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survived till may + rediscovering repetitive habits

Hello readers. So something interesting has happened lately. Before I started taking autistic mental health seriously, if I started feeling upset, I would berate myself and make it worse. It’s so hard for me to pull myself out of moods once I’m stuck in the swampy muck. Shame also stems from the fact I even have triggers in the first place. ‘Why do I get like this?’ I berate myself repeatedly. As I take mindfulness and autism seriously now, I try to find solutions for these pangs of emotion.

This morning I went for a jog to try and clear the stress in my mind and set myself up for a productive day. It feels like emotions welling up (and boy, I have a lot of emotions) Even after exercise, I still feel the tension welling up in my head. It is something far different than a headache, just stress and emotion needing to escape. Just in any attempt to stop feeling terrible, I begin shaking my head. I keep it up.

Sh*t. It feels good! I keep doing it. Almost like magic, I realize the emotion that was previously throbbing in my head has entirely dissipated. Only the joy of that addictive simple movement remains. Did I fix that through something as simple as just moving? Moving for the joy of moving? To sway, rock and spin and the thinking and pain all fades away. I am realizing that on the road into adulthood I sadly suppressed the part of myself that needed to bounce, spin and sway. 

I used to get the word ‘ADHD’ muttered around me in childhood, but mostly my behavior was typical of a energetic kid. This energy began to fade away as I lost hours in cartoon worlds, and anime and art kept expanding to be more and more pivotal. Drawing is an acceptable habit…video games, fictional characters too, sure! Bobbing your head or pacing down the hallway repeatedly…that probably isn’t gonna help ya much in the adult world. It’s comparatively easier to forge repetitive habits with drawing, music and misc. cartoon obsessions. However, they can’t help you work through everything. Cartoons seem to represent that joyous bubbly passion of movement, that’s what drawing feels like to me. That burst of emotion is in drawing but also a feeling I get from movement.

 

I used to run down my family’s hallway for no real reason, just burst into a sprint. It excited the dogs too much so my family told me to cut it out. Same with pacing, pacing at 1am when my family was asleep was heavenly. I miss that long stretch of hallway in the dead of night, free to listen to music. It’s walking in the landscape of my mind, not walking with the intention of looking around me. I also happen to do my best creative thinking while jogging, rowing, moving in any way, the ideas just flow into me then. My other common stimming habits are obsessively touching my hair, swaying (on rowing machine too) pacing or scratching my skin, but yeah I try not to do that last one.

I realize now that returning to repetitive movement brings me closer to my unmasked true self. If you have the impulse to move, to JUST DO IT. Especially do it now you’re stuck at home with nothing but time to yourself. I am trying to navigate a world that isn’t made for me, and need to find the coping mechanisms that work for someone like me. This joy of moving is the reason I am the artist I am. I talk about autism so much lately because it is new to me, the traits I have thought made me just ‘neurotic’ and ‘sensitive’ are actually my superpower. Treating these as autistic superpowers is the only thing that can guide me through more than COVID but also horribly complex grief, because I can’t rely on other people to help me through it. Going into the future I hope that other people will start to see the unique approaches and skills that the autistic mind can bring to the world. Although it is a bit of an enigma to understand, it is a special gift for me and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

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new influence map for the new world

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 close to autistic meltdowns. Meltdowns are when I get stuck in negative and repetitive thought patterns it becomes impossible to reason my way out because I’m swamped with emotions. There are hardly any resources for adults in their 20s on the spectrum and especially for women, so I have to forge my own remedy. 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.

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Inktober 2016 – demons

I survived Inktober! If you dont know what that is, Inktober is just a challenge to do an inked drawing and post it online for every day of October. It was my first time committing to do it every day and to a consistent size. I ended up doing them all in my Strathmore recycled paper sketchbook. (which isn’t even meant for ink, but whatever its one of my favorite sketchbooks)

I themed them all to ‘demons’, so stuff like youkai and stuff count as demons my book. I might make something out of my favorite ones, I’ve always wondered if people have any interest in adult coloring books? 😉 

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