Life Updates · Uncategorized

It’s Okay to Not Be “Doing”

lifeupdateI have a hard time, sometimes, accepting that it’s okay for me not to have a traditionally productive day.  Even when there are things that need to be done.

I’m wrapping up a lot of things that have been stressing me out; or, not even stressing me out, but just, I don’t know, taking up mental and emotional resources?  I met up with the old friend I hadn’t seen in nearly a decade, I got a chance to catch up with another friend I hadn’t seen since her engagement in April (and got asked to be maid of honor!), GISH week wrapped up, and I finished my second-to-last week of ESY.  Three more days of work this week, and I have two-and-a-half weeks off.

That’s plenty of time to be productive.  I had a productive two weeks at the start of summer; there is nothing keeping me from doing the same at the tail end.  I even managed to get the worst of the overwhelming housework done this weekend (including cleaning up my art work space and folding about five weeks of laundry), so with a little but of planning and follow-through, my house could be spotless by Friday.

So why do I feel such an intense, aimless restlessness right now?  Why do I feel like I should be on my hands and knees with a scouring pad, or hunched over a pallete mixing paints, or plugging away in front of a screen (oh… I guess I’m kind of doing that, huh)?

It is so hard sometimes to remember that my focus this year is on perseverance and patience, and that — sort of by necessity — means I won’t always be doing.  Sometimes I’ll be planning, or organizing, or prioritizing.

Hell, sometimes I’ll just be resting, because goddamnit, there are some task for which you really, really need to rally all your mental reserves before you embark on them.

I am making lists of the chores and projects I want to complete during my vacation.  I am taking inventory of all my cabinets and making lists of the organizer bins and baskets I need to buy.  I am taking literal notes on the areas in my house that I need to plaster and repaint.  I am pricing out floor tiles and stocking up on cleaning supplies.

I am keeping a journal of art ideas.  I am reading articles about watercolor technique and the best brushes to achieve a particular effects.  I’m sketching thumbnails of hopefully soon-to-be in-the-works projects.

I signed up for a “virtual writer’s retreat” that starts today.  I installed Libby and started listening to a book, because it’s harder for me to resist the call of my phone than I’d like to admit, and I know this will make it easier to ensure I “read” more, which will hopefully help me write more.  I’ve tossed my notebook back in my bag so I have it on me at all times.  I’m pinning flash fiction and poetry prompts to Pinterest.

None of that feels real; none of that feels like “doing,” but it’s all part of the process, and when your energy runs low, doing literally any of those things is so, so much better than stalling out and wallowing in procrastinatory self-loathing.  It is so, so hard for me to believe this, even the hundredth time through.  Even after the waiting and planning and gathering of the wits have resulted in the work and efforts I remain the most proud of.

I am not doing nothing.  I am laying the foundations.

Hopefully tomorrow comes with renewed energy, and a chance to start building upon it.

Friyay · Uncategorized

Friyay!

friyay positivityThis week has been wild.  I’ve been stressing about GISH, and work, and my birthday, and seeing an old friend (which was awesome!  But there’s always the worry, especially when it’s been nearly a decade, that things will be awkward when you finally get together again.  It’s always a massive relief when that concern turns out to be moot), and ughhh, one more week and I have my two-and-half-week vacation!  I’m thrilled, looking forward to having a few days to myself, to doing more painting, to hopefully organizing my basement and prepping Bear for school, and for things like seeing friends, day trips, the beach, and FanExpo Boston.

But before we get too ahead of ourselves, it’s finally Friday.  Here’s what’s been making me smile this week.

To Try

I don’t think it was on this iteration of the blog — and if it wasn’t, this is a topic I will have to revisit at some point — but I wasted a lot of time lamenting/worrying that my art wasn’t “real art.”  Luckily, I woke the fuck up from that nightmare and realized that art is varied and eclectic and subjective, and God damnit, was allowed to be fun.  I mean, I love that there are artists out there dealing with social and political issues, but amidst all the heaviness and existentialism, we need to make a little room for the light and the whimsical, as well.  I am in love with the idea of pom-pom art, I am a hugely tactile person, and there is something very satisfying about both the visual texture of this and the fact that it’s something that I can touch.  Also, I love the idea of this for decor for my son’s room.  Now I just need to think about what I would make.

To Warm the Heart

Look, I’m not gonna over-sell it; it’s literally just ~30 seconds of piglets running in circles around a momma pig.  But it makes me smile, dammit.  It so friggin cute.

To Share with the Kid

My son lately has become obsessed with jokes and pranks and, just, humor in general, so I was thrilled when this Scary Mommy post — 140+ Hilarious Jokes for Kids — showed up on my timeline.

To Watch

Ok, so it’s a week away, but I kept forgetting to mention it, so here we are; I fucking loved Rocko’s Modern Life growing up, and after two years of waiting, I am thrilled that the movie is debuting on Netflix August 9th.  Can. Not. Wait.

That’s it from me for this week.  What’s gotten you through?

Adventures of the Everyday · Art Projects · Uncategorized

Choosing Self-Improvement Over Self-Loathing

adventures of the everydayI am not an artist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s slow going.

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

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

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

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

Finally I had to stop and step back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art Projects · Uncategorized

Art Project: “Choking”

artprojectPainting is a relatively new interest of mine, or at least, I’ve only actually been painting since January — I’ve been saying that I’d “like” to paint for ages now, but only in the last six or seven months actually taken the plunge.

I’m not very good.  Which I guess I should expect?  I’ve only been at it six months, I’ve had no formal training, I took a full month-and-a-half off to participate in various challenges, and it’s not like I have time to sit and paint for hours and hours a day.  I mean, it’s a skill to cultivate, not something I should expect to be awesome at right at the start.

And honestly, I’ve seen a lot of improvement over the past few months, just as I can see a lot of ways in which I still have to grow.

To make an effort towards actually becoming better, I’ve tried to focus on human figures, particularly faces and hands, as those are both favorite subjects for me to paint (I might have a bit of a hand kink, honestly?¹) as well as things that give me a lot of trouble.  I had an idea for a mixed-media piece in mind for a long time, and had been putting it off for a while for fear of, well, fucking it up, I guess.  I tend to build up projects in my head, have a very set, clear visual image of what I’m setting out to commit to canvas, and the fact that it so very, very rarely matches up means I procrastinate on the attempt in the hopes that at some point I’ll simply arrive at the level of skill and talent I’d need in order to do the project justice.

(Of course, you don’t get to that level without painting, but let’s not go crazy by bringing logic into this.)

So, given that I had time off this week, I finally made an effort.  And… well, it’s not nearly as good as I hoped, but it’s probably a shade better than I expected.

The proportions feel off, first of all, though that bothers me less than you might expect, and I’ll be honest — I’m proud enough of the way the hand turned out that she could Untitled design (1).pngproportionally look like a T-Rex, and I think I’d be a-okay with it.  Look, I know it’s not perfect, but that’s the best damn hand I ever painted.  I certainly wasn’t going to roll the dice and attempt a repaint after getting that on the first shot.  

I’m also incredibly pleased with how the background — which was a spur-of-the-moment, last minute addition turned out.  That’s a Dollar Tree stencil, by the way, and I am inexplicably proud of that fact, as well.  My camera does not take the best photos, so it’s less obvious here than looking at the painting in real life, but the metallic on black, and the busyness of the background does a lot to make the figure stand out, and I love that.

I’m less thrilled with (though not totally hating) her facial expression.  I had a very clear “look” in mind, a very visceral, panicked expression that I just don’t yet have the skill to capture.  As it is, she looks vaguely distraught, but also like maybe she’s wondering if she left the oven on??

The roses themselves I’m very pleased with — this is the second batch, after badly scorching the first (look, it’s been a while since I’ve used Sculpey, and may have mis-remembered the bake time/thickness ratio), though the pink ones are a little more, uh, vibrant than I would have liked (I’m going to try to mute them a bit with some matte pink eye shadow (which is awesome for shading Sculpey) before I seal them.  I still feel like the floral piece is a bit sparse (you can see small patches of canvas in the gaps between flowers), but that will be a project for another day.


¹I have the fairly idiosyncratic tendency to become very enamored with particular body parts, and they are never the ones that most people would guess.  Even in people normally considered unattractive, I have fallen head over heels.  See:  Steve Buscemi’s shoulders; Mackenzie Crooks’ hands.

If you enjoy reading my ramblings or keeping up with my projects, consider maybe donating a few dollars to my Ko-Fi.  Thanks!

Adventures of the Everyday · Uncategorized

Children and the Relentless Onslaught of Time

adventures of the everydayThe last few weeks, even more so than usual, has been one long reminder of the relentlessness of time.

This should not be some grand revelation.  I know I’m getting older, you know?  Like, unquestionably.  My joints make noises that if, say, my car was making, it’d be in the shop the same day.  One beer, and I’m falling asleep at the dinner table.  And this past year, I realized I have a favorite goddamn Tupperware¹ — that’s game over, folks.  That’s peak Old Person, right there.

But I have the context of years to gauge my change, you know?  Everything that I’m cognizant of everything that defines me as a person, has come to be over the course of years.  And at some point, I don’t want to say I stopped growing, but I definitely hit a plateau.  Twenty-seven-year old Jess was a totally different person than seventeen-year-old Jess, but twenty-seven year old Jess and  thirty-seven-year old Jess have a hell of a lot in common (minus a penchant for painting, a few stretch marks, and about fourteen inches of hair), even though the same ten years separate them.

That’s because at some point we just sort of stop Becoming, and just… Are.  We spend years and years figuring things out, making major cognitive, social, and emotional leaps, and then — for most of us — that all sort of tapers off.  It’s not that we don’t still grow and change, but at some point in our adult lives, personal revelations and milestones generally become a lot fewer and further between.

But having a kid has thrown my sense of time out the window.  Because my son is four-and-a-half and still very much Becoming, and he is Becoming at a pace that is astounding, and exciting, and relentless.

Because in his life, absolutely fucking everything is revelatory.  Everything in his life is felt with the intensity of the novel: an Experience, or an Adventure, or a Tragedy.  He’s hitting new milestones at a breakneck pace, waking up some mornings suddenly able to do something or understand something that he’d be struggling with hours before sleep the previous night.  New words are entering his vocabulary everyday, and his ability to regulate, read, and respond to his own and other peoples’ emotions with nuance is growing and developing constantly.

And now he’s starting pre-K.

And we’re jumping in with both feet.  No half-day, three-days-a-week trail period; starting in September, Bear will be at school from 7:45 to 3:15, five days a week.  He has a uniform.  He’ll pack a snack and eat a served breakfast and lunch.  He’ll have music and theatre recitals, he’ll do art projects.  He’ll learn to read.

Jesus.

It’s scary. I mean, it’s ridiculously exciting, too, but also scary, to see the last remaining vestiges of the Baby I’ve coddled for the last four years fall away and reveal, like, a Big Kid.  Someone who gets their own food from the fridge, uses the potty by himself, picks out his own clothes and dresses himself, and now, goes to school.  Someone who’s sphere of influence is about to grow dramatically.

That does scare me.  I’m ecstatic for my son to meet new people — he is social and sociable almost to a fault (“I have no stranger danger!”) — but I am afraid of the boy I have raised to be curious, creative, experimental, and unburdened by gender expectations being hurt, or ridiculed, or called out for being different.  It’s a common fear, I know.  It’s probably also mostly unfounded, as he always has the support of our family and friends, but the fear is there.

My time as his Greatest Influence is coming to an end soon.  His peers, his friends — their opinions are going to start holding a lot more weight very, very soon.  It’s scary.

And it’s relentless.  It just keeps going on from here, where I watch my son move further and further away from me.

Here I am, trying to juggle the time I have left with my Baby while prepping him to be successful as a Big Kid, struggling to keep my own life on track and my creativity afloat.  Trying to cram as much as I can in the brief time I have before I have to re-add work to this mix.

Right now, I have one week left.

I wonder how long I would need for it to ever feel like I had enough.


¹Mr. Lid.  Fucking life-changing.

If you enjoy reading my ramblings or keeping up with my projects, consider maybe donating a few dollars to my Ko-Fi.  Thanks!