Sunday, September 29, 2013

Weekly Training 9-29

Since this is my blog and I talk a lot about running and training, I'm going to use it as a place to post/track/brag about my weekly training.

Sunday, 9-22: 6.01 mi trail run in 1:44, 17:18 pace at Cedar Ridge Preserve
Wednesday, 9-25: 2.01 mi road run in 00:24:38, 12:15 pace around my neighborhood
Thursday, 9-26: 3.7 mi  trail run in 00:55, 14:51 pace at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve
Saturday, 9-28: 6.99 mi road run in 1:45, 15:01 pace in Atoka, OK

Road runner achievement unlocked: Narrowly missed stepping in roadkill

Week total: 18.71 mi
Month total: 46 mi
August total: 25 mi
October goal: 70 mi
End of year progress: 25 mi (from 9-18 start)
End of year goal: 150 mi

New gear this week:

  • Compression calf sleeves - Mother-freaking-magical! I wore them the two days following the 6-mi trail run, and calf pain was virtually nil. I am going to wear these to tatters.
  • Arm sleeves - Run was warmer than expected, but the sleeves easily become comfortable wrist bands. I guess I'll try 'em again in a few months.
  • Running water bottle - At 20 oz, the full weight is a bit awkward. It's very unpleasant to hold in humidity with its slick sides. Solid spout did the job I needed it to.
  • Reflective vest - Supposedly one size fits all, but I couldn't fasten the velcro as tightly as I needed around my waist, and it slid up around my rib cage, creating an awkward chest bubble. I didn't get run over, but it was ugly, bulky, and uncomfortable. I don't think I'll wear it again. Wonder if I can find a kid size?
  • LED bracelet - Identical to one I own and like, but the closure on the new one slides open if I look at it wrong and is awkward and difficult to fasten. At least it was only $2.

Online Graphing

Friday, September 27, 2013


I got into running through hashing when I lived in South Korea in 2010. The hash house harriers are a worldwide organization of social running clubs, more commonly billed as "a drinking club with a running problem." It has nothing to do with illegal drugs, just lots of booze. Insert obligatory shout out to NQR, Yongsan Kimchi, PMS, OBH3, Seoul Full Moon, Southside, and the 38th Parallel.

Fucking classy

Hashers get together weekly and perform a warm-up a ritual involving bawdy and absolutely vulgar songs and welcoming first-timers in frequently lewd and embarrassing ways, all in good fun. The "hares" have volunteered to lay trail and will have typically scouted the area in advance during the week. They get a head start to mark trail in chalk, flour, shredded paper, or whatever's handy and safe, though the cops aren't particularly appreciative of piles flour on random streets anymore . . . because: anthrax. The hares mark a mix of true trail, wrong trails, dead-ends, double-backs, and other silly things for the runners to stop and do.

The pack, or "hounds," then follow and puzzle out the true trail by sending the speediest runners in different directions at intersections to search for true trail markings, and they will run, whistle, or call back for the others to mark that direction as correct and then carry on. The goal is to catch the hares before they finish, or not, and for everyone to finish and drink together and sing more wild songs.

On through

On down

I don't know how it's done in the states, but in SK, trails wound through city streets and alleyways, up over fences and into yards, up and down mountains, through drainage pipes and even waist-deep rivers, through national monuments, temples, and construction sites, through subways, onto trains, through marketplaces and sometimes uncomfortably close to the DMZ.

No kidding

I got to see a side of Korea that few foreigners ever will. The cops tried to stop us more than once, but they're not very tough and don't like to bother with foreigners because the language barrier just isn't worth the effort, and we clear out quickly enough without destroying anything.

On in

Be Very Fucking Careful!

Everyone always helped everyone to the finish and would double back if we lost someone. I became especially adept at fence-scaling, even for a short gal of 5'3". We also registered for legit road races and ran 5k and 10k events together while singing obnoxiously and complaining at the lack of beer and "shiggy," frequently dashing to the subway to run the hash immediately after crossing the finish line.

Energizer rainy night 5k

About four months before my flight home, I began searching races online, hoping to run a half marathon the next year. What I found was the 2011 Warrior Dash being held a couple weeks after my return, which was considerably easier, safer, and more legal than what I'd been doing all year with the hash. I talked four friends from home into registering with me. We brought warrior paint and had a freaking blast. The sport of mud running really burst on the scene in about 200, but hashers have been doing it worldwide since 1938, and I credit the hash for my love of obstacles and trail running.

Before & After

Thursday, September 26, 2013

To exercise or not exercise: you decide

I tried to get this across in a post a few days ago:

Fitness, movement, and exercise are personal choices. Independence and the right to pursue happiness are pretty damn important. Self autonomy is pretty damn important. You do what you want to do. Don’t do things that make you miserable or because you hate your body and yourself. You will fail at hating yourself smaller. So STOP it.

And/but Ragen over at Dances With Fat posted a much better one today.

"What’s your excuse for having such an unbelievably over exaggerated sense of self-importance that you actually think that everyone should aspire to the same things that you do?" 

So go check it out.

I like running. If you like running or want to, I will definitely encourage you and talk your ear off. But if running makes you want to drown kittens, then don't do it. You get to make choices for your life that will make you happy. Giving into exercise moralizing or body shame and stigma may make some people happy, but it's not for everyone, and neither does it have to be.

Update: I think this thing is worthy of some silly memes.

I have a blog. What's your excuse?

Activism at work

We have an interesting mix of characters at the office, not just those we develop in-game, and it's always a surprise to see how things will be taken by coworkers and higher ups and to hear the off-hand comments and off-color jokes in the hall.
Hi [Head of math curriculum development],
I was looking over the common character phrases and am concerned about [a character]’s use of “beautiful, man.” Though it’s a culturally popular construction, there’s obviously no equivalent of praising women and girls, so it feeds into cultural tropes and stereotypes about “masculinity” being more valuable and praiseworthy than traditional “femininity” and “feminine” traits as well as the concern of it being socially acceptable to refer women and girls in mixed-gender groups as “men” and “guys,” when the reverse is not socially accepted. By comparison, obviously, we wouldn’t ever have a character saying, “You go, girl!” to the user. 
This is an issue I feel strongly about on a personal level, and I believe as educators that we have a responsibility to strive for gender equality and diversity in the content we produce; however, this is not my call to make, and if you think the phrasing is benign, I will defer to your judgment. 
Edited to add:
Hi Moniqa,
I totally follow you and actually we've tried to keep them gender neutral as much as possible. . . . Some of the phrases were early brainstorms. Perhaps soon we should review and remove statements that we think should be removed.

Isn't it nice when your personal concerns turn out to be a benefit on the job?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ethics of meat

I’m feeling icky after reading and briefly commenting on a heated debate on the ethics of eating meat, with the conclusion being that I’m a shitty fucking person for being an omnivore and that valuing my personal emotional, mental, and physical health, abilities, and income over that of farm animals is morally lazy and inferior.
  1.       Where do these skeptics get off assuming that vegan is the objectively morally superior choice?
  2.        Where do these atheists get off cramming their “morals” down my throat?
Going vegan is literally the least efficient way to effect change in the brutal farming industry: you’re enacting a significant effort to accomplish zilch. If you want to end animal cruelty and your food restrictions are so easy to afford to accommodate, donate to lobby efforts to change industry regulations (or buy me a Whole Foods gift card), you self-righteous cunts. All your raging is doing is making me want to go out for steak tonight and talk about how rude vegans are and how fucked up their priorities are.

I'm going to continue to eat meat for the foreseeable future for many reasons:
  • I’m struggling enough, as is, to deprogram the food moralizing thrown in my face at every turn by this culture within the context of anti-fat bias, to say nothing of food ethics in addition to that.
  • It takes a LOT of bandwidth and a lot of my income just to feed myself ENOUGH on a daily basis without adding dietary restrictions or guilt to the mix.
  • I am only just learning how to cook at all in the last few months, and it still requires considerable effort to do better than fast and frozen foods for every meal.
  • Food restriction is super-triggery for many people and is not something I can safely attempt at this point in my life.
  • Though I know it can be done, I can’t imagine how I would sustain my highly active lifestyle, including marathon training, on a vegan diet. 
  • And let's not overlook the social, emotional, and cultural value of certain foods, including meat, and what it would mean for me to ask or expect others (friends and family) to accommodate me if I had dietary restrictions.
  • I'm reaching now, but I could also cite my obese family and my present over-consumption of delicious, glutenous starches as a further obstacle to purging animal products from my diet.
  • I don't care for rice.
Recognizing, accepting, and honoring my personal limitations and applying myself to other forms of activism is a good choice to make. We all have to choose our battles and how we prioritize our individual well-being.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Running ain't just for affluent, cranky, middle-aged white men any more.

This article, The Slowest Generation: Younger Athletes Are Racing With Less Concern About Time,
has been circulating a few of my groups lately, and I have a lot to say about it. In it, a middle-aged runner complains at length about the decline in the number of competitive racers among the millenial generation—a new twist on the tired "Wah, wah, millionals suck, get off my lawn" theme.

Before reading the article, I said I had mixed feelings about the issue. Aren't there a number of elite and timed road racing events, some of which require qualifying times? Aren't there a number of mud run events that provide chip timing and elite waves in addition to open waves for everyone else? To suggest that greater interest in movement and fitness activities and greater inclusion is a negative thing is some snooty, privileged, disablist bullshit. Everyone who wants to should be allowed to participate in fun fitness events safely.

HOWEVER, these events absolutely need to limit the number of registrations they accept in order to maintain a fun and safe environment for everyone who participates. I've been learning first-hand in the last two years about shitty fucking races that are poorly organized, poorly budgeted, and straight-up dangerous: Patriot Games in Denton 2011, Firefly in Plano 2012, Mud Factor 5k in DFW this year, and the egregiously aggravating Neon Splash Dash in Arlington last weekend.*

On the upside, I'm planning 2014 more carefully around established and proven events, with a greater focus on half and full marathon road races than fun runs, adventure runs, and obstacle runs. But these hellish gimmicky first-time events are endangering their participants, leaving a bad taste in their mouths, and literally turning them off to running altogether.** THAT is what is doing the sport of running a disservice, not participants who are not competitive.

Since reading the article, I would like to say that I think the author draws a lot of faulty conclusions and is probably not very good at math. Because of the explosion in fun run event popularity, there are more races for competitive runners to choose from, so you're less likely to compete against the best at any one event, AND there are thousands more run-walkers and walkers registering and skewing the median and average result times without necessarily impacting the number of competitive runners out there, just the percentage.

I don't know anything about Olympic and world championship racing, but I fail to see how it is related to regular road races and fun run events, which happen to get more people into running at all levels of ability who never would have tried it in the first place. You can't open a running mag without seeing a profile on a now-competitive runner who got into the sport "for fun."

I find it interesting/disappointing that the Tough Mudder uses dis/able-ist language, calling timed races "lame," and am especially glad I passed that one up for the Spartan Beast instead.***

*I should put together a page where I review the events I've run and link it here.
**A friend of mine had so much difficulty getting to Neon Splash Dash and was treated so poorly at the event and refused any kind of refund that she has sworn off all races.
***My buddy bailed, so it looks like I'm going alone. Drop me a line if you'd like to run with me, pretty please.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Neon Splash Dash 5k-Fail

My friends and I had the distinct displeasure of running shuffling through a 5k 4k fun run this weekend, so here I want to review the Neon Splash Dash (Dallas) at the Ballpark at Arlington.

It's pretty obvious that the Neon Splash Dash organizers know approximately jack and shit about the location of the race they hosted. Early packet pickup was held at a location in Dallas at least an hour from the event itself. This is great for me because it was near my office, so I got my stuff and a friend's, and two other friends also live near the pickup. The 5th in our party, though, lived on the far side of town and had already arrived at the event and paid for parking before realizing she forgot her ticket, and the check-in table refused to accept and scan it from her smart phone. Others of us were already on the road and unable to help, so she went home in tears, unable to run at all.

The rest of us arrived about an hour before the first wave, and a good thing, too, since it took a full 20-25 minutes once we arrived to park and walk to the event. The first wave was scheduled to take off at 8 and did start shortly after that. Each wave would be divided into a few hundred people with runners at the front, followed by joggers and walkers. Except that's not what happened because the Neon Splash Dash was so egregiously oversold with many thousands of people too many for the venue. We wanted to get into a jogging wave, but there was no organization, just a massive crowd milling near-ish the starting line, moving 10-15 feet closer as each wave was released. We couldn't hear a word from the announcer but finally passed the start line at 8:32.

I'm in the purple fluffies.

The course itself was marked by nearly invisible traffic cones without even reflective tape and wound back and forth through a parking lot. Yeah. Unable to see the Neon Splash Dash course or any of its turns, we had no choice but to follow the crowd and try to shuffle through, with no opportunity to run except for the slowest of slow trots.

A few runners passed, courteously calling out as they did, "Walkers to the left!" A woman near me remarked in a nasty tone, "Guess they didn't get the memo that it's about FUNness not fitness," like she was so clever. So I shouted back, "Guess some people didn't get the memo about basic race etiquette. And just what the hell do you think DASH means, anyway?"

The splash zones where they sprayed us with neon water were actually well-lit and well-padded with a great cushion to absorb extra wetness before runners stepped out onto the pavement again. That was a good design.

I quickly lost count of participants that I saw darting across race markers from one turn to the next, skipping every possible corner. Three of found an easy pace, including myself and an extra we picked up through Meetup who had run a 10k obstacle that morning and was grateful for an easy run, and we jogged the whole course and finished together in 34:37. Hm. I'd run a 5k less than a week ago, found it very taxing, and finished in 39:37. I definitely did not pick up 5 minutes in a week while chatting comfortably throughout and without breaking a sweat. I'm guessing the course was about 2.5 or 2.65 miles instead of the purported 3.1. An email from Neon Splash Dash had this to say about it:
The course was marked by Police Officers & Ex-Military Soldiers with 25+ years of service. They take pride in doing their job, and doing it well. We take extreme attention to detail when it comes to measuring the course. We can assure you that the course as marked was EXACTLY 5k in distance. Additionally, we would NEVER mark a course with curbs & sidewalks you would have to cross over, and this course definitely didn't have any as we marked it. HOWEVER- during the event, there are always a select few who would rather take short cuts than to stay on the marked course. We don't mind, except that when they do that everyone behind them tends to follow. That is exactly what happened Saturday night. A few decided to take some shortcuts, and lead a number of you off course, over curbs/sidewalks while cutting some distance off at the same time. As soon as it was brought to our attention, we scrambled as many Staff & Volunteers over to re-correct and get you back on track.

I'm really glad that Neon Splash Dash emailed me a link to participate in a survey about the event, and I really enjoyed filling it out.

Where do you think we should advertise in order to obtain more participants?
Maybe you should put that effort into improving the safety* and enjoyment of this event instead of unnecessary promotion. I really think you need to put a cap on this event and that having so many thousands of participants was largely a detriment to the enjoyment of it. I'll be certain never to register for this event in the future. Finding a venue that can support such numbers of people with a wider, safer course to run is imperative.

(*We passed a woman who had tripped and fallen on a deep, unmarked hole in the pavement, of which there were many throughout the course. Did I mention this was a night race?)

Besides lowering the price, what else could we do to entice more people to Register for our Event?
You were unable to adequately support and run the event for as many people as did attend; why do you think you need more? You provided only a handful of porta-potties that ran out of paper at least an hour before the race began, a course too small for the number of participants, cones that were practically invisible and mostly knocked out of place long before most runners even started instead of visible course markers. You could have used the pre-race notifications and participant packets to educate participants about basic race etiquette in order to make it safer for everyone involved.
Neon Splash Dash did get pictures posted quickly; they were up Monday after a Saturday night event. But instead of setting up a photography website that is searchable by bib number, they posted 600+ photos on Facebook and directed participants to tag themselves. As if we have the time or desire to do your photographer's job for him. Fortunately, one of my friends did get a before and after picture of us, so I feel free to do any number of better things than pore over blurry night photos.

Far right, you can almost see my twinkling tutu.

I have to say, with the raging popularity of fun run events, the scores of events available, the years of experience in race organization compiled into published books and guides, and the millions of dollars these events make on participants' registration fees, merchandise purchases, and parking fees, there is absolutely NO excuse for this kind of shoddy execution.

Exercise: Why I Like It, and Why You Don't Gotta

I don’t have an addictive personality, and I’ve never stuck with anything. I like exercise . . . sometimes. Sometimes a lot, sometimes often, sometimes not for several weeks.

I ran a half marathon in May 2011. Today (I began this draft in April) I can’t run a whole mile without walking some. I sign up for adventure runs (5K races with obstacles or other wacky themes) several times a year. But I haven’t run except sporadically in the last 6 months. Because November kept me busy with art and illness, then the holidays were busy, and it was cold, and I was depressed, and my bed was so warm and comforting at 6 AM, and I kept having shin pain when I tried to run again, and I would be hobbled for days after a mere mile because I refuse to ease back into it.

And it’s just plain hard to get back on the wagon. Especially with all the New Year’s weight loss hooplah permeating the air. And I had since given up trying to lose weight or punish my body and didn’t know how to approach exercise from that new viewpoint.

Fitness is not a moral imperative or societal obligation. This important, so I’m saying it twice: fitness is not a moral imperative or societal obligation. You alone are the boss of your own underpants. Fat people are not driving up the costs of healthcare.

Fitness, movement, and exercise are personal choices. Independence and the right to pursue happiness are pretty damn important. Self autonomy is pretty damn important. You do what you want to do. Don’t do things that make you miserable or because you hate your body and yourself. You will fail at hating yourself smaller. So STOP it.

The recommendations for 150 minutes of exercise per week are arbitrary. People reap benefits from any small amount of exercise. I happen to find 30-40 minute workout sessions absolutely torturous, but I can go all out, balls-to-the-wall for 10-15 minutes a day. It’s a more efficient use of my time.

I exercise because:
  • I like to feel strong and prove to myself how strong I am.
  • I’m often impressed with just how much I can achieve.
  • It helps keep my moods balanced.
  • It keeps me from needing/seeking professional help for depression.
  • I like being on top and have to have strong arms to help me do so. *wink, wink*
  • It makes me feel like a fucking badass.
  • I get cool finisher's medals to hang on my wall.
  • I have something to brag about.
  • I like obstacle races/mud runs.
  • It’s a great way to get outside and enjoy the weather.
  • It’s a great way to get outside and spite the weather.
  • It helps me sleep better.
  • It boosts my energy.
  • Shimmies are awesome.
  • Zombies.
  • Fucking raptors, man.
  • I get to eat SO much.
  • It gives me a defensible reason to eschew dieting. (I’m only human.)

Exercise I like:
  • running
  • hiking
  • walking
  • hitting my friends with sticks (aka medieval combat recreation, boffer, LARP, Amtgard)
  • HIIT mixing body-weight weight-training with cardio, no equipment
    (I like Zuzanna, formerly of
  • belly dance
  • poi practice
  • sex
  • squats
  • climbing stairs from the first to the nineteenth floor of my office building

Chocolate milk

Chocolate milk has gotten a lot of hype in recent years as an ideal post-workout recovery beverage. This is awesome and I totally love drinking chocolate milk . . . except the study that promotes this finding specifically found that men benefited from consuming protein shortly after a work out.
"The effects of consumption of MILK after endurance exercise . . . suggest unique benefits of milk compared with a CHO-only beverage" like sugar-salt-water sports drinks, which are very specifically designed only to rehydrate and replenish your sodium balance.
Aaaand subsequent studies have failed to replicate the milk results in women:
"The women showed no clear benefit from protein during recovery. They couldn’t ride harder or longer. In fact, the women who received protein said that their legs felt more tired and sore during the intervals than did women who downed only carbohydrates."
And a single glass of chocolate milk has as much fat as it does protein and as much sugar as soda. And when a thirsty athlete needs to recover, who's going to chug only 8 ounces?

But that's OK for me because fats actually boost brain power, beauty, and vitamin absorption. Yay!

So after a brutal 6-mile trail run up and down hills and hills and hills and hills yesterday, I stopped off for a quart of thick chocolate milk on my way home and enjoyed it straight from the jug. And I gotta say, I'm feeling much better today than I should after such exertion. Sure, it could be due to my extra attention to stretching or my new calf compression sleeves, but the chocolatey milk probably contributed, too.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Radioactive Belly Dance

Oh yeah, I did this thing recently at the new Open Stage location. The stage techs were in a rush and I didn't get a run-through, so I was really upset and thought this was just awful. But I did MUCH better the following Saturday for Dragonmaster, and Amtgard competition, scoring 4.7 out of a possible 5.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Post on Privilege and Coming Out

When an acquaintance admitted to being very mainstream, part of the dominant Christian culture, and concerned about making others uncomfortable with her ignorance, a few of us chimed in to thank her and offer perspective and suggestions. Here are mine.

Some of the issues that are integral to who we are but that we feel we have to hide are sexual orientations, gender queerness, alternative romantic and sexual relationships, religious/spiritual beliefs and lack thereof, social and political beliefs and activism, and even our passionate support of everyone else in these categories.

Lead your questions with "May I ask ... ?" in a gentle tone. It's very respectful, and I, for one, respond very positively to iteager to inform and comfortable with declining if I don't want to discuss it in that moment. If someone is brave enough to open up to you, understand that they may or may not feel up to giving you the full alt-lifestyle 101 lecture, and that you are not entitled to be educated by them. There are hundreds of blogs and articles and books about it; ask for reading recommendations if you want to learn more.*

We censor ourselves in front of our family, our coworkers, and new people we meet, ever wary of the climate in any group. Some of us have come out to people who we expected to love us unconditionally and received some traumatic fucking backlash because of their selfishness and close-mindedness. And it's scarier still to imagine how acquaintances and strangers might react.

I'm a very privileged, educated, intelligent, middle-class, cis-presenting, hetero-presenting, conventionally attractive, slim, and able-bodied white woman living in a safe neighborhood. What could I possibly have to complain about?

  • But I am terrified to talk about my relationships at work or family gatherings. My family doesn't know that I've been with my boyfriend for nearly 2 years; they don't know about him at all. My coworkers know but not why we can't move in together or marry.
  • I'm afraid in most spaces to share HAES concepts, because dieting is so firmly entrenched in our cultural narrative and I don't like it when people think me daft for espousing such ideas, no matter how much science backs me up. Or worse, many think me ignorant of reality and my own weight discredits me.
  • I'm warming to the idea of coming out as atheist, at least in friendly spaces where the issue comes up, but I still kept fearfully silent at a Meetup event this week with an enthusiastic believer.

I admire those out there with the bravery to live fully open, and I try to be kind to myself and refrain from berating myself for not doing the same. I've discussed it with my boyfriend, and we're on the same page of not wanting to spark anger, backlash, and disappointment directed at us; we spend enough energy coping with life's difficulties. I choose my battles and closets carefully, and I still spend a large chunk of my time stressed out, anxious, worried, depressed, and sleeping poorly.

I'm not sure I'll ever feel safe enough to come out of all these closets, but I do think someday I will be strong enough.

*She did, and I led off with Skepchick and Queereka because they're very intersectional. Another friend recommended The Friendly Atheist. What resources would you suggest?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Watercolor achievements, now bolder !

I was struck one day by the inspiration to create a piece of very bold heraldry that reflected symbolic elements of my mundane life. The device I chose was a unicorn, but no dull traditional heraldic beast for me, no. It would be a terribly cute unicorn rampant, and to that end I copied the body design of the popular My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic art. The purple mane reflects my own love of recently having purple hair, and the “cutie mark” on the hip is a symbol widely used to represent polyamory: the infinity heart.

I asked myself how I could make this even more flamboyant, and flames was the obvious answer, linking loosely to my fire performances. I chose a sky blue oval field because I rarely see oval fields compared to more common heraldic shapes, sky blue for aesthetic contrast.

Since I’m not entirely open in my personal life, the idea of incorporating such symbolism into very flashy heraldry that would be displayed prominently with the meanings hidden less overtly was very appealing. Imagine these brilliant colors emblazoned on a large shield cover—it’s not a device you’ll soon forget.

I sketched the piece in pencil, viewing the MLP art nearby for reference for the unicorn. I used a light box to transfer the design in ink to watercolor paper and then used watercolor pencils to line and shade everything. I drew a wet paintbrush across each section to smooth and blend the colors and draw pigments into the center. I printed and oval from a computer and used the light box to trace it onto the final piece, cut it out, and repeated the same process to color  the field. I cut the backboard to fit the frame and glued the oval to the board.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Watercolor achievements - part deux

From my last post:
I'm usually pretty down on my 2-D art skills because my sister, by comparison, is SO amazing, but I still like to doodle and sketch a bit from time to time.

And so I found myself one night, shirking the responsibilities of my scheduled time slot for working on other things that needed to be done, instead compelled to sketch a phoenix. I had no references and was so pleased with it that I decided to develop the piece further for an Amtgard competition this weekend.

I used a light box (an overhead projector, to be honest) to trace the major outlines in ink to watercolor paper, including the body, tail, and primary wing tips/long feathers. I used a ruler to fill in the rest of the long wing feathers and then watercolor pencils to line and shade the bird. Then I had the task of filling all the rest of the blank space on the page. Again using watercolor pencils, I gave the bird a glow and an ashen background. I then took a wet paintbrush to each section to blend and smooth the colors, finding this paper MUCH better suited than the card stock on the Egyptian. Duh, Moniqa.

I added more black pencil to the dry paper for contrast and used a pen to finally draw in the inner body feathers/flames and a few outside details. I was lucky enough to find a frame and mat at Goodwill in the colors and size I wanted and will add that photo once I get it.

Watercolor achievements

I'm usually pretty down on my 2-D art skills because my sister, by comparison, is SO amazing, but I still like to doodle and sketch a bit from time to time.

I recently unearthed an unfinished, years-old sketch and went to work on finishing it. I had been inspired by Egyptian art and curves and used no references for the figure, later Googling Egyptian art to draw from for the hair and eye detail. I used a light box to transfer the sketch to ink on sturdier paper. Once that was done, I noticed how far off center the figure was and added a sun to balance it. But I still had a white space on the left to address. I copied some random hieroglyphs, knowing a better artist would do some more research and planning, but I was eager to be done.

before adding water
I used watercolor pencil to line and shade the whole piece and then drew a wet brush over each section to blend and smooth the pencil colors. I learned too late that card stock is not sturdy enough for such an endeavor, so I pressed it as well as I could between my roommates' stack of medical textbooks. I am very pleased with the final results and having trusted my gut in using "maroon" instead of "brown" for the skin and "peach" instead of "yellow" for the background.

I'm headed to the store this evening to choose a mat for a frame I already have and will update to add a picture of the final product.

Dragon banner

This year we've had several banner competitions in Amtgard, in which I haven't yet had the chance to participate. Most of the banners are made by applique, but the process easily frustrates me and I'm not very good at it. So I wanted to try my hand at fabric painting.

The design I chose is my personal heraldry that I designed for use in Amtgard years ago. There isn't much meaning behind it except for pretty colors and shapes I like and am proud to have designed and drawn by myself. Maybe something about strength, power, wisdom, beauty.

I figured I could use acrylic paints for the project, which would be ideal since 1. we have a bunch of acrylics, 2. I didn't want to invest in fabric paints for just one project, and 3. I know how to use acrylics but am awkward with fabric paint. The internet said I could water down acrylics and that they would look best on light-colored fabrics, but my design required a black background, so I resigned myself to applying many layers.

I thought maybe I could use an embroidery hoop, but those flimsy wooden ovals cost much more than I wanted to spend. I found a plastic rectangular frame for the same purpose at a better price. I bought some plain black cotton fabric and stretched and clipped it on. I used a ruler to draw the straight lines in chalk and did the rest freehand, which is tricky.

I watered down acrylics and began painting. Actually, I had to mix up a purple first since we didn't have any. It was not pretty. The green was easy and the silver as well. I worried about the gold, thinking shortly after I began that maybe I should have put down a solid color first, but it ultimately turned out lovely.

I later bought purple and added it on, but it just wasn't showing up against the black. It is astounding just how much paint fabric can absorb, and I applied SO many layers. Growing frustrated with the purple, I mixed in silver and ended up with a cool, sparkly lavender that looked lovely on the black. I don't generally like lavender, but this was a huge improvement over the initial layers.

I thought I might use black paint or fabric pen to outline everything, but my aunt suggested gray to give the shield some "pop" against the black. Having used a silver Sharpie with great success on other very different and unrelated projects, I gave that a try and loved the results, again using a straight edge where needed.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Star Trek arts and crafts and mud

Inspired by a link a friend posted to the cutest ever Disney princess inspired ladies' running outfits, I decided I needed a red Star Trek ladies' tunic dress for running, especially for my Red Shirts team that will be running in the Mud Factor 5K this week.

I've made a t-tunic before, though not well, so I figured this would be easy enough. I first made one with extra fabric I already had to make sure I could do it. I pulled a dress from my closet with the fit I wanted and laid it on the fabric to cut around. I chose a purple stretch jersey fabric, because I like the color and don't like to roll my seams if I don't have to.

I cut out two dress shaped pieces, sewed the top edge of the shoulders together, sewed the sides together, and tried it on. And took in the sides once or twice with )( shaped stitches. Then I hemmed the cap sleeves and put bias tape on the neck hole. It was my first time working with bias tape, and it wasn't awful but I can't say anything better than that. I finally trimmed up and hemmed the bottom edge.

I loved the fit, though it occasionally bunches a bit above my chest near the shoulders. I've worn it several weeks to Amtgard for fighting and find it very comfortable. Standard Amtgard tunics are worn very baggy with the bottom hem approaching the knee and sleeves near the elbows. But I find it too damn hot for that in Texas in August, so I wanted the crop sleeves, snug fit like workout gear, and short hem for ease of movement.

I later bought red jersey fabric (shiny red fabric!) for the Star Trek version. I cut it a bit small, but it stretches, and I like wearing my clothes tight anyway . . . especially for obstacle courses. I actually bothered to fold the edges once and stitched them before sewing it all together; I needed something tougher for the wear and tear to come. I appliqued the insignia on it with spare yellow fabric, which was a nightmare. It ended up with bunchy corners, which is super irritating to look at, but people who don't sew won't know it's not awesome.

Other Mud Factor pics:

My office building is pretty

And I dig Instagram.

The light rail behind the building gets cool reflections on the concrete wall in the morning.

I wish this one hadn't been such a gray day.