COVID-365 Day 9

Back in December 2019 I bought this Instax printer that pairs to my phone so I can print any image stored on it onto mini Instax film. At the time I thought it would be great fun at family and social gatherings, as well as with my students. Needless to say it hasn’t seen any use since March. Hopefully someday soon I’ll be able to put to use again, but for now it’s gathering dust.

COVID-365 Day 8

With school starting up this week, my schedule has gotten busy again and I totally forgot about yesterday. I hope that doesn’t mean I have to start over!

Anyway, this picture represents the only place I have been since March aside from one doctor visit and the occasional grocery store. No, it’s not Domino’s or acupuncture, it’s the local post office where I rent a mailbox. I end up stopping in here about once a week for one reason or another. I’ve rented a mailbox here for over a decade but it has taken on more significance now as one of the only places I go to interact with other living, human people aside from Doug.

I just got through tutoring a student who, like me, is staying indoors as much as possible even though a lot of our area is opened up and has been for some time. She lives with extended family and they are high risk for the virus, so they are all staying home 24-7. She mentioned hearing from a friend who went to the beach over the weekend and feeling so envious of her, and it made me think of my own conflicted feelings when I hear or see others I know going out and doing things, some masked and distanced, some not. At times I wonder if Doug and I are being “fanatics,” or being too cautious,, but my instincts tell me we are doing the right thing and should continue to eschew any and all activities outside the home. But it is harder when you feel like you are in the minority and the rest of the world is going about their lives as if there’s no pandemic. In the beginning of this, there was about a month where the country was unified about flattening the curve, but in our current state America was only able to stay unified for about four weeks. It’s a shame, but at this point there’s no way to reconcile those who feel staying home and being cautious is proper and those who feel everyday activities are fairly safe and life should return to normal. I only know one other person, a nephew, who stays home and avoids social activities with the vigilance we do, so at times it feels kinda lonely. But we have been so good up to now, so if one of us slacked off and got sick it would have all been a waste of time – so we persevere.

COVID-365 Day 6

STORY OF A SHUTDOWN!
We bought this about a month ago and my husband put it all together – well, I did have to help him assemble the console but the technology was his responsibility. I do know how to start up the system and play pinball, but that’s about it. However, I am a pretty good pinball player! I don’t even know how many tables this thing has as I haven’t played them all yet, but it’s a hell of a nice way to pass the time and holds a lot of nostalgia for both of us.

Photo-19

I’ve decided to try another 365 photo a day challenge – this is a way for me to approach photography differently as well as give me something else creative to do while still being stuck at home. Coloring is fun and all, but not going anywhere except to pick up groceries once a week has given me a lot of nervous energy to burn.

For this project, I am going to shoot only in monochrome, and everything will be taken in JPEG instead of raw format. The idea is that this will force me to think differently about the photos I take, and move me in a different direction. It should also eliminate the issues that slowed me down the last time I tried a 365 photo a day project – shooting in color and in raw prompted me to do WAY too much editing of the photos. I got obsessed about the colors being just right, and often ended up over-processing the shots until they looked crappy. It also took a ton of time which made the whole thing laborious.

I think changing the process this way will help me see differently in an environment I’ve been stuck in for way too long and have become terribly over-familiar with. Removing the option of obsessing over color and processing makes me ‘see’ my environment differently, and I’m finding all sorts of little things to take pics of in the coming days. How well this will be working by day 300 is anyone’s guess, but I’m willing to give it a go. I also think I can use photography to tell some sort of story of this time we’re all dealing with – IF, like me, you are staying home as much as possible.

This is a short little update I know, but it’s all I have time for right now. I may just upload a pic a day here under a new tag and add a link to the 365 photos on the menu, but I do still have other things I’d like to share about my coloring soon, especially about how I finally managed to turn my photos into good coloring pages (hint: it involved finding someone else to do the transforming). But I don’t have time to write that all up now so I’ll get to it later. Stay safe everyone!

Coloravirus

Well hello there! How the hell are ya? Are you well? Are you safe? Are you stir-crazy? Are you wearing a goddamn mask when you leave the house and social distancing like you absolutely should be, you little shitbirds? 😉

Can you tell I’ve gained weight? Well I have. A lot. 

OK, let’s get to it. So first of all, this goddamn virus. WTF, right? It was the week of our Spring Break in March when COVID-19 wormed its way into our American lives, and what a week that was. I had taken a little trip to a small Texas town with my sister, where my aunt owns a home, and on Monday the virus was barely a blip on the radar. By Wednesday when we left, we were glued to the news as a neighborhood in NY called New Rochelle went into lockdown, and hospitals in NYC started to overflow. By Friday of Spring Break, both of our school districts had decided to stay closed for a second week, and the Houston Rodeo had been canceled. I’d say it was a week later that most of the country went into hiding.

Extra weight or no, I am still fierce, so suck it. 

OK so, everyone knows this story and has their own version of it, so let’s jump ahead to now. My husband has retired – and quite honestly he worked from home anyway – and we are both homebodies, so he wasn’t all that affected by the stay-at-home order. As for me, I completely lucked out in that I was able to transition to online tutoring without losing any of my students. In fact, in spite of my commitment to working less this year, I ended up picking up at least five more over the course of that miserable semester (miserable for the kids – at least some of them – not really for me except that I was super-busy) and didn’t lose any of my income. So, we’ve been ridiculously lucky.

Yep, I’m over it. 

I really thought I would use all my new free time to take more photos, but the truth is, I’m simply bored with it now. I’ve taken every sort of picture I would ever have wanted to take; I’ve worn every wig and costume; snapped every airplane, and leaped every leap I ever wanted to photograph. I’ve levitated and drag-queened myself into oblivion, and there just isn’t anything more for me to do or learn, so after this one initial set taken in April I haven’t done any shoots. While posing for that last one it became clear the thrill was gone, and while I may come back to the whole endeavor once the well that’s run dry refills, I put my cameras aside for the moment and began searching for something new to do creatively, as I always need to be doing something that addresses my artistic side.

I purchased this beautifully colored hoodie while on vacation in Spring Break. My last shopping trip before the virus took hold. Ah, the memories…

I’d been toying with the idea of keeping some adult coloring books around for some time, but had never actually bought any, so I decided this was as good a time as any to take the plunge. Initially it was just going to be a simple little something to do to while away some time, but being me, it of course became an obsession almost immediately, and one that I had to master to the best of my ability. Oh sure, I bought some cheap-ass markers and colored pencils to start (does anyone else still call them map pencils like everyone did when I was a kid? My students have no idea what I am talking about when I use this term) but that satisfied me for about a day before I had all sorts of ideas for what I wanted my colorings to look like, and soon it was off to YouTube to watch a million tutorials and then to Amazon to buy a million different coloring tools. This started in April, and by June I was able to pull off some pretty cool tricks with this new hobby.

 

OK, this isn’t a great photo, because I snapped it with my cellphone, but you get the idea. Pretty quickly, I realized the cheap markers weren’t gonna cut it for me, because I wanted to be able to do all sorts of shading techniques and color blends, so I landed on Copic markers, which are NOT cheap, y’all,  but they are refillable so they will last for what I am telling myself is forever to justify the cost.

Click here if you want to know what I paid. By the way, these are the “cheaper” Copics! 

These are all taken from a coloring book called 100 Amazing Patterns that I got off Amazon, and while they are, yes, amazing, I had to figure out a few things as I got started on this coloring adventure. First of all, when using Copic markers, which are alcohol-based and function more or less like slightly less watery watercolor paints, the paper the images are printed on in the book are NOT gonna work. No way. No how. Aside from the fact that the wet markers will turn the paper into mush almost immediately, the paper in the book is also black on the other side-which is supposed to help with color bleeding when using other mediums, I think-but with the Copics, the black bleeds through and ruins the colors. Fortunately, we own a printer that doubles as a copier, so I was able to buy the right card stock and tear each sheet out of the book and copy it onto that. This has the added benefit of saving the original, colorless image in case I mess up and want to start over (and if you caught that little wait, so she spent money on special paper too?! detail, well, hang onto your shorts ‘cuz we’re just getting started).

Got this coloring book full of DRESSES (!!!) from Amazon also

So, yeah, first of all – there is simply NO END to the variety of coloring-book subject matter out there, including some baffling topics such as farting animals and the people of Wal-Mart. I lean towards mandalas and cool patterns just to enjoy the act of coloring without having to consider anything else like color choice or shading patterns, but I am also partial to fashion and feminine imagery as well as fun slogans and blackboard books (which are coloring book with black pages that have “chalkboard” style lettering and drawing).

Best. Slogan. Ever.

For those of you who caught that the chalkboard coloring pages can’t be copied onto cardstock (the print on them is white before you color it) and that therefore, I must be coloring on them with something OTHER than Copic markers – congratulations! You win the damn-she-spent-more-money-on-different-markers prize, which is the abandoned cheap markers I bought at the start of all this and have never used. You’re welcome.

Yep. Bought a lot of frames too, but I got super-cheap ones. I’ve bought two different kinds that you can find here and here. I like the second type better. 

The two chalkboard coloring books I’ve used so far are here and here. I particularly love the Southern Slogans one, being from the South and all. 

So, when it came time to work with the black coloring pages, I discovered gel pens. Gel pensssss!! They are so freaking fun to use, and way less expensive than the Copics. As with anything, there are varying levels of quality with these pens, and with the gels in particular there are absolute SHIT-TONS to choose from. My recommendations are:

#1: Gelly Roll pens. These are, I think, the gold standard. The gel ink flows so smoothly, it is like coloring with ice cream. Just really, really satisfying, especially with the thicker nibs. I started out buying a full set, but in the end there are several types of Gelly Rolls in here that I do not like At. All. So, I would not recommend spending this much for a set of them.  The particular types of Gelly Rolls I prefer are the Classics, the Moonlight series (neon and other unique colors), and the Stardust glitter pens (LOVE) Unfortunately, this set also has tons of metallics, which I just do not like at all due to the way they deposit the ink – very streaky and sketchy with coloring lines you can clearly see and lots of skips and white spaces. And this collection has THREE DIFFERENT KINDS of metallics, so there are a lot of pens here I probably won’t ever use up. But if you like the metallics, well, there’s plenty for you to love about this collection.

Sorry for the reflections; this one is framed so it was tricky to snap. I used a combination of Copics (anywhere there is color blending) and gel pens on this mandala – you can see how opaque and smooth the gel pens are! Except those shitty metallic ones, which obviously I did not use. Because they suck.

#2 – My secondary recommendation for a more economical gel pen purchase would be this set from Fiskars – 48 pens for $18. Even though the ink isn’t near the smoothness of the Gelly Rolls, I actually like all the pens in this set. Even the metallics aren’t too bad, and it has some cool styles like swirl pens and pastels, which the Gelly Roll line lacks – and I LOVE pastels. Also, the nibs are smaller which I don’t care for, but overall, I like this set and will re-purchase it when my favorite pens run out.

Lots of the Fiskars pens in this mandala, and NO Copics, so you really can get a sense of how vibrant and opaque the gel pens are. 

One other honorable gel pen mention here is the Pentel Milky Pop series. I do not think this set is still in production, so it may be hard to find eventually, but for now you can still find it on Amazon and some other places. This set is tricky; it is known for not having the smoothest ink distribution in the world, and the pens tend to dry out quickly (which can be fixed with a little heat applied to the nib) but they are the most lovely pastel colors I’ve found so far – even though there a lot of other options out there I haven’t tried so I can’t speak to any of those.  A lot of gel pens that claim to be pastel end up looking more neon, so there must be something tricky about the gel pen formulation that makes true pastels hard to come by. A close-up of one of my chalkboard pages shows the colors well:

Again, sorry for the reflections.

The yellow and blue are Milky Pop pastels, and that yellow in particular is perfection. I’ve used other yellow gels that claim to be pastel, but only the Milky Pop so far actually comes out right, and it is really really lovely. However, both the blue and the yellow required me to light a match and hold it up to the nib for a bit to get and keep the ink flowing – but once that was done, they both colored nicely. You can see pen scratches and strokes here, but that is actually a quality of the chalkboard coloring page and not the pens. That bolder blue is a Gelly Roll and you can see how it looks like paint because it’s so opaque – and there are also some splashes of glitter pens in there as well, if you can spot them.

Oh my gosh, I have so much more to say, but this has already taken over an hour and I have shit to do, so it will all have to wait for later. Will she wait another year to post again? Will she update us on her Invisalign adventure? Why is her hair green (yes, it really was green)? Did she use YouTube tutorials to cut two inches off her hair and create a perfectly even blunt bob (yes, she did, and she is very proud of herself)? Has she ever taken her own photos and turned them into coloring pages (of course she has)? Is this all the spending she’s done with her coloring, or has she bought even more crap? How the hell did she gain forty pounds and what is she doing about it? Has her husband become a cooking fanatic since the pandemic has kept him indoors, and is that contributing to her weight gain? Has she tried to take images from her favorite horror movies and turn them into coloring pages (see below)? Has one of her besties started a travel blog that I should check out (yes, she has, and it is here). Does she still look fabulous although she is heavier (yes, of course)? 

All this and more to come, friends. Until then, stay safe, stay socially distant, and wear your face mask. Cheers!