By Melissa Whitaker

Posts tagged ‘Art’

Reflections from an Inktober Survivor

Inktober Day 20 “Tread” by Melissa Whitaker
“Tread softly because you treat on my dreams.” ~ W.B. Yeats

There is no challenge more challenging than the challenge to improve yourself.

Inktober is an artistic challenge that I have been observing for the past several years and always thought that it looked FUN. If a challenge was FUN then it must not be much of a challenge. That was naive me on September 30, 2019. Inktober is as big of a challenge as doing an Ironman marathon.

October 1st I worked most of the day and came home about 4:00 in the afternoon excited to do a quick drawing for the prompt word “Ring”. All through the day, my mind was brainstorming on visual ideas. I try to stay away from the obvious or at least attempt to twist the obvious in some way that visually tells a story. A simple drawing of a ring just wasn’t going to do it for me. I had spent several days in September with my sister, who lost her husband last year who was the love of her life. (She used to say he was her prince with Froggy tendencies). This inspired me to start off Inktober with an ink illustration of a frog.

Ink illustration of a Frog with a diamond ring on his tongue that is tied in a knot.  The frog is trying to catch a fly while he sits in the middle of a crown
“The Tongue-Tied Proposal” by Melissa Whitaker

I called it “The Tongue-Tied Proposal”

This illustration took a few hours to complete. Nothing too strenuous but dinner was a frozen pizza night that night. I enjoyed playing with my inks again, it had been a while since I had done any ink work. I posted the image on Instagram and on Facebook and started thinking of the prompt word for Day 2, “Mindless.”

“Mindless” by Melissa Whitaker

A friend of mine tried to emphasize to me to keep the drawings simple. Streamline the detail. That is what I attempted the next day. Again I spent the day pondering what to do and how to keep it simple. Then I thought of a question mark and realized that Donald Trumps’ hair from the profile kind of dips down like the top of a question mark. When I started drawing I came to the red tie and it started to appear to me that it resembled an exclamation point. It seemed to me to be an appropriate answer to the word “Mindless.” After completion, I posted it to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Immediately I received a comment that “Art should not be Political.” Thus a debate started and what I thought was a creative interpretation of a word ended up in a brouhaha over art and politics. That’s what I get for keeping it simple ūüôĄ

I’m not going to go into much detail about what artwork I did everyday if you want to see the whole months’ work visit my Instagram or Facebook page. For the first several days I spent quite a bit of time just thinking about ideas for each day’s word, but also dreading Day 12. That day was creeping up and the word was “Dragon.” I had never even attempted to draw a dragon before and the thought of having to do it scared me. The best dragons had a LOT of detail. Lots of scales and sharp teeth with magnificent wings. To accomplish that in a day I felt was going to be the day I failed the challenge. When Day 12 dawned I still had no idea what to do. The 12 days leading up to that day were spent on dreading the day, not how to conquer the day. Then I said to myself, “Keep it Simple, Stupid.” This Dragon that I feared needed to be made friendly and not so fearful. I remembered a stuffed Dragon that I had when I was a child. The dragon’s name was “Figment” and sat on my bed as a protector. There’s nothing to fear about Dragons the fear is in your head and minds are made to change. I started drawing circles and came up with a new figment.

The day I dreaded ended up being the day I LOVED. I fell in love with this dragon and her possible story. Other people seemed to love her just as much as I did and I started looking forward to each day’s challenge. That is until the half waypoint. Day 16.

“Wild”. I was exhausted and to the point of saying, “Really? I have to draw another one?” Maybe no one will notice if I skipped a day. I started off wanting to do the dragon again. A boy setting a cupcake on the ground to entice the dragon to be friends. I struggled with it and the more I struggled the more the hours ticked away. I had had a long day at work and I was exhausted. Inktober had taken a lot. I was not eating right and sometimes forgetting to eat or drink because I was in the creative zone in my head for 16 days. By 9:00 pm on Day 16, I was still struggling with “Wild” I had the boy and the cupcake, but I could not get the dragon positioned the way I wanted in a square Instagram sized picture. It wasn’t working. By 9:15 I was ready to give up. People would just have to accept the fact that I missed a day. Then I thought, “Keep it simple, Stupid.”

A boy drawing a magical circle with a stick to protect him from the wild beasts with glowing eyes watching him in the dark.
“Wild” Digital Illustration by Melissa Whitaker

I quickly changed the background to night time. (There are trees there and a forest path which may be hard to see depending on your current screen resolution). The boy needed to protect himself from the wild things lurking in the forest but all he had available was a stick because kids don’t keep salt in their back pockets to ward off evil spirits. A child, however, has a deep faith in magic and the power that it can create, so I had him draw a protective circle with a stick. There. It was simple and it was done and posted at 9:30 pm. I had made it past the halfway point of Inktober and realized that I could finish this just as long as I ate right I got some sleep. Time for a bowl of ice cream to celebrate.

I created a few more dragon pieces that week on Days 18, 19 and 25. I was truly enjoying her, but I still was having trouble sleeping. My mind was constantly running non-stop with ideas for Inktober so when Saturday, Day 26, came around I decided to do a serious piece and it was going to be the traditional way. Ink on paper. The word was “Dark.” I had made it this far and I several ideas in my head for the word Dark. I just could not decide on which one would be best. What is it about the dark that unnerves people? A person often feels alone in the dark and the people who have lost a loved one I believe feel that loss mostly at night when they are laying in bed and the other side is empty. That is what I wanted to portray in ink.

Ink illustration of  a man sleeping with a blanket of the night sky pulled over him.
ItInktober Day 26 “Dark” by Melissa Whitaker

It didn’t work. I sat on my bed working on it. Absorbed in watching the ink flow on the paper. I had a night sky appearing on a white background. I love working with a negative space of white, it makes the colors POP in my opinion. I was so absorbed that I did not notice someone come in and sit down on the bed while I was working. That is, not until the black ink dropped in the white space under the man’s left arm. Ugggghhhhhh. The utter catastrophe to an artist, but I said, “it’s ok, I can make this work.” I forced it. I kept working at it trying to make it work instead of accepting the fact that it didn’t work. What I should have done is left the black spot in the white space and let it speak for itself. It might have been a powerful image then, instead of a complete muddy mess. Artists don’t always get it right, we just normally don’t see the messed up pieces. It was Inktober though, so I had to post it to social media in order for it to count towards the challenge and I posted it grudgingly, then had a glass of wine. (OK, maybe 2 glasses).

Digital illustration of a fashion model wearing a flowing coat swirling with colors.
Inktober Day 27 “Coat” by Melissa Whitaker

Only 5 more to go. The next day I was still trying to get over Day 26 and the word was “Coat.” I went back to my foundation of fashion illustration and went to an obvious choice, a coat. It was simple and fun and enough to get my confidence back to finish out the next several days of the Inktober challenge. There is nothing like a bit of flair and color to put confidence in my stride. We all have moments where we feel we don’t measure up to other people’s expectations and when you don’t measure up to your own expectations it can be a bit disheartening. The important thing is to move forward and not stay in one spot because you are afraid you’re going to mess things up if you continue.

I final prompt word on October 31st was “Ripe.” I finished the challenge with a return to the Dragon that I had come to love. The thing I most feared came to be the one thing from the month that I hold most dear.

Digital Illustration of a dragon in a princess dress sitting on the ground and holding a bouquet of broccoli.  A large pile of dragon fruit is beside her
Inktober Day 31 “Ripe” Digital Illustration by Melissa Whitaker

This illustration sums up the whole month for me. Sometimes I feel like a misfit who doesn’t quite fit in with the other kind of Dragons, so I dress up as a princess and go trick or treating through life. Life can be beautiful and give a person a pile of beautiful, tasty dragonfruit, but then there is always that one ornery one who puts a bunch of broccoli in your trick or treat bag. The thing to remember is broccoli is good. It’s full of vitamin C and a strong antioxidant that protects the body from the wild things that may attack your health, so eat your broccoli and embrace the fears. They only make a person stronger in the end.

Inspire Your Heart

Today is Inspire Your Heart with Art day. It happens every year on January 31st. It has become my new favorite HOLIDAY.

“Tangled” Digital Drawing by Melissa Whitaker

Take a moment today and feel some art. What kind of emotions does it evoke? Art surrounds us even when we do not realize it. It is the music we listen to, the packaging on the products we buy, the painting hanging in the museum, the car driving too slow in front of you, the book or the article you just read, the icicle hanging from the gutter. Today is the day to examine that artwork and think about what it makes you feel.

An owl woven out of cords and ropes using the art of macrame


I’m one of those people who sings to the songs in my car while driving down the road. You may even spot me doing some crazy arm gestures while dancing in the driver’s seat. No worries, I am not having a seizure, I am just feeling the music. I find it relaxing and liberating. It is my time to be “ME.” Too often the stress of everyday life can make me feel like a macrame owl, a little bit wise but entirely made up of knots, and art helps untie those knots. Today on your way home crank up the music and dance. Instead of yelling at the guy in front of you going too slow, look at his car and the design of it. Those brake lights may actually impress you with the engineering of them. For dinner tonight, play with your food, you might create a forest out of that broccoli.

Art is made to inspire and make you feel. It can transport you to other worlds and take you back in time with memories and the playfulness of childhood. It can help you understand other cultures and see other perspectives on life. Art can transform people, places, and things.

Today is Inspire Your Heart With ART Day, it could transform you.

The Art of Disappointment

‚ÄúDisappointment‚ÄĚ

Digital Media Illustration by Melissa Whitaker

Ahhhhhh.¬† Disappointment, the gum on the shoe of every artist.¬† Difficult to remove and a constant reminder of a step once taken.¬† It clings to your soul and gives you a feeling of inadequacy.¬† A nagging persistence that your art or even you are not good enough.¬† It is a struggle that everyone must deal with from time to time.¬† It has become a constant companion that is stuck to my shoe and I have learned to incorporate it into my walk.¬† Every now and then it gets a little sticky, but most of the time it’s just an imbalance that needs to be corrected.

The artistic way of life is really quite masochistic.  The muse inspires one to create, but the creation seldom measures up to what the mind has envisioned.  Leaving an artist feeling disappointed, discouraged, disillusioned, and dejected.  Then that artwork is put on display for all the world to judge.   If the piece is accepted the brain is flooded with endorphins that will give the artist a temporary high.  A high that is desperately sought after, to the point that rejection is the price that is willing to be paid in order to achieve a personal validation.

This week I received another email that will be added to the collection of rejection letters in my file cabinet.¬† (I keep thinking that someday I will make a collage of all of them). It felt like I had just stepped on a tarantula size wad of gum.¬† No matter how much I tried to shake it off,¬† it would not let loose.¬† This was not the same as entering a juried art show where the judging was based on your work and whether or not it would fit in with the rest of the show.¬† This felt personal.¬† A judgment of me and who I am.¬† No matter how many times I told myself, “It’s nothing personal.”¬† It stuck to my soul as a constant reminder that I was not worthy.¬† I would be happily preparing Thanksgiving dinner and then BAM!¬† it would remind me and I would start crying.¬† (The blessing was, I could blame the crying on cutting onions).¬† It took a few days and a few bottles of wine to accept the fact that it wasn’t personal.¬† It’s not that I wasn’t worthy, it’s simply that I wasn’t ready YET.

It is extremely tempting to give up and not submit oneself to rejection over and over again, but then there would never be that ultimate high of validation.¬† That wondrous ecstasy of achievement that I strive for.¬† If we let the disappointments fester an accumulate we become stuck and never move forward.¬† Disappointments can fool you and stretch to make you feel like you are moving forward, but they will inevitably pull you back to where you were.¬† I will scrape the gum from my shoe and leave a bit of the residue to harden, to remind me that life has its disappointments, it’s what we do with them that makes the difference.¬† The important thing is to keep moving forward, that is the only way to arrive at where you are going.

Now then, please excuse me while I go to the store to purchase a pack of gum.  I seem to have dropped mine.

American Triage

For the past several days I¬†have tried¬†to write a blog post, but as soon as I wrote something I would quickly¬†cut¬†it because it may have offended someone.¬† Who it would offend, I don’t know, but it really didn’t matter.¬† Offensiveness seems¬†to be¬†the new normal and I do not want¬†to be¬†“normal.”¬†

I¬†live¬†in a small town just outside of Cape¬†Girardeau, MO.¬† Today the town¬†is being visited¬†by the 45th President, Donald J. Trump, Sean¬†Hannity, and Cape¬†Girardeau’s¬†home boy Rush Limbaugh.¬† There is an electricity in the air as a storm is brewing in the West, (seriously, the weatherman is calling for tornadoes this evening) the tension mounts on my social media pages, and I sit here wondering, whatever happened to civility?¬† I scroll through my¬†Facebook¬†feed and see one accusatory comment after another.¬† It does not matter which side a person is on, the accusations are coming from the Red and the Blue. How can we merge the two and make a lovely, vibrant purple?

When did this become an Us vs. Them country?¬† To borrow from one of the greatest authors of all time, Harper Lee, “I think that there is just one kind of¬†folks.¬†Folks.”¬† Scout Finch had a good role model in Atticus Finch and I think we could all use a reminder of Atticus’ advice today,¬†¬†“if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of¬†folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”¬† People develop their beliefs based on their life experiences, not another persons background.¬† We can learn from other¬†people’s¬†experiences, but it is one’s¬†own life that develops their beliefs and foundations.

The one thing I have learned during this tumultuous time is, you are not going to change anything by being accusatory and mean to people who think differently.¬† It only makes the divide deeper and wider.¬† Saying that all Republicans/Conservatives are deplorable or all Democrats/Liberals are the Devil’s spawn is not going to heal this divide.¬† It only causes more discord. If you must believe in an Us vs. Them scenario then think of it this way; the more divisiveness and discord ther is,¬†the more ground “THEY” gain.¬† Don’t ask me who “They” are, because I do not know.¬† That one I will leave to the conspiracy theorist to decide.¬† As for me today…. I’m going to go pass out daisies and breath mints, because if a person is going to yell at me, then they better have fresh breath while they are doing it.¬†¬†

American Triage-

American Triage

False Truth

‚ÄúEach person does see the world in a different way. There is not a single, unifying, objective truth. We‚Äôre all limited by our perspective.‚ÄĚ ~ Siri Hustvedt

The last few years has had me examining the question, ‚ÄúWhat is true?‚ÄĚ That question has taken over my life in the last month. Not just in the political atmosphere, but in business and personal as well. When long held beliefs turn out to be false there is a foundational shift that occurs. An earthquake of the conscience that makes one re-examine everything that they have been taught. What we perceive as truth is based on what we have been taught to believe. Our perception of the world is based on our life experiences, what we consume in media, and who we socialize with. Each one of these will bend the truth to fit into what we perceive to be accurate, if it does not fit in to our preconceived notions, then it is often ruled to be false.

I am not a degreed scholar, and I do not sit around and drink coffee with philosophical individuals (although that would be nice). I am an artist who examines everything from different perspectives. I have learned to examine things and life from all angles, because I will always notice something that I did not see before. Recently I discovered that my perception had been a bit skewed by folks who I believe meant well, but ultimately caused a tilt shift in my view.

Let me explain.

When photographing architecture with a wide angle lens a distortion will appear in the photo. Straight lines will look curved and there may even be some vignetting at the corners due to light bending on the lens. With an adjustment in Photoshop or Lightroom this can be corrected, or a person can invest in a tilt shift lens that adjusts enough to obtain the correct perspective when the image is captured. Much like the distortion that happens from a camera lens, what one learns from another person has been distorted by their preconceived notions. On closer examination and independent research I discovered that a serious correction was needed in what I thought was the truth. I had to look at things from all angles. Some may call this overthinking, but I prefer to call it getting the right perspective.

In this crazy, mixed up world we live in where we are told that everything is FAKE news and that, ‚ÄúThe truth is not the truth,‚ÄĚ it is becoming more and more difficult to correct the distortion.

‚ÄúPerception‚ÄĚ by Melissa Whitaker

The Curse of Being Nice

I am often accused of being too sweet, too pleasant, too accommodating,¬† too quiet, and too nice.¬† That last one, too nice, that’s the twisted knife.¬† It appears that in today’s world in order for a woman to achieve success the label “Too Nice” is the hemlock in her cup of caffeine each morning.¬† Do you have to go for the jugular in order to succeed in life?¬† Being nice and accommodating is how I was raised.

Oxford dictionary defines accommodating as: fitting in with one’s wishes or demands in a helpful way.

The question then becomes, is being accommodating a good thing?¬† Who is it benefiting?¬† I watched my grandmother spend all day cooking a meal and then serve it at the table for the family.¬† She never sat down with the family, she just hovered over the shoulder or sat in the kitchen waiting to serve in case anyone needed anything.¬† I did not think much about this growing up possibly because I watched my mother do it.¬† ¬†My mother would sit at the table with us, but she was always ready to get up to retrieve something.¬† My mother tried to teach me to do this and some of it took and some of it didn’t.

What I learned was to be accommodating and to put others needs before mine.¬† This accommodation can be beneficial, but it can be even more detrimental to my own personal well-being.¬† I no longer look at it as being accommodating or nice and sweet.¬† It’s enabling.¬† I am an enabler.¬† By bending to others wishes or demands I am enabling them to continue controlling MY life and MY wishes.¬† That control is a powerful thing and breaking free from it is extremely difficult, but in order to achieve success in my life,¬† I have to be in control of it.¬† Do I have to go for the jugular?¬† I don’t think so, because ultimately it is my own neck that I am sticking out and I am kind of attached to it.

It has not been easy taking control of my life and telling people “No.¬† I’m not doing that anymore.”¬† They are stunned and even a little angry but they will get over it.¬† I only have one shot at this life and it’s time to make it my own.

What about you?  Have you broken free?

Hey Jude

Acrylic and Graphite on Canvas

A Few Minutes More

Sitting on a boat, in the middle of a lake, at the midnight hour, I lay back on the floor and stare up to the vast cosmos to ponder the beauty of the world.

My mind slips down the Milky Way and circles around Venus, then dives in to bathe in the Big Dipper. A falling star sparks for a second and then is gone like the memory of times gone by. The cool summer breeze caresses the skin and sends a shiver down the spine to awaken the memories of childhood.

Star light, star bright

First star I see tonight

I wish I may, I wish I might

Have the wish I wish tonight

As the siren song of the cicadas‚Äô amplifies against the night sky, I rise to sit at the edge of the boat and allow my toes to skim the surface of the water while the moon wake beacons me to join it in a water dance. In the distance I hear the calling, ‚ÄúWhip-poor-will, whip-poor-will‚ÄĚ telling me to join in the dance with the moon. Gently sinking into the water the coolness of the summer breeze is met with the warmth of the water creating a mist in my mind that washes away the stress of the day.

To float on the blackness of the water while staring at the stars, THIS is what calms the cacophony in my soul. Must the night end? Can the sun sleep in for a day? Allow me to stay in the caress of the water while the world goes on it’s merry way. Just a few minutes more, please, just a few minutes more.

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