Slowing Down, Artists with ADHD, and Best Case Scenarios
Rachel Bradley's Newsletter #2
I have another week of awesome content lined up for you.
If you are a free subscriber, this is the last full newsletter you’ll get. After this, I’ll switch to mailing out just the free newsletter, and only those with a paid subscription will receive the full content. I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far and will consider signing up for the full experience, but if not, you’ll still get the basics!
If you’d like to subscribe, you can use either Substack or Patreon (but if you’re using Patreon, I advise you to set a calendar reminder to subscribe on 1st May, as the subscription is charged at the beginning of every month and I don’t want you to get charged twice!)
No new art this week, but be sure to check out the “Personal Updates” section for a little insight into what I’m working on!
These weekly reflections encourage self-reflection and help you discover impactful things about yourself, your art and your career.
Worst case scenarios often come very easily to us. Our brains are wired up such that we are constantly scanning and preparing for threats, and we can construct really inventive disasters without much effort. Positive scenarios, though, take more effort because we have to fight our survivalist nature. It’s as though the two exist on a slope- negative is downhill and easy, and positive is uphill and requires energy.
The good news is that, with practice, that uphill gets easier (yay for neuroplasticity!).
So, for this week’s reflection, spend a minimum of 20 minutes writing (or 5 minutes speaking if you have someone to share this with) about what the best case scenario of your current situation is.
Genuine positive emotions are often slower than negative ones, so the time requirement is to ensure that they have time to take root.
Here are some prompts if you don’t know where to start, but I also encourage you to explore freestyle:
How far in the future are you?
Who are you with?
What can you see?
How do you feel?
What steps led you to this point?
What are you grateful for in this scenario?
What did you achieve that you are proud of?
Each week, I share work from other people here. Be sure to check out their pages and show them some love! To find out how to get featured, click here.
This week I want to share this fantastic landscape/nature bundle with you! Kate Miterko is an artist who loves to travel, and this pack highlights a diverse range of environments and subjects. If you would prefer to buy the packs individually, follow the link above and head to her profile!
Kate is a wonderful person who is currently struggling with crazy medical bills for her cat. If you’re looking to support independent creators AND get gorgeous reference out of it, your financial support would mean the world to her and make a real difference.
Jörn Meyer (below):
Stefan Kostic (below):
Renee L Lavoie (below):
Everything below this point is a part of the premium access newsletter. This is the last full email you’ll get for free! Next week, this section will only be available to premium subscribers. Click the button below to make sure you don’t miss out!
Food for Thought
This section is for tidbits I think you might find interesting! Feel free to use as inspiration in your own work.
If you have a suggestion for me to share here, get in touch!
As part of my own worldbuilding project, I was pondering the design of my characters who live in a fantasy world on warm, tropical, sunny islands, and it had me thinking about hair colour (stick with me).
When it comes to character design, we like to be as varied as possible, but how do we balance that with the realistic confines of our world? How much sense would it make for characters native to a climate like that have blonde hair? Aside from the obvious answer of migrating ancestors, this question got me curious about the history of hair dye, and I went down a rabbit hole that might bring up some interesting worldbuilding potential for you!
The earliest records of hair-dying date back to Ancient Egypt where dark hair was heralded as beautiful, and Henna was used both to darken hair and to cover grey hair. The Ancient Romans continued this trend and took it further by developing jet black pigment from a mixture of leeches (yes, leeches) and vinegar, fermented for 2 months, the resulting paste then applied to the head and left to sit in the sun to develop. I’ll never again complain about the smell of modern dyes…
Anyone accustomed to colouring their hair will likely know that darkening hair (which is a process of depositing colour) is generally much easier than lightening it (which requires the hair’s natural pigments be stripped from the follicle). Modern methods of lightening hair are damaging, but they are much less so than historical methods. The Greeks used a mixture of wood ash and vinegar (or wood ash and soap liquor), which apparently smelled really bad and caused scalp burns and, if left on the hair for too long, would cause the hair to become brittle and break at the touch.
Regardless, many still sought after blonde hair. In fact, in Ancient Rome, prostitutes were required to have blonde hair to mark their trade. Many wore wigs, but others would lighten their hair using a mixture of ash and burnt nuts or plants. With time, blonde hair grew in popularity and rich Roman women would use real gold powder to signal their beauty and wealth, and a lighter grey-blonde could be achieved with solutions of ash, nuts, cooked shells and earthworms.
All this barely scratches the surface, but I hope it inspires you not only to explore the potential hair colours your characters could have, but also the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’!
This week, I’m sharing some photos from our recent trip to Tulum, Mexico. We had a little roof terrace where we often spent the mornings slowly waking up, and the evenings gently winding down, and from there we were snapped countless photos of clouds being dramatic. The values are often completely bizarre.
To stop this email getting too large, I put the rest of the images on a page on my website. Click here to see the whole collection!
Thought for the Week
Although I don’t talk about it much, I have ADHD, like many artists I know. Art is such an enigmatic, open-ended, ever-shifting pursuit that can be an absolute nightmare for those of us with ADHD. I feel as though I am forever adding to my to-do list and rarely ticking things off, and then I end up with to-do list burnout, because my list is so overwhelming that I end up ignoring it all together.
One system that has been an absolute game changer was to treat my to-do list more like a tree.
Instead of having a long list of everything I have to do, I have a short list of 5 points in the day (waking up, sitting down to work, lunch time, mid-afternoon and evening). At each of those points, I have triggers to check my lists/create new tasks, and I have tasks to complete.
So, for instance, when I wake up every day, I have to check Asana (the app I use to manage my to-do list). That’s ALL I have to do. No complex tasks and routines to remember, just that one thing. But when I check Asana, I see the tasks I have to do before I go downstairs.
When I go downstairs, I have another Asana check-in. This time, I have to transfer over any notes I made the day before and turn them into tasks. I have to plan my day, clean up my inbox and create any new tasks that arise from those things.
When I launch Asana, I get to tick a box, and that’s motivation enough to do it. By minimising my many daily tasks into branches that get triggered at natural points in the day, I don’t have to deal with fatigue or overwhelm.
This week brought a little less excitement/distraction than the last! In the aftermath of my citizenship interview and successfully kicking off this newsletter, time opened up and I’ve been tackling slower work.
After visiting art galleries in DC, I remembered that I’m deeply drawn to large, slow, highly-rendered, densely-detailed paintings and that I’ve been pursuing the opposite of that in my own work. Fearing that my slowness is a weakness, I’ve done countless timed studies this year, aiming for efficiency and accuracy and minimisation.
I have a theory that we tend to overvalue that which we struggle with and undervalue that which comes easily, and I wonder if this has been at play in my artwork. Perhaps I should be making the most of my patience and my love of details, instead of rushing and punishing myself for not being faster.
I’ve been making use of timers in my studies this year (Toggl, for those who are interested), giving myself limits to how long I can spend on things. Now, I’m trying the opposite. I am timing a painting, and I’m not allowed to call it finished until the 40 hour mark (but if it takes longer, that’s ok). I’m about 30 hours in and already I can feel my art gremlins telling me that it should be much further along than it currently is, that other artists can do better paintings in half the time. But I haven’t yet hit that 40 hour mark, so I tell my gremlins to be quiet and I get back to work.
The good news is, despite those occasional gremlins, I’m REALLY enjoying myself. I think it’s going to be a really good painting. And even though I’m starting to stress about how many hours it’s taking me, I realised that it’s only been a week, and it’s been months since I produced a full painting, so am I even slowing down? Although the process is slower, I’m enjoying it so much more, and therefore I’m working harder. It’s funny how, sometimes, a step forward can look a whole lot like a step backwards.
Anyway, here’s a tiny teaser of the painting (very much still a WIP). I think it says everything that needs to be said…
Thank you for being a premium subscriber! Below you’ll find the exclusive discount code for 20% off my Gumroad store along with this week’s reference image (click for full resolution) and accompanying study notes.
The code of the week is: “vendetta”
Reference Image of the Week
Full Pack: Pool
Release Date: September 2021
Image Number: 361
The thing that stands out to me most about this image is the lighting and the subsurface scattering. Aside from the complex shadow shapes cast by the palm fronds, there are multiple light sources, so lets break these down:
Sunlight, top right, slightly warm and high intensity, creating cast shadows and producing subsurface scattering on the skin.
Bounce light from pool, lower left, low intensity, producing subtle turquoise tones on the left hand side of the body and face.
Sky, top, casting low intensity, cool, ambient light on upward facing planes (top of shoulder, forehead, cheeks etc)
Warm bounce light from floor and skin, producing subtle warm glow in downward/inward facing planes (jaw/chin, neck, armpit, chest).
There are many ways you could approach something like this, so experiment and see what works best for you. I would personally tackle them one at a time, starting with the highest intensity light source (sunlight) first and then gradually tinting the subtler sources. But, as I have learned many times over, just because you see another artist do something, doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to work for you and it shouldn’t replace your natural workflow!
If you made it this far- thank you for giving me a reason to make this newsletter! I love the accountability to create the kind of content I want to see more of in our community.