Thursday, April 6, 2017

Things Are Getting RED HOT on Flash-Back Illustration Friday!

Yay! It's Friday! Illustration Friday... well... Flash Back Illustration Friday

      This week's topic was HOT and, for some reason, my mind traveled back in time to my days in the Illustration Department at SCAD. 

      I was taking a watercolor class, which I loved, and learning alot about a medium that I was aware of, but never really used before that time.  This was also before I really had an idea about any kind of style or aesthetic that I wanted to claim as my own.  I really was just experimenting with each and every project.  I would approach each one differently, therefore yielding a collection of college work that didn't look as if it were created by the same artist, if I could really call myself that... maybe more fledgling artist.  I really didn't have firm feet on the ground, then, nor was I confident about what I had crated to that point or what I was creating then.  Regardless of whether I felt like I identified with any certain titles, I do look back on those years, fondly.  I enjoyed the work and I enjoyed learning about the medium.

      Watercolor is a medium that can be both friend and foe, both easy and difficult.  I guess it's ability to work well with others tends to ebb and flow, much like water itself does.  When I work with the medium today, I like to imagine there is some deity in the charge of deciding whether the water color will flow well onto the page or not.  I imagine her having the personality and qualities of the astrological sign, Cancer. It's a nice daydream to dream, but most of the time I think I'm just projecting my own Cancerean qualities to her so as to think she might garner me more favor because we are more alike than unalike.  In either case, sometimes she garners favor, sometimes she doesn't.  So the painting will either go well or you just might find yourself pulling out a new sheet of watercolor paper to start over with. lol.

      To be quite honest, watercolor is actually more predictable than unpredictable.  There are rules and techniques to using the medium, obviously, but also there is just somethings you need to keep in mind when working in the medium.  Things like weather/humidity, paper weight (absorbency), quality of the paint itself (is it vibrant? is it mute) etc.  You also have to be very very patient with watercolor.  You work in layers, and you have to allow each layer to dry (most of the time depending on the technique or visual effect you are wanting) and depending on the complexity of the image, you could be weeks of painting layers.  This is not really a medium for instant gratification.  There are some things out there that do allow this medium to be more ready to use and in some cases, using watercolor pencils or watercolor brush pens could create a very nice "watercolor" effect in a short amount of time.  But again, it depends on what you are wanting to do with the medium that determines your coarse of action in using it.

      For this particular project, I remember that I was just really practicing one of the techniques that we recently learned.  I no longer have my syllabus, so I couldn't quite tell you exactly what technique it was.  Its difficult to say looking at this piece and its even more difficult to try an remember exactly what it was.  I do, however, remember the reason for my choice in subject.  One of the prominent Illustration Annuals was holding one of their prestigious illustration competitions and our assignment was to illustrate an image based on the topic "RED HOT."  Even my 20 year old self knew at that time, that I was in no way far enough developed in my craft to think I'd have any sort of chance at placing in that competition. I don't recall even entering my piece (it wasn't required that we enter, just that we create something that we could enter.)  

      I also remember that I was all about creating conceptual imagery, not necessarily controversial, but conceptual and very modern.  I love modern art (even to this very day) and studying Art History after the year 1950 changed my world then. I was kinda sorta obsessed with modern art and allowing certain principles to leak over into my illustration concepts.  Aside from Artists that produced work from 1960-1990, I also adored the poster work of  Toulouse Lautrec and Edward Penfield (influenced by Lautrec). I'm still a very big Lautrec fan today.  So I decided that I would create an image that I could turn into a poster, and since I didn't really have an illustration style of my own then, I usually emulated whatever imagery I happened to be really "into" at the time.  I was like an artistic chameleon trying to figure out where I needed to be.  Visually, I really was all over the place.  It wasn't until I was literally in my last class in the the department, that I realized how much of a hodge-podge artistic mess I really was.  But that experience is a story for another time.  Lets go back to the Pepper Lady, shall we.

      I remember quite clearly that I wanted to draw a connection between food/spice, temperature and sensuality/sexuality.  To me, the idea of Red Hot anything all had fuzzy lines. There really was no barrier between how the human body might experience and process eating a spicy pepper or lying in the summer sun or sensual pleasure that comes form a lover or from one's self.  Our daily mind tells us that these things are different. In a way, yes, they are different.  However, they are also very similar, because our brain, our thoughts, our reactions and our reflexes are just electrical impulses. When it comes right down to it, Our brain sees all of these RED HOT representations as electrical impulses; "Burns" on the Brain. It's exactly like the "Blanket Truth" in I Heart Huckabees: Everything is the same, even if it is different.  Though in the film, it was discussing the existential theory that since everything is made up of matter, everything is connected because all molecules touch each other on a molecular level. So we all are touching each other in some way, even if we stand on separate sides of the globe... ANYWAY (Great Movie! But lets get back to it shall we?)

      At that time, I was really into collage work and the influence of it could be seen in most every project I did. I was really into Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg big time. I also was falling in love with the Color Field Painters that I discovered around that time.  I just loved the idea of tactility and color as a means to evoke and provoke.  I must say that those 2 elements are 2 main ingredients in my work today in both style/aesthetic and technique.  You can see this sort of fascination in my execution of the Smoke piece that I shared last Summer.  It was a physical manifestation of what I was working out in my mind, what I was learning and what I was discovering.

       It would be years before these seeds would blossom into what I eventually settled into as an artist. So I decided that I would select my imagery to represent the human experience of Hot and I would figure out a way to modify the watercolor technique we learned in class to create a "watercolor collage" work... whatever one of those looks like. lol.  I don't remember much about the technique, as I said before. I do remember that it lended itself well to my mission of creating a "collage" work out of water color.  Now since I would not be pasting layers that I create separately together then working on top of that afterwards (which was one of my methods of working at the time), I would have to plan out the image in a series of layers.  I would have to plan which layers get drawn when and where and in what color because you can't "go back" with a water color painting... only forwards.  I remember being quite laborious about planning this piece.  I did several "test Patches" to practice how I would create the effect I wanted to create. Trouble is, since I have never seen anyone attempt to create collage out of watercolor, there really was no frame of reference to help out.  

      The final image that was used in the poster is actually one of my test patches that I did before the final illustration.  The final piece did not turn out well at all. I remember not only was I very disappointed with it, my professor was also.  I remember she liked the idea of a "collage" work created in watercolor, but ultimately my attempt flopped.  We both think I went too "dark" with the color, both in selection and in heavy paint application.  The final work just didn't have the airy "breath" and life that the test patches had.  So...  I just moved on to the next project, didn't enter my painting, and locked it away along with the test patches. I never again attempted to create a collage out of watercolor after that time.  I think I was too depressed about not being able to deliver something that seemed so intriguing and interesting in my mind.  The outcome just didn't live up to the concept's potential promise at all. So I buried it, decided maybe collages weren't meant to be made with watercolor, and moved on.  

      Years later, as I was putting together my (then) new artist website, I gave RED HOT another chance.  I was putting together a gallery of selected Posters I had created up to that point. For some reason, I pulled out one of the test patches and decided to make a concept poster with it.  I thought it would be something Fun to do with it since, at the time, that group of illustrations weren't doing anything else. I always liked the way the test patch for that piece looked. I thought it had a striking visual modern appeal to it and hat it would be a great poster for a Broadway Play titled Red Hot. So I created the poster you see above.  It wasn't a very long or involved project, to be honest. Just scanning in the test patch then adding text, playing with font styles that I thought would represent this imaginary play.  One of the most fun things about the project was allowing my mind to day dream about what the play would be about.  Is it about the life and times of a group of prostitutes on one Hot Spanish Summer?  Is it about A chef that finds herself in the middle of a murder conspiracy/sex scandal that involves one of her spicy dishes, her husband and alot of poison?  Or is it a mock-umentary about a competition pepper eater who can only orgasm by eating alot of Hot Peppers?  

      What do you imagine that this play could be about?  It's a curious question that perhaps you can ponder over the rest of the day.  Feel free to share your revelations on the subject. I'd be interested to know. lol.   In any case, that is the Red Hot story behind the Red Hot poster.  I encourage you all to do something Spicy, Red and Hot this weekend... Whatever that would be... 

Until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, 
keep making art.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Let a Smile Be Your UMBRELLA on Illustration Friday

"Why a mime?" asked three people.

     I really didn't have a definitive answer to give any of these 3 people. So here goes... My Answer:

     Have you ever had cravings for a particular kind of food?  You know, the kind of cravings where you'd saw your arm off and lop in on the counter, if it was necessary, to procure some of whatever it is that you're craving? Well drawing is alot like that... well not exactly like that. You wouldn't saw your arm off... because you'd need it to draw with... maybe a leg... Or maybe you'd just draw an arm or a leg that was sawed off... hmmm... there's an idea.  I digress. 

     My point is that sometimes you just get a real "craving" to draw something in particular.  Something really fun that maybe you haven't drawn before and you just can't stop thinking about it until you grab a pencil or pen or whatever you draw with, some paper and just sit down and draw; draw until your arm falls off...

     Well, I exaggerate some. However, draw-cravings are real, even if no one thinks about them in that way. And I don't mean in an I just got an epiphany from my artistic Muse kinda none-sense... just a plain and simple want for drawing something in particular.  For me, this week, I ended up wanting to draw a mime.  Even though the topic was UMBRELLA, I just had it set in my mind that the next time I have pencil and paper in my hands, it would be used for the greater good of drawing Mimes, however great or good that does them. lol.

     To be honest, at first, I thought that UMBRELLA would be a great opportunity to redo a piece that was super rushed to put together. It was an IF Friday project, for "Rain" as the topic.  I was just so very disappointed in the out come of that whole illustration. I imagined more with it and it just didn't come out in any satisfactory way.  So I thought maybe this week's topic would give me a second go at re-doing that one... but honestly I really was not feeling it, so I put the pencil down almost as soon as I picked it up... you just can't force yourself to draw something that isn't going to work out... sometimes. Sometimes you have to, but that is another story to tell for another day and about another project.

     Later that same day I started to have the draw-cravings for something... You know... like when you know you CRAVE something really good, but you just have no idea what that REALLY GOOD something may be... until you just do. lol. (vague and ambiguous, I know it may seem... but I promise #TheStruggleIsReal)  So I was on a smoke break, having french fry cravings from the actual oil that perfumed the outside air when IT HIT ME. The draw-craving made itself known and I knew right at that moment, stomach growling and belly-aching over wanting french fries that it knew we couldn't have. I MUST Draw a Mime, and Mime, a Thousand Mimes.

     Once you know what you crave, as well as with food, you want it immediately and also in its most minimum and maximum form simultaneously. Logically it doesn't make any sense, sounds strange to describe it in words, but emotions are notoriously illogical so it's OK for it to feel both small and massive at the same time.  So I thought about what I wanted to do with my Mime and an UMBRELLA, since the Umbrella was really the Genesis of this whole thing. If I'm completely honest with myself, I probably picked up the mime on my subconscious radio that waves in and out of my life and mind. There probably is something to be said about the things your subconscious mind notices throughout the day that your conscious mind does not even pay the slightest bit of attention to.  There probably could have been a Mime on a TV commercial playing as I walked through the waiting room at a doctors office. OR I might just dream about silent clowns out of courtesy to anyone that might be sleeping nearby... Dreams on MUTE... now there's another neat idea for an illustration.  ANYWAY, my point is that maybe a Mime has popped up here an there around me lately but has just escaped my notice. Honestly he should just have shouted at me and we could have arrived at this illustration much sooner. That would, however, make him a clown and not a mime... Perhaps he could have punched me...


     So I started thinking of what my mime would be doing in this illustration. I then thought that this could be another creative writing project (which it still may be) but I didn't want to draw a child mime. No. I wanted to draw a full-sized one. So the idea of writing an entire short story about this character began seeming to me like not only a bad idea but the wrong one.  It seemed like the wrong way to express what this character was doing for me.  So I thought of the cool idea of writing my own nursery rhyme (which I will do soon for this) but not in the short amount of time (a week) that you have to complete an Illustration Friday challenge.  I decided that if I was going to write a nursery rhyme for a mime, then I would want it write it in a fair amount of time. ;0)

     SO I will save the Nursery rhyme for a future creative endeavor. I seriously want to go back and reread all of the nursery rhymes from my youth and take a closer look. Analyze and dissect them to see what really makes them tick... tock. The mouse ran up the clock... or was the mouse dissected... or was he exhilarated or exhausted... that's quite a run, really. (I really would love some Fries right now. God I love potatoes!)  I would want to do that before attempting to write my own as I would want to fully understand and emulate those timeless classics. The entire point of this Nursery Rhyme diatribe is that through the process of contemplating a possible nursery rhyme "plot," my mime suddenly had not only a name but also what he would be illustrated doing.  Maurice the Mime would be flying through the air, quite by accident, as it was gong to be a very blustery day.  I wanted him to be holding on to his umbrella, Maurice's now chosen method for travel, and blowing into it so as to stay afloat when the air was less full.  He would travel around the world this way.  Not really the plan he had in mind for his day when it began.

     I liked this idea for the simple reason that it was a good analogy for life. It's unexpected, you rarely end up anywhere near the place that you thought you would and you are going to have unexpected bumps, stops and detours along the way.  I loved the idea of expressing this sentiment with my little mime in the simplicity of a nursery rhyme.  So that will be on my creative agenda to complete very soon... and of course, I'll share it with you all once it is complete. I love how clever fiction can be. No matter how fantastic the story or characters seem to be, there is always that nugget of true reality hidden somewhere underneath, like a pea under fifty mattresses waiting for a princess to be bothered by it.  It may write quickly or it might be an arduous task. It's difficult to gauge and estimate from this side of the endeavor.  I will say this about it, though: The shorter or more simplified the text for poetry or prose is, the more difficult it is to get to write it.  It's like distilling, You start off with alot of stuff then you have to cook it down and cook it down and cook it down to where every word matters and is 100 percent relevant and necessary. It's challenging, but it's fun  and healthy to challenge yourself. And perhaps that, also, could be analogous to lives led.... I'm not certain. I'll have to "stew" on that one. lol.

     In terms of the process for this illustration, there isn't much to say that I haven't said previously in previous posts. My method is the same: Sketching, Drawing, inking, scanning, digitally tweaking, digipaint or digicollage... etc. This character was fun to create, though. I did have alot of fun in the sketching part of the project (the part where you get to play around with the visual decisions of something before it really begins to become concrete. Sometimes that's fun. Other times it's tedious.) This project, that part of it was fun. I enjoyed playing with the proportions of his facial features (since he is a mime... he should be somewhat exaggerated.)  I also enjoyed stretching his body out as if he were a wad of chewing gum.  Even the next day (You know... THE NEXT DAY... That morning after you've stayed up late to complete an artistic endeavor, went to bed thinking it could be the best or the worst thing you've ever done but you are too close to it to really distinguish between those two extremes, SO... you go back The Next Day to look at it again to decide after rest whether you were touched by a Divine sense of inspiration or if you exhausted yourself making garbage...) It's a scary moment. It truly is sometimes.

     So... The Next Day, I looked at it the next day and still just LOVE it. I really do.  It's fun just to make art for the simplicity of satisfying that Draw-Craving you get from time to time, if you get it.

     Just one more thing before I go: One of the 3 people that asked me why I chose a mime this week, B, mentioned something to me after I showed him the finished illustration; something that was an interesting interpretation that I hadn't intended originally with this piece. He said that he liked it, of course, but the part of it he liked the most was that the mime was blowing into the umbrella, creating his own destiny.  After, B, said that, I said,"Yes. Of course. That is exactly what I had intended." lol
But, truth be known, I had not. I wished I had. I think I am going to "borrow" that interpretation because I like that alot when paired with the illustration. It's an interpretation that truly is a "breath" of fresh air.

     Lastly, to all of you out there, if you find yourself craving something whether it's a food or a drawing or a TV show or a book or exercise or some other activity... Remember, there's good health in a little moderate indulgence from time to time. It's OK to say yes to it on the occasion. You'll live longer and happier; your destiny is what you make of it. 

Until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, 
keep making art.

Friday, February 17, 2017

I've Always Got Your Bag on Illustration Friday

     Yay! It's Friday, Illustration Friday, and Love is in the air... Well, actually the smell of coffee is in the air as I type this.  It's the end to a long week for myself, and many.  It's also the end of the Valentine's Holiday as it was earlier this week.  I was inspired by this week's topic, TEA, to create something that was holiday related, but also something that reflected my true thoughts on what Love really is.

     I can't help but get a little sick in my stomach over the over-commercialized elements of this holiday: Bunches of flowers, chocolate, expensive dinners, hideous over-sized stuffed animals, cards that attempt to squeeze the strongest and most powerful of human emotions into a few quaint sentences, etc.  I don't  necessarily hate these sort of things, but I can't help but see through what they really are. They are a surface, a superficial band-aide of sorts and I don't think that they can convey enough meaning to communicate the emotion they exist to represent.  It's essentially just the Halloween of Love.  I try to do something unconventional and fun. For example, this year, B and I did a Hot Glass work shop. We both made Glass Hearts out of molten hot glass.  It was a very cool experience.  We also had a nice dinner with, M, B's daughter.  So, I do participate in the frivolity of the Holiday also.  I'm not above it.  It's just not what my mind gravitates towards during this time of year.

     As Valentine's Day approaches each year, I find myself watching all of my favorite Romantic films and the one's that resonate with me the most are the films that portray Love in a realistic less superficial or surface way.
Don't get me wrong, I still watch the fluffy, romanticized, over the top stuff also.  Some of my favorites in that category include Only You, The Proposal, Moonstruck, Amelie and Who's That Girl.  These movies are nice and fun to watch, but they are ultimately unrealistic, because human relationships don't work that way, not really.  I'm glad they don't.
They over-simplify a range of emotional depth to a shallow kiddie-pool.   Years and years and years ago, these films might have portrayed something more real to me.  I used to believe that there really was maybe one or two people out there you could connect with, or maybe I was just in love with the idea of that.  Predestination and Soul Mates are very attractive concepts with a heavy gravity.  I can see why many people get pulled in by it, including myself.  However, as I get older, I realize that you could form a connection with many people; not just anybody, but there is more than just one other possible pea that could fit the same pod.  The difference is the what and the how you make of the choices you encounter.

     The films that I really connect with are the ones that follow more along the lines of what I have come to know that Love really is. I find myself thinking about that around this holiday also.  in my humble opinion, I believe that Love is just work, alot of work and effort.  It makes more sense this way.  After all, anything that is worth anything takes alot of handwork to achieve.  I think you appreciate the things your strive for more so than the things that come easy, it's just human nature.  The best example in a film that I could give is in When Harry Met Sally.  It's the most romantic film ever made, in my opinion.  The reason I say this is that the 2 protagonists are also each other's antagonist and they have a connection but it takes effort and work on their part to make it work. Even all the intermissions between the scenes of the film, you get to hear the stories of real couples and how they came together and stayed together.  It's the journey that makes the difference for them and its the core of what means something more than just the surface trivialities that are celebrated by the Valentine's Holiday.

     I know that I can personally relate to the characters in When Harry Met Sally, because I see that in my own relationship with B.  We have had our struggles and troubled times, but we also have some amazing times and it's the balance of those moments in our lives that create the "real stuff" that we call love and that gets portrayed in films and edited down to a few sentences on Valentine's Day Cards.

     So it was important for me to extend that sentiment into this week's illustration.  True love is not your soul mate, it's your running mate; the one who is going to stick by and the one you will stick by through all of it. Some one who has your bag (back) and you have theirs.  It's a choice you make and an effort you are happy to labor for.  When those old wrinkly couples, real couples, in WHMS talk about being together and going through all their ups and downs and they are sitting side by side on that couch and telling their story to the camera, it touches me more than any romanticized perpetuation of Falling in Love could ever do.  I admit that I tear up when I watch those interviews.  I can't help it. I'm truly touched.

     To sum things up this week, in the wake of the Valentine's Day festivities,  I find myself thinking more about the Finish Line than the Starting Line.  I want to be one of those two old people sitting on that couch, finishing each other's sentences, remembering details my other forgot or they remembering details that I forgot because those things happened so so long ago for the two of us.  Just two wrinkled old men, telling our story. That's what I think about on Valentine's Day, being old, very old and still sitting next to the same person that I have shared a lifetime of memories with.

     SO, however, you spent the holiday this week, take some time this weekend to love those around you,  whether it's a significant other, your family, your children or even your pets. Show them that you have their bag (back.) The Beatles say it best when they say,"All you need is love."

Until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, 
keep making art.

Friday, February 3, 2017

A Little Mischief on Illustration Friday

     Greetings, friends.  Though this post was set to go for Illustration Friday a few weeks ago, unfortunately, not everything came together in time.  As I had stated before, I am undergoing technical difficulties with my home computer and it slows my art roll a bit. In any case. The topic was MISCHIEF and I created something slightly more ambitious than I had time for. Kel Surprise.  Why do I do this to myself? lol  It's maddening.

     So I have prepared a story for that week's submission and its kind of a first in 2 ways for me.  Firstly, this is the first time I have illustrated anything that is intended for a YA (Young Adult) audience. Secondly, this is my first attempt at writing for a YA audience, so I hope you enjoy the story.

     Just a warning: There is quite a bit of profanity involved this time around as this is intended for an older audience.  Though, I did not type the words out, they are implied.  Another thing to note and be aware of as a reader form anywhere else besides the UK, there is quite a bit of British Slang that was used.  I know that there are many who will not understand what these slang terms mean, so I have provided a glossary below the story to help "Suss Out" any terms or phrases that are unfamiliar.

     Both of these 2 projects, simultaneously, presented a challenge to me.  I'll elaborate on that more later, but first.... a story.

Micky Night (Mischief Night)
by Lewis W. Porter

      The fog hadn't lifted. That was fine by Kahali. He was glad that at least it wasn't raining. It seemed like the perfect weather conditions for the holiday. 'Mischief Night,' he thought. 'Best holiday of the year. The only night that you can bet most Nobs get what's commin' to them.'  He was going over plans in his mind that he, Tyrell and Harland had been working on all year in anticipation of tonight. 'It's FINALLY happening.' He thought.

     It was somewhat difficult hearing his own thoughts, though, with Mrs. Blabermouth droning on and on about British History... So boring, he thought. She was such a Butter!  Who cares what the country was like before he was born? What's so legend about a bunch of old fogey dead blokes that used to run stuff? They're dead and that's that, innit? It gave Kahali a massive headache. He squinted his eyes a bit when he winced. He noticed then that Mrs. Won'tShutUp looked a little like a chicken when he did this.  He laughed a little to himself which made a girl in the row next to him turn around and look at him.

     "What ya lookin' at, Sket!?! Ya can turn around now. Shows over." he snapped at her.  She just scowled and turned back around to face the front of the classroom.  'Complete numpty,' he thought. He hoped he'd run into her later that night, then the little sket would get what's coming to her. He'd tell the boys about her later.  God, he was glad school was almost out.  He didn't know how much more of it he could take, before...


     The class let out and Kahali was out of his desk and headed for the door before the bell finished sounding.  He thought Mrs. TalksAlot said something to him as he was walking by her but he just ignored her, kept walking and shouted "is it?" back over his shoulder as he left the classroom. He headed down the hall in a bit of hurry.  There was a young boy getting a drink of water at a nearby water fountain. Kahali pushed his face down into the water as he passed.  "That's some hard cheese." He said and laughed as he passed the young boy who's face and shirt were now all soaked through.  He pushed a few people into some of their lockers as he passed them. Books, papers and bags all flying through the air.  He even tripped a kid that was entering the large front doors as Kahali exited... "Ha! Ha! Result!' Kahali laughed to himself.  He was very chuffed with himself as he headed down to the school playing fields to meet up with his jocks, Harland & Tyrell.

     Both of them were in the bottom corner of the football field near the goal net.  Harland was a short boy, five foot three, if even, skin paler than a ghost, a mouth fouler than a sailor. Tyrell was much taller; taller than both Harland or Kahali. He was taller than most boys their grade, really.  Tyrell had dark skin, darker than Kahali's, and a brilliantly devious mind. He came up with some of the best ideas Kahali had known; ideas for mischievous fun.  They were both talking to each other when Kahali walked up to them.

     "Sup, Twat's?" said Kahali.

     "Look who finally decided to show up. We've been waiting forever, mate. Thought you were cuttin' class with us. Guess you couldn't stay away from Mrs. F&*^ing..." Harland said, but was cut off.

     "Yeah, well, I got roped into class, dinnit I? Couldn't bail, could I? I git caught one more time and..." snapped Kahali, coolly.

     "Yeah F&*^ing Yeah. Don't get drop your glob, mate. Just taking the mickey." Said Harland, a bit surprised at Kahali's tone.

      "Shuu Uhp, you lot! Speakin' of Micky, you boys red-ey foh tonight? It's gon be well smashin'" Tyrell interjected. He often felt like the mediator between the other two boys. If Tyrell was honest with himself, he felt it was exhausting at times, as he wasn't truly fond of either of them. They were his mates (or minions, he sometimes thought), even though he felt a sort of superiority to the both of them. He was, after all, much cleverer.  The other boys knew this, even though Tyrell would barely pass the grade every year.  Harland and Kahali were certain he calculated this intentionally; deciding to fail.  Tyrell didn't trust anyone and made it a point to make certain that everyone underestimates him.  He could get away with a lot if no one was looking or suspected you of being a corker.  He preferred things this way and he enjoyed being the mastermind behind his and his mates nefarious activities.  He knew he was really the one in control, even if he allowed Kahali to pretend that he was in charge. Tyrell knew and that's all he cared about.  Plus, it's good to let someone else take the fall for being in charge should things go south.

     "We got what we need?" asked Kahali.

     "Yeh! I knicked the last of our supplies from the school toilets.  Not like they can't loose a few, innit?" said Harland as he opened his up his satchel to reveal it brimming with toilet paper he had stolen.  The other two boys leered at all the rolls with vicious smirks of approval.

     "That's it then. We'll meet latah, tonight, in town park, is it?" Kahali slapped Harland on the back hard, as if this were a congratulatory slap of approval for Harland's good fencing of the school toilets.

     With that the 3 boys departed for home.  Harland left on his bike. As he rode by several of the students that were still leaving the school, he pushed some over, knocked the hats off the couple of students that were wearing them and grabbed a bag off a girls shoulder only to tip it upside down so that it would spill out along the road leaving a trail of her possessions behind him.  Tyrell began to walk home as he didn't live far from the school. Kahali took a short cut through the woods that were next to the school playing fields.  He didn't live very far either.

     Kahali lived in a nice home in a quiet neighborhood.  It's what you might expect of a small English township that was near-ish to London.  Some might call it a suburb, but it really wasn't.  It was close but not close enough. It looked like a suburb, though; cozy, trim, groomed with trees and bushes, quaint square in the older section of town, people that were a little too friendly in Kahali's opinion.  Sometimes he wondered what his Indian-English family were doing here.  He preferred their home in India over their home here.  He wished he could travel back and forth as his father did, instead of being stuck in this trap of a small town.  At least he had his mates. That was about all he cared about; well, them and Micky Night.  Though he couldn't help but feel that one night and a few mates was a good enough compensation for living in the small town.

     Kahali walked through his front door and greeted his mother and father.  At home he was much more respectful than he was outside the walls of their English home.  He did actually care about his parents, but more importantly never wanted them to expect that he was capable of doing some of the things he and his mates did.  The rest of the evening was a blur for him.  He was much too excited about what came after all of this every day tosh. His blood was pumping feverishly for Micky Night.  When Kahali was finally in bed, he listened...

      He waited patiently for everyone to go to bed and for the house to calm itself to sleep also.  When everything seemed quiet and slumbering, Kahali removed his bed covers.  He was fully dressed underneath already, shoes and all.  He grabbed his satchel and began precariously going about his room un-hiding all of the wonderful things he would need for the night's mischief; supplies that he had procured and had hidden around his room the past year. In between the bed mattresses, behind loose panels in his closet and ceiling, in the hidden compartment in his desk drawer that he specifically had made to keep things hidden from his family.  He also grabbed a few other odds and sods before zipping the satchel up, almost full to the brim.  He then stood still in the middle of his room, listening...

No sound...

     He was clear.  He slid his bedroom window open, removed the screen and slipped out into the night, like a silent lion ready to prowl for nightly prey. It was late but not too late.  The night was cool but not cold and the fog still hadn't lifted. It just moved stealthily along the landscape of the township.  Kahali thought it must be fate. It couldn't be more bang on. He was running as fast as he could, weighed down by his satchel.  It was beginning to get heavy, but he didn't care. He was excited about what he was about to do.  He, Tyrell and Harland planned to meet at the gazebo in the central park square near St. MacKillop's Cathedral.

     Per usual, Tyrell and Harland were already in the gazebo waiting for him.  It was apparently much easier to give their parents the slip than it was for him.  They were pretty spawny, those two.  Kalahi had a moment of deep resentment for his parents, but it did not last long; like a shadow that passed over his face. He'd forgotten almost immediately.


     They all looked at each other. "You mouthy tossers ready to riot!?!" exclaimed Harland.  The other boys nodded and grinned wickedly.

      "Well lets F&*^ing get on with it then, before the Fuzz gets us bang to rights!" said Harland.

      "Isit?" said Tyrell, simply, as he smirked.

     With that the 3 boys each pulled a mask out of their bag and put it on. The 3 howled up at the moon through the fog and ran into the night to cause madness and mayhem.

     "It's F&*^ing Micky Night, MuthaF&*^ers!" Kahali exclaimed loudly through his mask, through the fog and up into the night sky.  It was time for Mischief and they were ready, more ready than most out on such a wicked night.  The fog was thick which made the night still, even though under it's cover, the night was anything but still.  Dark figures moving about like creeping crawling critters, bugs or rats.  The night was anything but quiet; the sounds of shattered and broken glass, cars being smashed and set on fire, the spray from paint cans spewing out heinous color and putrid perfume that seemed to linger in the foggy air.

     Kahali, Tyrel and Harland were having great fun, yes, along with many other anonymous tricksters, pranksters and wicked company.  The three of them left burning bags on many doors steps throughout the township knowing that the cold slabs of concrete would smell of burned wool, leather, flesh and dog shite.  They busted windows with their cricket bats and threw eggs at houses, cars and even people that were daft enough to be out on such a night.  They tagged street signs with delicious profanities and set fire to trash cans before kicking them over.  There was great pleasure in taking turns lighting fireworks and watching them chase after passersby. They delighted in hearing their shrieks of terrorized surprise as they ran from the burning hot bursts of flickering colors.  They swore they could see a few of their prey catch fire, but they weren't certain.  It was hard to see through the fog, but they hoped a few of the poor sods had.

     'Probably had it coming anyway, F&*^ing Tossers!' they thought.

     All in all they purged a great deal. It was wicked wicked fun for the 3 of them. After finishing up rolling toilet paper all in the park trees, they circled back around to the park gazebo to rest before they called it one hell of a night.  They didn't speak much.  They were mostly out of breath from running for hours and caterwauling at the top of their lungs.  Kahali leaned back on the bench he was sitting on.  Panting, he leaned his head back over his shoulders.  It was then that something caught his eye.  He squinted from upside down and saw through the fog, a halo.  Yes, a halo had been cast around St. MacKillop's Cathedral by the moonlight eclipsed behind it. He pulled his head up and spun round.  His lips, thin and chapped from the nights air, curled into a wicked grin.

     "I have an idea, mates." Kahali said. "A really good one." Tyrell looked up and saw the cathedral haloed in the moonlight and he knew exactly what Kahali was thinking.

     "I think it's time the church got a message from the Big Man, himself, isit?" Tyrel smirked as he said it.

     The boys were chuffed as they stood on the steps in front of the cathedral.  The church was massive; tallest building, easy.  It stood like a watch tower over the whole township. It was extremely ornate with stained glass windows as high as the sky and gargoyles and Green Men elaborately carved into the building's facade.  The three boys couldn't think of anything more mischievous, more blinding than to spray paint a message from God all over the front of the church.  Their bodies were jittering from the rush of adrenaline, excitement and shear wickedness.

     "They all gone to spare on this one! This gon be LEGEND!" laughed Kahali. They each took their place in front of one of the stone Green Men that were carved into the facade of the church.  The three boys raised their paint cans high and began to spray a truly perverted testament for all the goodie little wanker parishioners.  Their prank WOULD have been legend. However, as the paint sprayed upon the surface of the stone, it began to bubble as if it were being boiled right on the cold stone itself, then disappear.  Kahali sprayed more, and the more he sprayed, the more it bubbled and soaked into the stone. He sprayed more...

     Kahali noticed something odd, then. The stone began to change color and transform.  It seemed as if it were burning from the inside; as if inside the stone facade was a river of volcanic lava.  He stopped.

     "Hey, you two. Stop for minute." He said, but they had stopped tagging the stone edifice already.  For once all night, it was silent and it was still.  That is when they heard it; an unnerving and unearthly voice.

     "Mooooooorrrrreeee." It said.

     "What the F&*^?!?!" Harland exclaimed.

     "MMMOOOoooorrreeeeee." it cried. "Like mother's milk." they said.

     There was now many voices, many unearthly voices, crying out from the walls of the cathedral, calling to them.  Kahali dropped his can and began to back away slowly down the stairs.

     "MMMMOOOOOORRRRREEEEE!!!!!!!" They demanded and the ground shook with such ferocity that all three boys fell the rest of the way down to the bottom of the massive stair case; each heaved and heaped upon the other. The air shivered and cracked as if it were whipped by the demands of the Green Men, and the walls began to crack and crumble and give way.

     "GIVE IT TO US! WE NEEDS IT! WE WANTS IT!" The Green Men began to break away from the edifice. They were pulsing bags of lava unburdening themselves from their slumbering prison; finally awake, finally free and very hungry...  Oh so very very hungry.

     When the Green Men finally all stood at the precipice of the cathedral stairs, like prison guards. They all bent down towards the three boys and with their stone-carved leafy faces they each whispered,"Feed Us!"

     Kahali, Tyrell and Harland did not need any other motivation. They scrambled to their feet and took off running away from the cathedral back into the square park.  The stone giants gave chase after them, knocking trees into buildings and onto streets and parked cars, crushing them. "FEED US!" they shouted.

     "Holy F&*^!!!!" The boys shouted as they ran as fast as they could.  The Green Men were gaining on them. Their legs were so much longer. Tyrell knew it was bound to happen.  He just hoped he'd be fast than the other two boys.  He didn't like them that much. He could find new minions, friends, if he had...
Just then Tyrell heard Harland scream and as he looked back over his shoulder, still running, he saw one of the Green Men had picked Harland up.  The Green man laughed with such virile satisfaction as it tossed Harland into one of the trees they rolled with toilet paper.  Harland spun into the tree with such velocity that he was spun up into the toilet paper; wrapped like a trapped fly wrapped-up in a spider's web.  Tyrell thought that perhaps the Green Man meant to eat Harland; saving him as a tasty snack for later after all three boys had been caught.  "F&*^ THAT!" yelled Tyrell as he ran and ran and ra...

     Kahali heard Tyrell's screaming.  He stopped running just enough to turn and see that one of the other Green Men had caught Tyrell and was throwing him into a pile of burning trash. Tyrell wailed cries of agony, no doubt from the flesh burning off his bones.  The Green Man then kicked the pile of trash into the air.  Kahali could not hear Tyrell at all any more.

     Another Green Man burst through the fog! So Close!  Kahali screamed in terror as he turned to run again.  He could feel his lungs burning, he was out of breath and knew he couldn't keep up this pace much longer.  He could vaguely see where he was in town and he thought, how spawny.

     Suddenly an opportunity arrived. 'An alley way! Thank God!' he thought.  He turned abruptly and darted into the alley way, then something hit him very hard. He fell, his face burning from the force with which he hit it, his nose bleeding from the conk. 'Must be a dead end." he thought.  He slowly stumbled his way upright.  He stood still.  he didn't hear anything.  His plan had worked. The Green Men hadn't seen him slip int...

     Laughter... Unearthly laughter.  Realization began to pour down Kahali like warm thick water poured over his head.  He didn't run into a wall.  This wasn't a dead end.  He had just ran face-first into a Green Man. The Green Man's laughter was terrible.  An awful wicked wicked sound that made Kahali's ears bleed; or was that his nose.  It was hard to tell since the world flipped upside down.  What was he going to do? He panicked. He began frantically looking around for something, anything, that he could use to defend himself, but the fog hadn't lifted and he really couldn't see too much what was around him.  He began to feel over his body: jeans, shirt, vest, satchel strap... SATCHEL STRAP!  Kalahi still had his satchel on his back.

     The laughing grew louder.  'Oh God, it's reaching down for me! It's coming to get me!' Kahali thought as he quickly pulled off the satchel and thrust his arm down into to it to see if there was anything that could help him now.  toilet paper. No! Bags of dog shite. No! Empty carton of eggs. No! Spray can. No!... Wait! Yes! Spray Can!  His mind was racing so fast that he didn't even realized his hand had passed over a can of spray paint several times before it really registered that is was there.

     The laughter grew louder... 'How tall were these F&*^ers, anyway'

     Kahali pulled out the can of Spray Paint and pulled his lighter out of his jeans pocket.  As he looked up, he saw the great big glowing face part the fog in front of him. The leafy face leered.

     "FFFF&&&&*****^^^^^ OOOFFFFFFFFFF, YYYYOOOOUUUU  NNNNOOOBBBBB!!!!" Yelled Kahali and he flicked his lighter as he sprayed the paint into an explosion of fire that rained sideways onto the face of the Green Man.  The Green Man roared and Kahali sprayed until the last of the paint was spent...

     ...but the Green Man, with his huge leafy stone face lit ablaze was still there.  Kahali realized that the Green Man wasn't roaring from pain. He was roaring with laughter.  The gigantic fire face then smiled wickedly at Kahali.  He was so close that Kahali thought he would catch fire from just the heat alone.

     "Yoooouuuu look DELICIOUS!" and as the Green Man laughed these last words he picked Kahali up by the leg and raised him in the air.  He then opened his mouth wide and dropped Kahali head first into his mouth.  Kahali screamed from terror and from the fire, oh the fire! He felt his skin liquefy from his bones and before his eyes melted out of his skull, he saw Red then he saw blue then orange then yellow then red the black    black    dark     cold    dark   cold

     darkness.  nothingness.

     Kahali opened his eyes. then he shut them again. 'So bright!' then he squinted.  'Was it... daylight?' he thought. 'Could it really be morning?'  He opened his eyes completely. It was morning. It was day; the next day. He looked around. There was Tyrell and Harland nearby. They were in a field in what seemed to be the farm near township.  He got to his feet and shook the other two boys till they woke. Tyrell covered his eyes with his hands. Harland screamed as he woke.

     "We are alive.  I don't know how, but we are alive!" exclaimed Kahali and he laughed.  For the first time in his life he felt truly happy; happy to be alive.  He could see from the faces of his mates, they were also.  All three were so elated that they hadn't snuffed it, that none of them heard the sirens from the police cars that were driving up to them.  Kahali didn't care. They made it through the night and that's what mattered.  Harland even hugged the officer before he was cuffed.  Tyrell gave some resistance but eventually allowed himself to be cuffed and placed in the police car.

     All three were taken to the police station where they confessed to their crimes.  They were eventually sentenced to community service to help clean up the town from the mess they had helped make.  To Kahali, it was a small consequence in comparison.  They picked up trash, scrubbed houses, cars and even shite covered porches.  The worst clean up was, of course, the front entrance of the church. This wasn't because they thought it would be hard to scrub the paint off.  It was because they would have to, again, be face to face with the stone leafy covered faces of the Green Men.  This terrified all of them, even Tyrell. However, they had to do it.

     Oddly enough, it went rather quickly, and after a few hours of the hard labour, Kahali wasn't as afraid of the stone faces...  It was then, as Kahali was scrubbing off the last of the paint from one of the Green Man faces that he thought he saw something that couldn't be real.  He'd have sworn he saw the great face grin a wicked grin at him...

     ...and wink.

Glossary of British Slang Terms and Phrases:

1.) "Bang on"- British slang for "well done", "perfect" or "right on."

2.) "Bang to Rights"- Equivalent of ‘dead to rights.’ Caught in the act. Caught red-handed.

3.) Blinding- An adjective for excellence.

4.) Butters- Ugly girl/boy. "Nice body but her/his face," shortened to butters. 

5.) Chuffed- To be very pleased about something.

6.) Conk- A blow to the head or nose.

7.) Corker- Someone or something that/who is outstanding. A standout.

8.) Daft- Stupid, foolish.

9.) "Dinnit"- Didn't it.

10.) "Don't drop your glob"- Don't work yourself up into an emotional state or Don't get angry/out of sorts for no reason.

11.) Fuzz- Police.

12.) "Gon"- Going.

13.) "Go to Spare"- To become angry, frustrated, distressed, or enraged.

14.) "Hard Cheese"- an expression of bad luck.

15.) "Innit"- Isn't It.

16.) "Is it"- isn't it. but mostly substituted for the word "correct" or "yeah."

17.)  Knick- to steal.

18.) Legend- Refers to any person doing something "sick" or amazing at school that the teachers didn't find "sick" or amazing at all.

19.) Lot- a group or a sum. Usually refers to a group of people.

20.) Nob- Person of high social status, snob.

21.) Numpty- An incompetent or unwise person.

22.) Result- Exclamation meaning the same as "score!" or "yay!"

23.) Riot- Used as a verb meaning to be noisy, violent and disorderly.

24.) Shite- Shit.

25.) Sket- A "Ho"(whore) but the worst of the worst.

26.) "Snuffed it"- Gotten killed.

27.) Sod- Taboo slang. Used to refer to a person, especially a man, that you are annoyed with or think is unpleasant.

28.) Spawny- Lucky.

29.) "Taking the mickey"- To tease or mock.

30.) Tosh- None sense.

31.) Tosser- A homosexual; usually male.

32.) Twat- A derogatory epithet referring to a person considered obnoxious or stupid.

33.) Wanker- Literally means "one who wanks (masturbates)" but has since become a general insult.

34.) "Well Smashing"- "Well" is usually a substitute for "Very" when placed before an adjective. (i.e. well smashing, well fit, well shameful)  "Smashing" means extremely good or amazingly awesome.

     OK. First off, let me disclose a few obvious discrepancies that I was aware of when I wrote this story and that I would expect most of my readers to catch. Just so you know, I am aware I wasn't going to get away with it. lol.  The "township" that the story takes place in is completely fictional.  It does not exist remotely in reality. If there is a town similar to the one in my story that sits relatively close outside of London, then I am unaware of it.  Geography, unfortunately, has never been my strong point.  Also, there really wasn't a whole lot of time for research for this story when I wrote it.  Another discrepancy that I am sure you noticed is that Mischief Night does not take place near May Day (May 1st) in the UK.  It used to but has since been moved to November 4th, the night before the Gunpowder Plot.  Lastly, St. MacKillop's Cathedral is not a real church.  I just made it up.  I'll get to the reasons why these 3 untrue things garner relevant attention in a bit.

     On the Friday the posted the topic of MISCHIEF,  I really didn't know if I would participate or not.  I didn't have some really great idea come to me immediately, as those projects tend to do often.  Also, because my computer is cantankerous, so sometimes it feels like turning on, other times it doesn't.  It's rather annoying, but the computer is dying a slow and horrifying death. So, I really can't be too angry with it.  I just settle for annoyed. It's a compromise that has worked out since around Christmas when it started deciding it was going to retire at random and usually inconvenient times.  (A quick aside: I get my new computer this weekend. Hurrah!)  Anyway, as the week progressed, I ended up thinking more about the topic and (if I chose to participate) what I would draw for that topic.  Pondering usually leads me to working on it in the end, whether I wanted to or not.  Once the idea arrives, I can't really stop thinking about it.

     Since I normally illustrate images suitable for young children, I began to think of characters I could illustrate and a story that involved children playing pranks on their parents or other siblings, Parents playing pranks on their kids or even pets playing pranks on their human family members... but I really wasn't feeling it very much.  I pondered to myself,"Wouldn't it be great if there was an actual day, a holiday, that people played pranks on each other, outside of April Fools (since it's not April.)"  So, being the nerd I am, I researched to see if there was a holiday for pranks.  As it turns out, there really is one; an informal holiday, but a holiday none the less... Mischief Night.

     Mischief Night is an informal holiday on which certain children and teens engage in pranks and vandalism.  The earliest reference to Mischief Night is from 1790 when a headmaster encouraged a school play which ended in "an Ode to Fun which praises children's tricks on Mischief Night in most approving terms".  In the United Kingdom, these pranks were originally carried out as part of May Day celebrations, but shifted to later in the year, dates varying in different areas, some marking it on October 30, the night before Halloween, others on November 4, the night before Bonfire Night.  According to one historian, "May Day and the Green Man had little resonance for children in grimy cities. They looked at the opposite end of the year and found the ideal time, the night before the gunpowder plot." However, the shift only happened in the late nineteenth century and is described by the Opies as "one of the mysteries of the folklore calendar". In Germany, Mischief Night is still celebrated on May 1.

     Mischief Night tends to include popular tricks such as toilet papering yards and buildings, powder-bombing and egging cars, people, and homes, using soap to write on windows, "forking" yards, setting off fireworks, and smashing pumpkins and jack-o'-lanterns.  Local grocery stores often refuse to sell eggs to pre-teens and teens around the time of Halloween for this reason. Occasionally, the damage can escalate to include the spray-painting of buildings and homes.  Less destructive is the prank known as "Ding Dong Ditch."  Another popular prank in the United States is to put a small paper bag filled with dog excrement at the victim's front door, set it on fire, ring the doorbell, and run away while the occupant stomps out the disgusting surprise, thus getting it on the bottom of their foot.

     Mischief Night also is known by many names depending on the country it's celebrated in. Out of all the names that it is referred to in England, the name "Micky Night" seemed to resonate with me, thus eventually becoming the title of the short story.  Since many of the above activities are not really activities that young children would participate in, I saw an opportunity to create and write something for an older audience.  I had been looking for an opportunity to write YA (Young Adult) fiction, previously. It was a back-of-the-mind, back-burner-kind-of-thing.  Now it presented itself to me and the creative fountain flowed like a river off a cliff. lol.  I was on fire about this project because, for me, it would be a first; First time writing YA and first time illustrating characters that are pre-teen/teenagers.

     The story came first this time around.  I still wanted to stay true to my 2017 Challenge of Illustrating a breadth of diversity from around the world and also to write about it.  My setting was already chosen for me as I intended to use the name Micky Night.  For some reason, I just really liked it so much and England has so much culture and diversity to draw upon.  I decided that I wanted to write about 3 characters that were absolutely horrible.  I didn't want the audience to like them or even remotely sympathize with them, but for better or worse, I wanted everyone in the same boat with them.  I enjoy stories about unlikable characters, because they are challenging.
I enjoy films that are similar.  I just actually had been watching Don't Breathe were the protagonists are house burglars and are honestly not too likeable.  They are thrown into a situation where they are involved with an antagonist that is worse than they are.  It's intriguing to me how, in some way, I began to feel bad for the deviants that shouldn't have even been there in the first place.  It's a very intense film and I recommend it.  Another film that I had been watching is The Purge: Election Year.  The scene with the punk teenagers willing to kill a store owner over a candy bar is just chilling. I was also inspired by the teenage characters in J.K. Rowling's A Casual Vacancy.  Those teens just are awful people and they think and do the most awful things.  I was inspired by the coldness of all these characters.

     Let me just admit this here and now: As an American, it was truly tough to write dialogue for British Youth.  It doesn't matter how many hours I have logged watching Lauren and her Crew on the Catherine Tate Show, it is tough to write for them.  I did my best to infuse as much British slang as I could muster.

     With my characters, I didn't want you to sympathize with them at all.  I wanted the story to be about wicked characters getting their just deserts, in a way; getting served some of what they dish out.  So I devised a plot with 3 characters of varying wickedness that would go out to do terrible things on Mischief Night, only to run into a supernatural occurrence that may or may not change the way they are living their lives.  I purposefully left the ending open, because I wanted the audience to decide for themselves whether Kahali, Tyrell or Harland change their ways or just continue into an their adulthood as they are in the story.  Personally I have a very strong opinion on which characters may or may not go on to become a serial killer, but I will leave the wondering to you, the readers. I also didn't want to say for certain whether the confrontation with the Green Men was real, a dream or a hallucination from drugs they may or may not have taken before going out on their night of madness and mayhem.  There was a draft of the story originally included a part where the boys were smoking pot on the football field, but I edited it out for the above reason. By including drugs, I would be directly attributing the Green Men to drug hallucinations and that is not what I wanted.  However, I do believe that those three boys would certainly be the type to dabble in recreational drug use.  They could very well have dropped a bit of acid and smoked a little hashish before they howled at the moon, but it is very hard to say, even for me.  It was so very foggy that night. ;0)

     As I said earlier, I had a reason to change the time of year that Mischief Night takes place usually in England.  I wanted to confront with Green Men. A Green Man is a sculpture, or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the mouth, nostrils, or other parts of the face and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit. Commonly used as a decorative architectural ornament, Green Men are frequently found in carvings on both secular and ecclesiastical buildings.  The Green Man motif has many variations. Found in many cultures from many ages around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities. It is primarily interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, representing the cycle of growth each spring. Some speculate that the mythology of the Green Man developed independently in the traditions of separate ancient cultures and evolved into the wide variety of examples found throughout history.

     A theme that I often include in my illustration work and sometimes in my writing is the theme of Man vs. Nature.  It's an intriguing irony that the human animal desperately tries to amputate itself from the natural world through industrialization, civilization and technology.  We are from nature yet fight our most basic natural instincts often.  We sometimes fancy ourselves superior to the natural world.  It is usually then that Mother Nature puts us in our place.  I included this theme in my story with The Green Men confronting the boys for their damage to the town, it's citizens and to the natural world itself.  I wanted the Green Men to be awakened through an act of vandalism, graffiti with spray paint.  I borrowed this idea directly from Ferngully.  I no only loved how the Villain in the film, Hexus, is awakened by the poison from the spray paint that is painted across the tree that he is trapped in, but also how it's food to him. The poisons and the toxins nourish and provide him strength.  I literally lifted that idea, I won't deny it. lol.  I just loved the idea of these guardians of the Cathedral that are strengthened by each successive act of wickedness.  The more you try to stop them, the stronger they become.

     Before I talk about the illustration, I wanted to confess my reason for making up the fake township.  Yes, it's true, I didn't really have the time to investigate what is actually nearby London, but I also wanted full autonomy of the Geography of the city itself, specifically for the climax of the story.  I wanted a town square that resembled more of a park than a meeting place and I wanted it to have a Cathedral off to the side of it.  If you ask me, that's a tall order to find an actual town that would fit this description.  Even if there was, I wanted to use a specific name for the cathedral that I know does not exist anywhere in the world.  I wanted the catholic church to be named for St. MacKillop, the patron saint of troublemakers.  I really thought it was important to infuse the concept of Mischief throughout the story wherever I could.

     The names of the three boys actually mean trouble or mischief.  Kahali means mischievous Lord Shiva.  Tyrell is actually a nickname for a stubborn person, implying a comparison with a horse that uncooperatively pulls on the reins.  Harland is an English name derived from a Norman French byname for someone given to stirring up trouble, from the word hareler, meaning "to create a disturbance," hence "trouble-maker."   The boys do have last names.  I edited the surnames out because I thought it was too much to include. Their names are Kahali Singh, Tyrell Ormar and Harland Parrot. Their surnames meant the animals that they were to be associated with and had to do more with the original title I toyed with for this story: A Lion, a Snake and a Parrot Spell Trouble.  (Hindsight being that I realize that was a horrible title and possibly a bit pretentious.  It was also so very very very long and a bit boring. So I changed it.)  Singh means lion, Ormar means snake and Parrot is, of course, a parrot.  I felt these particular animals defined who these boys were and I wanted them to be named after them.  Kahali has a very strong personality.  He is brave and he could be either ferocious or tame depending on his present company.  Tyrell is definitely the snake.  He cares for no one other than himself and is only interested in a person for what they can do for him.  He has loyalty to no one,  He is secretive and manipulative.  Harland is just the follower.  He repeats whatever his present company is doing.  He also has a very foul mouth and that characteristic is usually attributed to sailors or pirates and their parrot pets tend to repeat after them.

     A few words about the illustration process for this piece:

     It was quite a challenge to switch gears and draw characters that are older than children but not quite adults.  I was excited with the challenge and it did take longer to produce a final sketch that I was pleased with.  I started with heads, as I normally do.  I want to make certain that the characters appearance is visually appealing and that takes some planning, research (visual reference)  and some sketching to accomplish.  I also slowed down this project as I may use it for other things than just an Illustration Friday project that is fun to do, but will likely not be used for much afterward.  I'm considering using it in my new portfolio, but I'm still pondering that.  Either way, it needed to be on point with other portfolio work, so I gave it more time and more love.

     My first sketch that I was pleased with for the three boys standing together was done rather small.  I liked the overall feel of that sketch and I liked the composition, but I just wasn't crazy about how little detail was in it (because of it's size.)  I also didn't like how the faces turned out. I still wanted them to feel more like my head sketches I had previously drawn. So, I took that sketch scanned it in, scaled it larger then printed out the larger version.  I light-boxed (traced) the general composition of the characters based on the print out and defined kinda-sorta where everything was so I could redraw it.  I then took even more time defining more details that I personally wanted to include in the final illustration and I wanted to get the faces closer to that original head sketch I made.

     One of the details that you may or may not have noticed are the masks themselves.  I drew the masks that Lock, Shock and Barrel, the 3 mischievous children from A Nightmare Before Christmas, wore.  I did change the shape of Lock's mask so that it would look like it would fit Tyrell's head and I added the Union Jack (England's Flag) to all 3 masks.  It shows the boys lack of respect for where
they live.

     If that wasn't enough extra work I gave to myself, lol, I had another issue: Tyrell's arm.  Tyrell is the character to the right in the illustration.  He is holding the lit lighter because he is primarily the pyromaniac of the group.  I had a huge issue with the proportion of his arm. It's in perspective and needed to be foreshortened, but, unfortunately none of the photo reference I could find of people holding those sort of lighters were holding it from the angle and point of view that I wanted him to be holding it. I found myself "imagining around corners"  This is my term for when you have a photo reference that is so close but not really so you have to invent in your head what the image would look like if you turned the angle slightly.  Ill be honest with you. Imagining around corners will ruin a drawing in no time at all. So, I kind of "cheated" the arm because I had erased and redrawn it SO MANY times over and was hoping that no one would really notice how absolutely awful it looked.  Tyrell was transforming into a T-Rex more so than he was lighting fires (well if you were going by my drawing.)

     B pointed the funny looking arm immediately.  I was instantly angry. I became a furious dinosaur.  I wasn't mad at him.  I was honestly just angry in general that no only was I unable to make what I had to use work for the illustration, but that I wasn't able to cover it up either with a acceptable "cheat."


     I took an extra day on the project, enlisted the help of B (who conveniently enough was of a similar height to Tyrell,) I went out and bought a damn zippo lighter and took reference photos of my own of the exact angle and pose that I wanted Tyrell to be in.
I then came home, drew the dismembered limb, inked the dismembered limb and then with the magic of Photoshop ("Repairo!",) I attached Tyrell's missing limb and fixed that visual atrocity of Tyrannosauric-Proportion.  So now each boy had their "tool" of tyranny. Harland was mostly responsible for the toilet papering of the town.  Kahali is responsible fore the graffiti tagging mostly and Tyrell the setting of things on fire. Though each boy undoubtedly participated in all of it, each one is known more to be responsible for a particular vandalism.  They are punished by the same tools of their trade by the Green Men in the story. "If you live by the gun, you die by it."  I wanted to illustrate each of their chosen crimes.

     The rest of the project went more smoothly.  I do enjoy my digital collage time. I put on both Don't Breathe and all 3 Purge films.  I also threw in the first 3 Child's Play movies (the only good ones in the series.)  Chucky was definitely an inspired choice, given the subject content that I was working on. The only other problem that I ran into was trying to get the texture and the color of their denim correct. Each pair of pants needed to be different in color but also needed to provide contrast against each other.  I also needed the characters in the back to stay in the back and that was difficult because their jean color wanted to leap out in front. So it took a bit of work to get the right balance for that.

     Ultimately, considering all the bumps and bruises that I accumulated from working through this project, I am quite pleased with the result.  I'm proud of my first venture into the YA world, both literately and illustratively.  I hope you all enjoyed the story and illustration as much as I enjoyed creating them.  I leave you all with a song that played on repeat at the gym when I was working on this project.  The mood and video kept my mind in the right place to create the project.  I hope you all find a little Mischief to get into for yourselves, this weekend.

Until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, 
keep making art.