Take a Chance

I started this year off determined to take more risks as a creative.

There have been ups and downs to that this year, obviously. I feel like my writing has been seriously neglected, but that, to be fair, was a conscious decision; particularly since quarantine began, come day’s end, I feel so mentally burnt out that writing is not enjoyable, it’s frustrating and stressful. Drawing and painting feel much more a function of muscle memory, something I can not only do on autopilot, but something that actually seems to turn out better the less I think about it.

That being said, I did do a little writing, something along the lines of twenty or so poems, several of which I’m actually rather fond of, and in the meantime, my drawing and painting skills have grown in the leaps and bounds.

Not to say I’m “skilled,” by the by. I have quite a long way to go. But I’ve definitely grown.

Towards the beginning of the year, when this new philosophy of creative growth was still fresh in my mind and was something I was still enthusiastic about, I took what felt like a huge leap for me and submitted three drawings (which, looking back even from nine months on, are so much more rudimentary than what I’m currently producing) to a local art exhibition that was supposed to be elevating the work of women, femme, and non-binary artists in my community. It was an exciting prospect, and while I was almost sure I wouldn’t get selected for the exhibition, I figured the experience of submitting, even if I got rejected, would be good for me. So I submitted a week before the deadline.

Five days after submitting, we went into lockdown. The gallery show was listed as postponed. My city has since never left the red zone, and no mentioned has ever been made of what became of the exhibition plans.

I was bummed out for ages about losing the chance to get either accepted or rejected; it felt like I took this leap — which was comparatively small, but for me felt emotionally huge — only to be left in limbo. I didn’t know when I would get the opportunity to put myself out there again.

Then, last month, a mutual on Twitter (hi, I have Twitter! I have like, 19 followers because I’m still learning not to just be a lurker, so it’d be awesome if you wanna be Twitter buddies or whatever) began taking applications for a Tarot project for body/fat positive artists, with the project benefitting a charity for trans/nonbinary/gnc BIPOC — I mean, honestly, how could I not apply?

As I saw more and more people express interest, and I saw the art they produced, I became pretty well convinced that there was no way I was going to get in. And that would be okay! The applicants were all super talented, I’m just starting out, and it would be okay. But I picked the three piece I was most proud of, filled out the application, and sent it in.

Yesterday was the day when the artists were contacted.

I didn’t hear anything most of the day. I was trying to feel comfortable with the presumption that I had simply not made it.

It was around 8:30 pm when the email came. I didn’t make the cut. I was honestly… fine. A little let down, but the knowing will always, for me, be better than not knowing. Onward and upwards. That was my response. I would look for the next thing (but still planned to pre-order the deck when it came out, obvs. Fat Tarot is a fucking awesome idea, full stop).

At 6:00pm today, I logged on and had another email.

Acceptance — disregard last email.

There had been a mix-up.

I was in. I am in.

And while I’ve spent so long coming to terms with and accepting that there is no such things as a “fake” artist — that an artist is someone who produces art, regardless of quality or subject matter, and who lives their lives in a creative way — there is no way to deny how uplifting some external validation of your efforts are.

I am part of a collaborative art project.

I am an artist.

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.

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.

Breaking Through

As was evidenced the last time I was feeling art blocked, the worst thing I can possibly do is “nothing.”

So I’ve done some doodling (nothing I want to share at the moment). I’ve done some planning. I actually had a bit of a breakthrough last night while browsing Tumblr (after setting up my new art/ephemera/inspiration blog, @allyourcrookedheart) and wound up adding a few ideas to my Art Doc on Google.

And then I went and bought myself a tablet.

A Huion Inspiroy to be precise. I haven’t used a drawing tablet since my sister’s old Wacom back in 2001, but I figured since Andy bought me a Humble Bundle back in September that included the pro-version of Corel Painter, I might as well give it a shot. Even if I continue doing analogue drawing and scanning my images to color, I hate hate hate trying to do basically anything except basic web navigating with a mouse. I’m sure there will be a learning curve, but now is as good of a time as any.

So, here’s to gaining momentum; I seem to be my most creative when I’m staring down something new and shiny, so hopefully this will give me that jump start. Wish me luck.

Stay safe, sane, and inside.

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.

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.

Throwing in the Towel (NaPoWriMo/A-to-Z)

Ah, I hate to do it.  But I think it’s for the best.

I am proud to have made it to April 20th; given the momentous shift my life (our lives) has taken in the last month and a half, I am incredibly and sincerely proud of anyone who has continued to create, especially for themselves, for the sheer purpose of creating, and I include myself in that; I’ve not produced the greatest work of my life during the past twenty days, but I’ve created something every day, and I have a lot of raw material to work and rework and build off of.

All this to say, I’m dropping both challenges, both A-to-Z and NaPoWriMo.

I’m planning on continuing drawing, painting, and writing, but I’ve opted to also take on several other projects that, with the addition of parenting/homeschooling and maintaining a household, is making the challenges a burden rather than a fun creative exercise.  I still have several ideas I’d brainstormed for upcoming songs (from A-to-Z) that I want to follow through with — it just won’t be on the work-a-day schedule.

Good luck to those still seeing this through, and I wish you all a successful final ten days.