Update on Make Art Not War Challenge and Future Plans

Make Art Not War Challenge eBook

It’s been about two years since I self-published the Make Art Not War Challenge: Rules, Essays, and 31 Creative Prompts ebook following a year’s worth of posts to help keep people motivated and focused on making art, and approximately a year since we booted up a micro-community with this spirit in mind. I’ve had some time to think about my next steps for this program that I wanted to share with you.

Right now, it doesn’t make sense to give this a huge push as an online movement. A lot of online spaces are experiencing a ton of changes for reasons ranging from algorithmic bias to a drop in types of usage, etc. So many people feel so overwhelmed, they’re sticking to the basics and exploring local, existing, private spaces. I suspect we’ll see this happen even more going into an Election Year. Mind you, my intent was never to make this Monica’s MANW Challenge, because that’s not the reason why I started this.

My dream for the Make Art Not War Challenge is to create spaces where the arts are accessible for people to explore music, literature, art, etc. regardless of their identity or income while getting guidance to learn how to build a career or seek employment in the arts. I am not the only one who has this vision; to put something like this in motion (on the scale I’m picturing) I’d need a significant amount of resources/money to build (both on and with) existing programs that exist for specific arts and verticals. It doesn’t make sense to create something brand new that doesn’t take into account the work wonderful community leaders, educators, and professional organizations are already doing.

This is not the time for that initiative, either. I’ve come to the realization that no dream of mine can be realized until I finish securing my own oxygen mask. There may come a point when I have the resources/money available, either through a donor or other means, to turn that around but for now? It’s just a gentle whisper until the time is right.

If you’re reading this and you’re struggling, I want you to know that you’re not alone. Though I’ve been keeping my head down on Twitter (and I’m mostly off of Facebook other than the occasional, ridiculous quip), I do pay attention to the vibe. If it’s any reassurance, what’s happening in the world is having a profound effect on everyone in both small and big ways from feelings of guilt for pursuing your dreams to being shell-shocked by the increasing amounts of vitriol online and off–not to mention all the personal stuff everyone has going on. It’s a lot for anyone to manage!

That’s it for me right now. In closing, I want to add simply this: if you can’t find the light in the darkness, become one. Shine.

Make Art Not War Challenge 2019: Warm Up with Febrrrary!

Make Art Not War Challenge eBook

Hi friends! If you remember my Make Art Not War Challenge, you’ll recall I included fun exercises in the eBook and here on the blog. In the spirit of creativity, comic book professional Mark Stegbauer and I cooked up something hawt for February–a fire-themed creative challenge!

Are you sick of winter? Yeah, me too. Warm yourself up by thinking about fire! Grab a daily prompt and use it as a prompt for your creative warm-ups. There’s no rules, no restrictions, no level required. You can sketch, write a 250-word story, or stat up an antagonist for your favorite game! Then share your art and help us melt Jack Frost! Join us on the hashtag #febrrrary.

I’m planning on using the prompts as my creative warm-ups before diving into the pile. I have a lot of fun doing it, and I miss drawing. I hope you’ll consider participating! I would LOVE to see what you come up with. Yay! And, as always, I’d appreciate a boost by sharing the prompts. Let’s encourage each other to keep making art.

Why I Believe the Voynich Manuscript was Created by a Woman

Over the years, there have been several theories written about the Voynich Manuscript ranging from the now-debunked idea it was a plagiarized women’s health book to the most recent scholar’s theory that an Italian Jew wrote it. Regardless, the text hasn’t been decoded, even by an AI–and I’ve formed fresh theories about its author beyond my earlier thought that it may be an alchemical text. I have a facsimile of the folios, and after reviewing all the theories I’ve realized the Voynich Manuscript may have been written by a woman.

For background, the vellum has been carbon-dated to the early 1400s, and illustrations potentially place its author in Northern Italy. Okay, so what was happening in Northern Italy at that time? The Italian Renaissance was flourishing despite the long shadow of the Holy Roman Empire and the established patriarchy. While it’s true that belief in witches during this time period was present, primarily among peasants and commoners, keep in mind the hysteria not peak until much later following the publication of the international best-seller Malleus Maleficarum in 1486.

Why write an untranslatable book about women’s health during the Italian Renaissance? One that has no overtly Christian or Catholic-specific symbols in it, either? On the one hand, you have an age of discovery and a period of enlightenment. On the other, you have the establishment of the Church and its political might. In between, however, you also have the birth of an Italian feminist movement that began in the late 14th century. Several Italian women of privilege were not only literate, they also taught at university, published books, and participated in the Italian Renaissance as thinkers of their age. Dorotea Bucca was a professor of health and medicine in Bologna, for example, for forty years from 1390-1430. As another example, Christine di Pizan challenged the idea that women were inferior to men by publishing the City of Ladies in 1404.

This, dear reader, points to my “who”. Who would be interested in writing a book that emphasized women’s health? One that stretched the boundaries of the knowledge they possessed at the time? Who’d have access to vellum and inks? Who’d have access to women to illustrate and study their naked bodies in a non-threatening, non-sexual way? Answer: an Italian woman of privilege. There is no reason to assume the Voynich Manuscript’s author was male, and I feel that gender absolutely plays a role in the discussion about its author given all that was going on in Italy at the time. If the folio was written by an educated woman, then she has more than one reason to ensure the text is not translatable–especially if she continued to work on the text as time progressed. And, since we know that literary among women was not as widespread, those who were educated would have stood out because their numbers were few. So, an Italian woman of means who wanted to explore the sciences would have just cause to write an untranslatable text that only she could decode.

Keep in mind that Yale’s Beinecke Library states that the Voynich Manuscript was written in the 15th or 16th century, and of the articles I read (linked above) this folio was reliably produced before the invention of the printing press. This further underlines the possibility that a woman had yet another reason to hide her discoveries: because there was a growing backlash to the rise in feminism even before the ultra-popular, anti-feminist Malleus Maleficarum was published in 1487. History teaches us that every moment of progress, in this case the Italian Renaissance, is followed by a period of regression. Modern societies weather those periods faster, because the zeitgeist changes at a more rapid rate. Not so in centuries past, for sure. Anyway, this “rubber band” effect caused by a number of factors (including the then-inexplicable plagues) began to target devil-worshipping women as the reason why all bad things were happening; because of that any female doctor, scholar, professor, or healer would be at risk of discrimination or, as the centuries progressed, much worse. Keep in mind the Malleus Maleficarum was not conjured from thin air, and many existing beliefs were drawn upon and extrapolated to fit Church guidelines. (One of the many reasons why this damnable book was so popular.) As one of several examples, the witch’s mark bears a lot of similarities to signs of a bubonic plague infection. All of Europe experienced heavy losses, and when there is no explanation for tragedy and suffering often the most vulnerable populations are to blame. In this case, women.

Why untranslatable? As long as the author retains knowledge, then she’s fighting back against that feminist backlash until it’s safer to do her work once again. Having said that, there is another possibility. Drawing from earlier theories, if the text was copied from an existing text (or, as is more likely, several of them) by someone who was illiterate but of means, then the folio wouldn’t make sense to anyone–including the author. The illustrations could have been the author’s interpretation of existing materials, too, so they aren’t a precise copy. Thus, there may be no translation for the text because the author either did not know what they were writing, they had no guidance to ensure the material was copied correctly, or they were not copying the content for accuracy. Here, too, it’s possible a woman who desired to be literate would have been the author. Who else would be drawn to illustrations of herself and want to hold those dear? Who else would take the time to practice lettering? Who might admire a book and long to read it?

Well, there you have it. A different take on the “who” might have penned the Voynich Manuscript and “why” it can’t be translated. Sadly, I could only prove this with a lot of time and research. So, for now they’ll remain theories. May my author funds be bountiful so I can explore this further one day. Wouldn’t that be amazing!

New! December’s 30 Day Challenge to Make Art Not War

Wow! What a year it has been! For several months, you’ve learned some things about yourself as an artist. You’ve made art! And, you’ve stuck with me on my artistic journey. Now, I have one last challenge for you. In lieu of a theme for December, I’m offering a series of fun daily activities for you to complete. Each one touches on some of the tips, advice, and themes I’ve offered throughout the year. Enjoy!

MANW Check-In Week 48: November’s Progress and Finish Lines

Make Art Not War November 2017

Hey, how did your November go? Mine went pretty well, despite two weeks lost to the flu. This month’s theme was FINISH, and by now you have either finished what you started this month or you’re struggling. There could be a lot of reasons behind your lack of motivation or slower progress, and I’ve often found that it’s important to record them. The point of finishing is not to hyper-analyze how you reach the finish line. Sometimes, it’s more important to type “the end” than it is to write it with a flourish or add a bit of poetry. From there, from your failures or setbacks, you might discover new goals or behavioral techniques you can use to move forward.

Here are some examples of setbacks and solutions:

Setback: Falling Behind. Your goal was to reach 50,000 words for a novel this month, but you felt overwhelmed and couldn’t figure out what to write. By the time you got that sorted, you fell behind.

Solution: To prepare for a month of writing, try your hand at outlining and character sketches beforehand. What do your characters want? What stands in their way? Where does your story start and end? Outlines can help keep you on track as you write, because they’ll offer goal posts where you didn’t have any before.

Setback: Lack of Focus.
You knew what you wanted to write, but it was hard to focus. Every time you started, you quickly lost interest and didn’t want to write at all.

Solution: Being resistant to the work happens to all of us. To get past that mental block or stubbornness, you could try warm-up exercises, changing your environment/music, writing something else for fifteen minutes to half an hour, etc. Usually, when you’re slow or can’t focus there’s a reason for that. It could be something as complex as anxiety/depression or a consequence of heavily relying on online tools. It could also, however, be something simple. You’ve never written in that genre before, or haven’t used that technique. Fear can definitely be a factor, even on a subsconscious level, too.

Setback: Can’t Finish.
You have no trouble getting into writing, but you can’t seem to finish what you start no matter how hard you try.

Solution: Try writing the end or middle of your story first. You might also benefit from mini-tasking, or taking your short stories and breaking them out by scenes instead. You might also plan to write for shorter periods of time, lke 15 or 20 minutes, until you rebuild your concentration. If you get distracted, I also find that having a journal or a tool like Evernote next to you can really help. That way, if you have a to do item you forgot or suddenly remember an important task you can write it down and get back to your manuscript.

The next time you have a setback, try identifying what it is and cooking up your own solution. This week’s check-in addresses some of the finer points I’ve been dealing with. Tune in later this week for a brand new 30 Day Challenge!

Weekly Check-in

My Original Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge pledge:

  • I pledge to devote one hour a day to my original art.
  • If I don’t feel motivated, I pledge to write down the reasons why I wanted to take this challenge for fifteen minutes or one-to-three pages whichever comes first.
  • I pledge to mark down on the calendar whenever I complete a day’s efforts.
  • As the challenge creator, I pledge to create a weekly accountability post every Wednesday beginning on January 9th. Comments will be open. Hashtag #makeartnotwar2017 #manw2017
  • I pledge to check into social media twice a week for personal use, and once a month with my local community of artists and writers.

Here’s my current status:

  • Diary of an Aspiring Alchemist is going strong. William Sand finally got the job after a confusing and rocky series of appointments. He’s currently stuck in an archive, reading old books about alchemy and the occult
  • Motivation hasn’t been the issue for me, but I did have a challenging time trying to work while I had the flu. I’ve got a strong routine down now, and need to add back in a few other things. Looking forward to it!
  • So, I’ve been using a new technique on Evernote to mark down progress. It’s been very effective!
  • As the challenge creator, I pledge to create a weekly accountability post every Wednesday beginning on January 9th. Comments will be open. Hashtag #makeartnotwar2017 #manw2017
  • I’m good re: social media. I’m mostly using it for work right now, and I may extend that into 2018. We’ll see how this month goes!

Hope your month went well and better than expected. Write soon!

Mood: Focused. Tired. Deep-fried.
Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Going to hit the caffeine hard. Vrooooom!
Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Some walking.
In My Ears: Us Against the World by Coldplay
Game Last Played: Pokémon Go
Book Last Read: A mega-ass ton of anthologies.
Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Lucifer Season 3
Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War Challenge eBook now available!
Latest Releases: Over the Edge for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Legacy of Lies for V20 Dark Ages.
Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming when I get time.




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