Friday, February 27, 2009

Inflatable Giraffe

Here's the inflated giraffe standing with the assistance of a string attached to its head and the railing of the balcony on the third floor of the building. I added a gusset to its belly to give it a better three-dimensional appearance, but made it a rather portly giraffe in the process. The 3 Mil plastic and packing tape is quite forgiving. I screwed up the front leg and had to amputate and reattach it. I then shortened the other front leg to match.

I like that this class is constantly making me confront new materials and figure out how to accomplish my goals with them. In quiltmaking, I learned the traditional techniques and choose the quilt to make in terms of those techniques. That is, the goal is defined by the techniques. So I think the real switch for me will come when the goal comes first, then the techniques are developed to accomplish the goal.

On the other hand, Jimmy sees a pile of fabric and sees a couch. He looks at me and thinks the same thing. In his case, he makes everything into a couch regardless of the materials.

Last but by no means least, Tommy's biopsy results showed that the lump was benign. So the mast cell cancer he had last year has not returned after all. This was great news for me. Tommy, however, reminds me that he still has a gash down his back and needs constant nurturing and attention.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Peace Interrupted

Admittedly, the household is not as peaceful as in Tommy and Jimmy's younger years. However, everyone was getting along and I was starting to relax again. Then Mr. Beige Cat decides to lounge in the sun on our back deck. This enrages Tommy so he starts yowling and this in turn brings Jimmy downstairs. Jimmy blows up like a Macy's parade balloon and so Tommy diverts his attention from Mr. Beige Cat (who has now run away) and starts to go after Jimmy. (Yes, yes, displaced aggression.) So I herd puffed-up Jimmy upstairs and the cats are separated again until the dust settles.

Now all of this would seem quite normal except I live in a wooded area that I sometimes share with the likes of Dimitry and Mr. Bear. My closest human neighbors are a quarter and a half mile away respectively and none of them have cats. So Mr. Beige Cat must be coming from a distance and/or is likely feral. He may be attracted to the smell of fat indoor cats that is sent out into the woods when I wash Tommy and Jimmy's bedding, or my clothes for that matter. And as for Mr. Beige Cat lounging in the sun...this was with the temperature well below freezing. Of course, Tommy and Jimmy probably create such a fuss to prevent me from adding more freeloaders into the household.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Together At Last

Okay, so maybe this is turning into more of a cat blog than an art blog. Supposedly it takes only six heated exchanges on the Internet until someone invokes a comparison to Hitler. I wonder if there is another metric that shows how long it takes for a blog on any given subject to transition to a cat blog. I guess I would skew the metric to the short side.

In any case, Tommy and Jimmy are sharing the full the run of the house. They decided it was time to end the separation, not me. I don't think they missed each other that much. They just hated that feeling of not getting to be in the part of the house they preferred--the one they weren't in currently. So late yesterday they were both on either side of a screen barrier, ignoring each other, but each yeowing to be let over to the other side.

A little while later Tommy, with clipped claws and Frankenstein stitches on his back, asserted that he was still the top cat. And later still they started to play together. Okay, at this point I got too nervous and distracted them to play individually with toys. This way Jimmy could enjoy his wind sprints around the house, and Tommy could invent new ways to play mouse without sharp claws to grab the mouse.

Meanwhile, for my sculpture class I am working on an inflatable giraffe. The assignment is to make an inflatable object out of 3 Mil plastic and packaging tape. Then in class (outside really if the weather is nice) we will inflate them all with fans.

I'm also working out a design of dangling circles made out of PVC irrigation pipe. At first I was thinking of making a structure out of hula hoops. Then I found a tutorial on the web that explains how to make hula hoops out of PVC irrigation pipe. Well, once you go there, you really don't need to limit yourself to hula hoops.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tommy Trouble

Last Friday Tommy had surgery to remove a rather large lump. A year ago he had a cancerous lump (mast cell) removed from his back, but it was quite tiny in comparison. Last year's lump was hard and felt like a scab under his fur. This new lump was completely different, and I don't know the results of the biopsy yet.

Tommy is still on pain medications, but he is slowly getting into his old groove...on watch for trespassing cats in the yard, testing me to make sure I remember all of his commands, and dispensing head butts.

Meanwhile I'm keeping the cats separated and this is the most trying part. Each cat wants to be in the part of the house that is closed off to them. They don't seem to be missing each other, although they keep track of each other's whereabouts as I switch them from room to room. Right now everything is relatively calm with Jimmy confined to the upstairs with me, while Tommy is downstairs.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Digital collage

Recognize the photo of Jimmy? This replacement photo is much better suited for the mouse hunt. The previous photo of Jimmy made him look sleepy...because he was. This photo has paid extra dividends...the subject of a monotype and the relative value project for my design class.

I still have many questions about the Photoshop process. And I suspect that one can spend a lifetime learning this software. But for now I want to get a better understanding of the layers, how to use masks and well yes, how best to layer the layers.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

M is for Mouse

I am learning Photoshop in my computer graphics class. And for the next two weeks we are having a substitute teacher--my teacher for sculpture. We are now using an exercise previously used in my drawing class. This exercise borrows from Chris Van Allsburg's "The Z Was Zapped:" set a stage with curtains and flooring and then put a three-dimensional letter on the stage with some kind of alliterative action. For the drawing class, I had an f "flocked by flamingos." The drawing exercise works on tonal shading in the curtains and perspective in the flooring. For Photoshop, its an exercise for working with layers. The photo shows what I have so far. I need to figure out how to fix the transition from cat to flooring. Also, the photo of Jimmy is too blurry--and I think I will have better luck using a different photo than trying to sharpen this one. I also want to make the M into a least with fur, ears, eyes and tail.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Massive tomato pincushion

The tomato pincushion ottoman is finished. Except it really isn't an ottoman or storage unit. The thing is two feet high and three feet across. And as I was making it, I realized this is the last thing I want stuck in the middle of any room in my house. When I originally designed it though, I was thinking it should have a storage area inside with a lid. Well, it does have a storage container inside but it only displaces lots of stuffing.

Instead of a fancy cover and a way to get to the storage, I simply covered the top with pieces of foam core. Stuffing the tomato was a bigger challenge than I expected. Small pieces of stuffing, such as a t-shirt created noticeable lumps. I wrapped the metal basin with foam held together with duct tape. Then I wrapped those layers with fake fur and batting. I grabbed the largest hunks I had so I could build smooth layers outward. I could also use fur, sweaters etc. that I would want to use again because I no longer expected to keep the large stuffed tomato pincushion intact.

Another challenge was dyeing the cording to match the tomato leaf (felt). I could not get a deep enough green. First, I dyed supposedly 100 percent cotton cording and found that the outer threads must be polyester because they did not accept the Procion MX dye at all. (See photo above). Then I pulled out all cotton clothesline and that accepted the dye. But either the dye was too old, the time in the dye bath too short or not warm enough, or it wasn't meant to any case, the cord came out very dark, but lightened up when I washed it (with extra rinse). And so why did I do that? Force of habit, I guess, because I really had no intention of ensuring that the tomato would be washable. Sigh.

In any case, the final remaining challenge will be transporting this ungainly mass to class. I'm hoping I can strap it to a luggage carrier and roll it. But I will save that adventure until tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I often wonder what it would be like to have a clone of Tommy. He is the cat with many rules, and his greatest disappointment in life is that Jimmy doesn't follow them. To make things worse, Jimmy doesn't even seem to understand the concept of rules...such as, only one cat on the cat couch (me) at a time. So what would happen if Tommy had to live with a little version of himself? Would the cloned Tommy agree with original Tommy's rules or would the clone devise his own rules?

But more to the point...Photoshop has a clone stamp tool that lets you easily take out bits of grit and grime from a photo. You make a tiny copy of a clean spot and lay it over the grit. In the photo above I used it to wash the window next to Tommy's head. There is nothing like a photo to highlight poor housekeeping. In this case, the photo showed just how long it had been since the window was washed. So I spend my time on virtual housekeeping instead of the real thing.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunny Interlude

I went out this morning to try and capture the 60 degree day in a photograph. Unfortunately, you would have to know that the drive was covered in ice earlier in the day to fully appreciate the change. And looking at Jimmy, you would think it was the coldest day of winter. However, if you look closely you can see him giving me the evil eye for hovering over him to take his picture.

We received our new sculpture assignment...the scale project. We are to pick a household object, blow it up as large as possible (but still be able to get it into our car), and make the enlarged version as accurate as possible. I decided on a tomato pincushion with strawberry emery because I can use it afterward as either a cat bed or a stool/ottoman. I estimate that the fully grown version will be roughly 3 feet in diameter.

The large pincushion in the photo is a brand-new tomato pincushion that I bought to take apart to reverse engineer the pattern. The smaller version is one I inherited from my mother at least a gazillion years ago (in the 80's, anyway). It appears a little worse for wear, but I like its shape better than the mammoth orb.