Food for Thought

Day Five in The Week of Eyes:

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It’s in no way perfect, but I feel like looking at this drawing, even in isolation from the rest of the face, it’s clear that the intention is smiling/happiness.  If I want to be a more expressive artist and better at rendering the human face, I feel like this is stepping in the right direction.

Yesterday we met up with some friends and their one-year-old for lunch at our favorite local Indian restaurant.  Bear surprised me by trying subji, chicken korma, and some samosa — and liking all three!  Of course, he filled up on naan, tandoori chicken, and a huge mango lassi (which our waiter had put in before Bear was even seated; they know him so well), so he didn’t eat a whole lot of the new food.  Still, I’ll take what I can get.

We’re still in the, “all I want to eat is mac ‘n cheese/chicken nuggets/fries/corndogs” phase, though we seem to be inching slowly into slightly better territory.  He’s all for fresh fruits (apples, bananas, grapes, blueberries, cherries), and he’s started eating things like seasoned chicken breast, homemade meatballs, soups, and turkey sausage, along with fruit purees and organic fig and fruit bars.  So, it’s slow going, but it’s progress.  At least I feel like he’s getting a few servings of fruits, veggies, and general nutrition along with all the processed junk.

I’m very careful, as I want him to have a healthy relationship with food — one that I was never able to have — to avoid telling him that any foods are “good” or “bad” foods, just that some are “more nutritious,” and some are “less nutritious,” and we need to learn to balance them.  Far be it for me to take away his chicken nuggets!  Just, maybe he could eat them with a side of fresh carrots now and again, you know?

You know, there was a time when I thought maybe part of my “art” would be cooking; that I’d be able to forget myself and escape into creating delicious food, but something about cooking — maybe the mess inherent in the process, maybe the multiple step recipes, maybe the necessity of multitasking — that exacerbates my anxiety in all but the absolute ideal circumstances.  If my home is otherwise pristine, if I’m mentally relaxed and have ample time, I still enjoy playing around with recipes, but between my hang-ups in the kitchen (as a cook) and my son’s (as an eater), I have periods of being especially ambitious followed by long stretches of the most simplistic meals imaginable.  I mean, Bear doesn’t complain, but sometimes I have to wonder if I’m part of the problem.

Speaking of, tonight’s dinner was grilled cheese (a classic), which gave me time to sit and finish my third micron drawing.

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Tomorrow is Tuesday.  Keep climbing that hill.

In a bind

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This was a rather haphazard sketch today, as I was balancing the laptop on my lap (where I had the reference picture on my browser), my paper on top of that, and my son literally bouncing on the seat beside me asking me one-hundred-and-one questions about Pokemon (all of which, I am one hundred percent certain, he already knew the answer to).  This was supposed to reflect a more fearful expression; I feel like maybe it’s a good representation of trepidation or hesitation, but not so much fear, per se.  Still, I have three more days left in my Week of Eyes, so I think I’m going to try surprise, laughter, and sadness/crying for the last three attempts.  Noses will be next, because I struggle with them like nobodies business and I desperately need the practice.

I hit a milestone to cross something off of my bucket list; I earned the Amazon credit I planned to use to buy my binder, but now I’m feeling strangely nervous about it.  It’s probably my natural anxiety about things, but I feel like lately I’ve just been reading a lot of cautionary pieces about wearing binders (and of course, there are safety precautions to be taken, and most of them boil down to make sure you take a break, listen to your body, don’t keep wearing them if they hurt, make sure they’re the right size for you, etc.), but it leaves me uneasy.  It wouldn’t be for full-time use (I wouldn’t be binding everyday anyway), but it would be nice to have for the days when I just don’t feel femme at all.

I have enough other non-binary and trans friends that I feel like I should just ask, though most of them are more casual acquaintances (conventions friends and such) and I would feel slightly awkward asking them directly.  I might just scream into the void on Facebook and see if anyone offers up anything useful.  I’ve been doing some reading, but I always feel more reassured (or more persuaded) when people I know personally give me their own takes on these things.

Tomorrow is Monday.  Take a breath, take a bath, read a book, have a drink.  The week is full of possibilities, and you get to decide how to approach it.  Best of luck.

Today I’ve Learned

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I’m not sure it’s quite as intense as I had hoped to go, but it actually does bear more than a passing resemblance to the reference photo I chose, so for that alone, I am happy.  I can’t believe how reading one tutorial and watching the accompanying video has made such a huge difference in my approach to drawing eyes.  I’m going to try to find more tutorials on YouTube and maybe start making some playlists for reference — grouped by, I don’t know? Theme?  Medium?

Today has been a “blah” day.  I woke up at 6:30 and lazed about until my son came bounding in and urged us all up and out of bed.  I quickly discovered there was no milk for my coffee (I’m not a “fancy” coffee person, but I can’t stand it black), and spent hours just trying to motivate myself to do anything with very little success.  My major accomplishments today have been grocery shopping and getting the dishes done.  I’ll have to be content with that, I think.  I’ve gotten a Weather Advisory on my phone that we’ll be getting a “potent storm,” but there’s no definitive indication about whether it will be rain or snow, though honestly, I wouldn’t say no to another snow day or two.  I haven’t had an extended break that wasn’t full of obligations, whether familial, social, or household-related since the summer.

Although, apropos of nothing, I did learn something today!  My son, ever curious, asked me today what a baby donkey was called (it’s a foal, by the way), and I wound up falling down a donkey-related rabbit hole on Google and discovered that while an animal born by a mare and sired by a donkey is, of course, a mule, the biological reciprocal of this (born by donkey, sired by a stallion) is called a hinny.  A hinny.  This has inexplicably made my day.

Also, male donkeys are known as jacks, and females are known as jennies.  I have no practical application for this knowledge at the moment, but I always like discovering more technical and precise language because when I do write, I find that specificity in chosen language is incredibly satisfying.¹

I am hoping to wrap up my third micron drawing tonight, and perhaps develop a game plan for chores for tomorrow.  Dinner tonight is going to be chicken noodle soup, made from one of the deli’s delicious rotisserie chickens, and I’m hoping that that, and a nice mug of tea, might help me feel a little better.

I hope you are all having a lovely Saturday.


¹Tangential to that, one of my favorite things to look up are collective terms for groups of animals.  My favorite of those are: a crash of rhinoceroses, a bloat of hippos, a flamboyance of flamingos, and an unkindness of ravens.

Stars

Today’s daily sketch, continuing the Week of Eyes (Day 2):
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I think I want to branch out to trying to draw eyes as they would appear in more exaggerated emotional states (anger, fear, intense sadness, etc.), but the tips from the previously mentioned tutorial are really helping me, I think.  I still have ages to go, but in time I think I might be able to draw quite realistic human eyes (the rest of the human form to follow… hopefully).

Today has been blessedly uneventful.  Last night, my father-in-law — who has spent the better part of his professional life in software, though he holds a degree in astrophysics — drove the 45 minutes down in order to take Bear out and show him the Orion constellation, so that he could see the unusual dimming that is happening with Beetlegeuse.  My son is interested in space and is aware of constellations, but this was the first time he’d ever gone out and really looked up — my husband and I know don’t know much about the stars, and living in a densely populated urban area, had more or less assumed that given the light pollution, any attempt at seeing anything recognizable (or anything at all, really) would be mostly all for naught.  But with my father-in-law’s help, Bear was able to go out and see a star that may very well go supernova at any moment, and my son seemed to find that pretty cool.

I stayed in during this lesson, partly to give my son time alone with his grandfather, partly because it was about 10 F outside, and partly because, as interesting and intriguing as I find space, I find it massively anxiety provoking — like agoraphobia on a cosmic scale, is probably the closest I can describe it.  It’s beautiful and awe-inspiring, and incredibly scientifically interesting, but also puts me in mind of how powerless and untethered I am in the vast scope of things and honestly, I don’t need that negativity in my life right now, ya dig?

Afterwards they came inside, and my father-in-law read Bear one of the Findus and Pettson books that are among our family favorites.  It was a pleasant evening.

I spent most of the day feeling like it was a Monday, though I know (and am glad!) it’s not.

Tomorrow is Friday!  You made it.


PS:  I titled this entry and then simply could not get this out of my mind:

Days of Our Lives

So, still not perfect, but oh my gosh.  Following the tips from this tutorial, as I said I would, yielded much more positive results.  I will be focusing on eyes this week, using the tutorial as a guide, and try eyes in different expressions and from different angles.  Hopefully by deconstructing the face (to start) I can become a little more fluent at drawing human faces.

Today was one of those days at work that lasted seemingly forever.  It was the last day of finals, one official exam and one session of make-up, so I had no students.  Luckily, I’ve gotten slightly better about using my time wisely, so I read about 125 pages of one of my books, did a review of Lesson 12 and started in on Lesson 13 on my ASL, and did some substantial work on my next micron drawing.  So despite being a “do nothing” day, I feel like I did a fairly decent amount.

While I was at work, my sister sent me an event link for a Onesie Bar Crawl in Manchester (which is the city adjacent to where she lives), with the tag, “lots of fun stuff coming up,” which made me more than a little wistful.  I like where I am in my life; I spent so many years being told that so much of what I have — a house, a full-time job, a spouse, a kid — was going to be beyond my reach because of The Way I Am, that having all these things, wonderful on their own, is especially satisfying.

But I sometimes miss The Before Times, when I had the freedom to basically just pick and choose what frivolous thing I wanted to do.  In so many ways, on paper, my 20s looked miserable; I was living with an over-bearing parent and had virtually no privacy, I had neither a license nor a car; you’d think it would have been unbearable.  But I lived near a train leading into a big city, I had friends with cars, I was within walking distance of cafes and movie theatres, and — in some ways, most importantly — I had a job and very few financial responsibilities.  I was living in a rent-controlled apartment (paying about $500/month, utilities included), I was single, and my student loans were still in their grace period.  In so many ways, I had more freedom than I’d ever had at any other time of my life.

And everything was possible!!  I was still looking at graduate schools and figuring out what I wanted to do, and I actually had money to seriously consider going back to school to pursue it.  I was single and had dozens of dating sites to peruse at my leisure.  I had disposable income and infinite energy, and late nights in Boston getting bleary-eyed drunk and stumbling through the streets with my closest girlfriends talking about career woes and blowjobs and travel plans and birth control, and just, everything felt like it was just on the precipice of Happening.  There were so many beautiful nights with friends that were full of vodka and pillow talk, and laughingly pouring over salacious OKCupid messages from interested strangers.  I am happy with my husband, and how comfortable I am with him (more so than I’ve ever been with anyone in my life), but I also miss those first few tentative Instant Messages, signing on to a message with his name on it, the aimless fantasies about who he was behind the screen, that first stumbling face-to-face meeting at Borders Cafe.

I had some beautiful nights, full of beautiful moments, that I know I’ll never recapture.  And none of those moments, none of those nights were ever anything earth-shattering; I mean, we did enjoyable things — went drinking, or caught a movie or a show, went into Boston, hung out at a comedy club — but nothing to write home about.  But I still remember walking out through December twilight with the man who would be my husband and my two best friends, two miles through the snow to the cafe where we met up; I remember every word Andy said making the three of us burst into giggles, and I remember knowing even then, with fair certainty, that this was the man I was going to marry.  We trudged through still-falling snow and met up with two friends at a bookstore cafe where we spent ages browsing books and looking at maps (again — So Many Possibilities) before catching a train to see a stand-up show and grab some Chinese food at the Hong Kong.

Dinner and some comedy.  Nothing Special.  But I can still feel the sting of the cold on my cheeks.  I can still smell the books in that shop.  I can’t explain it, but there was something about that time in my life that made the most mundane moments palpable with What Could Be.  Every night was the night my life could change.  Every night was the night I could find my true calling through a drunken revelation;  I could hop on a train and not come back; I could hook up with the girl I had a crush on since college; I could fall in love.

I know there are still possibilities laid in front of me.  They just don’t feel as tangible, as vibrant.  I miss that.  I love what I have, but sometimes I still want More.

I wish I’d savored it while I was still in the thick of it.

It’s Wednesday.  Happy halfway.

 

The Uplift

My mood post-convention is often pendulous; the surges of motivation and excitement give way to sadness, give way to eagerness to embark on new projects, give way to lamenting that things are over for another year, give way to grandiose plans for the future.

This is the first year I attended panels about the meta-aspects of How to Do or How to Make; I’ve done a few makerspace panels in the past that were single-project “make ‘n takes” that have been wonderful, but not much of anything I would pursue beyond the confines of the convention.¹  This year, I opted to focus on trying to get Some Ideas About Art — what to pursue, how to pursue it, how to feel like a “real” artist.

Well, I succeeded on the first two counts.  Most of the “maker” panels I went to were really more about “making;” people who dabble in cosplay, prop making, electronic bits ‘n bobs — which are all amazingly cool, just not what I personally pursue.  Luckily there was a local artist on both panels whose primary focus really is more on art — pottery, watercolor, acrylic, inks, and a new-to-me medium/process called encaustics, which is painting with hot wax and sounds incredibly interesting.  All the panelists had some great things to say about creating makerspace in the confines of your own home (even if it’s small, or rented, or shared), and I got to get a few questions answered at a panel (yes I asked questions, which I never do!) about the logistics of baking Sculpey-altered boxes with mixed-media findings (such as wooden and glass beads, scrapbooking paper, metal findings, etc.) and was actually told that they hadn’t really heard of mixed-media altered boxes, and they sounded like they’d be really beautiful!!

I think I was so ridiculously happy to hear this because as a 101-level art novice and as a person with anxiety, I spend so much of my time fighting off Imposter Syndrome and generally feeling like everything I do is derivative and uninspired (even if I feel an initial surge of excitement or enthusiasm for a project, I wind up looking at it hyper-critically and feeling like an amateurish fraud calling myself any sort of “artist.”)  That gave me a surge of hope that maybe some of my ideas are worthy of pursuit, and while I had sworn off clay work for a while, I might make it a point to devote a weekend here or there to a particular project.

Today was surprisingly easy to get back into the swing of things; I took care of a few final things for the class I’m being pulled from, and wound up going out to coach, which, can I say, I nearly had a heart attack over because I completely and utterly forgot I was supposed to go out today (I always go out on vocational coaching on Tuesdays, but with the extra-long weekend and the chaos of Arisia, I completely forgot it was Tuesday.  Luckily I had to drop some paperwork off in the vocational office anyway and happened to glance at the schedule).  Bear was a little slow going in the morning, but was excited to report to his friends at school about the weekend.

Today is already Tuesday!  Smile, you’re nearly halfway there.

I will be starting my previously proposed deep-study of the human face, feature by feature, tomorrow.


¹With the exception of mini-hats, which is an Arisia-specific craft that I have utterly fallen in love with, and I think I might want to start making some in my free time.

Back to Reality

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I arrive back from Arisia 2020 tired, inspired, and more than a little bit down; post-con letdown/blues/depression/hangover/whatnot is real, and it is potent.  I had a wonderful time, and after seeing Bear interact with various peers (and even older children and adults this year), I have big hopes that next year he will be able to qualify for Fast Track, which would give he and I both a greater measure of independence at the convention.

Bear has also decided that he wants to be a Masquerade participant next year in the Young Fan Division, and I am feeling a stronger and stronger pull to apply to be a panelist next year, so I have grand hopes that Arisia 2021 will be epic… but it hurts, just a little, knowing that it’s a whole year away.

Back to work tomorrow.  I’ll do a quick rundown of the con, including the things I’ve been pondering in it’s wake, and what it’s motivated and inspired me to do and consider.  It was a productive year, and I have lots of hope and excitement for both my fannish and creative projects going forward in the near future.

But just for tonight, I think I’ve earned some junk food, a big margarita, and a good (mostly metaphorical) cry into a pillow before I’m forced back into the Real World tomorrow morning.

Hope your weekends have been restful and rewarding.