Category Archives: colored pencil

Fauns

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Fauns originate in Greek mythology as forest spirits, sensual, playful, and infused with the energies of the natural world.  They are followers of Pan, the god of the forest.  They are hedonistic, seeking sexual gratification from nymphs and human girls, loving wine and feasting.  They are not the same things as satyrs, though Roman mythology would come along and squeeze them both into the same mold.

So, why am I, a boy from Iowa of distinctly German ancestry, so fascinated and obsessed by fauns in art and literature?

The answer is both goofy and creepy.  I have a faun of my own.  He lives with me as an invisible friend.  His name is Radasha.  He is Harvey to my Elwood.  (That’s a Jimmy Stewart movie reference if the twists and turns of my mind confuse you.)  Just like the fauns of mythology when confronted with travelers and wanderers, he sometimes helps with guidance and advice, and he sometimes does me mischief with ridicule and wicked tricks.

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My theory for why my convoluted psyche has need of invisible companions goes back to the fact that I was sexually assaulted when I was ten.  That is why Ra is basically a ten-year-old boy with the legs, tail, and horns of a goat.  He is the sexual/sensual part of me that got split off from my inner self by that traumatizing event.

Being a child-victim can do terrible things to a boy.  It seriously interfered with my blossoming interest in girls.  It turned me from an inventive, out-going leader of the gang into a quiet and somewhat timid introvert.  I repressed the memory of the actual event, more of a torture-situation than seduction, so that the real psychological damage of it occurred at the subconscious level.  I began to worry that I might be gay.  I began to seriously loathe myself and my own body.  I went so far as to burn myself on my lower back by lying against the furnace grate in order to repress desires I felt were evil.’

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Radasha showed up at my bedroom window late one snowy night when I was about seventeen years old.  He began talking at me, making fun of me for being terrified of girls, and encouraging me to risk being naked more.  He wanted me to enjoy the idea of sex more and shy away from it less.  In some ways, he kept that part of me alive.

Of course, I made myself familiar with the mythological creature Radasha obviously was.  I read everything I could about it.  I even acquired a copy of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun and read it with great fascination even though the prose was dense and archaic.  I realized that I wasn’t alone in using fauns as an artistic expression of the repressed sensuality that constantly consumed me.  Ra was there to needle me and encourage me, to lead me to learn how to better like myself.

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I know by now most readers will have given up on this post already, put off by bizarre self-analysis of my rather atypical case of abnormal psychology.  But being naked more is apparently part of faun-therapy.  At Ra’s insistence, I am making myself more psychologically and metaphorically naked by revealing these things here in a blog that mostly nobody reads anyway.  And naked fauns in my artwork are a definite thing that merits exploration.  So if you have actually read this far through this mythological mold spore of an essay, you now know about as much about me as I know about myself.  And you will probably do just as I do.  You will shake your head and continue to wonder how any one old guy can be quite so weird.

 

 

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Mickey and the Mother of Invention

Cool title, right?  No? It needs a lot of further explanation?  All right, here goes.

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“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist of creating out of void, but out of chaos”—Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Whether you prefer the stealer of Tesla inventions or the author of Frankenstein for invention quotes, you have to admit they are both right.  Those of us who think creatively try with all our might and mind to take the wreckage life has given us and make something new.  Preferably we make something that is good for us and improves our situation.  But sometimes it turns out that it only makes matters worse and creates monsters of the mind.

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When I was ten, I was sexually assaulted by a neighbor boy who was older and stronger and decidedly crueler than me.  It split my world into pieces.  I retreated into fantasy worlds and lived in my imagination far more than the real world.  The monster in my memory was locked away in a tightly sealed forget-me box.  I repressed the memory successfully until I was twenty-two.  My creativity and inventiveness turned to fantasy art and fanciful fiction.  I worked at having a good sense of humor, being a tough athlete on the high school football field, and trying to force people to accept me as the brainiac weird kid who always knew the answers in science class and could do practically anything except successfully talk to girls.

Surprisingly my greatest invention would turn out to be me.  I reinvented myself.

I would’ve never believed when I was young that I was made to be a teacher.  I lived inside my own head.  How could I be a teacher and control a classroom and make people listen to the various shards of nonsense that I was completely full of?  But, through gradual problem-solving, I learned to be an effective public speaker.  I learned how to be an engaging presenter.  I did a few magic tricks.  I told more than a few jokes.  Some of them were even funny.  I learned how to put ideas in front of children in visual displays and organization charts.  I learned how to teach people to read.  And more than that, I learned how to teach people to learn.

I honestly don’t think I would’ve learned to do all of that if my childhood psyche hadn’t been broken and hidden away in brain boxes when I was ten.  I might still have been an artist.  But not the teacher and story-teller I ultimately became.  Without the mountain to climb, a boy can never become a mountain-climber.  Without a star to see and study, he can never be an astrophysicist.  And without a brain filled with broken brain bits, a man can never learn how to put himself back together again, let alone teach others how to do it.  All the king’s horses and all the king’s men are no help with this endeavor.

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Have I now explained my terribly tilted title?  Does this help you see how I have sung the songs taught to me by the Mother of Invention?  Probably not.  I am a rather dense little goof and the work of making me into me is not yet finished.  I crashed and burned again a couple of years ago when I had to retire from teaching.  I had to invent myself again as something new.  I am certainly not done hitting the metal work with a big black hammer.  But, perhaps, you can see the tool-marks on this blog and learn something from it too.

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Filed under artwork, colored pencil, humor, imagination, insight, mental health, Paffooney, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life, teaching

The Secret Gallery in Grandma’s Closet

After years of being stored away, I discovered that my mother had hidden a hoard of my old artworks in the upstairs closet in Grandma Aldrich’s house (now my parents’ house).

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This oil painting was done on an old saw blade at the request of my Grandpa Aldrich.  He wanted a farm painting on it, like the one he’d seen in a restaurant during a fishing trip in Minnesota.  I chose as the subject Sally the pig.  Sally was a hairlip piglet that had to be bottle fed and raised in a box by the stove until later in life she became a favorite pet.  Believe it or not, pigs are smarter than the family dog.  She became a pig you could ride.  And Grandma had taken a precious old photo of my mother and Uncle Larry riding the pig.  I used that photo to make this painting.  It was also the painting I wanted to find on this trip to Iowa.  Searching for it led to finding all the others.

These two are among the earliest paintings I did.  They were both done on canvases that I stretched over the frame myself in high school art class.  The purple one is a scene from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The blue one doesn’t have a title, but you can see what it is.  It is an ancient shibboleth water monster lurking under a dock, fishing for young boys to eat.

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This drawing was done on the front porch in the house in Rowan.  It would be years before mom framed it.  It is another example of what I could do as a high school kid.  In fact, I composed it from art-class sketches I did my senior year in school.

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The Boy in the Barn was painted on the remains of an old chalkboard that my sisters, brother, and I had used in grade school.

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Grandma Aldrich asked for this picture to hang over the sofa in the farmhouse living room.  It stayed there for many years.

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Great Grandma Hinckley passed away in 1980.  I created this portrait from a combination of photos and memory.  It was too good.  It was never hung anywhere because it always made her daughter, my Grandma Aldrich, tear up.

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This pencil drawing won a blue ribbon at the Wright County Fair in the late 70’s.

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This picture is called First Years are Hard Years.  It was painted in 1982 after my first year of teaching at the junior high school in Cotulla, Texas.   I painted mostly the good kids.  The girl on the lower right would later go on to become a teacher for our school district.  I can’t claim to be the one who inspired her, but she did make straight A’s in my class.

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This is called Beauty.  It is done in oil crayon on canvas.  I did it for my mother to hang in the hallway in the house in Taylor, Texas.

So, it turns out, I unearthed art treasures by searching for the one painting.

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Crayon Addictions

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A simple, black-and-white drawing done in pen and ink.  Elegant. Easy to understand.  At least, if you can get past the weird little kid inside a birdhouse who has apparently saddled a mutant pigeon-sparrow. The black and white is the essential underpinning.  The bones of the idea.

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So, adding color makes things a little more complex.  I started with the girl’s face. Here is where I establish the basic color-theme.  And give more character to the surprised face peering through the portal of the bird house.

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Much of the work in coloring this little articus projecticus is a matter of pattern.  I like doing wood-grain patterns in colored pencil.  It looks good when it’s finished.  But it also takes time to do line after line.

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The last step is to color the bird-riding fairy-kid. Here I am completing the color-echoes and the pattern-making.  More lines.  More care with giving the shapes volume by using light and shadow.  And now we are at the final destination.  The picture is complete.

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The Lyrical Imperative

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I am always amazed by the fact that things which are inherently silent in nature make music in your mind.  Writing is like that for me.  Drawing is like that.  And so is photography.  That is an actual musical score from Chopin in the background.  My son recognized it from a book of piano pieces I bought for him because he reads music and can turn those squiggle-bugs on the fence into the right plinkety-plunks on a keyboard.  But there is more music in that picture besides.  The nude young girl at the keyboard softly rendered in velvety colored pencil tones is also musical in nature, for more than just the fact of fingers on a silent colored pencil keyboard.  The lyrical loops of black and yellow in the wings of the tiger swallowtail butterfly also make music in my head, sprightly piano music like Chopin’s, or possibly Vivaldi’s violins.

Did you listen to the music?  I don’t mean Vivaldi’s, although if you haven’t heard it, you certainly should.  I mean the music in the words.  The music has to be there for me for the writing to be good.  That’s why I consider Ray Bradbury and Walt Whitman to be masters and Stephenie Meyer and E. L. James to be unreadable hacks.  The beat and the flow of the words need to be patterned and patient and wily.   Do you not hear it in that last sentence? The alliteration of the first two adjectives set off by the counterpoint of the stressed-unstressed beats of the third?  How can I explain this?

Iambic pentameter is the true genius of Shakespeare’s plays.  What the heck is iambic pentameter, you ask?  Well, I realize you have probably never needed to teach poetry to seventh graders, a truly impossible but infinitely rewarding task.  So let me tell you.  Units of stress called iambs consist of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.  So naturally, if iambs are put into pentameter, then there must be five of them in a line of iambic pentameter poetry.  It is a simple, rhythmic way to say something profound and interesting.  The classic example is the first line of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18;

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Translating that into X’s and O’s where X=stressed and O=unstressed;

O X O X O X O X O X

It’s simple, five oxes, all in a line.  Except that last one about oxes is actually O X O X X O O O O X, a less simple pattern, yet still organized on the beat.  Two iambs, a dactyl and an anapest.  Okay, now I am talking like a poetry geek, and I have to stop it before I hurt someone.

The whole point is, words should be musical, even when they are not the words to a song.  And now I must close on the verge of starting a ten-thousand word thesis.  I shall shut up now.  Here endeth the lesson.

 

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Whoo I Are?

One way to define myself is through the pictures I draw.  So today… less words… more draw.

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I am certainly not the greatest artist who ever lived.  But when you draw a lot… and do it for 60 years… man, you have a lot of drawings stuffed away in drawers and closets!

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You Are Just Filling Space, Lazy Writer

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The Mickey gets tired of Donald Trump-Duck quacking on Twitter and knacking his flitter like so many ditter and bitter pitter witter.

Yeah, I know.  Mickey could be using spell check better.  But sometimes you just have to let the pink-and-white four-door 1957 Mercury Monterey of your imagination wander where it will, even if it takes you to the land of misspelled words.

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Destroyed by the tornado in 1966, it still chugs around inside my head.

So let me tell you a misspelled story;

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Pompolina Cookiespitter was spooplemad for blaying dinkleball with the doofenburgers.  She doorsized dinkleball ten times more fopserisciously than any doofenburger ever minxyblootered.  And if you minxyblooter too snerkly you will dopserizingly biffle dorpsnitz.  So no doofenburger ever really snorkled dinkleball with Pompolina.  It shlayed her so fopserisciously that she almost blootenbursted.  Doofenburgers everywhere schneed from horpspittoon.

Now, that story makes no sense at all.  Yet, I am confident you can tell me, how does Pompolina feel about blaying dinkleball?  And how do doofenburgers feel about it?  And is it safe to minxyblooter too snerkly?  What is the possible outcome of that?

If you can answer those questions about my story, then you have some idea about how American politics feels after Donald Trump-Duck blootenbursted everywhere his first two weeks in office.  So there.

 

 

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, colored pencil, feeling sorry for myself, humor, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life