Fin-icky details

Hahaha I hate myself a little for that pun.

Today we talkin’ about fins, pals, and other fin-ishing details.

But not actually finishing because I still gotta do some other shit to my girl. I just wanted another pun.

So, on the actual body of the fish, I was doing touch-ups. Finding holes where the clay didn’t perfectly seam. Tidying up uneven spots with a bit more clay. Giving a handjob to her light rod to make it a bit bigger. Adding dimension to teeth. These little things that I had no idea I would later be writing a blog post about and thus took zero close up pictures.

I did, however, take pictures of my fins! That was a very interesting process, trying to figure out what the hell I was doing. First, wire fins:

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Oh my god, I hated this fin. I hated how annoyingly hard it was to make them – the paper tissue would not glue to the wire, and actually bending the wire into the shape I wanted proved difficult and very hard to make a second one. Plus, compared to an actual angler fish fin, did not have enough sticks (bones?).

So, that was tossed to the side. I instead decided to make ones where I used a drawn template and placed clay within this template to create the bones. This was the jackpot!

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This would eventually become one of the fins on my fish now. When it first was dried, I found that it wasn’t too hard to pull away from the parchment paper. I had flipped it over to allow the bottom to dry thoroughly, and laughed when I realized it had also pulled up the marker, and it was such an interesting effect. I also found that there was ‘crusties’, which I simply used one of my sculpting tools to run along the edges and scrape off.

This same technique, but with the parchment flipped over to create a reversed one, made a second one. I made the bones thicker this time because I had accidentally broken one of the bones of my original one and had to put paper clay on and let it dry again before I could work on it.

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Shit

Soon I had my two fins, and what beautiful fins they were…

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The next step to come would be getting the membrane on, so to actually look like fins. Before starting, I was super worried about this step. On Monday’s post, I will explain more. See ya then!

The Clayening of Angler Fish

Around this time, I had figured out my method of making paper clay, and how I liked to put it on. So, what better time to start my fishy?

angler fish session 1

I started on her eye and the side. I loved the bulging look, and just how weird they are. After all, fish eyes are really weird and why not go the extra mile? Generally angler fish eyes are a bit more set in, as the bulging is probably a bad idea, but eh.

I remember being super nervous as I smoothed out the paper clay, and realising that I had no idea if the second session would mesh, once the first was dry. I knew it would shrink; would this create ‘seams’ when trying to blend dry and wet?

angler fish session 2

The answer to “WOULD IT BLEND” was a “YES”. Not that the dry layer would moisten up again and blend that way, but you could smooth the new wet stuff over and blend it in that way. When dry, they wouldn’t pull away. So, after several batches, I finally got it mostly done, inserted her light, and sealed up her bottom.

Fun fact, tape is not strong enough to fight the pull of shrinking clay as it dries. I apparently did not take a picture of this, so I’ll try and explain it.

Over the hole that I had used to insert the light, which was about 3 inches by 3 inches, I put on red tape to give my clay a ‘bridge’ to dry on. However, the clay I had only covered like… half of the bottom? So I let it dry and when I returned to it a few days later, I found that the clay had shrunk and curled up (you’ll see this affect with my fins as well). The tape was pulled off, and I broke off several chunks of paper clay so I could make it even again.

Fun fact, breaking the clay with my bare hands was surprisingly difficult! This shit is strong as fuck, yo!

Once done the bottom, I cemented in the light bulb with very careful paper clay placement. In order for it to dry upright, I had to tie a string around the light and attach it lower down.

 

angler fish light installation

Up until now, I had been using entire batches of my clay at a time. Usually, that was how I signalled the end of a session – I was all out of clay. Near the end, I had actually made a double batch to allow myself a longer session.

After this, everything changed. By everything I mean I was in a different phase where I used less clay and focused on details. More on that, coming this Friday!

The Creation of Angler Fish

“Why did you decide to make an angler fish lamp?” you, the hypothetical reader, may ask. Also, my brother. I think I scared him when I showed the things I have done. (coughgenitaliacough)

Well. The short answer is, ‘iunno, seemed fun’. The long answer is, at work a lamp broke. Instead of throwing away the bit that makes a lamp a lamp (iunno what you call it – the wire with the bulb socket?), I took it with manager’s permission.

I spent a day thinking about it, and then went, hey aren’t there fishes with these lights on their head? A bit of googling brought up some images, and I was like, yup. This is what I will do.

So, with some old signage (also from work – it’s a trend I have, of taking garbage from my employments to make things), I made the angler fish.

angler fish skeleton

She’s beautiful. :’)

With her body created, I started layering on paper mache. This was last summer, by the way, so I got to let her dry outside! I miss sun… Also, the picture looks a whole lot better than when it was in the basement.

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(could’ve cropped it, but I wanted to show my pup. She liked it when I was outside all the time.)

I was very happy with how she was taking form, even though there was spots I had no clue how I was going to tackle when I got there (how does one fin?). Thankfully, I was smart enough to leave her with a hole in the bottom so I could put in her light – this wouldn’t happen until much later, when the majority of her body is clay’d up.

Next time, I’ll show you the claying process, which has been the longest part so far.

My Man

While I have worked with wire in art school, I have never used it solely to create an armature or skeleton for a sculpture – the wire has usually been the sculpture itself. So, this was somehing new I wanted to try.

So, I started. And because I wanted to be in my blankets, I did it in my bed. My only real inspiration was “I wanna do a human thing.” I think I chose the kneeling/waving position just because it was something different and extra challenging, particular because of balancing.

As a fun fact, I have anywhere from 4 to 8 blankets on my bed at all times
It’s really nice to do art in bed

That was quickly done; I then added my tinfoil to create the meat of it. I wore gloves because cuts are not fun and I get them enough thank-you-very-much. I used masking tape on top to give it a better surface for my clay.

Skeletons look odd without the meat so who knows if it's proportionate
Gotta hold his hand so he doesn’t fall over

Now to the fun part! I started applying paper clay. I thought, oh I could apply to the whole structure, and be done quicker. Except I realized, not really. I couldn’t find a good hold on the body without pushing my fingers into still-wet clay, or weirdly holding the one leg left. Then, when I decided I was done trying to juggle this shit, I realized he didn’t exactly lay anywhere safely. 
Eventually, I figured out a way to have him balanced between an old paint container and an ice cream bucket, which would later become his typical drying rack (picture taken from 3rd session because I forgot to take pictures before).

Somehow he doesn’t fall off

It took a bit of work to get him to balance when standing (kneeling, I suppose) on his own; with the first session, he was left very heavy to one side. The second session saw me managing to get him to balance. He can now stand successfully on his own, provided he’s placed just right and is never touched ever. This will be fixed, though I’m still working out particulars…

With the third session, I focused on giving his limbs the proper sizing and form. The first two sessions saw them being flat and muscle-less, more thin tubes than anything. So I gave his thigh and arm more shape, adding bulk to the upper parts and tapering down. As you can see, part of my sculpting included a focus on that ass. 

I think I need to even them out though?
DAT ASS DOH

I would like to finish this entry of the project in stating how proud I am of that butt. It is magnificent. 

How I started at the bottom

And didn’t really get anywhere close to the top but I’m higher up! 

(Content warning: depression and suicide attempts)

Before I started drawing and thinking about art as a hobby, I was a tomboy of a girl who loved Pokemon and Digimon and Dino Riders.  I watched that last one on vhs probably hundreds of times. 

(This shit was the bomb omg Photo credit to VHS shitfest )

When I was about nine years old, my father passed away from a heart attack. That summer, we moved to a bigger city, which my parents had been planning for a while anyways. 

My first day at my new school, I met my best friend. We joke that the way it happened was something like this:

Her: hey do you like Digimon?

Me: yeah I do. 

Her: wanna be friends?

Me: sure.

Her: good, please sign this paper.

Me: I don’t have a pen.

Her: it’s ok we deal in blood

Apparently she has my soul. It’s probably safer with her anyways.

With her, I started to focus on drawing. It was a great past time for two kids who didn’t have many other friends and felt like outsiders at the best of times. We would draw from those how to draw anime books, and they still greatly influence my art today. 

In that year of grade 5 and on, I kinda went from a decently stable kid to this confused, angry and sad teen. I developed depression and, in later years, a suicidal tendency.  So that happened. I’m still not sure what offset it – entering my preteens? Moving? My father passing? Idfk. I do remember taking too many pills one day and stopping only because I ran out; only by luck was it not enough to even require a hospital visit. This would be a trend in any future attempts, much to my depressed self’s annoyance.

Got through high school. I technically walked the stage (most boring ceremony ever) but didn’t actually graduate. Tried doing upgrading at the college, dropped out, and went to Katimavik, this nine month long volunteer tour across Canada.  We went to Nova Scotia, BC, and Quebec. It was fantastic. I moved back to the town in NS to attend a local adult high school which was super easy (since I didn’t have to take math or science, only easy subjects for me), got my diploma, then headed to art school.

I went to ACAD for three years. You may note – it’s technically a 4 year diploma. I did not leave with a diploma. 

I got frustrated with my art.  I felt it wasn’t good enough and decided to change degrees and schools and cities. Which kind of sucks now, because I really enjoyed screenprinting there and only found it in the last year. There’s many things I could say about art school but that’s another time.

Somewhere only this way, I got engaged to a fantastic person, and I discovered I was transgender. Which makes navigating the gatekeepers super fun when depression tags along! Yaaayyyy. I started testosterone before I left Calgary. 

I went to Ottawa for event management. Got through that despite a strong amount of depression. Slept a whole lot there, and I didn’t do half the things I should’ve because there was simply no point in my mind. Graduated, promptly missed the graduation ceremony because I messed up, and returned to my mother’s basement the September following.

(Cover the studs with flags!!)

That was not quite 2 years ago. I worked Walmart for the beginning of that, quit that shit and worked several part time jobs, then got my current full time job in the fall and a couple part times. My goal is to get rid of my debt and move to be with my partner. I’m pretty happy with the point I am at, which is rather unexpected. 

I’m at the point in my transition where I visually pass, though I still need to work on my voice. Got a beard and moustache and a binder that works, and a hysterectomy and masectomy being lined up. Legally I still need to change my gender letter but that’ll come after surgery. 

Mental health wise… I’m probably at my most stable I’ve been in a long, long time, and have been here for almost half a year, a goddammed record for me. Perhaps it’s from working all the time? Maybe it’s because I’m happy with my art? I’m excited about my life trajectory? Maybe it’s something in the water.

And that, my friends, is how I went from the bottom and now am kinda up a bit. 

Welcome to my studio

Where an artist creates art can be as important as what art is made. At least, to the artist. After all, your surroundings affect why and what you create, either with constraints or influences.

For me, I live in my mom’s basement. It’s a good way to save on rent while in between stages of my life, and I got the whole basement, more or less, to myself! Unfortunately, it’s also unfinished, partly storage, and where I have all of my stuff – including computer, xbox, art studio, and a tarped off area for my bedroom. Man, I am glamorous.

20170312_211248(An unfinished basement with a messy desk covered in various buckets and two lamps; in the background, a stand filled with various art items.)

So, let me list the pros and cons of my studio:

Pros:

  1. Fairly large
  2. Can get dirty – no carpet or walls to destroy!
  3. A blank canvas if I was to actually clean and rearrange
  4. Private space – don’t need to explain to people what I’m making
  5. No roommates
  6. All my stuff is close at hand
  7. Bed is right there omg naps
  8. Unfinished ceilings have a lot of places to hang drying items

 

Cons:

  1. SPIDERS
  2. No money or point to buy much organisation stuff (hopefully moving in a year or so)
  3. Worst light
  4. No socializing, unless digital or dragged in
  5. Messy
  6. Not too much floor space (THANK U BOXES)
  7. Sink & bathroom is upstairs

 

I am quite happy with my space, despite all of its cons and constraints. You see, I have lived most of my art school in an apartment shared with others, and then spent a year in a dorm. Neither had much space, nor would it be good to destroy things with splashes of paint and my general klutziness. School had studios, but I didn’t get my own space until third year – my last year before I switched degrees and schools entirely.

So, I am trying to make the best of what I can. One of these months I’m going to splurge on a light set-up to get better pictures and to work in something closer to perfect light. I also am working on cleaning up and organising, finding ways to keep useful items close at hand while not overcrowding; I rely a lot on dollar store items to help me with this, to some success. I’m also going through boxes and getting rid of things, which will help greatly in the amount of clutter and possibly the amount of money in my hot little hands. I like my studio, and I want to take full advantage of it until I have to leave and possibly have only maybe a small corner of room.

Cleaning this when I move will be fun…

Old art

Saturday before last, we lost our family dog. Sheila had been diabetic for a few months, and the last week was very sick. I was fortunate enough to be with her when she passed, though it hit much harder than I expected. 

The next day I found myself staring at a piece I made.  This one;

I made it as part of a comics course in art school. Something to do with time line or music? At the time, it had simply been a cliche I wasn’t super interested in thinking on, though I was proud of how it came out.

I found myself staring at it and replaying moments I shared with Sheila. How she’d sprawl out when sleeping, or go and sniff the front yard whenever I popped out to start my car, and the times she spent when young curled in my legs, this comfortable presence I missed when she started to prefer the floor, and then when I moved away.  

I put up this piece because I wanted to see and remember my pride. However, I found it helped me remember that her life wasn’t the sad end I keep thinking of, but a string of good moments and happiness. I think it helped me in my grief and exhaustion.

Not bad for a comic I forgot the existence of and never thought deeply of before.