It’s that time of year again, when I go to Dragon Con and talk science and space and so on and so forth. Do you dare to stalk the wily Granade?
The Dragon Con Late Show. Every morning at 9:00 AM, Hyatt Centennial I-III.
Every morning at 9 I and my co-hosts Brian and Ally will go through the latest news, schedule changes, and what’s hot for the day. And this year: guests! We’re growing up into a real morning chat show.
Your Lying Eyes. Friday, 7:00 PM, Hilton 202.
You think in high resolution, but you don’t see in it. Discover how optical illusions show how much of your sight is really in your mind.
This is a fun one. I show a lot of nifty visual illusions and you get to learn how much your brain lies to you about what you’re really seeing.
DOOM! Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow. Saturday, 2:30 PM, Hilton Crystal Ballroom.
Homebrew nuclear reactors! Liquid nitrogen kitchen recipes! Plus a new Evil Plan will be revealed!
This year we’re taking evil plans from the audience, auditioning for new minions (since the old ones have a bad habit of catching fire), and in general having some fun with science.
What The Cast – Live! Sunday, 10:00 AM, Hilton 203.
We’re doing a live taping of our long-running WhatTheCast podcast. Bring your finest convention stories to amaze and amuse us.
Disasterpiece Theatre Sunday, 11:30 AM, Hilton 203.
Sometimes you gotta kick around ideas to formulate Hollywood movie pitches.
Alex, Brooke, Matt and I will propose the finest movie pitches ever, for certain values of “finest” meaning “most horribly terriblest”, and yes “terriblest” is so a word shut up. We’re planning on a secret guest, and rumor has it we may be pitching a movie based on Welcome to Night Vale.
You Can’t Get There From Here. Sunday, 2:30 PM, Hilton 309-310.
Jump in that rocketship and fly directly wherever you want… never mind about orbital trajectories, velocities, and gravity wells.
I managed to schedule myself for three nearly back-to-back events on Sunday, so it should be fun seeing just how fried I am by this panel. But it’s going to be fun — I’m going to turn everyone into rocket scientists in 55 minutes with only three equations and one graph.
Phew, that seems like enough for one convention.
After the second ATC, a friend commented that I had a nice series going. So then I had to make it an actual thing.
Love how this came together. It has ALL THE COLORS!
I usually have several options going on for one thing. Here’s the other two options for Day 211. I felt like the one I went with was visually the strongest and most unified.
I dig how this one turned out.
Can’t wait to make something with some fish!
Day 200: Go Travel Nepal ATC. Also! Day 200, guys!!!
My colorist, Renée, colored the background on this one using my cool watercolor crayons. Then instead of the cartoon car that was on the card originally, I covered it up with yet another Nepal stamp. I have to go back to Nepal just to get more stamps!
Day 201: Replenished the stock today.
Pigeon Forge has a Scrapbooking outlet store. All the gals were running around finding stuff for me! It was the perfect shopping experience especially since when I got to the register, they took 50% off of everything!
Day 202: Sometimes the best thing you can do is rip the yarn out and start over. (Dog is totally helping!)
I started a pattern by a designer that I love. I thought I understood the pattern but after a couple of days of trying to make the pattern do what I thought it should be doing, I ended up emailing her and asking for some tips. Big surprise (not really) I was reading the pattern wrong.
I’ve been working on the Making Something Every Day Project now for 208 days.
Earlier this week, you might have noticed that I didn’t post anything from the project for two days. Sunday, I was busy, busy, busy with church and the gym and friends and other projects that I just didn’t get anything done that day. Monday rolled around and and I thought, “Why bother?” I gritted my teeth on Tuesday and posted a crochet picture for Day 206 to try to get back in the swing of things. Wednesday I felt better still, so I posted a new ATC for Day 207.
Then today, I was going to offer to help a friend with a project and checked Facebook for details on the event only to see another of her friends is a graphic designer. I wanted to see her work so I clicked on over to her page. It. Was. Beautiful. Work. I didn’t (and won’t) offer up my services.
I’ve had a love/hate thing with my graphic design career for a long time. I am an average designer. I’m not trying to gain sympathy or get pats on the back. I see it. I know it. And when I left that field to do computer tech work, I was ok leaving it behind because I was so burned out with the design work I’d been doing at the ad agency. Since we moved here, I’ve freelanced off and on mostly so I don’t get so rusty that my fingers fall off.
When I saw this woman’s work, I had more than a few moments of envy. I don’t feel this way often. I feel like one of my strengths is my ability to appreciate others and their talents and celebrate them both as people and for the creative work they do. And along with that skill, I am comfortable with who I am and what I do, without comparing my work to the amazing work that other people do. This morning those skills completely abandoned me. As I sat looking at her blog of amazing work, it crossed my mind to abandon the Make Something Every Day Project.
The kids and I ran out for a few errands before lunch and I stopped to chat with a friend for a few minutes. She had a painting that someone had done for her. It was amazing. The painter is in her early 20s. It hit me again that I don’t think that anything I do looks even half as good AND I’m twice her age.
So why did it take 205 days to get to me? I have been doing some good work. I’ve been stretching myself creatively. I can see the improvement in my own work. It doesn’t look like either of these women’s work. But that’s not the point. The point is for me to grow in my work. To learn to listen more clearly to my own creative voice. Beyond that, I’ve inspired others to take up their own creative projects. This gig is clearly working for me, so where is this uncharacteristic doubt coming from?
I don’t have these answers (or answers to lots of other questions for that matter). But I’m not going to let this doubt stop me. I came home from lunch and sat down at the table to make something today. And I’ll make something tomorrow as well. Eventually the doubt will recede. Or I will learn to work around it.
We’ve been on the road a lot this July so my daily posts just kept piling up. For three weeks. I feel sorta bad about it but mostly I’m proud that during all of this travel, I still managed to do work nearly every day.
Day 173: Art Lab for Kids. Fostering some summer creativity.
Art Lab for Kids
Day 165: Collaborative postcard effort with Liza Lou. Good Times.
I painted the background and she found the postcard in my stash. She asked if she could draw on it. I said sure! She hauled it all the way to Disney and sometime during the car ride, drew on it. When we got home, I found it in her backpack and I asked her if I could add a few things to it. So this is our finished collaborative piece. I’d like to do it again but I’m not sure we’d be as successful if I were more intentional about it the second time.
Day 167: Trying out a new stencil/ink technique I saw on @Pinterest.
Here’s the tutorial I found on Pinterest. Honestly, I didn’t scratch the surface of this technique and it’s quite cool. I need to practice and see what I can come up with.
Day 171: I don’t know what I was thinking when I started but I ended up with a background panel to a Batman comic.
I tried to leave some of my work space in this photo so you could see how big it is. It’s 18×24 inches. So quite a bit bigger than I’ve been working lately. I do know what I was thinking originally, I was thinking I’d make a book like I did back Week 7. But then I started squeezing black and purple paint out there and it kinda got away from me. I like it though. I don’t know where it’s going but I’m guessing I’ll come up with something by tomorrow.
My mom asked me how I was going to sustain the daily project when I came to Arkansas for a visit later this summer. She pointed out that it seemed like I’d turned something fun into the equivalent of piano lessons. I’ve been thinking about that a lot because it’s a pretty apt analogy. Daily practice on the piano allows you to become more proficient at reading music, builds muscle memory, and gets you in the zone for playing. Tell me if I’m wrong, Andrew Granade, but this seems like pretty much the same thing. My daily art practice allows for proficiency using my tools, allows me to creatively solve visual problems, and gives me work practice. And I am having fun. Yes, it’s something I’ve promised to do everyday but it’s something I WANT to do everyday. (Mostly. For the days that I may not be quite feeling it or I’ve run out of time, those turn into yarn days. Now you know my secret.)
For a really long time, I called myself an artist in my head but didn’t spend much time doing any actual art. I now have 171 days of work. Some of it is really good and I love it and I’ve sold it! Some of it is not so good. I can admit it because the daily practice has allowed me some distance from it. It’s hard to get too emotional over the most recent piece when I have to come up with something to do tomorrow!
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have a song called “10,000 Hours” and they seem to dig art because they mention art and artists in several of their songs. Here’s a couple of lines from “10,000 Hours”: “The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot” It’s become sort of a mantra for me when I start work for the day. Don’t we all have to practice what we want to be? No matter what it is?
It was incredibly hard to get back in the swing of things this week after just those few days off. I don’t know if it was just tough to adjust to regular life generally or if the “Making Something Every Day” just suffered the effects. I feel like I ended the week strong though on a project that I really enjoyed and am pleased with the way it turned out.
If anyone is interested in purchasing this piece, I’d be glad to sell it and put the proceeds toward my Nepal trip in November. Contact me by email and we can work out a deal.
Since you still are obsessed with animals, we celebrated your birthday at the Tennessee Aquarium. You got to look at all of the aquatic animals and pet stingrays and vibrate excitedly. Before you were born, I never thought that we’d be the kind of family with a season pass to an aquarium. Now we’ve been there enough that you know some of the animals by name and are disappointed if you don’t get to see Stewie the sea turtle.
You love more than just the aquarium animals, which is good since otherwise you’d spend most of your time being sad that macaroni penguins don’t feature much in our day-to-day life. Bugs still hold a special place in your heart. You’ve kept a dead cicada in your car seat’s cupholder for more than a year. Last summer a grasshopper jumped onto your leg and you carefully helped it climb up you until it reached your shoulder so it could become your animal familiar. We have endless pictures of you with beetles and butterflies on your finger. You’re also fond of mammals. You asked to dress up as a cat for Halloween, and at Christmas when you got to visit a horse, your glee was strong enough to melt the snow all around you.
You adore Anwyn, our rescued corgi-lab mix. You call her “puppy” even though she’s an adult dog, though we don’t actually know how old Anwyn is. Vets tell a dog’s age by looking at their teeth, evaluating the amount of tooth wear, and then making a wild-ass guess. One vet who saw Anwyn said that she was three years old, and then the next said that she was maybe a year old. If I tolerated error bars like that with you, this would be my letter to you on your second or maybe seventh birthday. Anyway, you like to hug Anwyn randomly, which she tolerates with the well-nigh infinite patience of a Labrador. She also shares your love of bugs. Some nights you two race as Anwyn tries to eat a beetle that’s skittering across the floor while you’re trying to save it.
Stuffed animals also count. You sleep with as many of them as you can pile on the bed. The stuffed animals build up like barnacles or YouTube comments, and like those two things, they have to be scraped off from time to time. We bring in a shovel and clear off your bed so that there’s room for you, but each night you choose a new animal to sleep with until your bed is once again covered. Your mom and I have wondered if they secretly compete to be nearest the bed and thus the most visible, increasing the chance that you’ll choose them to sleep with. We’ve had to limit the number of new stuffed animals you’ve been getting. “I just want this one,” you’ll lie convincingly, but we’re on to you. For you, getting just one stuffed animal is like eating just one potato chip.
You continue to be way more athletic than anyone else in the family. When you went rollerskating for the first time since you were very young, you skated like a fiend. You’re still a big fan of swimming. If there’s a ball around, you’ll kick it up and down an imaginary field. At some point your mom and I should stop being lazy and sign you up for an organized sport, or even a disorganized one like kids’ soccer. It may be tied to how you love going very fast. When we went to a local amusement park, you skipped all the slower kid rides and made a beeline for the rollercoasters. It’s a good thing I still enjoy going on them!
When you’re not running around, you’re often crafting. If I haven’t seen you in a half-hour and can’t hear you arguing with Eli, I know you’re in the office and the floor is covered with paper, crayons, pens, and glue. When I come home from work, I’ll often find a little drawing that you’ve made on a scrap of paper and left lying on a table or sofa or Anwyn. These creations often come with stories. “This is my angel dog cat butterfly,” you’ll say, proudly presenting the new cryptid that you’ve created.
All of this comes together in Girl Scouts, which combines crafting and nature in a way that is tailor-made for you. You joined this year and became a Daisy, though not a literal daisy, just a figurative one who earned petals by doing cool activities and also selling cookies. You sold lots of cookies, a number of them to us. I never thought I could be tired of Thin Mints, and yet here I am, completely uninterested in the sleeve of them that’s currently in our freezer and has been for weeks. It used to be that Thin Mints evaporated around me, and now they hang around longer than broccoli hangs around your brother. You didn’t just sell cookies to us, though. We had you do the selling. I didn’t bring the sign-up sheet in to work. Instead, you came yourself to take orders. You were dressed in your Daisy uniform and looked like a stereotypical cute and quiet and slightly shy Girl Scout and so you sold so many cookies.
The best part was when you got to go to Girl Scout camp for one day. You communed with nature and told a counselor that compasses work because of the Earth’s magnetic field. Best of all, you got to paint your own t-shirt. You covered it with giant slabs of paint. The other girls in your troop painted dots or swirly lines. You? You got all Helen Frankenthayler on that t-shirt.
This year you started kindergarten, which also involved a lot of crafting. The first time I visited you at school I got to watch you paint in art class, your tongue stuck out as you concentrated. You were nervous before you started, worried that you’d fail kindergarten because you weren’t yet reading well. I was sympathetic. When I was in kindergarten I worried that I was going to fail kindergarten because I had to skip but I couldn’t do it. I practiced and practiced so I could graduate from kindergarten and not spiral down into a life of drunken homelessness. But the year went swimmingly. You made friends like Trinity and quickly mastered reading.
While school’s been good, it’s brought with it a host of social pressures that you’re all too aware of. One day you told me, “I don’t want to wear anything Star Wars to school. I don’t want the other girls to know I like Star Wars.” As we talked about it, you kept saying, “Star Wars is for boys,” despite how much you’ve enjoyed the movie and the Lego versions of it. “I don’t know any girls who like Star Wars.” I hate that we have to combat these kinds of stereotypes so early. I don’t want what you enjoy bound up in artificial ideas of what’s for girls and what’s for boys.
It helps that you’ve got an older brother. You and he watch everything from Star Wars to My Little Pony together, and he ignores most gender distinctions about entertainment. You two play together well, barring the inevitable fighting about whose Lego robot is stronger and nuh uh there’s no way that robot’s shield will stop your laser gun. You’ve got my temper, which means I can tell when you and Eli aren’t getting along because you start shrieking loudly and angrily, making chunks of sheetrock fall from the walls.
Right now you alternate between being fearless and cautious, between running full-tilt ahead and lagging behind. It takes you a while to warm up to new things. We went to a My Little Pony event at the library, where there were people in giant Rainbow Dash and Twilight Sparkle costumes. You didn’t want to approach them at first, but when we were getting ready to leave you wanted to have your picture taken with them.
I love watching how you react to things. I can tell when something’s funny because you say “heh” in a low-pitched voice. If it’s really funny you giggle. You absorb every song you hear and sing along with it. There’s nothing like hearing your piping voice singing along to Helena Beat one octave up. Like Eli did before you, you’ve learned the rhythm of jokes but don’t yet fully understand their content, leading to you making up jokes like this one:
“Applebee’s got bees in it!”
This letter’s a month late because life’s been so hectic lately, but I knew I was going to finish this letter. I’m writing it to future you and future me, so that we can both remember what you turning six was like. We’ll be different people then, the distant descendants of who we are now. My hope is that these letters will tie us to the past and let us re-experience what it was like when you were young.