I have several other adjectives to describe this too... "complicated" and "mutually abusive" among them.

My Quirky Relationship

I’VE BEEN DOING a lot of catch-up after being sick for so long. August was still hit-or-miss in the health department, but now — mid-late September — I’m pretty much back to feeling like myself (FINALLY). I want to say thank you all for the kind wishes, notes, and gifts you have sent while I’ve been down. I am unbelievably fortunate to have such folks as you in my life.

All in all, however, I completely lost a good three months as far as accomplishing all the things I had planned to get done. I’m returning to my work now, and one of the somewhat unexpected results has been a driving desire to DO MORE STUFF. This is more than “omg it’s all behind schedule!” (although it is that, in part) but also my Muse has been riding my back about being A Maker* again.

I have several other adjectives to describe this too... "complicated" and "mutually abusive" among them.Aggravatingly, this damned Muse isn’t the most biddable of creatures. There are times I want something done, but she is checked out. I treat my Muse like an Olympian in training-for-a-lifetime, and there’s none of this bullshit about “oh I don’t feeeeeel like running today, I’m going to watch telenovelas with yummy actors and eat bon-bons.” That’s when I get out the cattle prod, make her go run laps, and usually she steps up to the plate and performs like the athlete she is. Occasionally the prod doesn’t work but we get along together most of the time.

However, she willfully takes her revenge on occasion. There are times I’m supposed to be doing one thing and she simply Will. Not. Leave. Me. Alone, insisting I work on something else. If I’ve got a lot to do, I can usually divert her by working on something related to what she’s being a nuisance about, something that IS on the professional agenda… although maybe not as urgently as what I would really prefer to be getting done. Sometimes, I have to let her have her way and there’s nothing to be done about it.

Some friends visited me a couple weeks ago, and the artistically-inclined Kat mentioned that she had caught the Zentangle® bug. A few years ago, I’d stumbled on the website and its mashup of “Zen meditation+doodling,” but found it frankly off-putting. The whole bit of “To really get this, you need to take a workshop — preferrably lots of them — with a Certified Zentangle Teacher; oh and buy our expensive tools too” — the whole thing smacked too much of multi-level marketing, and “selling water standing by the river” since, after all, everyone doodles.

However, Kat’s interest in it spurred me to go back and look again. I found it wasn’t as aggressive in its marketing as my first exposure to it suggested, and in fact it was a bit more like conditional Creative Commons.

Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas have reserved certain aspects of the intellectual property adjacent to the Zentangle style of doodling, if you will, and that’s simply good business in a time of tectonic shifts in how artists (and all creatives) tangle, zentangle, design, graphics, original art, drawing, artwork, design, patterncan make a living in the Age of Teh Intarwebz. The rest of it can be reverse engineered, and they don’t inhibit that as long as you don’t lay claim to things like the trademark name or being a teacher in their methodology. Okay, I can live with that. I checked out some books from the library, and looked at a few websites…

And my bloody Muse got up on my shoulders and proceeded to have a field day. The “tangle” here was my first try. But not my last.

It’s not that this kind of imagery is entirely new to me. Have a look at pictures I did back in the mid-90s for Shadowrun. This is a diptych, two pictures but one image, separated by text in the middle as originally published. Image flows into image, design into design, realistic and graphical all in the same piece of work. I love doing things like this, having a considerable delight in all things surreal as well as straight-up fantastical. Cyberspace shouldn’t look “normal.”

cyberspace, Shadowrun, original art, original illustration, inkwork, diptych, surreal, graphic art, bugs, Haida, Celtic, knotwork

What Zentangles did is give me some new vocabulary, and drawing a few of them became small achievable goals. When I walk into my office planning “to work on T&T,” that means I am facing a truckload of editing, game development and designwork, art commissions that are part of the original Kickstarter, writing all new material like a look at my city of Knor… that’s quite an elephant I have on my plate. Some days it is very hard to know what bite to chew on next. And while (almost) everyone has been kind and patient about my three-month hiatus, I still feel the intense pressure to get this thing done but also not to let up one iota of the quality I expect of myself, and what I believe the players expect of me.

So when my damned Muse insists that I turn sideways and play with tangles instead of, say, a character portrait, I get a little crazy. I get even crazier when the results are far better than expected. Reluctantly, I found myself doing what became a magnificent sketch last week (can’t show you right now but I will in due time), incorporating tangled elements and autobiographical nightmares of extradimensional dragons coming to eat my face and obliterate all life on earth, all the while I’m trying to balance on a high wire … I confess, I let the Muse have her way with me. When one has a storm in one’s brain, there are times to get out the bottle and try to catch the lightning.

But this is kinda how I felt about it. This is another of my more surreal images, from Earthdawn this time, also done in the mid-90s.

blood elves, elves, fantasy, horror, inkwork, original art, FASA, surreal, surrealism, Earthdawn,

When I initially conceptualized this blog post while driving into the library the other day, the quote that sprang to mind was “I have an abusive relationship with my Muse.” It’s mutually abusive, but when it came time to “doodle with intention” on that yellow rectangle above, I decided that “a passionate relationship” was more accurate. It potentially includes the mutual abuse (for better or worse!) but is also wider, deeper, broader, richer and yes … overall, much more complicated.

Now it’s time to get back to T&T again. There’s one heckuva a big elephant on my plate, and the Muse is telling me she’ll help out with a few bites. To keep her from taking those bites out of my brain, however, I’ll probably work in a few tangled designs to the new T&T artwork while I’m at it. I will do anything to keep this maddening, contrary, horrible, adorable, passionate, complicated, problematic, essential, and occasionally very confusing Muse here at my side.

zentangle, drawing, pattern, design, graphics, Muse

There was a lively Facebook discussion a while ago about how the art with FASA’s original Earthdawn and Shadowrun was particularly exceptional, back in the day. I got pulled into the discussion because of pieces like these I’ve shown here, and several people asked me to share some of them. I was privately asked if I still had any for sale. I certainly do, and I’ll start by offering the three pieces in this blog. You can see the pieces larger in the Art for Games gallery.

Inquiries accepted — and welcomed! — via my email address, which you’ll find at the Contact Me page.


(*I’ve written about being “a Maker” in various posts in the past … the compulsion to be able to say, at the end of the day, that I brought something creative into existence that did not exist when the day began. Answering a zillion emails doesn’t count as “making” no matter how essential that can be, and doing a little tangly doodle throws a bone to the impatient, pushy Muse when I’m too tired to do something more meaningful. I don’t usually think about, much less talk about, the whole “Muse” thing but lately it keeps cropping up. Some things you just learn to roll with.)

6 Replies to “My Quirky Relationship”

  1. Welcome back to the land of the living! Here’s hoping that you – and your muse – can settle here for a while.

  2. Glad to hear you’re feeling better!

    My muse pretty much took a leave of absence for ten years, and she is still prone to disappearing for a month or two at a time.

    1. Mine was also unavailable for a decade or so, Stefan, and one of these days I’m going to blog about it. But only when I’m feeling really really pugnacious, because having her walled up was very bad in every aspect and still makes me angry at the circumstances. I’m just glad she’s back and (mostly glad) she’s trying to make up for lost time.

  3. just put that old moose back in the bottle and toss it into the sea. thanks for visiting me blog 😀

  4. Ever thought of tribal tattooing? I love your artwork. I wish I could afford it. 🙂 Glad you’re feeling better.

    1. Thank you, Anem. The designs would certainly work for tribal-style tattoos but designs like this certainly aren’t proprietary to me. I’ve also seen them used for cut parchment art, which makes for very pretty wall art.

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