Was up late last night after learning of Young’s passing. A lot has been weighing on me in the past week, and his death became a tipping point, of sorts. I ended up doodling on a blue index card, thinking about a zillion things hovering over my psyche.

Suffice it to say that I’m feeling beaten down and sick of life right now.

I had spouted off more in this space, but deleted the post. Some things are best left unblogged.

My friend Young died today. I’m crushed.

In your charity, please pray for his soul. Please pray for Jane, his dear wife, and their families. And please help Jane however you can through this GoFundMe campaign.

Young was 52 years old.

Art when you can

This piece took a bit more than 5 minutes.

Work and other concerns have kept me from the daily art habit I’ve been trying to cultivate. I’m stepping away from any art challenges for a while because I find myself feeling like a failure for not keeping up with it. (I never felt that way with ICAD, because its creator always made it a point to kept things low-pressure throughout, and I was grateful for that.) So, I’m simply trying to #makearteveryday — any kind of art, whatever I can do, as best I can. That’s as much as I can handle for a while.

As much as art has become a self-care instrument for me, the pressure I’ve put on myself to create despite the demands of daily life is sucking all the fun out of it. I’m just going to have to do what I can and not obsess about whether I’m diligent about making this a daily thing.

Anyway, when I find time, I’m trying to get back to the online doodling class I started a while back. Made this cityscape thing. I enjoyed it fine, but I think I have a lot more fun with flowing lines and spirals.

An introduction and a request

This is my friend Young. We were lunch buddies and fellow contractors at a Fortune 500 company years ago. If not for Young, who put in a good word for me with his wife – who was looking for freelance editors at her research nonprofit during my contractor days – I probably wouldn’t have the full-time job I have.

But that’s not why he’s dear to me. He is dear to me in the way that the coolest, kindest souls – especially those who can expound on the merits of Studio Ghibli anime and the spiciest Korean ramen with equal facility, code and design like a dream, and effortlessly bake pizzelles for a roomful of colleagues during the holidays – generally are.

This GoFundMe link – plus an earlier post here – explains his situation in greater detail, but he is in what appears to be the final stages of just-diagnosed pancreatic cancer. His situation is also yet another indictment of the terrible state of our healthcare industry, but you can discern that further without my assistance.

As requested previously here, in your charity, please pray for Young and Jane. And if you are able to aid financially, even a small bit would help.

Also, hug your loved ones – dearest friends as well as family. And don’t ever lose sight of them.

It’s nice to come home reeking of incense from Mass again. Our parish only trots out the thurible for major feast days like today.

So now we’re heading out again smelling like roses (per the Feast of the Assumption). Cool.

The losing battle, Week 30-ish: Gratuitous weight-loss post

It’s been a while (which is why this jumps from Week 26 to Week 30-ish). Just need to state for the record that I’m down 53 pounds since January; I logged in at 230 pounds this past week after a bit of a plateau. At least I wasn’t gaining weight, but I wasn’t losing, either. This was the first week I was able to post a loss of a pound or more.

During this losing lull and quiet period, I’ve gotten to the point where I need to seriously look for clothes that don’t fall away from my waist or hang off me like a tent. Even without the scale numbers budging much, clearly things are shifting around on my body.

It’s not that I’m not working on my weight loss; this low-carb “lifestyle” has become second nature, though I fall behind at times on my water intake, lag in my activity, and sometimes forget my meds. But logging my losses here feels like less of a priority lately. Work is picking up a bit again, and weeks after the end of the ICAD challenge, I’m still trying to maintain a daily art practice. Weight loss is very much a self-care thing, but carving out time for art is doing more for my stress levels, sanity, and sadness than almost anything else these days.

A colleague from Texas introduced me to Nanci Griffith’s work decades ago, and I was hooked. She wove great stories with her songs, and she caught me just as I started getting into what would eventually become known as “alt-country” – or, as she called, it, “folkabilly” music.

She provided the soundtrack of my first couple of years out of college – along with performers like k.d. lang, Lyle Lovett, and Van Morrison and the Chieftains. Her whole Texan thing made me want to end up in Austin.

Alas, a job opportunity I had hoped for in Austin fell through, only to surface days after I accepted another job. But Nanci Griffith’s music stuck with me.

(She got more overtly political, and honestly a little more sappy, for my taste after a while. But she still represented an important and less complicated time that I wish I had appreciated more.)

Nanci Griffith died Friday; she was 68 years old. Feels like that part of my life – when “folkabilly” was a big part of my soundtrack during that early 20s period of growing up – died a little, too.

I’m so tired of death’s shadow right now.

Another day, another bit of 5-minute art. Rediscovering a bunch of half-done tags and my stash of scraps and stickers for the #tuac5minutechallenge.

Today’s #tuac5minutechallenge piece. I’m enjoying this Posca white pen way too much. Doodling on another ATC-size piece of painted background that my sister created.

“To my surprise, God guided me in this discernment through a Wendell Berry novel I happened to be reading. The book’s eponymous narrator, Jayber Crow, is a barber in a small town in Kentucky, and he describes the moment when he looks into the faces of some of his regular, elderly customers only to recognize that they are dying. The barber reflects that in this moment, ‘[T]his man, your foolish neighbor, your friend and brother, has shed somehow the laughter that followed him through the world, and has assumed the dignity and the strangeness of a traveler departing forever.’

“When I picture the faces of those whom I have said goodbye to this summer, I see in each of them that mystery, dignity, and strangeness, and I am filled with awe and wonder. And when I continue to gaze at this person with that newfound awe and wonder, I catch a glimpse of their sacredness and transcendent beauty. That is, I see the image of God.”

In your charity, please pray for my friend who was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that has spread to his liver.

I worked with him at my corporate contract job, where we were lunch buddies and fellow contractor scum, 7+ years ago. He connected me with his wife, who hired me full-time at the job I have now.

I’m forever indebted to him, not to mention that he’s just plain very dear to me. Devastated by the news of his diagnosis today.

Please pray for strength and consolation, not to mention skillful and effective treatment and financial help with looming medical bills and terrible health insurance.

Okay, I’m late to the #uglyartclub party and the #tuac5minutechallenge. I realized that I needed the relative discipline of an art challenge to help me #makearteveryday.

Trying out a self-portrait scribble on an ATC-size piece of painted background my sister made and gave me ages ago. The background’s fine; it’s the self-portrait and lame doodle under it that’s, well, ugly. But it’s something.

Today’s self-care doodle. I thought about doing another challenge; I admit I’m missing the Instagram attention that the ICAD hash tags provided.

But I’m happy right now drifting through artist tiles or whatever strikes my fancy. A piece of art a day is usually as much as I can do during the work week.

My sister sent me some black artist tiles over the weekend. Bought a white Posca pen, used that and a white Gelly Roll pen, and did a little self-care doodling.

Rummaging through an old bag of T-shirts now that I’ve lost enough weight to wear a few of them again. It’s unlikely I’ll be able to wear this one — a medium — from my senior year in high school, but I’m keeping it out of the Goodwill pile. It represents fond memories of holing up in a San Diego State dorm one summer with a bunch of other kids who were dreaming of a career in journalism like I was.

Back in the art, inch by inch

Now that ICAD is over, I’ve really been diving deep into the #inchie pool — like, seven of these little guys at a time. (I know, I’m only holding four here.)

Just slathered a bunch with some molding paste I found deep in my stash; not sure what else I’ll do with all that. Going to experiment with Mod Podge Dimensional Magic next.

The tiny art bug is back

Now that the ICAD challenge is over and I can leave my index card burnout behind, I’m turning my attention to my first art love in recent years: inchies.

Created the foundation of the first set from leftover collaged index cards covered with chalkboard paint, then layered with faux postage stamps punched from another leftover card smeared with metallic acrylic paints; each is topped with found words.

The second set is created from a swirly doodle on a 4-by-6 card.

ICADs 60 and 61: Two and done

ICADs 60 (top) and 61; no prompt. Blackboard paint background, acrylic paints.

Tried to somewhat capture the view at the kitchen table in our AirBnB cabin in an attempt to brighten up one of my black mood backgrounds. Didn’t do well, but it was worth a try. Had better luck with watercolors on cut 2-inch square watercolor paper pieces, which I’ll share later.

And with that, I’m done with this year’s ICAD challenge. I’m tired, mainly because we just got home from a meh long weekend that ended with news of another pet loss in our extended family (my sister’s 13-year-old dog—this on top of my mother’s passing in May) and a general sense of frustration that I didn’t get a lot of art done.

But I’m glad I did these 61 days. The challenge has me trying watercolors and doodling and acrylics, in addition to jump-starting my little mixed-media inchie hobby. And I’ve really appreciated the encouragement of the ICAD group on Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Instagram followers. Grateful all around.

ICADs 58 and 59: Lame vacation cards

ICADs 58 (top) and 59; no prompt. Illustrator pen, metallic Sharpie.

Been on vacation. This is the best I could do. Had hoped to set aside more time for art. Didn’t do real well with that.

Thinking about the Billy Crystal line in “When Harry Met Sally,” when he tells Meg Ryan that she’s “the worst kind – you’re high-maintenance but you think you’re low-maintenance.”

Some writers have had issues with this line as a view of certain kinds of women in relationships. Understandably.

But it doesn’t bother me at all. Honestly, in my experience, it rings absolutely true with certain people – men and women. One of my aims in life is NOT to be one of them.

ICAD 57: A touch of red swirl

ICAD 57/61; no prompt. Illustration pen and Liquid Flair pen.

More swirly lines, this time with a red splash (and I could use better coloring pens) and a little different doodling within the doodling.

It’s amazing what one can do during a staff meeting.

I got two index cards done, I started a new drawing class online, and I lost 1.6 pounds in 2 weeks. (More on that in my usual almost-weekly fat post, which I probably will post tomorrow.) Otherwise, it’s been a crap day.

It’s been oppressively hot, the A/C is on the fritz, and I would prefer to spend my days creating art instead of doing what I do now to make a living. Plus there’s all manner of anxieties and bitter, angry spots forming clouds in my head right now.

So, I’m up late to finish some editing for work, and probably will stay up late so I can see if more art therapy will make me feel better.

ICAD 56: A dizzying doodle

ICAD 56/61; no prompt. Illustration pen.

Started a doodling course by Alisa Burke and did something with the first doodle instruction here. I had created another one on a larger card (4x6) using a Pilot G2 bold pen, but since I’ve been using 3x5s throughout ICAD, I made another one here for consistency, except I used an Artist’s Loft illustration pen.

I think I like using the G2 for these better. That said, I enjoyed this as much as I’ve enjoyed the neurographic art—except that staring at these makes me dizzy.

ICAD 55: This card brought to you by a local pizza joint

ICAD 55/61; Community newspaper scrap and metallic Sharpie.

I actually made this a while ago and had intended to do something more with it, but I’m behind again and starting to hit the wall on this whole project. And I looked at this and decided it was fine. So, here it is.

(Incidentally, Two Brothers in Elmhurst, Illinois, does make a fine pizza and has decent Italian food.)