The Writer Who Also Paints

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I find no shame in the phrase “Jack of All Trades.” While it would be nice to be a master at something (not including my master’s degree here), I much prefer variety in my daily life. I am guilty of stretching myself too thin at times, though – too many interests can be stressful. When this happens, I face one of two options:

  1. Stress myself out until I do nothing at all
  2. Temporarily give everything else up to hyper-focus on one interest

I found myself in this spot last summer, when I decided to start painting with acrylics. While I had drawn since I was young, the permanency of paint had always scared me. I signed up for a summer class with a local community college, bought some basic supplies and consumed as much beginner painting media that I could find. Ultimately, I found the most helpful strategy was to just paint. Practice makes perfect, right? And while my painting teacher was talented and nice, she spent much more time chatting to students that were her old friends than she did actually offering guidance. I found myself dropping out halfway through the course.

After I dropped out, I painted even more. I gave myself major incentive, a big goal to both motivate me to keep going and to give me an almost unnoticeable yet large amount of practice. I contacted a friend who was running a small Digimon-themed convention at the end of that summer. I asked him if I were able to complete fifty Digimon-themed paintings by that time, could I sell them at his con? He fortunately gave me an enthusiastic yes, which is the story of how I completed forty paintings in about forty days.

Man, did I learn a ton about painting during that time! I still have plenty to learn, but during this time I learned how to take care of my paints and brushes, blend colors, match colors, and create depth. These were primarily portraits, but some were more complex. The sizes ranged from 6×6 canvas board to 12×18 canvas.

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By the end of August I had a table’s worth of work to sell at the Digimon event. It was a pretty amazing experience, because I got to talk to fellow Digimon fans, more experienced artists and vendors, and I made my first sales!

I’m painting significantly less at the present time, but when I do I am experimenting more, working on originals. I still have some of the those Digimon paintings…in fact, the main ones that didn’t sell were the big canvas ones, which take up a lot of space in my little apartment! One of my goals is to clear these out soon. I’ve posted some for sale on my Facebook page and my Etsy, though I don’t yet know how to maximize my use of either.

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On my painting To-Do list this week is to finish my first ever commission, a Gundam bust. As I’ve actively avoided painting more mechanical things in the past, this was an interesting challenge. In a time where I am scrambling for supplemental income, one of my aims to to challenge myself even more: first, by selling more of my work/commissions, second, by expanding my abilities and range.

  • Current drink: knock-off lemon-flavored LaCroix
  • Current book: A Guide to Being Born by Ramona Ausubel
  • Current audio book: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Current music: Natalia y La Forquetina – Casa

What Makes Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans so Great?

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I just finished the latest episode of Iron-Blood Orphans and it left me as breathless as most of the series has, even though there was barely any action. It also left me wondering what makes IBO so special compared to recent Gundam shows. I haven’t been interested in most of the non-UC era series that have come out in the past decade. This isn’t out of a sense of Universal Century elitism – I enjoyed all of the non-UC series I’ve watched from the 1990s. I will always have a soft spot for G-Gundam, and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of X and Wing (two shows I still need to finish). Build Fighters is an admittedly fun time and I own a disturbing amount of gunpla from Build Fighters Try. The only other recent one I kind of liked was Gundam 00 – but I found myself liking the characters way more than the plot and lackluster pacing.

I thought that G-Reco would be the series that finally got me hyped for a new episode every week, but that, uh, definitely did not turn out as planned. But I knew from the first time that I heard the heart-breaking “Orphans Namida” theme that this was the new Gundam series I had been waiting for. Below are a few of the main reasons why I love IBO so much.

 

(There are some spoilers ahead for both seasons one and two.)

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Writing Intentionally Bad Literature

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Source: pixabay

I am the lead singer in a band that primarily performs covers of our favorite weird songs from the 70s to the early 00s. However, we are working on building a catalog of originals. In the past year we have only completed two songs and have the beginnings of two others. I’ve provided absolutely zero lyrics. I’ve never written a song in my life and when I sit down with the band (all musicians with more experience than me) I clam up, only able to hum along to the rhythm of the guitars.

Last week we were at an open mic when my lead guitarist, a bit loosened up by alcohol, said to me, “I don’t understand how someone like you can have such a way with words but can’t write lyrics.” We whittled down the possible reasons for this to two:

  1. I had never written with a group of people before
  2. Even on my own, my anxiety and self-doubt make me crush every lyric idea I have

He offered a solution: “Let’s sit together with the band and some beers and write some really bad songs. Like, intentionally awful garbage. Once that’s out of our systems, we can try taking the process more seriously.”

We haven’t tried this yet, but I think that it is a brilliant idea, so much that I am applying it to my fiction writing. Right now, in a period of stress, mourning, financial struggle and self-doubt, I am taking a break and writing a bad novel.

When I say bad, I mean so awful that I am typing it in Comic Sans. Within a half hour I outlined a few characters and three rough acts. There is currently no resolution. The plot itself is the equivalent of taking features of the worst Adult Swim live action shows you’ve ever watched and mixing them in a grab bag with a bunch of Harlequin novel tropes. Much of it is free-writing and rambling squished into a semblance of a plot. And I love it. It is my baby, and I’ll probably finish the rough draft by the end of the month, if not sooner.

I have written intentionally bad pieces before: for fun, mainly, and sometimes to show my displeasure with a classroom writing assignment. Most have been short stories or poems. These were also unintentionally good exercises in free-writing, especially with poetry. I was able to get all the cliches and bad rhymes out of my head before writing something more creative and substantial. This novel is a bit different; while I think that it will have a similar cobweb-clearing effect, it is also making me happy. I am writing an intensely personal yet goofy mess, and it feels quite special to me.

After this experience, I will never dismiss the therapeutic value of writing intentionally bad work. I may not finish other personal writing projects this month, but I’ll have a complete novel that should be as fun to read as it is to write.

Happy Birthday & Rest in Beats: Nujabes

Influential DJ and hip-hop producer Nujabes (real name Jun Seba) was a force of nature. His music calms me on my worst days and stokes my creativity on my best days. While he passed away in 2010, his music and his impact live on. Mindful Music on YouTube has posted this great Nujabes tribute mix to celebrate what would have been his 43rd birthday – today, February 7th. I’ll probably be listening to it for the rest of the day, if not all week.

 

  • Current drink: Cold brew coffee
  • Current book: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
  • Current audio book: On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee
  • Current music: (see video above!)

Strange Inspirations: Opentopia

In my last post about writing, I discussed how I get inspired through music. I forgot to note that most of the music that I listed were posted on YouTube, SoundCloud, and 8tracks. Honestly, I wouldn’t have written most of my recent fiction if it weren’t for odd indie music I’ve found online.

The Internet is a huge influence on my work. It is both a second world and a gateway to parts of the real world that I may never actually see in my lifetime. I am a traveler at heart but not by trade: I have never left my home country, and I’ve only visited a few different states. While I plan to change this in the near future, I simply do not have the money to travel. In the meantime, I enjoy some of the amazing tours on Google Maps, as well as a more unusual site, Opentopia.

I encountered Opentopia for the first time a couple years ago. My first reaction was to ask myself, “Is this legal?” There answers are multiple answers to this question, which include “yes” and “it depends.” As their About page explains, they utilize a “variety of clever search techniques to find new cameras.” All webcams on the site are unsecured; this typically means that they have no password or a factory-default password. Many of the streams are from public places that willingly share their webcams with the world. These range from zoo-cams to beautiful views of the ocean. Several are considered “semi-public” – for example, businesses or a resorts. These streams straddle the legality line. Public and private university campuses both have a surprising (or troubling, depending on how you look at it) amount of unsecured live streams, mainly covering quads and cafeterias.

The creepiest streams on Opentopia are unsecured cams in a private home. Most of the time, the inhabitants are completely unaware that people are watching them. This has horrific implications, especially for homes that may have a security camera in their child’s room. I avoid these streams like the plague, with one exception – an infamous case in which the home’s inhabitant wants people to watch her: Chip-chan, a South Korean woman discovered by 4chan years ago. The mystery and online history that surround her are intriguing, but it has also reached the point that a great amount of people (sometimes including me) check out her webcam just to make sure that she’s okay.

How does Opentopia inspire me? The same way that documentaries and Google Maps Treks do: by giving me an intimate view of parts of the world that I’ve never seen! It doesn’t totally compare to actually visiting those places – I cannot experiences the smells, tastes, and sounds – but there’s a special feeling about seeing a different place in real time.

It also serves as a bizarre but accurate reference for settings. For example, if I need to, I can find a South Korean live fish market, the US-Mexico border, a bar in Spain, or a village in Norway. I’ve been inspired by the Monkey Walk at Kanbanotaki Natural Park and the Neumayer Station in Antarctica. Privacy in a digital world is an interesting challenge to tackle; this, along with web-infamous streams like Chip-chan, offer excellent real-world inspirations for sci-fi (and arguably reality-based) fiction.

If you feel weird about watching something (or someone!) in real time on the other end of the world, maybe Google’s interactive treks would be a better choice, like this tour of Venice. It may be strange, but I believe that nearly any resource can be valuable for a writer.