New Sketches for Dynamic Book Illustration

Will these sell? Do my lines catch and keep your eye? If I ink and/or paint the following sketches, would you be proud to hang them up as a poster or send them out as postcards? I believe my art belongs in books, not galleries — do you agree?  What about other subject material? Should I (since this is a blog where I feature my true life experiences as a practicing Witch) delve into more Witchcraft and magic themes? Or should I keep to my graphic novel style roots? I ask these questions because I’m at a point where all I know is to keep producing work whether or not there is a need for it. Basically… I don’t know what I’m supposed to do anymore as an artist. I am seeking a purpose, connection with the rest of the world, and not stay stuck in worlds of my own making. I want to create with meaning… I’m tired of doing this lonely.

I am so full of words, my voice cannot spit them out fast enough to catch up with the thousands of ideas that form in my mind. Since I can tell stories in words and images, I often have to take a break from one to do the other, this means I take even longer to finish projects I start, or take too long to start things I have great ideas for. Sometimes I wish I had some more collaborators in my life, but *sighs* that just isn’t always possible because it’s just as hard to find the right creative partner as it is for me to find a date! For now, it is just me wearing a lot of different hats with many mixed-matching (or is that miss-matched?) sets of jewelry and other exotic accessories. Like an aging spinster sitting at her drawing desk, I dream of gaining can audience, especially a paying audience, as if a hope for attracting an army of suitors, but I do not know how to gain that momentum just yet. Darn. Want a taste of what I wish to serve? Let your eye open up wide to what I’ve got on my plate:

Inspired by Gail Carriger‘s series The Parasol Protectorate and all things proper Victorian. I am obsessed with period costume, lust after parasols, and unwind with a nice cup of tea. Even more perfect: letting the steam from a steeping cup of lemon-mint tea fill the space in front of me as I sit down to draw.

I’m not sure what inspired this. I’ve always had a sharp-dressed secret agent type character in my mind, someone ruthless and on the verge of no longer being in control. I plan on transferring this drawing to bristol paper and inking it. However, I love the way my pencil marks sculpted his features, and I’m especially proud of his hair.  Besides drawing folds of fabric, I love drawing hair the most.

The following features, once again, my obsession with swords… and studying ways to draw how swords are held, how they move with the human figure, and just capturing the ways in which metal and flesh contrast.

So, how do you hold your sword?

She seemed wistful, coy, dreamy, perhaps a little sad, but when I look into her eyes, I feel like I drew her to cheer myself up.

If I find myself lacking joy, I must create it!

A little self-portrait never hurt anyone.

She’s not me.  She’s a lady wearing a cloak.  I was studying the ways in which flesh and fabric shadow each other.

Flower petals are sometimes tricky to draw.  They’re a different kind of flesh.

Besides giving it a title that makes this drawing sound like the name of a band, The Unrequited is a collage of faces I first drew on vellum separately, but when I put them together in this composition, they all told a story. I see this as a book cover or movie poster for a gay love story. One of the characters, the one at the bottom smoking the cigarette, seems to be the narrator, perhaps the one who has loved and lost the most. Who knows? It would be nice to provide a good and worthy writer some great art.

I may only be dreaming now, but someday…

You get the idea.

So, what’s it gonna take for you to hire me to illustrate your book?

Postcard #29: All That Blooms Under the Sun

Poetry has to wait today. My fingers hurt, wrists swollen, and, yes, I’ve done it again, over-extended myself and forgot to watch my posture while I did butt-loads of work. After a period of surrendering to despair, I got up to create, and, boy, did I excite myself to it!  So, I must force myself tonight to a bare minimum of typing. This means choosing more photographs from my neck of the woods to share with you this week. I had such a hard time deciding which ones are the best. This is a month for flowers. The blossoms are gone, local gardens are taking shape, and wildflowers in the woods are displaying their summer preview. And everything that blooms under the sun comes with this full canopy of green! Home now is well shaded under the trees I love.

I don’t have to pick these flowers to enjoy them. They are here now, always a part of home, no matter where I go.

Guess what each flower is!

As I end this collection of postcards from home tonight, I am comforted by the familiar sound of my neighbor calling after her cat. He has a habit, like mine, of leaping out the door whenever the front door is unlocked after anyone comes back home. Randy, more so than my Mr. Snuggles, is let out more often, so he’s always ready to escape, yet he doesn’t go too far. By the end of this month, I won’t hear that nightly call from my neighbor… her cute high-pitched cat-call and the squeaky-meowy protest from the kitty as she carries him back inside. Sigh! I heard my neighbor crying early this morning. I thought I was the only one pre-mourning her moving out, but now after finding out it is as hard on her to say good-bye, I don’t feel as silly.

This gives me the wonderful idea to put together a little going away gift for her… Yet what will I make? What will I do? Project!

Joy bounces back to me in welcome, unexpected ways.

The End of May

I know it’s that time of year again because I heard the sound of the slamming of car doors and rumbling of heavy feet on pavement. It’s not hard to figure out when it is by the fading echoes of house parties, the too-soon-gone smells of backyard grilling (more like backyard bratwurst burning), the sweat beginning to bead on the back of everyone’s necks, and the sight of dumpsters overflowing with abandoned furniture. Then… the sudden silences and absences, the stray cans and empty plastic bags lying about as evidence young people were here. Oh, and then there’s the stuffy uncomfortable stench of quickly left unclean apartments… with the windows all open to let out the bad air (as if that’ll help convince the landlord that things were left tidy). Even the laundry room is filled with the scent of mildew towel and wet carpet as the last to leave wash the last of their household linens. I don’t dare do any laundry until the washing machines get disinfected after my neighbors move out. Oh, yes. It’s the end of May!

It comes a few weeks early here in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. I always dread it because it’s as if this city starts to take a nap. The only other time of year this sort of thing happens is in mid-December. Winters and Summers are dead times here. The students go home or take off into the world and it does seem to feel I live like the lone survivor in a Zombie apocalypse movie for a little while (I even look like one right now dressed in a scruffy T-shirt I only wear to bed, shorts I never wear in public, and my hair and face unwashed). I pretty much hide in my bedroom before June officially starts. I get supplies and groceries to last me a few weeks so I do not have to go out for anything. I’ll live on sandwiches and soup, live for drawing and writing, and basically keep all to myself. It’s like indoor camping.

This year I have to bid a fond farewell to my favorite neighbor. She was probably the best, sweetest, loyal, honorable and most trustworthy neighbor I’ve EVER had.  I also proved to be the same for her.  She used to count on me to babysit her ball python, Iggy, and her cat, Randy. I am going to miss her daily violin practicing and the occasional live music when her jazz fusion band came over to play. She would apologize for the noise, but unlike neighbors who don’t know how to play, she’s a professional musician — she doesn’t make noise, she creates music, believe you me, there is a difference.

I don’t want to say good-bye.

And she isn’t the only neighbor I’ll be saying good-bye to this year. Many neighbors I got attached to seeing everyday have already left before I could wish them well. They just disappeared. One day they were hanging around, the next — gone! I just walked to check my mail and noticed all the emptied apartments. People I had seen for years who became just another part of the environment have gone Splitsville. I forgot that no one stays here forever. I am used to most of my neighbors being non-traditional students and find them all delightful, polite, friendly, and responsible human beings, but eventually they graduate and move on.

This reminds me I should move on someday, too.

As I really started to get depressed about this, one of my favorite paintings came to mind. “War” by Anna Lea Merritt expresses, to me, in the faces of the women watching their men go off to war, the various reactions to bidding farewell to, possibly for the very last time, people you love. Of course I’m not forced to say good-bye to my neighbors like I would if they were going off to war, but it feels like their sudden absence forces me to face the inevitable parting of ways between people. I look into this painting and see a reflection of how I feel.  I am the one staying here, deciding to be at home while the rest go, and I wonder when will be my day to leave, if ever?  As I look into this painting, I put myself into it and feel the colors, the expressions, experience it and recall it like a memory.  This is how I respond to historical art — from that deeply emotional place — so much so I tend to weep when I walk through art galleries featuring paintings from long ago time periods.  I get lost in it. Even looking into this painting online, I am on the verge of exhaling into a long howl of a cry.

I can “hear” those marching soldiers’ feet, sense the dread of coming war, the uncertainty of whether or not someone you love is going to come back home, and that innocence of the child asking silently: “Do they have to go? Why does this have to happen? Can’t they stay here?”  In those faces there’s also putting up a brave front, being instructed to stay strong, not show any tears, but you and I know that the woman at the center of the painting (the one the rest of the women all cling to) she’s going to weep the one moment she gets to herself. She’s taking on the burden more than the others. There is no happy sending off, no glorious launching or colorful parade for the heroes behind the scenes there. However, what is hinted in the distance is the rest of the crowds waving palms, laurels, and flowers to bless the soldiers as they leave. They are supporting these men and providing much-needed morale, yet… yeah, beyond all that it’s not a grand happening. It’s a miserable business, this send-off.

I’m better at welcoming people back over watching them go away.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy that my neighbors are all moving on with their lives. The apartments we live in are like stay-in-all-year-long cabins situated next to the woods, not really meant to be places where you can have kids or plant roots, plus the electric is very costly in the winter and the walls are thin. The rent has gone up and so many improvements have to be made to the property, it’s not funny. It’s a flawed, yet quaint area filled with pleasant memories for me.  So many friends I’ve known have lived here, I’ve partied here, I’ve met interesting folks here, and I get to see wildlife — both the human and animal kind — up close and personal each seasonal change.  But with those changes comes a lot of good-byes, hellos, and only to say good-bye once agains!  It’s not a bad life, being an observer, recording my experiences, using each encounter I’ve had as fodder for stories and art, expressing my love for people in each face I draw and paint.

However, the good-byes are hardest to get through. It does not make me look forward to summer like the rest of humanity does. There is not much to do when the university is closed. Most of the friends I make are gone and I won’t get to hear from until summer’s end. The warm months are lonely adventure times that, sure, I enjoy, yet it is not as fun as when I share experiences with a friend.  And, howevers, the summer is a necessary alone time for me to concentrate on creating stuff.  Without all this alone time, I would not be able to produce anything.

So, temporarily, I suffer a mourning period for several weeks that provokes me into some extreme hermit behavior. I cry every night and latch on to every piece of sunshine I can hold on to while the time passes. Eventually, by mid-summer, I will get enthralled again by the magic all around me that comes when there is fewer people around, and spirit-smitten, art and poetry will flow out of me like…

Like the tears that flow out of me now.

Postcard #28: Another Mother’s Day Without Mom

I almost did not write anything today. I almost did not sleep. My heart was sore with the familiar ache I get when I desire something I cannot touch. No matter how much I can hear and sense the beyond, I cannot break the veil, only try for a reach. I stretch out my arms, rise up on toe-tips, groan to make myself as long and as tall as much as I can, but nature still limits me to my shape, my size, my squat, short, smallness…

I have meditated often on this body of mine, seeking to manifest a transformation, yet first the body tells me it wants to stay this way, it is thickly rooted, as heavy as my mother, my grandmothers, all the mothers… They were stout, strong, stubborn creatures, hard workers, elbows and little hands rolling out bread dough, making babies and pastries, baking and pulling, great at caressing as much as they must have been at holding.

My mother was a Venus of Willendorf which seemed a curse to her, and a premonition of what was to become of me. Never seen as holy, always unhealthy, the reason for strings of diets and self-abuse, too much time and energy wasted on the surface, not on substance. Mom and mine’s battles with body image were the same. As I age, I see more of her emerge out of me, and I promise her I will take better care of myself like I wished I could have taken better care of her.

She does not want me to follow her to the grave too soon.

Even though my mother passed some time ago, she still lives in me and all around me. As her daughter, I am a living being saturated with her love, hopes, emotions… maybe still a reservoir for the tears she shed. I still feel guilty for our disagreements, fights long ago forgiven, but… Why am I not looking back and forward with joy now?

I believe I miss having the duty of caring for my sick and dying mother. I got so used to her in that bed. Like an infant she was, curled up, squeaking out her words, her skin baby-soft, hair silk-fine, and her expression frozen-pure, those eyes of hers looking up at me so wide. I enjoyed feeding her and wiping the corners of her mouth. Every month I would take photographs of my nephews, even try to sneak ones of my brother, the excuse was that I was doing so to document their faces for mother, and I’d print the photos and pin them to her cork board. I would decorate her room like I would have a dorm room, fill it with images of everyone she loves, faces smiling and looking back at her, so at any moment of pain she’d be reminded she’s being prayed for, thought of…

I don’t have that duty anymore. Tried to start it up with my father. Attempted to assist my brother with duties he needed to get done. All I got was their anger and contempt. What use am I now to anyone? I then seek a cause. I volunteer. Yet nothing so far is proving to be a right fit for me.

Oh, Mom, what would you recommend?

You would say just go to church, yet you know I don’t have a need for that. You know I’m a Witch. So what is church for a Witch? I can almost hear her laugh. “You know that answer, Tina!” The first image that comes to my mind is my sketchbooks. My little pencil drawings of gods and spirits — the visions I’ve been collecting in secret — a lonely project so far, and one I feel is too special to share on the internet.

Mommy, who has any use for me?

First you need to discover how useful you are to yourself. Help yourself. Put what I’ve taught you into action. You’re not supposed to make a life taking care of everyone else. You are free. The world is before you. Where do I begin? Just take one step forward. Where do I place that first step when I do not know the road to take? You are already on the road. You’re just standing there. All you need do is move.

I remember dreams, plans, wishes, ideas, all the desires I thought possible before I got heart-sick with lonesome, worry, and loss. Before I got stuck here thinking that this is all that’s left for me. Why do I still feel like my life is not meant to be my own alone? I feel like I am meant to partner up, be supportive, lend a hand, or a heart, and yet I resent this feeling. I am best alone, too. My mother always would want me to be married and make a family, but whenever she used to ask me if I had a boyfriend, and I gave her my usual answer, she would say, “you never did want a normal life.”

After someone has died, why is it that sometimes we remember small things they said in passing as being so big? Am I just putting more meaning to it all to create some comfort for myself? Is it possible that I will be going through the grieving phases for the rest of my life?

I still have parts of my mother’s funeral bouquet; myrtle and palm leaves, baby’s breath, dried roses, all hanging about the front window of my home. I re-discovered the photographs of the dying flower arrangement and re-display one of them here. Like a cloudy old painting it seems, and it comes with the memory of its perfume, the arrangement itself was a poem of sympathy that, to this day, when I smell the same combination of flowers it reminds me funerals. I should not hold on to these reminders anymore. Perhaps this is why this second Mother’s Day without Mom is hitting me hard. There is no more need to hang on to the reasons why I put my life on hold. There are no more excuses for me to stay here alone. I can choose whatever I want to do now.

There are no more obligations. Nothing to tie me down. With freedom comes nothing to lose… but I’m reaching out for something to keep. Because that’s what keeps us living, right? A thing to work for and look forward to. A cause. Like a duty, but not a necessary obligation, more like a desire, a following-the-heart that never gets me lost.  Advice today from a friend: it tends to reveal itself…  It better reveal itself soon.

Til then, thank you, Mom!

Fresh Sketches

It’s been several months since I’ve drawn anything just for my own pleasure. No. I take that back. It’s been a long while since I’ve drawn anything without some purpose behind it.  My fingers, wrists, joints are cold, as if tiny icebergs have grown inside, and I have to make an extra effort to rub my hands awake. Yet this is nothing entirely new. I’ve always had problems with my hands. My latest artist’s block has been more of an emotional one — I was cut off from my passionate side, just felt drained of my own desires and filled with other people’s problems. I feel the need sometimes to make people around me happy. I live for making smiles. I want to be the friend who inspires you. I want to be the girl you’re proud of, the one you’ll sing about.  I want to be the favorite because I’m the best!  Oh, it can be a selfish thing, yet I honestly do love to please. There’s a wonderful pleasure about it, and I don’t do nice things just to make myself feel good, it just feels right to be able to do something for someone else that they cannot do for themselves. I like to do things I wish someone would do for me, usually something they are not expecting someone else to do for them. Call it generating good karma, but really it’s all about the pleasure of kindness. It can be contagious.  It can inspire other people to do the same thing.  Yet I have to remember to do things for myself as well. My love is never short on supply, yet I need recharging and re-connecting into the source that inspires me to love.

Several times this year I’ve been accused of not living up to being a being of love. I should not have listened to that, but when you love some people unconditionally due to bonds of blood, or simply because they are a fellow human being, such an accusation can throw me into a dark corner. I can really doubt myself unfairly. The worst thing is when I am repeatedly criticized by a family member. I always want to please my family, no matter who the relative is, I just want them to be proud of me.  I will go out of my way, even make promises I can’t live up to, and make outrageous goals that will take me much longer and be too hard for me to meet within the amount of time I thought I could do it, just to impress upon people I love I truly love them — show them that they are incredibly important to me — in epic proportions.

I think this stems from not being able to please my father, a man who has never told me he loves me (he never told my mother he loved her either), and despite my every effort to make him comfortable and happy, he complains about me at me. It used to not be that bad, but now that he’s in a veteran’s home facing his twilight, he wants to be left alone. I’m the only one he has left who regularly comes around to check on him, do favors for him, call on him, and basically wait on him no matter how much he complains. I know he is in emotional pain, so…  I am patient. I do my best to understand, let him be, ignore his words, tell him “okay.”  Yet over these last few months, the stress has been taking too much of a toll on me. No matter how brave of a front I put on, my heart wants to give out. It is as if my father wants me to give up on him. I will not repeat the things he calls me, nor will I tell you what he has said about my life, and what he thinks will become of me, because what he says is not true, but when it is repeated over and over again, it’s a beating I take. The wounds tend to stick to me. I begin to really miss my mother.  I wish my brother would come out of hiding and help me out.  I don’t want to stand by being the only offspring this old man has left who cares.  It sucks.

Now you can see why I got lost for a while.  I can get consumed with worry over someone I love, I forget myself.  Sometimes it takes other people who truly love me to nudge me out of that stupor. Those people remind me I’m not the only one who loves. They tell me I am loved back and don’t you dare forget! So come back out to play. Take your shoes off, Val. Put your sarong on. Go dance in the rain or sword-fight with your shadow! It’s never too late to dream all over again.

It usually happens that way. Unexpected. A match struck in the dark and a candle is lit and hope burns my heart warm. Before long I’ve got my pencil out and the figures tumble out. Usually they are of women, nubile goddesses, sometimes sad or just calm, brooding, serious, all beauties, damsels and dames rescuing me from depression. They may not have stories attached to them, but someday I will pin a purpose to them. Perhaps their purpose is just to bring me peace, that I don’t have to draw with a purpose… the only purpose is to draw.

What do they say to you?

Postcard #27: Breaking Through

I am here yet not really here. My words are footprints fading on a well-worn path. I am not walking alone nor am I writing out a new trail of ink to mark my passing. I have found myself by getting lost in a dream, again. The secret key to my release is to drench myself in wonder and sink into passion, bathe in moonlight, let it launch me into the arms of a thousand-fold touches where finger-tip tongue-tip lip-meet-skin-seek is all there is to live for. I wake up asleep to dream out loud — busting and bursting — orgasming-riding inspiration — my every part pimpled with buds blossomed, dripping petals, unleashing green.

When I opened my eyes this morning, no more was the dark, yet even under the clouds, it was me, the child giving a blanket-peek out into the wild wonder at every tree rejoicing-swaying full with open leaves. In the yesterdays before, the branches still had bare patches, the leaves still shy and small, and fluffs of pollen were floating about seeming on a mission to single me out, itch at my eyes and make me a misery. More yellow-brown parts were like scabs on the ground… if only I could pull the greener, fresher grass over it like I can a sheet, I would have.

With all awake now, the May has seduced me easily. May… the all too familiar lover haunting my bed. The muse, He pulls and I tug back. I take up my pen, my brushes, lick the tips, and begin…

My breakthrough has come.

Postcard #26: From Out of the Rain

Sparks… Rain drops. Crackle. Like static on the radio. Thunder whisper-rumbles from every corner. And the wind swoops through every tip of tree, the storm itself a giant black bird passing over.

I am a shiver, feeling the wet down in my bones, and welcome the blanket calm of my bed. Home last night was candle-lit and dark. I am happy-alone-bored-lazy and laid over pillows — un-naked odalisque clothed only in fantasy and drifting over pages, memories, grasping, begging, a slave to my silent and absent muse. I think He left, disgusted at my tears last week, how I too easily gave in over and over again to the desires of others. “Listen to yourself,” He said, but I didn’t listen, and there I was, stuck, struck, dumb and crawling about, writhing slowly out of drowsy-drunk-dull-drums-drumming.

As the lightning strobed, the rain sizzled-drowned, home creaked and groaned, wood giving sway as if remembering what it was like to be the tree again. Roaring rain, I call it, when the storm grows, reaches that high pitch where it seems it will destroy, then it breaks, wind disappears as suddenly swooped, and it’s just the roar. My heart is as heavy as the water. All around is like a lake.

And the muse, He enters me inside, I start to glow outward, warming up as all around floods. I become a flickering distant light in an ocean of black cloud.

You can’t miss me now. I’m back. I’m right here.