Belle loves books

Books I read in 2011

Well, there aren't as many books as usual on this list, but here it is. I think I didn't do one of these at all in 2010. Well I did keep track but I didn't post it. I'd like to be reading more but I guess the fact is I'm DOING more even as I'm not reading as much. Also I worked on reading a few big books this year that I didn't officially finish (The Name of the Wind for example), so that's where some of my reading time went.

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Paper Towns by John Green
The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron
River Marked by Patricia Briggs
100 Ways to Motivate Yourself: Change Your Life Forever by Steve Chandler
Fearless: Creating the Courage to Change the Things You Can by Steve Chandler
Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink
50 Self-Help Classics: 50 Inspirational Books to Change Your Life by Tom Butler-Bowdon
Belle contemplating

Brain Dump

So much is going through my mind, I need to write it down.  What better place than my poor, oft-neglected online journal?

(Also, I cannot find my equally-neglected bound paper journal right now so this is my best alternative.)

I have errands to do and phone calls to make and e-mails to write.  Some of these errands and phone calls and e-mails are social, some are business related, and some are... actually it's just social and business.  But still.  I feel overwhelmed.  I'm hesitant to start on them because I'm afraid they'll take too much time.  I'm afraid of getting stuck on the phone talking for ever and I just don't have time for that.  Some of the e-mails are pretty straight forward but even then, they're kind of important so I could see myself taking the time to edit and re-edit them (which really is a good idea because usually I regret it when I dash off an e-mail too fast).  So that's one thing.

Another thing is money.  I can't stop thinking about it, wondering how I'm going to make a living wage from my art.  I've got a two-pronged approach, pet portraits and fantasy art, but that sometimes makes me more overwhelmed than reassured.  Other times I congratulate myself on being so clever.  Mostly, though, I wonder how in the world keep track of all the things that need purchasing: insurance of various kinds, car payments, copays, taxes on everything.  I mean, I know you get billed for these things, but how do you budget for them?!  I grew up in the typical "we don't talk about money" family, and since my parents were generous and, well, "special" I lived in this ignorant bubble for even longer than the average person.  They were very supportive of my art and didn't want me to "worry" about money, which was very lovingly motivated, but now I feel extra scared and panicked and ignorant now that I'm trying to figure it all out.  I'm slowly reading my way through a stack of personal finance books when I get the chance but I don't make a regular practice of it.  Maybe if I did it regularly I wouldn't panic so much.  Certainly I'd learn more, faster.

Let's see, what else... well, my birthday is coming up next month and I'm feeling old, naturally.  I suppose I feel young at the same time, really, since I'm staring this money stuff in the face for the first time.  But mostly I'm feeling dread at turning 27.  Did you know that's when a woman loses her fertility EXPONENTIALLY?!  At least that's what I read in some article at some point.  It sounds scary enough to be true.  EXPONENTIALLY.  So many of my friends have been getting married and having kids the past couple of years, I've felt left behind enough, but now that my biological clock is ticking louder than ever I'm feeling a growing nervousness.

And yet, I don't feel ready for kids.  I know, you might be saying "You can't ever be ready for kids" and that's fine, that's wisdom.  But I'm feeling like I want them and don't want them.  I want them because I feel like I was born for them; I love teaching kids and hugging them when they're sad and watching them play make believe.  I yearn for a cozy family life with a husband and kids.  And yet, I don't want to deal with messy, screaming people 24/7.  I don't want to be thrown up on in between changing poopy diapers.  I don't want to put my artwork to one side for god knows how many years as I put family first, which I know I would want to do.  And what if oil paint is toxic to kids, I mean like having it in the house even (obviously if they eat it it's toxic)?  Would I have to stop painting?  I suppose I could take up watercolor until they're older but that would mean learning a whole new medium and adapting my style.  I don't think acrylics are an option because the color and texture are so inferior, in my opinion, yet similar enough to oil that you can't help but compare them.

So that's a brain dump, all the stuff that's swirling around my brain.  I think I feel somewhat better for having written it.  Now I guess I'd better get to work on those e-mails and such....

Belle contemplating

Goal-setting for the Illustration Master Class

I'm going to the Illustration Master Class again this year, making it my fourth year in a row.  I've learned so much from that workshop; I've also been revitalized, inspired, empowered, and connected with wonderfully warm-hearted folks.  I'm looking forward to it, even while I'm majorly under the gun preparing for it.  Before I set out for the class, I'm hoping to make a list of at least 4 goals for the week.  I've been mulling them over and I think I have 2 goals so far.  People on the IMC message boards are making very inspiring and fun lists full of items I agree with, but I need to pull from deep within me to discern what I most want out of the week.  I've found that making too many goals can be overwhelming.  And I've got enough of that going on.

The only way out is through

I'm completely swamped right now with pet portraits stuff, fantasy art stuff, and what can only be termed "personal stuff". 

In reverse order, the "personal stuff" is mainly long e-mails that I owe to people, as well as social gatherings and, um, issues.  The pet portrait stuff involves an exciting deal with a boutique in a nearby town, donating a pet portrait to a silent auction, and a pet portrait for a friend.  As for fantasy art, I'm still putting the "finishing touches" on last year's Illustration Master Class painting while I'm gearing up for another Illustration Master Class workshop, which requires a lot of preparation if you want to arrive with an excellent idea supported by excellent photo reference and sketches. 

Naturally I am striving for excellence, so I am pushing myself hard, looking to tackle a composition that involves a lighting scheme I've never done before, 3 human figures, and a dragon.  A DRAGON.  I've never been a person to even doodle dragons for fun, but hey, when the concept of Smaug was brought up I just couldn't pass it up.  I feel pretty confident in my sketch--which I can only hope isn't a mistake--but I have a lot to do with regards to shooting good photography to back it up.  I'm also planning to make a maquette of a town and the dragon itself.  Yikes!

I took my friend Nisma's advice and made myself a complete to-do list divided by categories.  I added my own flourish of using a different colored pen for each category.  That made me feel somewhat better but I quailed at the thought of actually DOING these things.  Then, I did.  I started with the easiest first, but then I went on to the "hardest" (most dreaded) second.  I am feeling better now that I'm tackling it.  Onward!
  • Current Mood
    busy busy
  • Tags
defy gravity

Procrastination and productivity

For most of my conscious life I have identified as a procrastinator.  I have finally decided to discontinue living in this lifestyle.

It's scary to write that.  After all, I have a lifetime of habits and attitudes to change (albeit a rather short lifetime) so it is a bit intimidating to say, "I refuse to live this way anymore.  I no longer accept the label of 'procrastinator' for myself," but that is what I am saying.  I am making conscious efforts to undo all those harmful habits that work against my creating the life I want for myself.

I don't want to live in this endless trap of hating myself, feeling sorry for myself and slacking off in response, then hating myself for slacking off.  Not that I ever wanted to live that way, but I wasn't aware of exactly how the cycle worked for a very long time.  It was so much a part of me (probably from seeing my parents live in the very same cycle, especially my dad), I didn't really comprehend that it was optional NOT to live that way.

I am reading 2 books to help me get started on my new lifestyle.  Here they are:

The Procrastinator's Guide to Success by Lynn Lively

100 Ways to Motivate Yourself by Steve Chandler

I've already reaped great benefits from both books.  From the procrastinator book, it was a stunning revelation that taking action on a troubling topic is a GIFT to myself.  It is a gift and a kindness to address whatever problem is weighing on my mind; it is not a terrible punishment to reluctantly take on when I can no longer procrastinate on it any longer.  From the self-motivation book, I learned that you are doing yourself no favors by trying to make your life as easy and conflict free as possible, because seeking out challenges and conquering them is rewarding, satisfying, and makes you stronger.  (Not that you should be, like, dodging cars on the highway instead of sticking to the sidewalk.  Obviously the author means professional challenges, not being an idiot.)

I am aware that I cannot change myself overnight, or even in a month, and that on my journey of changing myself I will encounter setbacks.  I will have good days and bad days; I will still make poor decisions at times.  And even with my new healthy habits in place (an idea that excites me!) at times I will still be struck low by professional disappointments, illnesses, and whatever.  To counteract times like those, I need to be self-aware and ready to rise up and reassert my healthy habits when I observe myself slipping.  I am pretty good at being self-aware so that is a point in my favor.  I am eager to put my best foot forward and see what great things I can accomplish with a healthier attitude!

baby ducky

Assorted Sunday thoughts

It's a sunny Sunday afternoon and I feel full of energy.  This is wonderful because this extra cold, extra snowy winter has been slowing me down.  I have tried my best to keep a positive attitude about the snow (reminding myself that it's beautiful is often my only recourse), but I'm thankful that I can start to ease off on that and be excited that about the signs of spring.  I saw 2 robins on Friday afternoon and most of the lawns in my neighborhood are snow free!  Mine, unfortunately, is not one of those lawns.  It is almost entirely shadowed by my house and the snow still lives on, sheltered by the shadow.  I really hope my rosebushes aren't freezing to death under there.

I can't worry about that, though; it's pointless.  The rosebushes are covered in mulch and that's the best I could do for them.  So let's focus on how the sun is shining; I had a good night's sleep, albeit peppered with weird dreams; and I had a delicious breakfast of over-easy eggs, toast, apple slices, and coffee.  The urge for spring cleaning is in the air, or rather, in my head.  My bedroom is crying out for a lot of organizing and arranging of Stuff (it earned a capital "S" because of the sheer volume), not to mention sorting of clean laundry.  I think it's time for spring cleaning!  And after that, I have a pet portrait of bunnies to work on.  Yay!

Also, I love the little animated "energetic" kitty cartoon I applied to this post.  So cute!

I've missed posting on Livejournal!
  • Current Mood
    energetic energetic
Belle contemplating

A Year in Review: 2010

I know, it's almost 2 full months into 2011.  But this isn't for an assignment or anything so does it really matter that it is late?  Anyway, I saw a friend on Facebook make an entry like this in her Notes, but I felt that my old blog was a more appropriate place to record my most notable events and accomplishments of 2010. Maybe I will post it on Facebook eventually, but I do feel shy about posting on there sometimes. I will see how my list comes out.

So, here are my 55 things I did in 2010 (in no particular order):

1. For the first time ever, I saw more new movies than I read new books

2. Wore a corset for a whole day at the Renaissance Faire and felt like I was gonna die

3. Got contact lenses and this time, unlike in 9th grade, finally got used to wearing them!

4. Made Thanksgiving dinner for my family for the first time

5. Finally read the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin (sorry it took so long, Nick!)

6. Renewed my obsession with Super Smash Bros.

7. Discovered I like an addictive iPhone/iPod game called Doodle Jump (thanks, Will)

8. Learned to like black beans

9. Spent the night at the Lizzie Borden house (google it) and survived!

10. Went to Salem for Halloween dressed as Hermione Granger, along with Harry Potter, Luna Lovegood, and Severus Snape. One of the best afternoons ever!

11. Went rock scrambling for my birthday (loved it)

12. Went white-water rafting for the first time since middle school (loved it)

13. Got in touch with several old friends I hadn't spoken to in a long time

14. Finished my first fantasy oil painting

15. Had prints made of my first finished fantasy oil painting

16. Finished 8 oil paintings, the most I'd done in a year...ever, probably

17. Displayed my art for sale at the IlluXCon Showcase

18. Had business cards and a professional artist website made for myself (thanks, Mike!)

19. Rode in the tiniest plane I've ever been on, only 2 seats across

20. Went snorkeling every other day for a week (awesome week-long cruise in March)

21. Rediscovered makeup... well that kinda happened in 2009 but still, it's ongoing

22. Finally got a sense of fashion

23. I learned to do a lot better at keeping my mouth shut

24. Filled a photo album--a real, physical photo album!--with photos from 2009

25. For the first time ever, I got a computer virus

26. Had my first hangover

27. Played beer pong (beirut) for the first time

28. Dealt with a lot of disappointment

29. Began investing in the stock market in earnest (hello, Chipotle stock!)

30. Got snowed in, twice

31. Got addicted, then un-addicted, to Glee

32. Ate the most sushi I probably have ever eaten in a year

33. Didn't win NaNoWriMo for the first time since 2004

34. Had my dream come true when a Chipotle Mexican Grille opened IN MY HOMETOWN! Not just nearby enough for me to eat there, but IN MY HOMETOWN!

35. Managed to overcome several sinus infections without resorting to antibiotics, yay!

36. Improved my diet overall, I think, though it fluctuates depending on how much stressful activity is going on. I ate a lot of Chobani Greek strained yogurt

37. Completed a painting in less than 2 weeks, which is a record for me

38. Challenged myself to draw more architecture-themed drawings in my sketchbook

39. Spent another year being thankful that I finally took the plunge to get my ears pierced a few years ago

40. A year and a half after buying my BlackBerry, I still do not have my voicemail set up

41. I have learned not to procrastinate as much (it's still a problem though)

42. I am continually having to practice patience

43. Thanks to my new, much-loved hobby of cooking, I'm going to have to find some way of storing all these cooking magazines

44. This year I wore a lot of purple

45. Pretty much every day I read these humor blogs: Texts from Last Night, FML, Damn You Autocorrect, and Lamebook

46. I barely ever go to Something Awful anymore, but I still do on occasion. It would help if I could recover my forums password

47. Dreamed more this year, or more accurately, I remembered some of my night's dreams more often this year

48. Thanks to all the driving I've been doing, instead of being a daydreaming passenger, I'm finally learning my hometown and surrounding areas better

49. Spread my love of Mad Libs far and wide

50. Went to the New York Comic Con

51. Made a home-made fruitcake (from Alton Brown's recipe) for my dad as a Christmas present

52. Did a painting for a client to give as a Christmas present, which was pretty cool! First time a painting of mine was ever given as a present by someone other than myself

53. Learned more about myself and how I function

54. Watched the neighborhood kids build a 7-foot-tall snowman

55. Learned to cook about 20 new dishes (let's see if I can remember them all... lemon cream chicken, shrimp scampi, banana bourbon French toast, pork chops with pineapple salsa, mashed sweet potatoes with honey and jalepeno pepper, pork tenderloin with peppercorns, pumpkin-Nutella pie, tortellini soup, dry-brined roasted turkey, turkey gravy, sausage-apple stuffing/dressing, pureed turnips, Mrs. Gilliam's Sweet Potatoes, Braswell Burgers, Mexican chicken soup, cherry-stuffed ham with peach-cherry preserves, Alton Brown's smashed sweet potatoes with chipotle pepper, lemony new potatoes, lemon chicken [not to be confused with lemon cream chicken], baked Brie with apricot-rosemary compote)
defy gravity

Overall update

I keep coming back to my journal, even after months of neglect, and even though it's likely no one reads it anymore. That's fine. For some reason, I am moved to write here again when I'm feeling restless, moody, and uncomfortable in my own skin. It's good that it's here for me.

Overall things are going really well in my life. This summer was my seventh summer teaching at the arts program Creative Summer. I wish I'd kept daily notes on it like I did a few years ago, but I was extremely busy. I've been hanging out with friends and loved ones, cooking (!), and painting. Painting a lot.

I've set a new record, in fact: 8 1/2 hours in one day! I had worked my way up to 5 hours (with breaks), exceeded that by 2 hours, and last week hit my max at 8 1/2 hours. My wrists began to hurt severely by the end and my shoulders got tough and tense, but I did it. I made SO much progress on my painting and it felt really good! I was pushing to finish my painting by the end of last week, but unfortunately I ended up simply not being able to. I put in 29-30 hours last week all told, and I probably have at least another 20 to go. Which is fine, since I enjoy painting, but at the same time I'm restless.

And, as I said in my first paragraph, moody, and uncomfortable in my own skin. I don't think it's just the painting. It's other things. I feel behind and out of control. I'm having difficulty balancing the important elements of my life. I wish I were further along in my life--my career, mainly--than I am. Also I'm finding it stressful now to be living at home. But hey, life is never perfect. Now that Creative Summer is over, I've been working out again almost regularly. I'm busy. I'm accomplishing things.

It just...well, it doesn't feel like enough. At times. And maybe there is a good explanation for that, namely that I "lost" several years from being so depressed during college and post-college, in which I barely did anything at all. I laid some groundwork for my eventual comeback, but essentially all I had was ashes. And if I want to go for the phoenix analogy, well, this phoenix is still feeling weighed down by the ashes, I guess. Still shaking them off, assessing the damage, seeing the burned skin and singed feathers. Wow, too melodramatic there.


I would say I feel "so high school" right now, except I didn't have a blog in high school. So why does this feeling I have right now make me think of high school? Well, first I feel immature. Why do I feel immature? Because I feel out of control of my emotions. They fluctuated so dramatically, I feel like I'm a moody teenager.  Most of the day I felt purposeful, intent, accomplished, even exhilarated. The past couple of hours I've been feeling sad, disappointed, and... well, no more of that.

I've only missed one day of painting. I'm very proud of how well I've been doing with my painting, the sacrifices I've had to make to fit it in every single day (minus one), and how it was kinda easy to do. It's like driving a car: at first, driving for an hour feels soooo tiring, both mentally and physically. My hands, wrists, and especially butt would hurt. But after a couple of months of driving short distances regularly and longer distances occasionally, I could do 5 1/2 hours no problem. The more I do my daily hour of painting, the easier it is to sit and paint and concentrate (that almost rhymes) for longer than an hour. My record so far is 2 1/2 hours without interruption, 3 hours with interruptions.

I miss writing

Since I left it dangling: yes, I did win NaNoWriMo. It was a dramatic victory. It was pretty thrilling.

I haven't been writing since then, though, and I miss it. I miss both fiction and journal-writing, as I haven't even been keeping up with my personal journal (the one that only my hard drive is privy to).

I don't know what to write, though.

I'm painting a lot. I've actually been painting every day for the past 2 weeks now, almost. Tomorrow will be Day 14 of this NaNoWriMo-like challenge that my dear friend Catherine and I have started up together. We challenged ourselves to do something creative every day for 30 days. We both have different projects and goals so we outlined all of that beforehand, so it's easy to judge each day whether we've met our daily goal or not. My daily goal is an hour of painting, specifically working on my Illustration Master Class painting from last summer. It's really coming along.

From the project I'm learning a lot about discipline, prioritizing, and my personal relationship with painting. It feels wonderful to paint every day, to see my progress accumulate so steadily, and to feel confident that I can fit in painting even when I have other stuff going on... like housekeeping duties, crises with the day-job, or emotional stuff with friends.

Speaking of which, I gotta fit in my painting time right now. I have to baby-sit in an hour! I'll just barely have enough time if I go now.