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MerMay

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Sea Skirmish

Since we’re nearing the end of MerMay now, I have another mermaid (/mermen) digital illustration to share. Titled “Sea Skirmish” because the writer in me loves alliteration. It shows two battling mermen garbed in protective gear cobbled together from what random castoffs they could find drifting about in the ocean (some sports gear, bits of tires, netting, etc.) They have different colouring so I imagine they might be from separate pods/ clans of merpeople, but the one-on-one nature of this conflict, and the fact that one is unarmed suggests that this was a personal, surprise attack.  I’d love to know what the initial offense was, if only my drawings could talk! Now I have some illustrations without stories, and stories without illustrations, so I guess I have a lot of work to do!

But I must admit, I don’t love this image as much as the previous one, “MerMama”. I tweaked the style and technique slightly in attempt to make it darker/ grungier/ grittier but even so, I feel like it’s just not intense enough to do the scene justice. My work has an overall softness and almost cuteness that just doesn’t match the violence. I might have to start from scratch with a whole new technique to make it work, OR just accept my fate and focus on the cute and beautiful scenes that I’m best at for now. We shall see…

MerMama by Alissandra Sweeney; digital painting of a mermaid mother and child. www.alissandrasweeney.wordpress.com
MerMama

This was the first full digital painting I’ve completed with my new drawing tablet. And since this is apparently “MerMay” according to the internet, I decided to join in on the fun.  of course I couldn’t help but imagine a MerMama and her cuddly little Merkid, just doing what I do every day as a SAHM, but underwater.

I imagined that they would probably utilize a lot of the human castoffs that wind up in the ocean. Shirts would be a novelty, while shoes would of course lay abandoned. I almost put the kiddo in an orange shirt, since it looked so nice on him, but then the thought struck me that no MerMama would dare dress their baby in a bright warm colour like that and make him more visible to predators and humans. If anything, she would want to camouflage him a bit! And as for other adornment, I figured a tasseled belt, adorned in various odds and ends, ribbons and treasures found on their travels, would be sensible. It would look pretty when she swims, but wouldn’t float up into her face and distract her like a necklace might, and it’s not so long to get tangled up in coral or something by accident either.

I also, enjoyed trying to figure out the weird underwater lighting effects. That’s another first for me! 🙂 Let me know what you think!

Freedom from Fear

Tablet and Tea!

My hubby bought me a Wacom drawing tablet for my birthday and I am loving it! 

I’ve been wanting one since I first learned of their exisitance in highschool, but it always felt like too extravagant a purchase until I finally decided to be brave and take my talents seriously. I remember a friend once offered to lend me her wacom bamboo tablet and I was immediately flooded with fear and turned her down. What if I broke it? Or worse, loved it so much that I’d be heartbroken to return it? What if she wanted to see the artwork I made with it, and thought it was terrible? It’s amazing to me now to look back and see how much fear and anxiety really controlled my life, at a time when I liked to think of myself as a bold person. Now I know that being brave enough to try and possibly fail is where lies strength.

After just a couple of days practising I’m really starting to feel like I’m getting the hang of it. I can’t wait to share the digital paintings I’m working on! 

Current Writing Project

Camp-2017-Winner-Profile-PhotoI spent the month of April snatching every spare moment I could to scurry off to my laptop and type frantically. I was participating in Camp Nanowrimo, a month long writers challenge and fundraiser for literacy. I chose to set a custom goal to edit and rewrite a large portion of my current project, instead of starting a new one as is intended for this challenge. It was pathetically slow going. Never mind my kid, toddler, and new cat being constantly underfoot (or in lap, or on keyboard…), just the task of writing and editing simultaneously to a daily word count goal was brutal. Write 500 words, edit out 200… Edit one scene, the next chapter no longer makes sense. Good grief!

It was unavoidable though, you can’t rewrite a main character and plotline without some significant struggle. I didn’t get the draft quite as close to completion as I would have hoped but I’m very pleased with the progress made.
It’s a young adult fantasy novel about a teenage boy who finds himself trapped in another relm where humans are routinely harvested, enslaved, and replaced by changlings. There’s a lot more excitement packed in there but I don’t want to give too many details before I’ve finalized the first draft, in case I change things up!

After this book is done, I already have several others lined up in my mind. Another young adult (or maybe middle grade, we’ll see) and childrens, which I also plan to illustrate myself. I can hardly wait, I just wish I had more hours in the day to get things done!

What I’m working on

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Mammal anatomy study

On my sketchbook today; comparing leg structure of mammals! This study came from the scientific illustration course I’m auditing. I think it’s great practice. I wish I had some live animals around to draw though. I feel like I should do this for every body part. Over and over again until it sinks into my permanent memory. I barely have time for that though.

I’m also currently working on a little project that will be added to my portfolio once finished. I’m doing a few colouring pages for my daughter’s school of their new mascot. They didn’t commission me to or anything, I figure I’ll just make 3 or 4 images and send them along with a note of permission to print/reproduce etc. as a donation. I don’t know if there’s a specific protocol for this kind of thing, but hey if they use it, great! I contributed! If not, well whatever at least I added to my portfolio right?

When I Grow Up

My six-year-old self would be so mad at me!

When I was the same age as my oldest daughter, I remember dressing up as a painter for a “When I grow up” day at school. I had a paint splattered smock and a real wooden painter’s pallet (I might have even had a beret). But, I wasn’t too fussy on the costume because I wanted to be an illustrator when I grew up, not a painter, I just couldn’t figure out how to make a recognizable costume of that.

I thought I was terrible at painting. Given all of my experience splattering thick washable poster paint on construction paper with fat round brushes up to that point in time, I guess I was frustrated with my inability to control the paint. My father, a high school teacher, did amazing oil paintings as a hobby. So I grew up seeing lovely framed artwork on our walls, but never saw his earlier pieces, or even works in progress, since I was forbidden to set foot in his studio. I guess the result was a belief that painting was a innate skill that I simply didn’t have, but that was okay because I was still an “artist” with a pencil in my mind.

Drawing was something that I knew could be improved with practice, that was obvious to me. My older brother often took the time to draw with me. We would make up stories together, he would write the words and we drew the pictures together. I still have some of them. I loved stories. Our whole family were voracious readers. We even had a home library, actually organized by dewy decimal system! So it was obvious to me at 6 that I should be an author and illustrator.

However, life goes on. In elementary school I was known as the best artist in my class, without much effort on my part. However, in junior high I discovered that some of my peers were amazingly talented with a pencil. Most of them had put a lot of effort into learning anime style, something I wasn’t very familiar with, and I thought their innate skill must far outweigh mine. I told myself that drawing cartoons was for kids. Drawing can’t be a real career unless you’re naturally amazing at it. I lost my dream.

 

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Self portrait I did at 15 years old

In high school, I became good friends with some of those peers. I still liked to draw but not “seriously”, I just doodled for fun. I tried out anime style, I knew I could improve if I did take it “seriously” but I think that clinging to the belief that drawing wasn’t a “real job” released me from pressure to improve, and from my own harsh competitive nature. I used to do quick character sketches and pixel art for people online in exchange for in-game currency. That was commissioned artwork (technically) and I still wasn’t taking it, or myself seriously!

At the same time, I discovered that I was a pretty good writer. My creative writing teacher informed me that I had a natural talent for storytelling and I should use it. I’m so grateful for that because no one ever really told me that before. I joined my local writing guild’s youth committee as the secretary, and started attempting Nanowrimo every year. I still enjoy it a lot even though I have such a hard time finishing my stories (at least in time for Nano). But I was still only semi-serious about it. I heard somewhere that writers don’t really make much money. That English majors are useless. I dropped out of my first semester in uni mostly because I couldn’t see a “real career” path ahead of me there.

 

I had (and still have really) every intention of going back to university or college once my kid(s) were a bit older… When we could afford it… When I decided what I want to be when I grow up. What a vicious cycle of self doubt! What a waste of time! My six-year-old self would be seriously disappointed and even mad at me right now.

 

It just sort of dawned on me that the only difference between someone who writes and draws as a hobby, and an author/illustrator is not only that they’re getting paid (because that comes later), it’s all in taking yourself seriously! Putting in the effort and passion and owning that dream. Yes it puts you at risk of rejection, failure, and feeling not good enough, but if you work on it, you’ll do it. Good or bad, it’s still worth doing if you want to do it! And I do! So that’s what I’m doing. I’m putting in the work and I hope that by the time my daughters get to the self doubt cesspool that is junior high, they’ll see my hard work paying off, and they’ll know that it’s more than just innate talent. I hope that my progress is evident to everyone, and especially to myself.

Love of Learning

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“Stormy Day in the Shed” Observational drawing in pencil.

For the past two weeks I have been auditing two online courses to improve my artwork. These courses are free, but if I would like a certificate (at least for one of them) I would have to pay for it. I simply can’t afford that right now, perhaps it will be possible later on but for now, learning for learning’s sake is enough.

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“Rainbow Moose” felt tip markers

The first course is Scientific Illustration from the University of Newcastle in Australia. The course has ended so assignments cannot be submitted or graded but all material is free to view at my own pace. I hoped that the course would help enhance my observational ability, and increase the level of accurate detail in my drawings. I have learned to be more aware of tone and dimension. But most of all I have learned that drawing in this extreme level of detail is not enjoyable for me. It just feels so tedious! It sounds negative, but I think pushing myself out of my normal style and using these new methods has helped me establish what is and is not “my style”. And as an artist, that’s extremely valuable!

 

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“Paper Moose” unfixed collage of scrap paper and card.

The second course is called Introduction to Imagemaking, it’s part of a larger graphic design program which I unfortunately can’t do for free. The subject is rather vague and open ended which makes it difficult to explain. It consists of making experimental and exploratory images through various media forms on a chosen subject (they recommend picking an animal) and later making images to deliberately convey meaning and communication. This one is graded by peer review, and I feel a large part of the lesson (or at least what I am personally learning) is how to analyze and comment on the work of your peers. Looking at an image and contemplating it is equally important to the creative process as simply imagining and creating.

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Side profile pencil sketch from a photo.

So yeah, it’s all very interesting and getting my creativity flowing. I also found several other courses that I am interested in but I’m taking them a couple at a time, just so I can focus and not become too overwhelmed- easily done with two littles underfoot!

I’ve included here a few of the pieces that I am particularly fond of so far, although I haven’t decided if they belong in my portfolio or not, being coursework and all. Let me know what you think!

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Single line drawing in felt tip marker.

 

New Jewelry Set in Shop

img_8191Piece number 4 in my Beothuk series, this necklace is titled the Atlantic Spirit. Although the clay piece was based entirely on Beothuk bone carvings of skeletal structures (possibly of spirit animals) the knotted natural hemp cord and brass plated findings give it a distinctly nautical look. See more photos on my Portfolio page, Buy this and other pieces in my shop.