5/15/22: Big Scary Things

NaNoWriMo used to do this thing, starting around 2007 or so, called “The Year of Doing Big, Fun, Scary Things Together.” It was similar to setting New Year’s Resolutions, where participants held each other accountable and were supportive while trying “big, fun, scary things” together.

These things didn’t have to be exceptionally big, or scary — unless you count the possibility of failure as scary, and Lord knows, many of us do. I never really participated, was never really into the idea of taking risks, however low the stakes, because the one consistent stake in every endeavor is the aforementioned possibility of failure, and that was enough to deter me.

Post-pandemic (well, sort of), that fear of failure has become less of a hinderance. I’ve spent two years putting my life on hold. I’m more willing to put myself out there.

I was just accepted into The Bi+ Maker’s Market, something I genuinely thought wasn’t going to happen — I’m just a dinky little Redbubble shop with less than twenty things for sale — right on the heels of acceptance to Fat Craft Zine, something else I didn’t expect to come to anything. Riding the high of that, I just applied to panel at Arisia. We’ll see what happens.

I think it’s at least in part the warmer weather; things are starting to feel possible again, days are longer, and warmer, and brighter; freedom from the worst of my work constraints is imminent. I want to do new things, I want to have excited conversations with folks fueled by glasses of wine or chilled margaritas, I want to sit around a table, hands covered in paint, and have mad sing-alongs with my friends as we create art; I want to play a round of exquisite corpse with my most unhinged friends, stifling giggles as we pass a notebook around at midnight.

There are things — big, fun, scary things — that are outside of my grasp because of money, or circumstances, or logistics, but there are so, so many things that are within the scope of possibility for me. I can go to cons and have frenzied conversations with likeminded people over shared passions. I can paint portraits of people I love and admire, or of wild dreamscapes or ridiculous kitsch. I can reach out and find other artists to collaborate with and make uplifting, celebratory art. I can spend quiet time alone learning new languages, listening to new music, watching new movies, reading new books. I can sit up, late nights, sipping margaritas on the porch with my best friends. There’s so much I can do.

I’m taking small steps. Small steps in becoming the best version of myself. I’m taking more risks, and successes are becoming more frequent even as the failures are beginning to hurt less and less.

Life is lovely, at least for the moment. I am happy, at least right now.

I hope all is well with you. Take care of yourselves and each other.

5/9/22: Back to Acrylic

I started thumbnailing my Blackbeard portrait last Sunday night, transferred it to canvas and started blocking in the colors Tuesday night, and almost immediately decided I hated it.  Not in the, “can’t see past the ugly stage” way (I mean, I went through a little of that, initially), but more in an, “I can already tell there is something fundamentally, structurally wrong” way.  

So Wednesday night, I set it aside and started over.  I’ve decided that this is my one full “do-over;” if I have problems front his point on, I’m just going to have to work with it instead of “wasting” canvas (I’m not actually “wasting” it, I’m just going to gesso the other one and reuse it, but it’s the principle of the matter – sometimes you have to start over, sure, but sometimes you just have to work with what you have and make the most of it.  I’m still trying to suss out when each of those reactions is the most appropriate). 

 I am much, much happier with the new painting, I feel like it looks more like Taika (not in any way perfect, but much more recognizable), and I think part of that is that the new reference photo has far better lighting and makes it much easier to distinguish different values in the face and clothing.  I’m learning more and more the value of a good reference photo – I’m certainly not blaming the initial screencap for the failure of my first attempt, but I will credit the new screencap for the (thus far) success of my second.  I think if I were more skilled, I could have made the first work, but for someone of my ability, having a very clean and clear reference photo is definitely a huge help.  

I can tell something is going right because I am excited to get home and get my chores done so that I can actually work on the painting, which is not something that happens when a piece is going badly.  I know I should probably be starting to work on my Fat craft piece, but I already know, conceptually, what I want to do, and I’ve taken (and chosen) my reference photo, I just need to sort of sit down in the right headspace to work, but in the meantime, this is at least providing me with some creative momentum.

Sleep has not been my friend lately. Nothing in particular has been keeping me up, I just find myself waking in the middle of the night feeling strangely refreshed, which generally means reading or laying in bed until I eventually fall back to sleep, only to have a final hour or so of fitful sleep before having to wake up for the day. Naps help, but by the time I get home and get myself situated, it’s already dangerously close to 4:00 or 4:30, and taking a nap that late in the afternoon feels like setting myself up for sleep failure come my actual bedtime.

I am glad that, at the very least, the longer, warmer days are a welcome respite from the cold and dark that has been this past winter. Later this week we are looking at upwards of 80 degrees, and hopefully I’ll get to spend more time outdoors, which also helps regulate my sleep, I’ve found.

Hope you are all well. Take care of yourselves and each other.

5/3/22: Acceptance!!

So, after weeks of waiting with my fingers crossed for my next big collaborative art project, Fat Craft Zine has made their decisions and sent out acceptance and rejection letters.

I was accepted.

I am thrilled.  I will be honest, I did not really expect to get in; there have been several projects and zines as of late that I thought I would be a shoe-in for, and didn’t make it.  I also am familiar with the caliber of talent that has, in the past, been included in this zine, and on the basis of that, would not have been shocked had I not made the cut. That being said, I am incredibly grateful and excited to have the opportunity to participate in this round of Fat Craft.

I already have a concept I’m excited about, so it really comes down to setting up my photography equipment and taking the reference photos I’ll need, likely this weekend.  This is a long term project, and I have plenty of time to work, but as another idea that involves multiple figures interacting (which is not my strong suit, yet), I want to give myself ample time to get the work done, and be able to work on other things at the same time.

Still, squee!  I’m happy to be working with a concrete goal in mind again, and am eager to get started.

5/1/22: Screen burnout

I am burned out from staring at screen most of the weekend, but hoo boy, did I get stuff done.

I finished the two digital pieces I’ve been working on:

And after that, I spent hours making buttons. I need to get some good photos of the ones I’ve actually physically made so far, and to create a gallery for the rest of my designs, but suffice it to say, I have, what, 20 designs already? And I’m incredibly, incredibly happy with my purchase.

I am going to contact Fits the Vibe tomorrow to ask about selling, but tonight I’m going to thumbnail my portrait of Taika Watiti’s Blackbeard and find my desktop easel.

It’s warm enough in my living room tonight to warrant turning on the fan, and at nearly 7 pm, the sun is just starting its descent below the horizon.

I hope you are keeping well. Take care of yourselves and each other.

4/28/22: Surprising Productivity

Yesterday was unexpectedly productive, despite the fact that I felt dead on my feet when I got home (not from a particularly bad day or anything, just hormones and hormonally-induced insomnia that’s been hounding me for the last couple of nights).

I wound up not only uploading all of the art I actually like to my Redbubble, but also submitting to The Bi+ Maker’s Market much, much sooner than expected – my son likes to use my laptop for gaming when he comes home, and I didn’t expect to get much time with it until the weekend, but he got off earlier than usual last night and I managed to get everything uploaded and sent off.  My only regret is when it asked for a social media account for the shop, I used my Twitter – which I do use primarily to talk about creating and post art, but is still a little more geared towards me as a person – instead of my Instagram, which is all and only art.  Ugh.  Oh well.  I don’t think it will make or break my application, but it’s still a bummer.

Then, as though that wasn’t enough, I actually got some work done on Stag King 3.  I’m still stuck on a lot of it – the background I have right now is incredibly rudimentary, but at least there is a background – I’m not staring at two figures floating in completely undefined space – and having them grounded at least somewhat makes it a little easier, maybe, to further conceptualized where I might want to go with it.  The issue is trying to draw grass, without making it look too cartoony, pushing it too far into the uncanny valley, or just making it look too… flat, I suppose.  I’m planning on looking up some tutorials on it later, but the only reason I even have the mental energy to do that is the fact that I finally pushed myself to block something in for the time being.  I’ve moved past the, “this is going to look like shit forever” phase and into the “this looks like shit, but I can work with it” phase, which is a much more positive place to be.

Ok, I mentioned “other fun new hobbies” yesterday, but then said I wouldn’t elaborate since I didn’t know what would come of it all, right?  Well, mere hours after saying that, two things happened that directly related to the hobbies I was referencing, and means I can probably say now – I bought a pinback button maker.  

Maybe you know, maybe you don’t, but I love pinback buttons.  I own a lot of them (used to own more, but they have the tendency to go missing because I’m a klutz and catch them on things all the time.  I decided it was about time to invest in my own so that I can make my own buttons on a whim, but also that it might be fun to make some for sale.  I don’t think I’m going to go the online route for that, simply because I don’t trust myself or my ADHD to be able to keep track of the orders and the shipping and the postage, etc., etc.  So instead I thought I could sell via word of mouth, on my socials, and through – maybe – local shops who do consignments style sales.

Well, yesterday, two things happened:  One, I found a really incredible deal on a multi-size pinback maker, and two, Fits the Vibe, a local thrift store/upcycling/consignment shop, put out a call via social media that they were looking for new local vendors to work with.  It was absolutely perfect timing.

I want to have a little bit of a store of inventory before I actually contact them to inquire, but how funny is it that these things all happened on the same day?

Things are going well overall; I’m having a bit of an annoying day, because I have to leave the building today to go to a work site with a student and I forgot my badge yet again, so when we come back I’ll have to buzz in. Which, granted, isn’t a disaster, but it’s an embarrassing little annoyance that could have been avoided had I had any sort of executive functioning skills, a working memory, a sense of organization, etc., etc.  

But tomorrow is Friday, I’m staying that night at my mom’s, I’m buying canvases and making buttons on Saturday, and Sunday is supposed to be gorgeous and I hope to spend it outdoors and maybe with some friends, schedules permitting.

Hope all is going well for you and yours.  Take care of yourselves and each other.

4/27/22: Maker’s Market and Painting Inspiration

The first couple of days back at work after a break are always tough; I’m lucky enough to enjoy my job and to have had serendipitously chill schedules the past two days to ease myself back into the routine, but still, I’m exhausted and glad that tomorrow is already Thursday.

Art has been slow going.  I am currently working on two things, both of which are turning out objectively okay, but which I’m just feeling very blase about.  I’m falling into that pitfall too, that I hear a lot of online artists talk about, where I’m starting to feel guilty about the length of time between my posts (specifically posting my art), and I feel like this is a slippery slope back into rushing through things just for the sake of having done.  I’m no great shakes as an artist, obviously, but I’m worlds better when I take my time.

I’m going to keep plugging away at my illustrations, but the next few days are going to be spent mostly prepping files for upload to Redbubble, and then submitting my Redbubble shop for inclusion in The Bi+ Makers Market, which is being put on by the Bisexual Resource Center again this June.  

Last year I found out about it literally a day or two too late to submit, and I swore to myself that I would make the deadline this year.  While I don’t have an extensive history of completed works under my belt, I’m of the belief that you really only need a handful of pieces you’re proud of to start a shop, and I definitely have several that I’m excited to get up as prints.  

While there is no guarantee I’ll get in, it doesn’t make sense not to apply.  Even if it doesn’t result in a lot of sales, it gets my art in front of peoples’ eyes, and that could be useful for the future.

Months ago at this point, I was bitching about a failed attempt to get back into traditional (acrylic) painting.  I was so determined to produce something that I rushed in without an idea and utterly ruined a canvas.

(I want to take a moment aside to say, jumping into something without a clear idea is not always a bad thing, especially if you keep an open mind and are looking to generate new ideas or experiment with new mediums or techniques.  In my case, however, it was sheer impatience and was really nothing more than this manic urge to check “Do an acrylic painting!” off my Art To-Do List, and as a result really was just a waste of time and resources).

Recently though, I finished watching Our Flag Means Death, and it has utterly eaten my brain.  I’m spending more time that I would care to admit on fan accounts, consuming fic and art, and over-all just being obsessive.

And I decided I want to try to paint Taika Watiti’s Blackbeard.

It is… a hell of a challenge, for someone who has trouble drawing from life, doesn’t generally draw men, is still new to painting, etc., but it is a subject matter I am excited about and I really, really want to give this a fair go, though I am utterly prepared to and sort of expecting to fail – which I think is the best attitude going into this endeavor – excited but pessimistic, ha ha.  I expect to fail, but I’m excited to try.  I can only be proven right or pleasantly surprised.

I’m also considering a number of other creative endeavors that I can’t speak about just yet (since there’s not a guarantee they will happen), but expect to hear more about some new silly little hobbies in the coming weeks.

I hope you are all well.  Take care of yourselves and each other.

4/20/22: …Blaze It??

But not really, but maybe? I’m very pro-weed, but found out fairly early on — from pretty frightening experiences — that high levels of THC and chronic hypertension and tachycardia don’t mix.

But I thought “blaze it” would be cute anyway, because I wanted to make a post about Trans-Scribed, which is a monologue series written and performed by transgender actors about their experience, and which was formerly put on by Errant Phoenix Productions (phoenix, “blaze it,” get it?? Ok, it… wasn’t my best work, sorry).

Errant Phoenix is, sadly, dissolving, and will not be producing Trans-Scribed this year, so my wife is actually taking up the reigns and will be recruiting, organizing, and co-producing the show. She just needs writers and performers, obviously.

If you know — or if you are! — a trans writer or performer who might be interested and would like more info, please contact me. You can use the contact form right here on my website.

I hope all is going well for you all. I lost my one working digital pen, on the first day of my break — you know, the brief window of time when I’m totally free to create? — and if that doesn’t just encapsulate my whole life right there.

Take care of yourselves, and each other.

4/19/22: Finished

I’m throwing in the towel on Blogging A-to-Z.

I’m not out of ideas, or aesthetics. I actually had up to — what, N? O? Picked out and somewhat planned. I’ve been in a good headspace. I’ve been making blogging and art a priority.

I just think I’ve achieved what I set out to do already, and I’m getting restless.

It’s interesting, because I know the “challenge” of thirty day challenges is supposed to be, you know, to blog for thirty days straight, to force yourself to generate ideas and get into a flow state of sorts (or at least develop a daily habit).

But the purpose of my individual entries was idea generation — I’ve been trying to generate art ideas because I felt like my tank was running low (it was; I was at the very end of my old Art Ideas list).

As it stands now, I have eleven whole ideas — not all of which I am equally enthused about, but most of which are workable, and many of which I an excited about — and right now I’m just excited to develop and work on them.

I’ll be honest, I think challenges are wonderful ideas and there are some I think I’ll either continue with or jump back into — NaPoWriMo, next year, I’m coming for you wholeheartedly — but with regards to A-to-Z, I don’t know. Doing it the way I’ve done the last two years has certainly been beneficial to me as creative brainstorms, though I never finish them out, so on the one hand, I’d hate to lose that simply because I know “failure” (i.e., not finishing out the thirty days) is almost inevitable. On the other, why embark on a challenge when you know you’re going to quit??

Well, I have a full year to figure that out, I suppose. In the meantime, take this as my A-to-Z resignation. It was fun and productive, and I’m excited to have enough ideas that, given the pace at which I produce, may well take me to the end of the year just on their own.

Hello from Spring vacation! We are taking it slow this week, as we are without a car (Kira still has to work) and we are homebound. Yesterday we did chores, then made popcorn and watched “A Boy Named Charlie Brown,” and today we’re making ice cream and hopefully catching up on some reading.

We hit the library on Saturday, but the Children’s Room was closed (staffing has been a big problem lately), so Bear got a few books from the Teen section that might be somewhat challenging, but are definitely within the scope of his ability, so it should be a nice brain exercise. Both books are about science: Beastly Brains: Exploring How Animals Think, Talk, and Feel, by Nancy F. Castaldo, and Seeing Science: An Illustrated Guide to the Wonders of the Universe, by Iris Gottlieb.

The plan tomorrow is visiting my mom and the kids downstairs (my brother should be around too, which is always nice), and hopefully on either Thursday or Friday seeing my sister, but her oldest is still in school this week and she does pickup and drop-off, so planning that is really going to be about her and what her schedule looks likes.

Either way, it’s nice to be home this week. By the time we go back, it’s going to be the start of May, and about seven weeks left until the end. I have summer work lined up, but those are shorter days and shorter weeks, with a nice three week buffer on either end, so I’m looking forward to that.

Hope you all are doing well. Take care of yourselves, and each other.

A-to-Z Challenge, (late) Day 11: Kidcore

Work has gotten crazy the last couple of days, so you know what? I’m going to let myself be a day behind and make it up this weekend.

Today’s aesthetic is:  Kidcore.

From the Wiki:

Kidcore is an aesthetic that centers around bright colors, nostalgia for icons from the 90s, and kid themes. While its origins can be traced back to the 1990s/80s, it appears the aesthetic is a nostalgia-based creation of the 2010s.

Common motifs in Kidcore visuals are bright colors frequently used on children’s toys, most frequently highly saturated versions of the traditional primary colors (red, yellow, and blue), playgrounds, stuffed animals such as Beanie Babies and TY, robot pets like Furbies, Lisa Frank artwork, rainbows, and other kid themes. 

Ugh, so… there are several different ways I could go with this.  

Part of me says – given that it specifically references nostalgia for media properties of the 80s and 90s (and 2000s to a lesser extent) – part of me says, go straight up fanart.  Pick a property you loved and just go hog.  Or!  Pick several properties and do the epic crossover you know you friggin’ wished had actually happened back in the day.*  

But then, as discussed in a previous blog entry, I have a complicated relationship with fanart, and while I have very fond memories of several properties from my youth, entirely focusing a piece around them would require far more referencing and general legwork than I feel would be worth the actual fulfillment I would get from having done it.  I just don’t have the same level of passion for any of those loves of my past that would compel me to do fanart (even my Damien LaVey fanart has temporarily fallen by the wayside, and I growl at my wife when she pursues him romantically in-game).

The other option is doing another character who embodies the general aesthetic without going too into detail with specific nostalgia.  I’m going to be honest, this isn’t much better.

The third option is sort of my favorite at the moment.  It’s not a “high art” piece, but you know what, fuck the concept of “high art.”  I’m here to have fun and make cute/creepy/pretty things for people to look at.

The third option is a hybrid of the first two, casting a younger me as the main character.  I would do it as an “About the Artist” piece – the kind you see pinned to the top of Twitter profiles, or in DeviantArt profile sections.  I would be wearing an iconic outfit from my youth (hell, I even know which outfit I’m going to draw!), and surround myself with my favorite things from the time (I will likely pick a time frame – I’m thinking ages nine to thirteen would be the most fun) and write the “About Me” about, well, me, during that time frame.  I think it would be a cute thing to temporarily pin to my About Me on this blog, and potentially even Twitter (since I likely won’t actually be open to commissions again until summer anyway).  

But look, I’m standing like a magical girl, like Sailor Moon striking a pose, and I have plenty of old pics of myself to use as reference thanks to my sister and her obsessions with old photos.  I’m surrounded by things like Ninja Turtles, Animaniacs, 16-bit Nintendo characters (especially Mario and Starfox), my old tape recorder, Rock-a-Doodle (shut up), Disney stuff, Queen merch, screengrabs of old Usenet UIs, Lisa Frank, poetry books, and my About Me is stuff like, “Favorite Medium: Crayola Colored Pencils (24 count!),” and “Likes: AOL, Freddie Mercury’s solo work, Darkwing Duck, reading fanfic (especially lemons – don’t tell my mom!)”  Like, how beautifully, endearing cringy is that?  Oh man, I have to do this one.  I have to.

A student walked into class this morning not knowing what day of the week it was, what schedule day, or the date, and – hardcore relate.  I am having an easier time keeping track of the days now that I have a result routine to adhere to, where Tuesdays and Thursday are distinguished by an off-campus internship.  That’s going away soon, though, so it’s only a matter of time before I am free-floating in a temporal void again.

Regardless, I’m feeling chipper.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  I am excited about my own personal future and looking forward to seeing what’s next for me.  I hope you are, too.

Take care of yourselves, and each other

*Speaking of nostalgia and crossovers, did anyone else go absolutely feral as a kid for Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue?  Kind of sucks now, as an adult, to look back and primarily see a really cheesy piece of anti-drug propaganda, but at the time – holy hell, it was just the greatest crossover of all time.  

A-to-Z Challenge, Day 10: Jamcore

I’m playing against type today.  My first instinct for today’s aesthetic was one called Joyride, which is all about the peace and serenity of long car rides, especially at night or in the rain, and honestly, there have been a lot of aesthetic so far that’s I’ve liked or I’ve related to, but if I had to pick one that resonates with me on a soul-deep level, it’s Joyride.  I will have to wax poetic about my car ride obsession later, but I will say, I am one of very few of my friends who can ride in a car for six or eight hours in relative silence and not only not be bored, but be transcendentally happy.

That being said – I’ve put off a lot of aesthetics that are of the cozy, cottagecore vibe because I said there’d be a lot of them on this list, and that constant pushing them off may actually wind up removing them from the list entirely, ironically enough.  So with that being said, and wanting to hit at least one of those cozy, springtime-esque vibes –

Today’s aesthetic is: jamcore.

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

From the Wiki:

Jamcore is an aesthetic based on picnics, gingham patterns, pastries, and jam. Jamcore is also based upon helping the environment, such as reusing jars and other materials, or being self sustainable if possible and growing your own food. Conserving the environment and wildlife is also a big part of Jamcore. It takes heavy inspiration from the Honeycore aesthetic as well, and are related in many ways.

So, actually, that Steven Universe clips is genuinely a pretty good encapsulation of Jamcore, really.  Warm days, coziness, picnics, sunshine, gingham, good books.  It’s no Joyride, for sure, but I sure as hell love this aesthetic, especially around this time of year when all those things are part of my life again.

My thoughts for this piece is again a human figure, but composed a little differently this time.  The lens through which we are viewing this scene is on the ground; there are several errant blades of grass, yellow and verdant green, slightly out of focus in the forefront.  Beyond those, we see a jar of jam, resting on a gingham blanket, open with a used knife leaning against it; next to it is a small loaf of home-baked bread with about a quarter missing.  Beyond/above that is out human figure, laying on her elbows with a book propped in front of her.  We only see her from about chin to the bridge of her nose; she is chomping a thick slice of bread between her teeth and smiling. I see a lot of stark shadows, bright highlights, vibrant reds, pinks, and greens.

I’m weirdly excited to do this one, mainly because I’m interested in trying different framing and perspectives — I spent so long doing the “3/4 portraits from the right” kind of that seems to be a cliche among beginner artists, and I’m eager to do new things.

I am at a loss — why do I never know what to do when my house is clean? It’s like my brain can’t figure out what to do with itself when I’m not budy procrastinating on chores, ha. I’m tapping out for tonight, though. I completed linet art for Stag King 3, and now I’m going to tune out with a beer, some snacks, and good old AO3.

Oh! Here’s the Gloomcore-esque piece I finished yesterday:

Take care of yourselves, and each other.