Tactile

Still working through some serious art block. I think I have an idea of something I’d like to draw, but I’m just not feeling it at the moment. I’m still doodling — wouldn’t even call what I’m doing sketching, honestly, it really is doodling — more or less nightly, and I’m currently attempting the #SixFanarts Challenge (check Twitter for a bunch of way, way more talented artists’ attempts at it), which is at least keeping me drawing. Still, not feeling particularly inspired on that front at the moment.

So I decided to go back to an old love, which is Sculpey, and decided to make some altered boxes.

These are just the tops, removed from the (Altoids) box for ease of construction and baking. The eye and stitched skin one went surprisingly quickly (the skin tones are all tints from an old Wet and Wild eyeshadow palette — a really great Dollar Tree find that I always keep in my Sculpey kits (if you’re making anything with skin tones, a neutral matte palette is so much better than mixing colored Sculpey; that also applies to baked goods, like if you’re making cookie or cake charms)). The fruit one, though, took what had to be at least two and a half hours because of all the individual pieces, but I absolutely adore the vibrant colors and am probably proudest of that one.

I don’t have a ton of other altered box ideas in my head at the moments (well, maybe one or two) but it’s really gratifying to be able to switch mediums when one just hasn’t been working out for me, especially after so long (been at least, I’d say, two years since I’ve touched Sculpey).


My family’s murder box (Hunt a Killer subscription box) came today, woo! So tonight after Bear goes down I’m pouring myself a big glass of wine, cracking open my Murder Book (yeah, I have a notebook that is specifically my Murder Book, for working on the cases), and getting on Facebook Video Chat to knock out another suspect with my mom and brother. Not the worst way to start the long weekend.

Tomorrow, masks on, we’re going to have a socially distanced yard visit with my family; it’ll be the first time I’ve left the house/been in the car/seen them since March 12th. I’m super high anxiety about it; I feel my chest constrict every time I think about it, but I’m afraid if I don’t take the measured, safe steps now, my anxiety will become more and more insurmountable (we’ll all be outdoors, masked, more than six feet apart (they have a decent sized yard) and we’re all fairly low risk for carrying it, since aside from grocery stores and pretty isolated office work, none of us have left the house in nine weeks, and we are all being super cautious; it’ll be fine. It’ll be fine).

I know places are starting to open up — too soon, but there’s nothing I can do about that — but stay safe and keep staying in as much as you can. This isn’t over, but if everyone actually did their damn parts and acted responsibly (I wish I had confidence in my fellow Americans acting responsibly but, honestly (and sadly) I don’t) it might be manageable for now.

Anyway. Stay safe, sane, and healthy, everyone.

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.

Art Dump (31 Day Challenge: Days 25 & 26)

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25.  Blogs I Love Following

I am incredibly selective about the blogs I follow.  I generally don’t follow traditional “lifestyle” bloggers; I miss the days of LiveJournal and true, personal journaling.  In that vein, all the blog I follow, I feel, either give me insight into someone’s life and thoughts, or share interesting creative writing, art, or journeys.  Outside of WordPress, I don’t follow many blogs, but as I believe I mentioned in my last entry, there are some websites and especially some YouTube channels and podcasts that I deeply enjoy, and that I would love to curate and make a links list for at some point in the near future.

26.  Old Photo of Me

I had to dig through Facebook for this.  I almost posted one of my unofficial engagement photos (taken Christmas morning 2009, by the person who would be our wedding photographer, who (for reasons I don’t recall) literally crashed at our apartment on Christmas Eve at like eleven o’clock at night?)  But while that picture, at over ten years old, was old, this one is old.  Like, probably about thirty years old, at this point?  I’d wager this was Christmas of 1989:

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Note the very ’80s PJs, games, TV… literally everything.


Who’s ready for an art dump??

These are the photos I’ve shared on Facebook; they were shot to minimize glare, because I generally took them as progress shots at night, when the lighting in my house is the poorest.  I’ll have better quality photos when they finally go up on my gallery, but here is some of the art I’ve been working on the last week.  There still one or two pieces not included here, but Bear is playing on Khan Academy on my phone right now, and honestly, I’m not enough of a masochist to try to wrestle it away from him to take and upload a pic at the moment.

I’m so happy with how these acrylics turned out.  The plates are hard plastic, so I can’t lay down a rough sketch, which I usually do with my paintings; I just have to take the brush straight to it.  I love the yellow bird in particular (a yellow-throated warbler, I believe); I’m very happy with how vibrant the color is, despite the lack of primer and the dark background.

My last three microns.  The last one was done without photo references, and I am very pleased with the results!  Used multiple references for the first two; I feel like I’m getting better and integrating pieces from various photo references to make a coherent whole, and relying less on them as something to copy and more as just something to help guide the form (particularly when it comes to anatomy.  I’m definitely still trying to figure out anatomy).

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Only my second real attempt at watercolor, and it’s a watercolor illustration I’m doing for my sister, very much a work-in-progress, but I’m enjoying the process and trying to figure this medium out.

It’s Thursday.  Our schools have extended their closure until at least May 4th which, honestly, makes more sense given the numbers and where we are in this whole mess at the moment.  More time to do and learn, I suppose.

Stay safe, sane, vigilant, healthy.  Do something fun.  Be kind.

Nervous Excitement (31 Day Challenge: Day 5)

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5.  Soundtrack of My Life

I used to think I was very “into” music when I was younger, but it sort of turns out that actually, I am simply very affected by music.  Music significantly buoys me up (even ostensibly “Sad” music), and I feel a very deep-seated need to listen to music every day.  That being said, my actual musical exposure is really fairly limited.  I tend to cling very tightly to a small selection of artists and songs, and cycle through them with fair frequency.

That being said, I don’t know that my life has a soundtrack.  I can tell you what I’ve been cycling through most frequently most recently, though.

“Toss a Coin to Your Witcher,” a capella cover by Peter Hollens
“Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” a capella cover by Pentatonix
“Believer,” Imagine Dragons
“Eliezer’s Waltz,” Disparition
“I’m the Guy Who Sucks Plus I Got Depression,” Satellite High
“Ring of Keys,” Fun Home OBC
“Bremen,” Pig Pen Theatre Co.

Try to profile my musical tastes from that.  Ha.


In a move that is as shocking to me as I’m sure it would be to anyone else who knew me (if they actually knew I was doing this, that is), I am submitting three of my sketches to be a featured in a local art show elevating and showcasing the work of “womxn and femmes,” and I am terrified and thrilled in equal measure.  This is a big step for me, and taking myself seriously/valuing myself as a creative individual.  I’m not sure if this is a truly “open call,” or if there is a selection process, but the sheer act of putting myself “out there” for wider consumption is huge for me, and I am incredibly excited to be doing it.  It makes the whole endeavor feel realer, somehow; like I’m doing this for a reason (psst, I know that “it makes me happy” is a completely valid reason for doing something creative, because of course it is.  But there will always be a certain sweetness to a particular kind of external validation; it might not be necessary, but it sure is a treat).

Can I also point out that this is a bucket list item?  I’m so happy to be making some progress on some of my goals, even if it’s not as much or as consistent as I’d hoped.  At least I don’t feel like I’m standing still.

Anyway, I had a few logistical questions before I went ahead with submissions, but if they don’t answer me by lunch time tomorrow, I’m just going forward with the submission as I had intended (I mostly wanted to know how we should submit our work, via attachment or link or etc. etc., but I can attach and if that’s not kosher, they can let me know and I’ll resubmit).  I’m really excited.

Tomorrow is Friday!  I’m pumped.  Let’s all get into bed early, get super cozy, and start tomorrow refreshed, okay?

Ten

I realized last night while finishing up my latest drawing that I had completed ten micron drawings so far this year.

Ten.  I don’t think I finished that much art all of last year.

I keep reassuring myself that I’m getting better; that my follow through — at least with regards to creative endeavors — is getting better, but it’s good to see the objective proof of this.  It’s not just a “feeling,” it’s a measurable truth.  I’m still not where I want to be, in neither quantity nor quality of output, but I feel like I’m making valid strides towards that goal.

I’m not thrilled with the latest, but I drew it fairly quickly because it was something that I conceptualized quickly and had no real emotional investment in.  Given those truths, it actually came out pretty well:20200229_153136

And the one before that — because I just realized I’d never posted it — upon which my mother remarked, “that one, I like” because it’s the only one I’ve shown her that’s been “pretty.”  Sigh:

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I’ll be putting the latest batch up in my Gallery later today.

I’m feeling sort of blah and down this weekend; not depressed, because it’s not that I feel disinterested in life — it’s more like, there’s a lot of things I’d love to do, but none of them are accessible or feasible at the moment, and that in and of itself is sort of a bummer, plus I’m just feeling fairly low energy and lethargic.  On the plus side, tonight’s dinner is leftover Chinese takeout, so in lieu of having to cook, I might take the time to clean up the parlor and spread out my acrylics to play around a little tonight.

Saturday night.  Go have fun, however you define fun for yourself.  You deserve it.

The Brainweird

I have The Brainweird.

It’s not a term I came up with — you see it a lot among neurodivergent folks — and I usually use it on the lighter end of things, for the little inconsistencies and annoying quirks of my brain rather than the more disruptive stuff (which, thankfully, has become slightly more manageable the older I’ve gotten).

Today’s edition of The Brainweird is how I manage to feel absolutely useless and stagnant even when I’ve objectively accomplished a fair amount of what I’ve set out to do.  We (Bear and I) went to my mom’s today.  We each happily did our own things, and then reconvened to happily do some stuff together, and Bear got to spend some more time with Boopy and Goob again (I didn’t come up with those names, by the way, it just happens to be a convenient fact that my friends have given their spawn goofy nicknames that translate well to a certain degree of anonymity).

In our “doing our own thing” interims, I’ve done a fair bit of art, completing one project and starting in on another, and wrote a number of Twitter poetry prompts (I’m still intending to do the 30 Day Prompt List I posted, just likely not in a contiguous thirty days),  and yet I still feel like I could have done More, in some way.  I can look at the work I objectively did and know that the work is at the top of my game (not flawless, but the peak of my ability at the moment), and still feel like I’ve failed in some way.  Part of me feels like maybe it’s that something so self-indulgent as playing at being an artist, especially at my age and skill level, is almost unacceptably selfish (which is not something I ever project onto anyone else, so this isn’t aconcept that I ever globally apply, it’s really just me who apparently doesn’t deserve to do this for themself. So, yeah.  That’s where I’m at at the moment).

It might be — and I’m hoping it is — in part hormones¹, because it really sucks to not be able to enjoy my accomplishments even when I’ve finally actually accomplished something.  Not helping is the fact that my vacation is essentially over, and there was so, so much more I had hoped to do (even though, again, I did a lot of what I set out to do, which was relax and work on art).

My last finished drawing is something I am incredibly happy with, though I’m dissatisfied with the shading.  Still, I can see how far I’ve come since I started drawing/painting in February of 2019:

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It’s Friday night, and I hope you have something fun or relaxing lined up to treat yourself.  Enjoy your weekend.


¹Lending some credence to the idea that it might be at least in part hormones, I finished The Sun is Also a Star the other night and bawled my fucking eyes out.  So, I mean, something definitely up, yeah.  (I’m still slowly working on The Fifth Season, but I spend so much more time with my phone than me (borrowed) physical copy that it’s slow going.  I’ve also got a digital copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children to start).

Return to Writing

I’m on vacation for literally one day (or not even, since I’d be off for the weekend anyway) and I am already frantically trying to figure out what I want to do.  (Psst: the answer is “everything”).

Lately, I can’t say I’m “inspired,” but I sort of feel drawn to the idea of trying to write again; writing was my main creative outlet for the majority of my life, and was something I sort of defined myself by for the better part of my young adulthood.  I put writing aside last year in favor of experimenting with and teaching myself some visual art techniques, but I also miss playing around with words, and I’ve spent a significant amount of time this past week curating a Pinterest board of various artistic challenges, not limited to — but certainly including — writing.

I’m thinking I might start one this week.  Anyone interested in joining me?  I’m thinking of using this one from Nerd Knows Life:

Poetry-Challenge

Nerd Knows Life has a few good writing challenges via the link above (the flash fiction challenge is also one I have Pinned with the hopes of completing it at some point), but since poetry is really my bag (being my first literary love and all) that I thought I’d start with this one.

Has anyone else defined themselves as a particular “kind” of artist only to suddenly abandon it (intentionally or not) for something completely unrelated?  Did you ever whole-heartedly return to that first love, or did you strike a balance between the old and new?  Or did you simply leave it behind and never look back?

It’s Saturday night!  Vacation or not, take some time out for yourself.  Have a drink, message a friend, watch something fun on Netflix.  Relax and recharge.  You deserve it.

Days of Our Lives

So, still not perfect, but oh my gosh.  Following the tips from this tutorial, as I said I would, yielded much more positive results.  I will be focusing on eyes this week, using the tutorial as a guide, and try eyes in different expressions and from different angles.  Hopefully by deconstructing the face (to start) I can become a little more fluent at drawing human faces.

Today was one of those days at work that lasted seemingly forever.  It was the last day of finals, one official exam and one session of make-up, so I had no students.  Luckily, I’ve gotten slightly better about using my time wisely, so I read about 125 pages of one of my books, did a review of Lesson 12 and started in on Lesson 13 on my ASL, and did some substantial work on my next micron drawing.  So despite being a “do nothing” day, I feel like I did a fairly decent amount.

While I was at work, my sister sent me an event link for a Onesie Bar Crawl in Manchester (which is the city adjacent to where she lives), with the tag, “lots of fun stuff coming up,” which made me more than a little wistful.  I like where I am in my life; I spent so many years being told that so much of what I have — a house, a full-time job, a spouse, a kid — was going to be beyond my reach because of The Way I Am, that having all these things, wonderful on their own, is especially satisfying.

But I sometimes miss The Before Times, when I had the freedom to basically just pick and choose what frivolous thing I wanted to do.  In so many ways, on paper, my 20s looked miserable; I was living with an over-bearing parent and had virtually no privacy, I had neither a license nor a car; you’d think it would have been unbearable.  But I lived near a train leading into a big city, I had friends with cars, I was within walking distance of cafes and movie theatres, and — in some ways, most importantly — I had a job and very few financial responsibilities.  I was living in a rent-controlled apartment (paying about $500/month, utilities included), I was single, and my student loans were still in their grace period.  In so many ways, I had more freedom than I’d ever had at any other time of my life.

And everything was possible!!  I was still looking at graduate schools and figuring out what I wanted to do, and I actually had money to seriously consider going back to school to pursue it.  I was single and had dozens of dating sites to peruse at my leisure.  I had disposable income and infinite energy, and late nights in Boston getting bleary-eyed drunk and stumbling through the streets with my closest girlfriends talking about career woes and blowjobs and travel plans and birth control, and just, everything felt like it was just on the precipice of Happening.  There were so many beautiful nights with friends that were full of vodka and pillow talk, and laughingly pouring over salacious OKCupid messages from interested strangers.  I am happy with my husband, and how comfortable I am with him (more so than I’ve ever been with anyone in my life), but I also miss those first few tentative Instant Messages, signing on to a message with his name on it, the aimless fantasies about who he was behind the screen, that first stumbling face-to-face meeting at Borders Cafe.

I had some beautiful nights, full of beautiful moments, that I know I’ll never recapture.  And none of those moments, none of those nights were ever anything earth-shattering; I mean, we did enjoyable things — went drinking, or caught a movie or a show, went into Boston, hung out at a comedy club — but nothing to write home about.  But I still remember walking out through December twilight with the man who would be my husband and my two best friends, two miles through the snow to the cafe where we met up; I remember every word Andy said making the three of us burst into giggles, and I remember knowing even then, with fair certainty, that this was the man I was going to marry.  We trudged through still-falling snow and met up with two friends at a bookstore cafe where we spent ages browsing books and looking at maps (again — So Many Possibilities) before catching a train to see a stand-up show and grab some Chinese food at the Hong Kong.

Dinner and some comedy.  Nothing Special.  But I can still feel the sting of the cold on my cheeks.  I can still smell the books in that shop.  I can’t explain it, but there was something about that time in my life that made the most mundane moments palpable with What Could Be.  Every night was the night my life could change.  Every night was the night I could find my true calling through a drunken revelation;  I could hop on a train and not come back; I could hook up with the girl I had a crush on since college; I could fall in love.

I know there are still possibilities laid in front of me.  They just don’t feel as tangible, as vibrant.  I miss that.  I love what I have, but sometimes I still want More.

I wish I’d savored it while I was still in the thick of it.

It’s Wednesday.  Happy halfway.

 

The Uplift

My mood post-convention is often pendulous; the surges of motivation and excitement give way to sadness, give way to eagerness to embark on new projects, give way to lamenting that things are over for another year, give way to grandiose plans for the future.

This is the first year I attended panels about the meta-aspects of How to Do or How to Make; I’ve done a few makerspace panels in the past that were single-project “make ‘n takes” that have been wonderful, but not much of anything I would pursue beyond the confines of the convention.¹  This year, I opted to focus on trying to get Some Ideas About Art — what to pursue, how to pursue it, how to feel like a “real” artist.

Well, I succeeded on the first two counts.  Most of the “maker” panels I went to were really more about “making;” people who dabble in cosplay, prop making, electronic bits ‘n bobs — which are all amazingly cool, just not what I personally pursue.  Luckily there was a local artist on both panels whose primary focus really is more on art — pottery, watercolor, acrylic, inks, and a new-to-me medium/process called encaustics, which is painting with hot wax and sounds incredibly interesting.  All the panelists had some great things to say about creating makerspace in the confines of your own home (even if it’s small, or rented, or shared), and I got to get a few questions answered at a panel (yes I asked questions, which I never do!) about the logistics of baking Sculpey-altered boxes with mixed-media findings (such as wooden and glass beads, scrapbooking paper, metal findings, etc.) and was actually told that they hadn’t really heard of mixed-media altered boxes, and they sounded like they’d be really beautiful!!

I think I was so ridiculously happy to hear this because as a 101-level art novice and as a person with anxiety, I spend so much of my time fighting off Imposter Syndrome and generally feeling like everything I do is derivative and uninspired (even if I feel an initial surge of excitement or enthusiasm for a project, I wind up looking at it hyper-critically and feeling like an amateurish fraud calling myself any sort of “artist.”)  That gave me a surge of hope that maybe some of my ideas are worthy of pursuit, and while I had sworn off clay work for a while, I might make it a point to devote a weekend here or there to a particular project.

Today was surprisingly easy to get back into the swing of things; I took care of a few final things for the class I’m being pulled from, and wound up going out to coach, which, can I say, I nearly had a heart attack over because I completely and utterly forgot I was supposed to go out today (I always go out on vocational coaching on Tuesdays, but with the extra-long weekend and the chaos of Arisia, I completely forgot it was Tuesday.  Luckily I had to drop some paperwork off in the vocational office anyway and happened to glance at the schedule).  Bear was a little slow going in the morning, but was excited to report to his friends at school about the weekend.

Today is already Tuesday!  Smile, you’re nearly halfway there.

I will be starting my previously proposed deep-study of the human face, feature by feature, tomorrow.


¹With the exception of mini-hats, which is an Arisia-specific craft that I have utterly fallen in love with, and I think I might want to start making some in my free time.