On Sabbaticals and Making My Own Art

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My planned September sabbatical is almost at an end, sadly. I say “sadly”, because I very much enjoyed not being online this time around or, rather, online in closed circles. The first thing I did, after wrangling my list of paying gigs, was to do some adult coloring courtesy of Sarah Bigwood. And then? Decompression. This campaign has been absolutely ridiculously awful in the sense that there are so many arguments happening online. It’s challenging to get a squee every now and again for something that isn’t so spectacular it takes everyone’s breath away, regardless of whether or not I’m said creator of said piece for squeeing, and that gets to me. When I hear nothing but a single note at a singular volume, fortissimo, with a heavy pedal, it becomes noise and it loses its value.

It did take about two weeks to let the emotional angst flow right out of me, and then another two to right my head and get back in the What I Need To Be DoingTM headspace. Not to be confused, of course, with the What I Think I Should Be DoingTM headspace. Two, very different things–especially for writers. A few thoughts coming out of the past few weeks has reinforced that a) we’re all just making this shit up as we go along b) many (if not 95%) of us are doing the best we can and c) what you know or how you’re regarded means f-all with respect to what you do. As an addendum to that, plus an obligatory footnote(1), worrying about everything else is far too complicated and gets in the way of making art.

I’m sure some of my angst is coming from a charged election, but as I live in a charged state a decompression this time around was sorely needed. Of course, being offline doesn’t necessarily help me get down words faster on the page, but mitigating the words and headlines I consume has had an overall positive impact on my psyche. And, it has allowed me to get back to center and focus on what really matters. The in between spaces, the five and ten minutes here and there when I’m waiting on an e-mail, I definitely want to make better use of those.

What’s ahead? I’m planning on participating in Inktober, but I won’t be following the prompts. I have something specific planned, to add to my growing list of beadtastic-ness, but I’m pretty excited about it. I’m all about interstitial art that connects to the worlds I’m creating, to feel that visceral experience of my imagination brought to life–even in a small way! And yes, I feel like a “fake” artist, because none of the creative stuff I do (outside of words or art direction) is attached to my core business. I don’t know if it will be, either. Art has always been my religion, because it’s a testament to what’s inside. I just know I am totally and wholly miserable without it, and have to fall down this particular rabbit hole with or without the $ attached or the fear that I’m wasting my time.

That’s really been the crux of making my own stuff, and has for a while. We talk about making money as artists all the time, and how hard it is. I would write and make art with or without the money, but thinking about ways to earn it based off of what I already do isn’t evil. It’s counter-intuitive to what a lot of other people thinking about making your own stuff. Suffer on in obscurity, selling 20 copies, or have a book made into a movie. Only, there’s 1,000 different business models in between here and there and everywhere, and it’s maddening to try to control the outcome because it cannot be controlled. It can’t. You can have a background in business, which I do, but that doesn’t translate to how readers or players respond to the work or how many copies are sold. The only thing that can be controlled is how I spend my days, and right now? That means adding my own stuff. Just adding it back in, without the fear or anxiety or worry it won’t matter.

So what’s changed for me? I think the illustration at the bottom of today’s post perfectly sums up my thoughts but, for those of you who cannot see the honey badger, what has changed is that I stopped caring to remove another obstacle that gets in the way of being creative. Anything that gets in the way has gotta go. Stagnation for me, not writing or not designing or what have you, that’s the true death. That’s the beginning and end of the darkness that surrounds me, and I fight back by making art.

I don’t know if I’ll post links to my works or not, but if I do it won’t be every day. There is something very soothing about putting pen to paper, something that can’t be replaced with a mouse and a keyboard. I encourage you to participate if you think it’s a cool idea, even if you’re just lettering or watching what other artists are doing. More art = better for all in my book!

(1) Yes, games are in the category of art. Why wouldn’t they be?


Because Art is about Connecting

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Haven’t been blogging lately and I do apologize for that. I’ve been dealing with life, the universe, and everything in the form of GenCon deadlines, upcoming move, getting ready for C2E2 and Mo*Con, and thinking the mighty thoughts about my personal work. Also, trying not to get pissed off about things like this (while this happened), this, or the 1,000 other things that are happening right now. Because, let’s face it…there’s no shortage of crap to get pissed off about.

This article, however…this is good.

Social equality activists argue for more representation of minorities in fiction. There are many good reasons to do this, but for any creator, the biggest reason should be “to make better art”. When the same old characters are dancing to the same old plots choreographed with the same old tropes and the same old twists, only the same old segment of society is allowed to see themselves reflected in art. And even that segment is only allowed to get the same messages they always have about themselves. The mirror is cracked and the reflective backing is faded. It ceases to be useful even for the intended audience. — SOURCE: Reflected in Ice: An Aspergers Review of Frozen

Somewhat related to the topic, sharing a few links. This is awesome. (Explore the site, by the way, there’s a series shot for Women’s History Month, too.) And this, which was a recent discovery, followed by this (which probably means more to me than to you).

And now that I’ve shared a few links that aren’t Hulk smash-y smash-y, that are worth checking into? I need to get back to writing, to reading, to creating instead of consuming, by falling into the TRAP that is social media. TRAP! After all, I am here to write my proverbial bum off. Either way, I rather like sharing kick-ass things to check out that aren’t a) viral, temporal b.s. and b) rage-inducing. Hrmm…note to self: do more of that. Also, wear a mood ring. APPARENTLY.

Well, butter chicken first…because really, what is life without butter chicken? This may be the greatest mystery in the history of the modern era.

    Mood: [F-bomb] times 1,000. Pissed at self for getting distracted. Then double-pissed because I got distracted because I got pissed. [F-bomb] squared!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Um…do I REALLY NEED TO DISCLOSE THIS?
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Um…
    In My Ears: Too much peripheral noise caused by panicked screams. Yes, those are coming from me… Really… NO RY’LEH.
    Game Last Played: Eternal Sonata
    Book Last Read: Love is the Law by Nick Mamatas
    Movie Last Viewed: In Time
    Latest Artistic Project: National Craft Month
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Firefly RPG corebook
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.

To Each Thine Own Creativity

The Tick Weapons Lab Avatar

Since I’ve been diving into art and music again, my ideas have been free-flowing — it feels amazing. In my office, I have many art pieces up ranging from comic book characters to gothic elements. Transformers, Hack/Slash, He-Man, Thor, Star Wars, The Uniques, Final Fantasy, Domo, Miyazaki — and a dozen more waiting to be framed in my closet. My shelves are littered with color and characters like the Tokidoki figurines.

Beside me, are two watercolor pads and a set of paints. YouTube! tutorials abound and brush hits paper. Beads strung on wire and bits of thread. My moleskine notebook is filling up with concepts for new stories and plot-related tweaks for tales in various draft modes. I have several story-telling aids as well, like Rory’s Story Cubes, and various Doctor Who paraphenalia (as it is no secret I would love to write an episode some day).

And I need this creative clutter. You know, I really need it and have to play and use every bit of it. I opted not to pursue a career in art when I was much younger, although I love the field so, in part because I had even less support for that than I did my own writing. [Insert long story about how yes, having a network of people who support you for who you are is crucial to your future. If you don’t have one, make one — I know you can! I did!] I am such a tactile person I can’t “just” write; I need to create art, to be surrounded by it in order to unlock my creative energy. It doesn’t matter if I suck or not. It doesn’t matter if I sell those pieces or not. All that does, however, is that this method activates my creativity. You may be totally different.

What I’ve been learning and honing, more and more, is the concept of artistic resilience. So much crappy news about publishing, about women in publishing (depressing), about what to do/what not to do — distractions. Tumbleweeds. Plastic bags floating across the highway. I want to read about art and listen to new music and… Oh, hell. Han Solo?


More than that, though? I don’t feel there is a single way to find inspiration. I hope you find whatever works for you. There is nothing more freeing to me than knowing what best services the work, because that allows me to block out the b.s. and focus on what’s most important — writing.

    Mood: There’s a frog in my throat. Wondering what its legs look like.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Managed again! Huzzah!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I went to the gym and worshiped a machine.
    In My Ears: Clubbed to Death (Kurayamino Version) by Rob Dougan
    Game Last Played: Sonic All Star Racing Transformed
    Book Last Read: Lovecraft’s Monsters anthology
    Movie Last Viewed: Dark City Director’s Cut
    Latest Artistic Project: National Craft Month
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Freedom Flyer
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.

National Craft Month! First Three Pieces

Yuna Final Fantasy X-2

March did its best to roar like a Lannister on Saturday. Here’s hoping it’ll whimper on its way out like a House that the Targaryens toasted a few hundred years ago. This weekend, I kicked off National Craft Month with a pledge to create a new art piece every day. My only stipulation was that I focus on something new that I haven’t done before. As I have trouble disciplining my cats, Rimmon kept a watchful eye waiting for the needle and thread to come out — so I opted for wirework instead and took inspiration from my writing.

I have a ton of these little dice beads so I picked out three colors that made me think of Firefly. This is what I came up with, an ear cuff modified off of this design.

Firefly RPG-themed Dice Cuff

Since I already had steampunk on the brain, I created a pendant. This one is a little more Alice in Wonderland than what I had written and submitted, but you know? For being a completely freeform piece, I like the way it turned out.

Steampunk Pendant

This pair of earrings is inspired by the story I submitted in the blind. Though the plot was set in modern day times, I wrote the piece in a Victorian style. Which, if you’ve read my work, means that’s also part of the plot. We shall see! I’ll keep you posted.

Steampunk Earrings

You can see how the earring hangs, here. I wish I could say I tried to make good use of negative space, but in all honesty this design was a total accident. I had a silver gear that was perfect to go with the other one, but I lost it as I was working on it. Yep, I’m that talented. It has gone into the abyss, where lost socks wander aimlessly, leaving behind a trail of yarn. Or tears. Whatever.

Steampunk Earring

    Mood: I refuse to be defeated. Winter will end!
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Managed!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I should have gone to the gym. Instead, I hang my head in shame.
    In My Ears: Monday morning shuffle.
    Game Last Played: Sonic All Star Racing Transformed
    Book Last Read: Lovecraft’s Monsters anthology
    Movie Last Viewed: THOR: A Dark World
    Latest Artistic Project: You’re looking at it.
    Latest Fiction/Comic Release: Last Man Zombie Standing
    Latest Game Release: Freedom Flyer
    What I’m Working On: Primarily tie-in games work and novels.

To This Day of Evil Days. Sort of.

Fizgig Avatar

Morning! Yesterday, John “The Muskrat” Kovalic and I contributed two lots for the Evil for Crestline elementary school charity auction. The Valentinelli Fiction Sampler Pack is worth about $75 retail — maybe more? Because ALL will be signed. Hee. Included with three anthologies and two novellas, you’ll also get a $20 gift certificate to DriveThruFiction.com. John’s Dork Tower trade lot includes the first three trades from the Dork Tower webcomic — worth retail $60 and a lot more signed! The auction ends Monday, February 25th, so bid now! I promise, you’ll be VERY spoiled.

On a more somber note, winter has not yet released its icy grip on our fair city. I’ve been oscillating from cabin fever to productivity back to feeling a bit trapped by the weather. Adding another layer to my routine this week; I’m in a pseudo-artist recovery program designed to buff up some of the long-neglected aspects of my artist talents. And, that’s yielded some interesting results so far. Definitely venturing off into newer territories and whatnot. So, yay!

Remember when I mentioned the purse conundrum? I wound up modifying a Le Sac and I love it now. Very, very light. Very light. Hate feeling bogged down by purses.

Sugar Skull Le Sac

Before I go, I just wanted to mention that the more time I spend getting to know you, the more I see how common is to be hurt. Even if we don’t acknowledge it, many of us have been bullied in some way. It’s common to seek validation. To vent about it. To declare what our problems are to the world.

It is uncommon to use that pain and turn it into an inspiration. To do something about it other than say “Hey! Over here! I’m hurt!” Yes, you’re hurt. Yes, you’re in pain. Hence, the reason why today I’m sharing this video with you. Powerful message and a fantastic, absolutely fantastic example of how one artist took his experiences and channeled his art into a message for bullied kids. I hope this inspires you to do something today. Whether that’s for yourself (you’re worth it!) or for someone else (they’re worth it, too!) go forth and DO.

For more information, check out tothisdayproject.com/.

    Mood: Wintermudgeon
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Beh
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: House cleaning. Grr.
    In My Ears: Expecting by Andy Scott
    Game Last Played: War of the North
    Movie Last Viewed: A Good Day To Die Hard
    Latest Artistic Project: Contest design (In progress)
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology
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