Art!, Emotia, Emotional Breakdowns

what little hope i have i hold for you

The mood has finally struck. This image came to my head a few days ago when I realized it’s been quite a bit since my last Emotia painting when I realized the last one was before Ronan was born. A lot of milestones have been reached since “I am Growing.” For example, I had a baby haha. But I’ve also had another surgery since then. I also finished grad school. And the love of my life is in one of his hardest periods since I’ve known him right now.

Ryan joked when I was talking about the feather that it was Emily Dickinson, but it is.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Emily Dickinson

I’ve thought about this poem a lot since we analyzed it back in high school because we talked about how delicate and easily crushed it makes hope sound. But I’ve never understood that better than now as it seems my family is in a period where every time a new hope is born it gets blown away in a Gale.

So I’ve had to put it in a cage, and it makes it harder to reach, but it’s still there glowing softly in my chest.

I’m also a therapist now, and it’s been an interesting time to be holding brand new and grown up wounds for my clients in a period when a lot of new wounds have been cut in my family.

The other “interesting” dynamic to everything has been that honestly at least recently, the misfortune hasn’t been strictly my own but that of my loved one so I’ve had to explore to what extent I hold their pain as my own and how to navigate that space while establishing myself as a professional. FINALLY.

I am at my second job since graduating in May but it’s been feeling really good and hopeful at Oak Ridge as a straight-up therapist. Someone said something to Ryan about friends from work for me and I was like ah no, I have neither friends nor enemies at work and it’s great. I show up, work, and go home. And the work is helping people navigate their own labyrinths and that feels great as well. I have some really wonderful clients who have really connected with me.

Anyway, as for the other imagery in the new Emotia, the Ronan tattoo is pretty self explanatory. I wanted to incorporate him in this painting since for Ryan and I both, he’s been a steady source of joy and togetherness. He had some bad Two weeks when he got sick for the first time after starting daycare, but aside from that it’s been a true privilege to watch him grow and learn.

Ah yes, and my leg. After a year and a month I still have nerve damage and regular nerve pain as well as chronic back pain from my herniated disc. Yes the cyst was traumatizing and Ronan’s birth with the C-section were traumatizing but not anywhere near how devastating my back injury was. Not only in its effect on my day to day life, but its lasting impact and to what extent it made me question my own strength and my body’s ability to carry on. The lightning looks pretty dope though huh.

Honestly this Emotia kind of created itself. The idea came about yesterday and I worked on it throughout the day and into today without much hesitation. I’m not sure it’s necessarily quite as refined as some of the otehrs but the symbolism is all there and the art is the quality I wanted it to be.

And with that, here’s all the earlier ones! Most recent to the oldest.

February 2016

Art!, Emotia, Emotional Breakdowns

i am growing but please let me be

Blammo! I have just now completed a brand new Emotia drawing. It’s been a year and a half since my last piece in this series, and good god was there plenty to try to put into it since then.

I would like to present, “I am Growing But Please Let Me Be.”

This took an extraordinary amount of work to conceptualize. I actually had a fairly completed first draft of this concept that hung me up when I got to the shading pieces. Looking at the first draft now I definitely see how it hadn’t hit the mark yet, but honestly it left me fairly surprised that when I sat down to restart again, I actually completed it. All week I’d been trying to start a new draft and not getting much farther than an outline and maybe a background color. But I also couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I guess I knew I wouldn’t quit until I had finished this.

I’m not really sure why or how this ended up being the final pose. The previous drafts after the first attempt were much more aggressive than this one. But I looked through my other Emotia paintings a lot as I was working on this and none of the others are incredibly assertive or aggressive either, so ultimately I don’t think that would have worked. Plus, if this hadn’t been the final pose I don’t know if I would have liked how I tried to incorporate the books/papers.

Anyway, there were so many emotional layers to try to fit into a single image from 2019. It’s been intense. It’s been really difficult to process.

In many ways I don’t believe I’ll fully process my cyst and subsequent surgery, weight loss, and recovery until long after I’ve also given birth. The cyst still feels like an emotional gaping hole because I have a lot of resentment for the timing of how we found it. While on the one hand if we’d found it on its own, when I wasn’t pregnant, I know we would have felt convinced it meant we could never have kids, and that would have been devastating (and also incorrect). But as it happened, not only did it make the first trimester really really difficult (not that anyone loves the first trimester), it robbed me of the opportunity to essentially see what my healthy body was supposed to look like without the cyst. And I never will, because the next time my belly will be empty will be after I’ve given birth to a human.

And it also definitely feels like the cyst came out and my baby filled that hole without actually…patching it up so to speak? It was really interesting gaining those first 15lbs after the surgery because I still maintain that since my belly had previously been stretched around the cyst, I didn’t get a pregnancy belly so much as my baby belly filled up the cyst belly, same shape and everything. It wasn’t until after I passed the point that my cyst had brought me that my stomach looked and felt different to me. So it felt more appropriate to include the representation of my pregnancy still in a gaping hole in my body.

Finally, this year I’ve also just been calmly keeping my schoolwork in lockdown. What a better way to represent that than have it be squished under my thick ass? I actually put some screenshots of three papers that I wrote for my program on the fluttering papers haha. It was hard because I haven’t really had any significant textbooks necessarily for this program; it’s been mostly the paper-writing that has provided most of the learning. Grad school has definitely been a non-issue in many ways, but it always seems to come up and people always seem awestruck that I’ve been doing as much school as I have this year, with as slow as I’ve actually been going with the program.

Moving up, I’ve got my heart on my sleeve this time because pregnancy has destroyed any sort of social filters I used to possess. I’m cranky, you’ll know. Immediately. You offend me, you’ll now. Immediately. Fortunately, most of the time since maybe May, I’ve just been indifferent. But hell hath no fury like my opinionated ass if you start to rile me up.

This has not felt like “me” either. I’ve felt a bit of distress over the seeming lack of control I have over my tongue. I don’t consider that maybe I’ve gone too far till after the deed has been done. Fortunately I can still focus on smoothing things over with people after I wound them, without actually apologizing given that usually I lose my temper over shit I definitely still mean.

And…the eyes. So 2019 has been a very…public year for me. But not in a social, I’m involved with people kind of way. Pregnancy just is a very public affair. Your body becomes public property, essentially, with everyone soliciting their opinions, admiration, curiosity, etc. where they have previously not shown any interest in me. I think that’s the biggest difficulty I have with how closely people watch me these days. I know that many of the interactions I have had with people, especially at work, would not have happened if I weren’t pregnant. People who hardly consider me a fleck in their vision have to ask me “how are you feeling?” every time I see them. So really, the question is not even directed at me, but my pregnancy.

And the thing about pregnancy is most days, most hours, most experiences are just daily living, only it’s living that is happening while I also have a little boy in my belly rolling and jabbing and growing.

People are just really excited and curious about pregnant women and it generally ends up being inappropriate, invasive, and unnecessary in their execution. And circling back to me not being able to hold my tongue, if you are the 50th person in the span of a very long day where I work 8 hours and then go to 6 hours of class who loudly and enthusiastically asks “HOW ARE YOU FEELING!??!?!?”, then I will probably shut you down.

Maybe it’s because I’m someone who has had mental health problems for years and years but someone asking me how I’m feeling when they’re really just wanting to know, most likely, if I’ve got morning sickness right now (people honestly believe it’s normal or expected for a woman to throw up for an entire nine months of a pregnancy apparently), ends up feeling offensive, intrusive and disingenuous. If you didn’t ask the other two people who walked in before me how they’re feeling, don’t fucking ask me. Especially if you don’t actually care what I have to say (if I’m not comfortable with you as a person in my life, do you think I want to be honest when you ask me that anyway? Because the chances are, if I was great before you asked me that, the moment you ask me that my most honest answer would be “irritated” and you don’t want to know that, do you?).

Just because you’re really excited about babies and pregnant ladies doesn’t mean that the pregnant lady you’re projecting this onto has any obligation to share your enthusiasm. There’s less and less to be enthusiastic about when relaxin makes your neck crack every time you turn your head, or your thighs are constantly sore and achey because your pelvis is so aggressively shifting, or your baby moves so rapidly in your belly you get light-headed, or you read another article about the amount of blood you’re going to lose after you give birth and suddenly consider the possibility that you’ll just bleed out after delivery and die in a hospital bed.

At work at least, I’ve expressed my annoyance to the people I trust enough to lessen their pregnancy-related inquiries, and I’ve been rude or cold to enough other people so that my daily experience with people asking about my pregnancy has dropped to a more tolerable level. At school, I found, with few exceptions most 22-year-old girls and varying ages of men are disinterested if not terrified of “the pregnant girl in their class.” I could get away with nobody but me bringing up my pregnancy in a whole class, even after I was very obviously pregnant in my two summer classes. But when I did unironically have to pee two or three times during a lecture, everybody was quick to justify it for me, so I’ll enjoy the free pass to have an overactive bladder while it lasts (although the overactive bladder before pregnancy was most definitely a cyst symptom. It’s going to be crazy when I can potentially go 6-8 hours without NEEDING to pee in a few months.)

So…yeah, that’s the eyes. In my first draft I expressed the constant public interest in my body as a spotlight, but that didn’t feel right. It wasn’t really a source of light for me in any way. Usually it causes latent anxiety if not my normal irritability. And since I knew I wanted my belly to glow (although in the first draft I just did this weird like “here’s my heart, it slid down from my chest into my belly” which I didn’t end up liking), I didn’t want there to be a competing light source. I was going to try eyes on stalks for a while, or just like a grid pattern, but then last night as I was trying to decide how to display them I was like “wait why don’t I just do scribbly inky black drawings of eyes” and aha! Ryan helped me make them a bit more interactive with my hand and then I gave them some pigment and that was done.

Speaking of Ryan, while I originally wanted to incorporate the floofy white skirt that was in my last two paintings, I opted out of that and just highlighted my wedding ring. Which I haven’t even been able to wear for three weeks because it got too snug and I was paranoid it would get stuck. But I still thought it was important to note that my marriage has been a source of constant stability and refuge for me. Ryan has been an amazing and steady source of emotional and physical support for me. We’ll never forget those first few days after my surgery when I couldn’t get up from the toilet without his help. I’ll never forget how he cried when we saw our baby at 12 weeks before our surgery. I’ll never forget the sheer joy, camaraderie, relief, and pride of choosing a name for our son. And I also can’t take it for granted that he has been patiently supporting me while I’m in school even if it’s meant leaving him 2-3 nights a week alone to fend for himself. We keep in constant contact and if we argue it’s straightforward, quick, and honest. I really would be completely alone without him.

Finally, my other Emotia paintings except for “Rise Again, Fighting” don’t really feature “me” even though they’re embodiments of “me.” This time around, this feeling I was trying to depict was so intimate, and so closely related to my own bodily experience, I didn’t even bother pretending like it was happening to someone else. On the contrary, it’s very much me, and my body, that has been affected by these experiences.

The rest of the drawing feels a bit simpler than I expected but again, looking back at the other Emotia drawings, they haven’t necessarily been conceptually more complicated than this. If anything this one is a lot more focused and personal than especially some of the earlier ones were.

Another interesting contrast to the other ones is that at least in the last two I worked hard to include some of the recurring elements of earlier drawings. But any attempt to do so this time around would have been forced and unnatural. I think that makes a good point, though, about how different from my past self I have felt this year. I actually wrote a paper for my careers class, unexpectedly, that made me realize not only that I am in a very different place in my life than ever before, that that is in fact not a bad thing. Of course I am. I am having a child. That will change everything. I am fundamentally as I have always been, but in many ways my beliefs, feelings, and plans have shifted to revolve around the new and slightly strange concept of “my family” …where now, for the first time, by that I mean, my husband and my child.

And with that, here’s all the earlier ones! Most recent to the oldest.

February 2016

Art!, Dumping a Dragon, Emotia, Manga, Original Characters, Ryan & Me, To Trust a Dragon

of markers and endeavors

and also scary new wordpress editors

Well I would say in the last few weeks I have officially begun getting the hang of my new alcohol markers…but the problem I have discovered today is that my poor old flatbed scanner is not. a. fan. 

I never knew that losing saturation would be a problem for me in my unsaturated, blues and reds world. But it was super sad and I still don’t think the scan does my latest drawing justice.

I had always wanted to do a real, thorough Snowbelle personified drawing and so I fixed in on what she would look like NOW as a person…which would be stumpy, and chubby, still mildly terrified of everyone, but always eating mom’s favorite foods.

So I gave her some cute love handles and gray track pants and some FUCKING DELICIOUS looking ramen, and voila. It looks like I know what I’m doing with color sometimes.

Snowbelle <3

So this one immediately went up on my ever-changing art wall over my desk and even now looking at it it’s confusing because the bottom corners color of pink is actually called “Light Violet,” which is alarming as it turned out on the computer more like a light violet than it did on the paper, haha. What? Okay. Whatever.

Other marker practices include this random fire girl, and a cute drawing of me and my nerd.

Kinda hate her. Didn’t really know what I was doing yet. Should have finished with some lineart but I am 100000% moved on from its mediocrity. Her hair is pretty though.
Ryan’s hair shading turned out better than literally anything else in this. And any of the shading I did well honestly just kinda died when I scanned it in. :/

Andnndndnndnd two other pieces of news.

Emotia News

One, I’m very slowly working on a new Emotia painting. I’ve been trying to synthesize myself a bit and figure out where I’m at, and where I’m about to be going, what with starting grad school (again) in a few weeks, and settling into my new less direct care role at work. In some ways I haven’t really changed all that much since my last Emotia, so I think that’s why I did this fabulous paint sketch of my new one and then kinda screeched to a halt, because I’m not positive yet if it’s time for a new one, even though I could just do it anyway. There’s something about this series in particular that has profundity that I really don’t ever want to damage, and part of keeping it sacred may be knowing when not to make one, if when I want to it feels too trivial.

Very very very tentative new project news

Very very very tentative because as per usual, my whims are capricious and difficult to pin down, so I may put two hours of work into this over the next few days before pretending like I never said anything about it – anyway, I was trying to force myself to finish the book I’m reading, a less compelling sequel to Seraphina, and reading about other people’s dragons made me pick up To Trust a Dragon again and then I thought about how all these scenes are like, SUPER VISUAL, and then I was like…*steeples fingers* DO I WANT TO DO THIS? Well, I always do have good timing for shit like this, so yeah MAYBE! We’ll see; I did some preliminary sketches of Noeli and Siv in dragon form since I realized he would spend most of the story as a dragon, and I think they would be really, really neat characters to work on. Noeli would literally be the only human I’d be drawing until she gets to Adriana, so I have to make sure her model is compelling, which I kind of already knew it was.

So, now that I’m done blogging and settling into my art space I was gonna go see what I can do on this. Wish me and my cranky technology luck.

Art!, Emotia, Emotional Breakdowns

even though i still feel broken

Pending revisions after I stare at this for a while, I am happy to present my 6th Emotia painting, “even though i still feel broken.”

It’s been about a full year since “i do believe in new beginnings,” and my emotional landscape has gone through a lot this year. I have begun to manage my anxiety symptoms and spent the year on medications that greatly reduced my daily experience with anxiety and almost eliminated all but maybe five panic attacks for all of 2017. I think that’s what the stitch in her head is for. The worst wounds in my brain were kind of fixed, but my feeling of my brain being broken is definitely still there.

I also got the best job I’ve ever had, where every day I put on a smile and bring light, safety, and comfort to kids who are further in that maddening darkness than I’ve ever been. And while it has given me a safe space to talk about how yes, anxiety affects me too, it’s often been undercut by my own feelings of anxiety and insecurity that make it hard for my joy and satisfaction at work to be authentic. I have told many coworkers I become a different person at work, and nobody would believe how socially anxious I am, or how mean or cynical I am, in my real everyday life. So the mask I put on for work is there, and its strings are navy because that’s what I wear to work, disgustingly, haha. I struggled with how I incorporated work because it really has been a huge part of my life this last year, and I really thrived there and got a promotion and everything, but…I don’t know, last summer I told a patient I really liked that believe it or not I get told on a daily basis I’m someone’s favorite tech, but that approval, that validation, just kind of hits a wall in my heart where compliments don’t get through. I know what I’m capable of at work and I know my strengths, but I still suffer from a heavy, overwhelming belief that I am worthless and incompetent. It’s really sad, and it’s the one thing I am setting into 2018 trying to change.

The eyes battle with each other because of a deep and intense anger that I had for most of 2017. It was all because of the blood on my hands, the loss I suffered, the mistake I made, the people I hurt. It was a deep and hollow anger and hurt that I knew all that could be done about is to get through it.

The anger became something of a coldness in me as the year wrapped up. I have snowflakes on my shoulder for two reasons: the holidays were one of the emotionally hardest part of my year, and all my anger and disappointment in myself made me feel cold and numb. Work was awful, and I just really struggled feeling wanted or a sense of belonging. And the frustrating part of that is that there’s no good reason for it. I have not one but two families who have loved and accepted me. But I was wildly PMSing on Christmas and that did a lot of emotional damage to me. So, holiday snowflakes, internal numbness.

The shattered chest is a throwback to my original Emotia drawing, “feelings I don’t want.” I still have feelings I don’t want. I did things I shouldn’t have done this year. But again, a lot of this painting circles back to how poorly I feel about myself. That’s why she’s the first Emotia girl with my body type. Except her tit’s a bit perkier. I did gain weight throughout my first year of marriage, and that’s always just felt like something that is completely out of control and yet is still something I feel extraordinarily guilty for.

Still have my foofy wedding dress on. My relationship has been one of the only things unaffected by my emotional turmoil. Only one of my panic attacks last year was about us. We are growing, we are coming together, we are passionately committed to each other, and being married has just given us something unifying, something that keeps us close and alive and intense, even when everything else in our lives is pretty much routine.

So there it is. Something came up on my Timehop this morning of like a simple drawing of me and Hoshi and I realized once again my impossible art standards for myself are probably a huge part of why I don’t produce as much art as I used to. Can’t just do a doodle. Need to do a fucking 14-hour portrait.

Enjoy Emotia in succession.


Art!, Emotia, Emotional Breakdowns, Original Characters

i do believe in new beginnings

I am thrilled to be able to add a new Emotia drawing to my ongoing series! This series is and always has been an evolution of self. It’s shown so many wildly different selves that began in July of 2014, two and a half years ago. Since then, I feel like I’ve gone through so many self-facilitated changes that have had huge effects on me. Many of these have been professional or ambitious in nature, but they’ve always had a component to them that represent something about my relationship to my now-husband Ryan.

In “I Do Believe in New Beginnings,” I feel like I have unified myself. That’s why an element or more from each of the previous Emotia paintings are all represented. The feathers from “Endure,” the heart (on her shirt) from “Feelings I Don’t Want”, the light bulb from “Things Will Work Out (I Hope)”, and the fire from “Rise Again, Fighting.” I’ve still got tears and loose ends, but it all comes together now. Obviously, the giant white foof skirt is a nod to my recent marriage, which has really helped make me feel like I’ve accomplished something as a person and I’ve come together with someone who will protect me, encourage me, and strive to understand me for my whole life.

This piece then is pretty exciting in that way. I really feel like I’ve been waiting for 2017 since at least 2015, if not honestly for most of my adolescent and adult life. I have never, ever felt this whole. I feel perfectly in touch with myself. My art is thriving, my writing is thriving, my love is stable and huge and wholesome, I’ve taken control of my anxiety, and professionally, I am somewhere I’m proud to have survived – and heading somewhere I can’t believe wanted me. But they wanted me because of all this dedication I’ve put into my achievements. They saw it. They honored it.

The original Emotia piece was done because of the crazy, terrifying sense of dependence I had on my identity as Ryan’s girlfriend. It had consumed my creative energy. “Feelings I Don’t Want” was supposed to purge that sense of fearful dependence and of dishonesty towards self. I really hated myself at that point, but I didn’t know how else to strive for what I wanted. The six-month mark with Ryan was the farthest I’d gotten with another person, and I really didn’t know what I was doing.

The next paradigm shift came after I’d attempted to move out of Ryan’s apartment and into my own studio, and realized in this process that I DID want him – but I also really wanted to be myself. I’d felt beaten and bruised from our fights and my time in daycare and his time miserable at Comcast. This was just before I had started working at Palmer Lake and while Ryan was working with his ex-girlfriend, whom I desperately wanted to trust.

Not very long after that, I started graduate school and I loved my jobs and I was really coming back into my identity as myself. This is why Rise Again, Fighting, is so bold and celebratory. I was doing things for myself again – and miraculously, the man I loved still loved me for it.

The next drawing came over a year later, and plunged back into confusion and pain. It still creeps me out, because I essentially predicted my own fall hours before it happened. “Endure” continues to represent THE darkest hours in my entire life. I honestly broke. It was the one night in my life I had suicidal ideations. It was the first time I really, truly scared my fiance. I cried harder than I’d ever cried in my life – screamed, honestly. Yes, it showed how desperately I wanted to make my education at Adler work. But it also showed how terribly it wasn’t working. Things really did get better after this painting.

It hurt, and I remember sleeping on the couch at work and worrying everyone the next day – because I’d been up till 1am and had subsequently quit/postponed my grad program. I remember talking to my peers about it. To TRob and Austen and Tara and Popp. Everyone supported me and my move to save myself from that chaos. And over the year, I thought the urge to go to school would come back. But honestly, what’s happened instead is that I’ve stretched my value to myself. I’ve learned to see new ways I can push myself and grow. Hell, I survived Holland Center, and it got me to PrairieCare. Also, I decided to muster up the courage and do something about how I felt that night. Granted, it was about 9 months later, but I finally got myself to the doctor. I paid handsomely for it, but I feel like finally medicating my insane anxiety has let me control my life again. It hasn’t fixed it, but hell have I taken so much ownership over it.

That’s why the raging fire from “Rise Again, Fighting” has become beautiful spirals. I’ve found sophistication in my passion. I’ve channeled it and organized myself and matured so much. Seriously, for the first time in my life, I think I might be an adult. Yes, that means that now I get to choose that I want to fuck around with my husband and be obnoxious in public at Target, and that means I get to choose to be lazy, but it also means that I get shit done. I trust myself to accomplish the things I want. And I trust myself to keep striving for more, wanting more, finding more, and pushing myself as a person. I don’t judge myself by anybody else’s standards anymore, not even educationally. I know I’m surrounded by people who respect me in a plethora of different ways I never would have anticipated. 

Art!, Emotia, Emotional Breakdowns, Original Characters

break in the hiatus

2016 has been a crazy, and somewhat unrewarding year so far. A big part of me couldn’t be surprised that after everything that was accomplished in 2015, 2016 just sort of…arrived. What’s worse, I stopped being particularly good at handling the stress of paying rent (for the first time), working full-time (which recently went through a huge stressful period, but is otherwise super fabulous), planning my wedding (which is expensive), and trying to be in a masters program. So, I’m in the process of filing for a year off from it. For that reason it’s been a really tough week.

I thought I could handle it. I thought all I needed to do was “endure,” because I didn’t think I had any other options. “If I quit school, I have to pay my loans” was the biggest reason to stay in my program. I’d been struggling against whelm and apathy about it since last fall when I had to take some online classes I loathed. As the fall progressed, I got to get into some actual Art Therapy classes, which helped…but at the turn of the year I had to take a semester-long prerequisite that’s a long ways away from home and included some terrible drives in inclement Minnesota weather, and I had to try to fit in two classes at once, and also a new practicum which needed 100 hours and took up all my extra days and evenings that I could spare. So suddenly I was never home, I was constantly tense waiting for the next busy period where I had nothing but a protein shake for dinner, I was poor and had no option of making more money because I was too busy for a second job, and I was scooping out of a mostly empty pot of energy being stretched thinner and thinner and feeling like there was no payoff from any of it.

I was driving home from work one day and I realized the only thing my fiance and I could do was “Endure.” There was nothing to look forward to today, or next week, just…next year, and the years following, when I finished this dumb program and got a career, and maybe we’d have kids, and so on.

So I realized that I needed to make a new Emotia painting. I wanted to express the beautiful, grind my teeth anger involved in just….enduring. In knowing that there will be a payoff, somewhere.

But what emerged from the painting is an expression of how well I ended up being able to endure after all. In a way, since it was completed some 5 hours before my breaking point, it was a harbinger for ripping out that handful of feathers, the beautiful but challenging parts of my life I realized needed to be purged for now. The piece is pretty dark – strong, but dark. Because when I realized that I didn’t want to endure anymore, I kind of broke. Kind of in the same way as the girl in this painting. She’s not broken, but she was definitely falling apart. I see the feathers she’s clutching in her fists and I see how I realized that something had to give.

Unfortunately for me and my recent goals, that something was graduate school.

I haven’t been prioritizing school for at least 6 months lately. What I have been prioritizing is my relationship, and my workplace, and my finances. School has been a nuisance at best, and a source of intense stress at worst. School has meant looking at my upcoming week and seeing my two nights that I’ll be home, one of which I’d actually be home with my fiance, and I’d just get this strong resentment for how long this program would take and how little it was adding to my life.

Tuesday night (after working on this painting for two nights!) something stupid triggered a panic attack and after four hours of buildup my parents ended up at my apartment in the middle of the night because they were the only ones who could calm me down. I’d totally lost it (see: the blood on the wings) and the only thing I wanted to change was school.

The hardest part about this is due to the stock that I’ve always put in education. I was so great in my undergrad I never had to think twice about whether I could be successful at it. … Because all I had to do was homework. All I needed to worry about was research projects. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t bother with relationships, and didn’t think about money. As an adult, with so many other things I care about, school doesn’t pay off like that right now. It’s expensive, and exhausting, and SLOW.

So, for now, for a year I’ll say, I’m done. I’m going to gather my bearings. I’m going to endure this interim, and keep my goals, and enjoy the rest of my life. I’ll be stronger when I go back to school, and I’ll be ready for it. But I’m certainly not now.

This Endure piece is lovely. I so dig it. It’s a natural progression from the previous three. The third was an awakening, and this one is definitely awake…and struggling. I’m heading where I want to get, but it’s really painful. It’s beautiful – hence the feathers – but riddled with sacrifices.

I’m so proud of this fricking lineart too. I did the lineart in one organic, intuitive sitting. I had sketched this pose, and then gone, ugh, it’s so simple, and then started a new one, and then opened this pose again and decided FUCK IT I like how it looked. I really thought the coloring would hang me up because of how labor-intensive it would be, but I just kinda got it. I knew what the feathers should look like, and each one was a few quick strokes. I figured out the color scheme when I sketched it, and I also developed that awesome mesh look on her cleavage and her sleeve, and I was like UM YES.

Here are the other Emotias. You can see that I’m still within the spectrum of the strong reds I made it into, but not as vivid as they were this time last year. Last year had a virgin freshness that this year doesn’t. I’m a bit more of an old soldier at the moment, so to speak. Hood up, riddled with scars and bloodied by my own beautiful choices.

All this makes it seem a bit melodramatic, but I’m just trying to express that I’m not in a shitty place. It’s just that a handful of things were out of whack, digging into me in the wrong ways.

So, I’m fixing it.

I’m in another painting. I’m hoping the next one will be more hopeful, or joyous, or both. But for now, it’s been a beautiful struggle from which I’m glad to have a reprieve.

I wouldn’t have been able to paint these vivid reds and brilliant eyes of this one if not for my fiance, and my parents, and my soul sisters, and my compassionate coworkers.

Art!, Emotia, Emotional Breakdowns, Original Characters

(rise again, fighting)

I’m sure my blogs in here even have been suggestive of a rather crappy period of time in my life. Basically August, September, October, November and December all include blog posts with some allusion to a loss of direction, hope, or independence. I’ve said about as much about it as I can without straight up hating myself for it.

Point is, this can definitely be the third member of the Emotia painting series. Whoever said these ever needed to be drawn consecutively and in a small period of time? Honestly, let’s be real, the three of these pictures represent the beginning, middle, and completion of the transition I was forcing myself through. That being said, I am now going to line up the three of them in a row and talk about them.

i dunn

After I point out my selfie, inspired by my recent infatuation with all things Dunn Brothers. There’s one less than a mile from my work and I don’t even go there out of desperation anymore; I go there because I like the walk, and I don’t get fancy coffees anymore so I can justify a brewed coffee in a reusable mug, and something healthy to eat midway through my workday. So, I made a selfie wearing my giant scarf I was into for a few days, and some coffee, and a nod to Dunn Bros. 😀


(Exhume) When I realized. When I hated who I’d become. When I was ready to walk away from the feelings I never wanted to feel. When I owned up to them, and refused to accept them as part of who I’d become.
(It Will Work Out, I Hope) When I was making sacrifices. When I was holding my breath. When I was letting the tide wash over me. I was fiercely protective of who I used to be but I’d taken those boots off trying to find satisfaction in a life I didn’t really want. I was looking ahead, because there wasn’t much around me to revel within.
(Rise Again, Fighting) Everything fell apart. I made a giant mistake which financially cost me and shattered any trust I had in myself and my decision-making abilities. I had fallen closer to rock bottom than I ever had, and it killed me knowing it was a series of impulsive life choices I made that landed me right where I was. (As a side note, I didn’t do anything illegal; I didn’t get fired from any jobs; I didn’t cause anybody bodily  harm, including myself) I didn’t feel like myself anymore but the line of decisions and experiences between me and who I wished I still was was getting longer and longer. It took me forever to come to rational solutions for my situation. But I did. Finally.
This included taking on art classes through a community art program for the first time. Right now I’m halfway through a Saturday class talking to three teenagers about comics and drawing. It legitimizes my skill in it and gives me a chance to talk to some kids who are where I used to be.
It included deciding to put the possibility of graduate school back on the table. (Appropriately, my chosen grad program is ART THERAPY…wish me luck) It included smoothing out the wild wrinkles in my living situation, and suddenly cleaving to circumstances I’d jilted before but come to realize were exactly what I currently needed. I also got back all of my financial losses, after honestly accepting the possibility that the loss had ended but may have never been replaced.  All these things lined up again in the matter of weeks since the beginning of the new year. This new year has been metaphorical and temporal. I realized this morning, amusing as it may sound, that I haven’t cried in January. I can’t tell you how cool that is, considering the months I was climbing out of.

Visually, OH MY GOD, like I just realized that the COLOR PALETTES are appropriate! LOOK how dull and drained Exhume’s colors were. It Will Work Out, I Hope shows a subdued but warm color palette, followed by Rise Again, Fighting’s EXPLOSIVELY HOT COLORS.
The movement of the three paintings goes from extremely static to fiercely dynamic, too. Exhume is frozen, CLENCHED even. It Will Work Out has her footing back – she’s just done something, but she’s not doing anything more, yet. And finally, Rise Again bursts forth, taking “matter” into her own hands, hair streaming, eyes lit up, hand outstretched.

Yes, the three paintings depict different girls. Some braids, some curls, some dark and light hues of hair. However, the hair tones get gradually darker too. Shamelessly, Rise Again, Fighting’s girl has hair pretty similar to my own (‘cept I STILL CAN’T GET A BRAID TO STICK IN MY HAIR, FFFF), but it only makes sense that at the end of this transition I can see myself more in my art than before.

In a way, I’m proud of myself back in those dark months that I still sat down and deliberately spoke to myself through art. I guess I didn’t realize how important that would feel now, basically on the other side. (Am I convinced that everything is in the clear, and I’m off to be super successful? No. I still only work 2 days next week. So.) It just feels like I was still in there, struggling underneath the muck of a very messy trek into true post-graduate adulthood.

And besides, the point of Rise Again, Fighting isn’t that it’s a done deal. It’s that it’s NOW. I’m fighting again, with fire inside me. Not embers. I’m ignited again with a belief in what my own life can become. I hate the job market – it’s incredibly deflating – but I will fight its oppressive hold on my life till I get from it something that I want.

Rise Again, Fighting was a really long painting, too. I started it – what, Monday night. I gave it a solid three hours of work while my boyfriend watched wrestling. Which was great ’cause then my productivity made him literally leap off the couch to go get me a Reese’s egg when I asked for one (true love, folks). The painting was originally a girl with white lines on a red background in a foofy skirt, and then I gave her hands, and then I was going to do a long paint smear between her hands, and then the paint smear became some sort of water bending — yellow water bending — which then I turned into fire when I nonchalantly asked my boyfriend if it looked like water and he went “……” and I said “…or something liquid” and he finally said “…I thought it was fire.” And I said, “Oh, it’s fine, I was kind of going for a phoenix idea a bit ago anyway. Fire it is.” and then I redid a third of what I’d had done before I finally proceeded in the direction of the finished project. The fire took A LONG TIME to develop. And the longer I worked on it the less excuse I had to be lazy with developing the fire. And the skin shading. I EVEN LOOKED AT A TUTORIAL (relax, it was only one). And the hair. I TOOK BREAKS AND SHIT. I added the dark edges to the bottom of the background when I thought about the idea of the phoenix, and the idea of coming out of a dark few months. That’s also what the line of silver is for – out of the ashes, and the darkness, I emerge renewed and newly empowered. Also, whether it is viewable on all platforms is irrelevant but I did add some text, I just blended it in so that it is not extremely important to view it or not – but it’s my message to you. Back off motherfuckers, Mary’s owning her life and making it beautiful.

(And…and I just said to my friend this painting is “flipping the bird” to the shit I waded through…get it…flipping the bird…the bird like a phoenix…like the phoenix that is a bird that I painted…yeah…yeah it’s bedtime.)

Art!, Emotia, Emotional Breakdowns, Original Characters

It Will Work Out (I Hope)

So after giving up midway through “Waiting” (Is that ironic? That I got impatient trying to figure out a picture that was about my impatience? … Yes I think it actually is), I had just been dicking around with various watercolors and casually forgot about how I’d set out to make a series of digital paintings about complex emotions. Then my boyfriend made an observation about my desperation while working to have time off to do art and how I never really did much of it when I was desperately unemployed. Desperate unemployment creates quite a different tone than comfortable time off, it turns out, because I felt like I was going too stir-crazy to attempt anything creative. I basically ended up spending 10 days without a job trying as hard as I could to run away from being alone. I’d go for bike rides for 2 hours just so I wouldn’t be in the house. I’d force my boyfriend to hang out with me. I’d whine about my alone time on the internet. I’d apply for jobs. Lots and lots and lots of jobs. I feel like I don’t know  how to be that closed-off but wildly prolific girl I used to be during high school/college. HOW did I write a 500-page novel about a girl with a glowing dragon? How did I create 46 pages of a beautiful colored graphic novel while I studied abroad? How did I justify choosing to spend my time on that stuff rather than, like, relationships, or work?
And, now, more pertinent, how do I spend time on my creative life while still having relationships (a select few)?

I had the somewhat bittersweet realization a few weeks ago that I really only wanted to come up with a story idea for the sake of having written so many and wanting to keep that alive. I didn’t really wanna do it for the same driving sense of passion that used to motivate. I really really hope that changes on its own, but I don’t want to be a slave to solving writer’s block I don’t even know should be solved.

As for art, just now I caught myself ready to quit and come back to this piece later rather than problem-solving it now and being done with it. I think that’s gotten me stuck with a lot of work-in-progresses that I then forget about.

Anyway, I realized I put up my watercolor paintings in my gallery but not in here, so I’ll add those in and then talk about my newest emotia drawing.


I like this one in the sense that it’s like “aw cute” but it’s so shallow and childish compared to my usual work haha. If the entire thing were just her dress and the cat I think I’d be happier with it. As it were, it looks like it belongs in a child’s bedroom. At the same time I’m really happy with the skint one on her neck and the outline of her foot, and I didn’t have much practice with watercolor till this.

This was practice #2 with watercolor and what’s hilarious is her skirt started out as a mistake and turned into my favorite part of the painting.  I love her hair and her eyes even though they’re both kind of freaky. I don’t like how I shaded her skin or that I stupidly messed up her tights.

Okay so this second completed member of Emotia is “Things Will Work Out (I Hope), but it ended up being a lot more narrative than conceptual – not that that takes anything away from it. Her pose, for once in my life, came quickly and naturally and this final draft of her pose actually came without any revising except in the initial phase. Not gonna lie though – I may only have given her those combat boots because I’m so excited that they’re back in style so I can wear my Doc Martens this fall! Okay but anyway, I don’t actually remember where the light bulbs idea came from. I think I knew I wanted that hopeful aspect in the piece so I knew she needed a physical light source. OH NO, I was watching Being Human (the UK version) and a vampire was touching an old yellow light bulb riiiight when I must have been starting this.
You know, that just made me realize – maybe to get back into being productive I have to start turning on my creative eye when I’m out and about. Like when I’m watching TV or when I’m reading. I can’t remember the last time I did something “because I saw…”
Anyway, the purpose of this girl is supposed to be that she is ready and determined and she has already been through shit (okay, mud), but she’s still planted and she’s not moving yet. She’s bright with hope so much sometimes that it makes her want to fly but it also weighs her down (I literally just made that part up now, but yes).
She looks like she belongs in a whole world of light bulb fairies though; I wish I could do something with that but we’ll see.
Also her hair was SO great to do!

Art!, Emotia, Emotional Breakdowns, Original Characters


While reserving the right to repeatedly modify and re-upload this image tomorrow, I must say that I’m pretty damn proud of myself for this digital piece. I won’t jump in and say that it’s the fantastic piece I’m proud of so much that I DID IT and I FOLLOWED THROUGH on a piece that was digital from start to finish. I followed a concept, I sketched it out six million times rather than committing myself to a pose I don’t like but can’t get right because digital art is finnicky like that.

This is the first in the first attempt at a “series” I want to try based on complex feelings. This one is called Exhume.

It represents “Feeling What You Don’t Want” as in those moments when you’re gripped with jealousy or rage or disappointment and you desperately want to dispel every scrap of it from your body but it just won’t get out. And you hate yourself for it and you want to break yourself  to get rid of it but your heart’s still whole and as long as it’s there then the feeling won’t leave you till it chooses. You’re not about to cry and you’re not about to scream you’re just so concentrated, fruitlessly, on crushing that feeling.

I’m so excited about the concept behind it that I was willing to post this possibly prematurely. This took two really, really long sessions to figure out. I started it Saturday over like three hours, but basically all I had then was her figure and the mirror breaking. I had no idea how to color her (surprise!), and at that point I was still trying to dress her. But anything I tried to dress her in seemed to undermine the strength of her and so I used the “ink drip” idea I had but realized it could be skin-tone, and thus solved that problem. I also really like how the nude-colored and the red breaking lines go up into the background because suddenly it is a background and I didn’t need to fill it with pointless blurred shading or something. This thing is almost entirely cohesive (tying it up a little bit better I think is the only thing I’d do to it and repost for) and that’s just never happened digitally. I kinda wanna fix some of the colors but I didn’t want to sort through my 30-some layers tonight just to fix those couple spots that are way too lavender.

It reminds me a lot of this piece, which however old it was and however much it was based on Chevelle lyrics stands out as one of the most BAM concepts I’ve ever done in terms of emotionality and raw, visible feeling.


…Oddly I completely forgot that he’s held up on strings, but that makes this more related to my new piece because they’ve both got the really strong cut lines, and a bleeding heart haha.