Polishing Up

I said I was going to do redraws of my five favorite A-to-Z Entries, and damn it, I meant it.

Original sketch for my “A” entry:

And here is the finished drawing, Aldwyn & Amara:

Surprisingly happy with this one; I love the rays of light filtering down!! And the beading on her tunic!! And the highlights on Aldwyn’s wing!

I love far more about this than what I hate. I don’t even think I hate, to be honest; there are things I could have done better, but I hate none of it.

How refreshing is that??

I am working on wrapping up some stuff I started prior to A-to-Z — some of it from long before A-to-Z, to the point where it’s noticeably stylistically rougher, but I’m still fond of it, I’ve put in quite a few hours on it, and it’s a goal of mine to not abandon projects anymore, so I will likely still wrap and post it at some point.


Related to art and projects, a big project that I was an artist on recently, The Fat Folks Tarot Deck, is live for pre-orders! The art is stunning, and includes the work of 77 artists in just as many styles. This is a body-positive, fat-positive, queer-positive, trans-positive Tarot Deck, and all the proceeds go towards Trans Lifeline! Please, if you are someone who is into Tarot, consider picking up a deck! This is my piece for my card, the Nine of Pentacles:

Things are moving along. I’m going to be working on my next A-to-Z revision, which I think is going to be my “C” entry. I’ll be honest, the more I look back and start to more fully conceptualize, the more I think I am ultimately going to be doing more than five works.

Not that I’m complaining, to be honest.

Hope all is well. Stay safe and sane.

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.

A-to-Z Challenge: Nun/Name/Needle; Outside/Offensive/Oven

I will be honest; I’ve not got the energy to write out the vignette for the first of these, but the second of these has no vignette attached to it at all. There was no story or scenario in my head for the second one; the words generated, and automatically I thought about a couple of days last week, where the temperature far exceeded what we were expecting and we were sorely unprepared for it.

The first one was a little bit drawn from vague memories of my own Catholic schooling, but also somewhat inspired by a scene in The House on Mango Street. I imagine a young girl — disheveled, embarrassed — wearing shoddy, falling-apart clothing to school and being made fun of my her peers. One of the sisters sits with her in the classroom while the other kids are at recess, offering comfort and mending some of the more egregious rips and tears in her clothing. I like the idea of the scene quite a bit. I feel like I’ve said that about a fair few — which is not a bad thing! I would rather an excess of project ideas rather than a dearth — so I’m not going to say this is in the running just yet, but don’t be surprised if you see it again next month is all I’m saying.


I am on Spring Break! I spent yesterday and today getting my house in order so that I could throw myself into projects, both personal and creative, over the next seven days. I have activities to do with my son, I have four library books checked out on digital loan, I have three new podcasts I’m ready to check out, and I have two shiny art projects — not including the A-to-Z — that I’m working on. All in all, I’m incredibly glad for break.

In another bit of news that reminds me me both that I want to start writing new poetry again, but also that I need to bring over and archive my collection of sestinas (some of which are over a decade old at this point) — I was a finalist for the 2021 Robert Frost Foundation Poetry Prize with a sestina a wrote bordering on ten years ago (holy shit) called “Noise.” I miss writing poetry, particularly sestinas (they’re like a little puzzle to me; it’s such a thrill and a joy, figuring out how to piece it all together), and that is definitely something I should make room in my life for this summer.

I am breathing a deep sigh of relief and am eager to have a productive and relaxing break. Hope you all, whether you are working or not, have a lovely week.

Stay safe and sane.


This month, I’m using a random word generator to generate three words around which I will then craft a sketch and a literary vignette. I will chose my five favorites to fully flesh out (as full digital paintings and short-short stories) in May and beyond.

A-to-Z Challenge: Mother/Misery/Mass

I don’t have a vignette written for this one; I just wanted a young mother-to-be coming in off the streets, out of a bad situation. It’s been raining, and her hair and clothing is plastered to her skin; she sits in the final row of pews to be less obtrusive, but the church isn’t currently holding mass. There are a few people scattered here and there, kneeling in prayer and rising only to light a devotional candle before they leave.

Can people even do that anymore? The churches in my city used to be perpetually unlocked, open to anyone who wanted to come in at any time. I’m pretty sure they lock the doors now, when not in active use. It’s still an image I love, though, and one — now that I think about it — I’ve used before, ages ago, in a NaNoWriMo novel that I lost after the laptop I’d saved it on was stolen (note: back up your work, kids!) I’m not a religious person by any stretch or by any means, but I grew up immersed in a lot of Catholic “stuff” and for every religious “trauma,” I also have a good or pleasant nostalgic memory — I spent a lot of spring feast days and special occassions in grammar school in church for the morning session, and celebrating in the afternoon. As much as I don’t miss the religion, I miss some of the rituals, and some of the memories of my youth.


I’m exhausted. I’ve been exhausted for days, and maybe the reason it’s coming to a head today is because I finally got my period, or maybe because this is the first day I feel like I can really breathe a little bit — my parents and brother got the first dose of the vaccine today, and it was the last day of work before April break. I feel like a lot of pent up tension is released today, but the result of that is this weird emotional let down — like I’ve been holding myself together with duct tape and safety pins and now that everything is done, that whole scaffolding is just crumbling.

So I will have to catch up on A-to-Z tomorrow and Sunday. That’s fine. I also have chores tomorrow, but I got a hell of a lot down yesterday and today and I am trying extremely hard to give myself the due credit for my progress instead of berating myself for not having completely finished.

And I think I’m going to kick off the first night of Spring Break with some mindless YouTubing, a chat with my mom, some Annie’s Organic Peanut Butter Snack Bars, and our new Rosé All Day candle.

Cheers to you all. Stay safe and sane.


This month, I’m using a random word generator to generate three words around which I will then craft a sketch and a literary vignette. I will chose my five favorites to fully flesh out (as full digital paintings and short-short stories) in May and beyond.

A-to-Z Challenge: Hostage/Heaven/Harvest, and Insect/Idea/Imagination

“You’re familiar with the arrangement, I assume?” The voice was all-encompassing, enveloping every sense; she could some how feel it reverberate in her teeth, could feel it rattling her eyes, yet she felt no pain. It simply was. Everywhere.

“Obviously,” she said, keeping her voice low. A young couple passed, leaning into each other, hands deep in their pockets against the cold. She kept herself tight against the cold brick of the building, still unsure if people could see her or not. Somewho, she sensed Death smiling, not unkindly, but not without a sense of wry irony, either.

“It’s like the quintessential ‘strike a deal with Death’ trope,” she continued. “Right? I’m assuming I’m going to be expected to–“

“Reap,” he said. The voice was no less omnipresent, but there was a softness to it, now. “Yes. There may be some fine details I need to fill you in on, but you’ve clearly got the gist. Good. That will save time.”

She followed the young couple down the alley with her eyes, watched as they stopped at the far end for the young man to take out his phone as they huddled together to check something on the screen; a roster of movies playing at the local cinema. She thought about James, then; James, who had driven that road a thousand times, James who always knew his limits, James who had reassured her he was the more sober of the two of them. He probably had been, too; that was the sad thing.

She swallowed.

“How will I know when–“

A heavy hand came down on her shoulder. She gasped, instinctively reaching for it, and touched only her own flesh.

“You have eyes, don’t you?”

She blinked.

“Counters,” she sighed, watching the numbers above the young couple ticking down, but still a long ways off, thankfully. “God, how abhorrently cliched.”

Death shrugged. “It’s not on us to be creative. We only need to be efficient.”


“Fifteen years of studying genetics, chemistry, engineering,” Tennyson rattled off, pinching the bridge of his nose, “and this is how you choose to spend your talents.”

Avriel raked his fingers fondly through the setae along the creature’s unnatural large thorax, like an equestrian stroking a favored steed. The creatures wing flitted, stirring the air and whipping the long coats against the young mens’ legs.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said airily. Tennyson glared at him.

Dragon-powered,” he hissed. “Dragon. Which, granted, I thought was utterly insane, but this, against all odds, is somehow even worse. This is not what they are going to be expecting. Were you intending this as a joke? Because I know my father, and he is not going to think it’s funny.”

“Your father,” Avriel said calmly, bundling together thick cables and anchoring them to a set of carabiners, :is interested in novelty. ‘A whole new way to fly,’ he said. Balloons, dirigibles, gliders; done, dull, dreary. So I made a suggestion.”

“It may have been… impertinent,” he admited. Tennyson huffed an exasperated laugh. Avriel held up an admonishing finger.

“I spoke arrogantly,” he said. “I admit that. Got swept up in the challenge, and really, who could blame me? What would be more novel, more exciting, than dragon-lead flight?”

“It turns out,” Avriel sighed, giving the carabiners a final tug as he attatched them firmly to the gondola and gingerly tugging off his gloves, “dragons are not the easiest creatures to tame.”

The leather gloves came off agonizingly slow, Avriel mouth set in a stoic line as he slowly flexed his hands. The skin red and raw, unnatural shiny. Tennyson lurched forward instinctively, one hand jumping to his mouth.

“For the love of God, Avriel,” Tennyson breathed. His voice was soft. “What were you thinking?”

“I wasn’t,” he admitted. “I just…so wanted to impress your father.”

Tennyson smiled, though there was little humor in it.

“But dragonflies,” Avriel continued, eyes glinting. “I could work with.”

“But this,” Tennyson gestured to the monstrous creature, tethered to the rafters of the workshop. “This is…”

“A whole new way to fly,” Avriel said simply. He smiled, gesturing to the gondola, and the lush cushions lining the spacious basket.

“Care to test it out?”


Day… Nine? Oh my God, Jess, it’s just counting. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I…. yeah, nine, okay. Ugh.

I am actually very happy with both of these concepts and both vignettes — the sketches themselves (as the Insta caption says) is edging more and more towards the “sketchy” side as the month goes on, and my instinct is both to rebel against it (“Come on, you can draw better than that!”) and to lean into it (“Why waste time with unnecessary details when you are going to do a whole-ass redraw of everything next month?”)

I wrote some notes to myself on the drawings, rather than try to visually convey some details that wouldn’t really be possible to convey in a pencil sketch, i.e., partial transperency, luminescence, etc. — things that will only really come to life once I start digitally painting it, so again, why waste time? Conceptualize it, make note or it, move on.

In other news, I have now generated words up through “S,” so now all I have to do is try to keep up with the sketches.

Hope your challenges are all going well! I went around and visited a couple of other A-to-Zers during downtime at work, and hope to do the same thing thing this week, between consults.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.


Nine days in, and I’ve only now thought of adding the explanation for what, exactly, I’m doing as a footnote instead of shoehorning it into the entry. Sigh.

This month, I’m using a random word generator to generate three words around which I will then crafta sketch and a literary vignette. I will chose my five favorites to fully flesh out (as full digital paintings and short-short stories) in May and beyond.

A-to-Z Challenge: Fox/Fire/Fashionable

No one seemed to know who she was, if the furrowed brows, and the ill-hidden whispers were any indication. Certainly, in theory, that was part of the point of a masquerade, in theory; mystery, anonymity. But in plain reality, a birthmark, a throaty laugh, the twist of a lip in a familiar smile, the cadence of speech — there was littler mystery as to who anyone behind the paper and silk masks were. David had greeted many of the guests by name, wrapped his arms around them in a familiar embrace.

But she… she was different.

“So, how do you know the host?” he asked, sipping his wine when he turned to the table they were sharing. She tipped her head to the side, observed him from below the frames of her red and golf-foil mask.

“Intimately,” she said, a smile twisting the corner of her lips.

He choked. She laughed.

“Sorry,” she said. “I couldn’t resist. But honestly, it’s a long story, and not nearly as interesting as you’d like.”

“Oh? How would you know what I like?”

Her eyes flashed, gold and luminescent in the dim light.

“I have some idea,” she said. The curl of her lip revealed a glint of teeth, ivory white and unnaturally sharp.

He swallowed. She held out a hand, slender-fingered and elegant. Her nails shone crimson and gold like her mask, sharpened to a fine point.

“Come with me and we can see if I’m right,” she said.


Day Six, and one day behind — again. I know, I know, this is a repeat of every year. My brain isn’t working so good right now, guys. I’m in a slump — partly hormone-fueled, I’d wager — and having a hard time getting out. Still, every little step forward is a win. And however unsatisfied I am with any given entry (see the Insta caption for that), I have to keep in mind that it’s all supposed to be conceptual this month. I’m only putting together blueprints in April. Final products will be assembled in May.

That being said, the prose piece here was fully stream of consciousness, and written directly in the text editor as I was assembling this entry, and I’ll be honest — I’m pretty proud of this little bit of writing. It’s been ages since I’ve written anything — let alone prose — but I have been uncharacteristically happy with how the writing for this month has gone so far.

Anyway, in an attempt to get myself out of my mental slump, I think moving around and perhaps some chores are in order, so I will be doing that soon after I hit publish.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

A-to-Z Challenge: Day/Dismissal/Direct

Today was a poor mental health day for me; I didn’t sleep much, and everything seemed overwhelming and oppressive. I managed to do a very, very rough sketch, but I didn’t write a vignette to go along with it. However, the prompts — day, dismissal, direct — have very strong sense memories for me, and the scene I sketched resonates with me quite a bit.

When I was in high school, my school building was, for all intents and purposes, on a riverbank. We were not directly on the banks of the river, I guess, but when the river flooded — which was not uncommon in the spring — our school would have to close, because the parking lot would become unusable, many of the roads in and out would become dangerous to navigate, and some of the basement-level classrooms would flood. This would mean, mid-day sometimes, they’d have to call the day and send us home.

This was in the mid-90s, pre-cell phones, and our school had two office phones and one pay phone off the social studies hallway. The lines, as you can imagine, for a school of about a thousand students, were unbearable. So, for those of us who lived within walking distance, walking was often the less frustrating option.

My best friend and I would usually leave together, heading towards my house; now, while the girl in this sketch is wearing a uniform, that’s sort of a conflation of the experiences of my high school and middle school experiences. My high school had a massive strict dress code, but my middle school had a proper uniform. Given how badly the surrounding streets would flood, we would often be wading in Catholic school khakis and buttons downs through knee-deep water, squelching most of the way through the city, along the flooded park, back to slightly drier land and busier streets. The rule was, because our folks hated us walking home through that much and mess, that if we were to do it, we were to take the most direct route to the house, which was about a twenty, twenty-five minute walk.

So of course we routinely stopped at a bodega to grab snacks and pet their cats.

The bodega I remember the most was almost claustrophobically small. There were bins of tostones and bundles of sugarcane on the counter, shelves of Goya treats and soft drinks in the cooler by the door. The huge, tortoiseshell cat would lay on the understocked shelves, watching you out of his one good eye.

We’d stop on the stoop to unwrap gold foil packs of Maria cookies and pop open cans of tamarind soda and guanabana juice. By the time we got back on my house, our feet would be rubbed raw, the flood water staining our pants stiff.

Flood days are among my fondest memories from high school.

Day Four done! Onwards and upwards to Day Five. I think I have up through “K” planned, but this weekend I’ll have to buckle down and load up the random word generator again.

It’s getting later and I have felt exhausted all day. Stay safe and sane, guys.

A-to-Z Challenge: Correspondence/Craft/Contact

I added a row every time I missed you, it said. Stitch upon stitch upon stitch for every lost kiss, every missed movie night, every meal eaten at a place set for one. There were days I was afraid there wasn’t enough wool stocked in all of Vermont to keep up with how much I missed you.

“Sappy ass,” Victoria muttered, her mouth twitching up at the edges. She looped the scarf around her neck, once, twice, the length of it sweeping her feet, spilling over the edge of her bed as she lay down. She held the letter parallel to the mattress, squinting through the one eye not obscured by her duvet.

By the time you get this, we’ll be on the cusp of Spring, Danielle continued. I thought I should send it to you while you could still make some use of it; and honestly, if I held on to it for any longer, there’s a good chance you’d open the door one morning to find the fraying ends of it encroaching on your doorstep. It’s really in everyone’s best interest that I send this out now.

Victoria closed her eyes, breathed in. The wool smelled faintly of the peppermint tea that it had been packaged with, and the cloying smell of Danielle’s ginger and lemon soap. It smelled of morning coffee, and the cedar logs that she’d burn as she worked on her knitting on the couch, the TV on but turned low, bright colors and a low hum in an elaborate pantomime.

One more term, she ended. One more term, and my life will be mine again, ad your again. Ours again.

Ours again,” Victoria repeated. She closed her eyes, gathered the feet of felted wool in her arms and held tight, imagined the curve of Danielle’s back against her chest, the flutter of a heart beat beneath her pressing hands.


Day Three! And, uh, only one day late! This was a “planned outage,” so to speak, so I’m not exactly upset about it; having Sunday off lends itself to being a make up day.

As a reminder, this month I am generating three words to use as an inspiration for a sketch and a short written vignette. The ones that I like the most will be taken and fleshed out — the sketches turned into proper full digital art pieces, the vignettes fleshed out into proper short stories — in May. I’ve got to be honest, this is the most enthusiastic I’ve been about an A-to-Z in the last several years.

I’m neither in love with not particularly upset about this entry; I like the quaint idea of writing actually, posted letters to your love; I kept penpals for years as a young adult, and well into adulthood (I was collecting snail mail penpals via LiveJournal well into my 20s), but I feel like no one does that anymore. Which is such a shame. Who doesn’t like getting mail?? Still, of the three I’ve done so far, this is the one I’m least attached to.

Hope everyone is doing well in their challenges. I don’t anticipate this is the only art I will complete this month — I’m currently working on a digital piece, for example — but I’m also not going to force the issue, either, since May is going to be a busy month already, though I’m actually really looking forward to it.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

March Wrap-up & TDoV

This was such a productive month for me; and with actually perfect timing, I’ve run short on fully-formed art ideas, and tomorrow begins the A-to-Z Challenge where upon I will be creating sketches and vignettes based on words from a random word generator. My five favorite sketches will then be expanded upon and developed, and that will be my task in May.

For those interested, I will likely be streaming at least some of my A-to-Z efforts at twitch.tv/rarelytidytwitch. My streams are for self-motivating and are generally quiet unless people come in to chat. Happy to talk to people who show if they are in a chatty mood!

Also, before I go, let me also say — happy Transgender Day of Visibility! Friendly reminder (or introduction, for newcomers), I am genderqueer and married to a lovely trans woman, so we spent today on social media making ourselves as visible as possible!

(All these images are slightly cropped due to Insta’s 1:1 images ratio. Full images can be found on my DeviantArt, linked under the Art menu).

Paper, not Precious

I have a few YouTube vices, if “vice” is even the right word. Special interests? Obsessions? The gist of it is, I have a few niche things that I really like indulging in on YouTube, and one of them is sketchbook tours. I love me a good sketchbook tour.

The thing is, most of the sketchbooks tours remind me of… you know those “lifestyle” YouTubers, who do home tours, and everything is blindingly white and pristine, and every pillow is perfectly coordinated, and the entire home is in perfect thematic harmony — colors, patterns, even textiles carried over through every room in the house — and your first reactions are at war with each other: “Oh my God, who even actually lives like this?” and “Oh my God, why can’t I live like this?”

That’s me, but with sketchbook tours. Some of these sketchbooks are enviably beautiful, but are so detached from my reality that they leave me a little loopy; almost a little defensive. That, by the way, is a “me” problem; let’s be very clear. But surely a lot of you must know what I mean, at least in the realm of home tours or lifestyle vloggers — there’s a idyllic quality about everything they do, everything they show you, and some of you must be both envious of that perfection but also a little nonplussed; “how do you ‘live’ in a house that pristine?”

I feel that way about these sketchbook tours. And look, I can’t help that that’s my gut reaction, and I bear no ill-will to those people who curate such perfect sketchbooks, with fully colored, fully realized artwork on seemingly every page. They are beautiful. What you do clearly brings you joy. Some people just are, innately, very naturally able to curate neat, complete, well-organized spaces. That’s where they thrive, and they have absolutely every right to proudly show it off.

I think the problem is that this is the only side of it we generally see, and the “fault” in that lies with those of us not showing our chaotic messes of sketchbooks, not those who curate more elaborate, methodical ones. When I first got into watching arttubers, what stood out to me was how intimidatingly polished the work in some of their sketchbooks looked. Now, some of that is likely a result of practice — a practiced artist’s sketches are going to look more skillful than an amateur’s.

But it also occurred to me — way, way later than it should have — that some of that is also a result of knowing you intend your sketchbook as a piece for consumption. You are going to work in your sketchbook more and more carefully, if your sketchbook is something that you are planning on sharing for mass viewing. Which, again, is absolutely fine, and which is something that I obviously love seeing, given the ammount of time I spend watching sketchbook tours, lol. Seeing page after page of lovely doodles and art bring me a lot of joy.

But — it also almost made me stop sketching.

So I want to start us sharing our less-than-picture-perfect sketchbooks. The random, half-finished heads that have never heard of “perspective.” The random doodles done while on the phone. The scraps of totally unrelated notes that aren’t exactly art, but dammit, you needed paper and that’s what was available. The same flowers you doodled in your 7th grade algebra notebook and still haven’t managed to outgrow. The rough sketches — or sometimes even vague descriptions of sketches — for drawings you’re “going to do.” Hands — oh, sweet Jesus, the (barely recognizable as) hands. The pages you let your kids scribble on because you needed just five minutes of quiet.

All of it. Every single thing.

So let those picture-perfect sketchbooks be aspirational; it’s never a bad thing to strive to be more than you are. Let them inspire you, let them give you ideas for sprawling art spreads, and creative new ways to fill your pages.

But don’t let them shame you; I highly, highly doubt that was ever the creator’s intent. And don’t let them keep you from doing what you need to do to get moving, from using your sketchbook in whatever way best allows your ideas to grow and flow. Don’t let them allow you to convince yourself that your messy, half-formed, done-in-five-minutes-in-a-Zoom-waiting-room doodles aren’t “good enough” for your sketchbook. Your sketchbook might have personal meaning to you, but as a tool, it’s not something precious, guys. It’s paper. It’s only paper.

I hope you are finding time to continue to be creative, and that you take solace and joy in your creativity.

Stay safe, stay sane, stay creative.