Vast Big Box Project: Art Meets Privacy

Vast Big Box Project

Inspired by a disturbing NPR piece about a very modern product called DRTBox that can scoop up data from up to 10,000 cell phones at once, I began the Vast Big Box Project. In the Inspiration Doodle, I imagined tiny boxes and circles representing individual cell phones, and even tinier interior dots showing the data available to DRTBox.

Vast Big Box Project Inspiration Doodle
Vast Big Box Project Inspiration Doodle

What is DRTBox?

The Hacker News reports that it is cell phone surveillance technology that can track, intercept thousands of cellphone calls, and eavesdrop on conversations, emails, and text. The Intercept.com/surveillance-catalog lists one version at $100,000. This is not a tool for a home-grown, backyard-basement hacker. This is a tool for law enforcement.

Disturbing?

Law enforcement can buy it. Evildoers can probably steal the technology or build something that can mimic its functions.

Questions for discussion

Scooping data from thousands of cell phone users is disturbing. Why? or Why not?

Just because you can, should you?

If the data that I put onto my cell phone boring and innocuous, what do I have to fear?

What if my boring cell phone is hacked by a Genuine Evildoer, not a basement hacker?

Do I want law enforcement to step in?

What is the Vast Big Box Project?

Beginning with blank canvas, a General Pencil 6-H, and a Mobius+Rupper Brass Wedge Sharpener, each part of the piece will be covered with tiny squares and spaces and even tinier shapes to indicate scoopable data. I will cover the pencil drawing with Liquitex Clear Gesso, which will seal the pencil and prevent smudges, and give me a paintable surface. I expect that this will project will fill a wall, presenting an overwhelming image of the length and breadth of this disturbing scoop-ability.

Big Box Project Tiny Prototype
Big Box Project Tiny Prototype

Thanks!

Thank you, Tracie Thompson, for introducing me to the idea of clear gesso.

Blue Cat from Clowder of Cats

Blue Cat Nags Human

The Blue Cat from the Clowder of Cats has been nagging. “Where is my portrait? Why can’t my legion of fans get copies? What do you do all day? Nap??!!??”

While others have accused me of allowing my affection for cats to get out of hand, the Blue Cat will have none of it. “You are ignoring my public!”

Very Blue Cat from the Clowder of Cats
Very Blue Cat from the Clowder of Cats

Find prints

The prints are easy to find at ETSY. They are digital prints made on Epson paper with archival Epson ink. Each is printed on 8-1/2 x 11 paper and is unmatted. If you are in Minneapolis, call ahead to see if prints are available at The Art Shoppe at Midtown Global Market (612-965-8581).

Chatting with Very Blue Cat

“Clowder,” as you know, is the collective noun for cats. Similar to “convocation of eagles” and “battery of barracudas,” it means everything and evokes something that you are not quite certain exists. As a fan of mystery fiction, I am partial to “murder of crows,” but that is for another day.

The Very Blue Cat is part of a Clowder of Cats which I paint in Saint Paul Minnesota, and model on a photograph of Max-the-Cat, the model, muse, and snacks manager.

Very Blue Cat is purr-snickety, and complains a lot. He always wants more and better food. (“I like BIG shrimp.”) The sun, which travels around my home studio onto a staircase, onto windowsills, and, for a good part of the day, is in front of a sliding glass door, provides insufficient sunshine-vitamin-D. Or so he says, not realizing that my condo earned architectural awards for use of sunlight in the Frozen North.

He has strong opinions, urging farmers to grow more catnip, and ice-cream makers to create cat nip ice cream. Were he an interior designer, his clients would have only very soft pillows for naps, which would be rearranged (and fluffed), hour-by-hour as the sun moves through the houses. I would wonder who his clients might be? The humans? Or the Cats?

While sitting on my porch, he has long conversations with local squirrels, and one of his best friends is Barky-the-Squirrel. Between Barky’s barking and Very Blue’s cat-like chirp-and-growl, they keep local birds on their toes.

Max Models for the Clowder of Cats (including the Blue Cat)
Max Models for the Clowder of Cats (including the Blue Cat)

Valentine’s Day: deliver a nanoscapes’ heart

2017 nanoscapes’ heart

Making an annual valentine is a pure pleasure, and the 2017 nanoscapes’ heart was no exception. Share a an original art valentine with a friend or with your sweetie. Or share a print. Or give a coloring project. This nanoscapes’ heart is an original watercolor ($100, unmatted, unframed subject to availability), a digital print ($25 unmatted, unframed); and the nanoscapes’ heart coloring page is a dollar digital download. They are all at ETSY, and accessible and available quick as a wink.

 

nanoscapes' heart 2017
nanoscapes’ heart 2017

 

nanoscapes' heart valentine 2017
nanoscapes’ heart valentine 2017

 

Coloring page at The Art Shoppe

The coloring page 2017 nanoscapes’ heart is at The Art Shoppe (2.50 per sheet).

Coloring pages have a heart

A Valentine heart coloring page

Drawing the first of the nanoscapes Valentine coloring pages was an unalloyed pleasure, as was painting the original ($100, limited availability at ETSY), and creating a digital print ($25, at ETSY). This 2017 Nanoscapes Valentine Heart is a dollar digital download at ETSY. You have choices: the original watercolor painting (get it before it disappears!), an archival digital print (Epson paper and ink), or a project (the coloring page.)

nanoscapes valentine 2017
Nanoscapes Valentine 2017 Dollar Digital Download at https://www.etsy.com/your/shops/SusanGainen/tools/listings/506928367

My pals have urged me to make coloring books for a decade

Adult coloring books stopped being a trend and coloring pages are now a tidal wave. I was a little slow getting to the coloring pages project, but I’m now at it all the time. I go everywhere with a pad of Bristol paper, 6H pencils, erasers, and a tiny brass pencil sharpener.

A collection of coloring pages

Common advice to writers is “go with what you know,” and I followed it. Making coloring pages based on nanoscapes’ designs lets me revisit the tiny shapes and spaces that I’ve explored since childhood with doodles, and with paint since I took James Boyd Brent’s Splitrock Short Watercolor Class in 2006.

Making a book to my satisfaction is much more complicated than I imagined, so I have made these pages into dollar (plus tax) digital downloads at my ETSY shop in the Adult Coloring Page section. Print them onto card stock. Get our your sharp pencils, tiny paint brushes, or pens and markers. Have fun!

Click to see the pages, then dollar download at ETSY

Click on each image to learn more about Orbs (an original nanoscape), Stacked Boxes, Boxes and Dots, Painted Knitted Metal 31, Demented Dominos, Stalagmites and Curves, Find the Owl!, Terrazzo Molecules, Friendship Bands, and Conversations Connections. There are now 24 coloring pages in The ADULT COLORING PAGES of my ETSY shop. I often add new pages.

30-in-30 Paintings Challenge Day 2

30-in-30 Day 2: Purple Feathered Yellow Belly

Susan Gainen Purple Bird MN Migrant 30-in-30 Day 2
Susan Gainen Purple Bird MN Migrant 30-in-30 Day 2

Purple-Feathered Yellow-Belly Clyde and his family are honored to appear in Leslie Saeta’s 30-in-30 Day 2 painting challenge. Clyde and his family are climate refugees from windy Southern Kansas. High winds and dense dust storms finally made life there intolerable for this heavily-feathered species. It had become way to hard to fly in one direction, and the high winds make nest-building close to impossible.

Clyde and his family were welcomed by the Pandas and Frogs of the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul. Their temporary shelter is in the Southern end of the Forest.

Climate refugees welcomed

Pandas and Frogs in the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul are aghast at the treatment that thousands of human refugees are receiving as they struggle to find their places in a cruel world, and some attention is being paid to animals whose habits are being destroyed.

But it’s never enough.  Unlike humans, who are throwing up barriers of all kinds, they opened the Forest to any birds and animals that can make the trek to Saint Paul. Some of these migrants are comfortable in the occasionally frozen Upper Midwest, and others will find the adjusting to the climate difficult.

Making a safe climate space

With energy and optimism, the Pandas and Frogs accepted the challenge of making safe and comfortable spaces for newcomers. Fortunately, the Forest sits atop a thermal vent, and with some crafty science and engineering, parts of the Forest will be made quite warm and welcoming for tropical and subtropical species.

30 paintings 30 days January 2017

30 paintings 30 days challenge

California-based artist, author, teacher, blogger, and podcaster Leslie Saeta challenged artists all over to world to a January 2017 30 paintings 30 days challenge. I accept.

The last time I did this challenge, I was lucky enough to be visited by 16 Roosters who promptly invited their friends to my studio and into the book, The Backyard Roosters of Saint Paul. It was a very busy month, and I learned a lot about chickens and roosters.

Exploring climate change in 30 days

Since I came to Minnesota in July 1992, the state has lost an entire climate zone. Asking “How do you lose a climate zone?” I looked for it, but it appears to have moved to an undisclosed climatic location. One result of that change, though, is an influx of whimsical birds who have moved to Minnesota to avoid cataclysmic weather events in their previous locations.

Whimsical bird refugees

Minnesotans have a history of generosity and of welcoming refugees. With some of the birds unused to life on the frozen tundra, the Pandas of the Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul welcomed them into the Forest. As you may know, The Hidden Bamboo Forest of Saint Paul is located over a thermal vent, which keeps it at a constant bamboo-supporting temperature.

Max-the-Cat, who schedules portrait-painting appointments with whimsical creatures who visit my studio, tells me that the January schedule is full of birds who are new to Minnesota. I can’t wait to meet them.

First of 30 paintings in 30 days

Max cleverly scheduled the new birds for later this week, so it seems right to honor the new year with a nanoscape — a floating molecule in a stacked box pattern. Abstract molecule makes me think that I should have paid attention when I had opportunities to look at stuff through microscopes. Or not. This way, meaning no disrespect to actual science, I can just make it up.

30 paintings 30 days January 1
30 paintings 30 days January 1

Celebration! St. Paul Winter Carnival Show

2016 yields to 2017 with Celebration!

Happy to announce that Celebration!, an original acrylic painting, will be in the 2016 Saint Paul Carnival Fire & Ice Show. Thus, I’m able to end the otherwise troubling and weird 2016 with good news and to begin 2017 with “Celebration!”

 

Celebration!
Celebration!

How was it made? How did this happen?

Thanks go to the Fabulous Bonnie Cutts, who confirmed that a-bought-from-a-sale-table bottle of Golden High Flow Acrylics really was supposed to make little fern fronds. Although the effect was cool, I’d never seen it before, and, typical of me, thought it might be defective. Not so. The fern-fronds are a signature of High Flow Acrylic.

I covered four 5×7 and one 12×16 boards with white gesso, and dropped High Flow colors while the gesso was still wet. Watching it make patterns was like watching a series of tiny miracles. No microscopes needed.

I waited until the gesso was dry, dabbed some Golden Glass Bead Gel onto the boards, and waited for that to dry. I covered each board with Golden Self-Leveling Clear Gel and let that dry. With my handy tube of  that most superior of adhesives, E-6000, I glued the four small boards to the big one. The frame — shiny red, and who doesn’t love shiny red? — came from Goodwill as plain dark wood. It got serious sanding and lots of coats of Gloss Sunrise Red Rust-oleum. A pint of shiny red paint goes a long way. The large board, popped into the frame in reverse, is held by shiny red clips.

Golden High Flow Acrylic Fronds
Golden High Flow Acrylic Fronds

Fire & Ice: Opening Reception January 21, 6-10 pm

To cap a very busy day (this is the day of the Women’s March on Minnesota), the Winter Carnival Art Show Opening Reception will be at the AZ Gallery, Saturday January 21 from 6 to 10 pm.  Join us!

Fire & Ice: Winter Carnival Art Show
Fire & Ice: Winter Carnival Art Show

Max-the-Cat Feline Hypnotist Portrait

Feline Hypnotist

Max-the-Cat commissioned a new portrait to commemorate his most recent achievement. He is now a Brown Velvet Belt Feline Hypnotist Extraordinaire. His penetrating gaze creates an unbreakable bond between cat-and-human, cat-and-other-cat, cat-and-insect, and cat-and-vacuum cleaner. He bends everything to his will, which serves him in the Hierarchy of Interests: Food, Most Comfortable Seat, Food, and Silence.

Olympic-level concentration

Using Olympic-level concentration, Max’s training regime included hours of focused staring, with eyes fixed on a tiny speck of dust. He applied astonishing attention, gazing at individual leaves on a now-bare tree. Did his constant attention cause the leaves to fall? That’s someone’s dissertation.

Perfecting the Ritual of Insistence

He applied his vision, perfecting the “Ritual of Insistence,” in which a cat sits on a sleeping human’s stomach, with his or her head as close as possible to the human’s face. Deep gazing (and sometimes other activities) compel the human to get out of bed and feed the cat. Inexperienced cats use kneading, slapping, nose-nipping, and projectile vomiting to wake the human. The Brown Velvet Belt Feline Hypnotist Extraordinaire uses the power of the mind.

 

Max-the-Cat Feline Hypnotist Extraordinaire
Max-the-Cat Feline Hypnotist Extraordinaire

Brown Velvet Level

Among those who care about these things, there was some consternation about naming the top-level belted Feline Hypnotist “Brown” instead of “blue” for “Blue Ribbon” or “Black” for “Black Belt.” The truth is that the organizers and perpetuators of this competition also own a fabric store. Some years ago someone made an astonishingly large incorrect order of non-returnable brown velvet. They have donated yards of it to theater companies for velvet tree trunks, supported brown velvet bunny artists, and they continue to look for new uses for this beautiful fabric.

How the portrait was made

Max posed. Susan Gainen photographed with her IPhone and transferred the photo to her desktop and into Photoshop. With some adjustments, including cutting his image from the background and adding a sponge layer, Max emerged triumphant.

Cat Lovers Need Cat Crime Mugshots

Cat owners know cat crime

Cats look so peaceful when they sleep. Nonsense. They are plotting cat crime.

If you live with cats, you are a victim of cat crime. You wake up to find socks missing, valuable glass in pieces, stray outdoor animal and plant life on the stairs and in the middle of the living room. Depending on the quality of your laundry detergent, you may find cat hair on fresh sheets, and evidence of your white cat’s nap on your black t-shirts. Cat crime is everywhere and all the time.

Visit the police precinct

None of your cats will own up to these felonies, so you may eventually go to your local police precinct to see a photo array of neighborhood cat criminals. Good luck with that.

Mugshots Mugshotz Cat Crime Photo Array
Mugshots Mugshotz Cat Crime Photo Array

 

Cat Crime, Mugshotz and Mugshots

This piece was originally called “Mugshotz,” until I realized that the clever misspelling would be defeated by Search Engine Optimization, so it is now “Mugshots.”

Why celebrate cat crime? Recycling.

I made the original (16×20) mixed media piece from 12 four-inch cat faces that I painted for the 2015 Cat Video Festival in Saint Paul. I packaged them with magnets as “Cats-on-the-Fridge.” They were spectacularly unsuccessful and all but two came home with me. After sulking for a while, they begged to go out into the world again. Not that they didn’t like me, you understand, but they were bored. Here they are. The original, subject to availability, is $120 plus the actual cost of shipping. Contact me directly.

Prints and cards

Prints (8×10 and other sizes to order) and cards are available through The Art Shoppe at Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. Come to the Market for the art and stay for the fabulous food. For anyone NOT in the Twin Cities, find prints and cards at ETSY.

Crisp fall day inspires Pink Spring

Spring in Minnesota

Spring is an elastic term in Minnesota. Does it begin with the spring semester (in January)? With the last snow? With pink spring flowers and plants? Since 1992, I have walked to the mailbox in a snow storm on two separate April 15ths. Fun fact: July is Minnesota’s only snow-free month. My favorite sign of spring is the day when I can walk without looking at my feet to spot hazardous stray patches of ice. Certainly not in January or February. Hardy in March or April. Usually in May.

Pink Spring Acrylic

Pink Spring will always remind me of the crisp fall day that I painted it. Returning to the Image-a-Day regimen that I began in 2010, I used two colors of acrylic paint and finger tips. It is a true “nanoscape,” an abstract painting celebrating tiny shapes and small spaces.

It is 12″ high x 4″ wide. Original $45 plus shipping (subject to availability). Print 9″ high x 3″ wide. $20 plus shipping. Contact me directly  at susangainen@comcast.net.

Pink Spring on a crisp fall day
Pink Spring on a crisp fall day