Choosing Self-Improvement Over Self-Loathing

adventures of the everydayI am not an artist.

I mean, please; I don’t want people messaging me or commenting and being like, “if you create art, you’re an artist!”  I support that whole-heartedly.  But there are people who create art on a whim, for fun and personal enjoyment, and then there are people who have studied art for years and understand it on a technical level.

These people may both, validly, identify as artists, but they come at art from wholly different backgrounds and perspectives.  One of them applies to me; the other does not.

I’ve discovered — or rediscovered, rather — in the last few years that I really like painting.  On the one hand, it can be fun and relaxing, and on the other it can be challenging and surprising.  I like that versatility; it ensures that it’s never boring.

It also ensures that as my ambition grows, so, potentially can my frustration.

This week, I decided to paint portraits using a photo reference with the intention of being photo-faithful (I won’t say photo-realistic (that’s aiming way too high), but I want the colors and values to hold true).  This means instead of the fantastic skin colors most of my paintings have (of my last four portraits, three have had blue or green skin), I’m attempting to paint relatively true to life (Caucasian) skin.

I hadn’t anticipated how challenging form shadows on skin would be.

My instinct when faced with a challenge is, unfortunately, to quit.  To pack it all in, say “fuck it, guess I suck,” and abandon the project, but not before having a small mental meltdown — usually a messy crying jag followed by lethargy and self-loathing.

No, this isn’t healthy, and no, I’m not proud of it (but it’s all part of being neurodivergent).  So I’m working hard to change my reactions.

It’s slow going.

Today, for instance, I am in a bad place, mentally — anxiety is riding high, I am feeling anxious and overwhelmed with my house work, the tentative nature of my work assignment in September, GISH on Saturday, and the struggles I’ve been having with my painting.  I wish I was one of those people who could compartmentalize their entire life, so that the emotions and anxiety afflicting them in one area doesn’t bleed over to the others, and I’ve more or less got that mastered when it comes to work — my work necessitates I absolutely throw myself into it, so I rarely have time or breathing room to perseverate on my personal problems, but once I’m at home and able to kind of unmask, I just lose it.  Absolutely everything bubbles to the surface and the worries and anxieties from every aspect of life just leech into and infect one another.

Usually, I sink into a shame spiral.  And honestly, I can’t promise I won’t, because I feel it pulling at me.  I really, really just want to curl up and cry and not touch a paintbrush (or a vacuum, or a mop, or another person) again, ever, for all of eternity.  But I’m fighting that urge, this time.

As I was saying, I am working on a painting that I am excited about, that is both something I’m hyped about because of the subject matter, because it’s my first time fully working off a photo-reference, because it’s the first time I’m painting something with a ready-made audience.  I’m already putting a lot of pressure on myself with this project.  And then, like I said,  I had to do something I’ve not really done — paint form shadow on truish-to-life Caucasian skin.

And holy hell, was it hard.  I repainted literally at least fourteen time, until it was a caked on, crusty mess.  I went in with a wet wash, went in with thick strokes, went in with blocks of color, went in feathering colors as I went.  I couldn’t make it work.  The more desperately I tried to make it work, the more impatient I became, and the sloppier my efforts were.

Finally I had to stop and step back.

Instead of throwing my canvas in the trash, I washed it (I know, weird?  But I’ve done it before; it got all the caked on acrylic off and still left the outline and a surprising amount of the initial wet wash, so I don’t have to start totally from scratch), and put it aside to dry.

And then I went online and Googled how to create form shadows with acryllic.

What??? Crazy, right?  I problem-solved.  Instead of just blasting ahead or giving up entirely, I admitted I didn’t know something, and took productive steps toward remedying that problem.  Holy shit, guys, did you know that you’re supposed to use a color complementary to your base to create a natural form shadow?  Like, if you’re painting with yellows, your shadows should be, like, purples?  What?  Why did no one tell me??  I don’t remember that in studio class when I was still taking art in school, just a bunch of eighteen-year-olds, still creating shadows with grays and blacks.  Why was this not taught to me?

That’s really the question, though, isn’t it?

I need to be gentler with myself.  I need to be less scornful of myself when I realize I can’t/don’t know how to do something, and instead of being self-loathing and beating myself up for not knowing, I should remember, well, I was never told.  Or to put at least some of the onus on my shoulders, I never asked.  But I was never expected to just “know.”  I am insanely lucky to live in a time when, now that I know there is a gap in my knowledge or skill, I have nearly unlimited resources to draw from and fill that gap.

The canvas is drying in the living room as I type this.  I don’t know that I’ll be prepared to tackle it in the morning (too much else still weighing on my mind), but there’s still more research to be done, anyway.  I also need to remember, learning and planning in still doing; it still counts.  It’s still work.

“From Eden,” Hozier

artHardly a breakthrough musical discovery, the song that I’ve found myself repeatedly listening to this week is five years old and has 45M views on YouTube, but I will be honest, I never heard people talking it up until recently.

I don’t listen to the radio — we tune into NPR when we turn the radio on at all, and besides that it’s all old digital music we’ve accumulated through the years or else podcasts — so I rely on places like the hive-mind over at Tumblr to point me in the direction of songs I might like or artists I might be interested in.  In the last few weeks, the Ineffable Husbands fandom has taken a particular shine to Hozier (I don’t blame them) and in particular the song “From Eden.”

I’ve listened to it a lot in the last few days, along with some of Hozier’s other stuff¹, and have to wonder — as much as I absolutely adore “Take Me to Church” — why I haven’t (until very recently) heard more people talking about more of his stuff?

Babe, there’s something tragic about you
Something so magic about you
Don’t you agree?

Babe, there’s something lonesome about you
Something so wholesome about you
Get closer to me

No tight side, no rolling eyes, no irony
No ‘who cares’, no vacant stares, no time for me
Honey you’re familiar like my mirror years ago
Idealism sits prison, chivalry fell on it’s sword
Innocence died screaming, honey ask me I should know
I slithered here from Eden just to sit outside your door

Babe, there’s something wretched about this
Something so precious about this
Oh what a sin

To the strand a picnic plan for you and me
A rope in hand for your other man to hang from a tree

Honey you’re familiar like my mirror years ago
Idealism sits in prison, chivalry fell on it’s sword
Innocents died screaming, honey ask me I should know
I slithered here from Eden just to sit outside your door

Honey you’re familiar like my mirror years ago
Idealism sits in prison, chivalry fell on it’s sword
Innocence died screaming, honey ask me I should know
I slithered here from Eden just to hide outside your door



¹ 
Speaking of “other songs,” does “Angel Of Small Death And The Codeine Scene” give anyone else serious Hadestown vibes, or is it just me?

adventures of the everydayMy wedding anniversary was last week, on the 17th — nine years married, can you believe?  Not bad for the couple who each thought they were never gonna get married, and never had any real ambition to do so.  Our marriage was very much of the, “this feels right for our situation” variety, rather than “marriage is a de facto life goal, so we gotta do it” variety.

I give my husband a lot of shit — mostly playfully, mostly jokingly — and this week has been no exception.  I’d been working on a painting that overall turned out really well, but with which I had a hell of a rough patch earlier this week.  It’s another portrait of sorts, and noses and midlines continue to be the bane of my existence (hence why I continue to paint them, over and over again).¹

I have a habit of talking, half to myself and half to whoever is un/fortunate enough to be present during my diatribes, while I work on a piece.  This meant that during the hours which I was working, my husband had to listen to what probably amounted to a litany of, “is this the color I was using?  Yeah, ok.  What would happen if I — oh, there we go, that’s pretty.  Should I do an extra layer of highlights?  Ooh, I should have put a wash down before I started this detail.  Does this look bad?  How does this look?  Andy?  Andy???”

Now, I get that given my penchant for rambling mostly to myself, it doesn’t bother me that he’s not poised to answer my every beck and call when I eventually address him directly; like, if I had to actively listen to someone go on the kind of tangents I do on the off-chance that maybe they’ll actually try to engage me, I’d go bonkers.  Like, it would just literally be impossible to get anything done, because I wouldn’t have the mental time and space to focus on anything except their tirades.  So it’s not that he isn’t automatically in active listening mode that bothered me.  It is, as I often tell him, that he “doesn’t care.”

And he doesn’t.  Like, he doesn’t care about painting.  At all.  And yes, it sometimes annoys me.  It’s sometimes disheartening that I can’t really have a meaningful conversation about something that has caught my interest with one of the most important people in my life.  And I’m willing to bet their are a lot of people who feel the same way about their partners’ interest — or lack there of — in their hobbies.

And honestly, I am going to continue to stand up and assert that I would like for him to exhibit a little more interest in my hobby, at least to the point of giving me honest feedback when I ask him for it, or giving me a candid opinion (because they whole, “I don’t know, I don’t know art” does not cut it; like, bitch, I know you’re not an artist, I live with you.  I’m still asking your opinion as my husband.  I have “Art” friends to get “art” opinions from if and when I need them).

But.  But but but.  I am also going to stand up and assert that I, and probably a lot of people, need to really examine the ways our partners interact with our passions and assess whether it’s really lack of support or lack of interest, because while one might be nice, the other is absolutely essential.

Much as I’d love for him to be interested in painting, or crafting, or art, he doesn’t owe me interest in any particular subject, and honestly, fair.  Because it’s not like I go out of my way to learn the ins and outs and intricacies of any of his games (video or tabletop), and I show about as much overall interest in his games themselves as he shows in my art (the real difference being that he doesn’t reach out and try to talk to me about his games with nearly as much ferventness or frequency as I do my art).

But while he show no interest in art, he show interest in my interest in art.  He shows support.

He comes home from the store with interestingly sized canvases for me.  He randomly stocks up on sketch books and notebooks when he goes out to do the grocery shopping.  He walks with me through galleries that I know are snorefests for him.  He points out cool colored paints that he thinks I’d like to experiment with.  He spends inordinate time holding various shopping baskets for me while I comb through the shelves in any craft aisle we go through.  When I’m on the fence about an art-related expense, he tells me to go for it, and more than once when I’ve ruled it as too much, he’s gone out after me and made the purchase himself.  

He doesn’t care that I came up with a new acryllic technique, except for the fact that I’m pleased with myself.  He doesn’t care that, hey, I finally painted a nose I’m happy with, save for the fact that I’m happy.

Yeah, I’d like him to actually be into the art.  But I can’t force him to love what I love.  I don’t intimately enjoy all of his hobbies, and he doesn’t expect me to, so it’s unfair to ask him to feign that enjoyment for me.

But he cares that I care.  He’s happy that I’m happy, and encourages me to pursue the hobbies that foster that happiness.

That’s a pretty good rule in a marriage, I think.  That’s pretty fucking important.


¹ “Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at something.” –Jake, Adventure Time (look,  in this house, we take in wisdom where we find it).  I figure the more I force myself to paint something I suck at (instead of avoiding it, as is my instinct), I might actually improve my technique and grow from it.  Wild, right?

Friyay!

friyay positivityHuzzah!  Another week down.  I felt so, so much better this week overall, even though both worksites were unusually hot (like, I know we’re going through a heat wave, but when did a/c stop being, like, a thing?)  I think my body has finally readjusted to getting up and actually having to get up and leave the house at 6:30 am, instead of plopping down in front of Tumblr at 9:00 am and eating pretzel dogs all day.

So, what are some of the shareable highlights of the week??

To Listen To

I’m in Queen fandom anyway, and my other primary fandom recently is also pretty Queen-centric; plus I’m obsessed with a capella, so it was only a matter of time before I stumbled upon this medley.  I really enjoy all of Peter’s stuff, and this was a special treat.

BONUS:

“DO MOVIES!”  My son and I got a kick out of this one, as well  (I had to tell him what literally all the movies were, but he was into it).

To Watch

Queer Eye Season 4 premieres today! You can bet your ass I will be binging it this weekend.

To Buy/Get Hype About

Where are all my fall fiends — all the people who are obsessed with autumn??  Because Dollar Tree is pushing fall decor and a lot of it is hella cute and I need to go shopping soon.

To Read

The Only Heaven, by fellowshipofthefandoms (Good Omens).  This fic is what I consider a very unique take on a particular headcanon.  It’s stylistically unique and does interesting and beautiful things with language (and pronouns, of all things).

What’s listed you up this week?

Mount Moon, “You Don’t Know”

art.pngSo, I had to go and make a graphic explicitly for those moments when I encounter, see, hear, or watch something that I want to share solely because it speaks to me on some level, but not necessarily in a way that… lifts me up (i.e., something I would save for Friyay posts).  This is the first post of its kind, but I don’t foresee it being anywhere close to it’s last.

I first encountered this song through Welcome to Night Vale, but I return to it with fair frequency, and on more reflective/melancholy days, I relate to it more closely than I would necessarily like to.  I’m in a pretty good mood at the moment, but I listened to it on a whim this morning and thought now was as good a time as any to share it.

There once was a time that we knew damn well we’d be wise beyond our years
Now we’re old and it just seems we’re getting dumber
There once was a rhyme that would bring peacefulness to both of our ears
But this music lets us know that we’re not getting any younger

My mother would not be proud of my mouth
But I can’t get a sentence out without some sacrilege or sounding like a sailor
Every time I go home for the holidays and tell her how it’s been, the look on her face says it’s obvious I have failed her

But you don’t know
No, you can’t go where I’ve been
And I don’t know
No, I’ll never get where I’m going

And every day I hear somebody say something like
“Yeah, I just got back from China backpacking and giving food to children”
I have never strayed too far away from this east coast where I remain
In my heart I am so envious I could kill them

And I am running out of time to do the things I used to say that I
Was put on this earth to do by God in His heaven
Seems that I believed in something then
Dear lord, what happened to my head?
Now the days go by so fast I have no time to let ’em sink in

But you don’t know
No, you can’t go where I’ve been
And I don’t know
No, I’ll never get where I’m going
And you don’t know
No, you can’t go where I’ve been
And I don’t know
No, I’ll never get where I’m going

Two Weeks to Go Time: GISH 2019

lifeupdateI am having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that we are two weeks to the day out from GISH 2019.  If you don’t know what GISH is, I’ll embed one of their official videos that can help explain it (I’d also strongly recommend visiting the website).

I’ve done GISH every year since 2012, heading up my own team (Team AllHailtheGlowCloud) since 2014.  We have about nine recurring members this year, two new-to-us members, and about two days left to recruit the remaining four.  I’m going a little crazy trying to scout social media for people who still need a team, which is my fault (sat on it for too long; really should have started recruiting a month ago).

GISH is always an interesting and exciting time, if more than a little emotionally exhausting and frustrating.  Being part of an international team — even one with great members, like mine (luckily) has always been — means I have very little local support for tasks.  My husband tries to be supportive, but has limited time because he works much longer hours than me; I have limited transportation for location specific tasks, since I don’t drive (and my husband has the car at work most of the time anyway); and while I have a number of acquaintances, I have very few friends to augment any group tasks.

So each year is, for better or worse, a great exercise in creativity and resourcefulness, but also a harsh reminder of exactly what my limitations are.

While I’m not always able to produce a lot during GISH, I find myself always impressed with the efforts of my team mates.  And, okay, I guess if I’m being totally honest, some of my own efforts wind up turning out better than I expect — and I have definitely grown and improved from year to year.  I’ve pulled out a few pieces of work I’m incredibly proud of on an art and writing front (sort of wish there were more writing tasks, actually), and with the advent of the GISH app and the allowing of some collaboration between teams (and former GISHers not currently participating), I’m hopeful that I might actually be able to do some of the group items this year.

Either way, this is going to be a fun two weeks of (hopefully successful) recruiting, planning, and team-building.

And hey, if you are someone looking for a GISH team, we still have (as of this posting) four spaces left.  Please reach out!  We’d love to have you.

Here is a small sample of past submissions, mostly of some of the art we’ve created for GISHes in the past; and who knows, I may venture further down memory lane in the coming weeks with more photos and videos:

 

Friyay!

friyay positivity.pngWell, hello Friday.  Today is the first day of my weekend, and I am antsy to go and start some chores so this evening and the next two days can be relaxing and creatively productive.  I’m also excited to resume my Friyay posts, and give you a small sampling of some things that have made me happy this week.

To Try

I’ve often though about decorating some glass Dollar Tree vases, but not really considered polymer as a viable medium with which to do it.  So when I saw this tutorial on my timeline, I was thrilled.  I’m looking forward to designing something (the leaves are nice, but it can be literally anything) and giving it a shot in the coming weeks.

To Watch/Get Hype About

So I don’t know who else is a Steven Universe fan, but I am a huge SU fan and I am so excited for the movie (still a little salty that Teen Titans GO got a theatrical release and SU is relegated to TV, but you know what?  Let’s not dwell, right?)  This is kind of a silly trailer, but it makes me happy some stuff is finally getting released about the movie, and with San Diego Comic Con coming up in the next couple of weeks, I’m hoping more info and more sneak peaks will be available soon.

To Read

(Two very different things.)

Poetry:  “Woman with Button Earrings,” by Lily Hicks (Age 14). Rattle is my go-to poetry source, and I love when they feature and profile young poets. This poem in particular is very much my aesthetic — and was, even more so, as a teenager — and evokes the kind of imagery and atmosphere that I longed to be able to produce myself at 14, and rarely could.

Fanfic:  “Archangel of Healing,” by Nnm (Good Omens).  Ugh, my fucking heart.  I will consume, at any time of the day or night, literally anything in the “Crowley was Raphael Before He Fell” tag, and this one was recommended by Shippers Guide to the Galaxy, and is well worth the read.

What’s lifted you up this week?