Traveling and Adapting for the Disabled Artist

Me193Last week I bought a few things to get ready for a camping trip in August. I’m going to spend some time with my father’s side of the family in Wyoming again.

The last time I went wasn’t ideal for sketching in the field because I didn’t have the right supplies with me and I didn’t have the right way to pack those supplies. I needed something a little bit larger than my regular pencil bag that I use here at home and I also needed something with a little more security to keep my things from breaking. Airlines can be really rough on luggage. Wood pencils in particular will come out of a flight with the leads shattered all the way up the barrel if they’re not secure, so you won’t have anything to use at your destination.

I looked around Jerry’s Artarama first but I didn’t see anything that was going to work for me. Most pencil bags still look like the one pouch things we had when we were little kids in school, which is not going to help when we’re traveling. When I went to Amazon, I found something with pencil slots, pockets, sturdy construction, etc. It’s listed as the BTSKY High Capacity Zipper Pens Pencil Case-Multi-functional Stationary Pencil Pouch 72 Slots (it’s linked to the direct item). It comes in black, blue, pink, and purple, and it costs $12.99 USD.

Let’s see what it looks like (photos belong to Amazon).

So many things about this pencil bag appealed to me. Primarily it was the compact size while still holding 72 pencils plus other pockets that drew my attention but I also liked the fact that it had a fabric handle and two zippers that meet on the ends or in the middle depending on your needs. You can remove two of the pencil slots if you don’t need all 72 spaces and they’re held in the bag by really strong Velcro.

Things like this really matter when it comes to my disability. I have trouble with zippers but it helps to have two instead of wrestling all the way around those corners with one. I can open one side, turn it around, and open the other side. The fabric handle allows me to attach it to my wheelchair if I’m taking my things out somewhere too. A hard handle wouldn’t work because if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit. There’s at least some flexibility with a fabric handle (also hard handles always hurt my hand). And if I want to remove pencil slots, I won’t need help because they’re in there with Velcro instead of snaps or zippers.

The most important thing that made me choose this pencil bag was the fact that I won’t have to dig for my pencils anymore. They’re all lined up and I know exactly what I have now, which means I won’t waste them and I won’t use the wrong ones. Also, I can pull them out and put them back in without help.

Here’s a video of me flipping through my new bag after I loaded it with my most-used drawing stuff. It’s just a quick iPhone video – nothing professional to go on my YouTube channel or anything. Yup, that’s Madonna in the background.

So what you’re seeing there is me flipping through the pencil bag with a regular Paper Mate pen. I buy those things by the huge box because I use them as pointers for typing, moving things, turning pages in books or magazines, etc. These plain old plastic pens are a great length for helping me do things that I would ordinarily need fingers to do.

One thing I noticed when I saved this video was that people are going to see odd looking tools in the back portion of my new pencil bag. It occurred to me that I ought to tell everybody about the tools because I made them out of necessity. There are plenty of blending methods involving paper stumps, q-tips, toilet paper, etc., but I learned very early on that I can’t put soft things in my mouth. They tend to melt and fall apart due to the combination of my body heat and saliva no matter how well I control it.

Here are some of my most used tools.

IMG_9100

From left to right, there is a retractable eraser, a homemade blending stump, and a homemade toilet paper blender. Since the biggest problem with most art tools when you draw with your mouth is soft things falling apart, it goes without saying that rigging new tools is most importantly about keeping those soft things out of my mouth. Stability is the second most important factor in designing adaptable tools because a lot of art techniques will eventually require heavy pressure applied to the paper. The third factor is the bonding agent remaining resistant to moisture and body heat for a long time. I’ve learned these three factors after years of trial and error.

The first item is straightforward. It’s a Pentel Clic Retractable Eraser with Grip sold for $3.97 USD on Amazon. There are a few other kinds out there too. These are great for people with limited fine motor skills because there is more to grab onto than a tiny square piece of rubber. The plastic outer casing also prevents artists who draw with their mouths from biting through the eraser itself. I find the slider very ease to push when I need more eraser too.

The second item builds upon the first. My main problem with blenders is they’re so short. If I used it on it’s own, aside from the problem of being soft material, I’ll end up going cross-eyed and rubbing my nose all over the paper. Not fun. So what we do is get a retractable eraser that I don’t use anymore and I attach the blender to it with electrical tape. The type of tape is really important because it needs to be as strong as possible and as waterproof as possible. I do not recommend masking, Scotch, or pretty planner tape because will fall apart within the first hour. When you need clean blender, just rub it on sandpaper or change it out with a new one by cutting open the tape and rigging a whole new piece. I only have to change my blender once every three months or so.

The third tool is a very similar concept. I used an old mechanical pencil instead because that was what I had available at the time. It could just as easily have been another retractable eraser. For toilet paper blending, it’s a little more difficult. The best way is to wad up a tight ball about the size of a marble and then wrap a few smooth layers around it, leaving enough to wrap around the pencil or eraser. Use the electrical tape to secure it tightly. You will have to change the toilet paper ball more often than the blending stump but it is great for blending skin and sky.

I hope this gives you a glimpse into how and why I choose my art supplies. If there are any other artists with mobility limitations, maybe these ideas will help you too.

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Learning Landscapes

Jessica Jewett, artI have been a portrait artist for so long that I almost got to a point of never imagining myself doing anything else. That’s not necessarily a good thing, however. Artists, in my opinion, should definitely develop a style but not at the expense of challenging themselves. There comes a point when you’re doing the same thing again and again that your creativity goes flat, so it’s incredibly important to find ways to stretch your style into new subjects.

A few years ago, I did this colored pencil piece when I was visiting family in Wyoming. This was where we were camping on the North Platte River a bit upriver from the Alcova Reservoir. I sketched it out in person, took a photo, and then added the color when I got home. It’s fairly obvious to me that I was hesitant and uncertain about how to work with earthy colors as opposed to flesh tones. It’s not terrible but I wanted it to be better. This piece now belongs to my father.

Wyoming Mountains Landscape

I’ve attempted painting landscapes with water elements before. This one turned out very well, much better than I expected at the time. It wasn’t any place in particular but more like a reflection of my thoughts on death and crossing into the afterlife. All in all, not a bad effort but I took it as a fluke because I did this under the guidance of a more experienced painter.

Night scene with a boat dock and the moon.

A trend has been developing, it seems, of me doing better with pencil scenes. It’s not that much of a surprise considering I’ve always done stronger work in charcoal or graphite. But I don’t think landscapes are meant for black and white unless you’re trying to create a darker mood with cemeteries or dilapidated houses. Nature is filled with beautiful colors that express every kind of mood or emotion in the universe and that is the real challenge for an artist to master.

But then I decided to at least work in black and white for a while to master (or at least get better) the technical parts of creating nature-based art. It’s totally different than portraits of people. I cannot approach those things the same way, otherwise I’ll fail at what I’m trying to accomplish. It could be said that people and nature have completely different souls that can’t be interchangeable on paper or canvas.

Recently I attempted doing a drawing of the coast of Scotland in color after such a long time of trying to understand things in black and white. My Scotland drawing was done in Copic markers, which has the benefit of mixing and blending the way I want to do with oil paint but I’m not quite ready to be that advanced yet. Oils are my ultimate goal but it’s been so long since I used them that I think I’m back down to the beginner stage again. That’s fine, though. I can play with color using Copic markers until I’m used to deciphering nature’s palettes and then I can go back to paint.

I’m definitely more energized and ready to try doing more landscapes and seascapes again. Seeing my marked improvement from the Wyoming piece to the Scotland piece tells me that practice really does make perfect, as much as I hate those little sayings. I wanted you all to see the improvement too because some of you might be struggling to master something in your artistic goals. Keep your old stuff because you will see your development over time. And seeing your skills grow will do a lot for your self-confidence as an artist. I certainly haven’t mastered landscapes or seascapes but I can see the evidence that I’m getting better. That’s enough for me.

Take a look at Scotland.

Scotland, Jessica Jewett

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Six months into the #CopicColors art challenge!

Welcome to June! We are halfway through the yearlong art challenge put on by Copic Markers and I’m still hanging in there.

If you haven’t been following me on Instagram, I’ll give you the lowdown. Every first of the month, Copic issues three colors that we have to use to create art. The only rules are that we have to use those exact colors and the only other tools allowed are black ink or pencil and white ink or pencil if you choose to add highlights and emphasis.

Let’s take a look at my first six months. All of mine are done on the same white paper but I don’t have professional lighting to keep the same brightness with every photo.

Each month, I’m creating a fashion plate from a different decade in the nineteenth century. The rhythm goes like this:

January: 1800-1809
February: 1810-1819
March: 1820-1829
April: 1830-1839
May: 1840-1849
June: 1850-1859
July: 1860-1869
August: 1870-1879
September: 1880-1889
October: 1890-1899
November: 1900-1909
December: 1910-1919

Next month, July, we are getting into the real expansion period of the United States when immigrants started coming over from Europe by the millions. I plan to use the next few months to depict the diversity in the country to the best of my ability.

July I have a reference photo of former enslaved people learning how to read. August I have planned an indigenous woman called Pretty Nose. September I will probably do something with the Chinese community in San Francisco at that time. Since October is Halloween, I have a reference photo of women wearing witch costumes in the 1890s. November I wanted to depict the Jewish community in the Lower East Side tenements of Manhattan. And finally in December, I want to depict the final Christmas before America went into World War I.

Even though I want to explore what it really meant to be American in the second half of the nineteenth century, the flow will remain the same throughout the whole year. You will recognize all twelve illustrations as part of a continuous series. That means all of the indigenous and immigrant clothing will be just as heavily researched as my first six illustrations. Textiles have always been the way to view a woman’s life in any century.

Prints of this series can be found in my Etsy shop for $10 in the small size and $20 in the large size. Supporting indie artists like me is important so we can keep creating new things.

Keep checking back for more in this series!

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Portraits of the Dead

Sometimes I do portraits of the dead I’ve encountered in my life. It’s not a habit I openly discuss all that much, not because I’m ashamed of it, but because a segment of the population will find it evil or repugnant or whatever. But I figure if you’re here reading my blog, you already know something about me and this won’t be news to you at all.

Drawing, Jessica JewettDrawing, Jessica Jewett

I drew these on the left when I was a small child. You were probably expecting this to begin with astounding drawings of people from my childhood that solved centuries-old mysteries, thereby establishing me as a child medium powerhouse. If this was a movie, that would be the greatest ending to a childhood plagued by isolation, misunderstandings, and scary ghost encounters. This isn’t an “I see dead people” movie, though. This is real life.

I was indeed filling my little girl sketchbooks with dead people – that much is true – but I never told anybody what I was doing, nor did I want to show anybody the evidence. To be perfectly truthful, I never quite understood what I was drawing in terms of “these are actual dead people” because I had very little understanding of death until my great grandmother died in 1994. Yet notebooks filling up with Civil War people when I wasn’t yet able to write a full sentence probably gave my family or the kids in school some idea that I was “different” but nobody ever said anything to my face.

Much of my art was my way of keeping track of the dead folks I met even before I understood what death meant. But some of my art was my way of trying to make sense of my past life memories, like the drawings of old houses from approximately the 4th grade. I used to see those houses in my past life memories enough that apparently I felt the need to draw them. I know now that the house on the top was my attempt at recording the Harriet Beecher Stowe house in Brunswick, Maine, which I visited a few times in my lifetime before this one. The house underneath it is certainly from the same lifetime, probably in Maine or Massachusetts, but I never successfully identified it. The reason why I think it’s a past life memory is because a child that young won’t make up that much detail from mere imagination.

Here is a postcard of the Stowe house to compare with my childhood drawing.

Harriet Beecher Stowe House

When I got old enough to understand what death meant, I also began to understand that the other people I saw out there weren’t living anymore. I became fearful of who might see my sketchbooks and school notebooks, so I threw out a lot of my earliest portraits. Obviously I regret that now.

School art classes made me start new sketchbooks, however, and I found it necessary to keep one for the teacher to see and one at home for my “real” work. For school art classes or playing with friends, I was very careful to only draw images from Disney or anything else we thought was cool as we grew up. Most of my friends gave up markers and crayons as they grew, but I never let go of my compulsive need to create things. Slowly I morphed into everybody’s quirky artist friend. There’s always one!

As you are going to see in the rest of this post, my spirit sketches are never complete or polished pieces of art because I can’t see them well enough to get down to the serious nitty gritty. I will show you the progress of my spirit sketches but it’s important to note that they’ll never reach my full artistic potential. Spirits are vague, washed out in colors, with whole spots that are see through. They also don’t pose. They don’t hang around more than a few seconds either because of how much energy it requires for them to show their images at all. My process is to pick out something that stands out – some detail that I can make very clear on paper – and then I estimate the rest. The average manifestation lasts about five seconds for me, so there isn’t much time to grab that main detail. I’ve gotten much better at it as I’ve grown into adulthood and developed much stronger technical skills.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Jessica JewettMany of the drawings I made in my childhood were of these two people over and over again in different poses and doing different things. Since I threw away most of my old sketchbooks out of fear of being judged or questioned, I only have these examples to show that were done several years ago. They are Fanny and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who were deeply connected to the house drawings from earlier in my childhood (seen above). The Chamberlains were from Maine and lived through the bulk of the 19th century. Lawrence was a college professor who volunteered for the Union Army in the American Civil War, eventually rising to the rank of Brevet Major General. After the war, he became Governor of Maine. His wife was a music teacher and artist trained by highly respected creative minds of their period.

Fanny Chamberlain, Jessica JewettIn 1999, I realized through events too numerous to list here that I was Fanny Chamberlain in a previous life and my obsessive need to keep drawing these people was my subconscious mind trying to say it out loud. Specifically from ages six to nine, I filled page after page of drawing paper depicting mostly Fanny and Lawrence but also many other members of their families. I had no idea who they were until the summer between my junior and senior years of high school but their lives replayed in snippets of my memory. Drawing their faces soothed me a little bit, especially when I was plagued by nightmares of Civil War military hospitals. And that was what I was really after in my mind – soothing the unexplained images by dumping them onto paper. If this story interests you, go take a look at the book I wrote about it called Unveiled: Fanny Chamberlain Reincarnated.

Fanny Chamberlain, Jessica JewettHere is another drawing of Fanny surviving from a much earlier period in my life (right). The best way for me to date my drawings is to place them before or after the bulk of my real technical training in the late 90s. I believe I did it somewhere between 1995 and 1997 before I knew who Fanny was, and then I fiddled with the skirt again many years later after I learned more about drawing fabric. This sketch is incomplete to this day.

It’s a reference to a memory of being outside near a barn at night in the rain but I never got that far with it. Like I said, drawing Fanny or anything related to her used to frighten me into silence and I threw away most of them, which I regret now.

Moving from Missouri to Georgia in 1998 completely changed the way I viewed the spiritual overlapping with the physical. Not only was my language and awareness finally in a place where I could talk about it and ask questions but it seemed like every square inch of the Deep South was rife with the dead trying to be remembered.

Here are some of the scattered sketches I did in high school of spirits I saw in different places. Most of the time I saw spirits at battlefield parks or other historic sites for obvious reasons. You can click on them to make them bigger.

To preserve my sanity, I had to develop skills in blocking and shutting down that part of myself so I could finish high school. I allowed myself to channel the things I saw and experienced into more recognizable pop culture references. That way I could still relieve my need to create and my need to memorialize people from history. I made a few sketches from historical movies like Titanic and Gone With the Wind, while leaving nobody in question of what I really needed to do.

This is one of my sketches from 1998 before I really developed technical skills.

Titanic, Jessica Jewett

Gone With the Wind, Jessica JewettBy mid-2000, I had developed much stronger technical skills and embarked on a large, highly detailed piece from Gone With the Wind. It was my effort at keeping myself occupied through the summer to stay “normal”. Once I realized a few years before that I was seeing the dead, I wanted nothing to do with it. I was a teenager desperately trying to fit in as all teenagers do.

I only got so far during the summer of 2000 and I didn’t attempt to finish it again until 2016. Life got in the way, I developed other interests in writing books, and my eyesight began to fail beyond what I could overcome in my art.

Gone With the Wind Boudoir II DrawingIt took 16 years and surgery on my eyes to pick it up again, seen here.

In the 16 years between starting and finishing this Gone With the Wind piece, I hardly drew anything at all. Challenges in my life made me set aside those things and go at it without the crutch of my sketchbook, as I thought of it at the time. I had to find a way to make peace with my ability to see the dead as well as sometimes seeing into the living. And I had to achieve that peace without trying to hide it with secret messages in my art. I had to learn how to communicate with them, how to send them away, how to block it out, and how to let it happen when necessary. Being a mere observer means you get followed and they attach to you more often. I had to accept what I was while developing boundaries.

Learning to accept the presence of the dead in my life was only half the battle. Doing so much art with the pencils in my mouth due to lifelong quadriplegia had ruined my vision. I was so visually impaired by 2000 that I couldn’t see beyond a foot in front of my face. Around 2007, I had surgery to correct my vision. I thought that would fix everything and I could start drawing again.

What I wasn’t counting on was the abrupt change in perception, color, light, and darkness. Surgery changed how I saw everything, which in turn changed how I perceived my artistic abilities. I developed a fear of laying pencil to paper because I was absolutely sure I had lost my ability to create after I had surgery on my eyes. Rather than witness my own failure as an artist, I refused to try it at all. I punished myself and wasted almost two decades due to how my vision changed.

Even through 16 years of barely touching a pencil or paintbrush, the dead never went away. There were lulls when I didn’t see as many and there were spikes of seeing them on a daily basis. They were my normal as a young adult. Of course I had friends and I lived a very mundane life but I was learning about them underneath it all.

I began looking into spiritual literature and talking to the older people in my family. For a very short time, I went to Catholic Mass and Episcopal services in an effort to fill a void of knowledge. It didn’t work and I never felt comfortable with Christianity. It never lined up with the experiences in my life. So I shifted to the other extreme – atheism. That never felt right either. Finally I decided to simply figure it out for myself without trying to squeeze into a category, which then opened my eyes and allowed me to read about Buddhists, Hindus, Kabbalah, Judaism, Islam, Spiritualism, and so on and so forth. Along this exploration, I also took an interest in genealogy. That was when I found the other women of power in my blood.

Newell, Rulon, Oliver, Jessica Jewett

It turned out my mother, grandmother, etc., going back through the generations in the above photograph from the 1890s all had some sort of extrasensory ability. They used their abilities within the context of their time period and church-based American culture but I found private letters between these women talking to each other about communicating with the dead, the spiritual properties of plants, reading auras in my grandmother’s generation, and much more. As I developed my understanding of the wider universe and began having conversations with my grandmother, I realized our traditions and beliefs at their core came from our varied Celtic ancestry in Ireland, upper France, Scotland, and England. In the 21st century, it translates to neopagan and witchcraft life. So that’s what I became and I haven’t looked back since.

The most important lesson that came to me was blinding in its simplicity: the dead are not out to hurt the living, nor do they want to frighten us the way we are taught to think in movies. They simply want acknowledgement. They want to be remembered. They want their truth understood. And when they realize someone like me can see them, we become like lighthouses for ships in the night. That realization inspired one of my first serious paintings after I tried to get my skills back.

Night scene with a boat dock and the moon.

Water is a conduit that helps spiritual energy move and manifest. The imagery of crossing a river is synonymous with dying and making the transition into the afterlife. Therefore, this painting was my tentative toe dipped back into the spiritual artist pool. I think this was in 2012 and I didn’t do very much for a few years after that because I wasn’t yet convinced that art was completely good for me.

For the last few years, I’ve thrown myself back into art at full speed. I don’t really know what made me choose this period of my life but doing art now is much more fulfilling than frightening. The same goes for my relationship with the dead. I interact with them now on my terms when I feel strong enough so the experiences don’t drain me too much or pull me away from living my life. I have known too many people who got too wrapped up in toying with the dead that they forgot to live for the here and now, which is obviously incredibly unhealthy. Life is meant to be lived to the fullest so you don’t take regrets with you into your death.

St. Louis teacher, Jessica JewettLast year I did several new sketches of the dead I’ve met. I thought back to the one who frightened me the most when I was about 8-years-old and I committed the experience to my sketchbook (seen on the right). My uncle and aunt shared an apartment in St. Louis when I was little that used to be a school at the end of the nineteenth century into the early twentieth century. That building was always uncomfortable – something my mother and I never discussed until I was an adult. She never saw the teacher but I did and feeling such negativity from a spirit that abused children in life frightened me into silence for years afterward. Mom knew I was telling the truth because she had the same sensations at the time as well. The teacher was not at rest, probably because she died believing she would be judged for her deeds in life and refused to move on, instead getting stuck in the building where those deeds happened.

Here are some more recent sketches of spirits. Again, please click on the photos to see the larger versions.

So let’s talk about these people. Three of them are spirits that I’ve met around my current neighborhood southeast of Grant Park in Atlanta. One of them (the soldier aiming a gun) was a spirit I had seen back in 1999 on a day trip to see North Georgia history barely a year after I moved here. My trip to Chickamauga always stuck with me and I wanted to memorialize this poor young man. The women are a bit different. They never hung around. Sometimes I have spirits simply passing through the area and I never see them again, which is completely normal.

The lady on the far left was dressed in that hazy area between the Depression and World War II. I woke up one night to find her bending over my bed looking at me curiously like she was trying to figure out who I was and what I was doing here. Naturally it startled me so hard that I jumped up and turned on my light (at the time I had a touch lamp that I could turn on without needing help with a switch). She wasn’t bad. She was actually very friendly as you can tell by her facial expression. What startled me was how bright her colors were. Usually I see spirits as faint shapes with washed out colors and the entire experience is not so jarring. This lady was bright, like illuminated, and her outer edges were pretty solid. At first I thought a living person broke into my house and that startled me into ready to fight.

On the far right is a lady that hung around for about a month. I had some communication with her after my mom and grandmother complained on more than one occasion of smelling smoke. Apparently Atlanta had a rather large city fire in 1917 around the Old Fourth Ward extending southward to almost where I live. I had never heard of it until I met the Smoky Lady (I give them all nicknames if they don’t give me real names). She indicated that she died of the smoke triggering an asthma attack from which she couldn’t recover and was never listed as a direct casualty of the fire. From what I recall, there weren’t any direct casualties. Why did she tell me? Who knows.

Celine II, Jessica JewettI’ve come full circle in a lot of ways with this spirit art. It began with drawing my past life memories, drifted into drawing the dead around my city, and now I’ve allowed myself to memorialize another past life of mine. Drawing allows my mind to go silent and I meditate on every little line. And when I need to release something to the universe, sometimes drawing it in great detail facilitates that liberation for me.

This is who I was in the eighteenth century. I witnessed the end of the French monarchy but I didn’t survive the Terror. It’s much clearer than my other sketches because it’s a recurring memory that I’ve experienced many times for over a decade now. The profile is actually a mirror reflection, which is the only way I’ve ever seen myself at that time. This is the face of a woman who knows her family will disappear soon.

Since I committed it to paper, I haven’t seen this reflection in my dreams again.

I’m in my thirties now and I find it much easier to do these spirit sketches. In my youth, I did them because I didn’t understand the things I saw and I was essentially trying to purge the weird from my system. Now I realize that these little pages in my sketchbooks are memorials for the forgotten people dead so long there isn’t anyone left to mourn or remember them. Now I consider it my responsibility to preserve their memories and give their souls a little bit of immortality.

Donation

Please consider making a donation to help me keep up with the cost of art supplies, living expenses, equipment related to my disability, and so forth. The minimum is set at $10.00. Thank you for your generosity.

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My Love Affair With Arteza Fineliner Pens

Arteza Fineliners, Jessica JewettIt was a total impulse buy a few months ago and here we are now. My honest confession is that I can’t stop using these pens. They live on my desk on a permanent basis. I’m regretting the fact that I only got the 24 set considering there is the glorious bounty of a 72 set too.

Essentially what you’re getting is a metal tin filled with a variety of colors in the 0.4 mm tip size. To compare with the Sakura Pigma Micron fine liner sizing system, these pens are the same as their 04 size. That means you won’t get the super fine line you can get with the smallest Micron pens but I think Arteza isn’t going for the smallest line. They’re going for something in between that appeals to some professional illustrators right down to people filling in coloring books to relax.

Arteza Fineliners, Jessica Jewett Arteza Fineliners, Jessica Jewett

Now let’s look at the claims Arteza makes about the 24-pen tin that I purchased. The inks in these pens are water-based, which means they are nor permanent like other fine liners. However, they are advertised as being made with non-smudging, odor-free, and acid-free ink. The nibs are long-lasting metal-clad encased tips for precise detailing with rulers and stencils. The triangular-shaped barrel is designed for a perfect grip with the added benefit that they won’t roll off desks or tables. Another claim states that they are ideal for left-handed use.

I can’t say whether these pens are good for right- or left-handed people because I draw with the tools in my mouth due to my disability. I can, however, say the barrel is one of the big reasons why I favor this pen. If you have a mobility impairment, it’s difficult to catch or grab rolling pens, so the triangle shape is easier to hold. The plastic is sturdy as well. I’ve been using these pens regularly for a few months and I haven’t managed to crack any of them yet. So the barrel design is a major pro on the decision whether to try these pens or not.

On the other hand, water-based ink can be a con in the decision-making process because a lot of illustrators out there who use ink often prefer alcohol-based ink. Personally, though, I haven’t found the ink problematic so far. I have found the ink mostly smudge-resistant, bright, strong, and smooth. Only one green pen has minor drag issues but I think that’s a fluke in my pack as opposed to anything reflective of the whole set. That one nib is a little stiff compared to the others. The difference is so minor that I only notice a little drag when I have to fill in a block of color. It is true that the inks are odor-free. I’ve never smelled anything when I use them. When I draw thin lines or fill in color, the ink does not bleed or move around my paper (so far I have used three kinds of paper – two white and one gray). Generally, the ink in these pens is fantastic quality.

Art By Jessica Jewett cropped-artbyjjlogo5.jpg
Forget-Me-Not Pentacle, Jessica Jewett Here are some of my experiments with the Arteza Fineliners.

I’m working on mock ups and ideas for logos, headers, etc., for my art shop, website, business cards, and general publicity. Since they’re just mock ups, they’re not final products. I still have a lot of ideas to sketch out, but that’s the great thing about these pens. You can do a lot of different art styles with them. If I had the bigger sets with more color choices, I could do a lot more too.

The pentacle is something I did for fun, for myself. Pentacles are symbols mostly used by Pagan people today, although they have been used in ancient Christianity and other religious paths as well. It’s important to know that the upright pentacle seen here is a symbol of spirituality, positivity, power, and harmony in  the universe. The inverted pentacle, meaning one turned upside down, is a symbol of the darker arts. They’re not the same.

And forget-me-nots are an important flower to me and I’ve been wanting to practice drawing them. Drawing flowers wreathing different objects has been an exercise of mine lately. I’ve been working on mastering nature, greenery, flowers, rocks, trees, and so on, so I thought the Arteza Fineliners would keep my practice sessions interesting. I respond to color. I’m very stimulated by it. These colors make practice work and experimentation fun for me.

I highly recommend these pens.

You can buy the Arteza Fineliners on their website in different sets ranging from 24 to 72 in number. Prices range from $7.99 to $16.57 on their website at the moment. Those are sale prices and are subject to change at any time.

This was not a sponsored blog. I bought these pens with my own money and I wanted to review them for those who have disabilities and are looking for good products.

Donation

Please consider making a donation to help me keep up with the cost of art supplies, living expenses, equipment related to my disability, and so forth. The minimum is set at $10.00. Thank you for your generosity.

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Struggling With the Witch Cottage Series

I had the bright idea in the autumn to start a series of highly detailed, realistic pencil drawings of domestic scenes based around my concept of how a witch lived during colonial America. It’s sort of fantasy, sort of ancestral reality, and altogether original. My goal was to complete one in time for each of the four seasons. Loosely, they would be themed around Samhain, the winter solstice (Yule to some), Imbolc into Ostara, and Beltane into Lughnasadh.

I have completed Samhain and Yule so far. I think Samhain was fairly easy because I hadn’t yet decided to make it a full series, so I wasn’t feeling any pressure. Samhain is my favorite period of the year too. I can whip out art along the themes in that season with my eyes closed. Take a look at the one that started my bright idea.

The Witch's Cottage, Jessica Jewett

Witch Cottage No. 1:

5×7 print on Etsy for $10.00
11×17 print on Etsy for $20.00
ORIGINAL PIECE SOLD

I’m really proud of that one. People often send me messages asking if I intentionally hid images in the fire or in the shelf. I didn’t, of course, but I adore the idea of people seeing things in my art that speak to them. It means I somehow tapped into some amazing creative energy.

Then I decided I would do it again. A story began to form in my mind because I spent so much time with the first piece and everybody loved it so much. I had to restock it three times, which has never happened in my little shop with another piece of art. The story took shape for a more formal room designed around the winter solstice, which doesn’t look very different from Christmas. The trouble was I tried to finish a major piece of art during the real holidays. I ran out of time! It was tough to balance home life with my artistic ambitions and I had to learn a tough lesson about best laid plans. Witch Cottage No. 2 wasn’t finished until after the solstice.

Witch Cottage No. 2, Jessica Jewett

Witch Cottage No. 2:

5×7 print on Etsy for $10.00
11×17 print on Etsy for $20.00
ORIGINAL PIECE on Etsy for $180.00

But I finished it and I think the challenge was good for me. I changed up my usual way of setting up a composition for domestic scenes. Everything was done to historical specifications regarding colonial America while adding subtle hints that a witch lives in that home. I had trouble though. It was tough to keep my perspective points straight and I still think I couldn’t get those points exactly right. One point perspective I’ve mastered pretty well but two point perspective or more still wreaks havoc on my dyslexia.

Still I’m pressing onward to new challenges. At the moment, I’m working on the third piece in my Witch Cottage series centered around the rebirth and renewed light during the period of Imbolc into Ostara. I had the fabulous idea of a greenhouse scene to show where the witch in this artistic story grows her plants, flowers, and herbs.

Again, I’ve run into delays and the sacred days have already come and gone. This time it was my health. Chronic pain is a companion to my disability and I had to have an invasive procedure this spring. I might even be looking at surgery this year too. So I’m doing my best to be kinder to myself about missing my self-imposed deadline because this is not something that could have been avoided.

Let’s take a look at my work-in-progress of Witch Cottage No. 3, shall we?

Witch Cottage No. 3, WIP, Jessica Jewett

I’m not sure how much you can decipher about what’s going on in this piece but you’re looking at the interior of a greenhouse. There are drying herbs strung across the top. A table and chairs are in the middle with a bench on the right. Through the open door will be a glimpse of the outside as well. I’m planning to set up an Imbolc altar on the table and maybe hide an ewe outside somewhere. We’ll see where things take me as I go. This one has been daunting because I rarely draw plants, but I’ve been practicing in other sketchbooks.

Of course, since I’ve made it this far, I can’t stop now. I don’t really want to stop either. I did not, however, believe I was going to be so challenged by this project. Once I’m done with Witch Cottage No. 4 in a few months (I haven’t yet decided how to depict summertime), I’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the fact that I succeeded at a challenge I set before myself almost six months ago.

Don’t get stagnate in your art. If you’re not feeling challenged, or you’re not slightly nervous about your work, then you’re not developing your skills. An artist needs constant growth in order to experience life at its fullest. Sometimes being nervous is a good thing because it makes your accomplishments all the more potent and special.

Donation

Please consider making a donation to help me keep up with the cost of art supplies, living expenses, equipment related to my disability, and so forth. The minimum is set at $10.00. Thank you for your generosity.

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My #CopicColors Challenge So Far

Last month, I came across an awesome art challenge on Instagram. I immediately wanted to get involved even though I was unaware of it until the second month, so I caught up quickly.

The challenge came about from the Copic brand of art supplies famous for their alcohol-based markers and fine liner pens among other things. On the first of each month, Copic announces three colors that we are to use to create art that month. It can be any kind of art we please but it has to be done only with the three colors they select (plus optional black or white pens for emphasis).

Copic Sea Ocean Markers

I used to be hesitant about using Copic markers. Okay, that’s not entirely accurate. I was afraid of using alcohol-based markers in general because I have to draw with my mouth. As most of you know, I have a disability that makes it impossible for me to draw or write or do anything else with my hands, which means I do those things with the tools in my mouth. If pens crack open or paintbrushes aren’t clean, I can ingest the ink or the paint or whatever, and I can get sick. But I was gifted a pack of ocean-toned Copic markers last summer, so I tried them out. Long story short, they are very well made and I’ve barely left teeth marks on the barrels whereas most markers or pens crack in the first use.

And when this drawing challenge came around, I got excited. I thought it would be fun to do an art project that a lot of other people were doing, like being part of a community.

I wanted to make sure, however, that being part of an art community didn’t compromise my artistic style. The truth is I’m not a typical artist. My subjects are almost always historical, inspired by feminine power in history, or reflective of my religious upbringing (I’m a witch raised by a witch). I knew whatever I did for the color challenge wasn’t going to be like the popular illustration style I’ve seen with Copic artists, nor did I want my art to fit into any mold.

Godey's Lady's Book, February 1856

In thinking about what I wanted to do for my year-long challenge, I only had to look to my antique book collection. I have a full year of Godey’s Lady’s Book from 1856. Godey’s was like a combination of Vogue and Martha Stewart Living for women of the nineteenth century. There are hand-colored fashion plates (like illustrating Vogue models, let’s say) that are stunning works of art to me. Just look at this one on the left from my book.

I love historical fashion plates and I wish we still used them. That was when it hit me. I can create fashion plates progressing from 1800 through the next twelve decades, but instead of copying the old style, I could use the Copic challenge to modernize it with color. I think there’s something interesting in exploring fashion history while layering it with modern color ideas.

Presto! My theme for this year-long project was born. I wrote it down to go like this:

January: 1800-1809
February: 1810-1819
March: 1820-1829
April: 1830-1839
May: 1840-1849
June: 1850-1859
July: 1860-1869
August: 1870-1879
September: 1880-1889
October: 1890-1899
November: 1900-1909
December: 1910-1919

It’s too bad we aren’t on a thirteen-month calendar because then I could have gone into flappers of the Jazz Age as my finale piece! Maybe I’ll do that for myself anyway after the rest of them are done.

Let’s look at the #CopicColor challenge pieces I’ve done so far. The paper I have been using with Copic markers is listed as the “Hammermill Paper, Color Copy Digital Cover, 100lb, 8.5 x 11” on Amazon. I was recommended that paper by Baylee Jae in one of her YouTube videos and I think it’s great for alcohol-based markers but not pencil art. It’s definitely best for ink. You get plenty for your money too.

Miss January – The Purple Lady of 1803

#CopicColors Miss January, Jessica JewettI found the inspiration for Miss January in a portrait from 1803 of a woman who actually lived at that time. I made her into a fashion plate instead of a painting, which created a new and different woman altogether. This was my first fashion plate illustration and I feel like I made some mistakes since I had no real experience before with this style. I’m honestly making it up as I go, which means I ought to be more forgiving of myself, but I’m very critical. I see lots of things that should have been done differently. Still, people seem to like it!

Miss January reminds me of Jane Austen, as does Miss February. You’ll see her in a second. All of Jane Austen’s stories took place in this period. Sometimes I call Miss January and Miss February the Jane Austen Girls.

January’s colors assigned by Copic for this art were B91, V17, and BV02. The only other tool I used was a Micron pen in size 02 for emphasis.

Buy Miss January:

5×7 print on Etsy for $10.00
11×17 print on Etsy for $20.00

Miss February – The Pink Lady of 1815

#CopicColors Miss February, Jessica JewettI’m personally very enamored of this one. I got the inspiration for Miss February from an illustration that was dated 1815, although I don’t know if it was an actual fashion plate or not. Sometimes artists just used the popular style of the period when they were doing pen and ink work. I think the original version was yellow but I might be mistaken.

Naturally I used the colors assigned to me instead and I changed some of the shapes. I’m not adept enough at this illustration style yet to draw it out of my head, hence the inspiration photos from the period. My goal is to be totally historically accurate down to the month if I can.

Miss February was specifically done this way to keep with the Valentine’s Day feeling. I like the way she’s gazing at a double portrait in her hands. I especially like the way she’s sitting incorrectly in her chair (according to etiquette at that time) because it tells me she’s a little bit of a rebel.

February’s colors assigned by Copic for this art were RV32, RV34, and E74. The only other tool I used was a Micron pen in size 02 for emphasis.

Buy Miss February:

5×7 print on Etsy for $10.00
11×17 print on Etsy for $20.00

Miss March – The Green Lady of 1822

#CopicColors Miss March, Jessica JewettI’d say this one has been the hardest for me to do so far. It was probably the plaid fabric that made me struggle as much as I did. I had trouble seeing where the natural skirt folds should be vs where the plaid pattern went. Green is a tough color for me to see for some reason. Multiple shades of green tend to blend into one bright shade if I’m not completely and utterly focused. I think I did fairly well, however.

The inspiration for Miss March did indeed come from a fashion plate dated 1822. I thought all of the foliage in this one made it nice for the green shades assigned to us, although the foliage was not colorized in the original. The first artist intended for the dress and hat (that feather!) to be front and center, so everything else was without color and distraction. I wanted Miss March to feel like a woodland nymph in a way.

March’s colors assigned by Copic for this art were G17, YG17, and YG23. The only other tool I used was a Micron pen in size 02 for emphasis.

Buy Miss March:

5×7 print on Etsy for $10.00
11×17 print on Etsy for $20.00

And there we have it! Those are all of the pieces I’ve done for the #CopicColors challenge up until the present. Sunday is April 1st, so we will most certainly receive our new color assignments that day unless Copic takes a day off for Easter. We’ll see!

I’m also tossing around the possibility of turning this series of illustrations into a calendar or maybe even a book of some kind. It all depends on what I feel after I have all twelve of them in front of me. It also depends on what interests my followers. Who knows? Maybe I’ll do a calendar and a book of short stories based on select illustrations. There are things that interest me about both ideas.

Keep checking back for more in this series!

Donation

Please consider making a donation to help me keep up with the cost of art supplies, living expenses, equipment related to my disability, and so forth. The minimum is set at $10.00. Thank you for your generosity.

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Video: All of my art done in 2017.

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.

Now, let’s see if I can post the video here.

Here’s the direct link: https://youtu.be/Vo4z4gJbdq8

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!

Donation

Please consider making a donation to help me keep up with the cost of art supplies, living expenses, equipment related to my disability, and so forth. The minimum is set at $10.00. Thank you for your generosity.

$10.00


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Inktober 2017: Week 1

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.

005 Micron Pen, Jessica Jewett 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.

Meet the Artist, Inktober
Days one and two are two-panels introducing the artist. It features a section of what’s in my bag, my religious symbols, likes, dislikes, and a self-portrait.
Witch, Inktober
Day three was my interpretation of a movie still from Snow White.
Pagan Altar, Inktober
Day four was me experimenting with shapes, and light and shadow with ink, which is not something I’ve mastered yet. It turned into a pagan altar featuring a god and goddess statue, a bowl with burning herbs, a crystal ball, a scrying mirror, a bell, wine, and flowers.
Witch Hazel, Inktober
Day five came as a special request by a friend. This is my interpretation of Witch Hazel, another old Disney character.
Witch Potion, Inktober
Day six got harder because I was sick. I drew a fictional advertisement for a potion to make magic powers stronger and more stable. I drew inspiration from old Victorian tonics sold in newspapers and magazines.
Chains, Inktober
Day seven was a look at what I feel like some days with my disability. I live in a body that doesn’t function like it should and I go through periods of feeling like I’m in prison.

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!

Are you doing Inktober? Show me your work!

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I’m doing Inktober 2017!

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.

Jessica Jewett, Inktober

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.

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/jj9828
YouTube: http://youtube.com/honeysuckle1825

Donation

Please consider making a donation to help me keep up with the cost of art supplies, living expenses, equipment related to my disability, and so forth. The minimum is set at $10.00. Thank you for your generosity.

$10.00


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