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.

Creative Break and Family Time

I’m itching to crack open my new sketchbook.  Why??  I have several pages — like, more than several, really, though I’m definitely running low — in my old sketchbook, but I’m aching to open and start in on the shiny new one.  Do a lot of artists have multiple sketchbooks going at once??  Are they frequently thematic, or sort of an “anything goes” situation?  I plan on using the pages in the old one; I stopped doing really thoughtfully planned pieces with a lot of reworking and started doing more illustration- and comic-book-style drawings, because they were good ways to practice perspective and anatomy without having too much of an emotional connection to the work (which always leads me to second-guessing, obsessive reworking, self-editing, etc).  I’ve also been doing loose, experimental perspective sketches, so I’m definitely still using the old book.  I don’t know.  I feel like not giving myself permission to open the book is akin to my old habits of hoarding art materials until “the right time,” but I feel like starting it now feeds into my habit of starting multiple projects and than slowly abandoning them, one-by-one.  Advice?


I haven’t done any real art in several days (though I might post a sketch I did of a “Disney-style” witch illustration I did, which I kind of like despite some fair anatomy issues, and a mermaid (for Mermay) that I feel similarly about, despite similar issues).  I’m waiting on my watercolor pad to arrive, because my son made an art request that actually I really liked — “I want a Queen surrounded by birds” — that I sort of instinctively conceived of as a watercolor, so I want that to be my next significant project.

Plus, you know.  I’ve had other things to do.

I’ve been feeling incredibly lethargic lately, so a couple of weeks ago, I ordered a fitness journal in an attempt to start tracking things again — not so much calories, per se, though I will note them if it’s easy enough (calorie counting drove me bonkers, it plays into my worst obsessive tendencies) — but just general accountability.  It tracks glasses of water consumed, what you ate for each meal, what you did for physical activity, how long and how well you slept, how you feel that days, and how you think you could do better tomorrow.  Around the same time I ordered it, I got an email from some coworkers saying they set up a Wellness Challenge, to run from May 4th (around when my Fitness Planner was set to arrive) to June 2nd.  It seemed like perfect timing.

When my Fitness Planner arrive Saturday, days before the Challenge was set to start, I decided it was a great time to get other things in order as well.  So, I flew through and got the house clean, reset all my alarms so I’d get back on an actual schedule (5:30 seems excessive, though, so I set them to 7 am), broke out an old binder to use as an organizational “command center,” and re-committed to actually having checklists, to-do lists, and daily purpose.

It’s four days in, and it’s working for me so far.  I’m doing a little housework each day, writing out simple lists of priorities each morning, and doing — at the very least, in terms of physical activity — the ab circuit and daily challenge for my fitness challenge each day.  Also, re: water — hey, did you know drinking eight to ten glasses of water a day makes you feel significantly less tired?  It’s true.  Weird how that works, right?


Having things in order also means I have time (and energy!) for other stuff.  A couple of weeks ago, my mom told me my brother (who lives with her) got a Hunt a Killer subscription, so when the box arrived two days ago, he forwarded me and my sister photos of all the documents in the box, and I got online and Video Called him, my mom, and my sister, and we worked on that first box for two hours.  It was a lot of fun, even though we finished the objective of the box pretty quickly (like within twenty minutes).  There was still so much to go through and decipher, and it’s been fun messaging back and forth with them about theories and things we’ve read on the forums, etc.  I wish I could work with them in person, but this is still a lot of fun.  And honestly, my sister almost definitely wouldn’t be able to join us in person anyway, so this isn’t so different to how we would have to arrange it regardless of the circumstances, if we wanted to do it as a team.

On today’s roster is trying to get a little exercise in (the goal is 25 min, plus the ab circuit), clean out the fridge, take care of the upstairs bathroom, watch some Gravity Falls, find a good book to read, and meet up with my family after Bear goes to bed for happy-murder-fun-times.

Hope you’re all taking care of yourselves and each other.  Find something to do each day that makes you feel good.  And water!   Drink water!  Apparently that’s important.

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.

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

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30.  Something I Miss

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

31.  Why I Blog

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lazing (31 Day Challenge: Days 28 & 29)

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28.  What’s in My Closet

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

29.  How I Started Writing

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Slow but Productive (31 Day Challenge: Day 27)

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27.  Favorite Recipe

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

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

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


Today was both productive, yet uneventful.

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

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

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

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

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