DrawingGeekeryGeneral Art

Show Off Your Ugly Things

As I’m sure you’ve already heard from Anne, a handful of us MAL bloggers just got back from SkepchickCON at CONvergence. I, for one, had an amazing time listening to smart people talk on panels, pretending I was smart when talking on my own panels, seeing hundreds of amazing sci-fi costumes, mislabeling and offending the wearers of said costumes with my nonexistent nerd savvy, and drinking. I can also tell you that my fellow bloggers are the coolest. Definitely the types you want by your side when fording rivers of cosplayers, let me tell you.

Above all, though, I was left with an overwhelming sense of artistic inspiration. This came from a lot of things. Part of it was the degree of skill and creativity at work throughout the convention. This was my first con, so I was new to the atmosphere, and I was completely unaware how much artistry I’d be encountering. The attendees were just as much impassioned by their favorite sci-fi and video game characters as they were by the creative process — many people clearly put hundreds of hours and even more dollars into crafting a costume that matched the screen or the page as much as possible. Meanwhile, there was an art auction room brimming with photorealistic fan art and dragons hand-forged from bronze and Ood hats crafted with intricate needlework.

I sat on a panel entitled “I Am Geek, Therefore I Draw,” which as a last-minute surprise included Marian Call as one of the panelists, along with Surly Amy, Ryan, Emily, and an author and illustrator by the name of Damian Sheridan. We each spoke a little bit about our art, how to incorporate geek culture into art and vice versa, and other various topics. An overarching theme was that many artists are extremely self-effacing, which not only makes it hard to get out in the world and label yourself as an artist, but also to self-promote and make money once you have.

Ryan had a point that stuck in many of our minds, seeing that his coined words were reused throughout the panel: An artist begins just making his or her own “ugly things.” One day, someone else sees the ugly things and says, “Hey, I make ugly things too!” Then the two artists look at each other’s ugly things, maybe swap tips, maybe take some ideas back to their own personal ugly things. A third person might show the others his or her ugly things, and make them realize that their own ugly things aren’t so ugly after all. Eventually, this whole rigamarole leads you to gain the confidence and motivation you need to get out and show off your art.

This led to a whole conversation about how, whatever your particular flavor of creation, you just need to show it to people–put that picture online, upload that video to YouTube, bring your friends out to that open mic night. If it’s online, it might go viral. Who knows? It also might not, but that doesn’t mean you’re not valid as an artist. And, much in the same way teaching someone something helps you learn it better yourself, I started realizing that I wasn’t doing enough of that. I find that I pigeonhole myself in the arts I have training in — jazz, funk, and classical music played with woodwinds. Other people have gone to art school, majored in voice, formally learned guitar. I’ve left that for them to do, not for me to do, even though I enjoy the crap out of those things. I’m avoiding happiness and selling myself short.

So, as a token of good faith that there are people out there who are just as scared as me to show off their ugly things, here’s a drawing I drew a while ago. That’s right, a drawing. I draw, and I love it. I know for a fact that there are other MAL contributors who have undisclosed creative skills, too.

What about you? Want to show us your ugly things? We won’t judge.

Self portrait by Smashley. You heard me.

Ashley Hamer

Ashley Hamer (aka Smashley) is a saxophonist and writer living in Chicago, where she performs regularly with the funk band FuzZz and jazz ensemble Big Band Boom. She also does standup comedy, sort of, sometimes. Her tenor saxophone's name is Ladybird.

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  1. That IS ugly.

    Oh, wait . . . 😛

    You are seriously multitalented! This is fantastic.

  2. Wonderful drawing! I recently started sharing my art. It has been rewarding. I have found a connection with those that enjoy the things that I do. Because I have decided to share my art it has improved for a variety of reasons. I have recently found out there are all kinds of undercover poets and artists out there, never sharing their art. How sad and do we ever really get to know these people? May the world express itself so we can all realize its wounderousness and many shades.

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