Today I’ve Learned

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I’m not sure it’s quite as intense as I had hoped to go, but it actually does bear more than a passing resemblance to the reference photo I chose, so for that alone, I am happy.  I can’t believe how reading one tutorial and watching the accompanying video has made such a huge difference in my approach to drawing eyes.  I’m going to try to find more tutorials on YouTube and maybe start making some playlists for reference — grouped by, I don’t know? Theme?  Medium?

Today has been a “blah” day.  I woke up at 6:30 and lazed about until my son came bounding in and urged us all up and out of bed.  I quickly discovered there was no milk for my coffee (I’m not a “fancy” coffee person, but I can’t stand it black), and spent hours just trying to motivate myself to do anything with very little success.  My major accomplishments today have been grocery shopping and getting the dishes done.  I’ll have to be content with that, I think.  I’ve gotten a Weather Advisory on my phone that we’ll be getting a “potent storm,” but there’s no definitive indication about whether it will be rain or snow, though honestly, I wouldn’t say no to another snow day or two.  I haven’t had an extended break that wasn’t full of obligations, whether familial, social, or household-related since the summer.

Although, apropos of nothing, I did learn something today!  My son, ever curious, asked me today what a baby donkey was called (it’s a foal, by the way), and I wound up falling down a donkey-related rabbit hole on Google and discovered that while an animal born by a mare and sired by a donkey is, of course, a mule, the biological reciprocal of this (born by donkey, sired by a stallion) is called a hinny.  A hinny.  This has inexplicably made my day.

Also, male donkeys are known as jacks, and females are known as jennies.  I have no practical application for this knowledge at the moment, but I always like discovering more technical and precise language because when I do write, I find that specificity in chosen language is incredibly satisfying.¹

I am hoping to wrap up my third micron drawing tonight, and perhaps develop a game plan for chores for tomorrow.  Dinner tonight is going to be chicken noodle soup, made from one of the deli’s delicious rotisserie chickens, and I’m hoping that that, and a nice mug of tea, might help me feel a little better.

I hope you are all having a lovely Saturday.


¹Tangential to that, one of my favorite things to look up are collective terms for groups of animals.  My favorite of those are: a crash of rhinoceroses, a bloat of hippos, a flamboyance of flamingos, and an unkindness of ravens.

Stars

Today’s daily sketch, continuing the Week of Eyes (Day 2):
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I think I want to branch out to trying to draw eyes as they would appear in more exaggerated emotional states (anger, fear, intense sadness, etc.), but the tips from the previously mentioned tutorial are really helping me, I think.  I still have ages to go, but in time I think I might be able to draw quite realistic human eyes (the rest of the human form to follow… hopefully).

Today has been blessedly uneventful.  Last night, my father-in-law — who has spent the better part of his professional life in software, though he holds a degree in astrophysics — drove the 45 minutes down in order to take Bear out and show him the Orion constellation, so that he could see the unusual dimming that is happening with Beetlegeuse.  My son is interested in space and is aware of constellations, but this was the first time he’d ever gone out and really looked up — my husband and I know don’t know much about the stars, and living in a densely populated urban area, had more or less assumed that given the light pollution, any attempt at seeing anything recognizable (or anything at all, really) would be mostly all for naught.  But with my father-in-law’s help, Bear was able to go out and see a star that may very well go supernova at any moment, and my son seemed to find that pretty cool.

I stayed in during this lesson, partly to give my son time alone with his grandfather, partly because it was about 10 F outside, and partly because, as interesting and intriguing as I find space, I find it massively anxiety provoking — like agoraphobia on a cosmic scale, is probably the closest I can describe it.  It’s beautiful and awe-inspiring, and incredibly scientifically interesting, but also puts me in mind of how powerless and untethered I am in the vast scope of things and honestly, I don’t need that negativity in my life right now, ya dig?

Afterwards they came inside, and my father-in-law read Bear one of the Findus and Pettson books that are among our family favorites.  It was a pleasant evening.

I spent most of the day feeling like it was a Monday, though I know (and am glad!) it’s not.

Tomorrow is Friday!  You made it.


PS:  I titled this entry and then simply could not get this out of my mind:

Days of Our Lives

So, still not perfect, but oh my gosh.  Following the tips from this tutorial, as I said I would, yielded much more positive results.  I will be focusing on eyes this week, using the tutorial as a guide, and try eyes in different expressions and from different angles.  Hopefully by deconstructing the face (to start) I can become a little more fluent at drawing human faces.

Today was one of those days at work that lasted seemingly forever.  It was the last day of finals, one official exam and one session of make-up, so I had no students.  Luckily, I’ve gotten slightly better about using my time wisely, so I read about 125 pages of one of my books, did a review of Lesson 12 and started in on Lesson 13 on my ASL, and did some substantial work on my next micron drawing.  So despite being a “do nothing” day, I feel like I did a fairly decent amount.

While I was at work, my sister sent me an event link for a Onesie Bar Crawl in Manchester (which is the city adjacent to where she lives), with the tag, “lots of fun stuff coming up,” which made me more than a little wistful.  I like where I am in my life; I spent so many years being told that so much of what I have — a house, a full-time job, a spouse, a kid — was going to be beyond my reach because of The Way I Am, that having all these things, wonderful on their own, is especially satisfying.

But I sometimes miss The Before Times, when I had the freedom to basically just pick and choose what frivolous thing I wanted to do.  In so many ways, on paper, my 20s looked miserable; I was living with an over-bearing parent and had virtually no privacy, I had neither a license nor a car; you’d think it would have been unbearable.  But I lived near a train leading into a big city, I had friends with cars, I was within walking distance of cafes and movie theatres, and — in some ways, most importantly — I had a job and very few financial responsibilities.  I was living in a rent-controlled apartment (paying about $500/month, utilities included), I was single, and my student loans were still in their grace period.  In so many ways, I had more freedom than I’d ever had at any other time of my life.

And everything was possible!!  I was still looking at graduate schools and figuring out what I wanted to do, and I actually had money to seriously consider going back to school to pursue it.  I was single and had dozens of dating sites to peruse at my leisure.  I had disposable income and infinite energy, and late nights in Boston getting bleary-eyed drunk and stumbling through the streets with my closest girlfriends talking about career woes and blowjobs and travel plans and birth control, and just, everything felt like it was just on the precipice of Happening.  There were so many beautiful nights with friends that were full of vodka and pillow talk, and laughingly pouring over salacious OKCupid messages from interested strangers.  I am happy with my husband, and how comfortable I am with him (more so than I’ve ever been with anyone in my life), but I also miss those first few tentative Instant Messages, signing on to a message with his name on it, the aimless fantasies about who he was behind the screen, that first stumbling face-to-face meeting at Borders Cafe.

I had some beautiful nights, full of beautiful moments, that I know I’ll never recapture.  And none of those moments, none of those nights were ever anything earth-shattering; I mean, we did enjoyable things — went drinking, or caught a movie or a show, went into Boston, hung out at a comedy club — but nothing to write home about.  But I still remember walking out through December twilight with the man who would be my husband and my two best friends, two miles through the snow to the cafe where we met up; I remember every word Andy said making the three of us burst into giggles, and I remember knowing even then, with fair certainty, that this was the man I was going to marry.  We trudged through still-falling snow and met up with two friends at a bookstore cafe where we spent ages browsing books and looking at maps (again — So Many Possibilities) before catching a train to see a stand-up show and grab some Chinese food at the Hong Kong.

Dinner and some comedy.  Nothing Special.  But I can still feel the sting of the cold on my cheeks.  I can still smell the books in that shop.  I can’t explain it, but there was something about that time in my life that made the most mundane moments palpable with What Could Be.  Every night was the night my life could change.  Every night was the night I could find my true calling through a drunken revelation;  I could hop on a train and not come back; I could hook up with the girl I had a crush on since college; I could fall in love.

I know there are still possibilities laid in front of me.  They just don’t feel as tangible, as vibrant.  I miss that.  I love what I have, but sometimes I still want More.

I wish I’d savored it while I was still in the thick of it.

It’s Wednesday.  Happy halfway.

 

Quiet Sunday

The daily sketch:

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After yesterday’s sketch, where I used shadow incredibly sparingly, I wanted to try a sketch that used more drastic contrast, so I found a reference photo of a model in dark shadow and gave that a shot.  It didn’t turn out the way I wanted, but this is after two reworkings, and is a vast improvement over the sketch that was on the page when I first laid my sketchbooks down (I then returned to it after lunch, with a clearer head).  I’m beginning to realize that time and persistence are probably the two greatest determiners of whether or not a piece I’m working on will be halfway decent or not; I don’t have great fluency yet, but returning to a piece over time does, eventually, yield better and better results.  I think I’m going to find reference pics that will allow me to work on light/dark values for the next few sessions.

Today Andy, Bear, and I headed into Waltham to meet his cousin Janice, her husband, and their daughter while they moved her back into her dorm.  We met up at a small Thai restaurant — the kind of hole-in-the-wall with six tables and a storefront right on the sidewalk (step up off the curb into the dining room) — and had an enjoyable lunch.  Janice is an illustrator, and came bearing a gift for Bear, a book she had illustrated called The Little Esrog, which Bear received enthusiastically (for a kid his age, he is incredible gracious when receiving gifts… and he genuinely likes books).  We were late getting started on bedtime routine tonight and it’s a text-rich book, so we won’t be reading it until tomorrow, but Bear is looking forward to it.

Besides that, which was a worthwhile diversion I was happy to have had the chance to share in, today was frustratingly stagnant.  I dressed in gym appropriate attire for our lunch date (black leggings and a nice black-and-white tee), and then stupidly pulled on my boots before leaving the house, and didn’t realize it until I was literally walking down the interior corridor to the gym (luckily Andy and Bear were right next door grocery shopping, but still.  I was — and still am — incredibly angry at myself for such a stupid mistake, and generally frustrated that I didn’t get to have my workout today).

I came home feeling drained, but dragged myself through putting away groceries, cooking dinner, folding the week’s laundry, and packing for Arisia (all our clothing, at least; anything I wont need between now and Friday).  I’ve just been generally down and lethargic this weekend, just very low energy.

On a positive note, last night I opened Google docs and clicked on a few unfinished fanfics from last year.  Two of them I had been working on a bit in November and still had their general shape in my mind, but I was reminded of how silly, self-indulgent, and fun they were, and how I really should continue them just for the hell of it… and then I opened another one that I hadn’t touched since July.  Crowley-centric, in the Good Omens fandom, and something I had struggled with and absolutely hated every word as I commited it to paper (I had been reading a lot of GO fanfic at the time, and it felt like my prose just didn’t hold up to some of the amazing authors in the fandom)…

…But, oh my God.  It was so much better than I remembered it being.  For a first draft, not edited or combed through or revised, it was surprisingly sharp and focused.  It wasn’t the pinnacle of the craft, by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a solid piece of writing, and I can’t believe I agonized and self-flagellated so much over that story.  It made me really hopeful that I might actually return to and finish it, possibly after the con (there’s a GO panel I’m attending that I’m hopefully will rev up the fandom in me).

Oh, and the con is on Friday.  I’ll probably reinstall WordPress Mobile on my phone so I can post, at the very least, my daily sketches, but there may be a four-day stretch of little other than that.  I’m sure that comes as devastating news.

Hoping Monday is gentle with you all, with something enjoyable waiting for you at the end (for me, it’s a cup of tea, a 9 pm bedtime, and a stack of trashy magazines to read with my husband).

Multipotentiality

The daily sketch:

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My sketch is a bit more… sketchy, today.  Bear and I wound up visiting my parents after he got out of school today, and didn’t get picked up until 5:30, so as soon as I got home, I had to start dinner.  I penciled this one out while it was simmering.  I’m actually pleased with the butterfly, though the wings are a good example of my issues with symmetry (which is a major problem I have when drawing human faces, as well).  The right side is “perfect,” and the left side… well, I tried you know?  It always falls like that, too; good right side, unfortunate left side.  I’ve come to expect it.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, given some of my resolutions, about this TED Talk that I watched late last year.  It doesn’t apply to me in a professional sense — I’ve been at the same job for fifteen years, and prior to that I only had three other jobs, all temp/part time jobs in high school and college — but I definitely feel like it’s applicable to me with regards to my interests and my focus.

I think I’m okay not being the utmost expert in any particular area, so long as I have the freedom to explore interests as they arise and develop.  I’m happier being “pretty good” at a lot of things than attaining complete mastery of just one.  And being the opposite of that — being someone with one, over-arching passion — that’s okay, too!  If that’s what makes you happy, I respect that.  I do, though, sometimes feel I am afforded less respect as a “generalist” (or “multipotentialite”) than I myself afford to “specialists.¹”  Which, I hope, is not the case in reality (I’ll admit, sometimes my perceptions can be a little flawed), because I do feel like there is a lot we can learn from one another.

There’s just so much to want to do.


¹I had a professor in college who also happened to be my academic advisor; his specialization was Restoration and 18th-century British literature (with expertise in Samuel Johnson and John Milton), which I honestly didn’t give two damns about.

But when he got to talking — like, really got on a roll, talking about a particular favorite piece of literature, analyzing, contextualizing, applying — holy shit, was that hot.  Yes, hot.  If you don’t think there weren’t a half dozen of us in that class thinking dirty thoughts while he stood there and dissected Samuel Richardson, think again, my friend.

So never let anyone tell you your passion or enthusiasm is anything other than wonderful (and maybe kind of sexy).  Just so you know.

Doing In Order to Do

As usual, the daily sketch:

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I am, as a whole, happier with this figure than I was with yesterday’s.  As odd as it sounds, I think the shading/shadow under her chin and along her throat is my favorite part?  I’m just really pleased with the facial contours, even though I know they aren’t perfect.  For a quick sketch, I’m strangely content with it.

I’m struggling today with accepting that the spirit of some of my goals is, in fact, more important than the letter.  Meaning, the spirit of my 2020 goals is to lead a healthier, happier, more balanced life, right?  To enjoy things more, expand my horizons, break free of my particular, frustrating brand of inertia.  For example, I went from someone who would read sometimes dozens of books a year in their early twenties to someone who last year, read one (and only then to encourage a student who was reading the same book).

So it made sense, to me, to make “read 50 books” a bucket list goal, the unstated but implicit limitation being, obviously, that meant 50 books in a year.  A lofty goal, probably, given my recent history.  And I knew that when I chose it.  But I wanted to push myself.  I wanted a challenge.

But then I was listening to some of the back catalog of I Don’t Even Own a Television (because, as established — crushing hard on Jay), and they were discussing people who listen to podcasts at 1.5x speed, and Collision (being magnanimous) admitted that while he wouldn’t begrudge people who truly enjoyed listening to podcasts that way, it did seem to him that people who did that more wanted to be able to check “listened to podcast” off some kind of To-DO list, rather than listen to a podcast for the sheer enjoyment of it.

I will admit, I felt kind of called out.  I feel like I’m already, six days into the new year, doing that with books.  I’m eeking out the time I can to read, in between work, and house work, and parenting, and drawing, and sign language, and cooking, and working out, and writing, and… it feels like all the benefits that I’m supposed to be reaping from reading — escapism, insights, knowledge, whatever — we’re being sacrificed for the sheer attitude of Get It Done.  I’m rushing through pages and having to go back and consciously re-read it more thoughtfully, more slowly, until I’m actually paying attention and not just letting my eyes flit over the letters on the pages.  I’m turning pages for the sake of updating my page count on GoodReads, you know?  And while I do want to eek out time to read every day, and I do want to aim for at least a couple of books a month, maybe I don’t need to lean so heavily on the specific number.  Maybe it’s ok — better — if I just read.

I’m going to have to be more conscientious about what other things I my life I rush through just to say I’ve done them.  What other supposedly enjoyable activities might I be sabotaging?

I got in a 20 minute workout on the elliptical at home today while Bear did yoga on my yoga mat, and made this spicy Thai basil chicken with baby spinach and rice, which was very satisfying, and actually managed to get up to Lesson 8 of 10 in my ASL review (I’m going to go through all 10 lessons again this week before moving on).  All this on top of working all day after getting up at 4:30 am, and I am beat.  I’ll probably get in my last two ASL lessons in tonight and then read some magazine with Andy in bed.

Oh, also, my first micron pen project is complete!  I’m going to open a gallery on the blog as soon as I have a few more pieces.  This is a bit of a reworking of a watercolor I did a while back that I was wholly unhappy with.  I’m much happier with how it came out this time.

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Cultivating Creativity

Daily sketch:

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A sketch that took about 25 minutes, that could have been vastly improved by a good set of pencils, a durable eraser, and a straight-edge.  Again, the values are off, and the finger on the shutter button is seven different kinds of messed up, but that was the fourth or fifth redraw, and I had to remind myself — it doesn’t have to be perfect.  The daily sketch is not supposed to be about showcasing perfection, it’s about cultivating a habit, learning as I go, beginning to understand my relative strengths and weaknesses, and taking ownership of the things I create, however good or bad I perceive them to be.

I eeked out some free time today and read the first 108 pages of The Great Spring.  I had read a summary prior to starting the book, so I knew it wasn’t about writing, per se, but there is a fair amount in the book about mindfulness and mental presence that I feel can apply to developing a writer’s sensibility.  Also, these passages, which are about Zen meditation, but can so easily be applied to absolutely any creative endeavor:

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My husband is heading out to his weekly Game Night (different then our monthly Game Nights!), so I am putting Bear to bed, having dinner, and then I’m eager to continue working on some art with my microns and digging into Fansplaining, which I stumbled across looking for a good fandom podcast.  I recently listened to their episode The Shipping Answers (analyzing the results of a survey I participated in; it was how I first heard of them), and I really enjoy their overall vibe, and the episode descriptions sound intriguing; they seem to talk about a lot of fannish topics that are of interest to me.

I hope you all have a relaxing Friday night to look forward to, and a wonderful weekend.