charcoal and conte

(still life, charcoal + conte)

I recently found out that I’ve had PMDD for the past 4+ years;
basically, every month Mother Nature gave me crippling depression as a premenstrual bonus gift.

I blamed myself— for all the days I spent in bed not eating, not sleeping, not living, saying awful things and hurting people who were just trying to take care of me. At first I thought I was just being stupid; when I realized my depressive episodes coincided with my cycle I thought it was my fault for being too lazy and bad to handle my own PMS. Like it was my fault for being so bad at living in this female body that I never asked to be born into (especially as a genderqueer, trans non-binary individual) 
I still have these persistent, lingering feelings of shame and fear when I even think about sharing and confronting my biology as part of my identity. I guess that’s why it’s all the more important to me that I share this.

If you’re suffering, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.  I hurt my best friends; I wasted so much time. But now I’ve talked to a doctor, I’m getting help, things are getting better. Things can, and should, get better. Just because you were born female doesn’t mean it’s your duty to suffer. 

A peek at the process

I regularly get requests for clarifications on the sigil-making process, so I thought I’d show a few of the steps I use to (quickly) create some of the custom sigils I make for Tumblr followers.

This isn’t meant to imply my process is the “right” way to do it, as there are many, many techniques and approaches to sigilcraft. This is a fast, efficient way to make a sigil I have no personal investment in. In your sigil work you probably aren’t going for speed, and you may need to go through dozens of versions to create the sigil that speaks to your personal desire.

The example below is one I made yesterday, and I chose it because it came together quickly, on a single page, and in a matter of a few minutes. It’s common for sigils to take a half-dozen pages like this before I finally settle on a design.

Step 1: Drafting

The request here was a simple one. “I am enough.” I wrote it out using a charcoal pencil on a page i my cheap sketchbook ($4 from Michael’s). At first, I thought I’d try working with Irish uncial characters (top left), but soon decided that Orkhon characters (”Turkic runes”) were a better fit for my mood.

Note that I didn’t strike out the vowels. I often don’t when I’m working with non-Latin alphabets, and if you’re curious about why, I explain it in this post.

You can see the merging of shapes as I play around with the basic structure. It may be harder to see the process, but a large part of my process is simply to turn letters and shapes until they overlap, then merge the lines.

The final rough sigil is in the middle.

Step 2: Clarifying

Once I have the overall symbol worked out, I break out the charcoals, conte crayons or oil pastels. Then I do a few versions with different line weights and proportions. It’s common for me to do pages and pages of these, looking for the one that comes together just right. I’m going to be showing these off on Tumblr, after all.

You don’t need to worry about this step. Your sigil is for you, and no one else. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. If you’re going to be activating it through a destructive ritual (burning, for instance), it’s usually best to keep it simple.

As you can see, this isn’t a home run. The lines are uneven, and it’s pretty rough. It doesn’t look as polished as the things I post to my site and to Tumblr. It has also changed a little from the charcoal sketch, as I’m still playing around with some of the details.

In this case, I didn’t create a final charcoal version. I knew I was going to make yet another version in ink, so this was more like a second draft.

Step 3: Final Draft

Now that I had a draft I liked, I brought out my brushes and ink. After warming up with some rougher versions (just to practice the strokes), I made an ink version. Here’s how it looked.

Again, I’ve made a few tweaks to the design, but the fundamental shape hasn’t changed much from that first charcoal draft.

Step 4: Finalization

I didn’t feel like waiting for the ink to dry so that I could scan this in. Instead, I took a photo and ran that into Photoshop for a bit of cleanup. (If you’re curious, I cropped it, desaturated the image, and put it through the Treshhold process to get clean a black and white image.)

From there, it was just a matter of placing the text, resizing it for the web, and posting it.

In retrospect, I could have cleaned up the edges a little to make for smoother lines. But art isn’t supposed to be perfect, is it?

Okay I need to get back into doing horse portraits n stuff so I need a few to practice with before I open commissions and whatnot.

If you are interested in a watercolour or pencil portrait or a conte/charcoal sketch of your horse or your fav horse submit, message or tag me in photos you yourself have taken or have permission to use. Tag/send me as many as you want! As many horses as you want!

Until next Friday (June 16th) I’ll pick 3-6, possibly more, different horses to do. ily

edit : if you want to tag me in photos of your dogs/cats/other pets do it and I’ll pick from them too!!

Quick sketch at the Aquarium! It’s been too long since I last drawn, forgot how good it feels <3 I used a combo of ink, charcoal and conté, and they work surprising well together!

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