Liminal Space & Lucky Sevens

I got caught in liminal space making art about liminal space. There was a space in between who I was before, who I am becoming, and a whole lotta learning in between. I’ll use my own head as a metaphor: I’ve been growing my hair out for years, and yet today it’s still just at my shoulders. I’ve told this story before, but when I was a kid I had wild curly hair, to which my mother would iron out and reset into rollers–every single night–so that my curls would be different than their natural state and look more like Shirley Temple.

It was a nightly ritual that lasted up until the fifth grade (when I finally said enough is enough!) and the rollers were painful to sleep on. It might seem minor, but embedded somewhere in there was a message that my natural state was never good enough. Throughout my teen years and beyond I rebelled by taking control of it myself, dying and straightening, still reinforcing that my naturalness was never good enough. It was only until recently that I saw through this charade in its entirety and have been letting the curls roam free. No more blow dryer, straightening iron, or fretting over my Little Orphan Annie fro at the beach. My hair has never been happier.

King Protea flower (Protea cynaroides) symbolizes change and transformation (source)

In these years of waiting for my hair to get long again, hairdressers would say that I needed to get regular cuts in order for it to grow. I dutifully listened, but in the past few years, my hair has not grown past my shoulders. It’s as though I was growing out bad decisions (just like those tiny unmanageable bangs) and truly finding myself within this process. I stopped listening to other people and listened to what my hair had to say instead. I endured the visual discomfort of growing out horrible bangs and layers that didn’t work, and now my hair is starting to look and feel healthy again. This can be said about life sometimes; when you listen to other people–or even the stories we tell ourselves–we may never step out of the transitional unknown and grow.

Art desk + #beautifulmonstersproject "spaces in-between" #art #illustration #strangefigurations

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So what is this liminal space? “The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold–any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.” (source) It’s a transitional time when old ideas come apart and return anew. It’s not unlike the hero’s journey (think Star Wars!) but for some of us this journey is more quiet, metaphorical, and happening within. It did for me anyway.

Trust is the antidote to the discomfort of not knowing, though the hardest time to have trust is while facing the unknown (when you need it the most). There’s a great book for times that gnaw at our fear of the unknown: Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart. Trust that the answers will come.

I’ve also been watching an enormous amount of David Lynch these past months with the return of Twin Peaks. I fell down the rabbit hole and rewatched the original series, then some of his movies, then interviews… He’s big on transcendental meditation, and while that’s a practice to explore another time, the shared sentiment I came away with is accessing an “ocean of awareness” within.

A moving painting, but with sound. That idea stuck in my head. A moving painting. —David Lynch

There is also something Lynch said in The Art Life that I have been recently discovering in my work. This unexplainable thing that’s happening in the wee hours when I’m experimenting with my personal work, these chaotic animated drawings that I post sometimes. I’ve been referring to this new route as “moving sketches”, though Lynch refers to them as “moving paintings.” I’m pretty smitten that I was close tho.

Happy accidents #gouache #paint

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Liminal Space is a beautiful thing but it’s totally possible to stay too long (hello, skeleton!)

An update on the Beautiful Monsters Project itself: a new monster will be posted every Friday on Instagram through September 8th. The posts will be shorter, and I will stop floating around in space! That makes a total of seven (including this one), so I’m calling these next monsters my Lucky Seven. Here’s a nice glass of PJ Harvey to pair with this week’s theme:

Monster: Kevin Liminal Spacey
Descriptionthe space of ambiguity where you don’t know the answers and often rush through it to make yourself feel comfortable again. Discomfort with the unknown. The spaces in between. No affiliation to real-life actor Kevin Spacey, other than I think his movies are pretty good. 

I Was A Teenage Werewolf

I am not overly nostalgic about my teen years, my niece turning 13 last month reminded me of that. She and I talked briefly about what it’s like at school these days. 7th grade pecking orders, puberty, mean girls, bullying (only this time with death threats because the internet has made all of that so much worse). The timing sounds about right, 13 and beyond were brutal. When I look at myself back then—usually a visit to Dad’s house, looking at graduation photos frozen in time behind the china closet glass—I wonder how any of these pictures can make someone happy, taken at a time when I was so miserable. I feel different in all ways possible now, so it’s hard to know who that person is anymore.

Long before I knew the incredible strength of being weird and following one’s own path, I felt the traumatic pain of being awkwardly different.

When I’ve come across the occasional photo of my 13-year old self, I used to only see a frizzy mound with braces and hair—so much hair—and I remember how hideous I looked and felt back then. Then there was the dysfunctional home life tacked on. That didn’t go unnoticed, as it was the perfect blend to make a kid become the perfect target for teasing. A self-conscious, sweaty, hairy, frizzy, socially-awkward, mess. Even though I may not consciously be thinking of those years, they left a fair amount of invisible scars.

Next #beautifulmonster in progress ⚡️#beautifulmonstersproject

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Those battle scars are how I got here today though, and I gained insurmountable strength and empathy as a result. Since life is the most awesome it’s ever been, it’s bittersweet to think back to that time now. I know if it weren’t for that teenage hell, I wouldn’t be the adult I am today. That’s a hard trade. You really can’t be a badass warrior if you haven’t been to battle and slayed some real life dragons. Aside from all the painful, embarrassing (and downright humiliating) memories of my 13-year old self, I admire her greatly for sticking through it.

Can only be normal for so long

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I think of teenagers as werewolves (girls and their periods, hello moon). All that growing, changing, unwanted hair, mood swings, morphing, shape shifting; the blood, sweat and tears; the darkness and light. This article just popped up on NPR:

It's difficult to have a teenager's mind. The brain develops rapidly during the adolescent years, which partially explains why teens experience anger, sadness and frustration so intensely

Monster ref #streetfinds #beautifulmonstersproject

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Since old feelings were being summoned up as a result, I wrote a quick letter to my inner teenage monster in order to face her pestering presence:

Hey kid, love ya, but can you do me a favor and please comb that indeterminable mass of frizz shaped like a Christmas tree on top of your head? It’s also totally okay to start shaving your legs now, above the knee, but I’m not here to body shame you. Seriously though, things are gonna get good. So good. Life-changing, mind-blowing good. You wouldn’t even believe me if I told you how good life can get, but believe me. Good. It’s just that it’s going to take, like, enormous work and a few coupla decades! You’ll suffer quite a bit, but no big. You got this. Well, you will eventually get this. It will make you stronger. I wish I could go back in time and give you the tools needed to not suffer as hard, but what can you do. It’s a tough trade considering how life will turn out after all that school crap is over. Stop caring what other people think (don’t worry though, you’ll get over that too) they’ll have their own monsters to deal with. Trust yourself. Be okay with being the weirdo that you are, make lots of art. You will eventually have all the answers you need. Other people are pretty stupid, and you will eventually not look like a massive ball of fuzz and teeth. I promise.

Late night note to self

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This week’s monster is dedicated to my teenage self, my niece, and any other weirdo teen having a tough time out there. It was also inspired by Duckie from Pretty in Pink, specifically this scene when he’s moping around about Andie listening to The Smiths.

Monster: Teenage Werewolfster
Description: a moper, doper, and all around gloomster because the world is only as big as the inside of their head. Sometimes they wear all black, sometimes they wear bright colors. It really doesn’t matter what they look like, or if they’re smiling on the outside, or what music they listen to, the insides are all the same; feral and frustrated as their internal wires are being tampered with. Sometimes Wolfster still visits as an adult, your moody gloomy old self moping in the corner. Tends to pop up at a time when your self-esteem is most fragile. They’re annoying and kind of a drag. Be nice to this monster though, they really need it, even though they act like they don’t


BEAUTIFUL MONSTERS is a new project exploring the ups, downs & in-betweens of this emotional life. We’re gonna feel those darn feelings and draw them out, making them into something tangible and less destructive. The title is an amalgamation of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s biography Savage Beauty (after finding a free copy on the curb), Millicent Patrick’s epic Gill-man (omg this photo), and Husky Rescue’s super pretty Beautiful My Monster. This project is about the beautiful, ugly and tragic monsters creeping around inside all of us.


Thoreau peeking #beard #animation #illustration #beautifulmonsters #newproject

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My own time out in making this artwork had me reading Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, which was said to be “part personal declaration of independence, social experiment, voyage of spiritual discovery, satire, and (to some degree) manual for self-reliance.” [1] Though Thoreau was controversial to some, who can argue that taking a little time out for yourself isn’t important; when you take time to examine your thoughts and feelings you can find gems in there.


Life In The Woods #henrydavidthoreau #cabin #interiors #walden #sketch #beautifulmonsters #newproject

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The monster is never just there where we think he is. What is truly monstrous is our cowardice and sloth.

Much like Thoreau, I had to go into the woods, take a step back from all the noise to investigate my own head, and plant seeds for the next steps in my art.

As a milestone birthday approaches, I did something I have never done before: slowed down and invested time solely on art. What emerged is BEAUTIFUL MONSTERS, a playful look into emotion. Putting this project together wasn’t easy for me at first. I spent a lot of time creating stacks of drawings but not finishing them; obsessing too much and trying to talk myself out of it (it’s so easy to go down the road of “what’s the point? if you think about anything long enough).

I was getting too distracted by news and politics (like the rest of us), feeling enormous resistance to share the work or talk about it with anyone else; slowing myself down by cramming too much into one idea. Fear morphed into a slothlike creature and too much time was passing by.

To quote Steven Pressfield from the The War of Art, “the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” It’s time to push this monster out of its own slothy gates of hell and move forward into the unknown:

Slothus Goeth Nowhereicus

Monster: Slothus Goeth Nowhereicus
Description: the slothy resistance that keeps you away from real movement or change, dragging its feet in place forever. Slothus Goeth Nowhereicus would love for you to stay in your pj’s all day, every day, and sink into the couch until you’re molded together as one. Be wary of its Snuggie™–wrapped, cheeto-eating charms. You’re going nowhere, my friend. Get out into the real woods and take an actual walk; the longer you wait for everything to be absolutely perfect, the longer ol’ Slothy sticks around.