Where I’m At

I’m an idiot and left my sketchbook at my mom’s house when I visited today. I had it with me because I was in the middle of a drawing I have been planning to do since literally May, and only got around to starting it yesterday. Positive side, I finished it. Negative side, I… left it at my mom’s house? And while all the line art is finished, I was hoping to not only work on it more tonight (details, shading), but also hoping to start blocking out the next piece in the series (I’m doing “modern” illustrations of the Major Arcana — I know, I know, everyone and their mom has done a Tarot thing. I just really love all varieties of Tarot art, and it feels like a good, structured way to practice doing some anatomy drawing with references, and still put my own twist on something I enjoy.)

Even though it seems like using references is something I should have started out doing and then began moving away from (or not; I know a lot of artists much more advanced than I still use them), this is my first time drawing using references in earnest; I stumbled upon SenshiStock (her handle is included in the embedded Tweet below), and immediately knew I had to start using her service. I always felt weird, the few times I did use a picture to help me with anatomy, because I was never sure what the source was, and always felt this niggling sensation of, “should I be referencing this picture?” (even though my reference never bore any resemblance to the original images; I would use multiple images references for a single drawing and nothing was ever recognizable), or the reference photo itself would be problematic (not well-lit, distracting background, poor image resolution, etc.) Finding this resource happened at absolutely the right time.

I’ve also started contributing my own reference/modelling photos to a niche gallery specifically for fat and fat-positve artists (which is password protected to keep out underaged kids as well as fetish artists), and have so far submitted (and had accepted) four photos, which I’m very happy with. I joined them on Discord as well, and despite being a social phobic little worm, I am looking forward to actually conversing and networking with other artists. This, this is the 2020 shit I signed up for.

Things have been up and down; I keep getting news about work that I’m having an intensely difficult time decipering, and I’m not entirely sure if it’s because it’s really that opaque, or if I’m genuinely just dealing with such a high level of brain fog that I am completely incapable of parsing even the most basic information. It’s really anyone’s guess. But I have managed to be more productive, and I have been more happy with the output this week — both in quality and quantity — than I have been in a very, very long time.

Hope everyone is having a day that is productive, relaxing, or — the dream — a balanced mix of both.

Stay safe and sane, people.


Unrelated, but at what point does the desire to not cause any family drama (however minimal) take a backseat to the desire to not have to read stupid, racist shit on your Facebook timeline? Asking for a friend.

Drawing Dump

A relatively small dump, but here are the three completed drawings I mentioned yesterday. They are also posted up over at my DeviantArt for anyone interested in following me there, I will likely do followbacks (if that sweetens the pot, ha).

I am settled it at my mom’s, getting ready for a second cup of coffee and an early lunch. I touched up these drawings, updated a few defunct links on my websites, cleaned up my DeviantArt a bit; we have Dateline on in the background, the A/C going, and all in all, I’m feeling pretty relaxed (or at least as relaxed as I’ve been able to get lately). Have some goals for the day, but the primary one is to chill for a bit.

Maybe some art will follow.

Take care, all.

Return to Form (in Some Form)

I want to post photos from GISH, though I likely won’t. I was actually quite proud of the items I accomplished this year — most of them were craft, writing, or art-related — but my team this year was quieter on the forums than usual when it came to actually sharing items, so I have far fewer images of our adventure this year than I usually do. I’ll try to tack some of my items, and some of my favorite items from my teammates, onto the end of this post.

I did, sadly, kind of wind up ghosting the last few days; I wasn’t sure anyone would even notice in the hustle and bustle of things, but my absences was apparently noticeable enough for one of my teammates to reach out and check in on me (which was really sweet, don’t get me wrong; it was a really kind gesture). I have not been mentally great the last few weeks, and the last two days have been the worst.

I’m trying to focus on the things I have control over — my art and my other projects. And as much as I’ve been on edge and riding high on anxiety lately, in the last three days, I’ve completed one painting and neared completion on four drawings. That’s more than I’ve done since April. It’s a return to the daily creative endeavors that I had been riding high on in the early days of quarantine, back when this all seemed like a good excuse to finally iindulge my creative side. I’m back to feeling like at least I’m not stagnating or standing still.

My district finally made a call on re-opening and announced a hybrid model; I’m terrified, but again, doing what I can, what’s in my control (in this case, calling my GP for a long-overdue physical and following up with a petition for a medical exemption (I’m hypertensive, and my wife’s HRT can surpress liver function). I’m pulling my son into full-online learning this year. I’m checking in with my mom everyday to make sure my family is still staying on an equivalent risk-level so I can continue to see them. I’m trying to get back into the habit of drinking water again. I’m trying. I’m trying. I’m trying.

Today was an awful mental health day that I spent yelling at my son for the most inconsequential things (I kept telling him he wasn’t the reason I was mad, I was just mad and sometimes that comes out as yelling — I know that doesn’t excuse it, but I was in a bad place and figured I should, at the very least, assure him it was me, not him, having a problem). Tomorrow I will be heading to my mom’s (after thoroughly interrogating her today about her activity since Saturday) with my laptop and sketchpad, just to get away from my house and my responsibilities for a while, while Kira tends to Bear.

With my doctor’s appointment scheduled, the mystery of what’s happening in September figured out (even if I don’t like it), and a return to creativity (and hopefully a return to a slightly cleaner home when I return tomorrow evening), and I’m cautiously hopefuly that I’ll start seeing a return to form again soon.

Stay safe and sane, guys.

GISH

This will be the next almost-week of my life, so if there is radio silence, forgive it.

There will hopefully be lots to share (including the full list, for those who are not participating, though that will obviously have to wait until the hunt is over; I’ll try to remember to save a copy before Saturday) by Saturday afternoon/Sunday morning, but until then I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the wonder that is GISH, and consider — assuming it continues on to next year, which would be its 11th — joining us next time around.

GISH: THE GOOD HUNT

Chalk one up to Perseverance

So, I’ve been hyping myself up to do a YouTube channel, and I’ve been really getting into the idea. It’s something that been on my bucket list for a while — to make an active push to have a successful, consistent YouTube channel devoted to something that I’m interested and invested in. Now, I’m realistic, and I don’t really have an ambition to make a career out of YouTube, so my definition of successful is, ultimately, maybe a few hundred viewers and regular engagement.

I’ve spent the last week writing some scripts for some videos — self-care for creatives, a few writing exercises, with other things planned for the future. I’ve been very excited that I finally had an idea for something that I felt I could do that might actually be of interest to someone else, instead of just vlog updates on my NaNoWriMo progress (side note: I love to watch NaNoWriMo vlog, so this isn’t an indictment of other people making said vlogs. It’s just, every time I film one myself, I watch it back and honestly just can’t fathom that someone would want to look at my face and listen to me ramble for ten minutes. Just… ugh).

Anyway, I wrote some pretty intricate scripts for these videos, and set up a prime spot in my room to film, all with the expectation that I would be able to actually film the first video (I’ve scripted five, thus far) on Saturday, when Kira and Bear were out of the house visiting my in-laws. When they left a little after lunch, I sat down to punch up and polish the first few scripts, give my phone a final hour or so to charge, and went up stairs to film.

And that’s when the trouble started.

First of all, the most reliable piece of equipment I have is my phone, which probably isn’t all that unusual. My phone isn’t the most expensive or impressive, but it makes decent videos in decent lighting, and we had decent lighting upstairs. Seemed like things would go well. Eh… except that my video script was fifteen minutes long, so between re-shoots, retakes, and just wanting to have a slightly more polished look than my vlogs, meant hand-held recording was out (my arm is usually ready to fall off after a three to five minute vlog). I don’t have a tripod that will accomodate my phone, so that was out, and the only surfaces I have in my room are my bookcase… none of which align well to my face. Ok. Ok. So.

Plan B is to use the video camera my father-in-law gave us, which is… literally nowhere. What the actual fuck. I literally talked to my wife about wanting to do a YouTube channel like, two weeks ago, while lovingly fondling the camera. I wouldn’t have told Kira to put it into storage. Would I? If I was in one of my moods, I totally would. Shit. And she’d do it, because I asked her to, and she, like, actually listens to me most of the time. Damn it. Ok, moving on.

Plan C was the SLR camera my father-in-law also gave us, um, a long time ago. It was cutting edge once upon a time, but we’ve had it since the birth of out son, and Bear is fast approaching six years old, and it was only gifted to us because it no longer served my father-in-law’s own photographic needs. But, I mean, it just needs to film a clear video, it doesn’t have to be, like, cutting-edge HD. Which, good, because it certainly wasn’t cutting-edge HD; sadly, it also wasn’t a clear video. So, among the accouterments that accompanied the camera when it was handed down was a USB cable, a case, a few extra SD cards, and not a single set of instructionS. No manual, not even a pamphlet explaining the default settings. So, while I’m sure there’s a way to adjust the apeRture or some shit so that the camera actually utilizes the objectively shitty lighting present even in the most well-lit room in the house, I had no resources to reference in order to troubleshoot it, and oh, man, I was not in the frame of mind to just try to “figure it out.”

OKAY. So. I have now exhausted the options I have available to me to actually record a YouTube video. I should just give up, right?

NO. Hi, hello. My name is Jess and I just bullshitted invented the “visually-augmented podcast.”

No, not a “visual podcast,” those exist and are basically exactly what I failed to do. The “visually-augmented podcast” uses still and animated images and vocal cues to alert you to interactive segments in the video, such as screen-sharing segments and how-tos. Yes. Because I plan to screen-share to demonstrate the writing process for several of the games and prompts, I had to establish that there was, or would be, a visual component, while still acknowledging that, yeah, there’s not a ton of “relevant” video in the, uh, video.

So… how is this going to go? Are people going to buy into it?

I don’t know. I think my advice is pretty decent, I think the games and exercises I’m doing are good, I even think my still images/graphics are fun. It’s not what I wanted, but I’m making it the best that I can.

Perseverance, baby. That was my word for 2020, and every damn day it feels more and more like the right one.

I’m going to make this work, ok? Okay.

Tidying Up

After much debate, my wife and I decided to bring my in-laws into our quarantine bubble. They’ve been extremely careful and well-isolated, and expanding out to include them in our bubble meant that for the first time, a week and a half ago, I had my first day alone in over four months.

Blessed be.

I got a backlog of cleaning done, stripped the couch and refreshed the apholstery, vacuumed the living room, and got in a lot of podcast listening, YouTube viewing, and mental peace and quiet. This past Ssaturday, they repeated the excursion, this time returning with my sibling-in-law Tenri in tow. Tenri is 24 and Bear is in love with them, and so in the ensuing two days (they leave tomorrow around noon) has been attached at their hip. This has meant, once again, that I had a chance to catch up on my weekly chores, chill out and listen to some of my backlogged podcasts, and work on some creative projects.

Guys, today I wrote two thousand words.

For perspective, in the entire nineteen previous days of july I had written eight hundred, total.

This is big.

Tenri leaves tomorrow, but I feel like I broke through that inertia barrier and I am excited about where this project is going and looking forward to opportunities to work more on it. It did, however, shine light on my desperate need for project organization.

I use Google Docs primarily, with occassional forays into analogue writing in a variety of notebooks when I feel like getting away from a screen would be more conducive to productivity (I find myself falling down YouTube/Twitter/TVTropes/Wikipedia rabbit holes way, way too easily). Google Docs is great for its conveinence, in that I can just navigate to a doc, open it, write what I want and peace out without ever having to worry about losing anything — for someone who lost several thousand words of fiction in the late-90s and early-aughts on Microsoft Word because of random power surges, this is wonderfully freeing.

It does, however, mean that I have about a thousand documents titled “Untitled.” Or titled with the doc’s cryptic first line. Or half a dozen docs that are essentially different parts of the same project, but I got fed up looking for the original doc because it was titled either Untitled or Something Cryptic, so I just created a new doc and then the process repeated itself because I never remember to properly name my docs… anyway, you get the picture.

Or, as what’s happening with this current project (and what started to happen with my Camp NaNoWriMo poetry proejct as well), in an effort to keep things together, I have notes, outlines, and the beginnings of an actual coherent piece all together in one document, which, I suppose, certainly keeps things together, but also makes in a slog to weed through and to cross-reference (I need to look something up in my notes after I’ve been writing for an hour? Ok, so, scroll up twenty pages. Ok, now scroll back down twenty pages. Ok, so… now you forgot what it was that you looked up. Also, you forgot where you were in the story, because of course you aren’t even writing the story as one cohesive unit, no, you’re writing it intersperesed between sets of notes and bits of outline because you are a human dumpster fire).

Anyway, as eager as I am to get back into this project, I think I’m going to take some time tonight to organize my Google Docs, create some folders, weed through unneccesary and empty docs (ever create a new Google Doc and realize you don’t need it?? But now it’s sitting there in your Drive? The next time you need a new Google Doc, do you go back to that unused one and utilize it? No, you make another new Google Doc, because you’re a fucking monster). I’m confident and pretty self-assured in how this project is going; I can get a fresh start on it tomorrow and it’ll be a-ok.

Tonight though, I think it’s tea, TV, and some Marie Kondo-style tidying up.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Halfway

So, in news that is surprising to absolutely no one who has ever heard my tales of prior Camp NaNoWriMos, things have not been going so well.

Part of it is that I have put an enormous amount of pressure on myself — it’s been weeks and weeks since I’ve actually been creative, and the project I decided to undertake was both ambitious and highly personal (fifteen narrative poems based around seminal and/or transformative moments in my life; so, yeah, no biggie), and those circumstances are wearing heavily on me.

As a result, little to no writing, as it were, has gotten done.

But!

  1. I am building a YouTube habit out of vlogging my trials and tribulations vis-a-vis NaNoWriMo, and while the videos are nothing special at the moment, the habit is helpful as I work my way up to branching out to other kinds of video (I hope to do speed drawing, writing tips and trick, weekly poems (my own, and old favorites) kid’s books reviews, etc).
  2. I joined a writing Discord for people who were in my Camp NaNo cabin, and I have to say, it is nice to be part of a writing Discord where everyone is there by invitation (it’s never going to cap at more than 30 people, which makes it actually possible for person-to-person interaction), and everyone is over the age of 30.

Also, while no “writing” is getting done on the main project, I am doing a crap ton of outlining, free-writing, and brainstorming for each poem, and have decided that, in order to preserve momentum, I will be bringing in past incomplete NaNo projects to work on when I’m burning out on this one. Words written are words written, and are a net gain, regardless on which work they’re written, right?? They’re still words I wrote, on projects I’m working on, and they still count. They still matter.

Anyway, while I’m not totally disillusioned, I think this may be the last time I attempt Camp for a while. It just never seems to work out for my the way I want it to.

To those other who are participating in Camp this week, I hope you are finding a more traditional brand of success with your own projects.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

Tactile

Still working through some serious art block. I think I have an idea of something I’d like to draw, but I’m just not feeling it at the moment. I’m still doodling — wouldn’t even call what I’m doing sketching, honestly, it really is doodling — more or less nightly, and I’m currently attempting the #SixFanarts Challenge (check Twitter for a bunch of way, way more talented artists’ attempts at it), which is at least keeping me drawing. Still, not feeling particularly inspired on that front at the moment.

So I decided to go back to an old love, which is Sculpey, and decided to make some altered boxes.

These are just the tops, removed from the (Altoids) box for ease of construction and baking. The eye and stitched skin one went surprisingly quickly (the skin tones are all tints from an old Wet and Wild eyeshadow palette — a really great Dollar Tree find that I always keep in my Sculpey kits (if you’re making anything with skin tones, a neutral matte palette is so much better than mixing colored Sculpey; that also applies to baked goods, like if you’re making cookie or cake charms)). The fruit one, though, took what had to be at least two and a half hours because of all the individual pieces, but I absolutely adore the vibrant colors and am probably proudest of that one.

I don’t have a ton of other altered box ideas in my head at the moments (well, maybe one or two) but it’s really gratifying to be able to switch mediums when one just hasn’t been working out for me, especially after so long (been at least, I’d say, two years since I’ve touched Sculpey).


My family’s murder box (Hunt a Killer subscription box) came today, woo! So tonight after Bear goes down I’m pouring myself a big glass of wine, cracking open my Murder Book (yeah, I have a notebook that is specifically my Murder Book, for working on the cases), and getting on Facebook Video Chat to knock out another suspect with my mom and brother. Not the worst way to start the long weekend.

Tomorrow, masks on, we’re going to have a socially distanced yard visit with my family; it’ll be the first time I’ve left the house/been in the car/seen them since March 12th. I’m super high anxiety about it; I feel my chest constrict every time I think about it, but I’m afraid if I don’t take the measured, safe steps now, my anxiety will become more and more insurmountable (we’ll all be outdoors, masked, more than six feet apart (they have a decent sized yard) and we’re all fairly low risk for carrying it, since aside from grocery stores and pretty isolated office work, none of us have left the house in nine weeks, and we are all being super cautious; it’ll be fine. It’ll be fine).

I know places are starting to open up — too soon, but there’s nothing I can do about that — but stay safe and keep staying in as much as you can. This isn’t over, but if everyone actually did their damn parts and acted responsibly (I wish I had confidence in my fellow Americans acting responsibly but, honestly (and sadly) I don’t) it might be manageable for now.

Anyway. Stay safe, sane, and healthy, everyone.

Before & After & Dungeons & Dragons

I’m still fighting some hefty art block; I went from having a running roster of ideas at the ready to spending hours doodling and gesture drawing just to come up with something.  I know that I’m going about things the “right way,” i.e., actually sitting down and going though the motions to unblock myself instead of swearing off drawing until “inspiration stikes,” but it’s still frustrating.

That being said, I finally went down to the basement and grabbed my Inktober 2018 sketchbook, and, again — wow.  There actually wasn’t a ton of stuff in it analogous to anything I’ve been drawing lately, so I just took the two drawing that were full-face portraits and am comparing it to a drawing I completed last weekend, on Mother’s Day:

So… that’s encouraging. I still have a long way to go, but holy hell, did I come a long way already.


Today was a low-key day. I finished a drawing (which I’ll upload later), puttered around the house a bit, called my mother, and embarked on what is sure to be a journey full of ups and downs — started to learn how to play Dungeons & Dragons.

Bear has been asking my husband to teach him for the last few weeks. I’d like to say it was watching my husband run his own D&D and GURPS campaigns over the last three years (twice a week, from out home via Tabletop Simulator and Discord voice chat), but no. No, it’s because he’s overheard us listening to Dungeons and Daddies1 (not a BDSM podcast) for the last six months, and has decided it’s the coolest thing in the world. So my husband has essentially been shown up in the eyes of his son, by four fictional (and debatably competent) dads on a podcast very much not intended for children. I think we’re going to win an award for parenting some day guys, I really do.

The first stage of the campaign was character creation — Bear decided to be a Fighter hill dwarf (or “dwarb,” as he says) and I’m a Druid halfling named Veerle. Bear has apparently heard and retained enough of the aforementioned podcast that he began wildly casting spells that a. he cannot cast because he does not have magic, and b. did not apply in any way to the situation:

Bear: I Rage!
Me: You rage?
Bear: I Rage at them!
Me: You don’t have Rage.

Bear: I cast Speak with Animals!
Andy: You can’t. You have no magic, and there are no animals here.

Bear: I attack with a spell!
Andy: You… you have no magic. And there is no one here to attack.
Me: We literally just arrived in town. We haven’t even seen any people yet.

Eventually I just looked at my husband and mouthed “I cast Magic Missile!,” because I feel like playing with him is going to be stuck in a very innocent version of the Dead Alewives skit.

Sketch is from ’96 (I remember it from high school) but this animation is cute.

All in all we played for about two hours; Bear’s first time in combat, his first roll was a crit hit and he took great pleasure is describing how he cleaved a goblic clean in twain; I, uh, crit failed at least one of my rolls and by all rights should have been permadead, but we fudged the rules since I was the only other player and Bear didn’t want to play alone. He got a kick out of it and is looking forward to playing more tomorrow. It would be nice if this could become a weekly thing, but we’ll see how long this holds his interest.

Hope today was a day of some rest and relaxation. Stay safe, sane, and inside.


1 Highly, highly recommended. I often re-listen to it at night before I go to sleep, and I’ve woken my husband up laughing on even the n-th re-listen.

Busy Hands

I think I’m going to recommit to learning American Sign Language this week.  It’s been ages (I don’t even know how long, honestly) since I’ve gotten any practice in.  I stalled out at Lesson 13 sometimes in probably February and just haven’t gotten back to it.

I know a lot has been said, including by me personally, about not feeling pressured to be “productive” or to emerge from quarantine with a bevy of new skills in tow.  But my anxiety has been hovering around baseline (with a lot of restrictions on social media consumption), and if I’m in a headspace conducive to pursuing an interest, I might as well — I certainly have the time to fill.

Even though it’s been a while since I’ve pursued any ASL studies, I remember feeling about it the way I feel about drawing now: how strange and unfortunate it was that I put off practicing it for so long under the baseless assumption that I would be no good at it.  And not just “no good” to start — everyone starts out not being good — but never any good.  I had somehow convinced myself that I would never get any better at either skill, because I had this perception of myself as being uncoordinated.  Which, to be fair, I am; but there are different kinds of coordination, and coordination can be improved with practice.  Within a couple of weeks of starting sign practice, I was remembering and recalling signs, able to show some dialectical variations; I was actually learning.  I was getting better.

So I’m going to start setting an alarm for 2:00 pm each day, and take an hour or so to work on ASL.  My work is done for the day by then, and any chores I do with any regularity should certainly be out of the way by then.  Let’s get back on track.


Speaking of improvements, I recently unearthed the mini-sketchbook I bought from Dollar Tree back in 2018 when I decided I was going to try my hand at Inktober, and oh my God, is that sketchbook a revelation, let me tell you.  Again, I know I have a long way to go, but it’s amazing how, even with sporadic practice (it’s really only since December/January that I’ve made art/drawing a regular part of my routine) my art has grown in leaps and bounds.

I have three new drawings to upload anyway, so I think I’ll try to find something relatively analogous (in subject matter or composition) for each of those in my Inktober sketchbook to do a side-by-side comparison.  That ought to be good for a laugh.


I spent some time today working from a resource my husband uncovered on Twitter¹ called Croquis Cafe.  They have both a Vimeo and a photo reference gallery of nude models for gesture drawing, anatomy drawing, etc. and it’s really great.  I did a few sketches of their model Tamara and was happy with the results.  (Also, please notice the emphasis — the subject matter is entirely non-sexual, but it is still full nudity, so NSFW, if that’s relevant to you).

Stay busy, safe, and sane everyone.  My husband is picking up reusable face masks for us tomorrow, courtesy of a friend who made them for us for free (two each for Bear and I, five for Andy since he’s an essential worker).  I’m hoping this makes me feel secure and safe enough to leave the house to go for walks and get a little fresh air, since I am actually starting to get a little stir-crazy.


¹ I deleted and recreated my Twitter yet again, because I still don’t know exactly what I want to use it for.  I start doing Twitter writing challenges and amass a following of folks who are very much Twitter Writers, and then I lose interest and start posting about, like, DnD Real Play podcasts, and I just know they’re all going “WTF?” and meanwhile my reading list is just haiku and self-promos (which is an absolutely valid use of Twitter, but I’m definitely not the target audience).  If you use Twitter for a smattering of personal.creative things, hit me up: @milkandkerosene.  I have zero followers and like, two tweets at the moment.