2/25/22: Winding Down

I got word via Discord yesterday that a project I’ve been keeping an eye on for about a year now is finally opening up applications next week, on March 2nd — Fat Craft Zine, which is tangentially related to The Fat Folks Tarot Project (in that there are a lot of artist crossover) is a recurring zine project that raises money for NoLose and has a different theme every run. This year’s theme is “Death and the Divine,” and when I tell you, I already have so many potential ideas I’m excited about, and I can’t wait to apply. Obviously, I once again have no guarantee that I’ll make it in, but I’m hoping that their desire to amplify newer voice and the fact that my work is at least somewhat known to them will help my case.

My wife reminds me that I can, obviously, create the pieces I’m brainstorming for the zine whether or not I get accepted — which is of course, true — but also sort of not the same? If I feel strongly enough about them, yeah, I may pursue them anyway, but it’s so much more motivating to do a piece that you know is for sure going to have an audience that appreciates it, and/or going to support a good cause.

But I’m not going to get ahead for myself anyway. Apps open next week and I won’t get word about acceptance or rejection until May, so I have a while to wait. I’m excited for this opportunity, though; I had almost forgotten about this project and had almost missed the announcement, so I’m very fortunate that I decided to check my (often neglected) Discord notifications, ha ha.


It continues to be a quiet break; Bear is sick, though it hasn’t affected his attitude or energy level (mostly just effected the amount of mucus pouring out of his face, he is so gross, why are children so gross), and after testing repeatedly to be sure it wasn’t COVID, didn’t really affect or influence our plans to hang at my mom’s house and seeing my family. We got some promising developments on the job hunt front for Kira, and I likewise had some potentially promising work-related news (though I’m not technically able to really discuss it yet), Bear had a very positive therapy session (his first since a very, very positive week at school), and I’ve been spending most of my free time working on the follow-up to my deer painting and watching (and/or re-watching) comfort media.

It feels like it has been a while since I’ve had overwhelmingly positive personal news to report; there’s always a caveat, or a condition. Not everything I’m hearing about right now is set in stone, but they’re all more of a concrete possibility than we’ve seen in a long time, and that alone is heartening.

I’m not quite ready to go back to work yet, but I’ll return to work already on a seven week countdown to my next week-long break, so I suppose that’s a positive.


I hope you are all staying safe in the midst of an even more frightening than usual world. I hope you are doing what you can do to spread light in your small corner of the world, whether that is through philanthropy, helping out those within your social sphere, spreading awareness for a cause, creating art, or simply being kind. I hope you are doing what you can to find moments of respite and happiness, and finding ways to refill your own cup so that you can fill up others.

I hope you are all doing as well as can be expected.

Cheers.

2/22/22: A Quiet Tuesday

Spent some time this morning uploading more of my old poetry to Medium. The goal is eventually to monetize (some) of my writing through the Partners program, though I doubt it’s going to be any of those old gems. It’s a little hard to believe that most of my sestinas are over a decade old. Sestina has long been my favorite form to work in, and the one in which I wrote most frequently; I hadn’t realized how long it had been since I’d actually written one.

Anyway, most of them are overwrought and embarrassingly purple, but I, almost in spite of myself, have a soft spot for many of them. I’m actually fighting with myself, unsure whether or not I should post up all of my existing poetry (for the sake of posterity, or transparency, or a sense of completeness, or whatever) or if I should be a much, much harsher curator. Some of these are really horrifyingly overblown, ha ha.

I did, however, stumble upon the lists of words I used to use to write my sestinas (sestinas are defined by a set of six words, that end every line in a rotating configuration; I would use word generators to pre-determine those six words and write around them as a challenge), and think that maybe doing a little work with those old lists might be somewhere in the near future, once I get my writing practice off the ground again.

(Yeah, so, I still have to dig out and “set up” my writing notebook. No, I haven’t done it yet. I’m a walking dumpster fire, I’ve told you).


Today’s plan is to be a fairly quiet day. I spent the last few days mostly on the couch, binging a new video essayist who I, so far, really enjoy (Quinton Reviews, on YouTube) and finally managing to “perfect” the sketch that has been stumping me for the last week.

Apparently all it took to break me out of that funk was to broaden my concept of how my drawing “had” to look. As soon as I broadened the scope of what I was willing to do with my drawing, I found reference photos that I could work with that retained the “feel” and “essence” of what I was going for, and which wound up working out so much better than I could have hoped, honestly. I, in total, used three images as reference for the sketch, and I’m very happy with the results. My hope is, after a late brekfast and some household chores, that the rest of my day will be digitally inking and coloring the sketch, and catching up further on Quinton’s backlog.

In the interim, while I was stuck on the current sketch, I did complete another, totally unrelated one that I was pretty happy with. I’m having a lot of fun playing with light and illumination, and while I know I have quite a ways to go, I remember what my last foray into it (in March of last year) looked like, and boy howdy, have I improved. I’ll embed the most recent drawing at the end of the post.

I hope you all are having a good week, and that you have success in whatever projects you are working on. Remember to take breaks, stay hydrated, and breathe deeply. You got this.

2/17/22: Libraries and Seeing Things Through

I miss going to the library.

I like reading; I enjoy stories, particularly meandering slice-of-life stories with a focus on interesting language and description.  Getting myself to be able to sit down and focus has, in the past, been a real hindrance to actually getting any reading done, but when I get into a reading “groove,” I will knock out book after book, until some bump in my schedule disrupts it again and returns me to square one.

It’s the complete reset that’s the most frustrating.  It happens with all my habits, and is apparently incredibly common in people with various neurodivergences, so thanks for that, brain.  Love you, mean it.

But putting all that aside, it was the actual act of going to the library that I really miss.  I enjoyed the quiet moments among the stacks of books, picking up and flipping through the new fiction, reading dust jackets, picking out books for hugely divergent reasons each week (one week it might be a new book by a favorite author; the next, a genre I had never read; the following week, a book with a cover I found beautiful, etc).  I miss the moments of silence and respite when my wife brought our son down to the children’s room to give me a chance to browse, and I miss joining them with my stack of selections afterwards, wandering through the aisles of the children’s room myself and choosing more books to add to the one’s my wife and son had already picked out.

It’s one of several habits that I really should pick up again.  Covid derailed it for a long time, but with all of us back at work and school, and the libraries open again, it hardly seems like any greater risk than any of the rest of our lives.  

And it gave me that respite.  Those few moments of peace.

And I could certainly do with more moments of peace.

I’ve been very interested in doing “serial art” lately, creating pieces that either fit together purposefully and thematically, or tell a somewhat cohesive (if vague) narrative.  I had the Seasons series that I completed back in January (Still pending clean up! Ha ha, I’m a dumpster fire of a person, I swear), and I just recently completed the first in what I hope will be three for another series.  I didn’t initially conceive it as part of a series – I didn’t initially conceive of it as anything, if I’m being honest.  I was trying to do something miles different, but then when I found this particular reference image (via AdorkaStock; I will link both my drawing and the reference image at the end of this post), I was just moved to try something else.  

The image is the result of a search I did for, I think, “despair” or something along those lines; I was trying to find images for yet another series I was idly thinking about, but when I actually saw this pose, all I could think of was a woman washing her hair.  I don’t know why, but that sort of became the focal point, and everything else developed around it.  But about halfway through painting it, I started mapping out grand plans for two more pieces as companions to it.  I’m in love with the end result of this particular  piece, but since finishing it, I’ve given three attempts at starting my follow-up, and they have all been disastrous.  I am not giving up – I have learned that one day’s “disasterous” is another day’s “completely salvageable,” is yet another day’s “I can totally work with this!” – but it’s always slightly disheartening to hit such a (seemingly) large roadblock just days after what, for you, was a massive success.

Part of it may also be that I’m just not finding a reference image that is the whole of what I want – and, I mean, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and as an artist I need to practice drawing from various sources in order to compose a cohesive whole.  But because this drawing, as I have conceived of it, has three figures all interacting, it’s much more difficult for me to mentally manipulate any given image to account for the way another figure might act upon it, if that makes sense?  A more experienced artist might be able to, but it’s something still well beyond my ability.  One of the three figures is more solitary – it doesn’t directly involve itself with the other two, it’s more standoffish – so I could easily source a third party reference for that particular figure, but it looks more and more that I might have to take my own reference photo for the remaining two-thirds.  That may be a task for winter break.

I hope all of you are finding ways to stay motivated, creative, and safe.

Cheers.

Reference photo here.

2/8/22: Writing vs. Drawing

I’ve been thinking about my creative identity – how I define myself as a creative person. 

For years, that identity was tied up in the idea of being a writer.  I loved playing with language, loved reading poetry, loved surrounding myself with people talking craft and giving recs for books to read and authors to seek out and people to network with.  I was told I was a talented writer from a very young age (back when language was new and exciting and I had no inner critic), so of course I picked that up and ran with it.

The thing was, if I’m being absolutely, gut-punchingly honest?  I didn’t actually write all that much.  

I mean, I’d scribble out little scenes pretty frequently, with lots of witty little one-liners and quirky character descriptions.  I had a notebook full of quotes and snippets of dialogue or turns-of-phrase that popped into my head, little bits and bobs of various images, settings, characters.  I would have the beginnings for poems, one or two lines of verse, and outlines for the directions I might like the poem to go in. 

But, like, actually sitting down and writing something of my own volition was not that frequent of an occurrence.  It would happen occasionally – and when it did, it was usually pretty decent, and I became fairly well-regarded in my small circle as a “good writer” – but prolific I was not.  Honestly, if the base criteria for a being a writer is defined as “someone who writes,” I was, the majority of the time, not meeting the sole standard to define myself as such.

I mean, sure – when pressed to the very edge of a deadline in my creative writing classes – I could usually knock out a narrative fairly quickly, but usually at the risk of incurring a surplus of anxiety and a shortage of sleep.  And only – only – at the behest of an external pressure, and the threat of actual repercussions if I didn’t.

But drawing has been… different.

I’m still in the nascent stages – still very much learning, finding my style, my signature, what defines my art as “my” art, still figuring out perspective and anatomy and how to use all the tools at my disposal correctly.  And yet, my output is so much more.  I have unquestionably done more work as a visual artist in the last three years than I did as a writer in the last five.  And I guess the question is, why?

Art isn’t easy.  It’s not as though I can completely turn off my brain and just let my hand go wherever it wants (though, arguably, I guess some artists can do that.  More power to them, I suppose).  I still have to focus, sometimes really intently, on what’s in my head and what I need to do to get it physically  down on paper.  Manipulating shapes in my mind is not in and of itself difficult, but somehow translating to paper trips me up (I’m guessing it has to do with whatever part of my brain still can’t handle telling my left from my right or getting lost on what should be, by all accounts, familiar roads).  I make choices and judgements about color selection, line placement, what brushes to use, making layer adjustments, etc.  It’s not absolutely mindless work.

But there is still a sense of automaticity to it that I almost never got to with writing, at least not without a lot more struggle.  If I could manage to get started on a piece, there definitely were times when I would reach that, and things would start coming to me, faster and faster, but it would take dozens of stops and starts, endless frustration, and the struggle to get there was often bad or discouraging enough that even when I achieved it, I completed far fewer things than I started.

Since starting visual art, there have been projects I’ve started and not finished, but “projects” in the sense of, “I have a plan for a multi-drawing series” for which I only completed, say, two drawings, but because I got distracted by another idea and veered off course – not because I abandoned a piece mid-brush stroke out of frustration.  But those two drawings I did got done, they were finished, and whatever idea distracted me was also seen through to completion.  Stalling out mid-work, and leaving a piece hanging is just not something I’ve really done with visual art.

I guess what I’m wondering is, for someone who so closely held the identity of being a writer, why was writing so much harder for me?  Or, I guess, why is it so much easier for me to achieve that automaticity – that flow state – when I’m drawing than when I’m writing?  Why is idea generation so much easier, why do I seem to stumble upon revelations and inspiration so much more quickly, why do I find myself getting lost in drawing when more often than not, I would struggle to find an “in” while writing?

Part of me wonders if it’s to do with neurodivergence, but obviously there are tons of talented neurodivergent writers; that being said, neurodivergence can “diverge” in many different ways, and I wonder if my unique divergence just makes visual art somehow easier.

With visual art, it’s less essential to create a full narrative, and easier to suggest an idea, a mood, a tone, an image (the things I most love to do while writing, the few things that always, always found their way to paper).

It’s easier to convey non-traditional bodies, gender, sexualties, relationships, without a lot of awkward description or exposition.

While I am still working to achieve it, I have definitely seen visual art that I would call “lyrical,” that so perfectly sets a scene or embodies a feeling, which is what I read for, and what I wrote for (which I suppose explains why the genre I ever found the most success in was poetry).

I still plan to dabble in writing; in fact I plan, this week, to start keeping a notebook, the way I keep sketchbooks – low pressure, low expectations, jot things down and work at them when it moves me (don’t think that’s not another thing I had considered – how binding myself so early in life to a particular creative identity put unwarranted pressure on me to perform said identity, leading me more often to paralysis than perfection – but I suppose only time will tell.  This will be the first time I’ve truly tested that out).  I want to try returning to form – which has always worked best for me – and trying my hand at some free-verse styled after some of my favorite poets, the ones who resonate the most deeply and personally with me.  

I want to see if reaching that flow state is more about my state of mind, or about the mediums I’m working in.

We shall see.

If anyone has dabbled in more than one form of creativity, especially one that is writing or language-based and one that is visual, I’d love to hear your experiences in transitioning from one to the other (or balancing them; I have so little time to be creative, trying to keep up two separate creative pursuits feels daunting).

Stay safe and sane. 

2/1/22: Breathe

Compartmentalization has never been my strongest suit.  I’m okay in the short term; I can generally push aside specific worries and anxieties in order to, say, make sure my kid gets fed and bathed, or go to work, but inevitably the cracks start to show and everything starts to, just, kind of crumble.

The crumbling has started.  Or, who am I kidding, “started.”  I’m neck deep in rubble.

I don’t mean to concern people; I am admittedly a highly-anxious person, and even I can recognize that nothing in my life is so dire as to be unresolvable, not by a long shot.  And I have a good support network, so, really, I know – in the Logic Center of my brain – I’ll be okay.

But my Lizard Brain is flipping out. 

And because the primary source of all this anxiety is related to my wife’s job, and because it’s a lovely bundle of moving pieces and complications, I can’t even properly discuss it here, so the only thing I can do is wait, and focus on the things in my life I have real control over.  Which, honestly, sometimes doesn’t feel like much, but.

It’s getting the dishes done – or at least the plates and bowls, the pans can wait.  It’s folding the laundry, even if it takes three days to get through it.  It’s feeding the cat.  It’s cooking dinner and putting together a healthy meal plan.  It’s carving out time to play a game of Scrabble with my family.  It’s reading Bruce Coville books to my son.  It’s working on my art (and being a liar, because I totally started two new digital art projects after I “swore” I was returning to traditional media). It’s making therapy appointments.  It’s getting to work on time.  It’s sending my wife job listings. It’s playing Wordle at 5 am. It’s sitting down with a glass of wine and watching Taskmaster.  It’s reaching out to my support network for commiseration and concrete assistance.  It’s waiting.  It’s remembering to breathe.

I hope you all are remembering to breathe.  I hope you all have something hopeful on the horizon.

I’ll be alright, eventually.  And you will too.  Cheers.

1/22/22: Battery Blues

I should have gone with my instincts and taken a digital art break.  Broken in my new acrylic paints, or the watercolors that have been sitting idly by my desk for over a year now.

But nope.  I had to go and get my stupid self invested in yet more digital art – two drawings in the painting stages, and two drawings waiting to be scanned – instead.

Which maybe wouldn’t have been such a problem if my Surface pen hadn’t died.

Ok, well, it’s unlikely that the pen itself died.  It’s probably just an issue with the battery, and to that end, I sent my wife a link to a set of AAAA Energizer batteries to add to our Amazon cart (I send little things like that to her because her account has Prime, and I am loathe to pay shipping for literally anything if I don’t have to).

She, however – and trying to be helpful, of course – disregarded the link I sent, because those batteries wouldn’t have arrived until the 28th.  So instead, she bought a package of batteries that arrived yesterday.

Problem is, they’re Amazon Basic.

I absolutely fucking hate Amazon Basic batteries.  We bought a bulk pack of them to use in the wireless keyboard we have linked to our Smart TV, and despite the fact that their only job is to keep a lightweight portable keyboard – that gets minimal use, and is switched Off when not in use – alive, it doesn’t evenmanage to do that for more than a week or two at a time.  It’s un-fucking-believable.  So when I opened the box, I was already annoyed.

Then I had to spend over an hour trying to figure out if the reason why my pen still wasn’t working was the Amazon battery, the Bluetooth driver, or a problem with the pen itself.  Seeing as how I can double click the top button and still launch Paintshop Pro, it’s likely that, yeah, it’s the batteries fault and they literally came already half fucking dead.

Oooh, I am pissed.

Luckily, I found my back-up pen – the one with the wonky nib that I have to secure with masking tape, sure, but the masking tape is holding up and this pen is rechargeable, so at least I don’t have to wait to get the next new pack of batteries to resume work. 

But my wife owes me like ten bucks for the wasted cost of the Amazon Basic batteries.  For real. So frustrating.

January has flown.  We’re in the midst of mid-terms, which is always exhausting, and I am job coaching a new internship starting Tuesday, which is exciting and a little nerve-wracking, as always.  I’ve not been out in the field (so to speak) with students since the beginning of the pandemic, so it feels good to be back doing something that has been such an integral part of my job (and one of the highlights of my job, quite frankly) for such a long time.  

I’m also waiting on responses for two zine applications that I am excited about, but which I am fairly certain I am not going to get.  Still, you never know unless you put yourself out there.

I’m hoping 2022 is treating you well thus far.  

Stay safe and sane, find things to do that you love, and please, for your own sake, make sure to always buy the name-brand batteries. 

Cheers.

1/13/22: Seasons Series

I’ve finished my first series of the year!

And my first completed series ever, really; I’ve started on projects intended to become a series or a set of pieces, but I’ve always managed to peter out prior to completion (see: my ROYGBIV portrait series, my Russian nesting dolls, etc.)

But I actually finished this one, minus going back for touch-ups, clean-ups, and corrections. This is a four piece series based on the four seasons. The images were first sketched on paper, then scanned and fully colored on Corel PaintShopPro. I was my own reference model for this set, and have begun to develop a deeper respect for the work that goes into creating good, viable reference photos, even for relatively simple poses. I think I will continue shooting my own refs for certain projects, but I may enlist my wife’s help, or at the very least, borrow her ring light and tripod.

While I have my favorites (I am honestly just beside myself with how much I love Winter’s robes) and my less-than-favorites (as much as I love the colors, I’m not as enamored with Spring as I am the others), I am proud of this set, and maybe more proud of the simple fact that I finished it.

I’m hoping to find the time to edit the images and post them in my gallery and on Instagram this weekend, and eventually adding them to sell as prints on my Redbubble.

Much as I love doing digital stuff, I’m hoping to wrap up the piece I’m currently working on and move on to some acryllic painting in the next few weeks.

Hope you are all keeping creative and doing stuff you’re proud of.

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.