Random thoughts and bits of life of a coffee loving artist

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Coffee Review: Kaui Coffee - Koloa Estate Dark Roast

This Coffee Review has been brought to you by a fellow coffee fan who was so kind enough to give me this and 2 other bags of coffee for me to try out but put in the request that I start on this one first. So first let me say thank you very much for the coffee donation and for also including the receipt for them. Now that being said, let's get this started shall we?

When I saw that the bright blue 10oz (283g) bag of Kaui Coffee, my mind went to my review from May when I took a look at Hawaiian Isles Kona Chocolate Macadamia Nut coffee and I found myself wondering if it was from the same company or at least had a similar flavor. Right off the bat I was happy to discover that the packaging was resealable then instantly my bubble of happiness was burst when I found that the bag was difficult to open and had to use a pair of scissors on it to get into. Not exactly a good start but at least the bag is able to be sealed and I don't have to stuff it into a bag to keep it fresh. Taking a deep breath in enjoying the aroma of the ground coffee, I could pick up subtle chocolate tones. Chocolate? Interesting. I had to take another look at the bag and notice the caption of "bold, rich flavor with subtle cocoa notes". Huh, and to think I didn't even notice that when I was opening the bag up.

Brewing up a pot and pouring myself a cup, I was greeted by the dark rich color of the coffee with a matching bold aroma which was pleasantly not overwhelming like how some dark roasts can be. Though the scent had those hints of chocolate, I really didn't taste it but did notice that it had a very low bitter after taste which is a plus to those who enjoy a dark roast coffee but hate having it too bitter. Another thing that I've noticed is that it didn't have really any fruity tones to the taste (which is a common complaint I've had from some of my readers) and is rather smooth. I did notice however that after setting my cup down to go get something else done, once it was relatively cold I did pick up on the faint chocolate tones in the flavor. Not too sure how many out there drink cold coffee but it was certainly an interesting discovery.

So for those who were wondering, Kauai Coffee is not the same company as the Kona Coffee Company. They just happen to be both in Hawaii. Looking at their website, I was able to find where they had their various coffees listed for sale but found it rather odd that the Kola Estate Dark Roast was no where to be found. It's something that I've found relatively common lately when it comes to checking out the different company websites but it is still a bit frustrating due to the fact that wouldn't it make sense to provide the opportunity to order ANY of the coffees from their website instead of having to hunt for a particular type in a grocery store with a high chance that it may not be there? Maybe there's a reason behind it but it's something that has always bothered me. Taking a look at the receipt that came with the bag, I was astonished to discover that for this 10oz bag of coffee, my fan spent $9.54. For a 10oz bag? Really? This just threw me for a loop since usually a typical 12oz bag I find runs between $6 to $9. Perhaps it's because it's a specialty coffee. Maybe it's because it's from Hawaii and had to be shipped to the mainland by ship or plane. Who knows. What I can say is that it is a quality ground coffee which has good flavor and aroma but personally wouldn't mind paying that price if it was a 12oz bag instead of a 10oz bag. So to the dark roast drinkers, if you're looking for a treat for yourself, this may be something you might want to consider picking up if you don't mind the nearly $1 an oz price tag.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Coffee Review: World Market - Texas Turtle ground coffee

I'm actually surprised that I'm doing a World Market brand of coffee for a Coffee Review but there is a reason behind it. I had gone to the store with my boyfriend to pick up a few snacks and I had originally wanted to get a package of Junior's Coffee since I hadn't had a chance to the last time I was there. Unfortunately I didn't see any there this time around so standing there scanning the various bags of coffee, my eyes were drawn to the 12 oz (340g) package of Texas Turtle Coffee. At $6.99, I figured that I would go ahead and try it out.

Unlike my last few Coffee Reviews where one of my biggest complaints is that the packaging was difficult to open and unable to be resealed, I am happy to say that this particular one is resealable! My eyes lit up and I gleed happily when I discovered this. Taking a deep breath in of the ground coffee, I could smell the chocolate and caramel that the package states that it would have but not the pecan. A little odd but I figured that perhaps I would be able to taste it once I have everything brewed. Here is where my adventure in coffee has taken a strange turn. I could still smell the mellow aroma of the chocolate and caramel and a faint nuttiness of the pecan but what was my first initial taste? Roses! For some reason I tasted roses! My mind was racing trying to figure out why my first few sips was giving me HUGE floral notes. Have my taste buds decided to freak out? Am I tasting things wrong and getting my flavors mixed up? Take another sip! Halfway through the cup I finally started tasting the nutty notes but the chocolate and caramel hints were barely even a hit on the taste chart. The nutty flavor doesn't even really remind me much of pecans but closer in the direction of hazelnut or something similar. The good thing is that it's not strong at all for those for not wanting a powerful tasting coffee, this might be something you could try. It also really does not have any fruity flavors which is also good to some of my readers who have addressed the fact they weren't fans of a fruity coffee.

Now the question is, would I say that this is a coffee that should have people go to their local World Market store to pick up? The price for the amount that you get fits within the price range that a lot of 12oz bags of ground coffee runs and the fact that it's resealable is great but the fact that the flavor of the coffee if completely misleading, I really can't out right say for people to go try it out. Perhaps it's just me and someone else would have a different opinion but the fact that the package says "rich creamy caramel laced with sweet and pecan flavors", my first tastes is more floral then anything and it takes me half a cup to finally taste some nuttiness but it doesn't taste as pecan? I just don't feel completely comfortable with suggesting for people to end up trying it. I'm not saying that it's a terrible blend but I suggest that if anyone is curious about it, don't think that it's going to taste like the turtle cookies that it supposedly was inspired by.

Stockton's hidden gem

From time to time I go to the websites of the various art galleries that I know in the area to see what exhibits are currently showing or to see what is coming up. This is how I was disappointed with missing the exhibit of Sanjay Patel's work at San Francisco's Asian Art Museum which I mentioned in my post An Artist's Morning Disappointment back in April. It always bugs me that so many wonderful exhibits and collections that may be on display for a small period of time never gets advertised in the main stream media. Well it seems that I have come across yet another interesting exhibit, but this time from a little known art museum.

There is a lot of people in Northern California that are proud of the rather popular art museums and galleries such as Crocker Art Museum and Blue Line Art Gallery which is all well and good. I'm not about to say anything bad because big locations like them let the public know that art is still around but with such a focus on popular spots in the area, it takes away the chance for other smaller locations to be spotlighted such as the gallery I'm with (Blue Moon Gallery) which I usually hear "Oh I heard about this place from a friend but never been here before". You're probably wondering where I'm going with this since it sounds as if I'm griping about the large institutions taking away visitors from other smaller locations. Not at all since in most cases its the promotion of  larger locations that smaller galleries and art museums get sought out by people wondering what else is out there also. Well here is where it gets interesting since not that many people are aware that Stockton has an art museum which is is known as The Haggin Museum. Very rarely have I ever seen an advertisement on TV for an exhibit there unless there was something major that they wanted to let people know they had there. I myself had never heard of its existence until about 4 years ago when a friend had suggested that she should take me there.

During a random search to see which museums are having what showing right now, decided to check out what the Haggin Museum had going on to discover that until June 24th, they have an exhibit titled Memories of  World War 2: Photographs from the Archives of the Associated Press.

"A spectrum of more then 100 Associated Press photos from all theaters of the war and the home front, ranging from AP photographer Joe Rosenthal's classic Iwo Jima flag raising in 1945 to scores of pictures not seen in decades."

I'm completely surprised that something like this with such historical value hadn't been mentioned. Of course it could be my own fault for watching close to no TV the last few months but even with the other sources I have that let me know what things are coming up, I haven't heard about this. It's too bad that I found out too late or I would toss the plans I already have for the weekend out of the window just to be able to head down to Stockton in order to see this. So what does this mean? Just another bought of artist disappointment of missing a potentially worth while exhibit that I am genuinely interested in seeing.

There is however something else coming up in July which looks to be interesting just to see not only what all is in this particular collection but to see if I know any of the artists who were accepted. What am I talking about you ask? An upcoming exhibit that The Haggin Museum is the 57th Stockton Art League Juried Exhibition at The Haggin Museum which will be there from July 5th to September 2nd.

"The Stockton Art League's juried art competition returns to The Haggin Museum this summer with more than 100 new works by long-standing local artists and newcomers from around the country."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Q and A

Not sure why I decided to do this but figured  should do a Q and A for those who want to pick around inside my brain for information or just figure out a little bit more about how my mind works.  Anyways I had posed the comment on my Facebook and deviantART accounts asking my friends and watchers to go ahead and post questions for me to answer. A few of them asked a couple, which I don't mind since it shows me what's going on with their thoughts. Let's get started shall we?

Ruben Young/Grey Matter: "So many questions. I already asked you my top ones, but let's see.... Is there a water color artist(s) that you truly admire as a favorite(s)? Where do commissions come from? Do you market them to strangers or get most of them from friends or family?" 

Was a bit surprised when I saw that this was actually 3 questions. Well to start off with, I think a watercolorist who I admire greatly and has been one of the biggest influences on me and my art is a long time online friend Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. I had actually come across her by accident online when I was in college hoping that I could find some inspiration when it came to watercolors and found her website. We started talking off and on via emails before we really started corresponding on a semi-regular basis when I started my business back in 2006. What is hilarious to me is that even though she lives in Oakland, we have yet been able to meet up in person yet because our schedules keep countering each other. Another set of watercolorists I'm love looking at to get inspiration from or just to drool over their work is the combined talents of Deland Liu and Fox Su of deland-fox on deviantART. I've always been a fan of the amount of details and subtle colors they use in their works. Think another is SoMK who is also on dA. She's mostly known for her jewelry but she has done some lovely watercolors and has rushed to my aid online when I needed input on the best way to go ahead and add gold leafing to some of my pieces. Another artist who is also a long time friend and has influenced my work actually isn't a watercolorist but I still admire him. His name is Denis Peterson and he works mainly in oils and gouache on canvas and is known for his hyper-realism. He's been my main source for words of advice as to how to improve since I started up and like Stephanie, I haven't had a chance to meet him in person. I would jump on the opportunity but since he's mainly located in New York that is going to be a bit difficult.

As far as the second/third part of that group of questions, my commissions actually started off being for family and friends and actually still are but I've been slowly expanding. I actually market my work towards family, friends and strangers (strangers ending up being a result of either me talking to them or by a friend mentioning/showing my work to one of their family members/friends).

Jeannie Glockner: "How do you prioritize what sources you use for reference work? And, on a related note, what are the top 3-5 sources you reference from?" 

Oh gees this one is like one of those trick questions on tests back in high school. It really depends on the piece. For the most part, I use a LOT of photo references for my work (so far the most I've used in a single painting has been 15). I have on my external hard drive alone about 23,985 files of picture references and most of those are photos that I've collected over the last few years looking for references on the web. Of course that collection is always increasing since I'm constantly looking for examples of items I want to do. If it's a piece with a religious, cultural or historical theme to it I'll go ahead and do as much research as I can before I even start piecing together in my head how I want  the format to look. This ends up involving not only research on the internet but with my constant growing collection of reference books which cover everything from the Lost Books of the Bible, Torah and Qur'an to Chinese architecture, Balinese masks, and a catalogue of American made classic cars.

If I had to put a list on the most used sources I use, think they would have to be deviantART, National Geographic, The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara Walker, and
Celtic Art: The methods of construction by George Bain.

Alex Calder: "Would you ever paint with oils? Or have you ever painted with oils?"

Actually I used to work with oils back in college and absolutely loved using them save for the fact that our classroom had very poor air circulation, oils and the paint thinners were expensive, and if I wanted to work with them at home I would have to find a way to properly dispose of the fluids/paints when I was done with them. If I had the chance to work with them again (and if I wasn't the one who bought the stuff), I would jump on the opportunity but as it stands I think I'll go ahead and stick with watercolors where there's less possibility to create a disaster. Well that and the fact that the last time I worked in oils was in 2004 so I'm super rusty with the medium.

Misty Dalton: "Have you ever considered putting any of your art out as wearable items (purses, shirts, shopping bags, etc.)? Screen printing and ink stamping is easy for single color line art things and can be mass produced easily with a good size profit!" 

I have to laugh at this one just because of the enthusiasm and I'm pretty sure there's a hint there  with a mallet aimed for my head. Anyhoo the idea of putting designs onto t shirts and such has been a thought that I've batted around in the back of my head for years now but really has never gotten off the ground. I still occasionally enter into t shirt design contests and such when I am able to catch them but of course there's always people more talented then me that are chosen. The idea that someone would be wearing my art much like the tattoo designs I do for clients always excited me but sadly I really haven't gone much further then the concept. Perhaps I can peruse it at a later time but I'm not going to make any guarantees on it.

Travis Hanson: "Where do you find your inspiration?"

Hmm that's a tough one. Just about everywhere actually. The simplest way is from suggestions and conversations with people or even looking at looking at the pattern of a set of earrings or a scarf might spark something to cause the wheels in my head turning. Another one is just when I'm cruzing the net looking at updates from the various places that I visit. So pretty much there's no single  location I get my ideas from. But if I had to choose just one source, I would have to say Asian and Indian culture since a lot of my work has a bit of eastern influence in it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Legendary Inspiration?

Looking around for some inspiration for a possible painting that I could do for next month, I came across this lovely photo by saiyanzrepublik on deviantART titled Red Gui Fei.

I love how the everything was put together and the elegant beauty of the piece but to be honest I am not too familiar with Chinese legends so decided to look up references and a bit of information. Come to find out that the piece was in reference of Yáng Guìfēi who was considered as one of the four Beauties of ancient China and blamed for the lack of attention Emperor Xuanzong gave his empire. A little bit of a push in my opinion considering that she seems to be unfairly blamed for a man's decisions.

Decided to roam Google a bit looking at references and found it interesting that there is a Chinese TV show called The Legend of Yang Guifei which personally wouldn't really be interested in but I can't help but drool over the outfits and find myself analyzing how to even go about painting them. It does appear that a lot of the reference pictures concerning her actually is from the show but there are a few as paintings which are absolutely lovely. Hmm this really does get some ideas popping up in my head. Should I go about go about and do a painting based on this tragic legend? Feeling a bit conflicted about it at the moment which means I'm going to need to do some more research on the styles of clothes, jewelry and hairstyles.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

IRS recap: Too many forms

After 6 years of filling Form 1040EZ, it would seem the IRS has finally gone and said "Hey! We've just realized that you've been filling out the wrong form. You need to fill out these forms over here" though last year they were a little more forgiving. This year not so much. Just printed out the forms that I need and looking them over, I'm feeling a bit more overwhelmed then I usually do. The Profit or Loss From Business  (Schedule C) has 47 lines, some with multiple parts. The Schedule SE has 17. So now I have to go ahead and do all of these forms with a letter and a copy of the letter I had recieved, send it back to the IRS then wait some more on a response. If someone could have told me which ones I needed in the first place correctly, it would have saved me a lot of trouble but for the longest time I was told it was alright to fill out the Form 1040 EZ due to the fact I really don't make that much. I feel a migrane coming on. God this is going to be time consuming to go ahead and input. Think what bothers me the most about all of this is that it's taken the IRS this long to finally say that I've been using the wrong forms and the fact that I know that there is going to be other small business owners out there that are probably going to be pointing and laughing at me saying that I'm an idiot. Think that I'm going to cry in my coffee now and try to figure out if I owe anything in Federal.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

IRS why do you hate me? (Edit included)

Oh.. my.. god.. I feel the need to rant at the moment.

I have had my business since October 2006 and still happily running it though I am still not all that known nor do I make a whole lot. I have been paying both State and Federal taxes this entire time and never had any problems with either until last year where the IRS sent me a letter back requesting that I PROVE that I am self employed even though I did have it clearly stated on my paperwork that I was. Wrote them a response, sent it in and without any problem I was able to get what little money I was owed. This year has been a different story. Even with sending in a certified copy of my business license  with my tax form, I STILL got the same letter as last year. Wrote yet another letter explaining that yes I am self employed and that this had happened the previous year as well. Thought that everything was fixed and understood but couldn't understand why I hadn't received the money that was due. Well I just received my answer.. in the form of yet another letter. Scrolling through the red tape figuring it was going to be exactly the same as before, I come across the following paragraph:

The income you reported on line 21, Form 1040 EZ indicates you may be liable for self-employment tax. This tax applies when the earnings do not reflect the withholding amounts for social security and medicare taxes. For example, if you receive cash for services performed or Form 1099-MISC for nonemployee compensation and the payer did not withhold social security and medicare taxes from your income, your earnings may be subject to self-employment tax. Please complete Schedule SE, Self-Employment Tax, to determine the tax amount. 

As I read this out loud to my boyfriend who spent a good 10 minutes raging saying it was completely unfair to me since I did send all of my information clearly stating that I was self employed, I found myself laughing my head off at the complete stupidity of it all. Looks like I get to play this silly little game with IRS some more even though I don't make enough to even be on any form of medicare, this is a single person business, and the fact that if they wanted to pull the self employment tax card, they should have done it sooner and not nearly 6 years down the road. Ugh now I get to try to find this form they're wanting me to fill out along with a letter and send it in. All of this for $125. Really people? You're giving me this much trouble just because you owe me money? REALLY? God I'm going to need a lot of coffee and good company after getting that thing in the mail.

EDIT: It would appear that, after talking to my folks about this little letter I received, that there is a scam going on right now where people send out official looking letters as if by the IRS that requests you to pay on various taxes. I had a feeling that something might be up but I can't call the OFFICIAL IRS number provided by irs.gov until Monday to double check on this. Guess updates will come next week then.