Art Updates

So of course, weeks after expressing hope and optimism about the way COVID was trending…. well, you know.

I’m still incredibly happy to live in Massachusetts, where 75% of the adult population is fully vaxxed, where my kid’s school district and my own district both have mask mandates, where my city is doing block party vaccination clinics.

But yeah…. even here, it still sucks.

Right now, I’m trying not to panic about Bear’s return to school — I’m hammering into his head, with probably annoying regularity, the necessity of keeping his mask on no matter what — and checking literally ever two to three days for updates about vaccines for his age group. They still think they might get emergency authorization for 5 to 11s by Sept./Oct. and if that’s the case, then we will just hold tight and muddle through until then. Fingers crossed.

I do wish they were offering in-person classes as an opt-in model, which would give parents flexibility and keep the numbers down — I would likely opt-in, myself, since the last year of online school ended in a near nervous breakdown for me, and a child on meds and enrolled in therapy, so clearly online school wasn’t exactly working for us.

Anyway. I’m trying right now to focus on those things that I actually have some control over. I’ve been producing less art lately, but the quality of said art I think has made a sharp and noticeable improvement.

I’ve been seeking out zines to apply for, and have two on the horizon that cater to very niche interests of mine, both of which are still in either the interest check stages or just closing out mod apps. I’m guessing I will need to apply, so I’m pretty happy that I have a few prides of work to send in when the time comes.

We have been keeping active in out safe circles — we’ve had a few game nights, some sleepovers, a few play dates, and some visitors. Life goes on, I suppose, and I’m hopeful for better times ahead.

Stay safe and sane.

A Slowing Down

I’m trying to be gentle with myself, as I find myself slowing down creatively. Not for lack of ideas or desire, but because of the huge schedule upheaval — which was also a total upheaval mentally and emotionally — and the resulting lack of energy and just general burnout. I still count the return to work as a net-positive for me and my mental health, but it definitely has had it’s drawbacks.

I have been working on two digital pieces — one is a redraw of my “C” entry for A-to-Z 2021, and one is just an original piece, and I did two pencil drawings to practice males figures/faces. That has, sadly, been the extent of my output in May.

I am actually much further along in this piece than is indicated by this (weeks old, at this point) Insta post, by the way.
A total redraw of my A-to-Z piece.

These last few sketches has made me realize that I think I might be cycling back to wanting to do more traditional art — graphite, Prismacolor, pen. I’ve been focusing primarily — I mean, in a practical sense, almost solely — on digital art, which has been a lot of fun, but it shouldn’t be surprising that, like most of my interests, I cycle through phases when it comes to preferred art mediums. I started this year very interested in acrylic painting, then moved almost entirely digital. Seems like pen/pencil is well overdue for a resurgence.

I can feel myself fading fast, and it’s only 5 pm. Hopefully I can get a little bit of sketching or inking time in before I fully collapse.

Trying hard to be less of a stranger. I’m hopeful that this summer will be a creative oasis.

Only time will tell.

Stay safe and sane.

Polishing Up

I said I was going to do redraws of my five favorite A-to-Z Entries, and damn it, I meant it.

Original sketch for my “A” entry:

And here is the finished drawing, Aldwyn & Amara:

Surprisingly happy with this one; I love the rays of light filtering down!! And the beading on her tunic!! And the highlights on Aldwyn’s wing!

I love far more about this than what I hate. I don’t even think I hate, to be honest; there are things I could have done better, but I hate none of it.

How refreshing is that??

I am working on wrapping up some stuff I started prior to A-to-Z — some of it from long before A-to-Z, to the point where it’s noticeably stylistically rougher, but I’m still fond of it, I’ve put in quite a few hours on it, and it’s a goal of mine to not abandon projects anymore, so I will likely still wrap and post it at some point.


Related to art and projects, a big project that I was an artist on recently, The Fat Folks Tarot Deck, is live for pre-orders! The art is stunning, and includes the work of 77 artists in just as many styles. This is a body-positive, fat-positive, queer-positive, trans-positive Tarot Deck, and all the proceeds go towards Trans Lifeline! Please, if you are someone who is into Tarot, consider picking up a deck! This is my piece for my card, the Nine of Pentacles:

Things are moving along. I’m going to be working on my next A-to-Z revision, which I think is going to be my “C” entry. I’ll be honest, the more I look back and start to more fully conceptualize, the more I think I am ultimately going to be doing more than five works.

Not that I’m complaining, to be honest.

Hope all is well. Stay safe and sane.

March Wrap-up & TDoV

This was such a productive month for me; and with actually perfect timing, I’ve run short on fully-formed art ideas, and tomorrow begins the A-to-Z Challenge where upon I will be creating sketches and vignettes based on words from a random word generator. My five favorite sketches will then be expanded upon and developed, and that will be my task in May.

For those interested, I will likely be streaming at least some of my A-to-Z efforts at twitch.tv/rarelytidytwitch. My streams are for self-motivating and are generally quiet unless people come in to chat. Happy to talk to people who show if they are in a chatty mood!

Also, before I go, let me also say — happy Transgender Day of Visibility! Friendly reminder (or introduction, for newcomers), I am genderqueer and married to a lovely trans woman, so we spent today on social media making ourselves as visible as possible!

(All these images are slightly cropped due to Insta’s 1:1 images ratio. Full images can be found on my DeviantArt, linked under the Art menu).

Tablets

What differentiates the rundown from the wrap-up (which I’m angling to post on the 31st)? Basically, I thought it was time for a check-in, but don’t want to post any of the work I’ve completed in March until the actual end of March. The 31st will be the official “wrap-up” where I will post the pieces I completed this month. And guys, I’m going to be honest, I’m pretty excited about my output this month already, and I still have nearly a week left.

Most of — hell, actually the more I think about it, it might actually have been all — most of the work I’ve done this month has been digital. When our stimulus checks hit, we knew we wanted to spend at least part of them on something frivolous, as we have been lucky enough that there were no bare-bones essentials that we were lacking. So I bought myself a Surface Pro.

Now look, I have been having a good time with my Huion tablet. When I first bought it, I was unsure how much I’d like it — I hadn’t used a tablet since college, and back then it was my sister’s old Wacom, which functioned a lot like the Huion. Both are traditional drawing tablets without their own displays, which requires a separate computer/device with which to draw. I remember at 18, not being especially artistically skilled to begin with, and well mired in what would become a lifelong struggle with the habit of abandoning things I was not immediately good at, not loving the physical disconnect between what I was doing on the tablet and what was actually transpiring on the screen.

I don’t know if something improved between then and now in terms of the quality of the product — the tablet’s responsiveness or sensitivity or whatnot — or if it’s just my own changing attitudes and priorities (including the fact that I spent my own money on my tablet, unlike the one that my parent’s bought when I was younger, so I felt a much more pressing need to actually get use out of it), but that disconnect meant less this time around. I still felt residual pangs from it — I still preferred to sketch on paper — but it was something I started to get better at.

But then the stimmy hit, and my laptop, despite being only two years old, was — quite frankly — trash (and often co-opted by my son, anyway). So why not treat myself? So then I got the Surface Pro. And drawing directly on the screen? Ugh. A fucking dream come true.

It’s made everything so much faster. Since Monday, I finished three pieces. Like, from reference pics (which I took myself) to sketch to scan to ink. Three pieces. Done.

I am still primarily sketching on paper — I just like doing it that way, which is fine. The extra step of scanning isn’t a problem or especially time consuming, but I’m considering doing some sketches directly on the Surface for A-to-Z next month. I’m also considering streaming my sketching sessions on Twitch — I recently got a Twitch account and have been streaming my drawing to an audience between one and five at any given time, ha ha, but it’s fun and it holds me accountable (and it’s attracted my sister to the streams, who used to be the artist between us and still likes the process, even if she doesn’t have time for it herself, as well as my sibling-in-law, who is currently living in Ireland and it likewise an artist).

Anyway, if anyone is interested in following my on Twitch, I’m at twitch.tv/RarelyTidyTwitch. I don’t have a set streaming schedule, but the hope is, “most night, around 8 pm EST.” I won’t be streaming tonight, or tomorrow, but if I’m feeling up for it after my second dose of the Moderna vax on Saturday, I will be.

My wife and I are having a date night to watch the new James Acaster special, so I will sign off.

Stay safe and sane.

February Wrap-Up

Wait, I…. didn’t I just do one of these? I was a little less than a week late getting my January write-up out, and February is a short month — two facts, both of which I was aware of, but — holy hell, that went fast.

February was sadly not especially productive, art-wise. I started a few sketches that I’m going to turn into more finished pieces. I think there are four of them total, three of which I’ve posted as WIPs on social media:

The dandelion eyes one is what I’m currently working on digitally painting, and has been the bane of my existence for over a week. I was experimenting with different kinds of shading on it, none of which were turning out right. I’m not saying it was a waste, because I definitely learned some things about how to shade skin, and about how I, stylistically, may want to utilize these techniques (or not) from piece to piece. So, it was definitely a worthwhile experiment, but in the end I wound up scrapping two layers of shading that took, all told, probably about eight hours, and that unquestionably does something to your morale, to see that work go down the drain (even if the skills you learned can be used elsewhere later).

To be honest, most of my brain space this month was taken up trying to schedule my COVID vaccination! My district let me know that because of my position in specialized programming, I qualified to get vaccinated — I just need to set up an appointment. Which, if you’ve attempted it yet, is far, far easier said than done. Massachusetts has a fair number of vaccinations sites, including one about a mile from my house, which was exciting to me until I saw that it was booked literally through the next phase of vaccinations. There were waiting lists at the two next-closest locations, and the openings for the MassVax cites went as quickly as they showed up — a slot would open at Fenway when I refreshed the vaxfinder page, saying it was updated “just now,” and by the time I clicked through, they were booked solid again. I’d get notice of a dozen openings at the Doubletree, and when midway through registering, was told someone got there quicker.

There were tears, I’m not going to lie.

This past Tuesday, I was waiting to start a round of consultations I do twice a week just before 10 am. I was antsy and looked at the clock; I had about a half hour before I was meeting with anyone. So, almost idly, I loaded up the VaxFinder.

There were 1100 slots just opened at Gillette Stadium. For a Saturday.

I leapt on that so fast, I swear to God, I think I got literal fucking whiplash.

By the time I was finished booking — a process that took maybe five, six minutes? — they were booked up again.

But I got it. I made it. I got my first dose of the Moderna vaccine yesterday, February 27th, at 11:30 am.

My next dose is March 27th, also a Saturday, and about a week before my wife should be qualified to get her own first dose. I’m ecstatic. I know this isn’t the end — this is the beginning of a slow re-opening of our lives. We will be wearing masks for the foreseeable future (I am a-ok with that), we will still be limiting our social circle and checking in with folks before we go to see them, but there will be a little more space to — literally and figuratively — breathe.

The EMT giving me my shot yesterday (an actually really cute young thing named Sean): Is this your first dose?
Me: Yup!
Him, throwing his arms up in a celebratory gesture: Such an exciting day!

It really, really was.

Here’s to a more productive March.

Stay safe and sane. And if you can — get vaccinated. It feel so good to breathe again.

A Little Each Day

I want to go back and see when it was, exactly, that I bought my tablet, but honestly, it doesn’t really matter. The fact that I’ve had it for any length of time without breaking it out to take it for a test run is sacrilige, quite frankly. And I know for a fact that I can count the time in months rather than days or even weeks. Totally unforgivable.

I finally started in on an analogue drawing a did a couple of weeks ago. After yet another long bout of producing little-to-nothing, I sat down on a day off and decided to just commit something to paper for the fun of it. And honestly, despite having no pre-conceived notion of what I was going to do (or — let’s be honest — because I had no pre-concieved notions of what I was going to do), I had a blast, and was quite content with what I came up with.

Last Friday I had nothing but consults on the docket until 1:25 pm, with — I knew — a high probability of getting stoof up. So I staked out space in front of my wife’s computer, logged into my virtual meeting rooms, and loaded up PaintShop.

My consultees never showed, but I started teaching myself rudimentary, inefficient digital painting.

As I’m sure is obvious, this is pretty early in the painting process; I’ve laid down flat color as part of the background layer, and am adding more layer with contouring, highlights, shadows, etc. It’s bare-bones basic, and probably an incredibl inefficient and messy way of doing things, but… you know, I’m figuring out how to make the machine do what I want it to do. Maybe not in the easiest way, maybe not the fastest way… but actually in a pretty fun way? Like, it’s cool thinking, “hey, I’d really like to get her hair looking a certain way,” and then puttering around and figuring out my own homebrew way of getting that to happen.

Maybe I’ll actually watch/read a tutorial some day. That day isn’t today. Probably not tomorrow, either. But some day.

I spent another hour and a half working on it today, and I’m hoping to wrap it up by the weekend (I’m bound by my work schedule and by Kira’s computer use; if she’s home, I can’t use her computer, so it’s going to take longer than I’d like it to, but I will get there eventually).

Hope you are keeping creative, safe, and sane.