So yeah Vela here, back at it again. Grappling with grief during horrible historic Covid times. I am dealing with way more inner turmoil than the average social-isolator, and have been trying to find some magic remedy for helping me calm myself when I am emotional  impossible to reason my way out because I’m swamped with emotions.  Here are some of my thoughts on distracting myself out of bad thinking patterns.

  • I lose myself in music. I go to my favorite playlist and play a song I’ve played near thousands of times. Often in Japanese. Often I sing along! It’s immediate escapism and instantly can send emotions like hope, joy and love. Stories and meaning imbued into music is what reaches out to me.
  • Gardening and tending to plants. I shamefully neglected my garden last year but have made an effort to tend and improve it now. Anytime I see an insect or bird in my yard I am able to focus on the present moment and feel happy again.
  • Writing. Blogging is best because I can revise as much as I want. I don’t like fiction writing at all haha. Refining the topics I write about here already expresses what I want to. The flow of language or knowing what I want to say doesn’t come easily to me first time round, but I still love it.
  • Movement. I find myself pacing, but I also like fitness. Yoga helps but really too much thinking is involved. When I need instant distraction, exercise like hopping on my rowing machine is better. I combine this with music and do my best thinking.
  • Observational drawing. When I (used to) go on public transport, I couldn’t possibly enjoy the long ride without a tiny sketchbook and pen. I realize now this is is a sort of ‘stimming’, a calming repetitive habit. It grounds me in a way that’s hard to explain. Basically focusing on sensory visual information right in front of me and trying to create a accurate sketch really helps clear my mind. I lose myself in observing how people move, outfits, accessories, their stories and all the charming quirks of normal people who aren’t posing. I get stumped drawing completely from imagination and often need a prompt right in front of me to get started. Being stuck inside means I haven’t kept up this habit as much.

Its funny how many of my repetitive habits are good for me, I can’t go a day without exercise or sketching. Intensity means however that I don’t realize when I need to be nicer on myself, or when I get stuck in a loop of rigid thinking. I’d love to volunteer my skills once life is more normal, but a few things I was about to do for self-improvement have been squashed by COVID lol.

Also just for the heck of it I made an honest up-to-date influence map. Clockwise from the top-left is; Zdzisław Beksiński, animation arts, Kawayoo, Manglo/Yukaman, uen0a, Peter Sis and last but not least Kentaro Miura. A few of these artists’ work have been by my side for long time, like Peter Sis’ picture books and Berserk which changed my life in 2015.

I only discovered Zdzisław Beksiński recently but love his dream and nightmare imagery. I have fantastic dreams full of emotions and imagery I cant even name, but never seem to grasp the images again once I wake up, a big part of my artistic frustration comes from this. I would be lying if I didn’t put in some Disney stuff, but specifically ones like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. This darker feature was one of a few major stepping stones for me becoming obsessed with animation. Kawayoo has a lovely fresh ‘chunky’ way of painting and also is known for illustrating Pokemon cards. I put in “The Alchemist Discovering Phosphorous” to represent a large photo of classical paintings I stare at a lot.

‘Manglo/Yukaman’ often depicts miserable heartbroken girls. They aren’t afraid to illustrate excruciating pains of womanhood in a perverse but melancholic way, and I find it hard to take my eyes off the work. It’s erotic and grotesque. Raw and bloody but lathered in icing and sprinkles. Their work inspired me to change how I digitally illustrate because their work appears actually painted, not just layer-mode-monstrosities like 75% of artists. The sooner you break away from layer-dependency the better guys.

‘Uen0a’ (I found them on Pixiv) depicts my favorite Fate/zero characters interacting in a charming way with organic flowing lines. I kept learning Japanese through last year because their comics are a blessing to me. They express palpitating chemistry and tenderness with just a few lines. Minimal lines is a quality storyboard artists and animators aspire to, but usually many just resort to homogenized body types and facial expressions copied from someone else. This artist captures genuine warmth and feeling that no moment is the same as another.

You can improve technically yet still retain childlike joy in art. I see that in Peter Sis’s work. He’s an artist that imbues his unique Czechoslovakian heritage into his work. I had to scan the image below from ‘The Dragons are Singing Tonight‘. He often tells strange stories in the golden margins of his picture books which captured my heart as a child. The majority of his work is calm, reflective, spiritual and full of hope. Upon revisiting ‘The Three Golden Keys‘ I saw a page with a tiny depiction of violence in the margins. Suddenly it flooded back to me the fascination I had with those tiny drawings as a kid. Heheh sums up my development towards darkness that started in childhood. Screw Peppa Pig, I’ll be passing these beauties down if I have children.

god teir

Kentaro Miura is a just a downright storytelling god. It’s impossible for me to find one or two images that sum up Berserks’ immense impact on me, because Miura’s storytelling is in the juxtaposition and contrast, the small and the big panels. The cute and the hideous. Just read the manga! I often can be kept awake at night going over the complexities of Berserk metaphors in my mind. I believe one of Berserks’ morals is that suffering is inflicted without meaning, but in surviving it we find a meaning to live. In the lead up and in the wake of losing my mum to cancer, I turned back to re-reading Berserk. That is how much strength it gives me. Thank you, Kentaro Miura.

legendary

I had to make influence maps back in my school years and it’s validating to see how I’ve narrowed down the sort of work that appeals to me. Only a few years ago I was afraid I couldn’t break into animation. This map doesn’t represent and idealize any one approach, but just represents visuals, techniques and subject matter that have stuck with me, and specifically in recent years. I don’t think the Neopets art I was obsessed with in youth applies to what I aspire for now. Having your own artistic voice takes time and always keeps changing. A voice doesn’t mean not being versatile in what you draw, but means you know what stories, emotions and views on the world you connect with. People think art style is about copying someones cell shading or way they draw eyes, really it’s about knowing who the heck you are deep down.

Also..I would be ignoring my artistic heritage if i didn’t include a classic Neopets picture!

I’m still on break and that’s why I have all this time to blog and play 70 hours of Stardew Valley~ I still have yet to marry Shane in the game sighhh. Over and out for now.

Published by Vela

Artist based in Adelaide, Australia. Proudly a massive nerd for animation, film and art.

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