Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Space Pig

...not to be confused with "Pigs in Space"

This guy is another character for our hypothetical web comic.  I don't think my son has seen any of the Muppet classic "Piiiiigs.... iiin .....Spaaaaace" that was a staple of my childhood. Remember when The Muppets were one of only a very few offerings for prime time kids' programming?  My sons surely cannot imagine life without 24 hour access to video entertainment. Not that they are watching television in the middle of the night, or even very much during prime time. But I do remember being pleasantly surprised ten years ago to discover that "Dora the Explorer" was on at three in the morning to distract our then toddler son who was suffering with what he believed to be intolerable strep throat pain. Now we can assume everything is available all the time.

Speaking of 24 hour access, I would not be surprised if a bit of "pigs in space" exposure crept in via YouTube. This astronaut swine of course bears more resemblance to Halo than to that show.  My son insisted that he needed a complicated full head helmet....and to be wearing cool sunglasses when the helmet is off.

This was not one of my better efforts as far as spacesuit-design and limb-arrangement are concerned.  Here is the moment when I bring up the overused excuse that the drawing is on a napkin and looks pretty good considering....

Monday, October 5, 2015

Zombi Rambi with "Scorch Trials" Background

Our younger son's wish to see the "Scorch Trials" movie with a friend who is also a "Maze Runner" fan had been thwarted for almost three weeks, so I felt that I had to make it finally happen yesterday. In all of my parental guilt about not gratifying this wish before, I failed to give significant thought to the content of the movie. I did slog through all of the Maze Runner books back before the first movie came out to make sure it would not  not too scary...but over the weekend, they were not fresh in my memory.

So while I did know about the zombie-like "cranks" in the second and third books, I didn't realize, that they would be behaving horrifically like full blown zombies during so much of this movie. 24 hours later, there doesn't seem to be any obvious zombie-induced psychological scars and phobias in either of our kids. Perhaps it is too early.

But since zombies are still on our minds today, I thought maybe a cuter, more humorous version of the undead might be appropriate for a napkin.

We were introduced to the idea of "Rambi" by the graphic novel "Ricky Rouse Has a Gun." The story is set in a Chinese amusement park that is heavily "inspired" by American pop culture. Costumed characters in the park include the Dark Knight-like "Ratman," a bottom-heavy version of a flying elephant named "Bumbo," and the titular big-eared rodent as well as "Rambi," the red bandana-wearing mercenary deer. "Ricky Rouse"  was not written for  kids, and required significant editing, but our sons definitely appreciated the humor (and the violence.)

Perhaps I should add that neither child has seen the movie "Bambi" or "Rambo," but they still get the joke here.

Walking home from our viewing of "The Scorch Trials," my older son claimed that he has seen "some of nearly every zombie movie ever made" courtesy of YouTube, and was therefore an authority on that genre.

I hope he is just boasting.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Blobhead Guy

Don't let your head get so big that you can't stand up...

Our kids have an extensive collection of little plasticine characters that they have made for various stop-motion video projects.  These guys are in a pile in our living room, ready at any moment to make oil stains on that lovely bookcase that their father built.  Frequently, our younger son repurposes some of the clay for a new creation, and this pink blobheaded LEGO guy was last night's effort.

I am always pleased to have the opportunity to draw something that actually exists in our apartment and does not require extensive use of Google image search. Looking at the snapshot of the thing below, however, I still feel like I did not do it justice.  I prefer the proportion of giant head to body, the feeling of imbalance (even though it is really standing up) and the fact that you can see the whole "unicorn horn."

And I cannot explain why I thought it was a good idea to put him on a small island. I liked the idea of a big blob of pink oil clay, endangered in a pretty environment, sweating in the sun....but that doesn't really justify the situation.

Our son explained to me last night that this guy is, of course, yet another character for the web comic.  But he doesn't really do or say anything. He just appears in the background frequently.  And then, after the web comic has been running for a long time, we can ask readers to count all of his appearances and give a prize to those who get the right number. 

I am glad that the kid is planning so far ahead with his social media campaign. I guess we had better get started on this comic....

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Suicide Owl

Cool Birds Don't Look at Explosions:

Suicide Owl is another character for our hypothetical family web comic that my younger son hatched during our long morning subway ride to school. I was not able to extract many details about this owl, besides the fact that he is a Barn Owl and wears bandoliers filled with bullets.

My older son has been very taken with the trailers for the upcoming movie "Suicide Squad," and has insisted that we watch it with him. I asked his younger brother whether perhaps this owl has some relationship to the Suicide Squad. He said no and seemed annoyed by my suggestion that the character might be derivative.

Lacking any other details or character information, I decided to put an explosion behind the owl, because, you know, everyone looks much cooler when backlit by an explosion. While idly googling for an appropriate explosion image, I tripped over the "Cool Guys Don't Look at Explosions" meme.  Think about the many scenes in  movies and TV where the badass guy (almost always a guy) walks calmly away from a fireball without looking back, flinching, or apparently, getting any shrapnel in the back. ( Buzzfeed has a compilation.)

And, like so many other things, I missed the point of origin for the title of the trope. The  "Cool Guys Don't Look at Explosions" song was performed by Andy Samberg(as Bruce Springstein), Will Ferrell (as Neil Diamond) and J.J. Abrams (as himself wearing a weird shirt) at the 2009 MTV movie awards and features many clips of of cool guys ignoring conflagrations if one is willing to sit through the video.

The Suicide Owl should be at least as cool as Wolverine, the Joker or Jason Bourne..... so his feathers probably won't catch on fire.

(We've had a few background explosions here on the napkins... although not as many as I thought. Perhaps I have missed a few.)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Belated Batman Day

The Dark Knight used to be a more important guy at our house. His stock has fallen quite a bit since the days when there were bitter fights over who got to wear the Batman costume. Neither boy was much impressed to hear that yesterday had been declared Batman Day. (By DC, I assume)

When asked what sort of napkin would be appropriate for the occasion, they sarcastically told me I should draw Fat Batman and Midget Batman. I thought maybe a bit less political incorrectness would be preferable, and drew Lazy Batman and Baby Batman instead.

The Bat Guys are parked on our beaten-down couch in front of the TV, perhaps embodying sloth and immaturity in the Bat Universe....or maybe just in our house this weekend.

(After this napkin, I noticed how many times our rapidly decomposing Costco couch had made an appearance, so I added a "couch" label so you can see how much trouble I have had drawing this piece of furniture over the last three's the link.)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Gamera, Godzilla and Ultraman Cakewalk

Hello My Giant Baby:

My sons have matured quite a bit since last Halloween: They have done much less obsessing months in advance about their potential costumes and less frantic changing of costume plans than in past years.  Nonetheless, if I had gone ahead with all of the costumes that they swore they were definitely completely positive that that they were going to want to wear for this upcoming Halloween....well, we would have a lot of extra costumes.

At the moment, that is, today on September 25th, with slightly more than a month left before Halloween, we seem to have settled on Godzilla for the older brother and the 11th Doctor Who for the younger.  Will these choices stick until October 31st? Past experience tells me no.

Historically, the costume choice always changes again as soon as the costume chooser's mother has made significant efforts to purchase or fabricate the components.

But I remain optimistic.  Maybe this year will be different. The older child says he has made some sort of arrangement with two friends: They are going to dress as Gamera and Ultraman to go with his Godzilla. Perhaps this group effort will keep him from changing his mind at the last minute.  (But I am concerned that the challenge of making a Gamera do not bode well for the group effort.)

When I suggested that maybe there should be a Halloween costume team-up napkin, my son told me what he really wanted was the three of them doing the "Hello My Baby" dance.  I tackled this dance issue, with little success, on the Alien/Raptor/Unicorn napkin shown below. At least I managed to get all the hats and canes on the napkin that time. Select the napkin if you want to read about the song and the frog who sings it.
Alien, Raptor & Unicorn do the Michigan Rag

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Leeroy Jenkins Chicken Fight

At least his chicken has weapons:

I often find when my sons are annoying me by loudly repeating some nonsensical word or phrase, that if I look into the source of that phrase, I will discover that, not only did they not invent the annoying phrase, but they are referencing some widespread pop culture meme phenomenon that I had completely missed. The discovery of my own ignorance does make me more tolerant of the obsessive use of the catchphrase...for a while.

My older son's favorite exclamation of the last couple of weeks has been a loud, extended yell: "LEEEROY JENNNKKINNSSSS!!!"  This usually is heard as he runs off to do something that he should hammer his brother on the head with a foam axe.

At this moment, half of you are shaking your head in sad disbelief that I had never heard of Leeroy Jenkins. For the those of you (in addition to my mom) who are as woefully uninformed as I was- and are still reading- I will try to explain as briefly as possible:

The shouting of "Leeroy Jenkins" made its way into the pop culture mainstream via a 2005 video of several players on the World of Warcraft MMORPG (that's "Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game" if you require further elucidation) At the beginning of the video, they are all standing around interminably and nerdishly discussing their strategy for an upcoming attack on a nest of dragon-like creatures. Leeroy, a member of the group who has been silently sitting turned away from the discussion, suddenly stands up and rushes off alone to attack, shouting his name loudly and gutterally like a battle cry.  The rest of the group is startled and disorganized, but follows him. Complete massacre of all players ensues. After all are dead, Leeroy comments nonsensically, "at least I have chicken."

Something in excess of 30 million views of the original video on YouTube led to appearances at video game conventions by Ben Schultz, the guy playing as Leeroy.  There were Leeroy references on multiple TV shows and commercials.  The shouting of the name has come to mean "Let's do this!" referring to foolish heroism in place of inactive analysis.

I fear that I have not done this topic justice. There is always the Wikipedia page or the one on "know your meme" One could even look at the original video, but it is pretty boring if you do not understand the delights of watching other people play video games.

There are scholarly articles on the Leeroy phenomenon, including one on the racism perhaps inherent in the way the name is said.  These are deeper and murkier waters than I can swim in based on a few minutes of research on Google, so I am going to have to leave it there.

The kids agreed with me that what Leeroy really needed was a fighting chicken. And once we had a fighting chicken, it was clear that he needed to be in a "chicken fight" pose. Apparently, no one knows what Ben/Leeroy meant when he said that at least he had chicken. Many theorized that he was cooking or ordering poultry when he should have been paying attention to his friends' strategy.

But we like the idea of a chicken with WoW weapons better.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Dark Snowman

My younger son pointed out that we needed some bad guys for our web comic. He invented an evil, dark, non melting snowman.  I proposed that he should be made of the dirty snow that remains when a huge pile of snow melts in the city. I suppose that means he is mostly made of soot and car exhaust. 

Below is my son's far superior version of this fellow, drawn on the Number 2 train at 7:40 am.. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Infant Ninja in Baby Bjorn Carrier

Even assassins need oral gratification:

While my younger son and I were discussing "The Infant Ninja," we agreed that he should be carried in a Baby Bjorn by a well-armed, deadly looking robot. And that he should have a teething toy that squirted poison gas.

I carried both of our kids in a sling (separately, not ever together, although that was often requested bu the then four year old elder brother) for years until the gel in my vertebrae squeezed out in several places.

But we were definitely not a Baby Bjorn family.  There seemed to me something slightly silly about the Bjorns.  The design was both vaguely bondage-like and awkwardly sporty.

I realize the complete idiocy of this opinion being expressed by a woman who owned a whole wardrobe of  slings. After 12 years of parenting failures, I certainly do not presume to judge anyone for practically anything... much less the use of a Bjorn.  For my compulsive baby-sling use, I can only offer the justification that we live in New York and I had to take the train with both kids, early and frequently.  In place of a stroller or a front facing Bjorn, the slings were a low profile way to keep strangers from touching the baby... or even breathing directly on him.

A robot with a baby in a sling didn't seem quite right to me when I started the drawing...although the more that I think about it, maybe a nice rainbow sling with rings on a killer robot would be more amusing...

I tried to combine the winsome qualities of the Terminator and the Iron Man/ War Machine suits: i.e., those scary red eye lights and the ridiculous-on-robots humanoid teeth, with the segmented suit with the shoulder mounted grenade launchers.  The result on the napkin was both creepy and a bit flat... but the robot is basically backdrop, so I decided not to sweat it too much.

At the last minute, I had to add a Sophie the Giraffe teething toy to the image...  We had one of these "mouth animals" during my first son's infancy.  I cannot remember who bought it. I knew at the time that it was a somewhat expensive and trendy article. Looking it up now, however, I discover that not only is it a remarkably pricey chew toy, it is the number one selling baby item on Amazon. During my organic-food-making, toxin-fearing, irrational mother of an infant stage, I was aware that Sophie was supposed to be a better, more healthful toy, made of "natural rubber" and "food paint" in France. Of course, subsequently there were rumors of carcinogens and a recall.

I do remember that our Sophie developed a nasty smell that seemed to squirt out from the interior when it was squeezed.  I cannot say whether it was from inherent vice, from exposure to my son's saliva, or just poor maintenance on my part,

But it now seems appropriate that the infant ninja's trendy mouth animal might squirt poison gas.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Infant Ninja with Motorcycle Car Seat

 Death comes out of a Graco car seat:

My younger son and I have a new daily school commute to the upper west side of Manhattan.  Unfortunately, much of the time is spent standing up, packed into one or the other of the two subway trains involved.  This is a particularly unpleasant situation if one is, say, the size of an 8 year old, and not accustomed to a New York City subway rush hour. (It seems to be rush hour even at 7 am) I've been doing my best to offer distractions, but so far he has spurned my offerings of music and books.

He has been amenable, however,  to passing the time by discussing our much talked about, but still as of yet, nonexistent, family web comic.  Axe Cop, the collaborative comic that was created by a 5 year old and his much older comic book industry professional brother is of course an inspiration.  My sons are good at coming up with wacky characters, but they have yet to develop any plot for this comic.  The younger one suggested on the train last week that perhaps there should not one story, but instead a series of related shorts.  That sounded more manageable...but we still need some sort of plot.

Last week on the train, he also hatched the idea of "The Baby Ninja." I suggested maybe it could be "The Infant Ninja."  We discussed what sort of infant accessories this ninja might have... throwing star teethers, a car seat that affixes to a motorcycle, a pacifier that doubles as a face mask. It seems also to be quite inspired by Dr McNinja, another webcomic that my sons really enjoy.

Of course, my sons expect me to do all the drawing of this comic....

Thank You Napkin with Ocram Trophy

My sons and I spent some time at a friends' lovely country house during the last week before school started.

At home, we live in the sort of apartment where I keep my socks on because otherwise it takes me too long to scrub my feet clean in the shower in the morning.   We are usually short on food that a guest might want to eat, but there is petrified food on the floor, our towels are definitely not fluffy and have long threads trailing off of them, and we don't have any extra beds. We have never been very good at extending comfort and hospitality to our guests.

So what sort of token could we give to a family that put us up so graciously?....Yes, I have resorted to drawing on a napkin.

During our visit, when the kids were not forced outside to engage in more commendable activities like swimming and running around in the woods shooting one another with Nerf weapons, they were inside, engaged in a what was reportedly a massive collaborative battle to vanquish one of the big bosses in Terraria, Ocram.

Ocram is large, ugly, ridiculous and not exactly the stuff of polite thank you notes, but he obscures most of my rather less than sparkling portraits of the kids.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Napkin Drawings Book

To accompany the "Popular Monsters Show" I put together a little self published book on with a few napkins in it.  There are a couple of versions, a fancy hardcover 12" x 12" edition and a magazine style, softcover version.  You can preview the books at the links below.... if you haven't already seen enough napkins here on the blog.  (In all fairness, there is an short essay and some other materials in the book as well)

Magazine style book

Hardcover book

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rocket Raccoon and Future Rigby Take a Selfie

Happiness is a cool raccoon with a warm gun. Or two.

The kids were very pleased with the recent Regular Show Movie.
Rigby, the raccoon character, has apparently become more cool in the future.  He is outfitted with an impressive weapon, stylish jacket and decorative facial hair.

He looked a bit like Rocket from the Guardians of the Galaxy... (Rocket Raccoon, the guy who says, "There ain't no thing like me, except me.") ....So it seemed like a team up was in order. I drew the guys without their weapons...and since they are both so overwhelmingly cool- and so aware of their own coolness- it seemed appropriate that they should be taking a picture of themselves.

My more realistic version of Rigby was not very successful. I was trying to put him in the same representational universe as Rocket, but couldn't quite pull it off.

Rigby as he appears in the movie, with Benson, the walking gumball machine:

Monday, September 7, 2015

Press Release for "Popular Monsters"

Text of the Press Release:

The Humanities Gallery at LIU, Brooklyn is pleased to present a show of new work by Nina Levy that is an unusual combination of gallery art and inspired pop culture silliness.

Nina Levy has been making figurative sculpture and photographs for well over 20 years, exhibiting at at various venues including the National Portrait Gallery in D.C., the Aldrich, Brooklyn, DeCordova, and San Diego Museums of Contemporary Art. Her work has been featured on the covers of Sculpture Magazine and Art News, and reviewed in The New York Times, Art in America and The New Yorker.

This is, however, the first time that she has exhibited decorated absorbent paper products and the decapitated head of Grumpy Cat.

Ms Levy achieved some unexpected notoriety recently for her 10 years of daily drawings on the lunch napkins of her two pop culture obsessed sons. Her blog “Daily Napkins” collects 1200 of the most recent drawings, and has led to appearances on CBS This Morning, Fox’s Good Day New York, coverage in the New York Times, The NY Post, London’s Daily Mail and Star, websites based in the US ranging from to The Huffington Post and Ripley’s Believe it or not, as well as dozens of webblogs based in countries such as Indonesia, Japan, China, Brazil, Croatia, Turkey and Russia.

Her immersion in her sons’ pop culture interests prompted a body of work: a group of sculpted heads inspired by the sorts of characters that appear on her sons’ napkins: monstrous and/or cute creatures that become internet memes: the angry bird,  the giant lizard, the sarcastic feline, the green zombie, and more.

This exhibition offers a chance to see several dozen of the napkins and to pose with the heads.

Nina Levy
Popular Monsters: Sculpture & Napkin Drawings

Opening Reception: Wednesday, September 16th, 6 – 8 pm
On view September 1st- October 30th, 2015
Humanities Gallery, LIU Brooklyn CampusMon – Fri 9-6,  Sat & Sun by appointment.
One University Plaza (DeKalb and Flatbush)  Brooklyn, NY 11201-5372
Travel:  B, Q, R to DeKalb Avenue; 2, 3, 4, 5 to Nevins Street; A, C, F, to Jay Street
For additional information call 718-488-1198

Sunday, August 30, 2015 Coverage of Napkins

Amy Radcliffe wrote a nice post about our napkin series "Star Wars Characters Ride Dinosaurs"
You can see it at this link.
Thanks Amy!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Exhibition at LIU Brooklyn

Nina Levy
Popular Monsters:
Sculpture and Napkins Drawings

Sept 1 - Oct 30, 2015
Humanities Gallery
First Floor, Library Learning Center
Long Island University, Brooklyn
1 University Plaza
Brooklyn, NY 11201-5372

Opening Reception:
Wednesday, Sept. 16
6 - 8 pm

Hours Mon - Fri  9 am - 6 pm
 Sat & Sun by appointment

Travel: B, Q, R to DeKalb Avenue
2, 3, 4, 5 to Nevins Street
A, C, F, to Jay Street
For more information,
call 718-488-1198

google map location link 

An exhibition of sculpture heads and napkins from this blog.

Popular Monsters Heads in the Studio

 Studio shoots of the heads that will appear in a show with the napkins in September in Brooklyn.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Mouse and Motorcycle Thank You Note

Our younger son has been slogging along in a very demanding tutoring program this summer.  He has done some amazing work and deserves much parental applause... But I know that his accomplishments are due to the unflappable and unflagging support of his tutors.

It takes me five minutes of bartering and bickering to get him to read two lines of a TV program synopsis. But with his tutors, he has been happily reading Beverly Cleary's 1965 book "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" and that is considerably more challenging than cable listings.

It is always impossible to sufficiently thank the people who are endlessly patient with my kids.
When confronted with an unsolvable problem, I often resort to drawing on napkins.

I wanted to add my son into this picture, but did not have the time to pull off a portrait. I was really trying to get at least five hours of sleep last night (The New York Times ran an article recently that said that sustained periods of five hours or less a night result in irrevocable hardening of the I am already in big trouble)

I still did not attain the artery saving amount of five hours of sleep...but at least I did not annoy my son by drawing a picture of him.