More Quarantine Sketches

A wild rabbit has eaten some of my broccoli plants, which is very rude, but everything I’ve learned over the years tells me that rudeness is standard for rabbits. In spite of this setback, I’m still focusing a lot on the garden, and I’ve managed to keep up more exercise this week, which is probably helping with my overall mood.¬†I’ve also started reading another Alma Katsu book, since I really enjoyed The Hunger. Besides, who doesn’t need a little additional horror in their life right now? The Deep seems pretty good so far.

Anyway, stay at home, take care of each other from a distance, and please enjoy these weird sketches.

IMG_20200402_210836_080.jpg
This is the look I get from my bunny whenever I walk into the room after hearing a random crash. He definitely didn’t do anything.
IMG_20200403_141247_565.jpg
Earthworm, moth, springtail, common garden snail, and woodlouse (isopod) sketches. These are all critters I’ve found around my yard over the past few months.

Coping Sketches

I’m not doing super awesome with this whole pandemic thing, honestly. I think we should cancel it.

I’m super scatterbrained and just keep forgetting what day it is and what I need to be working on, to the point that my blog post didn’t get written on Thursday or Friday, and then I kinda felt like it didn’t matter in comparison to everything else, but it does matter to me, so I’m writing it now.

I think I’m going to try to do a sketch a day for a while, because that was pretty fun in October, and it seems like a good way to get my mind off the wildly stressful stuff that’s going on right now. Today, I drew a Chinese mantis that I met quite a few years ago. She had wandered into my garden and was quite charming and friendly. This introduced species is very common in the US, and is even sold in garden stores for pest control.

IMG_20200401_192606_145.jpg

A pen and ink sketch of a Chinese mantis.

Steller’s Jay Drawing

My office window looks right out on the tree that holds our bird feeder, so when I’m working I also get to watch the little house finches and juncos squabble and flit around. They’re all really cute, but these jays are probably my favorite birds that visit the yard. They’re all attitude and their little crests are just excellent. Plus, they sound like angry robots when they yell, which is very endearing.

A pen and ink drawing of a steller’s jay sitting on a thin pine branch

Inktober Sketches

For those who don’t know, inktober is an event where people try to finish at least one pen and ink sketch every day in October. I didn’t get a sketch done every single day, but I aimed for most days and didn’t stress about it. Here are the ones I deem decent and complete enough for sharing.

Since I knew I was gonna miss days anyway, I focused more on picking a variety of subjects, including some things I hadn’t really done before, like the ferns and the leaf insect. It was fun, and I’m glad I stuck with it!

Corydoras hastatus (a type of mini catfish) sketch
A baby California slender salamander in pen and ink
Fuchsia flower and bud
Some different types of fern. Maidenhair on top, bracken fern, and then sword fern on the bottom
A cute squid I saw at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
A sketch of my sister’s bunny from when we were kids. Her name was Cloudy, because children do stuff like that.
A little rooster I met a while ago at the heirloom festival
A juvenile male black widow that I found last time I was in California.
A cool leaf insect that I had for a while. Halloween seemed as good a time as any for some cute creepy crawlies.

When Fixing Becomes Fussing

Here’s an important creative lesson that I learned a long time ago but still often forget: Drop your pen the second that applying the finishing touches turns into fussing.

Contrary to what this portrait of him implies, my bun buddy Frodo is a fairly light sandy brown. This must be his goth persona. I got mad about the proportions of his head and couldn’t let it go, and the more I worked to try and fix it, the more definition got lost in all the shading. I don’t hate it, but I do think it was better before I tried to fix it.

This probably applies to just about every creative endeavor, although not all art forms are so mercilessly devoid of delete keys. Part of what I love about pen and ink drawing is that, no matter what happens, there’s no going back. You can only move forward or stop. It’s the knowing when to stop part that can sometimes be a challenge. Or, actually stopping when you know you should, which is more often the case for me. I can usually feel the moment when I start fussing, but sometimes I lie to myself about how if I just darken a few shadows and add a few extra details it’ll be even more finished than it is now.

I am almost always wrong. Once a thing is finished, fussing usually doesn’t make it better. It’s as good as it will be. Maybe it’s as good as it should be.

I don’t know how to define the line between editing and fussing, but I’m certain that a lot more cool art and stories would reach the outside world if there was some sort of magic invisible hand that slapped the pens out of our hands whenever we crossed it.

A pen and ink sketch of a rabbit. There’s a lot of crosshatching. It looks kinda fierce, for a rabbit. That’s probably appropriate, since this particular rabbit just punched my dog for looking at him funny and then tried to eat my sketchbook.

Chameleons Really Belong in Sci-Fi

Drawing this reminded me of how weird they are, and how much they really don’t seem like they belong in the real world. If I had never heard of them and someone described a chameleon to me, I’d probably call bullshit.

Their fingers are fused to form perfect little tree-grabbing pinchers. They change color according to their mood. (Not to blend in to their environment, as is commonly believed. This one was almost perfectly¬†millennial pink when I met him, and that’s not exactly a common shade in their natural habitat.) Their eyes bug out from their heads and swivel around independently from each other. Their tails function like a fifth limb. Some of them have straight-up Triceratops horns. They can shoot their tongues out to grab food as it goes about its business a foot or more away from what would have been the danger zone for a normal lizard. They’re basically just cute, grumpy little aliens.

A sketch of a juvenile panther chameleon in pen and ink

Because I’ve worked in reptile stores, I also need to add that they’re high maintenance creatures and you should not go out and buy your own grumpy little alien unless you’re very prepared to spend a decent chunk of money on proper lighting and a large, well-ventilated enclosure. They don’t even like to be held, generally, and picking them up without a great deal of care can break their ribs. They’re strictly display aliens, not cuddly pets.

A Quick Visit and Some Very Cute Chickens

I visited my family in California this week and had a nice time. My grandma is almost ninety one, and has been losing some of her memory, so I’m trying to spend more time down there. Her memories are important, and I want to take some of them on when I can.

That means flying, which I’m generally not a fan of, but it’s more efficient than spending the better part of four days driving down to the Bay Area and back. Seeing my family is worth it, though, and having my ADHD under better control means that getting to flights on time and handling the bustle of a chaotic airport is less intimidating than it used to be. It also makes it easier to plan ahead to take my anti-nausea meds in time, because, oh boy, does flying play merry havoc with my inner ear.

While I was there, I also got my meet the newest batch of miniature chickens in my friend’s backyard farm. They’re only about a week old, or they were when I met them, but they’re also seramas, a breed of chicken that don’t typically get much bigger than large pigeons as adults. Their babies are impossibly tiny and adorable.

A little sketch of one of her hens watching over the babies while they practiced their very important pecking skills.
One of the serama mamas giving me a good eyeballing for being near the chicks. Her hens tend to sit on their eggs in pairs, so the chicks always have two mamas to watch over them.
This chick seemed mostly okay with being held. They’re so soft!
The yellow chick had some rather loud objections to me holding her, so I returned her to her little family pretty quickly. She’s still totally my favorite of this clutch.