What a fucking year.
This has been, without a doubt, the single most life-changing year of...well, my life, and it really showed in my work. I almost wasn't able to fill this meme out this year. Shit, I had to cheat for November and pull a piece I finished in late October but didn't post until a week or so later. April and May I only had one or two pieces to choose from. My style and subject matter are all over the place, which, granted, is not inherently a bad thing, but it's a pretty spot-on reflection of how I felt about my art throughout the year.
I made Vice in October of 2021, but January was the first time I really got to play with them. I always intended for them to be a shapeshifter, but it wasn't until I improvised a skull-faced version for an icon at the very end of December that I really finalized their primary design. Even at the time, I didn't intend for that to be permanent, but I fell in love with it so hard that I haven't been able to draw them any other way since. That's just Their Face now, and it ain't goin anywhere.
They got their first ref sheet this month as well, and then the sky was the limit. I did multiple pieces of them through February and well into March, but this is probably my favorite one. Vice's primary function as a mascot/persona is to be an avenue to explore aspects of my sexuality that I didn't feel comfortable doing with Sparta or Glitch. They're more dominant and assertive (but still very, very happy to sub) and completely unafraid of judgement, and I've even noticed this carrying over to my life outside of art.
What's funny (and whether they're connected or not, I'm not sure) is that all this happened after a pretty traumatic event. Early in January a snow storm knocked out the power in my area of Virginia for almost a week. I could have dealt with no entertainment for that long, but I was also home alone while my mom was visiting family in New Jersey, and most importantly, I had no heat. Again, I could have dealt with that on my own; it would have royally sucked ass, but I could do it. But I had four snakes and eight tarantulas that would die if they dropped below the mid-low 60s Fahrenheit for more than a few hours. And the power was out for five days. I had to move all the snakes into travel bins and bring them and the spiders into my car, running the engine constantly to keep the heat running with the garage door cracked open so none of us suffocated. I slept with them in the car and had to wake up every 1-2 hours to turn the engine off to save battery, and then turn it back on to raise the temperature again. And the whole time I'm sitting there wondering if all the animals are alive, and for how long. I ended up bringing them to a vet tech friend after a few days when she got power back before us. I'm amazed I didn't develop claustrophobia from sitting in the car in my garage by myself for a week, but I definitely did have a genuine (if mild) PTSD response to the threat of inclement weather after that.
I've never had a persona/avatar character I felt comfortable using for anything sexual. This was the first foray into that, and the little Vice in my head insisted it was go big or go home. So I guess this piece was kind of reclaiming aspects of my sexuality I was never willing to express, or at least not openly, in the past: revealing clothes, big tits, overt femininity, and a dangerous attitude.
Fuck It, Bitch
A friend had mentioned Vice surpassing Xerxes as my most popular character because a sketchpage of them I posted to Twitter had 500 retweets and almost 3000 likes, and got me over 500 followers. I made a silly meme piece of Vice making Xerxes suck their dick.
A few days later, a sketch of Baphomet I posted on got 1400 retweets, 24 QRTs, almost 6900 likes (nice), and brought in 1200 new followers. Go figure.
Qiraji & Oseye
This was...literally the only art I finished in April. It's a birthday gift for a friend of their OCs.
However, I will cut myself some slack on account of the fact I drove 3000 miles with two friends and as many of my personal belongings as I could fit in my car to move from Virginia to California, shipped my four snakes and eight tarantulas ahead of time and fretted about that the whole way, and unexpectedly adopted a stray cat. Art was not exactly high on my list of priorities at the time.
By this time I'd been gearing up for a change for quite a while. I had a big move on the very near horizon, and was also trying to figure out what the fuck I wanted to do with my art. Did I wanna be A Porn Artist or did I want to have a viable PG body of work too? Did I wanna paint realism or lean into heavier stylization? All I did know for sure was that I wanted to play with lighting and color more. I still haven't really figured any of that out, but this piece was one of my first attempts at trying.
I also had this long, deep-seated issue with adult art where I was reluctant to put too much effort into it, afraid to take it too seriously, because I wasn't sure what the payoff could be. I was never going to sell a nicely rendered porn piece for thousands of dollars, I can't sell porn prints on the storefronts I use, and even at conventions, porn prints are a much harder sell. I had a harder time making Really Fancy Porn just because I wanted to make really fancy porn. So I forced myself to do exactly that, and made some really self-indulgent heavily rendered robot/human porn of my OCs with dramatic lighting and a very different color palette than I usually use. Six birds, one stone.
June was...a lot. It was Pride Month and I did another Vice piece that I had a lot of fun with. We bought the foundation stock for a snake breeding project in a few years. My roommates and I were finding our rhythm living together.
And then Roe v. Wade was overturned. I said everything I had to say about it back in June, so I won't bother repeating it now. Suffice to say that I have never been especially prone to vent art, as I typically need to be in a good mood to produce much of anything. I finished this two days later.
July means ArtFight. This year I decided to use it as an opportunity for more painting and style experimentation. I didn't get as many done as I normally do, or as many as I would have liked, but considering the amount of work I put into each piece and the creeping depression in the background, I still consider it a win.
This one was a twofer. On one hand, I really wanted to figure out how to ink digitally in a way that replicated my brush pen and ballpoint pens on paper. More stylization experiments, this time fueled by a months-long hyperfixation on DC Comics. I don't think I'm cut out to be an interior comic artist, but I would sure as hell not say no if they asked me to do a variant cover or something...
On the other, I had a similar issue with my fan OCs that I did with adult art earlier in the year. Save for a few of my close friends, I felt like I was really the only one interested in them, so it never felt worth it to do anything more than sketches of them. And the thing is, that fear of no one taking interest in fan characters...is not entirely unfounded. People in fandom spaces are so often completely disinterested (or sometimes actively hostile toward) fan characters, especially when they're shipped with canon characters, and most of mine are. I don't usually fall slave to the meaningless social media points, except in this very specific arena.
So this was a way to say fuck you to those thoughts and also feed my current ADHD dopamine craving. And I still really, really love it.
Stolen Moment I
My grandma died on September 1st. She lost a long battle with dementia and Parkinson's, exacerbated by medication for one that reacted poorly with the other. I do not handle death well at all. But this felt...different. I was close with my grandma, when I lived in Jersey, but due to the pandemic and two out-of-state moves, I hadn't seen her in two years. She had already been at the point of not recognizing her children for a while. I doubt she remembered me. I guess it felt like she'd already been gone. I'd done my grieving slowly over time instead of all at once like it was the other times. It was really strange and I honestly keep waiting for it to really sink in.
I had to fly out for the funeral, and see my dad for the first time after not speaking to him for four years. It turned out to be easier than I expected, and I have to give him credit for not making a big deal out of it like part of me expected. But I still had a lot of complicated feelings about it to sort through when I got home.
Except a week later I had to fly back out to Virginia for my first convention since March of 2020. I normally wouldn't fly that far for a con as small as Fursonacon, but they'd asked me to be the 2020 guest of honor, before COVID and before I moved across the country. But it was such an incredible experience and the staff went so far out of our way to make sure we had a great weekend that we're honestly considering flying back out next year. It was my roommates' first time ever being to a convention, and they're absolutely in love with it. We're gonna try getting them a table of their own sometime in the future.
September was a roller coaster. A lot of good, a lot of bad, a lot of question marks, and a collective ~30 hours of flying in less than a week and a half. It left me physically, mentally, and emotionally drained, and I was more than happy to bury my head in hyperfixation. On the surface this piece (as well as Stolen Moment II) was a background study, but really it was the next step up from Precipice. I pushed my digital inking style a little further away from realism and more toward comics, and this time had Ian visibly interacting - romantically, even - with canon characters. As expected, these did not do great as far as engagement, but I really like them, I had a lot of fun doing them, and they got me through one of the hardest weeks of my life, and that's far more meaningful to me.
When I decided to do Kinktober this year, I really did not expect to finish it. I've completed Inktober once or twice before, but a month-long daily art challenge is an incredible undertaking when I'm not fresh out of one of the most stressful months of my life. I honestly don't know how I managed to pull it off. Maybe I was just eager for more distractions, or maybe I had some pent-up creative energy after not being able to draw a whole lot for all of September. I dunno, but it resulted in some of the best pieces I think I've ever done.
Okay, I cheated. This piece was actually done late in October. The truth is I didn't do a single piece of finished art for the entire month of November. I think the emotional drain of September and the physical drain of drawing every day of October finally caught up to me. I was picking at some other pieces and did do a few small doodles here and there, but finding the motivation or desire to make art was excruciating. Writing this now at the end of December, that spark is only starting to come back now, and with it fluctuating the way it has all year (hell, arguably years), I am bracing for it to fuck off again.
It got to the point that I was very seriously considering taking a dayjob again. A not insignificant part of my struggle with art was that my income is entirely tied up in it. Which is great when I feel good and can be productive, and terrifying and exhausting otherwise. I applied for a couple jobs I was really, genuinely excited about involving caring for exotic animals. One proved to not be quite what I expected, so I turned it down, and the other only just answered me the day after Christmas to tell me the position was no longer available. Right now, I'm keeping an eye out, but not actively searching - it would be nice to have some financial freedom and an excuse to get out of the house, but I don't want it bad enough to take a job I wouldn't enjoy. If the right position comes along, I'll give it a shot.
December does not need to be more hectic than it already is. My birthday on the 18th, my roommates' anniversary on the 19th, my boyfriend's birthday on the 23rd, and finally Christmas and New Years. And yet somehow this year it still managed.
My roommate's grandmother also passed this year, only a month or two before mine. She and her husband flew down to LA early this month to spread her ashes. Incidentally, she also had to confront a family member she hadn't spoken to in years, and now also has complicated feelings about it. It sucks that it has to be under these circumstances, but it is admittedly nice to have someone who can relate.
When they came back, they were sick with the flu (thank god it wasn't COVID) for another week and a half. The whole house was in disarray; chores fell behind with half as many people to do them, routines were non-existent, our cat was extra attention hungry with two people missing for so long, and I came to realize that I just don't work well in a busy communal studio/office. I was more relaxed and productive in those two weeks than I have been in a bit; and it has nothing to do with them as roommates and everything to do with the fact that I went from spending 8-12 hours a day home alone and most of the remaining time with my housemate being asleep for years, to suddenly sharing a single room with four people with various, often conflicting forms of neurodivergence, social needs, and routine preferences, who all work from home, 24/7. It's a lot of distractions, a lot of subtle pressure, and a lot of minor conflicts that pile up quickly. Fortunately, we have some ideas on how to mitigate it to everyone's benefit.
And then they drove back out the day before Christmas Eve and came back with another cat. So there's that.
This piece was just more of the same: playing with digital inking and confronting my hangups about art of fan characters. Turns out art is actually kind of fun when you actually let yourself do the things you enjoy, whoda thunk. It was heavily inspired by the song "Hy-Brasil" by Allison Russell, and it's not often I do art based so heavily on song lyrics, but that was a fun challenge in its own right. I didn't play too much with style here, except for the hare - I wanted the fur rendering to look like a 19th century engraving from a fairytale or story book. I think I ended up with a kind of hybrid between that and my usual more realistic approach, and honestly, I think it's cool as shit.
To put it simply, 2022 was a clusterfuck. It wasn't all bad, not by a long shot, but there's also no denying it was a massive adjustment, and at times downright traumatic. On the positive side (and admittedly, a little to my own surprise), I'm feeling more optimistic and more okay than I have in months. And with all the travel and family emergencies out of the way (hopefully) for the foreseeable future, we (my roommates and closest friend circle) are all ready to get our asses back in gear in the new year. We're gonna gonna hammer out a routine, take better care of our health, get our house back in line, get our businesses back on track, and overall just fucking kick 2023's ass.
And it's gonna be glorious.