What Made Me Cry This Week – Writing This

It’s hard writing for this series: “What Made Me Cry This Week.” (WMM) This is the tenth post (wooohoo!!), but they still feel hard. And the reason why is because for the blog I’m just trying to type down some thoughts, that maybe they’re helpful to someone, while here —well— the goal is bigger.

I’m trying to explain to you why something was moving – or not so moving after all –; I’m trying to condense an amazing piece of artwork into simple words. 500, more or less.

I’m trying to say why it moved me and only me. But I’m also trying to leave space for the work to speak for itself. After all, the creator invested time, talent and love into them.

I’m trying to give you something to work off of to decide: Do I want this? But I’m also trying to say why it mattered to me.

I’m trying to also give you something that goes beyond the work. Even if you don’t buy it, I want you to be at least inspired. I want you to think about your own life mistakes, or about the poverty in this world, or how art informs the way we think.

So, yeah. It’s definitely a challenge for me. While with the blog I wrote about 20 of them in about 10 days (I exaggerate! I’m not being literal). Well, I’ve written 10 of the WMM in like the span of 50 days.

But I can’t say I don’t love it. I do love it, so much. The joy of reading a book, a graphic novel, or watching a movie or documentary that inspires me! And then, being able to share that with you? So as we move on. I just want to confess. Writing this blog, and more specifically this series, is bringing tears to my eyes, because I love it so much.

I hope you do too. Because without you, well, these posts lose half their meaning. So here we go. A post to me. To this series. And also, to you.

Grateful for a Summer

It’s hard to be an artist. It’s hard to be productive. It’s very hard to be grateful.

For this summer I set out with a plan: to be a “full-time artist.” I didn’t have a full-time job. So I decided to embrace the opportunity. I had many dreams and plans.

Stuff popped up. Everywhere.

I worked for a month at the dining hall. One week I did 46 hours, which I didn’t see coming. I discovered I’m still addicted to computer games. And while I was disciplined at the beginning of the summer, it has fallen through now at the end.

When I look back through this summer I realize I made very little money through my art – even as a “full-time” artist. But I did work and I have to stop denying that.

I wrote blog posts, made images for them, figured out layouts and promoted myself on social media. Believe me, that last one is harder than it sounds. It’s like you’re a little brat jumping up and down with pompoms trying to get people to look at you. It takes a lot of confidence to keep doing it.

This summer was hard because again and again I was putting myself on the line. I was putting myself into my art, and my art into the world, to be looked at, criticized or even just ignored.

Being productive was also hard because I lost my wallet. And because I had to do my laundry. And cook. And buy groceries. And pay bills. And clean my room. And figure out what to do with my broken car. And pack and travel. And help out my family with a quinceñera. And and and and. AND!

But. I need to stop. I’m tired. I’m tired because I worked. I’ve been making myself write, and draw and paint, and take criticism and feedback and incorporate it – “throwing away” whole pieces just because they were off the mark.

I was heavy. Broken. Scared.

I needed a time to see. To see what the work of my hands have done. To see and be grateful. To celebrate what I accomplished this summer. So I decided to make a list with numbers of what I’ve done this summer. A time to celebrate the fruit of my hands.

The Blog

I wrote 40 blog posts, and with the help of my team there’s been 20 that were edited and posted (with my team’s help)

I made around 20 images, including quotes, for blog posts

I got 172 visitors on my blog, with 295 views

My most viewed post has had 35 views

The Art

I made 5 new prints for my Etsy store (which is closed right now because I’m currently travelling to Honduras!)

I’ve worked on 5 commissions and am working on 3 more

I did 5 fanart sketches and paintings

I made 2 small GIF Animations

I worked on 3 freelance posters, with 4 more underway

I made 1 semi-animated video

The Learning and Growth

I read 15 graphic novels

I read 2 non-fiction books

I took 1 screenprinting workshop

I listened to 3 online talks given by artists

I absorbed numerous YouTube videos, podcast episodes and online articles

I had 1 critique session with my art teacher

I went to 1 publishing and editing training seminar

Social Media

72 Posts on my Facebook art account

37 Posts on my Instagram account

1 Twitter account started

Sometimes I forget how much I’ve done. Sometimes I have to stop, and look. See what I’m doing and what I’ve done. Breathe. Remember. See the small steps taken and where it’s heading. Be grateful. For the time I had, for what I accomplished.
Relax. Enjoy it. Smile at my past self: he hasn’t completely ruined my whole life, yet.

If you want to do this list exercise, feel free to post it in the comments below! It can be about anything – self-care, productivity, reading, learning, exercise, social media, whatever you can think of!

Orange Unicorn

Extra post today!

A week or two ago—it’s so hard to tell the passage of time during the summer—my friend Zach commissioned a caricature of himself. I forced him to give me artistic freedom with it, which made it even more fun! I felt very inspired to do it for some reason, and I ended up not even using a reference! Here’s the result.zach and jorito

We both really liked the result, and my addition of the words “Adventures of Zach and Jorito” gave us the idea of making Zach into a character. I mean, if you know him, you know how much of a character he can be.

Zach was a great pusher for the idea, and really wanted me to do it! Eventually I gave in. But I decided to make it Orange Unicorn.

While I considered taking on the challenge of giving life to Jorito as a comic character, I decided to go with an “easier” path – giving life to myself. It’ll help that we spent a lot of time together this summer. We’ve got lots of stories to tell! So be prepared. These short stories will be inspired on real-life events, but a lot of it will be fictional and adapted.

This will be a weekly webcomic going for about 12 weeks, maybe more, maybe less. Planned start of the posts is for the 7th of September. I’m expecting to be able to post a new upload every Thursday, instead of the What Made Me Cry This Week. But we’ll see how it goes!

One last thing. Zach and I disagree on which character design to go with for myself. I want to use my character Birdman. Zach thinks I should use my self-caricature. What do you think?

character designs

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What Made Me Cry This Week – Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

I just finished reading Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Csiksz.). Let’s just say I got into flow while reading it.

Serious though.

The first thing that struck me was in his introduction. He had a quote from Viktor Frankl: “For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue … as unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.“ From there it didn’t stop, because while the book is somewhat old (it was published in 1991!) the ideas are super current. No wonder every now and then I see an article, artist or blog, mentioning flow.

Halfway through the book does start to get a tiny bit repetitive, but there’s enough variety and new information that it’s worth going. Around this area I really liked the chapter on loneliness, or solitude, and relationships, family and friends. I’m still planning on scanning this chapter and sharing it with a couple friends. This section on loneliness and relationships was essential for my understanding of flow. I’ve been struggling somewhat with the idea of being by myself. The book offers great advice about how to organize yourself as a whole person to keep inner demons at bay.

Another highlight of the book is just the plethora of stories from real people, experiencing real joy in their day-to-day life. The stories were very moving, especially stories like Reyad’s. An Egyptian guy “[…] who currently sleeps in the parks of Milan […]” From Egypt he hiked all the way to Italy and now lives there homeless. A small part of his testimony:

“It has not been just a trip, it has been a search for identity […] Everyone has his own fate, and we should try and be like the lion in the proverd. The lion, when he runs after the pack of gazelles, can only catch them one at a time. I try to be like that, and not like Westerners who go crazy working even though they cannot eat more than their daily bread.”

I fell in love with Reyad and his story. There were so many other stories though that also touched and moved me. And they all had one purpose: to encourage, to instruct and help the reader grow. The notion of “flow” has been swimming in my head ever since I read this book and I can’t stop thinking of it. Trying to find ways to get to flow in different parts and aspects of my life. It’s a book that reminds, and helps, you to challenge yourself and find joy in the small things.

P.S.: I couldn’t help but to think it was funny how he also relays how Dante’s Divina Commedia was helpful for a seminar that the author organized. Made me remember the wisdom of Dreher’s book, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and the review I wrote on it.

To Be a Flower

To be tender. To be frail. To be a flower: vulnerable and open.

That’s what I tried doing for most of this summer. To write blog posts and make art that mattered to me. That showed you parts and facets – of me. In the hope that, for some reason, those images, those pieces of me, also mattered to you.

A lot of the time it felt like I was just ignored. Writing into this void of the internet, where there’s already too much going on. Posting pictures and images that got few likes. After all that’s what it’s about, right? You liking my writing. You liking my paintings. My drawings. You liking… me. Right?To be a vulnerable flower - creativity

Every now and then I have to hide in a hole. When around people I’m constantly trying to please, to make them feel better, to add something of value to them, to offer something up – even if it’s some of my weirdness at times. So, every now and then, I must hide in a whole to just please myself, and not be constantly evaluating: Do they like me? Was that good? Was that worth their time?

Every now and then I need to hide my art in a hole. To make it only for myself. To bury the piece amidst all the files in my hard drive. To bury it within all the other papers. It’s art that doesn’t ask you to look at it. It’s just asking to exist for a second, only to be hidden and forgotten – it grows best in the dark confines of the earth.

Flower Hope

This is very hard, because in the end, the only way I can survive – to bring in the bread – is if I show my art to you. If I’m tender, frail, vulnerable and open like a flower. And trying to find that balance, between the art that I make for others, and the art that I make for myself, is a complicated one. The art that sprouts out in colorful petals and the art that hides under earth – gathering the nutrients.

 

Right now, I feel drained. My creativity has been flowing over this summer, and it’s running out. I know it can replenish itself, but it needs time. It needs time to allow the water to evaporate, condensate and to come back again. In that soft refreshing drizzle, that smells like summer and nourishes the earth.

If you’d like to get updates when blog posts come out, you can follow my Facebook page, or sign up for the mailing list that WordPress has set up — it’s on the bar to the side I believe!

Hope to see you soon! Or next week more precisely, at 10AM!

 

What Made Me Cry This Week – A Graphic Novel, Another Graphic Novel, and a Chick-Flick

Let’s be honest: What Made Me Cry this Week can be anything, cause that’s the way I like it. So I compiled three different cultural products below from this week.

So here we go.

I’m currently reading a graphic novel that is a collection of Native American tales about Trickster Book Coverthe common figure, in Native American Folk-tale, of the Trickster. For each tale, a different artist and writer collaborate, coming up with unique styles. But to be honest? It’s tiresome, or repetitive. Some of the art styles are mediocre, others I’d consider them bad; but I guess that’s my taste. There are some of the tales that do seem to shine. Their style is deep, and layered, the stuff I like, and work well with a tale.

But the whole “short-tales” tires me out. It might be fun to read with a small kid every night a new story, but I’m bored of it. I’ll still finish it — I feel it’s good enough it deserves finishing, — but yeah. Not highest on my list.

Another graphic Friends With Boys Book Covernovel I read was Friends With Boys, by Faith Erin Hicks. And it was good. It reminded me a bit of Anya’s Ghost, by Vera Brosgol. But different. While Anya’s Ghost leans towards the creepy, Friends With Boys leans more towards that sad reality of life: most things go unresolved. While there’s some resolution to Maggie’s journey, the protagonist in “Friends…,” it still happens that a lot of it is left open. I don’t think it’s for no reason; there’s one conversation between Maggie and her brother that I thought caught the nugget of truth and beauty from this graphic novel:

 

“I thought it was something I could fix — But I can’t fix anything.”

“Maybe that’s okay.”

The art style was nice, it’s one that I’d enjoy emulating myself if I ever got the chance.

 

With simple blacks, whites, and a layer of gray, Hicks conveys a lot through her image. With this graphic novel, I also just enjoyed the paper itself. The texture is nice,but mainly the pages have tiny variation on size, so on the edge of it you can run your finger along it and feel the ups and downs as pages randomly get bigger and smaller.

Enough of that. what I really want to talk about is Mean Girls.

I know. You’ve probably seen it. Or you think that it’s a movie for, well, girls — a “chick-flick.” But I just watched it., and I feel like the child inside of me cried watching it. So that counts right? I can write on it?

Mean Girls Cover

Mean Girls. I feel it deserves something, an award? A recognition? A shout-out? It deserves something for the screenplay. I mean seriously. The writing for that? I just thought it was incredible. It was ridiculously over the top, but in the good way. The same way Tarantino makes all the gory stuff be over the top. Ha. I’m comparing Mean Girls to Tarantino’s work. Someone will hurt me. But I’m fine with it. I’ll say it up front. I don’t like Tarantino that much.

Honestly, I just had to put in a word for Mean Girls, in case you haven’t watched it yet, if only for the great plot, screenwriting, and acting.

 

Breathe Beauty

I’ve written quite a few posts on how to keep going, how to keep pushing yourself and remain creative. But, today, I wanted to write why I think it is important to keep making art.

My belief in art starts with my parents. They have both encouraged me from the moment I wanted to be an author, as a tiny 8-year old, to the moment I took my first drawing lessons and wanted to be an artist. They’ve always believed in the power and influence of art. Be it visual, written, performed or otherwise, they believe in beauty. They also believed in me.

That’s why I think making art is so important: belief. Art has this incredible ability to make us believe. Art bridges the gap between our hearts and mind, and somehow makes us believe. It makes us believe in an adventure where a Hobbit finds a ring, deep in a cave, or in the beauty of mercy and honesty. It can also reveal darker sides of our existence, without becoming defeatist. It helps us to grow. It helps us to mature.

As a kid I learned from the Disney movies that everything is possible. From C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, I learned that virtue is close to suffering but that in the end, somehow everything pays off. From Craig Thompson I’ve learned of the nuances of faith, and of the suffering of poverty and sex slaves. From Jonathan Franzen I’ve learned the significance of the details of everyday life. From AquaSixio I’ve learned of the connection between the environment and the psyché. From Van Gogh I’ve learned that a broken vase can still breathe beauty.

Art shapes the way we see and behave in the world. To make art is important because it allows us to dream, and helps our friends to keep on dreaming. It’s not an easy path. But if you have anything inside of you worth telling the world, become proficient in whichever artistic language you choose.

Because that’s the only way you’ll make yourself heard.

That’s the only way you’ll make a difference.

Through the child’s heart. In an adult’s mind.

Hooray! We’re in August and I’m so happy I’ve been able to write and update this blog throughout this summer so far! In the month of July we had 83 visitors and 132 views! 24 more visitors and 23 views than the last month! Let’s celebrate small achievements! Woohooo!

If you’d like to get updates when blog posts come out, you can follow my Facebook page, or sign up for the mailing list that WordPress has set up — it’s on the bar to the side I believe!

Hope to see you soon! Or next week more precisely, at 10AM!

What Made Me Cry This Week – Abstract

Abstract - the Art of DesignI’ve watched three episodes of it. Each one has made me cry, in a different way.

It’s a documentary called Abstract. It’s on Netflix. The documentary explores “The Art of Design.”

The first episode is about an illustrator, Christoph Niemman, who has had several New Yorker covers, and does crazy illustrations – they have depth of content. It was fun having a couple of friends come up to me saying that they saw myself in him. Because, honestly, if I can be like him my life is set.

The third (I accidentally skipped the second one somehow) one is the designer for Nike shoes and Air Jordans, Tinker Hatfield. I wasn’t so interested in him, I don’t care that much about footwear – especially athletic – but it was still incredible seeing his drive, his creativity for something as “normal” as shoes.

And the last one I’ve seen so far has been Es Devlin’s episode. She’s a stage designer for theater and pop shows. Beyoncé and Kanye are just a couple people she’s designed stages for. She is incredible. Her pieces are so elaborate: they’re all about light, space, darkness, and time. I was surprised by how visually powerful they are.

With each episode the series expresses well the visuals,the audio, the editing, the thought process, the elaboration, the abstraction of ideas. They’re able to basically strip naked the thoughts of the artist, and it’s like you get to swim inside their heads and taste a little bit of what it’s like to come up with their incredible ideas.

In the end, the documentary is about abstraction; it’s about transforming an idea into something tangible. It’s about understanding your media and how to get ideas into that media. How do you work with just the flat visual image? How do you work with a shoe? With space and light? How do you create ideas, narratives, emotion, concepts, within whatever form or shape it takes in the world? How do you express what can’t be expressed?

I recommend Abstract – The Art of Design to anyone who wants to marvel at how things are created or for anyone seeking inspiration. You’ll finish an episode ready to conquer the next set of ideas that you carry in your own head.

 

Pineapples! They’re the key!

“This pineapple is ripe. I should eat it.”

Pineapple

You know. You can find inspiration for art and for growing in your art anywhere. Even in a pineapple. But you may be asking why. Why is he choosing a pineapple? Well because there’s one in front of me right now. And because that’s what I want to do. My desires are frequently unreasonable.

But so how can a pineapple inspire you, and help you grow in your art? Well here’s a list of how.

 

Blog_Numbers1You can sketch it, draw it, paint it. Represent it in some way. Just by doing this, at least once you’ll be better than you were before. At least that’s what they say: “Practice makes perfect.”

 

 

Blog_Numbers2Eat it. Savor it. Enjoy it full-heartedly. Maybe even find a cool recipe through our friend Google. – Enjoying life is just essential for art. While there are great artists that I’m sure didn’t quite enjoy life, that doesn’t mean that you can’t! And after you’ve enjoyed the pineapple you can go back to your sullen self if you so desire. It’s up to you.

 

Blog_Numbers3Make a pineapple character! Or a pineapple world! Or a pineapple house! (uuuh.. Sponge Bob?) Come up with anything new that you can from a pineapple. Maybe a dress, or a blouse that has it stamped on it. Or maybe fuse it with a different fruit, to come up with a Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen? Oops. It feels like my ideas have already been used everywhere! Oh wells. Maybe choose a different fruit, or just think of something even newer. If you can.

 

Blog_Numbers4Write on, and about, the pineapple. I mean seriously. You’re an artist. You’re in the business of creativity. Anything new, anything imaginative is good. Even if you don’t see yourself as a writer, this can be great to break your shell! Get creative. Go crazy. With a pineapple. (In case you didn’t notice… that’s what I’m doing right now!)

 

Blog_Numbers5Slam it against a wall, floor or sidewalk. Draw that! Paint that! Seriously. I mean. Aren’t you curious to see what a smashed pineapple looks? And how will you draw that? You could even make a whole comic telling the whole story of how you read this awesome blog post and decided to smash a pineapple, that you ended up drawing, that made you super-crazy internet famous.

 

Blog_Numbers6Balance it on your head. Count how many seconds. Keep a track of your record. You don’t know why you should do this? Well. If you can’t figure it out on your own, I’m not sure we can be friends.

 

 

Wait…You’re still reading this? What are you waiting for? Go make some art with pineapples!

P.S.: The pineapple was eaten, leaving no space for me to try out all my tips. But I did get myself pumped up enough to come up with this dorky pineapple-inspired character.

Pineapple Character

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Hope to see you soon! Or next week more precisely, at 10AM!

 

 

What Made Me Cry This Week – Habibi

Habibi CoverCan I just say that I love this new “job” of mine? I get to read stories that I love. Stories that move me, and enchant my small heart. Stories that actually make this heart bigger, opening it up to new experiences, worlds, and ideas. And Craig Thompson, in Habibi, did just that.

Thompson has already moved me through his graphic novel Blankets; Habibi only increased my admiration for his ability to convey emotion in creative ways.

So, the main plot:

A girl named Dodola is made a slave. She runs away with a younger slave that she has taken in, almost as her own child. She renames him Zam. They grow up together on the boat, yes a boat, they found shipwrecked in the desert – their safe haven.

Thrown into the mix of it all are questions of sexuality. Dodola to provide food prostitutes her body. As Zam enters puberty he becomes enraptured by Dodola’s body. The story focuses on the redemption of their own sins, as they try and survive in a world dominated by the evil of humankind. But as we are shown they’ve been separated – with Dodola ending up in a Sultan’s harem. Zam’s search for Dodola begins as she tries to survive the harem.

Thompson has a magical ability to mix poetry, narrative, and visuals. He jumps from place to place, leaves us curious, intrigued, always wanting more. If I didn’t have work the next day I would have stayed up all night reading it. Oh, responsibilities – always getting in the way.

I also really liked the book for the way Thompson incorporates Arabic language, Islamic religion, and poetry. He gives breath to faith that so often seems intangible. Faith, as in Blankets, becomes a lens through which to look at the world. It becomes a means for survival to the lost ones.

Habibi shows. No, it doesn’t show. Habibi makes us live with what is wrong in our world. It makes us experience that which we often try to ignore: a world where the sex-trade still runs rampant and poverty is one of it’s major drivers.

While the world is dark, Thompson is still able to deliver some brushstrokes of hope. At the end, I cried: I mourned for the many lives that have suffered under the cruelty of this world, but also for the glimpse of hope given.

The hope Thompson gives never once felt like the stuff of fairy-tales. It felt real, like I could run into it around the block from my house.

If you’d like to get updates when blog posts come out, you can follow my Facebook page, or sign up for the mailing list that WordPress has setup — it’s on the bar to the side I believe!

Hope to see you soon! Or next week more precisely, at 10AM!