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50 First Reasons Why I’m Autistic

It’s hard to express the traits that compose ASD without a very large list, yet most sites resort to 5 or so clinical bullet points. It is not one or two things like ‘shyness’ or ‘rambles a lot’. It isn’t just 10, 20 or 50 experiences, but every moment of someones life. My agonizing and intense experience navigating through adulthood is NOT THE SAME as most people who aren’t on the Autism Spectrum. I need to get sh*t off my chest and typing is the easiest way I can do it, so here are my 50 first reasons I’m autistic right off the top of my head….

  1. The fact I said ‘lovid cockdown’ the other day.
  2. Can’t give a fake compliment to save my life. If you don’t do stellar work, I wont say it.
  3. Went to speech therapy at a young age. Still can’t enunciate clearly at age 26…
  4. Couldn’t stand being lightly cuddled as a kid. Now I hardly initiate a hug. 
  5. While I was lying face down, I asked my friend to sit on my back. Deep pressure is the most beautiful and calming feeling.
  6. Being asked daily “Can you say that again?” and “can you say that louder?”
  7. Running down the hallway in sprints of joy only to get yelled at. I do my best creative thinking when I leap up from by desk to pace.
  8. Pacing through the hallway for solid hours at night, lost in my favorite songs on repeat.
  9. Been told my voice is either monotonous or fluctuating and erratic. I have little volume control if I’m stressed.
  10. I get goosebumps from music even with returning to a old classic song. I’ve listened to many on loop 1000 times over. I sing out loud on a daily basis to soothe myself.
  11. Ask me a question. I will start rambling and completely forget what you have asked in less than 2 minutes.
  12. Do I have my phone/keys/wallet on me? *Starts to melt down*
  13. Twirling hair rapidly when I’m bored. “stop doing that, it makes you look nervous”…uh because I am?
  14. Is this the right time to say hello to her? Oh no, too much time has passed now it’ll be weird.
  15. ‘I think you should get Vela diagnosed for ADHD’  Said my preschool teacher. Imagine how that offended my mom. ‘Shes too disruptive in the class and wont even try to be still’.
  16. My rigid thinking is my life. I tend to see things as success or failures. Unfortunately this extends to my sense of self worth.
  17. I didn’t find the game Stardew Valley fun until I sorted ALL my items, from red tomatoes to purple eggplants, by color into their respective colored storage chests.
  18. I really don’t remember some of my times tables? Math sux.  
  19. It’s late at night. My bus is late. I start to break down.
  20. Childhood: easy! Highschool: extended childhood where I ran off to the art room alone. College and navigating adulthood: shit hits the fan.
  21. I work at home in a dimly lit room with twinkle lights. Fluorescent lights are evil.
  22. If someone lightly touches me I will flinch or jump. Doesn’t matter if they are a nice friend, my body may respond this way.
  23. My home is a pigstyle at its best. I let food go bad, I have hard time caring enough about cleaning. I have things I wanna do! Even my most patient friend will tell me off for how disgusting my kitchen gets.
  24. I’m more curious about the intent and context behind the questions on online autism ‘tests’ than actually answering the test. Overthinking is just normal thinking for someone with ASD.
  25. I can’t lie. I don’t understand why anyone would. I can’t understand cheating and copying anothers work for your own gain. Dishonesty is repulsive.
  26. Dating is the most horrifying concept in the world to me. Especially online assumptions based on a photo. It’s can’t explain how unpleasant I feel being expected not only to small talk, but am expected to enjoy dealing with someone with an ulterior motive?
  27. “You are always interrupting.’ when I genuinely never intend to.
  28. Countless colorful soft plaid shirts. Mom commenting that look was ‘not very sexy, at-least unbutton the first button!
  29. Plaid is a drastic improvement from the badly fitting sweatpants and daggy shirts I wore as a teen. I was saved by having to wear a uniforms at high school in Australia.
  30. Gets overstimulated babbling in social situations and then suddenly losing all power, needing to go home before I cry.
  31. If you have started me on an interested subject matter and don’t find a way to stop me talking, I will talk forever.
  32. It may take us longer to connect to someone, but we can be empathetic to the detriment of our own sanity. We can take on the suffering of living things so deeply it brings us close to madness.
  33. Working at home feels like a guilty pleasure.
  34. Sarcasm, manipulation and mind games are deeply scarring.  
  35. Carrying a small sketchbook isn’t a casual artist thing, it’s a necessity to help me keep my fidgety hands busy and mind engaged visually.
  36. Being told to stop drawing when I was out at restaurants or social events growing up.
  37. Needed a white board chore chart with smiley face magnets I made myself to get any chores done.
  38. I will wake up, start doing an activity like fixing CSS on my site. I blink and suddenly it’s 3pm and I’m smelly.
  39. Skin picking when anxious, only really when I get acne but it’s so hard to fight.
  40. I try to fix the thought by thinking and then thinking more and then I think…I can’t fix the think! I want to cry! And then I shake my head and rock and find my calm.
  41. Taking other people’s rude, mean judgments and spite to heart. I have been told I have ‘low self esteem’ but really this is my lack of a filter. I assume people are saying something truthful.
  42. I can visualize a tragedy someone tells me verbally, like someone getting hit by a car, extremely vividly. Like its a film playing in my brain, I feel it, hear the crunch of bones…etc.
  43. Kids bullied me for willingly sitting alone in high school. I didn’t quite understand they were making fun of me.
  44. I am obsessed with fictional characters and usually ones with extreme emotions. Delirium, ecstasy, despair and rage are easy to understand. I also love characters with blank mysterious expressions.
  45. My default emotions are confused and curious.
  46. I get emotional and churn over things every night. My poor mom would tell/message me to go to bed. I can’t tell apart being tired from being upset.
  47. I messaged my mom obsessively for life guidance. All through college and right up until cancer took her ability to read this January. I am not conveying how much I depended on her. I was connected deeply to her in maybe a ‘codependent’ way, but I am starting to understand autism is why now.
  48. I realize too late when someone doesn’t wan’t to discuss something interesting with them. I always let my guard down because I crave deep discussion. They seem so strained to find a way to escape.
  49. I give too much vulnerable and often ‘unprofessional’ information. It hurts to constantly hold back from telling someone; ‘No, I’m not having a great day!
  50. Lists, lists lists or else I will forget what I should do next!

I can go on forever well into 400 reasons, but running on 4 hours sleep really is keeping me from being focused on my work the next day. Thanks for reading my vulnerable and tmi content. 🙂

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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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paintings for the living

Losing myself in painting has suddenly became very important to me since my mom passed away. The details and colours of life keep grabbing my attention more than what line drawings express to me currently. I didn’t think it would take daily grief and anxiety to completely to finally fall in love with light and color. I understand that art is meant to always be all on one layer, every little thing flows into one another. We have to take what experiences have happened to us, the happy and painful, and blend it all together for the rest of our lives. I’m looking forward to getting my first tattoo soon, am planning a indoor aquarium set-up for the old family turtle (featured below) and maybe just keep living as If I might die at the end of every week. It’s less stressful than it sounds and just means remembering to unapologetically be my crazy self.

 

Also made a weird spontaneous horror inspired video with some oldish art and animations that were kicking around. I discovered Audacity and took it for a ride taking existing pop music and mangling it beyond recognition into droning a hellsoundscape. Bound to lose me a few fake-fans in the process.

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Delusion Eater

Happy first new post of the new year! I went on an epic Tokyo trip from mid December 2019 through into New Year 2020 with friends. Instead of writing stuff and sorting through 400+ photos, I just had to summarise the trip by making some comics to express express the weirdest and most memorable things. I printed some limited copies for a local Adelaide ‘Zina Warrior Print Fest‘ which I participated in for the first time. It was a great weekend and I will definitely try to table again. During the trip I only did a handful of travel sketches since I was too preoccupied with loving Japan. Sitting in a Shinjuku cafe having a nice ‘ブレンドコーヒー’ and listening to the bustling sounds of life was the only time I really drew.

To respect the people who bought my zine this weekend (you are the best! thank you for supporting my art) I probably wont ever put it up for free. If you want to read my comics as a PDF maybe follow me on the Gumroad I made.

I also just ‘finished’ an animation that was kicking around before I went on break.I invented this guy from the concept of being an ‘Eater of Delusion’. You can only survive him if you’re learnt to cast aside ego, (or maybe just have a rank hermit stank. either or…) It’s loosely inspired by the yoga psychology and stories I have heard,but I also felt like animating it because Hindu and Buddhist demonic art is rad.

Animation can express the flush of adrenaline when you’re jogging and a fave song kicks in. It can convey all sorts of chemistry between people. It can make clothes clinging to a figure become something precious and sensual. It’s only through the aware experience of mundane transient moments that we can start to channel it into art that feels truthful to life and full of ecstasy. I’m maybe making readers uncomfortable with that, maybe it’s my gender speaking but I have a need to communicate real intimacy with art. That’s why I’d rather see lumpy, impulsive and fleshy art than something clinical and copied. For once it feels like it should be 2020, and I’m excited and trusting myself more now than ever. I surprised myself last year as I have started to learn to stop looking backwards and forwards so much. Ah wait, I have a storyboard deadline tomorrow…

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honest thoughts on improving

Hello again, a few weekends ago I went to Madman Anime fest in Melbourne. The con had a lot of interesting moments hearing from voice actors and anime producers. I think a memorable moment was seeing a pencil animation test from Ufotables’ Demon Slayer. I love getting to see an animation without the final colors, it strips back the layers and you can really focus just on the drawings. I wanted to ramble about some thoughts I’ve had growing as an animation artist. I think the core element is, if you don’t connect with that fiery feeling I just mentioned of how beautiful animation can be, you will probably struggle to improve at all.

You have to critically question the way you are thinking and talking about drawing. Often someone will tell me they feel their ‘proportions’ or ‘anatomy‘ are wrong in comparison to mine.  Instead a bunch of other ways you could talk/think about drawing is; ‘do I really understand the form of this exact part before I put down a line? How does this mass relate to the torso/head/rest of the body as it balances, what sort of balance is going on? Is the silhouette clear? What is the best way to caricature this persons nose? Is that a thumb or a forefinger because I’m having to squint at the model to see it properly? Ah just make it up” My point is…good drawing is never just one element. Having an open, honest critical eye is the only way I’ve been able to grow. Perspective, anatomy, balance, solid form, are all elements of draftsmanship that need to be faced head-first.

I want people to know that many storyboarding jobs have become like 2D animation. I just speak on behalf of my experience making episodic animatics. It involves many drawings yes, but whatever amount you may be envisioning, imagine way more, and heaps of unseen drawings tossed out because they didn’t serve the exact vision your directors had in mind. The concept of heaps of dispensable drawings is something that breaks a lot of artists. Mustering enthusiasm to embrace every new drawing is an attitude you either have or you don’t.

Hina Kagiyama (Touhou Project)

Another thing is understanding good animation isn’t always about fluidity. Animation should be about creating some intensity of motion/emotion with the timing of whatever you are drawing. I wish people reacted to my animations with more than ‘smooth’ but…internet right? You can see whether animation is strong of weak even in bouncing balls. With newbies you’ll often see just a plain simple circle floatily moving up and down. To the viewer, this says nothing. You need to think way harder about the acting, physicality, everything!-before you even start to animate.

In the end however, what matters more than drawing skill is always a love of art. Specifically, I don’t think you can teach a love of characters and their stories. This is where my draftmanship argument falls apart, because I can’t explain to people the wonder I felt discovering Inuyasha on early anime streaming sites. Alright I’m done for now. Thanks for sticking around.

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