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On resolutions January 11, 2019

Posted by thejinx in art, life.
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newyears2019When I was younger, I wasn’t crazy about New Year’s. (Admittedly, I didn’t get invited to many parties.) These days, however, I like the spirit of renewal. A blank slate. Casting off the wearied remnants of the old year and looking toward the bright potential of the future.

Yes, it’s an arbitrary date and people shouldn’t need an excuse to improve themselves. But it’s a landmark. A reminder, when we’re so often swept up in the chaos of our daily lives, that we should constantly be trying to better ourselves.

And now, in the Information Age, it’s easier than ever to do. Free apps can teach you a new language, how to play an instrument, how to draw and meditate and all sorts of things. YouTube videos can show you how to make or do almost anything. There’s a mountain of free ebooks and online courses out there that can help you master a new skill or subject. Most of these options are even broken down into chunks that only require a few minutes a day. There’s no excuse not to attempt any pursuit one might desire.

I don’t tend to make resolutions. I made an exception with my Goodreads reading challenge for 2019, and I’ll admit I like the push it gives me. Otherwise, however, I don’t want to pressure myself. I prefer goals. Google Fit keeps trying to get me to lower my fitness goals, make them more consistently attainable for me. But I’m not out to check boxes off every day. I want to strive for those goals. I won’t beat myself up if I don’t make them, but I’ll allow myself to feel good if I do.

I don’t have a lot of goals for 2019. I already started trying to exercise regularly a few months ago, and last year I made some changes to my health that significantly improved my overall quality of life. I want to read more, of course. I do want to try to get the second Sisters of Chaos book out this year. Editing continues to be a slog, but I’m using the spirit of improvement the new year provides to try to push myself to at least continue working on it.

Of course, with all these options for personal improvement out there, it’s hard not to get swept up in the different things one can learn or do. I look at the guitar(s) in my bedroom and think about the apps I’ve looked at to try to start playing again. I watch my daughter using new art supplies and think about breaking out some of my own that I haven’t touched for years. I even downloaded one of those language learning apps on a whim last night.

Is it too much? Maybe. Do I have too little time to explore all these interests? Maybe not, at least based on the apps I’ve seen. Will I lose interest before the month’s out? Possibly. But these options are better than just sitting around playing a silly mobile game or watching cat videos on YouTube, which I tend to do more often in my free time because it’s easier than doing anything that can be judged. Maybe my true resolution should be to stop being intimidated by starting anything.

The key to a good new year is not merely hoping or wishing that it will be better. Now’s the time to start making things happen.

Here’s to a great 2019.

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The year of trying more? Oil pastels, 2.5″ x 3.5″

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Art vs. Illustration October 22, 2018

Posted by thejinx in art, writing.
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I’ve been drawing seriously, or at least trying to, for the better part of thirty years now. While it hasn’t been my only, or even necessarily primary, method of creative expression, I’ve done a lot of it. My artwork folder on my computer, which consists only of pictures I have at one point deemed worthy of sharing, has over 500 files in it.

Most of those pictures are more or less portraits. The character(s) might not be looking at the viewer and they might be doing something interesting, but the whole point of those drawings is just to show off a character. I’ve drawn my share of scenes, pictures showing a clear story, but they’re still one-off images. I have considered and even scripted comics and/or graphic novels, but I haven’t taken the time to really attempt it yet.

Now that I have been drawing for the chapter book I wrote, however, I am starting to understand the particular challenges to actual illustration, particularly now that I have started colouring my illustrations. Up till now, it’s mostly been fun: determining visual quirks of characters the first time I draw them and extending those to subsequent illustrations, designing characters’ clothes, hair and accessories, setting the scenes I’m trying to convey. There was a challenge in keeping characters consistent, of course, and I had to consider things I’d never dealt with before, such as height of characters relative to each other, but it wasn’t all that different from what I was used to.

When I coloured the first character in the first illustration, however, I suddenly realized that I should colour all instances of that character to keep their portrayal consistent. And then as I worked further, I found myself needing to consider things that even backstory for the book itself didn’t prepare me for. Take this drawing, for example:

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All went well enough, I was enjoying the way it came together as I coloured each character over the course of a few nights, and then I got to that breakfast bar. What colour should the counter and the cupboard be?

I hadn’t put much thought into it at that point, but suddenly it became a crucial issue. I knew what colours the characters may favour, but they live on a space station. What would the counter and cupboard even be made of? An aluminum counter top is easy enough to decide upon, but what about the cupboard? Trying to answer that question only spawned more. Are these characters the first ones to live in this apartment? Because there wouldn’t be wood or drywall on a space station, and I don’t think repainting would be likely on a space station. How old is the station? Because that’s going to determine whether this is a new apartment or if they’ve moved in to someone else’s design choices. What would the walls be made of? Because that’s going to affect their colour, and so the design elements in the kitchen.

I hadn’t even considered these things while developing the story. I probably never would have if I hadn’t been trying to answer a simple question regarding a background element to a single illustration in the book. And this is only a taste of it; I have several more illustrations to go. What other issues may crop up as I work through the rest of the drawings? What else might I discover if I went on to write and illustrate more books?

It certainly makes for an interesting, and fun, challenge. In a way, I’m also a little saddened, because I have to, and I want to, focus entirely on Sisters of Chaos book 2 after I’ve finished with this book, even though I already have some ideas for another book. I’m also enjoying creating the art for this book, as time-consuming as it might be, too much to consider letting someone else illustrate for any possible future books. This has been a very fun process, weaving art and writing together in a way in which each affects the other, and I hope to get the chance to do it again before too long.

Never ending stories August 24, 2018

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I have some news to announce. The good news is: I’ve written a new story.

The bad news, of course, is I’ve written a new story.

Followers might wonder, so recently after I announced my intention not to write other books until I finish the Sisters of Chaos trilogy, why I suddenly wrote an entirely new book.

In short, I wanted to write a story for my daughter.

I’ve been wanting to write a story for her for years. But, as a SFF author of 100,000-word novels that lean more toward the grey side of the grimdark/noblebright scale, I found picture books just a bit too far outside my normal scope to attempt. Now that she is reading chapter books, however, I find an opportunity to write a story for her much more accessible.

I also made a realization recently. I hadn’t even considered writing a kid’s book before finishing with my trilogy, but it occurred to me that if I wait until then, she might be of an age when she can just read my regular work, and I’ll have missed the opportunity.

So, I sat down and wrote her a book. World, meet Mia:

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She’s nine years old, Hispanic, and lives on a space station.

Chapter books are still barely longer than my standard short story, so I was able to write out the entire book in a couple weeks. I still have some editing to do, but hopefully, the story won’t take much longer to finalize. The real holdup will be illustrations. Much as I would love to have someone else handle them, I just don’t have the budget for it, and I think my daughter would appreciate me drawing them myself.

Soon, I hope, I can share Mia’s story with the world.

New art: Garrick July 17, 2018

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Awfully late with this one, but I wanted to share this fantastic drawing of Garrick from Enduring Chaos by Stephen Peterson of TriCity Studios!

New art: Thunder Vale Huntress June 8, 2018

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On the topic of badly delayed posts, it’s time I shared some art I did only a full month ago. For Christmas, we got ourselves a box set of Super Dungeon Explore. As soon as I saw the Thunder Vale Huntress figure, I wanted to paint her.

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However, I wasn’t crazy about her in-game colour scheme.

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I saw her differently, so I decided to paint her my own way.

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Then, for some reason, the night I finished painting her, I was overcome with a desire to draw her as well. My muse, ADHD as it is, decided to devote my weekend to it. Not only that, but I broke out art supplies I haven’t touched in years, such as my 11″ x 14″ Bristol board (now possibly my favourite paper for markers, which I hadn’t tried before) and the brush pen I had yet to seriously try. I even went and attempted some serious comic inking, as well as more detailed horse anatomy than I’ve ever tried drawing before.

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Admittedly, I am pretty happy with this drawing (even if most of my shading on the horse body disappeared when I added the brown). I just wish my muse would get this excited about the projects I’m actually supposed to be working on.

Mistakes January 21, 2017

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I have a problem with perfectionism. Not with other people’s work, just my own. It causes a lot of stress and impedes my work, and it impacts everything I do. Chopping vegetables. Parking the car. Doing my daughter’s hair. And, of course, it greatly impacts my creative endeavours.

So, in an effort to fight my perfectionism, I challenged myself this week to do some art entirely in pen – no underlying pencil sketch, thumbnailing, studies, or other preparatory work allowed. And in an additional effort to embrace those mistakes, I’m sharing what I drew this week just as it is, no image manipulation involved.

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New art: Breezin’ July 13, 2016

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afro

The best I can do January 19, 2016

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I draw for fun.

That’s the long and short of it. I may get frustrated with it, I may make pieces with the express interest of selling them, but I come back to art time and again because I enjoy it. And these days, I draw almost exclusively for fun of the craft itself.

Lately, that means a lot of unfinished pictures. Admittedly, time and other priorities are a huge part of it, but mainly, I just don’t get taken with the sketches I do enough to see them through to completion. It’s a lot of work – to the tune of up to 20 hours on a single piece.

To an extent, it has always been this way. I have drawings I have yet to finish, and still really want to, that are ten years old, or older still. Life just gets in the way, and I never get around to coming back to it. At least, I haven’t yet – I still hold out hope that I will some day.

As a result, I rarely end up finishing a picture that is the best I can do. Even when I have a very important piece of art to do or one that I really want to make look good – or both – time or interest run out, and I just focus on getting it to a point that I can call it finished, even if I could make it better. I still might be very pleased with my work, and I certainly don’t go back to work on it later, but I take shortcuts or I accept something a little (artistically) messier for the sake of getting it done.

Currently, I am working on a drawing in which that is not the case. It was a fairly quick idea, not necessarily the picture I wanted to try so hard on. And admittedly, this picture is on a schedule that might run out on me. But I wrote last year about how I am pleased with my art, and this drawing especially so. I am trying some new things that so far are working out very well, and time and interest are both there for now.

The drawing is still early in its creation, despite having put 5-6 hours in already, as the lineart isn’t even done yet. I don’t feel like showing anything off yet, but I am planning a step by step post for after it is finished. It might be a while yet – the deadline is a while off still – and I apologize for that.

But of course, I’m only really doing this drawing for me.

2015 art update September 3, 2015

Posted by thejinx in art, books, enduring chaos, photography.
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In short, I still haven’t done much of it. However, in my typical way, I have done a bit of dabbling, and at times perhaps I have been doing more drawing than much of the time over the past few years, even if it is just sketches. The beginning of the year, in particular, saw me picking up the sketchbook a little more frequently:

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 I have also done some character designs on my tablet:

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More recently, after having the materials for upwards of a couple years, I finally tried my hand at some proper wire wrapping:

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And finally, earlier this year I upgraded to a proper DSLR camera, with which I am very pleased:

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Changes January 23, 2015

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I finished a new drawing last night, my first in over six months:

Sketch22420045It is a simple picture, in many respects, but this drawing is very important to me. Not because of the content, but because of the way it made me feel.

Because I enjoyed working on it. I enjoyed every step of the process – building up the sketch, designing the outfit, finding reference images for things like the hairstyle and anatomy, even learning to work around the limitations of the app I used, as I drew this from start to finish on my tablet. Intimidation reared its head and made it hard to get started at times, but I never had to force myself to work on it or felt discouraged that something wasn’t working and wanted to give up.

I don’t know why or how this changed, but this is a big deal for me, and it led to an even bigger revelation:

I feel good about my art.

I don’t care that it isn’t as good as the artists I follow. I don’t care that there are a lot of things I can’t or at least don’t know how to draw. I don’t care that after so many years I am still learning how to draw faces. I looked through my online gallery last night, both the drawings that kind of make me want to delete almost my entire gallery and the ones I still like, and it just made me want to draw more. For the first time in at least ten years, flaws aren’t the only thing I see, and I’m revelling in the act of creating, itself.

Now if only I had more time to draw.