Recently, I posted a speed drawing video on my YouTube channel. Speed drawing videos are basically where you watch an artist complete a drawing without any tutorial tips. It’s sped up so you don’t have to watch hours and hours of tedious work that is, for the most part, only interesting to the artist.
This speed drawing was done as a birthday gift for my friend, Wendy. She was the one who took me on the Star Trek cruise at the beginning of January and we had a big discussion about whether Spock blushes green because Vulcans have green blood. Yes, we are a fabulous level of nerd. I told her I’d do a cartoon of Spock blushing green for her birthday when I got home again.
Cartoon illustrations are a weak area for me. I was trained in more of a classical, realistic style, which is why my illustrations look totally different than my “regular” art. I just haven’t had enough practice with this style to say I’m good at it.
Here’s the video.
And here is a photo of the finished illustration, which Wendy will own as soon as I get it mailed to her.
As always, if you enjoy my videos, please feel free to subscribe to my channel. I’m hoping to hit 1,000 subscribers this year. Your support means a lot to me!
I wanted to put together a compilation video of all my various art projects in the last year. Hopefully if I do this right, you should be able to watch the video below. I’ll also provide a direct link to the YouTube page in case it doesn’t work here for you.
Looking back on it now, 2016-2017 has been my biggest period of growth since I was a student, as far as my technique development and my creative experimentation is concerned. This past year I tried playing with subjects and ideas that I never would have considered a few years ago because I used to be so stuck in the little box of what should be viewed as “fine art”. That can be a bit of a downside to being exposed to any sort of classical training. You do need those technical skills but you’re also at risk of falling into the us vs them trap of what’s real art and what’s not. I’m happy to say that I think I’ve grown beyond that trap and I’m much more willing to experiment these days.
Imagine, if you will, lying by a glorious swimming pool on a warm, sunny afternoon. You’re an artist, which means you carry around pencils and sketchbooks the way other people carry around gum and loose change. Since you’re on vacation, you’re hoping to sketch without the pressure of perfection. The coast of Belize is behind you. The breeze is a welcome relief from the humidity.
Ah, there’s the happy place. You pull out your pencil bag and you begin sketching for no real artistic value – just for your own love of color and light. It’s a terrible sketch that you decide to redo properly once you’re at home with your “real” supplies. This is why you became an artist in the first place. Colors are stimulating and having total control over the story in your sketchbook is the most liberating feeling in a life that often makes you feel trapped in a wheelchair seat belt.
And then, it happens. You feel footsteps close by on the pool deck, so you look up and there he is fussing with his cell phone.
He’s your favorite.
He’s the reason you’re on this ship in the first place.
And he’s coming closer with the warmest grin despite being on the phone, because he remembers you as the lady with the smile and the lovely perfume from the previous night. A toxic sensation of dread and elation washes over you, leaving you rigid and unable to do anything but smile. You don’t want this charming human to see your terrible art lying innocently on the pool chair in front of you because you know you’re capable of so much more. The chance to be impressive is slipping through your fingers.
What’s worse is suddenly realizing your pencil is poking out of your mouth like a blueberry cigarette. You can’t spit it out right there in front of him. That’s so unladylike. Yet you wonder with certain horror if he’s silently trying to piece together why you’re on you’re stomach drawing with your mouth rather than your hands.
I can explain! I’m really a much better artist than this! Let me show you my gallery pieces!
It reverberates in your brain at the same rhythm as his approaching footsteps. Panic begins to bloom in your throat. He’s looking at you in your most vulnerable position, seeing you work with the pencil in your mouth because the universe never gave you the use of your hands. You’ve struggled your whole life to allow people to see you actively being different and he has no idea that it was an internal battle just to come out to the pool deck and draw in front of strangers.
Don’t stop. Please keep walking. But no, wait. You’re my favorite. I want to talk with you and take a photo together. Stay for a minute. Just don’t look at me with pity.
You manage to croak out something resembling, “Hello!” instead.
“Good afternoon,” he says in his cheerful way through his charming smile.
He’s disappearing into the crowds and the moment lets go of your throat. You breathe, torn between thanking the gods and goddesses that he was too busy with a phone call to stop more than a second, and wishing his call had come later so you might have enjoyed a few more seconds of your favorite.
A little while later, you peer down at your horrible sketch and you decide to finish it anyway. Screw it. Jonathan Frakes remembered you from last night. You’re a goddamn queen for a day.
And this, my friends, has been a dramatic retelling of my ten-second encounter with Jonathan Frakes. I wrote it to be tongue-in-cheek but I really did want to tell this story because every type of artist has intense insecurity sometimes, especially faced with another artist that they admire. Intimidation can be very toxic to a person’s creative energy in some ways but it can also push people to do better and challenge themselves more. It just depends on how you channel feelings of intimidation.
The truth is Frakes probably didn’t even notice my odd little setup that afternoon by the pool. If he did, nothing about it struck him as odd. He never stared or flinched or made faces like what the hell is going on here like some other people have done in my past. My tongue-in-cheek story is really a commentary on how we can talk ourselves into believing we’re being judged when that’s the farthest thing from the truth.
So be careful of that toxic thought spiral if you’re an artist. Not everything you do needs to be perfect. Not every artist needs to be perceived as perfect all the time because that’s simply not possible. Doing occasional “bad” art without the pressure to create a masterpiece actually makes you better at your craft.
Here we are in the full shot with my friends Dmitri and Wendy. I love Frakes so much that Wendy gave up her photo op tickets with Gates McFadden so I could meet him. That’s a true friend.
And I’m a true artist even if I was seen doing bad art.
I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. I do, however, believe in mapping out goals for the year and checking back every so often to see which ones get accomplished. A lot of these are related to art but some are about my writer life as well. Some combine the two halves of who I am. Still others are about personal growth, which we should all strive for on a daily basis.
In no particular order, here are my goals for 2018.
1. Finish novel Exile to the Water’s Edge.
2. Finish the Witch Cottage art series.
3. Teach online class about American witchcraft.
4. Be a better friend.
5. Begin paintings for art book about decaying plantations.
6. Learn embroidery and crochet.
7. Get better at cooking.
8. Visit more Civil War sites.
9. Work more on my family Grimoire.
10. Be brave and try public transportation.
11. Try acrylic painting again.
12. Continue work on book about my ghost encounters.
13. Remember to stop and breathe.
14. Take better care of my health.
15. Forgive myself more often.
16. Improve figure drawing skills.
17. Spend more time drawing from life.
18. Be braver about artistic subjects that matter to me.
I’ve already begun working on my goals about improving my skills and being braver about my subjects. This is my newest piece of art in my sketchbook completed just a few days ago. She is a reflection of myself in the 18th century using a photo of a living historian for reference but changed at my own discretion. This is brave for me because of the way I drew it and what materials I used. I think it turned out well.
What are your goals for 2018? Tell me about them in the comments.
Well everybody, we’ve survived the first week of Inktober – those of us who are participating, anyway. If you’re scratching your head at just what I’m talking about, Inktober is an activity that artists do to get to know each other and see new artists in the online world. Every day during the month of October, artists complete an ink drawing and post it online for everybody to see. There is an official prompt word list if people need inspiration but so far I haven’t needed it.
This is my second year participating in Inktober, although I didn’t finish last year. I made it halfway through the month, and then I caught a really heinous cold … or maybe it was a sinus infection. I can’t remember. Needless to say, I didn’t finish so I was very determined to finish this year. Not only finish but create a body of work that challenged and stretched my artistic abilities.
Stretching my skills first involved gathering the right materials. My favorite drawing pens are the Micron variety. Copic makes a very similar line of pens but I haven’t ever found them at prices that don’t make me curl up into the fetal position. Micron pens come in several sizes and colors. The most common sizes I reach for are the .45 mm (05) and the .30 (02), both in black. I’ve got a set of colored ones but I haven’t used them yet. I’m enjoying the limited color palette I’m using in my Inktober sketchbook this year, which is mainly black with some light flesh shades and purples. The colors I’m using are the Copic Ciao markers. Those are alcohol-based and some of the ink is bleeding through onto the next page of my sketchbook. If this was a professional job meant to be sold, I’d care more, but as it is, this is only for me to play around and try out different illustration styles to see what I can do.
On the fifth day, I did get a stomach bug. Go figure. I always have some illness or another (compromised immune system) but I pressed ahead anyway. I’m still on schedule! That fact alone makes me very proud of myself. The sixth and seventh drawings are not exactly up to par with my intended plans because I wasn’t feeling well but they’re still worth keeping in my opinion.
Here are days one through seven of my Inktober 2017.
So far I do feel like Inktober has been a valuable experience, especially because it’s forcing me to learn a medium I don’t normally employ. We’ll see how I feel when I come back to post days eight through fourteen though!
Did you know I’m participating in Inktober this year? Inktober is an activity for artists to share each other’s work and get to know one another. Every day in the month of October, the artist draws something in ink and posts it online. I got this 5×7 sketchbook for Inktober 2017 and I did the introductory drawing to make sure the paper will work with Micron pens. So far so good! No bleed-through yet.
Since I’m a disabled artist (I’m a quadriplegic drawing with my mouth), I probably won’t be able to post a drawing video on YouTube every day like other artists do. I think once a week is more reasonable for me. However, I will post all of my daily drawings on my Instagram, which you can find at jj9828.
My Inktober sketchbook is going to be themed along the lines of Halloween, Samhain, spooky, autumn, fall, etc. You get the idea. My materials will be Micron pens, Copic markers, Arteza brush pens, Tombow brush pens, and a Pentel brush pen.
Do you have ideas of what drawings I could do in my little Inktober book? Tell me!
I hope you guys are going to enjoy it starting on October 1! You’ll need to follow these spots to see my daily Inktober posts.
It’s been a little while since I last blogged (except for my Arteza brush pen review earlier this week!) but it’s all for a good reason. In the last couple of months, I’ve been working very hard building my artistic style. Almost by accident, I discovered that I’m great at expressing ideas and aesthetics related to my spiritual path as a pagan woman.
I’ve been tapping into my spirituality to create more interesting art and touching the deeper, more authentic part of myself has resulted in more self-fulfillment. It happened because I was starting to feel my creativity dry up and that’s a dangerous thing for any artist. Part of me was starting to fall into the trap of creating what I thought people wanted instead of engaging the people who find passion in the same things I do. I thought I was simply taking time to make art that I care about without any plan for engaging people. As it turns out, I’ve engaged many more people because I’m showing more of who I am. Authenticity is what makes an artist great. I’ve found that an artist can have all the technical skills in the world, which I certainly don’t, but it won’t mean anything unless the creative process comes from a real, true place inside.
In August, I was reading about the Otherworld in ancient Irish tradition, which is (without going too deep) the old Irish interpretation of the afterlife. Ancestor worship is a big part of my spiritual tradition. I’m one of those people who enjoys visiting cemeteries – the older the better! – and I think some of the most beautiful places are where we honor our dead. That led to creating this piece. It sold within fifteen minutes of posting that it was finished and (maybe) there will come prints out of it. All because I decided to try making art that was interesting to me!
Is it perfect? No. I think what people responded to the most was the way I showed my passion for what I was doing, and that’s something to think about for any artist.
So I tried it again. My next project for most of September was something I’ve wanted to do for a while. Since we’re getting close to the Halloween season (Samhain for me), I’ve been watching a lot of witchy movies like Hocus Pocus, Practical Magic, and The Craft. I find the fictional witch aesthetic really fun and I’ve been feeling the urge to add my own contributions to that image.
I came up with a witchy hearth based on 18th century colonial homes. Like, how would a witch decorate her cottage in the colonial frontier? I thought most of his or her belongings would be functional to their craft but even functional things have their beauty. Improving my skills in drawing different textures has been more fun because I enjoyed the subject. I learned a lot about the texture of wood, stone, fabric, and the need to maintain good one-point perspective.
Once again, this piece sold within minutes of completion. I was shocked! A lot of my audience has been finding things in this piece that I never intentionally placed but I don’t dare mess with those things now. People tell me most often that they see a face in the hearth fire, while others say they see the silhouette of a witch in the shadows in the back of the second shelf.
Beginning this journey into doing art that I thought was only interesting to me has been an eye-opening experience. It’s fun for me to do pieces with a lot of detail and show imagery related to my spirituality while combining it with occasional fun and fantasy, and especially history. This is who I am and I was afraid of showing it for so long.
That’s the moral of this story. You may find yourself falling into the same people-pleaser trap if you’re not careful. Things you create might be what’s popular or trendy at the moment and you may produce technically beautiful things but there will always be something missing. It’s almost a sixth sense thing with the people looking at your art. If they don’t “smell” your soul on it, they’re not going to be as responsive to what you’re offering as an artist, writer, musician, or whatever it is that you do.
But the second you allow your personal authenticity to come though, people will start engaging with you even more. My darker themes or pagan themes certainly won’t appeal to a wide audience but the people out there who are like me will and do respond at a much higher rate.
No matter how odd you think you are, there are always people like you. Be yourself.
I wanted to tell you guys about the 48 Watercolor Real Brush Pens by the brand Arteza. In the interest of full transparency, Arteza did graciously send me these brush pens to try for free but they did not require me to review them. I’m doing that on my own and all opinions are mine alone. If you’d rather, you can watch the video version of me demonstrating these interesting brush pens.
All 48 brush pens come in a plastic case with trays. I’ve been keeping them in the original box for the time being but I would recommend getting a new container made of sturdier material for long-term use.
Each pen has a single tip as opposed to Copics, Tombows, Prismacolors, ProMarkers, and so forth, that have two different tips on each pen – usually a chisel nib and a bullet nib. These particular brush pens are also much thinner than Copics. They’re more comparable to the Tombow brush pens in size and shape, however, I found the plastic to be more durable on Arteza pens. None of them cracked for me. Since I’m a disabled artist who uses these tools in my mouth, I much prefer my pens to have a single tip with the other end capped off like these Arteza pens. The barrel is sturdy and not easily cracked, even with how hard I have to bite.
What makes these pens different is the brush tip itself. You’re drawing with a marker-paintbrush hybrid. The tip is a literal brush and it behaves on paper like a brush. You can use these pens alone or you can use a separate paintbrush with water to create a much stronger watercolor effect. I like this a lot because my disability makes it difficult to keep track of separate tools for paint, water, brushes, towels, and so on. These brush pens combine several tools into one, which makes my work a lot easier.
The colors blend together fairly well without water too, although I recommend blending colors in the same family like you do with Copics unless you’re going to use water too. Without water, these brush pens don’t blend well if the colors are too far apart. I also wish there was some sort of numbering system or color names on the pens because I had trouble remembering which ones I was using by sight alone. The pigments are intense, which is great, and the moisture is at a good balance between those who will add water and those who won’t.
All in all, I was really happy with these pens. I wasn’t sure what to expect but with my disability, these work better for me than other water-based brush pens. They’re easier for me to hold in my mouth because the ends are solidly capped off and I’m not so focused on being careful of popping the pen and having ink all over my mouth. I think these pens are a good alternative for other disabled artists who have difficulty managing paint, water, and brushes in separate parts.
The 48 set of Watercolor Real Brush Pens by Arteza retails for $87 but you can find them for $37 on Amazon and $30.99 on Arteza.com. They make a line of fine liner pens, metallic pens, colored pencils, various kinds of paper, and quilting supplies too. I’ll do a few speed drawing videos in the future with these pens so you can see them in action on my YouTube channel.
It’s taken me a little while to post a blog about the art show, which was my first public showing of my art pieces. The day after the show, I woke up pretty sick. Apparently my brother had a cold the week before and passed it to me. With my compromised immune system, it took me twice as long to kick the plague and today was the first day I felt like doing any meaningful work. Ah, to be an artist. There’s always pain involved!
I was, to be quite honest, afraid to take my art into the public sphere. It’s almost a cliche but artists always say they put their souls into their work and that makes them feel really exposed when they show it. This was my first time going through that uncomfortable sensation of naked exposure before strangers but I don’t regret it. It was like ripping the Band-Aid off and now I know I can handle it. After the first twenty minutes or so, I began to let myself relax and go with the flow.
Atlanta’s art scene is not at all pretentious or snooty like people might expect in, say, New York or Los Angeles. The people I hooked up with, FamilyHood ATL, base their work on diversity with the Atlanta community and that is really important to me too. I was exposed to so many different artistic styles that I sucked up so much inspiration for my own style as well.
Speaking of style, I’ve been concerned for months that a.) I don’t have an identifiable style or meaningful voice, or b.) my faint style will be received as outdated and old-fashioned because other people don’t do what I do. The fear that I wasn’t cool enough to hook up with the Atlanta art scene was intense in the last week before the show. The thing is, I learned some valuable lessons based on watching people look at my art and formulate their opinions. My style is preserving history through the art of portraiture and it is okay because there aren’t many people in Atlanta doing that kind of thing. There are a lot of people doing awesome street art and pop art but that’s not me. People were welcoming of the fact that I’m different. I need to embrace the fact that my little corner of the art world is cool and accepted because I make history and portraiture cool and accepted for the people looking at my pieces. My fear of being different made me overlook the fact that I’m supposed to be different. Doing this show forced me to think harder about what kind of artist I am and that’s an important lesson.
It was interesting to watch people study my pieces before they got to me and read my bio. They were appreciating my pieces, studying them, discussing them, etc., before they even realized I was in a wheelchair. I can’t tell you how great that was for me. I’m used to people seeing the wheelchair first and then getting excited about the art because I do all of the work with the tools in my mouth. At this show, people were judging my art based on my skill, composition, subjects, and so forth. I ended up watching them like they were the exhibit. My confidence is much better now that I know I can stand on my own two feet as an artist without constantly thinking people like me just for the novelty of drawing with my mouth.
I would definitely say my participation with FamilyHood ATL was a huge success. I sold a few prints and I learned a lot about myself and how unifying artists can be when they embrace diversity.
So what’s next?
Well, I have a few opportunities in the works that will be amazing if they come to pass. One is a local opportunity and the other is a national opportunity. I don’t want to jinx myself by talking about them out loud yet. You’ll be the first to know when everything is solid.
As for my next pieces of art, I’m working on a collection. Nevertheless, she persisted. My goal is to do portraits of women throughout history from different cultures. The female experience is varied in different parts of the world but the one thing that unifies us is persistence. I want to capture that in historical portraits. If they get shown, they have to be shown as a collection in order to get the full impact of what I’m trying to communicate. I hope it goes over well!
I haven’t been posting blogs as often as I want lately because I’ve been really busy producing more art for my show here in Atlanta at the end of the month. It has been an exciting but exhausting time seeing how far I can go with my artistic capabilities.
This week we started setting aside all of the pieces that I feel are good enough to be part of my gallery show. There are big gaping holes on my walls now because several of the best pieces were hanging in the bedroom and the bathroom. It’s been a process starting from scratch and investing money in prints, packaging materials, etc. The art community I’m joining encourages people to sell their art at the show, although I prefer not to sell my originals until I have a bigger portfolio. A bunch of my smaller pieces still need to be matted for hanging but I think I’m over the hump of the most amount of prep work.
Of course, I’m nervous. There are seeds of doubt inside of me always saying I’m not good enough, I’m irrelevant, nobody cares about portraiture work anymore, etc. My style of art is more suited to previous centuries than current abstract or pop art trends. I really can’t align my brain with abstract or pop art. My best work is in realistic portraiture, which is sometimes considered a dead art form since people have cameras now. But it’s who I am. It’s what I do. I can’t change for modern tastes.
Unrelated to my upcoming show, I finalized my entry for the Luxembourg Art Prize. It’s open to the international world and the prize is quite substantial. That’s not why I entered though. Don’t get me wrong – the money would be really nice and allow me to spend some time in Europe – but my reason for entering is more personal. I have been stagnate as an artist for years because I allowed myself to drown in insecurity and fear. This year I’ve committed myself to understanding that there are always going to be artists with more talent than me but that’s true for everyone. I have to stop thinking of myself as unworthy and start thinking of myself as a creative being with valuable things to say. So entering such a big contest was my way of ripping off the Band-Aid. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be a finalist. Last year’s winner was American too.
I’ve finished two new pieces of art this week and I just started my third today. These two were done in charcoal and graphite. The one I started today is in colored pencil.
If you’d like to come to my gallery show, here’s the information.