an oil painting of a woman in a black dress sitting on stacks of books arranged like a throne

It’s funny how going from working on something like the Angel Tarot to working on whatever you’d like can make you feel like the slowest painter in the world. While working on AT I reached a frenetic, unsustainable pace in the last month of it to get it across the finish line, and now while I have a lot of projects in the pipeline, none of them have hard and fast deadlines. Instead of working like a madwoman I can slow down and enjoy the process again. I can also examine some of the processes I use now and determine if they are ones I want to keep.

When I first started out painting I always started with the faces. If I liked the face the rest of the painting would usually turn out good. If I didn’t like the face it usually turned out to be a weird omen that something would happen during the rest of the painting and the whole thing would either end up discarded or be one of my least favorite pieces. It’s not the “right” way to paint – you should paint the background first, and go from left to right if you are right-handed, and opposite if you are left-handed – particularly so if you are using an unforgiving medium like watercolor. I never much cared about what was the “right” way to do things when I started out. Seeing the finished face and liking the result also motivated me to finish some of the more boring parts in order to show the world the little character I had made.

One day I recall someone saying something like, “you can always tell an amateur painter from a professional, because amateurs always start with the faces.” Or something like that. And I didn’t want to be seen as an amateur at that point, so I immediately stopped painting the way that works for me and I switched to painting “the right way.”

Now I don’t care if people think I am an amateur. Some people will think you are an amateur no matter how skilled you are or how far you go. You don’t have to sit in on very many conversations between artists before you find one of those people. They are everywhere and usually they aren’t very good or very successful anyway – at least that’s been my finding. I think sometimes these comments come from a place of deep dissatisfaction with the speaker’s own work or insecurity about their financial success. Maybe the only thing they have left to feel good about is that they are doing it “the right way” even if it isn’t really working for them.

For a really long time I stuck to painting the right way, and for a really long time I’ve struggled to connect to my paintings the way I once did. Initially when I started on this painting I was doing the same old thing. I started on the background in the left corner. And then I thought, I’d really like to see her face. Realizing that I didn’t have to work around the wet paint, that I wasn’t on a deadline and I could just paint her face, let it dry, and work on the rest another day, I went ahead and painted her face.

Once her face was there it was much easier to convince myself to paint the tedious background of this piece. I think it has great visual effect, her throne of books, pumpkins, autumn leaves, and a cozy firefly lantern, but it was nonetheless tedious to paint 130 books and if I didn’t feel connected to the piece I probably would have given up after the first few dozen books.

Feeling connected to your work as an artist is so important. Often we get caught up in the idea that the subject matter of the painting is where the connection lies, but the process is also important. Working the “right” way has its merits and uses – if I had to hurry to finish this painting then working around the wet paint on her face would have been tricky and I might have smeared it on accident. But if the “right” method hinders your personal connection to your work, makes you enjoy it less, and makes the process feel like a slog, then leave it behind and do whatever gives you that sense of connection. That connection, that desire to finish the piece and share it with the world, is often what will prevent burnout and artist block – at least that’s how I feel. Having to stifle myself and especially working on things that I can’t share, or don’t like enough to want to share, always makes me feel blocked and burned out faster than anything else I could do.

I don’t really care if it is childish to paint the faces first. I have been doing that since I started this piece and it’s been working fantastically for me. I also did it for approximately 200 pieces before I stopped painting the faces first and those pieces are the ones that I built my career on. I see each of my paintings as little stories and it’s hard to connect to a story that doesn’t have a main character, isn’t it?

This little story is sort of a self-portrait. No, the character isn’t me, but the hoard of books? Yep, that’s me. Her To Be Read list is probably as long as mine, and if I didn’t have a library in my home I’d probably be sitting on chairs made of all the books I haven’t read yet. As the weather turns cold and gray I relate more and more to this character. Little pumpkins from my garden dot the surfaces of my house, I miss the fireflies of summer, and if I had the shelf space I would probably go out and buy a list of books as long as my arm. Unfortunately even in my private library shelf space is running out and I am beginning to lose my closet space to the books I am reading currently. Perhaps I will have to give away some that I have read or maybe I will have to build more shelves on the remaining empty wall of the library.

The rest of this month will be spent working on some wintery paintings, some special things for Yule, and NaNoWriMo. Since I am currently taking it easy with paintings and giving myself more time to work on them, I decided I would take the time to do something that I always wanted to do and write a novel in November. I am on track as of this writing at 16% of the way through my novel. Only 20% of the people who attempt NaNoWriMo actually finish it, and I intend to be in that 20%, but I also intend to finish some paintings.

Hopefully I can do both and maybe add something to your TBR pile.



I remember many years ago when I was very young, perhaps 20, meeting an artist that I looked up to at a convention. He lamented that no one really did pen and ink work anymore and that it was a dying art. I made it my business to learn pen and ink after that. I’ve never gotten any jobs for it, so I’ve come to the conclusion it’s not that artists don’t want to make it, it’s that publishers are looking for color art instead. But I did discover I really enjoy it.

I think around that same time InkTober, the monthlong challenge for October to produce one ink drawing every day, came about. I wonder if Jake heard a similar complaint, or had one of his own? At any rate, now the internet is flooded each October with pen and ink work that publishers mostly don’t even want anymore.

But if you love an art form then you just keep doing it anyway, don’t you? And that’s where I’m at. Every October, because that’s when people are looking for it, I dust off my little storage bag of Tombow and Rapidograph pens and I get to work on what I have carefully plotted out sometimes for the whole year in advance. I tell myself I am going to finish one drawing every single day, and then…

Life just lifes all over the place.

This year was much worse than any other year. October so far is a blur. I don’t really remember when we put my grandmother on hospice. In June, actually on her birthday of June 10th, she slipped getting out of her power recliner and she landed on her butt right in front of the chair. She had osteoporosis and her spine was surgically fused, so she broke her back that morning and it simply never healed. If you’ve ever lived with a broken back for a normal amount of time you know she was in a lot of pain, but in her case she wasn’t a candidate for surgical repair either because last year she had a heart attack and she still had a big clot in her heart and a lot of other concerns. So instead of living with a broken back for a normal amount of time, she lived with it for 4 months.

Right around that time dementia set in and we couldn’t get her to push her little call button for help. We tried and tried but one day she fell again trying to get herself, broken back and all, to the bathroom. On that day she scored a broken ankle to go with the broken back. The ankle never healed either.

It was obvious to me her body was just giving up. Other family members had a harder time coming around to the same conclusion. Her body was out of energy to heal itself and even though she was stubborn as an ox and tough as nails, the flesh was very weak. Eventually, after months of trying to get her to heal, the decision was finally agreed upon to put her on hospice.

Things took a sharp turn around the beginning of October. She barely spoke and was less and less helpful when we had to get her out of bed. She rang her call button all the time for the weirdest things, because like I said, dementia had set in, and the Roomba making its way to her bedroom was a national security breach. Sometimes she didn’t know who we were anymore. All-in-all it pretty much sucked for everyone.

For me it was hard to settle into work. I knew all the time that the buzzer could go off because she needed help, or because she wanted to watch a TV show that hasn’t been on in 20 years, or my grandpa was laughing too loud, or because she wanted to “go upstairs” which genuinely puzzled us all – the only thing upstairs is a dusty attic full of holiday decorations.

It’s funny how something like the anticipation of a bell ringing can stop an artist from getting settled into work. If it wasn’t the bell ringing it was all the healthcare workers coming and going to check on grandma, and my desire to clean the house at least enough that it didn’t look like we had a poltergeist infestation. This and that added up and for a while now I haven’t really done much painting at all and I definitely didn’t manage an ink drawing every day.

On October 11th I had some appointments and errands to run, so my son and I left the house (my uncle was here). When we came back that afternoon something had happened while we were gone but no one apparently noticed. It looked like grandma was sleeping but as the day went on she just slept and never rang the bell. Eventually we realized she’d had a stroke and couldn’t really open her eyes anymore, and that started a whole new flurry of activity in the house as hospice workers brought oxygen and came more frequently to check on us.

Over the next two days she deteriorated pretty rapidly and left us on the morning of Friday the 13th.

My grandma loved Halloween, scary movies, and witchy stuff, so I am certain she would be amused she died on Friday the 13th if she had any awareness at that point. It was pretty clear she wasn’t aware anymore, though, thankfully. It was clear that she was in a lot of pain until then, and when she still had a few words she told us all the time it hurt. To be honest, in the weeks leading up to her death I spent a lot of my time praying that she would be released from her suffering. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. Her bones would never repair themselves and no surgeon would ever agree to work on her frail body. She wanted to be alive but her body disagreed. It was all around just a shitty situation.

She’s finally out of pain now and a sense of peace that I haven’t felt in a very long time has come over me. A couple days after she died the last healthcare worker came into the house to collect the hospital equipment we had collected during her short time on hospice, and that was it. The door shut behind him and the house felt quiet. I heard the muse whispering again, a voice I couldn’t hear above the hubbub of medical chaos, and I went back to the studio.

I only have two ink drawings this time around, and I don’t know if I will even plan on doing this next year. It seems like an invitation for mischief and perhaps I’ll just sneakily work on these things all year and release them in October instead. Hopefully you’ll play along with my little trick.

The first drawing is “Poison” – obviously the whole wicked witch with apples trope – and the second is “Spiders” – a cute little witch in stripey socks trying to shoo the spiders out of her old-fashioned under garments. Huge thanks to Howard Lyon for the wonderful Gibson Girl reference photos I have been using in my figure drawing practice lately, which led to these two drawings.

You can get both of them on eBay, Poison and Spiders.


Obviously my grandmother received a lot of medical attention during the last year and a half. My mom and I both missed work to take care of her and my mom actually ended up taking a job that doesn’t pay as much as she’s used to making because she thought it would give her more time at home (spoiler alert: Don’t do this, it won’t work out). Every time my grandmother needed medical attention she had to be taken in an ambulance because of the broken back, and because of her dementia-related falling she was getting a lot of medical attention over the summer (we really tried, y’all). She depleted her savings and my grandfather is still alive and living with us, so we still have to take care of him and try to save what we can in case he needs medical attention and when the time comes, yunno, another funeral to pay for.

Times are pretty tough for my mom right now as the cremation turned out to be more expensive than any of us thought it would be. My grandma requested no services and wanted the cheapest option for her final expenses, but even then it wasn’t that cheap.

If you can and you want to help my mom, she has a GoFundMe to pay for my grandmother’s final expenses. And if you can’t right now but you want to do something in memory of my witchy grandmother, please remember to donate to Toys for Tots this year and every year. She often organized Toys for Tots drives (and scholarships, fire victim relief, and a whole lot of other stuff I don’t even recall) and it would mean a lot to her if people donated toys in her memory.

GoFundMe Link


If you take anything away from this lengthy post at all, I hope it’s this: Please make your final arrangements for yourself. Pre-pay for anything you can, get a will, and talk to an estate planner to legally protect your family and your money from predatory nursing homes. If the system were better here in the United States, my grandmother could have been taken care of in a nice rest home and her family could have visited her lots and continued to lead productive lives. Instead the system is trash, so she would have spent her final days in a hole in the wall that bilked us for thousands of dollars until her estate was depleted and then they would have dumped her into an even worse hole in the wall that would cost the taxpayers almost as much.

And that’s scarier than any Halloween InkTober thing ever.

Recently I said things on social media and Patreon about starting over my full moon series from many, ahem, moons ago. When I first got out of school in 2008 I started painting them in watercolor. I wasn’t very good at painting back then but that never stopped me from selling the paintings. In fact I have very few of those not very skillful paintings left and lots of my more skillful work that sits around. I don’t know what that says about anything but there it is – if you are worried you aren’t good enough at painting to sell your paintings, guess again.

Anyhoo I never finished the series back then. I did a few of the pieces and then toddled off to other ideas like I frequently do. I have ADHD and that is my excuse for everything. But recently I have been taking classes again and I thought for sure it would be a fun thing to work on the moon series, but start over obviously because none of the pieces would match otherwise.

The Blue Moon piece I did in August went swimmingly. It was an experiment in working with water-mixable oils for the underpainting and I found the whole process really enjoyable. I also really enjoyed working with the new things I was learning.

I’ve always wanted to paint more like the “classical dudes” but you have to understand I grew up in a really rural area and the only art around me was weird abstract stuff and cowboy art. I never actually have seen, to this day, any paintings in person of any of my personal art heroes. For real! Opportunities have arisen for me to see them, but then life has gotten in the way and I’ve missed the traveling exhibitions that carried Bouguereau, Waterhouse, and Alma-Tadema around the United States.

When I was a kid and I saw those paintings in books and whatnot I just figured nobody really paints like that anymore, or if they do I would never be in the position to learn how they do. But with the Internet there’s really no excuse against learning pretty much anything. The internet has encouraged people to become their own doctors and do their own scientific research, so the internet can also fool me into believing I am capable of Academic and Pre-Raphaelite painting techniques, right?

Well anyway I think I got pretty close on “Blue Moon” and I was pretty happy with it. So I set out to paint “The Harvest Moon”.

Cue sad trombone music.

I started the painting and it was alright. But it didn’t have the same look as Blue Moon, which is obviously what I’m going for. And then I didn’t like the colors and didn’t know if glazing could salvage them, and blah blah blah, fill this space with all kinds of artistic self-doubt, and here we are the morning after The Harvest Moon and I have not painted it.

I’ll come back around to it later, probably at the end of next summer when I make my way around to the Buck Moon and Sturgeon Moon. For now it is time for me to switch and focus on October’s Hunter’s Moon. And maybe in the future I won’t talk on social media about my plans for future works, since, you know, *gestures*, this.

I AM working on a new calen- no. I’m not working on anything else that is serial or going to be released on Kickst- you know what, I’m going to go drink some coffee.