Art Project: Galaxy Ring

artprojectIt’s been an eternity since I’ve actually posted any completed art here, and it’s only partially because I haven’t been creating.  I’ve been working on some projects, albeit slowly and sporadically, but I’ve not completed many lately.

However, I have a few things I finished up a while ago and just never got around to posting.

First up, here’s a return to something I love, but don’t do a ton of anymore, and that’s upcycling.  The last upcycled project I completed had to be, uh, like six years ago, which, holy shit, is longer than I thought, but I was definitely in our old apartment and Bear wasn’t around yet, so yeah.  Jesus.

That time around, it was an old, rusted out decorative birdhouse that had been languishing and rusting away in my parents’ yard, and after a fresh coat of paint, some rub on appliques, and a bit of decoupage, it looked awesome.  This time, it was the broken pieces of an old pedestal ashtray.

20191111_124713.jpgMost of it was pretty broken down, but for some reason when they pried the ashtray base off, my father turned to me and asked if I wanted these two pieces, “to paint, or whatever.”  I mean, I probably need to start saying “no” to some of these offers of refuse, lest this become an Altoid tin situation¹, but I was pretty sure I had a decent idea for what I wanted to do with this.

My first thought was decoupage, but now that I’m no longer doing mail trades, scrapbooking, or thrifting the way I used to, I’m fairly limited as to my materials; really all I have are back issues of Cosmo, and that’s a pretty narrow range of thematic options to work with.  So I finally settled to straight up repainting.

20191111_130636I did all the work in craft acryllic (Applebarrel); undilluted black for the base background, and very thin wash of navy, blue, and white for the nebulae.  I also used a cheap children’s paintbrush with stiff plastic bristles to splatter the stars (in antique white), and then free-handed the planets (loosely based on those in our solar system).  I sort of wish I had a stencil for these , but I’m okay with the shapes for the most part (the exception being the ersatz-y Jupiter, which looks a little wonky).  I textured them with a round brush, using stippling, and a lot of layering with diluted paints. 

I finished it with a coat of gloss Mod Podge, and layered the two pieces to create the idea of planets orbiting the sun.  Sadly, when I actually assembled it, the hot glue I had on hand didn’t hold well enough, so I attached the pieces with nails… which sadly split the wood on the ring, but only on one side, so I don’t think I have to worry about it falling apart.  Still, I’m sad about the way the crack mars the project, which overall I’m very happy with.  This is going to hang in Bear’s room once the Mod Podge cures fully in a day or so.

I’ve got to keep my eye out for more things to transform, because upcycling is so crazy satisfying, to take something people have given up on and make it something people are, like, envious of (seriously, I got more comments on this project on Facebook than on any of my original art in the last year).

What are you all working on lately?


¹The nearly 50 empty Altoid tins my parents collected for me when I was doing altered boxes — which I keep meaning to return to, but haven’t yet — and are currently taking up a ton of space in my craft corner.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

lifeupdateI really am not a fan of trying to place the blame for any of my less-than-stellar attempts on anything but a less-than-refined ability.  I’m still a total amateur newbie when it comes to anything art related, despite some huge progress, and I fully own up to that fact.

That being said, I often feel embarrassed sharing my work online because even on those occasions when I’ve been satisfied or — dare I say — even happy with what I’ve produced, taking a photo of it has always yielded decidedly subpar results.

While not to downplay that fact that I am not an amazing photographer, my phone camera was decidely lacking.  Grainy zoom, poor focusing, and horrible light balance.  Could some of that have been rectified by investing in a quality camera and, like, studying up on photography?  I mean, probably, but I’m no particularly interested in photography as a personal hobby so I don’t want to sink money into a high end piece of equipment, and I’m only a hobbyist artist, so I don’t need to take exquisite photos in order to market or sell my art.  I really just needed something good enough that I could post fairly true-to-life photos of my projects, and honestly, the easiest way to do that was simply to get a better phone.

Now, I didn’t upgrade my phone because I wanted a new camera to photograph my work, but it happened to be a huge bonus.  I tested it out today in less than stellar conditions and the results were so much better than even optimal condition results with my old phone.  I have a small cache of projects I’ve been waiting to share and I’m thrilled that I should be able to start doing that this weekend.

I know that the creation of art in and of itself makes me an artist (even if the work is amateurish), but I’ve got to admit, it sometimes feels hard calling myself that when I share my work so infrequently, and especially when my shared work looks so much less proficient than it is — I have a long way to go, but I’ve come a long way as well, and I want people to be able to see my progress accurately.

Anyway, I am excited to share some actually good quality photos of my work in the coming weeks.

Abandoning Inktober and OctPoWriMo

lifeupdateSo, both OctPoWriMo and Inktober were a bust, but for once, I’m not beating myself up about it.  Why?  Because for once in my life, I felt like the challenges were holding me down more than they were lifting me up.

I started doing art and writing challenges because I felt like I never had enough ideas, or because I couldn’t motivate myself to get started on a personal project, and events like OctPo, NaPoWriMo, NaNoWriMo, and Inktober gave me a structure and a deadline and generally held me accountable in very regimented ways.

But lately, I’ve noticed that while I’m still not the most consistent artist or writer (um, month long hiatus on this blog, hello?  This is not a surprise to anyone), I have nonetheless become a persistent artist and writer.  When I’m not faced with the frenetic pace of a work-a-day challenge, I’ve still, nonetheless, seen more follow-through in my efforts recently than I ever have before.

I am, currently, for example, working on two sketches (near completion) that I intend to watercolor (with two more still being conceptualized), and a piece of upcycled art from pieces of a broken, vintage ashtray stand, and I’m readying myself to power through three incomplete pieces of fanfic for NaNoWriMo this year (yeah, three different pieces, what can I say?  I’m a Rebel at heart).

And the best part?  I’m excited about these projects.  I get psyched up to work on them.  During the week and a half I tried to power through my two challenges, not only did I feel stressed about the pressure of completing a work-a-day, but I felt like it was infringing on time that could be spent doing creative work I was actually invested in.  I was starting to resent the challenges; they weren’t giving me motivation, or inspiration, or structure; they weren’t giving me anything.  In fact it felt like they were actively taking pleasure and enjoyment away from me.  Enthusiasm for art drained from me entirely the minute it became an obligation imposed on my by some external force.

How wild is that?  How eagerly my brain will latch onto a challenge when it’s not actively invested in anything else, and how vehemently it will reject it the moment that challenge conflicts with it’s own desires and ambitions.

Man, my brain is a fickle bitch.  God bless, eh?

Does this mean I’m giving up on challenges.  Oh, hell no.  I love the idea of having timed, themed challenges; but I think I need to become more attuned to what I really want to accomplish creatively and how any given challenge might help with that.  For instance, I already said I plan on doing NaNoWriMo — because I’m gung-ho to finish up several fanfics, and the atmosphere and camaraderie of NaNoWriMo might actually help with that.  I wouldn’t, for instance, try to do NaBloPoMo next month, because every night, when I sat down and spent my scant free time being forced to pen a blog entry, I’d be thinking of the fanfic I was not currently writing.  The fanfic is the project that is currently fueling an internal creative fire, and rather than risk extinguishing it in order to say Hey, I Did a Thing (I already know I can Do the Thing.  I’ve done it the last two years), I’m going to fan that flame for as long as I can conceivable keep it alive.

I hope to have a few (painted) works completed prior to November first to share with you all.  Hope you’re all finding as much joy in creating (be it within the confines of a challenge or not) as I am at the moment.

Rock and Roll Dreams¹

adventures of the everyday

My son has always been into music.  I sang to him in utero endlessly; traditional lullabies, TV theme songs, Night Vale weather reports, musical theatre standards.  He came out with an innate sense of rhythm (unlike his father or I) and an eclectic musical taste.

In the last year or two, he has become obsessed with “writing” his own songs, and has recently formed his own band – Fire on the Loose – whose members include, at any given time, himself and any adult he can rope into it (his Grandpapa seems to be a favorite).

I’ve got no musical inclination – I love music, but I have no innate talent, and don’t have the ability to juggle the pursuit in tandem with my art, writing, and language learning – but I try to encourage Bear as much as I can.  He has cymbals, maracas, triangles, recorders, tambourines, and a keyboard, and after an afternoon of playing an “writing” songs, he decided to make a poster for his band:
67569551_10156497754724352_1316584901322997760_oWritten independently by Bear, including spelling.  Honestly, I was impressed.

So of course, I shared my enthusiasm with Facebook, because in some ways, I am very much a Millennial Mom.  While most friends offered encouragement or amusement, my cousin decided to stir up repressed memories.

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We eventually coaxed from the depths of our collective consciousness that someone’s name was Sour Apple Spice, at which point I think we all had a painful, full-body shudder and decided to leave well enough alone.  Literally none of us could so much as pluck out a tune, and we had a band??  Come on.

But I came back to the conversation later, re-read it, and realized how much and how painfully I missed that time in my life.

Because we weren’t completely oblivious — we knew none of us could actually play music.  But what we could do was come up with a band name, write song lyrics, put together costumes and personas, create posters and back stories — and that?  That is creating a narrative.

That is storytelling.

I started thinking about all the other geeky shit that we got up to during those summers when we were all in junior high and high school, and my cousin Nikki all but lived at our house: the videos we made on my uncle’s old camcorder, staging talk shows and performing skits to send to penpals; piecing together costumes from old clothes, thrift store finds, and vintage costume jewelry to stage photo shoots; keeping notebooks full of handwritten, free-form role playing games, some spilling over online and encompassing a dozen people, some just between the three of us; writing elaborate self-insert fanfics and illustrating them for each other in Painter.

Those summer nights, we were costume designers, choreographers, writers, artists, photographers, models.

It was the silliest shit in the world, but it was freeing, and fun, and undoubtedly an exercise in unbridled creativity.  It was something that, in a lot of ways, I would spend the rest of my life (thus far) chasing and never quite finding again.

I miss those nights.  I miss that time with my sister and my cousin, huddled sleeplessly in front of the TV, re-watching out latest raw footage, or passing our roleplay notebooks back and forth.  Those are nights I’m never going to get back.

But I see my son scribbling out his band poster, which is now hanging on his wall, and I am so, so happy that he still has so many of those nights to look forward to.


¹Literally apropos of nothing, but I was struggling to title this entry, finally stumbling on “Rock and Roll Dreams,” and then was fucking bowled over with a powerful wave of nostalgia for this song:

Happy Fall (I’m Back)

Happy Fall!.png

I know, I  know; it’s not, like, technically Fall yet.  I’ve been sitting on this post literally since September 3rd, the day my son started school, which felt more than ever like the irrevocable end of summer, but then my schedule went haywire, my brain short-circuited, and I more or less shut down.

Which sounds hella dramatic.  It wasn’t. I’ve just been utterly exhausted and overwhelmed, which meant something had to fall by the wayside, and my creative endeavors — basically everything not absolutely essential for the functioning of my household and family — came to a grinding halt.

At this point, it is, actually, almost Fall — the leaves are changing, the morning air has a chill to it, and the calendar is nearly in agreement with me on this point.  So why not wait?

Because I am ready now, and waiting longer is just going to delay the momentum.  

I have a schedule at work again — more over, I have the schedule I had anticipated going into this year (with one tweak which, truth be told, I’m happy about) — and am told it should be “permanent.”¹ For the first time in weeks, my husband has his normal weekly schedule again, which means he can do the mid-week chores and I can get my house back on track, and my son has settled into — and really loves — school.  I still have a growing backlog of ideas for paintings and creative projects that I have been aching to work on, and am finally feeling emotionally ready to get started on them.

In short, things have taken a turn, and it feels like things are changing.  I thought it was time to celebrate the transition.

For my fellow creative folks, please remember that October means OctPoWriMo or Inktober (though if you’re a glutton for punishment like me, it means both), and November of course brings with it NaNoWriMo, which I am definitely doing, though I’m unsure of what my project will be yet — I guess I should add “Preptober” to next month’s schedule, huh?

I am, as promised, back.  I hope you all have been well, and if not, well, I hope you find your turning point soon, too.


¹Nothing in my line of work is truly permanent.  I’ve been shuffled around from program to program over the last nearly-fifteen years, and while I’m not complaining (I appreciate the experiences), I can certainly speak with authority on the ephemeral nature of my job’s sense of “permanence.”

Friyay!

friyay positivityThis week has been wild.  I’ve been stressing about GISH, and work, and my birthday, and seeing an old friend (which was awesome!  But there’s always the worry, especially when it’s been nearly a decade, that things will be awkward when you finally get together again.  It’s always a massive relief when that concern turns out to be moot), and ughhh, one more week and I have my two-and-half-week vacation!  I’m thrilled, looking forward to having a few days to myself, to doing more painting, to hopefully organizing my basement and prepping Bear for school, and for things like seeing friends, day trips, the beach, and FanExpo Boston.

But before we get too ahead of ourselves, it’s finally Friday.  Here’s what’s been making me smile this week.

To Try

I don’t think it was on this iteration of the blog — and if it wasn’t, this is a topic I will have to revisit at some point — but I wasted a lot of time lamenting/worrying that my art wasn’t “real art.”  Luckily, I woke the fuck up from that nightmare and realized that art is varied and eclectic and subjective, and God damnit, was allowed to be fun.  I mean, I love that there are artists out there dealing with social and political issues, but amidst all the heaviness and existentialism, we need to make a little room for the light and the whimsical, as well.  I am in love with the idea of pom-pom art, I am a hugely tactile person, and there is something very satisfying about both the visual texture of this and the fact that it’s something that I can touch.  Also, I love the idea of this for decor for my son’s room.  Now I just need to think about what I would make.

To Warm the Heart

Look, I’m not gonna over-sell it; it’s literally just ~30 seconds of piglets running in circles around a momma pig.  But it makes me smile, dammit.  It so friggin cute.

To Share with the Kid

My son lately has become obsessed with jokes and pranks and, just, humor in general, so I was thrilled when this Scary Mommy post — 140+ Hilarious Jokes for Kids — showed up on my timeline.

To Watch

Ok, so it’s a week away, but I kept forgetting to mention it, so here we are; I fucking loved Rocko’s Modern Life growing up, and after two years of waiting, I am thrilled that the movie is debuting on Netflix August 9th.  Can. Not. Wait.

That’s it from me for this week.  What’s gotten you through?

Choosing Self-Improvement Over Self-Loathing

adventures of the everydayI am not an artist.

I mean, please; I don’t want people messaging me or commenting and being like, “if you create art, you’re an artist!”  I support that whole-heartedly.  But there are people who create art on a whim, for fun and personal enjoyment, and then there are people who have studied art for years and understand it on a technical level.

These people may both, validly, identify as artists, but they come at art from wholly different backgrounds and perspectives.  One of them applies to me; the other does not.

I’ve discovered — or rediscovered, rather — in the last few years that I really like painting.  On the one hand, it can be fun and relaxing, and on the other it can be challenging and surprising.  I like that versatility; it ensures that it’s never boring.

It also ensures that as my ambition grows, so, potentially can my frustration.

This week, I decided to paint portraits using a photo reference with the intention of being photo-faithful (I won’t say photo-realistic (that’s aiming way too high), but I want the colors and values to hold true).  This means instead of the fantastic skin colors most of my paintings have (of my last four portraits, three have had blue or green skin), I’m attempting to paint relatively true to life (Caucasian) skin.

I hadn’t anticipated how challenging form shadows on skin would be.

My instinct when faced with a challenge is, unfortunately, to quit.  To pack it all in, say “fuck it, guess I suck,” and abandon the project, but not before having a small mental meltdown — usually a messy crying jag followed by lethargy and self-loathing.

No, this isn’t healthy, and no, I’m not proud of it (but it’s all part of being neurodivergent).  So I’m working hard to change my reactions.

It’s slow going.

Today, for instance, I am in a bad place, mentally — anxiety is riding high, I am feeling anxious and overwhelmed with my house work, the tentative nature of my work assignment in September, GISH on Saturday, and the struggles I’ve been having with my painting.  I wish I was one of those people who could compartmentalize their entire life, so that the emotions and anxiety afflicting them in one area doesn’t bleed over to the others, and I’ve more or less got that mastered when it comes to work — my work necessitates I absolutely throw myself into it, so I rarely have time or breathing room to perseverate on my personal problems, but once I’m at home and able to kind of unmask, I just lose it.  Absolutely everything bubbles to the surface and the worries and anxieties from every aspect of life just leech into and infect one another.

Usually, I sink into a shame spiral.  And honestly, I can’t promise I won’t, because I feel it pulling at me.  I really, really just want to curl up and cry and not touch a paintbrush (or a vacuum, or a mop, or another person) again, ever, for all of eternity.  But I’m fighting that urge, this time.

As I was saying, I am working on a painting that I am excited about, that is both something I’m hyped about because of the subject matter, because it’s my first time fully working off a photo-reference, because it’s the first time I’m painting something with a ready-made audience.  I’m already putting a lot of pressure on myself with this project.  And then, like I said,  I had to do something I’ve not really done — paint form shadow on truish-to-life Caucasian skin.

And holy hell, was it hard.  I repainted literally at least fourteen time, until it was a caked on, crusty mess.  I went in with a wet wash, went in with thick strokes, went in with blocks of color, went in feathering colors as I went.  I couldn’t make it work.  The more desperately I tried to make it work, the more impatient I became, and the sloppier my efforts were.

Finally I had to stop and step back.

Instead of throwing my canvas in the trash, I washed it (I know, weird?  But I’ve done it before; it got all the caked on acrylic off and still left the outline and a surprising amount of the initial wet wash, so I don’t have to start totally from scratch), and put it aside to dry.

And then I went online and Googled how to create form shadows with acryllic.

What??? Crazy, right?  I problem-solved.  Instead of just blasting ahead or giving up entirely, I admitted I didn’t know something, and took productive steps toward remedying that problem.  Holy shit, guys, did you know that you’re supposed to use a color complementary to your base to create a natural form shadow?  Like, if you’re painting with yellows, your shadows should be, like, purples?  What?  Why did no one tell me??  I don’t remember that in studio class when I was still taking art in school, just a bunch of eighteen-year-olds, still creating shadows with grays and blacks.  Why was this not taught to me?

That’s really the question, though, isn’t it?

I need to be gentler with myself.  I need to be less scornful of myself when I realize I can’t/don’t know how to do something, and instead of being self-loathing and beating myself up for not knowing, I should remember, well, I was never told.  Or to put at least some of the onus on my shoulders, I never asked.  But I was never expected to just “know.”  I am insanely lucky to live in a time when, now that I know there is a gap in my knowledge or skill, I have nearly unlimited resources to draw from and fill that gap.

The canvas is drying in the living room as I type this.  I don’t know that I’ll be prepared to tackle it in the morning (too much else still weighing on my mind), but there’s still more research to be done, anyway.  I also need to remember, learning and planning in still doing; it still counts.  It’s still work.