Tag Archives: drawing

Rooster Riding

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Do I believe in the little people?  Of course not.  If Tinkerbell depends on me, she is dead meat… or maybe dead fairy dust.

But if they do exist, then they are like the rooster riders in my picture, exploiting the world in the same way the big old slow ones do.  

They are not our inferiors or our superiors.  They are us.  They mirror us and our beliefs, our dreams… our nightmares, and all the things deep within us that could ever possibly go bump in the night.

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That Silly Old Writer, Me!

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I was invited to take part in the “My Writing Process” blog tour by a fellow young adult fiction writer, Stuart West.  (https://stuartrwest.blogspot.com)  Stuart is the author of the Tex, the Witch Boy series of paranormal YA thrillers.  He is something of a mentor to me, and easily the best published author I am personally acquainted with.  Before you take me seriously, you should definitely check out his blog.

For this little exercise, I have to answer four questions, then invite three other authors to do the same.  I’m a little slow on getting others to agree to this plan, but I am shameless when it comes to opportunities to talk about my own writing.  I will post the three authors later this week, after I am done begging and bribing.  

Step 1: Acknowledge the person and the blog site that invited you to take part.

As you can see, I’ve done that above, but here is the second mention; Stuart R. West .  (https://stuartrwest.blogspot.com

Step 2: Answer four questions about your writing process.
1)      What am I working on?
2)       How does my work differ from others of its genre?
3)       Why do I write what I do?
4)       How does your writing process work?

  1. What I am working on now is a story that is sequel-requel-prequel to my novel Catch a Falling Star.  That means that it uses characters from that novel, a bunch of new ones, and some from other stories of mine as well to tell what happened before that novel, during that novel, and after that novel.  Silly plan!  Believe me, I realize that while sweating over re-quel details (a phrase that here means a retelling of parts of that novel – I do also realize I stole this particular conceit from Lemony Snicket).  The book will be called The Bicycle Wheel Genius about a scientist who is a super-genius inventor trying to live incognito in a little Iowa farm town after leaving government service.  He is trying to live down a family tragedy while at the same time befriending the boy next door, avoiding government agents and assassin robots, dealing with an alien invasion by invisible alien frog people,  juggling time travelers, creating rabbit-men, and engineering old-fashioned high-wheel bicycles. 
  2. How does my work differ?  You have to ask?  Unlike all the careful plotters, step-by-step writing crafters, and picky editor types out there, I put words and ideas in a blender, mix on the “Are you insane?” setting, and then let it all come pouring out into pages and scenes and chapters (although I call them cantos for some bizarre reason).  I also have to admit that I base a lot of my characters on real people that I either grew up with in Iowa, or met over my thirty plus years as a mostly middle school teacher.  And these stories have percolated in my head for twenty to thirty years.  Did I mention already that I am not a person who thinks in straight lines?  You can tell by the shifts, reverses, and loopty-loops in this paragraph that much of what I call humor comes from my purple paisley prose (a phrase which here means overly ornate, wordy, and down-right convoluted sentences and paragraphs).  (Thanks again, Lemony).
  3. Why do I write it?  Let me think.  Could it be because teaching middle school students for too long leads to insanity, and if the insane are going to be useful in society, they have to do something at least mildly interesting for people who live in the real world?  I mean, if I just sit in a room all day drooling and counting and re-counting my Pez dispenser collection, that wouldn’t be entirely helpful.   Writing honors all the people I have known, alive and now departed, who touched my life and made a difference to my heart.  It also helps me make sense of things that have happened to me over time and shaped me as person… hopefully a person you might like to get to know.  And you can know a person through their writing long after they are personally worm food.  How could I live without Mark Twain or Charles Dickens in my life, and both were dead long before I was born?  And I know you’re going to ask yourself what makes me think that other people couldn’t live their lives better without knowing me?  But don’t ask.  I have developed a certain amount of wisdom over the course of my life, and I know I really don’t want an answer to that question.
  4. How does my writing process work?  I have taught the writing process in the classroom so many times, that the only answer I am still sane enough to give is that everyone’s process is entirely different.  I can, however, drop an insight or two on you.  First of all, everything I have ever written is still a part of what I call Prewriting… with a capital P.  Everything ever written can be rewritten and improved.  Secondly, it is important to re-read what you write.  I hate typos and mistakes in what is supposed to be “finished” writing.  It is the reason I hate the entire experience of my first published novel, Aeroquest.    That writing will never be okay until I have a chance to re-write it and re-tell it and re-everything it.  Dang it.  Thirdly, you must carefully consider who to allow to have input on your rough draft and re-worked copies.  Even some professional editors don’t bother to try to see things in a way that reflects the fact that they care about what you have written.  You need someone on your side to share it, and love it, and cherish it the way you do.  Only that person will give you input that is worth listening to.  Fourthly, if you reach fourthly your list is too dang long.  And finally, publish it.  Share it.  Don’t put it away in a drawer for the mice and spiders to read when you are long gone. 

So, Stuart, how did I do?  I hope at least it proves what you have known all along.  That Mickey guy writes like his hair is on fire and his pants are unraveling… in front of girls.

(Three writers to be named later will take up this same blog tour… I hope.)

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Mangaphile

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My wife brought treasure back from the Philippines for my kids and me.  She spent over a thousand Filipino pesos at a book store over there and apparently bought out the store’s entire supply of “How-to-Draw-Manga/Anime” (though the amount she spent is not so impressive when you realize the exchange rate for a Filipino peso is .025 of an American dollar).  Anyway, I happen to love the Japanese anime-style cartoons.  I have since I was a kid in the 60’s watching Astroboy in black and white on the old Motorola TV set.  So, just as you would expect, I had to go on a drawing binge, copying ideas from the books, but putting my own spin on them.

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It is not the first time I have gone on anime-drawing binges.  Let me provide some proof of that from past posts;

So, there’s my original content for today.  The day after the 4th of July, I am celebrating one of the ways that Japan conquered the United States after World War II.  Yes, manga-style cartoons have far more kids carefully copying a cartoon style with big, cute eyes than probably ever tried to draw like Walt Kelly or Al Capp.

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Thanks for the Memories, Mr. Disney

This post is going to sound an awful lot like stuff and nonsense, because that is what it primarily is, but it had to be said anyway.    Last night my family took me to see the movie Saving Mr. Banks, a deeply moving biographical story of P.L. Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins, and how she had to be convinced to surrender her beloved character to the movie industry which she so thoroughly detested and distrusted.  It is also about one of my most important literary heroes, Walt Disney, and how he eventually convinced the very eccentric and complicated authoress to allow him to make her beloved character into a memorable movie icon.

“We create our stories to rewrite our own past,” says Disney, trying to tell Mrs. Travers how he understood the way that her Mary Poppins character completed and powerfully regenerated the tragedy of her own father’s dissolution and death.  This is the singular wisdom of Disney.  He took works of literature that I loved and changed them, making them musical, making them happy, and making them into the cartoonish versions of themselves that so many of us have come to cherish from our childhoods.  He transforms history, and he transforms memory, and by doing so, he transforms truth.

Okay, and as silly as those insights are, here’s a sillier one.  In H.P. Lovecraft’s dreamlands, on the shores of the Cerenarian Sea, north of the Mountains of Madness, there roam three clowns.  They are known as the Boz, the Diz, and the Bard, nicknames for Charles Dickens, Walt Disney, and William Shakespeare.  These three clowns, like the three fates of myth, measure and cut the strings of who we are, where we are going, and how we will get there.  They come to Midgard, the Middle Earth to help us know wisdom and folly, the wisdom of fools.

Why have I told you these silly, silly things?  Do I expect you to believe them?  Do I even expect you to read all the way to paragraph four?  Ah, sadly, no…  but I am thinking and recording these thoughts because I believe they are important somehow.  I may yet use them as the basis of a book of my own.  I enjoy a good story because it helps me to do precisely as Mr. Disney has said, I can rewrite my own goofy, silly, pointless past.

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Maxfield Parrish Pictures

Much of what I draw is inspired by Maxfield Parrish, the commercial artist who created stunningly beautiful work for advertisers in the 1920’s and 30’s, and went on to paint murals and masterworks until the 1960’s.  He is noted for his luminous colors, especially Parrish Blue, and can’t be categorized under any existing movement or style of art.  No one is like Maxfield Parrish.  And I don’t try to be either, but I do acknowledge the debt I owe to him.  You should be able to see it in these posts, some of mine, and some of his.

Mine; (In the Land of Maxfield Parrish)

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His; (Daybreak)

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Mine; (Wings of Imagination)

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His; (Egypt)

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Believe me, I know who wins this contest.  I am not ashamed to come in second.  I will never be as great as he was.  But I try, and that is worth something.  It makes me happy, at any rate.

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Wally Wood

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A self-portrait by Wallace Wood.

I am a bit of a cartoonist for a reason.  I started drawing cartoons at the age of five.  I read everything in the Sunday funny pages, not just for the jokes.  I poured over the drawings and copied some.  I drew Dagwood Bumstead and Blondie.  I drew Lil’ Abner and Charlie Brown and Pogo.  Cartoonists were heroes to me.

But my parents wanted to protect me from the evils of comic books.  Superheroes were off limits most of the time.  Things that are associated with evil were out of the question.  So Daredevil was beyond reach.  And Mad Magazine was full of socialist ideas and led kids down the dark path of satire.  So the truth is, I didn’t discover Wally Wood until I was in college.  His corrupting influence didn’t take hold of me until I was older and full of hormones.  Ah, youth and the propensity for sin!  Wally taught me that cartoons could be real.

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Wally Wood was one of the original artists working for EC comics who formed Mad Magazine with it’s spoofs and irreverent humor.  Wood worked together with the Great Will Eisner on the Spirit.  He went on to work for Marvel on the comic book Daredevil where he innovated the red suit and double-D logo, as well as doing the primary story-telling that brought that comic book from the bottom of the Marvel stack to almost the very top.  His work on Daredevil resonates even until today where there is now a big controversy that the popular show on Netflix does not list Wood among the creators of Daredevil in their credits.  I must remember to complain about that later.

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But the thing that drew me to Wood more than anything was the realistic style that he brought to the unreal realm of cartoons.  The man could draw!  He did marvelous detail work and was a leader in the development of dynamic composition in an artistic industry that tolerated and even often encouraged really poor-quality drawing.  He took the comic book from the age of the glorified stick figure to an age of cinematic scope and know-how.  Here it is revealed in his classic break-down of innovative comic-book panels;

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But it is also important to realize that the more power you put into art, the more it can blow up and hurt people.  Wood had a dark side that went a bit darker as he went along.  He had an issue with the kind of false front comics had to throw up in front after the anti-comics crusade of psychologist Fredric Wertham’s book Seduction of Innocents.  He is probably the artist behind the cartoon poster The Disneyland Memorial Orgy.  He started his own cartoon studio that produced increasingly erotic and pornographic comics like Sally Forth, Cannon, and Gangbang.  He became increasingly ill, lost the sight in one eye, suffered severe headaches, and eventually committed suicide in 1981.  With great power comes great responsibility, and we are not all superheroes in the end.  But I will always admire and emulate the work of this great artist… and selfishly wish he could’ve lived to create more of the wonderful art he gave us.

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Mangled Metaphors and Purple Paisley Prose

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I have rather regularly been revising and editing old writing.  One thing I have discovered is that I am capable of the most gawd-awful convoluted sentences filled with mangled metaphors and ideas that can only be followed while doing mental back-flips or managing miracles of interpretation.    That last sentence is a perfect example of purple paisley prose.  Paisley, in case you didn’t know this, is a printed pattern on clothing or other cloth that makes an intricate design out of the basic twisted teardrop shape borrowed from Persian art.   The basic motif, the teardrop shape, is a leaf or vegetable design often referred to as the Persian pickle.  I write like that.  You can pick out the Persian pickles in this very paragraph.  Alliterations, mangled metaphors, rhyming words, sound patterns, the occasional literary allusion, personification, bungles, jungles, and junk.  “How can you actually write like that?” you ask.  Easy.  I think like that.

To make a point about mangled metaphors, let me visit a couple of recent scenes in novels I have been working on;

From The Bicycle Wheel Genius; page 189

Mike Murphy and Frosty Anderson sat at the kitchen table eating a batch of Orben’s pancakes, the twentieth try at pancakes, and nearly edible.  Mike could eat anything with maple syrup on it… well, maybe not dog poop, but these were slightly better than dog poop.

From The Magical Miss Morgan; page 7

Blue looked at Mike and grinned.  It was an impish and fully disarming grin.  It made Mike do whatever Blue said, even being willing to eat a lump of dog poop if she asked him to, though she would never ask him to.

So, here’s the thing.  Why is there a repetition of the dog-poop-eating metaphor?  In one case it is Mike Murphy expressing in metaphorical terms his love of maple syrup.  In the other, it is Mike Murphy expressing his love of Blueberry Bates’ dimpled grin.  He is a somewhat unique character, but why would anybody associate love with eating dog poop?  I don’t know.  I just wrote the dang things.

I like to take a convoluted plot and complicate it with complex sentences and numerous running gags, with a seasoned-sauce of mangled metaphors poured on top like gravy.  I will use sentences like this either to make you laugh, or give you a headache.  I’m almost sure it is one of those.  So if you have gotten this far in this post without a headache, then I guess it must be funny.

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Pen and Ink in Progress

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This drawing is not done.  I have plans.  But this pen and ink Paffooney is a good example of a doodle-point I probably need to make.  The plan does not occur before the ink hits the drawing pad.  No, this one started with a circle.  And for no good reason, I had to draw the girl’s face in the circle.  But what was the face doing inside a circle like that?  I next drew the bird.  But if she’s so surprised to see a bird inside a birdhouse…  Well, you get the idea.  The story comes after the scribbling.

And here comes the controversial conclusion.  This is exactly how life happens.  Stuff becomes… and the reason why only becomes clear later.  Curse me for a doodling philosopher!

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Art Projects That Mickey Doo

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Mickey is suffering from too much politixity and angriefied argumentery to sleep well and eat well .   He has been eating , sleeping , and breathing polytix to the point that he can’t even spell properly any more .  Besides , pollertix doesn’t taste so good when you have to eat it after an election that went wrong . c360_2016-11-13-14-44-44-313

So Mickey started doing what Mickey always doo .   He started to draw.  First with pencil , then with black ink .   And then he started to color it in with colored pencil.  The spelling started to get better .  And not just because Mickey stopped having fist fights with the spell check . 20161113_202548

Other art projects helped too.  Like photographing Trolls in the Cardboard Castle . 20161113_202051

So, if the things that Mickey do help to save the brain , then he better doo before it all becomes doo doo.

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Making Portraits

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My biggest regret as a cartoonist and waster of art supplies is the fact that I am not the world’s best portrait artist.  I can only rarely make a work of art look like a real person.  Usually the subject has to to be a person I love or care deeply about.  This 1983 picture of Ruben looks very like him to me, though he probably wouldn’t recognize himself here as the 8th grader who told me in the fall of 1981 that I was his favorite teacher.  That admission on his part kept me from quitting and failing as a first year teacher overwhelmed by the challenges of a poor school district in deep South Texas.

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My Great Grandma Hinckley was really great.

My great grandmother on my mother’s side passed away as the 1970’s came to an end.  I tried to immortalize her with a work of art.  I drew the sketch above to make a painting of her.  All my relatives were amazed at the picture.  They loved it immensely.  I gave the painting to my Grandma Aldrich, her second eldest daughter.  And it got put away in a closet at the farmhouse.  It made my grandma too sad to look at every day.  So the actual painting is still in a closet in Iowa.

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There were, of course, numerous students that made my life a living heck, especially during my early years as a teacher.  But I was one of those unusual teachers (possibly insane teachers) who learned to love the bad kids.  Love/hate relationships tend to endure in your memory almost as long as the loving ones.  I was always able to pull the good out of certain kids… at least in portraits of them.

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When kids pose for pictures, they are not usually patient enough to sit for a portrait artist.  I learned early on to work from photographs, though it has the disadvantage of being only two-dimensional.  Sometimes you have to cartoonify the subject to get the real essence of the person you are capturing in artiness.

But I can’t get to the point of this essay without acknowledging the fact that any artist who tries to make a portrait, is not a camera.  The artist has to put down on paper or canvas what he sees in his own head.  That means the work of art is filtered through the artist’s goofy brain and is transformed by all his quirks and abnormalities.  Therefore any work of art, including a portrait that looks like its subject, is really a picture of the artist himself.  So, I guess I owe you some self portraits to compare.

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Yeah, that’s me at 10… so what?

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