A-to-Z Challenge: Billy Liar

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Housekeeping:

I am so much happier with today’s entry than yesterday’s!  I did some reconfiguring of my expectations for the month and really tried to open my mind to the idea of doing a more multi-media A-to-Z, seeing it as an opportunity to try out different things stylistically and in different mediums.  Today I opted for acrylic, which I’ve been trying for a long time to figure out — how it fits into my stylistic repetoire, what I find it useful for, etc.

I don’t think I’ve got it totally figure out, but I’m still happy with today’s effort.

Acrylic paints on a 7” x 14” canvas.

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Billy Liar

Billy Liar’s got his hands in his pockets
Staring over at the neighbor’s, knickers down.
He’s got his knickers down.

So the summer is eternity for you?
Sleeping in until your father’s shaking you down
He’s shaking you down.

And the mailroom shift gets a real short shrift
As you dole out the packages, no-one seems to want you around
All skulking around.

Let your legs loll on the lino
‘Til your sinews spoil
Will you stay here for a while, dear,
‘Til the radio plays something familiar?
Plays something familiar.

All a-drifting, he’s a no-good boy-o
Sent a-fishing for a whalebone corset frame
(His only catch all day)

So he sits and lets the current take him
A gentle breeze will leave his pants in disarray
And at his ankles laid.

As he drifts to sleep with a moan and a weep
He is decked by a Japanese geisha with a garland of pearls
How she twists and twirls!

Let you legs loss on the lino
‘Til your sinews spoil
Will you stay here for a while, dear,
‘Til the radio plays something familiar?
Plays something familiar.

 

NaPoWriMo 2020: Day 1

Combing Hair

Some mornings,
the scent of argan oil, of pungent earth
Warmed between glistening palms
Ease through dampened curls —
Pull taut the strands with practiced ease and lace,
Over and under, warp and weft,
A perfect, shining plait.

Some mornings,
Lethargy creeps; arthritic and insidious
To claw and snag and snap dead-ends;
My hair a static cloud, a white-noise halo,
A hornet’s nest alive and angry,
A vengeful snare of knots and tangles
Laying waste to fragile fingers.

Some mornings,
I touch, with reverent fingers, tangles
Like wild bramble growing unrestrained
Beneath cool-shade canopies;
The green-earth smell of argan remembers
Tender hands taming unruly tendrils, promises
Roses once again among the thorns.


Day 1 Prompt: “I’d like to challenge you to write a self-portrait poem in which you make a specific action a metaphor for your life – one that typically isn’t done all that often, or only in specific circumstances. For example, bowling, or shopping for socks, or shoveling snow, or teaching a child to tie its shoes.”

Gearing Up (31 Day Challenge: Days 30 &31)

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30.  Something I Miss

I’m starting the third week in quarantine, and while I honestly feel like it’s moving a lot faster than I expected, I miss a lot of things I took for granted.  I miss morning announcements at school.  I miss the bus rides to the job site with the kids.  I miss stopping at my mom’s house after picking Bear up from school.  I miss unpacking Bear’s backpack everyday.  I miss kicking off my shoes when I come through the door after work.  I miss throwing some PJs in a Market Basket grocery bag and spending a Friday night at my mom’s.  I miss sitting outside a restaurant with an app for the table and a cold margarita.  I miss sitting around a Learning Center table right after the bell rings and catching up with my work friends.  I miss popping into Dollar Tree just to see what new trinkets they have.  I miss my niece and nephew.  I miss Boopy and Goob.  I miss being able to make plans with people.  I miss knowing when I’ll see people again.

31.  Why I Blog

Because it feels less like shouting into the void than keeping a diary does.  There are still some things I would never write here, some things that would get relegated to a diary, or to a vent session with a trusted friend, but it feels better putting things — thoughts, gratitude, goals, creative work — somewhere where others could stumble on it.  It feels less lonely, and more “real.”


And with that, I finished.  March did not end where I expected it to back at the beginning of the month.  But, anyway.  On to the next.

This morning, one of my work friends shared in an email that our school was still doing virtual daily announcements.  I clicked on the link she sent and it took me to the schools TV and Video Production page, and a video of the young man (a Senior) who’s been doing the daily announcements everyday for the last four years.  Something about seeing him sitting alone in his room and reading the announcements (“Today is Tuesday, March 31st, and it would have been a Day 2″) caught me really off-guard and made me cry.

On the flip side, today I had my second virtual conference (this time with my vocational staff and a couple of vocational students), and it was really reassuring and heartening to see everyone.  Seeing them, both staff and kids, at home with their families, and to see what they’ve been doing to keep busy (lots of kids doing art challenges! Drawing, singing, dancing) has been very grounding.  I have another conference next Tuesday at one that I’m looking forward to.

And I’ve started prep work for A-to-Z, because I function best if I throw myself into things (and I just feel better in general if I keep myself creative and productive).  I’ve got some work done on the “A” and “F” entries, and I’ve got to say, working fast definitely makes a difference in quality (I already caught a major error in my “F” drawing, but I’m certainly not starting it over; maybe I’ll make it a “spot the error” challenge, and the winner can get a shout out, ha ha), though the quality is still much better than I was producing during my first Inktober.

I try to set myself daily goals, but today has been rough after a mostly sleepless night.  The house is a mess and I have two week worth of laundry to fold, which I would like to get done before tomorrow, but tomorrow is Andy’s day off, which means a greater chance of being productive.  We’ll see how things go.

On the self-care docket today, though, is hopefully a manicure, a few episodes of Gravity Falls, and finishing the library book due back on Friday.

It’s Tuesday, but hey, time is imaginary in quarantine.  Stay safe, sane, and busy.  Try something new, or rediscover your love of something old.  Be kind to yourself and those around you.

Lazing (31 Day Challenge: Days 28 & 29)

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28.  What’s in My Closet

Every piece of clothing I own – we don’t do “winter” and “summer” clothes, here.  Probably fifteen or so dresses, twenty-ish skirts, literal stacks of t-shirts, sweaters, and leggings, a few pairs of jeans, and lots of various tunics and button-downs.  I have a double wide closet with shelving, and my clothing takes up more than 3/4ths of it.  We also have a platform bed with under-the-bed storage comprised of eight drawers, and my stuff take up half of those (my husbands takes up 1/4th, with the remaining 1/4th being old Halloween costumes and bathing suits).  I have a lot of clothes, and yet I’m generally dissatisfied with my wardrobe.  I’d really like to curate a more signature look, but it’s hard when I feel like my aesthetic is about a dozen different things all at once.

29.  How I Started Writing

I don’t remember not writing.  The older I’ve gotten, the more sporadic and touch-and-go my writing has gotten, but when I was young, I remember writing (and drawing, come to that) all the time.  The first thing I remember writing were several small books that all had essentially the same plot, wherein a princess gets attacked by a bear (in one version, a knight come and kills the bear to save her, in another she, like, gets mugged by the bear?  And he takes her money and runs off?  I was six, I don’t know).  I also remember writing what was my first and likely only foray into self-insert, crossover fanfiction at age nine or ten, though looking back, I realize a lot of what I wrote would have been classified as some genre of fanfic (I’m completely okay with that, it’s just an interesting observation).  I’m not a naturally overtly social person (though I like being around people and interacting with the people I’m comfortable with) and my parents were pathologically overprotective and isolating, so writing was a great way for me to pass the time and have something to occupy my mind.


I’m going to have to accept the fact that my A-to-Z sketches are going to be even more amateurish and, well, sketchy than my usual art, because I won’t have the luxury of limitless time (sure, I’m still on lockdown, and I defintiely have more time than I normally would, but I also have a kid, another monthly challenge, and I’m taking on a flexible schedule for Camp NaNoWriMo because I need to get all the fanfic stagnanting on my Google Docs done and out of there, damn it).

I’m currently art blocked as hell, and the above observation was made because I tried sketching out some ideas for possible A-to-Z entries yesterday.  Yesterday was a highly self-critical day (don’t know why, nothing different about the day than any other day since lockdown started), so maybe I’ll feel better about things when the challenge actually starts, but I’m not holding my breath.  Much like Inktober, this will be entirely for practice and to prove to myself that I can complete such a challenge.  And to be fair, I stumbled upon my Inktober 2018 drawings while deep-diving on Facebook last night, and holy hell, I have legitimately improved.  I’m still amateurish and clumsy, but so, so much better than I was a year and a half ago.  Clearly regular practice helps, so that’s what this is — a month of regular practice.

I’m wondering if part of the reason I suddenly became “art blocked” is because a part of me knows that I will be doing the A-to-Z challenge in a few days and I shouldn’t start a new project with that one looming on the horizon.  On the flipside as well, if this goes well, I can always start turning to song lyrics to inspire future art.

It’s gray out today.  I know I haven’t been leaving the house, but it’s amazing how much of a difference sunlight — even just sunlight filtering through my curtains — makes in my over-all mood and energy.  I didn’t even get out of bed until past 9 am, which is insanely late for me, and have yet to really delve into my dailies.  Actually, I’ve yet to figure out what my “dailies” constitute today.

The house is kind of a mess, but not so bad I can’t integrate it into our routine for tomorrow (Bear has actually gotten kind of into the idea of cleaning the kitchen and putting away dishes), and I do have all those books to read…

It’s Sunday.  Today may be a pretty lazy day, but isn’t that what Sunday’s were meant for?

Stay safe, sane, and healthy — and so much as you can, stay inside.


(Also, apropos of nothing,  I am almost definitely hearing a chicken outside, but I live in the middle of a highly urban area and already had one next door to me two apartments ago, how many people in this city could possibly keeping illicit chickens and how do I keep ending up with them for neighbors?)

Slow but Productive (31 Day Challenge: Day 27)

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27.  Favorite Recipe

Bold of you to assume I cook.  I do, technically, but I think it’s a bit of a stretch to talk about “recipes.”  My meals, assuming I don’t get distracted and wind up burning things, are generally fine.  I’m not a gourmet chef, but no one is going to get sick eating my cooking, and sometimes it’s even actually pretty good.  But I don’t really have recipes, even for meals I cook frequently – actually, particularly not for meals I cook frequently.  I tend to just throw things together, utilizing whatever I happen to have on hand at the time.

I do have one or two meals I’m particularly proud of, though they are all recipes that I have found online, not recipes I’ve crafted myself.  They make for a great meal, though, so if you’re interested, here they are:

Thai Curry Vegetable Soup:  I love a good soup, and this is a great soup.  I’m not a fan of rice noodles, so I make mine with egg noodles.
Crispy Tuna Patties:  These, as the author mentions, are incredibly forgiving; I use this recipe as a base and add what I have at hand as I feel.  Throwing in some cilantro and lime (if you like it) is good, as is dill and lemon.  Shallots, garlic, and diced onion are great.
Cheesy Taco Pasta:  Look, I love tacos, I love pasta, and I like things that take under 30 minutes and only one pan, ok?
Bruschetta Chicken: This is so simple and so good.  If you have a hard time finding fresh basil (which we have, lately), basil paste (like this one from Gourmet Garden) is not a bad substitute.


Today was both productive, yet uneventful.

I spent some time getting familiar with Google Meet to prep for a Monday morning online video conference with all my freshman students and co-teachers (fifteen people total), and I’m so excited to see everyone.

Today was also the first day in a very long time that I got Bear to more or less willingly help with the chores.  We loaded a huge load of dishes into the dishwasher, washed a few more by hand, cleaned the counters, cleared off the kitchen table, swept, and put away a ton of craft supplies and toys in the living room.  I think tomorrow I’ll do a bit more of a deep clean in those rooms, as well as straightening my own room and folding some laundry, but I’m certainly not going to complain about how today went.  The house feels manageable, and I’m not feeling stressed about excess clutter.

I have yet to do anything creative today.  I’m torn between sitting down and just reading, reading, reading (I still have three books I’m working through, two actively and one that just came off hold a few days ago) and doing something more actively creative.  I’m still aching to try painting something in acrylic that deviates from my usual style (since I’ve not had luck with my usual style in that medium), but no idea has really jumped out at my yet.

Whatever I do will likely have to happen before 7 pm, though, because at 7, the one hour series finale of Steven Universe (Future) will air, and I will likely be an absolute wreck and spamming the living shit out of Tumblr.  Whatever doesn’t happen tonight will take priority tomorrow (like, oh, prepping for A-to-Z Challenge?  I don’t know, maybe).

It’s Friday.  In spite of everything, that still feels like a good thing (it means two days with my husband at home, for one).  Stay safe, sane, healthy, and do something tonight that makes you smile.

Art Dump (31 Day Challenge: Days 25 & 26)

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25.  Blogs I Love Following

I am incredibly selective about the blogs I follow.  I generally don’t follow traditional “lifestyle” bloggers; I miss the days of LiveJournal and true, personal journaling.  In that vein, all the blog I follow, I feel, either give me insight into someone’s life and thoughts, or share interesting creative writing, art, or journeys.  Outside of WordPress, I don’t follow many blogs, but as I believe I mentioned in my last entry, there are some websites and especially some YouTube channels and podcasts that I deeply enjoy, and that I would love to curate and make a links list for at some point in the near future.

26.  Old Photo of Me

I had to dig through Facebook for this.  I almost posted one of my unofficial engagement photos (taken Christmas morning 2009, by the person who would be our wedding photographer, who (for reasons I don’t recall) literally crashed at our apartment on Christmas Eve at like eleven o’clock at night?)  But while that picture, at over ten years old, was old, this one is old.  Like, probably about thirty years old, at this point?  I’d wager this was Christmas of 1989:

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Note the very ’80s PJs, games, TV… literally everything.

Who’s ready for an art dump??

These are the photos I’ve shared on Facebook; they were shot to minimize glare, because I generally took them as progress shots at night, when the lighting in my house is the poorest.  I’ll have better quality photos when they finally go up on my gallery, but here is some of the art I’ve been working on the last week.  There still one or two pieces not included here, but Bear is playing on Khan Academy on my phone right now, and honestly, I’m not enough of a masochist to try to wrestle it away from him to take and upload a pic at the moment.

I’m so happy with how these acrylics turned out.  The plates are hard plastic, so I can’t lay down a rough sketch, which I usually do with my paintings; I just have to take the brush straight to it.  I love the yellow bird in particular (a yellow-throated warbler, I believe); I’m very happy with how vibrant the color is, despite the lack of primer and the dark background.

My last three microns.  The last one was done without photo references, and I am very pleased with the results!  Used multiple references for the first two; I feel like I’m getting better and integrating pieces from various photo references to make a coherent whole, and relying less on them as something to copy and more as just something to help guide the form (particularly when it comes to anatomy.  I’m definitely still trying to figure out anatomy).

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Only my second real attempt at watercolor, and it’s a watercolor illustration I’m doing for my sister, very much a work-in-progress, but I’m enjoying the process and trying to figure this medium out.

It’s Thursday.  Our schools have extended their closure until at least May 4th which, honestly, makes more sense given the numbers and where we are in this whole mess at the moment.  More time to do and learn, I suppose.

Stay safe, sane, vigilant, healthy.  Do something fun.  Be kind.

31 Day Challenge: Days 22 – 24

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22.  Best Thing to Happen

The three best things that ever happened to me were all things I stumbled upon: my job, my husband, and my son.  My job was the result of blanket applications to any place I was remotely qualified, and that turned into fifteen years and a decision that this would likely be my life’s work (unless something drastic changed).  My husband was someone I met on a dating site, whose profile amused and intrigued me, but who I never really thought to message until one day he just happened to message me, and just happened to live walking distance away.  My son was not planned (which is not the same as not wanted; kids were on the horizon, we just got there unexpectedly early), but my pregnancy was probably one of the happiest times of my life.  I don’t think I ever conscientiously did something that worked out quite as well as those three things

23.  Dream Job

It used to be “writer,” a no brainer.  Now, honestly, I’m not sure.  I certainly wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to write professionally, but I keep thinking I’d love to work with, like, The Office of Transformative Works preserving fan culture, or doing social/creative/academic studies regarding fan and fandom culture.  Or, hone my drawing skills and be an illustrator and collaborate with people on graphic novels or storybooks.  So I suppose my ambitions haven’t changed much; they’re still creative, but the definition of creative has expanded a bit.

24.  Favorite Childhood Book

Define childhood.  Younger childhood, I was obsessed with the Disney Classic adaptation of The Great Mouse Detective (I still would love to read/intend on someday reading the original Basil of Baker Street series), Charlotte’s Web, and an incredibly obscure book called Felita.  As an older kid, I loved Stephen King’s The Eyes of the Dragon, and basically anything Christopher Pike (which, if you were also a Pike fan, please go listen to Teen Creeps, they have some great episodes about his books).


Oh my God, my head.

This has been simultaneously an unbearably long week and a surprisingly quick one.  I feel like the quarantine is going to be (and should be, honestly) longer than anticipated, and I’m not sure if I’m cool with that (I feel safer at home, and the last nearly week-and-a-half passed way faster than I anticipated) or dreading it (Bear has been awfully restless, and hasn’t listened to a damn word I’ve said except for the two hours or so of formal instruction we do each day.  Outside of that, everything has been a chore.  Getting him to do anything I ask has been like pulling teeth, and despite my best efforts, it’s grating on me).

I have, however, been keeping occupied.  I’m almost ready to post another batch of micron drawings to the gallery (I’ll post them in a blog entry first), and I’ve been playing around with the Copic markers my sibling-in-law gave to me before they went to Sweden (oh my God – I had no idea how pricey they were.  They’re like $5-$10 a marker.  Even at the low end, that’s $120 worth of markers they gave me!!)  I ventured into the shallows of — what do they call it?  ArtTube?  Artist YouTube?  There are some enviously good artists out there, and I’ve been enjoying exploring some of their videos — not just tutorials, but sketchbook “yours,” tips and tricks, motivations, and time-lapse painting/drawing.  It makes me want to get good, fast, ha ha.  I’ll post a list of my favorite when I have more of a chance to dive deeper.

It’s Tuesday.  Stay safe, sane, and vigilant.  Get off social media for a while (my WordPress is curated to this doesn’t feel like social media — I don’t get the gloom ‘n doom vibes).  Do something you love, and share it (uh… when you get back on social media, I guess?  Look, curate your social media.  Honestly.  You know how many people I’ve snoozed, muted, or unfollowed?  It’s helped a lot).

Take care of yourselves and each other.

PS: Anyone else feeling totally unprepared for NaPoWriMo/Camp NaNo/A-to-Z Challenge??