2021

Artwork, Design, Miscellaneous
colored sketch of happy cat on back

2020 is finally over! What a strange year it was. And a long year. I’m hoping 2021 will be better, but it didn’t get off to the best start. But as the month has progressed, it’s calmed down a bit. So that’s good!

Looking back at my year, I was really fortunate. I was able to keep my job and work from home. I got to see my Grandma before she died, and I have some really good memories from that. And Nick and I have proven we are capable of inhabiting the same space for really long amounts of time and not murder each other!

There were some bad moments too, of course, but overall, I tried to stay positive. When the pandemic first started, I honestly didn’t think it would last for as long as it has. I tried to keep my schedule relatively the same, so that I could jump right back in to my normal life, as soon as we all got back into it. And I tried to see the opportunities that it was giving me. I drive a long way to work, so I gained extra time every day! The extra time gave me more time to do the things I’ve been wanting to do. Practice guitar daily! Draw more! Extra time to blog more! Run longer distances! Extra time to treat myself by doing face masks, painting my nails, and relaxing! And extra time with Nick!

Unfortunately, as time has moved on, I have adjusted for this to now be my normal. I don’t get up as early as I used to. I have spent more time in front of the TV than I have in years. I’m not practicing guitar as much. I’m not blogging much. I’m sitting around more, and my running mileage has not progressed at all.

But it hasn’t all been bad. I’m almost finished painting our Last Night on Earth Hero game figures, which has been on my list of things to do for awhile now. I’ve started knitting again, which I haven’t done in forever. I have been taking more time to focus on me. I’ve gotten to play more video games. And Nick and I have tried to come up with fun and creative things to keep our days from becoming mundane (we have formal Fridays, had a coffee date on the porch, set up a photo booth, had a cultural fest, and our very own version of GenCon!).

The biggest takeaways I got from 2020 are that exercise is very important for me, it’s ok to relax and not feel guilty about it, and yes, I am definitely an introvert!

I always knew that exercise was important to me, but I guess I thought it was more of a want than a need. But as it got colder outside, and I kept indoors more and didn’t move as much, I started to notice it in my mood. I started getting easily irritated by things that didn’t bother me before, and I started to feel really down and depressed. This past year, I reached my lowest low, and it was not a good place to be. I’m glad I was able to break out of it, and I hope to never get there again. ‘Cause when you’re down, it affects the people around you as well, and when you are stuck indoors with them, it makes for some really terrible times.

Being ok with relaxing and not being productive has always been hard for me. And I’m not saying that I’m such a productive person, I’m constantly doing things and never relax. I’m saying that I’m fairly productive, but I push myself to be ultra productive, which then ends in me being slightly productive and feeling guilty that I’m not more productive. So when I am not being productive, I feel guilty that I’m not, and I stress about it, and I’m not able to relax. But by getting rid of those thoughts that every second of my day has to be ultra productive has caused me to be more productive because when it’s time for me to relax, even though I could be doing something else, I’m relaxing, which has been so helpful for my creativity and is so restorative. When it’s time for me to do something to be productive, I have way more energy and get more done.

For some, being stuck indoors has been horrible. For me, this hasn’t really been a problem. I’m not sure if it’s just my personality or if I just had so much going on in life before, that I’m enjoying all the free time and not having to rush off to another appointment or engagement (and I’m sure a lot of this has to do with driving. When I was doing improv, my drive from work to improv was about an hour!). Don’t get me wrong. I do miss my friends and family. And I’m looking forward to the spring when I can sit outside more. But I’m also perfectly content to sit at home all day. I’ve always known I’m introverted. But I guess I didn’t realize just how introverted I am. If introverts get their energy from being alone, I am storing up so much, that people are not going to be able to handle me when I’m finally back in the world!

One really great thing this year was that I got to attend the Adobe Max conference. In normal times, I don’t think I would have ever gotten to go, since it’s really expensive. But last year, they offered it virtually and for free if you had a Creative Cloud membership. In true Melonie-fashion, I booked myself full of classes every day. Anything that sounded even slightly interesting was on my list. I even got up early to watch classes. It was so great! But the best part was when I stumbled into some of the celebrity talks. I wasn’t planning on going to any of those talks, since I didn’t thinks they’d be interesting. But when I had some down time, I decided to check one of them out, and I’m so glad I did! They were so inspiring!

As an artist, I’ve always been insecure about my work. I worry that what I do is not good enough, since it doesn’t look perfect. Or it’s not as good as what someone else can do. Or as imaginative as what someone else might have come up with. This year has been especially hard on me at work, since we’ve hired new people in my department. They both have much more experience in graphic design than I do, since I spent more of my time doing prepress than actual design. So with these new hires, I’m sharing the creative side of things. And whenever I’m not a part of a new project, I do sometimes wonder if it’s just because that’s not where my strength lies, but it’s where the other person thrives or is it because I’m not good enough? So it was nice to hear celebrities and established creatives talk about their own self doubt. And to be reminded that my work isn’t worse. It’s just different.

So going forward into 2021, work-wise, I’m hoping to get better at 3D modeling, learning to better work creatively within a group, becoming an art director, and pushing my design abilities. Artistically, I’m hoping to continue drawing, finish painting all of the Last Night on Earth figures, and squeezing in some traditional/digital paintings. Craft-wise, I’d like to squeeze in a few sewing and some knitting projects. Personally, I want to continue to work on myself and my marriage to make both of them the best they can be. And I also want to learn to play one song in its entirety on the guitar. Happy New Year to everyone, and I hope this year is better for you all than last year!

Manhattan

Design
Board Game Manhattan board, box, rulebook, pieces, and cards laid out

About three years ago, Nick and I were inspired by a fan-made board redesign for the game Manhattan, and we decided we wanted to update our copy. The game is so much fun, but the graphic design reminds me of when I was first in school and learned about Photoshop’s filters! No offense to the graphic designer, but it’s really bad. It was also designed in the 90s, so I’m sure it seemed really great back then. But now it just looks super dated.

Our original plan was that we would use the fan-made board and just make our own cards. We wanted to use Game Crafters to print everything, and the board wasn’t set up in their standard size. The fan-made board was a rectangle with a map of Manhattan in the background, and the Game Crafters boards were square, which was not going to work. But no worries! We can design a board as well!

We started our redesign with inspiration of subway stations and graffiti art. Our plan was to make the different card-types each look like a prominent Manhattan station and have a different graffiti style. Shortly after starting this redesign, I got hired at Chip Theory Games. For me, the pressure was on. I now worked at a board game company, so the five people who would come to our house and ever see this would obviously expect something amazing. And I would give them something amazing!

I won’t go into the details of how long I spent perfecting each subway tile or all the disagreements that Nick and I had about how long this project should take. I put the pressure on myself, and I took it to the extreme. The worst part is that I knew better. I knew that all the details I was making looked great on the screen, but were too small to print. But it took me way too long to finally print it out and see what a dumbass I was being!

After I had my realization, we decided it would be best to take a break from the game. In the meantime, an announcement of a redesign came out. Which made our break seem good, since we could buy the new version and just move on with life. But we were disappointed with the redesign when we finally saw it. Not because it’s not a good design. More because we had this idea in our heads of what we wanted the art to look like, and this was different. We decided that our redesign was back on!

Nick had the really good idea of having a Design Jam. We gave ourselves 8 hours to figure out and finalize all the design. The only things we were allowed to do after that 8 hours was prepress work to get the files ready for printing. And if we got to the eighth hour and still had work to do, then we were done. We would either buy the new version or just deal with our old version.

The first thing we did was to dig into all of our previous work. It was surprising to see that there was some good stuff in there! We weren’t completely starting from scratch. Looking at the design with fresh eyes, we noticed that while our card idea had the ability to look really cool, it was going to be a lot of work and was also a different style from the rest of the game. But we loved the board! So we decided to minimalize the cards more and match them to the board. 8 hours later, we were done and had a game to send off to the printer!

I’m really pleased with how everything turned out! And now we have a game we enjoy with our own design! And I learned to not focus so much on the details, until it’s time to focus on the details! (Well, hopefully I learned that!)

Last Night on Earth Miniatures

Miscellaneous
front of 4 miniature characters from Last Night on Earth

As you may already know, I like to play board games. When Nick and I first got into the hobby, one of the games we purchased was Last Night on Earth, which is a zombie apocalypse game that has miniatures. Shortly after seeing other people painting their miniatures, I decided I was going to paint ours. Sadly, we’ve had the game for years now, and I hadn’t even primed any of them!

So last year, I decided to give myself a little push by priming all of the heroes in the game. I did it in the fall, knowing that in winter, I would probably get the bug to paint, but was not going to go out in the garage in the cold and prime everything. Plus, priming works best in non-sub-zero temperatures!

And now I have some painted miniatures to show you! So far, I only have four done. It’s been a slower process than what I thought it would be. But they are so small, that whenever I get an area looking how I want, I end up hitting the brush somewhere and having to touch things up. (After taking photos, I saw that one of them has a spot of blue in their hair that needs fixing!) But I’m getting better at it! And I purchased some magnifying glasses, which is helping, and added bonus, I look super cool wearing them (that’s sarcasm, in case it didn’t read).

Before starting, I watched a lot of videos and read painting guides. Plus, one of my co-workers, Andrew Chesney, is a really good painter, so I’ve gotten some tips from him. It’s crazy to watch him work. He can complete a couple of minis in a night, and they look awesome! I take way more time than that! But I also haven’t been doing this for years. I did try to paint one of my brother’s minis back in high school. It didn’t really work well. I didn’t understand shading or even how to paint and make something look 3D. So the mini ended up looking really flat and kind of cartoonish. Good to see that these are much better, and I’m making progress!

I started with the heroes because they will be the easier ones to paint. For me, it’s really confusing when you play a game, if the mini doesn’t look anything like the character’s photo on your character card. So I am painting the minis to match what I can see of the character’s hair color, skin color, and outfits. But for the zombies, I can do whatever I want. So I thought it would be better to get these started and make them match something, and then for the zombies, go crazy!

One thing I do wish I would have known before I primed my minis was that the minis should be cleaned up a bit. Especially with game minis like these that are more cheaply made and tend to have mold parts and other pieces that weren’t meant to be a part of the mini but ended up not being removed in manufacturing. One of the female minis looks like she’s wearing a necklace, which she could be, but I don’t see a necklace in any of the photos. So it could be a mistake. But since I had already primed it, I just went with it, and she’s now wearing a necklace.

Another difficult thing with minis that are more cheaply made is that they don’t have a lot of detail. So the dry brushing technique tends to not work the same way it would with really detailed minis. I think the faces have been the hardest part for me. I have had to redo the eyes so many times because I feel like they should be more detailed, but the eyes are so small, that just getting them to look like eyes and not make the characters look cross eyed has been hard!

I’ll post more as I get them done, but for now, this is what I have. Enjoy!

Art Show

Artwork

For a while now, I thought it would be really fun to do an art show. I’ve never had one, and an acquaintance’s husband got his art put up in a local coffee shop and had an opening party. It seemed like fun! And who doesn’t like a party? I wasn’t sure whether I would go as far to get my stuff put up somewhere public or just rearrange the garage and invite over some friends and family. But, details…those could wait. So last year, I took one day each month to devote to creating a new piece of art. My goal was to have 12 new pieces to put on display. And the event was going to take place in June.

So, about that art show… I had decided I wasn’t ready to put my stuff on display in public (I know. I’m a chicken). Nick and I usually try to do some sort of gathering at least once a year, so we decided the art show could be a part of that. And then Covid happened. And that made planning anything really difficult. Would the quarantine be over in time for the art show? If it was, would we feel comfortable having a group of people over at our house? Would other people be comfortable coming to our house? There were so many questions that didn’t have answers, so we decided it was best to just not plan at this point in time.

So maybe next year? But we’ll see. Nick and I have been rewatching The Office. After seeing the episode where Pam’s class has an art show and only a few people show up for Pam, and the other artists ridicule her stuff for not having a greater meaning behind it and just being random things she drew while at work, it’s made me rethink things. I have basically just painted a bunch of random things that I felt like painting that day. Some were photos I took that I thought would make nice paintings, and others were just random things I found on the internet that I wanted to paint. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s keeping me creative and upping my skills. But is that what I want for my art show? Or do I want something that is more meaningful that I feel truly expresses a part of who I am? Or do I just say, “F*** It!” and have a show with this art, and then in a few years, have another show that is more meaningful? I’m not sure. But even if I never put on a show with what I’ve created here, I’m glad I created it, and I can see how my skills have improved.

Most of these paintings were done with Gouache. Lately that seems to be my go-to medium. I used acrylics mostly when I was younger, but in college I really got into watercolors. Gouache seems to be a good in-between medium that I had never tried until I took my friend’s (Alison Nowak: https://www.alisonnowak.com, in case you are interested in taking a class from her. She is an awesome person, as well as a great teacher!) pet portrait painting class at MCAD. And I love that I can work in tandem on 2 paintings, as well as get something else done while I wait for everything to dry. It just seems like the most productive day ever!

The Koi Fish and Japanese Waterfall painting were done digitally in Procrate. That was really fun, and I’d like to explore that more as well. But I think I have been gravitating to the non-digital realm, since I spend so much of my life in the digital realm. It’s nice to take a break and just go old school. And it’s good to deal with not being able to hit undo all the time. If I make a mistake, I’m mostly stuck with it. Especially since watercolor and gouache tend to look worse the more you go in and try to fix mistakes.

Anyway. This is what I would have put up, had I had an art show this year. I hope you enjoy!

Website Redesign

Artwork
gouache painting of a tree frog on a leaf

I finally did it…I switched my website over from a self-hosted site to a WordPress.com site. My old site needed an update…badly! The unfortunate thing that I learned from my last update, is that unless I buy a theme from the exact same developer, things will break when switching over because developers may code things differently. And learning how someone set up their new code and how to fix it to do what I wanted it to do was not interesting to me. Maybe another time, but not now. Now I want to create and post and not worry about the code. And I have had so many posts that I wanted to make, but since I was first planning and then in mid-switch, I didn’t want to take the time to post on two sites while they were simultaneously existing. And, I thought this was going to go a lot faster than what it did. So I just didn’t post.

The switch to WordPress.com was easy, but difficult. The easy part was backing everything up and porting it over. The difficult part was deciding which pricing tier to pay for and which theme to get. I was torn. One thing that drives me crazy about the new site is how it says, “Home” on the front page. But…I have to upgrade to the next tier in order to be able to get rid of that. Is it worth it to pay $4 extra per month on a website I don’t make any money off of, just to get rid of this ugliness? I wish I could tell you it was a no-brainer, and I quickly got over it. But it really bugged me! Eventually, my voice of reason won out, and I reminded myself that it isn’t as important what the site looks like. The content is what’s really important. Of course, if it looked like a site from the 90s, that would not be ok. But the WordPress free themes are ok for the most part, and I’m pleased with the overall look. And, all the other stuff that I really don’t like, I’m learning to deal with it. Because it’s not just the word “Home” that I don’t like…

I chose this specific theme because it takes advantage of the Portfolio feature in WordPress. I’m hoping that eventually more themes will use this feature, and when I need to update the site again, it will seamlessly switch. But we’ll see. Who knows? When I need to update again, maybe I’ll be all fired up to code again, and I’ll head back to self-hosting. You never know.

Wow! I just checked, and my last post was September of 2019! That was awhile ago. You may think that I haven’t been doing anything, and that’s why I haven’t posted, but that’s not true. I’ve been trying to spend at least one day per month creating art. For awhile I was doing a lot of gouache paintings. Then I moved on to painting some miniatures. I tried some digital painting as well. And work has been really busy. I’ve been working on some booth designing and learning 3D, which has been a challenge, but fun. And my newest endeavor has been learning to play the guitar! I’ve only been at it for about 2 months now, and I still sound horrible! But I am getting better. That’s good news for Nick, who sometimes hears me practicing!

The painting above is a gouache painting I did of a tree frog photo that I found online. It’s the most recent painting that I did, so I thought I would share it now.

I’m going to wrap this up now, but I’ll be back soon to share some of the stuff I’ve been doing and keep you updated with anything new I’ve gone on to! I hope you have all been well and are keeping yourselves safe.