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oh god, the dam in my head just broke. Little holes dear friends have been poking into it over the past two years have finally done the damage needed to remove the blockage, and now I can't stop the flood. Unfettered by worries and fear, dozens of ideas and concepts are just tumbling eagerly to my feet to cling and go IT IS MY TURN YES? And that damnable muse who has way more arms than eight is reaching down and patting them all on the head at the same time, saying 'yes of course it is'.

I need to grow more arms.

As some have noticed, big changes are happening around here.

I'd like to kick off the new changes with announcing my participation in the 78 Tarot project. It's a deck that features the art of 78 artists, to create a full deck (not just the major arcana).

There are so many incredible artists in on this project that it's a little mindblowing, but it features names such as Larry Elmore and Jasmine Becket-Griffith

I'm doing the four of pentacles card and I would love to hear your personal feedback of what this card means to you. As you may have noticed, I'm starting to drop back into my old school roots of doing art for the meaning and the soul, and while I am not particularly well versed in the tarot, I know this card has had influence for many who do use the tarot. So give me your thoughts and opinions, what does this card mean to you?

And please, come and check out the website and see the incredible work that everyone has done:
www.seventy-eight-tarot.com/
Well played.

That's an april fools joke I can get behind.
You're going to see some hardcore changes around here over the next two weeks.

I've made some serious decisions about my life, and am just waiting for the neurologist to do the mri before I set things fully in motion. Just to make sure I don't have some crazy medical thing to add to the equation (but the changes are happening).

I hope you guys like crazy.

I hope you like crazy art.
So. Yesterday I had a sad thing happen. I was unable to attend a friend's birthday party because I have a service animal, and the owner of the pub the party was at has decided she does not like service animals, so all disabled people who need a companion are not permitted entrance.

Now, the go to response when asked 'how can they discriminate like that' is to point to a sign I'm sure you've all seen. "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."

Did you know that signage like that has zero legal authority? At all?

There's a reason for this, and I want to talk about it. The reason why is because what's to stop the owner of a sign like this from going "Oh. I don't like black people. I reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." Or how about "Muslims are terrorists. I reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." It's starting to sound like a pretty nasty sign to have up in your business, isn't it?  I get asked "but what if your dog is a menace?" Yes. You can ask a person with a service animal to leave *if they cause a disruption*. If their dog is acting out, biting, barking, being a disruption to the people around ABSOLUTELY you can ask them to leave. The law covers you there! But you cannot pre-emptively discriminate against anyone who needs canine assistance.

From now on, when you're faced with a sign that says very vague terms like 'we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone'... think about it. Think hard about it and if it gets in the way of YOU having the right to attend a party, go out in public, do the things *everyone else* can do? It's wrong. There's a difference between policies to protect the safety of the public, to comply with laws and health codes, and so on. But policies in place to actively discriminate against a member of the populace 'just because' have no place in our society.

We talk a lot about social justice online, but not so much when we see it happening. While I was being asked to leave, because I have a service animal, those around me paid their fees, looked troubled by what was going on, and then.. went on in to the party. One gentleman said "There's a lot of us here to pay for this party... if we all got up and left that'd change their minds real quick about this policy" but.. no one did. Except me, since I didn't want to make a scene at my friend's birthday and rather than call the police and FORCE them to deal with me, I opted to leave and just file a complaint and request for investigation against the pub this morning. It made me sad, because in the end I'm the one who's filing with the ADA's enforcement division today, and who cannot regain time to go back and celebrate with my friend.

Edit: If you are in Utah, it's the Poplar Street Pub in downtown salt lake city. I personally suggest that you avoid them until they learn exactly what is and is not legal.
Hey guys. I know I haven't posted much lately, but I'll be posting oodles of new art soon as I am released by my clients to do so!

Until then, I have listed 8 new prints up on my etsy shop, here:

www.etsy.com/shop/Vestaka

I'll have fun, exciting things to share very, very soon!
All your life people are going to knock you down. They're going to call you names, they're going to drag you down into the mud. And unfortunately, you are part of that mob of faceless people who'll drag you down as well. You'll look in the mirror and say "I'm not good enough". You'll work real hard and it just won't be enough. You'll be different from everyone else and wonder "What's wrong with me."

If you're lucky, you'll get really good at something. Really great at it. People will compliment you and you'll swell with pride... and then be told "Don't be arrogant". "Don't be too cocky" for showing pride in your accomplishments. If you're a woman and you KNOW something is right, and you stand up for your opinions, well... you'll be called opinionated. Bossy. You'll be knocked down, the legs kicked out from under you to bring you back down to the level of everyone else.

And then you'll start apologizing. You'll start being ashamed of the things you were proud of. You'll start prefacing your words with things saying "Please don't think I'm arrogant, I just want to contribute to this conversation and I really do have information that will help". You'll start apologizing for having knowledge, for having thoughts and ideas.

And then you'll start apologizing for being you. For even existing. If something great happens to you, you'll apologize for being happy. If you save up and buy yourself something new, you'll be torn up inside with guilt, that you don't really deserve this new, wonderful thing. It will eat you alive and you'll be a walking, talking, breathing apology for existing.

All your life people are going to knock you down. Do yourself a favor, and don't help them. Don't start believing the hype, don't start telling yourself that you are worth less than anyone else. Don't start devaluing all the incredible things that make you unique and amazing. They are there, you know it. You were proud of them once, find them and reclaim them and be proud of them again.

Because you're incredible.
I don't know about you guys, but I panic when I'm set in front of someone who's judging my art for any reason. What's that? It's time for Dragoncon? Here I go, spazing out. Hello Publisher, you need to review my portfolio? Absolutely, let me just get some valium real quick.

It's tense and nerve wracking, even when I am on the top of my game. What if my work is good, but not as good as the next artist? What if I'm using an old, hack subject matter that they've seen fifty times before? What if they just REALLY hate that particular color blue? What if they think that fantasy artists aren't real artists so my skills don't matter anyway? Oh god, what if I would have gotten in if I had JUST chosen a different picture for that last piece?

Here I am, having submitted my work for the Dragoncon Jury once more, and all these thoughts jumble and scatter in my brain. So I thought I'd share it with you guys since it's just kind of nice to know that you're not alone when you get nervous.

Back when I first started, I used to try and calm my nerves by pep talks. The problem with pep talks is that I've never been very good at just accepting nice words at face value. "You're a fantastic artist Jess!" doesn't have much meaning when I'm worried about submitting to a show where the average skill level of the artists there is something like Brom, or Lockwood. So my brain starts talking me down, pointing out that I know for a fact that so and so has applied and they blow my portfolio out of the water.

What I've started doing in those situations is talking to myself about what makes ME unique. I cannot compare myself to Brom. I mean first of all, it's Brom. But more than that, he and I do not have the same medium, subject matter or style. It's like comparing apples and oranges. Sure oranges are really nice, but they'll never quite do an apple as well as an apple can do an apple. So I stop trying to compare my orange, to Brom's apple. My orange makes a meaaaan orange sorbet, let me tell you!

But man. Some days reminding yourself that you have grown and actually have a unique set of skills can be difficult, when your confidence wants to say BUT LOOK AT ALL THOSE AMAZING ARTISTS.
... where you just want to stop being an adult and just curl up in a ball and whine?

That said, I will be posting new art soon. I have been working but it's all been getting through my backlog of commissions/etc. So new paintings will start making appearances soon.

Someone ask me something interesting.
Hey guys. I pretty much NEVER do this, ever. But the fact of the matter is that I need to come up with $450 in two and a half weeks, and with my backlog of commissions, I cannot in good conscience accept any more work until I have finished everything I've already been hired to do.

So because of that, I am doing a sale on pre-existing work. First off, on my etsy store I am offering a 50% off coupon from now until March 14th. That's good for ANYTHING in the store, and yes it does include that original of the Crap fairy. The Crap Fairy by JessicaMDouglas

The coupon code is: crazyfunsale

Etsy store is: www.etsy.com/shop/Vestaka

Aside from the crap fairy, I have two originals that have not been claimed as of yet:

   Serenity by JessicaMDouglas   Red Ribbon of Fate by JessicaMDouglas (edit: Red Ribbon of Fate is sold).

I am accepting offers for them. Bear in mind that an original in these sizes usually runs about $300 each, so I won't be selling them for $20. But I am willing to negotiate beyond my normal prices because of this unusual situation I've found myself in.

I'll be doing a few more things over the next week, but that's a good starting place.
Thoughts after watching Frozen...

You know, I've had friends who are up and down across the board on this movie. Some love it, some hate it. I've read the reviews with people raging because of the homosexual agenda they see in it, to people upset about how it characterizes a specific culture in their characters.

I don't have a whole lot to say on those issues, in all honesty, because I didn't get any of those issues out of this movie (not to say people can't be upset about what they got from the movie. Absolutely, I just personally didn't get any of that from it, so I'm not going to defend or fight against any of that). I'll try to avoid spoilers but no promises.

I believe you take what you bring into a movie. That's how it is with any art form really, and for me I bring into this movie a world of mental illness and struggling to deal with hiding from people, being terrified of others. It hit pretty painfully home to me, the entire sequence of hiding away, bottling up emotions. Don't feel? While for the movie it was 'control your emotions so your powers don't go everywhere', for me growing up it was 'control your emotions so you don't blow up/offend others/cause problems/go to countless therapy because just having emotions is an issue in the first place'.

I'm pretty sure I was very quietly crying through that whole sequence of baby Elsa growing up because being locked in a room and telling yourself over and over again not to feel is something that I literally experienced, and then walking out in front of people and putting on a front of happiness? That's every single convention where I am a guest. Hours and hours alone before the con, training myself to control the anxiety, the fears, all the issues and bring myself into a state of 'the entertainer who's there to help and make your visit to this convention worthwhile', and please for the love of god don't break down into tears in front of people.

My friends scamper around getting ready, babbling excitedly about how awesome it is, and when I'm alone I'm staring in a mirror and assuring myself that I can pull this off and it will be amazing.

Yeah, that whole sequence hit me right in the chest and I almost left the theater.

A friend mentioned that they disliked Frozen because people were characterized by their illnesses. That they want to see characters who are more than just their taglines. I thought about that for a long time, and you know... I kind of think that people are typecast even in real life, based on what you know. I know there are dozens of people who know me as 'that anxiety mental case'. There are others who know me as 'that artist'. "That nice girl" "That super mean bitch" "opinionated"  etc. But no one's ever really considered me to be all of those things rolled into one chubby ball of me-ness. When I look at the character Elsa, I see she's being handled the same way. Everyone views her as a very one dimensional character, even her sister. One person sees her as the faceless 'queen', until her powers are revealed, then she is 'the monster'. The sister sees her as just 'the sister who doesn't play with me', not the complicated woman who's struggling with some serious issues locked away in a room, as well as *learning how to rule*, learning politics and social niceties and everything a royal would have to learn, as well as having a personality and likes and things she enjoys...

I saw a complex character who's only real personality traits were seen in tiny, tiny glimpses behind the overarching line of 'oh god don't let anyone see what I am'. So all most people seem to have seen of the character was her mental illness/terror of her abilities. But I saw so, so much more in those fleeting glimpses of a wistful smile at sledding, or the things she would track with her eyes. Maybe it's because that's what I'm used to looking for, to clue me in on just what kind of people my friends are? Maybe it's that I assume that everyone has a face and the only real way to know them is to see the tiny little hints...

And maybe that's why I wasn't real fond of Hans right off. You saw no hints of who he was, just him listening to Anna and giving her what she wanted to hear. There were no hints of anything beyond.. being a prince.

I loved Anna, she was so damn naive and stupid, and it made sense when she was horribly sheltered as all get out. She couldn't conceive of someone being false, lying, or just.. everything not always being awesome and exactly what's presented to her. Elsa was sheltered, but given hard truths to deal with from an early age, so not nearly as sheltered as Anna. And they show that difference in experience with the way they react to suddenly meeting new people.

One of the first things I did when I grew up, was try to shut everyone out. I couldn't handle it, and there are long stretches of time in my past where I didn't even speak to my own family, or friends I'd grown up with. Elsa's running to the mountains spoke so much to me. That feeling of triumph, like you can face the world once you've closed everyone out. Things are so much simpler when you do that. You can make choices with a clear mind, and no one is affected but you. You can BE yourself and be comfortable in your skin, and there is no one to make you feel horrible for it. But there are terrible drawbacks to being alone and sheltered, and one of them is the ignorance of the struggles your loved ones face without your support, and their inability to support you in turn.

I think they did a pretty apt job of depicting a loving family member trying to reach out to their loved one who hurts so very badly and is tearing themselves (and everyone else) apart. But not knowing the answer, not knowing what to do, not knowing HOW to fix it, and having abuses turned on them as well for standing by that loved one who's just falling apart.

If anything, my only  issue with this movie was literally the happy ending. It's a disney movie, they never have sad endings. And that's okay. But for me it just made me feel so sad, because things are never that easy. Nothing is solved so simply.

So in the end... I liked this movie a great deal. But my heart hurts a little after watching it.
Hey guys, back from LTUE and thought I'd do a convention rundown.

You know, when I started going to LTUE years ago, it was the tiniest thing you had ever seen. It was hosted at BYU, and basiclaly there was no art show, dealer's room, no cosplayers, nothing but classrooms where you held one hour classes on your career. It was a very unique symposium and definitely geared towards those working on a future in art and writing. These days the convention has moved to a hotel and it's attendance has grown by leaps and bounds, but it still holds true to it's roots of education and growth in the next generation of artists and writers.

The convention runs from thursday to saturday, and started out rather brightly. We got to the dealer's room late and set up our table. Luckily I was there with my friend Katherin who was a doll and helped me get the booth set up. I had one panel that day, but opted to have Sarah go in my stead since to be frank? What do I know about using a sketchbook effectively? I barely sketch as it is, nearly everything goes straight to the final painting stage! So I spent the day relaxing and enjoying my time at the convention.

Friday we hit the ground running and my first panel of the day was how to draw backgrounds. I think I may have shocked my fellow panelists, and the audience, with the idea that maybe we shouldn't think of backgrounds as something separate from the painting. Maybe we should take on the painting as a whole and not arbitrarily pick out one section as 'easy' and then wave our hands at the entire rest of the painting and label it as 'too hard because it's a background'. Why? It's still drawing. I mean if you can draw a dryad, why on earth would drawing a forest behind her be *hard*? Composition is a whole nother animal though, and I enjoyed discussing composition in art as a whole. There were some interesting suggestions and viewpoints across the board, as they did an awesome job of picking out artists who were very diverse in their skills to speak on this panel.

I broke the rules a bit later on my next panel, Artists collaborating with artists and writers. But can you blame me? How can I be on a panel like that *without* my partner in crime, :iconmisticunicorn: there as well? So she came onto the panel and we had a really interesting run. I learned something new at that panel. For me commission work/being hired to do book covers, etc. does not count as a collaboration. It's work, a collaboration is a creative project that two or more people work together to see to fruition. But when I write that definition out, I realize.. in many ways that describes commission work as well. Sure, one side has the final say/guides the project at the end, but... the artist is still adding their own little touch to bring the concept to life. It was an interesting concept that I think would have made me more inclined towards commissions/published work in the past if I had approached it from that standpoint. So that was a great panel both to be on and to simply witness what my colleagues had to say!

Unfortunately the day ended on a bit of a sour note, with our drawing textures panel. There's not too much to say here, except that I do need to devise ways to deflect/respond to people trashing traditional art, and watercolor art in particular, in a classy way. I think getting in an argument over the validity of my medium is a waste of all of our time (and I didn't QUITE do that, but I most definitely got defensive about my medium and skills), so I am thinking of ways I can maximize panels like that and allow other artists to have their opinions without allowing their not so polite words to distract from the realm purpose of the panel. Teaching people things that they've come to learn, while we're all together in one spot.

The rest of friday was a bit of a trainwreck, with not getting to see my daughter till nearly ten at night, and missing out on going to see a movie with all my friends, as well as the truck dying on the road, and so on. Basically a rough night, I was a bit uncertain when I woke up saturday as to what the day would bring.

Saturday jumped up and hit me in the face with happiness! I started the day with a panel called "art for art's sake" which was really great because I got to be with some of my very favorite artists, and chat about why we love art. Seriously, can you think of a more inspiring, enjoyable panel to be on? It brought me up to a fantastic mood so that when I hit the last panel of the day... art in industry... I had the strength and fortitude to tell the pretty blunt and harsh story of how I got where I am to a panel full of people without flinching from my history NOR drawing unwanted pity. It was an incredible panel to be on, with artists I did not know but who all clearly had an intense passion for their work and had an amazing journey to get where they are in the industry now (an artist for adventure time, one for the archie and jughead comics, a paeleontology artist? I can't even spell that. It was so diverse omg).

And then we had some of the con committee members express that Sarah and I had received compliments for our panels and our talks. Can I just say... you guys have no idea how much that means to me. It's not often that a panelist gets feedback for their panels, and sometimes we stumble around blindly hoping that the information we give out is *useful* and helpful. It's the whole reason I DO panels in the first place, because I have over 30 years of education and experience in the art field and if anything I have learned can be of help to those who are just starting out, I want them to have the chance to ask the questions I couldn't ask when I was just starting, and have someone a ble to give them a starting point in where to go to learn more. So keep that in mind if you ever attend a panel I am on. Feedback is always welcome, letting me know what things you would like to know more of, or things you had wished I had demonstrated rather than just talked about (I am going to be building a watercolor/colored pencil demonstration kit asap for all conventions).

All in all it was a great week and the high point? This was the very first convention I ever went to that I didn't return with a horror story regarding how people reacted to/treated Zeus. Everyone was polite, professional, asked before touching and understood when I said no. It was amazing.
Okay! Just a few updates:

LTUE:

This convention is *next week*. The 13th, 14th and 15th, in Provo, UT. If you are a student, you can get in free! Check out ltue.net for that info.

Sarah and I will be guests there. My panels so far include:

How to use a sketchbook
How to do backgrounds
Artist's collaborating with other artists and writers
Drawing textures
Art for Art's sake.

There are a few others but we're sorting out who's on what now.

AKON:

Sarah and I will be guests at the dollakon part of Akon. Please check us out at: sites.google.com/site/dollacon…

Or at www.a-kon.com/?p=2664



I will update with more conventions as things calm down and I can actually sort out my schedule.
Hello all.

Health stuff
I haven't posted much the past few weeks, because things got a little crazy over here. After multiple doctor visits and testing, I've finally hit my limit on what I can take. Maybe it was the suggestion that I do physical therapy to learn to *ignore the problem* rather than treat it. Maybe it was the prescribing of medications that I had specifically requested NOT to be given seeing as I was already on them years ago and it made me gain 80 pounds in 2 months. Maybe it was being looked at like I was a monster and being told 'that's something we need to fix RIGHT NOW' about the issues I said were there, but didn't bother me... while the issues that I said were debilitating were written off as 'it's just anxiety, you'll get over it'. Maybe it was the 300k debt from medical bills that did it.

Whatever it was, I'm just so very done. So I spent the past week and a half being weaned off of all the medications I am on. I'll be persuing a very zen lifestyle, and doing my best to surround myself with tranquil things in order to counter the anxiety. I can't do much about the regular hallucinations, but let's face it. They aren't *hurting* me. I can tell reality from hallucination just fine, and so I'm going to just learn to live with it. Maybe even start painting the weird crap I see all the time.

Is this a stupid decision? Possibly. But I had a mild stroke, several seizures and am having constant heart problems since starting on this medication (which has all of those as side effects), and I feel like my health is declining out of my control. So I'm going to give a different lifestyle a try and see if that makes a difference.

Convention stuff
I can't announce most of the conventions we're doing this year because we're still negotiating everything. But I will be a guest at LTUE in two weeks. If you need any art help, that is the time to corner me to talk. So at my booth, if you buy something from me to give to a loved one for valentines day, and tell me you read this? I'll do a free sketch for you <3 (the convention is happening during valentines day, so I want to help out with the gift giving).

If you are attending a convention this year and want to see my art there, please let me know so I can contact the a.d. if I am not already registered and get that set up.

I *am* able to say this. If you are going to be at Akon this year, I will be there....
Hey guys, short post. I'm tired and not all the way here. However the client who was purchasing Earth and Stars has had some unexpected things come up and can no longer buy it. So the original is now available. It is $300 and I do accept layaway, cause I'm pretty laid back like that. Get it. Lay away.. laid back.. *facedesks* sold, thank you guys.


Made of Earth and Stars by JessicaMDouglas
Been at the doctor this week. A few hours of boredom meant that I did math. For fun.

I don't have a point to this, just some numbers I'd like to put out there in the universe.

Minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
Full time work is 40 hours a week.
A full time worker on min wage makes $290 a week or roughly $1160 a month.

Suppose an artist makes prints and sells them for $10 a piece. In order to make $1160 a month, they will need to sell roughly 4 prints per day ($40 a day), or 29 per week ($290 a week), or approximately 116 prints a month.

With 12 months in the year, an artist would need to sell 1392 prints per year.

Now. If the artist is getting those prints for free, that would be okay. But let's assume that the artist didn't want to mark up very much, and so let's say the prints cost $5 each to make (just for the sake of easy math, that's including packaging, matting, and the print itself. That's not a real number, I just want something that breaks into percentages easily). That means 50% of everything sold doesn't go to your hourly wage, it goes to the cost of materials. So, you need to double all the math. Which means an artist needs to sell 8 $10 prints per day, 58 per week, 232 a month,  or 2,784 prints a year.

Of course if you're doing that, you won't have money for new things. You pay for the prints out of the sales, but we all know that minimum wage is below the poverty line right now. So buying art supplies for new paintings (unless you think you can sell 2,784 prints of one image every year) is going to need to come out of that money. Attending conventions, advertising, website space, art show space, *the cost of prints that don't sell and so don't earn their expense*, any business expenses need to come from those sales. A lot of artists I know tend to half their profits. Half goes back into the business, half goes to themselves for their minimum wage. So if you do that... then we need to do math again.

To make it simple, we'll cut off the money you're not taking home (since this is about making enough sales to make minimum wage). So if you have a $10 print, and  $5 in cost of making the prints, and you don't want to up your prices for business. So you do half of your profits to the business (that's $2.50), that means for every single print you sell, you are making $2.50.

Remember our weekly wage? $290 a week? In order to make $290 in a week of sales, you need to sell 116 prints a week. In order to make $1160 a month, you need to sell 464 prints a month. 12 months in a year, that's 5,568 prints per year at $10 a print in order to still make minimum wage.

Just throwing that out in the universe.
A missed entry
Okay first off, I want to start this by saying thank you for being so patient with me regarding the sketch challenge. There was another person in the challenge :iconlovelyladygray: did five wonderful sketches here:  5 Sketches of Art for JessicaMDouglas by LovelyLadyGray  They are awesome!

The winner!
So, how I got the winner was I did it hunger games style. I wrote everyone's name on a slip of paper, tossed them all in a big bowl, shook it up and pulled a name out randomly. The winner is :iconmendicant: !! Note me so I can show you the prints I have available, get your address and get your prize to you!

My personal challenge and exploring art journal
So in my year in review, I ended up reviewing all of my art. l noticed that I tend to... stray from body types/ethnicities VERY rarely and almost always when I am commissioned to do so. Normally I stay with varying shades of pale white flesh, and dainty body types.

The first is because well... I see my hands all day every day and I have skin so white that I literally blend in with walls. It's easy to paint what you know, you know? But the second... the second is purely that I love that body type. I think it's beautiful, it's enticing and I enjoy it to no end. It's personal pleasure that sparks the slender, delicate figures I go with, but these days I want to broaden my horizons.

And finally I come to faces. One of the things I had set myself to doing a while back, was to make faces that were more enjoyable to look at. Now that I've managed that... well my faces don't have enough diversity in them to make me happy.

So my personal challenge to myself this year is to draw body types, ethnicities and facial features that are different each time I paint. It may be subtle differences, it may be huge ones. But I am doing what I can to try to improve.

So the first attempt at a new thing was the painting on new years, with a more native feel to her skin and facial features. This time I'm going for a little chubbier with softer features then what I usually do:  curvy Mermaid wip by JessicaMDouglas  I'm slowly working my way with subtle changes, into more extreme differences from my usual.</b>
So. I'm sitting here nibbling on brownies that I am supposed to be mailing to my friends, staring at a list of work to be done tomorrow and pretending like I'm not supposed to be asleep at this very moment.

While I sit here, I'm reading emails and someone brought up the inquiry as to why I'm even an artist.

You know. I never really sat down and THOUGHT about it. It's something I have literally done my entire life. I'm pretty sure my dad was stuffing crayons in my hands while I was still in the crib. I'm the girl who started at school at *six years old*, six people. The concept of NOT doing art at some point in my life simply was not even entertained.

That said. I'd like to look at why I do art now. Why DO I do art?

In thinking about it, I've come to realize that there are a variety of reasons. Some poetic, some pragmatic, but all of them play a pretty large role in why I'm an artist. So let's wander those reasons.

I like to draw pretty things. No really. It makes me happy to make pretty things, and it makes me happy to offer pretty things to other people. That's on a very shallow level, but when I really think about it, it's actually deeper then 'pretty'. While I may express it with 'pretty things, derp' what I am saying is... I like making others happy. When I attend a convention, I'll often lurk near my panels. Not usually within earshot, mostly I just lurk where I can see people's faces, and just.. I start GRINNING when I see someone smile. Or get that kind of glowy, content look on their faces that people get when they see something that speaks to them. I like that, I *live* for that. But that's the after effect of art, and part of me is not satisfied with just the result of having painted.

That train of thought takes us to a bit of a more unpleasant reason. I'm mentally ill. I've made posts about it, talked about it, talked about Zeus, but I've never just flat out said it. Today was a day where I finally just said it. I am mentally ill. There is something fundamentally wrong with my brain layout. When I do art, I go into this very intense, very ocd place. See, normally my head is a scattered, trainwreck of a place. It's like a teenager's room on a daily basis, with shit scattered everywhere and the teen is saying MOM THIS IS ORGANIZED CHAOS. I KNOW WHERE IT ALL IS I SWEAR. Sometimes I can't even hold an entire conversation because my train of thought keeps dropping in mid sentence, and focus is something I struggle with regularly. But when I paint? Oh when I paint it's like someone suddenly hit the focus button on the camera. The roar in my head dies down to one single thing. Is that line exactly where I want it to be or do I need to redraw it a millimeter to the left. It's soothing and blissful and just the act of running a brush over a board is enough to calm my nerves and put me in a very tranquil state. That, my friends, is why you will usually find me arting AT a convention even though it's one of the number one no nos for sales. I need to or so help me when it's time to do a presentation I will probably melt into a puddle of goo.

Naturally thoughts of conventions bring me to the most pragmatic of reasons why I'm an artist. This part is really hard to admit, but I'm going to be honest here. I'm one of THE most prideful people out there, and the thought of accepting charity is anathema to me. I do not like the concept of welfare. Not for others, mind you, but for myself. The thought of being on foodstamps, disability, etc makes me want to physically throw up. However with my plethora of health issues, I am not able to hold down a 'real job'. Believe me, I've tried. It's ended up with me in the hospital and barely able to function. Now that I have a service dog, my options for a 'real job' are even fewer, particularly considering all of my trade skills involve power tools of some sort. Not exactly the types of careers that will be okay with a dog wandering around and potentially getting hurt. That's something no one mentions. Sure, you can't discriminate against the handicapped, but how do you get a job when you have a service dog, of special health requirements that may mean you cannot do everything required of the job? Your options drop quite a bit. However the one thing I have been trained, and trained well!, in is art. I live and breathe it, and so help me if I can survive on my art alone then that is what I am going to do rather than get myself set up on welfare. Right now I could be on disability. I could be on medicaid or medicare or whichever govn't assistance. I could be on foodstamps. But I'm not. I'm doing my damndest to make sure that I don't end up on that, even if this is probably one of the most difficult careers to make a living off of. You bet your ass I'm going to succeed. Because I don't want to be on disability, not when I have *something* to offer still. This, by the way, is why I'm SO volatile when it comes to discussions about art theft/recasting/the rights of an artist. It literally is my livelihood in such a tense, fragile way that threats to it bring out the worst in me.

So that's depressing as all get out. Let's wander away from harsh, gritty reality and lets get into the more enjoyable reasons why I'm an artist. Like I said, I have something to offer. I have a voice on the things that I think about every day. Something I firmly believe artists do is they become a voice for people who don't have one. It may be about unusual things, it may be just something as simple as "I believe in magic". That statement is voiced by literally every single fantasy artist out there, and then echoed by the countless millions that are fans of their work. I can't count the number of times I've seen someone write to me or my colleagues "This painting speaks to me." But what they're saying is.. this is what I am saying in my head, and don't have the voice to say to others. Thanks for making sure I'm not alone in how I feel or what I dream of. It's kind of important that we're not alone. I'm not really sure why, I just know it is and that it's important that people be able to find things that speak to them and make them feel not so alone in the world.

And now I've wandered through my train of thought here on the journal, and I sit here thinking... I'm still not sure exactly why I'm an artist. I'm an intelligent woman, I have lots of skills. I know if I put my mind to it I can probably come up with a higher paying job that's more stable and definitely easier. But I feel I still have something to offer. Maybe even something important. It gives my life meaning beyond being 'that broken girl', which is a mental state I fall into far too easily these days. I'd rather be 'that crazy artist' then 'that broken girl.
Hey guys! Okay I waited till midnight before checking things, just so that people had all day to sketch and send in sketchness!

The idea was that you never improve unless you try something new, and sketch repeatedly. Originally it was five sketches, but.. well.. people stressed and I didn't want anyone to stress. So it was dropped to one. But to keep it fair, I'm treating every sketch as an entry for the free art. So without further ado, here are the entries!

:iconryua: did a bunch of sketches of the male form (some adult content in the meme, so take care when clicking)..    The coolest birthday present by Ryua  and  ryua.deviantart.com/art/Yaoi-M…

:iconhiddenrelevance: did a concept that's actually TERRIFYING my dear, of sleeping beauty waking up in a briar covered coffin.  Ladies and gentlemen... by HiddenRelevance

:iconannacstansfield: did this beautiful study of the male figure:  Bandaging The Wound sketch by AnnaCStansfield  and then some very cool canine sketches:  Canine sketches by AnnaCStansfield

:iconmendicant: really hit one of the hardest subjects dead one, tackling study after study of.. the hand. Hand Study 01 11182013 by MendicantHand Study 02 11182013 by MendicantMoar Hand Study 11192013 by MendicantHand Study 05 11272013 by MendicantHand Study 06 11282013 by MendicantHand Study 07 11302013 by Mendicant and.. the handfairy!  The Hand Fairy 11282013 by Mendicant

:iconMalice-Winterhartealso tackled the challenge of the hand very nicely here: Study goodness! by Malice-WinterharteHand studies by Malice-Winterharte and then went on to do some fantastic building and background challenges (I know this is my personal weak spot right here): More building/background stuff by Malice-WinterharteBuilding/background study by Malice-Winterharte

:iconsiochanna: made me laugh like no body's business with their wolf drawing: i m dr4wz a w0lph lol by Siochanna  I love the fluffy thing <3

:iconniverdia: really spoke to me with these studies, random subjects but the fish makes me want to draw so badly!  JMD's December Challenge by Niverdia

and finally last, but most definitely not least: :iconkhezix: did this incredible study of a broken down ranchhouse from their photography:  Three Dollar Ranch by Khezix  I feel you on wanting and needing to do studies of buildings and scenes.




If there is anyone I missed, please let me know now. I'm not announcing who got the free art for a couple of days to give people enough time to let me know if their submission got missed in my inbox.

I am really proud of you guys. I mean seriously. You went and tackled something new, tried your hand at unfamiliar territory and to be frank? You did *awesome*. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy over here and want to flail happily at the artness. Please keep drawing, you have no idea how much I loved looking through *all* of your galleries (because I certainly didn't stop at just the sketches, I raided all your galleries and enjoyed every moment of it).
You know, every year my friends sit down and pull up their art for the past year and review it. They talk about how they've grown, what they've learned and how they've changed. It's always about growth and improving as an artist, and I've been avoiding years in review for.. well.. years. Mainly because so much as been happening in my life that my chances to actually art are few and far between.

Today I'm doing a review, but it's a little bit different. I've only done a handful of paintings this past year. Seven, to be exact. That's not really enough to 'improve and grow as an artist' in any sort of drastic ways. But I have changed *as an artist* on a fundamental level, so I'd like to think about that a little bit.

The year started out pretty bad. I had just moved into the condo and left my family. My art was all over the place and I was doing it more out of a requirement from therapist then any actual real desire to paint. The first few months were pretty much following :iconmisticunicorn: around and painting the dolls she needed done, making wigs, and just kind of clinging to her to hide behind. I got desperate after a while of no personal art though, and started the sketch craze. There were some fun sketches (and then I lost the list and had to contact the people who didn't get sketches, so there will be more sketches coming soon), but I felt lost all over again. It didn't serve the purpose I wanted it to, which was to trigger more art.

So once again I went into hiding, thinking and brooding and not drawing a damn thing.

In the process of cleaning up my studio space, I discovered an old painting that I had loved but then utterly ruined in the coloring process. I looked at it, thought about it, then completely redrew it from scratch. While it's not a 'new' painting in the sense that the composition was figured out years ago, it felt good to start coloring again and try my hand at drawing without having to think too hard about what I was drawing.
What started out as this: The Ocean by JessicaDouglas lept and grew and changed into something I was much happier with here: Ocean by JessicaMDouglas

I can see improvement in my skills, and yet.. I still feel the same. I am the same artist, not growing by leaps and bounds, but my understanding of color has grown.

Hard on the heels of this new painting, a dear friend came to visit and we played a lot of video games together. During the course of one of those games, we reached a shocking conclusion. I may be somewhat 'tone' blind. I can see a huge range of colors, but give me a greyscale image and suddenly everything becomes large chunks of one shade. Where others see lots of variety and change in tone, I see a vast expanse of just... grey. It made me realize that many of my paintings lack depth of light because I just can't SEE it, and I feel uncomfortable portraying the light because of this. In an effort to challenge myself to overcome this flaw, I once again turned to reworking past paintings. An older painting that I had loved overall, but it was flat for reasons I didn't understand and just... the woman looked OLD in it. And so in may this painting came to be finished:  Serenity by JessicaMDouglas

Now I find myself in a really unusual position. I feel impatient with the concept of growing in technical skill, and find myself turning towards growing as an artist on a philosophical level. I found that I wished to draw new art, and yet... I couldn't quite trust myself to do new concepts just yet. So I stepped back to yet another painting that I had been dissatisfied with in an effort to explore the concepts *behind* the paintings. And so Strife began to be reworked:   Apocalypse: Strife by JessicaMDouglas An interesting thing I learned as I worked this, is how diametrically different many of our thoughts and beliefs are. I come to use symbolism and religious interpretations out of a desire to express a concept that I cannot easily voice... but I found that in using pre-existing religious symbols, all the weight of their interpretation that has been personally defined by the viewer will skew the statement I wish to make. I found an argument about if an artist is not truly the one who makes the statement, but the viewer defines what the painting is about. I felt frustration that I was not being allowed to express myself without being told I had to sacrifice my personal interpretation if someone else felt that theirs was right. It was a very frustrating time for me, and nearly caused me to stop painting again. Not to be told someone disagreed with me and how I feel, but to be told that *as the artist my painting did not mean what I painted it to mean because someone else decided it should mean something different.* Because why paint if your voice will not be heard? Why express a feeling or thought, if everyone wants to shout THEIR thoughts over yours? I felt voiceless once more, my words from my paintings taken from me and twisted to suit other people's words and I felt betrayed. Pretty rough to deal with as an artist, when your only way of expressing yourself is through your art, no?

So I went back to the technicalities. Gone was the desire to make a statement with my art, instead I focused on 'how do I improve on a technical level'. This did not bode well for me as I grow as an artist very organically. I do not learn through repetition, I am one of the few artists who doesn't have piles of sketchbooks lying around because I loathe sketching and it hurts my hands to no end. With my arthritis I must be careful about what I draw and when, every single moment has to count. I can't take the pain to sketch endlessly anymore. And so I sat down and began to talk about the dryad series of the mushroom peddler with my friend Sarah. Now years ago when we had discussed the business, and we did the book 'the mushroom peddler's handbook' together (so this was a very, very long time ago) we had discussed business names. Sarah has always been enamored of dryads, and I confess a bit of a fondness for them myself. So it was decided that the mushroom peddler would be a dryad. However when I returned to the fold, so to speak, we needed a way to blend what she had taken the mushroom peddler and created, vs what I originally envisioned when I started the mushroom peddler book and had wished the story to become. This was a difficult exercise because they were two very, very, very different visions and while the past four years Sarah has worked and developed her side... my side was left to stagnate and decay. To try and both improve my artistic skills and to draw something that *wasn't* a revision of past years, I created the Magnolia dryad as a companion to Sarah's Willow dryad.  Magnolia by JessicaMDouglas Oh I was in for bad times with this painting. The eyes captivated me. I had been studying eyes in general, how they are shaped and reflect light, and I really wanted to FOCUS on them. But I found that I focused so much on the eyes, my interest in everything else was lost. In the end I walked away from the painting, finished, but feeling unsatisfied with what I had created. There was a lack of depth of STORY behind it, and I realized that I could not content myself with just improving technically, it was absolutely vital that I continue my exploration of expressing thoughts and feelings through art.

And so we come to the infamous Crap Fairy. She began as an exercise in just... drawing fabric. I started with the technicalities, wanting to show my friends that I can draw fabric when I chose to, and to give a lesson in pattern on fabric to another friend. But she drove me crazy because I could see my technical flaws left and right, and I was so frustrated with the mistakes that I was making that I KNEW better than to make. In a fit of irritation I complained to :iconsomk: who said the words that let everything come together. "Looks like you're getting a visit from the crap fairy. Ignore her. She's just a bitch."

It clicked. It clicked and I knew what I was painting. I was painting my frustration and self doubt. I was painting the woman inside my head who looks at those drawings that I've been repainting and goes 'Of COURSE you're revisiting that old piece, you don't have the creativity to do anything new. Oh look, you're so cute, you think you're improving.' I was drawing her, I was drawing everything I loathed and I was acknowledging that it was a beautiful seduction that I was paying far, far too much mind to. The Crap Fairy by JessicaMDouglas  In the end, while the painting has it's technical flaws, I felt satisfied. I also felt confident that adding my words and speaking out my thoughts was an OKAY thing. Even if people look at my art and go "Well *I* think it actually represents blah blah blah", that doesn't matter. I am the artist, this is my thought and emotion and feeling.. and it's okay for people to be blind to what I am. It doesn't change ME at the heart. I owe a huge debt to Sophie for this, as I really think this was the moment that I just... stopped freaking out about my art and the lack of improvement. I am not stagnating, I am simply growing in a different way.

And so October rolled around and with it Octopodicon. It was my first con in years, and thankfully it was VERY small. I had a breakdown at the convention, and went into an anxiety induced fog. About five hours later I came to myself, wandering aimlessly through the streets with no idea where I was or how I got there. Zeus was with me and pulled me back to the hotel, stopping and refusing to cross streets when it wasn't safe and growling at people who got too close to me. It was interesting to say the least. I changed doctors and my health took a bizarre twist, to where I was beginning to be afraid that i will not be able to live alone anymore but I have no family to take care of me. Dark times, and yet for the art? Not so dark. Sarah and I sat in our hotel room and I just let it go. I said 'fuck it, I'm not here to do anatomically correct art. I am not here to improve and impress people with my oh so perfect drawing skills. I WANT TO DRAW CIRCLES.' and so I started scribbling. I scribbled and scribbled and somehow out of those circles and loops came Woops. Woops by JessicaMDouglas

The great thing about this painting is it is the most drug induced, addled, freaked out, I don't know wtf I'm doing painting I've done yet, and somehow I got a phoenix out of it. I don't know how, I don't know why. But somehow in those circles and scribbles it started to be this bright, happy, adorable bird lizard thing that I really like. I backtracked in my anatomical studies on pretty much EVERYTHING, and yet I didn't care. It made me happy. And the odd thing was? It got a DD. It made others happy too. What more could I ask for in a painting? Somehow by just screwing around, I made a painting that just makes me smile. I feel like this is the highlight of my year.

And so we roll to the end of the year, and the last two paintings this year. One finished, one not. But in these two I am finally reaching out to step back into where I should be as an artist. The first is Made of Earth and Stars. This is a return to trying to express concepts and meanings and to give myself (and maybe others) a little light in the dark. Many friends send me proverbs and thoughtful statements to remind me that I am, what :iconadri: likes to call 'shiny'. That I'm not all the bad dark things I think when I'm alone, but that I have a spark and something unique inside of me. One of those proverbs was a simple enough one. Be humble for you are made of Earth. Be noble, for you are made of Stars. I love that phrase, I love everything it says and implies, and it fills me with joy. So I didn't just take on that statement with that painting. I tackled my blindness to light and tone as well. Made of Earth and Stars by JessicaMDouglas  I am told it has a TON of subtle lighting moments, I am doing it mostly by feel. I spent hours with a friend, a color wheel and a light scale, and we laid out colors along the light scale according to how bright my friend said they were. Rather then use tone to portray light, I tried to use *color*. To change my colors where it was brightest. I also tried to control the washes that I did for the hair and any single color element, to just count the number of washes I did in order to know what was 'light' and what was dark. It's a change in how I do art and I'm not real sure how successful I'll be with it, but I like where it's going.

So I end this year with just a single piece. Nothing finished, just a sketch. But I'm putting all my hopes and dreams for the next year into this drawing. I am doing all I can to try and say "I know who I am as an artist. I know where I am going. I may not have grown in amazing leaps and bounds the way my friends and colleagues have, but I know I am not stagnated and I am not dead. I am just growing in another direction." Like that song that every movie seems to be using these days, you've gotta have roots before branches. I just didn't realize my roots weren't being tended to and that's why I wasn't flourishing.