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Posts Tagged ‘arts’

I can’t draw, but I do love designing things like maps and logos and books and fun gifts. I use software to make it all work and shortcuts can be a terrific time saver. That’s why I’m excited to report that I recently discovered a very helpful trick for aligning objects in Illustrator.

I came to Illustrator from Freehand and found myself tripping over simple things. This particular tip fixes an issue that’s been bugging me for years, so I wanted to share in case I’m not the only one. (Maybe you already know this trick? Good for you, now give me a sec to share this bit of wisdom with those of us who have been less fortunate;)

I use Illustrator CS5 so ymmv, but here’s the gist, paraphrased from this useful article:

Select the objects you want to align, then (here’s the important bit) click once on the object or guide you want to use to control the alignment of the other selected objects. No shift key needed, just a straight click. The Key Object will show a heavy border outline around it. Align as usual.

It should look something like this:

Enjoy!

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I’m a little late to the party on this but here’s the list of Nebula Award nominations for 2018, with links for novel reviews and online reading where available.

I mention it because (perhaps not coincidentally) Tor’s eBook Club is giving out free copies of All Systems Red (Murderbot #1) by Martha Wells with sign-up.* My only complaint about this book was that it was too short, and we have to wait for the sequel. Recommended!

Other nominees are available via free online ‘zines like the excellent Uncanny, Clarkesworld, Tor.com, Strange Horizons (Utopia, LOL?, by Jamie Wahls is deceptively light but packs a punch, in a good way), and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

Happy reading!

* Through April 10th, though the fine print says US/Canada only. Sorry, rest of the world!

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Here’s a quick pre-holiday update. Winter has come and I’m writing, working, cooking, shoveling and woodworking. As an antidote to all things discouraging and sad, I present evidence that effort + time = achievement. See Exhibit A, a.k.a. Bowl #1.

 

Some walnut, some birdseye maple, some sweat and a few tears. (Yes, it was perfect. Yes, I dropped it. Yes, I re-cut and re-finished the exterior. But now it’s done:)

Translate to your own circumstances as you will!

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I like making things. Some days that means building worlds with words, some days it just means building. I find the two modes of creation to be complementary.

One of the more useful things I learned about myself in grad school (aside from the fact that I am capable of a great deal more persistence than previously suspected) is that I like understanding the world through concrete objects. Ideas are good, ideas can be great, but it’s harder for me to make real headway unless I’m also operating in the physical realm. It doesn’t have to be all I do, but it is satisfying to create something with my hands as well as my head. (Yep, Mens et Manus right there.)

In grad school that meant following a lifelong interest and taking up archery (hey there, Legolas!). When my shoulder decided it had had enough, I learned how to knit and ran sidelines in bookbinding and baking. As of a month or two ago, it also means woodturning.

What is woodturning? Simple explanation: one “turns” wood by mounting it on a lathe, spinning it real fast, then shaping said wood with a sharp object.

olde thyme lathe

What you can make: many things, so long as they are in some broad sense, round. Think bowls and pepper mills and pens and honey dippers, but also (if you know anything about me at all:) magic wands. What’s not to love?

It’s fun, it’s fast, and it’s exciting (see aforementioned machinery spinning at high speeds!). It’s also strangely relaxing (the word “flow” may have been mentioned). The process is something like pottery, if the potter’s wheel rotated 90 degrees and was used with hardened steel tools and a chance of stitches.

What have I made? A lot of test pieces, a few practice wands not suitable for spell casting, and this little fellow.

This is my first honey dipper. Hello, little honey dipper!

So, not much yet, but I can tell this is a good outlet for me because I’m constantly fiddling with ideas. I can practically feel the creativity overflowing, and that’s a good thing. Not only am I focused on building tangible objects, but new story ideas are popping up all over the place too.

Win win:) I’m hardly the first to say this, but it’s terrific that creativity doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game.

I’m still very much a woodturning beginner but here are a few things I’ve learned so far:

  • An introductory course can be a great way to get started and also teach you how not to end the day bleeding all over your new lathe (bonus!).
  • Online resources are also quite useful. Videos are great for seeing what experts are doing with their hands as they say super helpful things like “Then you just pivot the tool and you’re all set!”
  • It’s good to step gently into a new and complicated habit, but at some point you’re going to have the take the plunge and buy decent tools.
  • You don’t just need a lathe, you’ll also need a grinder to keep your tools sharp. (Tip: apparently fresh-from-the-store tools aren’t actually sharp enough to use. Now they tell me!)
  • Based on the shopscape (shopping + landscape = fun new word!), retailers think that most woodturners are men. This may in fact be true, but leads to a problem for any aspiring woodturners smaller than size large. As far as I can tell (Google helped and everything) woodturning smocks do not come in women’s size 4! Pro tip: chef’s jackets work, if you can find one with a closed neck, side pockets and a zipper. I’m happily using a slightly modified version of this one.

For me, making things is a lot like running downhill. Getting to the top can be an effort, but once I get started every step is easier than the last.

So, creative cross-pollination in whatever flavor floats your boat? Recommended! Also, fair warning to those with whom I celebrate gift-giving holidays:
I hope you like wood!

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Always.

Self-portrait as Stormtrooper

Today’s quote: “We’re more complex than you think.

Open the blast doors! Open the blast doors!

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The finalists for the 2017 Hugo Awards have been released! As I’ve mentioned before, if you’re interested in some of the best new science fiction today, or you’re looking to pad your reading list, the Hugo roster is a great place to start.

You can find some links to the nominated stories at Locus Online. For more on the list and the rule changes for this year’s award (including the new Best Series category), check out this column at Book Riot or this post on the WSFS updates. If you’re interested in voting for any of this fine fiction to win a Hugo, you’ll need an active membership to Worldcon 75.

Tor.com and Uncanny are killing it this year. The Locus list is light on short fiction links, so have a few (mostly free) links to the shorter works:

Best Novelette

Best Short Story

I do love a full To Read list. Enjoy!

 

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The good folks over at The Verge have the list of 2016’s Hugo award winners, complete with links and the complete list of nominees. Lots of women and authors of color this round. All in all, this year’s award race largely shrugged off reactionaries and controversy, a real win for diversity and innovative speculative fiction. Enjoy!

Winner: Best Novel

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