Periodic record #1: Stress

Just to clarify: this entry is casual in nature. I realize it has three different topics, and make no claims as to whether it is a good example of my editing or writing skill. 😜 I basically just don’t want to hold onto it any longer; it was meant to serve as a time and experience marker, and I’m into my second day on writing and editing it (more, if you consider the image work).


For some reason, even though both my time spent in action and my self-care has improved, I’ve had a difficult time motivating myself over the last several days. By, “time spent in action,” I mean time spent doing something other than being still. My sleep hygiene is improving — I’m having fewer long-term awakenings during the night, having more control over those I do have, and losing weight as a consequence (of both sleeping better, and not eating late at night).

I suppose a lot of work has gone into trying to recover my computer. The battery just failed of old age (it was puffy when we took it out). It’s a work-in-progress; I may have fixed it, but I’m not sure. I’ll have to power it down and back up (again), to know.

But that, and some tension around the household, have probably drained some of my energy via out-and-out stress.

Then there is the entire prospect of becoming part of the workforce again. I was able to recover a lot of information (job search sites) from the drive I had been using, but not before one of my browsers decided to scramble the order of my Bookmarks when I set them up to Sync. I don’t think there’s an “Undo” button to restore them, but I did (thankfully) have a backup. I’ve had to spend time, then, restoring and unscrambling the randomized Bookmarks (though at least their folders held), which also means that I’ve spent time editing them, which kept me up past midnight, within the last week.

Tech problems. I think it had to do with confusion over which machine’s copy of the Bookmarks file took precedence when setting up Sync. Instead of asking me, it just assumed it knew what I wanted, and destroyed my order (for a different order in which, I can’t see the logic). Because, of course, I don’t care which of my hundreds (I’m guessing, here) of files or folders come first in my Toolbar, right?

Ugh. Not to mention that I literally would not know if I lost content…

Graphic Arts: incremental learning

Anyhow…my last post was actually based on an image I had made, and had been playing around with on a couple of different image editors. At the endpoint of that draft, however, I saw that the image itself was extraneous to the content, so I didn’t post it. (I nearly didn’t post what I have, here.)

Detail of selection “halo”
Illustration example colored with selections in Photoshop
Illustration example colored with selections in Photoshop

What I had been trying to do was take a .PNG file, isolate all of the linework (without greyscale halo), and copy it to a transparent layer — then export that transparent layer to a different program, for coloring. (Ideally, this would be the top layer in the file, so everything else would only show up behind it.) I have since learned that I can just change Blending Modes and color on top of the original image, fine — without dealing with minimizing the halo, or importing things from a separate program. This eliminates the issue with pixelization.

By, “halo,” I mean that it’s possible to sample all points of one color (in this case, black) from the image no matter where they are — but specify too wide a tolerance for this, and you’ll keep the smoothness of your lines, along with a (in my experience, opaque: maybe I can tweak this) greyscale artifact surrounding all of them. With too small a tolerance, your lines will show up pixelated once transferred. That may require re-drawing the image…and I’m not sure anyone actually wants to re-draw something they already drew out once, to their satisfaction.

Smudging over a hidden line, is different. I’m not sure if I’m able to restrict the layers sampled by the smudge tool…in which case, it would be good to outline areas of shadow or highlight with something lighter and less-visible, like mechanical pencil, or at least hard pencil, rather than using black fineliner.

Illustration example colored with Procreate
Illustration example colored with Procreate

I have some choice words for the “Export” function where it comes to the mobile version of Photoshop. I didn’t realize my machine is technically a mobile device with limited capability, in comparison to a desktop or laptop computer. Apparently, to “Export” (say, to the Web) means to reduce the file size as much as possible, meaning a ton of detail is lost on file conversion. That’s not great, if you want to continue to work on your graphics without things getting pixelated. (There may be a way to work around this, which I’m simply too new to know of.)

On the other hand, now that I see what that “colored” (greyed-in) sketch looks like in a Web browser, I’m more willing to forgive the lapse in resolution. Sure, in 20 years we’ll look back on it and regret the stage of our technology in which .PNGs looked like .BMPs, but until then it should be fine, right? 😉

If you’re working for Web distribution (and only current-generation Web distribution), using “Export” is fine, as you’re already at the maximum most browsers can handle. If you’re making something for print — like, on paper — that’s another thing, entirely. Print files need a minimum of 300 dpi (dots per inch), for optimum reproduction; and they should be saved (and edited) with a resolution of at least 600 dpi, space allowing.

When it comes to the Web, one may be able to skate by on 72 ppi (points per inch; dpi and ppi are essentially the same thing, but one is on paper and the other, a screen), though I sometimes crank it up to 180, just in case I want to expand the image a bit in the browser.

There’s also the fact that Apple’s displays have a bit more sharpness than most PCs, which I had been adjusting for, without recalling why I was doing it.

I’ve noticed that if I want to add color to a transparent .PNG (which would help differentiate objects without the addition of texture), I have to either scan it in, in color (not greyscale) — even if the image only contains black-and-white data — or (I haven’t tried this yet) change the color space on the PC version of the editor while having that file open, before accessing it from any other device.

This, of course, means that if I’m working from a tablet and the color space is by default greyscale — I’m not sure I can do anything to alter that, from the tablet.

Further thinking on jobs (this is an ongoing theme)

I guess the final part of this, if I’m looking at what I originally intended to write here, has to do with the entire work/life balance, issue. That is, there is the question of exactly how much money I’d need in order to maintain the quality of life I have, now (where, for example, I even have the option of getting a machine specifically focused on writing and art, or of repairing a failing machine).

There are several different career paths I have in front of me — most of which, are interrelated. The others (visual arts and beadwork), can be hobbies. Of course, that only leaves Editing and Librarianship as practical, pure work options: things I wouldn’t do, if I weren’t getting paid to do them.

Well, actually; there is the entire thing about Illustration, as well. What I’m missing there, can be resolved, essentially just through practice and study — but much more so, practice. Building skill in Graphic Arts, is the major reason I got a tablet. The benefits of having a tablet for digital art are many; there is so much to get into on that topic, that it would best be addressed in another post.

Writing is something I’m going to do, regardless of whether or not I get paid for it; the benefits are too strong, and my comfort with the medium too high, not to work with it. Creative Writing, at least, dredges up a lot of psychological issues and makes them visible. I don’t necessarily want to deal with those issues full-time (it’s essentially my therapy right now), and neither can I necessarily process my trauma and heal, on a conveniently predetermined timetable. It also may be implicit, but I doubt writing Fiction will pay the bills.

Having seen a lot of job ads asking for help in Writing…makes the idea of living off of Writing (say, for a company), seem relatively depleted in terms of, “soul.” But yeah…I trained in Literature. And I don’t know if I want to explain that allusion.

Illustration also at least has the potential of being peaceful, by being engrossing. How that works out in an employment situation, I’m not sure; I would think deadlines would take away the relaxing quality of the work. This is why I’ve been looking at using my skills in a self-published Graphic-Novel-type form…probably hosted online. But I have no projects in the pipeline for that, right now…save the one I developed at the end of my Art AA (which I have no idea how to end on a positive note).

What I tend to write about and what I tend to draw about, aren’t necessarily the same. That might be a good thing. I won’t really be able to develop a story in Sequential Art without a lot of drawing…that much is clear.

One final note:

I seem to keep thinking that I can do what I want to do and not earn a lot of money, or I can integrate into society and get paid. I’m not going to comment on it now, but it’s something to notice for the future.

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