Thursday, January 22, 2015

Good Fridays: This Is What I Do

Here's one of my rare Friday posts, on a Thursday. I instituted Good Fridays posts to share one or two good things that happened to me during the week. I have a lot of catching up to do. For those who are new to the blog, this is a little 'get to know me' post too. Welcome aboard!

I've been busy - way busy - lately. Twice a month on Thursdays I teach art to a group of homeschooled teens and preteens. I've had some very large groups lately, which is awesome. These classes give me the chance to share a little of what I know with great kids who don't have a formal art class.

piece used in library display
I host the art class at the library where I work. (I'm a library clerk as my dayjob. How awesome is that for an author/illustrator?) This came about because a year or two ago my supervisor asked me if I had any art to show in their monthly display case. Of course I did! The homeschool moms saw the art, and one thing led to another. They asked if I'd be interested in teaching their kids what I know. (I have a BFA in Drawing, and an MFA in Illustration. For specifics, check my About Me page.)

That same display drew the attention of a local college rep looking for an artist to host at the opening of the college's new campus. She asked me and I accepted. The event is quickly approaching, so I'm working to get ready.

Something else I'm getting ready for is to submit a couple pieces to the annual fantasy magazine Spectrum. This is basically a juried art show in printed form. If I 'win' I get in the magazine, get a copy of the magazine, and get exposure to art directors, publishers, video game developers, etc. The deadline is at the end of January. It's tough competition (VERY tough), so I'm not harboring any unrealistic hopes. Just submitting is a big step forward.
Bowie ballpoint pen sketch

I've recently hit a surge of creative momentum in the form of quick celebrity sketches. (Like this one --->) It's jump-started my excitement for drawing all over again, and it gives my new Facebook followers something to look at. (A lot of recent followers are courtesy Jono Lancaster who shared my portrait of him on his page, giving me some really great publicity. That means so much to an illustrator trying to break in.)

So, if you're wondering if I've given up writing, no, I haven't. After several years of pushing the writing, knowing it was my second talent, I finally started pushing my first talent. Things have been moving like a well-oiled penguin ever since. I don't know why I've waited so long to lead with my strongest ability. Pride, stubbornness, fear? Whatever the reason, I'm on track now.

 I'm still pursuing my dream of publishing a YA fantasy series, but I'm going to take my time with it, let it mature. It's a very big project, and a very old dream. I'm going to see it come true, but only after I bring about a dream that's much older.

This is what I do.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My Portrait of Jono Lancaster

If you don't know him, Jono Lancaster is a bit of a celebrity in the UK, and anywhere there are kids he can encourage. This guy's about fitness, occasional modelling, and always a source of inspiration to children, especially those with Treacher Collins Syndrome which he was born with. I hadn't heard of the syndrome until I saw a post from a Facebook friend, prompting me to Google it. That's how I discovered Mr. Lancaster.

Treacher Collins or not, Jono has a great face. That's what I thought when I saw it, and I knew I had to draw it. The more I read about Jono, the more I wanted to draw him. The more I drew him, the more I tried to imbue the drawing with the qualities I'd seen and read about: the strength and positive attitude, the playfulness, and a nobility not everyone has. The resulting piece was a little me and a lot of him, which is how it's supposed to be.

When I had a booth drawing people at the county fair, I got a lot of practice with this. The people who sat for me were ordinary people, outstanding people, people who didn't know how beautiful they really were. They had amazing faces to draw because they relaxed enough to let their personalities shine through. (My post on that is here.) Jono Lancaster is one of these people.

As a portrait artist I'm always looking for faces to draw, and for dynamic, positive spirits behind those faces. The spirit is what gives the face life and personality. It's what I see when I look in the eyes of those I draw, and what I try to capture in my portraits. I don't try for photo-realism. Mine is an idealized realism that turns a person into what I see in them. You recognize them because you see it too.

When I finally posted the portrait I'd drawn of Jono on twitter, I was so nervous. I was afraid he wouldn't like it, afraid he'd be insulted, afraid he wouldn't notice it at all. All those fears were put to rest when he told me he loved it. He loved it so much he reblogged it on twitter, and posted it to his Facebook page. Here's Jono's post:

I'm delighted for so many likes and comments, and especially those that articulate the traits I was trying to capture the most. My favorite has to be "Disney prince". (I've had some Disney and quite a bit of anime influence. ^_~) I'm glad I've been able to give a little something to a man who gives so much to others.

You're welcome to follow me on Facebook and Twitter to see who or what I draw next! (Or you can just go right to my Tumblr.)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Why I Don't Believe in Muses

We are the music-makers
And we are the dreamers of dreams 
- O'Shaughnessy

Do you have a muse? I sometimes say I do. I joke that "my muse must've taken a sick day" or "my muse is beating me about the head with this idea". I don't really believe in muses.

Don't get me wrong. I believe in inspiration and creativity very much. I believe we have high points and low points. Sometimes it needs to be kick-started. Sometimes we're just so overflowing with motivation and inspiration that we get three novels done in the same number of months, and draw a whole new portfolio in five weeks. (Wouldn't that be great?)

No matter the status of our creative productivity, it's us that it comes from. Whether you give yours a personification like a muse, or credit the energies of the universe which happened to be smiling on you today, this thing flows through you. It makes you write, and create worlds no one's ever seen before. It makes you draw images that didn't exist til you put pencil to paper. It's a special taste of the creation of all things. Pretty awesome, right? I think so.

Just to think that we've been chosen and gifted with this ability really blows my mind. If we hone it sharp enough and keep persisting, our work will transport others to better places, better states of mind. In our society, people really need this right now. They need hope and belief and happiness. They need to know there are better things, higher things, things of value beyond the tangible.

Thoughts and feelings can never be taken from you. Stories, scriptures, songs, and poetry can't be erased by force and pressure of men once they've touched your heart. We remember these things, and they keep us going. Creative people help foster them. 

Writers and artists, singers, poets, preachers and teachers - we all get this great opportunity to reach into someone else's heart through their eyes and ears, and profoundly affect their lives. How amazing is that?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

IWSG: The Truth About Myself and Goals

100 HD sketch of what I do instead
I'm back from a very long hiatus and glad to jump into a new year of Insecure Writers Support Group. To tell you a little about myself, I'm an illustrator and YA fantasy writer. I work at a library as my day job, and I game, read fantasy, and watch anime in my spare time. I teach preteens and teens art twice a month too.
For this entry, I'm going to talk about goals - specifically, my goals, and how I do or don't reach them.

Things that work for me: 
  1. Setting deadlines (in three months/a week I will _____.)
  2. Having big goals (writing a novel)
  3. Having smaller, bite-sized goals within the big goals (writing chapters)
  4. Celebrating reaching my goals (sharing my accomplishment with others, gaming)
  5. Switching goals if one doesn't suit my time-frame or interest level.

What doesn't work for me: 
  1. Telling others about my goals until I've started working on them (I thought this would help me keep motivated. It doesn't. It just makes me feel guilty.)
  2. Taking on something I'm really not that passionate about (documenting my happiness for 100 Days)
  3. Setting unrealistic goals (too big, too little time)
  4. Badly-timed goals. (Spring cleaning in the middle of Winter)

Probably my biggest problem of all is thinking I'm passionate about a goal when I really don't care as much about it as I thought (or when I jump on a bandwagon, or follow a friend's suggestion). When this happens, nothing on earth will make me finish something I ultimately think is a waste of time.

For instance, a year or so ago I tried the 100 Happy Days Challenge and gave up less than a month into it. Documenting my happiness didn't bother me as much as the way I chose to do it - to sketch my happy thing instead of photograph it. I discovered I'm not comfortable drawing myself over and over doing various activities. I'm even less comfortable drawing mundane objects like my computer or pie every day for a month. The best thing about the 100 Happy Days challenge was giving it up. But in doing so, a little part of me still felt like a failure.

This brings me to the biggest truth and another goal I'm working on: being gentler on myself when I change my mind about a goal, and give it up or choose to pursue another. I shouldn't feel like a quitter. I should feel wise. I've saved myself time and frustration, and at least I took a chance.

This Winter I do have a few goals I intend to reach and not give up. One is for the month and another is for three months. I'll probably break those down into daily goals so they don't seem so daunting.

Does any of this sound like you too? Let me know in the comments.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

What's Your New Year's Theme?

Last year had drastic ups and downs. There was doubt, death, and damage, but then there was triumph, hope, and rebuilding.

At the end of December, I was sick with a head-cold from Christmas through New Year's Day, forcing me to relax because I didn't feel good enough to get much done. My car had broken down before Christmas, making it so I couldn't go anywhere anyway. I'd already shopped, cooked, and prepped. Thankfully, I'd taken two weeks off work for the holidays. Those two weeks turned out to be just what I needed. Instead of writing, blogging, worrying, and beating myself up over what I wasn't getting done in December, I read good books, played pc games, napped, and laid around watching tv, recuperating. It was glorious.

Even though I was sick, I was able to recharge my creative juices and determination for the New Year. I picked up This Year I Will... by M.J. Ryan and read a little more on it, learning more about myself, and growing even more determined. I gave myself two questions and five exhortations for the year, writing them on my whiteboard calendar:
  • What worked?
  • What do you want?
  • Make time
  • Focus on today
  • Plan a future reward
  • Have a now reward
  • Try anything

Two are directly from the book, two are interpretations of the book's advice, and the last three are my own. "Try anything" is my favorite. It isn't a desperate plea, but a challenge to try different solutions and never shy away from new experiences.

If I could pick a video that captures that message, it'd be Psy's "Right Now".

If I picked a theme for 2015, it would be determination.
Do you have any words of wisdom for the New Year? How about a theme song?

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