Jan 082018

You know what’s up.

This was an image I had in my head when falling asleep on Friday night and recalled on Saturday morning. This sketch doesn’t fully capture the feel, but it is enough for me to remember. I have a number of “light through trees” painting ideas. Don’t know if I’ll ever get to them or if they’ll just litter my sketchbooks forever.

These sorta-roses were the product of the January ArtSnacks box. The slightly-orangey red is from a Posca paint marker. I’d heard of them, but never had one to try for myself. They are advertised to not bleed through paper, which is a tall claim, but they seem to live up to it. The green and now-gray are Marabu Aqua paint pens, which are water soluble. That aqua color was pressed into service as stem and leaves, while the black one I diluted and used as a gray background. The Tombow Fude pen gives the final black lines. They also had a Sumo grip mechanical pencil, which was just a fat pencil, but it did have an exposed eraser – mech pencils usually have covered erasers which means I use my separate eraser instead of uncapping the things. This was exposed, so I used it. That was nice.

This was my first sketch of the new year and I didn’t really know what to draw, so I wrote out some little tidbits from the day. You can see that I’ve started keeping notes of what I’ve used on the pages, as it relates to the sketchbooks they’re in because I’m testing about a dozen sketchbooks this year – but we can talk about that later.

Last public sketch of 2017. Doodles over a short lunch.

Drawn on the sofa when assaulted by the aggressive smell that happens when our littlest cat, Moxie, drops her evil turds in the litterbox. Even she knows they are extra stinky; she tries for much longer than any other cats to cover up that smell. I drew this to suffer through the minute it takes for the wall of stink to pass by.

Another sofa sketch. A friend got us tickets to the latest Star Wars movie for the evening before the Solstice Party. We’d been planning to wait a while to see it, but you can’t turn down tickets someone got for you! And, in the nice, new, reclining seats and super-sound-BrandNameAudioBS-stuff theater, too. Despite having lots to do, I was excited to take time out for a movie, a night out with friends, and was considering wearing my ridiculously shiny dress to the movie. Thinking about how cold I get in those recliners for the length of a movie, I wore normal clothes instead. And after weeks of suffering through broken, mangled, snapped, and bent fingernails, I purchased some acrylic fake nails to protect my fingertips for a while. My nails are always incredibly short, but the busier I get the harder I am on them and I was to the point of superglue patching then. I didn’t wear the pretty nails for either event, and a later test shows that I can only make it to day two before I do something that pops off one or more of them. Oh well. I can save the pretty nails for some special occasion that lasts for less than a day.

Work-annoyance-venting sketches seem like they should have a special category, but they don’t. I painted this after trying to work through (and past) a coworker to get stuff done. I felt better afterwards, anyway.

There. Now we’re all caught up on the sketches I’m up for sharing. On to more catching up next. Like an information exposure debt.

Jan 022018

The new year holiday time is when I like to reflect, trying to notice how things went, to conclude what worked and what didn’t, and to contemplate what I’d like to do better in the coming calender year. When I did this last year, I was happy with my goal accomplishments, changes I’d made, and the general direction everything was moving. So, for the first time in almost a decade, I made no goals at all. I figured if I could keep doing the things I was already doing, I’d be okay, to self-improve without a plan. Generally, it went okay, but I’ve found I prefer to have a plan. Admittedly, I seldom stick to my plan strictly, but I like having it anyway. This means I’m going to have to make one for 2018, which also means I’m going to have to do this reflection thing quickly here. My recent crazy workload has taken a lot of my brain cycle time (I’m not complaining; it is uncommon for work projects to be so interesting AND involving) and the majority of my evenings have been spent essentially checked-out on the sofa, catching up on television and movies, along with many hours of video games. Thus, perhaps if I write out my thoughts here, I’ll make some headway that I can come back to after interruptions. Maybe a semi-public blog isn’t the best place for it, but the crowd here is quite small and I’ve always maintained that the most important audience for a personal blog is the person it belongs to, me. Plus, I can always take this offline if I need to.

Let’s navel gave!!
Okay, that got heavy the more I typed and none of it is sharable, with the public, or really even with my closest. I hold some unpopular views, I think. Instead, let’s fast forward to the “what have I learned” and “WTF I’m going to do about it” section.

What have I learned?

Most of the things that bug me are inherently related to people and these are things I cannot change. If you are disappointed, change your expectations. Hope is a fucking unicorn.
In 2017, I made the effort to give up on things that I felt were not beneficial to me. This was a challenge, since some of these things were ingrained through my whole life by well-meaning idiots. The road to hell and all. For the most part, this was good. I will continue to not invest my precious resources (mostly my time; I am still mortal, dammit!) in things that don’t return some benefit to me. I’m being vague, yes, but this is the summary of the item.
Thus, lower my expectations. Don’t care so much.

Finally, thanks to modern technology, I’ve found a way to eat healthier, easier, faster, and with my nutritional needs taken care of. Phew. That only took my whole life to date. This means my morning routine and lunch needs are fewer and I can focus on other, less easy things. Good. Also, lost a lot of weight this year, so that is great – except for having to buy new clothes. That part is irritating.

On the downside, I failed to prioritize some things like exercise, hikes, bike rides, long walks, and meditation. 2017 had a lot fewer/less of all of that. I kept meaning to do them, but I didn’t stress about it and ended up not doing it. I miss these things, in hindsight. They help my mood and I like being happy.

As a note, one of the goals I kept for 2017 was to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. I failed, a lot. I did get better, but I must get better still.

Speaking of happy, I did prioritize my happiness this year. The aforementioned cutting out of dubious things helped, but I made a point to try to sleep in sometimes, have that extravagant dessert, watch the movies I wanted, and sometimes simply sit on the sofa and draw things when I wasn’t up for other stuff. This was all pleasant, but not a huge deal. The little things like that don’t seem have a big impact. I will take small impacts, though, and appreciate them for what they are.

Too many inspiration fueled projects! In 2017 I allowed myself to go ahead and start new projects when ideas or general inspiration struck. This is something I tried to keep a lid on in the past and this year I tossed the lid out. Mistake. It might sound contrary, but riding that fresh wave of energy from a vision straight into a project is seldom a good idea. The only two of those that turned out well were these:
fabric shag zip pouch
And maybe that space dress I made and wore at the Solstice Party. Maybe. The rest are still incomplete, for various reasons. I estimate 10-12 UFOs from this year alone, on top of the UFOs that naturally and slowly accumulate over the years. I have more ideas and inspiration than I have time. This is somewhat a side effect of not using a plan or goals this year. More creative projects actually got done when I had a layout/plan/goals/obsessive spreadsheet system than when I did not – even when I swapped out most of my planned goals for other ones.

Too much stuff. I’m faced with the reality (as many others are, too) that I have too much stuff cluttering up my spaces. Some won’t change – I do want all the pen sizes at my fingertips and I do want a wall full of fabric choices. Some should – like books I’ll not read again, toys (but my dinosaur collection is JUST FINE!!), a fuckload of board and card games, and some digital files. I’m sure there are more crap subjects that could do with examination, but I try to set realistic goals, so this is enough for 2018 to deal with.

Okay. That is a good amount of reflection summary. Now, to action!

WTF am I going to do about it in 2018?

The basic goal list for 2018.

1. Lower my expectations for the good of my own happiness. And let shit go.
People will often disappoint you and sometimes you’re the one disappointing them. The only person responsible for your happiness is you, so you have to deal with it. As well, I almost always want to make things better, in all aspects of my life. When something bugs me, I tend to examine it and pick at it until I find a way to improve it, improve my view of it, or get over it and admit it is hopeless shit. If I could find a way to the “get over it” phase faster, that would be good.

2. Continue to eat healthy.
My system works, so I’m going to stick to it. If the cost is that I must buy some new jeans every 20 or so pounds, then so be it.

3. Exercise, long walks, hikes, bike rides, meditation, and (new to this idea), yoga.
These are all self-explanatory.

Get 8 hours of sleep a night, as often as I possibly can! I know it seems like this should fit in the above #3 goal, but it is important enough to have its own break out here.

5. All projects must be on the master spreadsheet and have a plan!
No more spur of the moment stuff, no more last-minute, weekend projects. It didn’t work out and I know why and what to do better.

6. Acquire less stuff, get rid of stuff.
I’ve already started this on my holiday weekend. Three bags of trash and a pile of magazines met the trashcan. I’ve just cancelled one of my art supply subscription boxes (I had three (crazy, I know!) and now have only two) and am making a soft-goal to not buy ANY art supplies this year. With so many UFOs and a well-stocked workshop, AND two monthly blips of a handful of new supplies, I should be okay. Thread is an exception to this because of its aging issues, and I do have a gift card with some balance remaining for necessities. We’ll see how long I can go on this one. Also, if I sell something in my Etsy shop, I am completely allowed to use that profit for anything I want.
Besides the creative supplies, I will continue to open old boxes, toss stuff out, and be generally more ruthless in the assessment of items I keep.

7. Be nice to myself.
I push myself a lot, because I like doing things, accomplishments, learning, experiments, creations. I dislike sitting around, ingesting mindlessly, wasting my precious life. Sometimes I need to stop and remember that I should only do as much as I want, as much as is beneficial for me. My drive is MY drive and should benefit ME. Just, chill the fuck out every once and awhile.

That is a fine list. Hello 2018! Let’s do it! If anyone is still reading, what are you aiming for or against in 2018?

Dec 312017

My annual EoY Mosaic. Each small picture links to a slighter larger picture. Open in a new tab to save on loading time.

Good luck to all. We are condemned to freedom in our self-awareness and in my heart I know we cannot be defeated.

Dec 292017

Moxie and Slick
Slick and I have slightly differing schedules. By the time he gets up, I’m deleting emails at work. On weekends, he sleeps in. This means that while the cats have been fed and I’m in the workshop on my second coffee, he is still abed. This drive Moxie NUTS! Slick is Moxie’s favorite human, in large part because Slick puts up with her fussy bullshit. On a weekend late morning, I often get a workshop visit from Moxie, which is otherwise unusual. Her pitiful mews (pronounced “ow” – no “me” to it) lead me upstairs to open the bedroom door. This time I took a pic of her joy at being reunited with Slick. She pushed herself under the covers and began grooming his beard while he was still asleep. Between her sharp tongue and terrible breath, Slick was awake quickly. Poor guy; he could barely contain his grimace for the photo I insisted he be still for.

Dec 222017

The Captain and Friday
When I am in the workshop, Friday is my usual companion cat. She demands a big love fit at first, but if she gets that she is willing to peacefully sit in my second chair. I have a cat copilot. If The Captain gets to the spot first, Friday will depart in a huff. Friday says I should have no other cats before her. If Friday is in the chair first, The Captain will carefully squeeze in next to her and snuggle. Thus, half the time I have two, snuggly, cat copilots. It is really nice.

Dec 182017

I feel so much better now. The Solstice Party is done, and I think it went well. The invitations did arrive to people’s homes before the party. The house is almost completely restored to its pre-party state and I have no unfulfilled deadlines left for this year!
Me, being silly. I am often silly. It is always a party in my head.
I feel so much better now. I’ll probably say that again, still. Like when you get sick and have a fresh appreciation for how healthy you are all the other times. That is how I feel about my time and obligations now. The existential, self-absorbed naval-gazing is calming down, slowly. And I feel the desire to get into the workshop for some sewing tonight. We’ll see if that holds up.

A red stove by Yurie Nakagawa.
Photo by yurie_nakagawa on Instagram. I just love it. I didn’t ask permission to use this photo because I cannot understand the kanji. So, if I get an angry message with kanji in it (how will I know? I’m assuming there will be many exclamation marks. I realize my logic may be faulty in that. Like, what if the writer is simply very enthusiastic about life and everything and I misunderstand and take down the photo she was excited about. Man, am I an asshole for this? Probably just overthinking it. Also, not editing. Fuck it. I’m leaving this up and the photo, too. Not like this is a well-trafficked place on the internet; it will be fine.) I’ll just pull it down.

Anyway, that stove summarizes how I’m feeling, right now this morning, anyway. Slick and I spent almost the entire day Sunday on the sofa, luxuriating in doing nothing. It was cold outside, he made pancakes and we watched a handful of movies while the wind whipped at our windows. Inside, there were snuggly cats, fuzzy blankets, and general relaxed happiness. It helps that I have a rare, quiet day at work today before the madness starts again – I think that is giving me somewhat rose-colored glasses now. More than that, this is a feeling that only happens at the end of the year, after the Solstice Party and before the calendar flip, before the End of Year Mosaic, before the new year files. Quite particular this one, even leaning towards temporary happy today, the way it is.
I’ll take it. That works. Hope you’re having a good, winter Monday, too.

Dec 052017

The winter Solstice Party for 2017 will be held on Saturday, 16 December starting at 1800 – which is 6pm for you folks really bad at simple math. The invitations are already late, so consider this your notification. If you’ve been invited before, consider yourself invited again.

At the rate things are going, the invitations will arrive in the mail a day or two before the party. If anything goes wrong at this point, I’ll either hand them out at the party (for those who give a shit) or mail them belatedly, like greeting cards. I am currently fighting against being overwhelmed, and this is how it is going to be.

Nov 202017

Lunch hour painting
Felt like I needed a pick-me-up on Monday, but settled for painting such instead. The cat’s expression is one I’m working on.

Lunch hour painting
I had no inspiration this day, so I swiped some paint across a page, then made animals from the blobs. I don’t know what creature that big-fisted pink thing is. I also don’t know what the animals might be protesting or supporting. I painted, that’s enough.

Lunch hour painting
Numbats eat termites and they are adorable – what more could you want. Unfortunately, this South Australian animal is endangered, too.

Lunch hour painting
Know that Tom Petty song, Wildflowers? The lyrics go, “You belong among the wildflowers ..” and so on. I had a note in my inspiration folder to finish it as “six feet under them” and finally got the spark to do it. Although the small size makes it more like “at least three feet under them.” Love this one.

Nov 162017

Sometimes the best way to deal with being creatively sluggish and behind on your schedule is to say FUCK IT!!! and play Minecraft until your feet get cold. Repeat as needed.

Nov 152017

It is the middle of November?! And the Solstice Party is in the middle of December?! I should have the handmade invitations in the mail this week?! I haven’t even started the sketch for carving! I need a day off, or three, to catch up.

Nov 132017

Three this week! Woot!
Lunch hour painting, coals from Baba Yaga.
Most people who know stories of Baba Yaga first envision the chicken legged house, or the witch herself, but the part of the most familiar story that sticks with me is the coals. It was the goal of her quest, the coals were well-earned, and they are hastily given at the end in a skull. That part lives in my head. Magical, red and gray coals being tossed into a human skull for carrying. It always seemed the bone wouldn’t be enough insulation for carrying. I always imagine Vasalisa picking up the first sturdy branch she found that had forks to wedge the skull into during her travels home. Last year when Slick and I were clearing branches from our yard, I found a really good one. I even tried it on against my head to be sure, and it was a good fit for a human skull. I idly wanted to toss some red LED battery lights in an appropriate Halloween skull and make my Vasalisa’s torch. Fortunately for my project list, I didn’t keep track of the branch – although it is probably still out there.
In one of the subscription art supply boxes I receive, there was a skinny landscape format watercolor sketchbook. (Just a link if you’re interested, no affiliate or any strings at all.) I’d seen it before but not purchased because I don’t do city or land scapes and I was unsure I’d find uses for it specifically. Between this sketchbook and a sample sheet of some truly luscious Daniel Smith Watercolors, I was carried gently on a wave of painting thoughts back to the lunchtime paintings. The long paper called out for this torch rendition, although I didn’t use the WC samples on this.

Lunch hour painting, taxidermy fox.
In one of my dreams, Slick and I attended a sort of estate sale, but it was for an institute or club of some kind. There were art books, pieces of furniture, a variety of things. I went out some dark, double doors onto a small courtyard fenced with black wrought iron. The sidewalk was damp with rain and the tree leaves sparkled as their wet surfaces caught sunlight. In the shadow of a branch, I saw what at first appeared to be a fox. As I got closer, I saw it wasn’t really a fox. The fur was flat and the snout had an oddly long shape to it. It was a taxidermied fox, and it appeared unnatural enough for me to remember later.

Lunch hour painting, a silly fucking cat on the internet.
We wound down an evening looking at funny cat clips online and this one stuck with me. The angle of his eyes and that single tooth sticking out won me over. Had to snap a screenshot and paint this silly cat. It was fun. I like combining a couple layers of pen linework and watercolor. The look of it pleases me.

Now to see if this week is equally productive.

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