February Wrap-Up

Wait, I…. didn’t I just do one of these? I was a little less than a week late getting my January write-up out, and February is a short month — two facts, both of which I was aware of, but — holy hell, that went fast.

February was sadly not especially productive, art-wise. I started a few sketches that I’m going to turn into more finished pieces. I think there are four of them total, three of which I’ve posted as WIPs on social media:

The dandelion eyes one is what I’m currently working on digitally painting, and has been the bane of my existence for over a week. I was experimenting with different kinds of shading on it, none of which were turning out right. I’m not saying it was a waste, because I definitely learned some things about how to shade skin, and about how I, stylistically, may want to utilize these techniques (or not) from piece to piece. So, it was definitely a worthwhile experiment, but in the end I wound up scrapping two layers of shading that took, all told, probably about eight hours, and that unquestionably does something to your morale, to see that work go down the drain (even if the skills you learned can be used elsewhere later).

To be honest, most of my brain space this month was taken up trying to schedule my COVID vaccination! My district let me know that because of my position in specialized programming, I qualified to get vaccinated — I just need to set up an appointment. Which, if you’ve attempted it yet, is far, far easier said than done. Massachusetts has a fair number of vaccinations sites, including one about a mile from my house, which was exciting to me until I saw that it was booked literally through the next phase of vaccinations. There were waiting lists at the two next-closest locations, and the openings for the MassVax cites went as quickly as they showed up — a slot would open at Fenway when I refreshed the vaxfinder page, saying it was updated “just now,” and by the time I clicked through, they were booked solid again. I’d get notice of a dozen openings at the Doubletree, and when midway through registering, was told someone got there quicker.

There were tears, I’m not going to lie.

This past Tuesday, I was waiting to start a round of consultations I do twice a week just before 10 am. I was antsy and looked at the clock; I had about a half hour before I was meeting with anyone. So, almost idly, I loaded up the VaxFinder.

There were 1100 slots just opened at Gillette Stadium. For a Saturday.

I leapt on that so fast, I swear to God, I think I got literal fucking whiplash.

By the time I was finished booking — a process that took maybe five, six minutes? — they were booked up again.

But I got it. I made it. I got my first dose of the Moderna vaccine yesterday, February 27th, at 11:30 am.

My next dose is March 27th, also a Saturday, and about a week before my wife should be qualified to get her own first dose. I’m ecstatic. I know this isn’t the end — this is the beginning of a slow re-opening of our lives. We will be wearing masks for the foreseeable future (I am a-ok with that), we will still be limiting our social circle and checking in with folks before we go to see them, but there will be a little more space to — literally and figuratively — breathe.

The EMT giving me my shot yesterday (an actually really cute young thing named Sean): Is this your first dose?
Me: Yup!
Him, throwing his arms up in a celebratory gesture: Such an exciting day!

It really, really was.

Here’s to a more productive March.

Stay safe and sane. And if you can — get vaccinated. It feel so good to breathe again.

SkillShare vs. Subscription Boxes

Yesterday, I double-masked and set foot in my gym for the first time in a yea- uhh, in likely significantly more than a year to cancel my membership. I want to say it was because “fuck you, diet culture,” but really it was just because it was a money sink and I hadn’t been going regularly for a long time before COVID, and I certainly wasn’t going to be going back any time soon.

(But also, seriously, fuck diet culture; but also also, seriously, gyms do not necessarily equal “diet culture.” I always felt amazing after working out. But still — COVID. I’d rather spend the money elsewhere and try to develop a home workout).

But then the question was, where to direct the suddenly liberated $23/month that has been going towards my gym membership? I had considered art supply subscription boxes, because I figured it would eliminate the choice paralysis when it came to figuring out what art supplies to buy, but then came the choice paralysis over what goddamn art subscription box to subscribe to — and frankly, none of them seemed to suit both my needs and my budget (I really wanted to keep whatever I wound up subscribing to to the cost of the gym or less).

So, on a whim, I signed up for Skillshare.

I’m not sold on it yet, just to be clear. It fits the criteria in that it’s less than the cost of my gym membership ($18/month) and it, like the subscription boxes that I had considered, will hopefully help encourage me creatively, but so far I have mixed feelings about it. The classes I’ve seen so far are good quality videos, with some genuinely good advice, but because everything is asynchrounous and there is seemingly no guarantee of engagement (though there is the opportunity for engagement, both with the instructor and amongst the students) I feel like I might, once again, come up against my own lack of motivation and not engage as I should with the service. That’s on me, not them, but if it proves true, it still does not a good match make.

I have found a few classes that are promising; I just finished a short one on making clay earrings that actually spurred me to take a day and make some goddamn clay earrings, so that was worthwhile:

And I’ve been watching through another class about pencil portraits which, not going to lie, is hella interesting and helpful. It’s a matter of finding time and motivation to go back and watch while trying to also follow along, but I can already tell this class could be game-changing for me — if I make the effort.

There are also a number of poetry courses (I did say I wanted to get back into writing it), a ton of other art and drawing classes, singing and voice classes, and even an incredibly thorough ASL course (though, I really love LifePrint, and honestly can’t imagine going anywhere else if I decided to try to get back into sign language. Still, the point about the breadth of subjects covered still stands).

I guess my point it, it feels like there’s genuinely a lot to experience, but I don’t know how well I trust myself to go out and… experience it.

That being said, if anyone is a Skillshare member (and creative), what have been your favorite classes? Have you engaged meaningfully with the instructors or other students? And if anyone has a favorite subscription box (of any kind! I have a lot of other loves besides art), tell me that, too! I still haven’t come to a final decision about this, and want options.

I’ve spent the morning finishing and cleaning up my piece for The Fat Folks Tarot Project, and am hoping to get in some more drawing today. I finally, finally, finally, after days of saying I would, started my next two drawings, and I’d like to complete the pencil sketches and get them scanned by tonight.

I have some other exciting news — not art-related, just life-related — but I don’t want to share it yet just in the off-chance it doesn’t work out, but I am supremely hopeful.

Take care of yourselves, and stay safe.

A Bit of a Bland (and late) Wrap-Up

Life… uh, has been tricky lately.

I hesitate to say “bad,” because I continue to be incredibly lucky and incredibly privelleged in the midst of a lot of misfortune and chaos, but that doesn’t mean that things have been sunshine and cupcakes. There’s been a lot of crying and not much sleeping the last few days — and while tears and insomnia are no strangers to me even in Normal Time, it’s been accompanied by me sort of “giving up” on a lot of things, like attempts to eat well or clean my house. I’m sure it’s just another slump, since I’m not bottoming out with sadness, I just feel… worn out.

All this to say, my planned January Wrap-up did not happen as scheduled because I couldn’t motivate myself to both photograph and/or upload every work, and then to sit in front of the computer and string words together. I do want to update as to what I did, though, and what some of the upcoming little projects are, as well as where to track my progress in something like “real time,” but let’s get to all of that in its time.

So, despite what might have been COVID burnout, seasonal depression, or my typical anxiety, in January I managed to finish:

  1. Canvas board painting (acrylic) of a Cthulu-esque monster emerging from a red door, suspended in the air above a forest clearing.
  2. Canvas board acrylic of a series of concentric eyes, painted in very stark red, yellow, black, and white (this was the, “stop climbing the damn walls” painting I did on January 6th, after the incident at the Capitol)
  3. Canvas board acrylic of a very wholesome YouTuber before he was a wholesome YouTuber (it’s a long story, but it feels weird even having painted this one, so I don’t know if I will ultimately share it, even though it came out pretty well).
  4. Digital painting of a crying woman holding a clay bowl of her own tears as they nourish some lush foliage
  5. Digital painting of a women (with a bird’s beak) with a toucan perched on her finger
  6. My Tarot project! (though I can’t share it yet)
  7. Sketchbook acrylic of my wife
  8. Sketchbook prismacolor (and gesso) of a purple dahlia
  9. Three ATCs
  10. Five of ten nesting dolls (the remaining five put put me over the edge, so I’m not touching them for a while)

For this month, I have already started, let’s see… four projects in my sketchbook, one digitally, and I’ve taken my own reference photos for another one. So, if nothing else, I am making things, and honestly the making things helps. Like, a lot.

All of the January work will eventually find it’s way to my DeviantArt, and if you are interested in WIP shots of anything and everything I’m working on (and lower quality pics of finished projects than what winds up on DeviantArt), you can also follow my art Instagram at rarely.tidy.art.

I hope you are all finding it in yourself to continue creating — even if it’s not “good,” even if it’s not up to your standards, even if it’s just doodled marginalia or scraps of poetry that will otherwise never see the light of day. Keep moving.

I am going to have some coffee before a string of about a half dozen meetings I have starting just before 10. I’m grateful for the weekend and for more time to make.

Take care of yourselves, and stay safe and sane.

Arisia

It’s Arisia weekend. I’ve written about Arisia a lot over the lifespan of this blog, though of course only the last iteration, from last January, is still around. Arisia is a general interest geek/fan convention with a focus on speculative fiction and media (though it’s also about art, and costuming, and history, and science, and martial arts, and steampunk, and swordfighting and robotics and theatre and dance…)

It’s been the highlight of my year for nearly a decade; four days where I get to stay in Boston — one of my favorite places — with a few thousand other people with similar interests, where I get to hang out with my brother (who regularly works at the con), where I can introduce my son to and encouarge him in his own nerdy interests and endeavors, where I can talk about and listen to others talking about my interests and passions, where I can be around artists and makers and creators and just sort of exist among people with who I feel comfortable. Some cons I am very social, some cons I am only incidentally social, but I always come back from Arisia feeling excited and rejunevated and inspired.

Needless to say, Arisia is not happening this traditional sense this year. Which is hard. At a time where I feel the need to escape and “get away” the most, I’m absolutely unable to. And — I’ve said this on Twitter already — don’t mistake me, it was absolutely, 1000% the right call. No one should be attending or hosting a convention right now. But it still hurts. It’s still a major fucking bummer, and I think I’m within my right to be bummed out by the situation even though I understand it’s necessity.

So this year we went virtual. It’s… different. It’s impressive how, between the convention’s interface, the zoom panels, and the Discord, they’ve made it relatively immersive and have replicated, as closely as they can in a virtual domain, the feeling of the convention. I’ve really enjoyed the panels I’ve attended so far, and despite all odds, I’ve managed to capture a little bit of that excited, creative spark, in spite of the situation.

It’s not exactly the same, of course; my brother isn’t here, for instance. He usually works security for the convention, and this weekend is generally the only one the entire year where I can guarantee some time with him, and neither is my mother. Bear isn’t running through the hallways doing karate and donning hand-made bat wings and a steampunk fascinator. There are no endless lines at Starbucks, or wandering the lobby barefoot at 1 am, or grabbing curry fries to go at MJ O’Connors before hitting the Masquerade. No sketching in the backrow while I wait for the Dr Horrible Shadowcast to get things set up.

Oh, man. I’m making myself sad. Suffice it to say, it’s not the same. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. This has been (hell, this is; it’s not over until tomorrow at like 4) a great virtual convention.

I just missing… going place, you know. Doing things.

But for even this virtual con to make me excited to make? To make me eager to create more? That’s something. Come on. That’s got to count for something.

Arisia, I can’t wait to be back in person in 2022.

Take care of yourselves, everyone.

Note

Anxiety riding high, for reasons which should be obvious to anyone who has taken even the most passing glance at the news. Or, you know, has been living in the US for the last four years.

I have been bombarded with news and all manner of takes, and these are important things to pay attention to and talk about and take action on.

But not here. Because it’s important to have a space to retreat to when it becomes too much, too much, too much.

Not that anyone is turning to me little corner of the internet looking for hot takes, but I just want to assure people that my silence — on here — is not synonymous with complacency.

I just need someplace quiet to regroup.

Take care of yourselves.

Yearly Goals

New Year’s looks different in 2020, but less different than you’d think.

We were never ones for huge get-togethers or parties to ring in the new year. The last few years, it was dinner with a couple of friends, and then joining another small group (like, seven other people) for some games and drinks before heading home around 11 and watching Bob’s Burgers until we fell asleep. So while I wish I could play Balderdash with my Game Night crew, or have a glass of wine while watching The Twilight Zone or The Three Stooges with my folks and my brother for the fifty-millionth time, I’ll be okay doing the Zoom thing for (hopefully) one more major holiday.

The two things that I am keeping consistent, though, have been The Big Clean (ughhh, that felt so good), and goal-setting.

2020 was a weird year for obvious reasons, but on a more personal level, it was weird because the goals I was most certain I’d fail at were the ones that I made the most progress with. Practicing art and drawing and not abandoning works and projects just because they were initially imperfect or disappointing; sticking to things; putting myself out there creatively. I had some degree of success with all of those endeavor this year, which isn’t just cool progress on 2020 goals, it’s… huge progress for me as a person.

I’d like to keep up the momentum this year. My main goals for 2021 are:

  1. Keep going out for collaborative art projects. I need to be more proactive about being social and “networking” with the artists I’m working with, but this could yield good opportunities and growth for me.
  2. Consider gallery submissions again. My first submission went nowhere because it was literally a week before COVID shutdowns, but I’m a far better artist nine months down the line, and ready to try again.
  3. Start making and collecting ATCs (Artist Trading Cards)! These have fascinated me since, no joke, the late-90s, when I first heard of them, but I never really explored the whole concept. I’ve been looking into it recently, and it seems like a lot of fun!
  4. Make it a point to buy art (and art can include jewelry and clothing) that I genuinely love, not just mass manufactured pieces because they’re cheaper (note: sometimes I genuinely love the mass manufactured piece, and that’s ok! But the deciding factor should be whether or not I love it).
  5. Practice mindful eating and exercise. I’m not interested in getting “thin.” I’m not even interested in losing weight. But my cholesterol is through the roof, I’m pre-diabetic, and I’m hypertensive. I want to drink more water, listen to my body, eat cleaner foods (i.e., more lean proteins, fruits, and veggies, with an eye on cholesterol and glycemic index) and get in some enjoyable movement every day. Having a sedentary job and being on lockdown in a highly urban area with a young child means I have not gotten out of the house and gotten moving in a very, very long time.
  6. Practice digital painting more.
  7. Read more poetry, and start writing my own again. I want to be okay with the idea that a poem can take days or weeks to write, especially if the bulk of my creative energy is going elsewhere. But I miss poetry, and I’d like to touch base with it again.
  8. Be more organized and utilize the schedules and scaffolding I’m putting in place for myself. The check-lists are thorough, cleanly designed, and detailed. And I need to learn to use them.

Those are the big focuses. For all my long-term goals and ambitions, my DayZeroProject bucket list is a living document (which you can find here; feel free to follow!), but the goals listed above are priorities for the year.

What do you hope 2021 holds for you?

The Big Clean: Halfway Home

Yeah, halfway. Can you believe? I didn’t think I needed a room-by-room, play-by-play like I gave last year, so I opted out of it. I’m sure you’re all devastated.

The kitchen and both bathrooms are finished; today is my bedroom, and (if I’m making good time and feeling adventurous) Bear’s room (Bear’s room is officially scheduled for tomorrow, so if I don’t make it there today, no biggie; it’s basically a stretch goal, tbh). I count the two bathrooms as one because, honestly, both are very small, and one of them is technically a half-bath, so like — really, really small. But they are also the absolute least pleasant rooms to clean for obvious reasons, so knocking them both out in the same day and being done with it would likely have been the goal even if they were considerably larger.

The kitchen was the most time consuming room by far, because quarantine plus a whole lot of cabinets and drawers with not a whole lot of organization plus one person with an awful set of executive functioning skills equals absolute fucking chaos. The majority of clean time was cabinets, drawers, and the refrigerator (which, honestly, I don’t know that we’ve ever cleaned? And, hoo boy, was that patently obvious), but which was worth the effort, because damn if they don’t look amazing now. I legit keep opening the fridge just to admire it. It’s pathetic, maybe, but I will take my glimmers of joy where I can get them, and if you had seen the fridge in it’s before state, you too would be suitable impressed by its current state.

There are things, this time around, that I’m not doing; I’m not scrubbing down the walls, for one, and that’s probably the biggest change I’ve made. After last time (which was three years into living here) I realized there wasn’t such a significant change that it was was something that warranted being done every year, especially if we are consistent about dusting the walls as part of our weekly cleaning routine. Neither of us are smokers, we don’t burn a lot of things in the oven, etc. Aside from visible stains and marks (because we do have a kid, let’s be real), I didn’t touch the walls except to dust them. Let me tell you, it was a huge sanity-saver. I want to be thorough, but I also don’t want to waste my energy doing things that are unnecessary, especially this year, when my energy is so low in general. If I’m going to expend energy, I want to make it count. That energy can be put toward cleaning out my closet, or scrubbing the kitchen floor — something that actually needs to be done, and something I tend to shirk in the day-to-day.

Today is my bedroom, which is weirdly exciting. Since my wife started transitioning and collecting a shit ton of feminine accouterments — makeup and perfume and jewelry — but has not really thought about dedicated organization for them yet, this year’s Big Clean for our room includes a ton of organizing, cleaning out, and rearranging. I’m looking forward to finding permanent homes for her new possessions, and making them something integrated into our living space instead of just scattered across our bedside tables and bookcases.

Right now, I’m waiting on lunch to replenish my reserves, and then it’s back to work. I feel like once I get the house organized, the next thing on the roster is going to be doing a little shopping, since I’m determined to buy some new art for the house (since I’m incredibly dedicated to purchasing things that genuinely bring me joy this year) and I definitely need a new planner (since it looks like there will be an end to quarantine at least by mid-year (!!!) and even before that, I want to be able to organize my work stuff, home stuff, and personal projects in one place). And then it’s just… run down the year. I won’t be sad to see it go.

Hope you all are doing well, and finding a last burst of energy to set things in motion for a positive personal start to the new year.

Stay safe and sane. We’ll get there.

Happy One Year, Merry Christmas

I’ve stuck with this blog one year.

I’ve had this blog for, I think, going on four years at this point. It’s undergone so many changes because, much like my mother before me, I am literally never happy with anything for very long. I had a really hard time finding a genuine voice for this blog, where I could be candid but still sort of focused, where I focused on creativity and productivity, but could still feel comfortable sharing stories or anecdotes from my own life. I vowed at the start of 2020 that this would be the year I stuck with projects, this blog included, and not abandon them during the inevitable awkward, getting-on-your-feet stage.

I don’t think I’ve gotten the hang of this blogging thing down one hundred percent yet, but having stuck it out for a whole year, I feel like I’m getting closer. Hopefully in 2021 I will refine it even further.

But for now, let’s put that aside.

It’s Christmas Eve. A very different feeling Christmas Eve, but not without hope for the coming months. And not without excitement for tomorrow morning.

We’ve got games and movies and Zoom calls, and a boatload of snacks sent from friends, and delicious Chinese takeout and gifts to all look forward to tomorrow. I’ve got ten days off to clean and organize and recoup and return to the work grind refreshed.

Today is doing some picking up to keep from getting overwhelmed post-gift-opening, and then old school holiday vids (as in, all the shit I grew up with that my son had yet to see), and when my wife comes home she has a “family” gift for us, and then it’s just chilling and games until bed (my son has been learning how to play Boggle, and is… like, getting weirdly good at it for a six year old?)

I hope this year encourages you to forge new traditions and find innovative ways to celebrate with friends and family from afar. I hope you are as hopeful as I am for the upcoming year, and I hope you have enough on your plate to satisfy you without overwhelming you.

I hope you are staying safe.

Cheers, everyone.

PS: I run a Simu Liu thirst blog (um… yeah), and this was my last post before my holiday hiatus, and has been my most popular by far. Enjoy.

Take a Chance

I started this year off determined to take more risks as a creative.

There have been ups and downs to that this year, obviously. I feel like my writing has been seriously neglected, but that, to be fair, was a conscious decision; particularly since quarantine began, come day’s end, I feel so mentally burnt out that writing is not enjoyable, it’s frustrating and stressful. Drawing and painting feel much more a function of muscle memory, something I can not only do on autopilot, but something that actually seems to turn out better the less I think about it.

That being said, I did do a little writing, something along the lines of twenty or so poems, several of which I’m actually rather fond of, and in the meantime, my drawing and painting skills have grown in the leaps and bounds.

Not to say I’m “skilled,” by the by. I have quite a long way to go. But I’ve definitely grown.

Towards the beginning of the year, when this new philosophy of creative growth was still fresh in my mind and was something I was still enthusiastic about, I took what felt like a huge leap for me and submitted three drawings (which, looking back even from nine months on, are so much more rudimentary than what I’m currently producing) to a local art exhibition that was supposed to be elevating the work of women, femme, and non-binary artists in my community. It was an exciting prospect, and while I was almost sure I wouldn’t get selected for the exhibition, I figured the experience of submitting, even if I got rejected, would be good for me. So I submitted a week before the deadline.

Five days after submitting, we went into lockdown. The gallery show was listed as postponed. My city has since never left the red zone, and no mentioned has ever been made of what became of the exhibition plans.

I was bummed out for ages about losing the chance to get either accepted or rejected; it felt like I took this leap — which was comparatively small, but for me felt emotionally huge — only to be left in limbo. I didn’t know when I would get the opportunity to put myself out there again.

Then, last month, a mutual on Twitter (hi, I have Twitter! I have like, 19 followers because I’m still learning not to just be a lurker, so it’d be awesome if you wanna be Twitter buddies or whatever) began taking applications for a Tarot project for body/fat positive artists, with the project benefitting a charity for trans/nonbinary/gnc BIPOC — I mean, honestly, how could I not apply?

As I saw more and more people express interest, and I saw the art they produced, I became pretty well convinced that there was no way I was going to get in. And that would be okay! The applicants were all super talented, I’m just starting out, and it would be okay. But I picked the three piece I was most proud of, filled out the application, and sent it in.

Yesterday was the day when the artists were contacted.

I didn’t hear anything most of the day. I was trying to feel comfortable with the presumption that I had simply not made it.

It was around 8:30 pm when the email came. I didn’t make the cut. I was honestly… fine. A little let down, but the knowing will always, for me, be better than not knowing. Onward and upwards. That was my response. I would look for the next thing (but still planned to pre-order the deck when it came out, obvs. Fat Tarot is a fucking awesome idea, full stop).

At 6:00pm today, I logged on and had another email.

Acceptance — disregard last email.

There had been a mix-up.

I was in. I am in.

And while I’ve spent so long coming to terms with and accepting that there is no such things as a “fake” artist — that an artist is someone who produces art, regardless of quality or subject matter, and who lives their lives in a creative way — there is no way to deny how uplifting some external validation of your efforts are.

I am part of a collaborative art project.

I am an artist.