Artist

In an attempt to get back into reading while still pursuing my Special Interest of the
Moment, I (digitally) took out a couple of library books about art. The one I’m working through right now is called Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon, the author of Steal Like an Artist.

I have this perpetual concern that I don’t complete enough work to ever gain any credibility as an artist, or that I don’t have the raw talent to ever confidently call myself one. I came late to the game in terms of doing art; or, at least, in the corners of the internet art world in which I lurk, it certainly feels like I have. Realism is not really something I strive for; I think I would like trying to dip my toes in it at some point, but I really loved more stylized, illustrative works, so those are the sorts of artists I’m following. People who produce webcomics, independent illustrators, character designers.

And, oh my God, so many of them are so young. Decades younger than me, sometimes. Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years old, with a few years of consistent practice under their belts. Then here I am — pushing 40; having stalled out of drawing entirely at about fifteen, with very little consistent practice even before then; two years into teaching myself to draw, with myriad gaps and fits and starts in between.

And I know it shouldn’t be discouraging. I know. I know the factor that separates us really is time — time devoted to learning techniques, to practicing, to actually doing. I can see the progress I’ve made it two years, even with all the interruptions I’ve had; imagine what I’d be doing if I didn’t have a full-time job, a child, the responsibilities of a household, raging ADHD…?

So every once in a while, it’s nice to get a reminder like this:

There’s this idea that’s hard to shake, that I’ve spoken about extensively before, that you’re not an artist until to reach a certain level of skill. But remembering that artists grow and evolve, and that even mediocre artists are artists — I’m defined by the act of creating, not the quality of the art I create. And the more art create, the better that art will be.

I mentioned to my wife today — this year has been markedly different from the last few. This year, my periods of “art frustration” — feeling “empty,” feeling like I have no ideas, or no inspirations — have been unusually few and far between. They haven’t been non-existant, of course, but the bigger impetus to my output this year has been general stress and ambient chaos — and frankly, I am just going to put it out there that I feel like most of that has been well fucking warranted.

But I’ve had ideas. I’ve had a steady flow of thoughts and projects that I’ve wanted to work on. I’ve pushed writing to the backburner for now because art for my in more muscle memory, and with how crazy the world has been and the toll that has been taking on my mentally, that seems like it’s for the best, but I’m even starting to have ideas for writing projects again (I fully intended to start NaNoWriMo — ha!!! Like I wasn’t going to be driven to the brink of losing my shit by the election), and am keeping a running tabs of ideas to work on when things calm down in the world, both the one outside and the one within.

It’s almost like, once you start creating — once you move from the doing nothing to the doing something — you start to gain momentum.

You start to notice yourself getting better, and you start permitting yourself to dream bigger and take more risks.

And you start wanting to do more, and more, and more.

This is the first year of my life that if someone asked me, I would tell them I made “art.” I haven’t made the leap to not qualifying the word yet; I’m afraid I would still append “amateur” to “artist.”

But last year, I would not have even used the word “artist.”

I’m making strides. Earlier this year, back in March, I took a leap and submited three of my pieces to a local exhibition that was meant to elevate the work of women and non-binary artists. Sadly, this was the week before COVID really took hold and lockdowns began, and I don’t know — with my city still in the red zone, and cases rising again — when or if that will ever actually happen. But that doesn’t take away the fact that I took that shot. It doesn’t make me less proud of me for taking that leap.

I just took another huge (for me) leap. I don’t want to say what it is yet (“I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious”), but I will let you know when decisions have been made and plans are set in place. I am cautiously hopeful, but whatever happens, I am proud of myself for putting myself out there and taking a chance.

This year has been good for some things.

I hope you can think back on a few bright spots. I hope you can carry something out of this year that brings you hope, or comfort, or pride.

I hope to post more frequently. I know, I say that a lot. I’m trying.

Stay safe and sane, my friends.

I’m still here!

This has been an unexpectedly long time away from blogging that I’m hoping to end with this post. Not that this post in and of itself is going to be especially deep, or especially funny, or especially thoughtful. Really, I just want to break the silence and say, yes, I am still here.

Since last we spoke:

I was prescribed Paxil, which my insurance refused to cover; so I was prescribed Prozac, which my insurance was asking a 100% co-pay for (how…is that different from just not covering it?) which I then opted to simply not pick up.*

I tried weed to see if it would be helpful for acute stress/anxiety, but had a really poor reaction to the THC, which sucked a whole damn bunch.

My mom bought me CBD oil, which is working wonders for her and my dad (chronic pain), and I pick that up tomorrow.

Bear started K2, all online. He’s been pretty into so far, honestly, and has been doing pretty well behaving during the Zoom meetings, at least as well as I would expect a five-year-old to.

And… I’m working from home.

Holy fucking crap on a cracker. Let me tell you. The instantaneous relief I felt from that phone call felt a lot like euphoria; weeks and weeks and goddamn weeks of relentless anxiety and uncertainty, gone.

I mean, to be replaced by the daily anxiety of trying to juggling homeschooling a kindergartener synchronously while simultaneously teaching a class via video conferencing myself, but hey. That will eventually become routine.

I have a job. I have an income.

I….have not done any art in weeks. This is going to a long road back to feeling creative.** Actually, it’s going to be a long way back from feeling anything but exhaustion, I think.

But I’m here. We’re here. And we’re doing ok.


* The meds were a new prescription, I’m not just ditching my meds. Don’t just ditch your meds, guys — talk to a doctor first. Also, I’m not anti-med by any means, I just feel like in my situation, I’ve got a handle on the chronic anxiety, to the point where it’s really just background noise and not really something I feel like I need a daily medication for (and with the work-for-home allowance, even the acute anxiety has lessened considerably. I’m actually feeling functional again).

** I will be participating in Drawtober in October and NaNoWriMo in November, so at the very worst you’ll see me working then!

Another Work/Life Update

I have some reassurances that the things I am concerned about at work (don’t you love how vague I am?) are being considered.

Ok, so, namely — I need to work remotely. We live in a “red zone” city, and my son is on mandated remote learning, which means the child care inherent in in-person schooling is gone (and honestly, it would have been disasterous to put him in school even if that were an option, with something like 4000 active cases in our city). Also, if I enter the building, I will not be able to bring him to my mother’s house — they’ve let me know, in no uncertain terms, that they cannot take him, and I one-hundred-and-ten percent agree. Both my parents are nearly 70, my mom is asthmatic, physically disabled, and partially sighted (complete blindness in one eye and partial sight in the other), and they share their home with two people who are also immunosuppressed. I could not and would not take that chance.

So my options are COVID Emergency Leave or remote work, which I parroted back more than once to HR, my building principal, and my department head. My department head (and two of my co-teachers) did say that I was specifically requested by certain teachers to do remote work with some of our specialized population via the remote learning academy, and that the schedule will be out “soon;” I’ve heard nothing from the building principal, but this is her first year as principal and literaly everything is a shitshow, so I’m cutting her slack. The gist of this is, I have hope that I’m being heard and my needs are being met, which is better than I’ve had in several weeks.


I woke up this morning to a full Twitter inbox because someone tagged me in an art photoset — they’d used my modelling photos from FatPhotoRef! It was really cool! I’ve never been used as a model before. My wife and I are going to take some photos tonight based on requests from the Discord, so hopefully I’ll have another set up there in the next few days.

Ugh, fate willing, I will have more fun things to talk about than continued work drama soon.

Stay safe and sane, everyone.

No Marketing Genius/Just to Check In

Now, my spam filter has caught them all, don’t get me wrong — and I have to approve all comments posted to my blog anyway, but — how effective do you think the ads for “sexy singles in your area” and “hot new porn sites” are when posted as comments by bots on not-even-marginally-related blog content? Have there ever been, just, horny-as-shit blog readers skimming my posts who have thought, “hmm, you what this deeply personal essay on the creative journey has left me craving…?”

I mean, to each his own, and I’m not a marketing genius (and have no desire to be), but if this is still a thing that’s happening, either 1.) the people programming these bots are terrible at their jobs, or 2.) it’s… actually working? Right?

But on who???


Life is settling. Not for the long term, and it’s hard to say if it’s even for the better or the worse, but at least I have some temporary reprieve from the “what the fuck am I supposed to be doing” thought loop, and a personal plan of action for next steps. It doesn’t feel good, exactly, but it feels better than the endless spiral.

I’m trying to keep in perspective those things over which I have control and remind myself that I can make good things happen for me and for my circle of influence if I can stay focused and motivated.

I’m trying.

Stay safe and sane.

Camp NaNoWriMo

First, before I get into the meat of this post, I’m celebrating the fact that my state has just had the first day with zero COVID fatalities since March 21st. All our numbers are down, as well — hospitalizations, intubations, and new diagnoses. We had, in our state of roughly 8 million, 114 new cases today.

For a state that had formerly been a “hot spot,” reporting thousands of new cases and up to 200 deaths per day during the height of it, this is incredibly positive news.

We still have a long, long way to go, but here’s the bright and shining proof that — gasp! — slow reopening with strict restrictions and enforced masking actually works, what a goddamned shocker, right?? It’s like, I don’t know, like Science is Real or something.

Anyway, that all being said, and with me beginning to be able to breathe a little easier (through my mask, which I will continue to wear for the foreseeable future), who is ready to take on Camp NaNoWriMo?

I…. have a very mixed relationship with Camp NaNoWriMo, which you can read a bit about here, in an essay I had originally published in the NaNo publication on Medium (and which needs to be seriously updated). Camp NaNo has a different energy that hasn’t always worked for me, though to be fair, in the last several years, every iteration of Camp had coincided with things going wonky at work, my social life getting turned up to 11, or taking on more than one creative challenge. This is the first time in at least the last four years when Camp has no other real competition for my time, save the rhythms of daily life.

I’ve joined my Cabin, am pantsing my project (which I’m still not 100% on), and readying to launch my YouTube channel (finally!) with some Camp NaNo vlogs. So, it’s on.

Is anyone else participating? Hit me up on Twitter (@rarelytidytweet) or on the official @rarelytidywriting)!

(Also, no worries, art isn’t off the table, but rather than force as I’ve been doing, I’m going to work on more lighthearted design stuff (I have some hopes/ideas for merch!), practicing anatomy/perspective, and collecting ideas. Art will be back full-force second week of August (why second week? I’ll tell you when we get there)).

Stay safe and sane, guys — and go out. Enjoy the summer weather.

Just mask up, keep your distance, wash your hands, and follow local guidelines. Come on, guys. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us.

Tablet Update

The tablet work is hit or miss. The tablet itself is great; I move the pen, it goes where I want it to go. I feel so much more in control of my work than I did trying to do literally anything with the analogue mouse. I guess what more tripping me up is Corel, because beyond flat color and some basic text stuff, I actually have absolutely no idea how to use it. I’m thinking sitting back and watching some YouTube tutorials is going to be seriously in order.

I also don’t know if this is going, in any way, to replace analogue drawing, but it would be nice, as Andy has said, to be able to do art and not have to worry about my resources (i.e., I’m low on canvases, running out of ink, only have a few sheets of paper left, etc.)

I think I’m bothered by the fact that this has revealed a core truth about where I am that I’ve been trying to ignore, and that is that I need to step back from ambitious projects as my raison d’etre and actually focus most of my time on studying other people’s technique, do a lot of gesture drawing, do a lot of anatomy work, etc. instead of trying to produce a ton of polished works.

(Which isn’t to say abandon all projects all together, just that my time should skew more towards other things).

I’m done with work until, at minimum, September, and trying not to panic/have anxiety about what “returning” to work will look like (we aren’t ready to go back to school. There are 1,800 people in our building. There is no way we can comply with the guidelines that are being recommended. This would seriously be so disasterous. And my son goes to school in one of the epicenters (our hometown). He’s five years old, and there is no way that his teachers, dedicated as they are, are going to feasibly ensure that all the kids comply perfectly with safety standards. But if one of us goes back, the other is fucked, quite frankly. Ugh, I’m sorry, I can’t keep talking about this). In the interim, I’m going to try to even divide art time between working on projects and working on learning technique.

Because you all know how awesome I am at time management, right?

If anyone has any suggestions about good tutorial videos about either working with micron pen or working with Corel Paintshop Pro, that’d be much appreciated.

Stay safe, sane, and inside.

Life Update

So life has been kind of a lot lately. Not bad — I don’t want to give that impression; we remain incredibly lucky — just a lot. It’s a combination of things that are so minute they don’t warrant individual examination and things that are simply not my right to divulge at the moment, but either way, life has sort of gotten in the way of creative endeavors.

I mean, not entirely. I have three #DrawingPride sketches that are in the works, I have two other sketches I’m slowly puttering away on (one in the planning stages, one that’s in an early draft in my sketchbook), I still plan on doing the Tarot set, and I’m working on setting up a few hopeful side hustles for the summer and beyond.

Working, I guess, has not been the issue, but feeling capable of the focus needed to actually see anything through to completion has sort of dwindled and died.

Temporarily, at least.

Things I’ve Been Doing Instead of Being Creative or Productive

  1. Solved our first Hunt a Killer case! One month and probably about sixteen hours of work later, 30s theatre icon Viola Vane has been laid to rest. No spoilers for the case, but I will say the hunch I was so certain about for the last couple of boxes was way off. We’re already mid-way through Class of 98 (box-wise, though I feel like I really need to go back and comb through the evidence more thoroughly), and we’ll be getting the first episode of our next serialized case shipped tomorrow.
  2. Started (sort of) rewatching Adventure Time. I don’t remember what spurred me on to decide to start the rewatch, but I’ve been picking and choosing old favorite episodes for a couple of days to revisit. I’m seriously considering starting a full, linear rewatch very soon.
  3. I’ve read 20 fics for The Fanfic Summer Reading Program. I did a deep dive back into House and Sherlock fandoms for my first week of summer challenge. I’d forgotten how much I loved both of those fandoms, and I might wind up continuing to read in them despite my Nostalgia Week being over.
  4. Realized that because of quarantine-induced lack of personal purchasing, my personal budget for June is $300. I’m not looking to go and blow it for the sake of blowing it, but I am looking at potential “just for me” purchases to brighten the days.
  5. Started playing Dream Daddy. Woo, boy, am I late to this game, but I’m having so much fun. This game is hilarious, and it makes me so happy that you have the option of being gay or bi and of being cis or trans. So far I’ve completed Joseph’s track and Robert’s and… I’m pretty sure I got the “bad” ending for Joseph, but I think… I think I got the best ending I could for Robert? I don’t know. After I go through the whole game once I’ll prob restart it and try to get different endings.
  6. Bought my son his summer wardrobe. If any of you have kids, go see if The Children’s Place summer sale is still happening, because man. I got the Bear eight shirts, six pairs of shorts, and a pack of underwear for about $67.
  7. Brought my sibling-in-law in to expand our Dungeons & Dragons party (via Discord and Tabletop Simulator). They’re playing an existing character that they’ve made and played for other campaigns. Bear loves getting to talk and hang out with his entle, and after yesterday’s hour-and-a-hald D&D session, they stayed on the call chatting and hanging out for another four hours.

I’m hoping you all are doing well, holding tight and preparing to ride the (sigh) “second” wave of this virus (we never saw the crest of the first wave, but let’s not get into that). I have read that with proper precautions and a slow and responsive reaction to medical data we probably can do a slow reopening without seeing a major spike. But again, that requires people to act responsibly and… well, you all know how that goes.

But all of you are cool, responsible folks. Right??

Stay safe, sane, and inside. Cheers. Hope to have some cool art stuff to show you all soon.