Diary of an Art Block

    I wanted to start off by saying thank you to the 336 subscribers to my blog. That’s more readers than I ever hoped to have, ever, and I’ve only had this up and running since August. That is extremely encouraging and makes me want to work my arse off making this site as interesting as possible.

Of course by the time I get this artwork done last night I get another subscriber first thing this morning. You are not forgotten 337! You all rock. I hope you have a Merry Christmas and amazing New Year. 

    This post is going to be a little long so grab a drink and a snack and lets get on with it. 

Art Block Freakin' Sucks

    Art blocks can come on for a whole host of reasons. For me personally, anxiety and depression are the usual culprits. This time though, I had some major fatigue that washed over me last Feb/Mar and just wasn’t letting up. It had been bugging me off and on for a couple of years. I always kinda wrote it off as having 3 kids at home 5 y/o and under- of course I’m tired! Not like this though, and whatever was going on with me, it was sending my anxiety through the roof.

   Through this experience, I managed to keep sketchbooking, at least some of the time. I was being pretty damn stubborn about not wanting to lose all of the hard work and money I had invested in art supplies and online art lessons. Seemed a waste to get frustrated and give it up (again). 

   I thought it might be interesting to make a post, showing my sketchbook work during this period. Kind of a demonstration of how stress, lack of motivation/energy, medication struggles etc. can affect work- making quality suffer or even grinding productivity to a halt.  

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Ok, so let’s back this all the way up to last July. My anxiety meds got upped- a lot, turning me into a neurotic zombie. When I could manage to force myself to draw something I couldn’t seem to summon the required brain power to judge angles, gradations of color or value, or line quality.

Before medication increase.
After medication increase.

   So I go back to my regular dosage, and things pretty much go back to me being my edgy cantankerous self. Arting continues as usual. I start making plans to work on my comic. During this time I take a sleep study to try to figure out why I am always exhausted.

    I do all kinds of little character doodles for my comic. When it comes right down to the final outcome I find it lacking. It needs punch. I needs marks and hatching and grit. All of these things I love to see in other peoples’ work, but when I try to do it….

I do fine until I start working on those areas of shadow, then it all goes to hell. My hatching skills lack a lot to be desired, so I end up going the other way and doing everything in washes, which generally looks, well, boring. 

   So this is the part where I  really start struggling with the block. Things aren’t going as planned and I’m really not sure where to go from here. All I know is I can’t ink to save my life and I really need to get a grip on it.  At least this time I decide to formulate a plan  of action instead of throwing in the towel. So I gather up a pile of comic books and art books of my favorite artists and start  copying their work as a study. 

So I’m having fun copying some work by Ashley Wood….

 

 

 

 

 

and some Jason Shawn Alexander….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

more Jason Shawn Alexander

   Alright, so I like Jason Shawn Alexander! Empty Zone kicks ass. 

    This basically keeps me pretty busy through most of September. I’m playing with some new brushes. I  found I really like Chinese calligraphy brushes. I’m getting more used to the stark look of black ink on white paper. I’m really trying hard to be ok with hatching and cross hatching- on faces especially. All this is going pretty well, except my anxiety is at crisis level for some reason. I started having panic attacks at the end of August and had several a week through September. I went back to see my shrink and they upped my meds again, but not as much. Things were seeming a little better. I was in better spirits and hyped about Inktober.

    The first week of Inktober was awesome! Despite the benefits of doing copywork, I really like to work on my own stuff. So for Inktober I wanted to take some of the things I learned in September and do some experimenting on my own work.

 

 

 

 

Jon Crosby of VAST

   

 

 

 

 

We lost a couple of icons. Tom Petty…

 

 

 

 

 

and Playboy mogul, Hugh Hefner.

    Then I wanted to work on my horror movies prompt list-

It
Nancy - The Craft

    Then my medication started catching up with me. Slowly I started getting this creeping “not give a shit” feeling. Again I got this weird can’t draw, or assess. I don’t even know what happens, or how that works. All I know is my work starts looking flat and fuzzy, totally lacking in detail and I can’t seem to fix it. Really I don’t even have the patience to fix it. It’s just weird. 

Silent Hill
Return of the Living Dead

So I go a few more days making other, ever increasingly disappointing sketches. I start painting them out with black gouache. A couple pages I go back and paint over with skulls. Yes, skulls. My bestest friends. When all else fails draw skulls!

Gouache
Ink

    Then my skulls start looking kinda meh….(and BTW what the hell is wrong with that crow!?)

By this point I am pretty frustrated. This art block really is becoming a thing and it is freakin’ winning. My general attitude about this…

Fuck a duck!

    Hi ho, hi ho, back to my shrink I go! Ok this meds thing is not working. Oh and btw, early in October I got a result from my sleep study – major obstructive sleep apnea. The good thing is they think they can fix me up with the aid of a CPAP machine (sexy!). But I have to wait 6 weeks to get the machine (crap!) People with anxiety and depression can often reduce or go of their meds. Armed with this info/ coupled with the fact that both of the meds I take contribute to sleep apnea, my shrink took the logical (radical!) step of taking me off my meds. I felt a kind of relief coupled with fear. I mean my anxiety is extreme with meds, so who knows what’s going to happen now. And the weaning off process begins….

    Well, first things first, I had to give up my sleep meds cold turkey. Not that I have an addiction problem with them, but without my sleep meds my other meds keep me awake all the time. Those meds I have to taper off  of.

    I revert back to copying from comic books. Black Monday Murders to be exact. I don’t have to think too hard about what to draw or where the ink is supposed to go. 

   I troop on for another week or so doing this. I don’t draw every day because I am pretty freakin’ tired by now. I’m glad when I can finally stop all the meds because I really want to be able to sleep. The sooner I’m off, the sooner they are out of my system. Careful what you wish for.  Now the real fun begins because there was an ugly withdrawal phase. Massive fatigue (yes it is possible to be even more tired when you are already exhausted!) and in my waking hours (sleeping 12-16 hours a day now) my moods are BLACK. 

   

 

At this point I can’t even focus anymore. I don’t draw most days. Then I feel really guilty about it. It feels like I’m giving up. Every few days i try to scribble something in my sketchbook, even if it’s little, even if it sucks.

I’m watching a lot of X Files and Bigfoot documentaries. No clue what that’s about. I’m diggin’ the X Files and kinda wonder why I never watched it when it was on tv.

 

 

I saw this girl outside and I thought she had kind of an interesting face. I tried to draw her from memory. Well that didn’t go as planned. I drew something that day. It counts.

I can’t focus enough to draw so I try to write a story. That doesn’t pan out either. Just can’t freakin’ think!

Here is my Bigfoot.  My husband despises conspiracy theories. I kinda like to annoy him with them sometimes so I can watch the vein in his forehead pulse. 

If I give him too many “facts” supporting the evidence of Bigfoot he really loses his shit. 

Somehow, in all of this, I have managed to keep a sense of humor. 

    This brings us to mid-November. Finally I get my CPAP machine!!! (super sexy!) My husband learned that peanut jokes cut both ways.  After a few nights of decent sleep, I start coming out of my fugue state. 

 

 

I also got my copy of Art of Jock, which was super inspiring. Ok my copy doesn’t do the original justice, but I drew something, so it counts.

I spent a day or two going back through my sketchbook and scribbling over pencil drawings I made, trying to make them look slightly less horrible. I think this exercise was mostly about saying I did something that day because I was still pretty damn tired for a few weeks. 

    I liked this cabin after I inked it. Not sure where it came from (if it is a copy or not.) I vaguely remember scribbling it in my book one day, then inked it weeks later.

I started watching videos on inking at Virtual Art Instructor and Alphonso Dunn’s videos on YouTube. He has a really good book out too. 

   

 

 

 

Finally the black ass mood I was in, for what seemed like an age, lifted and I sat down and drew something I was pretty pleased with.

   

 

 

 

A couple of days later I drew a bee. I also drew a few Christmas cards, but I sent them before I made copies to post…..because I’m slick like that. 

   

 

Lastly I drew this skull a few nights ago (yes it has taken me two days to write this post!).  Right now I am trying to get back in the habit of drawing every day…even if it’s little…even if it sucks.  I do see improvements along the way. I’m sure there are going to be plenty of hard days ahead. That’s cool. Struggle is progress. 

    The most important thing is I kept going. I have given up in the past and it always haunted me later. Still haunts me, in all honesty. How far would I be if I didn’t give up all those times? And yeah, there were many. So that’s why I wanted to share this post. Maybe it will encourage someone to keep going. Never give up!

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