Reaching Fuzzy

As the month has rolled out, I’ve done double-duty creating Inktober art under my own name and creating Inktober art as my fictional 9-year-old character Missy Barrett. Whereas most people are doing one piece of art every day to meet the daily Inktober word prompt challenge, I set a more arduous task for myself to that end.

This year’s word prompts for Inktober have been more difficult to interpret visually than in previous years, but that only means I have had to put more effort into accomplishing the goals I set for myself within this challenge.

Day 19 brought the word prompt LOOP and while loops aren’t that difficult to find or draw when defaulting to the popular definition of what constitutes a loop — from shoelasses to traffic configurations — I went with the music recording program definition of what a loop is.

That word prompt was followed by SPROUT on the 20th and while that also had its popular default visualization, I considered other definitions for the word. I finally decided on drawing a toddler who as many of you know is sometimes lovingly referred to by grandparents as sprouts.

When it came to FUZZY the day after that, I was stumped. Upon reaching FUZZY, I struggled as myself and as my fictional character to some up with something that would work well, not just work, with that word prompt. Of course, Missy Barrett came up with her idea first, and it turned out as anticipated. Who wouldn’t believe a 9-year-old could draw fuzzy lights outside while looking at them from behind a window on a rainy night?

My piece took longer as I wound up taking to the Internet to tease something out by way of research. It took some time and then I came across a number of articles about the Fuzzy Mystery plant, and drawing one of the leaves of the Fuzzy Mystery plant — while insanely detailed — was what I decided on creating.

I realize that a great many people participating in Inktober are setting aside an hour or so to creating their artwork every day, and that’s a good amount of time to practice anything every day. I also realize that a handful of people participating in Inktober are putting countless hours into their artwork every day, and that results in amazingly detailed pieces. Some people are lumping four and five word prompts together into one piece, and there’s nothing in the Inktober rules that says that isn’t allowed. Others are creating art well ahead of Inktober based on the Prompt List from previous years and waiting for a word to pop up that fits what they have drawn. It’s not the way Inktober is supposed to be done, but it’s how some people are doing Inktober.

But Inktober isn’t about how other people choose to meet the challenge. While it’s interesting to notice how different people undertake the challenge, it shouldn’t reflect on how I undertake the challenge. This challenge is, after all, inwardly directed, not outwardly focused, so the only person that I need to pay attention to in this undertaking is myself.

It’s up to me to do what I have set out to do, and to be open to the possibility of failure between the successes that happen throughout the month and across the challenge. Some pieces I like better than others, and a very few have sorely disappointed me for any number of reasons.

One thing I have noticed is that regardless of whether my art turns out as envisioned at the onset of each new piece, it has allowed me to sit with myself and listen to the sound bites all of us carry with us from childhood. It’s a chance to reset the negative inner parent and embrace the positive inner parrent, and to learn to tell the difference between a fair criticism and a hurtful comment.

No, not everything you do in life will be to your satisfaction, nor should it be. But not everything in life needs to be viewed through the critical lens of “could have been done better.” The question instead should be, “Is this the best I can do at this time with the skills I have, the talent I have, and the knowledge I have?” If the answer is yes, then be proud of what you create even if it isn’t as perfect as you had hoped it would be.

Then set out to do even better with the next effort.

Elyse Bruce
22 October 2021

Not As Easy As You Might Think

Inktober isn’t as easy as you might think. It isn’t just a case of coming up with something to draw every day based on the word prompt, and being done with it in record time. Some people subscribe to the quick-sketch concept when participating in a challenge, and some people don’t. I’m one of those people who believes if I’m going to undertake a challenge, I’m going to tackle it to the best of my abilities so that leaves the quick-sketch concept off the table for consideration. That means that in some instances, the artwork for this challenge takes longer than anticipated before I am ready to call it a challenge met.

Day 16 asked participants to create something based on the word COMPASS. Now there are compasses you can hold in your hand and there are moral compasses and I’m certain there are most likely a few other compasses. I went with the compass a person can hold and as straight forward as that sounds, it was still a lot of work.

The next day, the word prompt was COLLIDE and unfortunately, I’ll have to return to this entry and add the piece later on as it’s still in progress. I will share with you that I decided on something that has to do with science.

TEMPORARY PLACE HOLDER

The day after that, the word was MOON, and although I could have very easily just drawn the moon with my Bombay India Inks and done something very atmospheric, I went with this (which is also very atmospheric in its own way).

It is reminiscent of the lithographs found in books from the 1800s, and while drawing all those lines was certainly labor intensive, it was also meditative. Drawing line after line has a way of creating a breathe-in-breathe-out regular rhythm and even though it was labor intensive, once completed, I felt very relaxed.

While many may be of the opinion that these daily challenges are challenges that can be knocked out in under a half-hour (which, for some people, that may be true), it takes more time than that for me to complete each daily challenge and I’m okay with that. What matters is deciding to start what you set out to do, and to continue working towards its completion until it’s done. As long as you remember that, there is nothing in life you won’t be able to do if you decide to do it.

Elyse Bruce
19 October 2021

At The Midway Mark

The past two weeks with regards to Inktober have rushed past. It reminds me that oftentimes people starting off on a journey or undertaking a project, very nearly set themselves up for failure by convincing themselves it will take so long to get anywhere along the anticipated timeline. Sometimes they set themselves up so well for failure that they turn back from what they had hoped to set off to do.

When I got to Day 12 of the Inktober challenge, I hesitated. While the word prompt was ROOF, it was an opportunity for me to wrestle with clouds within that word prompt. Clouds are generally the bane of my artwork existence. I struggle to make them look realistic. They usually don’t turn out the way I hope they will. And knowing all that, I still chose to create a piece of art that would showcase what’s in the sky when you look through a skylight roof. Now maybe it’s because the trusses were in place to break up the full-on view of the clouds, but once this piece was completed, I was pleased not only with the construction of the skylight roof but with the clouds as well.

With the success of clouds making me smile, the next day I undertook the challenge of TICK and while others drew ticks (as in the insect) in large numbers, a few (such as myself) decided we would take the word prompt more auditorily and create clocks and watches which, if they are analog, actually tick. Day 14 was ticked off the list.

This brought me to yesterday where the word prompt was HELMET. I could have done a less obvious interpretation but I chose to go with army boots and a helmet. I decided they wouldn’t be shiny boots ready for inspection and a relatively brand new helmet that had never seen action in any sort of skirmish. I made sure those boots and that helmet had seen action. I wanted people looking at this piece to wonder if the soldier was safe, or if he had lost his life defending what he believed in. I wanted people to understand the degree to which soldiers sacrifice so others can enjoy various freedoms.

Life is a bit like Inktober. You have a few daily prompts along the way to get you headed in a direction and then life sometimes takes you in another direction. It’s up to you to find the direction you wish to head off in, and then to commit yourself to going off in that direction, unfettered by what others may or may not say or do to deter you from arriving at your destination.

Know that if you make a mistake along the way, you can choose to give up or you can choose to fix the mistake or you can choose to embrace the mistake and roll with the unexpected bump the mistake has put in your path. And yes, sometimes giving up in the midst of a mistake IS the right choice for someone to make just like fixing the mistake is sometimes the right choice to make just as embracing the mistake can be. Only you know what is best for you in that situation, and as long as you aren’t using the decision as an excuse to avoid doing what you know is a better choice, your life will stumble along as it should.

Keep looking for the silver lining that will help you muddle through the struggles you encounter along the way. Choose to see the good in things instead of perseverating on what is wrong or bad about the situation. Be willing to take chances and to take ownership of the chances you do take as well as take ownership of the chances you don’t take because it all matters.

And most importantly, don’t forget to acknowledge that in every bit of good there’s some sadness and badness, and in every bit of bad there is something good to be found and cherished.

Elyse Bruce
16 October 2021

Challenges Can Be Fun

Inktober is in full swing and the word prompts this year are tricky in a few cases. Some prompts yield a plethora of ideas, and others yield just a small handful. When the word prompt for Day 10 was pick, I wasn’t sure what to draw. A couple of ideas popped up but I didn’t want to go with either of those which left me wondering what I would eventually draw. As a musician, I’m surprised this didn’t hit me earlier but when it did, I had a lot of fun creating this to mark the challenge of the day complete.

The following day I had to deal with SOUR and while most people were defaulting to lemon-based pieces, for some reason I began to think of the sour expressions some people make. The more I thought of it, the more I thought of the many reasons people actually have sour expressions, and I began to wonder which sour expression was the most famous. Once I wondered about that, the perfect sour expression came to mind, and I have Clint Eastwood to thank for that.

I certainly wouldn’t want to run into him on a day someone had annoyed him to that point, that’s for sure!

The day after that, the word prompt was STUCK and while you might think that was a tough word to interpret visually, of the three mentioned in this post, it was by far the easiest., Maybe that’s because I’ve been known to paint myself into a corner from time to time, or maybe it’s because I’ve watched people get themselves into a fix after refusing to listen to any advice I might give them on a developing situation they are creating for themselves. Regardless, STUCK was one of the easiest word prompts to draw.

The first dozen Inktober word prompts have been completed (and shared), and although there are a few challenging word prompts to come, I’m looking forward to finding ways to translate them from the written word to a piece of art.

A few people on social media have asked me if I’m worried I might not be able to come up with one or two of those word prompts and while it’s true I could fail to create art for one or two word prompts, I would rather focus on the probability that something will pop up even if it’s at the last minute.

As some of you may remember, I am the author of the fictional 9-year-old Missy Barrett who is also engaged in creating art for Inktober 2021. That means I’m drawing twice as many pieces as you might anticipate when it comes to Inktober. Of course, what I draw as myself and what I draw as Missy Barrett are very different indeed.

In fact, whereas I thought of a guitar pick for PICK, Missy Barrett went with a bobby pin to pick door locks. You have to admit, she certainly has a way with squiggly lines to make a believable wooden door.

The same approach I have to completing the daily challenges of Inktober works for other aspects of my life, just as it does for other people. When you think about how you should deal with a situation, don’t just go with the first idea that hits you. It’s the most obvious, but it may not be the most effective. Consider how else you can address what’s going on or going to happen, and decide what approach, in your opinion, best suits the situation.

No matter how impossible you might think the situation is, there is always at least one solution worth considering and acting on.

Elyse Bruce
13 October 2021

Three More Prompts

So far, October has been a very busy creative month, and I’m not complaining about that in the least. I look forward to the Inktober art challenge every October specifically because it’s an opportunity to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone to learn new things about myself as a person, as a creative person, and as a disciplined person.

When last we left off with the artwork for Inktober, I had shared three more days worth of art that took us through to October 6. Today I’m sharing artwork from October 7 through to October 9.

The word prompt for October 7 was FAN, and there were many ways I could have interpreted that word prompt. I could have taken it to mean a ceiling fan or a standing fan or a kitchen fan or a hand-held fan. I could have taken it to mean someone who is a fan of an actor or a decorating style or a comic book hero or anything else along those lines. I could have taken it to mean what magicians do with a deck of cards when they perform a card trick.

Instead I decided to go with something political as in to fan the flames of protest and discontent.

The following day the word prompt was WATCH and while I could have gone with a watch dog (human or canine) or I could have gone with being on watch (as in what happens in the military), I decided I would draw a pocket watch mostly because I love pocket watches.

Then the day after that when the word prompt was PRESSURE I thought about the many ways that word could be presented from a bead of sweat rolling down a person’s forehead to something caught in a vise to the pressures of life and more. But I live out in the country and a problem that rarely affects someone who lives in the city is the problem of low water pressure, so that’s what my art depicted.

What I am learning in part is that what looks to be complicated isn’t always as complicated as one might think, and what looks to be simple isn’t always as simple as one might think. Sometimes the trickiest pieces to create are the ones that appear to be the simplest.

Over the years, some people have mentioned that I spend to much time just looking at weird things for what they feel is no good reason at all. The thing is, in having spent so much time looking at things — weird or otherwise — I have come to understand why they look the way they do, and that finds its way into my art.

So the next time someone criticizes you for doing something they feel is weird, remember that they aren’t looking at things the way you look at things because they aren’t you. Yes, they might think it’s weird but as long as it’s not unlawful or unethical, keep on looking. You never know when you’ve observed in the past might come in very handy in the present … or the future.

Elyse Bruce
10 October 2021

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