My Existence…

The first of a hopefully ten-piece #DrawingPride.

I am… so bummed. Because apparently I have no idea how to spell “existence?” As in, I spelled it with an “a” instead of the second “e.” And I was apparently so confident in that misspelling that I did it three separate times.

Uggghh.

I’m proud of the piece anyway. Some day I will buy some White-Out and fix this, but that probably won’t happen during Pride Month, so I’ll have to own up to this mistake. Even writers aren’t all perfect spellers.

Prompt #3 from #DrawingPride 2018, radical.

Happy Pride & An Attempt to Banish Art Block

I’ve not done any original art in what is probably about a week now. I would say that’s unacceptable, but what good is that — it doesn’t change anything. I’ve been feeling less than inspired and overall just kind of blah. I’d run through my backlog of ideas — which, to be fair, took me nearly six months, so that’s not awful. I’m the person who used to stew for weeks and not have any ideas they deemed worthy of committing to paper, so in the context of my personal history, that’s pretty good.

Still, this isn’t where I want to be.

I thought I had a solution; I was going through old art of my from last summer, when I was head-over-heels, up-to-my-neck submerged in the Good Omens fandom, and I found a piece of fanart. I had painted, in watercolor, a version of a Tarot card (The Lovers) featuring Aziraphale and Crowley. I was an even less skilled artist than I am now, and yet I still really liked the piece, even upon rediscovery.

I thought I might like to try my hand and doing a partial Tarot deck — a few of the Major Arcana, maybe — in my own style and interpretation (but not fanart). I know it’s not a groundbreaking concept (I think everyone and their mother has done a Tarot deck), but because it’s slightly derivative, it gives me the structure I need to function when I fall into one of these Brain Weird spirals.

I still plan on doing that, by the way, but if I’m doing my own take on something, I want it to the best possible take, which means some research. I wanted something I could jump into right away.

And then I found out about #DrawingPride.

June is LGBTQ Pride Month, and to celebrate, some queer artists participate in a 30 day art challenge. My schedule, skill level, and Brain Weird won’t allow for a consistent work a day without stressing me the hell out, so I don’t think I’m going to participate officially, but I am going to draw some inspiration from the prompts and aim for two per week (which will ideally be about ten in total).

I’m also not going to adhere to the chronological prompts for 2020, but pick and choose the ones I most relate to from the past three years (including the current one):

For instance, I really feel no authority to do twink or leather, bathhouse or ballroom; but bisexual, safe space, genderqueer, transition, nonbinary, family, equality, etc.? Those I’m down with. Those I feel comfortable and confident in putting to paper, because they are much more in line with my own experiences.

So this is what I’ll be spending June doing, and during the in-between times I’ll be doing a little research into the symbology of traditional Tarot cards so that I can attempt to capture the essence and meaning of the cards in my own interpretation.

Let’s see how this works out for me.

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.

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.

 

A-to-Z Challenge: Odalisque

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So: still behind.  I have a sketch for “N,” but it’s 8:15 pm, I have no clear workspace, and I want to do an acrylic painting for this one, so I need to do some cleaning before I add that whole mess on top of everything.

That being said, another colored pencil drawing.  No photo reference used for this at all, and I took a fairly literal approach to the song just because I wanted to attempt a drawing with a little more of a “dynamic” character, and I wanted to try to draw a figure with no reference.  Success (to a certain extent) on those fronts.

I’m got Prismacolor Premiere in my Amazon cart, so I’m hoping that will improve my product.  (Also I need to do a lot of work on foreshortening, yes, I know).

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Odalisque

They’ve come to find you odalisque
As the light dies horribly
On a fire escape you walk
All rare and resolved to drop
And when they find you odalisque
They will rend you terribly
Stitch from stitch til all
Your linen and limbs will fall
Lazy lady had a baby girl
And a sweet sound it made
Raised on paradise, peanut shells and dirt
In the railroad cul-de-sac
And what do we with ten baby shoes
A kit bag full of marbles
And a broken billiard cue? what do we do?
Fifteen stitches will mend those britches right
And then rip them down again
Sapling switches will rend those rags alright
What a sweet sound it makes
And what do we do with ten dirty Jews
A thirty-ought full of rock salt
And a warm afternoon? what do we do?
Lay your belly under mine
You’re naked under me, under me
Such a filthy dimming shine
The way you kick and scream, kick and scream
And what do we do with ten baby shoes
A kit bag full of marbles
And a broken billiard cue?
What do we do?
Lazy lady had a baby girl, and a sweet sound it made