posted in art, art tools, Dear Diary, handwriting, italic handwriting, writing life on May 18, 2014 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
Okay, so the title’s a little grandiloquent. Or, hell, a lot. There was an alternative title to this posting, riffing on something Pete Seeger had written on a banjo as sort of an answer to what Woody Guthrie’s guitar famously said: This machine surrounds facists and makes them surrender. 

But so what? It’s my blog. You want me to be a shrinking violet about my bad self, you go write your own blog about me.


Licensed to carry in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
It’s a First Amendment thing, yo.

It has latterly been my birthday, and I had recently lost my old trusty Cross Classic Century sliver chrome ballpoint. It’s been a strange journey. I loathe ballpoint pens, generally speaking.  My personal favorite, aside from this unlikely hero, is the Pilot Precise V5. I like a fine line, not too fine, and the liquid ink from the Pilot is always perfect, has never let me down.

Sustaining a writing habit with the Pilot can be kind of pricey, though, and a little unsustainable to the personal economy, incomes being what they are these days. While I was in handwriting bliss with the Pilot Precise, in my daily work I actually consume pens. I leave them dry. I find excuses and reasons to write. When I was a kid I could scarcely be bothered; I thought pens lasted forever, or as near as practically so. As an adult, I exhaust them.

Ballpoints are also eminently practical, a truth so obvious as to be axiomatic. They travel. They rarely, if ever, leak. With a minimum effort of care, a ballpoint will keep going and going until the ink runs out. So a side quest was to find the perfect dependable ballpoint pen. Since I keep my personal standards in this area so high, it’s been a long search.

Sometime in the last few years, I know not how, I battered Cross Century (judging by the style of the lettering, it was made before they started calling it Classic) fell into my hands. I was still obsessing on finding a dependable, affordable fountain pen (that was as I was getting acquainted with the Preppy) so it sat on the shelf for a while longer. Then, balancing the old Century in my hand one day I imagined that it was kind of a cross of two things; the desire to have a dependable modern writing tool and a well-designed object for daily use. 

And, heck, the thing just felt good. So I went to find refills, imagining it would be difficult. It was, a little, but I narrowed down Staples as the best source; not only do they have Cross-brand refills, and a more bargain-priced refill by Penatia that works acceptably.

There was a bit of a breaking-in period. The Century form factor was like a high-performance car: responsive, tight, giving if you got on its wavelength but unforgiving if you didn’t (I tend to a vise-grip on my pen as I use it continually). So it’s taught me a lot about writing with the pen rather than just dispassionately using it. You have to form a relationship with it, but once you do, it tends to reward you rather well.

Suddenly, it was gone. I have one suspicion as to where it might be, and that will have to wait until Monday to be followed-up. But I missed that pen a hell of a lot more than I thought I would, was obsessing on the fact that it no longer was available to me to use. So … what a perfect birthday gift! And so plans were made.

The purchasing experience was a bit more frought than I counted on. The display at Staples promises that you will get something from the stock room, all you have to do is bring a card from the little stack inside the little hole next to the display model and they’ll run back and get one. I had, originally, the basic model, described as a Cross Classic Century Lustrous Chrome. Simple, austere yet elegant. it’s the one with the black plastic tip on the clip end. But despite the inventory showing three there was not one. And yeah, we could get it shipped, but wanting it today made for an awkward moment.

How is it I was so obsessed over this silly ballpoint pen? I’m still more than a little amazed at myself. Well, if illiteracy is no virtue, then extremism in the acquisition of one’s favorite writing utensil is no vice. That’s what I always say (backdated).

The manager of the Staples was most kind and generous this day. After phoning Jantzen Beach and finding none in stock not there neither, and sensing, perceptively, that making me wait any further for this is punishment cruel and unusual, he found the next more expensive model and let me have it for the price we actually had already paid (payment processed before the inventory discrepancy had made itself known) for the cheaper model. And so I now have it.

The new pen is a Classic Century, but it’s the Medalist. The biggest difference is the addition of 23-carat gold plate on the clip, the cowling near the business end and the end cap which was plastic on the Lustrous Chrome edition. It feels even better than the old one and it’s a little more luxe without being blowout-ostentatious, so it’s been easy to get to know and to use.

… even though, it must be said, it comes with a medium point rather than a fine point. It’s acceptable for now; I’ll not waste it. Writing is a sacrament and ink the consecrated wine. But what is it about pen companies that they think, unless you’re looking for some fancy roller ball or gel-ink pen, all you want is medium? Irritating, is is.

But me and my new fascism-surrounding weapon will get along just fine I think.

This all may seem a little intense, but if being obsessive about my pen is wrong, then I don’t want to be write.

Er, right.

[art] LineworkNW … The First Issue

Posted in art, art in PDX, Art Is Local, comic art, comic artists, comickers, illustration, independent publishing, indie culture on April 13, 2014 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
In the middle of the day, yesterday, we took the time to visit LineworkNW … the premiere issue. It was dropped at Norse Hall, at the corner of NW 11th and Couch here in Portland, and my word, it was of a brilliance.

Comic and Illustration conventions have become huge business and überfashionable. As such they are usually located a)in places I can’t usually get to and, even if I can get there, b)I can’t afford ’em. Last year, Stumptown Comics Fest folded itself into the Rose City Comic Con, leaving a big hole for what makes Portland comic art so special and unique: heavily indie, madly and fiercely passionate, and intimate and approachable.

Enter LineworkNW: a 1-day festival, free to go to, easy to exhibit at, all about creators and the things they create and how they connect to the people who love the work they do … all the good things about Indiewood’s culture, the stuff that made Portland popular to begin with.

We must never forget our roots.

Brief abashed confession here: I nearly didn’t go. A moment to sing the Third Shift Blues: If I want to do anything nifty on Saturday, I wind up staying up more than 24 hours. This sort of schedule distortion has played havoc on many things, from my creative inspiration to some thought processes, I’ve become convinced; as The Wife™ and myself browsed the copies of Soylent News™in the Midland library, I was leaning toward going home and chilling out. But, in the A-and/or-E section mentioned LineworkNW, and The Wife™saw it, and insisted.

This is why my The Wife™ is awesome. When I run out of gumption, she gives me the kick.

So we decamped from the library, made an errand-stop on our way overtown, and, just before 5:00 PM, on an inordinately-pleasant Oregon spring afternoon, we came to the Norse Hall. Any doubts that LineworkNW was going to go over well were, if not dispelled by the news of the immense response, completely cast away by the traffic around that corner.

For a small festival, it was huge.

Parking our battered steed a full block and a half away (in a space that had opened up just a moment or two before), we walked over and entered.

Here I can tell you what the beauty of a one-day con is: if you get there half way through the day, and can only stay a little while, you don’t feel like you’re missing out. Every slice you take from this cake is good. Because, cake.

The exhibition floor was thronging, as you can see in these photos. So many people, you can scarcely see the merchandise for the crowd. Intimate doesn’t begin to describe.

I was, as stated before, on the latter half of a very long day, so I can’t give a complete rundown of all the awesomeness I saw there. But it was awesome. Creators were on hand to comment on all their work. There was Fantagraphics, there was Reading Frenzy (I think that’s Chloe Eudaly there on the right of the photo, at the RF table), there was DarkHorse; there was Know Your City and their wonderful Oregon History Comics zine series (we got 3 more of them, my favorite was the Dead Freeways volume), Fantom Forest (I got the wonderful PDX/100 by Matt Sundstrom).

We had at $20 budget and still we found nifty stuff. We’d have bought most of that room if we could.

We could attend one panel as well. The title was Line/Work, and it was about creators and their creating.

From right; one of The Little Freinds of Printmaking, Bwana Spoons, The other of The Little Friends of Printmaking, moderator Jason Sturgill

It was a general talk on everyone’s creative process, what they did to do what they did, which even touched on such things as why Portland instead of Los Angeles, and whether they preferred working out of the home versus a studio (my question. Surprisingly, the studio crowd outvoted the work-at-home crowd. It helps, apparently, to sharpen one against one’s tribal fellows on a daily basis).

From right: Meg Hunt, BT Livermore, Kinoko

Sitting back absorbing this with the assistance of indulging in a Bitsburger Pils was a privation I was perfectly willing to bear up under.

Word is that they’re going to do this yearly, and keep it small. Damn fine idea, I say. One of the things I have a problem with, in reclaiming my inner artist, is thinking that people who do this on a regular basis are some sort of elevated being, and I am not that being. Well, they are sensational people, but they aren’t supernatural … they just do what they do and it’s awesome. And they share what they know. And that’s aspirational.

LineworkNW was brilliance, and I’m glad as hell someone did this. Thank you. I’m grateful.