State of the Art: ADHD and Productivity

This photo of Tribble very accurately reflects the state of my mind these past couple months: unfocused, poorly balanced, and generally confused. But, unlike my younger self, I’m trying not to beat myself up about it. I’m trying to be more gentle with myself, which is what I should have been doing all along, instead of punishing myself for the way my brain works. For most of my life, I thought I was just lazy, stupid, and incapable – turns out it was just ADHD, and I am none of those things! Huzzah!

I’m still learning how best to work with my ADHD instead of against it, and it’s kinda rough. I have plenty of days when I have work that needs to get done and my brain finds every possible way to get distracted in order to avoid Doing the Thing. I once found myself sorting French grammar flash cards, which hadn’t been touched in YEARS, instead of working on the project I needed to get done! What the heck, brain! So what do I do when my brain is determined to keep me from my work? 

Indulge it. 

Give it a break. Do something entirely different, preferably in a different room to physically separate myself from the task I’m avoiding. If I feel like playing, I’ll play a video game for half an hour. Maybe I’ll read a book or catch up on webcomics. If I’m feeling up for it, I’ll do some chores or go for a walk. When I’ve had some time away from The Thing, I’ll hop back over to it and see if my ability to focus on it has come back. If it has, lovely! If not, that’s okay – do another different thing. I’ll get the work done either way, it’s just a matter of whether I’m doing it excruciatingly slowly and burdened with negative feelings or not. 

All of this to say that sometimes we need a break. And that’s okay. We need to be kind to our brains and to ourselves.

State of the Art: August Wrap-Up

Hey all!

Can you believe August is almost over? I, for one, am not terribly sad – bring on autumn! Bring on winter! I am VERY sick of the heat and humidity of summer in the south. However, I will say that one of the highlights of August has been the Smaugust dragon drawing challenge! It’s so fun to sit down and doodle some dragons! Not that I usually need much of an excuse~

And speaking of drawing challenges… my friend GlitchingIcarus (check out their Tumblr and their Patreon!) and I have put one together for September! We both love selkies, and so we thought a Selkie September drawing challenge was only appropriate!

We’ve designed it to be low-pressure because most daily drawing challenges can get overwhelming if you have a full-time job and other obligations. Even though I’ve been loving Smaugust, I’m still falling behind because I just don’t have as much time to draw for fun. Thus, we’ve created weekly challenges! Two short challenges for both short weeks at the beginning and end of September, and then five challenges for the three full weeks in between. Folks can pick and choose as many or as few as they’d like – we’re just excited to see some lovely selkie art!

I hope you all are doing well – stay safe, and all that!

State of the Art: Practice, Practice!

I bought this book on nib pen skills recently, and I’m really enjoying it so far! It’s got a lot of great exercises, and I’m excited to work through them. It’s pretty fun to go back to the basics, see what skills I already have, and what more I have to learn! I decided to do the first exercise with three different ink tools – two nib pens and one brush pen. 

I started out with the Hiro Leonardt no. 41 nib, which is the one I’m most familiar with. It works well for steady lines, which is great for lettering. However, smooth line weight variation is not one of its greatest skills. I still love it, though!

Next up, I switched to the Leonardt 11EF nib. It’s pretty great! It gives nice, delicate lines when I need it to, and it had good line weight control. I’m really pleased with it! However, I’ve got to figure out some solution for how sharp it is. It tends to scrape the paper and pick up paper fibers, which isn’t great for the nib nor for the paper. I really enjoyed working with this nib overall!

Lastly, I played around with the Kuretake Zig Cartoonist Brush Pen, no. 24. It has SUCH a nice smooth line! I love the synthetic brush hairs as opposed to a felt-tip that goes dull after using it a few times. It is still a brush tip though, so it’s kind of hard for me to control, as you’ll see with the E-P exercises. I’ll get better with practice, though! I really love the look of brush inks, so I’m going to work hard.

I really enjoy working digitally, but I also miss the physicality and process of inking with a pen or brush. I’m still going to work digitally for the most part, but I have plans for other projects that I would like to do traditionally, or a mix of traditional and digital. I’m having a lot of fun exploring these areas of art that I hadn’t worked with for some time! 

Tribble has been very supportive, providing snuggles and screeches in equal measure. He’s such a delightful doofus, and I love him so much!

What do you all do to hone your creative skills? Is there anything you’re working on improving right now? 

State of the Art: Process and Progress

Sometimes I get the urge to try something new, and I’ll dive headfirst into mucking about and letting myself play with the thing. This is essentially what happened with this piece. I had an idea, a sketch, and plans for lighting. Instead of feeling the old anxiety of needing to get it perfect on the first try (despite never having done the thing before), I was excited to just try it out and learn as I went. It was a really nice feeling, and I learned a lot!

This year I have a lot of goals for myself. Probably too many goals, unsurprisingly, but there’s so much I want to try! Animation, embroidery, different watercolor techniques, color theory, website design – it’s all fascinating and fun! I’m going to do my best to take these things in stages, like this piece. Map it out, fill in blocks bit by bit, mess up and fix things, then pull it all together. I’ll probably still have anxious days where I beat myself up for not getting something perfect the first time, but if I keep focusing on the mindset of progress over perfection, those days will gradually happen less and less. 

I hope you’re being kind to yourselves, friends. What helps you when you’re feeling insecure about your process? What new things have been bringing you joy lately?

State of the Art: The Epiglottis Effect

Hey folks!

I’ve mentioned this project before in the past year (check it out!), and I’m really excited about how it’s coming along. I did this sketch for a cover concept during this past week’s stream, and the author, Tori Tucker, joined in to chat and watch the process! It was really fun having her there, and I’m glad I was able to show the person who hired me how I work. 

For the time being, I’m just doing four hours of work each month, so the pages are coming along slower than I’d like. At first I blamed myself, but then when I found out it takes industry professionals like ten to twelve hours to complete a single page (pencils, lettering, and inks – and that’s before sending them to the colorist) it made me feel better. I’m still relatively new at this, so I have to practice being patient with myself and my growth trajectory. 

It’s so interesting, being a collaborator on someone else’s passion project. I’ve enjoyed getting to experience a way of telling stories that is different from my own. I’m also excited to have this opportunity to experience making a book pitch and sending it in to publishers! It might not get picked up, but that would make for an excellent opportunity to try crowdfunding and to see what that’s like. 

Just a head’s up, I won’t be streaming this coming Monday, the 10th, because I’ll be visiting New Hampshire for the week! If you’d like some other art streams to watch, I have a few to recommend!

  • LenaTheOddity: Wonderful character art, great tunes, and just a wee bit of debauchery, as a treat! Lena’s streams are always fun and uplifting, and I always marvel at her excellent lineart and fantastic colors. Hop in for some gentle chaos and occasional stories about sheep!
  • ERoivas: Games and photography! He’s been playing through the original Resident Evil games on Mondays and Fridays, which has been super fun! Tuesdays he works on photography, mostly of studio models and graveyards. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another person as knowledgeable about the craft and history of photography as this gentleman.
  • FancySchmancy: Recently he’s been working on animation! If you’re in the mood for dry humor and sarcasm along with insightful conversation and fantastic art, check his out his channel!
  • LizzieByDesign: An absolute cinnamon roll of a human who makes incredibly cute, playful illustrations! Lizzie has worked on published picture books and continues to create wonderful art that you can’t help but smile at. If you’re in need of some wholesome content, definitely visit her streams!
  • j_renzella: A woodcut artist located in Taiwan! His streams run quite late for folks on the East coast, but they’re always a delight to see. Sometimes he’ll be working on woodcuts for illustrations and sometimes he’ll be working on woodcuts that are pages for a graphic novel he’s working on! It’s a fascinating process to watch, and I highly recommend it if you’re able to stay up a bit late.

Take care, all!

State of the Art: Loose Ends

Happy Sunday, all!

I’ve been going through my folders and my piles of sketchbooks, looking for old, unfinished projects. Unsurprisingly, there’s a LOT. Thanks, ADHD! One of the many unfinished projects was this little zine I had started ages ago, based on a journal entry I had written. I had a lot of fun designing each page, painting tiny food, measuring out the little holes for the binding, and anticipating holding the finished product in my hands. 

I then put it on a stack of papers that shifted from desk to bed to chair to other desk to bookshelf time and time again. 

The primary thing that had halted my work on it was something rather boring and mundane: inking the lettering. It’s such a simple task, and yet for some reason it stopped this project in its tracks for months. When I finally sat down and decided to finish it, the inking really didn’t take that long. Figuring out the binding took less than an hour. All this makes me wonder why I take so long to finish these projects. It’s like my brain builds these things up to be monumental tasks that will take ages, and so I put them off in favor of shorter, more immediately-satisfying tasks. 

What I’ve learned from this experience is that when I recognize that I’m putting something off, I  need to examine why I’m doing that. Is it as difficult a task as I perceive it to be? What steps need to be taken to finish it? How can I break those steps down into smaller, more manageable steps? Hopefully once I figure that out, my unfinished projects piles will get smaller and smaller and my portfolio will continue to grow. 

Thanks for reading!

Journal Comic: Snazzy Specs

Glitter works wonders for some folks – I’m just not one of them! 

I’m still working to figure out what sort of format works best for my journal comics, as well as what art style I want to go with. I need something that’s simple and quick, otherwise I end up spending way too much time perfecting and tweaking. When I get too precious with my journal comics, I lose momentum and I never finish them. Heck, I have one in my sketchbook that’s two pages long, and I haven’t even started the pencils for the second page. I wrote out a script, did a bit of research, thumbnailed out the panels, got the first page penciled and inked, aaand the second page has sat with blank panels for a good month now.

If making comics were my full-time job, I’d have no problem spending four or five hours on a journal comic each week. However, I’ve got three other comics projects going on, one of which I’m actually getting paid for (woo!), so I gotta spend most of my limited time focusing on them instead. I’m going to keep playing around until I find a satisfying balance between visually appealing and relatively quick to draw. Thanks for your patience, folks!

State of the Art: Narrowing My Focus

Good afternoon, all!

This past January, I thought a lot about my goals as an artist. And then I got swept up in everyday things, and promptly forgot about them. February seemed to come out of nowhere, and I was hit with the realization that I had no idea what my plan was for this year. I didn’t have an order in which to delegate my tasks, I didn’t know what my next steps with my projects were, and I didn’t have any solid due dates for anything. If I continued in this manner, I knew the year would eventually come to a close and I would have relatively nothing accomplished. 

So, I sat down with a blank sheet of paper and my planner, and created an itemized list of things I wanted to accomplish and planned out what I would tackle each month! Comics progress, illustration challenges, holiday art, merchandise, Twitch stream events, commissions – so many exciting things! 

And then I realized that was insane and I would not realistically have the time nor energy to tackle all that. I made myself a cup of tea and settled into the comfy chair in the living room to think.

Last year was hard. I felt drained and sad and frustrated, and one of the only things that kept me making art was connecting with you lovely folks on Patreon and with my Monday night art stream folks. I indulged in fan art and sickeningly adorable illustrations, trying so hard to find the fun in making art again. And…for the most part, it worked. I was drawing and painting more, and I ended the year with a reasonably-sized body of work. 

What did I want to focus on this year? If last year was about finding the joy in art-making and keeping up my motivation to create, then this year should build on that foundation. As I finished my tea, I decided I wanted to hone my existing art skills and work on acquiring new ones. I wanted to be more intentional with making comics and build up a good portfolio. I made another cup of tea and got a new sheet of paper.

This year, I plan to:

  • Finish the pitch for The Epiglottis Effect and send it out to publishers
  • Revise and complete Late Spring Daffodils, and begin publishing it online as a webcomic
  • Consistently make and post journal comics
  • Make more zines
  • Submit to at least two comics anthologies
  • Work on existing skills, such as anatomy, gesture, character design, expression, watercolors, and inking
  • Develop skills in color, lighting, lettering, backgrounds and interiors, composition, and page layouts

I have to admit, I’m pretty excited! I feel like I have some of my energy back, and I want to see what I can accomplish when I set my goals clearly like this. I’m a bit sad that I can’t balance these goals with all the other things I wanted to do, but ultimately I think it will be better for me in the long-run. I can only do so much with the time and energy I have left over from my full-time job and from life in general, and I need to be mindful of that. I don’t want to burn out – I have too many stories I want to tell. 

Hope you all are doing well! Stay safe, wear a mask, be gentle with yourselves.

State of the Art: November 2020

Gosh, October just FLEW by! I’m actually quite sad that it’s over – I feel like there’s this electric, excitable energy that comes with the spooky month. Whether folks are eagerly awaiting Halloween, breaking out all the sweaters, or pumping pumpkin spice lattes into their veins, it’s a lovely time of year.

For me, October was particularly special because the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE) decided to host their annual convention online this year. They livestreamed panels and workshops each Saturday and Sunday during October, as well as a few here and there throughout the week. It was so delightful! I was really bummed about missing out on MICE this year, first because of the move to Georgia, and second because of COVID-19. Thankfully, the dedicated crew of MICE put forth a huge effort to bring the spirit of the convention to everyone across the internet! I learned a lot and had tons of fun along the way. For those who are interested, MICE did record all of their livestreams, and you can watch the recordings here: 

I feel like October was not only fun, but it was productive as well. I got a lot done! I worked on layout and design work for Late Spring Daffodils, as well as a couple pages, warm-up drawing practices, and even some journal comics. I think having Aiden and a couple other folks be my accountability buddies was really helpful, and I intend on continuing with that into November. I do anticipate November being a bit of a downer compared to October because it’s a bit of a nothing month for me, so I’m going to have to be extra diligent with how I use my time. No matter how much I might want to, I can’t let myself sink an entire evening into playing Stardew Valley!

I hope October has treated you well, folks, and I hope November is just as kind to us all. Wishing you well!

State of the Art: October 2020

This past month has been both a blur and also an eternity. I have doubts whether September happened at all. We all joke about time having no meaning, but it’s kinda scary when that feeling starts to take root. I’ve been falling behind on certain deadlines, both for things that are important to me and for things I’m actually getting paid for. I’m not getting good sleep. I’m not getting the fresh air that I need. 

So this past weekend, I took on the task of coming up with a loose routine for myself. I’m quite certain I have ADHD, and I keep reading that folks with ADHD benefit greatly from established routines, so this needed doing. I took some time to think about my goals and priorities, and the two most important projects for me right now are the paid comic work I’m doing and my personal Late Spring Daffodils comic project. I’m also doing a small October drawing challenge called Midnightober, but I really want that to be for fun and not something that causes stress. I determined a bunch of little habits I want to get better at, like taking my meds on time each day, going out for a walk most days, and texting friends just to say hi. 

Once I got these goals in these three areas of my life set, I brought it to Aiden and we discussed the different ways we both would like to be held accountable; me with my art and personal goals, him with his graduate school goals. I have discovered that having an accountability partner is very important to my success with these things. I can’t just will myself into getting things done – I need someone who will give me gentle reminders, check in with me, and offer their two cents if something isn’t working for me. I’m very lucky to have someone like Aiden to help me out, and I also want to help him out as best as I can in return.

There’s a small part of me that has reservations about whether or not this will be a successful endeavor. I’ve tried lots of different time management and task organization methods in the past, and they all eventually fell to the wayside. I think the biggest difference is I now have an accountability buddy, and I’m in a much better state of mental health than I was ten years, five years, even one year ago. I’m looking forward to settling into a kind of rhythm, even if it takes some stumbling and tweaking to get it just right.