Friday, June 22, 2007

When I was learning to draw...

A couple of summers ago, when my Mac was new, I wasn't taking any computer classes, just a drawing class. And I would go home & play on the computer, figuring out how to draw with it. I was just using Appleworks, because that's what I had, and I hadn't taken any vector drawing classes yet, and I didn't know what I was supposed to be doing. I was just playing, figuring it out as I went along.

I would make a gradient of colors I'd created, or pulled off a photograph, and fill the background frame with it. The colors set the scene for me, and suggested what I'd be drawing, undersea or desert. And I would just start drawing, and see what happened. I know I was doing it all 'wrong', because I described the process as "collaborating with a wildly squirming line", and it's not supposed to be that way. When the line squirmed into a pleasing shape, I would capture it & pin it down.

I can't redo that process; I don't know what I really did. But the result is very spontaneous in feeling. Well, I had to move fast to grab that line…

The look is very free and imaginative. And very unlike my pen & pencil style, which is biological illustration, pen & ink with fine stippled textures. Very planned & detailed & carefully observed.

Now all of the graphic design teachers went to art school in the old days, and learned their art the old way. And they all agree that it's not possible to be creative on the computer. One has to start with a pencil and paper, and come up with ideas, and work out the best one, then go to the computer only for the final polished version. I read an interview between 2 graphic designers, and one asked the other if he thought there was anyone capable of being creative directly on the computer. And the answer was,"Yes, but they're all under 12 years old".

The more I've learned about how it's supposed to be done, about how to draw a line where I want it to be, the stiffer my drawings become.

But I think, if we come to the computer like a child, without years of bad habits and frustrations, and if it's a Mac, so the graphics are easy and intuitive to use, and most of all, if we just play, that all creativity originates there, in play. Have fun.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Will the Real 9-Grain Bread Please Stand Up*

The picture is just for fun, to show how different the same quilt pattern can look with a different color arrangement. I call this one Kaleidoscope 4-Leaf Clover.

It's about time I started baking again, and I'm hoping that publishing this recipe will encourage me to do it. I made the same bread recipe the same way for many years, then I started experimenting. Once I tried substituting the ground orange for the melted butter, I never made it any other way. Then my family gave me a bread machine, simultaneously with the flour company's stopping having stone-ground flour, and selling a finer-ground type they called "better for bread". I thought it was the bread machine that made the bread less flavorful, and experimented with substituting things for the water to make it better. It got pretty good, and then I found some stone-ground flour at the health food store, and the bread was better still. Unbleached white also makes a significant difference compared to bleached. You can taste that difference most in the dough, and in a bread with more white flour.

Will the Real 9-Grain Bread Please Stand Up* ©2005Mina Wagner

This is a recipe for a large heavy duty bread machine. Cut it in half if you are not sure. The texture works fine for hand kneading too.

1 c 9-grain cereal (cracked wheat could be substituted)
in microwave container with
2c water . Microwave 1½ min (or 2 min low power), stir, and let soak while other ingredients are prepared. You will then drain most of the water out, reserving some in case the dough needs more liquid.

½ large whole orange, seeds removed if necessary. (approx ½ cup)
grind the orange in a cuisinart or food mill

1/3 c brown sugar
2 eggs
¼ c yogurt (very runny and acidy is good, or you might need some extra liquid)

stir in
the mostly drained cereal

Stir together, then add on top in the bread machine, or stir in by hand

1½ c stone ground whole wheat flour
1½ c unbleached white flour
2 T gluten flour
½ t salt**

scant 1½ t yeast** (or slightly rounded 1¼ t or 1 pkg) If kneading by hand, I would proof the yeast first, in ½ c warm water and 1 t sugar.

I usually add 2 – 4 T flour during kneading to get the texture right, but unless the yogurt is runny, some liquid might be needed instead.

Unless it's very hot, I let the bread machine knead and raise the bread, but bake it in the oven.

I bake this in a buttered bread pan in the oven at 325°. Start watching at 20 or 25 minutes to see if it needs a foil hat to keep the top from getting too dark. It usually takes about 40 minutes (35 – 45). Tip the bread out of the pan onto a towel and tap the bottom to see if it sounds done, and if the bottom is golden.

** This is much less yeast than most bread machine recipes use, but it's the amount I was used to using for 3 loaves. The salt is a yeast inhibitor; to reduce one, cut back on both. Most bread machine recipes use lots of both.

CAUTION some bread machines require a much higher liquid to solid ratio. So start with the half recipe, and add liquid if the machine is straining. Or look at the recipes that came with your machine, and count the cups of liquid to cups of flour in the basic white bread recipe. Sugar dissolves, it doesn't count as solid. Also you'll notice that I am counting eggs, ground- up orange, and yogurt as liquid, and the only water is whatever is not drained off the cereal. That's because I substituted flavorful things for all the water.

*This recipe was developed over the course of a year with many tests. After a while, to make the bread, I was looking back through my notebook at several versions, and using parts of each. That's where the name comes from.

VARIATION 9-Grain Cranberry bread

Use ½ c 9-grain cereal, and less water, maybe 1½ c.

Add ½ c dried sweetened cranberries with the sugar

Poke the cranberries down into the dough when the loaf is put into the pan to keep them from burning.

Recipe for the Real 9-Grain Bread ©2005Mina Wagner. You may copy this recipe for your own use, or show it on a web site, as long as you give me credit.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Kaleidoscope Night Sky

This is my coloring of a classic quilt pattern called Kaleidoscope. I designed something similar some years ago, but never made it. I didn't mean to stay up so late last night drawing it in Illustrator, but it took a long time to figure out how to recreate this effect; the coloring is not at all the classic one. I wanted to get an illusion of depth, and of light shining through the surface, and I think this succeeds. Half-close your eyes to see the light and dark pattern better.

When I first designed this (with colored pencils and markers on graph paper), part of what stopped me from making it was the potential difficulty of finding the fabrics with the color gradients needed to get the effects of depth and light. Traditional fabric printing doesn't do gradients very well. I wasn't dyeing yet. Now I could dye or dye-paint a gradient that could do those patches. And since I used my favorite colors, these are ones I have worked out how to dye.

I could have found a black with white stars fabric, probably. In this version, those tiny stars are 5 and 6 points, and they have colored edges. I'd never find a fabric like that, though now I could dye-paint a black and white batik with faint star colors.

There are at least 3 sizes of circles in this design that can be brought out by the coloring; this version shows the mid-size one. Although I have used colors halfway between the blue and blue-green, and the blue and purple, in those overlapping circles, it just looks right, not as if the colors are a transparent overlap, which I thought it might. (By the way, there's one gradient direction error in the picture - do you see it? I never have to worry about the hubris of trying to rival the gods with perfection, since I always make errors. And no need to put in a deliberate error either, like the Amish.)

Now in the comments at Dressaday on the June 6 Black and Pink stripes post, Jasmin told us about digital textile printing for fabrics. This is a similar process to printing on treated fabrics with your inkjet, and fixing the prints (supplies at which I've done. But unless you have a very large printer, that's only for 8.5x11 inches pieces. These new technologies are becoming available for custom printing even for small yardages, if you have digital images in the right formats. And they do millions of colors beautifully, so gradients will work.

So I could have printed enough for a bedspread or wall-hanging, or a designer dress! Or sell the design to a digital printer who wants to make commercial yardage. At a minimum I'm going to upload a high-resolution version to my Cafepress store, WRW Color by Design and put it on a throw pillow with black borders, since I'd love to have one of them. And maybe a black tee-shirt…

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