5 Books I’m Looking Forward To In 2018

2017 was a shitshow; but I firmly believe that 2018 is going to be My Year.

I don’t have any compelling reasons to believe this, but I do have a TBR (to-be-read) list, which is close enough.

Florida by Lauren Groff (June 5, 2018)
Groff has an electric writing style, and she turns her attention in this story collection to Florida. I loved Monsters of Templeton and Delicate Edible Birds. I hope this book is somewhere between that and Swamplandia!, another book set in Florida that I adored.

The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander (January 23, 2018)
An alternative history novel that integrates the Radium Girls and the death of Topsy the elephant at the hands of Edison? I’ll meet you there.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (January 9, 2018)
Four siblings meet a psychic that tells them the exact dates of their deaths. How does this influence their lives? Will they, in fact, die on those dates? The pre-reviews say this is a page-turner.

The Infinite Future by Tom Wirkus (January 16, 2018)
This story’s about an obsessive librarian, a down-at-heel author, and a disgraced historian who are trying to hunt down an elusive author and his final work. Apparently the second half of the book is the elusive work itself, which entwines with the main plot in clever ways.

The Sea Beast Takes A Lover: Stories by Michael Andreasen (February 27, 2018)
The title was enough for me. If you somehow require more, note that the stories allegedly include “mermaids, prophetic dancing bears, exploding children, and distraught time travelers.”

What’re you interested in reading in 2018?

5 Recent Disappointments

You know the old curse, “May you live in interesting times”?

I don’t live in interesting times. My life is a rutted out, comfortable road I can drive on autopilot most of the time. My life is, I daresay, savagely #blessed. I don’t have much to bitch about.

That said, I default to kvetching (complaining). I will find something to complain about. These 5, most recently.

Wendy’s has, once again, failed to bring back the Strawberry Fields salad. This year’s Summer Berry Salad doesn’t have bacon bits or onions in it. It is a lesser salad.

I had to dial back my caffeine intake.

My bladder was having these terrible spasms. I got tested for a UTI, and it came back negative. My doctor asked me how much caffeine I drank and was not pleased with my response. (I’m a tea reviewer, dammit.)

I cut most of the caffeine out, and I feel better. But I miss chugging tea all day. It really broke up the afternoon, especially.

The Lost City of Z was a great book. It was all about historical and contemporary quests for “Z,” a mysterious/mythical ancient civilization in the Amazon.

One of the main parts of the book focused on an explorer from the early 1900s who became obsessed with the concept. He kept going back to the murderous and gross jungle, and failing.

The movie Lost City of Z doesn’t incorporate any of the book except the story about the monomaniacal explorer. It’s two and a half hours of watching them pick their way through the jungle as their comrades die in different ways. They don’t find the damn city. How did it get 87% on Rotten Tomatoes?!

I was so hype to spot Disappearance at Devil’s Rock in the library. Tremblay’s previous novel, Head Full of Ghosts, was creepy as hell. Its ending was slightly open-ended, but intriguingly so. I was ready for something else from this author’s noggin.

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock was riveting, too. I churned through all several hundred pages of it in 24 hours flat.

The story is about a boy who disappears. The point of view moves from person to person involved with the case. You also get little nuggets of information from the disappeared boy’s diary, as pieces of it are found.

Each new bit of the puzzle was intriguing. There are hobo coins, rituals with Satan, spooky sightings, psychics, murders, mysteriously-appearing diary pages, and hints about doppelgangers and zombies.

Unfortunately, the bits of the puzzle never turned into a picture. They remained bits. There was nothing at the end of the story to tie it together. Some reviews online thought this was compelling. We, the readers, will never know what truly happened. But I’m the kind of person who wants to know what happened. I’m kind of pissed off.

I actually had trouble getting this list to 5. So this final item is a loser.

Nothing riveting came out of San Diego Comic Con this year. No huge revelations, jaw-dropping trailers, or promises of fascinating new projects.

It’s one of the first years I looked at the pictures/media coming out of it and thought “meh.”

Which, in a way, nice. The less FOMO the better.

5 Types of Horror Villains That Don’t Disappoint

The undead are notoriously difficult to manage. It’s why they’re such tempting subjects to explore creatively.

There are tons of horror movies — many depicting creatures from other worlds, but most focusing on our own dead, back to harm us.

The sad thing about all these movies is that most of them are fucking terrible.

Read More 5 Types of Horror Villains That Don’t Disappoint

5-Step Drawing Walkthrough!

Today is many things: Daniel Boone Day, National Chocolate Ice Cream Day, and National VCR Day.

It is also the day I got around to a walk-through of the illustration below.

 

^ Here’s the final drawing. Click to make it bigger.

If you’re interested in reading and playing along, grab some paper, ballpoints, cheap watercolors, crayons/colored pencils, a Sharpie, and white acrylic paint.

Or you can just read, which is totally easier and involves practically zero effort. It’s what I typically do with other people’s tutorials. I toss cool ideas in the junk drawer of my skull. (Sometimes they even find their way back out.)

Here we go.

^ Optional prep work: Find a reference. You can draw from your imagination if you want, but I often use Flickr Commons (copyright-free images), Sktchy (a phone app, more info here), or Reddit Gets Drawn for starting points.

^ 1. Ballpoint. I used the girl’s face as a reference. Once I was done with the face, the page felt empty, so I drew some other crap. A Minnie Mouse thing happened.

^ 2. Watercolor. I used the source portrait to choose face colors. Afterward, I tried to carry those colors into the rest of the page.

I use a cheap-ass palette like this. It’s quick, easy, and under $5. I guess if I ever grow up, I’ll use the nice ones people have given me.

^ 3. Highlights & lowlights. The watercolor mushed everything into a mid-tone. I added white acrylic touches for highlights. A permanent marker delineated the blackest areas.

^ 4. Screw around. I felt like I needed to make the image more “interesting.” Sometimes doing this irrevocably fucks everything up.

I tried some color-changing crayons I bought on a whim at Target, and they were total trash. They were too waxy and kept snapping. They are dead to me now. After abandoning those crayons, I switched to tri-tone colored pencils my brother got me. They’re a million times better.

You can use anything you want for this part, or skip it altogether.

 ^ 5. Final touches. I went back in with white acrylic and dialed the background back. The “hero” of the piece was mouse-girl, not all that psychedelic dicking around.

You could argue that doing all that work in the background, then painting over it, is pointless. However, I think that the light variation in the background makes it much more interesting than just nothingness.

In Photoshop, I touched up the dark spots in the dress and on her cheek. They’re two small area tweaks, but this isn’t quite the drawing in my physical sketchbook. (See digression below).

I also made the image square so it’d turn out correctly in Instagram and back in Sktchy. (Gotta share it, especially with the girl who was the source material!)

Done!

Thanks for following along! Feel free to join me for a discussion below.

And now for a digression: Is Photoshop “cheating”? Should drawings be presented online exactly as they are in real life? Is the drawing I’ve presented here a “lie”?

When I was in college, a professor told us that our work would be seen online 99% of the time.

Most people are going to catch your latest creations on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, whatever. They’re never going to know you flubbed that line or fucked over your color scheme unless you tell them. The original work can be like me in middle school — untouched, unseen, unneeded. (I went through a really prolonged Ugly Duckling stage.)

I think that the most important thing is to show everyone whatever your vision is. If your materials or your hands betray you, that shouldn’t stop you from expression. So sure, fix those colors. Erase bits. Rearrange things. Split it apart and smash it back together. You aren’t entering the “I Did This By Hand And No Photoshop Came Into Play” contest.

Or are you? If so, ignore this part, you Cheaty McCheat-Pants. You’re a horrid person.

5 Portraits I Made Once I Started Drawing Again

I stopped drawing for a while.

My after-work time became half-watching TV while absently scrolling through the Internet.

I didn’t even want to draw. I thought things like:

What’s the point of creativity? Who’s benefiting from this? Am I really contributing anything to the world by bothering?

Was I just telling myself that I was “creative” to fill up the emptiness from a childhood spent memorizing my ceiling’s texture instead of going outside?

Was “creativity” a consolation prize for failing in every single other way?

What if I wasn’t even that good?

What if I was the William Hung of drawing?

Sounds like depression, right?

So I did all the things you’re supposed to do:

I reconfigured the way I ate. I took up exercising almost every day before work. I touched up my wardrobe. I lost 15 pounds.

My sketchbooks lay empty. My blog collected dust.

If I wasn’t “creative,” who was I?

The situation was turning into a sloppy existential crisis.

Time for medical intervention.

My doctor recommended taking a class. He knew that: 1) I tend to do things I’ve paid for, and 2) I can’t resist an academic challenge. I’d follow through.

Sketchbook Skool seemed like a great alternative to taking a class in real life. I like Danny Gregory’s blog, so signing up for one of his classes sounded pretty good.

I was so rusty, and busy with all that exercise, that I’m still not quite done with the class (even though it’s technically been over for a while), but it did get me rolling again. Drawing. Painting. Exploring zines. (I still haven’t made one, but I have some ideas.) Playing.

It’s nice, and I hope it sticks around.