New Year Retrospective and Art Update

Back in September I said that I’d had a bit of a revelation. It was probably a doh revelation but I can be quite dense. Basically I stated that “I’m an artist” whereas for years (all my life really) I’ve been saying the opposite, that I’m no good at art etc. I then did another post about Where I start and this is the follow-up to that.

It’s a lot later than I’d intended and that’s why this post is also my New Year post because September-December last year didn’t go at all according to plan. I think I said a bit about that in my NaNo post, where I confessed to writing only 11k (my lowest total ever). True I had gone back to university so I was busier than I’d been in years but time wasn’t really the problem.

2017 was not a good year
September 2016 everything was going well. I was a little off schedule but I’d built in contingencies for that. I published Book One of my Military Science Fantasy series, and Book Two was going for edits. In October I started Book Three and that’s where everything started to go wrong.

I got my very first review on Book One and it was terrible. The person was being deliberately mean but even if the language was unnecessarily evocative, it was still saying it was terrible. My mental health is not good, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for years. It’s very difficult to climb the ladder out of the dark pit, and it takes next to nothing to knock me back down again.

I tried to keep going but found I couldn’t face my series at all because just looking at it hammered into my brain what a pathetic failure I was. I figured I’d take a month off and during NaNo I would write a completely different book. I struggled with that and kept swapping projects. Eventually I wound up with my highest NaNo word total (85k) but nothing was completed and I wrote next to nothing for the last 10 days.

Why? Because mum got diagnosed with cancer. She had surgery December 20th and was given the all clear early January. She’s fine but it was one hell of a shock and damn scary, just the word it makes me feel sick inside. Her boyfriend of a month moved in before Christmas, he proposed early January and basically I’d not good with change. It takes me a long time to adjust and it was all too much in one go.

I barely wrote, I didn’t do anything very much, to be honest I don’t know where those months of 2017 went. My birthday was in May and coupled with the fact that my whole world had changed and been turned upside-down I decided to try more change. I knew I needed to do something because my mental health hadn’t got better, I’d been at home since I failed out of university in 2011. I needed to do something different and so in a crazy desperate move I applied to university again.

Different course. I did computer programming last time and I’m on the English Literature and Creative Writing track now. Still mum got married in July and with that and my application I did nothing really until September, when I then started my first semester. I don’t know if I wrote here that I was hoping structure in my life would mean I’d get back to writing. I definitely wrote that I wanted 1000 words a day and to spend a few hours a week practising my art.

None of that happened. I just felt too tired, physically and mentally. I couldn’t even watch TV some days because laying on the couch, staring at the ceiling, was all I could manage. It’s never good when even watching TV is too much.

So it’s now 2018 and Book Three is still only half done. I haven’t published anything in a year which is not good. It makes me seem unreliable and people won’t pick up my series if they believe it won’t be finished.

Looking forward
It’s January 6th and I’m trying my best. My alarm is going off just before 6am everyday so in theory I can have a guaranteed writing hour 6-7am. Unfortunately I haven’t managed it once because getting out of bed is hard. I wrote 177 words on January 2nd and nothing since. I do want at least 1000 a day (really it needs to be much more) but I figured I would just demand that I wrote something as a starting point. So 1/6 completion is a really bad statistic.

On the other hand I have managed to exercise three times, and hoover the house and do the ironing twice, just as I’m supposed to according to the schedule. So I haven’t done terribly across the board, just badly at the one thing that matters most.

I really, really need to finish Book Three this month. It’s getting beyond a joke. It needs to get revised, get beta read, get revised some more, get edited etc. because I want it published April at the latest. I also sent Book One to get beta read because I’m going to have to do a series relaunch (16 months since a release demands it) and so I need Book One to be the best it can be.

I haven’t gone over the feedback yet despite receiving it before Christmas because I wasn’t well and I was busy with assignments and just so very tired (I’m full of excuses). So that needs to be dealt with this month and I’ll probably get Book Two beta read as well. Might as well do it properly. I’ve already invested a … fair amount shall we say, on attempting to produce a quality product. This could be throwing good money after bad but it’s my dream – I have to try.

Chris Fox in one of his writing books (there are 6 in the series and they are all worth a look) said to craft a target identity. He reckons that if you tell yourself that is who you are going to be in five years time then the unconscious will get to work on making it happen. Thus far that hasn’t really worked out for me but like I said I’m trying my best.

I did say that I wanted to investigate offering a beta reading service of my own. That is still on my mind but I had pencilled in January and I think it’ll be summer now at the earliest. Maybe if I get it operational over the summer break, it’ll be like a well-oiled machine before I go back for my next year in September.

We’ll have to see what happens.

Now for the Art update
One of the goals for university was to try and mix more with people. To that end I joined some of the societies through the student union. The mixing part hasn’t really worked out so well because I got tired and barely went to any of the meetings. I’m going to try harder this semester. However one of the societies I joined was the Comic Book Society.

I don’t read comics but part of the club was about producing a comic book. It’s less of an actual comic and more a collection of various art strips but that just makes it easier for more people to contribute. I was stuck on an idea of what to do because I wanted to keep the number of panels limited (12 seemed a good number) and I couldn’t think of a story that could play out within that without being TBC.

So I actually went for the “I can’t think of an idea” idea and did a 12 panel strip on creativity.

Side A

Side B

The hardest panel was #7 which was the digital painting one. That’s the style I’d been aiming for in all my previous drawings which I’m going to call it drawing number five, for the timeline list.I used my new version of Photoshop from the Creative Cloud suite. I also used the brushes from Jazza which I mentioned in the last post.

The major difference between this and drawing #4 is that there are no lines on this one. It’s entirely done through shading. It’s a true digital painting – finally.

It’s also the best piece I’ve ever done.

I don’t think the lighting is quite right and as always the shading could be better. The hair is probably the best hair I’ve ever done but I’m still not entirely happy with it. Basically it’s a good start, probably the starting point at Level Two (so I’ve levelled up at least) but I still have a long way to go.

On the art post I said my next piece was going to be Regina and Henry fanart. I did fiddle around with that, and I’d still like to do it eventually, but I haven’t settled on the composition yet. That has become a ‘one day’ idea.

What’s next then for art?
I’ve scheduled art practice to be once a week on Saturday mornings. Hopefully I’ll be able to make that happen, unlike last semester where I did zero art. I admitted to my mum that I wanted to try and get better at art so for christmas I got a Star Wars illustration manual, a marvel colouring book to practice shading and some new colouring pencils. I also got some blank notebooks for sketching.

Digital art has many advantages, the ability to make changes easily is by far my favourite. However I think if I’m going to improve then I need to step away from the ease of tracing and reference photos. I need to practice freehand, getting more confident with holding the pen/pencil and doing things by eye.

I’m thinking that the next thing I draw will be BB-8 from the illustration manual. The book has a star rating of how easy/hard each one is and BB-8 is the only 1 star (easy) in the entire book. Anyway, whatever I do next at least I still have the intention of working on my creative projects.

I might fail but I’m still trying.