Tuesday, October 16, 2012


India ink, watercolor, Radiant Pearls on Bristol paper.
This was the most fun I've had in studio in a long time. The rendering phase was difficult. Structurally correct, it seemed flat. When I added color I could see where the issues were. And for a  change, it turned out that I didn't have enough black in the drawing to balance out all the white areas that would get color.

And it really needed some landscaping. Like all good homes, curb appeal is key to a sale.

Now, I am not normally a cake person. I love to look at them. The skill it takes to render a 3d object in edible materials just dumbfounds me. But I do not like to eat cake...

except that I can not help thinking that this would make a great cake and I would love to sink my fang teeth into this one.

I would also like to make this Kurbissehaus (pumpkin house) with craft materials for submission for next years Somerset issue.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Oodles of Doodles

It's a rainy Northern Michigan morning and I am having a hard time getting my German radio station to load. Apparently the rainy season makes everything a little sleepy. I am no exception. For the first time in I don't know how long I slept a full 8 hours. But I woke at 11 to grey clouds after a brilliant dream. This always leaves me a little melancholic. The dreams I live in during sleep are vivid in texture, color, sound and lighting. Reality has a hard time keeping up.

This morning when I logged on to Facebook I made a comment from a Seuss quote about it being to wet to play. And then I popped over to google for some mail and such only to find a brilliant Google doodle about Little Nemo. Instant love. So being the geek that I am I went on a hunt to learn more about it's creator, Windsor McCay.
from today's google doodle
used without permission but
with the request that you guys
start to credit the animators who
create these amazing
bits & bobs.
~Thank you~
First I love the name. Windsor and Newton are my favorite watercolors. And, though spelled with a C instead of a K, the name McCay will always invoke David Hewlett's scientist extraordinaire Rodney the raging egomaniac from the Stargate franchise. But what I love the most about this man's work is the the strength of the drawing and the delicacy of the colors. Created in the early 1900s, the Art Nouveau style is very apparent in his work. The first thought that I had when I saw them was of Maxfield Parrish and Alfonse Muscha.

The second thought that I had was "Who puts that much work into a Sunday comic? Of course, I grew up in the 70s and 80s where the most complicated Sunday strip was Prince Valiant. And our animated cartoons were those of Disney and Warner Bros. While Disney cartoons have a great aesthetic, they are simple things. Detailed and yet uncomplicated so as to make production easier, there is still a flatness to the films.

And then when we get into the realm of Saturday morning cartoons there was the Adventures of Tarzan, Johnny Quest and later Wizards and Warriors to fill in the details of realism that the others left out. And I wonder now if simplifying the cartoon to appeal more to children might have been a poor choice. Not wrong or bad but poor. I love animation. I fell in love with it the first time I ever saw a cartoon because I recognized it as art. However, I know that as I got older, 8 or 9 maybe, I wanted there to be more substance. The world was not overly simple. The rush of images that pass us in our daily lives get noticed when we are kids. But we may not always have understood what we saw. I think that is perhaps why Japanimation and Anime have taken the world by storm. It does not filter out the complicated or the bad and the ugly in human or anthropomorphic behavior. And I can see all of this in the things that Little Nemo encounters in his dreams.

The comic was hugely popular in its time. And it was one of the first animated films. Not THE first, but one of them. I think that the popularity of them is because we all know that we have dreams in which we live the action. There is evidence upon waking. The drug our body uses to paralyse us in sleep is weak or wears off and we thrash about. This is the dream life of Nemo. And I think that part of the appeal is that the child who can not tell his or her parents what the dream was about and is confused by it will see this comic and know that they are not alone in their adventures. Kids encounter the complicated things of life all the time. But not many adults take the time to help explain it.

borrowed again
And the popularity of his work among adults would be, perhaps that the real world textures and layers now have a dreamy quality that puts a little more color into the Industrial Age in America. You know, I look at this next illustration, gleaned from the net most inappropriately, and I see that the era of Steampunk began in the 1900s. It doesn't take us back to the beginning in the manner of homage; it has always been with us... just hiding a bit.

The illustration to the right juxtaposes the modern 1900s with ancient architecture and some fairly, in 2012, fanciful ideas of hydrogen power. I see a city that would never have been built because of the clash between the modernity of convenience and the grace of traditional living and a city that will never bu built now because exterior ornamentaion is a colossal waste of money and material. And certainly the irrationality of fanaticism would prevent such a wondrous place from existing in the future. Purists would pale at the thought of Asiatic and Roman design commingled in a single structure such as the shadowy building on the left. I am certain the upon seeing this there must be a few 14th century Italian architects bristling at the thought of Roman viaducts and duomos being the foundation of such a conglomerate monster such as the central building cluster. Which, may I point out, looks very much like it could have been cut and pasted onto the cover of any fantasy novel of the 1970s, especially the cloud cities of Marion Zimmer Bradley's worlds. Shoot... if Tolkein's Lorien elves were all about building in the open this could very well have been one of their spired cities. Behind the blue dome, fading in to the mist I see something that would be comfortable on the Klingon home world.

I think in all of this mornings travels, the thing that most entertained me about McCay's work is this last photo. Because the first thing that I thought when I saw it is the first thing that you are thinking...

Thank you, Google, for the excellent doodle and teaching me something that I didn't already know. I almonst take back what I said about book research being better (in the aesthetic sense) than a Google search. What a great way to spend a rainy morning/afternoon.

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