explorations in limited palettes and fan mail

 Well, hello!

This is what working all the time and taking a class and trying to have a social life does to you. That, and the lack of sustained attention that unfortunately comes with the Internet. 

Here are some new(ish) things! The first three explore a limited color palette, using ink and a bit of watercolor. At the top we have a forest spirit of sorts, and evolution of Beastie. Lately I've been liking headdresses, and his has typically been the bones of small animals. He's also been clearly affected by the aesthetics of Sword & Sworcery, with his trigon. This was done using India ink, red watercolor and some black gel pen for the details. 





Below is a painting using much of the same materials, although I think there's some Payne's gray in there in addition to the red. The circles are vaguely Mucha-esque, and were created using a compass. The figures are a take on the medieval figures with their big black robes. 














Next is something I thought of while listening to Grimes' "Visiting Statue" off the (perhaps aptly named) album Visions. I actually had a whole music video mapped out, but as I lack the funding and the willing victims participants to make music videos, I had to make due with a still image. The challenge of this one was to lend a thick, opaque, sculptural look using water media, as well as working on a gray ground. I started by coating a piece of (white) paper with a mixture of white gouache and Payne's gray watercolor, and layering more of that mixture until I got a good ground. Then I painted in the figures and the landscape, and finished with a mixture of white gouache and yellow watercolor for the constellations and circle shapes. I also emailed a copy to Grimes' fan mail, just for fun. 






Finally, we have a painting with a more traditional palette. This came from the idea of the Manitou, an Algonquin concept of an innate spirit present in all things, including people, animals, plants, rocks and even machines. Specifically, it's a reference to Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron off the coast of Ontario, which means "spirit island." The image is just something that sort of popped into my head, of a big sleepy creature-island supporting lots of nature and people. It looks a bit sad, but it's really just sleepy. I'm really happy with this one, and I'd like to find a nice frame for it. 


illustrations at inconnu

So, wow, it's been a while. Things are fine. I've been doing more illustrations for inconnu! Here are some of them.

From the top, we have an illustration for a break-up playlist,  one for a piece on horoscopes and other pseudosciences, one for the magazine's "Hamlet week" of Hamlet being a creep (because I think he's a creep I don't care about his melancholy), and finally an illustration for a piece on digital aesthetics.

And look, circles! Circular compositions that actually work! Crazy! Although I maintain that circular pieces work best when small (these are no more than about 4 inches in diameter).

The Hamlet one was a lot of fun to do. I really enjoyed working on the faces. Because it depicts the play scene, I had to work out how to make it clear that the actors are, in fact, acting. So the sleeping king had be be a sleeping king but also a very conscious actor playing the part of a sleeping king. The false beard was fun, too. It also made me think about Hamlet as a play and Hamlet as a character. Like, what if the plot against his father was actually because his father was a bad ruler and bad husband, and his mother and uncle were actually in love, and his uncle was a better ruler? And then Hamlet, in his blind devotion to his father, ruins the rule of Denmark and ultimately paves the way for Denmark to fall under Norwegian rule. What if everything was actually going fine and then  HAMLET RUINED EVERYTHING? 

You'll have to forgive me. It's been a while since I've been able to discuss literature. Regarding the art, though, Hamlet seems to be an evolution of the blond-haired men in the "medieval" body of work. 

The last one is actually the original draft of an illustration. In the accompanying article, it has an iPhone text background, so the final result was something of a collaboration between me and the editor. Also there are cupcakes--everyone likes looking at cupcakes and using them as a desktop or as decoration on digital devices is not uncommon. Who doesn't feel better looking at cupcakes?

All of these were created using varying combinations of watercolor, gouache, acrylic, ink, and gel pen. Gel pens are severely underrated.

triangles, occultism and water media


I've been listening to a lot of witch house, can you tell?

Here's some of the watercolor stuff I've been doing. I've lately been very into triangles, as I may have mentioned before. They started showing up on the throats of my figures, and I like how it looks, so we'll be seeing more of it. I've also been into occult symbols and the like. I've worked with them minorly before, but I really like what they add to an image--something like esoteric writing--and so I'll be using more of those, too. 

From the top:

Priestess is the earliest piece here. She's pretty simple, done in watercolor, India ink and gouache. Her design was based on a combination of occultism and '70s-ish graphic/fantasy illustration, which used a lot of solid areas of color for a look that's simple and linear so it's at once streamlined and modern while still evoking traditional fantasy. So that's what she is

The Universe is a double portrait, and done in a more detailed, traditional style. This was made using the usual mix of water media as well as some acrylic paints, which were watered down to the point of behaving like watercolors. I also used some interference paints, which add some nice iridescent detailsI had a lot of fun making this one. The sky was made my wetting the paper and basically letting the paint go wherever (not too much, though. I'm too much of a control freak for total abandon) and then forming cloud/nebula shapes by shading and highlighting the resulting forms. The costuming was probably the most fun. I used to draw costumes all the time--when I was a kid I would have reams of paper with these bizarre fashion innovations on them--and then somewhere in college I started painting nudes because SERIOUS ART or something. But there's so much you can do with clothing. From a conceptual standpoint, it adds to the characterization of figures. From a technical standpoint, it's a great way to practice a lot of textures. Here, I got to play with sheer fabric and fur, as well as metallic surfaces for the accents. Oh, and that's a dodecahedron on his brooch thing there. Hooray for Platonic solids!

Finally we have, um, this guy. Drawing a scantily clad man with a come-hither expression and a big fucking gun just sort of made sense one day, so here he is. This has more acrylic in it than The Universe, specifically the fluorescent colors that like to cause retinal damage but are fun anyway. I don't know where this came from, to be honest. I just wanted to do something uncomfortable on several levels. A friend came over and said that this picture "creeped him out." I said that if it creeped him out, then I did my job right. 


water media madness

 I was terribly, and pleasantly, surprised to find that THIS is what it looks like when you use water media on fabric. I had tried it before with some small pieces, but it works really well on a larger scale, too, and can be built up to a decent opacity. 

I was originally going to hang these on our closet doors at home, kind of a his'n'hers sort of thing, but the doors seem to be made of diamond and cannot be pierced by the pointy things of man. So they live on my desk. 

Up top is some beast boy creepiness, complete with blood and pointy claw fingers. And a hair bow. I used Mod Podge to seal the fabric on this one, and I'm not sure if it was that or if it was just not stretched properly, and so the fabric buckled slightly. It didn't effect the outcome, really, but was not as pleasant to paint on. This is primarily gouache, tinted with watercolor.

Below is some fashionable witchiness. This one was created using gouache and watercolor as well as India ink, acrylic paint and gel pen. REMEMBER GEL PENS??? I bought some bright pink gel pens a while ago on a whim because they transported me back to seventh grade, where the cool thing to do was to scrawl all over yourself and your friends with smeary opaque ink. They made the finer pink branches near the bottom, and were fun to use. 

So, they're not oils. Nothing is oils. But they were fun to make, and I got to play with lots of interesting ways to combine colors and materials. The only thing about this, which I discovered the last time I tried this, was that because of the primed surface, the paints will wipe right off if they get wet, so I might want to spray seal these sometime. Although, during the painting process, this feature actually came in handy as it served as an "eraser" of sorts. 

I really like bright pink and I need to use more of it. I've also found I really like designing costumes and painting fantastical clothing, and will be continuing this trend.

them

I actually drew this quite some time ago, late one night while listening to this, when these four paid a visit. They seemed friendly enough, if not very talkative. They have, from left to right, deer, owl, crow and rabbit skulls, and I always thought of them as friendly guardians of some other plain of existence

This is just pencil in my sketchbook, which I'm afraid is getting rather filled up. 

mini paintings for mini spaces

 So I moved! But that means that I have neither the space nor the ventilation to make oil paintings. It would be nice to be able to do larger-scale oils, but I can always take the train back up to Mom's and work if I feel so inclined. In the meantime, I can work on tiny little guys like these.

These are created using watercolor and gouache, which works out beautifully on the fabric. The fabric is mounted onto little embroidery hoops that I found at a craft store (SO much cheaper and cuter than round canvas stretchers). The ovals are 5 X 3.5 inches, and the circles have a 3 inch diameter. 

So very tiny. 

The ovals feature some kind of slightly mutated hoodie, now a bit frillier and more overtly feminine, and a mysterious wooded area. Maybe this is my subconscious interpretation of moving and going into the unknown. 

The circles were a little trickier (you know how I feel about circles), and I was originally going to stick with the hoodie theme, but I went for animals instead. Owls and rabbits are some of my favorites, so here they are. 

 
That owl looks kind of confused, doesn't it?

Anyway, I don't normally paint or draw animals on their own, but these were fun. These pieces are mainly meant to be decorative, and I was mainly concentrating on making something cute that I would continue to enjoy looking at, and their small size means I can put them in weird little corners. 

The only issue? They need to have some kind of sealant, preferably a spray sealant, to protect the paint.  


remembrances

So, I didn't mention this because I don't like posting very personal things on the Interwebz, but my dog died in August. It was really hard on my mom and me. I didn't really want to talk about it with anyone. 

But I made my mom this picture of Calypso for Christmas, with her big pink belly and her knobbly feel and big giant eyeballs. I was going to depict her engaged in an activity, but Calypso's favorite activities were killing rabbits and rolling in shit, so I went for a more traditional portrait. 

Here she is.  

endings, beginnings, and such

 It liiives!

This blog, I mean, as well as my art-making. It's been going well, I guess. I had two gallery shows in the past two months, and have contacted another one regarding showing (haven't heard back, though). I've been working on two new paintings and am probably going to set up for a third, which will be nice and bloody. Yay!

In the meantime, have the first and second installments of a small illustrated story I've been working on. I'm calling it The End or the Beginning, because that's what it's about. 

See, I don't normally use art as a means to directly express things going on in my personal life. My personal life affects my art, of course, but I'm not usually prone to illustrating it literally. This series, however, is close to doing that. Obviously it's not literal literal (I don't know people who habitually wear burlap sacks on their heads), but this series is about something I went through over the summer, which was both an ending and a beginning for me. It also corresponds to some writing I did about that issue, and some of these images are direct illustrations of those writings. 

Again, I don't make comics, and this is probably the closest I can comfortably get to making something akin to a comic (Duck vs. Cactus notwithstanding). On a technical note, I'd like to bind these, but they're all on separate pieces of paper, and I'll have to finagle something.

adulthood and hurricanes

 So it's been a while. 

That is, as I have said, what having a full-time job will do to you. I'm actually working RIGHT NOW, thanks to being stranded at home by a hurricane. 

And I finally finished a big oil painting! Up top here is Sing Sing Kill, which is named for the stream that runs through town and empties into the river. "Sing Sing," like the prison, is the Anglicized version of the Iroquois name for the region, meaning "stone on stone," and "kill" is the Anglicized version of the Dutch word for stream. I pass where the stream empties into the river every day at the train station, and it's kind of a shady, dark little place tucked between the tracks (which go over the stream), a water treatment plant and some old warehouses. But it's still pretty and full of wildlife. This painting was inspired by the river and its ecosystems, which I see every day from the train. It's a weird and forgotten place, but very pretty in a decaying sort of way. It seems that paintings like this are the evolution of the Home body of work, which seems to be branching out into dreamier places. The painting was also a real bitch to photograph thanks to glare, awkward brushstrokes that messed up the lighting, and hurricanes.

Below is a watercolor. I was never really into drips, but this was a planned drip, so I'm okay with it. I tend to need to plan things completely  or they turn into formless disasters. Anyway, I'm calling it Double Shell Homunculus after the Homunculus Nebula

So, thanks to my impromptu vacation, maybe I'll get a chance to do some more painting. Yay! 

how to avoid having people try to talk to you

 Fangirlism has reared its ugly head once again, and I found myself with a new host of Jeff the Killer crap. Most of these were drawn on the train going to and from work, and I can tell you that drawing things like this is a great way to ensure that no one will sit next to you. 


All of them are Micron pen on some kind of non-special paper, all are about 3 X 5 inches. All were drawn on whims based on stupid shit I thought was amusing in passing. 


From the top: 


Jeff after a shower. He's a grimy dude most of the time, sleeps outside and often can be seen with dirt, twigs, dried blood and bugs in his hair. But occasionally he likes to clean up a bit and comb himself. That girl there might be Jane the Killer, who stars in an even less well-thought-out Creepypasta than Jeff, if that's even possible. Or it might just be a self-portrait.







 Coffee. This is the closest to the original image that I've ever drawn. Which isn't very. But check out that lettering fail. Lesson learned: Do not attempt lettering while on a moving train.








 
 Jeff and Jane (or whoever) again after a bout of stabbing or whatever it is they do to express their feelings about one another. The plants were fun to do.














 



Jeff drools. Jeff doesn't particularly care about his drooling problem, even though it's gross; he considers it a minor price to pay for his beautiful smile. The spiral there reads "smiley, smiley, smiley, smiley," because that was the song that serendipitously started playing on my iPod while I was working on this. 















 


Jeff goes hunting. Now, obviously, a knife has several advantages over a gun, especially if you're a serial killer. It's quiet, it doesn't require reloading and is easily cleaned, repaired, and concealed. But when a bunch of squealing fangirls are let loose in a nature preserve for an updated version of The Most Dangerous Game, Jeff prefers something more dramatic.



















Jeff vs. Robert. If you've never seen Rubber, you need to. Basically, Jeff would not win this confrontation.


















 
Finally, this is just inappropriate. And the sad thing is there's an even more inappropriate one waiting to be uploaded. Seriously I need help. But this is something that actually happens regularly, when certain significant others wake up in the night and peer creepily down at me for a few minutes and then have no recollection of it in the morning. It is so creepy. 



experiments in pencil

So I don't normally use just colored pencil. I've had a box of Crayolas sitting in my desk drawer forever, and they've been relegated, for the most part, to the foundations of water media pieces. A long time ago, like back in middle school (which was over a decade ago, giving you an idea of how infrequently these things were used), I think they were used to flatly color in some bullshit faux-anime-style fantasy characters. Yeah. We're not getting into that. 

But I saw some colored pencil work online, namely this piece by a deviantART buddy (which is like, way, way more accomplished than mine here), and started to get interested. It helped that the figure pictured looks like Boyfriend. 

So what I've found after working with pencils is that they're just like watercolors! Just without the water. This is because with both media, you start with the lightest colors and build up to the darkest, with the paper itself serving as your white. It's basically the opposite of oils, where white and light colors are added last, as highlights. You can do that because oils are opaque, while pencils and watercolors are transparent. Make sense? Good. 

(Full disclosure: I cheat at water media by using white gouache for highlights, which is opaque. I can't help it. I'm an oil-painter at heart.)

The other thing is that I've been working on leftover scraps of Arches watercolor paper, which is wonderful for water media, but a bit rough for pencil, making it hard to get very fine detail. I'd like to try out a smoother paper and see what happens. I don't dislike the roughness, but I think I could get more out of a picture on a smoother surface. I have two other pencil pieces, but they were purely experimental and frankly kind of suck, so I'm not going to show them.

So yeah, I decided that for this piece I'd use my fallback subject of Boyfriend/Beast Boy and all his teeth. Yes, the size of his mouth and teeth are exaggerated for effect. But it's more about capturing the murderous rage personality. I've also been really into eyeballs lately, and capturing the correct shine. I've yet to hone the wet-shine look with pencils, as I'm used to just glopping on some white pigment.

Isn't he cute?

resistance is futile


Who doesn't love the Borg? The Borg always held a special place in my heart (the mechanical part) because despite their almost entirely ominous presence in Star Trek, there's something charming about them--almost silly.

This piece was created for a Star Trek/Star Wars-themed group show. Star Trek was sadly underrepresented because everyone is a Star Wars dork. I'll be the first to agree that the concept of a Borg Queen as seen in First Contact makes no sense, but she worked well for the image. I was going for the feeling of a propaganda poster, something advertising the pros of being assimilated. I kind of wanted to portray the Borg as they might see themselves, as kind of messianic, uniting the galaxy. Borg Queen herself was modeled on Mucha's females as well as Midna and some of the imagery* from from Zelda: Twilight Princess. I think I made the Queen much more stylish, plus I really like how the pixelated-type detailing of the dress came out.

I considered making some other sci-fi-themed images in the same stylistic vein, but was never able to. Honestly, I wouldn't know what to do.

*image credit Donna M. Evans, who I found via Google just now. That picture is super cute.

tales from the sketchpad, part 6



The time has come to end the sketchpad series. It's sad, I know, but my poor pens are suffering from exhaustion and quite frankly, I'm tired of the sketchpad. Like, really tired.

So here are the last two pages of the sketchpad. My .01 pen was fading fast, so as you can see, I resorted to using a .08 for the backgrounds of both of these. I don't like the heavier line quite as much as I do building up layers of finer lines, but it's passable.

Up top we have another Jeff. Seriously I am the sickest fangirl for him, because I have a thing for long-haired guys with crazy eyes, toothy smiles and big knives. I don't know what that says about me, exactly, but I'm okay with it. He's seen here after a long and productive night cleaning his knife off. Pasta-monsters have a pass when it comes to blood-borne diseases. Jeff's .08 background actually came from necessity, as there was some Prismacolor marker bleed-though from the other side of his page that had to be covered. And you always have to cover up the bleed-through, right Jeff?

Next is a portrait of me and Beasty. I'm not 100% thrilled with this one, but I wanted a picture of the two of us and here it is. I struggled with this for a long time, going through about a thousand pencil versions--the remnants of which you can still make out in the white areas of the image--before settling on this one. I was originally going for something a little sexier, but it never quite worked the way I wanted.

I salute you, Sketchpad. You will be missed. Kind of.

little watercolors


Here are some watercolors I had kicking around because I am tired of talking about the Sketchpad. (There will be one more sketchpad entry, and then we're done. Done, I tell you.)

First we have a very, very civilized portrait of Beasty, where he is looking very proper and wearing clothes. He looks nice in blue. The subject however, was critical of this piece. His critique was WHY DID YOU MAKE ME A BLOND WOMAN?

The second piece was done for a Hitchcock-themed group show. This is inspired by Rope, which is not one of the movies everyone thinks of when they think of Hitchcock, but is really quite good. This piece now belongs to my friend. It's a bit more cartoony than I usually go, but I think it works. I also think I got the expressions of the characters right: reluctant follower on the left, smug douche on the right.

I have a bunch of big oils paintings in the works, but I have to figure out a way to photograph them since the autofocus on my camera is still auto-fucked. I will likely borrow my mom's camera, but I really dislike that camera. Oh well. It will have to do.

tales from the sketchpad, part 4


So I really dislike Twilight. Like, a lot. For a variety of reasons, most of which can be echoed on a certain Tumblr blog I frequent.

And after completing the "Bella Sucks" meme that I found on deviantART and having a lot of fun, I decided to elaborate on a particular image on page 2 of the meme that filled me with glee. Out came the sketchpad.

So here's Beast Boy in all his feral glory upon discovering the invasive activities of one of our newer, more sparkling pop-culture figures (because I cannot, in good conscience, call him a "literary" one) and taking action.

Aw.

tales from the sketchpad, part 3



The sketchpad returns!

Today in the world of sketchpad, we'll be looking at my three most recent drawings. This is what I've been doing instead of working on my Sketchbook Project, which is supposed to be postmarked tomorrow in order to be part of the tour. Trouble is, I hate the sketchbook and everything in it because the paper is horrid quality and makes everything suck. I just can't send it in. I just can't. It looks like crap.

So I've been drawing instead on some actual paper and I came up with these little beasties. I used an 01 Sakura Micron pen, and the paper is 80 lb. Strathmore, and I'm really happy with how they came out.

Top one is Lost Girls, who are skullheads, and began as a possible painting sketch about girls who disappear. Next is Sea Beast, which is essentially a self-portrait. At least, that's what my hair looks like after a day at the beach. Finally we have Land Beast, who is like Boyfriend if Boyfriend was the Rake.

He's so cute.

Overall, I'd say I'm pleased with how my pen use is evolving, as opposed to the last times I've used this sketchpad. It's become more painterly, in a way, and less dependent on clean linear forms, less controlled. I'm liking the depth I've been able to create with these, as well as the variations in tone.

I already have some more of these planned!

things to come




So my camera is still broken.

So here we have some images from my Instagram account (Earlybird filter FTW), of some of the sketches for projects I've been working on. The top two are from the same piece, and the bottom one is a second piece. Both are oil on patterned fabric, and both are coming along nicely. It's been a while since I've painted on fabric and it's a lot of fun. The first piece is looking good (I started it today), and I actually really like the sketch. Normally my sketches are just maps, but I really like how the faces turned out, and will be attempting to recreate them in the final painting. The second piece is quite an experimental one, and I'm happy so far with the results.


More soon!



yule, and a little bit of soul-eating


It's that time again--the shortest day of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least, which is where I live), and time to appreciate the darkness and the coming light.

So to celebrate, here's a watercolor of me and some bony crows of winter enjoying the cold. I like the winter. I like all seasons, in fact, and I think it's kind of weird when people say they don't like a certain season. First of all, disliking a season seems pointless, because there's nothing you can do about it (except contribute to the greenhouse effect, I guess). Then there's the fact that I find the change of seasons refreshing, and I think I would get really bored if there were only one or two seasons. Four is a nice amount. Just when you're getting tired of one, it changes. When you're tired of the heat, summer's over and it's autumn. When you're tired of the cold, it's spring. And when you're tired of the changeable weather, it becomes either consistently hot or consistently cold. Right now it's cold and dark, and you can see all the lights for miles thanks to the relative clarity of cold air. And there are cookies.

Also just for fun here's a picture of Zooey Deschanel,
(whose name I never know to pronounce "Zoh-ee" or "Zu-ee"), in all her horrifying glory. Seriously, lady creeps the shit out of me. I think it's her enormous, icy, soulless eyes and the fact that in every photo I see of her, she seems to be saying, "Boop!" while thinking about the inevitable invasion by her alien compatriots.

Plus I hate it when actors only play one type of role. I just want to see her play like a crack dealer or a ruthless assassin. Just once. Please?

the fifth dimension makeover episode




It was apparently a time for re-doing things. Sometimes spending some time apart from a piece of work allows you to see more clearly the problem areas, and then you can go back in and make the necessary adjustments. First up was Caligula Rape Face and his non PC title. Which is still the same, mind you. The original image, which I've uploaded here, was completed some time last summer (I think), and I was only partially pleased with it. But after spending so much time together, I couldn't think critically about it. So recently I gave him some major reconstructive surgery and I'm liking how he turned out. I fixed the face to better resemble the person it's based on, added detail to the face and hand, made the hair fluffier and added a yellow color, and made the body stand out more by adding white and blue glazes to the preexisting pink ones. I also fancied up his cross necklace a bit, and changed the bird skull into a rabbit skull. And of course I added MOAR glitter and some cute little pink heart sequins to the bottom. And yes, I'm still using Martha. I'm really happy with the face now, and the original looks totally crappy by comparison. This is also the first oil painting I've (re)completed in a while, which is a nice feeling. The next image isn't so much a re-do as a different version of a sketch. The original Sepsis, Sugarplums and Blood is a simple pencil sketch from my sketchbook (there's my curly little handwriting at the bottom), and was drawn after a weird night with some friends. I later developed it into a water media piece, using watercolor, ink, watercolor pencil and gouache on Arches paper. I didn't originally intend for them to have neon hair like that, but I like how it turned out. Also, I once did have purple hair like that. What I like about the two of these when seen side by side is the facial expressions, which are all different, but equally likeable. Each picture communicates a distinct mood, with the pencil sketch being somewhat sadder and more nihilistic (which was kind of how I was feeling after said night with friends), and the water media one is happier. I also thought the fly on the orange-haired one was a nice addition. That was Beast Boy's idea.

this isn't nice


Actually, I think this picture is really nice. I like it a lot. I'm calling it Rabbit Eater II, and I have a few more rabbit eaters planned. The first official Rabbit Eater can be seen here, but I think that the original concept actually dates back to the Woods series, with images of my rather toothy significant other. In a way, I think it hearkens back to the Woods series very much, with the branch patterning and the coloration. Here he's looking a bit blonder, and he's thoroughly enjoying his meal of rabbit. The idea of him eating rabbits stems from his penchant for chasing rabbits in the yard. Really. This was done with the usual mix of watercolor pencils, watercolors, gouache, and some inks on Arches paper (the most awesome paper ever that I got on sale for added awesomeness). The blood was fun to paint. Blood usually is.

This brings me, however, to something that's been bothering me lately. For the record, I really like this painting. I think it came out really nicely in terms of technique and how it captures the subject, and I therefore think it's a nice picture.

But that's apparently not the case.

When my mom saw this, she was quite vocal about the gore, and complained that it was "not nice." I'm like, yeah, Mom, biting the head off a rabbit usually isn't. (Our dog, as a side note, would disagree, as one of her favorite hobbies is snapping the necks of the bunnies that live in our yard.) This isn't the first time she's complained that the subject matter of my work isn't "nice," but rather "creepy," or "disturbing." Confounding this was the incident where my grandmother (my mother's mother) found an unfinished piece of a skullhead character, and basically said, "Why? Why would you make something so UGLY? Why can't you make something NICE? Art is supposed to INSPIRE." I was like, thanks, Nanna, you think my work is ugly, that's awesome. Luckily for both of us I intercepted her before she found Rabbit Eater II here.

But this is what bothers me. For one thing, art is supposed to cause a reaction in the viewer. It's supposed to make you feel something on a visceral level. It doesn't matter if the reaction is one of adoration or repugnance, it's supposed to cause a reaction. When my grandmother said that art was supposed to inspire, she was absolutely right, but what she didn't realize was that my unfinished skullhead had done just that; it inspired in her a strong reaction. Maybe not the reaction she wanted, but a reaction nonetheless. Simply looking at something and thinking, oh, that's pretty, isn't enough. You won't remember something you think is merely good-looking on a cosmetic level because it offers no real stimulus.

The other part of this is that I can't help but feel insulted by comments like these. Not because I need constant praise or that I want everyone to like everything I make, but rather on a deeper level. I don't always make "nice" images because the things that go through my head aren't always nice. They have to do with anger, fear, hatred, selfishness, and sadness sometimes, because these are things we all have to deal with on a daily basis. The things I think about are not always nice things, but they are real things, and they are worthy of exploration. To me, demanding that I only create "nice" imagery is like telling me that the less pleasant aspects of my psyche are not worth recognizing. It also suggests that my art is solely for the benefit of others, and not for myself. I understand that this is likely not the intent of my mom or grandmother, but that's how it feels. Making a less-than-nice image is cathartic, it helps me come to terms with the darker and scarier aspects of myself, and comes from a deep and intimate place. I can't help but feel that by deriding these pieces, they are deriding parts of me. And that kind of hurts.

I think that it's easy to want someone to always create "nice" images because that seems to communicate that the creator of those images is always happy. And of course we want our loved ones to be happy for the majority of the time. But you can't be happy without being unhappy. You need both, and we all need to accept the less-than-nice aspects of one another, because those are the aspects that make us human. Being able to recognize and express our own dark sides, through art or in other constructive ways, takes enormous strength, and makes us better people in the long run. Instead of demanding nicety, we should celebrate the not-so-nice, because it is just as important.