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Monday
May022016

Procrastination Spiral 

Yet again, I've gone months without updating. 

I have to admit that a few of the good habits I'd been building have been falling to the wayside lately; updating my website journal, my second attempt at the Artist's Way, my weekly goal list.

The website, more than anything else, however, has fallen victim to the treacherous and dreaded Guilt and Procrastination Spiral -- that phenomenon of putting off a task and then the longer it has been since said task needed doing, the more guilt is associated with the failure and the more weight it takes on in one's mind and to deal with the stress, the task is put in a box and buried in a shallow brain-grave where a corner sticks up and trips you whenever you walk past and reminds you that you HAVEN'T DONE THE THING so you freak out and put more dirt on top of it and promise yourself you will take care of it properly SOON and then find ways to ignore that patch of mind-forest for a while and it's STILL WAITING FOREVER WAITING.

Or maybe that's just me. 

So, this won't be a long post tonight, but the point is to break out of that cycle and not think that I have to make a Deep and Meaningful post to make up for my absence, just to make A post. 

This is going to be a more of an 'I'm still here and will post soon I promise' post than anything else. I'm not posting any art. Because one of the habits that I have largely been keeping to is drawing almost every day. I haven't done that tonight, and need to go to bed in just a little bit, but I want to get a little sketching done first. And to be honest, I would rather have good habits with my art than good habits posting on my website ABOUT my art.

But also due to that sketching I mentioned, I DO have art TO share. And I will soon. Not an idle threat. 

So good night, internet land. Good night. 

Monday
Feb082016

Springtime, Implausible Praise, and Reading Deprivation

In northern California, by the time the first week of February sweeps in, spring has the land firmly in its grassy grip. The days have grown warmer, fruit trees explode into popcorn blooms, and by mid-morning, determined sunlight drives away all but the last hairs of the night's chill. 

It is strange recalling that, two years ago this time, the part of the country I was in was bitter and dead and I didn't want to step foot outside my home. 

Now I'm only that way on the inside. 

I spent an afternoon this weekend lounging in the open hatchback of my Prius in a mall parking lot while a beautiful and talented friend experimented with finger picking chords on their guitar and the sky was blue and my jacket had been long since discarded in the front seat. I wish I were musically talented so I could capture Sonoma County in February in a song. No wonder people are so mellow here. 

Or perhaps it's just all the pot. 

We completed the first round of my first big project this week and my boss told me she appreciated my work on it, in a fervently sincere tone. I am always thrown by that kind of feedback in the workplace. Getting one's work acknowledged and being appreciated is, of course, wonderful, but it wasn't as if my work was above the bar or beyond wildest dreams. It was nice and my coworkers said it looked good but all I really did was my job. I experienced this phenomenon even at Whole Foods, when after a day of printing and laminating lackluster signs, my boss would thank me for my work that day. I have never understood this practice -- as I was at work, I don't see what else I would have been doing. Is this part of participation award culture? It leaves me floundering for a response, and additionally, not sure how to be sure of when I'm truly being praised for genuine hard work that didn't go unnoticed, and when it is merely an acknowledgement that I arrived at work at the specified time and did the work to which I had been assigned in a fashion that was not destructive to the company, and also made it another day without setting any literal fires. 

I still love my job. I'm just musing. 

I drew a lot this week.

I may or may not have mentioned and am far too lazy to go back and check, but shortly after the start of the year I restarted the abandoned 'Artist's Way'. Week 4 consists of a ban on recreational reading, in order to...hear our inner selves or something.The first time I went through week 4, I was livid at the very idea...and then I found it annoyingly effective.It forced me to take a week away from distracting the buzzing corners of my mind when the silence in my brain grew too loud.

As the author encourages following the course in a way that is as faithful as it can be, but that still works for the participants, I set my own set of guidelines. Work related reading I would do as I needed to because regardless of the author's opinion, I usually DID do my school assigned reading and did not just breeze through on a hope and a prayer when I felt like it. But I stayed off of social media and did not read on my breaks from work, and did not listen to audio books. I also did not watch any of the shows or movies waiting for me on netflix. I was allowed to read during the last cigarette before bed, and I could watch tv while I fell asleep. If I needed something to focus while drawing, I could listen to music. And I would not go on Tumblr when I got home before I got around to eventually motivating myself to work on some art perhaps in the last half hour before bed because I had allowed myself to become distracted while looking at pictures of kittens. 

And I found that I forced myself to break some habits in ways that actually carried over past the end of the week. 

This time around I haven't seen quite as dramatic of a change, but I haven't been quite as faithful either. I haven't ignored the reading moratorium, but I have browsed social media now and then and...it's possible that on Saturday the second book in a series I had started the week previous arrived and my willpower was not the equal of it's seductive lure. 

But there were also other reasons for the change being less dramatic. Specifically, because the self-knowledge I gained the first time I went through reading deprivation didn't just disappear after the week was over. ...Though I'm not sure that self-knowledge is the appropriate term here. I was fully aware that I would often waste evenings I planned on working with vegging on the internet because my brain was tired and it was easier. I think that pattern change might be more accurate. I was given a tool to help me find a way to move out of a deeply grooved pattern of behavior. 

I am not saying I deleted my tumblr, shut down my facebook, and walked away from instagram. I honestly love social media. I think it has wonderful aspects and applications. However, it does have undeniable detriments as well, and one of those is that it can be, just as watching tv or reading can be, a way to lose a lot of time which you had intended to spend elsewhere. 

I also didn't stop reading or watching tv. Because I also love those things. 

What I did was relearn how to prioritize my free time in a way I knew I had been needing to. 

I also relearned how nice it can be to draw while listening to good music. I love to draw while watching a show or listening to an audio book and I will definitely continue to do those things. But there is a certain peace and focus for me in drawing to a playlist full of songs that I love. 

And of course, after all that boasting about my time spent drawing, this weekend was mostly a wash in that regard -- half an hour in a diner waiting for a friend to meet me for breakfast, and a short time today while watching anything other than the Super Bowl at another friend's house, and tonight my time was absolutely squandered on the internet before I recalled that I had next week's chapter to read and a journal post to write. The weekend slipped past on buttered paws and now it is time for bed.

I leave you with a sketch: 

Wednesday
Feb032016

Sketches

I'm just planning to yo-yo back and forth between early and late into infinity. 

Well, I say planning...

I know I keep raving about my job, but I'm going to do so a little more. The job continues to be a bizarre combination of stressful, satisfying, occasionally tedious, and often ridiculous and fun. I'm not saying that I couldn't ask for better, because there's got to be some dream art job out there that pays stupid amounts of money, provides a gorgeous apartment in a vibrant city, has a gratis coffee bar in the lobby staffed by cute barista boys, offers travel opportunities constantly, and at which I'm always working on exciting illustrations. 

Google. I think I'm thinking of Google. 

But, overall, my job is pretty much wonderful, especially for where I am right now, and while we may not have cute baristas to flirt with, my boss is totally on board with a plan for us to hire a hot hipster intern that can break my heart, Taylor Swift song style. 

Also, the meeting we had was awesome and ended up including a presentation about design (and cats) performed with swedish accents.

Also, we may be planning to start a Swedish pop band now. 

I also got hired by a local business to do a freelance project that...has had it's share of challenges...but it is still rewarding to have people hire me and end up telling me that they really like what I've done and it's just what they wanted. I need to learn to shut off the snap reaction to always say yes to a job that comes of being a starving artist, but...it hasn't been a bad experience. And I got free coffee out of it and that always goes in the win column for me.

But in my small amount of free time, I have continued to sketch. I've been trying to let my brain just go wherever it wants for a while, though I think soon it will be time to bust out some studies and brush up on some basics. And I have been returning to the point where I have drawn a few premeditated things because I have an idea and want to draw it...and I've had the desire to draw and it's been good and fun. I've also been looking back through my sketchbook and discovering less crap that I thought was in there and a lot more interesting stuff that could be developed. 

I wanted to doodle a forest fey with a garland of mushrooms in her hair, rather than flowers or leaves or branches:

And it didn't come out exactly like I planned, but my best friend said it looked like a Mucha piece and well, I can't be too bummed at a reaction like that. However, I realized that my knowledge of mushroom growth patterns was a little spotty. So then I spent a couple days doing some studies of mushrooms: 

I came up with an idea for my next tattoo and wanted to draw out some sketches:

I am planning on getting this on my left shoulder (the top one with the skull)...but not for a little while, because I actually just started a new tattoo on my right arm that, for the first time, I did not design. I came up with neither the original idea nor the art--I accepted an idea from a friend and went to an artist that she trusts and so far it is gorgeous and I love it and it is huge and I forgot how much tattoos HURT especially if you have kind of scrawny arms. What I'm getting is not quite a sleeve but it does cover large portions of my arm in solid black so it's going to take a little while. But then, once I forget how much it hurts again, I'm going to get my two certainties of life added to my other arm. (actually the forgetting is a surpassingly fast process...after two days my brain is certain it couldn't have been that bad and is eager to get under the needle again. I keep having to remind it that we CRIED and trying to decide how much of a cheater I would feel like if I took vicodin before my next session.) 

I made very rough sketches of a hipster Cruella Deville and a punk Ursula to help lay out costume concepts for what my friend and I are going to wear to a mardigras ball this weekend:

...and then last night before bed I just did one silly little doodle (that made it very clear that I need to do some pose and anatomy studies in the near future.):

I do definitely want to work on some more big projects again before too long, but I had forgotten how much I enjoyed just brain dumping silly ideas into my sketchbook is. 

Oh and for anyone who was wondering about the outcome last week -- the pizza, sadly, got a bit charred before I got it out of the oven. Life is cruel.

Wednesday
Jan202016

Actually some art. How about that?

So, to balance out the last post, this time it has been a bit more than a week, but despite the risk of my pizza burning, here I type. 

Hmmm...

Okay, the pizza's been rescued. 

There are just some risks you don't want to take. Death of a family member. Car wheel falling off on the highway. Pizza burnt to inedibility. 

Life continues its regularly scheduled ups and downs (what my mom always called 'my artistic personality', but I later came to discover is more commonly known as 'clinical depression' and 'being an adult is awful'), and I recently fell victim to a very ill-advised crush (stupid troublesome loins)...but something trite like, 'the world keeps turning' or 'the show must go on', or 'the sun will come out tomorrow'...oh wait, that last one's Annie.

Work is...a very strange combination of awesome and terrifying. I'm still in that unenviable position of spending half of any given day pretty sure I don't really know what I'm doing and preparing for them to tell me that they made a huge mistake in hiring me. But then on the other hand, things happen like...well, last week my boss had me take down notes for the team meeting we are going to have this Thursday: 

...and today we sent each other Sherlock and Empire records screen caps to illustrate just how we want that meeting to go down. Basically, I love it there. Despite the continuous terror. 

In my personal art life, I have been making a concerted effort to give my art at least some of the time and attention it deserves. This doesn't always happen. Sometimes I come home and just want to veg and watch House while I browse Tumblr. Sometimes I have a friend in the hospital and don't even get home until after 8 and am still making pizza at 9:30 and updating an overdue website and have to wake up early to take my car to the mechanic.

But I've been trying.

The thing I've really been attempting to put my focus on over the last little while is regaining my sense of FUN with my art. 

I have come to the realization lately that I've gotten into this place where, for whatever reason, I need everything I make to be MEANINGFUL or EPIC or at least REALLY REALLY GOOD and while it is good and important to push yourself as an artist, it is ALSO important to enjoy it and have fun and know that half of what you turn out is going to be crap but you might get a really good idea out of it or just get a stupid idea out of your system. 

So I've been sketching a lot more. 

And I thought that this week, I'd start with sharing a few of my weird little sketches. 

(Yes I am a moleskine-owning whore. Don't judge me.)

(Or do. You know. Whatever.)

 

 

Just...random silliness. A lot of it far less than epic. ...Though I actually did the coffee and cats pictures last fall and the camping doodle was started after that and I just finished it recently because I'd just use it to pull out and idly doodle on when I wanted to occupy my hands and not have people breaking my flow. 

Anyway, the point is, it has been working. I don't think I'm going to have time to draw tonight because it is almost 10 and I haven't eaten pizza yet and I have an extra early day tomorrow and I'm really bummed about that fact. I want to stay up and draw. Which I see as a good sign.

I'm going to wrap this up gracelessly because my pizza is getting cold and my lunch today was a handful of skittles, but before I go, one more thing. I finished this and I'm actually happy with it:

If you want to see a larger version and get a little more information on it, you can do so here

Good night my beauties. 

Wednesday
Jan062016

Mini Update 

It hasn't been a full week since my last post but that post didn't have much in the way of art in it so this is more like a...supplemental. 

Not that this will have much art in it. Because I've not been making much worth seeing over the last little bit. But it will have a little. 

More than the last one at least. 

I haven't been idle -- I've been working on, well...I guess the best way to put it is working on playing? I've been rather dissatisfied lately with a lot of what I've done and feeling that my ideas are stagnant. As well as my skill. I've been suffering the perennial fear that my ability and creativity have fled and that I will never make anything good again and will have to become a waitress in a diner in a small town in the Midwest, become mildly racist, start calling everyone 'hun', and change my name to Flo. 

Anyway, to combat this crippling fear, I've been trying to rediscover the enjoyment in just doodling. I've been pulling out my sketchbook and finding old, half-finished sketches and working on them while I marathon How to Get Away With Murder, not sticking to any strict plan, adding things where I feel like adding them and not getting too worked up when a line turns out messy or something doesn't come out quite right, since they were pictures I didn't even care enough about to finish in the first place, just experimenting with style and line weight and decorative elements and taking bits I don't like and doodling over them and trying something new. 

BUUUTTT none of that is really worthwhile quality to post here. It's really honestly not very good doodling. Not self-deprecating 'oh it's just a doodle' masterworks. Honestly pretty crappy doodles.

However, I had worked on one or two things lately. 

This is the first prompt from a 100-theme list of prompts. The prompt was 'introduction'. I wanted to play with dark and light and with landscape, so I decided to take it literally and make it like...an introductory page of a graphic novel or something. I used it as warm-up art at work for a while, doodling on it a little at a time. 

Like, I said, this is the first of 100 themes, and the idea was to use them as warm up drawing material...but work has been too hectic for me to really have time to do warm-ups and I haven't really been doing any drawing at work for which I need to warm up. Most recently, I have been rediscovering whether I know how to use InDesign, which I...kind of do. I mean, I have had to mess around with it for a few projects so far, but right now I'm laying out a whole media kit and holy crap, from remembering how to do columns and remembering how to do duotone colorization and where blending options live...WOW. And just...you know...laying out the whole damn media kit. With which I am still sure I'm going to crash and burn, of course, but...we're making progress. I think. I hope. Something. I was told today not to have any white type on dark blue because the Boss Man doesn't love it -- and of course, half of what I have has white on dark blue so I'm gonna have to rework THAT, but...

Anyway, back to art stuff. 

The other really pretty cool project that I worked on recently was a collaboration with a friend of mine, and  little different than the kind of thing I usually post. 

I had sketches that I used to work out ideas and figure out our themes and setup and unfortunately, they were drawn in 4-H lead and never detailed beyond the very rough stage, and so I just wasn't able to get a good enough picture of them to even clean up in Photoshop -- the contrast was so low that when I tried to adjust the levels the whole thing just got muddy. 

But anyway, I came up with this idea last Christmas when I was going through some stuff and the theme is dark but it was well...it was meant to express dark feelings and some stuff I was going through. I'm just going to post a couple of the images here but I'll post links to some more extensive sets if you are interested. 

I think, tonight my doodling will include a little tightening up of the concept sketches I made, and then I'll come back and add them in. Oh and the links: cocktail hour, suburban necktie, the Joy of Cooking, Clean conscience.

Now, time for tea, art, and murder. 

Until next week!