Heading On Down The Road

Welp, given that Twitter has not only changed it’s ToS to blatantly state that using the site is permission to have your stuff used in AI training and biometric data collection, but has formally gone Full-Blown Nazi Bar and I have no interest in sipping drinks beside fucking nazis, I’m officially done using the site. I haven’t deactivated my account, because I’m still using it to get invite codes to folks for Bluesky as I get them, but once I’ve rescued everyone I can, I’m putting the chairs up, turning the lights off, and locking the door.

I hate it. I’ve met some amazing folks through Twitter over the last 14 years, people that I talked to nearly every day, and losing that sucks. It sucks as a person whose business is heavily online-based to lose the major platform that let me exist in the weird little liminal niche that I occupy. I hate watching a community that I’ve been a part of for more than a decade be destroyed by other people. I hate what it’s been turned into more.

So sick of shitty people.

The Moth Witch Lives? Maybe?

Not dead! I think? Maybe?

46 is apparently the age where my health goes completely to shit. Or I could have turned out to have a bizarre problem where I discovered that my ability to feed myself like a normal mammal was way more screwed up than I realized and oh, hey, did you know that there’s a weird spot in under-eating where you can be below your recommended caloric intake and actually gain weight instead? Surprise! Guess who’s working on learning how to eat properly and consistently, for the first time in her life! (No, none of this is intentional or based in mental health…I’m just really not food-motivated, for all that I like good food, and have a bad habit of forgetting to eat meals pretty regularly. I have healthy snacks stashed everywhere now, and timers, and a logbook to make sure that I get enough calories into me.) It’s been about a week now, and I have to say that it’s really rude of biology to point out that it works better when it’s being properly fueled.

It also turns out that your brain doesn’t work too well when you’re not fueling things enough, so it’s been getting easier to think and have a scrap of executive function from time to time. I know, weird, right? Still taking it easy for a bit, because this is going to take some time (this was figured out because I ended up at the ER a couple of times with seemingly random health issues the week before last, and Things Were Realized). I didn’t get here overnight, either, but I’ll get there.

On the art front, to quote my Irish ancestry, “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and all the saints…”

You want to know what’s SUPER FUCKING DEMORALIZING? Having every realistically useful site that you can possibly use to showcase your art/writing/whatever blatantly state that by using the site you are required to give them permission to train their fucking AI with your work and do whatever they want with it and they don’t have to compensate or credit you, they’re just gonna take it. It sucks having to choose between handing your work to thieves or giving up, tossing all of your stuff into the dumpster, and going back to the jobs that nearly killed you. It sucks watching creators in your sphere giving up because the algorithms have strangled everything so badly that they can’t get enough visibility for their work. It sucks having to read, over and over again, how you should be grateful for theft and scraps because something something weird religious ideas about deities and art being a divine gift and not something that you busted your ass to learn to do.

I mean, I’m still going to do it anyway, because I’d rather be demoralized than dead from stress, but it still sucks. After I get a snack, though. I’m not dealing with this shit on an empty stomach.

The Trials And Tribulations Of Being A Packrat

I am a packrat. Yeah, sure, it’s a learned behavior/survival trait from a lifetime of being poor, but whatever. The upshot is that I have to work at not hanging onto things that are not being used or taking up space. So I periodically make myself go through things and konmari them. Is an item actually likely to ever be useful, and does it spark joy? If the answer is no, they get thanked for their service and get sent on their way. It works pretty well.

Most of the time.

Sadly, I’m also almost certainly wildly ADHD, and tend to move in cyclical patterns, which means sometimes I get rid of things that I later find I actually do need, I just got them too soon, and now I have to go buy them again.

Guess who just had to go out and get all new mixed media inking materials *again*

On the other hand, the fracturing of social media and the increasing problems with AI have been good for one thing. It’s lighting a fire under me to focus myself better and work on building what I originally set out to build so many years ago.

Newford, here I come.

Pumpkin-lights and Will-o-Wisp Dreams

August decided to come in like October this year and the cool nights and crisp breezes are making me think fondly of pumpkin lamps, hot cider, candy corn, and ghost stories. The fact that this year has spent a lot of time smelling like wood smoke is probably also contributing a lot to my longing for autumn.

It’s also making me extremely restless. I find myself scrolling used RV and van listings and camp furniture and wondering (again) how to go about getting all the things I would need to get Tricksters Road *on* the road. Or at very least how to do something similar on a smaller, more local scale. The fact that the Rav4 is reaching That Time of its life, where I have to start thinking about replacing it sooner than later, is part of it, I suppose. When I’d originally got it, I was planning to convert it more for being able to basically live out of it for a couple of days, but the meat suit decided that that option wasn’t an option anymore. Nowadays I’m looking more for something I can use as a mobile studio, while staying in a hotel or B&B. Not as cost effective, but vastly less painful.

I remain adamantly of the opinion that it should be October year-round.

Alastair Smudge

Finished our dear Alastair Smudge and got him into his frame. He’s a bit different than my usual style, and I’m rather pleased with him.

Yes, he’s available.

Charcoal and graphite on mixed media paper
Wood frame
4″x4″, framed size is approx. 6.5″

$55 (not including taxes and shipping costs). If interested, email me at melissa@trickstersroadstudio.com.

The Tarot Cards Were Right Again, I See

Tentatively, his name is Smudge. If I’m being honest, it may end up being Alastair Smudge. He’s the current piece I’m working on. Jury’s still out on whether or not he’s going to get some color, as well, or if I’ll keep him straight graphite and charcoal. We’ll see how it goes.

So, looks like WP here made some changes to how the site plans go and failed to notify folks about it, and thus I have to start making some changes, as well. I am *deeply* unhappy about this. The short version is that last year they went from having multiple tiers of site plans to just two….basically free and Pro, and that was supposed to be the end of it. Yeah, not sure when, but they apparently decided that they didn’t really mean it, and got rid of the Pro and separated everything back out again. But hey! Pro will be grandfathered and users don’t have to upgrade to keep their ENTIRE SITE FUNCTIONALITY.

Now I’m in a position where I have three options:

1.) choose to believe them about that and keep on as I am, risking logging in one day to find that my entire UI is broken and my store is gone,

2.) choose not to believe them and upgrade to the tier where I’ll definitely get to keep my store, and go from paying $180/yr to $540/yr,

3.) assume that they’re full of shit, ditch the store entirely, and just use ko-fi’s store option in conjunction with reminding people that email is a thing that exists and they can actually, I don’t know, talk to the artist if they see something that they want.

Not gonna lie, I’m leaning heavily toward Door #3. I’m already looking at offline sales options, especially since my local area has started doing Interesting Things regarding working with local artists, and seriously looking into how the hell to get hold of a small camper that I can travel in for further afield options.

The fact that social media is currently a shitshow across the board and the AI crap is causing a million problems is also a factor.

So, this week’s plan is to finish up Mr. Alastair Smudge and get him into his frame, print out copies of all of the stories I have on Google Drive, back up everything, overhaul the site, and rearrange everything again. If I’m lucky, I might even get to start a second piece of art this week, in between redoing the same technical work I’ve already redone a dozen times in the last 3 years because hosting sites can’t stop fucking shit up every few months.

This was not, by the way, the original plan for the week. That was going to be working on Alastair and his friends, designing a physical newsletter for Auntie Yaga’s Home For Wayward Monsters, and possibly even set up a dedicated site for that project. That last bit is how I found out about WPs plan changes, as I was looking at the best way to handle the logistics of running it separately.

Hilariously, back when I was dealing with shingles, I did a tarot reading about business stuff and the cards that showed up were the 7 of Potions and Death. Basically, a foundational shift is coming, time to dream big or go home. An earlier reading had more or less said “Your dreams are still possible, you just have to believe in them again”.

Once upon a time, I dreamed of Newford. It got way off track and I got lost for a long time, but I guess it’s time to start walking toward that dream again.

Cool New Site Badge!

RaigeMage shared a link to this delightful person who made the cool-ass badge that’s now floating in the corner of the site. Well, I loved it, and added it (because fuck AI), and then tossed a couple of bucks at their Ko-fi. Checked out their other stuff while I was poking around, and there’s some really nice art.

Also, yeah, seriously, fuck AI and fuck anyone who thinks that supporting art theft is cool. Human artists all the way around here.

The Gods Of Weather And Technology Are Being Petulant

In a shocking turn of events this summer, it’s raining again. /sarcasm. Apparently the Northeast is getting the rain for the entire country and we’ve gone from a really nasty drought into flooding. It’s not quite as bad here as some areas of New York, but it’s bad enough that I’m grateful for the fact that the stream that runs along one border of the property is cut really deep and that we’re on the side of the hollow, not at the bottom. I suspect that the bottom corner of the yard is underwater, but I can’t tell through the wall of feral vegetation.

I got the new printer set up in the studio last night (finally), but discovered that the wi-fi in the house, which barely makes it all the way to the studio, is not strong enough for it. Figured that this is likely also going to be the case for the Cricut, so today I go out to Best Buy to pick up the booster, to be installed in the office.

Art-wise, I’ve been sketching some new monsters this week, and grinding the rust off my drawing skills. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think they’re cute, in a “Muppets meet Hieronymous Bosch” sort of way.

With Adobe leaning hard into AI theft, I deleted my account with them and re-started Clip Studio (who briefly flirted with AI, got yelled at by pretty much their entire user base, and walked it back within a day or so of announcing they were thinking about it). The extra nice thing about Clip Studio is that it has the option of one-time purchase or subscription model, and the subscription model has an option to let me use it both on my laptop with the Wacom or on my phone. Weirdly, I’m having an easier time with it on my phone than I am on the Wacom. Not sure what that’s about, but whatever. Practice is practice. Still have to work out all the other bells and whistles, but getting there.

Definitely happy to be getting back to work and back on track again.

Now if it will stop raining long enough to be able to take my travel kit and go work outside somewhere for a bit. There’s some lovely spots around the area that I’ve been itching to go set up for a couple of hours at.

No Really, Listen To The Turtles

I keep trying to write a post but then Things keep happening and now oh gods there’s too much…

Remember those turtles from the last post? Yeah, so not four days after I wrote that, I found myself in the ER in the middle of the night, hooked up to monitors, getting my blood checked to see if I was having a heart attack. Thankfully it wasn’t but, as it turns out, it was very like an early warning shot of

*insert drum roll*

Shingles. On my face and around my left eye. Did you know that this is one of the most dangerous places to get shingles and requires a grueling medication schedule for weeks in the hopes that you don’t lose the sight in the eye that it’s around? Well, now you do. (Side note: it is possible, however, to get shingles and not have it be screaming agony, which is also a thing more folks should probably know. The itching is still A Lot, and it is so gross, but it’s better than pain.)

-10,000 stars, do NOT recommend.

Still, a bit over a month later, the rash is gone, the weapons-grade itching (like poison ivy on steroids) is mostly cleared out, and I’m able to wear my glasses full-time again. Still have some mild neuralgia, tire easily, and have some new and exciting scarring on my face but, most importantly, I still have use of both eyes. Or at least as much as I had before, at any rate. Thank gods. Getting shingles on your face has a high risk of it also showing up on/in your eye or developing a secondary infection, which can cause you to go blind. Happily I avoided that, but it was *very* close, and involved a pretty grueling medication schedule for several weeks to pull it off.

I’m definitely making some major lifestyle changes, because this last month has been a helluva wake-up call that I need to start taking much better care of myself. Listening to the turtles, dammit. Hydrating and sleeping more. Getting outside when I can. Taking my vitamins and adding more healthy foods into my day. Setting aside time to just relax and exist for a bit. Remembering that wearing a headscarf mitigates a lot of the neuralgia and learning ways to wrap them.

So yeah, still here. Not dead or blind. Working on building healthier way to do things. Got a new little drawing done and up in the shop, and back to working on getting the studio set up to do my own stickers. Trying to navigate the ever-increasing dysfunctions that are the social media sites these days, and looking at ways to start existing in meatspace more, despite the fact that I live in an area that makes that really hard. Hell, trying to figure out what a meatspace existence looks like for my kind of work in the first place.

Always an adventure…

Turtle Time: Thoughts On Sustainability, Slowing Down, and Trust

For many years I wore a pendant of a very small turtle carved from a piece of jade that I’d found at an antique store. It was a reminder to myself to slow down and pay attention to the world around me. Eventually I started wearing other things, and then no jewelry at all (too many jobs where I couldn’t wear any and it became a habit I’m working to recover from, being that I can wear whatever the hell I want now), and the turtle ended up in a jewelry box where it sits until I can find a new chain for it.

Turtles are something of a theme that crops up for me pretty regularly. Usually when I’m going too hard and fast and am burning myself hotter than is actually useful. Or healthy. Lately I achieved a new and interesting kind of going too hard…the mental equivalent of frantically spinning tires while the wheels are stuck in the mud. All the effort and burnout, none of the progress to show for it!

Yeah, that’s not useful.

Turtles showed up again. I’m seeing turtles everywhere. I even ended up taking care of a friend’s turtle while he and his fiance were away for a week. Eventually I figured out that it’s because of the aforementioned spinning tires. Of course, knowing that I’m doing it and figuring out what to do about it are two entirely different things.

You see, the mud that I’ve been stuck in is my own work. Social media’s crashing as a useful medium for small artists like myself, but at the same time there aren’t a whole lot of options for the kind of work that I do offline, and trying to figure out how to produce ever faster and more and how the hell am I going to keep up with it and I need to do more with Ko-fi because oh gods people are giving me money and here I am stuck in the mud and and and and….

there I was, lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, having an existential meltdown, and there were turtles in my pareidolia…

Nothing else. Just me, the floor, and the turtles in the ceiling paint.

* * * * * *

The other week I came across two things that shifted the view. A random comment crossing my dash on social media, and book that I’d just started reading got me thinking. The comment was along the lines of how Patreon is basically an adopt-an-artist program and how that often gets twisted into being an artist puppy mill, instead. The book is called “Beyond Sustainability” by Nimue Brown, about how we, as a species, need to slow down and really think about how we engage with the world on every level because we’ve only got the one planet and the environment is coming undone. (Side note, it’s a really good book and I recommend it.)

I got to thinking about the artist puppy mill and how one of my big stressors with Ko-fi is that I’ve been conditioned to the idea that I need to be constantly updating but then get stressed out if I can’t come up with some new bit of art or witty comment or whatever the fuck on cue. I started thinking about how I’m constantly trying to figure out how to make a lot of small art and writing FAST and how to monetize every little thing and how that just ends up with me crashing and burning out, unable to create anything at all, let alone the fact that if I’m spending my time trying to focus on small fast things, I have no time left for anything larger or longer and how that is not remotely sustainable.

I disabled myself because I pushed my brain and body beyond its limits too many times for jobs that didn’t view me as anything more than a piece of machinery, if even that. I’ve had multiple nervous breakdowns, have PTSD, and permanent physical damage that prevents me from being able to work in almost any setting other than my own business, and they are almost entirely because of previous jobs. I *know* better, viscerally. Yet here I’ve been, basically trying to push myself beyond my limits again, because I panicked and forgot (like so many people forget) that things like Ko-fi and Patreon exist, not to be artist puppy mills where the artists push out ever more “content” for consumption like we’re factory assembly machines, but so that a community of people who care about us and our work can help ensure that we have a steady income in a field where a single piece takes weeks or more to produce. It’s supposed to be the safety net, not the meat grinder.

It’s there so that I can spend a month working on a single painting and not have to worry about how I’m going to pay for the cat food or the Disaster Cats’ vet bills. It’s there so that I don’t have to try and find a working brain cell that hasn’t burnt out from a day of being punished for failing to do the work of 3 people by myself before bed, or try to paint when the damaged blood vessels in my left eye are inflamed from staring at a computer monitor for 8 hours and there’s a blank space in the middle of my vision because the swelling is pressing against the optic nerve.

It’s there so that I can work slowly, sustainably, and in a healthy manner while trusting that my community is helping support me, because I am not a factory machine, and my work is something that not only takes time to create, but is also something that suffers for being churned out at frantic, panicked paces.

It’s there because, in a world that demands ever-faster jackrabbits, my work is a collection of turtles sunning themselves on a log and that’s okay. My job is not to try and keep up with the jackrabbits, it’s to sit with the turtles, listen to the stories of the wind in the trees, and share the gossip of the moths with my village.

I’m a little slow on the uptake, sometimes, but deprogramming from a life that taught me that my value is only measured by how much of myself I can sacrifice is a process that sometimes takes a little bit to work through.