Friday, December 19, 2014

Ocean Animals Express Gratitude


An unlikely assortment of sea creatures crammed on one napkin:

It is challenging to come up with holiday gifts for teachers, tutors and therapists.
I am always extremely grateful to those people who are not even biologically related to my kids, but are consistently more supportive and tolerant than I manage to be on a good day.
When an opportunity comes up to be officially grateful to these generous, and most often colossally underpaid people, I always feel like there is not a good solution. At school, there is an official group class gift, and we are not supposed to individually give the teachers anything of momentary value.

One of Ansel's classroom teachers won't be coming back after winter break. While I was packing up the holiday card and gift trinket last night at 8 pm, Ansel told me what he really wanted to give to Elizabeth was a napkin featuring all of the ocean animals that the class had studied.

When I showed him the napkin this morning, he said, "Wow, you got all of them on there, good job!"

Can't say much more than that. 
But, yes, I did manage to get all of them on there.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Holiday Season Sea Otters



Bi-denomenational Sea Otters acknowledge the holidays.

Yesterday was Ocean Animal report presentation day in Second Grade.
Afterward, Ansel officially informed me that now there should be no more napkin drawings of Sea Otters.

I am an occasional adjunct faculty member at the New York Academy, and am in the midst of end of semester thesis critiques this week.  While I am a sculptor, I've spent the majority of my waking hours over the last two days looking at, and attempting to talk about, paintings. Last night Ansel asked if any students were painting Sea Otters, and told me that I should definitely bring home a picture for him if there were any such paintings.

I debated whether I should be offended that he didn't want me to draw any more Otters, but was so keen to see other peoples images. Of course, I say that facetiously, as ever bothering to be offended by my kids would lead to constant tribulation and idiocy.

But I did draw some more Sea Otters last night, mostly just to be perverse.
Ansel seemed pleased enough with them this morning, but I can observe that while my 2D skills have improved over the years, I will not be getting an MFA in painting...or napkin drawing, any time soon.

Below is one of my son's nice drawings from his report.



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Minions Menorah for Hanukkah


Kevin and Dave set their heads on fire:

We are an equal opportunity household when it comes to observing holidays which might involve gifts for children. Which is to say, we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.

I spent a substantial portion of my childhood under the impression that the world, or at least the environment I lived in, was half Jewish and half "not Jewish." I discovered later that not only was my immediate family not representative of the world at large, but that the wrong half of my heritage was Jewish for me to claim legitimate membership with the Jews or the "nots." I am, however, in charge of saying the Hanukkah blessing in English and Hebrew when we light candles in front of our 3/4 Jewish, but yet, not at all Jewish, sons.

But why shouldn't the infinitely costumable and merchandisable Minions have it both ways?

As far as my sons are concerned the Minions might be the chosen people anyway.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Grinch and Gamora


"This green bore is not my friend...."
Or: "Just because we are both green, doesn't mean we have anything in common."

I knew this one was a bad idea from the start, but it went even more wrong than I could have anticipated. 

While I do select what to draw on these napkins with my sons' interests foremost in mind, my own issues about being the mother of two over indulged white boys who consume a lot of mainstream pop culture material creeps into the mix in some not entirely positive ways.

I thought "Guardians of the Galaxy" was a pleasantly entertaining movie, but having watched some of it again recently, (released on DVD and iTunes this week) I am reminded that it suffers from some of the usual gender and racial "insensitivities." As Gamora is the only central female character, and ahem, the only "person of color" in the cast with a large part, she stands at the center of these problems.

In a minor example: one of the biggest laugh lines in the movie as far as my sons were concerned occurs when Drax, a very literal thinker, declares the rest of the Guardians to be his friends.  He says something like, "You, Quill, are my friend. This dumb tree is also my friend. And this green whore is also my friend..." In fact, the only promiscuous character in the group is Star Lord, but Drax refers to him by name rather than calling him more appropriately "this pink whore." While Gamora is "a warrior and an assassin," she is still saddled with a peekaboo outfit and intermittent sexual slurs.

The variously brightly hued people in "Guardians" made me think of the often used invocation of strangely colored people to dismiss the topic of race: i.e. phrases like, "I don't care if you are white, black, yellow or purple..."  This sort of phrase usually comes out of the mouths of white people who are in the midst of claiming that race does not matter to them or to the world at large....( see the blog stuffwhitepeoplesay.com for a clearer discussion of this)  There are a lot of green, yellow, magenta and blue people in the movie... but... they are still mostly white.
 
I am pretty sure that I am not succeeding in conveying the importance of these issues to my sons.  My hectoring just makes them tune out all the more:  "Do your homework! Pick up your room! Brush your teeth! Don't be an insensitive, overentitled, chauvinistic, racist asshole!"

What does all this have to do with the poor Grinch? you might ask.
I am not entirely sure, but I think he might be a victim here as well.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rocket and Groot Decorate for the Holidays



Over the weekend, I realized that there was only one week left of school and there had been no seasonally themed napkins.  

I had noticed that the most popular napkin as far as web traffic goes recently is one with the Minions dressed up for Christmas... And given that we will probably have to see the upcoming Minions movie I should probably do another holiday Minions napkin....The Minions lend themselves to endless costuming and mashups. (google "minions mashup" if you doubt, or have nothing better to do)

Not so much for Rocket and Groot.  They seem a little annoyed by the decorations and the substitution of candy cane for weapon.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Wolverine Sea Otter


I warned my son last night that he might have to take one of the napkins from the "bank" today. We always have a stack of 10-20 previously rejected napkins to choose from.  I was feeling more tired than usual and couldn't think of anything interesting to draw.

He said, "Oh, just draw a Sea Otter with Wolverine claws. That will be easy!"

Well, it was easier than trying to draw Hugh Jackman.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hero Factory Guy with Extra Appendages with Claws

It has been almost two years since the last napkin with a Hero Factory figure on it. This is certainly not because the toys have gone out of style at our house.  The boys are constantly reconfiguring them, adding new appendages and weapons.  

But...I am not very good at drawing them. They are complicated and perspectival, which makes them a fine showcase for certain lacks in my drawing abilities. 

I like to fantasize that the nightly habit of making these napkin drawings has improved my skills over the last 8 years.  But after muddling through this one last night, I have to wonder. 

(You can see the other 21 attempts at drawing Hero Factory characters at this link...if for some reason you want to do so)

Of course the napkins used to look something like this back in 2007 or 2008:


So, yes, there has been some improvement over the years. But much of it is mostly a result of time spent more than increased skill.  I fear that I might not produce a better 2 minute Sharpie sketch of Mr. Lucas today.

The camera phone I use to take the picture, however,  is much, much better.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Portrait of My Son with Skull Mask


Our younger son pretty much always claims to hate any napkin drawing that I do of him.

I wasn't sure that even this one with only one eye exposed would pass muster, so I did not solicit his opinion about it this morning. I expect the purplish cast to his black fleece hoodie will also receive some criticism.

He has been wearing this skull "tube mask" (or is it a "neck warmer"?) around the last couple of days, at home and in the cafeteria before school in the morning.  I assume he is not wearing it during the school day.

Seems like they would discourage that sort of thing at a Quaker school.

He preferred the below version, where you can't see his face at all, and he can't see much either.

 (Do you want a skull face "tube mask"?  They are sold in many iterations at Amazon and other places: for motorcyclists, commandos, assassins and seven year old boys. )

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Three Ravens from "The Grimm Conclusion"

It is not surprising that my kids really enjoy the irreverent and ghastly retellings of fairy tales in Adam Gidwitz's Grimm series.

The three Ravens watch a young boy share his overnight campfire in a creepy wood with three dead men. And, of course, they engage in witty banter.  (The Ravens converse, not the corpses- that would be implausible.)

I was busy just trying to draw Ravens, not Crows... or some other bird.  I did not manage to make them look talkative...or witty.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Tuaca Competition


Thanks TUACA for the cool napkins and shirt!
You can read more about my submissions to this napkin drawing contest from earlier this year and see images at this link.

It is interesting to see a napkin image reproduced as multiples.  Several people have suggested that I really should be reproducing my drawings on napkins on more napkins.  It's hard for me to really get my mind around this.  I think what, if anything, is distinctive about the napkins drawings is, well, that they are drawn on napkins. Ironically, if I were going to produce commercial artwork to be reproduced on napkins... I would not draw on a napkin.... Was anyone able to follow that statement?

I don't know.  Perhaps the overall ridiculousness of this endeavor defies my ability to think about it in practical terms.

But this is not TUACA's fault.  They provided me a reason to make some drawings for someone other than my kids, and actually gave me some money for doing so.  If that sort of thing happened several times a year, this whole napkin thing would make sense.

Thank you TUACA!

Penguin Troopers


What's black and white and can't see where it's going?
Or maybe the image should be called "Flightless and Sightless"

But either way, late last night, it seemed somehow appropriate to put stormtrooper helmets on Penguins.

I tried to draw the new helmets from the recently released "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" trailer.  The helmets are shown for less than half a second in a flickering light.  I couldn't really tell what was going on in the front. My apologies for offending Star Wars geeks everywhere with my lazy and inaccurate helmet rendering.

We did see the recent penguin movie.  While it was pleasant enough at the time, I cannot remember any of it now, so realistic rather than Madagascar-style penguins seemed to be the way to go.

My son was mostly satisfied by the image this morning.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The "Best Robin" From "Teen Titans Go!"




Who is your favorite Robin?...
Wait, What do you mean? You don't have a favorite Robin?

It is challenging enough to name all of the various Robins... Having raised two sons to 11 and 7, let's see if I can do it without recourse to Google:  Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Damian Wayne... Well, I just ran out of road.  With the help of Google, there is, of course, Stephanie Brown and Carrie Kelley. (Ironically, their names are displayed right above the "Homosexuality in the Batman Franchise" subject listing in Wikipedia.)

"'Of course?...Who are these people? And why should I care?" you might ask.

Thanks to their presently misspent youth, my sons could tell you. I'm not sure that I am capable of marshaling all the details myself without spending way too much time on this post.

Suffice it to say, there are a lot of named Robins, and then there are all of the various iterations of each with their various costumes and hairstyles.  Last night's episode of "Teen Titan Go!" was titled "The Best Robin," and featured the show's resident Robin inviting his other incarnations in to show his lazy teammates how to do the superhero thing correctly.

The kids were watching the show at 6 pm on a school night instead of doing their homework mostly because I was busy trying to figure out a way to make sauteed mushrooms and kale appealing for a second grader's palate. Which is to say that I did not attend to the plot of the episode.  One can only imagine the sort of existential pop culture crisis that multiple iterations of oneself might touch off. 

My younger son's response to the episode, however, was pretty straightforward: There was no question which Robin was superior.  He was the guy with no exposed skin, but with spiky hair, and an attitude. 

As it turned out, the strawberries I was planning to put in the lunch today were moldy, and given Robin's unfriendly expression on the napkin, he should probably be holding one of those uneaten sauteed mushrooms.

(In the unlikely event that you want to see a clip from the episode)
Or to see some of the 40 other napkin posts regarding Robin in his many forms

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Paddington Bear with Star Wars: The Force Awakens Light Saber


Movie trailers we are excited about: the delights of earwax and novel weapons

My younger son reminded me yesterday that he really wanted to see the movie about the bear and the toilet.  I am shamefully sleep deprived most of the time, so sometimes important things do go missing from my memory.  It took me several minutes to dredge up anything regarding a bear and toilet.  But yes, I did finally recall that we had seen the trailer for "Paddington" and that the bear did in fact put his head in a toilet.  He also put toothbrushes in his ears, tasted the resultant earwax, drank mouthwash, flooded a house, and most endearingly, rode an escalator holding a small dog.

How could we not pay money to see more of that?

Likewise, there is no way that we will  possibly be excused from seeing the next "Star Wars" installment. The new lightsaber was of course the highlight of that recently released  trailer as far as our sons were concerned. It is amazing how much excitement a couple of implausible horizontal protrusions can generate. (Here's a link if you are my mom or might have somehow managed to avoid seeing it already) 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Colossal Squid Eye



Merely Large Colossal Eye:

I happened upon the information yesterday that Colossal Squids may have the largest eyes of any living creature.  My younger son's class is finishing up their study of ocean animals, so I felt like the squid was fair game for a napkin.  I did, however, have a lot of trouble identifying exactly what a Colossal Squid eye is supposed to look like. In some images online, they have a disturbingly human-like iris surrounded by white, in others, the eyes look more like those of smaller squids that one might find in an aquarium or on a plate.  Based on my few minutes of incompetent research, I decided to go with the more decorative, less disturbingly human, version.

This would be the eye of a not very colossal Colossal Squid.  Scientists theorize that their eyes can be as large as a basketball or dinner plate. This one is only as large as a dinner napkin.

My son was not particularly impressed with my effort on this drawing.  But, much to my surprise, he chose to take yesterday's Puppy Hand/Kitten Fist napkin. I can never predict what will be popular, but real animals do rarely prevail over imaginary ones.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Maleficent with Dog Hands and Darth Vader with Kitten Fists from Disney Infinity, Blue Whale Eye

Last night I was still ruminating on the Disney Infinity game and the possibility of putting random, or not so random, characters together.  For whatever reason, Star Wars, and thus Darth Vader, is not available on the program.  Maleficent is available, but she is in her Angelina Jolie-ish form, wearing a black catsuit without purple trim and she has disappointingly non greenish skin. 

"Gravity Falls" derived Kitten Fists can in fact be added to  the game.  Puppy Fists, "101 Dalmations"-style or not, are not a real thing... But perhaps they should be.  If you doubt the reality of Kitten Fists and have not yet experienced enough annoyance today, visit this link. Be warned that the insane meowing continues inconceivably for the full 14 minutes and 22 seconds run time of the video. And yes, I agree that it is pathetic that I know that.
Since I seem to be unable to stop myself from adding miscellaneous things to this post, here is a previous instance of the dog/kitten hand from the summer of 2013: 

http://ninaslevy.blogspot.com/2013/07/teen-titans-dog-hand-with-gravity-falls.html
I suspect that like the above, the Maleficient/Vader napkin will be deemed too weird and will not go to school any time soon. The Second Grade is on a field trip to the New York Natural History Museum today, so I made a truly disposable napkin for the day's bag lunch. While taking my 3 minute morning shower, I had the idea that I was going to draw a Blue Whale's eye actual size, which would be educational and maybe a little cool.  As it turns out, at least based on some very superficial research, Blue Whales' eyes are only about the size of Cows' eyes, so my attempt at realism was not particularly impressive.  (But Giant Squids have much larger eyes. I will give that information further consideration) 

Since I spent all of 90 seconds on this napkin- in addition to the haphazard 2 minutes of Whale eye research- the results were about what you might expect. Sadly, I discovered that all of my blue markers are in need of refill.



The Blue Whale at the AMNH.  Click on the photo to visit the museum site.
That eye looks larger than I drew it, doesn't it?

http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/biodiversity-and-environmental-halls/milstein-hall-of-ocean-life/the-blue-whale