Ki11erpancake sketchbookRead More
THE HOUSE OF SELF
My own story of anxiety started at around 10 or 11 years old. My episodes of paralyzing fear invaded at moments of uncertainty but also elation (which is super confusing). Now I know that while my brain is hard wired to fritz out, that I have tools to work through it. The startling thing about my journey to recovery however was realizing how selfish AND self-destructive I could be. All of this was on my mind when I created the House of Self.
This isn’t a demonization of mental illness. In fact it’s the exact opposite. My brain chemistry doesn’t define me but it has shaped me and had an impact on the people I’m closest to—in my past and present. The anxiety itself was so isolating however I didn’t realize this for a long time. This house concerns itself with the ego and our potential. In the tarot, The Fool card is associated with the blank slate or the creative intuition before the spark of creation—the same themes run through this house as well. What if we had more than one beginning? What if every spat of fear or internal turmoil gave us another opportunity to get stronger?
When I look at my drawing I think about the tactics I would use to ground myself in reality when I was feeling insane on the inside. I would stomp my feet on the ground clench, unclench my fists to feel my body.
Also known as wind flower, Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs associates this flower with health, protection, and healing. It suggests: “Gather the blossoms when first seen in the spring, wrap them up in a red cloth and wear or carry to prevent disease. Grow red anemones in the garden to protect both it and the home. Use the blossoms in all healing rituals.”†
THE HOUSE OF CHILD’S PLAY
For an artist, I tend to be hyper organized when it comes to making work. I need my studio cleaned, the mail sorted, and to be dressed for the day before I work each day. I also use A LOT of spreadsheets. Whether it’s a checklist of possible ideas for new drawings, a deadline calendar, or a “tarot tracker”—I use spreadsheets to keep on top of the “themes and schemes”.
What does this have to do with this image? Well when I made my little Tarot Tracker doc (yes, that’s what it is called) I broke each suit down into corresponding colors (red, green, yellow, blue) that matched emotions (rage, jealousy, anxiety, sorrow) and then aligned them to each house of the zodiac via each house’s associated astrological sign. (See, I NEED a spreadsheet to keep track!) The fifth house was about drama, joy, love affairs, and children. It felt a little strange so I kinda ignored the “love affairs” part and focused on those other key words. This was the first drawing that came to me after doing this exercise. It set the tone for the rest of the deck—not just visually but how I would hash out the rest of the images.
THE LION MASK
This is a blatant reference to the astrological sign of Leo but there’s more going on. I chose a mask that hurts because that’s what masks can do. They look good on the outside but hide the fear and pain (or any emotion at all) behind them. A mask that weeps blood from a smiling face seemed like the best illustration of “sticks and stone may break my bone but words will slice right through me”.
I chose this instrument for several significant reasons. The first being its attachment to childhood sport—pretty basic. The second being a bat as a weapon. When I was in the second grade, my friend came to school with a bloodshot eye. “My sister hit me in the skull with a metal bat” she said. I was horrified (it’s horrific) and the image has never left me. Childhood and child’s play has an element of violence.
The warp was a late edition to this. I was worried about how graphic some people might find this and wanted to add a surreal element to break up the tension. It gives a bit of haze to the overall vibe.
I didn’t read anything while making this that’s particularly relevant BUT I can always recommend something I was watching around that time. How about this YouTube video about metaphorical ghosts that Wisecrack did?
The proto-Queen of Cups sketch (from Bridge Witches)Read More
Why I didn’t go to grad school but kept (and continue) learning a lot
I’m sitting in a Starbucks, waiting for my car to be inspected and a staff member walks by, looks down at my iPad and says in a loud whisper, “GORGEOUS, JUST GORGEOUS.”
“Thank you very much.” I say with a polite smile and go back to drawing. I haven’t figured out this chin just yet and am flipping the canvas back and forth to figure out what’s off.
Ten minutes go by when one of the men sitting next to me speaks up, interrupting my audiobook—
“I keep looking over and seeing this beautiful thing. It’s so distracting, I love it.”
“My daughter would be like, ‘Oh my God!’” the other man says.
“Thank you so much.” I reply with a polite smile and get back to it. These fucking flowers need to look effortless but require more thought then I have given.
It’s always nice to get a compliment. It’s also awkward. I don’t mind it. I also am not going to hold up these complimentors from going on with their day.
Since jumping into working only for myself I have been really lucky focus solely on what I’d like to do. I have a very good sense now of what I can handle and what I can’t, what I want to do and what I’d rather pass on to the person better able to tackle it.
As I’ve been out here figuring out how to build a website, do my taxes, understand the difference between marketing and advertising, and everything else required to operate a successful business I have also taken the time to continue my creative education. After accruing about $100k in undergraduate student loans (as the years go by I realize how lucky I am that it wasn’t more), I knew that graduate school was not going to work for me. Generally speaking, an MFA is great if you want to teach. Maybe it’s a boost on your resume but in the age we live in, you can go far without it. Graduate school is a great way to meet people and via those connections _hopefully_ get a good job where you can negotiate a higher salary because of that degree.
In the world I am building however, where I draw things and people purchase them off the internet, a degree is just more debt.
In lieu of grad school I did the following things
Continued to Be Curious
This is very literally the most important aspect of a creative career. We learn how to turn curiosity into a tangible art object. For me, I read A LOT (as previously mentioned) but also draw in a sketchbook and journal. I collect things that inspire me and have experiences that open my world view. I talk to people and ask questions. I entertain theoretical ideas including things that are scary or weird. I look out the window and day dream. I watch films, tv, and documentaries—pausing to write things down or look at certain frames that are compositionally or stylistically interesting. I use maybe 5% of the things I experience but that curiosity is what propels me through life and gets me making things.
Obsessively Study Technique
Depending on what I want to do (digital drawing as opposed to traditional usually—I’m not a 3D person), I study the ever-living shit out of people that draw subjects I’m interested in. In business school I think they call this “studying your competition”. This is not “copying your competition”. Instead this is looking at what works and what doesn’t. How does that artist execute their work? What tools do they use? When I decided to transition to digital drawing from traditional I had no idea what I was doing but I understood what was possible. My best teachers where artists who shared high speed process videos. There was one video in particular on Instagram that I watched maybe a 1,000 times. I realized how to adjust color, how to switch brushes, and use the eyedropper by selecting the alt key. I figured out how to use the lasso and gradient tool. I watched that video and then poked around my own basic set up until I could perform the tasks slowly but consistently.
Then I practiced what I learned 10,000 times. No one wants to hear that. When I tell people that you have to draw the same shitty thing at least 50 times to even begin to understand how you are fucking it up, they spin out at 4 drawings—tops. I’ve watched this happen over and over. There’s nothing wrong with giving up on something you don’t want to do. That’s how you discover you don’t want to do it. The difference between the artist and the layman is the artist kept going until practice makes talent. I tell people I’m too stubborn to give up.
Getting Paid to Experiment
I’ve taken on jobs just to put my skills to work. I’ve also made things and sold them to see if people would ever want it. That process has been eye opening and gave me market research for future projects. I don’t just sell things that I think people want. I create things that both interest me and explore ideas that other people connect with as well. It’s putting curiosity to work for me and teaches that “perfect” sometimes just means “done”.
There is a certain point where I kinda knew what I was doing but needed to be able to raise my hand and ask a clarifying question. Google wasn’t hacking it. This lead me to shell out my own money for two years at AdobeMAX taking a three day workshops in programs I really wanted to use in tandem with three days of lectures and Adobe software showcases. It’s also a nice way to network! I met people from all over the world and realized that I had self-taught myself more than their creative desk jobs had allowed them to explore. I also realized how many different creative desk jobs existed. It was pricy but compared to graduate school… I saved an insane amount of money. The first year in San Diego I didn’t have to purchase a hotel room, instead taking over my youngest brother’s tiny studio apartment. He was in NYC that week anyway so could command use of his car and even drove up to LA to explore. On conference days, I would get up early, get down to the San Diego Convention Center, stay all day running around from workshop to networking lunch to lecture, then crawl home and watch Black Mirror while sketching.
ICON is another fantastic conference. It’s WAY CHEAPER than AdobeMAX and connected me with other illustrators instead of the majority graphic designers and web designers at AdobeMAX (who are great but tend not draw). I wanted to discuss line weight, pen feel, and obsess over what tech was best for digital drawing (It’s the iPad. The iPad they just released in 2018 specifically is fucking insane.)
Why am I yammering on about this? Because I’m really tired of what my mother would call “whining like a cat on the fence”. I hear so often from people “I could never do that” or “That’s SO AMAZING, I suck at drawing”. Getting a compliment that allows the person giving praise to simultaneously degrade themselves is a strange habit in our culture. With Instagram and other platforms it has gotten worse. Somehow we have collectively decided that success means you figured all your shit out and “got good” at 18, becoming an established professional after completing some kind of art school.
This is absurd.
Having been a “recent college graduate” and met many after that, it is clear that there is still so much more to learn after school. It only gets you so far. It’s what you do with it that matters. Being an artist is a live long journey that looks different from one person to the next. I’ve met artists who took off in their teens, 20s, 30, 40s, 50s, 60s, and yes—even their 70s. The thing we all have in common is that we wanted to create and never stopped doing it. “Want” is maybe the wrong word, we “desired beyond a reasonable urge” to make and would do anything to do it and get better at it. Carving out time to draw before dawn, live sketching on the bus, driving across country to learn from an industry leader—we do what it takes.
When I look at art I get this charge of excitement, desire, even longing. I fawn over it and adore the person who made it. When I make something, I don’t get any of those feelings.
The process of creation for me is one of problem solving. When it comes together there is a charge like no other. The world around me is so chaotic and the beginning of a drawing resembles that chaos. It’s all potential and feels so precarious. When it comes together there is a sense of resolution that is beyond words. I chase that high.
the process from sketching to final piece
This poster is a part of a larger project by Ki11erpancake that confronts the darker side of every day life using the zodiac.
The House of Health
Healthy appetite and thriving invasive species
Japanese knotweed is everywhere. Removing it doesn’t do too much since it can resurrect itself from deep within the soil it was planted in and live to strangle other plants once again. untrained onlookers see only a wall of green things. this became a metaphor I use for “whiteness as default” in our culture. the first time i was confronted with this idea i felt like society had tricked me. it was the first time i understood that what was '“normal” for me was not for others and how rude and isolating it can be to operate on that standard. this doesn’t mean I never make a mistake. that’s the tricky part. instead i have to stop and think if my bias is growing from within to strangle the lived experience of others.
We all struggle with empathy. Looking at our weaknesses, acknowledging them and letting them go is a healthier way of coping than getting defensive or denying our bias. regardless of who we are we have them.
According to Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, knotweed has binding and health powers. It’s used to absorb and well… bind bad vibes. Cunningham suggests holding knotweed, focusing your negative energy into it and then burning it.
All these sketches wound up in Bridge Witches. Except for Abby there in the bottom left. She’s from a podcast.Read More
This poster is a part of ZODIAK CATTIVO a series by Ki11erpancake that takes a darker look at the zodiac.
The House of Partnerships
The Latin motto UXOR for this house translates to “spouse”. That being said, the topic of relationships is not relegated only to romantic ones. Whoever is closest to you (business partner or friend) that can fall within striking distance of your anger and resentment is a relevant relationship when discussing this house. The 7th house of the zodiac, HoP is associated with Libra— an air sign. Prizing knowledge before most things, air signs see this as the ultimate virtue and therefore are ruled by the mind. Anxiety then, is the metaphorical poltergeist of the brain. When haunted by anxiety, knowledge becomes a burden made heavier by suspicion, resentments and analysis paralysis.
A grudge, resentment, or emotional burden. If you have ever fantasized about ripping your ex a new one, that’s the emotional equivalent of carrying around a severed head.
Think of the language of flowers as the emojis of the Victorian era. People used flowers to convey deeper messages to those they knew and loved. Lavender signifies devotion and caution while lily of the valley symbolizes the restoration of innocence after death. According to Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, lavender is associated with air signs—possessing love, power, and purification powers and is therefore used in spells for these purposes. Lily of the Valley (also an air sign plant) is said to improve the memory and mind. Ya know, the better to hold on to grudges!