Category Archives: Reflection

State of the Art: Battling Material Snobbery

Now that material snobbery has taken hold of my brain I battle it in the best way I know how- by focusing on the art.

Last week I had a moment where my entrenched material snobbery hit me head ON. I was taking part in an art prompt with my coworkers when I realized that the paints we’d been provided with were…. not my usual brand. Further we were given only the primary colors plus white and black.  I was having trouble mixing the colors I wanted and was getting frustrated.

I wanted to run to my studio and grab a package of acrylics I ordered for a group and use all the colors I couldn’t mix.

After a bit of frustration I focused on what I COULD do with what I had on hand. The image ended up working pretty well. I used cups to press circles of paint onto my canvas and little creamer cups to press perfect dabs of color all over.

In the end I had fun.

No matter what tools I have on hand I can always find a way to make them work in some way. It might be different than my initial plan, but it’ll work. This is what happens when you let yourself be flexible, and look at the possibilities instead of the limitations of the material at hand.

I try to remember that limitations are possibilities.


State of the Art: Allowing for Flexibility

I have not always been the most flexible of people, but allowing for flexibility in life helps avoid burn out and anxious thoughts.

I’m a person that thrive and loves routine. I get up in the morning at the same time every weekday and only allow myself to sleep in by about an hour on weekends. Then my days start off with the same routine. I have grumbled and groaned when my routine has been thrown off.

When I changed jobs the first time, it was into a very different position, and then I was able to get my new awesome job. The shifting routines from one job to the next job to the next kinda blew my routines into smithereens. Each job has had its own schedule, vastly different from the others. It had made the transitions difficult, but totally worthwhile.

It takes time to get used to a new schedule, it’s why I don’t change mine all that often.

Last week I went for my booster vaccine. I waited too long to get it and had a stronger reaction than if I’d gotten it earlier, or when I was first eligible. I slept from Thursday evening to Saturday at noon. Then was tired until Monday. The kind of tired where getting things done seems impossible or leads to a nap.

I’m not a napper.

But I had to allow myself to get well. While my brain is beating myself up for “just being tired.”

This kind of thinking isn’t helpful, at all.

I’ve learned that I need to allow myself these quiet times to relax, to try to quiet my mind from beating myself up. I’ll have time later to create what I want to create. If I’m late with art or packages, I email the people who ordered and let them know what is happening.

Another thing I need to remember is that balance is key to everything. Pushing out work when I’m not happy with it or when I’m too tired to think is a disservice to myself and to the art. There are times when being creative means sticking my nose into my sketchbook and doodling and letting my mind relax. Sometimes it also means I need to take a nap or read a book or not make art for a few days. And that’s okay. Sometimes work takes center stage and sometimes my own creative work does. It all evens out and balances in the end.

Taking time for oneself is essential to the creative process.

I need to remind myself of that every now and then.

Reflection: Journaling for Clarity

Last year we were entering into our second of a pandemic and my workplace stopped hiring. I’ve worked in enough locations to know that when a company stops actively recruiting a hiring for a location it mean one thing- they are planning to close it. I spent a lot of time journaling for clarity.

Some companies are upfront about this, some, like my old workplace, are not. They gave us lines and glossed over things. IN the end they decided to close the place.

I started to look for another job, outside of the field that I had gone to grad school for, and despite my experience, I got no bites. I applied for 3 months with a few phone interviews. Mostly, my resume left people flat. My experience as a therapist didn’t mean a lot to many companies. Worse yet, my experience in HR, well that made people run away.

Anyway, in the process of bettering my resume I printed out every single journaling prompt about “finding the RIGHT job.” and other that exclaimed to help me “find my purpose.” And still more. 20+ pages of prompts and 8 pages of value words.

I followed every prompt, defined my values, and filled a journal. I used my journal like a tool- a tool that helped me to clarify my intentions and goals for 2020, but also look at where my previous jobs had failed me. I was able to see I took jobs right out of graduate school that didn’t fulfill my purpose, they were easy to accept and comfortable. Or in the case of my last workplace changed in the course of my employment from what I was looking for to something else entirely.

Finally I rewrote my resume, fixed my cover letter.

Serendipitously, at this moment the job opening for my current location opened up. It was a dream location. A job doing exactly what I wanted to do when I signed up for my masters program.

And here I am.

I would not have landed this job, for a great company, if I had not done the journaling.

I feel cheesy saying that journaling changed my life, but it did- in that it gave me the tools I needed to start making changes in my life to change my workplace and change my thinking around work. It also gave me the tools I needed to see where work was failing me as a person. It gave me the confidence to stand up for myself in the final days of my old job, to give an honest exit interview to leadership and to move forward with leaving on a positive note.

I plan on condensing the questions I used as well as the values journaling into an issue of Useful Journaling V2. The info is out there, and some googling and reading will net you some results but I’ll put the UJ and Less spin on it and make a USEFUL version of the tools available sometimes soon.

Journaling about values doesn’t just improve your thinking about work or your job search it can help you clarify a lot of other areas of life- hobbies, thing you want to read about, habits you want to increase or decrease, among many other things.

Reflection: The Use of an Art Journal

I’ve been working in a few different journals and pondering the use of art journals as a tool for making art but also mental wellness. My art journals have never been pretty. They have always straddled the line between sketchbook and reflective journal, I like them this way.

I heard the disturbing news of the acquittal at work from a coworker and my first response was, “Well that’s bullshit, not surprising but still bullshit.” I took a few days to mull over it and the horrifying meaning of the verdict.

I could get political here but I won’t I’ll let the art stand on it’s own.

I started with a simple pencil sketch of the shooter and the judge. Simple and loose. I used a few reference photos from newspapers, working up the sketch from several version. I didn’t focus on getting everything exact, just the feeling of the smirk or the condescending air of the images. Finally I looked at them and thought about what those faces represent- a slap on the wrist for people who deal deal to minorities, people like me. It’s a scary thought.

So I doodled pink skulls over those hateful faces.

Why pink? Macho bros don’t like it. I do.

Bright magenta pink.

A process color. Since the process was perverted and polluted. Continue reading

State of the Art: When Weird Stuff Enters

The DayJob studio is now fully functional and all that remains is all the weird little stuff that happens in any studio that holds classes on a daily basis. There will always be consolidating inks and paints, and cataloguing papers and the archive.

I’m not going to lie here, I’m incredibly proud of the work I did with my new friend and letterpress mentor, Mitchel. Together we did an incredible amount of work over the course of a few weeks and made the print shop something that functions for classes.

It has also lit my creative fires.

My imagination for trash printmaking has really taken off. I’ve been sketching and cutting and gluing many plates. I suspect that many will never get printed, either I’m not happy with the image, or the idea just doesn’t work. But you never know until you test it out. With trash printmaking, there isn’t a shortage of printing plates- they only require a bit of work, and there are dozens in nearly every person’s recycling bin.

This has freed my brain to create and create some more. I’m not worries about the expense of copper, zinc, or steel. Instead I’m spray gluing a thin carton to another carton and then sketching my idea with a Sharpie.


I also had some thoughts about working on No Brand Notebooks again. I was able to pick up some inexpensive blocks to test some ideas on, and I liked the pink carving plates more than I expected. I had learned through work and the guy who ran the print shop before the closure, that you can mount the pink stuff and run it through the Vandercook. Again, mind blowing.

Anyway, I’ve carved up a bit of the pink stuff to make covers. I’m considering what inks I want to print them with and when I figure out color schemes I’ll be printing up a bunch of covers for pocket notebooks again. NBN will be going letterpress, but a bit weirdo style.

Another thing- sometimes you are given some weird stuff- I signed up for this weird stuff. The shop was gifted these glass circles from a 50s era etching tool. I don’t know how they worked but they are cool as hell. The circles range from 5mm to 80mm, and then they have a range of thicknesses.

I grabbed a handful of them, in a single thickness-ish, stuck them to a backing, inked and printed them. I struggled a bit with press pressure, linoleum block high was too high, then the height for other blocks was too tight. I ended up crushing the glass on a few of the circles. If i had used a smooth new piece of MDF I don’t think the glass would have cracked. But it did. Anyway, I figured out the pressure and ended up with some fantastic prints. There is just something freeing when you play with weird materials and get something really cool. I’m imagining layering a bit of bright blue over the top of that brilliant red (Charbonnel Cardinal Red). I think the layer of color would be amazing, while the pop of red and blue would be cool.

Anyway, get some weird stuff into your studio and just play with it!

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State of the Art: Discoveries in Viscosity and Resistance

The last few weeks have been packed full of the good stuff, including some trash printmaking discoveries concerning viscosity and resistance in different packaging.

Let’s start with the viscosity and resistance discovery. I started working on a small series of images using coffee bags and packaging. The packaging had ideas of mental health and substances used to treat mental health conditions which also have a history as recreational and medical tools. This stuff fascinates me.

IN these images I wanted to create additional plate tone in the form of brush strokes. I intended to capture these with waterproof outdoor Gorilla glue. What happened was a surprise. The packages from both Neosporin and Band-Aids resisted the Gorilla glue and prevented it from sticking everywhere- in stead it started to bead up. It held better in areas where I brushed more thoroughly.  Once I discovered this effect, I went to great pains to only lay a single brush stroke over areas and let the package and glue do it’s own thing. The effect is magical. It has the look of water beading up on a windshield or water on the beach as it recedes. It’s random and magnificent.*

Testing with other materials has lead to similar results. Coffee bags and foil all respond similarly, though the glue has difficulty with full adhesion with the plastic and will pull away in big sheets of rubbery dried glue if cut into. It does not survive dry point efforts once dried. I’ve got several plates that I hope to print soon to test the effect on these other materials.

Sadly one of my favorite plate types does not produce the effect at all- coffee cups. Though I have not tried all of the coffee cups in my pile.

Other interesting business- I was finally able to take a trip to the Museum of Printing in Haverhill, MA. I was able to do this for work and have a spectacular tour. The MoP is spectacular with many specimens of presses and all sorts of lovely machines. I had a great time touring the place.

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State of the Art: Failing Happily

I set out to work on NaNoWriMo again this year. Last year I failed miserably, this year I’m failing happily.

The print shop is set up and other than a deep clean of the floor and picking up a few final items, it’s ready to go. It was an enormous amount of really good work. Throughout the clean up and wake up I set up and printed a letterpress poster on the Vandercook SP20, and it was awesome. I’m looking forward to printing more stuff on it.

I’ve also tested the etching press with some of my trash prints. It works differently than my mini press and other presses I’ve used. Mainly tightening the roller is tougher than on other presses. I had to pack the press with an assortment of waste paper to get a good impression for trash prints. I suspect I can get the press tighter through a different style of tightening and rolling through the felts. I’m looking forward to teaching trash printmaking to students, in addition to recording some trash printmaking for Ko-Fi or Youtube.

This post is less about he business of my DayJob and more about failing at NaNo. Day one went really well, I plowed through and was over the 1,667 words I needed. Then the next day I found out I had been exposed to covid through work, everyone was sent for a test and then to work from home. Mentally I went back to the summer of 2020 and lost all sense of time. In my rush to go for my test and get out of the building, I forgot the charger for my work laptop.

All in all my WFH only lasted 36 hours.

But the impact on the work place and my mental state has been longer.

I found myself in that same scattered timeless disorganized mental space I found myself in during 2020. I also found myself staring at my work screen for far longer than I should have. This was an issue in 2020 as well. Like in 2020 I dropped the ball and NaNo fell by the wayside.

Most years I’d be mad at the interruption.

Not this year.

A good part of learning more about my own reactions toward the pandemic and WFH has led me to be a little more gentle with myself when I fail at a goal. I also let myself lean into what I need when it comes to this WFH state of mind.

As I’ve failed at writing, I’ve worked on trash printing making. Perhaps, I should start NaNoPriMo? A goal of 30 Trash Prints in November. Ambitious, too much for now.

I’ve worked on 10 trash print plates since the start of November. I haven’t printed the full edition of any of them, I’ve only gotten 3 prints of 8 of the plates so far. The little plates work up quickly but take a lot longer to print. I’ll be testing a few of the plates to see how much of an edition I get with the full sized press VS the mini press. I have a suspicion that the thicker felts cushion the plates and I’ll get more prints from each plate than with the mini press. Which makes me want to work to cushion the mini press more.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the plates. I’m working on a few series using brains and skulls along with various cells or microscopic pictures I’m interested in. One is a covid virus, another yeast cells, a poppy seed, as well as ergot fungus.

Reflection: Falling Back into Pocket Notebooks

When I first started my new job I had won a Instagram giveaway from  Maruman USA for a pair of their lovely Septcouleur notebooks. I still need to review them but I’ll start with the fact that they are lovely. I immediately decided the mustard colored book was my new work notebook. And it’s worked perfectly. It’s perfect for notes in meetings and trainings. It’s also not so big that it feels weird carting it around the building.golden hour image of a Pen Addict by Word Notebooks pocket notebook, well used

So I do a lot of moving around the building. I’m on the 4th floor for part of the week, the basement another part (the print shop lives there) and then the first floor for meetings and a group, then the second floor then the 3rd then… Suffice it to say I’m in and out of studios and floors of the building all day all week.

Another Pocket Notebook

Like I said I’m going up stairs and downstairs a lot. I was really glad that I stuffed a notebook into my back pocket at the start of the job. I intended to fill the Pen Addict X Word Notebooks pocket notebook* for sketches and doodles while I was commuting via the train.

It didn’t take long for me to start making notes about groups, make to do lists, and needs for groups in the pocket notebook. I’m not down to a flow with the system yet, but pocket notebooks are 100% making a post-pandemic comeback in my routine.

I started to make some of my own hand stitched notebooks. These aren’t available for sale, though, I’ll be making some of my own out of my own art at some point, remember all those brains I carved? Yeah on notebook covers. Those pictured are for staff at my new work- I found some dead and overprints, killer. I had to make a hand sewn version of the Dead Prints by that big company- but WOW these are so different and sooooo cool!

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State of the Art: Reviving a Printshop

I’m a lucky perrson. I’m getting to take part in reviving a slumbered printshop. In the shop we’ve got a large etching press, 2 working Vandercook presses (An SP20, be jealous), a small 5×7 card press, 2 baby presses, 8 cases (or more) of lead type, and a case of wooden type. That doesn’t include the various plates made for the presses to produce job specific posters and cards.

The kind of difficult thing about this revival is that the shop was not slumbered properly. The person who had been running the shop had left the company and the printers who had been there to oversee the production had retired. Further, the printshop was left open so folx could grab materials they could use… But also, so it could be used as storage. And I think all of us know what happens in a basement room for storage when people get busy- stuff gets stashed and forgotten.

So there’s a large amount of stuff stashed, but also dead prints, make ready’s,  test prints, and prints that just didn’t make the cut stashed ALL OVER THE PLACE. Not to mention the supplies that are stashed that belong in other studios.

The part that I love about this is that all the stuff left behind shows the history of the place but also gives us great materials to have our students make sketchbooks and pocket notebooks.

I’m ridiculously excited at the prospect of having access to all of this machinery but also to make it available to the other art therapists and all our clients. Continue reading

State of the Art: Return of the Mini Press

Yesterday marks the Return of the Mini Press! As much as getting the press was a pain in the rear, the customer service person who I dealt with was lovely.

Now that I know more about the press, and I’m checking pressure with EVERY plate change, it’s working great. I spent a few hours and inked up a few plates and it was really nice to work on the prints.

I wanted to focus on one print and plate. The inked plate.

The plate is made up of 3 sheets of cardstock cut from a pizza box. I laminated this together with regular old white glue (PVA if ya fancy) and put the whole stack in my book press for a few hours. I then let this dry in my drying rack.

I sketched directly onto the plate with pencils. I went over that with an extra fine Sharpie. This was okay because I knew I’d be sealing the plate. I have found that under pressure and with the use of the Speedball Supergraphic ink, unsealed sharpie lifts onto the print. It makes a halo the color of the Sharpie. Annoying.

After that I cut shapes and peeled the paper back. I etched into the plate with a needle and craft knife. When I was happy with my base image, I went back into the image with a liquid matte medium and sand mix*. I brushed this onto areas I wanted to be deeply dark. I used a q-tip (cotton bud) to move the sandy mix around a bit. Then I wanted to try something fancy, I coated the light area in the sky with that white glue. I knew that with the amount of moisture in the air (it’s been humid AF here) that when I coated the sky area with the acrylic based varnish I use, it would crackle, but be mostly white. I was right. Even if I hadn’t been I had known in advance I wanted that area light. The crackles  were purposeful and look, to me, much like thin branches you see in the sky when you look up through a tree canopy.detail of the crackle sky detail of the crackle sky

A thing that I noticed is that the rough areas of the plate- in the trees and large swatches of dark, it starts to break down. That card from the recycling bin is very absorbent. I’ll start adding a thicker layer in those areas from now on, but I’m going to reapply more varnish over those areas. detail of the cabin

I also need to “wet-pack” my paper. Basically, Spritz down the paper I’ll use for my printing session with clean water, stack them together in a plastic bag, and then print with the resulting soft damp paper. I’ve been printing with dry paper or paper that has been lightly misted just before rolling it through the press. Since I’m cutting quite deeply into my card the paper has to be soft enough to make it into every nook and cranny. small print of a cabin in the woods, small cabin is overshadowed by large trees Mini press, purple and white press Continue reading