Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The End is Nigh

Image credit. 
The end of my Lenten social media fast, that is. I never really made a conscious decision to NOT post here for Lent. The objects of my fast were Facebook and Twitter for the most part. My personal Instagram was part of it, though I kept my business one active for obvious reasons, and after this experiment this is the platform I miss most. I also kept YouTube because I decompress by watching art videos these days.

With the end of Lent nine days away, I have mixed feelings. Some things to celebrate, some progress made, plenty of observations about my own habits and tendencies.

Being away from Facebook was nothing but positive, with the exception of missing some friends' updates. That said, I can log in and creep on you all without getting sucked down the rabbit hole of 24/7 access. I strongly believe the app should stay off my phone. I seem to be able to log in once per day for friend-checking and avoid the rest. For the most part, sharing things I care about on Facebook, like March for Our Lives this weekend, doesn't require me to log in for more than a second or two.

I don't need an all-hours news cycle because it just feeds my anxiety. I've been fine with reading a morning briefing and listening to Pod Save America for some perspective. I do think it would be helpful to subscribe to the Washington Post or New York Times websites for unlimited online reading. With limited access I can't always click through the morning briefing and get the full story which is annoying and half-assed.

Limited social media has helped calm my anxiety. I've used the minutes I would normally spend scrolling in the morning to do meditation via the Headspace app which has been immensly helpful. I use all the other minutes I would've normally spent scrolling to make art. This also helps sooth me.

Overall, I don't think there were any surprises. I knew all of this going into my social media fast, but I wanted to do it, finally, and I have enough perspective to make some tweaks. Facebook, while my biggest nemesis, is the most obvious tool for activism and organizing that I have at my disposal...especially for local/county political action. I'll still be there on FB, but in much smaller amounts.

Monday, January 29, 2018

I've Been Hiding Something

Five, ten, fifteen, sixteen, nineteen, twenty-one year old Andi made a lot of art. From the time I was about five years old, I've been fascinated with drawing. It started when my aunt drew a beautiful woman in a flowing ball gown for me to copy. For years after, I drew fashion on any piece of paper I could find. I drew other things, but those well-dressed women, those glamorous Jems and She-Ras, the poofy dresses, snazzy pant suits, and mini-skirts (this was the 80s) were my niche. 

Fast forward to middle school and the beginning of picking elective courses. My family was all, ART YOU MUST TAKE ART. An elderly woman, lovely as she was, smelling like booze, taught us to whittle soap figurines and erect structures with popsicle sticks. Not really my jam. I wasn't in art the next year. 

Brush pen landscape

So high school came around, and I promise this is going somewhere...

Mrs. Lightfoot, sweet-but-drunk, retired and was replaced by a long-haired, hippy art teacher (Mr. Fuqua, still awesome and my friend), and I was dead set on NOT taking accounting, so I was back in art. We drew with...everything. Graphite pencils, tempera paint, chalk. There were some popsicle sticks in the mix on occasion, but I survived. We did contour drawings and finished paintings. There was instruction! There was indie music playing! Mr. Fuqua even tried to get me to submit to a Chicago Institute of Art competition, which I didn't do, but kinda really wish I had. 

Around this time the Internet was becoming a Thing People Had at Home, and we got our first home PC and a dial-up connection. Suddenly I was discovering the world of online chatrooms and Paint Shop Pro, and I started designing avatars, and teaching myself HTML, and building websites. It was totally addictive. And I was good at it! 

With these new skills under my belt, I decided to go to university to be a graphic designer. At Baylor that meant pursuing a BFA degree in Studio Art which was cross-listed with Graphic Design. Baylor's program was really geared toward the fine art part with graphic design tagged on as an afterthought in the last year or two. Luckily, I really ate up the fine art stuff. I loved drawing and painting and using new-to-me mediums like gouache, ink, and even painting with coffee. I sculpted from plaster of paris, welded small statues. I was doing all kinds of new shit. I was ok at it. I was better when I got serious in my sophomore year and actually focused on my work more than staying on the phone all night. Who knew? 

Trouble the weenie dog in graphite
I ultimately transferred away from Baylor to my alma mater to pursue New Media because it was the only program of its kind around. At the time (2001) that meant web design, Java, and some other super-old-now stuff. I decided I didn't like it. I missed the hands-on that the computer took away from me. I was also bored as fuck and realized I'd be designing corporate logos for the rest of my life (because back then, it was true). I put my art supplies away or gave them away. They got buried under crap in the garage. I was proud of the pieces I'd created, but books and writing took over. Art and books have always been my my things....THE things for me.

Here we are, 17 years later, and I'm arting again. I don't even know what happened. Maybe I can say this is the positive thing that came of the fucking terrible election. When I couldn't read, I could design things on the computer. When I started designing things on the computer I started making stickers. When I still couldn't read, I could cross stitch. Then I figured out it wasn't impossible to design a cross stitch pattern (I keep it REAL simple, mind you). Oh hey, this bullet journal thing looks cool. HAND LETTERING, Y'ALL! And now...graphite pencils, pastels, ink, coffee wash, watercolor, ball point pens, you name it. I'm making stuff out of everything. 

Not an original design. Find the pattern here
I decided to write this post when my mom found a bin of office supplies in her garage yesterday and told me to come get what I wanted. I snagged plenty of ballpoints for a specific style I just discovered on Instagram, and I found some pastel pencils. I won an art contest with a pastel drawing once, so why the hell not try that again? When I pulled up in my driveway after pilfering the art supplies, I noticed two pieces of cardboard on the floor of my car (turns out they were trash from some packaging of my husband's). I sat down between grading assignments this morning with my trash paper and my mostly blue and green pastel pencils and figured an ocean scene was the way to go with the colors I have on hand. I Googled a bit and started roughing out some coral from a reference image because I watched a YouTube video of an artist painting underwater stuff last night before bed. 

Pastel pencil corals on cardboard (work in progress)
Do you see how this goes? 

Arting has always been a lot like reading for me. It's a mental release. It's tedious in its basic actions, but it also allows my mind to run around in a way that so few other things do. I've always been able to sink into a book for hours. In college I would sink into art for hours. I'd throw on some music (in my Discman, obviously), and seven hours later I'd surface from the studio...hungry, bleary-eyed, and feeling like those were the greatest hours.

Now there's more fuel for the fire. The paths for discovery are overwhelming: Instagram, Pinterest, Deviantart, Etsy. MY GOD THE THINGS I'M LEARNING AND MAKING AND WANTING TO MAKE AND MULLING OVER. 

Sensory overload but in the best way. And instead of my Discman, now I have an iPhone and an audiobook for when I'm arting. This is how I art in 2018. :) 


Tuesday, January 09, 2018

These Words: As Long as It's Healthy

"Waking up to the election results was like looking down to find thousands of cracks in a floor that, seconds ago, I'd thought solid and smooth. Every day since election day, I wake up an angrier, more radical activist, forced to see the floor for what it was this whole time. "

--Sarah Michael Hollenbeck from the essay "As Long as It's Healthy" in Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Tru*p's America edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding

If you read any essay this year, let it be this one. While this is my favorite line, the issues of most importance here are her discussions of living with Moebius syndrome, ableism, and the deeply personal decisions associated with making a family.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Out of the House for Four Months and Monday Reading!

It's Monday! What are You Reading? is hosted by The Book Date

Another winter break is coming to a close, and I am not feeling these back to work vibes. For the last semester, I was online only. I taught classes for three universities, and it was GREAT to be home all the time. Alas, that also comes to an end with the end of winter break. I'll physically be on campuses Monday evenings, and with the earliest early birds on Tuesday/Thursday mornings and with significant commutes...for the next four'ish months. It's a total first world problem, basic complaint. I can't say that being online for this past semester was necessarily good for me. It increased my social anxiety a bit and made me even less willing than usual to leave the house, so the shift is proabably a good thing.

It's Bout of Books week! I blew through N.K. Jemisin's THE BROKEN KINGDOMS (Inheritance #2) this past week, and it was amaaaazing. I think I actually liked it better than the first book in the trilogy, and that doesn't happen for me very often. The characters felt much better developed in this one.

I'm also reading Angela Y. Davis's WOMEN, CULTURE, AND POLITICS and underlining like a fiend. I read one or two essays from it every evening, so I can really focus and dig into what she's writing and mull it over a bit before I move on. So, so good.

Finally, I started a romance novella for Bout of Books so I can feel my progress. At Janani's recommendation, I decided to try Rebekah Weatherspoon's romance novels. SO SWEET (SUGAR BABY #1) caught my eye first, so I'm rolling with it. The protagonist cracks me up, and so far it's a sweet, fun story. I'll most likely finish it here in just a bit.

Are you reading for Bout of Books? Whatcha got? 

The next Drinks in the Library livestream will be Saturday, January 13 at 2pm Central, and we'll be discussing bookish bullet journaling! I hope you'll join us on Instagram Live

Images by Freepik