A Normal Day in DownTown Gri’x

I do so much work for other projects that doesn’t even make it over here to my main portfolio, and some of it really should. Here’s a piece I did for the Gri’x, a world I’m building where everyone’s dreams are reality. (Of course it’s based on my own dreams, but there are plenty of other people living in this dimension, and I don’t want to be their god.)

I’ve always loved cities–not so much the crowds, but the buildings, the angles, all the activity and lights and smells and grit and garbage and things being built and things falling apart.

I also have a terrible fear of tornadoes.

I made this composite picture from shots of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, and downtown Portland, Oregon. The yellow signs are warning drivers that they should look out for Block Hockey teams.

A downtown street with a vortex in the sky, sucking one of the skyscrapers out by the roots

Many Means, Many Ends

Yesterday I posted about how I’m feeling overwhelmed by all the projects I’ve got going on. The truth is that I create hardly any art (and writing and music and 3d objects and graphic design and web design) for its own sake. I know, I know, aaaaarrrrtissssts are supposed to be infatuated with their work just because aaaaarrrrrt.

There are, and have been, many creators who produce a masterpiece after a vision grabs them and send it out into the world with no context. That’s awesome, but that’s not how it happens for me. In my world, every random doodle and phrase hooks itself up with other ideas I’ve had, adding to the demand for connecting projects. (I have lists.) Some of my work could stand on its own, I suppose, but nothing has to. It’s all part of a big neural knot, and I think that’s more fun.

Does Any Idea Really Stand Alone?

If you can think of one, I’d like to hear it. All of our ideas come from other ideas and connect up with still more ideas. Conceptual reality would fall apart–both for individuals and, perhaps, the collective conscious–if all the little nodes didn’t have their associations. Art is the act of exploring these associations and forging new paths between nodes. Most often it’s predictable and formulaic, but sometimes you get a surprise that connects two unrelated ideas and becomes something more than the sum of its parts.

Several years ago, my husband asked me to draw a cartoon about conjoined twins joined at the beard. I did so. A lot of humor comes from surprise juxtaposition of unrelated concepts, and this one works well. It seems pretty self-contained, right? Doesn’t really need any explanation.

Two men joined at the tip of their very long beard. One looks annoyed; the other looks like a loud, crazy person. The caption reads: "Mortimer often resented his conjoined idiot twin, Argylus, with whom he was obliged to share a beard."

But oh, no, we couldn’t stop there. Last year, while I was working on the first draft of one of my novels (of course it’s not done yet; I’ll let you read it when I work out the ending), the twins showed up again. Did you know they’re philosophers? I didn’t, until I wrote this paragraph:

“…look there, at the end of the bar, on the two stools closest to the peanut bin. Those toga-sporting gentlemen are Mortimer and Argylus Axyristophes, the two-man power philosophy team who also happen to be conjoined twins: two bodies, two minds, one beard. Buy them two drinks and ask them about the meaning of life. The debate will provide an entire night’s worth of entertainment, and you’ll leave with plenty of new concepts to ponder. Or, buy them one drink and get ready for the most unusual bar brawl you’ve ever seen.”

Is that the extent of Mortimer and Argylus’ appearances in my world? Probably not. They’ve got lives, and they’ll show up again with more input when they’re ready. They’ll probably end up in their own series. Or maybe they’ll teach a philosophy course at GXU. Who knows? My artistic technique usually involves more sudden connections and visionary flashes than planned paths.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my outlines and to-do lists are calling.

Getting Organized

A few weeks ago, I overheard my husband talking to his brother on the phone. My name came up; my ears tuned in.

“…she’s got so much material, she’d have a book, if she could just get organized.”

WeLL aCtUaLLeEeE…you know what? I’m so fucking organized it’ll make your head spin. Some days I spend more time organizing my work than doing the work. (That’s a problematic coping mechanism; probably something to do with a need to feel in control.)

Here is a mind-map of all my current projects and the next tasks I have scheduled for them:

Mind-map with six big projects

Dear gods.

I don’t need to get organized. I need an additional 99 hours in a day. I need an apprentice. I need a team. I need a focus group. I need a marketing division. I need a cleaning crew. I need an angel investor.

I need to get back to work.

SEO and Click-Bait, but Then THIS Happened

Writing a personal blog is easy. Creating blog posts in the hopes of directing potential customers to my work isn’t too challenging. Finding a balance between genuine content that reads like it comes from a thinking, feeling person with things to say AND satisfying the SEO bots at the same time, though? That’s hard.

Stylized doodle of a snake with a purple glow to make the SEO bot happy

The SEO thingy says that including an image will improve the article’s ranking in the search engines. Here’s a snake I drew.

The Internet is bloated with crap from content farms: articles that only exist to jack up the site’s search engine ranking and drive clicks to product pages. There’s no real substance to most of these; they simply cram a bunch of keywords and descriptive links together and pad them with sentences to make it look like an article. You’ve read them. I’ve written them. It felt dirty. It seems like easy money at first, but every time I take these little jobs, all my enthusiasm for writing just wilts away (not to mention my faith in humanity) and it takes me two hours to write 500 words.

How much can one really say about pet-carriers or USB adapters, anyway, without getting blatantly repetitive? How many different ways can I find to say that Virgo needs to unclench?

Occasionally there’s an interesting research assignment. One time I spent all day learning about lyme disease for a thousand-word article (sorry, SEO bot, I don’t have the link). Had I written it for a class, it would have been an A+. I think I made $30.

The SEO Bot Says I Need A Sub-Heading

Anyway, my point is not to whinge about cringy stuff I’ve had to do for money. My point is that I really hate the fact that click-bait and content farms exist at all and that anyone creating real, personal content has to keep trying to shout over all the marketing fluff if they want to get seen. I want to make money with my art and writing, sure, but does it have to feel so icky?

I know that Ayn Rand’s ideas aren’t too popular, but I’ve never forgotten one scene from The Fountainhead. A brilliant artist was facing poverty, so he had to take a job painting insipid little mass-produced sculptures. The creative constraints began to drive him crazy, and he started adding tiny little personal touches to stave off the repetitive blandness: a wall-eye here, a sinister twist to the mouth there. Each piece became a subtle fuck-you to the ubiquitous mediocrity that values production and consumption over originality and excellence.

Money ruins everything. Please click my links and give me some money.

The Tiniest of Termaters

Here’s a post that’s just something from my daily life and it’s not about art at all. Except gardening is an art, I suppose, in a way. And I don’t garden very much in my daily life. But I’m trying to take care of Grandma’s garden for her, and I’m not very good at it, but I did find this ITTY BITTY ADORABLE MUTANT cherry tomato today (pictured next to a normal-size cherry tomato).

So this post is about art that I’m not good at but somehow still managed to discover something really cool amidst the mess I made out of it.

And then I ate it.

Close up of my hand holding a normal cherry tomato and an ITTY BITTY TINY MUTANT cherry tomato

A Gaming Map, of Which I Am Quite Proud

I love D&D. I’ve been playing since 1986, and I still play 2nd Edition. The pandemic has been horrible, but one silver lining for me was that I discovered online D&D. I’ve been designing graphic assets for my homebrew games for a year and a half now, and here’s one that I’m pretty happy with.

My group uses Roll20. They have this thing called “Fog of War” that lets the DM hide certain areas of the board from the players, but it’s pretty ugly: all it does is make big black spots over the whole thing (yes, I know how to use dynamic lighting). For my latest campaign, I’m sending the players into a ruined town in a beautiful forest in autumn. The buildings they haven’t found yet are hidden by trees–not big black spots. So I decided to make my own “Forest of War.”

First I drew the buildings, and Photoshopped a colorful forest around them.

Map of ruined town in the woods

Then I created small groups of trees that could be moved around, and put them over the buildings.

Map of ruined town in the woods, mostly hidden by trees

You can tell which trees can be moved here because the background hadn’t finished loading in on Roll20 yet when I took this screen shot. Fortuitous!

So when it’s all together, there’s no way the players can tell where the buildings are–until they get close enough to one and I move the trees!Map of ruined town in the woods, mostly hidden by trees

You can see they’ve already discovered one of the buildings. I did a fun thing with those, too. I didn’t want to make a separate map for each building: changing maps would be a pain, and I wanted them to always have the expanded overview of the area. I decided to make removable roofs, and just move those over to show the interiors when the players declare that they’ll enter a building.

Once the whole thing is in Roll20, I fill it with props, the characters wander in, and HA! They get attacked by a couple of giant spiders hiding in the woodpile. HOURS OF FUN!

Ruined building filled with props and PCs' positions inside


Actual Content

I suppose I should post something besides things I wish you’d buy, or posts about how I’ll be posting better posts soon.

Are you afraid of getting old? I’ve come to terms (mostly) with the idea that I’ll most likely be old someday sooner rather than later. It’s okay; it’s just a thing that happens to everyone who survives long enough. But getting old? Facing the mental and physical deterioration? That doesn’t look so appealing.

My husband Corvin and I are live-in caretakers for my grandma. She’s going to be 103 next week. That’s old. She was doing fine up until a couple of years ago, but now she needs 24-hour assistance, and watching this downward spiral day-by-day is…daunting. Her mental faculties took a major dip over the weekend. No one can figure out what broke. She’s been in the hospital for two days now, getting poked and prodded and complaining that she wants to go home. She’s irritated and I don’t blame her. I’m not expecting a cure, but I hope they figure out what happened so we can make a plan for dealing with it.

What about death? Are you afraid of death? I’m not afraid to be dead–I’m pretty sure that there are only two possibilities for what happens to us after death: The Big Nothing, or The Thing You Really Believe. If it’s the former, it won’t matter. If the latter, it’ll be pretty cool. I’m good with it. But the process of dying? That makes me nervous. Will it hurt? Will it be embarrassing? Will I even be aware of what’s happening? (Do I want to be?) Will I finish even half of the things I want to do here before then?

So many question marks.

Corvin and I took advantage of the “night off” when Grandma went into the hospital and had ourselves an evening walk by the river. Here’s a pretty sunset. Sunset over a river with dramatic storm clouds rolling off


WIP: Ornamental thing

The gold disk is a photograph of a detail from my first Christmas ornament that my dad bought in the hospital gift shop when I was born. I’m still playing around with this–not sure if I like the spiral, but the background (a painting I did in art school) is cool.

Yesterday I wasted a lot of time trying to apply this to products in a POD store, but it doesn’t look right on anything and I really kind of hate POD stores anyway.

Gold sun-like disk with a whispy spiral against a blue-and-black blobby background

The Gri’x is Online (again)

If you think my portfolio site has had a lot of incarnations, here’s the latest version of another one that I keep re-vamping. Is it finally done? NO! No, it isn’t. And it probably never will be. But it’s fun and I like doing it.
The Gri'x LogoThat’s right, The Gri’x is back online! THRILL to the hundreds of wiki pages! WALLOW in the stories and poems of the Scriptures! WONDER why the footer is still acting so wonky on some pages! Yes, THE GRI’X! My favorite setting for dreaming and tale spinning and stream-of-consciousness rambles! Now with its own shiny new URL!