Happy Spooktober 2020

Welcome to Spooktober, everyone! And a big hello to those who followed me recently.

Spooky House Updates


We’re creeping (hopefully) closer to our house move, and I’m *really* hoping we’ll be in the place before the New Year. I’ve been dreaming of having Christmas in our brand new house with my immediate nearest and dearest, and I’ll be really sad if we don’t get to have that this time. House buying is an insanely slow process and nobody seems to know why it takes such a mind-numbingly long time.

We did have some issues with the conveyancers, who decided to put up a brick wall and refuse to respond or engage with us – and when they did, they got our details wrong and, in one case, even confused us with somebody else. We were not impressed. We’ve given them enough bad press in a few choicely-worded reviews, so I don’t mind telling you it was the Manchester branch of Slater and Gordon. Read their reviews yourself and you’ll find that this treatment is standard for them, unfortunately. Even their reception staff sounded like they’d had enough on the phone. Anyway, if you’re looking for a conveyancer, avoid them – even though they were on the HSBC recommended list!

Anyway, work is going well, although we said goodbye to one of my colleagues and my desk buddy – it’s always sad to see someone go. We’re part-time in the office and mostly working at home right now, in-line with the new government restrictions.

Spooky Health Updates

I’m braving it to St Bart’s hospital on Friday for bloods and a covid-swab, after which I will have to isolate all weekend in preparation for a procedure on Monday at Royal London Hospital. I’m having interventional radiology (or an Angiogram) to once again attempt to fix a problem with my dead kidney. It’s all a bit experimental and I’m not even certain it’s going to work; I’ve had this procedure done before, and unfortunately it failed because the mesh ball drifted down an odd vein I happen to have. Anyway, wish me lots of spooky luck – all being well, it could lead to much healthier blood pressure for me, and fewer pills to take every day. It’s also important for my future when I consider things like pregnancy, because high blood pressure puts the pregnancy at a ‘high risk’ level. My partner and I are planning a baby in the next couple of years, so I want to be as healthy as I can.

Spooky Inktober & Redubble


What do you think of my delightful little creep, Spooky Cat? He’s my first effort for Inktober! I haven’t been doing one drawing a day, which I believe is the rule, because of time constraints and whatnot – however, I drew him when I got home from work last night, and I love him. I’m certainly getting much more confident with my Wacom tablet, and once I’ve bought everything for my house, I shall be treating myself to a lovely Ipad Pro 2020 with the Apple Pencil. Oooh yes. I’ve earned it. If you love my little Spookster and want to support me you can take a look at the design on multiple items on Redbubble! He’s available on everything from T-shirts to notebooks to stickers and magnets, so go take a look.

Until next time Spooksters, enjoy the beautiful autumn season. I just cannot believe we’re in October already.

Best wishes,
Ashleigh

Draw Yourself as a Villain Challenge

My ‘Draw yourself as a villain’ challenge piece

Muahahahaa! That’s me as a devil, reigning in hell – and that’s my darling little Sputnik, who most definitely would never go to hell, because he is an angel.

Specs:

Corel Painter 2019
Wacom Tablet
Time: 2-3 hours?

I promised myself I would dedicate myself more to art now-days, for a number of reasons – one being that I’ve neglected my art since school, even though art was one of my first loves. Unfortunately I could never see how I’d ever be good enough to make a career out of art and I let it slide in favour of writing, though of course making a living *actually* out of writing is equally – in fact, I’d say rather a lot more so – tough and unlikely. Writing requires opportunities and contacts first and talent last; as with any art, it’s my experience (and that of many very talented people I’ve spoken to) that it’s nothing to do with pure talent, or a love for it, or a passion. While of course you need all of these to succeed, it doesn’t mean a right lot if nobody thinks you’re important and nobody knows you exist.

Art is probably the same, but then it depends where you’re coming from. If you’re a fine painter then you’ll have a very different experience to a cartoonist, or someone who does watercolour pet portraits, and so on. ‘Art’ is an umbrella term which encompasses so many things. However, being a visual form, it is much easier for people to access, and therefore you can get a lot of satisfaction from art without ever needing to be recognised, famous, or “successful”. The love of creating art feeds the soul. It’s for those reasons that I wanted to turn my learning back to art, because it’s a pure joy and you never stop learning.

With that in mind, I’ve been practicing on my Wacom tablet over the last few months, though not as much as I’d like to because of work and travelling to and from my partner’s house. I’ve been proud of my progress and I believe I am defining my own style. Youtube has been a massive help, as well as Instagram – it’s so inspiring to see the amazing artists out there, and what’s more is that they’re all more than happy to share their techniques and tips. I seem to enjoy drawing portraits of women the most, and my style is a kind of two-tone comic book style – I did develop this a little in my teen years, but I had such limited knowledge, tools, and access to support that it just fell away. Back then, Deviantart was an amazing resource, but it was the *only* resource. Youtube wasn’t nearly as full of self-made content as it is now, and Instagram didn’t exist. Today, tutorials are so much more accessible than they were back then, and you can get them for free.

One thing I’ve gotten much better at recently is drawing bodies, hands, and feet. My style used to be chibi/caricature (massive heads, small bodies), which is a style I loved years ago, but it probably reflected the fact that I preferred to draw heads. Bodies were much harder, and I wasn’t used to drawing them on a bigger scale. What I’ve learned to do is sketch with a digital ‘2b pencil’ and draw a figure much like a wooden art model (the kind with the ball joints that you can bend and manipulate), and use a photo of a model in the pose I liked. I could then draw a clunky model from the photo and then compose my art on top of the model I created. Neat, hm?

So, I finally felt ‘good enough’ to do an art challenge! I drew myself as a devil because I’d recently watched Keanu Reeves’ Constantine (a favourite from my teens), and also because I’m reading Hellblazer: Original Sins (John Constantine), so I’m all about demons and the occult. I also watched the Netflix documentary, ‘Hail Satan?’, which was really interesting, so this all combined to put me in a devlish mood. I was inspired by someone who posted their ‘draw yourself like a villain’ challenge in a Facebook group, and I just had to take part. I hope you like it; I’m very proud of it!


Other news

I’m back in the office full-time now, which is great, but the floor’s all taped up to keep us 2m apart, and we have to santize and spray every surface after using it. It’s not so bad; it’s just different, like everything right now.

Best news of all: we finally got our mortgage approved! My lovely boyfriend and his adorable kitten are moving across the country to be with me in our gorgeous new house. I honestly never thought I’d see the day that I’d be really happy, but here we are, starting our lives together. It’s mad how fast things can change over the course of a couple of years. There’s talks of marriage and babies, but for now we just want to get into our new house and make it ours. There will be pictures – oh yes, there will be pictures!

Best wishes,
Ashleigh

Lockdown, working, house move, Ipad Pro!

Black Modern Goth Girl
Copyright Ashleigh Condon 2020

Hi folks.

I hope you’re keeping well. My god, has it been that long since I last wrote anything on this blog of mine?! Well, I’ve been up to lots – but also up to nothing. It’s a weird one.

Writing & Illustration
One thing I have been doing is practising my drawing a lot on my beautiful Wacom Tablet. In fact I’ve become so smitten with digital art that I’ve actually decided to buy a brand new iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil after our house move. I desperately wanted to buy it right now, but I’m conscious that we may have some unexpected bills or costs that we didn’t factor into our calculations when we move house. So, being a good little budding-artist, I’ve decided the ipad pro will be a little gift to myself once we’ve settled in.
One thing I very much regret is giving up on my art – well, given up on taking it seriously, anyway. I chose writing, which has been great and I’ve ended up in a job I love (after years of side-moves and dead-ends of course), but becoming an actual author was always my big pipe dream. Frankly, that just doesn’t look likely – it seems to me that if you’re not famous, or if you’re not connected or already deep into self-promotion (and successful at it), then you’re not likely to get plucked from the ether. Even then, publishing looks like a difficult world for an author to survive in. I do worry for the future of publishing – where are all the working class writers, making it big, without any other sellable attributes? Where’s the pure talent? Where’s the diversity? I’m not seeing it – I’m only seeing good old-fashioned mass-marketing. Call me cynical, but maybe that’s all it ever was?

Anyway, my other love was always art in all its forms, and I’m determined to ignite this again. I’ve even considered doing a Masters in illustration, but I’m not sure I’d have the time, even distance-learning. Still, I’m considering it.

Black Goth Lazy Days
Copyright Ashleigh Condon 2020

Getting back to literature: one genre that I’m glad to see still thriving is the medical memoirs sector. Sue Black has written another memoir due out in September called “Written in Bone”,which I was soooo excited to see. If her first book “All that Remains” is anything to go by, this will be a thrilling read and another creepy-yet-oddly-touching glimpse into the life of a forensic anthropologist. Do go and read “All That Remains” by Sue Black – you will leave those pages feeling educated, intrigued, and a little spooked.

I was thrilled to see that These Are the Hands anthology has so far raised over £11,000 for NHS Charities Together! There was talk of some animated films – I’d love to see one of mine made into an animated film. I’ve yet to fill in the consent forms!

Lockdown

One thing I have become aware of during lockdown is that I’m suffering from general anxiety. I contacted my doctor requesting a sleep study, because sleep apnoea runs in my family and I’d been symptomatic – or at least, I’d thought I was, and after asking a few questions of my family members, they suggested I’d best get it looked at. For months and months I’ve been having intrusive thoughts (usually fears surrounding my family and their wellbeing), and I’ve been waking up in the morning with my heart beating rapidly and completely consumed by fear, or a sense of doom. It’s a horrible feeling and it takes me hours to calm down from it completely – some days, it doesn’t seem to go completely. I described this to my doctor and wondered if perhaps I was choking in my sleep, or stopping breathing. However, she said that this did not resemble sleep apnoea, but rather anxiety. I’m not surprised – Up until 2019, I’d had a traumatic few years and I’d weaned myself off medication successfully. It stands to reason that my traumatic experiences left an imprint, and that imprint – as is so often the case – was anxiety.
Working during lockdown has been going okay, although I miss the security of the office and the feeling of leaving my work behind at the end of the day. We’re slowly working towards a full return to the office on a phased basis, trying for one day a week, then two, then three, etc. My problem is public transport, as I’m still not driving – I don’t much fancy sitting on a bus for an hour in a face mask. Actually, that brings me to my next update!

House move

We’ve fallen in love with a gorgeous house right near my workplace. After a slight snag with a buyer pulling out, we managed to find another one – and with the stamp duty being taken away, that’s freed up loads more money for us to decorate, which is fantastic. I feel very sorry for those hoping for a 10% mortgage, though – they are the ones who will not benefit from the halting of the stamp duty, because they can’t get a mortgage lower than a 25% deposit in the first place. This is the very reason our first buyer pulled out. So essentially, first-time-buyers are still being screwed over, despite having between 30-50k to put down as a deposit! That’s a stonking amount of money.

Alas, apparently, this still isn’t enough, and now they’ll have to wait years to be in a position to buy again. It isn’t fair at all. The only reason I’m able to move is because my partner bought his first house young – it gained value, and when he bought a new home, that one gained value too. Buying young is unfortunately always the answer, and yet it’s difficult for most when they’re just starting out. I’ve been putting away £1,000 a month for over a year to save my contribution – I was only able to do this because I live with my family and pay them a modest housekeeping. The rest of my money goes on travel and general living/work costs. If I was renting, I’d only be saving about a quarter of that if I was lucky.

Type O Girl
Copyright Ashleigh Condon 2020

Anyway, that’s my little update. Keep safe, keep well, and keep on keeping-on. It’s all any of us can do right now.

Best wishes,
Ashleigh

Drawing on my Wacom Tablet

A screenshot of Razor attempt #1

Good day to you!

This is just a quick blog to show off what I’ve been getting up to lately, aside from working at home.

My boyfriend bought me a beautiful Wacom tablet for my birthday and I’ve been getting to know it recently. I’ve never spent out on a Wacom tablet before (or any digital art tools, frankly) because I’ve always told myself that I’m simply not good enough to justify the cost, as these things can be pretty expensive. However, what I failed to remember is that you can’t get any better if you never practice! Plus, a good painting package (I have Paintshop Pro but I actually use Corel Painter) allows you to practice any number of styles – actually, mostly anything you can think of. The brushes and styles allow you to make anything from Manga to watercolours to oil paintings – they look stonkingly good.

Anyway, years ago (and I mean years – I think I was about 17 the last time I tried digital art) I used to have a sort of cartoony comic-book style, and clearly that hasn’t gone away. After a few scribbles and test-runs drawing smaller doodles, just getting used to using the tablet and pen, I finally gave a proper character portrait a go.

Above is my first attempt – I was very proud of it, but naturally, once it’s completed, you start seeing all the faults with it. I felt my lines were too stiff and my colouring is pretty pants, and I wished I’d made the character a little “punkier” or true to her original. I love retro games, and one of my favourite games as a child was one by Lucas Arts called Maniac Mansion – my friend Jenny and I used to play it round her house. Those were amazing times; so much fun to be had, just being a kid. I remember making silly recordings on her tape recorder (we were being Jesse and James from Pokémon – her mum was hoping we were recording her a sweet song) and after that we piled up the living room cushions and pretended to be Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. Jenny, if you’re out there, I had great memories with you.

Below is my second attempt – she looks a lot more true to character, with the correct outfit for a start, and a punky haircut in multiple lengths. Her pose is a lot sexier too – Razor is supposed to be the front-woman of a punk band called Razor and the Scummetts (god I love Lucas Arts).

Below is a screenshot of the final second attempt at Razor. I was a lot looser with my drawings and just felt more at ease overall, so I was able to have a lot more fun with her. I think it shows!

I’ll show you more as my skills progress – I’d long forgotten how much I love to draw characters

Until next time!

Best wishes,
Ashleigh x

Screenshot of Razor 2, my second attempt

RazorOriginal
The original Razor from the game – such a tuna head.