A-to-Z Challenge: Queer/Queen/Quaint; Rider/Rise/Reward; Spine/Sign/Study

Come on, how much do you love my conceptualization of the mom? It’s great, right? Art at it’s finest.

“These are the best we could do?” Arianna murmured doubtfully as yet another potential suitor — smug and dark-haired, just like all the others — left the dining hall. “These are our best and brightest? This parade of arrogance and swagger?”

“They have every right to be proud,” her mother chastised sharply. “Pride is not the same as arrogance if it’s earned, Arianna. These you men are high born and highly skilled.”

“So their parents have money and they’re good with a sword,” Arianna said dismissively. “I don’t see how that sets them apart from me in anyway, and yet I’m constantly being told to be humble.” She side-eyed her mother, boredly.

“I can only assume that humility is to be the ‘lady-like’ counterpoint to my husband-to-be’s arrogance. Oh, apologies — pride. What a quaint arrangement.”

Her mother let out a long suffering sigh as Kiara, one of the servant girls, entered the room with an elaborate tray piled high with pastries and a gilded teapot. She waved the young woman in, rubbing at her temples.

“What would you have me say, Arianna?” she asked. “We have traditions, we have expectations and social mores. You are expected to find a husband, to be taken care of, to have children. Do you not want a secure life?”

“I don’t want that life,” Arianna sniffed. Her mother shook her head in frustration as Kiara poured her tea in a delicate china cup. Her mother took a long sip.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” her mother huffed, placing the cup back in it’s saucer with a little more force than strictly necessary. “You’ve not lived long enough to know. Your life will be long, God-willing, and what a horrid thing it would be if you were to live it alone.”

“I never said I wished to be alone,” Arianna aid airly. Kiara set a pile of sweet cakes on a plate before her. Arianna winked at her surreptitiously. Kiara’s face turned bright pink as she turned away, grinning.

“I only said I don’t wish to have a husband.”


Five a.m., and they pulled off the highway to eat, not a leisurely breakfast but a desperate devouring of the last remnants of the meal from the previous night; ham and cheese sandwiches kept cold in the front pocket of Erin’s Jansport with a sweaty dollar store ice pack. They rinsed their mouths with flat coke, tore into packets of Little Debbie swiss rolls with their teeth, and leaned themselves and their old bike against the guardrails on the highway as the turned their faces east.

How much further to go?” Kelly asked, her voice hoarse from disuse and the road. Erin took the last swig of Coke and shrugged.

“Miles or time,” she said, tossing the bottle over the guard rail. Kelly clucked her tongue disapprovingly. “Which is more helpful?”

Kelly shrugged. “Time, I guess.”

“Probably another five or six hours.”

Kelly chewed her lip thoughtfully, scuffing the road with her well-worn leather boats. Dry puffs of dust rose from the pavement in diaphonous clouds.

“That’s not so bad,” she muttered.

“No,” Erin agreed. “Not after everything else.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

The sat in silence for a moment, Kelly picking absently at the blood stains crusted on her jeans, the flesh still tender under the bulk of the bandages. She forced herself to stop worrying the injury, sat on her hands to keep her promise. The cold pavement against her hands, and the pressure of her weight was comforting, in a way. She turned to Erin and chanced a smile.

“At least we get sun today,” she said. Erin glanced over at her, her face unreadable. The corner of her mouth quirked, and she dipped her head in agreement.

“Yeah,” she said. “Yup. At least there’s that.”


She felt the gentle swish of her shirt in the path of approaching footfalls, but was still startled when she felt a hand on her back

“Naomi!” she signed. “Don’t sneak up!”

“Sorr-” Naomi started before catching herself.

“Sorry,” she signed. She pushed a stack of books out of the way with her foot and sat facing Zara. “I thought you had your hearing aids.”

Zara pushed her hair back to show her the buds in her ears.

“Turned them off,” she signed. “People never respect the silence of a library and I am beside myself trying to get shit together for my thesis.


Not going to lie; this might be my last year doing A-to-Z. I might take on some other monthly challenges, or seriously rethink how I handle this challenge, but I feel more and more — and I felt it a little bit last year, but hooo boy, is it full force this year — I feel more and more that it’s actually hindering my creativity more than helping me.

Actually, no; let me rephrase. I’m actually happy with what it’s doing for my creativity, because I was running out of ideas and also because I tend to stick with very similarly themed and similarly composed drawings, so this has been good in helping my generate scenes I normally wouldn’t consider drawing/painting. It’s hindering my productivity, because despite how rough the sketches are — and yeah, I know, they are rapidly degenerating before our eyes — it takes time and effort to conceptualize what I want to do for the sketch and what the story behind it is.

I already have a few front runners for what I might want to work on next month — and that’s exciting! — but I’m not getting much else done right now, and while I was a-ok with that at the start of the month, I’m regretting it a little now.

Because I hadn’t banked on the fact that, hey — ideas generate naturally, as well. They develop organically.

I have non-A-to-Z art ideas now, but I really can’t devote the time and energy to them that I’d like to, because I have to shift gears and conceptualize something new every day.

Next month when I’m not on a timeline, I can work on multiple projects at once and can easily do some of my own ideas alongside those generated by A-to-Z, but right now, my fingers are just itchy, man, ya know?

Hope all is going well for all other participants. Stay safe and sane.

SkillShare vs. Subscription Boxes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care of yourselves, and stay safe.

Artist

In an attempt to get back into reading while still pursuing my Special Interest of the
Moment, I (digitally) took out a couple of library books about art. The one I’m working through right now is called Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon, the author of Steal Like an Artist.

I have this perpetual concern that I don’t complete enough work to ever gain any credibility as an artist, or that I don’t have the raw talent to ever confidently call myself one. I came late to the game in terms of doing art; or, at least, in the corners of the internet art world in which I lurk, it certainly feels like I have. Realism is not really something I strive for; I think I would like trying to dip my toes in it at some point, but I really loved more stylized, illustrative works, so those are the sorts of artists I’m following. People who produce webcomics, independent illustrators, character designers.

And, oh my God, so many of them are so young. Decades younger than me, sometimes. Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years old, with a few years of consistent practice under their belts. Then here I am — pushing 40; having stalled out of drawing entirely at about fifteen, with very little consistent practice even before then; two years into teaching myself to draw, with myriad gaps and fits and starts in between.

And I know it shouldn’t be discouraging. I know. I know the factor that separates us really is time — time devoted to learning techniques, to practicing, to actually doing. I can see the progress I’ve made it two years, even with all the interruptions I’ve had; imagine what I’d be doing if I didn’t have a full-time job, a child, the responsibilities of a household, raging ADHD…?

So every once in a while, it’s nice to get a reminder like this:

There’s this idea that’s hard to shake, that I’ve spoken about extensively before, that you’re not an artist until to reach a certain level of skill. But remembering that artists grow and evolve, and that even mediocre artists are artists — I’m defined by the act of creating, not the quality of the art I create. And the more art create, the better that art will be.

I mentioned to my wife today — this year has been markedly different from the last few. This year, my periods of “art frustration” — feeling “empty,” feeling like I have no ideas, or no inspirations — have been unusually few and far between. They haven’t been non-existant, of course, but the bigger impetus to my output this year has been general stress and ambient chaos — and frankly, I am just going to put it out there that I feel like most of that has been well fucking warranted.

But I’ve had ideas. I’ve had a steady flow of thoughts and projects that I’ve wanted to work on. I’ve pushed writing to the backburner for now because art for my in more muscle memory, and with how crazy the world has been and the toll that has been taking on my mentally, that seems like it’s for the best, but I’m even starting to have ideas for writing projects again (I fully intended to start NaNoWriMo — ha!!! Like I wasn’t going to be driven to the brink of losing my shit by the election), and am keeping a running tabs of ideas to work on when things calm down in the world, both the one outside and the one within.

It’s almost like, once you start creating — once you move from the doing nothing to the doing something — you start to gain momentum.

You start to notice yourself getting better, and you start permitting yourself to dream bigger and take more risks.

And you start wanting to do more, and more, and more.

This is the first year of my life that if someone asked me, I would tell them I made “art.” I haven’t made the leap to not qualifying the word yet; I’m afraid I would still append “amateur” to “artist.”

But last year, I would not have even used the word “artist.”

I’m making strides. Earlier this year, back in March, I took a leap and submited three of my pieces to a local exhibition that was meant to elevate the work of women and non-binary artists. Sadly, this was the week before COVID really took hold and lockdowns began, and I don’t know — with my city still in the red zone, and cases rising again — when or if that will ever actually happen. But that doesn’t take away the fact that I took that shot. It doesn’t make me less proud of me for taking that leap.

I just took another huge (for me) leap. I don’t want to say what it is yet (“I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious”), but I will let you know when decisions have been made and plans are set in place. I am cautiously hopeful, but whatever happens, I am proud of myself for putting myself out there and taking a chance.

This year has been good for some things.

I hope you can think back on a few bright spots. I hope you can carry something out of this year that brings you hope, or comfort, or pride.

I hope to post more frequently. I know, I say that a lot. I’m trying.

Stay safe and sane, my friends.

Breaking Through

As was evidenced the last time I was feeling art blocked, the worst thing I can possibly do is “nothing.”

So I’ve done some doodling (nothing I want to share at the moment). I’ve done some planning. I actually had a bit of a breakthrough last night while browsing Tumblr (after setting up my new art/ephemera/inspiration blog, @allyourcrookedheart [EDIT: Now defunct, relocated to @the-silience]) and wound up adding a few ideas to my Art Doc on Google.

And then I went and bought myself a tablet.

A Huion Inspiroy to be precise. I haven’t used a drawing tablet since my sister’s old Wacom back in 2001, but I figured since Andy bought me a Humble Bundle back in September that included the pro-version of Corel Painter, I might as well give it a shot. Even if I continue doing analogue drawing and scanning my images to color, I hate hate hate trying to do basically anything except basic web navigating with a mouse. I’m sure there will be a learning curve, but now is as good of a time as any.

So, here’s to gaining momentum; I seem to be my most creative when I’m staring down something new and shiny, so hopefully this will give me that jump start. Wish me luck.

Stay safe, sane, and inside.