Monday, January 29, 2018

At first you ignored us
Like we’re a passing fad
But then we raised our voices
And now you’re scared
Of all the power that we have
We’re coming for you
Now you can’t ignore us

We will stand
We will fight
We’ll take everything we need
We won’t lay down and die
This is who we are meant to be
There’s no second guessing


You call yourselves an army
You try to hold us back
But when the battle’s over
You’re going to see
All the power that we have


We’re coming for you
No, you can’t ignore like you did before

Sleeping Wolf – New Kings

Being a creative is empowering. Nothing is out of reach. As creators we are breathing life into every project that leaves our fingertips. Creation is our way of fighting back.

We’re at a point of time, which is always, truly there, but fluctuates with each Big Bad that tells us we can’t, or we shouldn’t, or we won’t. The truth of it is. We can, we should, we will. It seems though, that the world, collectively believes we have to yell to get our point across. The truth of it is, sometimes, it only takes a whisper. There isn’t a day that goes by that isn’t woven in our morals, and truths, and beliefs.

I’m here to tell you. You don’t have to yell. You just have to push. Every day. 

Yelling doesn’t make you stronger. Challenging yourself, and the way you think, makes you stronger.

Power may appear to come with money, and in a world domination sense, it does. I believe strongly though, that power comes through conviction. Your conviction. The same convictions that push you through your day. The ones that tell you to get out of bed, and go to your shitty job. Or get along with the mother/father of your children, for the children. To put in the time to hone your craft, pushing it past a hobby.

We shouldn’t ignore ignorance, but yelling doesn’t make it go away. It has to be outsmarted. It has to be carved through, not beat down, because the truth of it is: Ignorance will always exist. People can be taught, but that doesn’t mean they learn.

Sometimes, all it takes is a whisper.

The thing about a whisper is that it gets in the head of Ignorance. It frustrates Ignorance. Reaction is action. Not yelling, not arguing, or killing. A whisper is calm, but powerful. A whisper makes you think. A whisper is sneaky. A whisper is intimate.

A whisper is a song lyric, or a poem. A whisper is a piece of art, or the hero in a book. A whisper is the knowledge that the world is so much more than black and white.

“Raising your voice,” is a relative term. A phrase that begs to be explored. It can’t be taken at face value. Raising your voice is a mental act. A mental push to change, and grow, and teach.

My writing is my whisper. You can try to ignore it, but it still exists, and it still reaches someone. It can still teach someone.

My whisper is pushing the bounds of my creativity. My whisper is proving, through my words, that I can overcome the doubt. Not just the doubt of those around me, but my own doubt. My whisper is rooted in me. It grows from me. It spreads from me.

No one can quiet a whisper.

Be back soon, 
Ashley (Fictional Tortoise)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

As an artist, it seems like the landscape is ever-changing from simply the tools, to the aesthetic. I intend to be an artist that never wants to stop learning, and as such, I find more and more interesting artists everyday. Each artist has a unique insight and point of view, no matter the experience level. New views help open my mind and teach me there are many ways to utilize my skills and I hope that sharing our stories will help others in the same way. I believe there are many paths on an artistic journey, and each interview will help to show the stories of the artists that tread them.

Today, we'll be interviewing Jen Waldon.

Kaminski: My first question is pretty much always the same: Introduce yourself. Tell me a little about what makes a Jen tick.

Waldon: I think what makes me tick is copious amounts of caffeine and existential dread.

I live inside my own head a lot, much to the annoyance of friends, relatives and neighbors. You know that Meyers-Briggs personality thing? People yell about the science of it--it isn't perfect or absolute, but I feel it's a pretty good starting point to knowing yourself and learning how to handle people. I always test as an INTJ-A: introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging, and assertive. This means I'm a poorly-understood supervilliain and insecurity isn't my thing (not anymore, anyhow).

This lends me to living in my own head a lot, and I often forget other people exist. In fact, this past weekend my mother-in-law tried to guilt trip me about never calling or visiting. Thing is, these paintings ain't gonna paint themselves, and this art career isn't going to happen spontaneously on its own! I'm also not needy or clingy when it comes to family or relationships. I can go years without hearing from or speaking to some people and pick right up where we left off. I don't take long silences personally. Life happens. People gotta handle stuff.

I think what makes me tick is copious amounts of caffeine and existential dread.

So I feed my brain a lot of fantasy stuff. Things that appealed to me when I was a little kid. Things people teased me about, calling it 'dumb'. Except geek culture has taken over everything. Who's laughing (maniacally) now?!

My day job is better suited to an extrovert so it's kind of doubly draining. [I feel like I'm] basically an NPC in the game of life.

And since I was raised to question ERRYTHING people get upset when I ask 'why'.

Kaminski: <raises hand> I have my extrovert tendencies (such as never being able to shut up or have a quiet moment) but for the most part, I'm just content with arting all day, no interruptions.

I think this is a good point then to ask, what initially got you into art? Was it something that you'd always felt drawn to?

Waldon: It all started when I was about four, my parents and I had just moved to Connecticut and my dad was trying to fill out some bank paperwork. He had me with him because we were dirt poor and couldn't afford to have any babysitters. We lived in a little slummy house in Groton that had been divided into apartments. Anyhow, when I was that little I could not sit still if my life depended on it. I mean, any kid can't really be still at that age. The lady at the teller desk was getting annoyed with my gyrating and running and needing to climb on everything, so she motioned to my father, and held up a PENCIL and PAPER And POINTED at me.

My dad, chastised, took the items and gave them to me and got me to start scrawling on the paper. It was severely undeveloped nonsensical lines, even for a four-year-old (my life had a bumpy start), but my dad told me it was good. And from then on I was hooked. The more he praised, the more I drew.

My mother was also artistically inclined and when she saw I had begun drawing she taught me little things. She didn't praise my art as much as correct some things, or at least teach me to do better.
My parents' relationship was tumultuous and to protect myself I withdrew from reality and lived in my drawings. I sensed what was happening more than I saw.

My mother left us when I was 6 and my twin sisters were 18 months old. So any influence she could have had over my work went with her. After that it was my dad doing his darnedest to make sure I had plenty of self-esteem. He praised my art left and right no matter if it was good or not. It gave me a complex.
[...] to protect myself I withdrew from reality and lived in my drawings.
I actually started thinking it made me better than others.

And that since my art was brilliant, I didn't need to try to be better. That combined with the modern art influence over the public school system and my potential kind of suffered, but my art teachers loved me! I got A's in art without even trying! I had begun to draw from life on my own while in high school, but it got derailed when I rediscovered anime.

That anime phase wrecked my skill set so bad! Set me back ten years. I still lived in my own head though, A LOT. Art was the only thing I was good at and it was my life vest. So I clung to it pretty hard. I was otherwise a poor student. [As a result] I paint stuff that makes me happy. I'm only just learning to let the darkness out. Along with being a misdirected self-esteem advocate, my dad needed to psycho-analyze everything I drew. Thus, I painted and drew things that wouldn't attract too much scrutiny. I hated being asked about my art. I just wanted to explore an emotion without having to verbalize it and it felt like people were ruining it for me asking, "What does it meeeeeeaaaaannnn?"

I actually hate answering those questions. I'm not ready to.
Every piece I make is an exploration.

Kaminski: I don't necessarily think that you can answer those questions right out. I think that it takes time to really discover what it is you want to say and then let that speak for itself via imagery.

Whenever you first start to approach your art for the day / project for the week / etc. what themes tend to show up first? What kind of art do you enjoy to work on the most?

Waldon: I have this world in my head.

I guess I'm trying to realize it.
There are characters that have been evolving in there that I want to capture. There are atmospheres I want to create.

Kaminski: I can't wait to see what starts to leak out of your head as time goes on - the world you're building that is.

What's your preferred media these days when making a piece of art? Do you find any particular media easier over others? And in that vein, why?

Waldon: I kind of prefer PhotoShop just because it’s portable color on my tablet. However I also love to draw in pencil. The feel of paper and graphite scratching together is unbeatable.

Kaminski: Much like you, I have a strong affinity for digital art as well, and that of course comes with it's own public viewpoint, but that for another time.

With your recent experience at IlluxCon (IX), I have to ask, is this your first convention? Have you ever vended before? What was that experience like?

Waldon: Kind of? My old community college had a little art festival called PARTake and they invited students and alumni to participate. I got a free table and was allowed to sell there for the duration of the festival. It was kind of a dry-run/practice for IX. I even sold a print! Although I was not prepared for the anxiety that came with showcasing at IX! It’s a completely different thing to have people like Donato come by your table and examine your work.

It’s honestly a blessing that these masters and the community in general are just awesome people. This doesn’t happen much in other fields. I can take criticism, but not subterfuge or abuse. They don’t even have to like me, but, they’re always kind.

Kaminski: In that same vein, what lasting effect will it have on your art? Have you made any new decisions for new projects or new methods of working on pieces?

Waldon: I caught up with John Schindehette and asked him for some feedback on my overall body of work. He looked over my ArtStation and gave me some really good pointers to help me achieve my goals, and he also kind of switched on a light for me concerning the psychology of composition in art. I still need to work on my colors, though. That’s a never ending thing, it seems.

So this upcoming year I’m going to be doing a lot of studies. I hate doing them, but it’s necessary if I wanna git gud. I’ll be working on anatomy, environments, and of course perspective, and I’ll be doing some color exercises too. I need to see better. I tend to zoom in too fast. I need to start big and gradually move to small.

Kaminski: I think there's a misconception that once you 'make it' you don't really need to do studies anymore. In my opinion, this only breeds the need for even more studies. The (un)fortunate thing is, the more we get our name out there, the more variance of things that people want to see us paint, and thus, our reference folders tend to spiral out of control!

Speaking of using all the nice reference material: What kind of current project(s) are you working on? Do you have an overall theme coming forward in a series in the coming weeks or months?

Waldon: Well as you can see, I can’t seem to stop drawing my creatures.

I have a story I’ve been writing when I can steal moments to write. It’s really weird, too. I get little drops of things that become the story almost from anything. It’s like it hits me in the head out of nowhere, which is frustrating because I’m trying to control it and make it do what I want. I get the impression this thing is it’s own animal and I’m just along for the ride.

This is my personal project. It’ll be at the forefront of my efforts until some freelance/independent work comes along.

Kaminski: Honestly? Speaking from a fellow creative here... I've been telling myself for years that I'm just along for the ride.

We're just conduits. There's this interesting movie that (was?) on the NetFlix, about H.R. Giger.
He actually talks all about how the art he creates isn't even his, it's like his mind goes to this place - this alien conduit place - and he just channels it through his hands. That's what my fiancee typically coins, our voice.

It's what cyberpunk is, for me.
It stems from fears and obsessions more so than anything else. She actually told me that her writing instructor in college gave her some really interesting advice.

"If you find yourself constantly drawn to something to the point where it is the first and last thing that you think about during the day, you've found something so obsessive that you can't stop thinking about, it's important to latch onto it. Obsess over it. Don't let it go. That's what you're meant to do. Most people fight it, try to find things that cater to others, etc. It won't make you happy. Follow your mind, let your hands catch up. Once you start down that path, you won't stop."

The teacher, at the time, equated it to the big names out there that we know. Giger, Lovecraft, etc. They are really just creating from within. The obsessions that they have more than anything.

Okay, take a prime example that's familiar:
Pete Mohrbacher is successful because he follows his inner voice: Angelarium. And the same could be said with Sam and his Vikings. Look at the comparisons there.
They are following their obsessions into success.
The Plain White Piece Of Paper is a good post from Muddy Colors that's related actually.

And I will also warn you that it's hard to stay on track. The allure of money from freelance really dissuades you from working on your personal projects.

I guess we already kind of answered this question, but what goals do you have set for yourself in the immediate? What about long-term?

Waldon: Long term is definitely to publish my book. Not sure of the format yet, but I’ll figure that part out later. I may end up making a compendium of people for this world I’m building though. I’ve been learning about their cultures and stuff and how they all fit together like some kind of historian.

Kaminski: And the last question that I ask everyone... What's the best piece of advice you've ever received or what's the best advice you can give to fellow artists?

Waldon: Build grit. Passion is a compass. Fear is your guide. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Progress, not perfection. Those things are my daily mantra.

Kaminski: Great advice!
Thanks for being a part of the interview series, Jen! It was definitely a pleasure!

Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Jen Waldon.
If you did, please give it a SHARE via Facebook or Twitter, below.
You can view this interview, and many more, HERE.

You can find out more about Jen Waldon, at her website:

If you would like to be a part of my interview series, simply fill out the contact form HERE and I'll get back with you as soon as possible!


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

I’m not afraid anymore!” – Kevin McAllister (Home Alone, 1990)

      It may seem like a mundane quote, said by a fictional character in a movie, but it’s more than that to me. I grew up watching Home Alone, and over the years, this quote came to mean something to my Mom and me. It may have started as a joke, I don’t remember the specifics, but I do know that before long it was our go-to phrase when we conquered something we feared. Lately, this phrase has invaded my life. I say invaded, and that may seem negative, or harsh, but that isn’t how I mean it at all. It’s a positive. I’m not afraid to be myself. Could it be the anxiety medicine kicking ass, and doing what it’s supposed to? Sure, that’s probably a huge part of it. Also, though, I feel like I’ve cut my restraints and freed myself. And I’ll tell you how I did it.

     I started an Instagram account. No, not for me. My Instagram has been active for a while, although I’ve never been brave or dedicated enough to consistently post. This account is for my Chihuahua-mix dog, named Bode. He wears bow-ties. And it’s mostly written from his perspective, except for the occasional book quote. I read to him, he knows things, it makes sense. Anyway, his account has been active for about three weeks, and I’ve already posted sixty-ish pictures, that unravel the journey of his life and adventures so far. It makes me smile, and hopefully makes other smile too.

     After Bodie’s Instagram account, I started a blog, again, from his perspective. So far, he’s laid the foundation for how he came to be the integral part of a family, and he’s given a review on a particularly interesting treat. Look it up, (Bodie Goodboy) if reading this peaks your interest. 

     Anyway, the point is, creating/managing these accounts has gotten me used to daily posts, and I’ve found that I look forward to doing it. Through it, I’ve begun to become unafraid of any creative pursuit. I want to put myself out there. I want to tell my story, and the stories that play out in my head. And, the truth is, I don’t care what other people think. I’m doing what I love, and if I love it, then there has to be others that will enjoy it.

     I’m carving my creative path in the cement, and this is the beginning of the trail.

     Be back soon,

     Ashley (Fictional Tortoise) 

Follow Mat @artofmatk

Follow Ash @ashley.storyteller