The Reawakening of Water Child

So let me tell you something about what happened yesterday.

I am currently teaching ESL at a summer camp, and our afternoon activity was to take the kids down to Toronto Island to go dragon boating. It was hella hot, and we had just been stuck in a stifling school bus as it inched its way down Bay St. We get out and herd the kids down to the ferry terminal when, suddenly, the air changed; before I knew it, I was being washed, head to toe, in fresh cool air from Lake Ontario. Oh! My heart just sang and my whole body trembled. In the ferry terminal there are photographs of water: shallow water over a rippled sandy bottom; deep water waves shining like a polished diamond in the sun. They were so beautiful that I couldn’t stop looking at them.

Later, standing at the bow of the ferry, feeling the lake breeze caress my mind, body and soul, I was in such a place of bliss. I spent my childhood swimming, sailing, kayaking, and power boating on the Great Lakes. I never realized how important they were to me and how much they effected me. I’ve been called a fish since a young age because I just would not get out of the water. I have been told that I am a true pisces. The first dive into fresh lake water is better than any orgasm. Whenever I see water, I want nothing more than to tear off my shoes and dip my toes in. Water just calls to me.

I am my happiest when I am around fresh water. This isat the core of my being. I am thankful that I know this about myself because it will help guide me forward to my happiest, most fulfilling life. My dream ini life is to own a cottage on a lake in Northern Ontario and live, surrounded by plants, with my Labrador retriever. Now, I’m thinking, I might want to also own a sailboat… ooh, maybe live on a sail boat for a time?

Do you love the water as much as I do? Is there another place that just excites your soul, like towering mountains, or lush forests, or arid deserts?

I Failed Sketchbook Summer

I failed #SketchbookSummer.

I started the month ready and prepared. In a feat of Einsteinian mathematics, I counted the number of pages in my sketchbook (110), divided those up by the number of days in July (31) and came to the grand conclusion that I would need to complete 3.5 double spreads every day in order to fill my sketchbook by the end of the month. That didn’t seem so bad.

Week one, my momentum was really strong. Believe it or not, I even went over my weekly quota and drew more pages than I should have! I was feeling great.

Then what happened? I got into my head. I made excuses. I was “too tired” to draw. I let days go by without drawing anything at all. I told myself that I would catch up on the weekend, when I would magically be in the mood to draw. As anyone knows, that magical day when you wake up and have suddenly become a perfect version of yourself, full of motivation and discipline with magically acquired level of talent to match, never actually comes… and so the weekend would come and go and I’d be just as behind as ever.

That being said, today is July 31st (Happy Birthday Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling) and I have filled the large majority of a sketchbook! I am quite proud of that. My goal for #sketchbookSummer was not simply to put marks on paper, but instead to create a habit where I spent time every day with my sketchbook, and I did! I was writing, drawing, and experimenting within those 110 pages… I tried to stop treating the paper as a special object that should be saved for masterpieces. Instead, I viewed my sketchbook as a private playground uniquely designed for me, and it felt great! It is a practice I fully intend to keep up. Besides, masterpieces only emerge from sloppy, messy, ugly idea play, so go ahead “waste” a page in your sketchbook, see how it feels! After some time, chances are, it won’t feel like it was a wasted page after all because it, in some indefinable way, helped you get to where you are now. 

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Here are some of my favourite recent pages from my sketchbook:

“Make it work!” Mondays: … How do I animate?

I wanted my videos to have animation in them. Animation was something I’ve always wanted to learn how to do, and it would give my videos a much more surreal quality to them if I hand made every inch of the frame. It would also be much, much, much more time consuming. Was I ready to commit to a project like that? Did I even know how to realize a project like that?


I had messed around with a green screen in a class once, and found it surprisingly easy to use. This was encouraging. Maybe I could act in front of a green screen and then add in animated backgrounds?

All I know is I’ve got a lot of work to do…

Weekly Update: July 2nd-9th

This was week one of Sketchbook Summer. People seem to have a prompts list for this challenge, but I can’t find it! If you know where it is, please send me a link! Regardless, I am having a lot of fun drawing this week. Some days it has been a challenge to fill the 3.5 pages, but other days I get on a roll and more than make up for it. I did the math, and so long as I complete 24 spreads per week, I will be golden. The thing I find myself noticing the most is the fact that I have to wait for my paint to dry… and even though I’m still in the art-making-mood, I can’t flip to the next page because I need to wait for my paint to dry! Ah, first-world-artist problems, eh? 

 

This has been a busy week, mainly because of teaching. Highlights include: Going a packed aquarium with a group of 50 students while everyone else had the holiday Monday off; taking the same enormous group to the Toronto Zoo and slowly inching our way through “Africa,” baking under the hot sun; and finally, going shopping with 50 teenagers. The life of a teacher is extremely glamorous, no?

Back in April I had signed up for an online course, which now, I am kinda regretting. This course will qualify me to teach Gr. 11 and 12 English, which is good because it will open the door to me getting a job in a high school, but it adds more onto my daily work load than I would like. If anything, I am taking the fact that doing the course work feels like drudgery to be an indicator that  pursuing something more creative is the correct path for me. I am still on the Artists Way, week 8 just finished… and I am more and more confident in my ability to forge a creative life for myself. This online class has also taught me how bad I am at reading online. Does anyone else get that? What I don’t understand is how is it possible that I spent hours and hours of my life reading fan fiction from the ages of 12 to 20, yet give me a work of non fiction, an assignment, a message, and stick it on a screen and POOF, my eyes glide over it and it means nothing. This is why I flip flop about digital books; they’re just harder to read somehow.

This week, I wanted to talk about SemiSkimmedMin. At first, when I saw her videos, I was annoyed by their beauty and her phenomenal art ability. Yes, I was jealous. She was doing everything I wanted to do… and she had a cool British accent to boot! Not fair! Something drew me back to her channel this week, and after I had blinked a few times to clear the jealousy from my eyes, I discovered what a true wealth of knowledge her channel was! I learned so much from her 30 ways to fill a sketchbook videos —and I haven’t even watched them all!

She recommended a great channel for life drawing videos, and had the great idea of going to google street view and drawing landscapes. Duh! How simple, FREE and amazing is that! I’ve been putting off going to life drawing classes for months now, blaming the cost of a class, fitting the class into my schedule, and the fact that all of the classes are just a little bit farther from home than I’d like them to be… and now I don’t have any excuses! I can do them from home on my computer and keep being the homebody I so desperately want to be! I can definitely see doing google street view drawings when it is way too cold to go outside. Shout out to you, Canadian winter! I highly recommend going to check out her channel. I guarantee you will be inspired!

What have I been reading? (in five-ish words or less)

  1. Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers by Mike Sacks
    “Funny people being inspiring. Sth-aaap!”

    I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves comedy, television or movies, or is thinking about living a creative life, or entering “show business”

  2. How to be everything: A guide for those who (still) don’t know what they want to be when they grow up – by Emilie Wapnick
    “Multipotentialite: Hear me roar!”

  3. Draw from your head: A step by step system for drawing the human figure without a model – Doug Jamieson
    “Yass, teach me how bodies work!”

What have I been watching? (In five-ish words or less)

  1. SemiSkimmedMin
    “Let me be you, please!”

  2. Labyrinth
    “I think I need to have watched this as a kid for it to have been good. Bowie’s sexy as hell, though.*”

*Please don’t hate me for not liking this movie. It was just a little too lame for my mindset at the time, maybe? I would love to read some good Labyrinth fanfiction, though… this movie seems ripe for some good stuff! 

That Creative Life: Getting back on the horse!

The past  couple of weeks have been unfortunately busier than anticipated. I felt quite drained a lot of the time. My morning routine went all to shit, and I definitely felt the negative effects. My online course was wrapping up and so there were assignments and final reflections to write. At the same time, my teaching job was starting up, so I had lesson plans to create. I suddenly had a bunch of things on my plate that I didn’t want to do. I wanted to keep working on my art and my blog, but the idea of doing so felt irresponsible. I kept telling myself, just get those nagging tasks done and then you can go back to creating. The problem is, my brain is really good at telling me I should do nothing at all instead of getting my homework done. It wouldn’t be so bad if I had spent the time doing work that I loved, for fun, while procrastinating… but no, instead I just wasted time with nothingness. I don’t know about you, but when I procrastinate, because I feel the weight of my to-do list looming over me, I can’t even ENJOY the internet junk food I consume when procrastinating. I’m too stressed and flit from social media site to social media site, searching for the rush I want but am incapable of feeling. It really is a negative cycle, and one that can only be broken by actually doing the work.

Eventually, my brain will snap out of it’s frantic internet squirrel mode and begrudgingly decide that it was finally time to get this stupid work out of the way. And then, while I hated every minute of it, I would complete my homework. Part of the reason why I dread homework so much is that it always seems to take way longer than I think it will. Maybe I’m just a slow worker, I don’t know.

One of Gretchen Rubens’ Happiness Project resolutions was to “Act the way you want to feel.” She didn’t want to be tired when her daughters wanted to play at the end of a long day, so she tried to act like she was full of energy and found that, by doing so, her tanks were refilled! I’ve been experimenting with this idea, and find that while it may not work all the time to trick myself into actually liking doing work I don’t like doing, it has been able to put me in an energetic creative mood when I was otherwise “too tired” to do so before. 

Once I start doing something creative, my whole mindset improves. It took a quarter century but I’ve discovered how important having creativity in my life. A creative outlook is vital.

The important part is that you start back up. Don’t beat yourself up for stopping, or falling off the horse as it were. Remember: Day one is better than one day, after all.

What always invigorates you? What is your favourite thing to do? What do you wish you did more of? What do you “not have time for?”

“MAKE IT WORK” Mondays: What’s in a name?

Leslie Taylor’s Manic Neon Wasteland.

Where the hell did that mouthful come  from?

I had been reading a lot about branding, and had been interested in starting a blog for the longest time. The thing that always stopped me was the fact that you needed to define your audience. How would you describe yourself? I flip flopped. Was I trying to make a personal website, or create something for a character? Around this time I had read “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon and he recommends just putting your work out there, because it will attract a support network of like-minded individuals who will give you constructive criticism and feedback. That sounded great. So I made this blog, bought the domain name and everything.

I wanted to find my tribe. My audience then became me. I wanted to attract people who were like me. I started writing posts that shared music I liked with the hopes that other people would like that song too.

“Okay, so, then, self,” I asked myself, “What do you like?”

“Um,” I said, “I like YouTube, and Vines, and memes, and weird things like Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy, and Drag Queens…. I like things brightly coloured and fast moving and funny.”

“Fast moving… almost manic, would you say?” I prodded.

“Yes.”

“What’s your current favourite colour?” I knew the answer to this question but I asked anyway. Colour is a huge component to branding after all.

“Chartuse, almost neon green… may it never go out of fashion!” I crossed my fingers and prayed to the gods and goddesses of fast fashion.

“Okay…” Where could I go with this? I wondered. “What do you like to do for fun?” If I wanted to attract people like me, I had to figure out what I liked doing on the internet in my free time.

“I like to spend my time on tumblr looking for manic comedic content, neon and bright coloured artwork and clothing… kinda like wading through an internet wasteland!”

“I have it! The perfect name! Manic Neon Wasteland!”

This of course was a fictionalization of what really happened, but somehow I was able to distill the stuff I like on the internet to those three words. I think they’re quite fitting.

“MAKE IT WORK” Mondays: Excuse me, how do I write?

Script writing. Ugh…

Finding Leslie’s voice was definitely the hardest part. I say “was” like I have found it, but I am definitely still working on it.

What was she going to say? I had no idea! Was she going to be a character, with a whole backstory, a history, a family? Did I want to commit to writing my entire blog in her voice? I don’t think I have the creative chops for that! I got some criticism about my creative writing as a child and while I know it was unwarranted, and I have since written stories that I am proud of, I still struggle with seeing myself as a writer, as someone who is capable of telling stories.

I would watch Max Headroom interviews and want to be him. My biggest influence for the show, though was Buddy Cole from Kids in the Hall. He’s always mesmerized me, even as a kid watching the show on the Comedy network (channel 44, what what!).


I wanted to create a character who gave witty monologues like that. Problem was, I’d have to write those monologues myself…

I sat down at an empty word document. It stayed empty for a long time. Who was Leslie Taylor and what exactly happened in the Manic Neon Wasteland? I asked the empty page those questions, and slowly but surely typed out the answer… and that answer will be the first video from Leslie Taylor… which will hopefully be released before pigs fly and hell freezes over. I’m working on it!