Artist Block. Breaking it with Play

Was asked about Artist Block recently, from a friend Alex Sturdee and I answered:

“No. I don’t get it.”

“Never?” - AS


I have countless tricks to break through that crap. So many in fact that they automatically kick in without me knowing. And I keep going. Here’s some top ones. 

1. Play. Number one solution to all this. Not feeling it? Tired? Just play. Don’t “make art”, just go nuts on the page. Make some marks. Play on the canvas. Let the image find you. Don’t go looking for it. Just cut loose with the soul purpose of having fun. No expectations. Some of my best pieces have just showed up when they saw me having fun.

2. Ingest Art. Consume Art. You can’t make anything if you don’t fill your head with lots of visual stimulation. Go down the internet rabbit hole in a genre you’re unfamiliar with. Get inspired. Look at past masters. Look at photography. Look at things that are very different from what you normally look at. You’re time is well spent.

3. Experiment. Find a new brush, tool, app, or color you’ve never played with. Try it. Don’t make art. Just play with the tool, call it an experiment and cut loose. 

Art has a habit of showing up when you don’t go looking for it. Technomancer (above) started as a doodle with no idea of what I was going to paint. I just wanted to play with a nice blue and some warm earth tones. 

Ion Galleon (above) showed up because I started doodling some clouds in a new app I wanted to play with. The images will find you. Your job is to get yourself in the mindset to receive them.Go play. You have my permission.

Go Play! – Sumrow

Moving forward. Beyond the Frozen Giants

Above: Beyond the Frozen Giants, Digital, Clip Studio Pro

Tough conversations the last few days. Turning down good friends projects because they are not good fits. Honored to be in your thoughts, but i’m overly cautious with my time and passion projects these days. I’m pushing towards my own style and trying to get better and faster. Money is not the focus with my art right now. Getting better is. My chops are starting to get more solid, I think the next thing is go harder and make myself sweat more. I miss the early days when I could not turn down gigs because I needed to pay rent or eat. More was learned in those few years than any other time. The day job has made me fat and lazy. I miss saying yes to every project, panicking - and figuring it out anyway, and in the process growing. I now have the luxury of picking and choosing my projects, so the trick is to continually choose wisely things that will propel my art forward in a direction where I find happiness and fulfillment. This sounds so easy. It is anything but. After a huge failure a few years ago, I learned a hard lesson. Don’t sign on to something that pays you money, but you are not passionate about. I broke my own cardinal rule, and I crashed and burned. This is the constant struggle. What checks all the right boxes logically, and intellectually, is not the same thing as what checks all those boxes AND the passion box. The logic side of your brain is very convincing. Logic is bullet proof. Self made logic is sacrosanct. It is the word of your own self made God. The missing piece is the spark. The inspiration. The color that has no name and yet we have seen it. We have seen the brush strokes go down with our own fingers and felt - wow. ” I don’t know what this is… but it feels right.” This is the space, the zone, where time was the furthest thing from us. It was just you and the paper, and your favorite music, and you know you have touched something beyond yourself and shared a moment with countless other creators through time. You have sat in shared moments of past masters who also took up the brush and canvas and got lost for hours and had something on the other side. Had something new in the house. Something new. And who cares what comes of it, but the fact that it exists is just so damn satisfying. That’s the thrill of the chase.

The spark. That’s the box that you better damn well check.- Sumrow (too much coffee)

The Ghosts of Maple Bacon’s past…

Coffee Reviews from the Desert, No. 2 

Bones Coffee Company’s Maple Bacon 

Ok, now I think you guys are just fucking with me. Is this even coffee? This is water that you get from the faucet after your plumbing has been worked on, and you need to let the tap run for a bit to return to health. The flavor gulf between the smell of the grounds and the cuppa, you could drive a small galaxy through it. This is strong tea, not coffee. I have no idea what this is. It’s like licking a found Baby Ruth wrapper that has been tread upon and tossed in the gutter. There was a bold brave candy bar here at one time. Now the notes of that spirit haunt this space, this shredded shell. The thin ghost of a favorite candy that was. The desperation of that phantasm to try and cling to its past existence is too tragic, and must be excised. We must move on from this bizarre farce of a stage play and get back to reality. Back to true flavor country.

Groggy Morning Grog

Coffee Reviews from the Desert, No. 1 

Bones Coffee Company – Highland Grog

So far this is the best. This is the only one I’ve tried. Good flavor. Chocolatey & earthy. A bit thin on flavor, but it might have been the ratio. I’ll make it a bit thicker next time. Like your mom. 

Back into the Bottle! - The Spring Summoning

This years Spring Summoning – “Back into the Bottle!” is printed and shipping to all Patrons as we speak! Still time to secure one. Best way to guarantee yours is to become an active patron of the arts by midnight May 7th. More info about what I do and all the magic that’s happening. This is a new second, custom handmade greeting card, for every Patron for the year. How did this happen?

Last Years Handmade Halloween: The Spirit of the Lanterns

As you remember last Halloween we experimented with silkscreen, and did “Spirit of the Lanterns” to wide enthusiasm. The hauntingly beautiful barn owl The spirit of the lanterns. They fly on brisk grey winds. They fill the thin night air with magik light that brings the spirit world close and into ours. That piece was so loved we had to do another. Officially going forward we will do two handmade cards a year: April’s The Spring Summoning and October’s Handmade Halloween, respectively. They are a retro dive into traditional ink, pen & paper, and handmade Art. It is also a show of gratitude to everyone who helps this art journey. And speaking of journey, how did we do it this year?  We got into FUSE, a new maker space, and had tremendous help from a printer who’s been screen printing for decades, Steve Lee! What follows is the process… 

The Process for Back into the Bottle - First up, the drawing!

The drawing process is pretty straight forward. I fire up my trust 12” iPadPro with iPencil, and launch into sketching in my favorite app Clip Studio EX. The process is pretty linear, pun intended: pencil sketch, to inked layer, then add a color layer, and finally a halftone for shading. The file in Clip Studio consists of three layers two for the colors we will print in Black and “Peakcock” blue and a third background layer. Each layer is exported out and a film layout file is created in photoshop. 

Paper, Film, & Screens

Rey & I spared no expense with paper and went with an old classic - French Paper Co. We chose a really nice heavy Kraft paper with matching envelopes.  Each color file, black and blue, is printed out onto transparency film and sandwiched onto a photosensitive emulsion, on a printing screen. The screen are exposed to light then washed, leaving a negative screen that acts like a giant stencil for the image. The screens are loaded onto a press and we line everything up. This is the longest part of the process actually, the set up. Everything has to line up and be perfect for each color to go down in the right spot to avoid miss prints. Once alined, the screen is inked up and we are PRINTING! Here is great video by my good friend Jonito showing the steps.


Here we have the printing phase. Paper is placed on pre-made tabs to ensure alignment. Screen is inked up and the squeegee pushes the ink through the screen/stencil and the ink transfers to the paper. This goes rather quickly, as we are using a classic “One arm bandit” press, as opposed to hand pulling like last years. One hundred sheets took about a half hour per color. We only lost three or four sheets out of 100, and a small handful of individual prints due to miss alignment. This is normal during production. The run came out to one hundred sixty folded cards, and some extras just in case the mailman has sticky finders.

Finishing: cutting, folding, signing & shipping.

After the sheets are dry we take the entire stack to the guillotine cutter and cut them all at once to the final trim size 10” wide x 5” tall. If you look at the sheets on racks above, you can see trim and registration marks. These go through the whole process and get trimmed off with excess leaving clean final prints. 

Next we fold each card by hand. You can see each time I do a run of prints I make a little guide out of heavy paper, ruler, tape, and a cutting board. The cards slide under the heavy card stock. Stop at the ruler, then I can score them perfectly, fold, then burnish flat. The large strip of scrap paper goes over the fold before burnishing to protect the image.  This goes pretty quickly. 

Signing & Numbering, shipping!

Thanks everyone for your love and support! They came out great if I do say so myself. The Spring Summoning ”Back into the Bottle” countdown continues! Only 24 hours left to guarantee you get one!
Support the Arts, at any tier, by midnight May 7!

Thanks for stopping by, Sumrow 

Early to bed. Early to the ever growing reading pile

Trying to form the reading habit

Lately, instead of waking up and scrolling through the horrible news on my phone, I’ve been reading short fiction. The goal is to form the reading habit that has eluded me my whole life. The morning alarm was set to one hour earlier, and first thing before the sun comes up, I’ve been grabbing that first cup-o-joe and a collection of H.P. Lovecraft and Others - Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Never been a huge reader. But so far so good. I’ve opted to focus on short horror stories which work for my attention span. I like Lovecraft alot, and on recommendation from a gamer buddy Tim. S. I snagged a used copy of this particular volume because it was not just Lovecraft but a group of horror and fantasy’s finest that pay tribute to the master of the macabre. These authors were considered the aptly titled Lovecraft Circle.” This group wrote stories that frequently shared details among them, and often would put each other in their stories back and forth. Of Particular note, I’m enjoying the few shorts in this collection of Clark Ashton Smith. His The Return of the Sorcerer is fantastic. It is a dark little story of an old mansion where the guests are assailed by strange happenings as old dark shadows gain new life. 

After the Clark Ashton Smith collection, I’ll be heading back to another book of Terry Pratchett’s The Watch series, The Fifth Elephant. These are insanely funny and breezy reads. I cannot recommend these enough. Think Monty Python meets Lord of Rings, and you can get close.

Last in the que is John Truby’s Anatomy of a Story. My good friend Lael T. recommended it ,as we often talk about short fiction writing. Lael is a phenomenal short story writer, right on the cusp of getting published. He often encourages me to take up short fiction writing, and it is on my short list of skills to start working on. That list never gets shorter does it? Much like The Reading Pile. What does your reading pile look like?

Thanks for spending your time here.

Best, Sumrow

Make Art in your daily life

Do yourself a favor. Go do one creative thing RIGHT NOW for the next ten minutes. Doesn’t matter what. Doodle on a napkin. Draw a funny face in the dirt with a stick. Make your sammitch talk by moving the bread and let it give you a mini impromptu stand-up routine. By this I mean find ART in everything small thing you do daily. I found a small resin cast head of a liquor bottle in the gutter. It is some kind of Monk or something. So what do you do? White out the eyes and put it in a flower pot. That’s what. A few minutes bring infinite joy. My grapevine starter pot is 1,000X better with an undead monk breaking ground!

Another creative thing to toy with is drawing your own character for you favorite table top role playing game like Dungeons & Dragons. This is just too much fun. I give you free hand to explore and develop your character. The world wants to see them! Make it so. 

The meta message: Always be making art. – Sumrow

“Big damn heroes” - New Painting

Big Damn Heroes

“Big damn heroes Sir”. - Zoe, Firefly TV Show

Update March 3: Done! Added Chadwick Boseman & Will Smith! Going to sleep on it and look at it fresh. Might add a bit more star dust… what do you think? Going to call it “Big damn heroes Sir.” - Zoe 
Update March 2: Slow progress. Ben’s hand and a zombie done. More polish on Blade. Two more two more characters to go!

Update March 1: Naomi - Dominique Tipper, from The Expanse. And Ben - Dwayne Jones, from Night of the Living Dead in the house!The winning idea was Black History Month - with a Sci-Fi focus!
Busily working on this months Art Card. This months will be slightly delayed. I’m about 1/3 done. Trying to get it wrapped up in the next few days.

Been dealing with various stages of pandemic fatigue/malaise. My mind is fairly foggy and it‘s been hard to concentrate. I have been just resting and trying not to worry about all the things I want to get done. So many projects so little time. But at the same time, a need to just not be an Artist for a while. Maybe a vacation is  in order. But of course once I get going, I feel the spark again. The brush moves. The colors change, and after a while I have something in front of me that was not there. And I feel the spark again.

This piece is full steam ahead. There will be about seven of my favorite characters from Sci-Fi and Horror. I’m happy with the first few sessions, and will try to get it beamed down to a planet near you ASAP! Going with a Drew Struzan, classic 80’s movie poster vibe… More to come.

Thanks everyone for understanding.

Thanks for the love and support. - Sumrow

PS: Ive been watching all the original Star Trek episodes while drawing, Classics. 

Buddha Bot Turns 10

When it began, Buddha Bot v6 Turns 10 today! One of my first shirt designs ever. One of my first public and published Art pieces. It’s been a weird Art journey, but this is where it all started. Mr. Ohmz was doodled on the back of a paper restaurant menu, and I vowed to take my art more seriously. Crazy to think this was published on TeeFury ten years ago!Since then, Art Goals unlocked:

And most importantly this experiment started a bit over two years ago. The Creative Cult here on Patreon, which changed everything. It is my most fulfilling endeavor, both artistically and spiritually. I am free to create. :) Huge THANK YOU to everyone. The last two years have been incredible. I struck out to do my own original art and rebuild myself. You have supported this journey at every turn, and have given me freedom to pursue my own voice, style,  and original works that answer to no one. More Art on the way. <3

Thank you. - Sumrow 

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