After trying to hash out a truce with hard-headed hardware, I finally got my scanner working again, despite an unruly and uncooperative keyboard that puts in the wrong command even as I am trying to type this.
Once harnessed to the wagon again, the scanner must now pull more than its own weight as I attempt to create illustrations for my book of essays.
I am working on scanning and converting things to all black and white. So, all of these Art Day illustrations are pulling towards that goal. And much of what I will show you is newly scanned, or re-scanned, or black-and-white.
Here again I will attempt to foolishly explain what a picture means and why I created it. I say “foolishly” because I know, as an artist, that once a picture is finished, it is really no longer mine to interpret. It becomes the exclusive province of the viewer to define what you see in your own terms. Your experience of the picture is your own private matter, entirely between you and your eyeballs and your own happy little brain.
That being said, here is the insight into my own internal bad weather in the brain that led to the making of this picture.
I created this picture in colored pencil back in 1981 when I was finishing my grad school degree, and waiting for my comprehensive exam in the spring led to a lot of sitting around with nothing to do nor money to do anything with. I was living in an efficiency apartment in Iowa City, a twenty-minute walk from most of my classes in the University of Iowa Campus, nestled nicely among the downtown features of one of the most progressive cities available in farm-centric Republican-conservative Iowa. It was no Berkley, California. But it was not Hayseed Hicksville either.
So, I was thinking about how my mind had been freed from the prison of Iowegian conservatism by learning in the school where Kurt Vonnegut had once been part of the acclaimed Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa. I had taken some courses that really opened my eyes. A philosophy course taught by a professor who had been excommunicated by the Catholic Church. A deep study of English linguistics with a fairly radioactive dose of the breakthroughs of understanding made by Noam Chomsky. I was moved to “think about thinking,” and so, I drew a picture I would call “The Wings of Imagination.”
As a pencil drawing, I had originally set the eagle-winged Pegasus in the middle of a Medieval village (having recently discovered the original blooming of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons that was sweeping the university.) But when I looked at the drawing of the winged horse compared to the surrounding drawing, I knew the beautiful imaginary creature had to show the ability to soar high even though its feet were on the ground. So, I erased everything but the Pegasus and turned the background into the mountain heights you now see in the finished version.
I cannot claim the picture is without flaws, however. You may have noticed that the horse part has overly massive hind legs compared to excessively spindly front legs. The mountainous region I set it in was inspired by watching Bob Ross paint mountains on PBS. I had some pictures from National Geographic as reference for the mountain tops, but the lower valley came entirely from memories of vacation-time Colorado and Montana. The clunky parts were caused by an imperfect memory and a lack of landscape skill.
So, that is why I did what I did. And I am proud of it.
But it is entirely up to you to make of it what you will. That is how the artist/viewer relationship works.
I write novels, and so, I need covers that hopefully spark interest in potential readers. After all, what is the purpose of writing a novel and putting it in the closet where no one will ever read it.
But where do you get a good cover? Not from publishers. The only cover I ever got that was publisher-made was highly misleading about the contents of my book. And it was stock art that they had o hand and simply wanted to charge me a lot of money for.
So, I figured, I do not have comic-book-art habits for no reason. Since that first go, and the other scam publisher that took advantage of me, I have done my own cover art.
So, today, let me show you my own criminally amateur cover designs for Art Day.
Here’s the one from last night;
And these next few are the more recent stuff.
So far those are unpublished covers for works in progress.
This last one is not the final version I published. I got rid of the garish yellow for a grayish wood-grain. But my poor internet connection on a hot Texas summer day will not yield any more than I have already shown you.
Ah, well… At least it is already more than last Saturday.
Today, instead of dropping a pile of pictures into my Art Day post, I decided to explain a single work of art, what the idea was, and how I think it succeeded.
This picture, called “March of the Tin Soldiers” was created in 1994. It was done on a large sheet of white art paper from a super-sized art pad purchased a decade before in an Art Store in Austin, Texas. I did the initial drawing with a pencil and then colored over that with colored pencils, mostly art-grade pencils from Prismacolor. It took most of a month to complete because I was in the middle of a busy school year at the time, teaching mostly at-risk and special-programs kids.
The idea is that these toy soldiers are larger than life-size. They are marching up a hill, and now that they have reached the top, they are in various stages of making ready for battle. They will be moving into the darkness on stage left. They are leaving the bright pastel world behind and moving into potential future conflicts. The drummer boy is basically me. I am leading the way. The trumpet girl is the young Math teacher that I proposed to that year. The news is in the newspaper hat that is on her head, and she is in the act of trumpeting the upcoming charge.
The army, you may have noticed, are not real soldiers. They are imaginary and inspired by the soldiers in the Disney movie, Babes in Toyland. Thus, I am relying on the powers of my imagination to move forward into the future in this picture.
Now that I have exposed the thinking that was in my stupid head when I made this picture, I may have spoiled it for you. Ultimately, it is supposed to be up to the viewer to interpret a work of art. And I have added information to it that you couldn’t possibly have known if I hadn’t told it all to you. But art is always more complicated than the viewer can ever know. This is why my family gets impatient with me whenever we go to an art museum. I get stuck in front of paintings where I ponder all the unknowables that make it look like what it is, and may be hidden in it somewhere if only I can look hard enough and long enough to see it.
The number three is important in this composition. You may notice that there are three tin soldiers. The three blue towers in the upper left of the picture are spatially related to the positions of the three soldiers on the hill. This is an intentional echoing. There are also three folds in the flapping flag the third soldier is carrying. The three mountains between and above the three tin soldiers are also spatially echoing the soldiers, though in the opposite direction, symbolizing possible retreat. There are only two children in the picture, but the tin soldier leader is positioned so that he can share a single leg with each child, making three and three, symbolizing support and protection, the big three, husband and wife supported by God’s blessing.
Now I have successfully revealed way too much about this picture, more than you could possibly want to know. But if you have questions, you can always ask in the comments. Though I can’t promise honest answers. That kinda depends on what you want to know.
I have done it. I have committed the reprehensible act of writing a third rewrite-book from the most terrible novel I ever wrote into a series of books that will turn your hair blue and make chickens everywhere fart rose petals. Wait! Can that actually happen? Of course it can. In science fiction, everything and anything is possible. So, I now include a whole mess of illustrations I have poured into the making of these three books.
There are probably too many things on my mind today. My daughter is graduating from High School today at the Texas Motor Speedway. A graduation in cars going around a circle because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
My daughter the Princess is graduating today. That is probably what has my head swirling.