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#drawmestrong

graphic of rime on branches with the text #DRAWMESTRONG

What i see on social media right now is a lot of people feeling like the world is dismal and grey. Let me help. I see a lot of people feeling alone. Let me prove that you’re not.

screencap of tweet that says "If you're brave enough to post a selfie & tell us what bigots target you for, i (or other artists?) will draw you a response. #drawmestrong"

I’ll be checking Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. (I don’t use Facebook, but maybe some other artists will jump in there.) Alternately, if you’re too shy to post on social media but you want art, e-mail me with a selfie and how you are targeted by bigots. I’ll quote how you’re targeted when i post my response art, but i will not post your photo or identify you. That way you can remain anonymous, but your participation will still serve to reach out to other people who share your concerns.

Other artists, please repost and reblog and retweet this and if you have the time, join in. ❥ I know even a heartfelt five-minute scribble is enough to make a difference to someone else.

canine unicorns and dragons

This ex-garage that i live in was converted with a lot of hard work from my friends/landlords/housemates, so i wanted to try and preserve their new floor as best i could. (Also, Hanzo’s legs are wobbly, so he doesn’t do well on slick laminate.) Thanks to my lovely father ❥ i now have two new rugs which have cool abstract b/w art on them and do not smell like spiteful cat pee (Butch, your legacy is intact).

Every and Briar helped me flatten the rugs out:

photo: my cat Every and my pit mix Briar lon my new rug

Briar doesn’t lie in the sun much because she overheats easily and Every mostly stays indoors to preserve his goth cred, but Hanzo loves the sun. Not just because he’s vain, but probably also because when the sun hits his glistening white coat he glows like a magical unicorn.

photo: me and my adorable pit bull Hanzo snoozing in the sun

Hanzo’s summer plan:

photo: list in bad handwriting of a dog's to-do list

Hanzo is not a unicorn. I think his  list would look really different if he was. (You know what unicorns never do? Burst through a babygate and root around in the litterbox before chowing on fresh kitty roca.) However, i’m pretty sure Pickles doesn’t know he’s not a unicorn.

photo: my tiniest housemate pettling my pit bulls in the sunshine

These photos make it look like Briar has a mouth defect that prevents her from retracting her tongue all the way, like some kind of silly lizard. I guess if Hanzo gets to be a unicorn, Briar gets to be a dragon. Well, maybe just a wyvern.

 

return of S.E.E.D.s! + lizards

I was falling behind on S.E.E.D.s and when i moved, i found that it had been so long the ink in my spray bottles had dried and clogged. I needed new brushes, too. Fortunately, i work at an art store, and because i’ve been doing some freelance editing, i could afford to fix that. So i’m back to documenting alien sightings.

photo: art supplies for an ongoing commission project

My new supplies are guarded by a ferocious rubber lizard. As a grown man, i should probably like, have fewer rubber lizards. But let’s be clear. Downsizing my rubber lizard collection is not on even the longest of my to-do lists.

photo with text: rubber lizards on my desk. The text says THIS IS MY WORKSPACE BECAUSE I AM AN ADULT

I couldn’t even find them all for that photo, to be honest. I have a lot of tinier ones. But you get the idea. And see that little red one in the center? I’ve had that since i was six years old, and i still don’t have cancer from the plastic softeners! Knock on wood. I used to have even more rubber lizards, but Hanzo thinks they are some kind of phthalate-flavored canine chewing gum.

Anyway, here’s a S.E.E.D. in progress! This is the first layer of ink. You can see how i apply it by looking at the desk around the tape.

photo: drawing taped to a desk, soaked in wet ink

That stupid brush in the background is not for painting. I was using it to apply masking fluid.

If you have a kid, and they are using those plastic brushes, i seriously demand you go to an art supply store (or Michael’s if that’s the only option) and acquire one with bristles made of nylon or taklon instead of ABS plastic. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but there’s a difference between “cheap brush” and “frustrating sculpture of a brush.”

I’m not a snob about materials, i just know there’s a difference between something useful and something that isn’t. Look, i’ll prove it:

photo: closeup of me smearing ink with a shred of cotton sock

That fuzzy black thing is a piece of an old cotton sock. I’m using the toe, which i cut off, to blend inks so there are no sharp brush lines.

photo: taped-down drawing/painting drying

Here’s a S.E.E.D. taped down to dry. I am still doing some back end stuff with my websites and then i’m going to my CW reunion, so i can’t update the S.E.E.D. site yet, but i’ll still be sending them out.

rockstar cat funeral

EDIT: Hey, just found out the clickwall might not work on mobile devices, so turn back now if you don’t want to see a (peaceful) photo of a post-mortem feline!

photo: my tabby Butch with sunlight coming through blinds

Awhile back, my eldest cat passed away. I lived with her for almost exactly half of my life, which feels super-weird to think about. I knew that allergen festival longer than i’ve known Seamus.

 

If she’d been a human, i would have gotten a restraining order, because she was always touching me without asking and sometimes i would wake up in the night with her lying on my chest, romantically staring into my terrified eyes. When she was still an indoor/outdoor cat, she used to follow me for a 1/4 mile, sometimes more, every time i left the house.

photo: my tabby cat Butch being fat and happy

The morning Butch died, Briar repeatedly mosied over and attempted to nose her corpse awake, until the cat looked like she had never groomed herself once in her life. It’s the first time Briar has ever seen something go from alive to dead, and the herding breed in her was disturbed that this member of her “flock” no longer had a heartbeat. I’m less sentimental than Briar, but not put-the-body-in-a-sack-in-the-Dumpster bad. Plus, i fed Butch waaay expensive food so it seemed a shame to just throw all those nutrients away when perfectly good wildlife could benefit.

So i put her in the reusable shopping bag my mom sewed for me:

photo: shopping bag my mom sewed for me, with three cat faces on it

…and got on my bicycle, and rode off looking for a peaceful place where she could be devoured by wild animals. At first i headed for the beach, but the closest beach was the type that gets kept “clean” and only white people get to use because they paid $not.enough for tribal land and then put fences on it and basically it just pissed me off.

So i went back the way i came, where i’d seen a wooded place that looked good. On my way, i found some sunglasses in the ditch. Score. Obviously, it was a sign that i was going the right way and should hop a barbed wire fence onto some farmer’s property. I am just as good at not getting tetanus now as i was in my teens. Good to know.

The rest of my cat funeral is behind a clickwall in case seeing a photo of dead!Butch is going to give you the vapors.

(Continued)

my best mistake and ex-best pants

illustration: girl spitting black goo into a jar with other fuming jars behind her

When i was the Art Director for Nightmare‘s special issue, Queers Destroy Horror!, i originally wasn’t going to assign myself an illustration. I wanted to involve as many queer people as possible.

But after i’d almost finished selecting my artist lineup, i realized i didn’t have any traditional artists. And i really felt like “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong deserved splashy, dirty media. The kind of art mess that gets under your fingernails so people think you were disemboweling fish with your bare hands. (And then it also stains your favorite pants out of inky spite.) I am a fish guts kind of artist, and i loved the story, so i figured i’d handle this. I’m so glad i did. It was really fun!

Months ago i mentioned my process (and the pants) and someone asked to see it. Now that i have a working scanner set-up, i can finally share. Sadly, i’ve forgotten who asked in the first place, so whoever you are, hopefully you come across this!

If the choices are “read Alyssa’s story” or “look at the steps of how i illustrated it,” READ THE STORY. It not only won a Nebula Award, it’s now a finalist for the World Fantasy Award.

I put these behind a clickwall because they may contain spoilers–i think they’re obscure enough, but just in case!

(Continued)

crab sketches

I was already thinking about how neat crabs are when i was visiting Alyc this spring, and then she was showing me some of the cool history and worldbuilding for the tabletop game, and there was a “Crab Clan.”

I was like YEAH CRABS

drawings: different species of crabs drawings: different species of crabs

I should have been like YEAH SCANNER BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST ADJUSTMENT though, haha.

Clarion West Write-a-thon & Princes of Iron

drawing: glass bottle with a vertebrae inside

A sparkle caught my eye as I passed one of the empty burrows. The Unlight fell dull upon the windchimes that hung there, but it was bright upon a sky-blue glass bottle the size of my fist, dangling from an orange ribbon. Nothing shows up that brilliantly with faery-augmented sight unless it’s magic.

When I picked up the bottle, a vertebrae rattled inside, and I felt the vibrations of an angry little ghost thrumming against my palm.

– Princes of Iron, Cory Skerry (WIP)

I’ve already written this novel several times, because it’s a story i’ve wanted to tell since i was twenty years old, but my skill level always fell short of my aspirations. If i accomplish it this time, if i reach “the end” and decide it’s time to make it available to everyone, i’ll owe this success to my experiences at Clarion West.*

drawing: art supplies with a mug of hot cocoa

 

If you ever think you’d like to sit with me and have coffee, but you know that we’re too far apart or too busy for that to be feasible, donate the price of that latté in my name. I tend to sketch scenes and characters from my stories as i write, and this year, i’m sending (most of) those exclusively to people who support me in the Clarion West Write-a-Thon. Since sketching is what i do with my hands when i’m having coffee with someone, it’ll be the closest we can get to the real thing. ❥

I wrote some more about my Clarion West experience & Princes of Iron below.  (Continued)

new digs

Moving for the third time in sixteen months was still an anxiety-inducing nightmare and i’m surprised i have any friends left, but it was a good move. TL;DR: I don’t feel like this anymore.

I once again live in someone’s converted garage, but i like to keep my punk cred, so that’s ideal. 😉 It’s a 3 mile bike ride to downtown instead of 11 miles, it’s a bigger converted garage, and one of my two private entrances opens into a fenced run that wraps around two sides of the house. Hanzo is delighted–here he is in the sun the first day, before i even put down a rug for him to be more comfortable.

photo: Hanzo lying in the sun

Since there’s room, i rescued my drafting table from storage. It’s only gone one day without being used since i moved in a week ago. It’s amazing what a difference it makes in my productivity, to have a dedicated space that’s always available for drawing/painting.   

photo: my art desk with a work-in-progress

(Also, i finally saved up enough to get a new computer, which also has its own desk and will *knock on wood* make it feasible to actually scan my art, which means more No Keys and S.E.E.D. soon, as well as some other projects that have been stuck in the technological bottleneck for months. But soon!)

meme: raccoon with its paws together, captioned SOON

My geriatric cat Every is a cautious homebody, so he’s already allowed outside into the fenced area with the dogs because i know he won’t take off. Here he is, peeking outside.

photo: Every looking out the door

Even though i no longer have a private bathroom and i’m not living with my partner (there’s not enough room for Seamus, even if he was the kind of person who could comfortably live with small children) i already feel relieved. I really appreciate that our other friends let us move in with them last spring, especially since i would have been homeless if it wasn’t for their generosity, but it was increasingly difficult for me to make it work. This isn’t ideal either, but i’m confident that it will be healthier for me and my pets.

photo: me snuggling Briar

I don’t want to post this

I feel like a bible story. Maybe i don’t have boils or dead kids or whatever like Job, but the cheerful “it’ll pass” mentality i’ve supported myself with for 30+ years must have offended some cosmic force. Everything i do right now comes at the cost of something else, and i can’t afford any of it. Being sick for literally more than half of the last month was the final straw: i’m drowning.

Historically, i’ve avoided mentioning something negative until i have the solution for it or at least a plan of action. I don’t really have either of those things. But i still feel an explanation (or maybe a warning) is warranted. I owe a toe-curling, ass-clenching amount of work/time/money to various people and organizations and i’m currently not in any shape to accomplish most of it. I promise i haven’t given up, i’m just doing that running-in-a-nightmare thing, where i can’t do anything at the speed or efficiency that i could before.

I’m sorry i can’t be the same type of a fuckup that i usually am, because that guy was at least mostly useful and mostly pleasant. He never had enough time, but he always had enough optimism, resourcefulness, and cheer. This guy is five words from a fight. Everything is broken, ill, empty, dirty, weak, owed, thin, and if i say the words “it’ll pass” even in the should-be-safe silence of my own mind, something else shows up on that list. I wish that was hyperbole, but it’s happened so regularly i feel like i’m a lab rat learning not to push the electrified button that used to give me food.

Job passed his test; not sure if i’m made of the same stuff.

This is NOT an invitation to talk about this with me. Please don’t send me well-meaning messages or anything else you wouldn’t normally do. It’s difficult enough just saying it where you can see, but i’m terrified my deteriorating social skills will permanently damage relationships without some kind of PSA, so i’m forcing myself to do it.

drawing: little lemon kitties staring in dismay at a glass of lemonade, unfinished

changing parameters

My first fiction “sale” was to a small press with well-meaning but ignorant staff who screwed me over (entirely by accident, i am sure, but still annoying). David Levine, whose beard, work, and career all have earned my respect, was kind enough to look at that contract for me when i received it and point out why he wouldn’t personally sign it.

I signed it anyway, regretted it, and have subsequently taken his advice ever since: don’t go to underground MMA death matches if you don’t know where the emergency exits are, if you’re going to sell your body get the money first, and do not sign away your first publishing rights for anything less than professional rates as outlined by the SFWA.*

cartoon: David D Levine breaking down a door

A mutual friend and writer, the late Jay Lake, disagreed some–he advised me to think of pay as only one of the factors in choosing magazines to which i should submit fiction. He had a system, which he described as “the three Ps.” His concerns were primarily Payment (how much cold hard cash are you going to get for the piece), Publicity (how big is the publication’s readership, how often are they reviewed, etc.) and Prestige (how often does the publication yield work that ends up in Best Ofs or work that wins awards).

cartoon: Jay Lake meditating to create the three Ps

I combined Lake & Levine’s advice into a system that yielded me sales in the $200 – $500 range, inclusion in one Best Of, and consistent chances for high-profile reviewers to shit on my work. hahaha I don’t sell often, but my bibliography still looks pretty good. After i made those rules, i only broke them once, for love. Ideomancer was a fantastic, small online magazine that consistently published quality stories. I’m still proud of “Rendered Down” and often include the sale in my cover letters.

151105rendereddownill

In “Rendered Down,” a woman finds a male selkie.

Lately, i’ve been thinking about that love. I want to add another P to Lake’s advice, a P for my own personal parameters: Passion.

I realized i have been preventing myself from attempting publication in interesting magazines or anthologies if they don’t fit my formula. Because i read submissions for Tor.com, i try to read lots of other short stories, to keep current with what’s being published elsewhere. For example, i recently discovered Vitality, which doesn’t pay pro rates but has a mission statement that speaks to me.

L.A. Little is nearly finished compiling an anthology called “SF Outliers,” which is working on the high-risk indie model of “no one gets advances, but everyone gets royalties.” Not usually my thing. You know what though? I love that he has committed to sending personal responses for every story. I can’t do that at Tor.com; our volume is astronomically prohibitive. But i believe it’s important, so i try to be personal when i can. While being a professional writer requires a thick skin, not everyone starts out with it–some people have to grow it. Little’s dedication to the editor-writer relationship made me smile.

So i sent the SF Outliers anthology my best eligible work, with no guaranteed return. I wouldn’t do that for every indie anthology that pops up, but if i have eligible work lying around and they’re committing to something i personally believe is worthwhile? Hell yeah.

potential cover for SF Outliers

If i never see a dime, whatever. Passion is now my fourth P, and while i am sad i can’t discuss my modification to Lake’s formula with the man himself, i have a feeling he would approve of my motivation even if he found fault with the execution. Lake was the first professional to take a personal interest in my work. He consistently encouraged me as a new writer, and i like to promote that behavior whenever i can. I’ll be paying forward his generosity, patience, and kindness for my entire life, however long it may be.

 

* These may not all be advice from David, but he can’t prove otherwise.