Category Archives: drawing
I respond to dreaming in ways that make sense in my stupid head, though the responses probably seem crazy to others.
The picture above was painted in oils in the early 1990’s before I met my wife. It was in response to a Bambi dream that seemed to be about my family as a family of deer. This was not about my family from childhood. It was, at the time, about my family in the future. Somehow I got it right. Two boys and a girl. Together for 25 years next month.
Some pictures are dream images that can only be interpreted metaphorically. This one is about me being creative and artistical… or autistical as the case may be. It is also about being a synesthete with pronounced synesthesia.
This dream was a dream about being a Native American during a thunderstorm. It is called “the Magic-Man’s Daughter” because the Dakota Sioux tribe held the belief that dreams about lightning reveal you as a Shaman or Magic Man. Wakȟáŋ Tȟáŋka is the Lakotah word for “the Great Mystery”. That was a dream that sent me to the library to look things up.
I have dreams with clowns in them that are not nightmares. Here the clown known as Mr. Disney is encouraging me to sing sad songs.
I wrote and entire novel about that whopper of a dream.
It is not uncommon to dream about death and mortality. More than once I have dreamed about my own death. None of them have yet proved prophetic, but you never know.
I think dreams can be prophetic because they are not bound by our perceptions of time in the physical universe. You can look ahead in a dream to that which has not yet happened. You can also look backwards into the past beyond the boundary of your own birth. I often think some of my most vivid dreams are about peering into past lives and a very different me.
I know I sound crazy when I talk about my dreams. But they are a significant source for my artwork and creative endeavors. And dreams have a logic that doesn’t work by the rules of the world we know. Rather, it is a world of wonder.
As I get older and older and more arthritic, it has been a real boon to me that I can use actual photos in artwork to electronically complete visions of what an artwork should look like even though I no longer have the digital dexterity necessary to execute complex and detailed backgrounds.
Pen and ink, black and white drawings are the place where my art career started. Line drawings like the ones in the newspaper cartoon pages. I collected newspaper comics. I copied them. I drew Blondie Bumstead and Moonshine McSwine naked. I drew Pogo Possum, Popeye, and Hagar the Horrible. I also drew Steve Canyon and Buzz Sawyer. I still draw Mickey Mouse. I learned cartoonist skills from the best in comic strips and comic books.
Drawing nudes is a risky business. People judge you more harshly when you draw a nude and don’t explain the context. What a pervert you must be. They forgive you a little when you explain that you are an artist and once you took an anatomy drawing class in college where you were drawing from actual nude models. But understand, artists probably take classes like that because they are perverts to begin with.
And you have the added complication of being a victim of sexual assault as a child, so you have a PTSD-sort-of fear of nudity and physical contact while at the same time having all the natural urges that flesh is heir to.
The nude above was drawn actually from a photograph, a Polaroid. The griffon (who represents the fear in your PTSD-inspired dreams) did not want to pose nude in real life. So, you were given a photograph in which she was actually holding on to her boyfriend’s shoulder. Oh, wait! You mean “he” not “she”. The griffon was a boy. But she smiled when she saw the picture. And she asked why there was an eagle in it.
“But that’s not an eagle, it’s a griffon,” you said. “It represents being afraid of being nude.”
Obviously you did not give her the version of the picture with the “eagle” in it. She was happier with the nude you did give her, though it wasn’t drawn as well as this one.
And you are always a little leery of posting nudes you have drawn over the years on your blog, but somehow they get more views than anything else you post, and while you have to wonder why these pictures are so popular among judgmental people who have told you that you are probably a pervert, you secretly know the real reason.
This picture of Karla gets lots of views. You have posted it three or four times before. (Of course, that is not Her real name.)
It is kinda the thing that started the college nude drawings. She was your roommate’s girlfriend, and she was looking at your drawings because Bill told her about your artworks and she was curious. She challenged you to draw her. It was the first nude model you ever drew outside of class. Bob sat in the room with the two of you and watched you draw. (Oh, wait. You called him Bill before. Change that.
Bob Bill. There, that’s better.) You drew in pencil.
You did two versions of it. The pen and ink that you drew of it in 1996 was made from the one that you kept.
If you had never done that picture of Karla, the one of the griffon wouldn’t exist either. She had to go and show her picture off to her friends. After all the great cartoons you drew over the years, you might know that the biggest reputation you ever got as an artist came about because of a pencil drawing of a smiley nude girl. And she had a big mouth… both figuratively and literally. But she was nice, and you couldn’t be mad at her. She and
Bob Bill got married, and she probably still has that picture in its little frame somewhere in her house.
There was a time in my life, in fact, for a majority of my life, that all these things were pretty much secrets that I kept to myself. I didn’t show the nude pictures to others. I kept them in a portfolio in a closet. I never would’ve admitted to being a nudist at heart either. Or anything about being assaulted as a boy. Or told anyone about any of it in a blog post like this. I can only do that now that I am old and know that none of my sins are really that awful and need to be kept secret. There is a certain beauty in that. You don’t even really need to keep doing it in second person point of view, confusing the audience into thinking it’s about them and not about you. Sorry about the meta-messaging. I just find it funny that I can be completely open at the end of the essay of life, and no longer feel the need to hide all the things that we hide under our clothing. Sometimes there is beauty to be found in the depths of a risky picture.
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.
My life as a school teacher is definitely over. That part of my story is complete. I thought, as I found that driving for Uber to earn extra money was becoming too difficult to do, that maybe I could get healthy enough to be a substitute teacher again. Money-wise it makes sense. Three days of substituting in a single week would easily surpass my best days as an Uber driver. And they correctly figure withholding for tax purposes, something that neither my teacher pension nor my Uber account seem capable of doing. I face tax penalties again for 2018.
But my health never seems to stabilize since the car accident in August. Of course, that figures too since my diabetes has gotten worse, insulin has gotten more expensive, and my personal economy tanks monthly. So I have to let go of teacher daydreams. Those chapters are now closed. I must read on more slowly and carefully in the Book of Life.
The way forward is now through being a story-teller. Writing and drawing are things that I can do without leaving the house, sometimes without even getting out of bed. I know that becoming even more sedentary is basically a slow death sentence. But my arthritis, COPD, and diabetes have all worked hand-in-hand to reduce my mobility. They also make driving more dangerous. So, slowing down probably reduces the chances of sudden and destructive death. And I have never been more prolific in my writing.
I have published eight novels. They are, in order of publication, Catch a Falling Star, Magical Miss Morgan, Stardusters and Space Lizards, Snow Babies, Superchicken, The Bicycle-Wheel Genius, Recipes for Gingerbread Children, and The Baby Werewolf. Number nine, Sing Sad Songs, is in the revision and editing stage and will be completed early in 2019. I have When the Captain Came Calling well under way, though the end is not yet in sight. And I recently began work on the rough draft of Fools and Their Toys. I am also working to finish my graphic novel, Hidden Kingdom.
These novels of mine will probably never generate meaningful money in my lifetime, but the creation of them feels like the fulfillment of my life’s arc. I spent four decades in education, and now I am investing my remaining life force in story-telling, using many of the students and fellow teachers in novels of surrealistic fantasy and humor, giving meaning to the memories of a life spent in service to higher ideals.
So, there you have it, the Story So Far. I will continue to work on it, polish it, perfect it, and continue not to worry if no one reads it or even cares. It is my story, the story I live to create, and that is all the meaning that matters.