He sat on the dock and caught his breath; off in the distance, he could see the silhouette of a solitary fisherman out on a dinghie. He was an impossibly small shadow against the setting sun, and Denny considered, briefly, if he could chance a quick binder break. He looked around surreptitiously, fingers worrying the bottom edge of his binder before thinking better of it. He breathed in, as deeply as he could, , slicked his wet hair back, and stretched his back until it cracked. Just a few weeks until top surgery. Just a few weeks more until swim team tryouts. He could keep it under wraps (literally and figuratively, he mused) until then. He was sure he’d be a top pick. He was abso-fucking-lutely sure of it.
It would be so good — so so fucking good — to breathe easy for once.
The latch clicked, the sound of drunken giggles moving away from the closet until they were in silence. Julie dared a glance at Peter, whose eyes were locked incredulously on the doorknob. He reached out half-heartedly.
“There’s no way they didn’t lock the door, is there?” he murmured. He turned the knob slowly.
“Yeah,” he said. He wiped his hand on his shorts. “Ok.”
He chanced a look at Julie. His lips quirked in a nervous smile.
“Guess the next question is,” he said slowly. “Do you think they’re sober enough to remember to let us out?”
“I don’t think sobriety has much to do with it,” Julie sighed, biting her lip. “This kind of thing is pretty on brand for Amber.”
“What, forcing people to play high school make-out games?”
“No, like, literally locking people in closets and leaving them.”
His eyes widened. She smirked.
“Oh,” he sighed. “Ok, you were joking.”
“No, there is every chance that Amber’s just gonna leave us here,” she said. She shifted her back against the wall, dislodging the handle of a broom from the tender space between her shoulder blades. “Ask Chrissie about the Halloween party in 2018. She’s got stories.”
He shook his head, quiet for a moment.
“At least we’re not alone.”
She laughed. “Yeah.”
He was watching her, his eyes a dark honey color in the slats of golden light filtering through the closet door. She felt her face grow warm.
“So,” he said quietly. “Do we break down the door?”
“Maybe,” she said thoughtfully. She felt his hand brush her waist, and her stomach twisted in anticipation. “But maybe… maybe not right away.”
“Yeah,” he whispered. “Let’s keep that on in our back pocket.”
It had never been expressly forbidden from her, the attic; she’d caught glimpses beyond her mother’s shoulder as she’d come down with ancestral china for the holidays, the dusty rafts and golden slant of light catching her eyes just before Mother would pull the heavy door shut behind her.
As a child, whenever she’d asked any question about her family, inevitably it would lead to lavish stories of family who could do amazing things; world-class fencers, dancers, famous accordion players. If her father were in a good mood, or had had a particularly robust wine with dinner those stories would lead to some treasure or another being hauled down from the attic as proof; gleaming rapiers, wooden clogs engraved with tulips and windmills, scuffed up concertinas with thin-worn bellows.
So when Kira asked about her aunt, a vivacious and striking woman who she only remember in hazy memories of childhood summers, she had expected a grand story, and her mother touting an armful of memorobilia down the narrow stairs.
Instead, her mother went silent. She glanced over at Kira’s father, worrying her lip. Her father stared into the fire and said nothing.
“Aunt Marigold,” she had said again, slightly louder, thinking perhaps they hadn’t heard. “You remember? She used to bring me cherry cordials–“
“She disappeared,” her father said, and startled, obviously louder than even her had intended. Kira braced herself against the wall. Her father took a deep breath and picked up his paper, an unquestionably dismissive gesture.
“Went gallivanting off in search of her fortune years ago. You were still a child.” He stared at his paper, his eyes unmoving.
“We haven’t heard from her since,” he finished. Kira looked to her mother, who was idly clacking her knitting needles together. She chose to say no more.
That night, when she was certain her parents were asleep, she opened the attic door herself for the first time.
Day….Twelve?? I’m not fond of either vignette, but I’m kind of in love with the sketch idea I had for the second of the two. Another opportunity to play with transparency and glow effects.
I am exhausted tonight, so I’m going to go take a shower and head to bed to read.
Stay safe and sane, all.
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.
“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.
“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?”
“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.
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.
It had started with a solitary air plant, the wispy, spidery fronds reaching out towards her like lazy fingers to run along her cheeks unexpectedly as she glanced past to retrieve her keys or her backpack. An unobtrusive little bromeliad, hanging in a homespun macramé pot holder, just above her desk. She thought little of it, though she would find herself idly paging through her notebooks on rainy mornings, before sunrise, her fingers carding through the overgrown leaves as they would through a lover’s hair.
After that it was small clipping left over from store bought herbs; sprigs of rosemary carelessly potted just to see what would spring up, small pewter pots of mint and basil perched on the windowsill overlooking the campus quad. Then, slowly, succulents, robust little creatures that could withstand the days of neglect when exams were in full swing, or the stretches of scatter-brained insomnia when she was assembling the final pieces for her portfolio.
She had barely noticed how far gone she was until Jackie came by one night near the end of term. She looked around, mouth slightly agape, pushing through the wayward striped fronds of a spider plant to enter the living room proper. Callie busied herself with pouring coffee as Jackie slid a collection of old ceramic mugs packed with sprigs of chamomile and sage to make room for herself on the kitchen bench. She sat gingerly, eyes roving around the greenery encroaching on far more of the apartment than Callie seemed aware of.
“So…” she started slowly. “Is this some… like… hedge witchery thing?”
“Some… wait, what?” Callie said, placing a mug of coffee before both of them. She pushed a succulent, it’s fleshy leaves purple tinged, tot he edge of the table to make room. “What do you mean? Hedge witchery??”
“Well,” Jackie said meaningfully, gesturing. “I mean… come on.”
“I literally have no idea what you’re talking about,” Callie said honestly. She took a long sip of her coffee, tucking her feet up under her.
“But… I’m intrigued,” she said, reaching out to run her fingertips over the soft edges of a plush plant. “Tell me more.”
Day Five! That write up with literally stream-of-conciousness, though I had the idea for the sketch — or at the very least, wanting to do something with a lot of plants and greenery — since I generated the words, about two weeks ago. I’m not one hundred percent sold on this exact sketch — I think I’d like something with her more “among” the plants, with more a sense of her surroundings and how encroaching the greenery is on the totality of her space — but I like the idea.
Also, it’s really hard not to over-think the sketches and be like, “no, that’s not nearly good enough! I’m not a top-tier artist but I have standards1” I have to be like, “Bitch, chill, it’s literally a sketch, if you even pick this one it’s going to be redrawn completely in May! It does not have to be perfect!”
That being said, onward and upwards. I was definitely in a better place mentally today than I was yesterday, though I am still not at 100%, but I have high hopes for tomorrow and beyond.
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.
I started this year off determined to take more risks as a creative.
There have been ups and downs to that this year, obviously. I feel like my writing has been seriously neglected, but that, to be fair, was a conscious decision; particularly since quarantine began, come day’s end, I feel so mentally burnt out that writing is not enjoyable, it’s frustrating and stressful. Drawing and painting feel much more a function of muscle memory, something I can not only do on autopilot, but something that actually seems to turn out better the less I think about it.
That being said, I did do a little writing, something along the lines of twenty or so poems, several of which I’m actually rather fond of, and in the meantime, my drawing and painting skills have grown in the leaps and bounds.
Not to say I’m “skilled,” by the by. I have quite a long way to go. But I’ve definitely grown.
Towards the beginning of the year, when this new philosophy of creative growth was still fresh in my mind and was something I was still enthusiastic about, I took what felt like a huge leap for me and submitted three drawings (which, looking back even from nine months on, are so much more rudimentary than what I’m currently producing) to a local art exhibition that was supposed to be elevating the work of women, femme, and non-binary artists in my community. It was an exciting prospect, and while I was almost sure I wouldn’t get selected for the exhibition, I figured the experience of submitting, even if I got rejected, would be good for me. So I submitted a week before the deadline.
Five days after submitting, we went into lockdown. The gallery show was listed as postponed. My city has since never left the red zone, and no mentioned has ever been made of what became of the exhibition plans.
I was bummed out for ages about losing the chance to get either accepted or rejected; it felt like I took this leap — which was comparatively small, but for me felt emotionally huge — only to be left in limbo. I didn’t know when I would get the opportunity to put myself out there again.
Then, last month, a mutual on Twitter (hi, I have Twitter! I have like, 19 followers because I’m still learning not to just be a lurker, so it’d be awesome if you wanna be Twitter buddies or whatever) began taking applications for a Tarot project for body/fat positive artists, with the project benefitting a charity for trans/nonbinary/gnc BIPOC — I mean, honestly, how could I not apply?
As I saw more and more people express interest, and I saw the art they produced, I became pretty well convinced that there was no way I was going to get in. And that would be okay! The applicants were all super talented, I’m just starting out, and it would be okay. But I picked the three piece I was most proud of, filled out the application, and sent it in.
Yesterday was the day when the artists were contacted.
I didn’t hear anything most of the day. I was trying to feel comfortable with the presumption that I had simply not made it.
It was around 8:30 pm when the email came. I didn’t make the cut. I was honestly… fine. A little let down, but the knowing will always, for me, be better than not knowing. Onward and upwards. That was my response. I would look for the next thing (but still planned to pre-order the deck when it came out, obvs. Fat Tarot is a fucking awesome idea, full stop).
At 6:00pm today, I logged on and had another email.
Acceptance — disregard last email.
There had been a mix-up.
I was in. I am in.
And while I’ve spent so long coming to terms with and accepting that there is no such things as a “fake” artist — that an artist is someone who produces art, regardless of quality or subject matter, and who lives their lives in a creative way — there is no way to deny how uplifting some external validation of your efforts are.