Art Project: Galaxy Ring

artprojectIt’s been an eternity since I’ve actually posted any completed art here, and it’s only partially because I haven’t been creating.  I’ve been working on some projects, albeit slowly and sporadically, but I’ve not completed many lately.

However, I have a few things I finished up a while ago and just never got around to posting.

First up, here’s a return to something I love, but don’t do a ton of anymore, and that’s upcycling.  The last upcycled project I completed had to be, uh, like six years ago, which, holy shit, is longer than I thought, but I was definitely in our old apartment and Bear wasn’t around yet, so yeah.  Jesus.

That time around, it was an old, rusted out decorative birdhouse that had been languishing and rusting away in my parents’ yard, and after a fresh coat of paint, some rub on appliques, and a bit of decoupage, it looked awesome.  This time, it was the broken pieces of an old pedestal ashtray.

20191111_124713.jpgMost of it was pretty broken down, but for some reason when they pried the ashtray base off, my father turned to me and asked if I wanted these two pieces, “to paint, or whatever.”  I mean, I probably need to start saying “no” to some of these offers of refuse, lest this become an Altoid tin situation¹, but I was pretty sure I had a decent idea for what I wanted to do with this.

My first thought was decoupage, but now that I’m no longer doing mail trades, scrapbooking, or thrifting the way I used to, I’m fairly limited as to my materials; really all I have are back issues of Cosmo, and that’s a pretty narrow range of thematic options to work with.  So I finally settled to straight up repainting.

20191111_130636I did all the work in craft acryllic (Applebarrel); undilluted black for the base background, and very thin wash of navy, blue, and white for the nebulae.  I also used a cheap children’s paintbrush with stiff plastic bristles to splatter the stars (in antique white), and then free-handed the planets (loosely based on those in our solar system).  I sort of wish I had a stencil for these , but I’m okay with the shapes for the most part (the exception being the ersatz-y Jupiter, which looks a little wonky).  I textured them with a round brush, using stippling, and a lot of layering with diluted paints. 

I finished it with a coat of gloss Mod Podge, and layered the two pieces to create the idea of planets orbiting the sun.  Sadly, when I actually assembled it, the hot glue I had on hand didn’t hold well enough, so I attached the pieces with nails… which sadly split the wood on the ring, but only on one side, so I don’t think I have to worry about it falling apart.  Still, I’m sad about the way the crack mars the project, which overall I’m very happy with.  This is going to hang in Bear’s room once the Mod Podge cures fully in a day or so.

I’ve got to keep my eye out for more things to transform, because upcycling is so crazy satisfying, to take something people have given up on and make it something people are, like, envious of (seriously, I got more comments on this project on Facebook than on any of my original art in the last year).

What are you all working on lately?


¹The nearly 50 empty Altoid tins my parents collected for me when I was doing altered boxes — which I keep meaning to return to, but haven’t yet — and are currently taking up a ton of space in my craft corner.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

lifeupdateI really am not a fan of trying to place the blame for any of my less-than-stellar attempts on anything but a less-than-refined ability.  I’m still a total amateur newbie when it comes to anything art related, despite some huge progress, and I fully own up to that fact.

That being said, I often feel embarrassed sharing my work online because even on those occasions when I’ve been satisfied or — dare I say — even happy with what I’ve produced, taking a photo of it has always yielded decidedly subpar results.

While not to downplay that fact that I am not an amazing photographer, my phone camera was decidely lacking.  Grainy zoom, poor focusing, and horrible light balance.  Could some of that have been rectified by investing in a quality camera and, like, studying up on photography?  I mean, probably, but I’m no particularly interested in photography as a personal hobby so I don’t want to sink money into a high end piece of equipment, and I’m only a hobbyist artist, so I don’t need to take exquisite photos in order to market or sell my art.  I really just needed something good enough that I could post fairly true-to-life photos of my projects, and honestly, the easiest way to do that was simply to get a better phone.

Now, I didn’t upgrade my phone because I wanted a new camera to photograph my work, but it happened to be a huge bonus.  I tested it out today in less than stellar conditions and the results were so much better than even optimal condition results with my old phone.  I have a small cache of projects I’ve been waiting to share and I’m thrilled that I should be able to start doing that this weekend.

I know that the creation of art in and of itself makes me an artist (even if the work is amateurish), but I’ve got to admit, it sometimes feels hard calling myself that when I share my work so infrequently, and especially when my shared work looks so much less proficient than it is — I have a long way to go, but I’ve come a long way as well, and I want people to be able to see my progress accurately.

Anyway, I am excited to share some actually good quality photos of my work in the coming weeks.

Abandoning Inktober and OctPoWriMo

lifeupdateSo, both OctPoWriMo and Inktober were a bust, but for once, I’m not beating myself up about it.  Why?  Because for once in my life, I felt like the challenges were holding me down more than they were lifting me up.

I started doing art and writing challenges because I felt like I never had enough ideas, or because I couldn’t motivate myself to get started on a personal project, and events like OctPo, NaPoWriMo, NaNoWriMo, and Inktober gave me a structure and a deadline and generally held me accountable in very regimented ways.

But lately, I’ve noticed that while I’m still not the most consistent artist or writer (um, month long hiatus on this blog, hello?  This is not a surprise to anyone), I have nonetheless become a persistent artist and writer.  When I’m not faced with the frenetic pace of a work-a-day challenge, I’ve still, nonetheless, seen more follow-through in my efforts recently than I ever have before.

I am, currently, for example, working on two sketches (near completion) that I intend to watercolor (with two more still being conceptualized), and a piece of upcycled art from pieces of a broken, vintage ashtray stand, and I’m readying myself to power through three incomplete pieces of fanfic for NaNoWriMo this year (yeah, three different pieces, what can I say?  I’m a Rebel at heart).

And the best part?  I’m excited about these projects.  I get psyched up to work on them.  During the week and a half I tried to power through my two challenges, not only did I feel stressed about the pressure of completing a work-a-day, but I felt like it was infringing on time that could be spent doing creative work I was actually invested in.  I was starting to resent the challenges; they weren’t giving me motivation, or inspiration, or structure; they weren’t giving me anything.  In fact it felt like they were actively taking pleasure and enjoyment away from me.  Enthusiasm for art drained from me entirely the minute it became an obligation imposed on my by some external force.

How wild is that?  How eagerly my brain will latch onto a challenge when it’s not actively invested in anything else, and how vehemently it will reject it the moment that challenge conflicts with it’s own desires and ambitions.

Man, my brain is a fickle bitch.  God bless, eh?

Does this mean I’m giving up on challenges.  Oh, hell no.  I love the idea of having timed, themed challenges; but I think I need to become more attuned to what I really want to accomplish creatively and how any given challenge might help with that.  For instance, I already said I plan on doing NaNoWriMo — because I’m gung-ho to finish up several fanfics, and the atmosphere and camaraderie of NaNoWriMo might actually help with that.  I wouldn’t, for instance, try to do NaBloPoMo next month, because every night, when I sat down and spent my scant free time being forced to pen a blog entry, I’d be thinking of the fanfic I was not currently writing.  The fanfic is the project that is currently fueling an internal creative fire, and rather than risk extinguishing it in order to say Hey, I Did a Thing (I already know I can Do the Thing.  I’ve done it the last two years), I’m going to fan that flame for as long as I can conceivable keep it alive.

I hope to have a few (painted) works completed prior to November first to share with you all.  Hope you’re all finding as much joy in creating (be it within the confines of a challenge or not) as I am at the moment.

Choosing Self-Improvement Over Self-Loathing

adventures of the everydayI am not an artist.

I mean, please; I don’t want people messaging me or commenting and being like, “if you create art, you’re an artist!”  I support that whole-heartedly.  But there are people who create art on a whim, for fun and personal enjoyment, and then there are people who have studied art for years and understand it on a technical level.

These people may both, validly, identify as artists, but they come at art from wholly different backgrounds and perspectives.  One of them applies to me; the other does not.

I’ve discovered — or rediscovered, rather — in the last few years that I really like painting.  On the one hand, it can be fun and relaxing, and on the other it can be challenging and surprising.  I like that versatility; it ensures that it’s never boring.

It also ensures that as my ambition grows, so, potentially can my frustration.

This week, I decided to paint portraits using a photo reference with the intention of being photo-faithful (I won’t say photo-realistic (that’s aiming way too high), but I want the colors and values to hold true).  This means instead of the fantastic skin colors most of my paintings have (of my last four portraits, three have had blue or green skin), I’m attempting to paint relatively true to life (Caucasian) skin.

I hadn’t anticipated how challenging form shadows on skin would be.

My instinct when faced with a challenge is, unfortunately, to quit.  To pack it all in, say “fuck it, guess I suck,” and abandon the project, but not before having a small mental meltdown — usually a messy crying jag followed by lethargy and self-loathing.

No, this isn’t healthy, and no, I’m not proud of it (but it’s all part of being neurodivergent).  So I’m working hard to change my reactions.

It’s slow going.

Today, for instance, I am in a bad place, mentally — anxiety is riding high, I am feeling anxious and overwhelmed with my house work, the tentative nature of my work assignment in September, GISH on Saturday, and the struggles I’ve been having with my painting.  I wish I was one of those people who could compartmentalize their entire life, so that the emotions and anxiety afflicting them in one area doesn’t bleed over to the others, and I’ve more or less got that mastered when it comes to work — my work necessitates I absolutely throw myself into it, so I rarely have time or breathing room to perseverate on my personal problems, but once I’m at home and able to kind of unmask, I just lose it.  Absolutely everything bubbles to the surface and the worries and anxieties from every aspect of life just leech into and infect one another.

Usually, I sink into a shame spiral.  And honestly, I can’t promise I won’t, because I feel it pulling at me.  I really, really just want to curl up and cry and not touch a paintbrush (or a vacuum, or a mop, or another person) again, ever, for all of eternity.  But I’m fighting that urge, this time.

As I was saying, I am working on a painting that I am excited about, that is both something I’m hyped about because of the subject matter, because it’s my first time fully working off a photo-reference, because it’s the first time I’m painting something with a ready-made audience.  I’m already putting a lot of pressure on myself with this project.  And then, like I said,  I had to do something I’ve not really done — paint form shadow on truish-to-life Caucasian skin.

And holy hell, was it hard.  I repainted literally at least fourteen time, until it was a caked on, crusty mess.  I went in with a wet wash, went in with thick strokes, went in with blocks of color, went in feathering colors as I went.  I couldn’t make it work.  The more desperately I tried to make it work, the more impatient I became, and the sloppier my efforts were.

Finally I had to stop and step back.

Instead of throwing my canvas in the trash, I washed it (I know, weird?  But I’ve done it before; it got all the caked on acrylic off and still left the outline and a surprising amount of the initial wet wash, so I don’t have to start totally from scratch), and put it aside to dry.

And then I went online and Googled how to create form shadows with acryllic.

What??? Crazy, right?  I problem-solved.  Instead of just blasting ahead or giving up entirely, I admitted I didn’t know something, and took productive steps toward remedying that problem.  Holy shit, guys, did you know that you’re supposed to use a color complementary to your base to create a natural form shadow?  Like, if you’re painting with yellows, your shadows should be, like, purples?  What?  Why did no one tell me??  I don’t remember that in studio class when I was still taking art in school, just a bunch of eighteen-year-olds, still creating shadows with grays and blacks.  Why was this not taught to me?

That’s really the question, though, isn’t it?

I need to be gentler with myself.  I need to be less scornful of myself when I realize I can’t/don’t know how to do something, and instead of being self-loathing and beating myself up for not knowing, I should remember, well, I was never told.  Or to put at least some of the onus on my shoulders, I never asked.  But I was never expected to just “know.”  I am insanely lucky to live in a time when, now that I know there is a gap in my knowledge or skill, I have nearly unlimited resources to draw from and fill that gap.

The canvas is drying in the living room as I type this.  I don’t know that I’ll be prepared to tackle it in the morning (too much else still weighing on my mind), but there’s still more research to be done, anyway.  I also need to remember, learning and planning in still doing; it still counts.  It’s still work.

adventures of the everydayMy wedding anniversary was last week, on the 17th — nine years married, can you believe?  Not bad for the couple who each thought they were never gonna get married, and never had any real ambition to do so.  Our marriage was very much of the, “this feels right for our situation” variety, rather than “marriage is a de facto life goal, so we gotta do it” variety.

I give my husband a lot of shit — mostly playfully, mostly jokingly — and this week has been no exception.  I’d been working on a painting that overall turned out really well, but with which I had a hell of a rough patch earlier this week.  It’s another portrait of sorts, and noses and midlines continue to be the bane of my existence (hence why I continue to paint them, over and over again).¹

I have a habit of talking, half to myself and half to whoever is un/fortunate enough to be present during my diatribes, while I work on a piece.  This meant that during the hours which I was working, my husband had to listen to what probably amounted to a litany of, “is this the color I was using?  Yeah, ok.  What would happen if I — oh, there we go, that’s pretty.  Should I do an extra layer of highlights?  Ooh, I should have put a wash down before I started this detail.  Does this look bad?  How does this look?  Andy?  Andy???”

Now, I get that given my penchant for rambling mostly to myself, it doesn’t bother me that he’s not poised to answer my every beck and call when I eventually address him directly; like, if I had to actively listen to someone go on the kind of tangents I do on the off-chance that maybe they’ll actually try to engage me, I’d go bonkers.  Like, it would just literally be impossible to get anything done, because I wouldn’t have the mental time and space to focus on anything except their tirades.  So it’s not that he isn’t automatically in active listening mode that bothered me.  It is, as I often tell him, that he “doesn’t care.”

And he doesn’t.  Like, he doesn’t care about painting.  At all.  And yes, it sometimes annoys me.  It’s sometimes disheartening that I can’t really have a meaningful conversation about something that has caught my interest with one of the most important people in my life.  And I’m willing to bet their are a lot of people who feel the same way about their partners’ interest — or lack there of — in their hobbies.

And honestly, I am going to continue to stand up and assert that I would like for him to exhibit a little more interest in my hobby, at least to the point of giving me honest feedback when I ask him for it, or giving me a candid opinion (because they whole, “I don’t know, I don’t know art” does not cut it; like, bitch, I know you’re not an artist, I live with you.  I’m still asking your opinion as my husband.  I have “Art” friends to get “art” opinions from if and when I need them).

But.  But but but.  I am also going to stand up and assert that I, and probably a lot of people, need to really examine the ways our partners interact with our passions and assess whether it’s really lack of support or lack of interest, because while one might be nice, the other is absolutely essential.

Much as I’d love for him to be interested in painting, or crafting, or art, he doesn’t owe me interest in any particular subject, and honestly, fair.  Because it’s not like I go out of my way to learn the ins and outs and intricacies of any of his games (video or tabletop), and I show about as much overall interest in his games themselves as he shows in my art (the real difference being that he doesn’t reach out and try to talk to me about his games with nearly as much ferventness or frequency as I do my art).

But while he show no interest in art, he show interest in my interest in art.  He shows support.

He comes home from the store with interestingly sized canvases for me.  He randomly stocks up on sketch books and notebooks when he goes out to do the grocery shopping.  He walks with me through galleries that I know are snorefests for him.  He points out cool colored paints that he thinks I’d like to experiment with.  He spends inordinate time holding various shopping baskets for me while I comb through the shelves in any craft aisle we go through.  When I’m on the fence about an art-related expense, he tells me to go for it, and more than once when I’ve ruled it as too much, he’s gone out after me and made the purchase himself.  

He doesn’t care that I came up with a new acryllic technique, except for the fact that I’m pleased with myself.  He doesn’t care that, hey, I finally painted a nose I’m happy with, save for the fact that I’m happy.

Yeah, I’d like him to actually be into the art.  But I can’t force him to love what I love.  I don’t intimately enjoy all of his hobbies, and he doesn’t expect me to, so it’s unfair to ask him to feign that enjoyment for me.

But he cares that I care.  He’s happy that I’m happy, and encourages me to pursue the hobbies that foster that happiness.

That’s a pretty good rule in a marriage, I think.  That’s pretty fucking important.


¹ “Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sorta good at something.” –Jake, Adventure Time (look,  in this house, we take in wisdom where we find it).  I figure the more I force myself to paint something I suck at (instead of avoiding it, as is my instinct), I might actually improve my technique and grow from it.  Wild, right?

Art Project: Birds on Black

artprojectHere’s where my family really shines:  whenever I’ve gotten onto a particular art “kick” — crochet, collage, paper crafts, altered boxes, etc. — they have always collected, found, or otherwise procured all manner of ephemera for me to work with, which is why to this day, my basement and craft room are crammed with knitting needles and crochet hooks, empty toilet paper rolls, back issues of dozens of magazines, and empty cigar boxes and Altoids tins.  I’m not always able to use everything given to me, but it’s nice having a tangible sign of support, you know?

This time around it was the unexpected gift of several square black plastic plates — the ones that are “nice,” but also still disposable, you know the kind.  My grandfather had been picking them up at the Dollar Tree and giving them to my mom in numbers that she was absolutely never going to need or use, so she asked if I’d like some, “to paint on or whatever.”

“What would I paint?”  I asked.

“I dunno.  Flowers.  Or birds.  Or something.”

So that’s how I spent some of my time last night.

I figured, since I couldn’t use my preferred technique of a wet wash (I just don’t see how that could feasibly work on a non-porous surface), I would aim for a style that was slightly more impressionistic, and would work better with the thick layers and textures I would have to utilize to get the coverage I wanted.  These are three of the six plates I was given, and while they were a bit of a rush job, I was excited to try them out and sort of blasted through a few things.

I’m happiest with the bird perched atop the lilacs; more pleased with the berries than the bird in the final painting, and happier with the bird than the blossoms in the first one.  Overall, there are things I am very happy about with all three, and things that I am less thrilled with, but perhaps have learned from.

The biggest challenge was painting something without having a pencil sketch on an outline present (since you can’t really sketch on this kind of plastic.  Having to free-hand everything was difficult, but I’m pretty happy with how most of it came out.

I’ll take suggestions for the remaining three plates!  I enjoy painting birds, but would like to try something new.


If you enjoy reading my ramblings or keeping up with my projects, consider maybe donating a few dollars to my Ko-Fi.  Thanks!

Art Project: “Choking”

artprojectPainting is a relatively new interest of mine, or at least, I’ve only actually been painting since January — I’ve been saying that I’d “like” to paint for ages now, but only in the last six or seven months actually taken the plunge.

I’m not very good.  Which I guess I should expect?  I’ve only been at it six months, I’ve had no formal training, I took a full month-and-a-half off to participate in various challenges, and it’s not like I have time to sit and paint for hours and hours a day.  I mean, it’s a skill to cultivate, not something I should expect to be awesome at right at the start.

And honestly, I’ve seen a lot of improvement over the past few months, just as I can see a lot of ways in which I still have to grow.

To make an effort towards actually becoming better, I’ve tried to focus on human figures, particularly faces and hands, as those are both favorite subjects for me to paint (I might have a bit of a hand kink, honestly?¹) as well as things that give me a lot of trouble.  I had an idea for a mixed-media piece in mind for a long time, and had been putting it off for a while for fear of, well, fucking it up, I guess.  I tend to build up projects in my head, have a very set, clear visual image of what I’m setting out to commit to canvas, and the fact that it so very, very rarely matches up means I procrastinate on the attempt in the hopes that at some point I’ll simply arrive at the level of skill and talent I’d need in order to do the project justice.

(Of course, you don’t get to that level without painting, but let’s not go crazy by bringing logic into this.)

So, given that I had time off this week, I finally made an effort.  And… well, it’s not nearly as good as I hoped, but it’s probably a shade better than I expected.

The proportions feel off, first of all, though that bothers me less than you might expect, and I’ll be honest — I’m proud enough of the way the hand turned out that she could Untitled design (1).pngproportionally look like a T-Rex, and I think I’d be a-okay with it.  Look, I know it’s not perfect, but that’s the best damn hand I ever painted.  I certainly wasn’t going to roll the dice and attempt a repaint after getting that on the first shot.  

I’m also incredibly pleased with how the background — which was a spur-of-the-moment, last minute addition turned out.  That’s a Dollar Tree stencil, by the way, and I am inexplicably proud of that fact, as well.  My camera does not take the best photos, so it’s less obvious here than looking at the painting in real life, but the metallic on black, and the busyness of the background does a lot to make the figure stand out, and I love that.

I’m less thrilled with (though not totally hating) her facial expression.  I had a very clear “look” in mind, a very visceral, panicked expression that I just don’t yet have the skill to capture.  As it is, she looks vaguely distraught, but also like maybe she’s wondering if she left the oven on??

The roses themselves I’m very pleased with — this is the second batch, after badly scorching the first (look, it’s been a while since I’ve used Sculpey, and may have mis-remembered the bake time/thickness ratio), though the pink ones are a little more, uh, vibrant than I would have liked (I’m going to try to mute them a bit with some matte pink eye shadow (which is awesome for shading Sculpey) before I seal them.  I still feel like the floral piece is a bit sparse (you can see small patches of canvas in the gaps between flowers), but that will be a project for another day.


¹I have the fairly idiosyncratic tendency to become very enamored with particular body parts, and they are never the ones that most people would guess.  Even in people normally considered unattractive, I have fallen head over heels.  See:  Steve Buscemi’s shoulders; Mackenzie Crooks’ hands.

If you enjoy reading my ramblings or keeping up with my projects, consider maybe donating a few dollars to my Ko-Fi.  Thanks!