28 February 2021

Cat Signs, The Next PBN


This is the next PBN work I'll be doing:

Dimensions PaintWorks' 73-91655, Cat Signs, by Geoffrey Tristram. 

Fluffbutts? Yes. Vintage label design? Yes yes. Both? Yes, please. 

Sunrise on the Last Day of February 2021


The sunrise, today, the last day of February 2021, from a work site somewhere in northeast Portland:

That is all, for now.

The Bob Ross Paint-by-Number Triptych


So, here's the final result of doing the three tiny numberless paint-by-number works in the Bob Ross By The Numbers kit.

... a mountain scene, Bob's iconic portrait, and a covered bridge. Just like Bob's paintings, the style lends itself to freedom if you just go with it. 

Each one of the pictures has an instructional diagram. The colors to be used are keyed to numbers in the diagram and you are given the seven colors to mix as you will. As noted before, the numbers on the diagram were actually left off the panels, and you could write the numbers on, say, with pencil, if you wanted, but the pictures are not all that complex and, with just a couple of oopsies, I was able to refer to the diagrams to put the colors in the right places.

Also, recall that, despite depicting above the colors and brush included with the kit, I did not use them. Anyone who wants to get this kit, I recommend using closely corresponding colors from elsewhere, even if they're cheapo acrylic pots from the craft store or craft acrylic. Get the colors as close as you can then mix. The colors in the kit are kind of a mockery of Bob's work; poor quality materials make the work hard due to the frustration and energy expended in working round the issues those poor quality materials cause. There's no joy in painting with these lousy-quality acrylics in hard-to-open and close, tiny pots. 

The brush is cute though.

25 February 2021

A Shot In The Arm Of History


So, today, I got the 2nd shot of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. I work in an occupation where those who serve the needs of medically fragile people occasionally come in contact with me, and that's all the detail I'll render unto now. Suffice it to say that I sit at a bottleneck through which a chance encounter could be passed to someone who would pass it amongst many; and, conversely, those who pass amongst many may encounter me. And so, it was done.

The Covid-19 vaccination center for the greater Portland area was, as the news has well-documented by now, the Oregon Convention Center. Though I have lived in Portland a number of decades now, I have not yet been in the OCC, though I have admired its architecture. I was hoping to see the inside of it at sometime in my lifetime, but not like this ... no, never like this.

But who knew this was coming. Yeah, I know, everyone after a certain point, even those who refused to believe. Well, I didn't really think it would play out quite this way. 

One month ago, when I got my first jab, there were a great many people in Army fatigues, and that was a little off-putting but, coming from me, that's an incredibly childish thing to say. Those were faithful Oregon Army National Guard soldiers, doing the dutiful thing that they signed up to do. They were neat, friendly, and very proper about it. And if I get a little anxious about it all, well, it's because that's what a lifetime reading apocalyptic speculative fiction will do for you. I'm quite glad that they were there.

The procedure was mundane, almost mechanical, which is a comfort. Means someone thought this out and had a plan in place, and that is a comfort. Entered at the south end of the main concourse, followed the line though various check-ins and filled in a form; sat at a table, was administered dose #1, waited in the observation area for 30 minutes to see that there were no ill effects, sent on my way.

Today I was there in the afternoon and it was really very much the same. I didn't have a paper or email confirming my appointment so I stepped to a lady standing at a table with a laptop who confirmed my name was on there and passed through; went up to the same room, talked to more or less the same people as last time, got the jab, sat in the observation area again, then left.

They asked that no photos be taken while in line though there was a 'selfie area' (how 21st Century is that, dear reader?) provided (I could see nobody celebrating with selfies though). So I have no pictures of the event. However, now mounted on a diary page for someone to find in my wake in whatever aftermath we have in front of is, is this:

That circular red badge identified me as one of the Moderna group, for routing to the proper inoculators, and the green label was my reminder to stay in the observation area until 2:28 PM, Wednesday, the 24th of February, 2021. 

There are questions and answers which are unique to every generation. My grand-cestors lived life though the depression, and when they saved and recycled and practices parsimonious habits, you knew without asking that they lived during the Great Depression. Similarly, we're going to have an entire generation of socially-distanced mask-wearers who compulsively wash their hands (the hand-washing's not that bad a thing, TBH) and will tell you their pandemic-inflected memories involving being vaccinated with a whole heapin' lot of other strangers, and you'll know they lived through Covid, no question about it.

And, so it goes.

21 February 2021

What A Difference A Paint Makes (Painting A Very Small Bob Ross, By The Numbers, Round 2)


In the immediately-previous missive, I tried painting the PBN style tiny Bob Ross portrait from the set Bob Ross By The Numbers, and documented the results which, while fun, were pretty sad.

Despite using my own brushes (the only things PBN brushes are good for are spreading masking fluid then discarding) the effort was doomed by the low-low-low quality paints included in the kit. Packaged in small, hard-to-open plastic pots, it mixed poorly and flowed even worse. You may follow this link to the previous entry if you're too pandemic-tired to scroll down, if you must. I was okay to settle for the result as I wasn't trying to reproduce La Giaconda after all, just have a bit of fun. But! The Brown Eyed Girl informed me, post-painting, that she wanted to scan this so she could color it in on the computer in Photoshop. 

No longer possible! Oh, well ... we just got us another from I've Been Framed (they're cheap, as they say, at twice the price ... about $10 at IBF, probably even less when you buy on-line). And she scanned them and has them as a digital file and colored on in the 'shop and it does look quite nice. Also, I was able to try something I wanted to try.

It's said, by more than one authority, that, when given the chance, one should spend as much as able when buying art supplies such as paint and brushes. The savings in aggravation and having to cope with (and replace) bad-quality materials alone is supposedly worth it. And there are quality differences between student quality and serious hobbyist quality and professional quality. The aspiring artist frequently does not have the experience on embarking to really make a confident choice and lowballs it, only to spend a little more next time. 

I'm being a bit melodramatic; you're not buying a car here, after all. But it means something because the less aggravation over your materials the more likely an art habit won't be dropped early. What of the quality question, though? Does it make that much of a difference? This experiment shows that it does, and I'll prove it, starting here.

Now, PBN acrylics aren't renowned for their high quality no matter who you buy it from. Some are better than others; Royal & Langnickel are just acceptable and Paint Works are pretty fair, for PBN, but none of them are ever going to be confused with Grumbacher or Liqutex Basic. The quality of the acrylics in the Bob Ross By The Numbers set, though, is bad enough on their own; the producer of the set should publicly apologize to the Bob Ross estate for putting the Ross name on a box containing them. 

What if I found comparable Paint Works PBN colors and tried them? I've had good experience with them, they mix and flow well. To the morgue! The thing about PBNs is you'll frequently have leftover paint, and I keep them, morgue-file style, in a box. The Bob Ross kit came with seven colors: a blue, a red, a green, a yellow, a brown, white and black. Could I find approximate replacements in the paint morgue?

... yes, as it turned out, I could. The tall pots in the back row are from old Paint Works kits; the small ones in the foreground were the ones from the Bob Ross kit. 

That front row may now exeunt; they shall not be heard from again.

I proceed as before. For Bob's face, hair, skin, and parts of the brush as directed, I used brown; highlight tone was a tinted brown, pure brown for the middle tone, and shaded brown for the dark tones. 

Then I proceeded to the blues. there was a light blue, a dark blue, and a blue-gray. As with the brown I mixed white and black to get the tint and the shade, and let the pure blue dominate the sky. Perhaps I should have tinted the dark blue a bit to lighten that sky up, but I'm looking at the finished product and I'm still okay with it. 

There were two greens; the pure green for the light green areas and a shaded green for the dark green areas. Filling those in, the painting is complete.

The result looks pretty good, given the limits of the materials and the context of the form. But where the real point of the whole pursuit becomes plain when the two paintings are compared side-by-side, as does the relative quality of the paint:

What sort of difference even a minimal increase in quality make? All the difference in the world, really. Mixing, flow, coverage ... it's blindingly obvious. 

06 February 2021

Painting A Very Small Bob Ross, By The Numbers


So, I took out one of those teeny-tiny Bob Ross PBNs and I did it. And I couldn't resist, I wanted to save the Bob portrait until last, but my compulsion just wasn't having that.

The skin and hair tones were noted as 1, 2, 3, in order from light to dark. One of the seven colors is a brown color; for the lighter ones, I tinted the brown, for the darker, I shaded.

Then came the blue of the sides of the mountains toward the light and the bluish white of Bob's shirt. I took the blue that came with the kit and tinted again.

The parts of the mountains in shadow as well as the highlights of Bob's shirt were created of a gray with just enough blue to make it bias the blue's direction. 

Unlike most PBNs, abutting regions were colored with the same color. That was a bit of a distraction, but not near as much as the suckyness of the paint, which refused to flow evenly. That's a bit of a thing that you run into with PBNs, but this really pushed it.

Finishing off with a pure blue for the sky and other appropriate areas, and a pure green and a shaded green for the tow different intensities of green the diagram called for.

I was the most unhappy with Bob's hair. the unevenness of flow really did a bad job there, so I made another shade fo brown and overlayed the paint already there. By improving the contrast between the hair and the background, it actually improved this a bit.

It ain't pretty, but it can live up by by Funko POP! Bob Ross. They'll make famous friends. 

04 February 2021

I Found A Bob Ross Paint-By-Number Set. It Is Very Small.


It would stand to reason that my affection for PBN and my ongoing fondness for Bob Ross would eventually cross paths. Actually, as big as Bob has gotten, more than 25 years after his death (he died in 1995 and the last The Joy of Painting episode aired the day after my birthday in 1994 ... I myself only discovered Bob after he'd passed on) and as adept as BRI has been at marketing his memory (some say he's bigger than Andy Warhol now) I'm rather abashed to discover that The 'Fro of Art is nowhere to be found on real adult PBN kits.

There is a Bob Ross PBN kit now, though. Titled Bob Ross By The Numbers, it's copyrighted in 2018 by Running Press, and it's a rather remarkable, somewhat gently iconoclastic work, not unlike Bob himself. Here is the box, on my desk, with a number of desk-top sized objects in shot to give you an idea:

The box could maybe hold a number of playing cards. And you know, going in, that you're going to have a kind of a Bob Ross experience. 

What comes out when you open this little box? Glad you asked! Here's what comes out:

  1. Three small PBN panels, each about the size of a Post-it Note.
  2. Seven small pots of acrylic paint
  3. A totes adorbs easel for display of finished work (just one though)
  4. A very tiny book about Bob Ross describing each one of the works and the thumbnailiest of histories of wet-in-wet painting and Bob's professional trajectory, which includes tips on how to mix the colors provided.
  5. A very small, about 4-inch long, brush
  6. A graphic instructional sheet detailing how to paint the panels
The instructional guide (shown below) tells you one thing about this kit that provides the most Rossian part of th experience: You'll be using whatever skills you have in paint mixing to create the proper colors to apply to each panel. This is all about process!

There are three panels: The one I've pictured, with the iconic picture of Bob and his 2 inch brush; a Scenic Landscape, and a Covered Bridge, each one drawn from Bob's colossal oeurve, with a picture of the original painting as reference. 

The small book accompanying the set has a bit of commentary on each piece and tries to borrow Bob's easygoing style to describe and inspire. One omission, and a rather curious one at that, is that the text says that the 'canvases' (their word) has numbered sections, but as you can see in the photo next:

There are no numbers on the panel. Fortunately the instructional guide is clearly marked, and if I wanted to, I'd take, maybe, a pencil and mark down the numbers before starting. They aren't that complex, so I don't know if I'll take the time to do that. 

It's an audacious little design though, this is a thing that can fit in the pocket (well, of a pair of cargo pants, but still) and it looks like it'll be a bit of fun if I don't take it too seriously. This is Bob Ross for fun, not necessarily for artistic accomplishment, though PBN can get you going in directions, as I myself have found. 

And for all this, it doesn't seem to promise more than it'll deliver. Bob has taught us to take things as we find, them, really, 

02 February 2021

At Last, The 2021 Calendar


The Pandemic Year and its attendant centrifugal effects have forced a great many changes. We've lost friends, changed our routines, and endured creative stresses we couldn't have forseen.

The SJKPDX calendar, which I've produced and sold through Lulu.com for the past four or five years, has thusly emerged, a little late, but it's here. In addition to the other struggles, with the retirement of Flash, which Lulu's calendar creator was coded in, I had to hope and wait until they developed a similar way to do it. I can lay it out and upload the PDFs but liked the other way better. More painless. I just have to include captions in the uploaded picture now (I didn't this time, but am planning on doing it next time). It includes January 2022, so anyone getting it now is going to still have 12 months of Action Calendar! And it includes many of my carefully curated Portland street photography, which is my pride and joy.

The Brown Eyed Girl endorses and insists, to my benefit, to be creative this way, and if Brenda Balin were still with us, she's be sore disappointed in me. 

Interested? Follow the link below. $12.49 US. 

A Mural Befitting The David Douglas Community


There's this building on SE 122nd, a little south of the Midland Branch Library, on the west side of the street between Main and Market, its address is 1245, and it tends to be a county home for services for various disadvantaged populations. Its held state offices and county offices and been home to correctional functions such as a work-release and more recently has housed the Wy'east Men's Shelter. 

It's a two-story brick edifice about the length of a city block. 

It's been doing a little evolution over the past year and that evolution is mostly finished. And, in a niche in the building's east front, formerly bare brick veneer, now exists this wondrous bit of art:

I'm happy to live in one of the most, if not the most, economically and ethnically diverse areas in all of Oregon. I don't mean this as a brag; it just makes me happier to see a whole lot of different people. You can get whitebread anywhere you want in Oregon, and Portland west of 82nd is blanding out at an amazing rate. Out here, in what the kids call the Numbers, you get a rainbow of skin colors. There are a great many African immigrants. There is the most amazing and delightful mercado next to the Plaid Pantry that's a 10-minute walk from my house. There are two halal groceries down at 122nd and Division. 

And the faces on that mural perfectly reflect that. The rest of the kaleidoscopically-wondrous picture invites you into a universe of wonders which asks you to engage and explore, and make sense of it all. 

Like life, really.

I'm not world-travelled, but I've lived in more than a few places in my life and I've never felt as joyously at home as I have in my years out near 122nd in the David Douglas neighborhoods. It may not be the perfect place, but it comes close.