I am not well again after a couple of weeks of rain and cold working on my arthritis. So I am going to merely post a few past Paffoonies to make up today’s post. If you would like to see what Paffoonies are all about, then go to Google picture search “Beyer Paffooney”. It will basically give you a Mickian art gallery, peppered with other pictures that I used in posts that aren’t actually Paffoonies (but the algorithm doesn’t know that).
I have completed work on a novel called A Field Guide to Fauns. In it, I will make use of one of the most central metaphors in all of my art and writing. The mythological figure of the faun is usually portrayed as a young boy or youth, nude, and potentially having goat horns, goat legs, a deer’s tail, and/or pointed ears. It represents sensuality, connections to nature, and a willingness to partake in enjoyments without hiding anything.
Fauns were defined in art long before I came along. The Marble Faun was a book by Nathaniel Hawthorne that I read in college. I looked endlessly in libraries after that for pictures of Praxiteles’s masterpiece from all angles. I would eventually be inspired to make the picture above by a picture made in print by Maxfield Parrish printed in Collier’s Magazine. I have been fascinated for years by fauns. And I began drawing them repeatedly.
As a teenager, I had a faun as an imaginary friend. His name was Radasha. He made it his business to lecture me about sex and nudity, morals, religion, and what was wrong with me. At the time I was repressing the memory of being the victim of a sexual assault, a very painful and traumatic experience that I did not allow myself to remember and admit was real until I was twenty-two. Radasha turned out to be a coping method who helped me heal, and helped me realize that just because it was a homosexual assault, that did not make me a homosexual.
Fauns would come to dominate my artwork through the eighties. I drew Radasha multiple times. I would use the image to express things I feared and fought with and won victories over .
I would come to learn that there were fauns in real life to be found. The portrait above is of Fernando, a favorite student from my first two years as a teacher. He is portrayed as a faun. The cardinal on his shoulder is a symbol of courage and endurance, a bright red bird that never flies away when the winter comes.
Devon Martinez is the main character of my novel in progress. He is an artist like I am. He is fifteen at the time of the novel, and faced with living the rest of his childhood in a nudist community. He doesn’t consider himself a faun to begin with. But that changes during the course of the novel.
Here is the first illustration done for the novel. It is supposed to be a picture drawn by Devon himself.
So, as always with Saturday artwork, there is more to come.
Although I was fond of being naked outdoors before that came to an end with the assault I endured at age ten, in my youth I had my doubts about nudists. It was not a thing that happened anywhere I was aware of in Iowa. All I knew about it was the jokes they made about it in TV comedies like the sole nudist park episode of the Brian Kieth Show. And my psyche and personal body image were extremely fragile due to the trauma. I was in no way willing to risk the kind of exposure to ridicule that association with nudism would have for me.
When the twins who claimed to be nudists teased me in my classroom with details about it, I was keenly aware that there were bright red lines involved in that issue that cannot be crossed. Especially since I was a school teacher in charge of vulnerable pubescent boys and girls who obviously had their own issues in terms of nudity, sexuality, and personal body image. There was danger involved in being connected to ideas like nudism right along with communism, liberalism, and any suggestion that a teacher might be behaving toward students in an inappropriate way. I was fully aware that merely being accused of something could destroy my career, whether there was any relationship to the truth behind the accusation or not.
My career as a school teacher was a sacred trust as far as I was concerned. My first teaching job was in a poor, rural school district in deep South Texas. I vowed that not only would I never be a threat to molest or assault a child or a teenager, but I would also actively try to prevent every child entrusted to me from being victimized in that way. It was crucial to my own belief in myself as well as my belief in the goodness of mankind that my plan would work out for the best.
There were a number of young boys, fatherless, raised by grandparents or aunts, and exposed to abusive adults, that needed a male mentor enough to show up at my door. I never let them in without the windows open and a clear view for every passerby that nothing wrong or inappropriate was going on. They came to talk, to get help with homework, to play role-playing games, or sometimes to just hang out. The County Sheriff, the Baptist Preacher, and the head of the high school Science department were all aware of what I was doing because their sons all came to participate in role-playing games, computer games, and discussions. I underwent training to become qualified as a foster parent for anyone who needed that (though it was specified by me that I couldn’t be a foster parent for girls while still being single for obvious reasons. And the city had no social workers at all in residence, so I was never called upon for actual parenting experience.) I was supported in that effort by my principal during the third year I was teaching. He saw how effective I was teaching problem-child boys. He sent a couple of troubled kids my way for mentoring.
My girlfriend in the early 80s was a teacher’s aide who worked both in my classroom and in the classrooms of the two other English teachers on campus. Ysandra was a divorcee and a much more world-wise person than I was. She had been through some trauma too. In fact, she was the first person I was able to tell about the sexual assault I had endured because she had been abused too and also endured the kind of moment where the traumatic event comes back to haunt you, complete in every horrible detail. And she and I planned dates together in the Austin area because my parents were living in Taylor, Texas, an Austin suburb, and her sister lived with a husband and child in an apartment complex in downtown Austin. That apartment complex, however, was a clothing-optional apartment complex that was destined to push nudism right up in my face once again.
That, of course, will be the completely embarrassing topic of the third part of this essay.
Yes, among my most disturbing artistical habits is my obsession with handcrafting paper dolls out of images that were not meant to be paper dolls. And if you look carefully you can see at least three that look like they were taken from one of those cardboard books of antique paper dolls that you used to be able to buy from Dover Press. But, in truth, I took those three (Actually four, but one got knocked on the floor and stepped on in the night) from a digital ad online, blew them up, modified the images with colored pencil and scissors, and then used both the scanner and my printer to turn them into paper dolls put together with scissors, cardboard, and glue.
There are also three in the back row, Annette with mouse ears, the boy on the bicycle, and the fairy-faun thing, which I made with my own original drawings. There’s also cowgirl Annette made from scans from a vintage Cheerios box and a little anthropomorphic puppy-boy thing that was made from a scrapbook piece that my mother cut out of one of my beginning reader books from the 1950s.
These three that were in front in the previous picture were images stolen from a fellow artist on Instagram whose name forgetful me lost in the creation of the paper dolls. I swear I meant to give her proper credit, and I will add her to the comments here when I can find her again on Instagram or Twitter. In the meantime, I contend I am not violating her copyright because I make no money from my blog, and the art project they are a part of will never be sold. When I die, my wife will either give them away or destroy them. She doesn’t tend to value my artwork. The paper dolls especially. The nudist ones especially specially.
I admit that the paper doll thing is only a part of my greater doll-collecting mania. They have taken over the upstairs of the house. And that is a large part of why my wife hates them, although she enjoyed about a decade’s worth of collecting Barbie dolls before our daughter was old enough to dismember and eat so many of them.
But I also have plans to make more. Truly evil plans.
I intend to write a book of essays about naturism and nudism, my attempts as a teacher to avoid becoming a practitioner while still teaching, and my eventual yielding to the urge to become what I avoided becoming for too long.
Now I know from my own family and my various communities over the years that nudists and naturists are generally considered to be a category of crazy people. That was especially a pointed observation in Iowa during the winter time when I was a boy in the 60s.
Of course, it was the 60s. And even though the hippies and other allegedly naked crazy people lived in far-away California and far-away New York, and closer, but still far-away Chicago, there were people we all gossiped about that would gad about their house in the all-together. Apparently, we knew because somebody, probably an old-lady gossip gatherer, had been looking through somebody else’s back windows. And some of those local crazy people turned out to be ordinary farmers, bankers, and even members of the Belle City town council. Really, the councilman and his wife are the reason I am calling the town by the fictionalized version of its name. Not because I am trying to protect the people’s identities, which you can figure out with very limited research, but because the old-lady gossip gatherer may have fictionalized what she allegedly saw through their back window and talked about at morning coffee in the Uptown Cafe.
But you see me here in a drawing of myself as a nude boy because from very early on in life, I felt the urge to give myself the freedom of costume… or lack thereof… as the councilman and his wife obviously gave to themselves in the privacy of their own home.
I was a big fan of skinny-dipping, and spending alone time nude in the woods south of town and the tree-lined pastures down by the creek to the west of town. I enjoyed being naked, although I dreaded the Devil finding out what I had already told Jesus in private, and then being condemned to Hell to burn for eternity… although, according to the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch in the Encyclopedia Britannica at school, I would still get to be naked.
This, then, will be a book both humorous and potentially sad about naked people and why naked can be good. I will include in this book works of art that I have made portraying people who are intentionally naked and happy about it. So, if your eyeballs will catch on fire for seeing naked people in artwork, your eyeballs should already be producing prodigious amounts of smoke, if not open flames. You better stop looking before you are blind. Some people’s Old Testament God is obviously much crankier than the God Jesus told me about when I talked to him in private.
I do intend to make fun of people who like to be nude in this book. But I will also make fun of myself for being one of those people. And I don’t intend to spare people who wear clothes all the time from a little bit of satire either. (Really, Mrs. Simms? You made Richard wear a swimsuit in the bathtub until he was twenty?)