The days are getting so short that it is night both when I leave for work and when I leave for home. For the time, I at least got to catch some incredible sky colours.
My own days have grown longer, since it's such a busy month for most businesses that I've had to extend my time at the day job by an hour or more each day. It has been difficult. On the other hand, this has been the slowest autumn for my etsy shop that I've witnessed in years.
I don't think it's related to this time unbalance, though. I don't really have much time to worry about it!
On patreon, I'm taking a break from just mindlessly sketching things and putting a little more fun back into the sketchbook. We're doing a lyrical theme - finding inspiration in music! Music is the one thing I listen to that actually keeps me in my seat, focused.
Apart from having SIGNIFICANTLY less time to work at home (omg I miss retail and I can't believe I'm saying that), it is a little more challenging than the chill romp I expected this theme to be. Nevermind turning words into visuals, but I didn't consider how much Radiohead is on my tracklist and how hard it's been to branch out a little. Yeesh!
Today after I dropped off a roll of film (what's on the roll? Who knooooowwwss?), we wandered over to the hardware store for a lamp and of course I couldn't help myself and got this new bb :3
It's a chocolate soldier panda. It's technically two! I know I told myself to give up on succulents, but the zygo cactus has done fairly well under the lamp, and the two little paddle cactuses are at least still alive, I think I might have found a little cosmic plant luck.
(The paddle cactus haven't grown even a tiny bit since I got them last spring, however. Is that a bad sign?)
This week on youtube I will be diving into kuretake gansai tambi watercolours, as youtube artists are wont to do, so subscribe if you haven't already!
I wonder if in another kind of life, I would have been the workaholic type? It's kind of funny considering my spoiled aversion to traditional jobs. What I'm trying to say is, I'm the kind of person who needs to be productive and connected constantly, no matter how I'm feeling. I work, I sleep (a little), repeat forever.
I don't even know why, anymore. I guess it's just a habit? A fear of quitting?
Although I was out all day yesterday, exploring salmon-filled creekbeds and meeting up with fun people for dinner, I felt guilty/stressed about having finished nothing for the day. Weirdly, I was even more lonely/depressed at the end of the night than at the beginning.
So I decorated a sketchbook cover. How very high school! :D Ahhh the days where we'd cut out paper stuff, stick it on the covers of our binders and sketchbooks and then wrap the whole thing in packing tape! I have on book covered in sailor moon manga bits, another using tiny printouts of art that inspired me, and another with illustrated song lyrics because why not.
This time I'm decorating this fancy Stillman & Birn sketchbook using a terrible laser print of my crow painting.
I had to repaint the patterned background though, because laser printers are SO BAD at stuff. So bad. They also make it hard to paint over things with their shiny plastic toner. But I don't know, this book is pretty rad. The size and the soft cover feels so much like a printed novel. The inside has heavy weighted grey toned paper, which might be a challenge I guess. I have a good feeling about it.
I mean, I still loved my cheap dollar-store sketchbook (pictured above) that I used for patreon sketching. A lot of the pages fell loose, but I find that kind of thing charming. I already filmed and posted a flip through of this sketchbook for the Patreon feed. Hope you take a look, sometime.
Journaling, writing a blog, posting on social media, talking into a camera, recording and editing videos... all fading into the ether. I've reached this cool place where I don't have months-long bouts of "artist block", which in hindsight was just a lack of accountability and nothing more. No really! When there's a lack of urgency, it's too easy to prioritize leisure and rest. I'm still exploring different creative avenues, and trying new things. There's nothing stale about today.
I don't think it's burn out, unless it's burn out on life? I feel resigned to the fact that it's Not Gonna Happen for me, but there isn't anything else I want. There isn't anything else that I'm curious about. The writer of this book ran out of ideas and just abandoned the story. It's such a weird feeling!
I had a random day off this week, and I know it doesn't sound like it, but it put me in such a delightful mood. I went completely all out for this month's patreon study - which would have happened anyway because I wanted to incorporate different kinds of foliage. But having that day off allowed me to finish it in one day, video and all. Yes!
This week is probably going to be an art journal video, but I have a few other things going on. I have secured a small amount of ArtResin, which if you don't know, is the only resin I know of that claims to be reliably non-yellowing. This is extra important to me! It is a slow process though, so I have also spontaneously began an eco-dyeing experiment. It involves paper, boiling water, rusty metal, a bit of vinegar, and a bunch of random plant life. It's supposed to leave really interesting colour and pattern on the paper, but maybe not the lazy way I'm doing it.
I'm still quite motivated to try new things, and finding inspiration here and there, though it feels like I'm at a quiet crossroad. Whatever I'm doing feels really precarious, like I might quit at any time. Should I still be vlogging when I can no longer offer hope to other aspiring artists? Should I be posting anything since I'm not really that cute or funny? wat do
This month's theme for the sketching club is going to be trees and foliage! This is the perfect time of year to do it because autumn is very much underway at the moment. Yeah, I can get a little sick of green from time to time. It is so very GREEN here. But for a while it will be very yellow/orange/red/purple which is my favourite side of the colour wheel, and I want to soak it up before everything goes black and grey for 5 months. I'm taking too many photos, and if you'd like to use them for your own art study, join us here!
These weekends are already so rainy and punctuated with sniffling noises. I don't know what to do for fun that doesn't involve wandering around outside and hunting for bugs. What do I do with myself?? Luckily, this weekend I've been motivated to try new things, revisit old ideas.
I've been curious about paperclay, so I found a little pack of it on sale.
I've also been meaning to try resin for quite a while, but never took the leap because I hear the cost is a deterrent, but also it is rumoured to have an intense learning curve. That's a terrible combination! Anyway, I couldn't find any non-yellowing art resin in my neighbourhood so that project idea will have to wait for another time.
I also collected a few extremely used books for altering purposes... I thought about just turning them into new art journals, but the world of altered books goes way beyond just painting some pages. I have so many ideas, yet no ideas at the same time.
So here is my venus.
These are Sailor Moon dolls I got for christmas one exciting year sometime in the 90s. 1995 maybe? '96? I remember phoning up my friend right away to tell her I got 3 dolls. She got all five inner senshi. I must have gotten the rest later on. We played hard with them, which is why they are so torn up. I threw them in a closet, unwilling to toss them into the trash (they were my favourite toys after all), but unable to give them away in this condition.
What does this have to do with art? Well, I've been pushed down the rabbithole of custom doll painting videos on youtube. While I'm not actively custom painting any dolls, it gave me motivation to try fixing mine up a little.
I genuinely don't know how or when this particular doll went bald. I know that she always had matted hair, and I once trimmed it only to watch the damage travel up up up in response. How strange and annoying!
But nothing like this. Armed with new knowledge of rerooting hair, I decided to tackle it "head"-on (ho ho ho) with a broken needle and some wig hair.
This used Elsa hat with a silly long braid would do the trick! It doesn't match, but its blond enough for me, I guess. And so conveniently long!
And so now my childhood doll has some pretty, end of summer highlights. I could have done the whole head over, but I actually like the variation. With newfound confidence, I'm redoing Mars' entire head of hair (I trimmed it short as a child, with great regret), but it will take a great deal of time. It seems tedious, but less so than painting somehow... I guess because the gratification is instant with every plug. The nylon hair is so shimmery and soft. After that: shoes and accessories!
(because of course I either lost them all or tossed them out??)
In other news!
I got my watercoloursnacks box in the mail this week! Already unboxed, but I'm taking my time with doing the challenge.
What this box is, is a surprise collection of art supplies. You don't know what's inside, but you know it's got to be good since it's 100+ dollars! It can be underwhelming, visually, but it's usually good quality stuff. Keep an eye out on my youtube channel for Thursday's video, if you want to find out!
Here's a peek:
Get hyped! See you then.
It's funny how, when we get burned out on regular life, we "get away" somewhere else for a bit just to exhaust ourselves further! My brother is moving to a place like this, so I went for a visit before the seasons change dramatically. Hearing the word "family" feels so strange and kind of good.
"Getting away", even for a bit, does wonders for filling the creative well. Nature is so full of awe and mystery, that I consider it to be such a source of inspiration. I returned home with some paper ephemera, and I couldn't wait another week to journal with it.
September's patreon sketch theme is going to be Insects! I have far fewer photos of bugs than I thought. This time of year, most creepy crawlies are harder to find.
I've been having so much difficulty with being creative and vlogging since the last post. It's not what you think, I'm just a little burned out from the frantic nature of my empty day job, which feels like such a waste of energy to me! I get 15 minutes of privacy per day in which to do vlogging/voice recording, and it's really showing.
In short, I'm unhappy generally.
Keeping up with my own deadlines, though, even if i'm procrastinating a lot! I've gotten a good chunk of the above painting done, even though the last thing I really want to do is work. Painting feels like pulling teeth, these days. I just don't want to!
Otherwise, I don't have much of an update, which is why I haven't blogged much as of late. I'm holding on by the fingernails. Preparing some of these bird sketches for worldwide delivery! Can't let a single plate drop.
Milo is the name of the greatest cat of my life (so far).
We first met on moving day. John and I were so lucky to move out of our cold, deathtrap of a basement suite into a perfectly average and peaceful little apartment. We were suddenly walking distance to a public transport hub, and at least 3 major grocery stores.
We parked the moving truck and headed up to the apartment. John stops and says "I forgot to mention, the landlord left something in the apartment..." As soon as we entered, there was a soft "meow". Milo was spread out in the middle of the empty floor, and let us pet him without incident. His litter box was tucked away in the bathroom, and clearly hadn't been cleaned in days and days.
Our new landlord *Alice arrived to take Milo to the animal shelter. With teary eyes, she told us of her fear that he would be euthanized, and her regret that she was unable to take him home instead (Metro Vancouver housing is very unwelcoming to pets). Since we love cats, we offered to take care of him for however long she needed. And so we went on to become emotionally attached to our temporary fur-babe. He was six years old.
After a month, as promised, Alice came and retrieved Milo, leaving our home empty of cat. It was hard to let go.
As usual, time passed. We rented for 6 months. Then Alice sold the apartment to us and left town. We were so excited to finally get a cat of our own. On my birthday in 2010, I received a beautiful mama tuxedo cat, who was found abandoned in a forest with a litter of kittens (and infected with tapeworms). I named her Magellan, Maggie for short.
Soon, we received a call from Alice, who wanted to live life to the fullest and take some years off to travel the world. She pleaded with us to permanently adopt Milo, assuring us that he and Maggie would eventually get along fine. She drove hours to deliver this cat, leaving him with nothing of comfort: no food dish, no bed, no toys, nothing with his scent. He was a changed man that day.
His terror was aggressive. Anytime we came close he would scream at the top of his lungs and lash out. It was like sharing a home with an angry badger. We left him in the bedroom, regularly visiting until he got used to his new home. Maggie immediately disliked him from the start. John and I actually slept on the couch every night for an entire month. Milo had nowhere else to go.
I'd never had a male cat before and was shocked at how affectionate he became! I could hold him like a baby. He would give the best hugs. His purr was so loud you could hear it from the next room. He talked to us like we were cats. He would tuck us in at night and made sure we fell asleep before he did. John and I were his big, stupid kittens.
Maggie would never come to trust him, though.
Eventually, Milo started having health problems. Every summer he would end up in emergency with urinary blockages from the stress of heatwaves and us going on weeklong camping trips sometimes. He was such a sensitive boy. He turned into such an angry, stressed-out monster at every hospital that veterinarians were shocked that we kept him as a pet. Every trip came with an $800 - $1200 vet bill and a LOT of trauma, so we stopped going on trips together. Since 2011, one of us would always stay behind to care for the cats. I got a lot of "helpful advice" during this time.
"I would just put him down."
"Take him with you on your trips."
"Send him to a boarding service."
It was as if no one believed or heard my stories, and frankly, I was getting tired.
Milo got worse.
In 2016, Milo was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. His lungs had filled up with so much water that his hard, shallow breaths caused him to rock back and forth. The hospital pulled the water out with syringes and estimated that this traumatic procedure would buy him an extra six months of life, assuming we would be willing to spend a little under $200/month from then on to medicate him.
Since the procedure was already done and he could breathe again, we agreed and adjusted to our new expensive and high-maintenance cat.
Milo would continue to amaze and terrorize vet techs for another two years.
What really complicated things was how horribly mismatched our cat family was. Milo was smart and stubborn as hell, and preferred to eat his meals in small bites over the course of several hours. Maggie was extremely insecure about food, due to her past-life as a forest survivor; She gobbled her food in seconds, hid under tables to catch crumbs, and worst of all, spent hours obsessing over and trying to steal Milo's medicated food.
Feeding Milo got harder and harder. His medicine tasted bitter, AND it had a side effect of suppressing his appetite. This is why he became so shockingly thin. We had to come up with new "tricks" constantly. Tension was really high: we were always yelling at Maggie as she tried to steal his food every 10 minutes. As soon as she stood up, we were on suspicious alert. If we left the room for any reason, we had to put his food away because she would pretend to be asleep just to get that second of opportunity. It was a mess.
In July, we had a heatwave and the cats melted. Unbeknownst to us, Milo was reaching his limits and he was too uncomfortable to eat much, which meant he wasn't getting his medicine consistently. It snowballed until this past Saturday when he stopped eating entirely. Sometimes he gets into a sulky mood like this, knowing it makes us crazy and we start bribing him with his favourite junk foods. I feel guilty that we went on with our day, berry picking and having dinner with family while quietly worrying about what new trick we were going to pull on our friend at home later that night.
But nothing worked, and Milo started hyperventilating at 10:30pm. Thank goodness there was an overnight hospital just a ten minute drive away. The x-rays and blood tests were practically instant. His lungs were 60% full of water again, and his liver was failing. His last experience on earth was screaming at us in terror while techs with thick work gloves held him down to sedate him.
We could have emptied his lungs again and took him home, but we thought the repeated trauma was too cruel. We chose to say goodbye. While the process was torturous, the decision itself was easy.
I really did think I would feel better this morning! I thought I was going to ride a wave of relief: no more worrying, no more mealtime tension. Maybe we can even go on vacation and just have someone drop by to feed Maggie like a regular cat family does. I figured that Maggie would be very happy to be Only Cat again and that her whiny temperament might improve some. I figured that my regular exposure to sadness would have dulled this experience considerably. Made it "old hat".
Truth is, I woke up this morning and for the first time I was not comforted by my purring friend. As predicted, Maggie remained unaffected as if Milo never existed at all. She kept to herself and offered nothing. She doesn't prrrp us good morning like he would.
Nobody barged in while I used the bathroom. Serving the cat breakfast was easy and drama free. I didn't have my usual back-and-forth morning cat conversation. Nobody followed me from room to room. Nobody purred next to me on the couch.
I hadn't realized how impossibly HUGE of a presence that Milo had had in the room, even during the morning nap routine. I just assumed that I loved each cat equally, but petting a sleeping Maggie didn't give me the usual chemical rush I was expecting.
I feel kind of guilty and weird about it. I feel resentful that the world just keeps spinning. I feel silly about having all of these feelings over a small animal while there are bigger problems in the world. Worst of all, I feel awful that I relied so heavily on on Milo's extraordinary skill of comforting his people. Especially knowing that I was unable to provide him even a fraction of comfort while he was screaming for his life on the examination table, thinking we were all conspiring to murder him. Finally, and for once, he was right.
I miss him.
*Fake name, obvs
I have a new intruder on the desk these days. Somehow, Maggie has considered this spot on the desk to be an escape from the summer heat though I can't imagine why. Today I found a "dog cooling mat" at the dollar store, and while Maggie seems to be afraid of it, Milo is half-into it. If they don't want it, I'm taking it to sleep on tonight. Note the blanket over the window! We are all uncomfortably warm!
Last weekend was such an adventure visiting some plant conservatories and eating expensive sandwiches on yet another hellishly humid day, which I did not appreciate in the moment because of irrational sadness. This weekend, I don't know what to do because I am alone. My dude went on vacation this week, and I never get to tag along. Usually I don't mind, but this year I REALLY wanted to be there. I wanted to finally get to spend an entire week sketching and not much else. I wanted to grab a tube and float down a crystal clear river for several hours a day like we used to.
I'd love to have my own adventure tomorrow, but I can't think of an equivalent activity to do at home. The beaches are polluted and indoor pools are a little boring. The blackberries are so tasty this year that I wouldn't mind taking my bicycle out for a berry hunt.
I'm going to miss July's sketching theme on patreon which was "pattern"! It was so relaxing and I didn't need to hunt for references or chain myself to the computer to sketch anything - I was free. The sparkly blue pattern above is a painted board that I am sending to the $10+ tiers. $10 for a 5x7 piece of original art is a pretty dang good deal, just saying.
Speaking of which, the voting card is up for August's sketch theme. It's Birds vs Landscapes and anyone who is a Hungry Bug or above can vote! Every month we pick a theme to focus on in our sketching, because the best way to learn how to draw something from memory, is to draw it from life over and over and over. Once is not enough!
So far, Birds are in the lead (finally!), which is convenient because I just went to the Bloedel conservatory and snapped way too many photos of any bird I could find. It felt so much like real life Pokemon Snap. And I still missed a lot of them! All patrons get access to whatever reference photos I'm taking for royalty-free use. But don't let that cloud your vote! Join us here:
Weekends are too short!
I never accomplish as much as I intend to when time becomes available, but nonetheless it is usually time well spent. This life where I've never traveled anywhere, done anything big, studied anything Important, nor been passionately romanced can feel bad sometimes. But I still appreciate the small things.
Finally meeting up with a childhood friend (an art friend even!) is so valuable in the way it softens a hard perspective, and not just in the list-crossing way. Or even in the fear-facing sense of accomplishment after NOT crashing on a highway to get to her (which still terrifies me).
Some relationships I cling to in any small way because they are important ones. Like kindred spirits, we feed energy into each other instead of stealing away. It's like finally getting that one good night of sleep.
It's also literally getting a good night of sleep because it's so dark and QUIET! Yessss!
Though we can't stay up until 5am like we used to, or gobble down candy without guilt, the laughter is the same. We didn't have an art session. I didn't vlog as much as I would have liked, mostly because for ordinary folk, we don't have flawlessly witty and entertaining conversation or wild antics always. We played video games for hours like we used to. It's comforting to know that no matter how many BIG life changes happen, people don't really change that much.
Hoping for at least another 23 years of friendship!
Hello! I'm Melissa, and here you'll find some behind-the-scenes footage of an artful life. Won't you join me?