Paper, not Precious

I have a few YouTube vices, if “vice” is even the right word. Special interests? Obsessions? The gist of it is, I have a few niche things that I really like indulging in on YouTube, and one of them is sketchbook tours. I love me a good sketchbook tour.

The thing is, most of the sketchbooks tours remind me of… you know those “lifestyle” YouTubers, who do home tours, and everything is blindingly white and pristine, and every pillow is perfectly coordinated, and the entire home is in perfect thematic harmony — colors, patterns, even textiles carried over through every room in the house — and your first reactions are at war with each other: “Oh my God, who even actually lives like this?” and “Oh my God, why can’t I live like this?”

That’s me, but with sketchbook tours. Some of these sketchbooks are enviably beautiful, but are so detached from my reality that they leave me a little loopy; almost a little defensive. That, by the way, is a “me” problem; let’s be very clear. But surely a lot of you must know what I mean, at least in the realm of home tours or lifestyle vloggers — there’s a idyllic quality about everything they do, everything they show you, and some of you must be both envious of that perfection but also a little nonplussed; “how do you ‘live’ in a house that pristine?”

I feel that way about these sketchbook tours. And look, I can’t help that that’s my gut reaction, and I bear no ill-will to those people who curate such perfect sketchbooks, with fully colored, fully realized artwork on seemingly every page. They are beautiful. What you do clearly brings you joy. Some people just are, innately, very naturally able to curate neat, complete, well-organized spaces. That’s where they thrive, and they have absolutely every right to proudly show it off.

I think the problem is that this is the only side of it we generally see, and the “fault” in that lies with those of us not showing our chaotic messes of sketchbooks, not those who curate more elaborate, methodical ones. When I first got into watching arttubers, what stood out to me was how intimidatingly polished the work in some of their sketchbooks looked. Now, some of that is likely a result of practice — a practiced artist’s sketches are going to look more skillful than an amateur’s.

But it also occurred to me — way, way later than it should have — that some of that is also a result of knowing you intend your sketchbook as a piece for consumption. You are going to work in your sketchbook more and more carefully, if your sketchbook is something that you are planning on sharing for mass viewing. Which, again, is absolutely fine, and which is something that I obviously love seeing, given the ammount of time I spend watching sketchbook tours, lol. Seeing page after page of lovely doodles and art bring me a lot of joy.

But — it also almost made me stop sketching.

So I want to start us sharing our less-than-picture-perfect sketchbooks. The random, half-finished heads that have never heard of “perspective.” The random doodles done while on the phone. The scraps of totally unrelated notes that aren’t exactly art, but dammit, you needed paper and that’s what was available. The same flowers you doodled in your 7th grade algebra notebook and still haven’t managed to outgrow. The rough sketches — or sometimes even vague descriptions of sketches — for drawings you’re “going to do.” Hands — oh, sweet Jesus, the (barely recognizable as) hands. The pages you let your kids scribble on because you needed just five minutes of quiet.

All of it. Every single thing.

So let those picture-perfect sketchbooks be aspirational; it’s never a bad thing to strive to be more than you are. Let them inspire you, let them give you ideas for sprawling art spreads, and creative new ways to fill your pages.

But don’t let them shame you; I highly, highly doubt that was ever the creator’s intent. And don’t let them keep you from doing what you need to do to get moving, from using your sketchbook in whatever way best allows your ideas to grow and flow. Don’t let them allow you to convince yourself that your messy, half-formed, done-in-five-minutes-in-a-Zoom-waiting-room doodles aren’t “good enough” for your sketchbook. Your sketchbook might have personal meaning to you, but as a tool, it’s not something precious, guys. It’s paper. It’s only paper.

I hope you are finding time to continue to be creative, and that you take solace and joy in your creativity.

Stay safe, stay sane, stay creative.

Take a Chance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yesterday was the day when the artists were contacted.

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

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

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

Acceptance — disregard last email.

There had been a mix-up.

I was in. I am in.

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

I am part of a collaborative art project.

I am an artist.

Drawing Dump

A relatively small dump, but here are the three completed drawings I mentioned yesterday. They are also posted up over at my DeviantArt for anyone interested in following me there, I will likely do followbacks (if that sweetens the pot, ha).

I am settled it at my mom’s, getting ready for a second cup of coffee and an early lunch. I touched up these drawings, updated a few defunct links on my websites, cleaned up my DeviantArt a bit; we have Dateline on in the background, the A/C going, and all in all, I’m feeling pretty relaxed (or at least as relaxed as I’ve been able to get lately). Have some goals for the day, but the primary one is to chill for a bit.

Maybe some art will follow.

Take care, all.

Return to Form (in Some Form)

I want to post photos from GISH, though I likely won’t. I was actually quite proud of the items I accomplished this year — most of them were craft, writing, or art-related — but my team this year was quieter on the forums than usual when it came to actually sharing items, so I have far fewer images of our adventure this year than I usually do.

I did, sadly, kind of wind up ghosting the last few days; I wasn’t sure anyone would even notice in the hustle and bustle of things, but my absences was apparently noticeable enough for one of my teammates to reach out and check in on me (which was really sweet, don’t get me wrong; it was a really kind gesture). I have not been mentally great the last few weeks, and the last two days have been the worst.

I’m trying to focus on the things I have control over — my art and my other projects. And as much as I’ve been on edge and riding high on anxiety lately, in the last three days, I’ve completed one painting and neared completion on four drawings. That’s more than I’ve done since April. It’s a return to the daily creative endeavors that I had been riding high on in the early days of quarantine, back when this all seemed like a good excuse to finally iindulge my creative side. I’m back to feeling like at least I’m not stagnating or standing still.

My district finally made a call on re-opening and announced a hybrid model; I’m terrified, but again, doing what I can, what’s in my control (in this case, calling my GP for a long-overdue physical and following up with a petition for a medical exemption (I’m hypertensive, and my wife’s HRT can surpress liver function). I’m pulling my son into full-online learning this year. I’m checking in with my mom everyday to make sure my family is still staying on an equivalent risk-level so I can continue to see them. I’m trying to get back into the habit of drinking water again. I’m trying. I’m trying. I’m trying.

Today was an awful mental health day that I spent yelling at my son for the most inconsequential things (I kept telling him he wasn’t the reason I was mad, I was just mad and sometimes that comes out as yelling — I know that doesn’t excuse it, but I was in a bad place and figured I should, at the very least, assure him it was me, not him, having a problem). Tomorrow I will be heading to my mom’s (after thoroughly interrogating her today about her activity since Saturday) with my laptop and sketchpad, just to get away from my house and my responsibilities for a while, while Kira tends to Bear.

With my doctor’s appointment scheduled, the mystery of what’s happening in September figured out (even if I don’t like it), and a return to creativity (and hopefully a return to a slightly cleaner home when I return tomorrow evening), and I’m cautiously hopefuly that I’ll start seeing a return to form again soon.

Stay safe and sane, guys.

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.


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,  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).