Art Projects · creativity

Art Project: Galaxy Ring

artprojectIt’s been an eternity since I’ve actually posted any completed art here, and it’s only partially because I haven’t been creating.  I’ve been working on some projects, albeit slowly and sporadically, but I’ve not completed many lately.

However, I have a few things I finished up a while ago and just never got around to posting.

First up, here’s a return to something I love, but don’t do a ton of anymore, and that’s upcycling.  The last upcycled project I completed had to be, uh, like six years ago, which, holy shit, is longer than I thought, but I was definitely in our old apartment and Bear wasn’t around yet, so yeah.  Jesus.

That time around, it was an old, rusted out decorative birdhouse that had been languishing and rusting away in my parents’ yard, and after a fresh coat of paint, some rub on appliques, and a bit of decoupage, it looked awesome.  This time, it was the broken pieces of an old pedestal ashtray.

20191111_124713.jpgMost of it was pretty broken down, but for some reason when they pried the ashtray base off, my father turned to me and asked if I wanted these two pieces, “to paint, or whatever.”  I mean, I probably need to start saying “no” to some of these offers of refuse, lest this become an Altoid tin situation¹, but I was pretty sure I had a decent idea for what I wanted to do with this.

My first thought was decoupage, but now that I’m no longer doing mail trades, scrapbooking, or thrifting the way I used to, I’m fairly limited as to my materials; really all I have are back issues of Cosmo, and that’s a pretty narrow range of thematic options to work with.  So I finally settled to straight up repainting.

20191111_130636I did all the work in craft acryllic (Applebarrel); undilluted black for the base background, and very thin wash of navy, blue, and white for the nebulae.  I also used a cheap children’s paintbrush with stiff plastic bristles to splatter the stars (in antique white), and then free-handed the planets (loosely based on those in our solar system).  I sort of wish I had a stencil for these , but I’m okay with the shapes for the most part (the exception being the ersatz-y Jupiter, which looks a little wonky).  I textured them with a round brush, using stippling, and a lot of layering with diluted paints. 

I finished it with a coat of gloss Mod Podge, and layered the two pieces to create the idea of planets orbiting the sun.  Sadly, when I actually assembled it, the hot glue I had on hand didn’t hold well enough, so I attached the pieces with nails… which sadly split the wood on the ring, but only on one side, so I don’t think I have to worry about it falling apart.  Still, I’m sad about the way the crack mars the project, which overall I’m very happy with.  This is going to hang in Bear’s room once the Mod Podge cures fully in a day or so.

I’ve got to keep my eye out for more things to transform, because upcycling is so crazy satisfying, to take something people have given up on and make it something people are, like, envious of (seriously, I got more comments on this project on Facebook than on any of my original art in the last year).

What are you all working on lately?


¹The nearly 50 empty Altoid tins my parents collected for me when I was doing altered boxes — which I keep meaning to return to, but haven’t yet — and are currently taking up a ton of space in my craft corner.

Art Projects · creativity · Life Updates · Uncategorized

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

lifeupdateI really am not a fan of trying to place the blame for any of my less-than-stellar attempts on anything but a less-than-refined ability.  I’m still a total amateur newbie when it comes to anything art related, despite some huge progress, and I fully own up to that fact.

That being said, I often feel embarrassed sharing my work online because even on those occasions when I’ve been satisfied or — dare I say — even happy with what I’ve produced, taking a photo of it has always yielded decidedly subpar results.

While not to downplay that fact that I am not an amazing photographer, my phone camera was decidely lacking.  Grainy zoom, poor focusing, and horrible light balance.  Could some of that have been rectified by investing in a quality camera and, like, studying up on photography?  I mean, probably, but I’m no particularly interested in photography as a personal hobby so I don’t want to sink money into a high end piece of equipment, and I’m only a hobbyist artist, so I don’t need to take exquisite photos in order to market or sell my art.  I really just needed something good enough that I could post fairly true-to-life photos of my projects, and honestly, the easiest way to do that was simply to get a better phone.

Now, I didn’t upgrade my phone because I wanted a new camera to photograph my work, but it happened to be a huge bonus.  I tested it out today in less than stellar conditions and the results were so much better than even optimal condition results with my old phone.  I have a small cache of projects I’ve been waiting to share and I’m thrilled that I should be able to start doing that this weekend.

I know that the creation of art in and of itself makes me an artist (even if the work is amateurish), but I’ve got to admit, it sometimes feels hard calling myself that when I share my work so infrequently, and especially when my shared work looks so much less proficient than it is — I have a long way to go, but I’ve come a long way as well, and I want people to be able to see my progress accurately.

Anyway, I am excited to share some actually good quality photos of my work in the coming weeks.

Blog Challenges 2019 · creativity · General Update · Life Updates · Personal · Uncategorized

Abandoning Inktober and OctPoWriMo

lifeupdateSo, both OctPoWriMo and Inktober were a bust, but for once, I’m not beating myself up about it.  Why?  Because for once in my life, I felt like the challenges were holding me down more than they were lifting me up.

I started doing art and writing challenges because I felt like I never had enough ideas, or because I couldn’t motivate myself to get started on a personal project, and events like OctPo, NaPoWriMo, NaNoWriMo, and Inktober gave me a structure and a deadline and generally held me accountable in very regimented ways.

But lately, I’ve noticed that while I’m still not the most consistent artist or writer (um, month long hiatus on this blog, hello?  This is not a surprise to anyone), I have nonetheless become a persistent artist and writer.  When I’m not faced with the frenetic pace of a work-a-day challenge, I’ve still, nonetheless, seen more follow-through in my efforts recently than I ever have before.

I am, currently, for example, working on two sketches (near completion) that I intend to watercolor (with two more still being conceptualized), and a piece of upcycled art from pieces of a broken, vintage ashtray stand, and I’m readying myself to power through three incomplete pieces of fanfic for NaNoWriMo this year (yeah, three different pieces, what can I say?  I’m a Rebel at heart).

And the best part?  I’m excited about these projects.  I get psyched up to work on them.  During the week and a half I tried to power through my two challenges, not only did I feel stressed about the pressure of completing a work-a-day, but I felt like it was infringing on time that could be spent doing creative work I was actually invested in.  I was starting to resent the challenges; they weren’t giving me motivation, or inspiration, or structure; they weren’t giving me anything.  In fact it felt like they were actively taking pleasure and enjoyment away from me.  Enthusiasm for art drained from me entirely the minute it became an obligation imposed on my by some external force.

How wild is that?  How eagerly my brain will latch onto a challenge when it’s not actively invested in anything else, and how vehemently it will reject it the moment that challenge conflicts with it’s own desires and ambitions.

Man, my brain is a fickle bitch.  God bless, eh?

Does this mean I’m giving up on challenges.  Oh, hell no.  I love the idea of having timed, themed challenges; but I think I need to become more attuned to what I really want to accomplish creatively and how any given challenge might help with that.  For instance, I already said I plan on doing NaNoWriMo — because I’m gung-ho to finish up several fanfics, and the atmosphere and camaraderie of NaNoWriMo might actually help with that.  I wouldn’t, for instance, try to do NaBloPoMo next month, because every night, when I sat down and spent my scant free time being forced to pen a blog entry, I’d be thinking of the fanfic I was not currently writing.  The fanfic is the project that is currently fueling an internal creative fire, and rather than risk extinguishing it in order to say Hey, I Did a Thing (I already know I can Do the Thing.  I’ve done it the last two years), I’m going to fan that flame for as long as I can conceivable keep it alive.

I hope to have a few (painted) works completed prior to November first to share with you all.  Hope you’re all finding as much joy in creating (be it within the confines of a challenge or not) as I am at the moment.

Adventures of the Everyday · creativity · Personal

Rock and Roll Dreams¹

adventures of the everyday

My son has always been into music.  I sang to him in utero endlessly; traditional lullabies, TV theme songs, Night Vale weather reports, musical theatre standards.  He came out with an innate sense of rhythm (unlike his father or I) and an eclectic musical taste.

In the last year or two, he has become obsessed with “writing” his own songs, and has recently formed his own band – Fire on the Loose – whose members include, at any given time, himself and any adult he can rope into it (his Grandpapa seems to be a favorite).

I’ve got no musical inclination – I love music, but I have no innate talent, and don’t have the ability to juggle the pursuit in tandem with my art, writing, and language learning – but I try to encourage Bear as much as I can.  He has cymbals, maracas, triangles, recorders, tambourines, and a keyboard, and after an afternoon of playing an “writing” songs, he decided to make a poster for his band:
67569551_10156497754724352_1316584901322997760_oWritten independently by Bear, including spelling.  Honestly, I was impressed.

So of course, I shared my enthusiasm with Facebook, because in some ways, I am very much a Millennial Mom.  While most friends offered encouragement or amusement, my cousin decided to stir up repressed memories.

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We eventually coaxed from the depths of our collective consciousness that someone’s name was Sour Apple Spice, at which point I think we all had a painful, full-body shudder and decided to leave well enough alone.  Literally none of us could so much as pluck out a tune, and we had a band??  Come on.

But I came back to the conversation later, re-read it, and realized how much and how painfully I missed that time in my life.

Because we weren’t completely oblivious — we knew none of us could actually play music.  But what we could do was come up with a band name, write song lyrics, put together costumes and personas, create posters and back stories — and that?  That is creating a narrative.

That is storytelling.

I started thinking about all the other geeky shit that we got up to during those summers when we were all in junior high and high school, and my cousin Nikki all but lived at our house: the videos we made on my uncle’s old camcorder, staging talk shows and performing skits to send to penpals; piecing together costumes from old clothes, thrift store finds, and vintage costume jewelry to stage photo shoots; keeping notebooks full of handwritten, free-form role playing games, some spilling over online and encompassing a dozen people, some just between the three of us; writing elaborate self-insert fanfics and illustrating them for each other in Painter.

Those summer nights, we were costume designers, choreographers, writers, artists, photographers, models.

It was the silliest shit in the world, but it was freeing, and fun, and undoubtedly an exercise in unbridled creativity.  It was something that, in a lot of ways, I would spend the rest of my life (thus far) chasing and never quite finding again.

I miss those nights.  I miss that time with my sister and my cousin, huddled sleeplessly in front of the TV, re-watching out latest raw footage, or passing our roleplay notebooks back and forth.  Those are nights I’m never going to get back.

But I see my son scribbling out his band poster, which is now hanging on his wall, and I am so, so happy that he still has so many of those nights to look forward to.


¹Literally apropos of nothing, but I was struggling to title this entry, finally stumbling on “Rock and Roll Dreams,” and then was fucking bowled over with a powerful wave of nostalgia for this song:

Adventures of the Everyday · creativity · Life Updates · Personal · Uncategorized

Happy Fall (I’m Back)

Happy Fall!.png

I know, I  know; it’s not, like, technically Fall yet.  I’ve been sitting on this post literally since September 3rd, the day my son started school, which felt more than ever like the irrevocable end of summer, but then my schedule went haywire, my brain short-circuited, and I more or less shut down.

Which sounds hella dramatic.  It wasn’t. I’ve just been utterly exhausted and overwhelmed, which meant something had to fall by the wayside, and my creative endeavors — basically everything not absolutely essential for the functioning of my household and family — came to a grinding halt.

At this point, it is, actually, almost Fall — the leaves are changing, the morning air has a chill to it, and the calendar is nearly in agreement with me on this point.  So why not wait?

Because I am ready now, and waiting longer is just going to delay the momentum.  

I have a schedule at work again — more over, I have the schedule I had anticipated going into this year (with one tweak which, truth be told, I’m happy about) — and am told it should be “permanent.”¹ For the first time in weeks, my husband has his normal weekly schedule again, which means he can do the mid-week chores and I can get my house back on track, and my son has settled into — and really loves — school.  I still have a growing backlog of ideas for paintings and creative projects that I have been aching to work on, and am finally feeling emotionally ready to get started on them.

In short, things have taken a turn, and it feels like things are changing.  I thought it was time to celebrate the transition.

For my fellow creative folks, please remember that October means OctPoWriMo or Inktober (though if you’re a glutton for punishment like me, it means both), and November of course brings with it NaNoWriMo, which I am definitely doing, though I’m unsure of what my project will be yet — I guess I should add “Preptober” to next month’s schedule, huh?

I am, as promised, back.  I hope you all have been well, and if not, well, I hope you find your turning point soon, too.


¹Nothing in my line of work is truly permanent.  I’ve been shuffled around from program to program over the last nearly-fifteen years, and while I’m not complaining (I appreciate the experiences), I can certainly speak with authority on the ephemeral nature of my job’s sense of “permanence.”

adhd · General Update · Uncategorized

I Will Be Back

lifeupdateSigh.  I had been doing so well with updates for a while, too.

I hope you’re all well.  I am, even though I’m not totally feeling like it right now.  I feel like I’ve just been barely keeping my head above water when it comes to personal responsibilities and self-care.  I feel like the return to a regular schedule on Monday will help, but holding on until then has been hard.

But I have updates; I’ve been working on a series of watercolor that I hope to show you all soon, and have two series of acrylic paintings that I’m aching to start on, but know I’m not in the right frame of mind to do so just yet (I’ll either be hypercritical or just rush through them for the sake of having completed something, neither of which are things I want to do).  I’ve also got some general life updates and some projects I’m excited about unrelated to painting.

For those of you with kids or who work with kids (or both, like myself), I hope the transition back to school has been smooth.  Bear starts K1 on September 3rd, and I’m already having anxiety dreams about it (I say “already.”  I am genuinely shocked I haven’t been having recurring nightmares since the day we got him registered, honestly).

Life is good, though it’s hard to see it through the fog in my brain right now.  Hopefully that’ll clear soon.  I’m looking forward to returning with something to show you all, with something I’m proud of.

Adventures of the Everyday · Uncategorized

Travel and FOMO

adventures of the everydayMy sibling-in-law — aged 23 — spent the day here on Sunday visting with my son/their nephew for the last time before moving to Sweden for (at minimum) three months.

I’ve got all sorts of feelings about this.

Not in the terms that people are probably thinking; I genuinely like my sib-in-law, but between the age gap, distance, and other factors, we aren’t close.  We get on well when we hang out, but the frequency with which that happens is relatively rare, and when it does happen, it’s really them hanging out with Bear (which, fair; he’s a pretty cool kid).  But missing them while they are on their journey isn’t really an issue; we’d probably see them maybe twice in the intervening time.

It’s more that I’m wracked with a near debilitating case of FOMO.

I don’t even want to go to Sweden.  Like, don’t get me wrong, it’s probably a lovely place, but it’s not on my bucket list, nor do I have any particular connection tot he locale or the culture to fuel my desire to visit it.  It’s the concept of travel in general.  It’s the freedom inherent in travel that I envy.

I didn’t have much in the way of a young adulthood.  Between my mother’s over-protectiveness and need to micro-manage, my own mental illness/anxiety, and the fact that we were barely keeping our head above the water financially, travel was something that was never, ever on the table for me.  The furthest I ever went was to New Hampshire — and ten minute ride over the border — to take advantage of the lack of sales tax.  When I hit college and my dreams of studying abroad were dashed for financial reasons, I fought tooth-and-nail for the few opportunities that arose to do anything akin to travelling.  I made friends with a girl from New York my Senior year, and after crimping and saving and a number of screaming matches with my mother, finally managed to make a couple of trips to Westchester over breaks and long weekends.  That would be the totality of my travel experience until I got married.

In the intervening years since, it’s gotten a little better; I’ve been to Maine and Vermont, Florida multiple times, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Quebec, and Montreal.  But in the intervening years, despite shaking off the shackles of my over-bearing mother, I now have a job, a kid, and a mortgage.  I’ve never quite been able to pull my head above water financially, at least with regards to travel.

I get restless easily.  I, like my husband, thrive on schedules and routines, but I also love deviation from the norm, provided it’s self-directed and desired; I balk at change thrust upon me, but will gladly throw myself into something new should the prospect appeal to me.  Being told that there are Things to Be Done and that those same things are Things I will Never Have the Chance to Do Them in the same breath is heart-breaking.  Knowing that the stories so many of my friends tell of their exploits — be they student exchange trips, AmeriCorp or PeaceCorp service, backpacking trips as college kids, or luxury resort-hopping as adults — are things that are always going to be aspirational for me, without the prospect of fulfillment, kills me.

There’s freedom in travel, but not everyone has the freedom to travel.  My husband works a job where securing time off is difficult, and his time off is limited.  We need to travel someplace child-friendly, or else make sure we can find long-term babysitting for our son, and round-trip domestic flights alone often cost nearly half a month’s income (and that’s just the flight).  It’s not that we can Never, Ever Travel Ever, it’s that at the end of the day, it’s more work.  It’s months and months of saving and sacrificing, planning and prioritizing, and even then, our options are limited by when we can secure time off, how much we can afford to take, and how quickly we think we can recover our losses.

So when I see friends and family — and it’s been happening more and more frequently lately — talk about booking flights and resorts and trips and cruises, with what (to me) is startling frequency, it hurts. Just a little.  And just a little more each time.

I am happy for them; for my sib-in-law, for my friends and family.  I just wish it was something I could be a part of.