I Will Be Back

lifeupdateSigh.  I had been doing so well with updates for a while, too.

I hope you’re all well.  I am, even though I’m not totally feeling like it right now.  I feel like I’ve just been barely keeping my head above water when it comes to personal responsibilities and self-care.  I feel like the return to a regular schedule on Monday will help, but holding on until then has been hard.

But I have updates; I’ve been working on a series of watercolor that I hope to show you all soon, and have two series of acrylic paintings that I’m aching to start on, but know I’m not in the right frame of mind to do so just yet (I’ll either be hypercritical or just rush through them for the sake of having completed something, neither of which are things I want to do).  I’ve also got some general life updates and some projects I’m excited about unrelated to painting.

For those of you with kids or who work with kids (or both, like myself), I hope the transition back to school has been smooth.  Bear starts K1 on September 3rd, and I’m already having anxiety dreams about it (I say “already.”  I am genuinely shocked I haven’t been having recurring nightmares since the day we got him registered, honestly).

Life is good, though it’s hard to see it through the fog in my brain right now.  Hopefully that’ll clear soon.  I’m looking forward to returning with something to show you all, with something I’m proud of.

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.

My Brain Doesn’t Trust Itself

adventures of the everydayI’ve been working at my job for fourteen years.  Fourteen years, guys.  I feel almost as at home in that building as I do… well, at home.  I know my coworkers’ rhythms, I know the routines, the programs, and the schedules — even the off-season ones.  I’ve been working Extended School Year itself for a decade, missing only the year when I was halfway through my pregnancy and (literally) couldn’t stand the heat.  I’ve worked every grade level, every skill level, every permutation.

All this to say, I know my job, okay?  So then why, for the love of Christ, did I spend an hour this morning freaking out over the absolute most basic aspects of my assignment?

And this happens every goddamned year, too.  Always, without fail.  First, I have a shitty night’s sleep the previous night, because I’m wound up and anxious about the start of something “new” (every iteration of a “first day” elicits this reaction in me — transitioning is hard).  Then, I get through the night, get up, get ready, and go, and spend the entire ride to work checking and double checking my bag, convinced I’ve forgotten something (this at least has precedence, because I forget something roughly, oh, every other day or so.  What’s awful is that once I’ve checked for and found said item, I’ll still stop and check for it at least three more times.  Lest it be summoned into the ether, for Christ’s sake).

Then I get to work — super early, too, because I have to carpool, and I only have the one ride.  You’d think that getting there early would be relaxing, right?  No rushing, just sit down, settle in, maybe bring a book?  And it gets to be; after the first day jitters are over and done with, it’s nice getting there more than an hour early and just sort of chilling.  But that first day?

Today I spent literally an hour doing laps and growing increasingly anxious that:

  1. I was in the wrong building.  The wrong building, people.  It’s always been this building.  It’s only ever been this building.
  2. That I had the date wrong.  You know, the same date it’s been forever and always into perpetuity (the Monday after the 4th)?  The date that was in my planner, on Google calendar, and in the three separate emails I got over the last few weeks reminding me about ESY??

And it’s gonna happen again tomorrow!!  You know how I know?  Because it’s already started.  I’m already second guessing where I’m supposed to be (this is a separate program conducted off-site), even though this program has always had me meet at the same place, and I confirmed twice with the lead that the schedule and routine was the same as last year.  Twice.  A program that I, again, have worked before (though granted not as long term, this is only (“only“) my fourth year).

But logic isn’t going to shake this anxiety.  Logic never does.  I am going to feel antsy and slightly panicky literally until I see my lead walk up to the building tomorrow morning, and that kind of sucks, but I don’t know what else to do about it.

After tomorrow?  Ah, the rest of the summer should be smooth sailing.  I’m honestly really looking forward to it!  But these first two days, man.  These first two days, my brain just short-circuits and it’s non-stop panic mode.

Hopefully I can get a decent night’s sleep, and find quick respite in the morning.

Fuck Anxiety Brain.