Stand by for Breakthrough…

My breakthrough piece!

My breakthrough piece!

My formal schooling is in English literature and poetry, as many of you know. However, I’ve lately been dabbling in the visual arts, which I’ve done most of my life, but for the past few months, I’ve been very intentional about it, drawing nearly every day and sharing my work on Instagram.

The other day, I had a breakthrough—I let the work guide me.

Allow me to explain: because of my training in writing, specifically creative writing and poetry, I have a bunch of tools in my writer’s toolbox so to speak. What I mean by this is that when I’m stuck, I have methods of pushing through. Put simply, I know how to “play” with language. If a prompt isn’t speaking to me, I move to another. If I’m experiencing writer’s block, I repeat what I just wrote until a new thought comes. I’m fairly comfortable with my writing sounding terrible in the first draft because I know I have the skill set to fix it up. I’m not intimidated by the “shitty first draft,” as Anne Lamott so eloquently puts it.

But when it comes to visual art, I’m terrified by that shitty first draft. After all, when you make a mark with paint, you can’t just cut it out and paste it somewhere else (like the trash) as you can easily do with writing. What happens when a mark I make isn’t what I want? What happens when I don’t know where to start? How can I “play” as freely as I do with language?

Over the past few months, I’ve been working diligently to add some tools to my artist’s toolbox and have done so fairly successfully by studying the work of artists like Lisa Congdon and Shantell Martin on platforms like Skillshare and Creativebug. (For a more comprehensive discussion of how I’ve come to accept my art as well as information on the tools I use, listen to the fifth episode of my podcast here).

As mentioned earlier, I recently had a breakthrough. Like with writing, I think I finally learned to “go with the flow” of my art and let the process guide me instead of me making the art piece strictly what I wanted.

I was inspired the other day to try my hand at a profile because of artists I follow on Instagram. It started out as a person, but as you can see from the finished product above, it turned into a lizard girl.

See? Totally needs texture!

See? Totally needs texture!

When I started adding color, I first added a darker flesh tone on the forehead, which I liked. However, the more of that particular color I added to the face, the more I didn’t like it. So, I scrolled through my digital color palette and found a color I liked–green. Without hesitation, I slathered that on. But when I stepped back, I realized I wanted more texture, so I added some scallop scales and, voila, my lizard girl was born!

This is really the first time where I trusted the artistic process and wasn’t afraid to stray from my original concept. Normally, I have an idea in my head and force it, even when the piece is clearly calling for a different approach or simply isn’t working. When I was adding green to the girl, it was fairly easy to silence the critic in my head that was saying “Hey, people don’t have green skin!” The part of me that said, “Yeah, but let’s just see what happens!” was way louder. I think this is because I’ve been practicing my hand at other techniques, so my “letting go” muscle has been exercised enough in preparation for a moment like this.

Is this piece the best thing I’ve ever made? Nope, but I’m really excited about this breakthrough and can’t wait to see what else I make when exercising my “letting go” muscle in the future.

You Like Me. You Really Like Me!

Photo courtesy of 101fundraising.org

Photo courtesy of 101fundraising.org

So back in 2011 and 2012, I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by two bloggers. I responded to both of them, saying that I was honored they thought to give me this award. That’s the good part. The bad part is that it’s taken me the better part of two years to actually getting around to what the award entails.

First off, thank you PoeticJourney and Write, Wrong, and Everything In Between for nominating me for this!

Second, I’m supposed to list 15 blogs I like/regularly follow. I don’t know that I regularly follow that many, but here are a few I really like and regularly comment on:

Don Miller’s Storyline Blog

Tara Anderson’s The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shh!

Sarah Clare’s Behind on Books

Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half

Dave Williams’s Zooky World

(5 out of 15 ain’t bad, right?)

Lastly, I need to list 7 things about myself:

1. I think I overuse the word “anyhoo” when I write. I know I overuse the word “awesome” when I talk AND write.

2. When I was little, I wanted to be a mermaid when I grew up. I still do….

3. I think proper grammar is sexy (this includes the serial comma).

4. I’m a big sci fi nerd. Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, Supernatural. Love it! (Haven’t gotten to Stargate yet, but I will.)

5. I hadn’t seen the movie The Goonies until last year (Stop judging me! I feel those stares…)

6. I love ice cream and milkshakes.

7. After some years of denial, I must admit that red is my favorite color, followed closely by midnight blue and black.

Thanks again for the award! Now ends my acceptance speech.