So one of my classes for this spring semester is called Learning & Behavioral Change and, surprise, it involves a behavioral change project! Our professor wants us to essentially use the skills we learn in class to develop a new habit/break a bad habit. And of course a bunch of his examples are like, weight loss, diet, etc., and I’m like, well I don’t foresee that going well as I get increasingly pregnant. Some of the non-negative examples were like, write a journal daily and meditate daily. So I was like well…I already journal enough, and I don’t really want to try meditation.
And then I was like !!!! I’ve been feeling distant from my art life lately, why don’t I do a DAILY DRAWING?!?!
I figured it wasn’t quite specific enough to just do a drawing since I could do sketch or computer and it would be difficult to keep them all together then. And like also, my digital tools are spectacular and I kind of never feel like I fully utilize my $800 display tablet.
Sooo, a digital drawing a day! And then I have to write a paper about it.
The good news is it’ll keep my blog busy, so here’s some of my favorites.
The last 7 days have been extraordinarily … what’s a word for difficult that encompasses the emotional drain, the serious and unanswerable questions, the sheer exhaustion of your brain, your body, your life not stopping or slowing down for you despite your desperate desire to just be able to stop and be silent and thoughtless and still? There’s probably a German word for it.
So although this was not the manner in which I planned to be able to make an art blog post about it, fate had other plans for my art blog pregnancy announcement.
I’m 9 weeks today. And for the next 4 weeks, I will be waiting to see if I’ll make it to week 14. You’re supposed to be able to celebrate after you see your little bean on an ultrasound. They read the heartbeat and suddenly it’s all very likely everything will be fine and you’re going to be a parent and there’s going to be a new little life you brought into existence.
I guess I should have known? But at the same time, I thought I was average, and the pregnancy would be average and my experience would be average and maybe I don’t believe in the miracle of childbirth but I know I would be soaring with love and excitement and hope for me and my husband’s new little family.
But when they saw our baby on the ultrasound the technician also found out that I have what turns out to be a 27cm ovarian cyst that has basically inflated on top of my organs in my abdomen and has been hanging out for what I believe is probably the last 4 years since I went off hormonal birth control and gave it a chance to grow back. Fast forward to meeting my new surgeon, an OB at the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Clinic. She says that the mass and the ovary both need to come out for the baby to even be able to keep growing around it, but that the baby will be at risk of not making it through the surgery due to trauma/jostling/too much CO2 in the baby cavity. And, what’s possibly worse is that I have to wait until the second trimester for the operation, in order to reduce the risk to the baby.
So now I have a month to try to work through these vast and varied feelings about…all of this.
I feel like I went very rapidly from the relief of seeing my fluttering baby heartbeat on an ultrasound to the horror, confusion, relief, and anticipation of this growth and its upcoming removal.
I’m in the midst of a really intense identity struggle today because of this. I thought it was going to be difficult enough coming to terms with becoming a mother. But now what this has essentially told me is that even my physical appearance is not what I have thought it was. I don’t know to what extent this growth has changed how I look. My theory is that it contributed to me gaining 30lbs post-birth control and significantly increased my stomach protrusion. And so in a way I’m ecstatic that it’s not all my fault I look the way I look, and the next time someone asks me any time soon if I’m pregnant they will feel even guiltier when I tell them it’s actually an enormous cyst they’re looking at and thanks for the reminder I’ll be having surgery soon. I’m excited to be unburdened by this and all the pressure and probably pain and discomfort it’s probably caused me for the last few years. I’m excited that maybe my self esteem will have a chance to not be scraping the ocean floor because of how my stomach looks. I’m excited that the deep, painful sense of disgust I feel about my stomach might be able to lessen.
But in a way I’ve known nothing else. My OB kept asking me all these questions assuming I’ve been in constant pain and discomfort and if it feels weird and I’m like HOW WOULD I HAVE A BASELINE FOR WHAT STOMACH FAT IS SUPPOSED TO FEEL LIKE WTF and it was vaguely if not outright frustrating. There is no way I ever, ever would have been able to predict something inside me was this wrong.
There is also an aspect of my situation that is scientifically and theoretically very fascinating. My circumstances are very rare. Not only did they find a mass that needs removal, it’s fucking enormous. Abdominal masses are categorized as “huge” at 15cm and mine is LITERALLY almost double that. Laparotomy, the procedure I will have done, is very very simple. Simple incision, simple “expansion” I think my doctor called it of my abdominal cavity, simple lifting out of this superficial mass resting on my organs, snipping out my ovary, done. The rarity of it being done on a pregnant woman though is such that most of my internet research has led me exclusively to medical journals from Seoul or the Middle East featuring samples of a couple hundred women.
Over the weekend I was oddly optimistic and peaceful about the whole upcoming procedure, the way it will change my body, being able to participate quickly in school, and the prognosis for my baby surviving the operation. Because honestly if we were able to grow a baby in the first place with one working ovary and this enormous mass from my other ovary lurking around in my body, this baby is fucking fierce. And so if it’s made it this far, if it made it through those first tenuous weeks where many women miscarry, then nothing’s going to stop it from hanging on and joining me in this world.
Then there’s the stress of the fact that I have no intention of this stopping me from completing my semester at Saint Thomas, even though it will lead to at least one class each missed if not, if I were wise, two classes. It’s me so I obviously already emailed two of my three professors to warn them that it’s probably not likely I can make it to class 4-6 days after undergoing surgery. And they both respected my proactiveness and wanted to accommodate me. So like, naturally I already got that all sorted. But when I sit back and look at the circumstances I am going into with this semester versus what led me to drop out of Adler I’m kind of like “…how the fuck have I NOT had a nervous breakdown yet?”
Call it treated panic disorder, or simply not having the time or space to process and emotionally react to everything at once…but that might all change, as I also found out an hour ago that my grandpa died. We weren’t close, he had been degenerating for two and a half years since my grandma died, and I haven’t seen him for like a year. But my dad was his primary caretaker and I worry about him. And the timing of it all is making me so angry it feels like I am on the verge of an explosion.
So that’s the latest on me. Not sure what my art life will look like right now since my whole basis of working on displaying curvier women with guts like mine is like…well my gut is a cyst, not fat, so what’s my gut actually look like? And anyway, I start classes tomorrow. But I’m hoping that will make the next 4 weeks fly by so I can get this fear over with and move on with my life, come what may, free of a foot-long ovarian cyst inside me.
After starting out the month very creatively dry, I am working on redefining my art goals for the year.
I’m not promising they’re gonna grasp my attention all that much, but it feels good to try some new things.
After taking a diversity class that made me question my depiction of people of color in my art a little bit (good intentions, but a bit exhibitionist, and ignorant), I wanted to figure out how to make my subjects interesting since I generally find white people subjects to be difficult to depict because they’re sSususuUUupeerrrRRR boringggg, I realized one of the best ways to branch out with my subjects is to depict something that is definitely underrepresented: bodies like mine.
Girls that get asked if they’re pregnant all the time. Bodies you don’t see represented in “love my body” campaigns.
I can’t wait to see what creative directions I can go with this topic.
I depicted myself again in this little dood that’s a shout out to all the introverts around who would rather stay in their houses and drink coffee and cuddle with pets.
I’m slowly chipping away at my artist’s block, but I can’t promise that’ll mean getting back into Dumping a Dragon. I still like the art, sometimes, but…yeah I dunno.
Well, the time has come! I just completed the 50th page of Dumping a Dragon.
To celebrate, I thought I’d pull out my shelf of self-written manga and go on a walk through the 50th page of my other stories! :3 Nostalgia, here we come!
Ah, but first, a spontaneous group photo of me and my 50 pagers!
Oh my gosh I almost forgot! All those ancient scans are only possible because my husband insisted on upgrading my flatbed scanner. Purely by chance, he ended up getting the latest version of the same scanner as I’ve had since my art inception. Thanks best husband ever!
In additional tech information, after fearing my laptop harddrive was failing due to the fact that any time I so much as put my hands too abruptly on the keyboard it would LITERALLY BLUESCREEN, we opened it up to see if it was something we could replace and…that seemed to settle it back into place, and no more bluescreening! I will be very sad the day this ancient laptop finally sleeps for good.
Merry Christmas, Dreaming in Color! I took a break from serious Dumping a Dragon work because I was out of the house for most of the last two days. But the good news is I discovered a wonderful new art program to use on my Chromebook! Here are my doods. They’re all still Siv and Noelia!
Christmas arrives in five days! I have three days of work before a planned week off at home with Ryan, including an overnight stay in Duluth. Similarly, I finished my first semester at Saint Thomas yesterday and I was excitedly biding my time until today when I could make an OC Christmas card.
At first I wanted to do a feature of an old crew but I decided I needed to honor the fact that I am STILL working on Dumping a Dragon, despite a few weeks in the last few months when I was thinking it was dying. I’m almost at 50 pages actually (which will be celebrated by a separate blog post). I was sure that just like Cadence, DaD was going to die right around 45 pages, and right at the part of the story I expected it to.
Making no promises about its future, I feel very proud of myself and humbled by my inspirations that I haven’t stopped working on it. Taking breaks is totally allowable and not indicative, apparently, of its certain doom.
I find myself regularly daydreaming about Siv and Noelia when certain songs come on, etc., and I’m finally going to reward myself in a few short pages of doing yet another flashback to fonder times for them, so I get to finally draw human Siv.
Anyway, of course it’s human Siv who graces this year’s Christmas card, but I think Noelia kinda steals the adorableness show in this one. Only I would totally wear Siv’s ominous YOU BETTER WATCH OUT Christmas sweater.
Into the Spider-Verse
Another blogworthy event is that last night I saw “Into the Spider-Verse” and it was AMAZING. It made me glad for reading the first few issues of Miles Morales back when I was in college; I feel like it gives me some serious nerd cred now, haha. And Nick Miller as a pudgy grown up Spider-man was fantastic in every way.
I feel like the movie paid such homage to comic books in a way I never thought I’d see; it got me at once jealous and emotional, haha. Since it’s just hit theaters there aren’t any good screenshots to demonstrate what I’m talking about. But the film regularly overlaid their handsome CGI with comic elements including yellow-background narrative text, motion lines, and sound effects. I even cried a few times! In the first few moments of the film I was like “um Miles is supposed to biracial” (because his mom presented as African American) and then she yells at him in Spanish and I was like “…oh good!” haha. There are also some noteworthy voice actors in it which I was proud of myself for recognizing.
And it was great that Miles spends the first 75% of the movie kinda failing. He doesn’t immediately gain control of his super-powers; he doesn’t even immediately believe in himself.
Oh, also, I will say the big screen did nothing to add interest or appeal to Spider-Gwen for me. She’s as boring, generic, and Trying Too Hard as she ever has been (and her ballet flats were really stupid.)
Anyway, I was glad I got to usher in a short break from school and responsibilities with such a good comic book film! Aaaugh!
Also my husband and I are big dorks and I love him so much because we always laugh loudly at the same fucking things and I’m sure everyone in the theater hated us, but I don’t care and I love us. SO. MUCH.
I can’t wait till after Christmas so I can finally post my new art of us. Only that also means I have to make cat art since Scribbles isn’t in it. *tear*
Today I made the excellent decision to go see a limited showing of the TV documentary on my god, Miyazaki-sama. I weirdly saw it advertised on my Instagram stories and it had a limited showing for tonight at a nearby theater and I felt like I couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t go see it.
My take aways include: everything that is good is a hassle (or something along those lines; I can’t find any quotes or gifs from it), and, “forward, forward, always forward.”
Honestly it makes me stop wanting to be a baby about stopping a project I start because it’s not perfect and that’s about as much as I feel the need to say on that end.
I have a week left in my first semester at Saint Thomas after tomorrow. We also got a new kitten in our family – I got bored and fixated on wanting a baby and we needed to do something to help abate that. So we found her at Petsmart and she is perfect for us, even if Snowball doesn’t think so yet. Her name is Scribbles!
Anyway, between her taking up all my emotional energy and my stats class almost ending, and then also being stuck on a difficult page of Dumping a Dragon, that project is dragging. I guess all my creativity is actually. I got my Christmas drawing done for Ryan and that was about all that has been completed in the month of December yet.
I also did a casual crossover drawing that I let myself keep sketchy in lines and color, but it’s still a lot of fun and is a throwback to older crossover drawings I did in my teens.
Other than this mostly as much as I am still turning over the next steps for Dumping a Dragon and whatnot, as with what stopped me from continuing to do Cadence, I’m just wishing the story were different. I feel frustrated that I have all this passion for drawing people interacting and such a love for interesting character design, and then so much of this story is being held back by the fact that Noelia is just interacting with a bunch of oversized dragons with limited facial expressions, and then weird fantastical settings that I really couldn’t care less about so I keep under-drawing, under-developing, and avoiding in panels.
I couldn’t have expected my first go back into graphic novels to be good after 5+ years, but my problem is that these are two glaring issues that are making me once again want to work on a graphic novel project, but not this one.
My brain has been very nostalgic lately for Redefining Evil and for Nikkei and for Bakura and Danyil and the old couples I made. The other day on my drive home from work they played Animal I Have Become back to back with an Offspring song and I thought about my blissful life as a 14 year old creator for basically my whole drive. Being in middle school really did create the perfect conditions for growing an entire creative world for myself.
 Ugh I just did this adorable doodle during tonight’s lecture in my diversity class and I love her. All the scrumblies were me trying to erase my class notes to save it and it was super laggy so I’m leaving the scrumblies, since they fit my style anyway.
Early last week I reached the long-awaited point in Dumping a Dragon where, after initially riding the high of creating Sivarthis’s dragon self, I always anticipated hitting a creative wall. And indeed, whether I damned myself to that by expecting it or not, I hit a wall.
I ended my first meet cute/flashback and had NO IDEA how to ease into the next segment. I tried four or five or twelve things. I wrote out a script. I sketched thumbnails. And every time I tried a page, it felt flat and lame.
Finally while watching the latest season of the Great British Baking Show, I started inking a page without much confidence…until I added the background.
This. Damn. Mountain.
Honestly, not only am I SUPER proud of that in terms of being a scenery image I’m usually pretty weak at, I’m super proud that it became the first page to get everything moving again. Even though I rewrote dialogue and tweaked panels until my eyes bled, and I asked for advice before immediately rejecting it, I am proud of how it turned out. The colors, the composition, most importantly the fact that I shamelessly magicked Sivarthis into looking a bit different, a bit more manageable, and having him allude to the fact that he could just change his size at will so that he can fit into frames with Noelia, haha.
Plus, this way ends up keeping the story following the novella more closely than the alternate way I had contemplated doing this scene.
Oh yeah, of course when I had hit my wall I was also preparing Sun-Walking for a witchy friend of mine to read. Which meant, though I didn’t need to, that I reread the ENTIRE 145k thing on my weekend off. I literally accomplished nothing new. Just reread Sun-Walking. More. God I love that project so much. After my witchy friend finishes it and we make adjustments to it, I think I’m going to have my dad find some publishers to pitch it to again. I’m finally ready.