There are many, many things I appreciate about other people’s artwork. It is not all a matter of envy or a desire to copy what they’ve done, stealing their techniques and insights for myself, though there is some of that. Look at the patterns Hergé uses to portray fish and undersea plants. I have shamelessly copied both. But it is more than just pen-and-ink burglary.
I like to be dazzled. I look for things other artists have done that pluck out sweet-sad melodies on the heartstrings of my of my artistically saturated soul. I look for things like the color blue in the art of Maxfield Parrish.
I love the mesmerizing surrealism of Salvador Dali.
I am fascinated by William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s ability to create photo-realistic and creamy-perfect nudes.
Basil Wolverton’s comic grotesqueries leave me stunned but laughing.
The dramatic lighting effects employed by Greg Hildebrandt slay me with beauty. (Though not literally. I am not bleeding and dying from looking at this picture, merely metaphorically cut to the heart.)
I even study closely movie-poster portraits like Bogart and Bergman in this Casablanca classic poster.
I could show you so many more art pieces that I dearly love to look at. But I will end with a very special artist.
This is the work of my daughter, Mina “the Princess” Beyer. Remember that name. She’s better than I am.
This is a place I explore in cartoons and daydreams. It is a little town known as Animal Town for fairly obvious reasons. It is populated by silly anthropomorphic animals who wear clothes and keep naked people as pets.
Animal Town is one of the all-time silliest places to visit in the cartoon dreamland of Fantastica.
Mandy Panda and little brother Dandy are my constant companions and guides when I tour the dangerous streets of wild Animal Town. In my cartoons, Mandy is an immigrant from the Pandalore Islands. She is also the cartoon version of my wife.
Three of the Town’s most important head monkeys.
It was Mandy who introduced me to the government officials who run Animal Town. Judge Moosewinkle is the head of the Animal Town court system. He is a hanging judge, so I am very careful about littering and loitering when I am in town.
Constable Geoffrey Giraffe does all the arresting and police work. He used to work in a toy store, but quit his job there when he couldn’t get them to stop writing the R backwards on all their signs. Grammar infractions annoy him more than any other crime.
Linus the Kitten-Hearted is the mayor of Animal Town. They wanted to crown him as king, but he always says that’s only for when he’s in the jungle. In town he prefers to be a democratically elected leader. Of course, if you refuse to vote for him, he might eat you.
Most of my dreams in Animal Town are about the school there.
Yes, this is a yearbook picture from Animal Town Elementary School.
Miss Ancient’s Class of 5th graders is usually rather rowdy and difficult. You may have noticed there is a bare bear in the old buzzard’s class. The fact is, the bears in Animal Town are all naturists and refuse to wear clothes. This disturbs poor Miss
Ancient greatly, and it is therefore a real godsend that a fig leaf just happened to be drifting down through the air at the time this picture was made. Bobby Bare is not shy, but some things are better not put into a cartoon.
Yes, this is another yearbook picture. And I am in it twice, since Mr. Reluctant Rabbit is also me.
As a visitor to Animal Town, Cissy Bare took me to Mr. Rabbit’s class as her pet for show and tell. She is also a bare bear, and she also benefited from a passing leaf at picture time. You may notice students putting rabbit ears behind each other’s heads in pictures… something that human children do too in real life. But when I study this picture, I can’t help but think that maybe Mr. Rabbit started it. Now, Animal Town is located in Fantastica, a part of the Dreamlands. So that sort of explains how I ended up in school naked. My dreams are like that. You are in school in the middle of lessons before you realize that haven’t got a single stitch of clothing on.
When I am inevitably charged with public indecency for being in school naked, I can turn to Animal Town lawyer Woolbinkle Moosewinkle. He is totally incompetent and not very bright, but unlike most of the animals, he is friendly and on my side. Spot Firedog is a Dalmatian who knows how to use a newspaper. He is a reporter, publisher, and all-around good dog. He wrote an expose on me being naked in the Animal Town Elementary school.
Big Bull Beefalo runs the local hamburger emporium, which might seem like collusion to cannabalism, but Bull is a very gentle and very large soul. He is himself a vegetarian, but he is a gifted fry cook and chef. I can go to his restaurant when I get out of jail, though hopefully not as food.
So, Animal Town is a very different kind of place. It is the result of dreams and goofiness and uncontrolled spurts of cartoonist creativity. It is a cartoon sort of place where spontaneous and random humor happens.
I think the expression, Iowegian as it is, comes from the expression “doing squat” which means “doing nothing at all” combined with “diddling around”, the non-sexual meaning of which is “dithering or only working in an ineffective way.”
I humbly confess that I am not that great of a researcher when it comes to linguistic facts and word origins.
I am much better at making things up and creating my own portmanteau words.
But I do have a very good ear for how people actually talk. Especially when it comes to Iowegian, Texican, Spanglish, and Educational Jargon-Gibberish. Counting English and Tourist-German, I speak six languages.
I also humbly confess that I make big mistakes. I have been working hard for a week on editing published books because of how an overreaction to one small inappropriate detail nearly destroyed one of my best books and now I have to deal with the impression some readers have that I write inappropriate stuff all the time.
Yes, I definitely erred…
I also realized I assume everybody accepts nudity as easily as I do.
They definitely don’t.
But naked is funny. And that is not a point about my writing that I am willing to concede.
Doing diddly-squoot can also result in really weird stuff like this Christmas-card composite of my artwork and Vincent Price’s 1967 Christmas tree.
My title doesn’t mean that I am free from writing space books. These bizarre little sci-fi satires keep reeling out of the space between my ears. My head is full of science fiction froo-froo. And it has to go somewhere. So, in honor of Book 3 of the AeroQuest series being free this weekend (through September 22), I am posting today more AeroQuest art.
You should never try to measure anything by using a yardstick that changes it size and dimensions at random. There is no way to tell if you are growing or shrinking if the recorded six inches on Wednesday is the same thing you measured at ten inches on Tuesday, but it’s a wrench that’s been in your tool box for twenty years and you know danged well that it hasn’t changed size. You realize that there is no empirical data to be had on anything if you keep using a fourth-dimensional yardstick whose flux capacitor is out of adjustment.
Human beans, however, tend to foolishly always measure with their fourth-dimensional yardsticks. The way Texas measures children’s educational development, with a new and harder test every single year. No matter that everyone knows the yardstick is broken.
During the COVID 19 pandemic, I have had a lot of time to evaluate myself and my life’s work. But it is important to find the proper yardstick. I don’t need a broken one. I need a solid, unchangeable one.
I worked for thirty-one years in Texas education, grades six through twelve, seven years teaching English as a second language to Spanish speakers, Vietnamese speakers, Chinese speakers, Lebanese speakers, Portuguese speakers, Egyptian speakers, speakers of that language used in Eritrea that I can’t even pronounce, much less spell, and speakers of multiple languages from India. I earned a pension voted into being in the 90’s and I was grandfathered past the legislation that gutted pensions for teachers in the 2000’s. Of course, pensions for teachers are like treaties with Native Americans. They disappear over time and are never spoken about again by people whose voices can actually be heard.
So, wealth is not a yardstick I can measure with. I am in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy from medical bills already, having only been six years retired. And, since I can’t afford further medical debt, the next heart problem, cancer problem, stroke, or other fatal illness will have to be the death of me. I can’t afford a cure at today’s prices. (I have health insurance, but they pay for diddly-nada. You only have health insurance so you can pay premiums to rich people, not to cover any expenses.)
Accomplishments are not a workable yardstick either. I was never a teacher of the year (or even employed in a district that gave out such an award.) I never walked on the Moon or Mars, like I wanted to do as a kid. I never starred in a movie, or directed one, or wrote the screenplay for one, as I hoped to do as a college freshman. But such things are daydreams and pixie dust anyway. No more real than a fourth-dimensional yardstick.
When I was ten years old, though, an older boy sexually assaulted me. Not merely molested me, but tortured me, caused me physical pain, from which he derived sexual pleasure. I was fortunate that he didn’t kill me, as that kind of sexual predator is known to have done. But he lived out his life quietly and died of heart attack a few years ago. He never assaulted anybody else that I or the authorities ever found out about. So, I actually forgave him after he was dead. And what he did to me made me vow to myself that I would fight against that kind of predatory behavior for the rest of my life. I would go on to be a teacher who became a mentor to lonely and fatherless boys, not to prey upon them, but to protect them from the wicked wolves of evil appetite. I did not do the same thing for girls because I knew that certain temptations might be too much for me. I am not, after all, gay even though my first sexual experience was a same-sex nightmare. And I did like beautiful women and girls. Maybe that part of my life is a gold star in the book rather than a black mark.
And I am a story-teller. I have now published sixteen novels, and I have two more cooking in the old black kettle of imagination along with a book of essays drawn from this goofy little blog. Whether that is a yardstick by which to measure or not, is entirely up to readers. Some have told me that my stories are well-written and the characters are realistic and engaging. Some have told me that putting mentions of pornography and sexual assault into my novels is too much, and that my depictions of nudists I have known and loved is inappropriate, but that too is a matter of opinion. I don’t believe I have done any of that gratuitously. And I firmly believe young adult readers want and need stories about unwanted pregnancies, being victimized, and suicidal depression. I know that when I faced those things in my real life, I benefited from the things I had read about those very things. It’s not like I was promoting anything bad.
But measuring yourself is hard. Especially if all rulers and yardsticks are of the growing-and-shrinking-randomly variety.
As my resolution to illustrate my novels grows further and further into solid, irresistible form and driving obsessional shape, I have been working on new pen and ink projects. Some are for AeroQuest. Some were for The Boy… Forever. And I will soon need to create new ones for A Field Guide to Fauns. Today’s post is just a glimpse of what I have been doing.
I have been doing most of these Saturday art posts from my WordPress library of images. I generally try to organize around a theme. Having exhausted myself at Vivian Field Middle School yesterday, school-ish pictures are my theme for the day.
I have a tendency to think in pictures, and these are all school thoughts of one kind or another.
Some of my favorite students over the many years in the classroom were major nerds.
I liked them mostly because they were the same exact species as I was when I was a monkey-house-aged student.
Monkey-house is a synonym for Middle School.
Wally shared my obsession with Japanese anime and could draw them better than I could. He was a major nerd. And a totally enthusiastic learner whom other students treated like he was radioactive. I always had time for him when he needed to talk to someone. He was a teacher’s kid at a time when my own son was still little.
This will be used for several things. Most importantly it will become a part of the cover I make for my Work In Progress, The Boy… Forever.
The villain of this story claims to be an undead Chinese wizard. It is a claim that may be totally bogus, but it is a part of the idea of his villainy that needs to be illustrated to help me get to the roots of my theme; “No man lives forever. But if they accidentally do, it helps to be secretly a dragon in human form.”