Sunday, December 31, 2006

Val & Cleofatra & 2006

Here's Valentine in happier days looking at Cleofatra. (The background was an ancient concrete wall in the basement.) We lost Cleo (aka "Yo Fatso") early in the year. She was almost 16.

She and her sibs were born on my bed. Waking up in the morning to squeaking down by my feet! Beautiful kittens. Their mother was Kate, who had been abandoned half-grown at a local park. We were there the last weekend of the season. She spent the evening going around to the campfires and sitting on laps. I was going to take her home and try to get her adopted. But by the time I got to the truck, holding her, she had a name.

I kept 2 of the kittens, Ariel and Miranda. Miranda used to sit outside the window and toss her head in an imperious way, asking to come in. She looked like an Egyptian cat. So she became Cleopatra Miranda. When the kittens got old enough, I locked them inside until I could get each of them fixed. She instantly became fat, and I thought "Too late". But it was just inactivity. By the time I figured out she wasn't pregnant, she was going into heat every other week. By the time she could finally go out, she was permanently fat and timid from being kept in so long. (Cleofatra was a Garfield joke.)

When she started losing weight, I didn't think of it as something wrong — she seemed healthier, and happy. But then she got very skinny. The vet didn't figure out what was really wrong, she just went down very suddenly at the end.

Then last summer Cheesecake lost a lot of weight — I could feel all his vertebrae, although with all that long fur he didn't look too different. I started giving him canned cat food, and he picked up again. Just a week or so ago I noticed he seemed all recovered. No backbone knobs. Thick pretty fur. Happy and healthy. Sleeping on the bed and kneading the covers and purring at my face, like when he and Miranda and Ariel and Fussy were kittens, having a purring fest.

When Valentine, who was young, started losing weight, I thought for too long that it could be fixed with better food. Now, just a week after losing her, Cheesecake is suddenly very sick.*

2:20 AM Jan 1, 2007 The coyotes are howling in the orchard. Happy New Year.

*I think Cheesecake had an early dose of that poisonous cat-food ingredient from China, before the news was out. Luckily he survived, but he was never as healthy again.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Goodby, Valentine

This was Valentine. She started life as a feral kitten, among the ones I used to feed behind where I worked. She was trapped by the landowner and taken to the pound to be killed, where I retrieved her, along with her mother and brother. The kittens were maybe 3 months old, fairly small. I had them all spayed and neutered. They were in a cage out in the shed, recovering from the operation. Something opened the cage by drawing the bolts, and killed the mother cat. Probably a raccoon. She fought long enough that the kittens had time to escape.

They were used to coming to the sound of my car to be fed, so the kittens found me at the house. After they got used to eating near the house, I caught them by opening the house door with a string on it, then closing them in. Not, in retrospect, a technique I would recommend, since the result was wild kittens loose in the house.

They weren't my first feral cats, and they were pretty young, so the technique I had worked out, of getting them in the bathroom, and going in to feed them, and letting them come out at their own speed, worked well on them. They became part of my balcony cats. The gray tabby brother got named Buddy, because he wanted to be everyone's friend. The little orange female didn't have a name until a few months later. I had opened the window early one morning, and let her into the bedroom with me. She was sitting on my lap, purring and being petted, when a voice on the radio said, "Happy Valentine's Day, in case no one has said it to you yet." And I said "Valentine! That's your name, and you already told me happy Valentine's day."

She was a happy, healthy, little kitty who loved being petted and rubbing her face on my hand. I don't remember exactly how old she was; somewhere between 5 and 8 years old, I think. She liked to sit in the sun on the porch, and play in the grass. And curl up with some of the other cats, in a purring pile.

She started losing weight a month or so ago. I lost an older cat early in the year from unknown causes that started like that. And Cheesecake, late last summer, had lost quite a bit of weight, until I started giving him canned cat food. Val and her buddies were getting a little canned food treat with dinner, to encourage them to come in from the yard when I came home, before dark. I gave her some more, and hoped that would fix it. If anything that made her worse. By last week she had gotten really skinny.

Remember for next time! Intervene before things get so far!

Not that it would have saved Valentine. The vet today said she had a carcinoma almost certainly. All we did was give her fluids, to try to get her to feel a little better, and I was just going to keep her as comfortable as I could. She was already in the warm nest under the stove that I get by taking the bottom drawer out. She was out on the balcony in the warm sun for a few minutes earlier today, a little shaky, but moving fine still. I thought I'd have her a little longer to cherish and say goodby to, and let the others say goodby to, since she wasn't contagious. But she never recovered from being taken to the vet this afternoon.

Goodby, Valentine. I love you.

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

New logo & Color 101 part 1: RGB & CMY

You are in a dark room. A beam of light reaches out to the white wall. It's green! Then another. It's blue! And where they overlap, twice as much light, twice as bright, and the color is called cyan. Sort of sky color. It's usually called turquoise in fabric dyes. Then another beam of light . Red! And it moves until it overlaps too. Where it overlaps the blue light, brighter than either, is a sort of purple-pink. You can see that it's a mix of blue and red. That color is called magenta in lights and printing inks, and usually fuschia in fabric dyes. Where the red overlaps the green light beam, twice as bright, is yellow. Sun color.

And in the center, where all the lights overlap, is white. The sum of all the 3 beams, Red, Green & Blue. Or the sum of any 2 opposites. Red light plus cyan light. Green light plus magenta light. Blue light plus yellow light. The sum of two complimentary lights is white light. The primary colors of light are Red, Green and Blue. The secondary colors (made by mixing 2 primaries) of light are Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. Those are also the primary colors of printing inks in the CMYK system, along with Black (K). The primaries of fabric dyes, equivalent to cyan, magenta, & yellow, are Turquoise, Fuschia, and Yellow. And in fabric dye, unlike inks, black is a mix of several colors.***

"But, but, but… That doesn't have anything to do with real life, does it? That's just an arbitrary system; It's only for computer screens, isn't it?" and "But, but, but… That isn't the color wheel we were taught in school! That can't be right. Blue wasn't opposite to yellow, was it? I'm sure red is opposite to green, not that funny magenta color. And where did that other blue come from? I'm sure red was opposite to green!" and, quietly, plaintively, "Why is the green so much brighter than the red and blue?" and maybe "Where's orange?" or "Why isn't there any real purple?"

This is the first of many posts about color. And I know I don't know everything, or even most things, about the subject. But to begin to address those questions — my first introduction to RGB color was in a classroom, with the scene described above. The Photomicrography teacher was shining colored lights at the wall. And when you see the light beams overlapping, and making those brighter colors, and then white, you have to start by admitting that this is real. This is the way the colors of light work.*

For years I thought of this as only an alternate color system, along with that system that was taught in school, with red, yellow & blue as the primaries, green, orange & purple as the secondaries. The paint-mixing color wheel. The "artists" color wheel. Because everyone was so dogmatic about how that was the "real" color wheel.

I made a color wheel based on the primaries of light, and used it for cross-stitch & quilt designs, and gardening. Because, if you compare them, you will see that this wheel expands the blue-to-green portion, and decreases the orange part. And first, I preferred it that way. And second, for garden designs, it seemed appropriate to expand the sky & leaves part of the wheel. But I was still thinking of this as just an alternate choice.

Then, I was working in a bookstore. And there are at least 2 books** out on color, from art house publishers, for artists, in which the writer is jumping up and down and waving his hands and shouting "Hey look eveybody! Look you guys! Look what I've found out! If you mix your paints starting with yellow, cyan & magenta instead of yellow, blue & red, as primary colors, you'll get much brighter colors!" As far as art education goes, or new books written on color, for quilters perhaps, this has mostly been ignored. But if you happen to take a college art course, and there happens to be a color wheel on the classroom wall, you may notice that although the primary colors are still labelled Yellow, Red & Blue — Red is definitely not fire engine red any more, but has migrated towards magenta, and blue is definitely not royal any more, but much more like cyan or turquoise. Unfortunately, they haven't redone the rest of the colors. The same orange, green and purple are still the secondaries. It makes the wheel look really unbalanced. But they are pretending, by renaming things, that they were right all along.

And on the question of what is real… Our eyes have rods and cones in the retina for detecting light. Rods work better than cones in low-light conditions, and detect only light to dark, or luminosity, not color. Cones are for detecting color. There are 3 kinds, the ones that detect Red, Blue or Green. Those primary colors of lights, Red, Green & Blue, are chosen because those are the primary colors of how our eyes detect color.****

And if the Red & Green cones react with equal intensity, we see yellow. (You were wondering how red & green added up to be yellow, weren't you?) And our eyes see most strongly in the yellow-green range (new-leaf color). So we see green light of the same intensity as brighter than red or blue.

And finally, all color wheels are figments of our imaginations. Light comes in wavelengths of the visible spectrum. Isaac Newton, who first described the spectrum of visible light, after splitting white light with a prism, named the colors he saw Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo & Violet. (Indigo, a dye, is the color of classic blue jeans. So the color he called blue is undoubtedly the bright cyan band which is very visible at the edge of the greens.) He put the colors back together into white light again by sending them through another prism. And he put the colors into a circle, adding purple, and made the first color wheel. He had to add purple (or red-violet) because it doesn't exist in the visible spectrum of light. Our eyes make the "non-spectral purples" by adding together other colors of light from the two ends of the visible spectrum of light.

If you're really interested in this, do see if your local college or community college has a Color Theory course. I guarantee it will expand your universe. And I hope you get a teacher as excellent as Pat Chapin, who was teaching it at our local community college, when I took color theory several years ago. And for books, be sure to look in the physics section as well as the art section of the library.

Oh, new logo? Well I'm designing myself a website for the web design class, and I needed a logo. And doing that is what prompted me to start on this color explanation, finally.

*For photographers — you don't get the same effect by overlapping filters. Filters are taking away all but the selected color. When you overlap filters, you get only the light, if any, that isn't eliminated by either filter.

**Watson-Guptill published at least one of them, maybe both. I think one might have been about water color, one about oils. I think José Parramon might have written one of them. One of them went very thoroughly into the subject of afterimage colors, exploring just which exact shades were the visual opposites of a lot of colors. (For one set of eyes.)

***Dyes and inks are dependant on chemistry; either there is a single pigment which absorbs all wavelengths, making black, like charcoal, or there isn't. And if there isn't, like in fiber-reactive dyes, then blacks and grays are made by mixing several colors. So fiber reactive blacks will have a color cast, and color halos, as dye spreads in tie-dyeing. And if there are undissolved pigment spots, they might be red, in a grey with an overall greenish cast.

****Yes, psychological color has four primaries; red, green, blue & yellow. I'll study up on that, and see if I can explain it later. And no, not everybody's cones are the same. We don't all see the same red. More later.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Happy Day 1892

An email from my Mom reminded me I meant to share this picture I retouched in Photoshop class last summer.
Happy Day was Grandfather's first cousin. The info is from the back of the picture in Grandpa's handwriting. I kept the charming old photographer's card, and added a leather frame scanned from the cover of the album. Click on the small pictures to go to the full-size image and download it. (On a Mac, just click on it & drag it to your desktop.)

from her email: " If you do a google search on "TOWER HILL CEMETERY, BRIMFIELD
you will find an interesting article about the Hubbard House. That
is the original Hubbard homestead which I once visited with my Dad.
The house had 3' wide boards hand hewn on the walls! Yes, New
England must have once had big trees!

I remember my Dad talking about visiting the farm in
summertime. He mourned having no brothers and sisters but played
with his cousins Harriet Day and Gladys Day Deland in the summers
when they visited together at Brimfield. Dad grew up in Chicago."

Isn't she a beautiful little girl. And those interesting ringed eyes. Of course I had no idea of what colors her hair or eyes were. From the photo not blond or black or dark brown. So I used light brown hair like mine was as a girl, before I started working outside and it decided to be blond. And for those ringed eyes, they could be light blue or hazel. I've seen a picture of someone with ringed hazel eyes, & I had a cat who had blue ringed eyes. So I used light blue like Grandpa's and my eyes. Well, brighter than ours.

There're a lot of blending modes used to get the metallic and pearlescent effects on the headband and beads. And just getting rid of all the mold spots took a lot of doing. It was a fun project, but very time consuming.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

I love this pattern of light

This is one of my images from the Photoshop class I took last summer. It's in the upstairs living room in my grandfather's house, my lamp on the old Mission desk. The leather frame is from an old album that was Grandpa's. And I do love the way lamps like this cast patterns of light on the wall & ceiling. And that, this time, I was able to get a good image of it.

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