I have always had very vivid dreams. This picture was inspired by one. I dreamed of being a seventh-grader going to school in lizard-person school on a dinosaur planet. And throughout the dream my classmates were threatening to eat me. Oh, and the clothes they are wearing in the picture were the school uniforms.
Of course, naked-in-school dreams are a common one. This picture is more of a naked-on-Main-Street dream.
The title of this post is a Shakespearian Hamlet phrase. The picture above is a detail from a dream about Shakespeare’s The Tempest dream.
That particular nightmare had Caliban in it.
Fairy tale dreams are much nicer. In this Sleeping Beauty dream, the monsters are tiny.
I also admit to having animated-cartoon-type dreams. The turtle-boy in front is from the actual dream. The rest of it is made up to fill in the background of the picture.
This dream was obviously inspired by a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I have both good dreams and nightmares. And all of it provides fodder to fuel pictures and stories, but not always in that order.
It is almost impossible to accurately draw from the future. One of the tests of good science fiction is how much of it finds its way into reality over time.
Computers and communicators and scanners and material printers are doing things daily now that were predicted as fantastical possibilities in the Star Trek episodes of the 1960’s.
Jules Verne’s novels predicted men walking on the moon and the existence of nuclear submarines patrolling the depths of the sea.
George Orwell predicted even worse things when it comes to government electronic surveillance and governmental control of everything they can take control of.
But it has never really been the future that my writing, as a fantasist/surrealist, has been about.
All of my writing is set either before the year 2000, or 3000 years in the future in the 51st Century and beyond. And all of the science fiction involved is really more about the past than it is even about the present. These drawings of the Civil War bugle boy and the Shakespearian portrait of Prospero, Ferdinand, and Miranda, were all drawn from either photos or paintings or woodcut prints from the distant past.
In my writing I don’t try to predict the future. I write about people who are basically the same now as they were in the 16th Century. In truth, only the costumes, props, and stage technology change over time. The actors in the great performance always play the same basic characters.
Today’s post is a look at artwork from various times in my life.
I will try to find some of my work in the media library for this blog that is even older than this first one. But I am combing the archive randomly, so that I need to date each one.
The first one is from around 1979, possibly ’78 or “80.
This was from before I became a teacher, but just after my arthritis helped me decide not to pursue cartooning as a career.
I was still in my 20’s when I drew this.
This next one is helpfully dated 1983. It is a portrait of my favorite kid in the first year I taught. He was in my class in the 1981-82 school year.
This one is from 1977, my junior year at Iowa State University, You can see that I was overly relying on profile views for faces on cartoon characters. An odd little weakness.
This one is from about 1992 when Jorge and his brothers, some real working caballeros, were in my classes.
This came from 1984.
This one 1978.
This picture was submitted to the adult division of the Art Contest at the Wright County Fair in 1978. I drew it on the front porch of the old house in Rowan, Iowa. It won the purple ribbon.
This was drawn in the Winter of 1980 when I had to read David Copperfield as one of the works responded to on the 1981 English Masters’ Ecam.
If I searched longer I could probably find the pictures I previously posted on this blog from when I was twelve years old. Those are about the oldest artworks I still possess. But what would it show anyway? You can see my work got a little better over time, but not much, and lately arthritis took away some of my skills.
This is an illustration that goes along with my first good published novel, Catch a Falling Star. I don’t talk about that novel in this blog very much anymore since, in order to actually promote that novel, I am under contract to have to spend hundreds of dollars more to use one of their many expensive promotional packages to get this “award winning” novel promoted in the way the publisher thinks it deserves. I wanted to use a picture like this for the cover of the book. They rejected that. Instead they gave me a silhouette picture of a girl flying a kite at night. That, of course, has nothing to do with the novel inside the book. These two, by contrast, are two of the most important characters from the book, both of them aliens. Farbick is the competent space pilot who gets himself shot and captured during the failed invasion of Earth. Davalon is the marooned tadpole, Telleron child, who gets himself adopted by a childless Earth couple. I definitely like my picture better than the one I got stuck with.
This picture is called, “Long Ago It Might Have Been.” It is a picture I drew in the late eighties, after my girlfriend/Reading-teacher colleague took a job in San Antonio and left me behind. Honestly, she wanted to marry me, and I never got around to telling her that the reason our love life was so difficult was because I had been sexually assaulted as a child, and though I was attracted to her, I hadn’t truly healed enough at that point to become a husband and father. I never told her about my terrible secret. She left. She got married and had more than one blond-haired little girl that probably looked just like her. The boy in this picture looks like a young me with blond hair. He wears a baseball jacket of the St. Louis Cardinals, my favorite team. He’s the child that might’ve been, if only I had grown to adulthood a little sooner.
This picture is even harder to explain without me looking like a real fool. After all, if you are a real fool, it’s rather hard to hide that fact. In that last picture, I depicted something that related to one of the two girlfriends that I had to juggle at the same time back in the eighties. You see, I had set my heart on winning over Mary Ann whom I had worked with in the same classroom as she was the teacher’s aide assigned to the Chapter I remedial program I was teaching. She’s the girlfriend I took on visits to the Austin area on weekends. She had a sister in Austin, the one who lived in the nudist apartment complex, where she stayed during those visits. My parents lived in Taylor, Texas at the time, a nearby suburb. We dated regularly. She knew my terrible secret. She was a divorcee and I knew her terrible secrets as well. Ginger, on the other hand, was looking for a mate, and she lived in the apartment next door. She’s the one who would’ve hopped into bed with me anytime I asked. And she made no bones about wanting me to be hers. Needless to say, I could’ve written a TV sitcom about the majority of my love-life back then. It could’ve starred Jack Ritter as me. And I ended up with neither of those two young ladies. The picture, of course. is in honor of the kids in the eighties calling my classroom Gilligan’s Island because they thought I looked like the Gilligan actor, Bob Denver.
This is, of course, a portrait of Millis the rabbit in his accelerated-evolution form as a rabbit-man from my novel The Bicycle-Wheel Genius. That book, obviously, is a science-fiction comedy with a lot of unexpected plot twists. But the story behind the picture is one of a boyhood spent as a town kid in a farm-town community. Unlike the other kids in the Iowa Hawkeyes 4-H club, I couldn’t raise a calf or a pen of hogs as my 4-H club project. So, instead, I got in as a keeper of rabbits. Of my two original rabbits, a buck and a doe, I had a black one and a white one. The white one was a New Zealand White, a purebred white rabbit with red eyes, because the entire breed was albino. I called the white rabbit, the buck, Ember-eyes because his eyes glowed like fire in the night under the flashlight beam. The doe was a black rabbit I called Fuzz. Out of the first litter of babies Fuzz had, eight of the ten were white And of the two black babies, one died in the nest, and the other passed away shortly after he got big enough to determine that he was a male rabbit. I won’t go into how you determine the sex of a juvenile rabbit. So, almost all of the rabbits I raised before I discovered what a Dutch-belted rabbit was, were white with red eyes.
So, it is my thesis for today that every picture I make has some kind of story behind it. It may be totally boring, but still technically a story. So, there.
As a nudist… well, I am not a very good spokesman for nudism, because I rarely get to be nude… and never really socially. I have seen a lot of nude people in my life. My own children, my nieces and nephews… I have at various times seen all but one of them naked. I have actually changed a lot of diapers, though that has been pretty much a long time ago. I have been around naked nudists a number of times. And I even spent an afternoon at a nudist camp one time. But this isn’t about being a nudist… even a never-nude nudist. It is about the morality of drawing nude people.
I enjoy drawing the nude human form. Man, woman, or child… nudes are beautiful to contemplate. But in our generally sexually repressive society, child nudes are a touchy subject. A lot of people who want to tell you what is wrong with your life and what to correct about yourself believe nudity is always about sexuality. And here’s a bit of naked truth about nudity… I am a victim of a sexual assault when I was a mere boy. Not an assault that provided any sexual gratification to me. I was sexually tortured and caused pain, both physically, and long-lastingly psychologically. It interferes with the entirety of my psycho-sexual development. I have never touched a niece or a nephew when they were naked, except when changing them as babies. I have trouble touching my own children, nude or not, as a result of what my attacker did to me. I have missed out on a humongous number of hugs and caresses, and maybe even kisses. My love life has always been a challenge, and it makes me approach child-nudity with great caution and trepidation.
The thing I have learned about the nudes I draw and paint, especially the child nudes, is that the pictures, no matter how innocent in concept, have a dark edge. They are not evidence of any sexual misconduct on my part. Considering the facts of my own life, I am determined to never be any kind of threat to any child. In fact, they are safer with me than with most other people. I know what can actually happen if you do not guard against it.
That is not the way some people will see them, though. I have been accused of being too fond of young boys before. But no kid who ever spent time with me as a mentor, dungeon master, or friend would fail to contradict that. Several did contradict that. I am provably not a homosexual, let alone a child predator threatening to boys. But this picture of Fernando Faun is not evidence of anything anyway. The actual model wore swim trunks in the photo I made it from. Only the face is Fernando’s, and I definitely changed his race and skin-color. And if anything at all can be learned about this picture, it is that, in truth, it is more a picture of me than it was of Fernando. It is about enjoyment of the naked part of being a boy, a zest for life and sensuality, that I painted because the fact of it was denied to me. I never got the chance to be like that anywhere but in my imaginary world where this painting is actually set.
I really can’t claim, though, that young girls would be as safe around me as boys are. I would never actually touch one, or even intentionally make her feel uncomfortable if I could help it. I could not promise, though, that my old brain would be completely free of all lustful thoughts.
But the whole point I am trying to make is that we are naked in more ways than just the physical. There is a need to be naked more. And by that I mean, we need to shine lights on our inner selves, to show the world who we truly are. I should not hide myself or my work from the sight of others. Letting you see these naked pictures, and at the same time, talking about my naked fears, is a kind of naked honesty that helps me to talk about what happened to me once upon a time. And it helps me heal. Repressing such things does harm to the soul.
I do not have any particular theme for this gallery post. I just want to post again pictures that I love and have hanging on my wall to study constantly. I don’t know what it is about these random images that make them dear to me… but I love them.
You know how they say that every portrait an artist does is really a self-portrait… Well, this one was always intended to be. I was ten.
I must confess that I chose to be a surrealist from about the time I discovered the artwork of Salvador Dali at the age of fifteen. I did a report on Dali and Surrealism for 9th grade Art Class. I wanted to be a surrealist because I realized that surrealists got to draw really weird stuff and then pretend it meant something real in the modern real world. So let me show you some of my weirder high school surrealist messings on paper.
Of course, like most teenagers, I was obsessed with death and mortality at a time in which I had not yet learned how to live and stay alive… one of the serious dangers of being a teenage half-brain in a post invention-of-the-atom-bomb world.
So, I start this gruesome dissection of teen-y art apoplexy with a depressingly angst-y picture and poem about the urgency of nameless coming doom.
And at the same time I was basically an angst-y pre-Goth Goth, I was also a lollipop Disneyphile romantic… A pre-My-Little-Pony Brony as it were. I was goofy as all get out and determined to latch onto all the big-eyed art ideals of the many girls I stalked and watched and comprehended incorrectly while never, ever talking to even one of them. (Well, not counting sisters and the several non-aggressive Mickey-lovers who were chasing me and courting me while I was totally oblivious to facts of it.)
But I was also aware of a spiritual something that lurked in my church-going Sunday self that needed to metaphorically tackle ideas of God and life-after-death notions of something that I knew in my head weren’t really real, but were necessary to the heart I possessed and its dire need for love and life and laughter.
And then too, I was seriously teaching myself to draw. And I drew things like nudes from pictures in National Geographic and Post magazines… but of course, only non-sexualized nudes like kids playing soccer in the nude and in the rain in a school yard in Indonesia so they don’t get their school uniforms soaked.
But what is Surrealism that I can accomplish it any way as an Art movement that is really probably in the past and not relevant to anything in the real world now? Well, what I always thought it was… was a way of seeing the world through a rose-colored lens of imagination (with flying purple jelly-bean spots in it). It is a way of taking my Mickey-and-Goofy strangeness and mixing it into the Donald-Duck Soup of Art. It is a way to simply be true to myself rather than the truth nature insists on putting in front of my face.
Most of my novel stories have lived in my head since the 1970’s. I began recording the ideas in a notebook that I called the libretto. I drew illustrations to solidify the characters and some of the plot elements in my mind. But the basic natures of the characters and the style of my artwork grew from these original artistical notations.
I got better at art over time. And the characters benefited from my teaching experience in that I was able to depict numerous characters with nuances and details gained from students and other people I hadn’t met yet when I drew these pictures. Dorin Dobbs, for instance, is based in large part on my eldest son, who wouldn’t be born for another 18 years when I drew these pictures (He’s the yellow-haired boy in both of the first two pictures.)
Francois, the singing sad clown from my book Sing Sad Songs, is based on a student from the 80’s who was actually Spanish speaking and of Mexican-American descent.
I drew this picture of him in 1976.
I taught the boy in 1983.
I wrote and published the book in 2018.
The inter-dimensional traveler, the Man-Cat, is an idea from a story I have not written yet, and probably never will.
Disney-Michael Stewart and his gang of Milk-Lovers is another story I haven’t written yet, and though more likely, is still probably a novel I will never get to.
Invisible Captain Dettbarn and Francois ended up in separate stories from this picture. The other three boys in the picture were babies or not yet born when their stories happen.
So, today was a chance to look at and re-evaluate the past. All of these drawings were done in the 1970’s. All I did was scan them with a good scanner and crop them a little to make them better compositions. And they allow me to keep track of where my mind has already been, that I might successfully chart the future of where it is going.