5 Ink Brush Paintings From My Sketchbook

I’ve begun the arduous frenzy of scanning my last sketchbook. The scanner yawns and shrieks as the images get slurped into the digital realm. I love to touch the pages, feel the bumps of the acrylic and gouges of quill pens, before each scan.

My entire home is filled with skulls. Fanciful depictions, not real ones. My husband has a “no corpses in the house” policy.

^ I can’t remember precisely why I drew this little rabbit boy, but I suspect it had something to do with my in-laws’ tradition of cycling through A Christmas Story repeatedly over the holidays.

Both “dodo” and “poop” are funny words.

Even sideshow carnies need nice home decor. Perhaps especially sideshow carnies.

We lost Gene Wilder this year. I had to take a moment to celebrate Willie Wonka. And the Oompa Loompas.

God love the Oompa Loompas.

Any suggestions for what to draw next?

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How I Handle Sketchbook Anxiety: 10 Tips

Sometimes, when I open my sketchbook, I feel a sense of dread. Do I deserve to be wasting this paper on my stupid doodles? Why is everything so ugly? Who is going to want to look at these?

Welcome to the world of Sketchbook Anxiety. It’s that thing where you slap your beautiful notebook — and your brain — shut and watch TV instead of doing the thing you love. Sometimes playing Candy Crush seems like a better alternative than failing at drawing.

Sketchbook Anxiety happens to everyone. Even people who are, like, super-good. I’ve met some. They talk about it, too.

I’ve come up with a list of things to do when Sketchbook Anxiety strikes! Let’s go:

1. If the niceness of your sketchbook is keeping you from using it, get a cheaper one. A cheap sketchbook you will actually use is better than an expensive sketchbook sitting idle. It’s a bunch of paper bound together. You can get another one at the store for under $20.  Sometimes it helps to have another sketchbook waiting in the wings so you can recognize how disposable they are.

2. Get over First Page Terror by writing a phrase there. Worried your first page will have a Bad Drawing? Don’t put a drawing there. I had a friend who wrote “I Invoke The Muse” on his first page. I tend to use that too. I also think “Here Goes Nothing” or perhaps “Strap In And Feel The G’s” might work nicely.

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3. Start a page with a closed-eyes left-handed scribble. Blank pages are daunting. Sometimes when I don’t know what to draw, I scribble for a bit in a lighter color, then “find” something in there. Whatever you draw on top of the scribble is going to be better than the scribble.

4. Ironically, limitations can be freeing. Picking a theme or medium at the beginning eliminates The Paradox of Choice. If you know this is your Ballpoint Pen journal, or your Watercolor journal, or your Collage journal, you won’t freeze up trying to figure out what to use. Or, if you’re using your journal to practice facial expressions, or draw landscapes, you already have a starting point for your next page.

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5. Drawing the same thing over and over again is okay. There might be certain things you like best. It’s okay to have a Thing. Georgia O’Keeffe liked flowers and bones. Frida Kahlo liked self-portraits. Andy Warhol had soup cans; Jasper Johns had bullseyes. Sometimes drawing the same motifs feels right.

6. Stuck? How about a little fanart? We won’t tell anyone what you’ve been watching. Doodle your favorite celebrity or a scene from a TV show. Do your own version of your favorite painting. The picture above left (page 102) references Season 2 of Penny Dreadful. Sometimes you’re expressing a grand, original vision — and sometimes you’re just doodling. You can fret about your magnum opus later.

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7. The drawings can totally crash into each other. Sometimes it works out. Like “Marcella,” above, wearing a mighty fine teacup hat.

8. A sketchbook is a fine place for stray lists and thoughts. The page above left (100) has a note “I went to the bathroom. Be right back!” When I look at that, I remember the nice guy in the coffee shop who agreed to keep an eye on my sketchbook while I was gone. (I live in a small town. It’s okay). The page below left (98) has a list of things I’ve been watching/reading so I’m not caught out when people ask.

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9. You don’t have to show everybody every page. Or any page. This page (below, 106) was a disaster. I was playing with a fountain pen — and ink dripped all over the place. Even before the ink spill, the page featured an anteater dragon and a guy with upside-down cats-eye glasses. This was never going to be a good page. If you want to pick and choose what you’re putting on your Instagram feed, that’s fine. Show yourself in your best light. Or don’t show anything at all. Nobody’s entitled to your sketchbook. 

10a. When you’re done, feel free to save your sketchbooks, light them on fire, or chop them up for future collages. Knowing that I’m going to wind up recycling my work into future collages makes me worry about the sketchbook itself less. I can snip out and reassemble the things that I like best. I can transfer the pages that work into one portfolio. If I want, I can just use my illustrations in a bonfire to heat up s’mores. That lazy attitude toward the sketchbook itself makes me freak out less about what to put down.

10b. However, for your own peace of mind, I do recommend photographing or scanning up the pages you like every once in a while. If you lose or destroy a sketchbook, you’ll always have the thoughts/ideas/shapes/inspiration on hand. It’s also nice to see how far you’ve come.

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A sketchbook is a great place to keep your life experiences, shapes, dreams, grocery lists, and more.

But it won’t work unless you open one up.

Sketchbook Pages from the National Museum of the American Indian

Imagine two kids on the playground: a hippie kid, and a big, mean kid in boat shoes named Chet.

The hippie kid is doing fine in school until Chet transfers in. Chet kicks the crap out of the hippie kid, kills his family, and lights his house on fire.

If you’re thinking Chet sounds unkind, welcome to American history. Take a seat. Chet does plenty more for hundreds of years.

The United States has apologetically carved out a space dedicated to the hippie kid. The National Museum of the American Indian is a smooth, striking building in muted tones that nestles in with the other Smithsonian museums on the National Mall. The exterior has no angles.

Native-American-Museum

I find its blobbiness appealing. I’m sure someone bitched about it, though. People always hate cool architecture.

Inside the museum, there are a variety of exhibits, including the Treaty exhibit, which details “the diplomacy, promises, and betrayals involved in two hundred years of treaty-making between the United States and Native Nations, as one side sought to own the riches of North America and the other struggled to hold on to its homelands and ways of life.”

The extensive sadness of the Treaty exhibit cannot be overstated.

However, there were also tons of exhibits that were charming. My favorites were the ones with artifacts.

I love artifacts. 

I could draw artifacts all day.

NA-Museum

 

My favorite artifacts are masks.

And my favorite masks were the Inti Raymi Festival masks (drawn on bottom right). They look just like Guy Fawkes masks. (Or, as my mom called them, “the masks those hackers use.”)

GuyFawkes

Going to one of these Peruvian festivals has just been placed onto my bucket list!

Overall, I recommend this museum. There is a tinge of sadness associated with it, due to the obvious; but the overall feeling is celebratory, historical, and hopeful.

Inside my Sketchbook: Terrifying Dali-Masked Male Ballerinas In Tutus

Want to see a performance that’s halfway between Cirque Du Soleil and the most fucked thing you’ve ever seen? Try La Verite!

It has all the Dali-masked ballerinas in tutus you could ever need. There are also people in giant rhino heads, enormous dandelions, trapeze artists, and a goddamn terrifying doll controlled by men in all black.

Lots of great nightmares to sketch.

Masks-On-Masks

Also on the drawing radar: the break room table. Sketching during lunch beats checking your email or Facebook (again).

Ugh, Facebook. I need a cleanse.

Break-Room-Doodles

In response to questions you probably didn’t have:

1. No, I’ve never had sriracha before yesterday. I get on board with everything too late.

2. The only exception to my Whole30 diet is one of Liz’s tiny cupcakes a week. She makes these itsy-bitsy, dainty cupcakes from scratch and brings them in every Friday. They are very special.

3. I absolutely make lists of the dogs I pet in the street. The giant brindled English bulldog was at the post office. The doofy, slightly-greasy pug was on the sidewalk by a tiny subterranean Korean restaurant.

4. The pens/inks used were Bent Nib Jinhao w/Japanese Beautyberry, Hero 9315 w/Visconti Bordeaux, a vintage Pelikano w/Pelikan turquoise, and a vintage Sheaffer w/Private Reserve Ebony Purple. I use a lot of vintage fountain pens because I keep snapping them up at thrifts, antiques shops, flea markets, etc. I clean them out and re-fill them with blunt-nib syringes. Here are a few on Instagram.

5. I really do have a friend named Jiggy. (She insists her Korean birth name is unpronounceable.) She sits next to me and eats the healthiest stuff imaginable so she can continue being (literally) the strongest woman I know.

Jiggy

I draw her lunches in the vain hope that some of that healthiness will rub off on me.

My fountain pens are basically tiny barbells, right?

… Right?

Two Old-School Nickelodeon Shows You Can Catch On YouTube

I spent a 3-hour car ride drawing this and filling it in with crayon.

SpaceCases

There’s not much to say about this piece of Space Cases fanart that my back tattoo hasn’t said already.

Did you know that you can watch the entire 26-episode-run of Space Cases on YouTube? I wasn’t even the one that put it there. (It seems like something I’d do, doesn’t it? But someone else made it happen.)

Speaking of Old School Nick, Are You Afraid Of The Dark is also available on YouTube. Which is great, because it disappeared from Amazon Prime. Viacom and Prime had a bit of a falling-out over reality TV, and I guess Dark got sucked into it.

What do these two shows have in common, aside from all those bomb-ass Canadian accents? Jewel Staite. Here she is on Dark. Here she is making the same mistake I constantly do. And here she is using pregnancy as an excuse to do her thang.

Yeah. Pregnant. She’s not ten any more. Why is it so surprising when child actors grow up?

Catalina-GrownUp

I see pictures like this ^ and I’m like “don’t let the Commander see that. You’ll be put in the brig or whatever the hell.”

I guess if I’m allowed to curse and have sex, Catalina can, too. We have all aged.

Next year it’ll be 20 years since Space Cases premiered. Maybe I should get another tattoo. Grown-ups like Jewel Staite and I are allowed to do that.