Art School Lessons – How To Navigate The Dip

The art college foundation course I attended was run by a crazy & wonderful sculptor called Keith.

Keith had the looks and scariness factor of an old tattooed biker. He didn’t give two hoots for authority or “the rules” and did things his way.

On our first day (all wet behind the ears, nervous 17 and 18 year olds) he announced that for the first month of our course we would do absolutely nothing but life drawing. Cold fear struck our hearts. None of us could draw very well, having only just barely negotiated A level art.

For the next month we continuously drew models clothed, unclothed, walking, running, dancing to The Firebird and on one memorable occasion, suspended naked from the ceiling by clingfilm whilst some discombobulated and blushing men with clipboards from the local council attempted to measure the wall.

There were frustrations, dramas and tears but by the end of the month everyone had got a great grasp of drawing.

What Keith had done, with his rough hewn wisdom, was forced us all kicking and screaming through “The Dip”

Navigating The Dip

Learning a new form of art or a new technique starts out as exciting  fun. Then it gets harder and more serious until it hits a low point where it is no fun at all and you wonder if you will ever master it or manage to make it work. It’s frustrating and depressing. You cant see yourself ever getting better at it.

This is what Seth Godin calls The Dip.

Recognising you are in The Dip is half the battle.

Godin says that there are only three ways to deal with The Dip.

  • Get stuck in it
  • Quit it
  • Cross it

Harsh but true…

Masters of their craft struggled across to the other side

How do the people who are masters of their art get to be there? Did they wake up one morning with the knowledge of how to sculpt a perfect body in marble or paint a stunning portait in oils?

No, they struggled through the mental and spiritual wilderness that is The Dip, always keeping the goal in the forefront of their focus. The Dip is there to weed out the uncommitted. When you cross to the other side you are joining the masters of their craft who REALLY wanted to master it.

The Dip is powerful. The bigger the barrier the greater the reward for crossing it.

And maybe sometimes, quitting is the right option. If you realise something really isn’t for you then maybe it is time to stop struggling and find something you do REALLY want to commit to. The Dip can make you realise where you truly want to focus your energy.

Your Navigational Map

There are some tools that will be useful as you struggle across your own personal Dip

  • Understand your strengths and weaknesses. If one way over just doesn’t work for you, take a step back and see if there is another way you can achieve it more suited to your ways of working.
  • Cross with friends. It may be easier to cross in a team if you can find alllies who are attempting to learn the same thing and who can help you when you fall. Joining a group or class to learn may really help.
  • Study failure. Look at the people who didnt make it. Why did they fail? Study what stopped them and then you can attempt to avoid making the same mistakes.
  • Just RECOGNISE that The Dip is there and focus on getting through it. It’s not forever and you will emerge on the far side with your newly fought for skills.

So, next time you are expanding your creative repertoire, recognise The Dip and use these strategies to help yourself across it.

I’m truly grateful that Keith & my old art school helped me to recognise that The Dip was there to struggle across and the bold would make it to the far side….

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The Art of Collaboration – How can letting go help you grow?

Defined by Merriam Webster, to Collaborate means: to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.

Collaboration in art takes the idea to a new level. It is the opportunity for artists to contribute to one piece or to a multitude of pieces in a particular project that may or may not have the same theme. Sound confusing? It can be if there is not some kind of leadership involved; someone to grab the reins so to speak. However, once a group of artists decides on a project there is no stopping the energy that builds when these groups get together; when one idea is presented often times many new ideas spring from this one.

I have involved myself in several collaborative efforts—most notably through mail art groups. These groups can be local, national and international. Usually one person comes up with an idea and posts their Call to Art–artists from all over contribute a piece to the group. Sometimes the art is returned but more often than not, it is gone for good. I actually like that part because now my art is in the hands of another who may love the piece or discover something in it that I didn’t. The act of sharing is vital to collaborative art and you must be able to let go. Artists can get so stuck in doing things their own way – especially when one works alone in a studio, but don’t we learn more by be inspired by others? This is what collaborative art projects truly are…an opportunity to share and learn in the presence of like-minded individuals.

One project that made a huge impression on me was the 1001 Journals project. The website explains it best, “The 1000 Journals Project is an ongoing collaborative experiment attempting to follow 1000 journals throughout their travels. The goal is to provide a method for interaction and shared creativity among friends and strangers.” These journals traveled all over the world and individuals wrote, illustrated, painted and collaged their art inside it. Then they sent it on to the next person. Most of the journals were returned back to the individual who began the project. Some did not. Launched in 2000, “The project officially launched in August of 2000, with the release of the first 100 journals in San Francisco. I gave them to friends, and left them at bars, cafes, and on park benches. Shortly thereafter, people began emailing me, asking if they could participate. So I started sending journals to folks, allowing them to share with friends, or strangers. It’s been a roller coaster ever since.” This is a timeless story told through art where individuals unselfishly shared their talent, and many times their soul.

A Northern California collaborative art group, Kunstanke embarked on an artistic journey inspired by the works of the 17th century artist, Claude Lorrain. A book containing his drawings was cut up and the drawings in the book were distributed among the artists. The artists were to combine the original book page and their art to recreate the image into something new. It was a composition of sorts with the new and the old. 45 pieces were completed. While there were actually more, the group felt that not all of the images succeeded and it came down to this number. The final pieces went into an exhibit where “The result is a diverse and nuanced conversation about ideas, subject matter and materials.” For more about this project please visit the Kunstanke web site.

And just today I came across a collaborative project by the online publisher, Society6. The final project will be a limited edition Zine called “Us and Them”. The rules are simple…create an inspired piece using the theme Us and Them and set the image up as a print on Society6. Society6 will curate the collection and notify the artists if their piece has been selected for the limited edition Zine.

An enjoyable aspect of the idea of collaborative art is the freedom of expression and free flowing ideas that are conveyed. Anyone can start a project, anyone can join a project. And you do not need to be an artist to join. The 1001 Journals project was less about art and more about expression. The last collaborative art project I started consisted of three 11×14 pieces of white paper sent out with a list of instructions. Draw anything, anywhere on the 11×14 sheet then send it off to the next person. The 10th person should return the completed sheet back to my address where I will scan it and have it made into a poster. I love the idea. However, it’s been three years and I haven’t gotten it back. This may be one of those times where we learn to let go.

Copyright 2011 Jan Weiss

Artist Bio – Jan Weiss

Jan Weiss, a northern California native is a freelance writer and artist specializing in home decor. With a strong background in art publishing and art trends, Jan shares this knowledge with the trade as well as individual artists.

Weiss has just completed her first eBook for artists, titled: The Coexistence of Art and Money; interested buyers can find this book as well as her art through several on-line galleries such as Artist Rising, Image Kind and Etsy.  Jan’s style is a mixed of collage, digital creations and abstract landscapes that will appeal to the hospitality buyer. She lives with her husband, cat and dog in the Bay Area and enjoys organic gardening, cooking, reading and making stuff.

You can find Jan at
You can buy Jan’s beautiful work here

Have you worked on a collaborative project or in a group? How did it work out? Please tell us in the comments…

Post image by Jan Weiss

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Reader’s Showcase | Jordan Conlin | Rising Games Designer

Jordan Conlin Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime

Jordan Conlin is a young 18 year old artist from Stockton-On-Tees in the north of England. Having started drawing from a very young age, his passion was reignited by purchasing a graphics tablet for use with Adobe Photoshop software.

Jordan Conlin Masterchief


All of the work shown here was drawn using Adobe Photoshop CS3/4 and completed in less than five hours.

Jordan Conlin Bumblebee


Jordan Conlin Forest Gump

Forest Gump

Jordan is studying Game Design at Middlesbrough College and hopes to be a full time artist in the gaming industry working at drawing and 3D modelling.


You can see more examples of Jordans fabulous speed paintings on his YouTube Channel Contact Jordan at jord_conlin{at}hotmail{dot}co{dot}uk

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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised | How Can Artists Survive & Thrive in the New Economy?

How can artists and creatives survive in the current whirlwind of economic meltdown?

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Reader’s Showcase | Shaun William Kerr | Classical Romantic Artist

The Fealty of Sir Bedivere

Scottish born Shaun William Kerr (now residing in Texas) has since 2006 begun to establish a reputation for himself as a Classical Romantic Artist.


Munroe's Retreat


Munroe's Retreat Detail

The quality and intricacy of his alluring narrative painting style has attracted considerable attention around the world and his originals have become highly sought after.




Steps of Annwn

Find out more about Shauns finely detailed work on his website.

Interview with Something we Dec 2010

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Facebook Changes & Artists | 4 Crucial Things You Need To Know…

Facebook has undergone a RADICAL overhaul over the past few days. Changes, first outlined by Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg at the f8 conference in San Francisco have already begun to roll out over the site and many more will be coming online in the coming weeks.

Many artists use Facebook as a platform for promoting their artwork so what will the new changes mean if you have an artists Facebook Page? What do artists need to know about the new Facebook?

Lets take a look at some of the new changes.

The power in the blue corner.

Facebook now marks stories that it thinks are important to you by tagging them with a blue corner in your news feed. Users have the power to “untag” these prioritised stories in their feed by simply clicking on the blue corner, meaning that Facebook then demotes similar items in your feed.

By this change, Facebook are taking a massive shift in direction, in that this will selectively weed out boring, irrelevant or annoying posts. Users can easily demote and remove all those annoying updates from friends about requests for Farmville stuff and tedious information about what they had for tea. Hoorah

What this means for artists.

However, whilst welcome in many ways, this change can also mean your work gets removed from the feed if you aren’t engaging enough or if you bombard people with things they aren’t interested in.

It will no longer be enough to accumulate loads of LIKES and then bombard your LIKERS with low quality posts. You are going to have to produce great engaging content to earn your place in the news feed.

Posting interesting content that engages people is now more crucial than ever if you and your art aren’t going to end up talking into empty space…

Too much information!!

The news ticker in the right hand column is a second by second relay of exactly what you are up to. It shows your comments on friends posts {who aren’t neccesarily friends of the people viewing} and also, will soon show any games you may be playing or music you are listening to. In short it overshares everything you do to pretty much everyone, everywhere.

Facebook will also be introducing Facebook Timelines in the next few weeks. This means that everything you do on Facebook will be evolved into a searchable personal history timeline stretching way back into the past. This video explains the concept.  Timelines could be a pretty cool feature but may have some drawbacks too.

What this means for artists.

Now, more than ever, it is crucial to be yourself and also to behave professionally. If you are using Facebook to promote your business it is essential that you are aware of how you may appear to others. Be careful about what you post and do as it is becoming even harder to be totally sure exactly who is viewing your actions. Keep it professional at all times.

Now may be a good time to go into your photo history and delete or detag the pictures of you being sick in a bush at a student party.

Build a shed in the walled garden…

Facebook is making these big changes in an attempt to be even more immersive. You will be able to do an increasing amount of actions, such as listening to music or watching films, WITHIN the Facebook framework. The changes are all designed to make Facebook even more addictive than it curently is [if this is possible].

This is the “Walled Garden” effect, where users are encouraged to stay in one place, within the same site, and never leave.

What this means for artists.

This means that it is becoming even more important to have a presence within the Facebook framework. If you don’t already have an artists Facebook page, now would be a good time to create one. If you do have one, spend a bit of time ensuring it is up to scratch and contains great content. You need to make sure you have access to the walled garden and aren’t left outside banging on the door.

But build a house outside it…

Not all the changes have been popular with Facebook users. There have been many online groups formed to protest against the way Facebook rolls out changes without consultation and doesn’t listen to user feedback, coupled with concerns over Facebook’s attitude to user privacy. It is hard to predict if Facebook can continue it’s meteoric rise or if it’s progress will be derailed somewhere along the way…

A quick glance over the shoulder to some of the internet casualties of the past, including the once mighty MySpace, AOL, Digg &  IBM illustrate that Facebook could quite easily stumble and lose ground to other social destinations like Google +, especially if they keep annoying their users every few months.

As every James Bond villain knows – world domination is by no means guaranteed.

What this means for artists.

Now, more than ever it is ESSENTIAL to base your web presence on YOUR OWN website, on YOUR OWN DOMAIN, outside of Facebook.

Whatever Facebook’s fortunes over the coming years, your own site is your home on the internet, on your own land. It is the most important piece of the jigsaw in promoting your work and will be there for you, whatever social media platform comes to the fore.

Enjoy the fun of Facebook, and use it as an extension to promote your work,  but build your main foundations on the solid ground of your own website and you can’t go far wrong…


What do you think of the new Facebook changes? Exciting? Frustrating? Let me know in the comments.


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Reader’s Showcase | Cally Clark–Traversari | Vibrant Joyful Mixed Media

Pink Fairy

I am a self taught artist from Birmingham, but currently living in Wolverhampton.

I regard my artwork as colourful, vibrant, and different. I love to use a range of mediums but my favourite is mixed media and emulsion. I tend to use a lot of acrylic, too. I believe I have found my own sense of style but I continuously developing it.

Picked In The Garden

My inspiration comes from the things around me. My home life, thoughts, dreams, and most importantly my imagination. I’m never seen without an art journal and I am always sketching new ideas.

Mother and Daughter

I have only recently begun selling my artwork but already have sold over 20 paintings without much advertisement – I hope to set my own website up and get the word around more in the near future (I am currently in the early process of getting help and support from the Princes trust.) All sales so far have been made via and my Art facebook page.

I have my first Craft stall coming up at the end of the month which I am both scared and excited about!.

Magic City

You can find out more about Cally on her Facebook page Cally’s Creations or at

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Where To Find The Best Arts News & Information

There are many ways to engage in the arts; through gallery visits, buying art, attending openings and receptions or becoming a museum member. But with the information overload it may be challenging to filter out the excess and drill down to what you want to know.

By employing art media into your life you can keep up with the art news and choose what to see and when. Listed below are some of the avenues we can all take through our various media outlets to follow art news, art happenings and the cultural world we live in.

  • From the UK and the Guardian we have Art Weekly with news on the latest gallery shows in the London area.

  • Contemporary Art Daily gives us a daily journal of international exhibitions.

  • Art Business News is just as it sounds. All about the business of art. This includes trade show calendars, gallery and artist profiles and tips on how to increase your sales in the galleries. Its mission is described as “reporting the latest industry news and emerging trends driving the fine-art market.”

  • Founded in 1996, Art World News focuses on art publishing, custom framing, gallery news and the business of the individual artist. This trade magazine is print only; from the web site go to Subscribe to receive free issues of the magazine.

  • Décor Magazine was first published in 1880 and is the premier go-to magazine for those who work in custom framing, interior design, publishing, home furnishings and décor manufacturing. Decor is published monthly. I enjoy it for its color trend articles which are always spot-on and a must have for artists and publishers.

  • Artnet explodes with information and not just in English. This energetic online forum boasts sites in Germany and France as well. Artnet is essential for those who follow art auctions, art openings, the latest and hottest artists out there and significant art events throughout the world.

  • For the independently minded with a hint of underground, read Juxtapoz Magazine. This online news source and print media offers categories in street art, tattoo, erotic and illustration. Additionally look for event calendars, artist profiles, videos, community information, gallery guides and photography. If this doesn’t make you rush into your studio and make stuff then I don’t know what will.

  • Art in America may sound like it spotlights only one country but in reality they push the borders with news on international exhibitions, international artists and news opinion from the world over. The strengths of this publication are heavily inclined to contemporary art in major urban hubs such as Los Angeles, New York City, Italy and Britain.

I suggest starting locally and move out from there. Push your artistic envelope and be open to what’s going on in artistic centers such as New York, Milan, London and Los Angeles.

The art world is alive and kicking and as bold and inventive as ever.

© 2011 Jan Weiss

Artist Bio – Jan Weiss

Jan Weiss, a northern California native is a freelance writer and artist specializing in home decor. With a strong background in art publishing and art trends, Jan shares this knowledge with the trade as well as individual artists.

Weiss has just completed her first eBook for artists, titled: The Coexistence of Art and Money; interested buyers can find this book as well as her art through several on-line galleries such as Artist Rising, Image Kind and Etsy.  Jan’s style is a mixed of collage, digital creations and abstract landscapes that will appeal to the hospitality buyer. She lives with her husband, cat and dog in the Bay Area and enjoys organic gardening, cooking, reading and making stuff.

You can find Jan at

Post image by Nick Sherman under Creative Commons

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Reader’s Showcase | Tony Dexter | Creative Re-emergence

Who am I?

I’ve only recently taken up painting (other than the kitchen!) after a break of more than forty years. I’m a business and marketing consultant and paint in my spare time. In my younger days I trained as a sculptor but I chose to enter the world of commerce. So now I’m beginning to take every opportunity to put acrylic on canvas. I’m really fond of painting portraits and keen to create more images. I’m constantly questioning and challenging ‘technique’ over substance as I want to improve my skills but not by applying some formula.



For me it’s not easy to paint. I love portraiture BUT I don’t want the images I create to be photographic. I try, as with the picture of our granddaughter Kitty, to capture something of the character of the person. I think every grandparent loves their grand children and with three I’ve been busy painting them at various stages of their growing lives. Children can be a challenge to capture. Not because they don’t sit still but because their features – like the bridge of their nose – is not fully formed. If you were to see me, well, I’ve a fully grown ‘snout’ (Romanesque I’d like to think!) so my nose can cast a few shadows and give my face clear definition. But Kitty’s face and that of her sister and cousin are still developing so capturing the subtlety of the light and shade is an enjoyable challenge.


The banana skin dancing in the river

The banana skin dancing in the river

I once put a banana skin in a river and was surprised to see how animated the current made it appear. It was as if it had come to life and was ‘dancing’ downstream. I wanted to try and paint this scene from memory. I suppose this picture is something of an exercise in seeking to portray it but also, after painting many portraits, an opportunity to try a freer more abstract style.

The fishman always comes on Friday

The fishman always comes on Friday

This image is a combination of several influences. The man’s face was inspired by a church sculpture. The fish body by a gutted dead fish I found on a beach. The blending of the two has, for me, echoes of our over fishing of our seas and how fish and man are intertwined.


The girl

The girl

A friend sent me a photograph of her daughter and I was moved by the wonderful starkness of her pale face and the mass of her hair. I wanted to embellish and amplify these elements as, it seemed to me, that by simplifying her features I could dramatise her appeal.

If you would like to contact Tony you can email him via tony{at}stonesthrow. org .uk or call him on 0795 666 7792

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The Truth About Tax & Artists | Plus 10 Top Art Tax Saving Tips that will save you MONEY

The tax situation for artists can be confusing, especially if you are only making a small amount of money on the side from your art sales. It’s also difficult to know what to do when you are starting to sell work as well as working in a full time job. I have had a few emails from readers asking questions about this confusing area. As I’m not an accountant {and find it all confusing myself} I have roped in the help of someone who does know, my accountant, who keeps my finances on the straight and narrow.

In this post, Chartered Accountant, David Cramp, answers a reader’s question with regards to the tax situation in the UK and how it relates to artists.

Questions Questions…

I’ve never sold anything yet as an artist and I work full time. I want to start selling my work and eventually give up the day job!

Now, I know that HM Revenue & Customs don’t like claims from sole traders that consistently don’t make a profit, and it could take years to build sales up. If I claim for the high costs of art materials, as far as I’m aware, if I haven’t made much money, the tax rebate comes off tax already paid from my full-time employment. Now whilst this is a good way to supplement the costs of being an artist, I’m presuming it won’t wash with them forever.

So I have 3 questions…

1. Do I need to declare the sales when I start selling my work?

2. At what point will HM Revenue & Customs not accept my loss claims?

3. Do you have any tips or advice about tax/declarations or claims for artists?

And Answers…

If I were dealing with your affairs, I would firstly want to examine your ‘business’ and ensure that it meets HM Revenue & Customs’ definition. But as you have not specifically asked this question and it sounds as if you accept a trade will exist, my guidance assumes you have passed this ‘test’, (I would advise that you seek guidance on this if the business goes ahead though).

1 – Do I need to declare the sales when I start selling my work?

The answer to your first question is yes. Whether or not you are also employed, if you have a sole trader business you will need to declare the results of the business to HM Revenue & Customs. You will, however, continue to pay PAYE through your employment and, depending on the results of your business, pay any remaining tax and NI through the self assessment system i.e. after submitting a Self Assessment Tax Return.

You can register as self employed with HM Revenue and Customs either online at or by completing and submitting a form CWF1.

Normally, you would also begin paying Class 2 National Insurance contributions, but as your earnings are likely to be under the Small Earnings Exception level (currently £5,315 pa), you do not need to pay them and you can apply for this exception using form CF10.

2 – At what point will HM Revenue & Customs not accept my loss claims?

But, as you suspected, HMRC do have an issue with loss-making businesses, and in fact, the trade must be commercial and aim to generate a profit. If it isn’t, you cannot offset the loss against your employment income. Instead, it can only be offset against any future profits your business makes.

As for your costs, you should only recognise the cost of materials you actually use in the year. For instance, if you buy 20 canvases for a total cost of £400 and spend £250 on paints, but at the end of your year you’ve only used half of them, then you should only recognise costs of £325; not £650.

Another point to be aware of with regards to ‘stock’ is if anyone ever commissioned you to paint a piece and agreed a price, then you should recognise some of the sales income according to the painting’s completion. So if they agree a price of £900 and it was a third complete at your year end, then you should recognise £300 in your sales figure. Stage payments can further complicate this calculation, as I am sure you can appreciate.

3 – Here are 10 tips to help you save or defer tax:

  1. Use of home for business – assuming you work from home, you will be able to put through a portion of the running costs of your home
  2. Averaging – a particular concession for your industry which may help to ‘smooth’ fluctuations in your tax bill
  3. Motor expenses – if you use your car to make business trips, you could claim mileage expenses at a rate of up to 45p per mile
  4. PAYE coding – make sure your Notice of Coding is right when HMRC send it to you and your code could even help ease the burden of your tax bill by collecting any additional tax via your employment income; rather than paying the tax in one lump sum
  5. Transfer assets to the trade – assets you bought personally for private use before the business began, but were then subsequently transferred into the business, (such as a computer), could attract tax relief via Capital Allowances
  6. Submit paperwork on time – registering for self-employment late, submitting returns late or making payments late are just a few of the events that can lead to penalties and interest. So ensure you are well prepared and are aware of the deadlines you need to meet
  7. Spouses – if your partner is genuinely assisting in the business, you could pay them a wage
  8. Pre-trading expenses – keep receipts of any business expenses you incur prior to the business starting to trade, as you may be able to get tax relief for these
  9. Record keeping – keep accurate, clear records. Not only will this hopefully ensure you claim everything you are entitled to but is also a HMRC requirement and severe cases can lead to fines
  10. Paperwork – retain all of your receipts. Again this will hopefully ensure you claim everything you are entitled to and is also a HMRC requirement

Please be aware that there are various requirements to meet before making use of some of these tips; therefore please seek professional advice before implementing them. Besides, it is important to seek professional advice during the early stages of a business. A professional will review and ensure for example, that you are claiming all of the available expenses, your tax position is efficient and you are meeting your statutory requirements.

This response is based on the details you have provided and is intended to inform rather than advise and is based on UK legislation and practice at the time. Taxpayer’s circumstances do vary and if you feel that the information provided is beneficial it is important that you contact TaxAssist Accountants before implementation. If you take, or do not take action as a result of reading this article, before receiving TaxAssist Accountants’ written endorsement, TaxAssist Accountants will accept no responsibility for any financial loss incurred.

If you would like to discuss this article or any other matter further, please feel free to contact your local TaxAssist Accountant on 0800 0523 555 or email TaxAssist Accountants have more than 190 offices across the UK, providing tax and accountancy advice and services purely to small businesses.


David Cramp is a Chartered Accountant with over 16 years post-qualification experience serving a broad range of clients in the UK.

TaxAssist Accountants is a local business, based in Mirfield providing tax and accountancy advice and services purely to small businesses.

Image released under creative commons by Kevin Dooley

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