Alternates,

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Flowers with Gems

I can’t believe we have just over a month left until In-Depth Night!  I feel like I’ve learned so much, and yet I still want to learn so much more.  Since my last post, I have had two meetings with my mentor.  During these sessions, we have continued to try out new nail art styles and have been polishing up on some old ones as well.  As nail art can often be a trial and error process, through these past few months, Sandi and I have gone through a variety of different concepts and alternatives with our designs.

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Pink/Purple/Blue Ombre

Two weeks ago, Sandi and I spent quite a bit of time working on ombre nail art.  I learned that the concept behind creating an ombre nail is actually quite simple.  We started by taping the area around the nail to prevent mess, then picked out three different polish colours, painted the base of the nail with the middle colour, painted a line of each colour onto a makeup sponge, before finally dabbing the sponge onto the nail.  After using this technique, we also came up with some different alternatives for various steps in the process.  For example, when I practiced ombre at home, I realized that certain colour combinations (ie. red, orange, and yellow) should begin with a base coat of the lightest polish, instead of the middle polish.  In terms of preparation, Sandi talked to me about the option to use a latex nail polish barrier around the nails instead of tape to prevent mess from the sponge.  However, we quickly decided against this option as the product is quite expensive, and latex allergies could be a concern for In-Depth Night.  Lastly, during our most recent meeting, Sandi showed me a way to blend colours before transferring them onto the sponge and later, the nail.  In this technique, a line of each colour gets painted onto a glass surface, such as a tile, and a toothpick is used to lightly blend the colours into eachother.  The sponge is then used to pick up the colour before again, dabbing it onto the nail.  I noticed that while this technique is useful to create a more unified blend (which is good for when you want a smooth transition between very different colours), it is more time consuming.  I can definitely see myself using this technique at home, but it might not be the most practical choice for In-Depth Night.

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Dragged Flowers

Another new skill we have started working on is dragged flowers.  Although we have previously spent time on a rose pattern, I wanted to learn a minimalistic flower design as well.  The design starts out with 5  dots placed in the shape of circle.  While the paint is still wet, a toothpick is used to drag a bit of each dot to the centre of the circle, creating a petal appearance.  Then, a different coloured dot or a gem can be used in the centre of the flower.  In my designs, I decided to add a couple additional dots to the nail to create a French tip effect.  In past posts, I have mentioned that an alternative to using nail polish is to use acrylic paint for nail art.  Sandi had brought up this alternative because often, nail polish is not opaque enough for designs to stand out.  Therefore, we’ve stuck to using paint for patterns in the past few sessions.  However, we noticed that this design actually turned out better with a polish.  Because this design includes dragging, the more watery and easy-to-be-manipulated polish is more effective.  It really helps to bring each petal to a point and also allows some of your base colour to show through.

Some of the smaller (but just as important) alternatives Sandi and I have thought about are as follows:

  • Popcorn
    • Add some yellow to the kernels to help distinguish the design as popcorn (as opposed to clouds)
    • Paint 1/3 of the nail red with white stripes to look like a popcorn box
  • Cherries
    • To easily create stems, mix the green paint with a little bit of water.  This will help the line “glide” when painting
  • Ombre
    • Use ombre colours as the basis of a design, for example, the base of a watermelon
    • Put design (like a flower) on top of the ombre
  • Dragged Flowers
    •  Place the flower near an edge, so that the design goes off the nail
    • Use two colours
      • Create a second dot flower within the first.  Then, when you drag the polish to a point, the colours will blend
      • Use a tiny brush to add small strokes of different colours to the inside of the flower
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Cherries

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Ombre with Dragged Flowers

Before my next session, I will continue to practice the designs I have learned so far and will play around with the alternatives for each.  Sandi has also asked me to come up with my 100% final list of designs I’d  like to work on before In-Depth Night.  While I had some decided for our last couple meetings, not everything was set in stone.  Now, I actually have to face the difficult decision of narrowing down my learning to a dozen, or less, designs.  I definitely understand why this is a good idea, but it will be hard for me have to set my focus to only a couple things, when there’s still so much out there to learn.
After this, my time will be spent strictly practicing all of the final designs for In-Depth Night.  I will need to work on my technique, my speed, and my organization of people for when they come to my station.  I’ll also need to figure out the most effective way to set up my learning centre, especially as it is going to be very hands on and I’ll need a lot of supplies spread out.  I’m really looking forward to In-Depth Night this year and am super excited to demonstrate all of the cool skills I’ve learned.  If you’re doing a stage performance and have time during the learning centres, be sure to head on over to my station to get a neat nail art demonstration!

Hats,

SIX HATS! SIX HATS! SIX HATS!  (Excitement because in my opinion, this is the most interesting chapter in How To Have A Beautiful Mind.)

For this week’s In-Depth post, our job was to record a discussion from a meeting with our mentor and transcribe it along with annotations of how we used the six hats in conversation.  In preparation for my meeting with Sandi, I cleared up some space on my phone and charged it all up so I knew that everything would work out perfectly.  Well let me tell you, even though you think you’re all good and prepared, technology will still choose to fail on you at the worst times.  While I got a good chunk of our lesson recorded, my phone decided to shut down (not even lock, it completely shut off) at some point during the lesson portion.  This didn’t bother me to much, as I knew I had the most important topics recorded.  Fast forward to this week when I was getting ready to transcribe our conversation and attempted to play back our recording; do you want to know what happened?  It didn’t play!  Although my phone still lists the recording in my library, it refuses to play back.  Even worse, later when I tried to sync the recording onto my laptop, the recording didn’t show up in my iTunes library at all.

I am beyond frustrated about this technical difficulty as I have been looking forward to doing this post for a while.  My solution for this problem is to write about my meeting with my mentor in a more paraphrased form, as I have every week.  Even though I won’t have any direct quotes, I will still talk about how we used the six hats in different parts of discussion.  While this isn’t exactly what this post is supposed to look like, I think it will still be sufficient in sharing my experiences of the past few weeks.

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Black & Gold Art for the Spring Music Concert

I had prepared for my last meeting with Sandi by downloading a bunch of nail art pictures off my camera and onto my phone.  I wanted to show her all of the work I have been doing at home over the past few weeks as a starting point for our day’s session.  I thought that if we took a look at my work so far, it could help us determine what would be best to work on for the day.  Before looking at my photos, I put on the blue hat and explained to Sandi what I hoped would happen as we looked through my progress.  I let her know that we should both be wearing our black hats while looking at the photos as I would really appreciate hearing her critical feedback.  The largest weakness that the black hat noticed was line quality.  Through a short discussion about the use of line, we both ended up wearing red hats saying that it might be better to limit the use of straight line in my designs on in depth night.  Going back to our black hats, Sandi noticed that early on, my dot-based designs were not the greatest (these were when I was often dragging the dotting tool, as mentioned in my previous post).  Fortunately, she did note that my dots were improving over time and it is just a matter of practice until I get them to 100%.

The next thing we talked about, as per Sandi’s suggestion in an email, was my plan for in-depth night.  She suggested that we determine what my medium focus will be for the event, so we can work on that more frequently.  Here, I had to put my red hat back on to discuss my feelings on what we have been working on so far.  Right off the bat, I let Sandi know that I would like to spend more time on hand painting nail art as that was the image I had in mind when I started off in-depth.  As neat as stamping is, it wasn’t really what I pictured myself doing and would rather not spend as much time experimenting with it any longer.  I let her know that I was really enjoying the hand painted designs we have worked on and would like to continue with that.  However, I also mentioned that I would still like to spend a couple more sessions trying out the things we have yet to thoroughly go over, such as striping tape and ombre, just so I can get a feel of the skills before deciding if they are a “yes” or a “no”.

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Roses on Sandi

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Cherries on Sandi

For the rest of the day, we were mainly wearing our white hats due to all of the teaching and information being shared.  Sandi taught me how to do two brand new hand painted designs — roses and cherries.  I absolutely love these two designs and am so thankful she taught them to me.  I have been practicing the two of them at home quite often and plan to offer them during in-depth night.  We also spent some time on different sized dotting practice by creating eyes, followed by creating stripes using a nail art brush, trying marble nail art, and using striping tape.  

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Popcorn Nails

During the different lessons, a variety of other coloured hats got thrown into discussion.  The green hat was used by both myself and Sandi during a few different instances.  She used this hat by showing me how to use acrylic paint as an alternative to nail polish for when we were working on designs.  The paint ended up working much better than polish because its ability to be more opaque makes the small details pop.  Meanwhile, I temporarily put on my green hat when practicing roses.  While painting, I noticed that the basic design for roses looked similar to pieces of popcorn.  I mentioned this to Sandi and we have began to consider doing a popcorn-style design in future.  A final time we used this hat was when we tried marble art for the first time.  Through different types of experimental trials, we ended up concluding that the best way to create a marble design is to begin with a dry base of your selected colour, followed by a wet mix of the two you are swirling.  Coming to this conclusion only happened because the two of us came up with different, creative alternatives to try and then saw what worked best.

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Marble Nails

The yellow hat was used while I was, again, practicing roses.  Just like with dots, I made the observation that the great thing about roses is that they don’t need to be “perfect” or all the same size.  It is the uniqueness of the pattern that makes it interesting.  This is a big plus as doing a design with some leeway for in-depth night lessens the nerves.  Finally, when working with striping tape, the red hat was brought back out by both myself and Sandi as the two of us shared a similar negative opinion on the medium.  While guaranteed to create straight lines, striping tape is just plain finicky.  The tape is so thin and flimsy that it is very difficult to stick on the nail and then cut down to the right size.  In addition, Sandi mentioned that it doesn’t last very long on the nail and it is quite expensive to buy.  None of these things seemed very enjoyable to me, nor did it really go along with the hand painting theme we talked about earlier.  Therefore, striping tape is officially out.

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St. Patrick’s Day Colours

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St. Patrick’s Day Designs

Since this extremely productive meeting, I have been spending a lot of time practicing the new skills I learned. Learning all of these things right before spring break was also a big help because I actually had a reasonable amount of time to play around with my nails.  Some of the designs I worked on, as you can see in the photos scattered throughout this post, are almost exactly like the designs I did during my meeting with Sandi.  Others, like these St. Patrick’s Day sets, have different patterns, but use the same techniques that I have been working on already.  In conclusion, I feel like I have been making really good progress on my project, especially in the past few weeks.  I am excited to spend some time in the next couple months narrowing down and perfecting my designs before an awesome in-depth night!

Questioning,

In the time between my last In-Depth post and my most recent meeting with my mentor, I made lots of new progress.  Right after my first meeting with Sandi, I set out to do my initial supplies gathering.  Using a combination of scrounging around my house and going to beauty supply stores, I have been able to get my hands on most of the basic supplies I’ll need for my nail art endeavors.  In the weeks between our two meetings, I spent some time trying out the dotting tools that she suggested I purchase.  The only prior experience I had with dotters was the 15-or-so minutes that we used to experiment with them during our session previously.  Therefore, my work at home was…interesting.  On my right hand (blue and gold), I did some of the basic dot-based designs that Sandi and I had discussed.  These styles being polka dots, flowers, and hearts.  I thought these styles would be a breeze, even when I was using my non-dominant hand.  I was wrong about that.  Although using a dotter for nail art seems quite simple, and definitely makes everything look more crisp and round than a brush does, it still takes some getting used to.  After finishing my not-so-simple “simple designs”, I moved on to painting my left hand.  I thought that if the dotter is so amazing, then maybe I’d be able to do better designs with it as well.  Wrong again!  I tried to do a Harry Potter set of nails (black and white), and while they didn’t turn out horrible, they took much longer than something of that quality probably should have.  After I finished, I realized that while dotters are a great tool for certain patterns, they may not be the universal design makers.

In preparation for my next meeting with Sandi, I did the homework she assigned me, which was looking for different nail art inspiration and designs.  Prior to my meeting, I emailed Sandi some of the designs which I found interesting, including a mosaic, an ombre butterfly, and some cherry blossoms.

At my next meeting with Sandi, I definitely felt a lot more comfortable than I did the first time around, making it easier for me to ask questions and for clarification.  The topics of the meeting were still quite introductory as I still need lots of practice with the basics.  The meeting began with Sandi giving me a finalized list of the supplies I should look into (including the places I could buy them).  I found it very thoughtful that she too is thinking about my project outside of our meeting hours.  It’s nice to have a mentor who is as dedicated as I am.  After this, we picked up where we left off last meeting with stamping and dotting.  Sandi and I both realized that my biggest obstacle with nail art is my speed, or lack thereof.  When doing stamps, the paint dries quite quickly meaning that the artist needs to move fast.  Because I am not confident in my technique yet, I tend to move quite slowly, resulting in the stamp transfer not being the best.  A similar dilemma happens with dotting.  When I place the dotter on the nail, I tend to linger.  Subconsciously, I think that this will make sure the dot is clear, but in reality, it makes the dot more smudged.  Sandi explained to me that it seemed that I was almost trying to paint with the dotter, instead of actually  dotting with a quick motion.  I thought about the experience I had with my Harry Potter nails from the weekend before because at the time, I was purposely trying to paint with my dotter.  I asked Sandi “When do you know when to use a dotter versus when to use a nail art brush?”  She told me that dotters are used for exactly what they sound like, dots!  Patterns or images that contain dots should be the only reason why you would use a dotter.  Anything else where you are dragging paint, such as lines, would need a brush.  The mini-lesson made sense to me and confirmed the previous thoughts I had about the topic as well.  Unfortunately, I still wasn’t feeling 100% about my dotting abilities.  I then clarified with Sandi the motion of dotting by putting it in my own words and reiterating my understanding back to her.  For those reading who are interested in using the tool, the most concise way that I can put dotting is that it is a quick up and down motion.  The concept is so simple, that I often feel there should be more to getting a perfect circle.  However, keeping things simple is what dotting is all about.

After spending some more time on stamping and dotting, Sandi and I moved onto a set of new skills.  Firstly, we went over adding gems to designs.  Gems are such an easy way to add an extra accent and complexity to nails,  without having to spend more time designing.  Adding gems is quite a simple process, it just takes practice picking up the tiny stones and attaching them to the nail.  After a couple of tries though, I felt pretty good about gems.  After this, we moved onto some of the techniques used in the sample designs I sent Sandi.  We did some more dotting based on a cherry blossom design before moving on to trying out ombre.  Like stamping and dotting, the trick with ombre is to move fast and with confidence.  Once again, I don’t describe myself as either.  The other tricky thing with ombre is creating a good colour combination that easily fades from one colour to the next.  As neither Sandi nor myself have tons of experience with ombre or creating the best colour combinations, this process was quite experimental.  Although the end result I created wasn’t the nicest looking, I think I at least have a good idea of how ombre is applied.  I just need to get better at actually applying it.  The last new thing Sandi and I talked about was a nail hack she saw online.  One of the designs that I sent to her was a plaid print.  Even though Sandi had never tried this before, she wanted to see if it was possible for us to create a plaid nail sticker.  The reason being that the look would be easier and more crisp-looking than hand painting would be.  Because this technique was such a first for the both of us, the end result wasn’t much of anything.  However, I really liked going through this experience because in a way, it showed me that Sandi is human too.  Even though she’s my mentor and an expert in the field, knowing that she’s still learning and willing to try out new things along side me, makes me feel like I can relate to her even more.

Throughout our meeting (and as you can probably tell through this post), a common theme kept arising – SPEED!  Not only did Sandi keep reiterating how speed is important in terms of technique, but she also mentioned how in the big picture, speed is going to be important as well.  Based on this repetition, I could tell that speed is a big value and skill in Sandi’s mind, and I can see why.  Clients can be impatient, they have things to do.  As the artist, you need to be accommodating of that.  Both myself and Sandi know that this will be especially true for my future “clients” on In-Depth Night.  Throughout our past two sessions, Sandi has kept my learning centre in the front of her mind.  I know that she wants my station to be productive and successful, which is why she is continuously reiterating the value of speed.  In order to achieve success on In-Depth Night, she knows that I will need to be very efficient with my demonstrations at my learning centre.  We have already had a couple discussions about the best way to go about doing this (ie. setting up a couple clients at once and going through them like a production line).  However, we still have a couple months to figure out the final logistics.

Before our meeting ended, I had a couple final questions for Sandi.  The first thing being “Where are places I can look for inspiration?”  I wanted to ask this because when I was looking for initial nail art examples, I was pretty much stuck on Google Images.  I was curious to know where she gets her ideas.  She told me that she loves using Pinterest and suggested I get an account.  That way I could look up inspiration myself, as well as follow her nail art board where she pins her inspiration.  Over the weekend I made my account, and I already have a bunch of new ideas I would like to try out.  She also pointed me to a couple Instagram accounts she follows such as TheNailBoss (quite advanced, uses acrylic not polish, still a good idea to look through) and NailsByJema (fun designs, uses variety of techniques including stamps, stencils, and hand painting).  The last thing I asked Sandi about before I left was “What do I need to work on for next time?”  Her main suggestion was to just keep practicing.  The key points she told me to focus on was using the dotting tool as well as using the paint brush to draw smooth lines.  I wrote both of these things down while we set up our next meeting, before leaving her house with a smile on my face from all the new things I learned.

Since then, I have begun my practice with dotting and lines, as per Sandi’s suggestion.  I also tried out some gem application of my own.  With the dotting specifically, I already feel a huge improvement compared to my last dotting attempt.  You can find these photos below.  As the reader, if you have any feedback on my nail art or have any cool ideas of things I can do in the future, please let me know, I would really appreciate it!

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