A Little Each Day

I want to go back and see when it was, exactly, that I bought my tablet, but honestly, it doesn’t really matter. The fact that I’ve had it for any length of time without breaking it out to take it for a test run is sacrilige, quite frankly. And I know for a fact that I can count the time in months rather than days or even weeks. Totally unforgivable.

I finally started in on an analogue drawing a did a couple of weeks ago. After yet another long bout of producing little-to-nothing, I sat down on a day off and decided to just commit something to paper for the fun of it. And honestly, despite having no pre-conceived notion of what I was going to do (or — let’s be honest — because I had no pre-concieved notions of what I was going to do), I had a blast, and was quite content with what I came up with.

Last Friday I had nothing but consults on the docket until 1:25 pm, with — I knew — a high probability of getting stoof up. So I staked out space in front of my wife’s computer, logged into my virtual meeting rooms, and loaded up PaintShop.

My consultees never showed, but I started teaching myself rudimentary, inefficient digital painting.

As I’m sure is obvious, this is pretty early in the painting process; I’ve laid down flat color as part of the background layer, and am adding more layer with contouring, highlights, shadows, etc. It’s bare-bones basic, and probably an incredibl inefficient and messy way of doing things, but… you know, I’m figuring out how to make the machine do what I want it to do. Maybe not in the easiest way, maybe not the fastest way… but actually in a pretty fun way? Like, it’s cool thinking, “hey, I’d really like to get her hair looking a certain way,” and then puttering around and figuring out my own homebrew way of getting that to happen.

Maybe I’ll actually watch/read a tutorial some day. That day isn’t today. Probably not tomorrow, either. But some day.

I spent another hour and a half working on it today, and I’m hoping to wrap it up by the weekend (I’m bound by my work schedule and by Kira’s computer use; if she’s home, I can’t use her computer, so it’s going to take longer than I’d like it to, but I will get there eventually).

Hope you are keeping creative, safe, and sane.

I’m still here!

This has been an unexpectedly long time away from blogging that I’m hoping to end with this post. Not that this post in and of itself is going to be especially deep, or especially funny, or especially thoughtful. Really, I just want to break the silence and say, yes, I am still here.

Since last we spoke:

I was prescribed Paxil, which my insurance refused to cover; so I was prescribed Prozac, which my insurance was asking a 100% co-pay for (how…is that different from just not covering it?) which I then opted to simply not pick up.*

I tried weed to see if it would be helpful for acute stress/anxiety, but had a really poor reaction to the THC, which sucked a whole damn bunch.

My mom bought me CBD oil, which is working wonders for her and my dad (chronic pain), and I pick that up tomorrow.

Bear started K2, all online. He’s been pretty into so far, honestly, and has been doing pretty well behaving during the Zoom meetings, at least as well as I would expect a five-year-old to.

And… I’m working from home.

Holy fucking crap on a cracker. Let me tell you. The instantaneous relief I felt from that phone call felt a lot like euphoria; weeks and weeks and goddamn weeks of relentless anxiety and uncertainty, gone.

I mean, to be replaced by the daily anxiety of trying to juggling homeschooling a kindergartener synchronously while simultaneously teaching a class via video conferencing myself, but hey. That will eventually become routine.

I have a job. I have an income.

I….have not done any art in weeks. This is going to a long road back to feeling creative.** Actually, it’s going to be a long way back from feeling anything but exhaustion, I think.

But I’m here. We’re here. And we’re doing ok.


* The meds were a new prescription, I’m not just ditching my meds. Don’t just ditch your meds, guys — talk to a doctor first. Also, I’m not anti-med by any means, I just feel like in my situation, I’ve got a handle on the chronic anxiety, to the point where it’s really just background noise and not really something I feel like I need a daily medication for (and with the work-for-home allowance, even the acute anxiety has lessened considerably. I’m actually feeling functional again).

** I will be participating in Drawtober in October and NaNoWriMo in November, so at the very worst you’ll see me working then!

Another Work/Life Update

I have some reassurances that the things I am concerned about at work (don’t you love how vague I am?) are being considered.

Ok, so, namely — I need to work remotely. We live in a “red zone” city, and my son is on mandated remote learning, which means the child care inherent in in-person schooling is gone (and honestly, it would have been disasterous to put him in school even if that were an option, with something like 4000 active cases in our city). Also, if I enter the building, I will not be able to bring him to my mother’s house — they’ve let me know, in no uncertain terms, that they cannot take him, and I one-hundred-and-ten percent agree. Both my parents are nearly 70, my mom is asthmatic, physically disabled, and partially sighted (complete blindness in one eye and partial sight in the other), and they share their home with two people who are also immunosuppressed. I could not and would not take that chance.

So my options are COVID Emergency Leave or remote work, which I parroted back more than once to HR, my building principal, and my department head. My department head (and two of my co-teachers) did say that I was specifically requested by certain teachers to do remote work with some of our specialized population via the remote learning academy, and that the schedule will be out “soon;” I’ve heard nothing from the building principal, but this is her first year as principal and literaly everything is a shitshow, so I’m cutting her slack. The gist of this is, I have hope that I’m being heard and my needs are being met, which is better than I’ve had in several weeks.


I woke up this morning to a full Twitter inbox because someone tagged me in an art photoset — they’d used my modelling photos from FatPhotoRef! It was really cool! I’ve never been used as a model before. My wife and I are going to take some photos tonight based on requests from the Discord, so hopefully I’ll have another set up there in the next few days.

Ugh, fate willing, I will have more fun things to talk about than continued work drama soon.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

End of Summer

We are in a lull between a string of storms making their way across New England. The first batch barely left an impression; about an hour ago, I noticed a notification from my weather app that I had missed timestamped at 11:55 am that notified me rain was starting in five minutes. If that happened, I didn’t notice it. Actually, no; I left the house at 1:30 with Bear in stocking feet, and the ground was dry, so it definitely didn’t touch us. The second one was pretty firece in terms of rain, with a couple of good peals of thunder, but over within an hour. The sky looks like another might come through soon, but right now it’s still. I’m hoping the humidity will break when the last one rolls through.

It’s been a quiet summer in terms of storms; I remember childhood summers where we spent days upon days watching the weather channel, monitoring rain moving through the area, being shepharded downstairs by my mother on the days when they worst of them rolled through. When we were slightly older, I remember distinctly sitting out on our three-season porch with my dad as the storms came in; my mother hated it, which, I think, is part of why we did it (I mean, honestly I think that’s part of why my dad did it, too; my mom was insufferable when bad weather was coming through, talking incessantly about nothing else, harrassing people into bunkering with her, etc.) I still love the smell of ozone, and that strange moment of perfect stillness right before the first major wind whistles through the trees. There hasn’t been much of that this year. Not for us, at least, and here we are at basically the end of summer.

Melissa texted me this morning that a work friend brought her a pumpkin coffee this morning, and that, for me, is one of the surest signs of imminenet Fall. There is a part of my brain that’s still stuck perpetually in March, when time existed and I had a rhythm and a life outside of this house (and a tight, tight circle of other people; though how grateful am I for those other people). Seeing September on my calendar already seems like a joke, thought I hesitate to call it a cruel one. It means time is passing, and — for me at least — faster than I could have anticipated. I thought this situation was going to drag, but it actually hasn’t. We’re moving. Time is passing. Things are changing. However long it will be before we see an “end” (and an “end” is going to be a gradual thing anyway, not a one-and-done set point in time, but regardless), we are moving towards that “end.” We have not stopped. We have not stood still.

I hope you are all still moving forward. I hope you are all still pursuing whatever ambitions lit your flame in January. This is not the year I had envisioned, ot by a long shot, not by any stretch, but I have made more progress towards some of my goals than I thought I would even back when we thought that was going to be an “ordinary” year.

I hope you are finding joy in moments, and in the increments of progress you are making on your ambitions and projects.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

Where I’m At

I’m an idiot and left my sketchbook at my mom’s house when I visited today. I had it with me because I was in the middle of a drawing I have been planning to do since literally May, and only got around to starting it yesterday. Positive side, I finished it. Negative side, I… left it at my mom’s house? And while all the line art is finished, I was hoping to not only work on it more tonight (details, shading), but also hoping to start blocking out the next piece in the series (I’m doing “modern” illustrations of the Major Arcana — I know, I know, everyone and their mom has done a Tarot thing. I just really love all varieties of Tarot art, and it feels like a good, structured way to practice doing some anatomy drawing with references, and still put my own twist on something I enjoy.)

Even though it seems like using references is something I should have started out doing and then began moving away from (or not; I know a lot of artists much more advanced than I still use them), this is my first time drawing using references in earnest; I stumbled upon SenshiStock (her handle is included in the embedded Tweet below), and immediately knew I had to start using her service. I always felt weird, the few times I did use a picture to help me with anatomy, because I was never sure what the source was, and always felt this niggling sensation of, “should I be referencing this picture?” (even though my reference never bore any resemblance to the original images; I would use multiple images references for a single drawing and nothing was ever recognizable), or the reference photo itself would be problematic (not well-lit, distracting background, poor image resolution, etc.) Finding this resource happened at absolutely the right time.

I’ve also started contributing my own reference/modelling photos to a niche gallery specifically for fat and fat-positve artists (which is password protected to keep out underaged kids as well as fetish artists), and have so far submitted (and had accepted) four photos, which I’m very happy with. I joined them on Discord as well, and despite being a social phobic little worm, I am looking forward to actually conversing and networking with other artists. This, this is the 2020 shit I signed up for.

Things have been up and down; I keep getting news about work that I’m having an intensely difficult time decipering, and I’m not entirely sure if it’s because it’s really that opaque, or if I’m genuinely just dealing with such a high level of brain fog that I am completely incapable of parsing even the most basic information. It’s really anyone’s guess. But I have managed to be more productive, and I have been more happy with the output this week — both in quality and quantity — than I have been in a very, very long time.

Hope everyone is having a day that is productive, relaxing, or — the dream — a balanced mix of both.

Stay safe and sane, people.


Unrelated, but at what point does the desire to not cause any family drama (however minimal) take a backseat to the desire to not have to read stupid, racist shit on your Facebook timeline? Asking for a friend.

Drawing Dump

A relatively small dump, but here are the three completed drawings I mentioned yesterday. They are also posted up over at my DeviantArt for anyone interested in following me there, I will likely do followbacks (if that sweetens the pot, ha).

I am settled it at my mom’s, getting ready for a second cup of coffee and an early lunch. I touched up these drawings, updated a few defunct links on my websites, cleaned up my DeviantArt a bit; we have Dateline on in the background, the A/C going, and all in all, I’m feeling pretty relaxed (or at least as relaxed as I’ve been able to get lately). Have some goals for the day, but the primary one is to chill for a bit.

Maybe some art will follow.

Take care, all.

Return to Form (in Some Form)

I want to post photos from GISH, though I likely won’t. I was actually quite proud of the items I accomplished this year — most of them were craft, writing, or art-related — but my team this year was quieter on the forums than usual when it came to actually sharing items, so I have far fewer images of our adventure this year than I usually do. I’ll try to tack some of my items, and some of my favorite items from my teammates, onto the end of this post.

I did, sadly, kind of wind up ghosting the last few days; I wasn’t sure anyone would even notice in the hustle and bustle of things, but my absences was apparently noticeable enough for one of my teammates to reach out and check in on me (which was really sweet, don’t get me wrong; it was a really kind gesture). I have not been mentally great the last few weeks, and the last two days have been the worst.

I’m trying to focus on the things I have control over — my art and my other projects. And as much as I’ve been on edge and riding high on anxiety lately, in the last three days, I’ve completed one painting and neared completion on four drawings. That’s more than I’ve done since April. It’s a return to the daily creative endeavors that I had been riding high on in the early days of quarantine, back when this all seemed like a good excuse to finally iindulge my creative side. I’m back to feeling like at least I’m not stagnating or standing still.

My district finally made a call on re-opening and announced a hybrid model; I’m terrified, but again, doing what I can, what’s in my control (in this case, calling my GP for a long-overdue physical and following up with a petition for a medical exemption (I’m hypertensive, and my wife’s HRT can surpress liver function). I’m pulling my son into full-online learning this year. I’m checking in with my mom everyday to make sure my family is still staying on an equivalent risk-level so I can continue to see them. I’m trying to get back into the habit of drinking water again. I’m trying. I’m trying. I’m trying.

Today was an awful mental health day that I spent yelling at my son for the most inconsequential things (I kept telling him he wasn’t the reason I was mad, I was just mad and sometimes that comes out as yelling — I know that doesn’t excuse it, but I was in a bad place and figured I should, at the very least, assure him it was me, not him, having a problem). Tomorrow I will be heading to my mom’s (after thoroughly interrogating her today about her activity since Saturday) with my laptop and sketchpad, just to get away from my house and my responsibilities for a while, while Kira tends to Bear.

With my doctor’s appointment scheduled, the mystery of what’s happening in September figured out (even if I don’t like it), and a return to creativity (and hopefully a return to a slightly cleaner home when I return tomorrow evening), and I’m cautiously hopefuly that I’ll start seeing a return to form again soon.

Stay safe and sane, guys.

GISH

This will be the next almost-week of my life, so if there is radio silence, forgive it.

There will hopefully be lots to share (including the full list, for those who are not participating, though that will obviously have to wait until the hunt is over; I’ll try to remember to save a copy before Saturday) by Saturday afternoon/Sunday morning, but until then I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the wonder that is GISH, and consider — assuming it continues on to next year, which would be its 11th — joining us next time around.

GISH: THE GOOD HUNT

Chalk one up to Perseverance

So, I’ve been hyping myself up to do a YouTube channel, and I’ve been really getting into the idea. It’s something that been on my bucket list for a while — to make an active push to have a successful, consistent YouTube channel devoted to something that I’m interested and invested in. Now, I’m realistic, and I don’t really have an ambition to make a career out of YouTube, so my definition of successful is, ultimately, maybe a few hundred viewers and regular engagement.

I’ve spent the last week writing some scripts for some videos — self-care for creatives, a few writing exercises, with other things planned for the future. I’ve been very excited that I finally had an idea for something that I felt I could do that might actually be of interest to someone else, instead of just vlog updates on my NaNoWriMo progress (side note: I love to watch NaNoWriMo vlog, so this isn’t an indictment of other people making said vlogs. It’s just, every time I film one myself, I watch it back and honestly just can’t fathom that someone would want to look at my face and listen to me ramble for ten minutes. Just… ugh).

Anyway, I wrote some pretty intricate scripts for these videos, and set up a prime spot in my room to film, all with the expectation that I would be able to actually film the first video (I’ve scripted five, thus far) on Saturday, when Kira and Bear were out of the house visiting my in-laws. When they left a little after lunch, I sat down to punch up and polish the first few scripts, give my phone a final hour or so to charge, and went up stairs to film.

And that’s when the trouble started.

First of all, the most reliable piece of equipment I have is my phone, which probably isn’t all that unusual. My phone isn’t the most expensive or impressive, but it makes decent videos in decent lighting, and we had decent lighting upstairs. Seemed like things would go well. Eh… except that my video script was fifteen minutes long, so between re-shoots, retakes, and just wanting to have a slightly more polished look than my vlogs, meant hand-held recording was out (my arm is usually ready to fall off after a three to five minute vlog). I don’t have a tripod that will accomodate my phone, so that was out, and the only surfaces I have in my room are my bookcase… none of which align well to my face. Ok. Ok. So.

Plan B is to use the video camera my father-in-law gave us, which is… literally nowhere. What the actual fuck. I literally talked to my wife about wanting to do a YouTube channel like, two weeks ago, while lovingly fondling the camera. I wouldn’t have told Kira to put it into storage. Would I? If I was in one of my moods, I totally would. Shit. And she’d do it, because I asked her to, and she, like, actually listens to me most of the time. Damn it. Ok, moving on.

Plan C was the SLR camera my father-in-law also gave us, um, a long time ago. It was cutting edge once upon a time, but we’ve had it since the birth of out son, and Bear is fast approaching six years old, and it was only gifted to us because it no longer served my father-in-law’s own photographic needs. But, I mean, it just needs to film a clear video, it doesn’t have to be, like, cutting-edge HD. Which, good, because it certainly wasn’t cutting-edge HD; sadly, it also wasn’t a clear video. So, among the accouterments that accompanied the camera when it was handed down was a USB cable, a case, a few extra SD cards, and not a single set of instructionS. No manual, not even a pamphlet explaining the default settings. So, while I’m sure there’s a way to adjust the apeRture or some shit so that the camera actually utilizes the objectively shitty lighting present even in the most well-lit room in the house, I had no resources to reference in order to troubleshoot it, and oh, man, I was not in the frame of mind to just try to “figure it out.”

OKAY. So. I have now exhausted the options I have available to me to actually record a YouTube video. I should just give up, right?

NO. Hi, hello. My name is Jess and I just bullshitted invented the “visually-augmented podcast.”

No, not a “visual podcast,” those exist and are basically exactly what I failed to do. The “visually-augmented podcast” uses still and animated images and vocal cues to alert you to interactive segments in the video, such as screen-sharing segments and how-tos. Yes. Because I plan to screen-share to demonstrate the writing process for several of the games and prompts, I had to establish that there was, or would be, a visual component, while still acknowledging that, yeah, there’s not a ton of “relevant” video in the, uh, video.

So… how is this going to go? Are people going to buy into it?

I don’t know. I think my advice is pretty decent, I think the games and exercises I’m doing are good, I even think my still images/graphics are fun. It’s not what I wanted, but I’m making it the best that I can.

Perseverance, baby. That was my word for 2020, and every damn day it feels more and more like the right one.

I’m going to make this work, ok? Okay.

Tidying Up

After much debate, my wife and I decided to bring my in-laws into our quarantine bubble. They’ve been extremely careful and well-isolated, and expanding out to include them in our bubble meant that for the first time, a week and a half ago, I had my first day alone in over four months.

Blessed be.

I got a backlog of cleaning done, stripped the couch and refreshed the apholstery, vacuumed the living room, and got in a lot of podcast listening, YouTube viewing, and mental peace and quiet. This past Ssaturday, they repeated the excursion, this time returning with my sibling-in-law Tenri in tow. Tenri is 24 and Bear is in love with them, and so in the ensuing two days (they leave tomorrow around noon) has been attached at their hip. This has meant, once again, that I had a chance to catch up on my weekly chores, chill out and listen to some of my backlogged podcasts, and work on some creative projects.

Guys, today I wrote two thousand words.

For perspective, in the entire nineteen previous days of july I had written eight hundred, total.

This is big.

Tenri leaves tomorrow, but I feel like I broke through that inertia barrier and I am excited about where this project is going and looking forward to opportunities to work more on it. It did, however, shine light on my desperate need for project organization.

I use Google Docs primarily, with occassional forays into analogue writing in a variety of notebooks when I feel like getting away from a screen would be more conducive to productivity (I find myself falling down YouTube/Twitter/TVTropes/Wikipedia rabbit holes way, way too easily). Google Docs is great for its conveinence, in that I can just navigate to a doc, open it, write what I want and peace out without ever having to worry about losing anything — for someone who lost several thousand words of fiction in the late-90s and early-aughts on Microsoft Word because of random power surges, this is wonderfully freeing.

It does, however, mean that I have about a thousand documents titled “Untitled.” Or titled with the doc’s cryptic first line. Or half a dozen docs that are essentially different parts of the same project, but I got fed up looking for the original doc because it was titled either Untitled or Something Cryptic, so I just created a new doc and then the process repeated itself because I never remember to properly name my docs… anyway, you get the picture.

Or, as what’s happening with this current project (and what started to happen with my Camp NaNoWriMo poetry proejct as well), in an effort to keep things together, I have notes, outlines, and the beginnings of an actual coherent piece all together in one document, which, I suppose, certainly keeps things together, but also makes in a slog to weed through and to cross-reference (I need to look something up in my notes after I’ve been writing for an hour? Ok, so, scroll up twenty pages. Ok, now scroll back down twenty pages. Ok, so… now you forgot what it was that you looked up. Also, you forgot where you were in the story, because of course you aren’t even writing the story as one cohesive unit, no, you’re writing it intersperesed between sets of notes and bits of outline because you are a human dumpster fire).

Anyway, as eager as I am to get back into this project, I think I’m going to take some time tonight to organize my Google Docs, create some folders, weed through unneccesary and empty docs (ever create a new Google Doc and realize you don’t need it?? But now it’s sitting there in your Drive? The next time you need a new Google Doc, do you go back to that unused one and utilize it? No, you make another new Google Doc, because you’re a fucking monster). I’m confident and pretty self-assured in how this project is going; I can get a fresh start on it tomorrow and it’ll be a-ok.

Tonight though, I think it’s tea, TV, and some Marie Kondo-style tidying up.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.