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Thursday, January 7, 2016
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Let's travel back in time, shall we....
The year is 1988.
I am 8 years old and completely convinced that my grown up life will be spent in merriment among the colorful and diverse group of puppeteers at the Jim Henson Studios. I never once thought in the slightest that I would have any other profession nor had I drew very many pictures up to that point in my life. I didn't consider myself an artist. I considered myself an aspiring puppeteer and fancied myself quite good at it.
I had made a puppet stage out of a Whirlpool dishwasher box and had a small collection of puppets that my parents had given to me among the very many puppets I had made from old socks. I used to perform puppet shows from my family from plays I would get at the school library or plays that I had been a part of in my church that I still had copies of. I can only imagine what they thought of all this, but I certainly thought my shows were AMAZING. :0)
I still posses this relic from my childhood and Corky lives on a bookshelf in my studio apartment. He currently is wearing my Red Nose from Red Nose Day this year because he is currently feeling clownish and humorous. I suppose, if I wanted, I could train up those rusty ventriloquism skills of mine and it might be a fun party trick to have up one's sleeve, but I digress. We should return to the year 1988.
There were 2 very good animated features that were being released that holiday season: Disney's Oliver and Company (a modernized Dickens's Classic Oliver Twist told from the point of view of Dogs and Cats in New York City) and Bluth Studios' The Land Before Time (a story of the journey of a motley crew of dinosaurs that get separated from their families and their journey to find them.) I was very excited about both and definitely wanted to see both, but when you are 8, you don't always get to see all of the films you would like to, so you have to order them in the order that you are most excited about them. If having to choose, Oliver and Company was my number one choice. (Keep in mind this was many many moons before I dreamed of being a Disney animator, animation geek, Disney Nerd or a visual artist in general.)
I don't think my parents wanted to see either film, nor did any of my siblings, because they did something that year that was unprecedented: they dropped me off at the Mall Cinema-Plex somewhere in Virginia and allowed me to go see the movie on my own. I was so elated that I got to do this. It made me feel like I was a "Big Kid" and it was probably the planted seed that made me so excited to do things on my own. It was certainly a defining moment that underwrote my high regard for personal Independence. I still go to movies alone to this day and I thoroughly enjoy that experience. It's almost like stolen time. In any case, I had my ticket stub for Oliver and Company and headed down the movie theater hallway to my theater. I remember being surrounded by so many people as they came and went. It wasn't overwhelming at all for me to be in that crowd of complete strangers hustling and bustling during the Holiday Season going to see whatever movie they had chosen that evening. I remember when I came up to my theater that was playing Oliver and Company, it was directly across from the theater that was playing The Land Before Time and I had a small moment of shoulder angels and devils. I had, for a moment, considered going to see Land Before Time instead. I felt mischievous because I had a ticket for a different film, even though when I was older I understood that all the movie tickets cost the same. However, when I was 8, I wasn't completely certain of that. I used to think that different films cost different based on their popularity. I have no idea why I thought this, but I had. So I was going to theater hop over to Land Before Time after watching Oliver and Company. I ultimately decided the adventure too risky so I just saw the movie I had come there to see. I ultimately was very glad I decided on Oliver and Company because it was decades before the film was allowed to be released for Home Video. It was apparently held up in disputes over copyright issues. So I was glad to have seen it when I did, because otherwise I would have been an adult when I would have seen it first.
It's ironic that the film that was my second choice had far more of an impact on me as an artist today.
The Land Before Time was eventually released on Home Video the following year and my parents I believe rented the movie then eventually bought me the film for a Christmas or a Birthday. I still have the same VHS copy and it still plays pretty well in the VCR. I kept it over the years because not only was it a wonderful film that I still enjoy to this very day, but also it's kind of a sentimental treasure that I can't seem
to let myself part with, so it's still around.
So I watched/listened to the Land Before Time last week as I was cooking in the kitchen and I had an intriguing epiphany. I think the reason I love the film so much is that it's story is so visceral, still culturally relevant, and told in a way that makes it's message something that everyone of every culture and age can understand completely.
For those of you out there that have never seen the original film (I'm not talking about it's 20 million money suckering sequels. I'm talking about the very first film,) it is the emotional story about a group of unlikely young dinosaurs that are separated form their families by a predator, The "Sharptooth" (a T-Rex) and an Earthquake that splits the land in half leaving the young dinosaurs on one side of the divide and their
families on the other.
When you read between the lines, The Land Before Time is a Refugee's story. It tells the story of a War-torn country from the perspective on a young child that lives in such a dangerous environment. The young dinosaurs are essentially orphaned by War which, in the film, is represented by predators, like the Sharptooth, and natural disasters, like the earthquake and the volcano. In a world where none of the dinosaurs intermingle with any other dinosaur that is not of their own kind, these young dinosaurs who have no one else are quite literally thrown together with each other and they have to work through their differences to survive and find a way back to their families. Its a very powerful analogy that tells of the vigilance of young spirits and the Strength in diversity, and the power of determination and perseverance in the face of the something quite daunting and the seeming impossibility that they would survive.
What impacts me most about watching this film recently is that it has reminded me of the reasons I chose to work in Children's media to begin with. The opportunity to tell stories with rich and powerful messages on a level that EVERYONE absolutely EVERYONE in every part of the World can understand, appreciate and be enriched, touched or impacted by in some way. It's not an easy task to do and any children's or young adult author will tell you it's much easier to write a novel for adults than it is to write for younger audiences. The reason is your limitation on words. You have to tell you story with fewer words and still make it interesting, impact-full and powerful. It's quite a challenge and there are several crazy folks out there, such as myself, that get excited about taking up that particular challenge.
Standing in my kitchen and listening to that powerful story again reminded about why I chose to work in this field and refreshed my fervor to do it. It reminded me of my love for the chance to tell something universally; something that ANYONE could understand. It was a reminder from my past as to why I have chosen this journey I am on, sometimes seeming impossible and daunting.
It was like a voice form the sky saying,"Remember who you are." Lol. However that is from a different animated film all together.
But, like Little foot and his companions, I continue through the barren wastelands and onward with hope to the Great Valley, or in my case New York, to see where the next "leg" of my journey takes me. It's a refreshing breath of crisp cool air to watch this film again and makes me very excited about my move this year.
As Littlefoot's mother says in the film,"Somethings you see with your eyes, others you see with your heart."
To all my friends out there that have not as of yet seen this charming gem, I encourage you to watch it.
The Land Before Time is a wonderful piece of animated cinema that everyone should see and enjoy.
I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I have over the years.
until next time, friends...
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all,
keep making art.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
"But then I sigh, and, with a piece of scripture,
Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:
And thus I clothe my naked villainy With odd old ends, stol'n out of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil."
-William Shakespeare (Richard III)
What's in a Villain? What makes one a Villain? Do Villains really know they are one?
How do they get to that point?
I have been thinking a good deal about this subject lately. I have been thinking that I may perhaps have
been one in my own story as of late. Though, I have felt vindicated in my actions, I hadn't considered that
perhaps, (though considering the circumstances that one might have reacted as I have done) I hadn't
noticed how I have hurt others in my path until I have stopped to look at what wake I have left behind
myself. And though I will not apologize for how I have felt nor how I have dealt with the hand I had been
given this year. I do stop to reflect that I honestly feel bad for others I may have hurt along this way.
It's made me feel like a bit of a villain as of late and marvel at the somewhat poetic nature of the
destruction I have also caused. I am by no means innocent and my thoughts have bent around this for
many days now.
I have not been a space where creativity has come easy as of late, but I decided that I would make myself try to complete a project this week and be happy about it. So I decided to participate in Illustration Friday. This week's topic was "SHARP" and at first I thought of teeth (My JAWS nerd showing through candidly) However, I did not want to do another shark piece as I did one about a year or so ago and it was JAWS related and I was not in the mood to repeat myself or feel like I was just doing nothing but repeating
With teeth, my second thoughts drift from the shark to another rouged animal that seems to get the bad
reputation all of the time, the Wolf. The Wolf has been a standard Villain in many classic as well as
modern folk tales. The Three Little Pigs, Red Riding Hood, Chicken Little, Peter and the Wolf and so on
and so on don't make the Wolf out to be much more than a most horrible and feared creature. The Wolf is
usually and more than likely playing the villain all the time in any story.
Villainy has always been an interesting subject to explore. That very exploration has become quite
popular in modern day literature, film and even theatrical plays. Gregory MaGuire's enchanting novel,
Wicked: the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, has sparked an interest and even following
for this sort of subject matter. The idea of the humanization and development of a very-usually flat
archetype and the understanding of the journey of how one gets to the point being a villain. MaGuire's
story was made even more famous by its adaptation to the hit Broadway musical, telling the powerful and
I've also enjoyed the exploration into one of my favorite Disney animated films, Sleeping Beauty, and it's
iconic Villain, Maleficent. The Angelina Jolie film is so fascinating. Maleficent was always my favorite
Disney film villain because she seemed so incorruptibly evil and delved out her terror with precise un-recklessness abandon. She is somewhat of an iconic character and the 2014 live action adaptation of the story enriched the development of her character so much.
The Wolf, though the villain in many tales, is actually revered and respected in other cultures. Wolves
figure prominently in the mythology of nearly every Native American tribe. In most Native cultures, Wolf is
considered a medicine being associated with courage, strength, loyalty, and success at hunting. Like
bears, wolves are considered closely related to humans by many North American tribes, and the origin
stories of some Northwest Coast tribes, such as the Quileute and the Kwakiutl, tell of their first ancestors
being transformed from wolves into men. In Shoshone mythology, Wolf plays the role of the noble Creator
god, while in Anishinabe mythology a wolf character is the brother and true best friend of the culture hero.
Among the Pueblo tribes, wolves are considered one of the six directional guardians, associated with the
east and the color white. The Zunis carve stone wolf fetishes for protection, ascribing to them both healing
In Egyptian culture, there was a god with the head of a wolf (Wewawet). Wepwawet's role was to protect and lead the deceased through the Underworld (hence his name). He also accompanied the king while hunting and while in this capacity was called "the one with the sharp arrow who is more powerful than the gods." Wepwawet was also thought of as a messenger and the champion of royalty. He was said to be
"the one who has separated the sky from the earth."
Villainy is completely subjective and is in the eye of the beholder and one man's hero is another man's
villain. Not that I in anyway feel like a hero in any story, but I am beginning to see how I could have been
the villain in someone else's story.
So I wanted my "SHARP" piece to be a portrait of the Wolf, misunderstood and menacing, revered and
condemned. I liked the idea of how we can all be both. We are all light and we are all dark. We are all
heroes and yet also villains. So this is why I chose the imagery as I have.
Little Red Riding Hood
Jessie Wilcox Smith
When I think of Sharp, I think of knives and teeth but also I think of a very well dressed individual. A blade can be sharp, yet also someone can be sharply dressed and I wanted to include both interpretations in
my illustration. I have always enjoyed the phase,"A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing." It describes whoever it is
put to as both innocent yet dangerous, a conflicting duality. It's a very image provoking saying; very
illustrated. So I had a vision of a very dapperly dressed attractive Wolf character in a fine suit made of
wool (sheep's clothing.) I envisioned him "framed" by the full moon so often associated with him and
illuminated around the moon would be a "haloed' Native American influenced pattern to allude to the other
cultures that revere this animal that others more commonly villainize. To send this message in an image
as a reminder that we are all capable of being simultaneously both terrible and heroic. I find the concept
I embarrassingly admit that my attempts at the earlier part of this week were dauntingly underwhelming. I have pages in my sketchbook full of deformed wolf heads as I sketched and sketched to get what I was
seeing in my mind onto the paper. It looked like I was more a Dr. Frankenstein than an artist of any sort. It
looked I was readying myself for an experiment that you would read about in a horror novel. lol.
Then midweek, everything just "clicked." I was just connecting to what ever it is we artists connect to out
there in the universe and he came right out of my head and onto the page. I was so excited, I was beside
myself and glad that the good drawing was coming back. I'll be candidly honest here and say that for
some weeks, I have not drawn a single thing that I would say was worth residing anywhere except my
drafting table's side trash can. It reminds me of something one of my favorite college professors said to
all of us students,"You have to get through all the Bad Drawing before you Can get to the Good Drawing."
And that has stuck with me ever since. That is why it is so important to draw daily for any artist. Most of
the time we want to but there are times we have to push ourselves when we really aren't "feeling it." This
has been one of those times for me. Ultimately I think it turned out quite well.
Immediately after I finished the sketch, I set up my light box and prepared to ink the illustration same night. I was on a roll and really didn't want to disconnect from the Creative Ether.
Illustration by Sandra Diekman
There is a wonderful artist that I follow on Facebook. Her name is Sandra Deickman and I really fell in love with her art and aesthetic. You can view her work and follow her blog http://sandradieckmann.tumblr.com. I highly recommend you check her out. She's amazing! She draws the most beautiful animals and I just find myself lost in her color, texture and linework. I was really in the mood to experiment and have been wanting to imbue some of the things that I saw that I liked in her work, into my own. So I experimented with using line in a way that I usually do not to create shape and form.
After I inked my drawing I took to the illustrations as I normally do, half traditional media half digital media. I scanned in the inked piece and did the color collage work digitally as I normally do. I had some very specific ideas about the color choices. I wanted his fur to be soft and warm in color and have an intriguing texture. I tried a few different scanned resources form my scrap library. I tried a few different hand made papers and some fabric scans but nothing really was reading "wolf fur" to me. I then came across an
actual fur coat that i had bought at a flea market with the sole purpose to scan for texture use in
illustration work. It had some very rich and beautiful textures to the scans when the scanner would bend
the hairs flat. SO that is what I used to manipulate into the layers of the Wolf's fur.
My next challenge was to create the Wool suit. I toyed with some actual photos of sheep's wool, but
ultimately ended up manipulating a scan in of a blue fleece blanket I had. Yes the white/grey wool in the
illustration started out Blue. Cool huh? lol ;0) I wanted his tie and garment accessories to be red to
represent blood. His vest I made blue and purple as those were the original colors I was going to use for
the Moon. In the end I ended up with pale yellow. Very local color, I know, but the blue and purple just
were not working and not helping the "frame" read as a Moon. I wanted to use only primary colors for the
Native American pattern as primary colors are the origin of colors and I wanted to remind the viewer that
a villain may be terrible in a small frame of time, but they began as something quite different. And lastly
the eye color choice was self-portrait-like as I was feeling like this illustration and project is a reflection of
Before I wrap this post up, I want to give a big shout out to my good writer friend, Tracy. She gave to me an excellent idea when I was showing her the sketch of the illustration as I was working on it. She felt that the wolf needed a Sheep Lapel Pin very much like how politicians wear an American Flag Lapel Pin
when they campaign.
Lapel Pin in his campaign to try and change his bad boy image. It makes me giggle to think of a wolf
trying to politically campaign to sheep. It sounds like a good idea for an animated short or short story.
So thank you once again, Tracy for the capital idea.
Well this pretty much sums up everything I wanted to say about this piece. I will continue my exploration of the dark as well as the light and understanding of the balance between the two. I invite you all to do the same.
I leave you with two songs that are Post-Related: ENJOY! :0)
until next time, friends...
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all,
keep making art.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Yay! It's Illustration Friday! I Must say that It was nice to put this together last night.
I have been in a bit of a Creative Desert of sorts trying to find an oasis of productivity
and this week, last night included, there has been a Big Rain of it.
I was wondering where my Muse had been. I had been considering doing a new FatMan Illustration and maybe this is the my Muse (The FatMan) trying to tell me something. In either case, It's nice to have some of my creative MOJO back. It's been weird and I have felt undefined as an artist in it's absence.
So this week's topic is SOFT. I had immediately thought of Cat or Bear or a Rabbit (considering Easter just passed) or some other cute and fuzzy woodland creature to draw,
but I have decided I have drawn so many animals and not enough people and children, so I made a conscience decision to draw children this
week. I think about things of comfort and nighttime things when I thing of the word SOFT. I also think of baby animals (which I have done a lot of lately). I immediately knew I wanted to do a pajama/nighttime sort of illustration but didn't want it to just be a spot illustration of a child holding a stuffed animal as that would be too similar to an illustration I did last year with the Mirror and the Teddy bear. SO I thought of what else is soft and comfortable besides PJ's and stuffed animals. Pillows came to mind and of course pillow fights, which are fun and vaguely violent but softly so.
So I began researching pajamas and PJ patterns and pillows and pillow fights. The rest of the illustration just kind of fell into place. There's not too terribly much to read into the image. It's pretty straight forward. My goal wasn't to try to be clever this week. My primary objective was to just have some fun to try to get back in the swing of drawing and illustrating again. My mind has been so recently distracted an preoccupied, I could not focus n one single thing, let alone plan and implement some decent artwork. I've thrown away so many bad drawings in the past many many moons with nothing to show. SO it's been frustrating to the point Ive been running from Blank sheets of paper and pencils in my nightmares (well not really but how cute would that be? lol) I'm thinking of illustrating that, The Creative Block Monster/Monstrosity. It sounds like fun and my objective with Art this month is to have fun first. Drawing these two girls having a good ole' time with their sleepover pillow fight was definitely fun and kept me chuckling and smiling as I worked on them.
Illustration By John Kenn Mortensen
That pretty much sums things up for this week's IF Friday post. I hope you all enjoy the Illustration and decide to do something particularly FUN this weekend;
Something that makes you Chuckle and Something that makes you Smile.
until next time, friends...
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, keep making art.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
"Two roads diverged in a wood,
and I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference."
-Robert Frost 1920
Yay! It's Illustration Friday and I know we are all probably ready for the adventures the weekend may hold. This is why the week's topic, PATH, is so appropriate. The decisions we make, both small and large, affect our lives and the paths that we take.
I think we have all sat back and wondered, "What would have happened if I had done THIS instead of THAT." It's a curious wonder and not one of regret, but just of simple and plain curiosity. We all fantasize about one moment on one day in our past. We think about if we had done one slight thing different, would it have changed the outcome of our lives as we know it. There is a favorite film of mine that I watch from time to time that explores the possibilities of this very curiosity. If you haven't seen Sliding Doors yet, I recommend you do sometime in your near future. It explores the 2 different outcomes of the life of one woman who, in one story line catches a train home early after losing her job and the other story line is from the point of view of what would have happened if she had missed that train.
Catching a train, missing a train; it is a powerful metaphor, trains. It's used time and time again in Literature and Visual Art. Sometimes it means a transition (or as I like to call it, TRAINsition.) Sometimes it's just a symbol for the passing of one's life. Another of my favorite films that uses the same metaphor is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I love the scene where Harry is killed by Voldemort and he meets the deceased Dumbledore at the Kings Cross Train Station. It's a symbol of adventurous and mysterious far off destinations. I find it's symbolism very beautiful and poetic and it is for that reason I used it in my illustration this week.
This is the first Illustration I have completed in several weeks. I have been on a very strange and rough path as of late and it's been a difficult reality to manage. When I looked up the topic for this week's Illustration Friday and saw that it was PATH, I knew that I just had to participate, come what may to accomplish that. And though one illustration is not a career, this illustration is the breaking of the ice for a new path I am on. I have discussed in previous posts my intentions and plans to move to NYC at the end of this year to follow my passion for illustration. I have up until now enjoyed a long and good career in Graphic Design, but it was time for a change. I started the path of Illustration so long ago and it is time to board that
train and see where it leads, scary as it may seem, the unknown. However, the unknown can also be exhilarating in the sense that it is a completely new adventure you've never been on.
So the character in this week's illustration is meant to represent myself. I am on a Journey, a Path. And this journey has cost a great deal of personal sacrifice. It has cost me a long standing relationship with my partner and lover of 6 years. He was unable to move with me and, unfortunately, he was also unable to compromise or sacrifice anything to allow me to pursue this part of my career, which is very important to me. Though I would have liked to make things work, since this decision was meant to be temporary for a year or two and then I would have come back to where I currently live, I understand the challenges of a long distance relationship are tough and not everyone is strong enough to meet those challenges. I personally feel a tad resentful about their decision as I, personally, would never take the easy way out if something very important was at stake. I have to accept that I cannot change others or what they decide to do. They are on their own path and they just now prefer to not have me on that path with them. I just have to accept that.
The relevance of this is that the path I am on obviously has been very rough and challenging terrain and I have to be ready to meet what lies ahead, this next year and what is to come in NYC. So far my new path has seemed very dark and bleak, hence nightfall in my illustration, but I have to believe that the daylight is on its way. So I am carrying a lantern to light my path through the dark times, now and ahead. This illustration marks the beginning of pulling myself out of this rutt, emotionally, artistically, professionally and personally.
You may notice that the lantern is lit by little lightning bugs. This is kind of an inside joke I have with myself. In college, I wrote an essay on the turn of the children's illustrator, Jessie Wilcox Smith. She had taken a commission to illustrate a calendar for the student association for Bryn Mawr college in Pennsylvania (all women school.) She used the commission to illustrate and promote the "New Woman" and the equality of women, a very controversial subject in 1901.
The backpack has traditionally been a symbol used in visual art to represent the nomad or the traveler. Some of you may recall images of a long branch with a handkerchief tied to the end, full of the personal belongings of that traveler. I know I've seen it in many a comic strip and they are often depicted walking the train tracks. The backpack I am carrying is kind of an updated modern version of that iconic symbol. I am the traveler. I am on a path to a new an unknown place. I'm not fleeing my homeland or running away, but I am leaving it behind me for a new adventure. The unknown wilderness, illustrated here by the cavernous trees.
Something my Americus peeps may find interesting is that I based my railroad track on the one here. I was on my daily walk and just stopped on the bridge over Lee Street to view the train tracks. It was that very moment that I realized what I was going to illustrate this week and I took out my phone and snapped a few reference photos immediately of the tracks there. I loved how there was a valley and it was kind of surrounded by trees it created a kind of tunnel in a way.
This pretty much sums up this weeks illustration. I hope you all enjoy it and perhaps are inspired to do something adventurous on the Path of this Weekend.
until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, keep making art.Cheers,