I’m proud and excited and nervous to share with you my first recorded single, The Net Tightens. It’s a song about remembering friends and loved ones that have passed away. I wrote recently about the passing of my friend Riley, who was a friend within the Amanda Palmer community. There is an unofficial group that started out as an Amanda Palmer fangroup on Facebook that has grown into a 4,000 strong family of creatives and wonderful people. “The Net Tightens” references many of Amanda Palmer’s songs, and the title is a reference to a quote in her book, where whenever tragedy strikes in the community, people get closer together, and we catch each other, like a net tightening in solidarity.
This song was written after we lost a member of our family, Riley Fuxley. Riley was an incredible person, full of love, who released their own music under the name Android Girlfriend. They took their own life on the 29th June 2019 and our community fell into grief once again.
Because of the nature of this song, all proceeds from download sales will be donated to The Trevor Project -a project dedicated to supporting LGBTQIA+ youth, a project Riley supported.
Enormous thanks to Bill Bates (my dad!) for the help in recording this, as well as providing the electric guitar. Couldn’t have done it without you!
More information about The Trevor Project can be found on their website:
We hold three fingers up and smile
We’ve never met but we’ve all fallen in love
Our family’s bleeding
We’re wounded, crying
And the net
We are the ampersands, united
We are the media, inspired
We’ve lost another
Our sins are shattered
And the net
But the noose, it keeps closing in
And the drugs don’t help forever
Though the net is tight they still fall through the cracks
And we all fall down
We raise our salute
We start to sing
And the net
And the net
6 years ago today, I was feeling extremely low, was in a relationship with an abusive man. It’s my birthday tomorrow and I felt so completely lost, alone, and broken, I didn’t want to go another year living in the toxic situation I was in, but felt extremely trapped in the relationship. It felt like only one option was left to me. I made a plan in my mind that I would go to a gig on my own, to get away from him, and instead of getting the train back I would just… disappear.
I’d not heard much from Amanda Palmer at the time, I knew of her and had seen her TED talk and really liked what she had to say, but seeing her live and feeling the amount of love in the room full of strangers, it changed something in me. I heard the song “Bigger on the Inside” for the first time. The last few lines of the song felt like they were speaking directly to me that night, like Amanda knew what my plans were and was speaking RIGHT to me.
“Trying is the point of life
So don’t stop trying
I didn’t end my life that night, and I did go home to that abusive man but over the course of the next few months the spell that had been put on me by my abuser had lifted, I realised what was happening to me was very wrong and should not be happening. I started reaching out to friends of mine who I’d lost contact with because of his insistance, and started looking into how to identify abuse, how to leave abusers. I left him in November that year and never looked back.
I was with him for 6 years.
This November will be 6 years since I left. Something about that feels symbolic.
I won’t lie and say things are all better now, my mental health is still wobbly, this time of year is hard for many different reasons. Not only it being the anniversary of that, but I miss my brother on my birthday and it signals another year where he’s not here. There are always ups and downs. Life is a constant rollercoaster that never seems to end and sometimes it feels like it would be easier to just get out early and stop. The days I struggle getting out of bed far outway the days I wake up alert and happy and ready for adventures. Most days it’s a struggle to do basic housework.
Just a couple of weeks ago, a dear friend of mine passed away because they chose to end their own life. They are the third friend I know who has died this way. Just one person is too many. So many people dying too young. There’s a part of me that’s angry. Not at the people who died, but at the world we live in for being so bloody hard. Bigotry so so often goes unchallenged. We live in a world where abuse is expected to be hushed up or for the victims to be dismissed. Mental illnesses to still be stigmatised despite so many people obviously struggling. Basic human needs are capitalised so we have to work so hard just to exist.
I don’t want to be another reason for suffering. I don’t want my friends and family to lose more people than they already have. I want to put something *good* out into the world. It’s just kind of hard sometimes.
So… six years on and a lot is different. In my own life, and in the world. I still struggle putting one foot in front of the other.
But I’m still trying.
Because I am smart, I completely missed the fact that it was Small Press Day on Friday. As a small, independent creator that publishes their own work without the use of an agency or anything, I should probably be better at keeping track of things like that, but considering I was in Amsterdam for most of last week, and have been recovering from burn out the following days since, I think I can let myself off the hook a little bit.
But! Small Press Day!
Did you know I have four self published books that you can buy?
Did you know I publish all my webcomics for free, that you can go read now, without paying me anything?
Did you know that you are awesome? This isn’t relevant to Small Press Day, but shh.
I love indie creators, and I love BEING an indie creator, so naturally I love Small Press Day and am frustrated that I missed it completely because of brain weasels. Darn brain weasels.
I went to Amsterdam.
It was good.
There was going to be a more concise blog about this topic but my brain forgot everything I was going to say the moment I opened the browser, so instead have a photo of me and my cousins, proving that we did in fact go to Amsterdam.
When I told people I was going to Amsterdam, the majority of people asked me to have a smoke for them, or a drink for them, or gave me advice on the best places to buy weed. I’m probably the most boring person who’s ever gone to Amsterdam, because I rarely drink, I’ve never done drugs in my life, don’t like the smell of weed, don’t like being anything other than sober. In case you’re wondering, it’s possible to go to Amsterdam and stay completely sober the entire time and still have fun.
I think the most jarring experience about the city was walking down the road and seeing shops that just advertised the drugs they sold. Coming from a small town in England where the only way to buy non-medicinal drugs was to do it secretly (and where the stereotype was doing it in seedy back alleys) it was funny to walk down streets and just see “Magic Truffles sold here!” among other things. I’m a super left wing hippie type who has strong opinions about drug legalisation (let’s just say you don’t have to partake to know that criminalising drug users is a Bad Thing) but it still kind of took me by surprise (surprise is the wrong word, but you get my drift) to see so many shops where you could just buy space cakes and lollipops.
Definitely planning on coming back again one day, and who knows, maybe I’ll be brave enough to actually try a space cake next time 😛
A friend of mine passed away today.
Riley was a wonderful friend, and amazing musician. They had their first gig lined up for next month, and had created their first album last year with the help of a Kickstarter campain.
I can’t quite believe they’ve gone.
I made this portrait of them I guess to process my own feelings about it, but also just… I wanted to pay tribute to them in some way. They inspired me in many different ways and their passing was a genuine shock.
The thing is… I never actually met Riley in person. We met through a Facebook group. They lived in the US. We talked frequently through messaging apps. We supported each other on Patreon. Someone said to me “So you didn’t actually know them?” as if that somehow lessens the blow. As if somehow, because I hadn’t met them in person, I shouldn’t be so effected by their passing.
Just because I haven’t met someone in person, doesn’t mean I don’t know them.
Just because I haven’t met someone in person, doesn’t mean I can’t care about them.
Internet friends are real friends.
Riley started recording their music in 2017 after a suicide attempt. They said it helped them feel more alive, like something of themselves was being left behind.
As such, I want to spread their music around as much as possible. I want people to listen to their music.
You can find it through bandcamp or by searching for Android Girlfriend on Spotify.
RIP beautiful soul. I miss you already.
It’s not very often you say you get to shave your head for the first time, but I got to say it last week when I took the trimmers and got rid of my shoulder length blue hair.
On reflection, I probably should have gone to a hairdressers, or got someone more experienced than my partner, to get it done but I knew I’d chicken out if I waited too long. I wanted my hair gone, I had trimmers, and I am an impulsive potato. I also messed up and trimmed it about a centimetre (which is quite a lot, when it’s already this short) shorter than I meant to, but actually?
I absolutely love it.
Like, oh my GOSH. Not only because it’s so much easier to maintain now (it takes about two minutes to dry after waiting) but it feels like… me. It feels like this is who I’m supposed to be. This is how I’m supposed to look. I don’t think I’ve ever, in my entire life, been this happy with the way I look. Never been this confident.
Since I did it last week, I’ve been on a complete rebranding spree throughout all of my social media platforms, because I felt like I needed a dramatic change, I needed my online presence to match my in real life presence, I needed my business to reflect my own self, I needed my ART to reflect my newfound confidence. I’ve had this site – SarahBatesIllustration.com for a few years but I decided to move everything over to this site instead of the old one, this is the new home of ALL OF THE THINGS that I make, and to be honest the website looks and feels much more fluid and professional and feels like home.
This is a super rambly blog post but I wanted to share my absolute excitement and happiness with the way I look right now, shaving my head has legit been the best thing I’ve ever done for my self image, and I’m definitely gonna be keeping it short for the forseeable future 😀
Now excuse me while I show off my look with some selfie spam (with added Patrick for good measure):
For the last three weeks or so I’ve been having fun every Wednesday evening doing an art stream. I’ve been taking requests from my Facebook friends on what to draw, and have been drawing a variety of things from dragons, to animals in strange situations, and more. The great thing about taking requests is that it puts me out of my comfort zone, instead of falling back on my usual drawing habits I have to draw what other people suggest, and other people having their own experiences and inspirations and things will often suggest much more interesting things than my brain with it’s habits and comfort zones and routines can come up with. It stirs the creative juices and gets my mind working and I love it.
The other great thing about streaming is having people physically sit with you while you draw, perhaps drawing along with me or coming up with their own interpretation of the prompt word. I love seeing the art people come up with and I especially love seeing different interpretations on the same prompt word, it’s fantastic. It’s a great example of how we all interpret things differently. There’s also something extremely nostalgic about it; it reminds me of when I was a teenager when I would sit in groups of people, usually being fairly quiet, with my sketchbook, just drawing. I’d be in a group of people just doing my own thing but I was still involved and included. And the best part would be when other people came and sat next to me and opened up their sketchbooks to draw too. I’d end up accidentally starting a little drawing corner. I guess that’s how I invision the stream being – a place for us to hang out, a place where we can make time to do art. It’s Time to Draw, and it’s wonderful.
It’s not always super exciting, though. Sometimes I can sit in a stream on my own for half an hour before anyone shows up to say hi or to draw along with me or to listen. That’s usually okay because in those times I can just draw for myself anyway. It’s basically a couple of hours for me to spend drawing just for drawings sake – drawing because it’s my time, for me, and if other people come along for the ride that’s great too. Sometimes the art I make is terrible, sometimes I don’t feel like drawing, but I’ve got this commitment to turn up in my stream and draw something, and that kind of commitment holds you accountable. You’ve gotta do it. The hardest part of drawing is showing up.
Ultimately though, the point of it all, is to draw and practise and keep going. Make a time for the things you love, if you can. Even if it’s five minutes. I do my best, sometimes I don’t stream for a full two hours, but as long as I show up and keep drawing and keep having fun with it, it’s all gonna be okay.
Love you all!
Join me on Twitch every Wednesday at 8pm (UK time) and follow me on twitter @sarahstrangeart to get updated whenever I go live.
I’ve been working on this project behind the scenes for a while now, and I’ve finally started actually illustrating it. This is Life is beautiful, a new graphic novel set after the end of the world. The apocalypsehas happened and zombies have taken over the world. One zombie wonders what the point of it all is, and makes a discovery that changes the world. It’s set in Birmingham, UK, because I love that city and it felt like the perfect backdrop for a post-apocalyptic disaster comic! You can read the first four pages by clicking on the link below. This will be published as a graphic novel in 2019, and I’m excited about what you guys will think about it. (PS, the above image is the cover of the comic, but it’s not completely finished yet! I love me some work in progress things :3
About 3 months ago I made the difficult decision to go back to full time work. It sucked, to be honest, if I had my way I would 100% do this full time, but making money so we could pursue other dreams became more important than full time arting. My mental health has pretty much collapsed recently since I started the job, and I’m struggling, and this video talks a little bit about that, and why it was a hard decision, and in the meantime I draw an angel. Pretty simple digital piece, but there we go.