Of Introverts and Cons

Cons (that’s “conventions” to the uninitiated) are not for introverts. This I discovered in January at RustyCon (Seattle). As I discovered this weekend at Norwescon (also Seattle), the key—for me, at least—to having fun at a con is coming out of my shell and making myself interact with people.

I’d done conventions before RustyCon, but I’d spent them sitting behind my table selling my prints and notecards. Not that I have a problem with that. It’s actually where I’d rather be—it gives me something to do all day and puts me in a position where I still get human interaction, but the humans come to me. I don’t have to make any moves besides saying, “Hello,” and talking about my art—which I do anyway.

You see, I’m an introvert who loves people. Call it a contradiction in terms; it’s not. People are easily the most important thing in the world to me—be they my best friends or a stranger walking down the street. Part of it is simply my value system. If you believe that God Himself came down from Heaven and offered His life out of love for people, it’s hard not to place people at the top of the priority list.

But another part of it is that I really do enjoy interacting meaningfully with them. By meaningfully, I don’t mean that every conversation has to delve deeply into truths that knit the universe together. I mean that people are talking about what matters to them and listening to each other; that the conversation is more than just the throwaway questions we feel the need to ask each other at the beginning of a dialogue, and that everyone is enjoying themselves.

A tall order. But a geeky convention is so very much the perfect place to have such conversation. Let’s face it, we’re all there because we have passionate interests. And most of us are wearing those passionate interests on our sleeves—or printed on our fronts—or around our necks—or from head to toe.

But there the Introvert chimes in. The part of me that won’t speak up, that somehow deems myself both above and beneath everyone in the room. That sits, when possible, NOT next to anyone, and that hates initiating conversation with people she doesn’t know. For the record, I don’t think there’s anything wrong, per se, with her. But she does not have fun at cons.

So there I stood, in line to get my badge at Norwescon last Thursday. The familiar grip-around-the-lungs of the Introvert began clawing at me. There were people behind me I didn’t know and people in front of me I didn’t know. I was about to spend a weekend with people I didn’t know. Why, again, was I doing this? Oh, yeah. Because to hang my art in the art show, I had to buy a membership to the con. And like a good daughter of my mother, I wasn’t going to throw money away. Besides, that hands-on Roman combat workshop on Friday morning sounded awesome.

But I didn’t want another RustyCon. I didn’t want another weekend of self-induced loneliness.

So I made a resolution with myself, then and there. And to solidify that resolution, I turned around, introduced myself to the guy behind me—who turned out to also be a teacher—and we had a lovely, genuine conversation until it was time to sign in.

Turns out, I had a fantastic weekend. I terrified people in the combat workshop. I got some good tips in the art panels. The writing panels encouraged and challenged me. I bought a hat pattern from a steampunk clothing stall. I even sold a little bit of art.

I also sat with strangers at meals, sat with an acquaintance from a previous show during a panel, hung out with yet another teacher on Saturday afternoon, talked with bystanders, and generally forced myself to be sociable. And much to my delight, I enjoyed myself.

I’m also happy to be home by myself right now with my books and my cat and my lesson planning. The Introvert is no enemy of mine. But sometimes, when she threatens to get in the way of a good time, she does need to be shown who’s boss.


Creating “Shadow-Bride,” Part 3

This morning, I put the finishing touches on “Shadow-Bride.” Here’s the finished pieces, ready to go to the print shop this afternoon:
My pen began working again close to noon yesterday, at which point I finished the drawing. I’m happy to say that the faces on the second version made all the hassle of restarting quite worth the effort; they were much closer to what I’d originally envisioned and sketched. In fact, once those faces were there, I knew that the rest of the project would turn out nicely.

The first version of the figures/ faces

The first version of the figures/ faces

The second version of the figures/ faces

The second version of the figures/ faces

Well, as long as the watercolor worked.

Watercolor is an unpredictable medium anyway, and illustration board isn’t designed for it. On watercolor paper, you at least have a chance of managing a wash without getting funny waterspots and hard edges. Make that one chance in twenty using illustration board.

Why in the world do I use it, then? Because it works so well for the calligraphy and ink work. The joys of using mixed media!

Actually, I like a good challenge. So, doing my first all-out watercolor painting (not just decorated borders) on illustration board was a challenge I gladly accepted. I put on some intense music and began focusing very hard. About 9 pm I decided I was done, and realized that I was exhausted and had a headache… but it was worth it. I was deeply satisfied. The lighting was what I had wanted, the shadows were working, and the faces were perfect. This morning, I took some careful looks at it and decided to touch up the shadows to make them a bit more precise. Now it’s really done.

The painting at an early stage, with basic colors down but few shadows

The painting at an early stage, with basic colors down but few shadows



I’m not expecting to sell a lot of these. After all, so far I’ve only met one other person who knew exactly which poem I was talking about. I should probably do something really well-known next. I’m thinking Thorin’s quote from The Hobbit about valuing food and cheer and song above hoarded gold. People have requested it.

But for now, I look at this picture I’ve been wanting to paint for four or more years, and I am deeply happy.

Oliver with the completed border for the poem

Oliver with the completed border for the poem

Creating “Shadow-Bride,” Part 2

Sometimes art is not fun, or creative, or exciting. Sometimes it is extremely frustrating.

Take yesterday, for instance. The night before, I had been industriously working on the illustration for “Shadow-bride” when my pen blotted right in the middle of the trees. It was unfixable. Believe me, I tried to fix it.

Never mind, I told myself. I hadn’t been thrilled with how the man’s face had turned out anyway. He hadn’t ended up looking like the handsome rogue I’d drawn on the tracing paper; he looked a little more like David Hasselhoff’s Dr. Jekyll. Not as bad as Mr. Hyde, I grant you, but still not what I was going for. So, I figured I could re-transfer my drawing and start over again the next morning. First, though, I would have to go to the art store again. I was out of illustration board.

So, the next morning, I finished the calligraphy on the poem while I waited for the art store to open. The calligraphy, by the way, turned out lovely.

The art store was out of medium weight cold press illustration board. Sigh. Thankful that it was spring break and I had a wide-open day, I drove the full hour or so to Mount Vernon to the next nearest art store, picked up more board, then drove back.

About three o’clock in the afternoon, then, I retransferred the drawing, picked up my pen—and my pen refused to work.

It’s a Rapidograph Koh-i-noor—a refillable precision pen that costs at least $25 and is only available online. I know, because I’ve been on the last minute hunt before. It’s also a fairly new one which shouldn’t be giving out on me yet.

I’m trying to get the piece done by Wednesday, and, although I have plenty of time, the pressure is still there. So I tried and tried and tried to get my pen to work again, to no avail. Finally I figured it could use a soak overnight. I put away my stuff, took the pen apart and put it in the cleaner, and opened up my laptop. I would work on a story I was writing instead.

Now, the task cannot be put off any longer (especially now that I’ve put it off by blogging about it). I will rise from my computer, reassemble my pen—and pray that it finally works!