September 2005

You know that you’re never gonna make it back to the fields we know when you take a break, lean back in your chair, gaze at your latest creation, and find yourself thinking “I dunno…it’d be cuter if it was a maggot.”

Went and saw “Corpse Bride” last night. Cute, if somewhat short. Burton’s character designs are always so cool. It even gets credit for one of the best cute spiders ever–there was a little singing black widow that actually LOOKED like a spider, the way that, say, the spider chick in “A Bug’s Life” didn’t at all (if memory serves, she looked more like a sort of Disney-esque drider, and god, does that take me back) but was still very cuddly. It’s bloody hard to do a spider that looks even vaguely like a spider that’s still cute. I think it worked because the mouth was mammalian, with lips and little fangs, instead of the big hairy palp thing that is so hard to translate into “D’awww!”

The maggot, on the other hand, I didn’t find quite so appealing. It had too much of a face. Then again, if I was going to draw a friendly singing maggot, it would come out looking like a cross between the thing from “It Gnaws…” a gummi worm, and a silky anteater, so it’s probably better that way. The world is not yet ripe for Cuddlemaggots(tm)!

Update: Okay, okay…a very quick doodle is all I’m willing to devote to the idea…

Slice of Life — Botany Division

We were picking up the track strewn about by another nocturnal raid, and I noticed tables and tables of plants–geraniums and impatiens, mostly–in plastic pots in the next door neighbor’s yard.

U: “Hmm, he must sell those commercially or something…”

J: “He could be a botanist! Like Mr. McGreggor!”

I wracked my brain for a few seconds trying to think of who the hell Mr. McGreggor was–all I could come up with was somebody in the Peter Rabbit stories, and that seemed a little obscure for James.

U: “Who’s Mr. McGreggor?”

J: “You know! He was a botanist! McGreggor…MacGregor…

U: *blank look*

J: “The monk!”

While highly skilled in the art of following James’s somewhat eclectic grasp of the language and even more eclectic grasp of history, it took me a few seconds to get the ‘ol brain to go over this particular jump.

U: “You mean Gregor Mendel?”

J: “Yeah! Him!”

U: “Mister McGreggor?!”

J: “I knew who I meant.”

The problem with not ever abusing the cat is that I can’t use the threat of physical violence to dissuade her from doing bad things. I would never hurt the cat, but they’re not like dogs, who have that inherent sense of guilt and remember the Rolled Up Newpaper the rest of their lives. The cat doesn’t believe it. Sure, I may clip her with a madly flailing foot when she claws my ankle in the night, but for Athena, this is the equivalent of another cat taking a swipe at her when they’re playing–the force is minimal and the aim is terrible, and it just incites her to do it again and duck faster.

This can be a problem when you’re trying to instill in them why they shouldn’t do potentially dangerous things.

For example, I am on the exercise bike, desperately attempting to keep my heart rate up for ten minutes so that I can burn off that extra 10% body weight I seem to be luggin’ around these days. The cat settles down and begins idily licking at an end table with a scratched up leg, and I’m worried she’ll get splinters in her tongue or gut.

“Athena,” I say sternly, “(puff, puff) stop that!”

The cat doesn’t even look up.

“Athena, stop that or I’ll have you beaten!”

The cat cocks one eye my way and continues to lick.

I smack the book I was reading against my thigh. It makes a loud noise. The cat, never having had a hand raised against her in her life, and fearing no creature but the vaccuum, flicks an ear.

“CAT, cut that out!” I wave my hands at her, still biking furiously. The cat is now watching me to see what fun thing I’ll do next, but after a second or two, in disappointment, goes back to licking the end table.

Out of other useful ideas, and beginning to resign myself to dismounting and heart rate be damned, I waved my arms frantically and made a loud yawping noise, like a demented giant seagull.

The cat is charmed. Her very own giant seagull! She comes over and jumps into my lap. Since my knees are going up and down quite rapidly as I bike, this is not nearly as interesting. She tries to ride it out for a few minutes, then gives me a disgusted look–some giant seagull I turned out to be!–and stalks away. Fortunately, she has forgotten all about licking the table by that point, and once I got down and taped over the rough bit, another minor crisis averted.

Over the years, I have made peace with my own sloppiness. If I want tighter detail, I work bigger. There are artists who can spend a week with a size zero brush, but I am absolutely not among them. I can admire their dedication, but I can only do that for brief stints. With watercolor, there’s a certain degree of detail, but once I get out the acrylics, I just can’t work small if I wish to retain my sanity.

Unfortunately, there’s a downside. At the moment, I have ideas for a couple of paintings, but they will all require a fairly large surface–i.e. 18 x 36. And paintings that size get a price that size, and thus they sell slowly, if at all. I have a few dedicated collectors, whom I am deeply grateful for, who are willing to spend a year paying off a thousand dollar painting, but for most of my fan base, this is simply not feasible. (Hell, I couldn’t do it myself!) The print sales help, of course, but I’m still left with some jumbo paintings at the end of the day.

And this, of course, leads me back again to “Crud, I need to get into some galleries.” Not even with the gearworld stuff, neccessarily, but, if at all possible, with my standard combination of weirdass detailed cute. Of course, having looked at some more commercial galleries with a friend ‘o mine t’other day, I’m thinking it’s more possible, but heck, maybe I just need to bite the bullet and send an app to the local arts council and say “Yo, give me a wall somewhere!”

Well, we’ll see.

Reading the latest China Mieville anthology, “Looking for Jake.”

As is usual for his work, it wanders between extremes of “Eh, I guess. Well written, though,” (like “Iron Council”) and “Oh sweet blithering Christ, why didn’t *I* think of that?!” (Like “Perdido Street Station and “The Scar”)

One of his short stories is a fabulous one about feral streets that move between cities, fighting with each other, occasionally mating and producing rogue alleys. God! Why didn’t I ever think about wild streets?
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Slug Porn

I can take comfort in the fact that no matter how bizarre the backyard gets, I’ve yet to see THIS.

Scroll down to the bottom. Strangely enough, a site with the phrase “they extrude from their heads their blue, club-shaped penis sacs which then extend into a fan shape at the tips” is pretty much safe for work.

These slugs’ genitals look like blue gummy ginko leaves.

It is entirely typical of my existence that I go through my e-mail, and selling the giant stone wang piece is followed immediately by selling A-B-C prints for a nursery.

I was thinking about art instruction the other day. I was reading the memoirs of Richard Feynman, the physicist, and he was talking about taking art classes, and how odd it was. I’m paraphrase badly, but his basic point was that an art teacher can’t make many outright pronouncements about how to do something, like “Don’t use thick lines for this” or “Don’t use those colors to do figures,” because somebody somewhere has probably made a painting work like that. There’s no absolute laws, like there are in math, so a teacher can’t really teach that this is so and this isn’t, they just have to hope that the students pick stuff up by osmosis.

This is both absolutely true and rather false.
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For non DA members (click image for larger version)


One more reason I love James. I showed him this piece.

J: Cool.

U: The other mole rats think he’s compensating for something.

J: Yeah! Like not having any hair!

U: ….

U: ….

U: It’s a painting of a giant stone penis, and you think he’s compensating for his lack of hair?

J: What?

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