Monday, May 30, 2011

My latest little obsession.

I love painting food.  Partly, I love the challenge: not only am I trying to create the illusion of depth and texture on a flat surface, I'm also trying to create the illusion of deliciousness.  The other big reason I love painting food is that I loooove food - not in a gourmet, "foodie" kind of way, but in the pure and uncomplicated manner of a six-year-old - and in recent years I've discovered a bunch of food sensitivities that prevent me from eating most of my favourite things.

One thing I miss?  Sugar cereal.  Hell, I even miss "healthy" cereals.  I'd pretty much shiv a baby in the head for a big bowl of raisin bran right now, you don't even know.  I also miss canned pasta a lot (I told you I have the appetite of a 6-year-old).

How am I grieving my losses, you ask?  By painting the things I can't have.  I'm not sure why it makes me feel better, but it kind of does.

The rightmost paintings are probably my favourites because they're true: I did used to love when my cereal made the milk change colour, and I did used to save the marshmallows in marshmallowy cereal for last (by which time the milk would have partially dissolved them into a sweet, chewy foam...*droooool...*).  As for the bottom-left painting, well, I can't say that bran cereal ever made a noticeable difference in my pooping habits, but other people tell me it works for them so I took a leap of faith with that one.

Tangent: all of a sudden, I've become surprisingly good at lettering.  I'm not sure when that happened.  My writing on paintings has always tended to get bigger and bigger as the sentence went on and I'd have to redo it, but these all came out pretty awesome on the first try.  Disclaimer: I'm not coming up with the different writing styles out of my head or anything; I type each phrases in Word first, put it in a fancy font, and copy that.  But the fact remains that I'm doing it freehand, just by eyeballing the computer screen and then eyeballing the canvas.  And I'm proud of my work.

Sometime soon I'll have to do a painting of Kraft Dinner with cut-up hot dogs and ketchup all over it.  I'm salivating a bit at the very thought.

Shoutout Sunday: MC Mr. Napkins

I have often thought to myself, "Self, I would really like rap music if it didn't mostly seem to be about bitches and hos and getting shot."  I'm not being sarcastic here: I'm a big-time word nerd, and cleverly executed alliteration and/or rhythms and/or rhymes make me weak in the knees.  But as a nerdy girl who grew up in the suburbs, I can't really relate to most rap music; I may think certain songs are well-crafted, but the lyrics don't speak to me.

Enter MC Mr. Napkins (aka Zach Sherwin), who raps about subjects non-gangstas can appreciate: things like bizarre childhood toys, smoothies, and an overly aggressive bee!

I have seriously watched the Aggressive Bee on YouTube so many times that I can recite 80% of the lyrics by heart (if you knew how senile I am you'd recognize the significance of this).  Also (and this is not relevant to anything), gosh is he cute.  Reminds me a bit of The Boy only, y'know...less manscaped (I could eat lunch off The Boy's fact I think I'll do that later.  Anyway...).

MC Mr. Napkins' first album, The Album, is currently available on iTunes.  His official website (where you can see pictures of him, watch his videos, learn where he'll be performing next, etc.) is here.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Manliness is itchier than I had anticipated.

Today The Boy shaved using an electric razor and left a big pile of "hair dust" in the sink.  When I saw this, I did what any perfectly normal and well-adjusted 38-year-old woman would do: I smeared it on my face and neck to see how I'd look with badass Don Johnson stubble.


Friday, May 27, 2011

How to Save Money

My parents have always been really...let's be diplomatic and say frugality is bred right into my bones.  It's so automatic for me that I had to teach myself how to turn off the mean, haranguing voice in my head that would lecture me any time I bought something frivolous (NB: now that I don't have a steady paycheque, I've invited The Voice back again to keep me in line.  I can invoke my cheapness at will like a superpower!!!).

I've always assumed that the money-saving measures I take are just common sense and therefore obvious to everyone, but I've definitely known some people who were perpetually broke and never knew why (and I wanted to raise my hand and go "Me!  I know why!  Please for the love of god let me fix this for you!"). So, in this post I'll share some of my money-saving techniques and philosophies. It may not all be useful or relevant to you, but I hope some of it is.

My biggest thing is: No Outside Food.  By "outside food" I mean stuff that didn't come from the grocery store.  Eating a meal in a restaurant costs more than preparing a similar thing at home, and buying snacks or bottles of water when I'm out wandering adds up fast.  If I'm poor, I'll avoid doing these things at all if I possibly can; under regular, non-poor circumstances, I'll let myself go to restaurants or for coffee, but I'll try to limit it to once a week.  If I know I'll be out running errands for a few hours, I'll bring an orange or some almonds and maybe a refillable water container with me in case I get hungry or thirsty.

More food things: I'm sure coupons are awesome, but I don't have the energy to find them, clip them, and remember to use them.  My style is to memorize the cheapest versions of everything I like to eat (bagged chicken leg quarters are quite a bit cheaper than thighs, for instance) and also to figure out which of my local stores carries each thing for the least amount of money.  Then my shopping is pretty much automatic - eggs and chicken from this store, lettuce and juice from that store.  I guess it helps that I eat the same few things all the damn time like a five year old - I can totally shop on autopilot because there are no decisions to make.  Of course, if I notice that something I like is way on sale, and that something is either canned or freezeable, I'll stock up.  Unless it's a dessert item because I have no self-control with those and my "two month supply" will end up lasting me approximately seven minutes.  Oh, and I try never to grocery shop on an empty stomach because the hunger will make me overspend.

I never skimp on the overall quality of my food in order to save money, btw (and I really, really hope it never comes to that).  Sure, I could live on ramen noodles and spend less money on groceries, but with my various food sensitivities I'd get all kinds of fucked up.  It's not worth compromising my health just so my savings will last longer.  And anyway an 18-hour-a-day gluten coma wouldn't leave much time for painting.

Entertainment: I love movies, but almost always wait for video instead of watching a film in the theatre.  Most movie theatres here cost around $12; the cheap rack at the video store is maybe $3, and if I love the movie I can watch it again a few times for free before I return it.  Likewise, if there's a movie I love and want to buy, I figure if I wait long enough it'll end up in the bargain bin.

One of the biggest money savers for me is simply staying away from malls and clothing stores; I can't want something if I don't know it's out there*.  Also, I find that most cravings for shiny new things will go away if I wait long enough.  If I get sick of all the self-denial and decide that I do want to buy the shiny bauble I've been wanting...I try to hold off until there are a few other things I want/need, too.  I find that it's all too easy to pick up a lipgloss here and a pair of tights there and not really remember it, and the costs add up; when I buy myself a few things at once, it's an exciting little mini-spree that actually feels like something.  I guess my point is that I try to make sure all the purchases I make - no matter how minor - are deliberate rather than impulsive.

I used to buy a montly transit pass that let me take unlimited bus/streetcar/subway rides, but that is no longer viable now that I'm self-employed.  Interestingly, even though it's been about ten years since I've been without either a Metropass or a husband with a car, I find I've effortlessly slipped back into my old habits of grouping all my errands by geographical location and walking places whenever possible.  Special bonus: The Boy has a Metropass and it's legal to lend them to other people, so occasionally I'll give him two tokens so he can get to and from work and then borrow his pass for the day.  That way I can go all the hell over the place for the price of those two tokens ($5.  Buying my own transit day-pass would've cost $9).

What I'd really love is to buy a bike - even the places I go that are too far to walk are well within my idea of biking distance.  The problem, though, is that the traffic terrifies me and there aren't enough bike lanes, so I can't see myself doing this.

If it seems like I consistently have less money than I think I should and I can't think why, I'll start writing down all my purchases (and the amounts) for a month or so.  This makes it easy to analyze what's going on and decide how I can do better next month.  Another good trick is to use cash for everything that isn't rent or groceries.  Debit is too abstract and hard to keep track of; when you set a budget for yourself and you can physically see your pile of bills dwindling as the month wears on, it can be a reality check.

Credit card expenditure is even more abstract and hard to keep track of.  I'm pretty anal retentive about money (as you can probably tell by now) and wouldn't be prone to credit card rampages, but still...I don't keep the card in my wallet so I'm not tempted. :)

Do you have any money-saving tips to add?  Do you have anything to ask or tell me about mine?  That's what the comments section is for!

*I mean, okay, I can want new clothes even if I'm just sitting around at home.  But if I go to the mall I might see a specific dress that's adorable and matches whatever my current hair colour is, but it's $70, but there's only one left in my size and ARGH.  That mall dilemma is way worse to live with then "I wish I had some new clothes, le sigh."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Occasionally Hear Some Evil But Ignore it in Order to be Polite.

Sometimes, when I'm using a public restroom and someone is in the stall next to mine, I start obsessing on the fact that the side of my naked ass is eighteen inches away (tops!) from the side-ass of a total stranger.  The presence of the stall wall makes this proximity tolerable, but nonetheless I'm technically performing eliminatory functions way closer to an unknown person than I would ever choose to.

Imagine: the difference between "brief and totally unremarkable pit stop" and "lifelong trauma and humiliation" is just that thin little wall that's not soundproof and doesn't even go all the way to the floor.  We laugh at parakeets for thinking it's nighttime when you cover their cage, but how different is this, really?  "Well, I can't see other people - except for their feet - so clearly this is a completely safe and secluded place."

By the way...I'm tall, and most bathroom stalls only come up to my nose.  Which isn't a big deal for me - I'm sitting down once I get in there anyway, so I can still maintain some small illusion of privacy.  But the walls of fitting rooms are usually that same height, and changing one's clothes is a standing-up activity.  Have you ever accidentally made eye contact with a stranger while you were semi-naked?  It's...awkward.  Especially when you're in a highly undignified struggle with a garment that turned out to be too small.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Love Song: Ur Doin It Rong.

So, at my last job they used to play a particular Lou Rawls song on the oldies station all the time (it is not, as I had previously thought, by Barry took me ten minutes of Googling to figure this out...I hope you appreciate my dedication).  The song starts like this:

You'll never find, as long as you live
Someone who loves you tender like I do
You'll never find, no matter where you search
Someone who cares about you the way I do
Whoa, I'm not braggin' on myself, baby
But I'm the one who loves you
And there's no one else, no-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh one else
 And the chorus goes:
Whoa, I'm not tryin' to make you stay, baby
But I know some how, some day, some way
You are (you're gonna miss my lovin')
You're gonna miss my lovin' (you're gonna miss my lovin')
You're gonna miss my lovin' (you're gonna miss my lovin')
You're gonna miss, you're gonna miss my lo-o-ove
The whole song is basically just the same sentiment of "I love you more than anyone else ever will" repeated in a few different ways.

At first I just accepted this as a love song because the Barry-White-ish production values clearly indicate that this is what it's supposed to be.  However, repeated listenings made the lyrics sink deep into my subconscious and I eventually realized that the song is actually a threat.  Lou Rawls may not have meant to be creepy, but the fact is he's flat-out telling his girlfriend that if she leaves him, she'll be alone and miserable for the rest of her life.  And even though this girl is breaking up with him - meaning either she doesn't love him or the relationship is dysfunctional - Lou is convinced that one day she'll look back on their loveless and/or broken relationship and miss it.

Lou.  Seriously.  Let's say this song is dedicated to a real woman and that you're the one who wrote it (I have no idea whether either of these things is true): would you really have wanted her to stay with you solely because she didn't think she could get anyone else?  Would you be all "Yay, the song worked!  She's back!" or might that victory feel just a tiny bit hollow?

Also: there are people out there who regularly tell their partner, "Nobody's ever gonna love you as much as I do, y'know."  Unfortunately, these tend to be the same people who regularly tell their partner, "I'm sorry I hit you, honey, but sometimes you just make me so mad."  You might be better off taking a whole different approach that isn't associated with manipulation and abuse.  Just putting that out there.

As long as we're on the subject of Love Songs With Unintentional Douchebaggery, let's talk about Lover, You Should've Come Over by Jeff Buckley.

Don't get me wrong, I love Jeff Buckley.  His voice is so beautiful and so plaintive that he could probably make me cry just by reading the damn phone book*.  Also, I think that Lover, You Should've Come Over is one of the best breakup songs of all time.  Except for this one little thing:
Lonely is the room, the bed is made
The open window lets the rain in
Burning in the corner is the only one
Who dreams he had you with him
[emphasis mine]
HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT, JEFF BUCKLEY?  Are you psychic, or are you literally the only person your ex-girlfriend has ever met?  Because if your ex comes into contact with other human beings, and if she has any redeeming qualities at all, chances are someone could have a little crush on her.  I fell for her, so clearly she is appealing in some way, right?

Unless you are in fact psychic.  Then I guess you do know that nobody is currently interested in your girlfriend.  Either way, though...what does that have to do with you missing her?  Do you think it takes away from your anguish if someone else misses her, too, or what?

Don't even get me started on the swirling morass of ick that is More Than Words by Extreme.  Seriously.  Has nobody else actually read the lyrics to that atrocity?

*I'm being facetious.  If I woke up to find Jeff Buckley reading aloud from my phone book, I'd most likely scream a whole lot.  He died in 1997.

Look what I made!

I haven't been blogging as often as I'd like...the tasks involved in opening the new Artfire store are so daunting and numerous that I've been mostly paralyzed for the past week or so, unable to choose a place to start.

The good news is, I finally managed to break through this paralysis on Sunday.  The not-as-good news is that I didn't get any of the tasks done that need doing; I lost myself in the process of painting some new stuff instead.  But hey, I'm grateful just to be doing something productive/creative.  Beats the hell out of what I was doing before - which was similar to slacking off, except neither restorative nor relaxing because below my surface-torpor my brain was spinning all over the place.

Anyway.  I made two roughly life-size pictures of ice cream cones!  I think they're cute and creepy at the same time.

The one on the left demonstrates my love of creating cognitive dissonance by combining elements together that you wouldn't expect.  The one on the right shows my dorky love of puns.

These paintings are somewhat of a departure for me because the backgrounds aren't one flat colour (this is the closest to abstract art I've ever gotten!).  Also, I'm having a lot of fun trying to write words in different "fonts" instead of just using my own handwriting.  I'll definitely be doing more stuff like this soon!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Caturday: Celebrity Petmatch

The Boy once asked me, "Which high school cliche do you think Birch would be if he were a person?"

I said I thought he'd be a football player - not the best player on the team, but decent - and be average-smart, but really nice and likeable and therefore popular*.  If I made a coming-of-age movie about human-Birch, I'd get a young Brendan Fraser to play him.

Someone once told my mom that that our family dog - a sheepdog cross named Fizzie - was a canine Marilyn Monroe.  I can totally see it: Fizzie was a big-boned dog who swung her hips back and forth when she walked and was, well, really pretty dumb (which is not to say that Marilyn Monroe was dumb, but her public persona was certainly designed to look that way).

I've compared my friend Tommy's cat Lala to Marilyn Monroe, too, because Lala is charmingly ditzy - but Lala is also a teeny little waif with huge eyes, so appearance-wise the Marilyn thing doesn't quite work.  More like Twiggy on really strong hallucinogens or a young Mia Farrow after a minor head injury.

Lala, shooting rays of adorable out of her gigantic eyes.

My friend Cindy and I have decided that her cat, Penelopy, has a Jennifer Lopez thing going on ("Jennifur Lopurrs"!!!) because Penelopy is tiny but has an enormous butt.  Seriously, kitty got back.  She's the first cat I've ever thought of as "voluptuous".  Come to think of it, she's also a bit of a diva, so the Jennifer Lopez thing works on more than one level.

Penelopy a few years ago.  She's probably gained four pounds since then...all in her ass.  It is seriously glorious.

Does your cat or dog have a human look-a-like?  Who is it and why?

*Which is entirely too three-dimensional to be a high-school trope, but it's my answer and I stick by it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Diary of a Trailblazer: in Soviet Russia, Photo Adjusts YOU!

Oh my GOD, you guys, you have no idea how hard it is to take good photographs of things*.

I'm working hard at setting up my upcoming Artfire store, and right now I'm at the part where I take pictures of the paintings I'll be selling - several pictures of each painting, in fact.  I've hung a shelf in a corner of the bedroom for exactly this purpose and I've figured out how to achieve decent lighting, so that saves me a lot of trial-and-error: I'm now able to get a decent-quality, attractive photo of my work more often than not.

But taking the picture is only the beginning.  The real magic (and by "magic" I mean "mind-bending emotional and intellectual torment") happens when I edit the photos.

First off, the little screen on my digital camera is too small to show whether a picture I took is in focus - I won't know this until I upload it to my computer and view it in all its full-sized glory.  It's like a surprise party of blurriness!  Once upon a time I would take just one picture of a painting from any given angle and figure my work was done; now I take at least three, just in case.

And then there's the fact that my camera takes dark, wonky-coloured photos.  I always have to tweak the brightness, contrast, and colour to make things look right.  Did I mention that the type of wonkiness in the photos varies depending on the colours of the painting I'm photographing?  Luckily, I tend to do series of similar paintings, so once I figure out how the first one needs to be tweaked I can do the same thing to all of the others...but when I switch to a different series of paintings, I have to work out the necessary adjustments from scratch.

Finally, there's the fact that Artfire needs all the photos to be a certain pixel size, plus each photo should ideally be a very small file size so that they load quickly for people.

So for every single photograph I intend to upload to Arfire, I have to lower the resolution, change the dimensions of the picture, do things to the brightness and contrast, probably crop it a bit, and then save it.  Resolution/dimensions/brightness/contrast/crop/save.  Resolution/dimensions/brightness/contrast/crop/save.  Resolution/dimensions/brightness/contrast/crop/save.  Even on a good day, it's time-consuming.

Oh, and in addition to uploading photos of each painting to Artfire, I'll also be uploading a scan of each one - and my scanner has a wonky interpretation of colour and brightness that is different from the wonkiness of my camera.  So, more adjustments!

I figure if you take into account all the time spent taking and editing photographs (not to mention uploading them to Artfire and writing descriptions), I'm not going to make a profit off my work like I'd initially assumed.  The price of one of my paintings will compensate me for the time spent making and marketing it, and that's about it. 

It's still totally worth it. :D

*Unless you are a photography nerd and/or have an online store.

Conversational Snippet #14: don't do WHAT to your WHAT!?

[The Boy and I are sitting on the couch, discussing how best to take photos of my paintings]

Me: ...Maybe if I stood back and used the camera zoom...?

Boy: You should never zoom unless you're using a tripod.

Me: You're a tripod!

Boy:  Am not!  That third appendage is clearly not a leg.  It doesn't have a foot on the end of it.

Me: [Placing my foot on The Boy's lap]: it does now! 

Boy: I see what you did there.

[As I remove my foot from The Boy's crotch, a bit of floor grit rubs off onto him.]

Boy: Please don't wipe gross things on my beautiful nutsack.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pwned at cardio by the avian kingdom.

I never notice birds flying with their beaks ajar - not even when they're zipping around all over the place, or flying against the wind, or traveling for miles at a time (like those jerkwad Canada geese when they fly south for the winter).  And yet if I'm out walking and the sidewalk starts to slant uphill even a little bit, POW, I gotta start breathing through my mouth.

What's up with that?

Edit: The Boy and I have decided that the velocity of flying must push air right up a bird's nostrils.  Then the air flows right through the bird and out its ass - the whole wing-flapping thing is to help pump the air out like a bellows.  SCIENCE!

They can't all be good ones.

My new hobby lately is twisting The Boy's words around and giving them back as a veiled sexual proposition.  So, like, if he says he's gonna go play with the cat, I'll leer and go "I'd like to play with your cat..." or if he says "I can't get my arm into this sleeve" I'll leer and go "I'd like to get my arm into your sleeve..."

The other day he was telling me an idea he has for a comic book.  It involves someone trying to find a lost baby.  And I leered and said, "I'd like to find your baby..."  Which...correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that one kind of limped one notch past "double entendre" and landed squarely in "WTF?" territory.

I want my next double entendre to be really good so it cancels that awkward baby one out.  Let's hope The Boy expresses an interest in drinking some juice or polishing a gun sometime in the next day or so.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The World's Most Terrifying Animal

Canada geese scare the everlovin' fuck outta me.

They always hang out in parks and near bodies of water in spring and summer.  It's weird to think that these are wild animals - that undomesticated creatures are just kinda lounging around in public among humans.  Our two species seem to have reached a state of truce, though: the humans mind their own business and the geese mind theirs.  Unless, of course, the human being happens to be me.

For some reason, my presence incites Canada geese into insane fits of rage.  Any time I pass close to one - not being loud or disruptive or even making eye contact, mind you, just walking past - it hisses threateningly at me and then lunges at me.  I've never had one actually chase me - they just feint toward me and then sit back down again, probably laughing at my terror as I sprint away - but it's probably just a matter of time.

Anyway.  Today The Boy and I were walking somewhere and I was taunting him (I can't remember why) and he responded by calling out "Heeeeeere, goosey goosey goosey!" past my head and I realized we happened to be walking beside a park and that some fucking Canada geese were standing maybe twenty feet away.  I was like "Arrrrrgh, don't even joke about that, I hate geese!  I'm almost as afraid of them as I am of centipedes!" whereupon The Boy threatened to genetically engineer a bunch of centigeese that he would sic on me whenever I was mean to him.

So that is the world's most terrifying animal: the centigoose.  I even drew you a picture so you, too, can be traumatized by its extreme scariness:

"honk honk I WILL HAUNT YOUR DREAMS honk"
What would your most terrifying hybrid animal be?  I'll draw the ones I like best and post them here!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shoutout Sunday: Athens Boys Choir

Athens Boys Choir is not actually a band; it's a guy named Katz who has more charisma than Grace Kelly plus ten thousand tiny little puppies!!!  SERIOUSLY I AM CRUSHING SO HARD RIGHT NOW YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW.

The music of Athens Boys Choir is usually described as "spoken word", but a number of tracks are closer to what I'd call rap (or...hip hop, maybe?  I'm not too good with these distinctions).  Many songs deal with queerness or trans-ness - sometimes with biting political commentary but sometimes just in the sense of pure, campy fun.

Well. I guess technically you can't live in this society and sing about being a pansexual Jewish transman without it being a bit...incendiary.  But I don't think that's the point of those campy songs - if anything, they seem like inside jokes aimed at other trans, queer and pansexual people, not some kind of challenge leveled at cis-privileged straight folks.  Anyway, whatever, I'm talking too much.  Watch this now!  IT IS AWESOME:

You can purchase the work of Athens Boys Choir on iTunes.  You might also want to listen to songs, watch videos, or sign up for the mailing list on the official band website.  Would you rather get your fandom fix from MysSpace or Facebook?  Katz has you covered there, too!

Alright, kids, I'm outta here.  I wanna watch Katz's live performance of Tranny's Got Pack* a few more times before I go varnish some paintings.**

*Exposition for newbies: "Packing" is when a trans man or drag king stuffs his pants to create a boy-bulge.  A "packer" (LINK NSFW) is a molded-silicone set of boyjunk manufactured specifically for this purpose.

**Not a euphemism!  I have actual paintings that need a coat of sealant. 

Caturday: Guest Post by Kilala!

(Text by Kilala.  Illustrations by me)

1. Iz ok to be dum as long as u r CUTE!

2. Big sistur Mizu's hed haz a gud flavur.

3. FINGUR MILK IZ REEL.  Will haz it sum day!  Just need to try hardur.

4. Art is subjectiv.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Diary of a Trailblazer: So Far, So Good.

It's been about a month and a half since I left my job.  Here are some things I've learned in the interim:

I can live more cheaply than I thought.  At the beginning of this experiment, I set a tentative budget for myself (and calculated how long my savings will last based on this).  I wasn't 100% sure that my projections were accurate, though. When I was working, I could afford to buy whatever groceries I wanted, including expensive little impulse things; what would my eating habits look like when I didn't have an income?  Would I be able to scale back, or would my cravings for brie, fresh salmon, and $3 chocolate bars become so strong that I'd have to cave?

Also, I gave up my monthly Metropass; a Metropass only makes financial sense if you're taking transit to and from somewhere at least five times a week.  I knew I wouldn't be going out that often, but wasn't sure how often I would be travelling the city; I figured my public transit expenses might vary anywhere from $25 - $75/month.  So far, though, I've discovered I can keep it down to $30ish without feeling especially deprived.  Which brings me to my next point:

I am a hermit by nature.  When I'm forced to leave the house on a regular basis - like to go to work, for instance - I get used to being in the outside world and it's no big deal.  When I'm not forced to leave the house...I gradually forget how.  Thus, when I first left my job I was blithely going for walks every day, but that slowly ground to a halt.  I noticed myself getting all weird and stir-crazy, though, so I've made it my goal to go outside every single day so I don't turn into Gollum from Lord of the Rings.  Usually I have to bribe myself in some way to accomplish this; it can't be "a walk", it has to be "a walk to the convenience store to get a chocolate bar.  Mmmmm chocolate."  The plan is working, though; I do feel better.

"If you don't paint, you'll eventually starve and die" is a good motivator.  Remember how I was afraid I wouldn't be able to paint, even with all the free time in the world?  Well, I'm mostly over that now. Or at least, I continuously have several projects on the go, so if I get "stuck" on one painting I can contemplate how to proceed while I do something more familiar and less scary - like whipping up a batch of fake bacon.  I've gotten a lot done in the past six weeks, and it's all because I kept telling myself: "Painting is the point - painting is why you've risked it all.  So paint."

I drive myself too hard.  When I was working full-time and trying to paint on the side, weeks would go by where I'd tell myself every single day "you should be painting!" but I didn't actually do it.  And oh, how I berated myself for my laziness.  The thing is...I'm still berating myself approximately the same amount, even though I'm getting so much more done. In the month of April alone, I've probably completed more paintings than I've typically made in a year.  So maybe it's time to lighten the hell up, right?

Around the beginning of May I woke up, as always, thinking "Gotta do stuff gotta get stuff done gotta work on art" but somehow ended up napping on the couch instead.  When I woke up, I tried to guilt myself out for being a lazy slob, but it didn't work - I'd used my guilt reflex so much that it had broken.  And I realized that there was not one single day during the entire month of April that I didn't either sketch ideas for paintings, work on paintings, or varnish completed paintings.  Some of those days, I did the sketching/painting/varnishing for just an hour or two and then hung out with The Boy or something, but there was always, always that urgency in the back of my mind: gotta do stuff gotta get stuff done gotta work on art.  And on that day in May, the constant driving pressure finally broke my brain.  I said "FUCK IT" and goofed off for the entire rest of the day.  And it was good.

From now on I'm going to try to give myself periodic breaks: a day here or there where I'm not constantly pressuring myself to produce.  You think I'm weird now, imagine if I overworked myself to the snapping point?!

Art can be a menial job - and that's okay.  When I'm all inspired and jazzed up over a painting I'm doing, it can be an almost spiritual experience.  Indeed, for most of my life I would only paint when I felt electrified by that sense of possibility - and between that and my whole fear-of-failure thing, I'd only set brush to canvas maybe three times a year.  But if I'm going to make a career of this, I can't afford to leave things to chance.  I have lists and lists of painting ideas lying all around the apartment and I've been just, like, methodically working my way through them.  And y'know what?  Sitting down and painting something in a workmanlike fashion is still fun!  I love the challenge of trying to capture shapes and shadows.  I love the textures and colours of the paint I use.  I love the feeling of creating a vibrant little nugget of awesome that didn't exist before.  Yeah, painting while super-inspired is more satisfying, but the difference is negligible - it's like the difference between eating your favourite meal and just eating a good meal.  You feel nourished and happy either way.

Painting is not the most important part - it's just the first part.  My goal for April was to just paint and paint and paint, because I can't open an online store if I've got nothing to sell.  I got so focused on that goal that it became the be-all and end-all.  Now I've got a bunch of merchandise all ready for selling and I feel like I'm, y'know, done...I accomplished the thing I'd set out to accomplish.  But of course I'm not done; I'm never done.  Now I have to actually set up my Artfire store and put things into it.

I have to admit that this stage is freaking me right the fuck out.  See, my first goal - painting a bunch of stuff - was totally within my control.  My ultimate goal - selling a bunch of stuff - is not in my control.  No matter how awesome my store banner looks and how great my merchandise is and how excellent and articulately-written my artist profile and policies are, succeeding in this venture largely boils down to a) time and b) luck.  Basically, I guess I'm stalling on getting my store set up because as long as it's not set up, I can't fail.  Not officially.  'Course I also can't succeed, but try explaining that to my anxiety.

So this past week has been a blurry hell of not being able to do anything at all; I can't paint because I feel like I should be setting up the store instead, but I can't set up the store because ARRGH SCARY.

I think I'm on the verge of powering through my fear, though (like I said above, "do this or you will starve and die" is a damn good motivator). Even the fact that I'm able to write about the fear is a good sign; it means the issue has slowly drifted up to the top of my brain where I can actually address it and deal with it.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Do you like me?

Just a quick reminder to please "like" my Facebook Page if you haven't already.  Sometimes, I give away free art there!  There's also a gallery there where you can see some of my paintings (there's a gallery here on my blog, too, if you didn't know - and it has different paintings in it than the Facebook gallery!  I do love to spoil you. :)).


Tuesday, May 10, 2011


The Boy and I met up with some friends on the weekend.  Somehow we got into a discussion of all the arbitrary pop culture rules that determine what's "gay" and what's not, and one of the people present mentioned the disclaimer, "no homo".  Like, The Boy could say to another dude, "I want your throbbing member inside me.  No homo." and nobody could reasonably think that he was gay because he invoked that magical phrase.

What a wonderful, wonderful concept.  I've decided to adapt "no homo" for use in cougardom.  Yes, from now on when I'm talking to a cute younger guy, I can say all the stuff  I'm usually just thinking...without any repercussions!  Observe!

See how the "no creepy" at the end makes that whole thing totally socially acceptable and not at all grounds to call the police?  It's amazing!


*Except not really.  Why window-shop for something I already own? :D

Sunday, May 8, 2011

More Advice For Entrepreneurs

Today I planned to do a Shoutout Sunday showcasing the awesome purse organizer I bought at The One of a Kind show a few weeks back.  Unfortunately, when I tried to Google the company for purchasing information to share with y'all, I came up with nothing.  This company that made the organizer apparently doesn't have an online store or a website, meaning I have no idea how one would go about purchasing their wares aside from running into the company randomly at a craft fair, meaning that a shoutout about them would be less "This company is cool!  Please buy their stuff!" and more "I have a cool thing and you don't, suckers!"

I've actually been thinking about marketing strategies (and mistakes!) a lot lately, and here's why: yesterday, The Boy and I went to TCAF (the Toronto Comic Arts Festival).  And it.  Was.  Crowded.

The Boy took this pic from the stairway, near the end of our visit; when we first arrived it was so crowded that the floor would not have been visible at all.
Regular readers of this blog may remember me mentioning once or twice that I have some anxiety issues.  Specifically, crowded and chaotic places give me panic attacks.  After ten minutes in this building, pushing forward at a snail's pace while being constantly buffeted by people's shoulders and knapsacks, my brain was in major Red Alert Mode and I told The Boy I might have to bail and go home. Somehow, he convinced me to stay - and so I found myself trying to enjoy art and interact with artists while in the throes of blinding panic.

Ultimately, I didn't get much out of TCAF at all....and after The Boy and I burst out of the Toronto Reference Library into sweet, sweet freedom, I started analyzing my experience and wondering what the vendors could have done to make the experience simpler and more rewarding for me.  I came up with several ideas (which I'll totally implement myself if/when I try to sell my stuff at a craft fair):

-Dramatic signage: some vendors had a big sign behind their table with their name and a drawing on it so you could see who they were and what their style was like from across the room.  That was awesome.  Most vendors didn't, though, and so they blended into the general chaos.

-Clear labelling: I was too overwhelmed by the crowds, etc., to try to make conversation with many of the artists...but there's a better chance I would have if I'd known who was who.  Many tables showcased more than one artist and I was worried that I'd pick up a graphic novel and go "Hey, I love your work!" and the person would go "Yeah...that was drawn by the girl next to me."  I have decided that if I'm ever sharing a table at an event, I'll cover my side of the table with a piece of coloured bristol board so it's obvious that all the stuff laid out on there belongs to that side.  I'll also wear a t-shirt with my company name and/or url and/or one of my drawings on it so I'm even more identifiable.

Also, there were a bunch of times when I liked someone's work and thought "I can't talk to the artist or buy their comic right now because my brain is pounding with fear-chemicals, but I'll take a business card so I can look them up on the internet at home!"  But what I initially assumed were business cards often turned out, upon closer examination, to be business-card-sized stickers the person was selling.  Or else they were business cards but they were right in the middle of a bunch of other little paper goods for sale.  At any rate, I had this fear that if I tried to take a business card I'd end up busted for shoplifting, so I rarely took one.  One table had a little sign next to their business cards saying "please take one!" and that was wonderful - it removed all the guesswork.  I'm totally doing that.

And, I never knew what the etiquette was with the graphic novels - will the artist get annoyed if I thumb through one without buying, or will they see it as an expression of interest?  Some vendors had a stand-up rack with one copy of their comic on it and then a bunch more stacked up in-behind, which pretty clearly indicates "here's a sample copy for you to read, and if you want to buy it I'll give you a fresh one."  Clarity rocks.

Friendliness: a surprising number of artists just sat behind their tables sketching or whatever and didn't even look at the attendees. I'm sure an established fan who wanted to buy something (and was not cripplingly shy...) would've spoken up no problem, but to a n00b like me who just wanted to maybe ask a question, the lack of eye contact acts as a big ol' DO NOT DISTURB sign.

On the flip side, though, there were people who said hi to all passers-by and tried to engage them in conversation - which meant that The Boy and I glanced through a few portfolios of people whose work didn't actually appeal to us, just to be polite.  Awkward!

I think if I'm ever the one sitting behind the table, I'll make eye contact and smile at my customers to show that I'm approachable, but wait for them to start conversations if they're so inclined.  And I'll try to prominently display art that's provocative in some way so it gives people a natural conversation-starter.

In conclusion: I realize that most people don't attend comic conventions/art fairs/craft shows/etc. in a state of mind-bending terror.  However, since my anxiety makes me the least likely to buy things, talk to people, or even take a business card, if you can manage to woo me as a customer, you'll be able to woo anyone.  And that's why my advice here is sound and sensible and not just the ravings of a madwoman.

I'm really glad I went to TCAF, even though being there burned me right the hell out and made me useless for the rest of the day.  The experience got me thinking and gave me a much better idea of how to conduct business once I'm ready to sell my stuff in a not-online kind of way.

Do you have any tips to add?  If you've ever been a vendor, what are some things you've done to improve your customers' experience?  If you've ever gone to any kind of festival or convention where they sold stuff, what did people do to catch your eye...or what do you wish they did?  Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Caturday: a Birch of One's Own

I love distinctive-looking cats - especially ones with asymmetrical face-blobs.  Back when I was shopping for a cat, Birch was at the top of my list of potentials, but there was also another strong contender (who I never ended up meeting because Birch was love at first sight): Maggie.

She's practically Birch's twin, but with green eyes instead of blue!

The other day I got curious about Maggie and went to the Toronto Cat Rescue's website to see if she's still there - and she is.  You guys, I got Birchy almost two freaking years ago and poor Maggie is still in a foster home waiting for a permanent family!

Part of me really wants to adopt her: I feel sad that she's been up for grabs for so long, plus she and Birch would make the most adorable matching set, like kitty salt-and-pepper shakers.  And her personality profile makes her sound like pretty much the perfect kitty: even-tempered, a bit of a "talker" but not constantly meowing, a lovely balance of affectionate yet independent.

But...when I really think about it, I shouldn't get a second kitty.  I mean, duh, I'm not even working right now!  And the apartment is small, and Birchy, although wonderful, can be frustrating sometimes when I'm trying to paint delicate outlines on a piece of artwork and he's headbutting my hand.  Two cats would probably be just way too damn chaotic.

In conclusion: if you live in (or can get to) Toronto, Ontario, and you want a she-Birch of your very own, PLEASE click here to learn more about Maggie!  Adopt her before I swoop in, save the day, and maybe get myself in a little bit over my  head.  Save Maggie from orphanhood and save me from myself!

Thank you. :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Conversational Snippet #13: ...Unless it involves a roll in the hay.

[A while back, necklaces with words on them were really popular.  I began to crave one for myself, but not one with my initials or some trendy inspirational word like “dream” or “believe”; I wanted to make one that said “perverse” or “ask me about my crippling shyness” or “fuck this shit”.  My friend S. and I made a pilgrimage to my favourite bead store, where I bought three or four little sealed baggies of letter beads on sale.

Then S. and I went to a coffee shop and I poured my bounty out on the table so I could start arranging the letters and planning out all the fabulous necklaces I would make.  Except...]

Me: What the hell?!  I guess these were on sale because they ran out of most of the important letters!

S. [sifting through the beads]: The only vowels they gave you are A’s and Y’s.  That’s kind of ridiculous.

Me: I know!  I can’t make any of the words or phrases I was thinking of.  I can’t even do lame ones like “porn star” or “rock star” because there are no O’s!

S.: There are no P’s, either…but you do have all the letters to spell “barn star”…

Me: I don’t know what a barn star is but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be one.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What's the opposite of Occam's Razor?

I have a friend named Brendan.  The Boy works with a different Brendan.  Curiously, the two Brendans are kind of similar-looking.

One might point out that these Brendans are both Irish and surmise that their colouring and general facial structure comes from their heritage.

I choose to believe that every Brendan on the planet shares one or two physical traits with the next.  These Brendans would of course occupy the full spectrum of heights, races, and builds; the first Brendan would look nothing like the last, but he would look kinda-sorta like the second one, who would look kinda-sorta like the third one, etc., etc., until we'd run the entire gamut of human variation.

A continuum of Brendans.  A Brendinuum!

I  mean, it's just so obvious.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Caturday: Paws for Thought

This morning The Boy playfully flipped the edge of a blanket over Birch, who actually stayed under it instead of running out in a huff like he normally would.  Then Birch started using the blanket as cover for sneak attacks.  That's about when The Boy called to me to come into the bedroom and bring his iPhone.  And then...

You can hear me giggling nervously a few times because Birch's ninja speed kinda freaks me out - when I play with Birchy, it's usually by trailing around a piece of string so I can have some distance from his claws.  The Boy, however, is brave enough to stick his actual hands within striking distance.  At approximately 1:30 The Boy sticks one of his hands entirely under the blanket and moves it around to entice Birch (we call this game Blanket Monster), but it doesn't really work.  That's why The Boy slaps his one hand down like that - he's demonstrating to Birch how to kill the Blanket Monster.

Anyway, I think it's cute.  Your mileage may vary.