12/30/21: Artistic, Creative, and Personal Goals for 2022

I won’t be sad to see 2021 end. In a lot of ways, it was better than 2020; it saw my whole family get vaccinated, saw a return to work and school (which, for us, was hugely beneficial to our mental health), saw my continued growth in developing some good habits and exploring my creativity, and included a lovely long weekend away, our first since 2019.

The negatives of 2021 for me are more generic, and more beyond my control; I mean, you’ve been here, right? On planet earth? Shit’s not great, you know? I’m not going to remark on any of it, not because I don’t think it matters, but because so much has already been said, and I know I don’t have a unique perspective on it. I have, if anything, been extraordinarily privileged.

Going into 2022, probably the best thing for me to do — or really, for anyone to do, though I can’t, like, force y’all to do anything — is to focus on those things that I have control over. I’ve seen first-hand evidence of how follow-through yields results, and I want to make persistence and consistency more of a constant in my life. There is so much to do, and despite everything, there is still so much I have control over in my life when it comes down to it, and I intend to take full advantage of that.

Creative Goals

Return to Traditional Media (especially watercolor and acrylic)
I don’t plan on abandoning digital art; it’s fun, it’s convenient, and I’ve spent a year learning how to do it with any modicum of skill. But I also miss having tangible creations at my fingertips at the end of the day, and there is still something very Zen about mixing paints on a pallet while listening to a podcast at the end of a long day.

Make More Jewelry
I used to make simple — but attractive — beaded and clay necklaces and pendants. Two of them are still in my regular rotation, and I always, without fail, get compliments on them. With a new batch of Sculpey, clay molds, and jewelry findings (gifted to me for the holidays), I’d like to start making again.

Get Business Cards
The world is still uncertain and I’m not out and about as much as I used to be, but a lot of conventions I used to regularly attend are still hoping to conduct themselves in-person in the coming year, and it would be nice to be able to network at big events, even in an informal capacity,

Look for More Zines/Opportunities for Submission
I have, as I write this, one zine app in that I should here back about by mid-January; I’ve put in for about a half dozen this year, but I want to make a more concerted effort this year to seek out and find zines suited to my skills and interests.

Reorganize Insta, Pinterest, etc.
For some of my socials, this means a full cleaning out (looking at you, Insta), for others, it just means being better at organizing them.

Branch Out into YouTube/Podcasts, etc.
I’m not sold on what platform to go for yet — I want to be shorter form, so I feel like YouTube might be the way to go, but I’m open to possibility.

Personal Goals

Continue to Study Finnish
I like that there is virtually no practical application for this goal; I’m just really having fun with the language and am really enjoying learning it, and you know what? That’s enough.

Write Poetry Again
It’s been far too long. I want to start reading for poetry and poets, and see what resonates with me as I strive to find (or re-find) my voice.

Read More Books
I have so, so, so many books on my shelf that I have yet to touch. I need to fix that. I genuinely love reading, too, I just have a really hard time sitting down and initiating.

Exercise Every Day
I bought a stepper last year, since I’m mostly sedentary at home, and, uhh, have never used it. I… I should probably start.

Learn Leviwand
If you don’t know what that is, here’s a YouTube beginner’s tutorial. I just bought one from Amazon and I am vibrating with excitement for when it gets here. I did do a short session of leviwand at an Arisia probably five or six years ago, and I have wanted to revisit it ever since.

Be Consistent in My Household Routines
Honestly, I’m thinking specifically of following my chore charts (yes, I do in fact have some, I’m just real bad at using them) and meal planning.

I think that’s about it. In spite of everything going on in the world, I am personally very excited for the new year, and hope you all have something to look forward to as well.

Cheers, and happy new year.

12/29/21: My Year in Art

I am, quite frankly, shook by the progress I’ve made this year. This… is uncharacteristically self-aggrandizing, but goddamn it, I stand by it.

I started this year working almost solely with traditional media, before transitioning to working almost exclusively with digital painting around March. I’m going to be honest, part of me sort of regrets that I so thoroughly abandoned traditional media, but at the same time, the circumstances of my life just make digital art easier — we live in a small house with no devoted studio, wall-to-wall carpeting in the common living spaces, and three neurodivergent and clumsy people (one of whom just turned seven), and I’m trying to juggling parenthood and a full-time job on top of this art thing. In the absence of adequate space, time, and mental energy, the commitments of digital art are a lot more managable than traditional art.

Still, this year was a little bit of everything, and a lot of growth, so I thought back to the most significant pieces I’ve done this year.

Tropical Duo (January 23rd)
Why it’s Significant: First fully finished1 art piece I created by digitally inking over a pencil sketch; the beginning of digital painting in earnest
The Good: I love the colors on this one. I love the tropical feel of the girl – the watermelon pinks and greens, the pineapple yellows. I’m also very pleased with the bird – I’d done a few birds in acrylic before, so it wasn’t wholly new territory, but I was still very happy that this one turned out well.
The Bad: Oh God, the anatomy. Her neck is far too long, her shoulders are too narrow, and that arm – what are the proportions on that arm?? There was also very little variation in the values, and my layering, especially around the eyes, is sloppy.
Overall: I showed this to my wife a few nights ago and she took a long look it before saying, “You know, I remember thinking this was really good when you first did it.” And I know what she means! It was such a huge first step, moving into digital art, and so different from everything I had been doing before (which was essentially black and white micron drawings) that it was impressive for the novelty alone. In the months since then, this is already starting to look amateurish in comparison to what I’m doing now. I can’t wait to see how I continue to improve in 2022.

The ROYGBIV Series (March 31st, unfinished)
Why it’s Significant: First attempt at limited palette paintings/first painting “series”
The Good: The shading on Yellow, particularly the shading accentuating her right hand and her cheekbones still holds up to me; I am incredibly proud of how well-rendered her hands are given how early this was in the year. I also love Green’s facial expression — it was a first for me, drawing something more emotive than a more-or-less neutral expression, honestly.
The Bad: Red’s face just looks… wrong. Too much weight on the bottom lip, too much gum showing, eyes not properly aligned/focused, and her damn nails are floating. I was definitely rushing a bit towards the end. Parts of Green likewise scream rushed or sloppy.
Overall: This series was fun, which was nice. I really want to return to it in the New Year to round it out — honestly, I wouldn’t mind reworking the older ones, given I’m ninety-nine percent sure I still have the .pspimage files. It was also fun just playing with saturation, tones, shades, etc. within a single color family.

Pencil Portraits (May 30th)
Why it’s Significant: First attempt at drawing from “life,” first return to traditional media in 2021
The Good: Hey, these two are actually recognizable as who they are! That was a first. Generally I don’t draw from life, and it shows — I usually use models and reference photos just as a touchstone for anatomy and perspective rather than with any intention of drawing something that looks like the model. This was one time I decided to sit down and do just that, and it turned out well — pictured are Timothy Omundson and James Acaster, though I also did one of Greg Davies which I do not have scanned, but which is also fairly good.
The Bad: To be far, nothing egregious, but they do look just a little off. These were intended to just be sketches and I didn’t spend a massive amount of time reworking the sketches, so for how quickly these went, I’m not too mad, though obviously they could be better. I still need to work on values and on pencil shading.
Overall: I really like drawing with graphite and I should do more of it! It’s accessible and doesn’t take prep work on clean up like painting does. Also, I should draw from life more (or try to recreate things from real life with greater accuracy) more often as well, as my lack of skill in that area literally recently cost me a commission.

Like Wine, Like Sweetness (Aug. 12th)
Why It’s Significant: Marked a turning point in the way I approached art; most detailed oriented work I had completed to that point
The Good: Four months on, and I still adore this painting. I have said for ages that impatience is one of my biggest downfalls, and is what is holding me back from being a better artist — I get impatient, I rush, I get sloppy. This painting took days, and I went over it with a fine toothed comb, and it was just several rungs on the skill ladder above where my previous work had been perching. And yes, I honestly do attributed most of that to simply taking my time and poring over it instead of rushing through it. I love the reds, I love the texture on her hair, and the gloss of the blood and the strawberries. It’s just a piece I am very, very proud of.
The Bad: It doesn’t detract from how much I enjoy the piece, but I know the anatomy — primarily where the nails enter and then emerge from her head — is a little inconsistent. I also feel her nose is a bit small for her face, but over all, even the anatomy is a step up from earlier in the year.
Overall: I don’t know how many ways I can say I love this piece, ha. I am planning on getting myself a framed print of it for my workstation, to remind myself that I am working at the top of my game when I take the time to slow down and focus on the details.

Summer Spirit (Nov. 27th)
Why It’s Significant: This thing — for me — absolutely blew up. It got something like 120 likes and 12 reblogs on twitter, impressive when you realize I only have about 50 followers and often go weeks at a time forgetting it exists, ha ha. It was the most ambitious background/ambient scene I’d ever attempted, and I am incredibly happy with how it turned out.
The Good: I used myself as the anatomy reference, and I am incredibly proud of the fat representation, for a start; I also love the shading, the freckles on her shoulders, and given how reluctant I was to try to do blonde hair, I am moderately satisfied with how it turned out. Also, the sunflowers might be the best thing I’ve ever done, honestly, ha ha.
The Bad: I’ve only just started doing this, but I would have liked to have gone over the line art to make is a little less harsh, especially on her face, but other than that, I am in love with this piece.

Looking back over this year for the purpose of doing this entry was so validating — I honestly hadn’t realized that Tropical Duo was even this year?? Seeing that piece compared to my most recent pieces really drove home the realization that, however slow going my progress is, I am still making progress.

I am excited to see the progress I continue to make in 2022.

1“First fully finished” is relevant because I actually did my Fat Folks Tarot project this way, starting last December, so that was, I think, officially the first (though honestly, I don’t remember when I started either piece exactly, so it’s a toss up — but this was the first of the two I finished).

11/26/21: Commissions

Ages ago — and I mean, time is amorphous for me in the best of circumstances, but my guess would be at the very least six months ago — I had tentatively suggested on my personal Facebook that I was considering opening limited commission slots. This was sort of a big deal for me — I was just coming off the high of having my work included in a collaborative art project and had just received my own copy of said project, and I was starting to think, you know, maybe there is something to this art thing. I was still more or less trembling with insecurity, but evidence was, someone at some point saw some value in the work I was doing (right?), or I would not have had this experience.

Almost immediately, I got PMed by someone who seemed to be interested in potentially taking me up on my offer. They had a very ambitious piece in mind, with clear themes, aesthetics, and even reference photos, ready to go, and was wondering if I thought it was a good idea and whether I could do it. I (admittedly nervously) told them I thought it was something I could probably do, and directed them to send their ideas and refs to me via email if they were still interested.

And… well, that all fell through.

There was another suggestion, by another person, about two months later, that they might have a commission job for me in the realm of actual physical art (as opposed to digital, which is what I usually, though not exclusively, do) that I likewise tentatively said was within my abilities, and which, likewise, fell through.

And honestly, I kind of expected it. I wasn’t very clear or forthcoming on what they could expect in the realm of deadlines or cost; they were, likewise, fairly upfront with the fact that these were ideas or possibilities that they were just kicking around, not set-in-stone commitments. I was just starting out, had only been drawing in any regular capacity for about two-and-a-half years, and with no real sense of urgency or purpose. Art was not my bread and butter — I had a full-time, nearly-forty hours a week day job that paid my bills and kept food on the table, and my art still, in my eyes, looked very firmly rooted on the “hobbyist” side of things. So I moved on, with neither much fanfare nor much teeth-gnashing.

Then on November 2nd, just as I was starting to gear up for holiday prep myself, I got a message from someone asking if I could do a commission for them, to be a gift for their sister for Hanukkah. At this point, I was nearly three weeks deep in a kind of slump, not having done any creative work after a weirdly painful rejection from an art zine that I had, until that point, considered myself a shoe-in for, so I was feeling a little… vulnerable, maybe? Gun shy? I had a long talk with my wife about the opportunity, and she spent the better part of the evening gassing me up before I finally decided to say yes.

I worked on the commission for almost three weeks — I was given a ridiculous amount of creative freedom (their parameters were basically “something witchy or gothy”), and was allowed to just use my intuition. I found some reference photos that worked for what I had in mind, and checked in with my client at the sketch stage, palette selection, and right before final render. They were supportive and complimentary every step of the way, and wound up loving the final product.

Unexpectedly, so did I. It’s the most intricate piece I’ve done to date, and turned out so much better than I expected it would.

I received my commission check in the mail yesterday, and am still having trouble processing that — despite how pleased I genuinely was with what I made — someone was paying me for these weird little things I was drawing.

Which is a strange, new level of self-doubt that I hadn’t previously discovered — I thought I would feel instantly more secure in myself and my abilities as soon as someone deigned to commission me; then I realized that those deals could fall through, so I thought, well, when someone commissions me and we actually follow through on that deal, I’ll feel more secure in my place as an artist.

And then, all through the process, as I stumbled and fumbled with dpi, and organizing layers, and color balancing, I thought, man, once I have check in hand, I will feel so, so much more like a real artist.

And now… I don’t know, man. I don’t know if I’m ever going to feel like, yeah, these people were right to spend their money on me — and it is a very much on me feeling, not that I feel like artists-in-general shouldn’t get paid, just that I can’t wrap my mind around me getting paid, you know?

Honestly, I’m past the point of waiting to feel validated — nothing externally is going to happen for me to finally see the worth in what I’m doing — there’s a lot of deep-seated issues there that aren’t going to resolve overnight, but I’m at least far enough removed at this point to recognize that I’m being irrational and unfairly self-depricating when it comes to my own harshest criticisms of myself.

Instead, I’m just trying to soldier on, drawing and painting things that call to me and are enjoyable, and on those rare occasions when someone approaches me with a commission, doing the absolute best I can with it.

If anyone is interested in a commission, by the by, info can be found here; I can handle up to three at a time, I think.