Happy Things-August

Hello everyone!

Here are some things that made me truly happy in the month of August (in no particular order) 

1-Gouache: I've been looking a people’s work they've made in gouache a lot for the last few months and finally decided to jump in and get some. What a crazy medium-it's like watercolor crossed with acrylics. I'm still pretty bad at them, but it's a lot of fun. 

2- 11/22/63 by Stephen King: I'm only in the first quarter of the book, but already I'm totally in love with the idea, the setting, everything. This is the little diner in the book "Al's Fatburger" equipped with a time-traveling pantry. Awesome. 

3-Our 3rd Floor: There's this amazing space in our new house with windows facing the Channel and a little daybed with a window beside it. When it storms I make a point to go up there and read or draw. 

4-Engagement! After dating the woman of my dreams for a little over 5 years everything finally came together where I could propose. It's an amazing feeling. She's the greatest! 

5-The Martian by Andy Weir: Ok, so I read a lot this month. Actually this was an audiobook, but whatever. There's a dude stuck on Mars who has to survive the most hostile environment any human has encountered for a very long time. Yeah, it's basically incredible and you should read it. 

6-Bread: I have tried baking bread a total of 4 times in the last month and every time it's gotten slightly better. This is one of my hilariously deformed loaves I made one day. 

7-Cold-Brewed Coffee: I drink a lot of coffee. Probably too much. The only rub is it's been in the upper 90's and over 100% humidity here on the island most of the summer. Cold-brewed coffee is incredibly delicious especially when we get the beans roasted locally from Eastern Shore Roasting Company.

8-Macrodontia cervicornis or Long Tooth Beetle: I bought a male specimen of this beetle at an art walk in Salisbury and it hangs on my studio wall for me to see every day and think "that thing is awesome" 


All this comes from Ennis and I keeping a 'happy things' journal on and off for the last couple of years. The idea is to write down some things every day that made you happy. It helps you see the good in every day and keep your spirits up on the bad ones. Also Fran Meneses over here has been doing the same thing but illustrating it and I borrowed that format because I thought it was totally brilliant! 

Gooey Sentinel Updated

Here's the final version of my 'Gooey Sentinel' (I'm terrible at names) that I made available for printing over at Society 6 and on my site. 

Here are some mock-ups for what it looks like printed in a few different ways. 

Here's the final progression .gif I made for the various stages of this project. I'd say it was successful for me technique-wise, but the reception from everywhere online has been lukewarm to say the least. I've been posting the stuff I'm making everywhere that I'm a part of and just can't seem to connect with any more than a couple people at a time.

I don't even know if anyone is even reading this right now. It doesn't matter either way. I'm just going to keep doing it - for myself more than anyone. I know if I keep making stuff and putting it up to share, and talking to other artists something will happen eventually- it's the time in between that's always the hardest with things. 

I just quit my job

I just turned in my resignation letter to my boss giving them notice that in 4 weeks I'll be gone. I've been here a year and a half and it's just time to move on. My wonderful girlfriend just got her dream job on Chincoteague Island, Virginia and if that's where she is, then that's where I want to be. Things always work out in the end, or at least they have lately. Things have been so insanely uncertain lately that I'm barely sleeping, can't focus on making things, and just shuffle around doing nothing when I'm home.All kinds of questions I couldn't possibly answer racing through my mind all night long- things I have absolutely no control over. 

This move couldn't come at a better time- proven even more when I told them I was quitting they were relieved to finally tell me my position wasn't being renewed. The permanent position (meaning tuition remission, benefits, days off, salary etc) I'd been waiting for, working my butt off for just disappeared. Had I not been quitting who knows when they would have told me? I would've had to be a contractor for another year before it was even available, and this was after I was 'guaranteed' I would be going permanent. It's not the fault of my managers, or any one person in particular, really. It just goes to show how much worrying changes things - exactly none. 

So with the burden of that removed, I'll be finishing the last 4 weeks of work here and preparing to move on to the next thing. That next thing is working part-time on the island (bike distance!) and doing everything I can to make myself an independent artist. I'll be drawing, painting, writing, designing, and posting right here to my hearts content - doing honest work to make ends meet until I can support myself with what I make. Is is a sure bet- absolutely not, but neither is waking up everyday. 

I'm finding myself to be very lucky to be in this position, and to have one way or another, made the right call. I can't wait to see what's ahead, even with no way of knowing what that might be. Like Tom Petty said: "under my feet baby, grass is growing, it's time to move on, time to get going"

In the coming months I want to do more.  I want to share more of my process. I want to connect with other artists and learn about their processes. I want to be out in nature more. I want to bike to work. 

You might think this is all really stupid, and it very well may be. It may blow up in my face. But I can't allow myself to be afraid to fail. The door has opened, and I'm going through it. 



Here are some sketches from what I've been working on lately. I haven't had much time or focus for finished work, but I've had this concept of this young priestess in my head for some time that I wanted out. She's an adventurer, explorer, and does nature magic. It's a silly idea, but might turn into something eventually. 

I asked for a critique on the Internet and it broke me

I haven't properly posted here in a month. If you ask any type of person whose job it is to do things on the internet, this is not good. You're supposed to post something once a week at minimum. But what if I don't have anything good? What if I'm just trying things out and none of it really sticks? What if I'm having a little bit of a crisis (relatively speaking, in levels of crises). 


I did something stupid. I did something really stupid. I went to Reddit.com, mainly known for 2 important things -anonymity and cat gifs- and asked for criticism.

There is a nice part of the site with sub-reddits about Android phones, Graphic Design, Illustration and Art Critique. The last one is where I went seeking a very misguided sort of criticism that sent me into an creative tailspin. I honestly really like creative communities on the site, and have gotten a ton of good feedback and camaraderie there. A month ago though, I went on and posted a link to my website and asked for "absolute and honest critique of everything I'm doing right now". Stupid. Stupid barely contains how idiotic of a thing this is to do. Without formal critiques, without professors and classmates to shoot down bad ideas, and without my artist friends, I felt absolutely alone. I knew I needed critique, and didn't care where it came from. I have pretty thick skin, generally, I mean I work in public service and deal with terrible people all the time. Vonnegut once said on writing: 

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

The same applies to art, and boy have I been sick. I wanted to please everyone, and have praise heaped upon me with the guise of seeking 'honest critique'. I deserved it, I admit, but I learned some valuable lessons about my process and myself. 

When you read things like "First things first: you are probably not a designer." Your heart sinks a little bit. Ok, a lot. I went to school for that, I worked really hard at that. There are other things and a lot of them true, but I won't post them here. It wasn't just one thing though, that sent my anxiety into warp-speed, but it was the little foxes, a death by a thousand cuts that wore on me. My confidence was entirely sapped away and every time I sat down to make- I had those words racing through my head. 

The one that jumped at me the most though, and helpful to boot, was a critique of the amount of content I was putting up on the web. My approach since late last year was to blast as much as possible into my little ecosystem and try to get better. That's it. Make lots of stuff, put it on the internet, and get better at those things. The problem is that some of it is more appropriate in some places more than others. My Juxtamotion Facebook was only pointing to these blog posts, and my site is full of half finished sketches and ideas, but very light on finished products. For me a lot of it was making up for ground I felt I'd lost over the last couple of years of not really doing what I wanted, so I over-compensated. Every drawing went online, every idea was better than no idea in my mind. I think this was a mis-step, but one I want to learn from. 

So, in that, I want to illustrate (heh) how I'm going to go about posting my stuff for the time-being and draw out a bit of a road-map of where you can find my stuff. 

Sketches, Ideas, Works in Progress, personal stuff: Juxtamotion Facebook, @mattsmith_makes on Instagram and Twitter

This stuff is off the cuff, not always finished, and not always relating to artistic endeavors. Here you may find the following: photos of beerz, photos of cats, photos of sketches, ideas etc. Less formal-more fun. I like posting here a lot. 

Finished Works, more serious ideas, written things: Here obviously, on my blog. My behance profile and dribbble.com (maybe) 

Middling Ideas: the aptly titled "junkdrawer" here on the site. These ideas are in a sort of purgatory, with not enough to flesh out a finished piece, but more than just a sketch. This is good for showing process, I think, also that I'm working working working. I will be pruning it extremely harshly in the coming week and may turn it into a tumblr style blog thing with just pictures. We'll see. 

A little bit of housekeeping here: I redesigned my site, let me know if it sucks! I bought a big ole graphics tablet and have been making more digital work. Here's some of that:


Thanks for listening to me whine and stuff! Things are looking up!