Drawing Thursdays #5

This is a picture of Laurie Kilmartin in the Green Room holding a doll I made as a raffle prize when she headlined my Friend Zone show. I love this picture. Turns out, nobody won the doll. We had several prizes and when no one chose the doll, Laurie was like, “Oh for God’s sake!” and she went up to the stage and made Robin give her the doll.

So, as far as I know, she still has it. Or maybe she threw it away as soon as she left. Who knows? Anyway, she’s the headliner for the Main Room this weekend so I got to see her yesterday. She has a new book coming out on Tuesday called “Dead People Suck” so I’m SUPER excited to read it. I challenge you to find a cooler person.  She’s so completely awesome.


Drawing Thursdays #4

I spend part of my weekend creating art galleries for my website. Eventually, I want this website to be a portfolio of my drawing and writing, and maybe even my crafting. I’ve created a LOT of stuff. I have definitely drawn more than I’ve written, but I have some good stuff that I can share. I’m nervous about putting this stuff out there, but it’s not like I can’t create more, right?

I think that this is a good analogy for how I walk through the world. After my mom died, I realized that I had spent so much of my life closed up, keeping all of the good stuff in, worried that that tiny spark of innocence and goodness in me would be tainted or even snuffed out if I shared it with the wrong person.

I also realized that in keeping it protected, trying to seem tougher than I was, trying to act like there was nothing good in me — first of all, didn’t fool anyone. But more importantly, if I didn’t show my kindness and empathy to the people I knew, what set me apart from actually unkind and unempathetic people?

Yes, intention is important. I often think that it’s the only thing in this world that we actually own. But action is important, too. And if I acted like an uncaring asshole, then I was one, at least to the people I acted like that toward. So, I decided to open up, to let people see my goodness. It’s still a struggle, but I’d say that I’ve gotten better at being more open and genuine with people over the past seven years.

I think that, too, I had to realize that acting like a good person wasn’t actually an act. I never wanted to trick anyone into thinking that I am better than I am. I am not anywhere close to a perfect person, and in terms of bad and good, I think I’m about 10% awful, 10% amazing, and 80% something in between. Just like everyone else in the world. (Except for Joel. He’s just a straight-up piece of shit.)

Drawing Thursdays #3

In another installment of Don’t-Ask-Me-to-Art-for-You-Because-I-Am-A-Garbage-Person, in 2006 (yeah, 12 years ago), I promised to make a set of 12 cartoon dolls for a friend of mine. So far, I’ve made 8. Here’s the latest one:

I’m honestly not sure WHY this is taking me for so long, or why I haven’t just admitted that I’m never going to finish them, but to be fair, the longer it takes me to do them, the cuter they get. This is the first one that I made in 2006:

Okay, they’re pretty much equally cute. I am almost done with the next one, I just have to get the hat right. Here’s what I have so far:

You’ve probably noticed some similarities. So, if you’re not familiar with cartoon dolling, basically, it’s like paper dolls except that it’s digital and you create the hairstyles and clothes yourself. You can also adjust the makeup, expressions, etc. The purpose of this was initially to use as avatars in a chat program called the Palace and also on message boards.

For a while, there were message boards dedicating to “dolling” where you could “sell” your dolls for message board currency, using the currency to purchase dolls from other artists. I think I started doing this around 2003? I’m still friends with some of my old dolling friends, including Jodi, who won these dolls as a prize from an anniversary celebration of my website.

For a while, I sold cartoon dolls for actual money through Paypal, but I was never super comfortable with doing commissions. I have a lot of anxiety about meeting expectations and deadlines (obviously). I also had a “members-only” section of my website, where people could pay for access to exclusive doll bases and other graphic things that I had already made. Selling pixel art was a great way to ruin something that had at one point been fun and relaxing.

So, if you know me, you know that I was agoraphobic from 1996 to 2006, and during that time, I learned how to draw, I watched a lot of Oprah, and I slept a lot. After about a decade of that, I decided that if 10 years wasn’t enough time for me to feel ready to go out in the world, I may have to go out into the world, unready. So I went out and got a job. It was full-time, so that cut my pixelling time down a lot, and my website went by the wayside. I kept it online, but I didn’t update it, for years…

I felt really guilty for not keeping up with the website, which further curbed my desire to do pixel art, and that feeling taints the experience of pixelling, still. But I do love doing it, so I don’t know. Maybe I can work through that guilt at some point. Most of the people who paid for memberships aren’t even around anymore, at least not in terms of making pixel art, so I don’t know how to make it up to them.

I’ve never really stopped pixelling, but there are large gaps of time in between spurts. Here’s something I made a few years ago:

She’s a version of the original Palace Diva. I modified the base — the original ones were very cute, but crudely drawn. This is what the original base looked like:

If you want another blast from the past (and why wouldn’t you?), here is one of my first dolls on my first ever base. A few years ago, I modified the base and made a new doll. I think there are some improvements, although I’m always learning. I think I’ve already modified her face again since then:

Her shirt wrinkles look weird and her bangs are super stiff and too short to go with that long and thick of a braid. And I was too lazy to draw shoes — but her feet are so cute! But at least she doesn’t have weird, glowy green eyes and the shading is more deliberate than the first doll.

The interesting thing about this base is that it was originally a template that I used for fashion designs. I have a ton of real-life paper and pencil sketches drawn on this template, but I never liked using this base. I think these are the only two dolls I’ve ever made on it.

Wow, that got off topic. Garbage person! Right! Even though Jodi has probably lost all desire to receive a set of dolls from me at this point, I’m still going to finish them! Someday!

Drawing Thursdays #2

So, I’m a garbage person, and that is why you should never ask me to draw anything for you, ever.

My friend’s mom wrote a book and wanted me to draw her a cover. She had an old trophy of her mom’s that she won swimming. She also wanted some of her tchotchkes incorporated into the picture, along with a cabin that she owns in Maine. The book is called Diving Home by Catee Ryan. If you click on the link, you’ll see that the cover is not the one I drew below because Catee unreasonably wanted her cover art done, like, sometime last year. So here, it is 2018 and I finally finished it! Yay!

I mean, it came out pretty cool, only 8 months later than Catee needed it. Catee let me take some pictures with my phone of her tchotchkes and of the trophy, and she gave some a photo album with her cabin, so I used all of those as references for the drawing. In real life, the cabin is a reasonable distance from the water, not hovering over it, and of course, the railing doesn’t open in front of the doorway like that.

Anyway, I loved the tchotchkes and had a lot of fun drawing those. I took pictures of a lot more than two, but I chose the gnome because I love gnomes. I especially love that he’s reading a book. He was fairly simple, I basically just traced over the photo I took and resized him for the finished drawing. The otter (seal?) was actually a pain in the ass. The photo I took of him came out blurry and he doesn’t have a ton of detail to begin with, so he started out just looking like a blobby blur. I almost gave up on him but ended up Googling seals and otters (I still don’t know the difference) and ended up with something pretty cute.

The statue was my favorite. The look of determination on her face is awesome, especially considering the mold she was made from was probably done in the 40s when women weren’t taken particularly seriously. I also like that the artist didn’t sexualize her. I Googled 40s swimming statues and couldn’t find the exact one that Catee has, but I found a male version that is nearly identical.  I’m assuming it was the same artist who made a male and a female. I imagine that is why she isn’t posed like a pinup, and I’m okay with that.

Here’s a photo of Catee’s statue: 

She’s beautiful, isn’t she? I took photos from every possible angle, including the back, trying to figure out which angle I should draw from, but I loved her face so much that I ended up going with this one. I mostly traced her. Translating bronze into black and white lineart isn’t the easiest, but fortunately, I’ve been drawing chicks since I was a teenager, so I mostly used the photo for perspective because I could not figure it out by trying to copy the photo with a pen.

I’m not a trained artist, I took Art History in high school and a design class and one Drawing class in college, so I’m not great with perspective and whatnot. One thing I do remember David Attyah (great artist, teacher, human) saying was that you don’t have to have the thing you’re drawing be in the center of the picture, so I put the girl in the top right corner.

The door was super important to Catee, too, because she painted it those colors when they bought the cabin. I don’t know a ton about art, but I made sure that all of the straight lines helped frame the girl, and the splash of color draws attention to the figure. I also like that the lines of the house are a harsh but perfect contrast to the organic elements. That, honestly, is due more to my laziness than anything, but I think it works, and that’s all that matters.

I actually had the top part of the picture done about a month after Catee asked for it but got stuck on the bottom. For a while, I tried to have the house hovering over waterfalls, but I couldn’t get it to look right. Since I knew that Catee had already chosen another artist and another cover, I wasn’t in a hurry, and I let it go, but a few days ago, I opened up the picture again, gave up on the waterfalls, and went with a less grandiose water feature.

It’s not perfect, but I like it. It’s definitely the most complex thing I’ve drawn lately. I don’t generally even deal with backgrounds because I don’t have as much interest in them. I did use Photoshop brushes by redheadstock for the water and plants, which is how I got that part done in an afternoon instead of several more years. Because the composition was black-and-white, I used the pencil option and it took very little experimentation before I had a result I was pleased with.

Drawing Thursdays #1

Yeah, I really need a better title for Thursdays. Drawing! I draw! A comedian friend of mine works at FIDM and I was telling her that I started out drawing fashion designs, and that I actually applied for a scholarship to FIDM. When I went back to school in 2008, I had three possible majors; English/Writing, Drawing, or Fashion Design. Glendale Community College offered zero Fashion Design classes, so that eliminated that. My first semester, I took a Creative Writing class and the Design prerequisite for all of the drawing classes. I loved the writing class and hated the design class, so there you go.

I don’t really draw fashion designs anymore, but I still love fashion. I was a fat teenager and knew that fashion was for skinny chicks, so I never told anyone of my interest in fashion design, except for my mom, who was my biggest fan in everything I did. I remember expressing my shame that I was interested in such a superficial thing. My mom was offended. She said, “Do you know how amazing it feels to try on a dress that looks and feels like it was made for you?” I didn’t, but I got her point. Aesthetic beauty does something to our insides. Still, I didn’t really tell anyone that I drew clothes.

When I entered to win the scholarship to FIDM, I did get called in for an interview. The interviewer seemed surprised that I’d been offered a $5,000 scholarship, I guess she wasn’t the one who called me. But I couldn’t afford tuition even with the scholarship. Maybe if I believed in myself more, I would have applied for more scholarships or chosen a community college that did offer fashion design classes, but I was pretty heavily into agoraphobia at the time and the idea of any of that stuff would immediately make me need a nap. I spent the next 10 years napping, watching Oprah, and drawing.

Toward the end of my 5 years of community college, I took another drawing class, this time with David Attyah, and I name him by name because he changed, and possibly saved, my life. David John Attyah is a renowned artist, check out his stuff, he is amazing. I took Drawing 1 pretty much exactly a year after my mom died, and I was flailing (not failing, I graduated with a 4.0, thank you very much). I basically took a drawing class because it fulfilled credit requirements even though my major was English and because I thought it would be an easy class that I wouldn’t have to take too seriously.

Not a blow-off class like they talk about in movies, but something that wouldn’t require too much of me. It was a beginner class and I’d been drawing on my own for 15 years, so I was one of the better students (okay, I was the best, although, some of those kids are definitely better than me by now). It was four hours, one hour of lecture, three hours of drawing. At that point, I didn’t know how much I needed to just sit somewhere for three hours a week and create. If I hadn’t been taking a class, I wouldn’t have spent three hours a week, sitting in a room, drawing. That would have been ridiculous. I had too much real stuff to do.

If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, you know that you lose a part of yourself right along with them. And my mom wasn’t just someone. She was everyone. I didn’t have a hope or a dream that wasn’t connected to her in some way. Any accomplishment in my life would have been immediately followed up with a phone call to her. Every step of building up to those accomplishments would have been taken with her. Without her, those ghostly future victories deflated and crumbled into nothingness.

When I signed up for that drawing class, it wasn’t in the hopes that anything would come of it. I wasn’t looking to be a professional artist, I wasn’t even looking for an A. I was grimly moving toward my future, not even sure why I was still going to class every day except that I hadn’t actively decided to stop. In my last post, I talked about how being in the moment is so important in order for good art to be made and I was introduced to that by David, even though I didn’t know it at the time.

I got better at drawing, sure, but honestly, without the relief of having a few hours a week in which nothing was expected of me, I probably would have gone crazy. I loved that class. I could put on my headphones and listen to music, so I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I didn’t even have to smile. Nobody was looking at me. I didn’t even have to be good at drawing because David Attyah drove home how much class time was for practice and I have a lot of terrible charcoal attempts at still lifes to prove that I believed him.

I graduated from elementary school, junior high, high school, and community college, and I never cried on any of those days. I never cried on the last day of any kind of school. But the last day of that class, a year before I graduated, I had to leave before the class was over because I started crying. I cried the entire 45-minute bus ride home. I remember how sad I was that I wasn’t going to be going to that class every week.

I still feel that sense of loss when I think back to it. I still can’t quite articulate why that class was so important to me and why I was so sad to leave it, but I think it was because it was the first time in my life I didn’t try to be something, I just was. Of course I was sad. I thought that that time in my life was over, that it was some magic that was connected only to that class, to that teacher. I didn’t realize that I was taking those skills that David Attiyah taught me, not just in drawing, but in living, with me. That was just the beginning of learning to live in the moment, not the end.

(Note: the drawings in this post were done in 2007. This was 11 years after I graduated from high school and 4 years before the drawing class I describe here. I chose these images because they were done not long before I stopped thinking of fashion design as a viable future job.)

Blogging While Humaning

I’d love to have prepared something special for my first real blog post. I did a quick Google search and there were a lot of “not to-do” articles that I didn’t click on, but I did see one piece of advice that said, “share your expertise”. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m not an expert on anything but I am proficient in a lot of things:

  • sadness
  • anxiety
  • face blindness
  • Dan Fogelberg
  • writing
  • drawing
  • stand-up comedy

That’s seven things! So I’m going to dedicate one day of the week to each of these things and give the best tips I have for all of these subjects. If I become proficient at anything else,  I may have to change the format at some point, but we’ll start with these. Because this is my first official blog, I’m going to do the first week in one post and give a tip for each subject, so that you can judge from one post if I have any credibility on these subjects.

Minstrel Monday
Dan Fogelberg Fact: Dan Fogelberg had a boat named the Minstrel, therefore, Mondays have been nicknamed Minstrel Mondays!

Testy Tuesday
Okay, I couldn’t think of a word for anxiety that started with a “t” so we’re going with Testy Tuesdays. A tip for dealing with anxiety: Anxiety is about feeling out of control, so the best way to combat that is to pull your focus into what you can control, even if it’s something small. Write a one-page story (it doesn’t have to be good), draw a thing (it doesn’t have to be good), pick up your socks off the floor (leave the empty water bottles). If you’re focused on what you CAN do, you’re not focused on what you CAN’T control.

Writing Wednesday
This one was easy to name. This is something I did for my writing, recently:  I joined a Facebook writing group. It’s going well so far. Yes, there is the temptation to just play on the page instead of write. However, being able to see and talk to people for whom writing is also super important is very helpful.

Drawing Thursday
Yeah, I totally gave up on the alliteration for this one. A tip for drawing: start out crappy at it and get better by doing it crappily a lot. It’ll get gradually less crappy and before you know it, it’s actually kind of good.

Face-Blindness Friday
Again easy to name! Face blindness is called “prosopagnosia” and it is defined as, “Prosopagnosia is a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to recognize faces…Depending upon the degree of impairment, some people with prosopagnosia may only have difficulty recognizing a familiar face; others will be unable to discriminate between unknown faces, while still others may not even be able to distinguish a face as being different from an object.”* Tip for Dealing with a Face Blind Person: if you’ve met someone a few times and they still don’t recognize you, it may not be a lack of respect, it could be a neurological condition, so don’t get all butt hurt, just introduce yourself again.

Sadness Saturday
Ooh, my favorite! Honestly, I could make this every day, but what a bummer of a blog that would be. A tip for dealing with sadness: Google “I am sad” and see what pops up. Generally, it’s kittens. I like to Google my sadness away because it reminds me that it’s part of being human. Everyone deals with sadness, I am not a freak for feeling sad sometimes.

Stand-Up Sunday
The perfect follow-up to Sadness Saturday. I work at a comedy club, so I’ll probably spend Sundays reflecting on something I learned or saw that week, or a joke I heard, or something that pissed me off. This week, the Wednesday audition was really nice. We had like, four first timers (comedians new to the club) but in general, it was a low turnout, and mostly regulars. But before the audition, I asked David Dorward if he’d do one of my favorite bits. I requested one of my favorite Kimberly Clark bits from her, too, and then spent more time chatting with the few people who showed up than I usually do.

Usually, at auditions, the regulars get up and use it as an open mic with mixed results. But on Wednesday, David was one of our first regulars up, and he brought it. Kimberly did too, and so did all of our regulars. I think there were two things that happened yesterday: one, I showed an interest in the comics, rather than just checking them in, which made them feel special before they even got on stage. And second, even the comedians I didn’t chat with were jazzed and inspired by David and Kimberly and they all did their best, too.

David and Kimberly are two of my favorite comedians who drop by auditions regularly, and they always do well, but I think that going in knowing that they were not just watched but seen and heard, really helped. It COULD have backfired, and I won’t be doing that a lot, but my requests were spontaneous and genuine, and they responded to that. I think we all got to remind each other that we all love stand-up, which oddly enough, sometimes gets lost in the grinds and gears of comedy as a business.

* https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Prosopagnosia-Information-Page