28 February 2010

Sketchbook, page 6

(Previous pages)

The process of filling a 120 page sketchbook by year's end continues:

"p.20 of How to Draw Animals by Jack Hamm"

Two years ago on TTaT: Loyal to a Fault

27 February 2010

Soon I Will Be Invincible

8. Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman (4.5/5)

Have you ever wondered about the real lives and motivations of superheroes and supervillains? If so, this is the book to read.

It's autobiography/unauthorized biography/mystery. A seasoned supervillain and newbie superhero take turns advancing the story from their points of view.

The book explores just about every superhero/supervillain trope you could think of with humor and humanity. It feels believable, enough so to make me think twice about wishing for superpowers, diving into irradiated vats, or picking up alien artifacts.

Thanks, Vahid, for recommending it!

A year ago on TTaT: Do people actually like Shane?

26 February 2010

Life of Art SitRep #3

This week, I started second-guessing the title of this series of posts. Sleazy aggressive marketing is not my aim. The purpose is to quantify for myself what I did to further my career* as an artist--my pursuit of a career as an artist--each week. Committing to these posts is a commitment to action, because to have content for them, I have to do something. Every week.

So... I'm pondering new names for this series that are less marketing, more journey. Or is that just all in my head? Let me know if you have any title suggestions.

This week, I
  • Rewrote the introduction to my Zazzle shop.
  • Uploaded a new photo, deleted an old one, and updated a link on my Gallery Culture artist profile.
  • Uploaded a few photos as part of an online group exhibition, an adjunct to an event in San Francisco tonight called "Flash Art Show" on Facebook.
  • Approved 92 color scans and 231 black & white scans after dealing with some very time-consuming mishaps.
  • Tromped through the snow to fix the panel on my favorite sculpture.
  • Shot 238 photos and 13 videos.
  • Edited and posted 2 vlogs.

*I want to say "life" here instead of "career" (or job, profession, occupation, vocation, etc. Actually vocation's not bad. Hmm.), but it would let me off the hook as long as I created something every week. I want more than that, I want to build something that can sustain me.

A year ago on TTaT: Under The Weather

25 February 2010

Sketchbook, page 5

(Previous pages)

The process of filling a 120 page sketchbook by year's end continues:

pencil sketch of generic animal
pencil sketch of generic animal with blue guidelines
"p.4 of How to Draw Animals by Jack Hamm"

In this case, I actually like the drawing better with its blue guidelines showing. The quirk of a non-photo blue pencil, a special light blue pencil that will not show up if photocopied, is that it shows up in scans. There's probably a way to account for this if you've got the right scanner or scanning software, but I don't know it offhand. For me, that means Photoshop.

I flipped through my manual a few times without discovering a simple solution, so I turned to the web. Google came up with an awesome site targeted at comic book creators, full of cool tips.

To remove non-photo blue pencil lines from your image:
Go to Image>Adjust>Hue/Saturation or press Ctrl+U to bring up a dialog box. Set the color from Master to Cyan, then run the Saturation down to -100 and the Brightness to 100. You should see most, if not all of the blue lines disappear. Do the same thing for Blue, and if there are any color lines remaining then go through the other colors and do it again. -Inkthinker, message #2
Since I'm not looking to make my pencil lines black, I just removed the cyan and the blue which works quite well for me. Seems like this technique should work for removing a regular light blue pencil's lines as well if you want to give it a try and don't have a non-photo blue one handy. (I bought mine at A.C. Moore but have also seen them at Michael's. At both places, they were in the display of colored pencils you can buy individually. Where they print the color on the side of the pencil it reads: Non-Photo Blue.) Let me know if you try it!

A year ago on TTaT: Now she's a superhero

23 February 2010

Gettin' My Groove On... (vol. xiv)

...to "Standing Still" by Jewel:

Claire dancing #1Claire dancing #2Claire dancing #3Claire dancing #4
(Previous grooves.)

I was feeling motivated to work when I noticed it was 1:07 AM. In theory, my new rule is shut off the computer by 1 AM so I don't stay up so late screwing around. It's an adjustment and some days I'm better about it than others. It's not so much a rule anymore as a guideline. If I'm going to be productive, then OK.

I was grooving out to some music, so I decided to take a quick late night groove series before getting down to work. No complicated setup or lighting, just the auto four-shot in Photo Booth. My first take came out so well I decided to post it.

And here we are. Um, so much for the work. Probably just as well as the high energy feeling didn't last that long.

Two years ago on TTaT: Better Living Through Death

22 February 2010

Kinetic sculpture: winter, sunny day

(run time 1:17)

Considering I was at full zoom while it was finger achingly cold outside (all the better wind for the sculpture), and then digitally zoomed it in even further, I'm quite happy with this handheld. Need to get out there to fix that upper right panel though. Should've done it today while it was over 40 and sunny, but I didn't get to it. Tomorrow perhaps, if it's only snowing rather than raining.

(Other vlogs of TTaT)

Two years ago on TTaT: Questions for Claire, part 2

21 February 2010

Sketchbook, page 4

(Previous pages)

The process of filling a 120 page sketchbook by year's end continues:

"verso title page of How to Draw Animals by Jack Hamm"

A year ago on TTaT: Questions for Claire, part 1

19 February 2010

Life of Art SitRep #2

Despite my bi-yearly obsession with the Olympics, I managed to get a new photo uploaded to the shop: Ice Formation. Like the majority of my photos there, it is available as a print/poster, card, and postcard.
Ice Formation card
Ice Formation by ClaireSkinnerPhotos
See more cards available at zazzle

More information about all the photographs I put up for sale is included in their descriptions at the shop. If you have questions about any of the photos, please feel free to leave a comment on the photo at the shop, and I'll do my best to answer them.

A year ago on TTaT: I am a Rock Immortal, Moustacheslut '87

17 February 2010

Other things I learned from skiing

When I was in elementary school, I took downhill ski lessons. Sitting on the chairlift, I would read all the signs on the posts as we went up the side of the mountain: Do Not Swing, Do Not Bounce, Do Not Rock The Chairlift. The signs all seemed eminently reasonable to me. One arm extended up from the seat of the lift and rested on top of the cable. As much as I looked, it did not appear to be attached to the cable in any way.

Of course, I always ended up sitting next to someone who would bounce, swing, and rock the lift. I was convinced that the lift would jump off the cable one fateful run.

Though that never happened, the back of my jacket got hooked on the lift as I tried to get off. Chairlifts swing up and around at the top of the hill. In a panic, I jumped as the seat neared its apex for the flip around. One of my skis came off and started sliding down the hill. My instructor took off after it. I landed on one ski and slid about 15 feet before falling down.

After that, I think I only rode a chairlift one more time. I preferred T-bars; even though they are more unwieldy than chairlifts in some respects, they keep you on the ground.


In cross country ski racing, at least at the high school level back in the day, when you call, "Track," the person ahead of you is supposed to move aside so you can pass them. Most of the races I competed in are a blur, but a few moments are indelible.

We were at a meet hosted by another team. Their home track covered a golf course for the 5K race. Since skiers started the race in waves, I was usually able to cheer on the top boys as they finished before I even started. Out on the course, it had been so long since I'd seen another skier, I assumed I was in last place. It was disheartening.


I glanced over my shoulder and saw Tom--the same Tom I learned to skate on skis with--gaining ground behind me. I'm not last! Instead of getting over as per proper etiquette, I picked up my pace so that he couldn't catch me. I was determined, and I finished before him.

Much later, I found out from a friend and teammate (our coaches never bothered discussing results with me) that neither Tom nor I had been last. It still only felt like beating one person though, and at the time, one was enough.


After the school ski season was done, my town held a ski race on our course at the park. It was a sunny day in March with temperatures reaching almost 50 degrees. Like many of my teammates competing, I wore a t-shirt since it was so nice outside.

This race had a large free-for-all start on the field adjacent to the base of the mountain where the trails began. In our high school meets, I never ranked anywhere near high enough to score for our team (points are assigned by finishing positions so races are not just individual events but team competitions as well), so I never bothered waxing my skis.

On the day of the town race, I regretted it because the melting slush in the field felt like skiing through glue. After a few strides, I shook off the snow sticking to my skis and found my pace.

Then I hit the most innocuous looking tiny patch of uncovered grass.

Inertia: a body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.

My ski stopped at a dead halt while I continued forward. Fortunately, I was able to recover without falling down, and after that, I was vigilant about avoiding melted spots on the course.

I finished fourth in my age group for girls and seventh or eighth for my age group overall. Even though only 17 or so people competed in that age range, I was still really happy with that result.

A year ago on TTaT: Out of time

16 February 2010

Ancient Muscle Memory

The most officially athletic I've ever been was when I was in the 7th grade. I joined the cross country ski team with some friends. They were all in better shape since they'd been on the cross country running team in the fall, but I stuck it out anyway.

The town I lived in was so small that the team included members from 7th through 12th grade. Even 6th graders could join though I don't remember there being any that year. My brother, four years older, was also on the team, though he was less diligent about attending practice than I was. My devotion kicked in as soon as we had enough snow to ski on; I never did care for running, and it was kind of depressing because everyone else was faster than I was.

Claire cross country skiing at state meet
The freestyle nordic skiing so common now was just gaining popularity at the high school level. "It's just like ice skating," coach told me.

I could feel my face burn as I said, "I've never been ice skating."

"It's the same as roller skating."

I shook my head. I had roller skated before, but I was by no means proficient at it nor did I understand how to transfer that knowledge to skis. At least I wasn't the only one; my classmate Tom needed help with it too. Ultimately, coach gave up describing it and had Tom and I follow Jason, a classmate who knew the technique and on whom I had sporadic crushes, in a short loop over and over while the rest of the team went on a long training circuit. It was both edifying and mortifying.

It was a strange season. My mom threw out her back so badly that she was essentially bedridden for a couple of months. Dad and I took over Christmas shopping for the extended relatives. Mom didn't make it to a single race during the season. My dad went to them all but never thought to bring a camera.

There was no separate race for JV, you just started in the later waves. Though I'd ride the bus to the meets with the team (we'd sing along to Weird Al's "George of the Jungle" on someone's boombox), I rode home with my Dad. We had things to do and no one missed me. I never felt like waiting for all the times to come in because by the time I crossed the finished line, which team won the meet would already have been decided. Usually us, just for the record.

Our home course was a town park with trails covering a mountain, one of the most difficult courses in our county. Our coaches would hang by the entrance and tell us to ski various laps. Even now I can picture one downhill that had a tree embedded in it making a bit of a jump if the snow wasn't that deep.

There was also the shortcut to one of the major laps they'd tell us to do: Redneck Run. I can't imagine it's actually named that, but that's what we called it. The trail looked like a V; if you skied the steep downhill fast enough, you could get nearly all the way up the uphill section, as long as you managed the slight turn at the bottom. If you missed it, you'd run into a tree, and people did. I never hit that tree though I did hit another somewhere along the line. Skis bend more than you might expect.

One day, I didn't have a ride home from practice but the far side of the park ended at the top of the huge hill across from my house, so I decided to ski home. My brother and I had sledded on that hill many times. There was a steeper drop about 7 feet high into a gully at its bottom which usually kept us from sliding into the street if we hadn't already bailed out. About halfway up the hill, there was a small hill protruding from it like a jump platform.

As I stood at the top, backpack strapped on, in my cross country skis (longer, narrower, and with less edge than downhill skis), I considered the very crusty snow. I wouldn't be able to turn much, if at all, once I started down. All I wanted to do was avoid the small hill in the middle. I aimed myself super wide of it and started my descent.

And started curving towards the jump in spite of everything I tried to do. I flew over it and landed face first in the snow with the tips of my skis in my stomach. Got the wind knocked out of me but was otherwise, miraculously, unhurt.

Our boys and girls teams were county champions that year and state champs pretty much every year after that until I graduated. Part of that was due to a dynasty of brothers: all four of them won state champion titles at least once. The eldest brother even made it to the Olympics, competing in the classical race. He wasn't a medal contender, but I'm still so proud of him and think it's super cool that I was on a team with a future Olympian.

Even though it's been many years since I've skied, watching the racers skate across the snow yesterday, I could feel their movements in my body. Without thinking, I knew which leg I favored with the poles: left. It sucked me in all over again. Go team!

Two years ago on TTaT: Bridging the Gap

15 February 2010

Sketchbook, page 3

(Previous pages)

The process of filling a 120 page sketchbook by year's end continues:

pencil sketch of dog
"p. 1 and 2 of How to Draw Animals by Jack Hamm"

A year ago on TTaT: My hands are cold...

14 February 2010

Speed Dating With Werner Herzog

Happy Valentine's Day! As a special treat, I present today's debut of Speed Dating With Werner Herzog:
The untamed wild-man of German cinema searches for love in all the wrong places, with guest star, Icelandic nut-job Björk, in this 3rd episode of the WernerHerzogEatsTheWorld.com web series.

Will, you always make me laugh when you channel Werner!

A year ago on TTaT: Remember the other V-Day

12 February 2010

Life of Art SitRep #1

It exists! It being a shop of my photographs available at Zazzle on demand. I debated for a good while which print-on-demand site to use and chose Zazzle for the quality of its products and its quick turn around times.

If you've clicked through to my site from a feed reader recently, you may have noticed that I added a link to my shop in the sidebar. If you click the Shop link that appears directly below the header, you can view a flash panel of all my products: prints, postcards, cards, and an assortment of oddities.

Clicking through to my Zazzle shop will let you see my photos at their highest resolution. I hope you'll stop by, and please let me know if you have any questions or comments. The shop is evolving, both in design and content.

UPDATE (to the update): Ties are 30% off this weekend! Use coupon code PRZWNKSALE10 for Zazzle's Presidents Day Weekend Sale.

Details: 30% of the net tie sale price, 15% of the net apparel sale price, and 10% of the net mug sale price will be deducted when one or more tie, apparel, or mug items are purchased and the coupon code PRZWNKSALE10 is applied at checkout. The net sale price is the price of the product (excluding shipping and taxes). Offer is valid from February 12, 2010 at 12:01am PT through February 15, 2010 at 11:59pm PT.

Two years ago on TTaT: PBGV, it's not a sandwich

10 February 2010


two pairs of feet, one real, one wood, and wet footprints on a purple bathmat
(Click to embiggen.)

I was in it for the footprints on the bathmat, but when I looked down and saw this, it made me laugh.

A year ago on TTaT: Chiaroscuro bear, bonus dog

08 February 2010

Summer Knight

5. Summer Knight by Jim Butcher (4.25/5)
Book 4 of The Dresden Files

Wizard Harry Dresden is in over his head even more than usual this time around. Though Butcher is very good at giving you all the vital information you need from the previous books in the series, book 4 pays off places and groups of characters only glimpsed or referenced up until now.

Fast paced, engaging mystery set in Chicago and its surrounding mystical environs.

A year ago on TTaT: Physics jerk

07 February 2010

Sketchbook, page 2

(Previous page)

The process of filling the 120 page cheap sketchbook by year's end continues:

pencil drawing, sailboat on ocean
"p. 12 of Drawing Ships by John Worsley"

A year ago on TTaT: I want to go to there

05 February 2010

The return of the owl

On Tuesday, I told twitter: Saw something pale beige with a huge wingspan soar through the woods today. Scoped it w/some binoculars once it landed: an owl. Very cool!

Yesterday, the owl was back and I had a camera on my desk. After consulting her bird books, mom thinks it's a barred owl. Anyone know differently?

owl face on
owl with head turned behind itself
I've got loads more photos, but I thought you might enjoy some video. Amazing how still the owl's body remains as its head turns.

(run time 0:31)

(Other vlogs of TTaT)

A year ago on TTaT: The Light on the Bear

04 February 2010

Winter water drops

I was heading down the hall to get a shower when I glanced into a room and saw windows covered in water drops from a heavy winter's rain. My brain flicked the switch for tunnel vision: the pattern of the drops, the way they diffused the landscape outside like an impressionist painting, the grid of the window screens. I quickly set my stack of clothes down on the bathroom counter and returned to the windows with camera in hand.

water drops, window grid
water drops, landscape through window
water drops MWS
water drops MCU
water drops MCU
water drops MCU
I particularly love the convex reflections of the window screen within many of the drops as well as the few droplets upon drops. The hint of amber edging many of them is the light from an interior lamp. To view these details more clearly, click an image to enlarge it.

Two years ago on TTaT: 50!, Polling places

03 February 2010

Sketchbook, page 1

A few weeks ago, I picked up a 5"x7" sketchbook with 120 pages for $1.99. For that low a price, I figured I wouldn't over-think using it.* My aim: to fill it with drawings by year's end.

*Turns out that's not strictly true, so I've taken to consulting my shelf of drawing books to see what they have to offer: so far, a low-key way to practice.

pencil drawing of ocean
"p. 11 of Drawing Ships by John Worsley"

A year ago on TTaT: Proof of work