Polishing Up

I said I was going to do redraws of my five favorite A-to-Z Entries, and damn it, I meant it.

Original sketch for my “A” entry:

And here is the finished drawing, Aldwyn & Amara:

Surprisingly happy with this one; I love the rays of light filtering down!! And the beading on her tunic!! And the highlights on Aldwyn’s wing!

I love far more about this than what I hate. I don’t even think I hate, to be honest; there are things I could have done better, but I hate none of it.

How refreshing is that??

I am working on wrapping up some stuff I started prior to A-to-Z — some of it from long before A-to-Z, to the point where it’s noticeably stylistically rougher, but I’m still fond of it, I’ve put in quite a few hours on it, and it’s a goal of mine to not abandon projects anymore, so I will likely still wrap and post it at some point.


Related to art and projects, a big project that I was an artist on recently, The Fat Folks Tarot Deck, is live for pre-orders! The art is stunning, and includes the work of 77 artists in just as many styles. This is a body-positive, fat-positive, queer-positive, trans-positive Tarot Deck, and all the proceeds go towards Trans Lifeline! Please, if you are someone who is into Tarot, consider picking up a deck! This is my piece for my card, the Nine of Pentacles:

Things are moving along. I’m going to be working on my next A-to-Z revision, which I think is going to be my “C” entry. I’ll be honest, the more I look back and start to more fully conceptualize, the more I think I am ultimately going to be doing more than five works.

Not that I’m complaining, to be honest.

Hope all is well. Stay safe and sane.

A-to-Z Challenge: Queer/Queen/Quaint; Rider/Rise/Reward; Spine/Sign/Study

Come on, how much do you love my conceptualization of the mom? It’s great, right? Art at it’s finest.

“These are the best we could do?” Arianna murmured doubtfully as yet another potential suitor — smug and dark-haired, just like all the others — left the dining hall. “These are our best and brightest? This parade of arrogance and swagger?”

“They have every right to be proud,” her mother chastised sharply. “Pride is not the same as arrogance if it’s earned, Arianna. These you men are high born and highly skilled.”

“So their parents have money and they’re good with a sword,” Arianna said dismissively. “I don’t see how that sets them apart from me in anyway, and yet I’m constantly being told to be humble.” She side-eyed her mother, boredly.

“I can only assume that humility is to be the ‘lady-like’ counterpoint to my husband-to-be’s arrogance. Oh, apologies — pride. What a quaint arrangement.”

Her mother let out a long suffering sigh as Kiara, one of the servant girls, entered the room with an elaborate tray piled high with pastries and a gilded teapot. She waved the young woman in, rubbing at her temples.

“What would you have me say, Arianna?” she asked. “We have traditions, we have expectations and social mores. You are expected to find a husband, to be taken care of, to have children. Do you not want a secure life?”

“I don’t want that life,” Arianna sniffed. Her mother shook her head in frustration as Kiara poured her tea in a delicate china cup. Her mother took a long sip.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” her mother huffed, placing the cup back in it’s saucer with a little more force than strictly necessary. “You’ve not lived long enough to know. Your life will be long, God-willing, and what a horrid thing it would be if you were to live it alone.”

“I never said I wished to be alone,” Arianna aid airly. Kiara set a pile of sweet cakes on a plate before her. Arianna winked at her surreptitiously. Kiara’s face turned bright pink as she turned away, grinning.

“I only said I don’t wish to have a husband.”


Five a.m., and they pulled off the highway to eat, not a leisurely breakfast but a desperate devouring of the last remnants of the meal from the previous night; ham and cheese sandwiches kept cold in the front pocket of Erin’s Jansport with a sweaty dollar store ice pack. They rinsed their mouths with flat coke, tore into packets of Little Debbie swiss rolls with their teeth, and leaned themselves and their old bike against the guardrails on the highway as the turned their faces east.

How much further to go?” Kelly asked, her voice hoarse from disuse and the road. Erin took the last swig of Coke and shrugged.

“Miles or time,” she said, tossing the bottle over the guard rail. Kelly clucked her tongue disapprovingly. “Which is more helpful?”

Kelly shrugged. “Time, I guess.”

“Probably another five or six hours.”

Kelly chewed her lip thoughtfully, scuffing the road with her well-worn leather boats. Dry puffs of dust rose from the pavement in diaphonous clouds.

“That’s not so bad,” she muttered.

“No,” Erin agreed. “Not after everything else.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

The sat in silence for a moment, Kelly picking absently at the blood stains crusted on her jeans, the flesh still tender under the bulk of the bandages. She forced herself to stop worrying the injury, sat on her hands to keep her promise. The cold pavement against her hands, and the pressure of her weight was comforting, in a way. She turned to Erin and chanced a smile.

“At least we get sun today,” she said. Erin glanced over at her, her face unreadable. The corner of her mouth quirked, and she dipped her head in agreement.

“Yeah,” she said. “Yup. At least there’s that.”


She felt the gentle swish of her shirt in the path of approaching footfalls, but was still startled when she felt a hand on her back

“Naomi!” she signed. “Don’t sneak up!”

“Sorr-” Naomi started before catching herself.

“Sorry,” she signed. She pushed a stack of books out of the way with her foot and sat facing Zara. “I thought you had your hearing aids.”

Zara pushed her hair back to show her the buds in her ears.

“Turned them off,” she signed. “People never respect the silence of a library and I am beside myself trying to get shit together for my thesis.


Not going to lie; this might be my last year doing A-to-Z. I might take on some other monthly challenges, or seriously rethink how I handle this challenge, but I feel more and more — and I felt it a little bit last year, but hooo boy, is it full force this year — I feel more and more that it’s actually hindering my creativity more than helping me.

Actually, no; let me rephrase. I’m actually happy with what it’s doing for my creativity, because I was running out of ideas and also because I tend to stick with very similarly themed and similarly composed drawings, so this has been good in helping my generate scenes I normally wouldn’t consider drawing/painting. It’s hindering my productivity, because despite how rough the sketches are — and yeah, I know, they are rapidly degenerating before our eyes — it takes time and effort to conceptualize what I want to do for the sketch and what the story behind it is.

I already have a few front runners for what I might want to work on next month — and that’s exciting! — but I’m not getting much else done right now, and while I was a-ok with that at the start of the month, I’m regretting it a little now.

Because I hadn’t banked on the fact that, hey — ideas generate naturally, as well. They develop organically.

I have non-A-to-Z art ideas now, but I really can’t devote the time and energy to them that I’d like to, because I have to shift gears and conceptualize something new every day.

Next month when I’m not on a timeline, I can work on multiple projects at once and can easily do some of my own ideas alongside those generated by A-to-Z, but right now, my fingers are just itchy, man, ya know?

Hope all is going well for all other participants. Stay safe and sane.

A-to-Z Challenge: Potential/Pick/Pier

He sat on the dock and caught his breath; off in the distance, he could see the silhouette of a solitary fisherman out on a dinghie. He was an impossibly small shadow against the setting sun, and Denny considered, briefly, if he could chance a quick binder break. He looked around surreptitiously, fingers worrying the bottom edge of his binder before thinking better of it. He breathed in, as deeply as he could, , slicked his wet hair back, and stretched his back until it cracked. Just a few weeks until top surgery. Just a few weeks more until swim team tryouts. He could keep it under wraps (literally and figuratively, he mused) until then. He was sure he’d be a top pick. He was abso-fucking-lutely sure of it.

It would be so good — so so fucking good — to breathe easy for once.


Just a quick one tonight. Support trans athletes and support trans inclusion in sports.

Stay safe and sane.

A-to-Z Challenge: Nun/Name/Needle; Outside/Offensive/Oven

I will be honest; I’ve not got the energy to write out the vignette for the first of these, but the second of these has no vignette attached to it at all. There was no story or scenario in my head for the second one; the words generated, and automatically I thought about a couple of days last week, where the temperature far exceeded what we were expecting and we were sorely unprepared for it.

The first one was a little bit drawn from vague memories of my own Catholic schooling, but also somewhat inspired by a scene in The House on Mango Street. I imagine a young girl — disheveled, embarrassed — wearing shoddy, falling-apart clothing to school and being made fun of my her peers. One of the sisters sits with her in the classroom while the other kids are at recess, offering comfort and mending some of the more egregious rips and tears in her clothing. I like the idea of the scene quite a bit. I feel like I’ve said that about a fair few — which is not a bad thing! I would rather an excess of project ideas rather than a dearth — so I’m not going to say this is in the running just yet, but don’t be surprised if you see it again next month is all I’m saying.


I am on Spring Break! I spent yesterday and today getting my house in order so that I could throw myself into projects, both personal and creative, over the next seven days. I have activities to do with my son, I have four library books checked out on digital loan, I have three new podcasts I’m ready to check out, and I have two shiny art projects — not including the A-to-Z — that I’m working on. All in all, I’m incredibly glad for break.

In another bit of news that reminds me me both that I want to start writing new poetry again, but also that I need to bring over and archive my collection of sestinas (some of which are over a decade old at this point) — I was a finalist for the 2021 Robert Frost Foundation Poetry Prize with a sestina a wrote bordering on ten years ago (holy shit) called “Noise.” I miss writing poetry, particularly sestinas (they’re like a little puzzle to me; it’s such a thrill and a joy, figuring out how to piece it all together), and that is definitely something I should make room in my life for this summer.

I am breathing a deep sigh of relief and am eager to have a productive and relaxing break. Hope you all, whether you are working or not, have a lovely week.

Stay safe and sane.


This month, I’m using a random word generator to generate three words around which I will then craft a sketch and a literary vignette. I will chose my five favorites to fully flesh out (as full digital paintings and short-short stories) in May and beyond.

A-to-Z Challenge: Mother/Misery/Mass

I don’t have a vignette written for this one; I just wanted a young mother-to-be coming in off the streets, out of a bad situation. It’s been raining, and her hair and clothing is plastered to her skin; she sits in the final row of pews to be less obtrusive, but the church isn’t currently holding mass. There are a few people scattered here and there, kneeling in prayer and rising only to light a devotional candle before they leave.

Can people even do that anymore? The churches in my city used to be perpetually unlocked, open to anyone who wanted to come in at any time. I’m pretty sure they lock the doors now, when not in active use. It’s still an image I love, though, and one — now that I think about it — I’ve used before, ages ago, in a NaNoWriMo novel that I lost after the laptop I’d saved it on was stolen (note: back up your work, kids!) I’m not a religious person by any stretch or by any means, but I grew up immersed in a lot of Catholic “stuff” and for every religious “trauma,” I also have a good or pleasant nostalgic memory — I spent a lot of spring feast days and special occassions in grammar school in church for the morning session, and celebrating in the afternoon. As much as I don’t miss the religion, I miss some of the rituals, and some of the memories of my youth.


I’m exhausted. I’ve been exhausted for days, and maybe the reason it’s coming to a head today is because I finally got my period, or maybe because this is the first day I feel like I can really breathe a little bit — my parents and brother got the first dose of the vaccine today, and it was the last day of work before April break. I feel like a lot of pent up tension is released today, but the result of that is this weird emotional let down — like I’ve been holding myself together with duct tape and safety pins and now that everything is done, that whole scaffolding is just crumbling.

So I will have to catch up on A-to-Z tomorrow and Sunday. That’s fine. I also have chores tomorrow, but I got a hell of a lot down yesterday and today and I am trying extremely hard to give myself the due credit for my progress instead of berating myself for not having completely finished.

And I think I’m going to kick off the first night of Spring Break with some mindless YouTubing, a chat with my mom, some Annie’s Organic Peanut Butter Snack Bars, and our new Rosé All Day candle.

Cheers to you all. Stay safe and sane.


This month, I’m using a random word generator to generate three words around which I will then craft a sketch and a literary vignette. I will chose my five favorites to fully flesh out (as full digital paintings and short-short stories) in May and beyond.

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.

A-to-Z Challenge: Stuttering (Kiss Me Again)

2badge

Look, I’m going to level with you all:  I’m hormonal, I have monstrous headache, I fell behind on chore and challenges, and a new OTP has eaten my brain, so today I wanted something quick, cute, and kinda goofy.

With this being said, a quick (like, fifteen minute) micron sketch.  (Also, I suck at facial hair, holy shit).

oakson

Stuttering (Kiss Me Again)*

It’s been, it’s been, it’s been, it’s been
Su su su such a long time, long time, long time
Since anybody touched me, touched me, touched me
The way that you touch me

So if I stutter, stutter, stutter

Then I feel so so so unsexy
So maybe I’ll just keep my mouth shut
at least until you kiss me
So kiss me again
Cause only you can stop this st st st st stuttering
Kiss me again
And ease my su su su su su su su su su suffering
I know I know
It’s so it’s so sy sy sy sy sy symbolic of everything
Everything that’s wrong with me and you
So tell me what I’m supposed to do
Oh it’s been ages since we’ve been really honest
But I can make ch ch ch ch changes if you really want this
So kiss me again
Cause only you can stop this st st st st stuttering
Kiss me again
And ease my su su su su su su su su su suffering
Kiss me again
Cause only you can stop this st st st st stuttering
Kiss me again
And ease my su su su su su su su su su suffering


* This song came utterly unbidden into my head as I was folding clothes, for no apparent reason.  Haven;t thought about it in years.  Incidentally, it was my custom ringtone for my husband when we first started dating.

Exhaustion

Here’s a disappointing and anti-climactic daily sketch:
20200108_182301.jpg

This was done in about fifteen minutes, solely because I didn’t want to skip a day and not because I was particularly moved by the image.  The subtle curves of the handset and the fluorescent light glare off the plastic casing were hard to capture with the minimal shading I did, and the entire drawing is asymmetrical.  I don’t want to play the, “I wasn’t even trying,” card, but by the same token, I honestly wasn’t; I started this sketch knowing I was going to rush it, knowing I wasn’t going to devote the time and focus I’d devoted to the other daily sketches thus far.  Today hasn’t been a bad day, but oh my God, am I tired — I’ve been on my feet since 5:30 am, from classroom work to vocational training, the gym to the grocery store, and then home to cook dinner.  I just do not have the spoons to do anything more thoughtful tonight, but I don’t want to break the momentum.  Powering through and developing the habit is far more important than the products themselves right now.

So, no.  Not my best work, not my best effort.

Actually you might say I… phoned it in.

Thank you, I’ll let myself out.