Welcome back from the dead, dear blog. You’ve been neglected for months and months, littered with spam and viruses, and have somehow survived me deleting you from my website database unscathed. For your perseverance, I decided to clean up the spam and continue writing (I was initially going to just start over again, like the last 3 times I’ve deleted blogs).
I’m in second year now, a month away from finishing this semester. Some things that are different since the last time I’ve written in (for? on?) you:
I was a Huge (head engineering orientation leader) for Waterloo’s 2015 o-week
I got standard first aid and CPR-C certified by the Red Cross
I had to do first aid for the first time
I’m growing out my bleached to death blonde hair (I have at least 3 inches of black now!)
I’m living in this cool house on stilts with 14 other people
I got a job offer in Singapore (!!!!!!)
The last point is what spurred me to revive you from the dead, as I have some requests to blog about my experience in Singapore, and I think blogging would be a great way to record the experience. So until then, please try not to attract more hackers.
Tonight I woke with the unshakable feeling of being utterly, completely alone. 3am and wide-eyed, staring through thick dark at the shadowy forms of my walls and ceiling. Alone, always alone, with friends, with family, but alone: a shallow void of a heart and a loose thread. Spider silk floating, blown by imperceptible wind in a still room.
Human obsession with the beyond, space, extraterrestrial life: ‘is this it? are we really alone?’
The history of mankind driven by daddy issues:god, the universe’s diaper changer, ‘save us please! save your children!’
one person with a thousand hearts, a billion people with a thousand hearts, what will i do? what can i do?
the grown woman’s cry, the cry of middle age and the priviledge of sure survival: ‘..i just thought there would be more…’
and of course the trauma of transition, change, thrust into endless phases of ‘i didn’t want this, i never asked for this’, seduced by the illusion of choice
ground meat on conveyor belts: destination garbage, mass production of dreams cut short
For most of my life, I tied my value directly to my accomplishments and skills. If I was bad at something, produced sub-par work, or if someone was more talented, smart, or skilled than me, it would mean that I was useless. It’d mean I was less of a human being, and I would feel the heavy weight of shame and self-loathing around my neck. But now I realize there is a “me” under the things I can do, and that she is just as valuable. I can be a good person, I can be a strong person, and that is regardless of the work I produce.
I was thinking about why a mindset such as this would emerge, and I think it has to do with compliments. I’ve had a life full of:
You’re so smart
You’re so talented
You’re so good at
But rarely were there:
And it may be that perhaps I was none of those things when I was younger, and little me was just a big ol’ bitch. But by always receiving positive feedback about mostly my skills, I think in my mind it became, “does that mean people only like being around me because of my talents? Because of my abilities?” And then: Is my only worth to this world my work? Will I be shunned without it?
That would explain the extreme sense of shame I’d feel if I had done poorly on something. If I did bad work or got bad marks, I’d feel suddenly very shy, as if I wasn’t worth being around my friends and peers anymore. I still feel that way to an extent… I don’t know how I’d have coped if I hadn’t done well in studio this term. Would I have broken down?
Recently though, I’ve started to actually like the person I am under it all. My friends tell me I’m a comfort to them, and that I’m honest, strong. And I’m starting to see it too, and I feel like I can be happy with myself. Obviously I still have much I can improve on, I’m a lot more considerate and thoughtful of others than before, but I also have a child’s ego to get over. Thinking is one thing, and then putting that knowledge into action is a whole other hurdle. I want to be able to freely admit that I’m wrong when I make mistakes, without feeling as though I’m throwing myself off a small cliff.
Even now, it seems as though people are attracted to me because of my skills, which I suppose is only natural. I guess my worry is that they’ll find there’s no reason to stay. My response to that fear will be a proactive one though! I’ll just keep bettering myself as a person, and I know the trepidation will settle.
So sometime while working on my final project for studio early December-ish, I thought, “Hmm, I should paint something after this term is over.” More specifically I thought I should paint something as a sort of wrap up for the term, and as I sat at my very messy studio desk, I decided to paint that as all the various paraphernalia I’d gathered pretty much summarized the term for me. I also decided to make it a self portrait because my art is self-indulgent, (and because I think all art is self-portraiture, just in varying degrees of bluntness). I turned to Jeff, who sits behind me, pitched my idea and requested his assistance in taking some reference pictures.
(also) How I test out compositions.
The above is my attempt at conveying what I was picturing in my head, to go alongside my verbal description to Jeff. It probably looks like indiscernible chicken scratch, but that’s how most of my paintings start! The first rectangle is supposed to be a person in the lower left corner, slumped over a drafting board, hands reaching towards a scale. The second rectangle is the same person again, just zoomed in so most of the composition is the person. The third rectangle is zoomed out so that you can see the desk lamp overhead. I’m really great at drawing, I know.. LOL
A couple days later, during a long night at studio, I got Jeff to help me take the reference photos. He so graciously stood on a chair and took pics over my desk to help, and he even stood on top of the desk across from mine in the other row to get a birds eye view.
And then after getting through all the final projects, surviving on copious amounts of salad, granola bars, and take out, I finally made it back home on the 19th, and promptly started the painting.
With my trusty Pilot MR (must be with fine nib!)
First, using a mix of the reference photos, I did a little sketch of what I wanted to plot out on the canvas. None of them actually had a proper side profile of my face, but I’ve seen enough of my face in these 18 years to be able to paint it. I was going to do an acrylic underpainting and then do oil on top originally, but I got lazy and just finished in acrylic. As usual, I never use black (the darkest colour is always a mix of pthalo/prussian blue and raw umber), and I don’t do pencil outlines first either.
^My painting setup… Some of the reference photos on my laptop, acrylics, a jar of water, and 3 brushes.
^Started with just using raw umber for the underpainting. It’s mostly to get some values down so I can see the contrasts better. Also good because the more the canvas is covered, the less you have to go back in and fill in the tiny empty spots with no paint at the end.
^I like to paint the same way I sculpt, which is to say I put down a rough layer of colour first (similar to throwing down some clay), then I go from larger masses to smaller details, working my way through. So it starts out additive, then becomes kind of like a subtractive process, carving in details with paint instead of a hand tool.
^Sometime between this step and the next, I realized I wasn’t gonna go over top with oils. I already had the acrylics out, and washing brushes and dealing with linseed oil everywhere wasn’t sounding too appealing. I say I hate acrylics but at this point I wonder if it’s mostly because I’m so used to saying it! I’ve done a bunch of acrylic paintings recently and I think I’m starting to get used to how gross, unpigmented, and shallow feeling it is compared to oil. It’s actually pretty convenient, the quick drying times are a double edged sword though.
^It’s so fun painting! I derive so much satisfaction from colour usage that I’m happy with.
And the finished painting is below!
I think it sums up my term really well, with sleep deprivation and all 🙂 Might do a post explaining all the items/details in the painting next!
I’ve been feeling incredibly inspired recently… it’s a happily pensive kind of mood. Like the world is bright, whole, clear, and is charged with possibility. I typically live through alternating states of focus and lucidity– from feeling a visceral attachment to the earth, to feeling as though I’m floating somewhere above reality and my physical body. Around summer time, I felt as though I was in a strange period of dream-like incubation, so unaware and dazed. And now it feels kinda like I’ve woken from a long sleep, that the sleepy grit of film has been removed from my eyes, and now I can see so much beauty again. The last time I felt like this was probably December 2012-ish, and I know I definitely get a bit ridiculous when I’m in this kind of mood because I posted this to facebook:
But whatever! The obviously ideal state is the one of happy lucidity and engagement LOL. I like feeling alive, so I’ll do so unapologetically!
So yeah, recently the world has seemed so clear and beautiful to me, and after a string of beautiful sunsets and sunrises, it was as if the sky kept managing to match my mood. Which made me want to paint it, and so I did. These were all done in studio on little gallery style canvases I bought from Dollarama. They were painted from a mixture of photos taken from my cellphone, and from my imagination (I don’t really like just directly copying photos, it’s kinda like… what’s the point? haha). They were also painted with only 4 colours, titanium white, ultramarine blue, cadmium red, and cadmium yellow!
I really, really hate acrylic paint with a passion, it’s so shallow and thin compared to the richness of oil. But since I don’t want to deal with the mess of oil paint at school, they had to do. The limited colour palette is because I didn’t bring many colours, but mostly because mixing without both warm and cold versions of the primaries is a fun challenge. It’s like how I don’t use pencil when I sketch and go straight to pen, I feel like by challenging myself by making things harder, I grow more.
Each of them took roughly 1.5 hours 🙂
Sun, Moon, & Stars
After painting them it was interesting to see which ones my classmates liked better! It seems their preferences went in line with their personalities.
I finished my last exam/final project yesterday, so winter break has officially started for me. Hopefully I’ll get couple more substantial paintings out before the next term starts.
No one is going to do what you love for you. Paint like you mean it, play like you mean it, learn like you mean it, and live like you mean it. To be idle is to commit a huge disservice to yourself — the time you are wasting is your own.
(I want to live truly, genuinely, and whole heartedly.)