Biycling 101


Seeing as how May is National Bike Month in the states, I thought I’d space out these old guides between today and next thursday in lieu of a general Throwback Thursday. Cheers and happy pedaling!

Originally posted on Zero Waste Millennial:

Bicycling! The environmentalist’s wet dream– and with good reason, too. Studies say bicycling regularly helps you sleep better, get sick less often, you inhale less pollution than passengers in cars and buses, and that riders get approximately 3,000 miles to the “gallon”. I don’t believe a more energy efficient vehicle even exists.

As some of you know, I don’t have a car. In fact, I don’t even have a license yet. (I will be getting that this year, but I don’t expect to be using it much.) Now, the real reason is that I can’t afford a car, but the point is that I don’t care. There isn’t a single fantasy of adulthood that I’ve had, aside from roadtrips, that featured me owning a vehicle. Cars are expensive, high-maintenance, gross, and more trouble than they’re worth, in my opinion, and so long as I’m in an urban area I don’t ever expect…

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Originally posted on Raxa Collective:

Photo credits:

Environmental Activism has never taken a back seat in Seattle and we continue to root for the individuals, organizations and public officials who are working to draw global attention to a possible environmental disaster. Certainly not the moment to “Keep Calm & Carry On”…

Hundreds of kayakers in Seattle were preparing to go and “shake their paddles” in protest at a newly arrived 400ft long, 355ft tall Royal Dutch Shell oil rig on Saturday, with hundreds – perhaps thousands – more scheduled to attend on dry land.

“We here in Seattle do not want Shell in our…

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Reusable/ZW/DIY Art Supplies

Photo courtesy of cicilicious on Deviantart

As an artist, one of the things that’s always been part of my life has been trash. Trash from used up art supplies, the packaging from those art supplies, and the byproduct from using them; everything from the benign, like pencil shavings, to the toxic, like dirty turpentine. As a cosplayer of several years, too, that’s even MORE trashed materials to count. Foam scraps are the biggest culprit here, and it’s one of the many reasons that I’m winding down my cosplay career. (Aside from just no longer having the time or funds to pursue it.)

And so for the better part of the past year, I’ve been on the lookout for trash-minimizing art supplies, on top of looking back over my 8 years of schooling to reconsider other tools that I maybe just never took to. What options are out there? Well, here’s a basic look.


This is obviously the toughest category of materials and supplies because it’s got such a long, colorful history of being so toxic. As art students we’re told stories about painters who went crazy or got sick from chewing on the ends of their paintbrushes (something we’re all guilty of) because of the cadmium present in some of the paint colors. If you work with oil, you’re likely to have some solvent or another on some part of you or your clothes at any given time, and most of that winds up going down the drain when you clean up. (Paint thinner doesn’t evaporate as quickly as you might think. There are countless horror stories of artists who set a rag in the sun only to find their studio on fire afterward.) But what about acrylics, which are water-soluble? Well, they’re quite literally made of plastic.

So what’s a painter to do?

You actually have a few options here, surprisingly enough. Let’s start with the weird.

Egg Tempera

For the layperson, you might think of Renaissance-era Catholic icons of saints or bizarre Byzantine scenes depicting angels and mortals in tiny buildings, all in a rainbow of colors, when you think of egg tempera. But a number of artists still use this ancient method of painting and continue to create absolutely beautiful works with it.

It’s one of the few truly do-it-yourself methods of painting, and no fancy tools or equipment is needed to produce the paint. All you need are eggs, water, and pigment. I shouldn’t have to justify the eggs and water, obviously, but the pigment is an interesting thing to note here. You can actually buy raw, powdered pigments for making your own paints with at most good art stores, and I hear that they last a long time. A little pigment goes a long way, especially, it seems, with egg tempera. For a more economical route, you could also just buy good quality chalk pastels (which can be purchased in bulk at most art stores) and grind those up to create pigments with a mortar and pestle. (The difference between all good and “student” quality materials is the ratio of pigment to filler– this is especially noticeable with oil paint, which can be stretched much thinner when you shell out for the quality stuff.)

If you’re interested, here’s a professional breakdown of making the paints, and here’s a simpler, kid-friendly method.


Making watercolor and gouache of a professional sort at home is pretty labor-intensive and requires the use of weird preservatives and binders, so I don’t recommend going that route, especially for the purposes of minimalism or zero waste. But there are options here.

The first is straightforward: buy tubes of watercolor to use. They’re small, last a long time with occasional use, and the tubes are metal, not plastic.

The second is to use watercolor pencils or crayons, which can be purchased in bulk at most art stores, and used with a wet watercolor brush to disperse the pigment after you’ve drawn on the paper. This doesn’t give exactly the same look as traditional watercolor, and is more akin to drawing, but it’s an extremely accessible way to paint with water, especially for kids.

You can also try painting with DIY dyes made from spices, plants, and other things you might have around the house. A painting made with beet juice red and tumeric yellow? Count me in.


Sumi-e is an East Asian method of painting using only water and black ink, similar to India ink, though it comes in a hard stick form. It’s rubbed on a “stone” with water to create the paint. You can theoretically create your own Sumi-e and India inks using clean soot that you’ve collected, but… wouldn’t you rather leave that sort of tedium to the professionals?

Here’s an explanation of what Sumi-e is, was, and continues to be.


Drawing is the medium where most artists, hobbyist and professional alike, live. Whether doodling on an index card or full-on life drawing, mark-making on a ground (a fancy term for the thing you’ve chosen to draw on) is the oldest and most primal way of producing images. It’s also the most DIY-friendly!

Pen and Ink

This medium is pretty straightforward, though there are a few more specialized options for both the novice and professional. It’s actually got a few sub-categories of its own:

Traditional Pen/Dip Pen

You’ve probably seen these at office supply or stationary stores, usually under a case, and you’ve probably ignored them because they look more like corporate gifts than something someone might actually use on a regular basis. And for the most part, that’s all true. But artists and illustrators use them all the time still, and they sure as hell aren’t paying $100 for their pens! I paid $15 for my Kakuno pen online, and I love it. The fine tip is buttery smooth, its hardy, and it takes generic ink cartridges made by Pilot, which come in a rainbow of colors. The only potential downside is that the ink is water-soluble, so don’t get your drawings wet. To me, this is actually a positive thing, because a dip under the faucet is all it takes to clean the pen.

There’s another type of nib pen that’s a lot cheaper and customizable, and that’s the dip pen. There’s guaranteed to be a wide variety of these at any good art store, with a selection of both pen bodies and nibs. And of course, there’s two kinds of this pen also: the crow quill and the “calligraphy” nib. Crow quills are smaller than the calligraphy ones, and have a specially-sized body to match. Most people use these for drawing and sketching. Calligraphy nibs have the lion’s share of the selection, though, and are handy for writing and drawing in a variety of line weights. Nibs for these are usually Speedball brand and come in packs of 4.

What these two kinds of pens have in common, though, is that they have no ink cartridge, and require dipping into an ink source and “loading” the nib with ink every once in a while. This means you can change ink colors much faster and with much less fuss than the traditional cartridge pen, and it also means you’re not  stuck with any one brand of ink. (See my above comment about DIY dyes.) The downside is that they’re much more likely to make a mess. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve knocked over an entire well of waterfast ink by accident? Yeah, that kind of mess. But I still use them for certain things, especially if I plan on using colored ink to fill in the line drawing. They’re almost indispensable in their versatility and cheapness.


This is an ancient tool of days gone by, the weapon of choice for many an illustrator and cartoonist before the age of computers. I have friends and old professors who swear by them. What are they, though? Well, they’re basically the Rolex of the pen world. Also called a technical pen, they give a perfect (and I mean perfect) line that some artists just absolutely love. Personally, just hearing about owning one made me want to tear my hair out! While they are amazingly precise and reliable, they are a pain to maintain. Because most every artist uses waterfast inks with them, they need to be taken apart and every tiny piece cleaned in solvent (or Windex, shudder) on a regular basis. If you don’t do this, expect to have a $40 piece of junk on your hands pretty quickly. They also tend to explode if brought on airplanes, so taking the thing apart for that is also necessary.

Assuming you take good care of your rapidograph, though, it can last you a lifetime. They can also be reloaded with all manner of inks, allowing you to buy in bulk, or theoretically make your own.

Modern Pen Liner

If you’re an artist, you probably own a few pens in this category: Microns, felt tips, even fine line Sharpies count. The problem with these is that they just don’t last long at all. I’ve been inking comics with these kinds of pens for years now, and it’s been a never-ending search for the “perfect” one: one that doesn’t start to dry out after 2 or 3 comic pages, one that gives me the line width I need, one that isn’t made of plastic and isn’t disposable. Well, enter the Copic Multiliner SP!

These pens are steel-bodied, refillable with an assortment of colors, and even the tips are replaceable.  Neat, huh? And speaking of Copic…

Other Drawing Media


Copic markers aren’t only good quality (if markers are your thing), but they’re refillable (you can even mix your own colors!) and the felt tips are replaceable for them too. Inasmuch as I know, these are the only markers on the market that aren’t completely disposable.

Colored Pencils

When buying colored pencils for general use, I’d definitely go for the wood-free kind that’s just a stick of color so that you can use more of it. Just keep in mind that the main ingredient in colored pencils, like commercial crayons, is synthetic wax. So unless you could find a kind that’s made with beeswax, they’re not even compostable.


Drawing with charcoal is fun, easy, and a totally natural way to go. For those of you who haven’t tried it, it’s a little like a cross between chalk pastel and a graphite stick. It’s as bold or as delicate as you want it to be, and even in its most basic form (the end of a stick stuck on some coals or a campfire), it works really well. Charcoal sticks aren’t generally sold in bulk at art stores because they’re sort of delicate and tend to make a mess when they come into contact with other things, but you can usually buy a lot of them at once, and depending on how hard you draw, they can last a while. But if you want, there’s always the DIY route


Graphite is a good, classic standby. In art stores, you can by plain graphite sticks in various hardnesses; some thicker, to be used alone, and some thinner, to be used in dispenser bodies that are more ergonomic, minimize mess, and maximize your use of the graphite as the stick gets shorter. You pretty much can’t go wrong with graphite.

Well, that’s pretty much it for now. I could cover a LOT more, like printmaking, fiber arts, and sculpture, but I’ll save those for other posts. :3


Video: How to make a clarinet out of a carrot


As an ex-clarinet player, this makes me SO HAPPY. Now to figure out if I wouldn’t mind going back on my promise that I’d never put a reed in my mouth ever again…

Originally posted on Vox Populi:

Linsey Pollak demonstrates how to make a clarinet out of a carrot in less than five minutes. This puts a whole new meaning to the expression “playing with your food.”


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On the 13th I hop on a train  at LA’s Union Station bound for central Oregon, where I will be moving in with my uncle and his wife on their small ranch just outside of Bend. My base of operations for the immediate future will be there as I work on my immigration papers so that I can finally, after 3 and a half years of being married, be with my partner in BC. In the meantime, I plan on taking my meager income from my art and comics work, as well as whatever other odd jobs I can pick up, and travel about Cascadia by bike and by train.

I know how to live so much more cheaply and simply now than I did a couple of years ago; so if I can make ends meet while spending time in LA with family, with my partner in Vancouver, and with my aunt, uncle, and grandmother in Bend, I definitely will. Jobs are for suckers. And getting laid off a year ago was possibly one of the best things that could have happened to me.

I’ll be taking lots of pictures of this transition over the next month, and whatever subsequent adventures I’ll have in places like Portland, Eugene, Seattle, and hell, I might even visit a blogger friend in Spokane while I’m at it. I’ll be writing about my travels on here, but you’re also invited to follow me on instagram and see it all in its spontaneous, unorganized glory. Plus cat pictures.

One of the things I realized about moving and packing boxes to be shipped by UPS is that I absolutely refuse to pay for packing material, because that’s for suckers too. What’d I use for fill in my 25 boxes? Old elementary school homework assignments from a box that my dad dug out of his storage unit, clothes, blankets, and free copies of LA and Pasadena Weekly that probably get thrown out by the truckload anyway.

I also wound up purging a lot again. Clothes, old iPhone cables (I have an android now; it’s seriously better in every single way), doodads, a few things from my old office like a big LCD monitor that’s more trouble than it’s worth, comic books that I’ll never read again (I’m realizing that I pretty much never read comic books a second time unless its for reference purposes… I really need to start using Comixology because of this), shoes, and other random things that I thought were too sentimental to let go of. The one thing that sucks about getting close to a moving date like this is that I can’t buy my usual foodstuff– the only way I’m going to make sure food doesn’t go to waste or doesn’t get left behind is if its prepackaged. Oh well. Convenience: a small price to pay? lol.

At any rate, I’m off now to mail some things to the hubs. I’ve got a comics fest I’m tabling at on the last weekend of the month, and the only way to guarantee an easy border-crossing is to make sure you don’t have anything with you that looks like merchandise. Also… anything that looks like dicks, too. Seeing as how one of my zines is drawings of famous Japanese mecha wearing strap-ons, I figure I’d really rather not play with fire. I’ve also got a return to make at the bike shop (I replaced my handlebars for the first time, and boy did I learn a lot about brakes… especially that some employees can’t be trusted to guess the diameter of your bars if you don’t know the actual number), and I’m taking a jar of coins to the machine at the grocery store for sorting. Yay, money!

So… cheers everyone! And stay tuned for adventures.

Help With Purging


Well I missed it yesterday, but here’s a late Thursday Throwback! I guess it’s fitting, seeing as how I’m in the middle of packing everything up and moving to Oregon… and that means more purging. *A*

Originally posted on Zero Waste Millennial:

I don’t have all that much to my name, so I got the majority of my purging done in the span of about a month. I still have a few garage and storage boxes to go through, but the hard part is done. (It helps that there are a lot of things that I don’t own that other people take for granted. I don’t own a single clothes hanger, for instance, or side tables, dinner or servingware, appliances, TV, coffee table, bookshelf…)

My husband, who lives apart from me at the moment, has been watching me go through this change of lifestyle with incredible curiosity. We’ve had a number of talks, both deeper and more topical, about waste, consumerism, plastics, industrial capitalism, and how much I hate dusting. (I hate dusting.) He hasn’t joined me in the ZW thing, which is fine–I’m not a moral minimalist–but he’s intrigued about applying…

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Biophilia Revisited

Originally posted on Raxa Collective:

 Biophilia, the word, came to our attention several years ago, but the concept has been part of our personal ethos for decades. We’re particularly invigorated by the multi-faceted (pun not actually intended) way the word can be applied to so many concentrations, from the scientific, to the literary, to the artistic, to the spiritual.

The work of American artist Christopher Marley attracts on numerous levels. His new book inspires on the design front. For more images and information to pique the interest read McKenna Stayner’s piece in the New Yorker here.

About the book

Christopher Marley’s art expresses his passionate engagement with the beautiful forms of nature. Beginning with insects and moving on to aquatic life, reptiles, birds, plants, and minerals, Marley has used his skills as a designer, conservator, taxidermist, and environmentally responsible collector to make images and mosaics that produce strong, positive emotional responses in viewers. Marley has a…

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Money = Carbon Footprint

Zero wasters, I think it’s about time we talked about something that you’ve been avoiding for some time now. It’s been danced around quite a bit, it’s been hinted at, but it’s the elephant in the room for the whole movement, and it’s about time we dragged it out and dealt with it.

There is no better indicator of how much waste someone produces directly or indirectly than how much money they have.

There, I said it.

And I’m not talking about just the mega-rich, here. I’m talking about all of us within the context of the global population, especially you so-called middle-class folk (who are, in reality, mega-rich compared to many people living in the global south).

In the past I’ve talked a little bit about how consumer choices will do absolutely nothing to avert or even delay climate change, water and food shortages, or peak oil. But I want to take this opportunity to drive the point home: an activism that is rooted in our power as consumers is no activism at all. It presupposes the existence of a power that we don’t even have. I like the beginning of this blog post by Ramsin Canon, which really illustrates how much product manufacturers and marketers actually hate the people that buy their crap, and how much we do exactly what they want us to do:

Bless Steve Jobs. I mean, I hate his horrible, anti-competitive company, their fetish-generating products and a corporate policy that seems to suborn inhumane working conditions.

But I love him for at least one thing: he was either so in love with his counterfeit counter-culture persona, or so unawares of the governing philosophy of American capitalism, that he let this gem slip when asked how much “market research was conducted to guide Apple” in its production processes:

“None. It isn’t the consumers’ job to know what they want.”

You can hear the neoliberals and “Solutionist” whackos of Silicon Valley jumping up off their Aerons: Shhhhhh! Shut up Steve! If consumers don’t really have all that much meaningful agency in “directing” corporations on how to act, the entire edifice of post-Friedman economic and governance policy crumbles!

Granted, Jobs was working in a very specialized sub-category of consumer electronics. But Jobs’ point was essentially a correct one: people will consumer what they’re told they need to consumer, whether they need to or not. Hayek’s pithy slogan that profit is just a signal that you’re serving people well is little more than that–a pithy slogan. History is littered with billion dollar industries growing up around essentially useless products solving a “problem” which does not exist. When Lysol began shaming women into poisoning themselves and made a shitload of money, they weren’t “serving” anybody “well”–other than their shareholders, of course. They were manufacturing a need–creating a want–that they were simultaneously satisfying (and even then, not doing so particularly well). That people want and consume products is a perfectly vacuous type of signal.

But I mean, I shouldn’t even have to go into the psychology of marketing or the toxicity of capitalist economics to prove my point. It’s really just home budgeting 101: the more discretionary income you have, the more junk you can afford to buy. If your family makes $15/week, you’re probably not going to have much of anything in the way of pleasure spending. Your clothes will definitely not be new, you’ll make sure your household items (the few that you do have) last as long as physically possible (and then some), and you’ll definitely not be able to afford a motorized vehicle. You may only be able to travel entirely on foot, in all likelihood.

Here are some infographics to illustrate what I’m talking about:

The entire continent of Africa has a carbon footprint roughly equivalent to that of Canada and Mexico. Central America has a carbon footprint roughly equivalent to that of Hong Kong. Oceania, sans Australia, has a footprint roughly equivalent to that of Belgium. Which is doubly ironic, considering these poorer nations are where most of our stuff here in the West is made! Our emissions come almost entirely from consumption. Here’s a couple more:

The graph below illustrates the carbon emissions of various US industries and industrial processes:

Not a whole lot we can do to lessen these emissions as consumers, is there? Industry is gonna industry, and industry, as a whole, serves those with money: commercial and residential developers, homeowners, jet owners, car owners, sailboat and yacht owners, factory owners, server farm owners, business owners. Basically, those able to afford to own things, and especially things that can help them to make money and increase their overall wealth. In other words, it is the producers that are responsible for the majority of waste and emissions in the world, not consumers.

Pie chart of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector in 2012. 32 percent is from electricity, 28 percent is from transportation, 20 percent is from industry, 10 percent is from commercial and residential, and 10 percent is from agriculture.

Total US greenhouse gas emissions by sector in 2012. Courtesy of

Not that I’m advocating for us all to become “”takers”” instead of “”makers””, in the immortal words of Paul Ryan. We are all producers in some way or another: our simplest product is work and labor, but many of us produce more than that. We produce delicious food; handmade clothes or knitted hats; works of art or poetry; craft beers as complex and refreshing as any at the store; upcycled furniture or household goods; beautiful and productive gardens; natural cleaning supplies or cosmetics; woodworking and gardening tools; toys and games.

And so much more.

Consumerism is thralldom. Production is power.

But we, as part of a lifestyle movement, need to stop telling people to recycle more and buy less packaging because that will somehow save the planet. It won’t. If tomorrow we halted all the factories, shut all the landfills, walked away from the tar sands and oil rigs, abandoned every gas-powered vehicle where they sat, and turned off the lights, it would still be too little too late.

What if we took the time and energy we might spend on avoiding the occasional paper napkin, and put that toward developing and actualizing strategies for real, concrete change? Change that doesn’t revolve about fretting about how many times a year you take out the garbage, because a world in which there IS no garbage would naturally flow from the bigger solution we’re fighting for? A solution which doesn’t ask the poorest of us to do with even less?

I’m not going to say that money is the problem– but it’s a big part of the problem. It skews perspectives, and quite frankly, the zero waste movement needs a reality check.

How can we begin to hold ourselves accountable in a bigger, more far-reaching way? How do we widen the discourse? What is our relationship to the political, economic, and natural world around us? How to we deal with issues of class? If you own a business, or a piece of property that exists solely to make you money, why? How do you reconcile that with your environmental concerns? What kinds of people are in your social circles? Are they all financially stable? If you don’t associate with any poor people, why is that? If you do, how to you talk to them about eco-friendly lifestyles? What is their reaction? Why do you think they react that way? What are your politics? What systems and institutions do you hold to be good and true, and why?

Consider this a call to action.

I put it out there because I care pretty damn deeply; this is the world I’m due to inherit soon, after all.

What world do you want to leave behind?

Gonna end this with a quote by Murray Bookchin:

All too often we are told by liberal environmentalists, and not a few deep ecologists, that it is ‘we’ as a species or, at least, ‘we’ as an amalgam of ‘anthropocentric’ individuals that are responsible for the breakdown of the web of life. I remember an ‘environmental’ presentation staged by the Museum of Natural History in New York during the 1970s in which the public was exposed to a long series of exhibits, each depicting examples of pollution and ecological disruption. The exhibit which closed the presentation carried a startling sign, ‘The Most Dangerous Animal on Earth.’ It consisted simply of a huge mirror which reflected back the person who stood in front of it. I remember a black child standing in front of that mirror while a white school teacher tried to explain the message which this arrogant exhibit tried to convey. Mind you, there was no exhibit of corporate boards of directors planning to deforest a mountainside or of government officials acting in collusion with them.

The Burden of Too Many Choices


My first Throwback Thursday post! This subject is always relevant.

Originally posted on Zero Waste Millennial:

My mother is having a milestone birthday this summer, for which she’s organized a weekend-long party at a resort out in the desert, and for which about 50 friends and family have RSVP’d so far. (It’s gonna be nuts.) I decided to take this as an excuse to buy myself a new swimsuit. If part of the zero waste ethos is to invest in good quality things that will last you a while instead of running out to constantly replace crappy things, then having my eyes set on a handmade bikini from a Canadian etsy seller would be ok, right? Instead of forking over for a new Target suit every other year, right?

I had my pieces picked out, and the colors, and everything, but then the unthinkable happened: the seller got swamped with orders and closed the shop until July. But the party was in June!

A sort of…

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