I like to dig through old piles of artwork I have done to re-purpose things and mash things together to make weird art salad.
I used to play a Dungeons-and-Dragons-like game called Talislanta with groups of adolescent boys, most of whom had previously been my students in middle school. It was a weird world where weird things made artistical challenges for me that taught me to be a better and more imaginative artist.
Xeribeth was a member of an almost-human race that had yellow skin and wore colorful face tattoos. She also had to be somewhat alluring to trick adolescent boys into undertaking dangerous and possibly suicidal adventures (meaning characters who only lived on paper might die and have to be re-rolled with dungeon dice.)
Zoric, being a green Cymrillian wizard, gave me numerous opportunities to creative Kermit-the-frog-colored portraits. And he was a player character, so his greed and penchant for unwise actions decided on in the heat of battle (like turning himself into a fish-man while adventuring in the waterless desert) didn’t come from me.
Playing those games gave me training as a story-teller as well.
My efforts to see color with gradually worsening color-blindness led me to create eye-bashing color compositions that attempt to portray realistically things and feelings that can’t possibly be physically real. Thus I gradually became, over time, a surrealist (a juxtaposer of unlike and jarring things to deliver a visionary picture of reality) (How’s that for surrealistic gobbeldegook in definition form.)
I often solve the problems of my life by drawing something and making cartoonish comments with serious consequences.
Ultimately, it boils down to the fact that the world on the inside of me is decidedly different than the world on the outside of me. But I have to live in both. And I can do that by drawing my colored-pencil Paffooney stuff, and posting it, and writing about it on a silly Sunday.
I was born an artist. It has to be developed and nurtured and practiced over time to become what it can truly be, but artistic talent is something you are born with, and there is a genetic aspect to it. Great Aunt Viola could draw and paint. She produced impressive art during her lifetime. My father can draw. He has demonstrated ability a number of times, though he never developed it. Both my brother and I can draw and have done a lot of it. All three of my children can draw and paint. My daughter, the Princess, even wants to pursue a career in graphic design and animation.
One of the factors that weighs heavily on a career in art is the starving artist factor. To be a serious artist, you have to study art in great detail. You need lots of practice, developing not only pencil-pushing prowess, but having an artist’s eyeball, that way of seeing that twists and turns the artist’s subject to find the most novel and interesting angle. It takes a great deal of time. And if you are doing this alone, you are responsible also for building your own following and marketing your own work and creating your own brand. You need to be three people in one and do this while potentially not being able to make any money at all for it. I have taught myself to do the art part, but I paid the bills with something else I loved to do, teaching English to hormone-crazed middle-schoolers.
An important part of art is what you have to sacrifice to do it.
Many artists become alcoholics, drug users, or suicidal manic-depressives. There is an artistic sort of PTSD. Doing real art costs a lot because it alters your lifestyle, your mental geography, and your spiritual equilibrium. Depending on how much of yourself you put into it, it can use you up, leaving no “you” left within you.
I am not trying to leave you with the impression that I mean to scare you into not wanting to be an artist. For many reasons it is a great thing to be. But it is a lot like whether you are born gay or straight… or somewhere in between. The choice is not entirely up to you. You can only control what you do with the awful gift of art once it is given to you. And that is a serious choice to make. Me, I have to draw. I have to tell stories. My life and well-being depend on it. It is the only way I can be me.
Self-reflection is the bane of stupid people. Essentially, they don’t want to risk encountering evidence that they actually are stupid. It would shatter their world to learn that they are idiots and most of what they believe is true is actually wrong. This fact goes a long way towards explaining why the Republican Party in its current form even exists, let alone the actions of the current mutant Cheetos monster that pilots their agenda and hates healthcare, the Special Olympics, and Puerto Rico.
So, if I am doing a self–reflection piece today, then that proves I am not a stupid person, right? What do you mean you agree with that? Yes, I can actually hear you mentally answering my questions as you read this. And if you believe that, then you have proven that even relatively smart people like you and I are capable of stupid thinking.
I believe in some stupid things, even though I think I am not stupid.
An example of this stupidity factor is my lingering belief that I am a nudist. I mean, I am rarely ever nude any more. I keep most of me covered up constantly because when my psoriasis plaques dry out they tend to flake and itch and force me to scratch to the point of infected bloody sores.
Obviously this is not totally a photograph from the 60’s. That does not make it a total lie either, though.
I have been pretty much accepted as a member of the nudist community on Twitter. I enjoy the artful pictures of nude people they share with me. And since I did a couple of blog posts for nudist websites, there are actually completely nude pictures of me available on the internet. I can be found on Truenudists.com for one, if your eyes can stand the horror. But I have only been to a nudist park, the Bluebonnet Nudist Park in Alvord, Texas. one time as an actual nudist. I can tell you, it was a very hot day even though I was not wearing clothes. I am comfortable with nudity. I am comfortable around nude people. I fully accept it all as a non-sexual thing. But am I really a nudist? Or am I only playing at it? If you follow me on Twitter, then you know I don’t retweet pictures of naked people. I engage a lot with other writers there, and most of them are not also nudists, or even open-minded about naturism. I write about nudists in some of my books, but they are not about nudism, and most of them don’t even mention it. So, what good does it do me to think I am a nudist? Well, the very idea of it does a heckuva good job of embarrassing my wife and daughter. So, I do get some crazy-old-coot satisfaction out of it. Otherwise it simply proves that rational and otherwise intelligent people can be committed to irrational ideas.
I am also of the often mocked and ridiculed opinion that not only are alien beings from other worlds real, they are capable of space travel and have been visiting us for as long as there has been an us. I did not always believe this, however. Before I wrote my novelCatch a Falling Star I believed as Carl Sagan said on the original Cosmos that it is wrong to accept things without proof, and true results are testable. My novel was about aliens who watched a lot of Earther TV and learned to speak English from watching I Love Lucy reruns, I wanted to make the aliens different from humans, but at the same time, alike with humans in the most fundamental ways that translate easily into humor and relatability. Not all of my hero-characters were Earth humans.
As I did research on the internet (a tool I didn’t have when I originally created the story in the 1970s), I found a ton of researchers and writers and con men and MUFON and the Disclosure Project and nuclear physicists and astronauts Gordon Cooper and Edgar Mitchell who were all believers and mostly not stupid. Wow! What a huge and complicated hoax! Why would anybody believe , based on so little tangible evidence, and so much contradictory evidence, that the government’s position could possibly be right? I learned that I now believed, until significant further proof comes along, that I believe stupidly in alien visitors.
Today’s self-reflection post has now proven that I am a stupid old coot who thinks he is a nudist and an insightful conspiracy theorist. But the results of my look into the mirror have not made me upset about my stupidity. Maybe I am simply satisfied nudism is healthy and the universe is more complex than I am capable of understanding. Whatever the case, that’s enough with the mirror for today. You have to keep such dangerous weapons out of the hands of clowns.
I did a double-duty pen and ink illustration of two nude girls in a PG-13 sort of mode. It is not intended to be pornography. It is also not intended to draw viewers to my blog just because I happened to notice an uptick in views whenever I put a nude in an art post. I wouldn’t do that… would I? At least, not in a way that you could prove that was my intent.
Notice, you can get it for one dollar on Kindle, or free with Amazon Prime membership.
They could also be used as an illustration for one of the fairy stories, representing the two nude Storybook fairies, Gretel and Anneliese. They also appear in Recipes, as well as potential appearances in future fairy stories.
Anyway, I have already gone and done it, posting this picture I drew today, to give you a good look at either Shelly or Anneliese’s shapely behind. I won’t make the mistake of posting it on Facebook.
Being dead is not all down-side. There is a certain amount of goodness to be found in the fact of being already dead.
I know some of this morbid thinking comes about simply because I am facing my own mortality and lingering about in bed most of the time in pain and waiting for a heart-attack or a stroke to put the fireworks into the finale. It is not because I desperately need to get out and drive for Uber to make all the pennies I can for taxes and medical bills and can’t yet do so because of arthritis and diabetes and fear of fainting behind the wheel. I can live with that. It is about preparing and facing the final curtain with as much grace as a fool can.
Of course, the greatest boon that death grants is that it brings an end to suffering. My joints will no longer be on fire and blazing with pain (assuming there isn’t a Hell capable of delivering torments beyond what we get a heaping helping of during life.) I will not have to worry about medical bills and hospital bill collectors any longer. Not that the same can be said of my loved ones. But I myself will no longer have the capacity to think and worry about paying for my many sins of poor health and being sick. In fact, I will be spared a number of things that eat at me while I am alive.
I will not have to watch any more Adam Sandler movies.
I will not have to consider anything that is said on Fox News (unless, of course, Hell is real and they have cable TV there… Because, well, what else would be on?)
And no more of this guy! But I need to check on that no Hell thing. And if there is one, and he is headed there soon for all eternity, I might have to figure out some spiritual hack to get into Heaven.
If there is a Hell, though, it will be like Mark Twain once alluded to. The weather will suck, but the most interesting company to keep will all be there.
And it is a proven fact that writers and other artists make more money after they are dead than they did while they are alive. Think of how much money Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkien, and John Steinbeck have made selling books since they passed away. Edgar Allen Poe died a pauper like me, but his books continue to be sold and made into movies. And then there’s Maurice Hampton Greenblatt. You never heard of him, right? That is because he never wrote and published anything. (Although it also might have something to do with the fact that he is not a real person, and I made him up for this essay.)
Being dead will be like having written the final chapter in your last book about living life. You will close the book and simply be done… once and for all time. There is a certain satisfaction to be had if your life story has, at the very least, been an interesting story. And there is the whole becoming-a-ghost-writer thing to think about. People will still be able to read my words after I am dead. And who knows? The story may continue. There is a lady who writes classical music for dead composers. She has Schubert and Liszt and Beethoven whispering in her ear. Maybe I can find some goofy kid somewhere to start whispering my stories to.
Yes, I know it is not a real word. But it should be. It means an excuse for sharing stuff I have drawn, colored, and/or created because I have this sense of being an artist despite all evidence to the contrary. (Take note of this fact; art has never directly made me money, only helped me to do numerous other things, like being a teacher, that did.)
…. …. ……. …. ….. …. …. …. …… …….. … So, I guess you get the idea. Making pictures is a part of my life. I can’t help it. I do what I do because it represents what is inside me constantly burning to get out. There are all kinds of stories that go with each and every one of these pictures. Fiction stories, true stories, somewhat true stories, dreams, nightmares, and sometimes just plain imagination. Story + Picture = Paffooney. You have been thoroughly Paffoonied for today.