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.

Personal Update: Still Working on Sleep

I did an overnight sleep study this week. It is very difficult to sleep with a mess of wires glued into your hair and wrapped around your torso, while an infra-red camera and a microphone record everything you do. I brought my computer with me, which was silly. I thought maybe I’d get some work done before sleeping, but I got neither work nor very much sleeping done. Still, it’s another step toward getting more restful sleep, hopefully.

I just finished reading Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. It’s an older book, obviously, but this was the first time for me, and I loved it. The audiobook is very worth getting, if that’s a format you enjoy. The narrator gave a great performance, and each character has such a distinct voice. That’s surely due to both Gaiman’s writing and the narration, but it makes for a great listening experience.

A black and white sketch of a spider.

Writing days this past week: 2