Artistic growth through experiments and feigned courage. A new watercolor.

I’m feeling brave today (must be my new haircut), so I’m finally posting this ink and watercolor piece that I’ve been avoiding sharing for some reason.

Earlier this year, after months of working on commissions, I found myself itching to do some experimenting with ink and watercolor. When applied wet-on-wet, the two materials can sometimes create interesting effects, and I wanted to play around and see I could discover.

So, I made this. I’m not sure if you can call it abstract or not. It was inspired by quilts, patterns, and batik fabric. It’s a celebration of color, negative space, and interacting shapes. The whole endeavor was an illuminating exercise in finding the courage to forge ahead, daily, on a project that I wasn’t sure would result in anything successful.

Abstract ink and watercolor painting by Jacque Oman Clinton. Inspired by quilts and batik fabric.But hey – I think it WAS successful! A worthwhile experiment, indeed. Now we’ll just have to see where things go from here!

Hope you’re enjoying your summer. Thanks for stopping by!

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Illustrated Places: Waikiki Beach, Norfolk, Saratoga, and Charleston

Hey! Long time no see! Spring is in the air (as long as you ignore the dump of snow we got yesterday and the toothy icicles that are dangling from my car’s bumper) and I’m thawed out and ready to ease back into my routine of spewing hot air at you here on the blog.

Where have I been, you ask? All over! In places sunny and warm! I spent January and February working on a commission that had me traveling (okay okay, I wasn’t actually traveling…it was more of a mental thing) to Hawaii, South Carolina, New York, and Virginia. I was working on a project for a dear friend, who, back in December, asked me to illustrate each of the four places that her boyfriend lived while he was serving in the Navy. She wanted to surprise him with the set when he got out of the Navy in March.

So after the December holidays were over, I got to work on the project. It began with a lot of fits and starts as I worked out my ideas and tried to settle down on a style. (Note to self: don’t get carried away getting “inspired” on Pinterest and the Googles. If you look at TOO MUCH art by TOO MANY wonderful people, your brain will short-circuit and you’ll lose the ground beneath you. You may love everyone else’s artistic style, but in the end, your work always ends up looking like your own. Don’t fall into the trap of brainstorm overload! You’ll get washed away in the surge of “possibilities”!)

Things also stagnated for a couple weeks when I got the flu. But eventually –after enough trial-and-error, mistakes and re-starts , bowls of soup and boxes of tissues — I settled down and found my groove.

I finished the set at the end of February, just in time to mail before March 3rd. Since they are now safely in the hands of my friend and her boyfriend, I can share them with you without ruining any surprises.

So here they are! 4 ink and watercolor illustrations (with hand drawn logos, I might add) of Waikiki Beach, HI; Saratoga, NY; Norfolk, VA; and Charleston, SC. Enjoy!

commissioned watercolor and ink illustration of Waikiki Beach by Jacque Oman Clinton

Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

ink and watercolor illustration of the horse tracks at Saratoga Springs, New York, by Jacque Oman Clinton

Saratoga. NY

ink and watercolor illustration of "the Lone Soldier" statue in Norfolk, VA. By Jacque Oman Clinton

Norfolk, VA

ink and watercolor illustration of Rainbow Row in Charleston, SC, by Jacque Oman Clinton

Charleston, SC

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The Election, Existential Art Questions, & Great Horned Owls

Since the election back in November, I’ve found myself struggling to come up with things to say here on the blog. Not because I don’t have things to talk about, and certainly not because I don’t have artwork to show, but because I’ve been feeling very self-conscious about making myself “heard”. The election and its aftermath forced me to confront certain realities that I had hitherto been ignoring in order to play around in my idealistic tree house in the clouds, and to be honest, it left me feeling like a deflated pompous fool.

It was like the world was shouting: “HELLO! WAKE UP, KID! Did you know that people living in the USA are unhappy enough that they are willing to put THIS GUY in charge, even after all the hurtful, discriminatory, and blatantly untruthful things he has said?”

Oh! Clearly I’ve been missing something. Clearly I’ve been living in a bubble.

I am guilty of making great and incorrect assumptions about how other people think and feel. Here on this blog, I’ve been trying to offer pithy little bits of wisdom about life – things that I’ve discovered through making art every day that seem to apply to things beyond art-making itself. I’ve been trying to articulate my belief that you, too, can learn valuable and enriching things about life, yourself, and everything in between, just by being mindful and engaged with what you do.  I’ve been trying to spread excitement…to infect you with curiosity and creative joy. But what does any of this even mean?!

“Mindfulness?” “Creative Living?” Meticulous drawings of CANDY CORN?! Art?! What planet am I living on?

That’s the voice that has been popping into my head each week whenever I’ve sat down to write a blog post.

I felt afraid that all of this was just a selfish exploitation of my “privilege” – an insensitive and frivolous pursuit that makes a mockery of real issues like trying to earn enough money for food or suffering under systematic racial oppression. I didn’t want to rock the boat by suggesting that art is important and worthwhile. I didn’t want to somehow insult you with my small thoughts and mental struggles. I didn’t want to say things in a public space that could be used against me some day, or say things with confidence now that I might change my mind about later (as one is apt to do as one grows and learns). I didn’t want to add to the opinionated noise that clogs up the internet and gets blown out of context and makes fools of us all.

But then, while flipping through Danny Gregory’s book: “An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators, and Designers”, I found a few passages that brought me peace of mind and re-established my belief that art is necessary.

First, while talking about sketchbooks and artist’s journals, Gregory says this:

“The pages unfold like a story, a journey, a life. Each of the books is a slender slice of a life…as you turn the pages, you feel the time pass. You see moments being recorded in sequence. You see ideas unfold and deepen. You see risks, mistakes, regrets, thoughts, lessons, dreams, all set down in ink for posterity…”

Then he goes on to point out the effect sketching has on the artist’s own life. Life is

 “enriched by living in the moment instead of doing sudoku, contemplating the world as it passes—even if it is serving up just a glimpse of a Kmart parking lot or a slumbering night-shift worker.”

And then, talking about his own reasons for keeping an art journal, he says this:

“I just draw the things around me that count…mundane stuff that I used to pass blithely by every day until I stopped to notice what my life was made up of, the blessings I need to count to give myself meaning.”

And that’s it, right there. Art shows us life, helps us make contact with it. It gives glimpses of our humanness, our journey. It helps us to pay attention, to focus on things we care about. It is personal but it is also universal. It’s not a waste of time. It’s in our blood.

So I’m here, to keep doing what I do and to keep sharing my stuff. It’s what I can do to add to this grand tapestry of human history, culture, and collective experience. Art is how I connect and communicate, and I can’t live without it. Plus, it brings me joy, and joy is worth sharing, right? Goodness knows I like seeing OTHER people’s art and experiences and journeys through life…

Blah blah, okay, I know. Enough already, where’s the art? I’m getting to it! Geez.

In the spirit of cherishing the gifts of the present moment, I give you this:

watercolor and ink illustration of a great horned owl by Jacque Oman Clinton

“Great Horned Owl”

because the sun just set a moment ago and now I can hear two Great Horned Owls hooting in the backyard. (Backstory: I first heard them on Sunday evening when I was taking out the trash. Later that night, as I lay in bed, I kept thinking about how grateful I was for owls to serenade me and make taking out the trash seem like a magical treat. The next morning I woke up figuring I better document my owl “sighting” (even though I didn’t actually see them) in my sketchbook. You know, for “posterity”. But things got a little unscientific somewhere along the way…and I ended up with this.)

watercolor and ink illustration of a great horned owl by Jacque Oman Clinton

 

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The Candy Corn Saga

candy cornCandy corn has been on my list of things to draw for quite some time. Every fall I buy a bag, take it home, pour it into a glass bowl, and just…look at it. It’s colorful, repetitive, roundish. It’s oh so cute and ridiculous. I play with it. I hold it. If someone asks, I even share it.

candy corn flower

candy corn weaving

I have no profound things to say about candy corn, no grand meditations or metaphors to overanalyze. I just think it’s visually compelling. And I don’t believe that it’s edible — it smells nice, but you probably won’t find me lurking in the kitchen, munching on the stuff. (It’s a bit too “candle-y” for my tastes). But like beads, gems, snowflakes, and cable knit sweaters, it delights my little eyeballs. And it comes in such mass quantities!

Well, this year, I finally got around to doodling it.candy corn doodles

Or, er…I MEANT to just doodle it.

But, as often happens with art projects, it took on a life of its own. With a few blobs of watercolor here and a couple pen-marks there, a certain trajectory was established. Choices were made, and there was no turning back.

And so I traveled on a journey:img_2068 img_2107 img_2133
img_2141 img_2149 img_2180

And ultimately ended up here:ink and watercolor candy corn illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton
And now I think I’m done with candy corn. For a long, long time.

🙂

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Fall Fashion: Sweater Vests…FOR BIRDS! (An Illustration)

It’s that time of year when the birds start to look a little…chilly.

Poor guys. I see them in the morning, all fluffed up and huddled together on the telephone wires. Their jabbering fills the frosty air while I sit indoors, drinking my coffee, feeling cozy and warm.

If I was a better knitter, I’d knit tiny sweaters for them all.

"Fall Fashion Line: Sweater Vests for Sparrows" illustration of birds on telephone wires wearing sweaters, by Jacque Oman Clinton. So Cute!

“Fall Fashion Line: Sweater Vests for Sparrows”, ink and watercolor, 2016

That’s all I’ve got. Thanks for stopping by! Have a great weekend, my chickadees.

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Life at Life’s Pace

I seem to have entered a new and illuminating phase of young adulthood in which I’m constantly learning all sorts of obvious and handy lessons about “time”.

Particularly, I’ve had to learn and relearn with embarrassing regularity that things take as long as they take. I often forget that. No matter what “superfoods” I eat, no matter how much preparing and planning I do, no matter HOW much I wrack my brain trying to find a way — it’s simply unrealistic to think that I’ll ever figure out how to do all the things. (Especially since my list of  “things I want to do” seems to grow exponentially – See graph below:)

Things I Want to Do

I get cocky and try to make time operate against its nature, hoping that if I construct my lifestyle in a particular way, I’ll be so efficient and perfect that I’ll be able to bang things out and keep up with my runaway thoughts. There won’t be a list of “things I’m going to do next” because — BAM!– I’ll already be ON it. Things that take a long time WONT because I’ll be…simply amazing.

HAH. Yeah, right.

Of course, chasing that dumb fantasy makes me exhausted, bummed, extremely self-critical and — ironically — UNINTERESTED in doing ANYTHING. It quite effectively removes the joy from everything.

So forget it, I’ve got a new plan. I’ll try to find the pace that life — with all its inconsistencies and surprises and human foibles — deems appropriate. I’ll regard all-or-nothing thoughts like “I’m going to do ALL of ___(insert major project, enlightenment, or life achievement)___ on ____(insert day)___ !” as red flags marking the road to unhappiness/burnout. When I see them, I’ll choose a more mindful path —a path that honors the virtue of “keeping on keeping on”, not at rat-race speed, but at a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other tempo that allows life (and time) to operate how they will. And I’ll remember that always…ALWAYS!!!…I need to be patient.

This is fresh on my mind because this week, I finally started painting the walls of my new art studio. Earlier this month, my husband tore up the carpet and put some lovely laminate boards on the floor. Slowly, I’m getting closer to having my new work space up and running. But alas, despite my magical thinking, I didn’t paint my entire studio in one day. Instead, I painted some yesterday. And I painted some today. And I’ll probably paint some tomorrow. And that’s how it’s going to go.

img_2090

installing laminate flooring

painting the walls

painting the walls

And truthfully? I’m happy with that pace, because it left time and energy for lots of other good things. Things like playing with my niece, laughing with my family, baking apple cake, planning upcoming collaborative projects with people, reading good books, and watching the sky turn to Fall. And drawing candy corns, pretzels, and other happy things (of course).

ink and watercolor illustration of candy corn by Jacque Oman Clinton

watercolor and ink Candy Corn – in progress

Oktoberfest themed illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton

Oktoberfest snacks, anyone?

Bavarian Apple Torte - 'tis the season!

Bavarian Apple Torte – ’tis the season!

So it’s all good. And it’s all in good time.

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The Button Jar

ink and watercolor button illustration by Jacque Oman Clinton

“Buttons”, ink and watercolor

4 years ago, my husband and I — newly engaged at the time — received an early wedding present from a friend. This friend (a true gentleman and scholar) was about to leave for Liberia on a Peace Corps mission and wasn’t going to make it to our wedding. In a grand gesture of heartfelt congratulations, he gave us one of the greatest gifts ever. He gave us…

…the button jar.The Button Jar

Brace yourselves, you know what’s coming: metaphors. Oh how I love them!

Man, oh man, the button jar is great. Who can resist a collection of colorful round things?! But it’s more than just a shiny vessel of visual delight. It has become, in my mind, a symbol of home. Of OUR home — my husband’s and mine — and the life that we are building together.

It’s a jar of buttons, but it’s also a jar of memories. Some are small, some are big. Each one is colorful in its own poignant way.

It’s a jar of possibilities and hope. There are many ways one could use those buttons — it’s a jar full of potential! It’s like our future and all the adventures ahead.  It’s filled with unknown and wonderful things that will make us stronger and bring us closer.

It’s a jar filled with all the tiny, special moments — from the mundane to the spectacular — that accumulate, day after day, year after year, and make this a truly blessed life.

I bring this up now because, since moving into our first HOUSE, it seems like we’ve been adding a lot of button moments to our jar. It’s been a new and exciting adventure, and it’s fun tackling this “home owning” thing together. There are buttons for the peaceful nights that we’ve plunked down, exhausted, on the couch and listened to the crickets chirping through the open windows. There’s a button for the afternoon that we dismantled the clothes dryer, and one or two buttons for the almost daily trips to Home Depot. There are buttons for the lights that don’t work yet and buttons for the neighbor’s dogs. There are lots of buttons, so I won’t list them all.

I made the ink and watercolor drawing above (which I’ll turn into a print and put on Etsy as soon as I unearth all my printing supplies from the chaos that is my unfinished new studio) simply because the buttons were colorful and cute. They were calling out to me amidst the disorder of half-unpacked boxes and post-moving clutter, begging me to draw them. In retrospect, of course, I see that, like most other things I make, this is a documentary drawing, helping chronicle my life.

Yes, life. Ain’t it great?

It sure is. Bye!

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To be an unassuming chronicler of life

Artists — be they writers, photographers, painters, musicians, or other – have different goals and reasons for why they create. Some claim their craft is a way of bringing fantasy to life, or of probing the subconscious.  Others say they make art to express specific ideas, to explore certain topics, or to give a voice to the voiceless. Some want to make the world a more beautiful place. And many don’t know why they create, they just know that “they must”.

I’ve slowly been making my way through the book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In it, I came across some words about the poet Mark Strand that really hit home for me.

“Patiently watching and listening to events unfolding around him, alternating between passionate involvement and sardonic detachment, [Strand] has found the pattern that best fits the predilections of his consciousness: to be an unassuming yet precise chronicler of life.”

“His craft” Mikkahily says “is to express in arresting and accurate language what he has learned from witnessing life”.

“Some artists get so involved in their creations that they lose their appetite for raw experience, but Strand welcomes ordinary life—puttering in the yard, having meals with the family, going on hikes, lecturing, even shopping.”

After all, “…the enterprise of writing makes sense only within the context of a broader, more mundane reality.”

Ah, to be a chronicler of life. Yes. That’s what it is.

Mundane, patterned, repetitive, unpredictable, beautiful, heartbreaking, changing, simple, complex, amazing life. I want to draw it all. Every day, forever.

Fall Walking - Crunching on Leaves

An old fall-y watercolor and ink illustration from my Illustration Friday days. It reminds me of back-to-school. Fall — such a poignant season of life!

In a field

I am the absence

of field.

This is

always the case.

Wherever I am

I am what is missing.

 

When I walk

I part the air

and always

the air moves in

to fill the spaces

where my body’s been.

 

We all have reasons

for moving.

I move

to keep things whole.

– Mark Strand (Keeping Things Whole)

 

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Art Show Follow Up: Making Faith a Habit & Other Things I Learned

As you might remember, last Thursday, I participated as a featured artist at “REVEAL”, RAW Boston’s summer showcase for artists, designers, photographers, stylists, and musicians. I’m happy to report that it went well and that it was worth all the effort I put in to my preparations for it. And now…it’s over, which means I can get back to MAKING stuff! (I’m very excited about that). But since the show experience warrants some reflection, please bear with me as I devote just one more post to talking a bit (okay, maybe a lot) about it.

my booth

my booth

racks of prints for sale

racks of prints for sale

So…the showcase was a great time! I felt good about the work I showed and how I represented myself. I had the pleasure of talking to other artists and exchanging valuable insights. (I have to say, it felt particularly good to be able to pass on some helpful tips to people who are going through things that I have gone through myself! Turns out I’ve learned a few things over the years!) The whole experience – from the weeks spent in preparation to the final take-down – was full of personal growth and learning.

Here are some of the things I learned:

  1. Anxiety and fear are inevitable, but I can make room for them without losing sight of the larger picture. Okay, I know it wasn’t the Emmys or anything, but even so, I was very nervous about the event. I felt angsty from the very beginning, when I found out that I would be participating. My nervousness peaked the day before the show, when I had to repeatedly tell myself that “I know I feel like I’m going to die right now, but it is just anxiety, and I don’t have to freak out about it.” During the weeks before the show, this anxiety popped up a lot, but instead of fighting against it (and feeling bad about it, wishing it would go away, and generally feeling like a pathetic speck of a person) I decided to accept it as another part of the game. Whenever I felt stress pressing down, I reminded myself that there were infinite ways that the show could play out, and since I have no ability to know or control the future, I would just do what I thought was best, have faith, and keep my mind open to the possibility that good things might come out of it. And surprisingly, the day OF the event, I felt fine! For one thing, I had the comfort of knowing that I was well prepared. But also, my mind was in a good place after spending so many weeks practicing faith, openness, and positivity.
  2. People are shy. We are all insecure about something. It’s a funny dynamic — the insecure artist and the insecure viewer, side by side, feeling awkward. I think people are afraid to talk to artists about their work because they don’t want to “say the wrong thing” or sound like they “don’t know anything about art”. But I’m not going to judge you for “not getting it” or for never taking some dumb art history class. And I don’t make art with the expectation that you’ll see it the way I see it. I want to hear what it is that you see! — how does it make you feel? What stories does it conjure up, what does it remind you of? I LOVE it when people tell me what my work means to them. It fuels the drive to keep making stuff. It satisfies the “longing-for-connection” aspect of being creative. And it reveals amazing things about the diversity of human experience.
  3. And artists are shy, too. Instinctually, I don’t want to bother people. I don’t want to impose myself on them while they look at my work, or dare to assume that they find it engaging in any way. But I suspect that, more often than not, people appreciate hearing the artist tell the story behind their work, even when the story isn’t linear or…much of a “story” at all. (i.e. “I did this before getting dressed to go to my friend’s wedding…I needed to do something creative and it just sort of came to me. I started drawing a whale, because whales need to be drawn, and then of course I realized it should be wearing a sweater.”) I like to see the humanness of other people’s artwork. It helps me feel connected to the work and to the artist. Showing viewers that the work is a process — that it’s a living thing — opens doors for communication. Then the artwork isn’t just a final “product”, but instead acts as a jumping off point for a richer connection. Art is made with time, energy, brains, and countless unexpected external influences. It’s a very human expression of divergent thinking and the way we make associations in our minds. When people understand that, it makes art less “intimidating”, less inaccessible. It’s all just another opportunity for connection!
  4. People really like dogs. My illustrated dog prints are always a big hit, and they are the most frequently bought items in my Etsy store. People always comment on them. But surprisingly (and I’m okay with this!), no one bought any dog prints at this show. Dogs are a personal thing, I guess. Everyone wanted it to be THEIR dog.
  5. My experiences have taught me lessons that are worth passing on to other artists! For example: Finding a good way to make prints of their artwork seems to be a VERY common struggle for artists. Which company should you use? How can you ensure that the print quality is excellent? How much are you willing to PAY to have prints made? I make all my prints myself. I am so happy with my Canon Pixma printer – it is getting old now, but it does a MARVELOUS job making high quality prints that I’ve been able to sell all over the place. Sure it took a lot of trouble-shooting (and a lot of frustration!) to get the print quality just right, and I had to test a lot of different papers before I found one I liked, but I eventually established a system for making prints that I am proud of. Now, I have no problem telling people that it is worth it to invest in a printer and good paper and to take the time to learn to make prints in-house.
  6. The human digestive system is very…emotional. I had no appetite the whole day of the show, and had to force myself to eat regular meals so I wouldn’t pass out at the event. For dinner before the show, I made sure to eat the blandest of sandwiches (a tough thing, because I love me some SPICE), but I STILL got indigestion! My mom saved the night with the emergency Rolaids she found in her purse (she’s my hero). And then, of course, as soon as I got home and put on my PJ’s, I found that I was starving! It was the sweet, sweet release of tension leaving my body, and so…I celebrated with ice cream and chips 🙂
  7. I’m not the only person who needs to retreat and recharge. The day was long – set up started at 1 and the event wasn’t until 7 PM. I certainly wasn’t the only artist there who needed to take 5 minutes to sit in the car and regroup before the show.
  8. That one should not be in such haste to pack up and beat the traffic at the end of the show that one leaves important things behind. Bye-bye extension cords. Bye-bye print racks. (On the other hand, if that’s the hardest lesson I had to learn that night – not to leave stuff behind — then all-in-all, I’d say it went quite well!)
  9. And finally, I was reminded of this very humbling and mind-blowing truth: I am tremendously blessed to be in the situation that I am in. I’ve had the support of my family, my husband, and my closest friends for my entire life. No one (other than the occasional stranger) has ever tried to convince me not to pursue art. When I have my doubts, my parents and my husband are the ones who tell me to have faith and keep going. They’ve always given me the space, time, and freedom to create. They’ve been patient and understanding. They’ve helped me with projects, shows, buying materials, and growing a business. They’ve prodded me to challenge and stretch myself and to take the next step when it’s been time to do so. They’ve spread the word to others, and they’ve helped open doors. They’ve been so generous – I’ve never had to live off of government cheese or go it alone. Without them, I wouldn’t be doing this. It takes a village, as they say.

To my husband, and to my parents: I’m sorry that all I can ever do is say thank you, and that no matter how many times I say it, it will never be enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And with that, I bid you, good day. Thanks to everyone who came out to the show. It meant a lot to see you there and have your support!

Oh, and Happy September, yo.

"Hey Shorty" sunflower illustration

a sunflower sketch for September

 

 

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Upcoming Art Event: “REVEAL” August 25th

Busy busy busy. Packing, moving (Saturday is the big day! New house, here we come!), and getting ready for next week’s RAW Boston art show, “REVEAL”. You can still buy tickets! Click the link above to buy directly through my artist page. Even if you can’t attend, you can still show your support by buying a ticket anyway. The funds will directly support me and my participation in the show.

I finished up making all my prints for the show this week. There will be some excellent ones for perusal and purchase 🙂

And now, though I’d love to something insightful or funny, I must instead close up shop for today and go to bed. Packing is laborious, moving is a marathon, and I need to get enough sleep if I want to avoid burning out before it’s all done.

Here’s some pictures from the past week, at least:

Seagull print for "REVEAL"

Seagull print for “REVEAL”

more prints for "REVEAL"

more prints for “REVEAL”

breakfast doodle experiments of quilt-like ideas...

breakfast doodle experiments of quilt-like ideas…

quilt sketch close up

quilt sketch close up

Looking forward to writing more involved posts (AND MAKING NEW ARTWORK!!!) once all the busyness has died down! All the same, thanks for stopping by.

 

 

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