[Media Meandry] Imbue Positive Thoughts

Partway through folding 1,000 paper cranes, I mentioned to a friend of mine that I was working on this project. Eventually, I folded 2,000 paper cranes, wishing for better physical and mental health. I think I achieved both. My friend had mentioned something that stuck with me for years; paraphrased, he said: If I’m not thinking about [better health] while folding the paper crane, am I really working toward achieving that goal? Imbue things with positive thoughts.

I drew this for a contest in ENDLESS WAR.

The contest was announced at the end of the livestream I mentioned in “Sense Of Community,” so I was riding off the elation I felt in being part of a community, being a honorable mention, and honestly, having my spinal condition diagnosed with short-term and long-term options ironed out. It was like all the suffering I had gone through in life had relieved itself all during that one livestream, where I had found these newfound acquaintances – that, through years, or even if we meet up, could become friends – that I felt good being around. It was nice.

I chose to represent my new Staydead team in ENDLESS WAR.

I suppose I’ll bring up some of the gameplay elements now.

The game is curiously imbalanced in that it seems that each month, roughly, one team will dominate the board. I was part of the Killers faction and up until early July, we’d enjoyed moderate to major success. I’m writing this in mid-July and the Rowdys have secured the board to the point where it was no longer fun for me to play as a Killer, so I decided to become a Staydead. This is a mostly-neutral playstyle where you are mostly a spectator, although there are some things you can do to influence the game positively – imbuing a consenting player’s weapon with more power in exchange for less slime – and negatively – stealing slime from players.

I always target the slime of Rowdys.

My scope was four drawings.

One for each of the leaderboard winners, starting with our main Staydead representative here. He’s been a valuable help to the game from a coding perspective, yet because the culture has been mainly Killers versus Rowdys, playing as a Staydead or Juvie has until recently been seen as a temporary or disinteresting playstyle. I’m still relatively new to the game, and honestly, there’s enough lore to dig into but those who have it aren’t around, so who’s to say whether it’s worth digging into it or whether it’s worth building new lore?

The contest was strictly for contemporary entries.

My slimecoin baron days would not be eligible for the contest.

So I asked teo what his avatar looked like. We dug through pictures of Saint Gratian until we found enough reference pictures I could use and I had imagined a question I had asked him from before when he had achieved a noteworthy goal of achieving negative ten million slime, or ten million negaslime. From this line of conversation and from him being a professional programmer, I had imagined adapting the real Saint Gratian into ENDLESS WAR as being a sort of sit/stand workstation for him.

The initial sketch was the easiest for me.

The skull is something I wish I had screenshotted in-progress shots.

The most I can say of my process in general that I keep to the Windows 7 Paint twenty-color palette, find the two colors that match the colors of my reference pictures the closest, and mix them together. This picture is not something I think people will reproduce elsewhere. It’s of an obscure enough topic that if anyone reproduces it, everyone else will be like, “what the hell is that all about?” So I provide them assuming the best of others, and assuming, therefore, that you might want to zoom in to see what I’ve done through each step of the process.

I just include them between each section of text as a visual break-up, I suppose.

Early on, I remembered back to that thought my friend said.

Drawing all of these details took many more hours than I could estimate here. My first estimate was ten hours, then I backed down to five hours, which felt way too underestimated, so I would encourage you to save these pictures, look them over, and consider for yourself their details. I wouldn’t say that entire time I spent enraptured in the contributions this individual made to ENDLESS WAR or anything, more that when I worked on his character, specifically, I thought about how nice it was that he – and the other people involved with the community – freely contributed programming and culture.

I wanted to be like that to, which was where my thinking led me.

I listened to some podcasts, shorter audio things, and experimental albums.

So the time wasn’t exactly focused on the drawing, and through this drawing, I figured out ways to readjust my spine so I might be able to recover my health, which feels fantastic. Maybe with some improved posture, I won’t need surgery? I would say that drawing like this was a low-pressure, low-impact activity for me, even if I burned out the batteries in my wireless mouse. I’ve had this mouse for almost two years now, and I’ve only had to replace the AA batteries one other time, so I used up my second-to-last pair of batteries here.

Fortunately, I suppose, I won’t be playing Wii Fit Plus for a while…

This is one project where I bit off more than I could chew.

However, I am happy that I saw it through to a satisfying conclusion. I didn’t want to half-ass anything, even if initially I had wanted to draw in some skulls where there are bricks now, but there is just not always possible a level of detail that one might want everywhere, so one focuses on the important details. I had been thinking, too, about how art and writing inform each other. The sketch was the quickest for me and the coloring took the longest amount of time. Nothing here was particularly difficult, other than perhaps figuring out how to represent the leaderboard, which I had initially wanted to do as an in-universe television before just going with a screenshot.

Other than that, the sketch is like the outline of an essay or a novel.

Going into the drawing, I didn’t know about the background or the carpet.

All I knew was where my guy was going to be, where teo’s guy was going to be, and how he was going to stand. That might be similar to how I wrote Novel 01, where I had my rough ideas, then threw myself into the rest. It might have been nice, for example, to lay the bricks flatter, to do this or to do that, but that’s when it’s important to know the balance between good enough and perfection. What I did here was I’d work on the drawing, save every ten minutes or so, pause whatever I was listening to, and take a step back to look at everything I was doing.

Let me walk you through an artistic exercise.

Take a song like “Gut” by Jesse Kanda, play it, and full-screen your drawing.

Meander through each section of the picture. Do you notice any large or small flaws? Write them down or commit them to memory. I would notice about four flaws in about one minute. This isn’t me hating myself, but rather looking at something and thinking, “hmm… that could use a little improvement,” and so then I’d return to the picture and I’d improve that area. As examples, after I completed the mortar around the bricks, I realized that the bricks needed a bit of scribbling, too, so I cleaned them up. I meandered through each brick and found one that looked different than the rest. I cleaned it up.

I kept this up until I was reasonably satisfied.

Admittedly, this was not a process I enjoyed enough to switch hobbies.

I don’t think I’ll switch to doing digital paintings like this in the future, even if I completely win the contest with this picture alone, let alone the rest of my entries. We’ll see how my attitude changes over the next few months. Through making drawings like this for ENDLESS WAR, however, I have reinvigorated my interest in drawing, so when I write Novel 02, I will probably do all of the drawings myself, since it’s easier than trying to find someone to send the drawings to, communicate the ideas, and et cetera.

However, like having a dedicated editor, it would be nice to have a dedicated artist.

Similarly, I showed this picture along to people, but just received positive feedback.

No one provided the critical feedback that I was providing to myself where I might notice that the shirt was too wide, the armor was too long, or the purple in the carpet was too distracting. These were things I had to point out for myself, and that was where I had to take that time to meditate on as I wandered my eyes along the picture as I listened to that song. It doesn’t have to be that song, but I used that as an example because it’s not terribly distracting, and I suppose when you’re zoomed in at 800% for long enough at a particular section, when you’re at 100% looking at it, relaxed, away from your mouse, so you can’t immediately make any changes, you think about what you might change to this or that, so that when you return, it’s easier.

It was a rewarding exercise in completing a moderately-challenging task.

I would say, however, I enjoy writing more than drawing.

I think it’s easier to look at pictures than it is to draw them, just as it might be to write more than it is to read, because to read means to dedicate the time to reading and then to comprehending what you’re reading. For the ENDLESS WAR Bookclub, for example, we’re reading through some Lovecraft short stories. I read part of Dagon before I suppose my interest in completing this picture took over my imagination. I will go back through and finish reading it since it is short enough, but for me, I suppose I like writing most because I can meander through my thoughts randomly, whereas in a picture like this, I have rigid creativity within the walls of brick, within the patterns of carpet, and within other textures.

Even if I take a look at it and looks really good, even when it’s not done yet.

These last few pictures are the ones we as creative people all know well.

There are insignificant changes, compared to the first few pictures, but they’re there. They are for the trained eye. The artist that has passed ten hours of work on a picture and knows that if they leave this section undone… no one except for them will notice, but whenever they see it, they’ll see it. That will be the only thing they can see. So my quest over the last, let’s say two hours, of working on this picture was to iron out all of those little eccentricities I might later regret. It’s a challenging process, and one that might take multiple days to complete, but once you’re done, it’s such a feeling of accomplishment.

I would compare these final drafts to editing essays or fiction.

You may look at the picture above and below and see no difference.

The biggest difference I can see is teo’s shirt. This could easily be explained away, there’s no reason not to redo it if you can. For something like this, it’s a good catch. The problem with editing is that sometimes we go too far. The chair in the background isn’t that great and the effort I put into fixing its legs didn’t yield any substantial differences so I ended up leaving it. Its legs aren’t well-drawn, but the point is conveyed. Similarly, how perfectly does one need to edit an essay or a piece of fiction? How taut does the language need to be before it effectively conveys its message without an ounce of clutter… or humanity? I would almost say that in the little sloppy bits here and there on this picture, you see bits of my personality, and how, for example, I’m fine with leaving bits well enough alone, but other parts I’m not.

If it’s good enough, why does it need to be perfect?

There are problems with the picture, such as the bricks not being aligned with the television, teo’s workstation area being lopsided, and some other bits I’ll leave for you to critique, but what’s there is good enough. Within twenty main colors, [including the screenshot,] I conveyed something with a dynamic range of colors. I enjoy how it looks despite its flaws because what it represents to me is the execution of an idea that I wanted to realize for a contest that I may or may not win.

Winning the contest isn’t important to me.

teo enjoyed the picture, as I hope you do, as well.

Quotes: None.
Sources: My personal experiences.
Inspirations: I had all these in-betweens, so I figured, why not write about the process?
Related: Other Media Meandry essays.
Picture: I started drawing July 13 and finished drawing July 18.
Written On: 2020 July 18 [6:18pm to “It was a rewarding exercise in completing a moderately-challenging task” at 7:07pm] [7:23pm to 7:39pm]
Last Edited: 2020 July 18 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]


My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.