So today I opened up yet another rejection slip–Seventh Sea, this time–and realized like a bolt from on high that my website has become waaaaay too cluttered to serve as a portfolio for web submissions. I mean, it’s great for fans and selling prints and comics and so forth, but there’s literally hundreds of paintings there, way more than a prospective employer wants to wade through, and plenty of which are old or not my greatest or whatever. (Before anyone asks, I leave ’em up because some of them are really popular and I still sell prints, or sporadically, originals.) I should have realized much sooner that my once svelte website had grown to the point of unwieldiness, but eh, hindsite, 20/20, etc. So I spent a chunk of the day setting up a portfolio site featuring a mere eleven color and seven black and white pieces, a general cross-section of styles and so forth for my web-submissions, which may help. (Or may not. Ya never know!) If, once they’ve seen the best, they feel the urge to go through Everything Else I’ve Ever Done, there’s always that option. We’ll see if it works at all.

I wish there was a handy method by which one could winnow one’s best work out–possibly by weight or chemical reaction or something–but it’s never terribly easy, as I’m sure every artist knows. However, I’ve set up portfolios so many times in the past seven years, and the art has gotten increasingly better every time, that it’s no longer the exercise in mild despair it used to be. In a way, actually, it’s kinda uplifting–I find that a lot of my best stuff is recent, which hopefully means I’m not stagnating, but at the same time, there’s still some oldies-but-goodies in there spanning the last three years, which is oddly comforting. I realized a while back that skill is not a steady upward progression, but rather a series of stepped plateaus, punctuated by sudden spikes–where something clicks and you can’t lay a stroke wrong, and you paint for three days on four hours of sleep and then go collapse and in the morning you can’t believe you actually created that–and equally sudden sinkholes where you spend hours on something, stare at it for awhile with sinking dissatisfaction, and then your SO comes over and says “Is that a duck?” and you burst into tears and have to be coaxed off the window ledge with tequila and chocolate. (Not, y’know, that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything. Really. Honest.)

Speaking of chocolate, which was invented by the Mayans, have some art! (How was that for a lead-in, huh?) Did this a few days ago–still plugging away at the Amazons of the Amazon portfolio idea. Nipple alert!
Frog and Mayan Jaguar

Well, in response to pseudomanitou‘s excellent post on life as a pro artist, and in response to the occasional e-mail asking about freelancing, I thought I’d touch briefly on my history of Life As A Freelancer.

Once upon a time, I graduated from a liberal arts college and thought, vaguely, “I wanna be an artist.” I sent out what may be one of the worst sets of samples ever recorded, and a month or so later, sensing that it was gonna be a long, hard road, I went and got a real job. Reading insurance malpractice claims. No, it wasn’t fun. I’ll spare you the gruesome details of all the jobs I worked between then and now, but for our purposes, know that it took four years from graduation to going full-time freelancing, and without having a husband who makes money a bit more regularly than I do (although still not as regularly as a normal job!) I wouldn’t have made it. The first few years I made probably less than a thousand dollars on art. Total. Only in the last year did things really start to pick up for me.

Almost a Dozen Things I’ve Learned about Freelancing

Yesterday was a double-fisted art day…worked on a watercolor/gouache piece and then switched to digital while waiting for the accursed pigment to dry. I got the Real World piece done, and the digital one is coming along niftily, although a bit slower. Ironically, given my recent moping on originals and me, I was rather pleased with the result–I was never happy with my ability to do fur in watercolor, since it requires so much advance planning and I’m really more of a slather-and-improvise type. But with a little white casein, which is more opaque than even gouache, I just lay down a base coat in some darker color and then glaze in fur patterns over the top. Another great victory of technology over planning! Woohoo!
Badger Kachina
Musings on Cultural Stripmining

Negative Space

It occurred to me, in those meditative moments occasioned by waiting for watercolor to dry, that our lives are defined as much or more by the things we stop believing in as by the things we start to believe in.

Look, it was either philosophy or I was gonna start screaming “Dry, you muthafuckah!” at my paper, and that scares the cats and makes the neighbors get strange ideas. I suppose I could also have speculated on why it’s always the yellow ochre wash that I dump in my lap, having done so twice in as many days, but I’m chalking that up to an evil sense of humor on the part of the Watercolor Gods.

Death, Sex, and Santa Claus.

Well, got my good deed for the year done, and it’s only February! There was a stray cat in the hallway–very friendly, subadult grey and white female. Obviously underfed, nasty case of earmites, injury behind one ear. I knocked on a few doors, couldn’t find an owner and resolved to keep an eye on her. Went out again a few hours later, found that she’d gotten wedged between a banister and a sheer drop down the stairs and was in danger of plummeting to discomfort/possible injury and decided that she was in danger of getting hurt in our decidedly cat-unfriendly building, so I bundled her into the cat carrier and took her to the Humane Society.

I have two cats already, and there’s no way I could fit a third in here, particularly since Loki weighs enough for any three other cats. (Literally–he’s 24 lbs.) The woman at the Humane Society, however, assured me that if the little female was judged adoptable–no major health or behavior problems–that she’d be kept there indefinitely until adopted, unlike the old “Death Row” style pounds. They’d treat her for the ear mites and the scuff, and since she was very pleasant, as long as she didn’t turn out to be extremely sick with something else, she’d probably be just fine. So, I wished her well, and went home and scrubbed my cat carrier out with bleach just in case she had something contaigous. One of the neighbors rapped on the door about an hour later–they’d actually picked the cat up on the street and brought her inside the day before, but since they hadn’t been able to find a friend to take her, and they couldn’t themselves, they’d been planning on taking her in to the Humane Society tomorrow anyway, so it all worked out for the best.

I’m very glad that it did not come down to between me taking her and her being put to sleep–I do NOT need another cat, but that would’ve tested my resolve sorely. Doing things like this always makes me a bit sad–I mean, I’m doing the only possible thing that I can do, and it gives her a much better chance than being on the street, and I hope she’ll be okay, but I still got choked up when I said goodbye (and I’d known her for what? Four hours?) I think it’s the vibes, or knowing how many cats don’t make it, or whatever. Possibly I’m just a mope. But there’s no reason to think that she won’t find a nice person who wants a friendly little cat, and all will be right with the world.

Other than that, which took up a sizeable chunk of the day, not much goin’ on. I did some roughs for a commission featuring Cerberus, and put a little watercolor on a long overdue commission for a friend. And that was my day.

Another day, another…well, actually nobody’s paid me recently, so it’s not another dollar, but hopefully that will be rectified in the next few weeks, before I have to sell the cat’s organs on the black market. Played around with some Real Media, in the form of acrylic and casein, to try to duplicate my black and white digital fun. Let’s just say that was a Valuable Learning Experience. Now let us never speak of it again.

No cloud without a silver lining, however…started work on another (predictably monochrome) digital piece of a red brocket deer while waiting for the crap to dry. While hooves are always a pain, it has charm. I’m sort’ve torn–I’m much better with digital media than with real media. About the only reason that I do anything in real media anymore is, sadly, for the money–I can hock originals for a lot more, and I still hold out hope of doing art shows at Cons. Mmmph. There’s one or two physical pieces that I’m proud of, but a hundred times more digital stuff. Possibly I should just limit myself to real media frogs, as they seem to be the only things that I’m ever really pleased with. Once in a blue moon, I get an itch to play with watercolor or acrylic, but s’rare. Oh, well. The single Con I’ve been to, I made (literally) ten times as much on prints as on the show, so possibly I just shouldn’t worry about churning out physical originals for cash, or limit my show offerings to frogs and oversize LE prints or something.

Also, I somewhat sheepishly offer–the latest Irrational Fears. I made the mistake of listing this as “the penultimate “Monster Under The Bed” page” on most of the archives. Sadly, it appears a chunk of my readership isn’t familiar with the word “penultimate” (next to last) and now thinks this is the last page, and that I simply ended it weirdly. Oh, well…it’ll sort itself out in the wash…

One of the great truths of art, I’ve found–and there’s not many, god knows, but this one seems to hold true–is that when Absolutely Nothing is working, and you’re feeling glum and pushing pixels around to little effect, and not smart enough to quit, you can pretty much never go wrong with a naked woman.

This also works if you have a really cool background and no idea what to put on it. Presumably it also works even if the species isn’t entirely human.
Margay Chick

I actually had a rather amusing little doodle of a glum hound with a cocktail, which was summing up my opinion of the day nicely, and just as I thought “Hey, that’s not bad,” and reached for the save button, my computer crashed. I don’t believe that there’s any logical reason to believe in Fate, but I do anyway, because it’s easier than saying “Damn you, random workings of an uncaring universe governed by natural laws of probability but acquiring personal significance because of my one-woman anthropic principlllle!” (Hey, you try saying that all on one breath.) That’s the one thing about religion I am absolutely not willing to dispense with–much, much better curse words.

Today is obviously not a good art day for a lot’ve people, not just me…the Yerf reviewers all seem to have been insulted and maligned from a variety of sources, due to the recent bout of applications (and thus, the obligatory bout of rejections.) My sympathy’s with ’em–it’s a thankless job having to review those things, I’m sure, and I couldn’t do it. There’s nothing that I can really add to the whole discussion, though, so I won’t. My hormones are waging war on my brain in the time honored tradition. Hopefully tomorrow will bring the usual estrogen armstice, and things will subside for another month, but for now I’m restless, moody, and generally glum. Even painting doesn’t really cheer me up, it’s more of a placeholder on my brain. I know intellectually that this is Not A Real Feeling, it’s generated by chemicals in my brain (well, I mean, they all are, but this one moreso) but it doesn’t really help. Mostly it just makes me disgusted that I’m sitting around moping even though nothing’s wrong. I have a finite amount of mope! Someday I’m gonna be at a funeral telling knock-knock jokes because I’m burning all my good mope on this! The horror!

Still deep in the depths of my black and white phase. (Yes, Peggy, it’s a monkey on my back! A monochromatic monkey!) But hey, I think it’s going somewhere useful–at the very least, I’ve figured out a useful way to do black and white interior illos, which were always something a struggle before. And it’s so fast that I can get ideas out before they start chewing up the furniture, which is always a good thing.

Quill Redux

Transcript of a conversation that occurred around 1:30 AM, in bed, last night.

Me: “Saaaaay, James?”
Him: “Gnnrf?”
Me: “Would you think it was weird if I got up to fix a painting right now?”
(long pause)
Him: “That might be considered obsessive, yes.”

So I waiting until morning to muck about with my porcupine more…and I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer really know if it’s better now or not. I gutted the back, replaced it with mostly empty space radiating around the bird, and expanded the quill fan on her head a bit. (Ironically, I know all kinds of ways that I might be able to fix it with color, but I shall not be swayed! Must–master–monochrome!) Critique and commentary and suggestions gladly accepted–this might actually be worse, compositionally, than the last version, but I’m at the I-can’t-tell stage, so other people’s advice is welcome. It may also not actually be salvageable in it’s current incarnation–if not, que sera, sera. You win some, you lose some, and better to lose a painting than the shreds of my sanity expended overworking it more!

Poor, Overworked Porcupine