And an art update

Artwork, Lifeblogging, Original

 

In update news, I applied to this zine, which has the theme of space lesbians, which is too far up my alley to miss.

You might not have seen any of my space lesbians, but there are four (to be fair one of them is a space bisexual), and the only reason you haven’t seen them is because I keep fussing with their stories so much I haven’t had any success at all in actually finishing them.

It’s a personal flaw.

I applied for all three categories (artist, merch artist, and writer) because I multi-classed in Art and Writing and around here we go all in. If I get to design an enamel pin I might die. Bury me with my pin.

Here’s the stuff I added to my portfolio in hopes of getting their attention:

A young woman with an afro and a wound on her shoulder holds up a mining lamp, and looks over her shoulder at stylized black tendrils which are saying Lineart of an elephant skull The Listening Frame-Web-FullSize-Orange
A woman and her cat sit in a window seat looking out at the skyscrapers. A purple cow eating some bright red leaves in front of a big white circle. A silhouetted pine tree leans over a lake, partially overlapping a bright orange moon which is reflected in the lake.

This week in writing is hard: Emily tries something new!

Jackie and April's Foster Home for Teenage Witches, Writing

You may have guessed, from my lack of posts recently, that I’ve been having trouble figuring out what to do.

It’s not just this blog—I’ve been struggling to figure out what to write, what to draw, everything. I’m an American, so as you can imagine my world is kind of falling apart around me right now, and every time I try to do something, I think, “How much of a difference is this going to make, in terms of putting the brakes on Nazi Germany: American Edition (now with a new primary target!)?” and the trouble is, most of what I was working on before 2016 was focused on queer representation in scifi/fantasy.

Frankly, queer representation got outpaced by immigrant protections and voting rights on the day of the world’s most mediocre inauguration. I was not prepared for this. I don’t know how to write engaging emotional rollercoasters about voting. I know how to write an engaging emotional roller coaster about immigration, but as a white person whose family moved here before there were immigration laws, I probably shouldn’t.

Thus, total stagnation of productivity.

Which I’ve had enough of.

So, new plan!

I’m writing a webcomic. It’s small-scale, it’s escapist, it’s got space for tackling difficult things but it’s set up to mostly be cute and soft and gentle, it contains witches, and it’s currently called Jackie and April’s Foster Home for Teenage Witches.

Premise: Witches are a lot of trouble, so there’s great need for foster homes willing to take them—and at April and Jackie’s house, there’s always room for one more.

I’m not entirely comfortable writing about the foster system, especially as, being sick of horrors, I’m 0% not interested in portraying how bad it can be, and I’m not sure if that’s dishonest or escapist. The trouble is, I want it set in modern-day America, so orphanages are right out, and I’m dead bored of boarding schools and summer camps. So I’m going with foster care unless something better appears.

Things that are definitely going to happen:

– A baby (in for a few days of respite care) gets into wild shenanigans and permanently transfigures the dog

– An introverted girl’s escapist daydreams open a portal for her… but the wrong person goes through it! She has to get the intruder out before all her secrets are discovered! Not to mention that there’s a monster in there somewhere, and this person doesn’t know the rules to avoid it.

– An ill-advised gardening spell brings very impolite invertebrates to the garden! How will Jackie and the girls solve this without hurting any of the innocent creatures? Not that Jackie thinks there’s anything wrong with salting the lot of them, but that would upset April, which is unacceptable.

And the best part is, it’s episodic, so if I mess something up, I can just move on and try something else.

It also barely exists at this point. I’m thinking it’ll be probably a year before I’ve got any actual pages? I want to finish at least two chapters before I post anything, and there’s a lot of research and planning involved in something like this. I’ve never written an ongoing comic! I’ve barely written a standalone! I have no idea what I’m doing!

Go ahead and just do what you’re good at, even if it’s not as cool as you wish it were

Skill Development, Uncategorized

Sorry for skipping… all of March. I have no excuses, only regrets, except for yesterday, which I skipped on purpose. April Fools is upsetting and I pretty much holed up in my room with no internet all day, just to be safe.

I played a lot of Far Cry 5. It is very enjoyable, although I did accidentally kill my hired gun a couple of times, because I’m an idiot.

Today we will be discussing playing to your strengths, because I am bad at it and it is making me grouchy.

Here’s a chart depicting how I am utterly failing right now:

Fail

What.

Okay, me and me need to have a talk. As awesome as it sounds to paint huge, badass crystal dragons in front of sweeping landscapes using only depth and range of color to invoke in the viewer a feeling of insignificance and awe, you actually do not have the watercolor skills to pull this off.

You know what they’re going to look like if you try to paint what you’re imagining?

Unintelligible chaos. Or possibly mud. Because you don’t know what you’re doing.

These ideas are great but you need to build your skills first, and if you don’t want to be absolutely crushed by putting immense amounts of work into absolute garbage, you’re going to have to haul back your expectations, like, significantly.

So here’s a chart depicting what you are actually going to do if you want to succeed:

Success

It will not be as cool as it is in your head.

It will still be cool, because crystal dragons are cool.

SKETCHES

Dynamic line art is going to make this cool as hell.


Next post is 4/15, on how to develop background skills, and what to do until you have them!

Practice, Practice, Practice: Line Control

Skill Development

My digital art quest has been going… not great. My line control continues to be garbage and every picture looks like it’s been rolled back in time 12 years. It’s extremely discouraging, I tell you what.

In a fit of frustration, I googled “How to improve basic drawing skills”, even though I know the answer.

(It’s observational drawing. “Go look at the thing” is always the answer.)

But the thing is, I’m not having trouble drawing a thing–I’m having trouble with the mechanical action of drawing. Sure, looking at an apple and doing contour + value studies will help me improve, but surely, surely there’s a more direct way of practicing this.

And that’s when I found it.

The worst part of art class.

The part I remember just not doing because I was an ADHD child and couldn’t handle how boring it was.

Line control exercises 

Folks, this stuff sucks. You literally just draw the same patterns over and over and over, every day, until you get good.Exercises

Here’s my first try. As you can see, I can’t do squiggles, my scales are all different sizes, and my parallel lines will not stop converging.

And…

Okay, I admit it, I was an ADHD child then and I’m an ADHD adult now, and I still can’t handle how boring this is. I haven’t actually done it again.

But when I get sick of sucking, I’m gonna suck it up and do it.

Over and over. Every day.

Until I get good.


Also, I moved! My new place is about the size of my old closet, but hey, I’ve always wanted to try minimalism.

Copic Palettes: skin!

Art Tools

This Thursday, at around 11am, it hit me that there is a Blick store not ten minutes away from work, and I have a car.

One lunchtime impulse purchase later, I am no longer limited to “bright pink, dull pink, or red-pink” palettes, and can do skin colors in ordinary light. Finally!

I’ll be honest, the reason this took me so long is because I’m kind of intimidated by skin. It’s really, really easy to mess up, especially faces; a color that blends badly on the corner of a dress can be covered up or ignored, but weird blending around the eyes? A patch of blush that bleeds out further than expected? Not to mention how many colors of skin there are? How do I get good highlight and shadow colors for that many variations?? I can’t afford that many markers!

Basically, you don’t. You grab five colors in reddish and/or yellowish in the E color family and jump in, because not doing it at all is worse than messing up.

I went with yellowish only, just because I’m really bad at coloring. It’s easier to find colors that look like they belong together when they’re all variations on one color.

E50, Egg Shell

E31, Brick Beige

E57, Light Walnut

E74, Cocoa Brown

E79, Cashew

V99, Aubergine

Aubergine is a purple, so it shades yellowish browns really well. Incidentally, it also makes a great bright-light black. I’ve been using it for hair.

I’ve only had this a few days, but it’s awesome so far. It’s very versatile–the only color I can’t do is sunburned. However, if you’re going to steal this palette? Swap out E74 for something else. E74 is so transparent and so close to E79 that, in a palette this limited, it doesn’t do enough.

Things I learned immediately after buying a tablet

Art Tools, Artwork, Lifeblogging

The last time I had a tablet, it was an unmitigated disaster, because I was 12 and I didn’t know you needed… like… an actual art program? To go with the tablet? Preferably with things like layers and pressure sensitivity? To be sure, MS Paint is a perfectly valid medium, but it only works if that’s the look you’re going for.

I went back to ballpoints on printer paper real fast.

But I really wanted the smooth, antialiased look of digital, and even after I figured out how to adjust levels and such on my scanned work, nothing gave me that look. But guess what was on sale this December??INTUOS-draw

While I wasn’t looking, Wacom started bundling their tablets with art programs. And that tablet? Comes with the exact program I was going to buy anyway. I could not have purchased this faster.

Okay, I could have purchased this a little faster, if the Comic (which has a perfectly nice box) looked like the Draw (which has a box I’d straight-up put on my mantel). Look at this thing. Look at it.

I also had to wait until I got a computer that could handle the obscene number of layers I like to use. Having acquired that computer, I thought I was ready.

I really did.

Lesson 1: Tablet pens do not feel like actual pens

I use Sakura Microns, mainly. I use them pretty hard. I like to press down on the paper a little too much, because pressure flattens out the tooth of the paper and makes your lines smoother. It also calms my shaky hands.

GUESS WHAT DOESN’T WORK ON TABLETS.

This tablet picks up every tiny little movement, and adding pressure don’t make the pen get stuck in the tooth and stop wiggling–it makes it slip around the slick surface and wiggle more.

TriceratopsThis little guy was the best I could do.

Look at those ragged lines.

Look at that weirdly-flat snout.

It’s not misshapen because I don’t know reptile anatomy–it’s misshapen because I couldn’t make the lines go where they belonged.

This was the point where gave up, and alt+tabbed straight to YouTube.

Lesson 2: Line stabilization is a thing

Self-PortraitI was freaking out over nothing. Turns out, the programmers of drawing programs know all about shaky hands.

My artist buddy told me, “Turn your line stabilization up to 26.”

And I was like, “Ugh, but it’s so laggy like that.”

And he was like, “Yeah *shrug*”

So I stopped being a baby, and turned my stabilization up to 26… and then immediately turned them down to 22. It only took about an hour to get used to the lag, because:

Lesson 3: Gotta go fast

Those slow, careful lines I was doing on paper? Do Not Work on a tablet. Not even with line stabilization on.

Believe me, I tried.

After a frustrating fifteen minutes of unmitigated failure, I gave in and did things the right way–which is to say, drawing in long sweeping motions from the shoulder, instead of short arcs from the wrist and fingers.

This caused some issues.

  1. Sweeping in a gentle arc is easy, but sweeping in a loop is… not.
  2. I rotate my paper a lot. I really only have a couple of movements keyed into my muscle memory, and I turn my paper around until one of the movements matches the sketch. But turning my tablet… ah… did not work.

But rotating the canvas works great. And binding my rotation/zoom keys to the default gaming directional keys let me move the canvas around however I wanted without ever putting the pen down.

WASD

This configuration has the bonus feature of making me feel cool.

 


 

If you’re just starting out on a tablet, yes, it is totally different from physical media, and yes, it’s probably completely different from what you were expecting. Yes, everything you do completely sucks and doesn’t look anything like you wanted it to.

It’s okay.

You’re fine.

This is a totally new medium, and it’s going to take you some time to figure it out. You’d suck just like this if you’d suddenly gone from oil paints to chalk pastels, too.

I’ve only been at this for like four days, and I’ve already gone from [undo forever] to “this is fine.” You’re doing great. Your muscle memory will catch up to your eye real soon.

Happy new year!

Lifeblogging

Do less, but do it all.

2017 was, quite predictably, an exercise in resisting defeatism. This is not a strong suit of mine, and it has been dead exhausting, and I have failed.

I tried being politically active, and just ended up feeling guilty and hopeless because I couldn’t do it. I took on too much, got burned out, gave up. I’m not proud. I’m going to do better this year. I’m going to do small, concrete things, and give up on the big gestures and the public action that I just can’t do.

 

Produce content like a professional.

The first of the two casualties of the defeatism I couldn’t shake was this blog.

I have plenty of things to say. Fortnightly is a perfectly manageable update schedule. There is no reason not to post something, anything, on schedule. And yet, I went three months with nothing. I can be better than that. I have to be better than that, if I want to be anything.

I want to be an illustrator. My real, impossible dream is to illustrate adult books; as a reader, I love illustrations, and I know there are plenty of adult books that would be stunning with illustrations. The total lack of market for this is the only thing standing in my way. Still: I can be an illustrator. I can illustrate middle-grade books. I just need to prove it, and market myself.

I’m not ready for marketing yet. This year, I’m just going to prove it.

 

Remember the value of consumable art.

The second of two casualties, and the less concrete, was my visceral understanding of art as important.

In the face of 1930s Germany Take Two: American Edition, the only art that feels like it matters is the world-changing kind. The kind that directly stands up to the government, that challenges them and makes them afraid.

That’s absurd.

The truth is, art that gives people strength just because they like it is worth something. Even if it doesn’t directly challenge social injustice. Even if it fades from memory after it’s done its job. Holding people up with images and narratives that feel good matters.

And that’s the kind of art I make.

And that sucks. 

I want to be big, and famous, and important, but I’m not. My heart is so drowned in hopeless despair that I have completely forgotten how much it matters to give just one person strength. I need to get over it. I need to dive headlong into what I really do so that it can be there for that one person who really needs it. Even if who I really am is small, and unimportant, and consumable.

Wish me luck.

 

End of the Writing Break

Process, Revision, Writing

That was a good experiment.

And now we are DONE.

In the end, the fiddle-around-with-random-stuff experiment was a colossal failure. Instead of being free to play and take risks, I ended up doing a grand total of nothing in the last three months. We’re chalking it up to a recovery period and refusing to feel bad about it.

Painful though it may be, I think my best bet here is to suffer through Draft 3 of the thing I was working on earlier this year. Writing it was a six-week whirlwind thrill ride and revising it has been torture. It’s a shamefully indulgent erotic drama that I love to pieces and the idea of people not liking it is paralyzing.

Which particularly sucks because, it’s an indulgent erotic drama, which means most people will not like it. This is a quality of niche genres.

Draft 3 is due by Halloween. It’s only 50,000 words, so that shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Right?

Rose City Comics Haul Reviews: Sexy Monsters and Heart-Melting Ghosts

Comic Thoughts

“Coming up Sunday” lol, I am still extremely optimistic, aren’t I?

My only excuse is, I have a ~new boyfriend~, and I’m extremely wrapped up in that whole thing at the mo. He’s as bisexual as I am and it’s delightful. Side note, I had no idea that it mattered, but it really, really does? So, sorry to all of you for allowing my already-terrible scheduling skills to be wrecked. I’m getting better?

That said, I do have some things to say about my Small But Satisfying Rose City Comic Con (mostly) Indie Comics Haul, so to kick that off…

smut-peddler-presents-my-monster-boyfriend-pdf-ebook

the sexy monster anthology

Frankly, I was considering buying this months ago, but I was turned off by the title. My Monster Boyfriend just… sounds dumb. I’m sorry.

BOY OH BOY WAS I WRONG.

I felt really uncomfortable buying erotica in public, so I wasn’t intending to buy anything from, you know, The Smut Peddler–it’s not subtle. But um. I got talked into it. I… allowed myself to get talked into it, actually. Because Noora Heikkilä’s got a piece in this. And, frankly? If I’d paid $30* for just that story, I’d have been happy.

But there were more.

As far as Noora Heikkilä goes, I was swimming in tears by the end, as expected. It was so unspeakably beautiful you guys, like, if I die any time soon, bury me with this book. Just this one. Except don’t, because I want to bequeath it to someone. Which would be… pretty awkward, at first, but they’ll get over it once they realize what kind of magic they have in their hands. This is everything I ever I wanted out of erotic monster stories.

And then there was one about liminal space and loneliness and magic and giant lizard boyfriends.

And one about a short-chubby-smiley girl going to her oozing shadow-monster’s home for the first time and everything is bright and crystal and sharp and the monster carries her so she doesn’t hurt herself and it’s so cute and domestic I almost died, and that was before the sexy part started. This is 100% in my top-five list of shadow-monster erotica, and I absolutely read this one as lesbian. Audience interpretation.

For sure, some of the monsters are more humans-with-bonus-features than uncomfortable-feelings-symbolically-embodied, but even if they don’t ping all my T_T MONSTERS T_T feelings, they’re still delightful, and hot enough that I don’t want to talk about it on a blog that my mom reads.

 

51ZkDJKFJEL

the sweet, gently morbid love story

oh

my

god.

As soon as I finished this book, I spent the next ten minutes or so just… hugging it. In my arms. And sighing a little. Any book that makes me feel warm and soft and a little bit teary-eyed, especially if there are dead boys, and they are in love with living boys, and they mask their feelings in friendly teasing about cute girls (without the slimy tang of misogyny), AND there’s just a teeny-tiny bit of extremely engaging plot holding the relationship together, gets a spot on my shelf.

Also, I spilled coffee on it and you 100% cannot tell. I appreciate that in a book.

 

*If $30 makes your eyes pop, check out the digital copy. It’s just as good and half the price.