Graphite & Ink

BY LAURA E. FlORES

A Graphite Selfie #2016: A Snapshot into the Drawing Process

Posted on February 1, 2016

There’s nothing like waiting for a delivery with a 5 hour window at home, right, so after two cups of coffee and some brisk, caffeine induced pacing in front of the living room window, I grabbed a notebook and did some practice with contour lines. Well, for a minute, got bored, and turned the page.

Result:

Selfie2016

 

So there. My contribution to the plethora of selfies on the internet. Not too bad for someone, who hasn’t practiced in a while, I suppose.

Sketching with graphite is kind of like carving a statue, moulding objects (and subjects) out of nothingness that is a white paper. A few lines are drawn here and there, fingers hold a pencil that hovers over the paper, draws invisible lines to map out the next possible line, and then presses more graphite on it. Perhaps the pencil gets changed to a blending stub for softer lines… or an eraser to bring out light in the subject/object. Or to blend. Just to mention a couple of things.

I see too many things in the graphite selfie I could keep working on, but that’s not really the point… it’s good enough for now. Hyperrealism used to be a goal of mine, right now I’m learning to let go of that, anyone can get there with enough practice, the exercise of rinse and repeat, but let’s say that… perhaps I will focus on honing the skills I’m already good at, one of them is lines, I love line drawing, quite passionate about it in fact. Just felt inferior looking at all the hyperrealistic art out there, like holy crap are those artists good, just that… my focus has shifted. For now at least.

There is a crude quality to my drawing, which I want to explore a bit more. Something I used to be ashamed of. Not that I have abandoned the more refined side of drawing, realism, but there are already so many people out there, who will do it so much better than I ever can. Perhaps I’ve been scared of evolving into my own (as an artist? Is that a word I’m allowed to use? Don’t even let me get into the politics of that bull crap), who knows, good things may come out of it, or perhaps I’m more scared of the alternative, that nothing does come out of it. Ever. Quite a finite thought.

Writing and drawing. Drawing and writing. Somehow, I want to combine the two, and the defining word here is somehow, no idea how I’m going to do that, or what I’m doing, but here’s to hoping that the answer will be waiting to be stumbled upon across along the way.

And where the heck is my delivery. Been like 3 hours now, but if I do step out just for two minutes, I will find a note on the door, informing the recipient that the package can now be picked up at the post office, because no one was home at the time of delivery.

Time for another cup of coffee I guess, and some more practice with how to shape things out of graphite, or white paper to be exact.

My Shoebox Under the Bed : Sketches

Posted on January 14, 2016

Shoeboxes are wonderful for collecting all sorts of things. The illustrations (doodles) in my sketch books represent a medley of thoughts, kind of like knick knacks kept in shoeboxes, various items that hold symbolic value and memories… Except that my knick knacks are made out of ink and graphite. Here are a few of them, I will be updating the sketches section under images page with more of these mental trinkets.

Crete: A Portrait of an Island in Crisis.

Posted on October 16, 2015

I visited Crete this September for a week with my husband. These are some of the pictures I took, portraying a land of great beauty, and recently economic devastation.

The First of November: A Day for the Dead.

Posted on November 1, 2014

This morning has been one big Disney movie so far. I was taking in these sights and then out of the blue… I hear 20 swans fly over head in formation. My jaw is still somewhere on the forest floor.

 

DayofDead 075 DayofDead 037

 

DayofDead 045

I spent a good half an hour transfixed on the view, breathing in the crisp air and listening in on the forest around the lake. The sound of winter is beginning to echo there. It’s bittersweet standing at the edge of winter, the memories of summer begin to fade as frost and snow kiss the landscape ever so gently.

A medley of pictures played as I stood there, some faded, some more colorful than the actual reality behind them. A good time to move on, I thought, when the 20 swans disappeared over the hill.  It truly is a beautiful day to remember the departed on the First of November, the day for the dead. A lot of candles will be lit across the country today, friends and families will visit cemeteries, make them alive again.

As for the rest of the day, I feel the itch to draw, there is this one picture that keeps haunting me, but I might waste it away gaming…

 

I, gamer.

Posted on September 20, 2014

WP_20140920_15_16_41_ProThis is me.

At age… I don’t even remember anymore, but the gaming system my dad gave me for a Christmas present is forever imprinted in my memories: Nintendo Entertainment System. The developers certainly nailed the name.

My favorite was Super Mario Bros, I mean, hands down. No need to explain that. A close second was DuckTales, where you played as Scrooge and bounced around on your cane while collecting diamonds to make a rich duck even richer. Good to teach the moral values to the kids early on.

WP_20140920_15_18_34_ProTossing ponies and barbies (and a bunch of boy toys like Ninja Turtle action figures… which are freaking dolls btw) in the corner for an interactive experience with a piece of tech was easy peasy lemon squeezy for me. I preferred being alone most of the time anyway because of all the drama between kids. I just hated it, why couldn’t we hang out with each other without awkward social rules like, no… you can’t play with us because then it would be an uneven number. I mean… what? Some sand box rules I will never understand. There were some even more ridiculous than that.

Nintendo changed the dynamics of my childhood (and PlayStation later on). Gaming became my escape ladder and made me an adventurer instead of a weird kid. I had desperately wanted to experience what the likes of Indiana Jones would in their lives and this was my chance. There were tons of games I played on the NES, the cartridges have survived the years, and when I shuffle them in my hands, I get flashbacks of all the adventures I got myself into, as if I was turning the pages of a picture album.

My first PC I received in junior high for school purposes, but soon enough I was playing Duke Nukem on my educational purposes only machinery. Lesson well learned: headshots for the win! And flash cash to the girls and they will flash you. Again, it was good to keep on learning those moral lessons. There was also this space ship flight simulator I forget the name of, but I had good times flying in insane speeds on the face of Earth, and pulling awesome stunts with the help of my joystick, all the while shooting down evil aliens. It was just freaking awesome, no other way to put it.

And then came PlayStation. A personal game changer for the second time in my life. I’m a graphics w***e, let’s get that out of the way right now. I understand that being into shiny stuff and having a gaming PC would be a no brainer, but I liked consoles for the ease of it. Mostly because I wasn’t that tech savvy. Which I regret, I wish had delved into computers a bit more than I did… these days I’m finding it hard to keep up with the leaps and bounds technology takes (I guess I just have to believe I’d be saying that one day).

Another magical Christmas in 1999 gifted me with Final Fantasy VIII. I have never been the same after playing this title. That’s when I took my adventuring to another level. Here was a game that combined an enthralling story rich with lore, complex characters and epic battles. Role-playing was right up my alley I discovered. There was so much to do in the game, I could progress the story or focus on leveling up and making my characters stronger (I like seeing numbers go up), complete side quests or play mini games.

Having a lot of control over my gaming experience is what turned me onto the Final Fantasy series (fanatic about it). The elements of a perfect storm were there with the timing of playing FF VIII. I was around the same age as the protagonists (all mercenary teenagers brought up in an elite battle academy) so the relatability was there. Their dreams and emotions were like that of an ordinary teenager, except I got to live an elevated story with danger woven all through out it. But I, Laura, was an active part of shaping the story and that’s what felt really good. To this day I revisit the game for the sake of nostalgia. Check it out, it has one of the best game cut scene openings:

It’s always been about escapism, then and now. And I still continue on that road with A Realm Reborn, an online role-playing game like World of Warcraft (essentially). Playing with real people online is a different beast entirely because of interpersonal relations between players. I might have hated the sand box in my childhood, but here I am back at it.

Usually I’m the healer in the team, but most times I also want to wreck enemies for a faster fight while keeping my team mates standing. I definitely take the battle aspect of my healing class to an extreme, which can cause raised eyebrows. That edge has caused team wide wipes on occasion (=we all dead).

Oops. WP_20140920_15_20_43_Pro

The best feeling is when the team gets into some serious s*** by a horrible mistake and everyone excepts it to be a wipe, but we make it through, because I kept their asses alive through what would have been an annihilation. Yup. Yup yup. Virtual ego just outgrew another room.

On a good day I make friends while playing the game, share some good laughs while feeling accomplished after downing a super hard boss …and on other days I land in the middle of a troll fest while wanting to complete a dungeon for a piece of loot I need oh-so-bad, and these maxed out jackasses with their best in slot gear decide to make my life miserable. A******s. Online gaming will thicken your skin. And possibly induce unfiltered rage. Absolutely lovely times. ffxiv_21092014_101929

 

(Screenshot of my character in A Realm Reborn, wearing her healer gear)

 

The best laughs (and rage fits, yeah my diaper can shrink to being two sizes too small) I’ve had while teaming up with my husband. Whether it is (was) Army of Two, Borderlands, Halo, Call of Duty, any shooter really, we can make an effective team. WP_20140920_15_32_15_ProI’m not as pro as him, so his patience has been tested while I charge into an ambush with a kamikaze attitude and have my virtual head blown into bits. I yell “Resurrect!” and hubby looks at me with murderous eyes: “How about you learn how to take cover and stay alive?”. Curse words omitted.

(I did something wrong?)

Repeat that a dozen times. I think it’s a riot, husband wishes he could strangle me the Homer Simpson way (I love you). He has pitched Hal- I mean Destiny to me, the latest online shooter with a role playing flavor developed by the same creators as Halo …but I gotta restrict my intake of the hardest virtual crack the internet can dish out or my real life will be over.

Learning tactics and strategy, figuring out mechanics of fights can take hours and even weeks, when the content is brand spanking new with no guides to lean on, but it’s all part of the process. The record player is indefinitely stuck on rinse and repeat, but the sense of accomplishment is comparable to winning a world class sports competition when a fight/boss finally goes down. It takes smarts, tenacity and most of all patience. Sometimes I got none of those.

World firsts in beating content between elite teams are a serious business, it’s brutal and cut throat. And it’s not just about bragging rights. The best players in the world are sponsored like athletes, and why wouldn’t they be? Games, or eSports, is a huge business. Pro-gamers can collect 6 figure sums from a single tournament. Not bad for a waste of time.

I’ve had the same screen name since 13 years of age alluding to the goddess of strategic warfare (play hard and smart!). It’s my armor and mask, when I log on and turn into a virtual bad ass in the wild west of imaginary worlds, and make no mistake:

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I got game ;) See you out there! Love, Laurathena.

Snapshot_20140920_13

 

 

Recommendation: “Terms and Conditions May Apply”. A Documentary on the Absence of Privacy.

Posted on August 30, 2014

I’m subscribed to a number of social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+… And probably a few more that I can’t even remember the names of. I’m not an avid poster, I may do one update a week, a few if the power of sharing really compels me, but I do use a good bit of time on following what fellow social networkers are up to on the aforementioned platforms; clicking, reading, sharing and liking.

I spend even more time on the powerhouse search engine (that doesn’t need to be named for everyone to know which one I’m talking about) typing in things like… healthy snacks, bodyweight workouts, parson russell terriers, stuff that’s pretty normal, stuff that anyone reading my search history would think this person is trying to get in shape, and possibly has a dog. And they would be correct.

Then there’s this I’ve typed in the search box: Wormholes, black holes, time travel, the Manhattan project, Nazis, aliens, abductions, cattle mutilations, shadow government, black ops… Need I go on? I hope whoever finds that, also sees the searches I’ve made for common sci-fi topics, writing and writing competitions. I write sci-fi. No one has diagnosed me as bat crazy yet, but my search history would undeniably suggest that.

One of those bat crazy searches landed a documentary on my lap titled “Terms and Conditions May Apply”, released in 2013. It highlights the absence of digital privacy and the surveillance conducted on average people, which in turn, results in profiling based on their digital behavior, and one may ask …so what? I got nothing to hide. Well, the documentary also paints the scenario depicted in the movie “Minority Report”, where people are arrested pre-emptively (and prosecuted) for crimes they did not commit yet, a society where a digital eye prevents its members from behaving in an undesired way. Worrisome. And it’s already happening as we learn through three different cases in the UK from recent years.

Here are a few quotes of interest from “Terms and Conditions May Apply”:

“The Patriot Act expanded the ability of the Federal Government to do surveillance in a lot of little ways. You don’t need a judge’s approval for instance to find out what websites someone visited, what search terms they typed into Google–“

 Declan McCullagh,CNET’s news.com Chief Political Correspondent

“There are companies you’ve never heard of, like Axiom, that claim to have about 1,500 points of data on the average American citizen, everything from, you know, whether you’re right or left handed, what kind of dog you have, what your sort of psychological outlook is, and all of that can be used to inform the decisions that businesses make about us as well.”

Eli Pariser, Author (“The Filter Bubble)

“According to the Department of Homeland Security reports Facebook has replaced almost every other CIA information gathering program since it was launched in 2004.”

A News clip in “Terms and Conditions May Apply”

“After years of secretly monitoring the public, we were astounded so many people would willingly publicize where they live, their religious and political views, and advertise lists of all their friends, personal email addresses, phone numbers, hundreds of photos of themselves, and even status updates about what they were doing moment to moment– It is truly a dream come true for the CIA.”

Christopher Sartinsky, Deputy CIA Director

“It turns out that, in this environment, a digital environment, there’s a loophole to the Fourth Amendment, which is, if a third party collects a lot of this information, that government doesn’t have to go through those same hoops, it’s called the third party doctrine.”

John Palfrey, Professor of Law (Harvard Law School) on government acquiring private records through third parties such as Google and Facebook.

“Terms and Conditions May Apply” is a must watch for anyone living in the digital age and partaking actively in it. The illusion of the delete button fools a lot of cyber citizens, and this documentary served as a reminder that whatever happens on the internet, stays on the internet, and it’s guaranteed someone is following your digital footprints.

I also recommend the Apple agreements episode by South Park:

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