My title doesn’t mean that I am free from writing space books. These bizarre little sci-fi satires keep reeling out of the space between my ears. My head is full of science fiction froo-froo. And it has to go somewhere. So, in honor of Book 3 of the AeroQuest series being free this weekend (through September 22), I am posting today more AeroQuest art.
Category Archives: artwork
A lot of my artwork has to do with students and teachers, and of course, the schools they attend. I wonder where this obsession came from?
There’s a lot of science fiction elements in school. After all, we are preparing students for the future.
It is hard to tell just by looking whether this school is in the past or in the future. The secret is, this illustrates a science fiction novel I haven’t written yet. It is on another planet three thousand years in the future.
This picture of one of my last high school ESL classes is not realistic. Students are far more cartoonish than they are pictured here.
Of course, school is not about the teachers. It is about the students.
These two are Blueberry Bates and Mike Murphy.
They are fictional people.
But they are based on three different seventh grade couples I taught in Texas.
One set actually grew up and married each other.
You know how you can tell that this school is from science fiction? The student in the picture is actually a robot who looks human.
Ah, school! How I miss it.
Life is a Merry-Go-Round…
Up and Down,
Round and Round,
And if you can’t handle
The horse you are riding
Tame and gentle as he is,
Then take a quick shift
To the horse right behind you
As the circle continues to whiz.
I promised I wasn’t going to talk about him anymore. He befouls my dreams and makes my life harder, but noticing him, even with a heart full of scorn, is what he wants me to do. Even negative attention gives his little black Grinch-heart joy.
Kurt Vonnegut is dead. His life and his works are complete. But he is still with me, the creator’s eyes and ears are still here.
Salvador Dali is dead. His life and his works are complete. But he is still with me. Clocks still melt to his timetable.
Judy Garland is dead. Her life and her works are complete. But she is definitely still with me as I sing her signature song to myself, wishing to be beyond the rainbow.
Michael Beyer is not dead. His life and his works not yet complete. But he is still working, and writing, and more, And the sugar in his heart is still sweet.
Yes, I am quite unhappy with the world the way it is. He has done terrible things, and yet they let him stay where he is. There is no excuse for it. The evidence is there for anyone not looking with their eyes closed.
But even though his promises are lies, I shall keep mine. Notice, I have not mentioned his name. But you still know who I mean and what he has done.
And I have never spoken of him as the “P-word” of the United States. So, my promises are unbroken, even though I can’t ignore him. I will vote against him, if God allows me to live that much longer.
He no longer makes me upset.
Now he just makes me poetic.
The thing about being an artist that I can’t seem to really explain, if I even am one, is “Why?” I mean why am I an artist? I am not a camera. You look at my imperfect drawings, and you can see it is a drawing. Even if I did photo-realistic drawings, I would still have to wonder “Why?” Why go to all that work if we have cameras for that?
And if we draw something that never was, but might have been… if only we were made like gods and could control everything around us completely… why is that worth doing? Just to see things through my eyes? I have weird eyes. They see skateboards with flaming Bart Simpsons on them saying, “Eat my shorts!” What is the value of that?
Perhaps this sort of “Seeing through someone else’s eyes” gives us a perspective that we could get no other way. I know I love art museums, art books, and art collections even more than I like looking at my own art. I love looking at the world as other people see it.
Maybe artwork, in one form or another is the closest we can come to truly sharing what’s inside us with other human beings, mind to mind, heart to heart, liver of blood-curdling revelation to liver of blood-curdling revelation… wait, you mean not everyone has a liver like that?
So, not everyone lives life the way I do, or knows what I know, or remembers the sweet, sad things I remember, or sees things the way I see them. Is that, then, the reason why for being an artist? Or cartoonist if you believe that I am not a real artist?
If I truly am an artist… and I am not convinced that I truly am, then I don’t answer the why questions. It is the job of the scientist to do that. I only ask the questions. And I do it by drawing the next inexplicable thing.
Okay, big miscalculation here. My old eyes can’t read the rabbit-talk in this cartoon. So, let me do something about it.
Nope. I can read it now. But that’s the problem. Not only is it not funny, but it’s also sorta racist. But wolves do eat rabbits. Still…
News in the RabbitTown Gazette includes the fact that my son is nearing recovery from COVID 19, and nobody in the house has caught it from him. He gets tested on Saturday so he can return to work if the test is negative.
Of course, the nation-wide news is not so great. This is 2020 after all, even in RabbitTown. The price of carrots is still within reach. But rabbit people are continuing to get sick from the pandemic which will be with us well into 2021.
And the weasel in the really bad weasel-wig that somehow got elected Prexydon’t is still favoring wolf-people, even when they kill an unarmed rabbit. And he blames the rabbits for being mad about how the wolves seemed to get away with murder. He twists the facts to suggest that exercising your right to peaceful protest is the cause of the chaos.
According to the featured editorial in the RabbitTown Gazette, you should be able to say, “Rabbit lives matter!” without having wolves answer back, “You mean ALL lives matter!”
After all, if you can’t admit out loud that “Rabbit lives matter,” then you really mean the opposite when you are saying, “ALL lives matter.”
Rabbits, whether they are black, white, brown, or red, have unique rabbit qualities, and they all have a basic worth. And I don’t mean as food for wolves.
The paper seems to have only bad news about the economy when you look at it from a rabbit perspective. Sure, the wolves are doing great right now on Wall Street, but that doesn’t help those of us who are not invested in the stalk market. We regular rabbits, and especially poor rabbits, are struggling to keep carrots on the table.
So, it is time for all good rabbits to do whatever a rabbit can. And that’s the way it was today in Rabbit News.
Once I was finally able to scan pictures again, I did some scanning of old pictures that only got the camera treatment before on my blog.
But why stop a drawing at just the pen and ink, when there is potential for so much more?
So, I took the Microsoft generic paint program and my generic photo editor to not only this pen and ink of the Jungle Princess, but a few other pictures as well.
This is what she looks like after being attacked with color by my arthritic old hands. (There was a day when I could have handled intricate details more cleverly, but that was many, many days ago.
Anyway, I have added new dimensions to Leopard Girrrl with color.
Now I need to add more complications to the basic story of the picture.
Here is an older pen and ink.
This is Dorin Dobbs, one of the dueling plotlines’ protagonists from the novel Catch a Falling Star.
But, of course, Dorin is a more complex character than this old black and white.
So, color needs to be added.
I had this one actually already painted in…
But in order to use it in this project, I needed to enlarge it to make it fit into the other picture.
Making this unlikely pair work together in a story is one of the challenges of doing surrealist stories. They have to be grounded in realism, but also bring jarringly different things together. Like the Jungle Princess going on an adventure with Norwall’s Lying King.
But, putting these two together is still not enough. Let’s try some other things.
The Jungle Princess together with Tomboy Dilsey Murphy is an unusual pairing.
Or what about the blue faun from Laughing Blue?
Or even Annette Funicello?
Ridiculous, I know. But don’t they look like satin sofa paintings?
And how surreal is that?
I am in quarantine because of my son’s COVID-positive status, so naturally I am hyper-sensitive to the possibility that I could get the virus and die in just a few days. This morning I woke up to a cough, headache, and sinus drainage that immediately set off alarm bells. Time to start living my last days on Earth…. again.
But I have been thinking about canceling the Pubby subscription I bought before the free ten-day trial period ends tomorrow and they charge my bank account for the whole year. So, before calling an ambulance prematurely and setting the house in a panic, I checked Pubby. One of the two reviewers I thought were both going to stiff me on a review I had earned came through and posted a review. And it was a very literate and convincing five-star review. I was basically thrilled and felt vindicated enough that the other nagging worry felt better too.
So, then I took my temperature yet again and got 37.1 degrees Celsius. 37 C is, of course, normal, a fact that I had to look up and then convert to Fahrenheit myself just to be sure. So, I have not had a single instance of fever since long before the quarantine began. And, I was also able to discern that these are the exact same symptoms I had at the end of June that made me go get a COVID test that proved I was negative for the virus after the doctor assured me that taking the test was only a precaution, and I didn’t really have coronavirus symptoms. I still have medication for the allergic reaction I had last time, I remembered trying to do the same clean-up yesterday that I had done the first time I had that reaction.
Since we are on a watch for severe symptoms anyway, I decided to wait until I have a fever or shortness of breath. Exactly what the doctor would tell me to do anyway with the situation whether a test came back positive or negative. I am saving money for the doctor’s phone-call consultation, and saving myself another long trip and long wait in a long, long line. Especially when I don’t feel well enough to drive, and don’t want to risk a healthy family member to drive me. So, while I am sealed in my room waiting to die, I will continue to write and read and try to get more books reviewed. This may be my last day alive. But I am happy and the world looks good even though the Republican National Fear-fest continues to threaten a Trump-family dictatorship.
Oh, and I am continuing to scan artworks as my scanner has temporarily forgotten once again how much it hates me after tax time.
After trying to hash out a truce with hard-headed hardware, I finally got my scanner working again, despite an unruly and uncooperative keyboard that puts in the wrong command even as I am trying to type this.
Once harnessed to the wagon again, the scanner must now pull more than its own weight as I attempt to create illustrations for my book of essays.
I am working on scanning and converting things to all black and white. So, all of these Art Day illustrations are pulling towards that goal. And much of what I will show you is newly scanned, or re-scanned, or black-and-white.
Here again I will attempt to foolishly explain what a picture means and why I created it. I say “foolishly” because I know, as an artist, that once a picture is finished, it is really no longer mine to interpret. It becomes the exclusive province of the viewer to define what you see in your own terms. Your experience of the picture is your own private matter, entirely between you and your eyeballs and your own happy little brain.
That being said, here is the insight into my own internal bad weather in the brain that led to the making of this picture.
I created this picture in colored pencil back in 1981 when I was finishing my grad school degree, and waiting for my comprehensive exam in the spring led to a lot of sitting around with nothing to do nor money to do anything with. I was living in an efficiency apartment in Iowa City, a twenty-minute walk from most of my classes in the University of Iowa Campus, nestled nicely among the downtown features of one of the most progressive cities available in farm-centric Republican-conservative Iowa. It was no Berkley, California. But it was not Hayseed Hicksville either.
So, I was thinking about how my mind had been freed from the prison of Iowegian conservatism by learning in the school where Kurt Vonnegut had once been part of the acclaimed Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa. I had taken some courses that really opened my eyes. A philosophy course taught by a professor who had been excommunicated by the Catholic Church. A deep study of English linguistics with a fairly radioactive dose of the breakthroughs of understanding made by Noam Chomsky. I was moved to “think about thinking,” and so, I drew a picture I would call “The Wings of Imagination.”
As a pencil drawing, I had originally set the eagle-winged Pegasus in the middle of a Medieval village (having recently discovered the original blooming of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons that was sweeping the university.) But when I looked at the drawing of the winged horse compared to the surrounding drawing, I knew the beautiful imaginary creature had to show the ability to soar high even though its feet were on the ground. So, I erased everything but the Pegasus and turned the background into the mountain heights you now see in the finished version.
I cannot claim the picture is without flaws, however. You may have noticed that the horse part has overly massive hind legs compared to excessively spindly front legs. The mountainous region I set it in was inspired by watching Bob Ross paint mountains on PBS. I had some pictures from National Geographic as reference for the mountain tops, but the lower valley came entirely from memories of vacation-time Colorado and Montana. The clunky parts were caused by an imperfect memory and a lack of landscape skill.
So, that is why I did what I did. And I am proud of it.
But it is entirely up to you to make of it what you will. That is how the artist/viewer relationship works.
I have never been an attention-seeker. In the Elysian Fields of modern society, I have never really been the honeybee. I have always been the flower. I had a reputation in high school for being the quiet nerd who ends up surprising you immensely in speech class, at the science fair, or at the art show. I was the one they all turned to when everybody in the conversation had already had their chance to strut and pontificate and say dumb things, and they were finally ready to get the solution to the problem being discussed, or the best suggestion on where to begin to find it.
When I became the teacher of the class instead of the student, I had to make major changes. I had to go from being patient, quiet, and shy to being the fearless presenter, forceful, sharp as an imparter of knowledge, and able to be easily understood, even by the kids whom you couldn’t legally call stupid, but were less than smart, and not in a pleasant Forrest Gump sort of way.
Shyness is only ever overcome by determination and practice. The standard advice given is to picture your audience naked so that you are not intimidated by them. But if your audience is seventh graders, you have to be extra careful about that. They are metaphorically naked all the time, ready at a moment’s notice to explode out of any metaphorical clothing they have learned to wear to cover the things that they wish to keep to themselves about themselves. And while you want them to open up and talk to you, you don’t want the emotional nakedness of having them sobbing in front of the entire class, or throwing things at you in the throes of a mega-tantrum over their love-life and the resulting soap operas of betrayal and revenge. And you definitely don’t want any literal nakedness in your classroom. (Please put your sweat pants back on, Keesha. Those shorts are not within the limits of the dress code.) Calling attention to yourself and what you have to say, because you are being paid to do so, is a critical, yet tricky thing to do. You want them looking at you, and actually thinking about what you are saying (preferably without imagining you naked, which they will do at any sort of unintentional slip or accidental prompting.) The ones who ignore you are a problem that has to be remedied individually and can eat up the majority of your teaching time.
I trained myself to be fairly good at commanding the attention of the room.
But now that I am retired, things have changed. I can still command attention in the room, which I proved to myself by being a successful substitute teacher last year. But I no longer have a captive audience that I can speak to five days a week in a classroom. Now my audience is whoever happens to see this blog and is intrigued enough by the title and pictures to read my words.
Now that I am retired and only speaking to the world at large through writing, I am ignored more than ever before. Being ignored is, perhaps, the only thing I do anymore. It is the new definition of Mickey. Mickey means, “He who must be ignored. Not partially, but wholly… and with malice.”
I put my blog posts on Facebook and Twitter where I know for a fact that there are people who know me and would read them and like them if they knew that they were there. But the malevolent algorithms on those social media sites guarantee that none of my dozens of cousins, old school friends, and former students will see them. Only the single ladies from Kazakhstan and members of the Butchers Union of Cleveland see my posts. Why is this? I do not know. Facebook and Twitter ignore me when I ask.
My books, though liked by everybody who has actually read and responded to them, are lost in a vast ocean of self-published books, most of which are not very good and give a black eye to self-published authors in general. I recently got another call from I-Universe/Penguin Books publishers about Catch a Falling Star, the one book I still have with them. They are concerned that my book, which is on their Editor’s Choice list, is not performing as well as their marketing people think it should. But to promote it, I would have to pay four hundred dollars towards the marketing campaign, even though they are already subsidizing it by fifty percent. They tell me they believe in my book. But apparently not enough to pay for 100% of the promotion.
I have decided to invest in a review service that will cost me about twenty dollars a month. But my confidence is not high. The last time I paid somebody to review a book, they reviewed a book with the same title as mine from a different author. That service still owes me money.
But the only reason it is a problem that I am being thoroughly ignored these days is that an author needs to be read to fulfill his purpose in life. Maybe pictures of pretty girls in this post will help. But, even if they don’t, well, I had their attention once upon a time. And since my purpose as a teacher is already fulfilled, perhaps that will be enough for one lifetime.