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.

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.

Little slice of life

I spent the first official day of my vacation at my parents’ house.  Bear got to hang out with the kids — including his cousins — and I got to spend some time with my brother and sister, which is an increasingly rare occurrence, especially since my sister and I had kids.  And honestly, I adore my niece and nephew (and Bear, obviously), but I’ve got to say, more and more I keep thinking that my siblings and I need to plan a Just Us night out.  Nothing especially crazy, just a night out, maybe at a local pub, without kids.  We could leave the kids at home with our partners, go drinking, and then come home and crash — hell, even at my place (my son is quiet, a heavy sleeper, and out like a light by 8:30 even on a bad night).  I miss having time to just shoot the shit with them, you know?  The last time we even really came close to that was our cousin Nikki’s wedding, and that was October of 2018.

I spent a couple of hours art-ing today, which was nice — I did a relatively quick (like maybe an hour and a half?) drawing in my sketchbook, and started another one , the latter being one that I had on the brain for a while, the former just something to occupy my hands while I sat and chatted with my mom and sister this afternoon: 20200217_162447

I also started a working on the poetry challenge that I mentioned in a previous entry, and while I don’t think I’m going to do daily postings, I think I will likely archive them here in batches at some point as I move through them; I may do a batch of postings for accountability, and then archive my favorites for posterity.

Today was immensely enjoyable, but also very much just about spending time with family and family friends in that sort of low-key, very familiar sense — wonderful to experience, but not exciting fodder for a story.  It was chasing toddlers, singing silly songs, laughing with my siblings, going with my sister on a McDonald’s run, coloring with my son, doing my nieces nails, etc.  I was dropped at my folks house at 7 am and picked up at about 5:30 pm, so it really was basically the whole day.

There were two little things that transpired today that did find it’s way to my other social media, so I’ll share them here.

First is my sister’s epic shirt (if you’re a fan of Les Miserables, which — if you don’t know, I will get into someday — my sister and I are superfans of):

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Who else mentally added “….24601?”

And this anecdote, which is honestly a recurring theme with my brother and I (see also: the time we all got drunk and put him in charge of the Twister spinner):

So Rob told Bear and Boopy they had to wait for the walkie-talkies to charge before they could use them, mainly so they’d stop whining for them for a while. The base light on the charger was red, and he told them they’d have to wait until it turned green before they could use it.

“That light doesn’t actually change color,” he tells me. “I just told them that.”

Well, a while later, they both come running in yelling that it’s green. Rob blows them off for a bit, but they’re insistent, so he goes and investigates. A minute later, he calls me in.

“What color is that light?”

“….It’s green, Rob.”

My brother, once again, temporarily forgetting that he’s colorblind.

It’s Monday.  If you were off for the holiday, I hope it was relaxing, and if you weren’t, you are amazing, you are wonderful, and I hope people treated you with the kindness and respect you deserve.  You’ve gotten through the hardest day, just put one foot in front of the other; you’ll get where you’re going one step at a time.

Food for Thought

Day Five in The Week of Eyes:

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It’s in no way perfect, but I feel like looking at this drawing, even in isolation from the rest of the face, it’s clear that the intention is smiling/happiness.  If I want to be a more expressive artist and better at rendering the human face, I feel like this is stepping in the right direction.

Yesterday we met up with some friends and their one-year-old for lunch at our favorite local Indian restaurant.  Bear surprised me by trying subji, chicken korma, and some samosa — and liking all three!  Of course, he filled up on naan, tandoori chicken, and a huge mango lassi (which our waiter had put in before Bear was even seated; they know him so well), so he didn’t eat a whole lot of the new food.  Still, I’ll take what I can get.

We’re still in the, “all I want to eat is mac ‘n cheese/chicken nuggets/fries/corndogs” phase, though we seem to be inching slowly into slightly better territory.  He’s all for fresh fruits (apples, bananas, grapes, blueberries, cherries), and he’s started eating things like seasoned chicken breast, homemade meatballs, soups, and turkey sausage, along with fruit purees and organic fig and fruit bars.  So, it’s slow going, but it’s progress.  At least I feel like he’s getting a few servings of fruits, veggies, and general nutrition along with all the processed junk.

I’m very careful, as I want him to have a healthy relationship with food — one that I was never able to have — to avoid telling him that any foods are “good” or “bad” foods, just that some are “more nutritious,” and some are “less nutritious,” and we need to learn to balance them.  Far be it for me to take away his chicken nuggets!  Just, maybe he could eat them with a side of fresh carrots now and again, you know?

You know, there was a time when I thought maybe part of my “art” would be cooking; that I’d be able to forget myself and escape into creating delicious food, but something about cooking — maybe the mess inherent in the process, maybe the multiple step recipes, maybe the necessity of multitasking — that exacerbates my anxiety in all but the absolute ideal circumstances.  If my home is otherwise pristine, if I’m mentally relaxed and have ample time, I still enjoy playing around with recipes, but between my hang-ups in the kitchen (as a cook) and my son’s (as an eater), I have periods of being especially ambitious followed by long stretches of the most simplistic meals imaginable.  I mean, Bear doesn’t complain, but sometimes I have to wonder if I’m part of the problem.

Speaking of, tonight’s dinner was grilled cheese (a classic), which gave me time to sit and finish my third micron drawing.

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Tomorrow is Tuesday.  Keep climbing that hill.

Tonight

Tonight, I opt to do nothing.  No, not even a daily sketch.

Tomorrow is going to be a whirlwind.  Up at 6 am, I’ve got to cut my hair (it’s so convenient when you’re hairstyle is buzzed, super-short undercut), clean the house, drop Bear off at school, hit the gym, shop for food for the hotel stay (hotel food is ridiculously priced), finish packing, pick Bear up, and head to my mom’s — all before 11:45.

I’m thrilled for this weekend.  Conventions always serve to rekindle my desire to be creative, but it’s only recently that I’ve begun to cultivate creativity as a part of my everyday life, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the added boost of inspiration does for what is already semi-regular output.

And can I talk about how glad I am that I’ve moved past that seemingly endless stretch of procrastination and stagnation?  I still have a long way to go towards being a prolific creator, but at least I’ve gotten to the point that I’m doing something creative, or something to further a creative endeavor, just about every day.  I’m sketching, I’m starting drawings, I’m planning paintings.  For the longest time, the furthest I got along in a creative project was to lament that I had no ideas or motivation.  That I couldn’t find the time to sit and work.

The latter is still sometimes a struggle, but it’s gotten so, so much better.

I’m so excited for the Art Show; I love seeing what other people are doing, and getting ideas for other themes or subjects to explore in my own stuff.  It gives me something to aspire to.

Work today lasted forever, and it wasn’t even a bad day — it was actually a pretty good day, all told — it was just one of those days when you know you have something desirable coming up and you just want to get things over with.  I did some review on my ASL lessons between sitting exams with kids (I’m up to Lesson 12, after a long period of stagnation at Lesson 10), and popped into the party the vocational program head hosted for our main internship site.  It was a good turn out, and so nice to see the kids and catch up with some of the staff in the Excel program, which I was a part of last year.  All in all, it felt like a well-spent day, but in the back of my mind, there was that constant, niggling reminder that I had a four-day weekend and a con waiting for me at the end of the day.

Depending on the wi-fi situation, and my daily con schedule, I may pop in to say hi, or it might be radio silence until Tuesday.  Either way, I hope you all have fantastic weekends.

Paint nights

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This one was very quick; I completed it in under fifteen minutes, while listening to my husband read Bear The Little Esrog before bedtime.  The shading on the stones of the planter feels very satisfying to me.  Less thrilled about the cacti, but I really leaned into the idea of a “sketch” while doing them — less refined, more the general shape and sense.  I some point, I really should invest in some good drawing pencils and a portable sharpener.  Probably about ninety-five percent of what’s wrong with my sketches can be attributed solely to my own lack of skill, but the Dollar Tree bulk supply of mechanical pencils probably aren’t the absolute best tools to be using.

I got suckered into spending the afternoon at my parents’ house by Bear, the master manipulator, which was not a problem (it was actually quite welcome, as they provide coffee and company after a day at work), but meant I got nothing at all done at home, and had to start dinner immediately upon setting foot in the door.

All I really want to do for the rest of the night is work on my micron drawing and think about my next painting project; after I get back from the con, I really want to use weekends to experiment with paints again, especially since I got a brand new set of acrylics for Christmas.  Acrylic painting is a bit too messy to break out every night after Bear goes to bed, but on a lazy weekend day, might make a good Saturday evening project.

Speaking of, I’ve actually been thinking I would love to host a paint night for some friends some day in the near future.  I should make that a goal for the coming months.  Buy some wine, make some appetizers, and invite people to bring potluck and alcohol, and we could either paint in tandem from one reference work, or each pick a subject near and dear to us.  How awesome would it be if it became a routine or tradition of some sort, even if it was like only two or three times a year.  I would love to give that I go.  I think I’ll have to put some further thought into it, but maybe once the weather turns nicer.  With a small enough group, we could even do plein air painting on my patio.

You survived Monday, the hardest hurdle of the week!  Breathe.  You got this.

Quiet Sunday

The daily sketch:

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After yesterday’s sketch, where I used shadow incredibly sparingly, I wanted to try a sketch that used more drastic contrast, so I found a reference photo of a model in dark shadow and gave that a shot.  It didn’t turn out the way I wanted, but this is after two reworkings, and is a vast improvement over the sketch that was on the page when I first laid my sketchbooks down (I then returned to it after lunch, with a clearer head).  I’m beginning to realize that time and persistence are probably the two greatest determiners of whether or not a piece I’m working on will be halfway decent or not; I don’t have great fluency yet, but returning to a piece over time does, eventually, yield better and better results.  I think I’m going to find reference pics that will allow me to work on light/dark values for the next few sessions.

Today Andy, Bear, and I headed into Waltham to meet his cousin Janice, her husband, and their daughter while they moved her back into her dorm.  We met up at a small Thai restaurant — the kind of hole-in-the-wall with six tables and a storefront right on the sidewalk (step up off the curb into the dining room) — and had an enjoyable lunch.  Janice is an illustrator, and came bearing a gift for Bear, a book she had illustrated called The Little Esrog, which Bear received enthusiastically (for a kid his age, he is incredible gracious when receiving gifts… and he genuinely likes books).  We were late getting started on bedtime routine tonight and it’s a text-rich book, so we won’t be reading it until tomorrow, but Bear is looking forward to it.

Besides that, which was a worthwhile diversion I was happy to have had the chance to share in, today was frustratingly stagnant.  I dressed in gym appropriate attire for our lunch date (black leggings and a nice black-and-white tee), and then stupidly pulled on my boots before leaving the house, and didn’t realize it until I was literally walking down the interior corridor to the gym (luckily Andy and Bear were right next door grocery shopping, but still.  I was — and still am — incredibly angry at myself for such a stupid mistake, and generally frustrated that I didn’t get to have my workout today).

I came home feeling drained, but dragged myself through putting away groceries, cooking dinner, folding the week’s laundry, and packing for Arisia (all our clothing, at least; anything I wont need between now and Friday).  I’ve just been generally down and lethargic this weekend, just very low energy.

On a positive note, last night I opened Google docs and clicked on a few unfinished fanfics from last year.  Two of them I had been working on a bit in November and still had their general shape in my mind, but I was reminded of how silly, self-indulgent, and fun they were, and how I really should continue them just for the hell of it… and then I opened another one that I hadn’t touched since July.  Crowley-centric, in the Good Omens fandom, and something I had struggled with and absolutely hated every word as I commited it to paper (I had been reading a lot of GO fanfic at the time, and it felt like my prose just didn’t hold up to some of the amazing authors in the fandom)…

…But, oh my God.  It was so much better than I remembered it being.  For a first draft, not edited or combed through or revised, it was surprisingly sharp and focused.  It wasn’t the pinnacle of the craft, by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a solid piece of writing, and I can’t believe I agonized and self-flagellated so much over that story.  It made me really hopeful that I might actually return to and finish it, possibly after the con (there’s a GO panel I’m attending that I’m hopefully will rev up the fandom in me).

Oh, and the con is on Friday.  I’ll probably reinstall WordPress Mobile on my phone so I can post, at the very least, my daily sketches, but there may be a four-day stretch of little other than that.  I’m sure that comes as devastating news.

Hoping Monday is gentle with you all, with something enjoyable waiting for you at the end (for me, it’s a cup of tea, a 9 pm bedtime, and a stack of trashy magazines to read with my husband).