Bright Pink Smile blog header by Alexandria Levin

ARCHIVES: September 2009

creative fun from almost nothing
About the nature of creativity and inspiration

Inspiration is like sleep. It cannot be forced. It arrives when it desires. However, we can help allow creative thoughts and ideas to make an appearance. Although for some it is easier than others, tapping into the flow of creativity is inherent in all of us as human beings. An infinite amount of creative energy is out there waiting to be collected. It is just a matter of making space for it; quieting the noise and clearing away the clutter in our minds.

There will come a time when you can reach into your sources of inspiration under almost any circumstance, but at first it will help to be in a relatively quiet space with no distractions. Cleaning out the excess stuff that is making a mess inside your head can easily be done on a short-term basis, long enough to let in a few sparks of inspiration. Use basic visualization techniques, where you let yourself clearly see the process. Here are a few visualization suggestions for clearing your mind. Just imagine:

The Desired Effect by Alexandria Levin• A fan outside one ear blowing all the unnecessary things out the other ear
• A jumbo eraser eliminating that which needs to be gone
• A bunch of colorful ballons carrying off the excessive stuff into the far reaches of the sky, until you can’t see them anymore
• A set of brooms sweeping it all away, which is my personal mind-clearing tool. See my 1997 painting to the right called The Desired Effect.
• A flock of birds carrying the clutter out an open window

Of course, you may come up with your own images, but feel welcome to use any of the above ideas to start. Once the mind-clutter is gone, either pictorial-thought or word-thought will automatically come on its own, or it may need a little help. Below are some visualization ideas for tapping into the flow of inspiration:

• Put out your empty cupped hand and scoop it up from the nearly infinite grains of sand at the beach.
• Hold out your cupped hands and let it fall from the sky.
• Collect it in a cistern on the roof, or through a funnel placed on top of your head.
• Tap into a tree, bucket at the ready.
• Dip a bowl deep into a river, the literal stream of consciousness.
• Get aboard the train of thought and ride it for all it’s worth.

See what you get. Do something with it. Watch for next month’s creativity exercises as fun examples of what you can do with wonderfully odd and strangely practical ideas.

Excerpted and paraphrased from the book;

Author: Alexandria Levin
ISBN: 0-9743267-1-2
Published by Painted Jay Publishing

R.I.P. slides
About digital images

For awhile there my whole life was about slides. My “day job” by design was freelance, and only took up some days. But those hours were filled with slides. There were times when the dang things were up to my elbows. By some path of accident or fate I fell into the speech support circuit, long before PowerPoint. I did production - translating rough layouts into mechanicals that were carefully calibrated with rubylith and ink and translucent triangles. For slides.

I freelanced so I could paint. No work gig today? Studio time!

Slides were also the thing for artists to present their work with until very recently. I saw grant applications that just last year were still requiring slides. Slides were a fact of life for visual artists for the longest time. I personally haven’t had any since 2005. And I don’t miss them.

I work with digital images now, for myself and for the other artists that I assist. There are a lot of misconceptions that need to be cleared up, for both artists and the folks requesting images. So here are the basics:

First you need to know what the image is for, the desired end result. Print and the web (or screen) are two very different beasts. If the image is to be printed you will need it to be in CMYK mode. This stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. These are those tiny dots that laid over each other just so create all the colors. Those dots are measured in DPI or dots per inch. Minimum resolution (quality) for print is 300 dpi. Images for print are measured in inches (in the U.S.). And the best format for a print image is a TIFF, but ask your printer what they think is best. To summarize for print:

• CMYK mode
• 300 dpi or higher resolution
• A measurement of the height or width in inches
• TIFF image

If the image is for the web, or any other screen viewing situation, you will need it to be in RGB mode. This stands for red, green and blue, and is similar to how colors are processed for television. Instead of DPI you will now have PPI resolution, or pixels per inch. Images for the web or screen are measured in pixels. 72 ppi resolution is standard for the web. It is high enough for good screen viewing quality, but low enough to make lousy copies if printed out, and of course, low enough to be quicker to appear on the screen or send through email. And the best format for a screen image is a JPEG. To summarize for web or screen:

• RGB mode
• 72 ppi resolution
• A measurement of the height or width in pixels
• JPEG image

New paintings on alexalev site

Stegasaurus by Alexandria LevinThere are 21 fresh new paintings now posted on the alexalev site, which is my oil painting website. This has been my major project this past week. Updating a few pages is a breeze. However, I decided to completely restructure the bones of the site. Now it’s all XHTML and CSS updated, and it’s much happier in code world. I’m one of those odd artists who also likes math-related things. That must mean I’m ambi-brained.

Not all the paintings I’ve done in the past year and half are on the site. Only about half of the tree paintings are up, and I like some of the ones that are not there. I didn’t do as many critter paintings this past year as I usually do. I am having a serious drought of resources, although I am going to two flea markets in October, and hopefully I will then find some well-loved and neglected stuffed animals that inspire me.

oh crap
Support the Handmade Toy Alliance

I was having a rough day, one of those try to get a lot of errands done, but hardly any of them actually get done kind of days. Plus I fell and my whole left side got covered in bark mulch. But I was running a bit early too. Weird. So I ventured into a thrift store I had never been to before. Yay! I love a good thrift store. This was to be my treat for persevering through the frustration.

And there on the front door it was... A note making mention of a new law, and because of that law they would no longer be able to sell used toys. Halp! I paint used toys!!! The more used, the better. Where am I going to get my subject matter? Illicit yard sales and outlawed flea markets? WTF? Well, here is what happpened and it seems to have affected the used toy market as well...

Big multi-national corporate businesses outsource manufacturing, toys then get re-imported back into the U.S. that, oops, are poisonous or otherwise unsafe, and who pays for this greed-derived irresponsibility? The small independent artisan toymaker who is not only creating jobs here at home, but is also creating things of wonder and handmade beauty for children. Items that have never posed a threat to kids in the first place are now illegal to sell, all because of prohibitive costs for testing for toxicity that are beyond rendundant. These folks can explain it better than me, plus there is a super-easy petition to sign:

Yeah, it’s an Action Blog entry. Thanks! I mean, who are they going to come after next? Oh yeah, visual artists. Look up: Orphan Works.

notes from the notebook
Newtown, we have a problem

Out here on a humid corn farm. It’s beautiful, albeit tepid and damp in the climate department. So nice to get out of the stinky city. Cicadas and clouds. Hawks circling in the background. Dragonflies and butterflies in the foregound. I’m staring down a ridge of trees in the near distance. Maybe I’ll draw them. Maybe not.

Here on a figure drawing day with a small group of friends, a casual drawing group started by the boyfriend. It’s his passion, this figure drawing thing, and he’s amazing at it. But it’s his passion, not mine. We can be such different kinds of artists, although completely sympathetic to each other’s type. I am usually a solitary creature. I don’t do drawing groups. And I am just so not in the mood to draw the wonderful model posing for us. I knew I wouldn’t be.

On the other hand, I have not only done, but blissfully enjoyed, installation and other such more interactive and multi-dimensional group art projects. So maybe... just maybe, my problem is with drawing. And the funny thing is, I can teach drawing and teach it well, but I just don’t like doing it that much. And figure drawing, well forget it. Not for me. I can entertain myself for awhile with color pencils and abstraction and working out ideas for larger paintings, but it’s just not really my art, or anywhere near my reason to be. I’m such a painter. An indoor, solitary, turn-up-the-music painter. And maybe, just maybe, that is not a problem, despite the gang I hang out with on occasion. Plus, somebody has to be the designated driver.

website update update
Let’s make things as complicated as possible

I was preparing to update my painting website this coming week with 21 new images. So the other day I went to go look at the coding I built for that site just to see where I left things off. This is the second site I ever built, it’s a few years old and I knew it was a bit of a mess behind the scenes. Last winter I took great leaps forward in site development, and since last spring I have taken to checking my HTML code against the W3C validator. So I checked two sample pages from my painting site, and after fixing a few minor things in the code, they came up clean. Yay, validated! But just the same, my CSS files were a mess. Untangling them and renaming everything could take eons. Or I could just build from scratch. It’s not necessary, but like an overstuffed closet with who knows what going on in there behind the closed door, it’s bugging me.

And so just in time for the launch of this blog, I am going to deconstruct and then reconstruct my painting site. Good timing, huh? I’m not redesigning it though, no way, uh uh. I’ll let you know when the reconstruction is done.

more discontent for your pleasure
Paintings that never made it out of the sketchbook

In my first apartment in Albuquerque I lived in Nob Hill, which I called Nob Lump after having lived on the real Nob Hill, which is an honest-to-god hill, in San Francisco.

I lived in a dump (a dump on the lump)... seriously, I lived for 18 months in a converted dentist’s office on an alley in a parking lot by a dumpster. I had a work-only studio downtown in what I called the ugliest building in Albuquerque, which was on North Second. I wish I took photos, because it has since been somewhat de-uglified. My then studio-mate was cool. He introduced me to the music of Café Tacuba. After about six months I moved my studio into the dining room of the apartment because I get a lot more painting done at home.

sketch by A. LevinNob Hill is a mile or so north of the airport. One day they changed runways. Or maybe they were doing repairs or something, I don’t remember anymore. What I do remember is that one day it got very loud. And shaky. And it did this over and over again with only a few hours break in the middle of the whee hours of the morning. Airplane bellies flying directly over my humble fake-adobe abode. Ever try shouting at an airplane? They don’t hear you. This went on for months and months, and did not make for a happy neighborhood.

I was still painting on stretched canvas at this time. And I was still sketching out some of my ideas as well. I was also doing all these water disaster paintings during this period (see the allegoricals section of my painting site). It was going to be a whirlpool, a whirlpool of airplanes flying into some kind of undefined center. The painting never made it out of my sketchbook. It exists only in color pencil with notes. And in the back files of my mind, of course. The title... “The Sound of our Discontent”.

hello world

I paint, therefore I blog

You have caught me during the summer of our discontent; one of an odd number of seasons of discontent that seem to string themselves along like so many misshapen pearls, and yet I still manage to wear them. I have never felt this trapped, mind you that about a third of my chart is in Sagittarius, the sign that sings Don’t Fence Me In, a lament, a sad lonely howl against the sirens and busses and car stereos playing really truly awful music. In high school I thought I was this trapped, but high school had an end, a deadline. I knew I was going to graduate and when. Between my general intelligence and the low level of expectations our school system set up for us it was a given. A light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel deadline was looming, so really, I was not as trapped then as I feel now.

On the other hand, I create like crazy. My mind wanders far and wide. This only gets better with age. I have a demanding muse, and she gives and gives as long as I let her (and if I don’t let her, I come down with one illness or another). I am rich in this way. Another is my best companion, who from here on will be referred to as “the boyfriend”.

He graduated a little over two years ago from one of the best fine art schools in the country, abbreviated as PAFA, and the reason we moved here from Albuquerque. I spent five long years looking backwards while trying to move forward. Two years ago after a visit to the southwest that changed. I carefully repositioned my feet, and now they face in the same direction as the rest of me.

When looking into moving to Philadelphia from New Mexico it seemed like this would be an artist’s paradise. And it is... for other artists, but not for me. I will be writing a lot about this. And wait a minute... isn’t New Mexico also an artist’s paradise? Well, yes it is, but I’ve lived there twice already. Next place will be someplace new.

Some show I was in a long time ago needed a statement from me. Most do. And I was in one of those moods I get into from time to time. So I wrote what I think what was one of my best artist statements; “I paint.” I’ve been painting since I was 17. I’ve been writing since I was 15. Painting has been more consistent in my life, but writing has always been there just the same. ‘Nuff said. For now.

posted September 4, 2009


bottom pink rule

All images and content ©2009, Alexandria Levin


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• september 2009

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