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#distractiondraw & involvement as self-care

 

art: witch sketch by my friend Stevie

#distractiondraw of a cute witch by Stevie

#distractiondraw (Instagram link) is something my friend Stevie and i started doing because our social media feeds were too depressing to read immediately upon waking.

We decided to draw something that made us happy and post it every morning before looking at anything else, and we’ve now started doing it when we need to “reset” during the day. It’s a tiny self-care ritual that will hopefully benefit even non-artists, since you can check the hashtag even if you don’t contribute to it. (If you are an artist, join us!)

I feel pretty good about #distractiondraw (Twitter link). It didn’t make me feel less like the world is ending, or less like i’m living in a dangerous echo of Germany from 1933, but it encourages camaraderie and support among people who are woke enough to be anxious. It’s not the first time i’ve used art to connect with people in this, the Darkest Timeline–i started in November with the #drawmestrong hashtag, and at the beginning of January, i volunteered at a clever Dakota Gallery event.

photo: artists drawing at the Dakota Gallery fundraiser.

I’m second from the left. To my right is my co-worker, who is also a Venezuelan immigrant and a badass American woman.

Dakota Gallery held a fundraiser for a few non-profit groups (NWIRPEarth Justice, & Whatcom PJC) on the first Friday of the month, during The Art Walk. Volunteer artists (including me) would sketch for ten minutes and patrons would donate $10, then walk away with an original. Since i can’t afford to donate cash very often, this was a great opportunity for me to contribute. I went home tired but satisfied about having done something.

I had no idea what i would feel like, though, when NWIRP showed up to SeaTac airport and freed two detainees. One of the detainees was actually on a moving plane, in the process of being deported. Through a court order, the plane was forced to stop and let him off. You can read the full story here.

photo: a 10 minutes for 10 dollars sketch of a penguin with a laptop and coffee

One of my sketches at the fundraiser.

Nothing, not the #drawmestrongs, not the #distractiondraws, not my brief participation in the historic largest march in human history, not repeatedly calling my senator who (thankfully!) already agrees with me on everything, nothing has given me such a fierce satisfaction and a ferocious need to make it happen again. Every protest, every march, has impressed me and reinforced my faith that more of America understands what we’re fighting–but those have been displays of strength, not rescues.

I’ve seen the face of someone whose rights were reinstated by lawyers working with funds i helped provide. Even though my contribution was tiny, i haven’t felt this good in weeks.

If you can support an organization who is on the ground in any way, i recommend it as more than an act of resistance–i also recommend it as another act of self-care. It won’t always pay out in a way you can see, and that’s okay; you help because it’s the right thing to do for others. But when you do see results, the boost can be incredible. I helped get that engineer where he was supposed to be, where he’d paid to go and had the right to go, and it has validated and energized me. We need all the validation and energy we can get because we have no idea how long it will take to clean up this shit carnival.

…But we will clean it up.

 

 

disabled dog can RUN again!

my disabled pit bull Hanzo standing in front of a trailhead map

Fun version: My dog was bitten by a radioactive wheelchair and now he has morphed into a cyborg wheeldog with lasers!

Boring version: Hanzo had a combination of tibial torsion and luxating patella, which caused him to fracture his tibial crests. He had several surgeries to make his legs strong enough to walk and run. We always knew he would wear out his cartilage faster than other dogs. He’s only seven, but his knees are more like the condition they would be if he was twice his age.

Here’s a photo of him standing–this is a few years old, but you can see how he hyperextends his hind legs. He’s on tiptoes, like a ballerina. A ballerina covered in mud and pirouetting it all over the floor:

my pit bull Hanzo, looking filthimus and guiltimus

Lately, it’s been obvious his knees are bothering him, so we figured it was time to get him some assistance. Our veterinarian recommended K9 Carts. They do business world-wide (they’re owned by a veterinarian, and she started making these 55 years ago), but they just happen to be within driving distance. We drove out there last Wednesday and they gave him a custom fitting. He wasn’t really into it, with five humans staring at him and his buddy Briar inexplicably left at home.

When we got home, he still wasn’t into it. Over the last couple weeks, he’s been raising his left hind leg off the ground to walk, and he’d formed a habit. Unfortunately, that habit meant his back end was hopping, and when he hopped, he rocked the cart, which made it feel unstable. He hated us, but we dutifully put him in it each time we went on a walk. He said “Et tu, Brutus?” in dog language like a lot.

photo: my guilty pit bull Hanzo, with the remains of my flower

One time he ate this poppy i’d saved to draw out of pure spite (above, in pieces), because i took Briar for a walk before i took him. After we put him in the wheelcart, he would have eaten a whole bouquet of poppies i wanted to draw plus every art supply i planned to draw them with, all out of cart-hating spite.

Today, it snowed, and the family i live with was going to walk with all the kids and one of the neighbor kids to Hanzo’s favorite store in the world. He loves walking in big posses like that, and he loves the farmer’s co-op, so i put him in his cart.

He was reluctant and continued to hop until he got too scared, then stop, and watch desperately as everyone started to leave him behind. It was really heartbreaking, but each time he would rush ahead to try and catch up with the kids… and one of those times, he stopped hopping in order to run faster.

my pit bull Hanzo running in his wheelcart

Instantly, the cart had his weight so he was running using his hips, not his knees. After that one magic realization, he was so excited he zoomed all over. He flat-out refused to go home, so i took him on the longest walk he’s been on in months, including on a nature trail that usually only Briar gets to go on. He went up and down off of curbs, through drifts of snow, over fallen branches in the woods… He had the least painful #2 he’s done in a long time because even though he gets pain pills almost every day, the strain he puts on his knees to poop is difficult. His cart held his weight so all he had to do was scoot his legs forward. He even figured out how to back up when he caught the wheel on a signpost!

Here’s a quick clip of his triumph:

Thank you to everyone who bought my art recently–that’s the only way i was able to afford this for him. Thank you to K9carts, who have been performing this same magic for hundreds of other animals worldwide. Thank you to my partner, who drove us out there and split the cost with me. This dog is totally excited to go on long walks again, and he couldn’t have that without you.

Even if the rest of 2016 was a big reeking trash fire, this is my holiday magic. ❥

#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