Botanical Birch Sketch

Hello! Here’s an unfinished botanical sketch for Betula Neoalaskana, the paper birch, which I am currently working on the cookbook for. I don’t think I’ll quite finish the entire cookbook (or this sketch, for that matter) this month, but I’ll be awfully close. And, fun stuff, I currently have three birch trees tapped and am boiling sap down every day. All good research for the cookbook! There are only three days left in the month. Wish me luck!

Call of the Midsummer Night’s Dream

My middle child was telling my husband and I about this awesome book he’s been reading with this dog who gets kidnapped and then there’s this mean guy and then there’s this nice guy and then he gets to pull sleds and his name is Puck, because apparently my kid can’t tell Ps and Bs apart.

And once my brain saw this, I couldn’t unsee it.

And I am sorry for how very late this is. It’s just been one major technology malfunction after another on this. The physical art has actually been done since Saturday! But at least it gets to look like a cool old tinted photograph. That was not my original intent, but when your scanner refuses to talk to your computer and your camera is all terrible and janky, you have to improvise. What fun!

So Happy Togetherrrrrr~!

So we’re a weeeee little bit late, but there were technical difficulties, starting with my license expiration on my art program, spanning to the scanner not communicating with my laptop, and then finally with Paint (of all things PAINT) not cooperating either. Whew. Fortunately, my husband is a technowizard and was able to exorcise the digidemons. Thanks, hubby!

After all that, I have an ink sketch for you! It… it looks better on paper, I swear. But here’s a lovely lady dancing in a field of flowers to celebrate the start of a beautiful new relationship! Ahhhh, love!

Magical Christmas Art

Hi, pals!

As much as possible, Hubby and I try to do homemade gifts around the holidays. We’ve been blessed with the time and (arguably) skills for such diversions, and I despise shopping, so it makes sense for our family.

This year, I got the idea to make custom Magic: The Gathering cards for the kids. (Sorry for all the lingo I’m about to drop.) I thought it would be fun to make Planeswalker cards of each of the kids, with real flavor text quotes and abilities based on their own strengths and weaknesses. 1000% on board with this, Husband then proceeded to one-up me by drafting up the text for an entire set of Marcotte-themed cards. He had vehicle cards based on our cars and chicken coop (ha!), creature types based on our pets and local wildlife, mana-fixing lands based on our house, school, etc. It was fantastic, but geez, my drawing hand was pretty sore by Christmas time. We worked together on the art and barely finished in time, sleeving the freshly printed cards on Christmas Eve. Whew!

I thought it might be fun to show off the art for the Planeswalkers cards. I certainly don’t expect Wizards of the Coast to come knocking any time soon, but I’m proud of my work. I could have done better, but not on the deadline that I was. (On some of the cards, you can see exactly when I ran out of time to do the backgrounds, haha.)

I love art of any kind, whether that’s sculpting, or drawing, or dancing, or painting, or writing, etc. It all gets pretty mixed up in my head and I find that I’m at my most creative when I have a varied diet of artsy goodness.

Enjoy the art, and until next week, happy writing (and arting)!

Aaron James, Loremaster
William Lee, Grand Arbiter
Daniel Duane, Battle Mage
Renner Paul, Mirth Monger
Robert William, Dadbeast
Jill Nicole, Bone Matriarch

Finding My Center

Many years ago, I took a ceramics class to satisfy an arts requirement for my college degree. I made a lot of really bad bowls and figurines and stuff that have since all been smashed, disappeared, or distributed to family members who feel too guilty to get rid of them. It was an entry level class and I was awful at it, but it was fun.

However, I never used the pottery wheels. I probably would have broken them, and the more advanced students were on them all the time, and I was too garbage and well aware of it to properly beg for wheel time. To this day, I have never tried thrown pottery.

But my ten-year-old has. A few weeks ago, his class went on this weird mish-mash field trip where they went to a rock climbing club, and then a ‘50s style diner, and then a high school pottery studio. Not sure what the educational aim was here (or why this teacher is so set on expensive field trips and activities like all the time), but my son had a lot of fun making a little bowl that I’m probably going to have to buy off the teacher later, to prove that I love my child, in order to help fund further field trips. (I’m not bitter.)

My boy told me in such exquisite detail about the potting process that I think he might want a throwing wheel for Christmas. He told me all about tucking his elbows, and keeping his hands wet, and maybe most important of all, centering the clay.

When throwing pottery on the wheel, one of the biggest problems beginners have is failing to properly center their lump of clay. It might seem centered (enough), but once the wheel gets up to speed and you begin to craft your masterpiece, the wobbly tower of clay suddenly ruptures and flops over dead like an overwatered cactus in fast forward.

A lot of creative work is like that, including writing. Sometimes we start a project before we’re quite ready. Sometimes we don’t see the problems until we’re well along. Sometimes we have to scrap and start over, even when something starts out so promising.

I am the queen of false starts. And messy starts. And oh-gosh-I’m-going-to-have-to-change-all-of-this-later starts. Lately, I’ve been feeling like the empress, though. This last year has been a weird year for me. I’ve been reasonably productive, and pretty successful by some metrics, but I haven’t felt creatively centered, if that makes any sense. So I’ve ended up with some preeeetty wobbly stories, structurewise.

I think part of my problem may be in the sorts of projects I’ve been working on this year. More about this later, but a much higher proportion of my writing has been for either nonfiction or ghostwriting on other people’s creative projects. So a smaller chunk of my creative brain power has been spent on the sorts of projects I enjoy the most (which is mostly people running around getting stabbed in the woods, apparently). This has put me a bit off so that when I do get around to those projects, my head isn’t in the game. This is probably further exacerbated by how busy I’ve been with life in general. My time for art in any form has shrunk considerably as we welcomed a new foster child into our home late last summer. He’s an awesome kid, but takes a looooot of time and attention. I basically doubled my kid load, meaning that most of my time for feeding my creative soul now happens between ten at night and… whenever I go collapse into bed. Sometimes that’s ten, because I’m tired. Sometimes it’s one in the morning because I really want to work on something that isn’t kid related. But then I’m exhausted in the morning and I pay it back for days. So yeah, I’ve been off-balance lately.

So how to center myself a bit more?

Honestly, I think the biggest thing may be to accept that, at least for a little while, I’m just going to have less time for art. I can’t not take my kid to his appointments. I can’t ignore my natural children, either, who are needing more attention than ever as we navigate these emotional waters together. But rather than just settling for less art, I think I should also shift the focus of what time I do have for art. I’ll have to do a better job of reserving my art time for the art that I find most fulfilling. And I’m going to start doing more of my visual art out in the midst of the kids instead of only while holed up in my Tortured Artist Cave. (Writing will have to stay in the cave, though. I cannot write with any distractions whatsoever, unfortunately.)

Giving myself the breathing space to make art without the guilt is probably the key here. Maybe I can’t produce the same volume of work that I have in years past. And maybe I don’t have the same amount of time that I have in the past. But letting myself create for the sheer joy of creating, rather than worrying about deadlines and output and word counts and dollars, should help bring me back to center. I’ll write more in a couple weeks about my goals for this year and how those shaped up, and then I’ll roll out a shiny new set of goals for next year.

Until then, happy (happy, I say!) writing!

Guess What

Soooo, as some of you may know if you follow me on Twitter, I’ve been having some computer troubles ever since I ran over my laptop with my bike. Twice. Well, it has once again taken its revenge by shutting down while I was working on the comic for today and deleting about the previous two hours’ worth of work on it. I’m not back at square one, but it’s set me back far enough that it’s not going to be done today. Check back tomorrow, and apologies for my tardiness! (You’re all used to it by now, I’m sure. *hides face in shame*)

UPDATE: Psyche on the “tomorrow update” thing, because instead I got intestinal plague. Because I had the audacity to eat five biscoff cookies in one evening. Five cookies = three days of regrets. Such is the joy of chronic belly nightmare. Ughhhhh… *death rattle*