Art Projects · creativity

Art Project: Galaxy Ring

artprojectIt’s been an eternity since I’ve actually posted any completed art here, and it’s only partially because I haven’t been creating.  I’ve been working on some projects, albeit slowly and sporadically, but I’ve not completed many lately.

However, I have a few things I finished up a while ago and just never got around to posting.

First up, here’s a return to something I love, but don’t do a ton of anymore, and that’s upcycling.  The last upcycled project I completed had to be, uh, like six years ago, which, holy shit, is longer than I thought, but I was definitely in our old apartment and Bear wasn’t around yet, so yeah.  Jesus.

That time around, it was an old, rusted out decorative birdhouse that had been languishing and rusting away in my parents’ yard, and after a fresh coat of paint, some rub on appliques, and a bit of decoupage, it looked awesome.  This time, it was the broken pieces of an old pedestal ashtray.

20191111_124713.jpgMost of it was pretty broken down, but for some reason when they pried the ashtray base off, my father turned to me and asked if I wanted these two pieces, “to paint, or whatever.”  I mean, I probably need to start saying “no” to some of these offers of refuse, lest this become an Altoid tin situation¹, but I was pretty sure I had a decent idea for what I wanted to do with this.

My first thought was decoupage, but now that I’m no longer doing mail trades, scrapbooking, or thrifting the way I used to, I’m fairly limited as to my materials; really all I have are back issues of Cosmo, and that’s a pretty narrow range of thematic options to work with.  So I finally settled to straight up repainting.

20191111_130636I did all the work in craft acryllic (Applebarrel); undilluted black for the base background, and very thin wash of navy, blue, and white for the nebulae.  I also used a cheap children’s paintbrush with stiff plastic bristles to splatter the stars (in antique white), and then free-handed the planets (loosely based on those in our solar system).  I sort of wish I had a stencil for these , but I’m okay with the shapes for the most part (the exception being the ersatz-y Jupiter, which looks a little wonky).  I textured them with a round brush, using stippling, and a lot of layering with diluted paints. 

I finished it with a coat of gloss Mod Podge, and layered the two pieces to create the idea of planets orbiting the sun.  Sadly, when I actually assembled it, the hot glue I had on hand didn’t hold well enough, so I attached the pieces with nails… which sadly split the wood on the ring, but only on one side, so I don’t think I have to worry about it falling apart.  Still, I’m sad about the way the crack mars the project, which overall I’m very happy with.  This is going to hang in Bear’s room once the Mod Podge cures fully in a day or so.

I’ve got to keep my eye out for more things to transform, because upcycling is so crazy satisfying, to take something people have given up on and make it something people are, like, envious of (seriously, I got more comments on this project on Facebook than on any of my original art in the last year).

What are you all working on lately?


¹The nearly 50 empty Altoid tins my parents collected for me when I was doing altered boxes — which I keep meaning to return to, but haven’t yet — and are currently taking up a ton of space in my craft corner.

Art Projects · creativity · Life Updates · Uncategorized

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

lifeupdateI really am not a fan of trying to place the blame for any of my less-than-stellar attempts on anything but a less-than-refined ability.  I’m still a total amateur newbie when it comes to anything art related, despite some huge progress, and I fully own up to that fact.

That being said, I often feel embarrassed sharing my work online because even on those occasions when I’ve been satisfied or — dare I say — even happy with what I’ve produced, taking a photo of it has always yielded decidedly subpar results.

While not to downplay that fact that I am not an amazing photographer, my phone camera was decidely lacking.  Grainy zoom, poor focusing, and horrible light balance.  Could some of that have been rectified by investing in a quality camera and, like, studying up on photography?  I mean, probably, but I’m no particularly interested in photography as a personal hobby so I don’t want to sink money into a high end piece of equipment, and I’m only a hobbyist artist, so I don’t need to take exquisite photos in order to market or sell my art.  I really just needed something good enough that I could post fairly true-to-life photos of my projects, and honestly, the easiest way to do that was simply to get a better phone.

Now, I didn’t upgrade my phone because I wanted a new camera to photograph my work, but it happened to be a huge bonus.  I tested it out today in less than stellar conditions and the results were so much better than even optimal condition results with my old phone.  I have a small cache of projects I’ve been waiting to share and I’m thrilled that I should be able to start doing that this weekend.

I know that the creation of art in and of itself makes me an artist (even if the work is amateurish), but I’ve got to admit, it sometimes feels hard calling myself that when I share my work so infrequently, and especially when my shared work looks so much less proficient than it is — I have a long way to go, but I’ve come a long way as well, and I want people to be able to see my progress accurately.

Anyway, I am excited to share some actually good quality photos of my work in the coming weeks.

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.

Adventures of the Everyday · Art Projects · creativity · Personal

adventures of the everydayMy wedding anniversary was last week, on the 17th — nine years married, can you believe?  Not bad for the couple who each thought they were never gonna get married, and never had any real ambition to do so.  Our marriage was very much of the, “this feels right for our situation” variety, rather than “marriage is a de facto life goal, so we gotta do it” variety.

I give my husband a lot of shit — mostly playfully, mostly jokingly — and this week has been no exception.  I’d been working on a painting that overall turned out really well, but with which I had a hell of a rough patch earlier this week.  It’s another portrait of sorts, and noses and midlines continue to be the bane of my existence (hence why I continue to paint them, over and over again).¹

I have a habit of talking, half to myself and half to whoever is un/fortunate enough to be present during my diatribes, while I work on a piece.  This meant that during the hours which I was working, my husband had to listen to what probably amounted to a litany of, “is this the color I was using?  Yeah, ok.  What would happen if I — oh, there we go, that’s pretty.  Should I do an extra layer of highlights?  Ooh, I should have put a wash down before I started this detail.  Does this look bad?  How does this look?  Andy?  Andy???”

Now, I get that given my penchant for rambling mostly to myself, it doesn’t bother me that he’s not poised to answer my every beck and call when I eventually address him directly; like, if I had to actively listen to someone go on the kind of tangents I do on the off-chance that maybe they’ll actually try to engage me, I’d go bonkers.  Like, it would just literally be impossible to get anything done, because I wouldn’t have the mental time and space to focus on anything except their tirades.  So it’s not that he isn’t automatically in active listening mode that bothered me.  It is, as I often tell him, that he “doesn’t care.”

And he doesn’t.  Like, he doesn’t care about painting.  At all.  And yes, it sometimes annoys me.  It’s sometimes disheartening that I can’t really have a meaningful conversation about something that has caught my interest with one of the most important people in my life.  And I’m willing to bet their are a lot of people who feel the same way about their partners’ interest — or lack there of — in their hobbies.

And honestly, I am going to continue to stand up and assert that I would like for him to exhibit a little more interest in my hobby, at least to the point of giving me honest feedback when I ask him for it, or giving me a candid opinion (because they whole, “I don’t know, I don’t know art” does not cut it; like, bitch, I know you’re not an artist, I live with you.  I’m still asking your opinion as my husband.  I have “Art” friends to get “art” opinions from if and when I need them).

But.  But but but.  I am also going to stand up and assert that I, and probably a lot of people, need to really examine the ways our partners interact with our passions and assess whether it’s really lack of support or lack of interest, because while one might be nice, the other is absolutely essential.

Much as I’d love for him to be interested in painting, or crafting, or art, he doesn’t owe me interest in any particular subject, and honestly, fair.  Because it’s not like I go out of my way to learn the ins and outs and intricacies of any of his games (video or tabletop), and I show about as much overall interest in his games themselves as he shows in my art (the real difference being that he doesn’t reach out and try to talk to me about his games with nearly as much ferventness or frequency as I do my art).

But while he show no interest in art, he show interest in my interest in art.  He shows support.

He comes home from the store with interestingly sized canvases for me.  He randomly stocks up on sketch books and notebooks when he goes out to do the grocery shopping.  He walks with me through galleries that I know are snorefests for him.  He points out cool colored paints that he thinks I’d like to experiment with.  He spends inordinate time holding various shopping baskets for me while I comb through the shelves in any craft aisle we go through.  When I’m on the fence about an art-related expense, he tells me to go for it, and more than once when I’ve ruled it as too much, he’s gone out after me and made the purchase himself.  

He doesn’t care that I came up with a new acryllic technique, except for the fact that I’m pleased with myself.  He doesn’t care that, hey, I finally painted a nose I’m happy with, save for the fact that I’m happy.

Yeah, I’d like him to actually be into the art.  But I can’t force him to love what I love.  I don’t intimately enjoy all of his hobbies, and he doesn’t expect me to, so it’s unfair to ask him to feign that enjoyment for me.

But he cares that I care.  He’s happy that I’m happy, and encourages me to pursue the hobbies that foster that happiness.

That’s a pretty good rule in a marriage, I think.  That’s pretty fucking important.


¹ “Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at something.” –Jake, Adventure Time (look,  in this house, we take in wisdom where we find it).  I figure the more I force myself to paint something I suck at (instead of avoiding it, as is my instinct), I might actually improve my technique and grow from it.  Wild, right?

Art Projects

Art Project: Birds on Black

artprojectHere’s where my family really shines:  whenever I’ve gotten onto a particular art “kick” — crochet, collage, paper crafts, altered boxes, etc. — they have always collected, found, or otherwise procured all manner of ephemera for me to work with, which is why to this day, my basement and craft room are crammed with knitting needles and crochet hooks, empty toilet paper rolls, back issues of dozens of magazines, and empty cigar boxes and Altoids tins.  I’m not always able to use everything given to me, but it’s nice having a tangible sign of support, you know?

This time around it was the unexpected gift of several square black plastic plates — the ones that are “nice,” but also still disposable, you know the kind.  My grandfather had been picking them up at the Dollar Tree and giving them to my mom in numbers that she was absolutely never going to need or use, so she asked if I’d like some, “to paint on or whatever.”

“What would I paint?”  I asked.

“I dunno.  Flowers.  Or birds.  Or something.”

So that’s how I spent some of my time last night.

I figured, since I couldn’t use my preferred technique of a wet wash (I just don’t see how that could feasibly work on a non-porous surface), I would aim for a style that was slightly more impressionistic, and would work better with the thick layers and textures I would have to utilize to get the coverage I wanted.  These are three of the six plates I was given, and while they were a bit of a rush job, I was excited to try them out and sort of blasted through a few things.

I’m happiest with the bird perched atop the lilacs; more pleased with the berries than the bird in the final painting, and happier with the bird than the blossoms in the first one.  Overall, there are things I am very happy about with all three, and things that I am less thrilled with, but perhaps have learned from.

The biggest challenge was painting something without having a pencil sketch on an outline present (since you can’t really sketch on this kind of plastic.  Having to free-hand everything was difficult, but I’m pretty happy with how most of it came out.

I’ll take suggestions for the remaining three plates!  I enjoy painting birds, but would like to try something new.


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