Oh My God, Dream-Eating Tapirs!

So apparently I lived to nearly thirty-four years of age without ever learning that the Japanese have a mythological creature called the baku that is a tapir that eats dreams.

I cannot believe no one ever mentioned this to me. On the other hand, since everybody is pointing out that they’re in the one Neil Gaiman book, which I just remember being about a fox and a Buddhist monk, apparently it was my own fault that I missed it.

Now that I am aware of its existence, I am obviously deeply and profoundly in love.

His hand is glowing, because that's just how he rolls.

Also, it finally explains that Pokemon Drowzee, which I always kind wondered about.

Baku are actually a bit more chimeric than a straightforward tapir, having the body of a tiger and the head of a tapir, except that tapirs are obscure and elephants are obvious, so now they’re often tiger-elephants, and also they have the tail of an ox with the big floof at the end required by all Asian mythological creatures* and possibly also the eyes of a rhinoceros, although nobody seems to be tracking that last one too closely.

So this is 8 x 8—fooling around with technique, he’s a fairly loose digital sketch, printed, sealed, coated with clear gesso, and worked over with colored pencils, acrylic ink, and some white acrylic. The clear gesso gives it a serious grainy texture, which lets the colored pencils act almost like pastel over the dark background, and gives is a little more texture, while the colors are bright and saturated enough that I’m surprised by how slick the thumbnails look.

And I gotta say, he was just unbearably fun to do. I mean, sure, tiger-pawed tapir that eats dreams! Of course that was fun! But the size and the composition was a lot of fun, too—I love doing the close-ups like that, and I hardly ever do them because there is still that tiny voice in my brain going “If you don’t have a full background and body shot and everything, people will think you can’t draw!” and while I have killed any number of those little voices—there is an entire wing in the basement of my brain where the bodies are piling up—this one’s a wiggler.

ANYWAY. Prints! I guess an original for sale, too, although much like the Squash Kachina, there cannot be that many fangirls on this topic (although I dunno, Neil Gaiman never wrote a book about the Squash Kachina, and oh god, if only.)

But yes. Prints. Yes.

*I occasionally wonder, given the floof, if there was some kind of extinct breed of peacock-ox bred specifically for the size and quality of their tails. This would obviously be a non-pooping breed of ox, possibly explaining why it is now extinct.

Frog Nouveau: Orchids

11 x 14 mixed media on paper sealed to board

Among the smallest of the winged frogs, the winged orchid frog lives primarily on insects attracted to the orchid flowers that it mimics.  This would tend to cut down on pollination, but the frogs are fairly slow and stealthy predators, so pollination often occurs before the frog manages to snap the unsuspecting insect out of the air.

Wanted to fool around some more with the Art Nouveau print-sealed-to-board-and-painted technique, and since I had fifty bizillion photos of orchids from a recent trip to the zoo—the orchids were the only thing that held still long enough—I wanted to paint orchids, and thought “Hey, I haven’t painted a little winged frog in forever!” so there we are.

Original for sale, 11 x 14—would need framing, since it’s watercolor paper sealed to board, and watercolor paper absorbs any dirt that even looks in its direction—but for sale, and of course, as always, prints!

General Round Up…

Life continues apace. In theory I get sales numbers for Ninja Frogs soon—preliminary call from agent indicates that it’s goin’ good, but I’d kinda like to see actual numbers of copies, since going good could cover a range anywhere between “not sucking” and “talk to your accountant about offshore tax havens.”* This is the woeful fact of many publishers—that book came out over a year ago, and I still don’t know sales figures. It definitely earned out fairly early on, but they only now are sending out statements and (hopefully) a check. Whenever clerks at the bookstore go “Wow! This one’s selling really well!” I go “Yay! Thank you—I have no idea, they don’t TELL me!”

Some publishers are better. Some are worse. Given how many books are in the series, I foresee a point ‘long about 2013 where I am getting a statement every month or so with numbers on it, at which point my brain will explode and I will no longer remember what exactly I do for a living and will probably start hawking MY TOTEM IS A SLIME MOLD bumper stickers on the street corner.

Speaking of which, I have a post about my experience with the delightful Dog Vomit Slime Mold over at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. (Howzat for a segue?)

The LA Times had a nice review of kid’s graphic novels, including a couple of paragraphs for Batbreath. Yay!

Mr. Printy II just made a horrifying series of noises and spat black ink, prompting me to finally start calling every retailer in the area to see if they had replacements, which they don’t, so I had to order on-line, from Amazon, the only place that seemed to have the damn things in stock. (Sure, it was a hundred bucks less at Staples…but they’ve been out of stock for MONTHS, so what good does that do me?)  This is very sad, but I got quite literally thousands of prints off Mr. Printy II, I ran it until it nearly caught fire at times, and given how much abuse I subject that sucker to, I cannot claim anything but superb workmanship on the part of Epson. I am happy to get exactly the same thing again.

(Of course, now that I’ve ordered it, the current Mr. Printy has settled down and is printing beautifully, flawlessly, without a qualm. Watch Mr. Printy III sit in a box for a month because this one suddenly realized that it was about to go the Great Ink Cartridge In The Sky…)

And my garden is awesome, but you knew that already.

*Okay, there’s actually no chance the range includes that.

KUEC #31

“He had this advanced medical condition where his penis had fallen off”

In which we return to our low-brow roots with White Castle and Hungry-Man, eat Welsh rarebit, and you learn some mildly disturbing things about my ex-step-grandfather.*

Also, Angus, aka Little Orange Cat has gotten REALLY friendly lately, and is currently sitting on my desk staring at me and purring furiously, despite the fact that I am not touching him.

*It was a complicated relationship.

Rat Nouveau: Lemons

9 x 12 mixed media

This painting took me two days, and not in the way you’d think.

I have been wanting to try my painting-on-print-sealed-to-board technique in concert with Art Nouveau for awhile. It seemed like a natural—computers are really good at all the geometric design elements, so you do those, block out the space where you have your figure, print it all out, seal it to board, and go to work painting your figure and the visible bits of background.

And that is exactly what I did, although that description rather glosses over the day-and-a-half spent printing, sealing, swearing, tearing, slicing, X-acto wielding, re-printing, re-sealing, swearing, screaming, minor blood loss, reworking, swearing, and finally painting. Also there was swearing.

By the end of the first day, after a fair amount of wasted paper and two wasted boards, I had the process down, whereupon I realized that the sketch was complete crap and totally wrong and obviously the painting was about lemons not about salt and I went storming around the house yelling about how I should have been a medical test subject like Mom wanted.*

So this actually the fourth version, and the yellows did not scan quite as cleanly as I had hoped, but nevertheless, I have a proof of concept! Watercolor, colored pencil, acrylic and ink, all on hot-press watercolor paper, upon which I had printed the geometric linework. This did not make it as easy as I’d hoped—line weight is still an issue that you have to cope with, inking the rat, and I was not entirely successful on a few points, but it’s still a pretty good proof of concept, and perhaps I will get better if I do another one about limes or grapefruit or something.

Although this rat seems awfully pensive, and I’m not sure how pensive it is possible to be over limes. Grapefruit, certainly, grapefruit are inherently stoic that way, but limes are basically a happy-go-lucky fruit when you get right down to it.

Anyway! 9 x 12, mixed media on digital print on hotpress watercolor sealed to board. Original is for sale, of course, and prints are available in both sizes—drop a line, hit the website, you guys know the drill!

*This is not true. My mother wanted me to be an artist. For a long time I believed her when she said that it was because I had talent—now I’m mostly convinced that misery just loves company.

A coupla things…

I am pretty much too busy to breathe these days, and what spare minutes I get are spent trying to conquer Mt. Mulch. But I have links and doodles!

KUEC #30: “All the hot dogs have floated to the top” in which we eat food from a truck stop in Georgia. (Never question our dedication. Our sanity, our good taste, our odds of survival, yes, absolutely—but not the dedication!)

I’ve got a post on teeny weeny cricket frogs over at Beautiful Wildlife Garden, and while I am at the glorified-doodles-only stage of productivity, here’s a couple tiny pieces of small creatures.

Small Creature With Dashing Hat

3.5 x 5 on gessoboard

Small Creature With Very Small Onion

3 x 5

Originals are for sale, drop a line—probably won’t be doing prints of these, they’re too small. I have been doodling various version of them for a couple of days, so there may be a few more, or perhaps I will be seized with a desire to do something Massive And Epic, despite being under the gun for Dragonbreath, or possibly the mulch will fall on me.

Auel’s Land of Painted Caves and a Modest Proposal

So I finished the latest Jean Auel book.

And by “finished” I mean that I gave up reading the unbelievably tedious journey from cave painting to cave painting to cave painting—seriously, did an editor even breathe the same AIR as this book?—skipped to where stuff started to happen, became baffled and frustrated and then downright angry, and found myself in agreement with the minor character from Book 3 who popped up to say, in effect, “Y’all need to stop fucking around or I’m gonna knock your heads together, because this shit keeps happening.” (I paraphrase, I paraphrase. But that’s the gist.)

I am going to rant for a minute or two here, and there may be spoilers, so you should stop now if you have already bought the book. If you haven’t–or if you still know where the receipt is–keep reading, I can save you a couple of precious hours.

This was a big disappointment.

Now I loved these books. I loved them even knowing that they are not great books. I started them when I was, like, ten, and they are critical bits of my childhood. I grew up with these books.

**TMI WARNING**

No, seriously, I figured out that a clitoris existed because of Jean Auel books, in a “What the hell is this thing they keep bringing up during the sex scenes?” kinda way.  For this alone, I owe Mz. Auel a debt of gratitude, otherwise I would have had to wait until ninth-grade health and learning you have something like that from a xeroxed word search is just humiliating.

**END TMI***

Really, I loved these books. I don’t care that Ayla invented everything worth inventing, spoke ten languages, was a doctor AND a psychic AND a master hunter AND beautiful AND rode lions AND domesticated the horse, while remaining modest, kind, and good with children.  I was okay with that. I pick up Valley of Horses and the lens of my youth slides back down over my brain and I feel warm and fuzzy and confident that I, too, could kill things in a pit trap and ride lions if I felt like it.  Yes, as I aged, I skipped the sex scenes, and yes, that meant I skipped a LOT of Book 4. (Oh look, mammoths! Let’s have sex! Hey, we nearly died! Let’s have sex! Oh look, locusts! Wanna have sex?) But stuff still happened, and I still enjoyed it quite a lot.

And then there was this last book.

Now, I respect the rights of authors to decide what their great works are about for themselves, and if Auel decides that the critical chunk of her books is not Neanderthal/Cro-Magnon interactions, but rather the discovery that sex = babies, then Auel gets to do that. I fully respect her right to make that choice.

…even if it is a seriously stupid-ass choice.

However, I also respect the contract with the readers, and if you’ve put the gun on the mantle in book three, you are required to fire it by book six. Saying “Hey, look, remember that gun from book three?” does not count as firing it. Visions and prophecies are not like remainders in long division—merely mentioning them does not count as resolving them.

In short, you dedicated the entire first book to the Clan, they’re the great tension of the series, the issues involved could fire three or four books, you even set up ways to deal with that issue…and instead you spent the final book exhaustively detailing every cave painting in France and then having Jondalar and Ayla fuck up their relationship Yet Again in ways that felt haphazard and worse, bafflingly illogical.

Terrible. Boring and terrible and not true to the characters and wasteful of unbelievable potential. And I really didn’t expect much. Something on par would Book 5 would have been fine, if it wrapped some loose ends and had a trade delegation to the Clan and whatnot, and nobody remembers Book 5 very fondly. I wasn’t expecting a triumph.

(I realize that this is arguably the worst review I’ve ever given a book in public, and I do so only because I’m sure Jean Auel doesn’t read my blog, but still—god, what a WASTE.)

Therefore, I have a proposal.

There was a movie a decade or so ago. It was the sequel to a very popular movie that involved people living forever by cutting off other people’s heads. The sequel started with H, ended with 2, had Sean Connery in it, and after it came out, fandom rose to its collective feet, looked at one another, and said “Let us never speak of this again.”

And we mostly haven’t. The franchise went on to have several very entertaining TV shows, and we have generally managed to go on by pretending that there never was such a movie or if there was, it was clearly some form of fevered fan-fic and not even remotely resembling canon.

I would like to propose that we place Land of Painted Caves into this category.

It didn’t happen. The book did not occur. Yeah, I’m still a little disappointed that the series ended on a kind weird note in Book 5, but at least there were hints at potential resolutions, right? Some neat characters there! Guess the vision was just a metaphor or something. Pity she never got around to writing that sixth book, but y’know, she got into her research so much, and then the aliens abducted her right out of that cave—was that crazy, or what?

There will probably be comments. I will probably chat in them.

And afterwards, let us never speak of this again.

Primitive Birders

8 x 8 mixed media on gessoboard

On the one hand, I went birding last week.

On t’other, I just picked up the new Jean Auel book, Land of Painted Caves, which is representing the Ice Age nicely by moving like a glacier. (Seriously, 250+ pages, no discernable plot, they’re just going from cave painting to cave painting and recapping the Entire Bloody Series on the way… It even took 180 pages before there was an overwrought sex scene, which for an Auel book is rather astounding.)

So really, this was probably inevitable…

Anyway, 8 x 8, original for sale, drop a line, prints available as always. I’ve got a couple more assemblage pieces in need of photographing, but since I’m firmly in the middle of Dragonbreath 6 art, I haven’t gotten all that much done.  I have the ideas, but not the energy, between Dragonbreath and moving mulch. Oh, the endless mulch…