Watercolors will probably save the world

It takes three weeks to form a new habit, apparently — 21 days, if it’s something simple. My days are already worse when I have to skip my index card art, and I’m also starting to get antsy if that’s all the art I make. Last night I started a comic without having any idea what it would be about. I just drew the frames and wrote the captions, and it felt great. (Now I just have to color it in. Leaving things half-finished is the easiest way to fall off the wagon!)

One unanticipated wrinkle in this whole morning ritual is actually how happy it makes me. Since I’m a freelancer, I do have the ability to set my own schedule and priorities, and since I’ve been in therapy for most of the past seven years, I’ve been working on letting go of guilt for working on my own life rather than squeezing it into the margins. When I hang out with very busy or harried friends with bad commutes, bad office experiences or just bad stress, it’s hard not to internalize the idea that somehow I’m cheating at this “being an adult” thing. I live in New York City, much to my surprise — shouldn’t I be more ground down with the hustle?

I have lived that life, though, and I’m still recovering from it. It’s not a status symbol, and I find it deeply destructive on every possible level. This isn’t something I want to ~fight from the inside any more. My dear friend Willow and I both yelled happily about this very question at each other recently; she creates the marvelous (and award-winning!) podcast Out There, and has just introduced an advice feature called “The Nature Fix.” This question of whether you should feel bad about stepping out of the rat race is the first thing she addresses.

So, I’m going to keep rolling in this direction. I like the person it helps me be, and I can already see where I’m trying to challenge myself and grow, even if only in a 3-inch by 5-inch space. After a long time trying desperately to live on other people’s approval, it’s lovely to do something purely for myself and then share it.

Here’s this batch of weird fun and feelings:

011 - Midlife Moth-man
Day 11: Midlife Moth-Man. I was really into paranormal weirdness as a kid (and I still would be, if so much of it wasn’t staggeringly racist). Point Pleasant, West Virginia, wasn’t so far from where I grew up, and while the Moth-Man has never been one of my true loves, I was pleased when this squiggle became fodder for a certain kind of midlife crisis. Watercolor and Micron pen.
012 - Inscrutable Dadaist title
Day 12: Inscrutable Dadaist title. I was feeling a little snarly that morning, and some “I don’t have to explain my art to you” was just what the doctor ordered. Watercolor (liquid and solid), India ink, glitter pen, Prismacolor marker, brush pen, colored pencil and collage.
013 - Bang! Noir!
Day 13: Bang! Noir! This might be my favorite piece so far. All I knew was I wanted to use markers, and what I learned is that people who can make magic with markers are themselves made of magic. Prismacolor marker, Mr. Sketch marker, Micron pen, black marker set and collage.
014 - High-diver
Day 14: High-diver. This started off as a squiggle, and as soon as I picked up my non-photo-blue pencil, I realized today was the day I would be leaning into butts. This is also the piece that made me realize I need more and different-colored fine-point pens for outlining. Growth is exciting, especially when it necessitates more supplies! Watercolor and Micron pen.
015 - Giant mutant swamp rabbit
Day 15: Giant mutant swamp rabbit. My faithful squiggle technique rides again. I was delighted when I realized that rather than hiding in the grass, this creature was lounging amid some tall reeds. I’d love to know more about the world this buddy exists in. Watercolor and Micron pen.
016 - Calming exercises
Day 16: Calming exercises. Another snarly day prompted this one. Lynda Barry says that writing out the alphabet is one way to get your brain running smoothly again if you’ve ever feeling stuck. She’s right. Watercolor, brush pens and Micron pen.
017 - Bear waiting for company beneath the Northern Lights
Day 17: Bear waiting for company beneath the Northern Lights. I only have two bottles of liquid watercolor, and the colors they produce are not at all the colors on the label. I still really want to learn more about using them, though. Liquid watercolor, India ink and Micron pen.
018 - The powerhouse of the cell or some shit
Day 18: The powerhouse of the cell or some shit. Dip pens are fascinating to use! I wasn’t sure whether to color in the whole image or make the textures their own statement, but I love how weirdly translucent painting over “I thought it was dry” ink turned that blob/mitochondria in the foreground. The monochrome background gained a weird visual depth that I was not at all anticipating. India ink and watercolor.
019 - Self-portrait with tea
Day 19: Self-portrait with tea. I don’t know how bodies are put together and I don’t fully know how to make my comics avatar really look like me, but I did a lot of mixing to come up with that rosewood shade of brown, and I’m super pleased with the texture of the hair. Watercolor, colored pencil and Micron pen.
020 - Your very own escape to Margaritaville
Day 20: Your very own escape to Margaritaville. Thanks for the mailer, Bed Bath & Beyond. I started out just wanted to use ink on a brush. It turned into an undersea collage nonsense world, and I like that. India ink, watercolor, collage, glitter pen and Micron pen.

If you want to watch these come out day by day, here’s the Twitter thread where they all live. Thanks for stopping by, and catch you on the flip side!

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