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.

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.

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.

Daily Life and Daily Sketch Dump

Since giving up on my April Challenges (good on those who followed through!), I’ve gotten back to doing regular ink work, sometimes in conjunction with watching some tutorials, sometimes just one my own and off the top of my head.  These are not photographed for the gallery (I’ll take better care doing that some other time), but here are the as-of-now finished versions of my three latest sketches.

I completed the foreground the first sketch (the fairy) simply in order to test a few pointers I got from a YouTube video¹.  I opted to fill out the image today while on a conference call, since I still felt in looked a little sparse.  I could have been more conscientious about the shading on the flowers, but over all it was always intended as a “quick sketch,” so I’m not going to agonize over it.

Second drawing I did just as a quick study of hands, since they (and feet, and to a lesser extent, noses) are still the body parts that give me the most trouble.  I added the plant yesterday, and the roots, extra leaves, and quote today.  Again, for something that was sort of spur-of-the-moment, I’m satisfied (looking forward to breaking out those new microns, though; look at the weight behind some of those hatch lines).

Third one I’m just really, really happy with.  Figure and birds were drawn partially from three different references, flowers were free-handed.  Completed it yesterday in its entirety while listening to podcasts.


Bear has been having a difficult time, lately.  He’s up every night and in our room, something that had become a rare occurrence before COVID-19 and quarantine became his day-to-day reality.  He says he’s happy about being at home because he can be with me and play whenever he wants, but I can tell it’s hard for him.

We’ve been letting him out on the porch in the nicer weather; I hesitate to let him downstairs because it’s already difficult keeping him and his friend next door apart.  They started out yesterday chatting from the porch and her window, and then moved to her being in her yard and them both drawing with chalk together-apart (she on her retaining wall, he on the porch), when we noticed the volume of his speech getting quieter.  He and she had pulled their jackets up around their mouths like face masks and were trying to sneak into the yard together.  Something similar happened today, as well, but this time he had an intense crying jag after.  I don’t want to keep him inside, because I think that’s counter productive, but I don’t know what to do.  I try to be as direct as possible with him about the severity of COVID and the seriousness of the quarantine without scaring the absolute shit out of him, but he’s five.  Even though he’ll tell people he can’t play with them or that they can’t see each other because of quarantine (something he’s repeated to his cousin multiple times over video chat when Ben inevitably asks him when they’ll see each other), he just doesn’t fully “get” it.  Which is a blessing, in some ways, but a curse in so many others.

His teacher messaged me to set up a Zoom conference tomorrow at five with a few of his classmates, which I think will do him a world of good.  I asked him today what the first thing he’d want to do after quarantine ended was.  He said, “Go to school.”  I think he needs the face time with his teacher, if no one else.  He went from seeing her every day and giving her a hug before we left to suddenly not seeing her for, we told him, two weeks… three weeks… six weeks… not again until at least September, at which point she’ll no longer be his teacher.  I honestly mourn his ability to say a real goodbye to his teacher and classmates.  It’s the same way I feel about my Seniors.

I myself had a Zoom conference with my department today, and scrolling through the three pages of attendees faces literally made me tear up.  I’m not an especially social person, but I’ve always taken for granted how much of a social thing work is for me, and how far that went towards fulfilling my social needs.  With that gone, I’m sort of lost.

I’m hoping to get more art done today, but barring that, maybe some binge watching or some work down in the basement.

Hope you are all holding up and being kind to yourselves.


¹ I’m considering putting up an old-school “links” page, for things like my favorite YouTubers (ArtTube, BookTube, general entertainment), forums I frequent, podcasts I enjoy, etc.  We’ll see if I can get that done by the weekend.  That’s the goal.

A One-Day Weirdness Oasis (plus some art)

Since dropping my two challenges, I’ve gotten my house mostly clean, started up a new project at a fandom wiki, and done two pieces of art, so overall, I do feel like I made the right call.

In the past I’ve used monthly challenges to force myself to do creative work, and while he challenge would push me to create stuff for a month, I would then go into creative hibernation for basically the rest of the year.  The last several months, I have been actively creative.  The challenges were great fun in getting me to conceptualize ideas and open up my mind to what could be art fodder (song lyrics!  What a fucking treasure trove of inspiration!  But also, simple things!  Women lounging in bed!  People gathered at a funeral!  It doesn’t have to be a sweeping and grandiose landscape, there is beauty in the mundane!)

While visual art has been sort of booming (or at least, not stagnating), I do have a lot of work to do to kickstart my writing habit outside the confines of poetry challenges.  I’m going to have to set aside some time everyday to just, I don’t know, free write?  Try to construct/compose a poem?  Put pen to paper, at the very least.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

But none of that is happening today, because today is the one-day, stay-at-home, mini-GISH!  I’ve talked about GISH in other iterations of this blog (which really isn’t helpful for a large number of people currently here, but long-time readers may recognize the name). GISH is normally a week-long multi-media international scavenger hunt combining bizarre challenges, acts of creativity, radical kindness, and general weirdness, run by Supernatural’s Misha Collins.  It’s one of the highlights of my year, and I’ve headed up my own team since 2014.  This year our regular hunt will be in August — whether or not the quarantine is still in effect, with items being modified for those of us still under quarantine — but this one is designed as a fully at-home hunt, with proceeds directly benefiting COVID-19 relief efforts and feeding low-income kids.  Kick-off is at 3 pm EST, and it runs for a full 24 hours; I’ll be able to share what we’ve completed by 3:30 pm tomorrow, so I hope to have some fun stuff to share with you all by then.

Until then, these are the last two pieces I completed.  I have severely mixed feelings about the drawing; I love, love, love the monstrous mouth.  I think the shading and coloration on it are wonderful.  I am upset by her head and face; I messed up on the mouth, and the lines for her hair were faint and I definitely outlined too “wide,” i.e., her head is bigger than I would have wanted it.  The biggest issue I have, though, is my cheap pencils don’t blend and don’t give the coverage I want,  I need to invest in wax-based pencils like Prismacolor.

The painting is not 100% complete, but I like the concept and am moderately happy with how it’s turning out.  Acrylic will probably never be “my” medium, but I feel like I’m getting incrementally better.

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I just want to end by saying, I know I talk about feeling the need to make “good use” of this time, and I want to clarify: we are experiencing trauma.  I know that, and I need other people to know that.  Everyone copes with trauma differently.  Keeping busy and doing projects make me feel better; they help me manage my anxiety, they make me feel proud and accomplished.

That being said, I will gently suggest that if you are mentally and emotionally capable of doing so, finding a hobby or a past-time to fill the time, simply because in my experience it makes time pass more smoothly and gives my mind something else to focus on.  But it’s not a competition.  You don’t owe other people “productivity” during this time, and maybe your new “hobby” is finally binging every show you always swore you’d “get around” to, or developing a five-star island in Animal Crossing.  That’s fine.  If that’s helping you cope, that’s wonderful.  But try to find something to keep you afloat; you don’t have to defend what that is to anyone.

Stay safe, stay sane, stay inside.

NaPoWriMo: Day 19

Left Behind

The night after the funeral, I walked
Still naked and damp from the shower
Through the hallways of my house.

I lingered in the doorways like a ghost,
Shadows settling like dust in the corners
And crevices of each room.

I moved through darkened rooms by touch,
Trailing my fingers along planes and angles,
The familiar geometry of my life,

Stopping to trace the curves
of my mother’s mantel clock,
The strange organic prickle of succulents,

The skin-soft leather of our old loveseat
Where she sat, heartbeat-warm, alive,
Less than a week ago;

The sweet peach note of her perfume
Lingers like a sharp exhale
Every time I fluff the pillows.

My fingers twitch instinctively
Against the cool ivory keys of the piano,
Striking one lingering, discordant note.

It’s strange how much the same
This world remains, I think,
Without her in it.

Her fingerprints still mark the edge
Of the glass-topped coffee table;
Her slippers tucked under her chair.

These are the remnants of a life,
This is what we leave behind. I wander,
A ghost. An orphan in my own home.


Prompt Day Nineteen:  Based loosely on the idea given by the prompt of a “walking archive.”