Thursday, November 20, 2014

My so-called real life

"I live one day at a time, I dream one dream at a time. Yesterday's dead and tomorrow is blind."

I could tell another Facebook story - because there is one - but I'll give you a break and talk about my so-called real life today.

My fall semester of school has been very different from last spring. I loved both my online class about WWII and my studio class in digital photography. This term I'm struggling with both my online class, Living Writers, and my studio class, 2D Design.

The blame for my disenchantment with Living Writers falls mainly on me. I haven't been able to keep up with the reading, because I haven't made it a priority. I did OK with our first book, The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed. I finished it in the aloted time and made a contribution to the discussion. I read the supplemental material and enjoyed the videos and especially Mohamed's reading at Colgate. (It's really worth listening to. Until she read, the poetry in her words was obscured for me by the grittiness of the novel's plot.)

Then the wheels came off.

Our second book was Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Weighing in at a hefty 576 pages, it was just more than I could handle. I'm a slow reader - attribute that to my ADD - and although the first hundred-some pages of the book kept my interest sufficiently, I didn't dedicate adequate time to finish it (by a long shot) and I wouldn't contribute to the discussion without having done so.

I did watch most of the Colgate video lectures as well as recordings of his Oprah Winfrey show appearance, among others, and Franzen's reading at Colgate. I also watched some of the supplemental videos and read his New Yorker piece, Emptying the Skies about the decimation of the songbird population in southern Europe. (Franzen is an avid bird-watcher and songbird-advocate.)

As you may know, or not. in August 2010 Time Magazine featured Franzen as it's cover boy, with the designation, Great American Novelist. The video lectures spent some time on what is a Great American Novel, or an American Novel for that matter. The answer, as far as I understood it, is that that characterization is open to interpretation. Wikipedia interprets it as a novel, presumably written by an American author, distinguished as being the most accurate representation of the spirit of the age in the United States at the time of its writing or the time it is set in.

Since I didn't slog through the book (yet - I still plan to), I disqualified myself for participation on the discussion forum, although I read some of the discussion and found it disappointingly superficial and uninspiring. Ironically this reflects some of my impressions about Franzen himself. He is charming at times, but clearly uncomfortable in a book-promotion role, and less than forthcoming when asked questions he just doesn't want to answer.

(I do have empathy for that. I hope this doesn't make me sound egotistical but, as a writer, I often feel the words come through me, not from me. So if I wrote fiction and you asked me my intent in making such and such a character act in such and such a way, I really might be as mystified as you.)

I decided to move on to our third novel, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, by Marjane Satrapi. Persepolis is Satrapi's memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, and it is a "graphic novel" more colloquially known as a comic book. It reads fairly quickly and I have no excuse for the fact that I'm only halfway through it and it's the final week of the course section. I might knock it out tonight, while Neil plays softball, although there are competing priorities.

On the bright side, it was made into a movie, animated naturally, and is available on Amazon Prime for $9.99. Neil said he'd watch it with me, so it's on the menu for this weekend. And I'm halfway through the video interview with Satrapi at Colgate, and I'm enjoying her energy, expressiveness, humor and adorable French accent.

What I should be doing now is getting a jump start on our last novel, The Zone of Interest, by Martin Amis. At 320 pages, with four weeks to go in the course spanning Thanksgiving and our trip to Hawaii, I'm not overly optimistic that I will be in a space to contribute. Again. But I'm taking all the unfinished books on the cruise and my commitment to myself is to finish reading them. I'll grade myself as passing the course if I do. (For the record, there is no official final exam or grade, or even the requirement that one read all of the books if one chooses to read only some.)

I wish I could say the same for my 2D Design class. I've attended all the classes except one, when I had the grandbaby here, and I've completed all the homework so far, at least technically. If I'm honest, I'd say that I've put in the minimum effort to get the work done, enough to pass but not to excel by any means.

It's hard to explain why I'm going through the motions only, but it's easier to explain why I'm not enjoying the class. I don't feel like I've learned a lot. The format of the class is that we look at the last week's homework results and then we get the next week's homework assignment, sometimes with a handout or a few slides to show examples. Since there are only seven of us in the class, not everyone attends every week, and not everyone who attends has actually done the assignment, we are looking at an average of four or five pieces of work.

After the next week's assignment is explained, most of the students spend the rest of the class time working on the homework. I've only stayed the full time once. Usually I bug out as soon as the "teaching" part of the class is over. It's possible I'd get more out of the class if I stayed and did the work there, including assistance or suggestions from the teacher, not to mention interaction with the other students, who seem very nice, and isn't that part of my reason for taking a studio class? To get out of the house (and off Facebook) and to have some real world connections?

No need to answer that.

So what have we covered in 2D Design since I posted our first assignment to find the letters of the alphabet in accidental images?

I liked our second project. The design element or principle (I can never remember the difference) was Line. We had to cut out 20 3-inch squares and create line patterns, in three primary or three secondary colors, using all six types of lines, then arrange them to create a composition with asymmetrical balance, harmony, unity. Here is mine.

Project three had to do with Grayscale. We had to paint a design with nine values of shading, using Titanium White and Mars Black acrylic paint. I am not fond of painting. Things get messy. But I got this done.

For our fourth project, Value, we had to grid a photo of a sculpture in 1-inch aquares and recreate it using pencils. Here's my halfhearted attempt.

Next up, project five, the Color Wheel. Painting again, but this was easier.

We painted again in project seven, Color Schemes. Using only two complimentary colors (opposites on the color wheel) we had to paint an image over a grid, using hues and tints (adding white) shades (adding black) and tones (adding gray). The colors I chose were yellow and violet. And who knew you could makes greens and browns as well as lilacs and ochres. I think this was an artistic best for me.

Project seven was sort of dull. We had to paint three 3-inch squares, using the same image and three colors, but manipulating the colors using shades and tints.

Project eight was Pointillism. Colors of Magenta, Cyan and Yellow. Self explanatory.

And project nine was Perspective. We had to create a collage, emphasizing the element of direction. I'm about as handy with glue as I am with paint. Which is to say, not very. We won't talk about the exploding glue incident, and the repeat of the exploding glue incident. I'm sticking with a glue stick from now on.

So there in a nutshell you have it, nine projects down and three to go.

The only trouble is, I have to do the last three projects by Wednesday, because after that, we're away until the day before my last class.

Wish. Me. Luck.

"I live one day at a time
I dream one dream at a time
Yesterday's dead and tomorrow is blind
And I live one day at a time

Bet you're surprised to see me back at home
You know how I miss you when you're gone
Don't ask how long I plan to stay
It never crossed my mind
Because I live one day at a time

There's a swallow flying across the cloudy sky
Searching for a patch of sun, so am I
Don't ask how long I have to follow him
Perhaps I wont in time
But I live one day at a time

I live one day at a time
I dream one dream at a time
Yesterday's dead and tomorrow is blind
And I live one day at a time."

(Willie Nelson)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sticky Wickets

"Disorder in the house, there's a flaw in the system, and the fly in the ointment's gonna bring the whole thing down."

Hard to believe, I know, but we had yet another fascinating Facebook discussion this week.

Well, maybe it wasn't truly fascinating, but I like alliteration.

One of my FB friends, who I met because we were partnered in my first Bead Soup Blog Hop, posed this question.
If you post tutorials on your blog with a copyright attribution/no copies/no derivative works and people still ask if they can copy and sell the designs ... what do you think? I feel that the design is clearly intended for personal use. Want to sell a few at a craft fair or to folks at work? Sure! Do I owe you a free idea from which you can profit with quantities of product made and sold without paying me? I do not think so. But I don't know that it matters what I think. This is the sticky wicket of the Internet. Once you give it away it is hard to get it back. If you are going to profit from the idea, what do you feel you owe to the designer? Anything? Nothing? Credit for the idea, a few bucks, a thank you, nothing? Thoughts?
And of course, after a slew of commiserating posts in response, I assumed my usual role of fly-in-the-ointment.

I responded thus.
I'll go out on a limb here and say, if you don't want people to make it and sell it, don't put the instructions on the Internet. Pictures sure, sell it yourself yes, sell a tutorial, absolutely. I think legally a copyright only protects you from having people re-post the instructions, or worse, sell the instructions. It's not the same as a patent or trademark.
My FB friend had the grace to agree, or at least not disagree.
Oh yes, this is true! I am just contemplating the complexities! Do you think, then, if I post a tutorial and clearly state that it is intended for personal use that I owe the reader the right to make a profit with the idea? I know the legalities. I am mostly contemplating the overreach! Just food for discussion.
I'm guessing by overreach, she was referring to people taking her idea and running with it to generate lucre. She seemed to be pushing the envelope by questioning whether she owed them some right to do so, when she clearly felt quite the opposite to be true.

I said this.
I don't think you owe the reader anything! We have a lot of discussion about this in the bead-making world. It's generally conceded that if you publish instructions, teach a class or sell a tutorial, you relinquish control over what people do with the info. The most you can do is to ask people to give you credit and encourage them to come up with their own spin.
Another friend contributed this. I'm still not sure what side he was on.
It's a moot point. The Facebook culture has changed what we mean by copying. Once I post something I usually consider it gone. There's no app for common decency or creative trust.
The original poster continued her pondering.
Of course, the reality is what it is, but still it fascinates me that people feel entitled to profit from your idea that they got for free. I am amazed that even among creatives, the idea that it is okay to profit from the tutorial exists. What happened to being inspired to make it your own? I know the reality, but I am still asking the moral question, the deeper question, do you feel I owe the people who read my blog the right to make money on my ideas? Because I already know they feel that I do and I want to know what creatives think. I don't think it's a moot point, I think it is one that is worth discussing.
Since I'd already answered that question, I posed a related one.
What if someone is selling a tutorial and you look at the picture and think, I know how he/she did that. Am I prevented then from making and selling that thing? Of course, personally, I'd want to make it uniquely mine.
She came back with this.
That is a good question, or say, and this happens every day, you see a finished good and think, I know how they made that ... is it okay to make and sell that thing? Reality ... people do it every day. Morality ... is it okay? Are ideas really all free?
Frankly, I don't think it is immoral or even see it as a moral issue. If you are an artist, if you consider yourself an artist, you won't want to copy anyone's work. Where's the creative gratification in that? But if you are just a hack, just trying to make a buck, and you see something that you can replicate and sell, well, isn't that essentially the basis of our economic system? Competition? Building a better mousetrap?

And just for the sake of argument, even a patent only grants exclusive rights to an inventor for a limited period of time, in exchange for detailed public disclosure of an invention. And an invention is considered a solution to a specific technological problem. Does art fall under that definition?

Trademarks serve to identify a particular business as the source of goods or services. They serves as a badge of origin, a logo. You can trademark artwork that you use to sell or promote your products or services. Do instructions for a project fall under that definition?

This was my last word on the subject.
I think it is OK, but that is just my opinion. Creatively I always want to come up with my own ideas. But here's another question. What if you independently came up with a design and later found out someone had previously posted instructions for that design. Would you have to stop making and selling that thing? There are many people who think they have invented some design or technique whereas in reality others have been doing that same thing.
The original poster was still grinding her original ax.
Yes, this is another pickle isn't it, Elizabeth? I believe ideas are out there and sometimes independently people come up with the same ideas, they are logical progressions or they are similar solutions. That to me is different from blatantly taking an idea and making it with full knowledge that it was not your own and then expecting to be able to make a profit from it on a scale basis.
The discussion rambled on without me and eventually she summed it up this way.
I am just baffled as to why people feel it is free for profit if it is free for inspiration. That's the crux of what I'm putting out here today. Why do we owe people the ability to make money on our ideas? I love inspiring creativity! I am all about it! We still have to eat and the conundrum is how to make your ideas make enough money that you can afford to let them go.
I'm not without sympathy. I don't think she owes her readership a meal ticket, but I also don't think her readership owes her compensation for ideas freely shared, or additional recompense for ideas sold in a tutorial.

So that is that. Maybe if I ever have an original idea that others try to copy and sell, my tune will change. Right now I think I'd be flattered that someone would want to take an idea of mine and run with it.

And all of this begs the question, why are the most interesting interactions in my life happening on Facebook of late?

No need to answer that.

Because shortly after the conversation above, a somewhat related Facebook discussion arose that bears further, um, discussion. It began thus.
I like to see what other artists make and challenge myself. Sometimes it's an epic fail, other times it's pretty good. But if it wasn't my original idea can I sell it? I am making snowmen lentils and really can't seem to make them my own. Really a snowman has pretty distinct features. What are everyone's thoughts? I don't want to hurt another artist.
Most artists don't regard imitation as a form of flattery, however sincere.

These snowmen lentils were made by Jeannie Galt.

I promise I'm not going to go into all 32 responses, just mine (which is wordy) and maybe a couple of others.
Personally, as an artist, I'd rather make my beads original. But there is a lot of copying. Bead makers buy and use the same frit blends, rollers, presses, silver wire, leaf, etc. Bead designs can't be copyrighted or patented. Consumers benefit by having more options. Most things have been done before and who's to say where any idea originally came from. As you say, snowmen have distinct features, can you give it a spin? Make them in fantasy colors, add eyeglasses or a pipe, a cherry nose instead of a carrot, etc.
Another bead maker said the same, but possibly more succinctly.
I don't think snowman lentils "belong" to anyone. I've been making them for years. They do have their own personality. I made one recently with a stocking cap instead of a top hat!
Not everyone felt quite the same.
I think if you have looked at someone else's lampwork bead for inspiration and yours pretty much matches the one you were looking it, then you shouldn't sell it. If you got your idea from some other source, let's say a greeting card, your head, or piece of fabric, and it still happens to look like other people's beads as a coincidence, then sell it. For me, there are loads of ways to make your snow person different from others. But it is hard to see and know everything that is out there already.
So, it's OK to copy an idea, as long as you aren't copying the idea from another artist's bead.

Another poster summed it up this way.
Nothing is new, everything has been done. When it comes out of your own hand it will have its own flair therefore it will be your own. If you keep looking on the Internet you will someday find exactly what you've made, made by somebody else.

A few years ago, a German artist published a tutorial for a cat bead. I looked at the picture and said, I can see how that is done. And I went into my studio and made a few.

But I didn't feel right about selling them online, even though I used different colors and changed the design on the cat's body. If I'd paid for the tutorial, I think I'd have felt the same. I sold a few at local bead shows, but somehow I felt that listing them in my Etsy store only invited criticism by other lampwork artists. The global community of bead makers is so small, that inevitably it would surface that I'd copied the design.

I stopped making that bead. If I take a class, I don't go home and make the beads that were taught. I like learning how someone else does things. Then I go off and do my own thing.

Don't look for snowman lentils from me any time soon.

"Disorder in the house
The tub runneth over
Plaster's falling down in pieces by the couch of pain

Disorder in the house
Time to duck and cover
Helicopters hover over rough terrain

Disorder in the house
Reptile wisdom
Zombies on the lawn staggering around

Disorder in the house
There's a flaw in the system
And the fly in the ointment's gonna bring the whole thing down

The floodgates are open
We've let the demons loose
The big guns have spoken
And we've fallen for the ruse

Disorder in the house
It's a fate worse than fame
Even the Lhasa Apso seems to be ashamed

Disorder in the house
The doors are coming off the hinges
The earth will open and swallow up the real estate

I just got my paycheck
I'm gonna paint the whole town grey
Whether it's a night in Paris or a Fresno matinee

It's the home of the brave and the land of the free
Where the less you know the better off you'll be

Disorder in the house
All bets are off
I'm sprawled across the davenport of despair

Disorder in the house
I'll live with the losses
And watch the sundown through the portiere."

(Warren Zevon)