Posts Tagged ‘mixed media’


Ok, technical first from this newbie, as yet imbued with more passion than skill but learning:  

Now you can start to see detailing added, though this is *very* far from complete.  I needed to enlarge the image to get the intricate detailing built up in layers, and you are starting to see that begin to take shape in the main image here.  My scanner isn’t big enough to accommodate the entire picture now (which is currently around 10.5” x 16” in size vs the original 9” x 12”), which has been laser copied onto heavy cardstock.  Already, the limitations of the new substrate & laser copy  versus the original substrate have presented my first challenges from a mixed media standpoint in developing the image.  The first journal (“Turn On the Light”), I would get a little freaked out when I looked at the state of each stage as I was doing it, seeing changes come into it that felt out of control, and moved me seemingly away from the image that was growing in my mind, and I would worry at stages that I had ruined the vision, but watching some of the instructional videos that you can find online  or instructional articles by artists, such as Milliande, DJ Pettitt, Mysty Mawn, Pam Carriker, and Willowing, just to name a few (look for them on YouTube & elsewhere) who demonstrate working with layers, and seeing all of the evolutions, devolutions, and gradual building up of layers to arrive at their rich final images, full of depth and character, I would see interim layers that temporarily appeared to me to be digressions from the image they were after, until I saw the importance of those interim layers in the cumulative final image.  In the image to the left, for example, at this stage, the face lacks much detail and depth, and appears that the colors are a bit flat and incomplete, and much more harsh than the final image will be, but that’s ok, because it’s still being developed and this will ultimately contribute to the depth and dimension of the final image.  This is only 1 stage in the layering process, that will probably ultimately consist of 7 or more layers before it’s finished, and each subsequent layer will have significant changes from the previous image, just as this one does from Stages 1 (a & b).  That is all part of this process in  multi-media sense.

I already am battling small challenges with the media,though I am learning, and don’t get as frustrated as I become more familiar with how they behave with one another.  This is the complexity of working with mixed media, it’s like taking a whole lot of different prescriptions meds:  you not only have to be concerned with how a particular medication might act in your system, but how it interacts with everything else in your system, as well.  Same for mixed media, and depending on your depth of understanding all of the various media & substrates, etc., and the changes in those elements over time, this can prove to be an endless learning process.  I now had comparatively limited tooth for what I would have preferred to do with only graphite and colored pencils at this point, with some watercolor washes before moving over heavily into acrylic (which has been problematic to work with dry media later), so I try to get that bit down first before beginning to build up layers of acrylic.  However, this didn’t work so well on this slick sealed laser printed surface.  Even graphite didn’t adhere well to this surface, but softer graphite, like a B/HB was at least sufficient for me to get the scales drawn out which I then burnished in with yellow Prismacolor pencil (cadmium yellow), and I “washed” some scarlet red watercolor pencil over that, which settled down rather nicely into the grooves created by the burnishing of the gold.  I do like the 3D effect that the burnishing had on working with this new substrate.  I had them do the copy onto the heaviest cardstock that they had in this size, which is somewhere between poster board and matte board in weight and consistency, so burnishing left definite physical grooves in the substrate to good effect.  Although the laser print is at least not a glossy finish, the matte finish afforded me little improvement in applying dry media, but no matter.  I’ll make it work eventually.  I just want to be able to build up at least some thin transparent layers to give it depth and enhance a feeling that it is all floating within a watery environment, and to give it more dimension, and therefore portions of details of the image I am trying to get down on this first level.  Ultimately, I will use clear acrylic media to restore some tooth (I’m thinking at least one layer of matte medium or clear gesso at some points for tooth, an another of acrylic ground for pastels to bring in washes, and then later some glazes).  I will need to do an image transfer to lift this image off this surface, and sandwich it on top of another somewhat transparent layer of acrylic medium, probably one of the gel mediums, and adhere that to the permanent substrate, which I’m thinking will be a heavy watercolor paper.  I know I should probably go with canvas, but I resist because I still like to carry these in a big book to protect them and enjoy them at my leisure.

I used a white galaxy marker to bring some semi-opaque white over some areas to expand the gessoed portions of the 2nd layer (mermaid) juxtaposed on top of the background scene.  What I like about the Galaxy marker is both the opaqueness, and that it lacks the gloss, thickness and resistance that the other opaque marker options would have left, like the Deco Paint Markers or gel pens.  As I think about this, I guess another option would have been something like Staz-On Ink pad & brush.  I used it anywhere that I wanted to be able to bring some opaque white that had the potential to blend with either the laser inks subtly, as well as whatever I wanted to add next, prior to shifting over to mostly acrylic.  You can see this in the softening of the blue skin tones, and building out the fins, and I also hit each scale with a little bit of the white marker to add a layer of dimension and further enhance the impression that the scales are more concave and the light hits them more toward the centers where they stand out more, versus the valleys around the scales.  There will be some adjustment to this concept in a subsequent stage, as the tips of some scales overlap adjacent scales a bit, which will be developed in subsequent stages as it gets further refined. 

In the hair strokes, in addition to selective application of Deco Paint marker to lay out some specific whisps of hair, I have also used the Galaxy pen along with water soluble oil pastels to bring in a bit more blue/green into the hair as well.  My reservations about using the Deco Paint markers at this stage are that they have Xylon in them which is smelly, but more importantly, can dissolve the inks from the laser printing if I’m not careful, and I didn’t want to obliterate the lovely background that should show through bits of her flowing hair, at least not yet.  Lots more detailing and shading to come in subsequent layers on this mermaid, and there will be a story about this image, as well, which I will reserve until I have finished. 

To try to tell it now, as I see it would be incomplete at best, and possibly not very accurate, because my mind tends not to reveal everything of what this is about even to me, very often, not until some time after I have completed the piece, though by the end, and perhaps after a night or two of reflection on the completed piece, I usually have a mostly complete understanding of what my mind was trying to tell me.  This is a really funny thing about this process of art journaling and art therapy, because it opens up a kind of dialogue with your subconscious that gives you more direct access to what’s going on over there, though the way that I am able to achieve this kind of communication is unlike what happens on a conscious level or in a physical conversation with another person.  The hardest part for me, who has relied heavily on left brain working independently to tell me what I am thinking and feeling, is developing a process that is really about letting go of controlling my mind, and letting the other part of my brain drive the bus, and wait for it to reveal itself to me through this process.  But as new and unfamiliar as this was at first, regularly practicing it has shown me that it works, and I am growing my skill at increasing left-right brain integration, which is taking my mental capabilities far beyond what they were, not to mention pulling the pieces of me together, which I really need right now to deal with my challenges.

What I will tell you at this point about the story is that when I started it, as is often the case, an image began to form in my mind, or, I should say, portions of an image, each portion out of context, that seemed like whimsical images, that were just fun and relaxing to draw and explore.

There are a number of physical imperatives/impediments to art for me that affects how and when I do art.  The way I started this piece was really just to help me keep my mind off pain to keep me as calm and relaxed as possible, while my body was riding out a 5-day stretch of very nasty flares.  For those of you who have given birth to children, my experience is somewhat akin to labor and delivery, though it happens on a much more regular basis.  The art keeps me from getting overwhelmed with the waves of pain and gut upheavals that come with the flares, since there is no medication to manage the pain or spasms that is safe for me to take, so I have only what I can do with my mental state (biofeedback and constant attitude adjustments), and physical manipulations (massage, gentle walks, hot Epsom salt baths, having a good cry in my husband’s lap when I reach the end of my rope with it sometimes), and doing art is more effective in shifting me away from focus on suffering and discomfort without draining my energy, such as when I try to do something involving verbalizations & critical thinking. Only my left hand and arm were really available to me during this recent round of flares, and then only in a limited sense, and there have been painful consequences of using even my arm and hand, though these are minor by comparison.  Between these drawing sessions, which I try to gentle down as much as possible (keeping my hand and arm loose, well supported, and being careful not to create repetitive injury issues), I try not to work in any particular physical position for too long at  time.  I still get the spasms up and down my arm, and the Reynaud’s comes and goes (causing numbness and pain especially in my fingers), but at least, so long as I don’t try to do any serious gripping, twisting, pressing or pulling, the swelling in my joints doesn’t get too bad from the exercise.  If the spasms get too bad, I do have to stop, get some heat and gentle massage to the area, change positions, and rest it.  The most I can do when that is happening is to shift to drawing doodles, on little bits of paper, here and there.  Good ergonomics, both with the drawings and working on my laptop minimize the carpel tunnel symptoms that the RA & Reynaud’s cause, though sometimes I am in the “flow”, and don’t notice that I’m breaking this rule until I notice that I can’t feel my fingers while I am working sufficiently to get my attention.  I keep unruled paper and pencils & a drawing pen at my bedside table, as well as by my recliner, just to doodle things of not apparent import.

Ok, back to this image:  the mermaid is reclining on some giant seaweed, and you will see that she is focusing on something special when I bring the next major element into the picture.  The seaweed and the the rest of the surrounding context still have lots of work yet, as well as the effects of the underwater atmosphere, and I will develop those more before I introduce the new element.   More to follow, of course, but today, I’ve got husband available to help me do some heavy lifting and hopefully get some of the household restored to order so we can at least move around, so if I work on this more today, it will probably be later in the day.  However, I do have a couple of other tidbits that I did that I think will be fun and attractive, both rather serendipitous and have given me ideas for new pieces, and I’ll throw them up on a separate blog post.

Have a blessed and peaceful day!



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Water World St. 1

Ok, this is not the first phase of this new piece, just because I failed to scan the earliest step, but this will have to stand as Stage 1 (b).  Stage 1(a) was the background, which was drawn in graphite, then shaded to get values, then light colored pencils, followed by watercolor, and it isn’t finished yet.  There is still more detailing and shading to be done to the background.  Stage 1(b) was drawing the main image and adding gesso to it for opacity.  There is still more drawing and painting to do, including the hair and detailing of the image, and there will be an additional image that will be painted in, which will enable the background to show through.  There will also be an additional image incorporated that I drew earlier in the week.  Ultimately, this piece will incorporate graphite, colored pencil, oil pastels, various acrylic media, and layers of collaged tissue layers—all my original work.   While I think that it’s obvious that the beginning of my main image clearly has a mermaid in it, this piece will have a surprise ending, so stay tuned!


This is the first time that I have done the background (which itself is a significant image in its own right) before the main image—by accident, actually!  It was just an exercise in my sketchbook trying out watercolors for the first time (ever), and when I stepped back and looked at it, I realized that it was perfect for this piece.



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Tend Your Garden-1This was a doodle gone wild, I guess.  Wasn’t well the past couple of days and doodling was about as much as I could handle.   It started as a mandala but morphed to a zentangle without a theme, just drawing random patterns, and the next thing I knew, I was looking at it and realizing that the garden was growing into my picture, as I continued to work in pen and colored pencil, so it was completely spontaneous.  I rather liked the “planlessness” of it all!  I guess I had gardens on my mind when I was outside briefly today and happened to notice the trees were changing color, then I guess my poor neglected garden was lodged in my mind after that.  

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angel of mine stage 2-b

I wanted to take another stab at this piece at an earlier revision, as I really liked it, even if I didn’t like the background, but once I got the background/context, I had problems with the media at the time.  I have reworked the wings and coloring and light on this version, and I am quite happy with the texture of the wings, but I think I still want to redraw/paint the wing that is furthest away, and I want to bring it forward to align/parallel the other one, which has been redrawn & painted to extend more toward my son.  I’m definitely happier with it now than I was, but haven’t decided how I want to revise the background integration with the image of the two of us.  And I’m working on two other journals right now, as well, one of the family homestead, and one of my very precious daughter.  But tonight I don’t feel well, and am going to leave this one as it is for tonight.


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Ok, the “art and technique” of it all first.  This was done on 9” x 12” 120 lb cold-pressed watercolor paper in mixed media, with altered image transfer (only the hookah-smoking caterpillar) which I redrew and painted, so little of the original image was left intact, and the rest is entirely my original work.  The tree was sketched and painted on a page of sheet music printed in reverse (intentionally part of the theme), which was collaged on, then further refined with the rest of the composition.  This is the first time I have actually used this textured paper, mainly because I liked working on smooth paper with my other journal pages, but this paper was thicker and I needed something that could hold up to the heavy layers of media that I seem to apply, which had posed some difficulty with my previous pages, trying to put them on sheets of sketch paper (they buckled easily). 

I could stretch them on a frame or paint them on a stretched canvas to stabilize them, but I like to be able to have the pieces be more portable and the framing is too bulky for that.  I like to scan and print them at various stages of progress, too, as viewing the changes is also instructive about changes in my perspective and mental state, and anything much thicker than the painted page gets logistically difficult to manage with scanners & copiers & whatnot.  Media:  acrylic & watercolor paints, graphite, charcoal, soft pastel & colored pencils, lettering & outline in black micron pigma, gel pens in detailing & sig, finished with two coats of Golden Heavy Gloss Gel.  I have a bad habit of painting right up to the edges of the pages (I know, bad idea), and I’m working on that….sort of.  At least I keep promising myself to mask off the edges and stay inside those boundaries, but I’ve never been good at sticking to painting inside the lines, even though I now have to figure out how to put these oversized sheets into a bound journal.  I bought some 12” x 12” cardstock, to which I will mount these pages, then I can make  12” x 12” ring binder to serve for my growing collection of 9” x 12” originals.  Or maybe I’ll just get a scrapbooking journal with drop-in pages to hold them when they are not being displayed for some reason.  Ok, here’s the my art journal page:

Go Ask Alice 8.5 x 11

This is the story of my life , pretty much since I “got pushed through the looking glass” somewhere around 5 years of age (when I fell off a gymnasium head first onto solid concrete and cracked my head), up to, and including the present day.  I’ve been taken down more rabbit holes than I thought could happen in ten people’s lifetimes, and have been led down them by people who were entrusted with my care in one way or another–family, authority figures and, most of all, doctors and related professionals.  The latest and longest one (medical), I discovered on my own, due to a misdiagnosis by a negligent doctor almost 20 years ago, which has caused irreparable damage to my body, personal and professional reputation, and self-esteem.  What he prescribed, based on his misdiagnosis and what was accepted without question by every subsequent doctor, were his original diagnosis (which I have still not gotten hospital to remove from my record as inaccurate), and a long series of MANY drugs that I not only did not need, but I was allergic to each and every one of them.  I shudder to think how many times I probably came close to my own death without knowing it, when I was not doing better, so they just kept INCREASING the dosage, without ever using their professional expertise to actually try to understand if someone along the way might have actually gotten it wrong.  Yes, it is something that could actually have killed me.

While I am damned lucky that it didn’t, I’m struggling with moving past how that has impacted me, now that I know the truth, and what consequences are still ahead of me, not to mention the deep sense of betrayal with the majority of the medical profession.  I have lost count of the litany of surgeries that I have had to endure and the complications and permanent damage from those surgeries, all because someone screwed up a diagnosis, and scores of doctors to follow blindly followed that lead and made tons of wrong assumptions about what it meant.  I am actually the one who figured out what was actually wrong with me, and took action on my own (I stopped taking any of these kinds of medications completely) and declared that such drugs were off-limits for me ever again and that problem is now corrected in terms of taking those drugs.  The rest of it simply can’t be undone, and this journal is me processing those feelings.

The words on the page are a rewrite of the Jefferson Starship song, “White Rabbit,” and someone who knows me really well will understand my reference to the recurring theme in my own life of dealing with “the blind men and the elephant,” and the “deaf man” telling me to take another drug for my head.  Pretty much tells the whole story, and yes, “Alice” is a self-portrait.

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Mood Journal 08.2009#3 4981x6847 5112x4088.2009 5112x4088

Another one that I’d been working on recently.  Too easy when things are tough in a family to forget the moments that we’ve enjoyed together.  As I was working on this, my first cousin died tragically, the circumstances of which underline the importance of remembering the goodness that you’ve shared together across generations.  This journal page cheers me up & makes me smile.  the tree in the main image is the pecan tree from my grandmother’s house, which really was literally the family tree for me, as so much of the good parts of my family life as a child took place in the vicinity of this tree.  It reminds me of so many important lessons that I eventually learned as a result of what took place around that tree, though it took decades in some cases for me to get the lesson.

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This is the 4th and final stage of this mood journal series.  Here, I have reached the conclusion that, as always before, I have always found solutions to the toughest problems that I have had to confront, and solution/resolution to the current problem will be found within me, as well.  Rather than looking for answers (illumination/strength) from outside, clearly I have the ability to come up with my own solutions that work for me, and I just need to focus on figuring that out by putting my energy there.

This final installment stands as a reminder to me of my own power to move these seemingly solid hard walls.  Historically, the tougher the problem that I have to solve, the more energized and focused I get, and the more powerful and amazing are the creative solutions that I develop.  While it may appear that I have been cut off at the knees (literally in this picture), and bound to stone structures that haven’t been moved in centuries.  Pretty compelling representation of (seemingly) impossible obstacles.  Yet, it is clear that, despite the current situation, that power comes from within, and all that I need still exists in me.  So now I simply need to gather the information and develop the action plan.  Removing the emotional obstacles (negative perceptions) is key.

I have developed one image that has the 4 stages together, because it helps me to clearly see the progression and transition:

Art Journal

I really like how much more effective this was for me, and I intend to do more.

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In stage 3, I finished developing the majority of my self-portrait:

Mood Journal 08.2009#3 4981x6847 5029x6604

The detailing in the wings and choking poison ivy really builds the sense of the great potential and the severity of the perceived constraints and potential harm without solution.  Of course, it’s not the whole story, because the perception at this stage is clearly one of helplessness without a sense for a way out of the dilemma.  Seeing the image gives me a clear picture of how I am seeing myself at this stage, and enables me to sort of look at myself from the outside, and to think about whether it is realistic, and if there are other ways of seeing my situation.  It’s the most encouraging message that I could get when facing doubt, and by putting irrational fears into an image, it enables me to expel them.  At this point, there was real momentum built around completing the process in the final stage (next post).

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Mood Journal 08.2009#3 5104x6232.2009#3 4981x6847 5104x6232-1

Here’s stage 2:

Here, I decided that what I was feeling was that I had the ability to do really great things and could fly in the figurative sense, at least, and had done so many times in my career and personal life on multiple levels.   But what I was feeling was constrained by various things, and I wasn’t sure what to do about that.  The longer it took for me to get past the things that were getting in my way, the more confined I was feeling, and the more difficult I thought it would be for me to overcome this.  Here are the beginnings of wings and strangling vines (actually poison ivy, which will become more apparent in subsequent stages).  I was pleased with the concept, but these things needed more work.

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Ok, so it was recommended to me, a “word” person, to try doing art journaling instead of a traditional word journal.  Given that I have never considered myself any kind of visual artist, the very concept was intimidating to me.  Heck, I’m left-handed, and I’ve always considered my handwriting to be so bad, that the idea of using that hand (or the other one or my feet) to try to represent what’s in my head sounded like a really BAD idea.  But there were reasons why I thought it was worth trying, and now I’m really glad that I did.

  1. I felt a need to journal, and to find a way to focus on what I’m thinking and feeling, really separate things and get, keep and/or restore perspective.  When I feel challenged, I needed a way to sort that out on my own, and not simply ruminate. 
  2. I had considered word journaling, but that really has never worked for me.  I have ADHD, and though I am really strong in the word department, I have difficulty really benefiting from journaling and sticking with it, and even after I’ve written a journal entry or 10, I lose them, don’t really look at them again, and the stuff that I’ve written kind of feels like it’s just disappeared somewhere and I forget about it, and I haven’t managed to keep a sense of benefit from the process aside from the mental dump at the time.  I kept losing the journals, and when I would later find them, very often my eyes would glaze over and I wouldn’t really connect unless there was something else motivating me to read a particular thing.  When I tried to write by hand, I couldn’t read my own writing.  When I do it on computer, it got filed and disappeared into the ethers.  If I printed it, I couldn’t remember where I stuck it. 
  3. But this art journaling thing has proven to be just the thing for me, and no one has been more surprised than me to discover how valuable a tool it has become for me.   The saying that a picture is worth 1000 words is even more true in art journaling, because I can look at ONE thing and get all that information and feeling that I put into it very quickly.  I can connect with a HUGE amount of information that I’ve shared with myself in a single image page, and I don’t have to wade through tons and tons of words that may be more difficult to hold my focus.  With the images, one sweep of my eyes catches my attention and what is represented in the pictures, and stimulates my memory and sometimes helps to remind me of solutions that are available to me in future situations, without taking a lot of time or energy to access that information again.  It’s like the image acts like a GPS for my brain!  Who knew?
  4. Because I do mixed media, combining various materials, methods, techniques, I can integrate anything I want into my journal–photographic images, images that I create myself, or use someone else’s images (with permission of course) into a page that conveys how I’m feeling, what I’m thinking about, or things that I want to remind myself about when I need those kinds of reminders. 
  5. Holding onto the journal entries isn’t a problem either, because they are visually appealing, and I can throw them right up on my walls!
  6. There’s something about the tactile aspect of the process of physically creating a representation of my thoughts/feelings in an art journal that really helps me to see myself from another perspective, and when I look at it, I know what the person who did that page was feeling, and I can examine it and decide what it means.  And the discoveries are not limited to just that moment, because looking back at earlier pages often makes me notice things that I hadn’t noticed before, such as progressions & transitions in how I think about something, or shifts in my moods, or little details that got poured into the art journal itself from my subconscious, but that I didn’t notice on a conscious level until later.  It would take me a long time to discover something similar if I was doing only word journals.
  7. It helps my husband to know and understand me better, as well.  He looks at my journal pages sometimes and better understands how I was feeling about something or that something was weighing on my mind differently than he had assumed.  Of course, I also write songs, and he being a musician himself, has observed things about some songs that I have written, that motivated him to ask me questions about what I meant.  Very cool to be able to give him ways to open dialogues with me and enrich our bond.
  8. The first journals that I’ve done now have within them ideas for future journals that I’d like to do!

I still don’t consider myself “an artist,” though I am pleased with my efforts.  My daughter and my mother are both artists, and I think they each have excellent talent, though they are very different as artists.  I accomplished what I was striving for—and more—so that makes it successful for me, to capture what I was feeling, chart the progression of my own thoughts and feelings, and through basically 4 stages, arrived somewhere that I was able to get through the journaling process.  It was actually quite a surprise how effective this was for me!  I am also pleased from an aesthetic standpoint with the outcome, as I find all of the stages pleasing to look at, as well.

Here’s Stage 1:

Here, this is a self-portrait, and at the time, I was feeling a bit disconnected, and unclear about how I was feeling about something pretty important.  What was bothering me Mood Journal 08.2009#1 4981x6847.2009#1 4981x6847was feeling “yucky” but not having clarity around what was going on with me, and that bothered me.  I began this series to sort out my own mind, and this is where I started.  It’s a curious process, having a pen or paintbrush in hand, with me being so unfamiliar with doing these kinds of manipulations, to be forced to develop skills to accomplish the task, using my hands.  Yet, I think that this was a key element to why it worked well.  I was forced to try to represent things that already felt unclear to me, in a form that was unfamiliar to me, using parts of my body (eyes & hands) in ways that I’ve never done before, and I didn’t have a clue how to start.  This kind of scenario would have been a classic dilemma for me in the past, yet in this instance, I somehow knew intuitively that I needed to do exactly this, and there was an unexpected sense of urgency about it for me.

Staring a a big white piece of paper without a plan for what I was going to do or how I would do it was daunting, to say the least.  I felt extremely reluctant to start to put anything on that paper.  What should my feelings look like?  What should I look like sitting with them?  What should the context look like?  Once I stopped worrying about deciding everything in advance, and just to go with my gut, I accepted that there was no right or wrong to this process.  What was important was DOING it.  It didn’t matter how it looked or how the materials worked, so long as I represented as accurately as I could, what/how I was feeling and/or what my thoughts were.  I feel that I accomplished this, and more effectively than I ever have with any form of journaling or lettering before.

More to follow…

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Tasha Miller Griffith

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